Renatured Biology: Getting Past Postmodernism in the Life ciences

Stuart A. Newman

in Without Nature?

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230693
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237227 | DOI:
Renatured Biology: Getting Past Postmodernism in the Life               ciences

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Acknowledging that gene-centered biologists increasingly eschew the idea of naturality for its imprecision, this chapter argues that the conceptual distinction of natural and artifactual remains firmly rooted in biological science. It is the mechanisms of development, rather than genetic change itself, which are decisive. The obfuscation of the nature–artifact distinction, relies on a reductive “biological postmodernism,” an outdated gene determinism that often serves commercial or political interests more than it represents scientific fact. The chapter analyzes the rhetorical maneuvers and often dubious scientific claims behind debates over genetically modified (GM) crops and human applications of biotechnology, such as cloning and stem cells. It sees the revival of creationism as symptomatic of the same problem: the inability of evolutionary biology, to date, to provide a full account of some critical mechanisms of the biological phenotype. This unanswered question, justly exposed by some fundamentalist Christians, is the same lacuna exploited by postmodern biologists in order to assert that no form of life exists naturally and that biotechnological innovations ought to face no special scrutiny. In response, the chapter explains new developments in systems biology that attempt to explain morphological continuities (or “natures”) through biophysical mechanisms in the evolution of cells.

Keywords: biological postmodernism; religion of technology; genetically modified crops; naturality

Chapter.  14040 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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