Archive for 21 July 2006

“Physicizing” Biology

I’m reading Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell:  Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  Early in the book he speaks of how those in the humanities think it reductionistic to ask about the biological bases of their subjects of study (like literature or art or religion).  In the note he suggests that biologists can be sensitive to this complaint by reflecting on their own discomfort with attempts to “physicize” biology.  He cites Ernst Mayr’s recent book defending biology’s independence.  In some ways, my concept of energonomics is to physics what E.O. Wilson’s Consilience is to biology: energonomics is an attempt to unify knowledge via the physics of energy transfer, where E.O. Wilson wants to unify knowledge via his own field of biology. 

There is an obvious limit to disciplinary boundaries, and this struggle over which one will be the umbrella over all the others is superfluous.  It’s all the same, really:  trying to make sense of our existence and to determine, in the word’s of Todd May’s introduction to Deleuze, “how one might live.”  Given the pervasive nature of energy, I find this the most promising for such a project.

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21 July 2006 at 2:19 pm 1 comment


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