Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something

Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something "Alive" and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It

by J. Scott Turner


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A professor, biologist, and physiologist argues that modern Darwinism’s materialist and mechanistic biases have led to a scientific dead end, unable to define what life is—and only an openness to the qualities of "purpose and desire" will move the field forward.

Scott Turner contends. "To be scientists, we force ourselves into a Hobson’s choice on the matter: accept intentionality and purposefulness as real attributes of life, which disqualifies you as a scientist; or become a scientist and dismiss life’s distinctive quality from your thinking. I have come to believe that this choice actually stands in the way of our having a fully coherent theory of life."

Growing research shows that life's most distinctive quality, shared by all living things, is purpose and desire: maintain homeostasis to sustain life. In Purpose and Desire, Turner draws on the work of Claude Bernard, a contemporary of Darwin revered among physiologists as the founder of experimental medicine, to build on Bernard’s "dangerous idea" of vitalism, which seeks to identify what makes "life" a unique phenomenon of nature. To further its quest to achieve a fuller understanding of life, Turner argues, science must move beyond strictly accepted measures that consider only the mechanics of nature.

A thoughtful appeal to widen our perspective of biology that is grounded in scientific evidence, Purpose and Desire helps us bridge the ideological evolutionary divide.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062651563
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/12/2017
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

DR. J. SCOTT TURNER is a leading biologist and physiologist and professor of biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse, New York. His work has garnered attention in the New York Times Book Review, Science, Nature, American Scientist, National Geographic Online, NPR “Science Friday” and other leading media outlets. He is the author of two books with Harvard University Press: The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal Built Structures (2000) and The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself (2007).

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 The Pony Under the Tree 1

2 Biology's Second Law 11

3 Many Little Lives 25

4 A Clockwork Homeostasis 43

5 A Mad Dream 73

6 The Barrier That Wasn't 99

7 The Reverse Pinocchio 127

8 A Multiplicity of Memory 155

9 One Is the Friendliest Number 187

10 The Hand of Whatever 225

11 Plato Street 257

Epilogue: Evolution, Purpose, and Desire 291

Acknowledgments 299

Notes 303

Credits 319

Index 321

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