INSTRUCTIONS for evaluation of biology and your relation to it:
Do each of the 8 statements below reflect contemporary views among biologists?
To what degree do you agree with each statement?
The larger question is what does any dissonance between your two answers for each statement say about the state of biology or your relation to it. I have placed my own partial reflection on each statement down below.
1 The key feature of life is organisms or living things,
2 The path from chemistry to the first cell is either highly improbable or, if a deterministic event, then beyond current science to explicate,
3 life is a collection of species where multicellular animals are the main event,
4 humans are the special species (with special faculties like intelligence that place them/us as very different than other aniamls),
5 the physical world has two contradictory qualities – determinism and agency,
6 biology supports a substance ontology that denigrates processes and the subtle inter-relations among us,
7 science is brute facts only with reason denigrated which for biology leaves the old myths in place,
8 death is a failure.
1 This view of life precedes biology by centuries; the study of biology has not modified it.
2 The alternative is god for creationists or a magical event for scientists (see Fry, Iris. 1995. “Are the different hypotheses on the emergence of life as different as they seem?” Biology and Philosophy, 10:4(1995):389-417)
3 This statement largely restates the story of Noah’s Ark
4 The view of human superiority and specialness restates the views of most all large civilizations over the last four millennia.
5 The statement appears to be unavoidable while also being a massive contradiction.
6 For Aristotle matter was not independent of form (See Grene, Marjorie & D. Depew. 2004. The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History. Cambridge UP.) so that material substances (e.g., living things) could not be simple and independent substances.
7 Whitehead: “It is a great mistake to conceive this historical revolt [the Scientific Revolution] as an appeal to reason. On the contrary, it was through and through an anti-intellectualist movement. It was the return to the contemplation of brute fact; and it was based on a recoil from the inflexible rationality of medieval thought.” Whitehead, Alfred North. 1967. Science and the Modern World. NY: The Free Press. p. 8.
8 This has a parallel theme that death is a moral failure.
And the BIG Question is what do any differences between your answers for biologists in general and your own views say about the state of biology and your engagement with it.