Beyond Mechanism

BeyondMechanism_frontBrian G. Henning and Adam C. Scarfe (eds.)
Foreword by Stuart A. Kauffman
Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield 2013
Re-released in paperback 2015

Publisher's website

Book Description
It has been said that new discoveries and developments in the human, social, and natural sciences hang “in the air” prior to their consummation. While neo-Darwinist biology has been powerfully served by its mechanistic metaphysic and a reductionist methodology in which living organisms are considered machines, many of the chapters in this volume place this paradigm into question. Pairing scientists and philosophers together, Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back into Biology explores what might be termed “the new frontiers” of biology, namely contemporary areas of research that invite an updating, a supplementation, or a relaxation of some of the main tenets of the modern synthesis. Such areas of investigation include: emergence theory, systems biology, biosemiotics, homeostasis, symbiogenesis, niche construction, the theory of organic selection (also known as “the Baldwin Effect”), self-organization, teleodynamics, and epigenetics. Most of the chapters in this book offer critical reflections on the neo-Darwinist outlook and work to promote a novel synthesis that is open to both a greater degree of inclusivity and a more holistic orientation in the biological sciences.

List of Contributors
Lawrence Cahoone, Tyrone Cashman, Philip Clayton, Terrence Deacon, Gernot Falkner, Renate Falkner, Brian K. Hall, Brian G. Henning, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Stuart A. Kauffman, Spyridon Koutroufinis, Lynn Margulis, Michael Ruse, Dorion Sagan, Adam C. Scarfe, J. Scott Turner, Robert E. Ulanowicz, Bruce H. Weber

“Suspicion about the adequacy of mechanistic views of nature has lately become increasingly audible. Contributors to this uniformly excellent body of essays not only amplify this suspicion but also offer scientifically and intellectually sophisticated alternatives. I consider this book essential reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding biology in its relationship to other fields of scientific and philosophical inquiry.” —John F. Haught, Georgetown University

“This collection of papers explores some ways forward for biological science, out of its neo-Darwinian stasis and its mechanistic bonds. I recommend this volume to those willing to consider some of the possibilities emerging now within biological science.” —Stanley N. Salthe, Binghamton University

"It is quite obvious that the period of neo-Darwinism as the dominant view is coming to its end. The turn that is taking place in the current decades has been called the epigenetic turn . . . , but in order to make a true difference, it should be the semiotic turn. This is because the epigenetic factor exists due to the agencies which interpret and thus are bringing the initial pieces of knowing (aliquid stat pro aliquo) into the world. . . . Open-mindedness is our hope. The work by Brian Henning and Adam Scarfe deserves much appreciation." (Biosemiotics (2014): 7:465-470)

"In many respects, this is a remarkable book that comes at a timely moment, both for theoretical biology and for the philosophy of biology. The book, edited by Brian Henning and Adam Scarfe, constitutes an excellent compendium of philosophical and scientific criticism against the neo-Darwinian ‘‘received view’’, in which Natural Selection is taken as the fundamental explanatory mechanism of biological evolution (and, indirectly, of biological phenomena in general). As an alternative, ‘‘Beyond Mechanism’’ not only presents a wide repertoire of arguments in defense of a more pluralistic view of evolution, but more importantly, it constitutes a piece of research into a new conceptual framework for biology. . . . Globally speaking, the set of chapters in this book constitute an excellent, profound and very comprehensive criticism of the reductionist traditions in biology, and a fascinating exploration of new alternatives."
(Science Education (2016))

Table of Contents

Foreword: Evolution beyond Newton, Darwin, and Entailing Law
Stuart A. Kauffman

Introduction: On a “Life-Blind Spot” in Neo-Darwinism’s Mechanistic Metaphysical Lens
Adam C. Scarfe
Section 1: Complexity, Systems Theory, and Emergence

1     Complex Systems Dynamics in Evolution and Emergent Processes
    Bruce H. Weber

2    Why Emergence Matters
    Philip Clayton

3    On the Incompatibility of the Neo-Darwinian Hypothesis With Systems-Theoretical Explanations of Biological Development
    Gernot Falkner and Renate Falkner

4    Process-First Ontology   
    Robert E. Ulanowicz

5     Ordinal Pluralism as Metaphysics for Biology
    Lawrence Cahoone

Section 2: Biosemiotics

6     Why Do We Need a Semiotic Understanding of Life?
    Jesper Hoffmeyer

7    The Irreducibility of Life to Mentality: Biosemiotics or Emergence?   
    Lawrence Cahoone
Section 3: Homeostasis, Thermodynamics, and Symbiogenesis

8    Biology’s Second Law: Homeostasis, Purpose and Desire
    J. Scott Turner

9     “Wind at Life’s Back”—Toward a Naturalistic, Whiteheadian Teleology: Symbiogenesis and the Second Law   
    Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis

10    Of Termites and Men: On the Ontology of Collective Individuals   
    Brian G. Henning
Section 4: The Baldwin Effect, Behavior, and Evolution

11    The Baldwin Effect in an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis
    Bruce H. Weber

12    On the Ramifications of the Theory of Organic Selection for Environmental and Evolutionary Ethics   
    Adam C. Scarfe
Section 5: Autogen, Teleology, and Teleodynamics

13     Teleology versus Mechanism in Biology: Beyond Self-Organization   
    Terrence Deacon and Tyrone Cashman

14     Teleodynamics: A Neo-Naturalistic Conception of Organismic Teleology   
    Spyridon Koutroufinis
Section 6: Epigenetics

15    Epigenesis, Epigenetics, and the Epigenotype: Toward An Inclusive Concept of Development and Evolution   
    Brian K. Hall

16    Epigenetics, Soft Inheritance, Mechanistic Metaphysics, and Bioethics
    Adam C. Scarfe
Section 7: Organism and Mechanism   

17    From Organicism to Mechanism—and Halfway Back?       
    Michael Ruse

18     Machines and Organisms: The Rise and Fall of a Conflict       
    Philip Clayton