Organisms are not machines (Ep 82)


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Why shouldn’t we think of living things as machines? What is and what isn’t an organism?

In this episode, we talk to Dan Nicholson, a philosopher and biologist from George Mason University about his new edited volume, "Everything Flows: Toward a Processual Philosophy of Biology". In it, he and colleagues argue that biological systems more resemble flames and tornadoes and other dynamically stable systems than clocks or other human-designed things. Dan thinks that life is better understood as flows of energy and matter, which means that trying to reduce biological things into smaller parts, a popular practice in biology known as reductionism, will ultimately fail because it misses the stream-like nature of life. In the show today, we discuss these ideas, what Dan calls a processual philosophy for biology, including what it means for evolution, medicine, and more.

Cover art: Keating Shahmehri

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