THE RESTLESS MACHINERY OF LIFE
Ever since the beginnings of modern science in the 17th century, philosophers and scientists have used clockwork and related machinery as a metaphor to describe the universe and the natural world. The machinery model generally makes one think of something rigid, rote, constrained, something that ticks and whirs along without changing. However, hidden within this centuries-old clockwork-machinery metaphor is a tradition of people who have understood artificial machinery, and nature, very differently: as restless, responsive, and dynamic. These renegades include German philosopher Leibniz, who first described living things as “organisms”; the French naturalist Lamarck, who was first to present the theory of evolution; and the Austrian pioneer in quantum physics, Erwin Schrödinger, whose landmark 1944 manifesto What is Life was foundational to the new field of molecular biology. This talk will explore the history of restless machinery as a model for living things.