5 September 2009

Life itself

In A New Biology for a New Century (2004), Carl Woese writes:
Nearly 40 years ago the physicist-philosopher David Bohm exposed the fundamental flaw in the mechanistic reductionist perspective: “It does seem odd… that just when physics is… moving away from mechanism, biology and psychology are moving closer to it. If the trend continues… scientists will be regarding living and intelligent beings as mechanical, while they suppose that inanimate matter is too complex and subtle to fit into the limited categories of mechanism.”

...Society cannot tolerate a biology whose metaphysical base is outmoded and misleading: the society desperately needs to live in harmony with the rest of the living world, not with a biology that is a distorted and incomplete reflection of that world. Because it has been taught to accept the above hierarchy of the sciences, society today perceives biology as here to solve its problems, to change the living world. Society needs to appreciate that the real relationship between biology and the physical sciences is not hierarchical, but reciprocal: physics↔biology. Both physics and biology are primary windows on the world; they see the same gem but different facets thereof (and so inform one another). Knowing this, society will come to see that biology is here to understand the world, not primarily to change it. Biology's primary job is to teach us. In that realization lies our hope of learning to live in harmony with our planet.

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