Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > Genes and the Central Fallacy of Evolutionary Theory > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

Yes, holism is difficult

But there is supposed to be a problem here. Anyone who argues for a holistic approach to the organism is bound to hear, as I have heard, this objection: “How can we possibly understand the potentials hidden in a whole cell with its infinitely complex and integral processes, let alone in a whole organism? You have no right to speak of such wholes, because you can offer us no program for understanding them as such. Our only methods for understanding are grounded in the causal analysis of parts”.

Well, I am sorry if life makes things difficult — if cellular substance really is rather more like the “vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes” from which Richard Dawkins recoils than like a machine or digital device. But life is what it is, and if little or no attention has been given to the real issues — if these issues demand ways of looking for which we have received no training, or (to use Goethe’s phrase) for which we have not yet even cultivated the necessary “organs of perception” — this can only be reason for trying to develop the relevant cognitive capacities and for learning some new approaches, not for sticking to what we have done because it’s the only thing we know.

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