Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

The animistic molecules of conventional biology

Weiss considers terms such as “regulate”, “organize”, and “control” an “obvious reversion in modern guise to animistic biology, which let animated particles under whatever name impart the property of organization to inanimate matter” (Weiss 1962). He says this, not because he resists the ideas of regulation, organization, and so on, but rather because he refuses to ascribe the power of regulating and organizing to specific material parts of the organism, which then gain a kind of magical quality. Whatever regulates a set of interacting parts cannot be found in one of the parts being regulated. To see the principles of regulation governing any set of parts, we have to step back, or up, until we can recognize a unity and harmony that operates, so to speak, between the parts, becoming visible only from a more comprehensive, relational vantage point.

This unity and harmony may represent a genuine difficulty for our understanding, if only because few in recent decades have bothered to address it. But until we see the problem where it actually lies, instead of concealing it in molecules with mystical qualities, we can hardly begin the work of trying to understand.

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