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

The organism is an activity, not a thing (1)

The organism does not consist of things. It is an active agent (Moss 2011) whose activity must be understood as such — which is to say, must be grasped as meaningful, contextualized, adaptive intent. And it would be a strange hope if we expected to comprehend the nature of this activity and its evolutionary potentials without first looking at the activity itself in the one place where we find it concretely embodied — in organisms, in their development, and in their life together. Here, then, is the position I am defending:

Against the Genetic Dogma of Evolutionary Theory: The organism is an activity rather than a thing. It is a living agent whose life as a whole is a pursuit of its own ends and meanings. Its significant bequest to future generations consists of an elaborately chosen projection of its own life — not some single “controlling” molecular element — into a nascent life that is never less than a complete organism. This organism, as a physical entity, is without a beginning in any absolute sense. Its life is a continuation and transformation of the directed development of its progenitors. The heritable substance is never anything less than an entire organism.

There is nothing in actual organisms to suggest anything remotely like the standard evolutionary narrative. There is no single heritable substance as opposed to living cells or zygotes, no exclusive explanatory burden carried by DNA, and no rigid barrier separating the individual organism’s life history from its contribution to evolutionary change.

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