Longevity Health and Wellness Protocol
The belief that life cannot be explained by ordinary physical laws, and therefore requires some sort of 'extra ingredient', is known as vitalism. Vitalists claim that there is a 'life force' or ' lan vital' which infuses biological systems and accounts for their extraordinary powers and abilities. Vitalism was developed in great detail in the early years of the twentieth century by the embryologist Hans Dreisch, who revived some old Aristotelian ideas of animism. Dreisch postulated the existence of a causal factor operating in living matter called entelechy, after the Greek telos, from which the word teleology derives. Entelechy implies that the perfect and complete idea of the organism exists in advance. This is intended to suggest that systems with entelechy are goal-oriented, that is, they contain within themselves a blueprint or plan of action. Entelechy therefore acts as a sort of organizing force that arranges physical and chemical processes within an organism in accordance with...
Until about 1950, two points of view governed science. One was physical-ism, an extreme version of reductionistic mechanism, according to which all that is perceived by our senses is nothing but atoms and quanta (or even nothing but elementary particles and fundamental fields). The other was vitalism, whose supporters claimed that it is impossible to explain life without thinking of a special force or field or fluid permeating a living organism, somehow organizing the parts of that organism and imparting to them that special quality that we call being alive. Physicalism failed to explain life, a failure that was taken by many as a proof of vitalism. In fact, that failure merely proved that reduction to simpler parts or principles, however necessary, is not sufficient to build the edifice of science. The adoption of reductionistic mechanism coincided with the birth of modern science, and for a long time it prevailed. Scientists believed that a description of a complex object in terms
It is ironic that in the second half of the 19th century molecular chirality came to provide one of the last bastions for vitalism, which Pasteur's later research effectively discredited (see Mason, 1982). According to the advocates of this theory, the matter of living things is qualitatively different from that of inanimate matter and one of the differences is that the chiral molecules extracted from living things are always homochiral, whereas, when the chemist synthesizes these same compounds in the laboratory, a mixture of enantiomers in equal amounts, that is, a racemic mixture, is always obtained.
Morphogenesis is all the more remarkable for its robustness. The developing embryos of some species can be mutilated in their early stages without affecting the end product. The ability of embryos to rearrange their growth patterns to accommodate this mutilation is called regulation. Regulation can involve new cells replacing removed ones, or cells that have been repositioned finding their way back to their 'correct' locations. It was experiments of this sort that led Driesch to reject any hope of a mechanistic explanation and to opt instead for his vitalist theory.
For some scientists and philosophers the above considerations have suggested that chance alone is hopelessly inadequate to account for the richness of the biosphere. They postulate the existence of some additional organizing forces or guiding principles that drive evolutionary change in the direction of better adaptation and more developed levels of organization. This was, of course, the basis of Aristotle's animism, whereby evolution is directed towards a specific goal by the action of final causes. It is also an extension of the idea of vitalism. Thus the French vitalist philosopher Henri Bergson postulated that his so-called lan vital, which supposedly endows living matter with special organizing capabilities, is also responsible for directing evolutionary change in a creative and felicitous manner.
What can be said about these new 'laws of complexity and 'organizing principles' that seem to be the source of nature's power to create novelty Talk of 'organizing principles' in nature is often regarded as shamefully mystical or vitalistic, and hence by definition anti-scientific. It seems to me, however, that this is an extraordinary prejudice. There is no compelling reason why the fundamental laws of nature have to refer only to the lowest level of entities, i.e. the fields and particles that we presume to constitute the elementary stuff from which the universe is built. There is no logical reason why new laws may not come into operation at each emergent level Let me dispel a possible misconception. It is not necessary to suppose that these higher level organizing principles carry out their marshalling of the system's constituents by deploying mysterious new forces specially for the purpose, which would indeed be tantamount to vitalism. Although it is entirely possible that...
A clear distinction between on the one hand espousing vitalism and on the other denying the reducibility of nature to the bottom level laws of physics is also made by Peacocke 12 It is possible for higher level concepts and theories. . . to be non-reducible to lower level concepts and theories, that is, they can be autonomous. At the same time one has to recognize the applicability of the lower level concepts and theories (for example, those of physics and chemistry) to the component units of more complex entities and their validity when referred to that lower level. That is, with reference to biology, it is possible to be anti-reductionist without being a vitalist.
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