Saturday, January 31, 2009

Biology: An Inadequate Science by Judy Joyce

While the world is filled with well-educated and intelligent people, Prof. Alejandro Garcia-Rivera researcher for the European Biological Molecular Laboratory, has uncovered something important that they need to notice . In his remarks filmed on CSpan’s BookTV - 2/15/08 discussing Evolutionary Theory, he observes the following:

" The question of the ‘what’ of Evolutionary Theory is not as easy to answer as one may think. must address not only the accuracy of the answer but it’s adequacy. If... the subject... is the variation of species or of populations of living organisms, accuracy may be served, but not adequacy. This is because Evolutionary Theory has become ‘the’ central principal of the discipline of biology itself....The ‘what’ of evolutionary theory has become the ‘what’ of the discipline of biology. Yet, the traditional ‘what’ of a discipline has been nothing less than life itself....For, to have ‘life’ as the subject of a question poses questions that are best articulated as ‘why’ questions. And this intrinsic and yet inextricable question of the ‘what’ of biology and the ‘why’ of it’s subject challenges.... science."


The well-framed argument of this Dominican priest points out that the question of the "what" of evolutionary theory is avoided in scientific studies going to "the root of the subject of intelligibility itself". Garcia-Rivera believes that biologists are rightly suspicious of any approach to biology that "smacks" of vitalism. Vitalism is a principle that is continuous with matter. And for this reason, biology appears to have avoided asking the "what" of it’s own discipline.

While it is clear, Rivera reasons, that "life must be understood as necessarily material, it is also clear that such is not sufficient. If vitalism is excluded and material explanations are necessar(ily) not sufficient, "then life must be understood as necessary to our understanding of matter. Or in other words, our understanding of matter must be radically expanded".


It is for this reason that the understanding of matter, the ‘whatness’ of life is problematic. This is seen when one asks biologists ‘what does biology study?’, most answer it focuses on the study of living processes. And while processes are a necessary focus of biology, they are not sufficient. It turns the subject of biology into an adjective as opposed to a noun ie living processes.

It is because of the biologist’s problem with "whatness" that s\he feels comfortable speaking of a living virus or a living plant but not of a virus life or a plant life. Because the exclusive study of how an organism sustains itself, reproduces, develops and changes in time, that the biologist avoids vitalism as a topic of research. This results in limiting our language about life to that of an adjective.


The impact that the term ‘life’ as an adjective has had on contemporary life and culture has been accomplished by it’s use in the biological sciences as an adjective. Both science and metaphysics have trouble dealing with the dynamic nature of being. It may well be that as the presenter suggests "Living", life as an adjective is better addressed by a philosophy of becoming than a philosophy of being.


Without a doubt, the field of spirituality takes on life as a noun. It uses the concept of a soul or soulfulness to express life that has vitality in a material form. But there again for a soul to be living, if it implies life itself.

While much a do is being made of developing a Seamless Garment Theory of Life Science processes from the Big Bang to Quantum Mechanics, the vitality question is again overlooked. While these studies go beyond biology, there is no question that the biology of life has a dynamism distinctly different when moving from stones to humanity. Perhaps to develop the Seamless Garment Theory of Life Science, vitality needs to be acknowledged, researched and studied if there is any hope for our universe to come together in a way that is aligned with human experience.


There is an unusual coming together of two distinct scientific minds and theories in considering how life and matter evolves. Paleantologist Teilhard De Chardin purported the Theory of the Noosphere where communication among human beings would reach a level of intensity so dense, it would take on form. Form implies matter. In other words, the coming into existence of something being formed out of a totally distinct presence of communication. Communication is created, however, from the vitalism of the communicator. The question could be asked if the form is expected to take on the same vitalism as the live communicators themselves.

Darwin looked at variations of species and assigned to them his Darwinian Theory of Evolution. Here, however, it is suspected that vitalism came from an existence that had no vitalism initially. Thus, we see two ends of a theory of vitalism that these researches suggest. Conceptually, Chardin’s idea might consider a situation where vital humans communicate so intensely that the species infuses vitalism into a physical form that begets vitalism. Darwin, on the other end of the spectrum much like quantum physics is in opposite to the Big Bang theory, posits vitalism coming out of the inert or non-vital.

Quantum Physicists studying the minutia of strings and super strings assert that everything is chance but comes together in unity for reasons they do not understand.

Big Bang physicists acknowledge outloud to wonder what or who it came from. The field of Spirituality acknowledges the existence of the soul and identifies the soul as giving vitality to life that is originated with God.

Chardin was mesmerized by the beauty of a simple shell while, according to Garcia-Rivera, theologian Charles Darwin wrote that "it is very strange. I cannot look at nature without thinking of purpose. Nevertheless when I look at detail I can’t find it". So too, science and more specifically biology may never find it’s true purpose in research unless or until it can locate the principles of vitality it has yet to address.

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