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

Controllers that don’t exist

when regulators are in turn regulated, what do we mean by “regulate” — and where within the web of regulation can we single out a master controller capable of dictating cellular fates? And if we can’t, what are reputable scientists doing when they claim to have identified such a controller, or, rather, various such controllers?

If they really mean something like “influencers,” then that’s fine. But influence is not about mechanism and control; the factors at issue just don’t have controlling powers. What we see, rather, is a continual mutual adaptation, interaction, and coordination that occurs from above. What we see, that is — once we start following out all the interactions at a molecular level — is not some mechanism dictating the fate or controlling an activity of the organism, but simply an organism-wide coherence — a living, metamorphosing form of activity — within which the more or less distinct partial activities find their proper place.

The misrepresentation of this organic coherence in favor of supposed controlling mechanisms is not an innocent inattention to language; it’s a fundamental misrepresentation of reality at the central point where we are challenged to understand the character of living things.

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