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Stephen L. Talbott: Home Page and Guide to My Writings

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Over-arching project since 2009: “Biology Worthy of Life”

What Do Organisms Mean?

Molecular biology in general and genetics in particular have been fed to the general public in the form of mechanism, determinism, and intrinsic meaninglessness. It all adds up to a remarkable falsehood, and comes to us in part owing to a disastrous misunderstanding of the long-running dispute about mechanism and vitalism in biology. The real news about molecular biological researches of the past couple of decades is that scientists are rediscovering living creatures as organisms of meaning.

I have written several articles about the revolution now occurring in biology for The New Atlantis. They cover not only genetics, the dramatic new developments in epigenetics, and much else on the molecular scale, but also evolution, where the illusion of meaninglessness and the enchantment with genes have perhaps had their strongest run. You’ll find those articles and a great deal more — all in their latest versions and with a rich variety of ways to navigate the content — at the project home page.

A Book You Can Start Reading Now

Almost all my current effort, representing the culmination of my work in biology, is focused on a book-in-progress tentatively entitled Evolution As It Was Meant To Be — And the Living Narratives That Tell Its Story. It deals with the character of organisms, and what this tells us about the character of evolution. Chapters are being made available online as they are drafted, and many are already available. You will find the main page and table of contents here.

[Photo ©>Ernst Vikne (CC)]

Virtually everything I write for the foreseeable future (from July, 2013) will come through, or be announced in, this portal, which includes an RSS Feed option. As for earlier and miscellaneous writings, the following is a guide.

Can there be a qualitative science?

My work on the meaning of organisms is part of a broader project: From Mechanism to a Science of Qualities. The project aims to begin characterizing the terms of a new, qualitative science. Of course, for those scientists who identify with Galileo’s commitment to a strictly quantitative science, which excludes qualities from consideration by definition, the phrase "qualitative science" will sound like a simple contradiction. And yet, in reality, there can be no science that is not qualitative; mere quantity does not give us any material content. Without qualities we have no world to try to understand. And if we must deal with qualities, then it’s far better to be aware of what we’re doing than to smuggle those qualities into our work in an undisciplined fashion while pretending we have nothing to do with them.

Books and book reviews.

My latest book is Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines. You will find more information about the book here, and can also read the introduction to the book. In addition, I have, with Craig Holdrege, co-authored Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering, which received an excellent review in the September 2008 issue of Nature Biotechnology. It can be ordered either from the University Press of Kentucky or from The Nature Institute bookstore.

All the chapters from my earlier book, The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst, are available in full text. Likewise, the chapters from my two booklets, Extraordinary Lives: Disability and Destiny in a Technological Age, and In the Belly of the Beast: Technology, Nature, and the Human Prospect are available in full text. Much of the content of these booklets was assimilated to Devices of the Soul, mentioned above.

All these book reviews are my doing unless otherwise marked.

Other writings.

Very many of my writings — several hundred articles — have appeared in the online NetFuture newsletter, which I have been producing since 1995. These writings deal with a broad range of social issues relating to computers, technology in general, education, genetics, factory farming, video games, robotics, mechanistic versus holistic science, and much else. They are all accessible via the NetFuture topical index. There are also per-issue indexes for each year, which you can get to from the NetFuture main page.

A few of my articles and book chapters about computers and education have been gathered together in one place.

I also have a collection of miscellaneous papers and addresses, several of them unpublished. These cover diverse topics, including computers in the classroom, orality and literacy in the electronic age, Goethean science, the thought of Owen Barfield, and the limitations of a technological understanding of the human heart.

Finally, here’s where you’ll find a list of publications and presentations.

Selected Articles

I list here a limited selection of articles — the “author’s pick”, so to speak. (This list to be expanded.)

Technology — General

“Computers, the Internet, and the Abdication of Consciousness” - Text of an interview conducted by Dr. Dolores Brien for the “C. G. Jung” page on the web. (Originally published January, 2000.)

“The Deceiving Virtues of Technology” — How did we get from Odysseus, “man of many devices,” to the Silicon Valley “man of many gadgets” — and how can we fulfill the original promise in Odysseus’ remarkable inner achievements?

Computers and Education

“Meetings with a Snake” — What is lost when we use video and computer technology in the classroom? This paper also discusses the relation between quantitative and qualitative educational research. (Paper published in the March, 1997 Research Bulletin of the Waldorf Education Research Institute.)

Man and Nature

“Toward an Ecological Conversation”

Science — Mechanistic or Holistic

“Do Physical Laws Make Things Happen?” - The laws given by a mechanistic science, valuable as they are, do not enable us to explain or predict or characterize the world’s phenomena.

“Between Discordant Eras” - Reflections upon the nature of the human heart. When William Harvey began dissecting animals and observing the heart at the moment it ceased moving, what ancient knowledge of the human being was lost? Can we possibly retrieve any of that knowledge? Clearly it will not be easy. (Paper published in the September, 1998 issue of Archetype, Newsletter Articles Supplement of the Science Group of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain.)


Don’t bother looking for me on social media sites; I’m not there, and invitations from such sites are blocked. I am freely available by email (stevet@netfuture.org), although my response times can be slow.

Last revision: August 20, 2015

This document: https://bwo.life/slt.htm

Steve Talbott :: Home Page and Guide to My Writings