Accessible updates on the technical literature; commentaries on that literature; and introductions (with links) to new articles associated with the “Biology Worthy of Life” project. The content in general relates to the dramatic discoveries re-shaping our understanding of organisms. The current focus is on gene regulation, evolution, and the meaning of organic wholeness — all of which can make for some occasionally wide-ranging excursions. Notes, commentaries, and articles are by Stephen L. Talbott of The Nature Institute.

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  • Causes and effects are never neatly separable in organisms. Over and above physical causation, we discover a story-like coordination of causes. Biologists widely recognize this, but nevertheless try to describe biological processes as if they were nothing but a successio...

  • In living beings, structure arises from movement, not the other way around. Movement and transformation are primary. This is particularly evident in recent discoveries about the functioning of disordered proteins and about the importance of phase transitions in the cyto...

  • The key ideas of natural selection are commonly presented in the form of a core logic, or algorithm, that leads, with absolute certainty, to meaningful evolution. In reality, this logic is empty, and all the meaning depends upon what organism-agents actually do. By itself,...

  • All biological description involves narrative (story-like) elements, including purposiveness, intention, and, in general, more-than-physical meanings. But, while employing such description constantly, biologists prefer not to acknowledge it or account for it in their the...

  • RNA splicing and, in some organisms, the reconstruction of shattered genomes (and, in all organisms, the processes of DNA damage repair) illustrate the coherent, holistic, end-directed, epigenetic performance of living narratives.
  • Every organism, and indeed every significant biological entity from a cell on up, is a governing context that informs and disciplines its own parts, while also participating in larger contexts; and the governance is established by the interwoven ideas that make the contex...

  • The cytoskeleton and cellular membranes illustrate both the integral unity of the cell and also the temptation to isolate parts in our thought as ‘controlling’ causes. In reality, we discover in every cell the power of the whole to express itself through its parts.

  • The idea of DNA as an informational sequence encoding a genetic program is giving way to a much more dynamic idea involving three-dimensional chromosomes that actively gesture their meanings
  • The fact of purposive activity — the obvious play of active agency, the coordination of means toward the realization of relatively stable ends, and the undeniable evidence that animals perceive a world and interpret their perceptions according to their own way of life —...

  • We in the twenty-first century have inherited a rich and extensive library of descriptive literature about living things, their habitats, and their mutual relations, bequeathed to us over the centuries by dedicated naturalists. Unfortunately, in this age of molecular biol...

  • As soon as we are willing to acknowledge the organism as a purposive agent, everything in our evolutionary theory needs to be thought differently. Among other consequences, we discover evolution to be a purposive and directional process in much the same sense as ontogeny (in...

  • We have all heard about the insignificance of human existence in a cosmos that is indifferent, if not alien, to us. But history and language suggest that the cosmos has a different story to tell.

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