Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > From Physical Causes to Organisms of Meaning > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

There are no consistent causes in the organism (4)

One would think that biologists [who are forever struggling to tie down “which is the cause and which is the effect?”] might pause and consider the possibility that the kind of stable causal relationship they’ve been looking for simply isn’t there — the possibility that they’ve defined their task in misleading terms. Yet when researchers find, for example, that patterns of nuclear organization are implicated in cancer, an almost automatic exhortation follows: “However, it is crucial to determine the extent to which cancer-associated changes in nuclear organization are cause or effect” (Zaidi et al. 2007). But is it crucial? Are the actual goings-on in the cell in fact proving so clear-cut? Why do we need causes as an addition to lawfulness and meaning? After all, we have no difficulty understanding all the relationships in a meaningful text, even though we cannot say that one part of the text causes another part.

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