Turner, 2013: Biology’s Second Law. Homeostasis, P urpose and Desire

[From MK (2015.08.15.2230 CET)]

Here are two essays on homeostasis by the physiologist J. Scott
Turner. The first essay is an abstract of his upcoming book that will
likely be titled as the essay.

The two provided links in this post are temporary, so save local
copies of the files if you want to read them later.


Biology’s Second Law. Homeostasis, Purpose and Desire
In: Brian G Henning and Adam Scarfe (eds), Beyond Mechanism: New
Frontiers in Biology and Evolutionary Theory
2013, Lexington Books

"Modern biology has largely divorced itself from the idea that life is
a purposeful phenomenon. While we have learned much from this stance,
it has led evolutionary biology into a sterile intellectual
wilderness, in which Darwinism’s original goal�a coherent ttheory of
biology�has proved elusive, if not impossible to attain. In this

essay, I argue that one of Darwin’s contemporaries�the Frennch
physiologist Claude Bernard�planted the seeds to do so in his core

concept of homeostasis. Bernard’s insight into the essential nature of
life stands on a par with biology’s “first law’’�evolution by natural

selection�and points to the possibility of a truly coherent theory of
life and its evolution."

*Temporary* copy of the essay: http://pct.loopgain.com/jsturner2013.pdf

Homeostasis and the forgotten vitalist roots of adaptation

In: Charles Wolfe and Sebastian Normandin (eds), Vitalism and the
Scientific Image
2013, Springer Netherlands


Adaptation, supposedly so central to the Darwinian idea, is actually
steeped in the vitalist tradition of the 19th century. This
philosophy, known as "scientific" vitalism, animated all aspects of
biology, including physiology and evolution, was suppressed at the
beginning of the 20th century. This has led ever since to a fracturing
of biology. A reunification is possible if this scientifically
respectable form of vitalism can be recovered.


Through most of the twentieth century, biology’s image as a valid
science has been gauged by how closely it adheres to the norms of
“objective�? sciences like physics, chemistry and mathematics. Strains
of biological thought that depart from this norm are deemed
non-scientific. This presumes that life is fundamentally a physical,
chemical and thermodynamic phenomenon. While this approach has been
very fruitful, it is questionable that it can lead to a coherent
theory of biology. This is particularly the case for certain obvious
(self-evident?) properties of living systems, including
purposefulness, design, and intentionality. The tendency has been to
treat these phenomena as illusions, as in numerous invocations of
“apparent�? design, “apparent�? purposefulness and “apparent�?
intentionality. I argue in this essay that these phenomena are far
from illusory, but are in fact quite real. I further argue that a
coherent theory of biology must account for purpose, design and
intentionality, and I offer one possible way to do so through the
fundamental phenomenon of homeostasis.

*Temporary* copy of the essay: http://pct.loopgain.com/jsturner2013v.pdf