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What Is Life? Part I: The Problem of Agency

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Is there a third way between Darwinian normative nihilism and theism? In other words, is there a different way to deal with the fact that purpose, value, and meaning seem to have a very real grip on our hearts and minds, besides dismissing them as an illusion, with the Darwinist, or appealing to God as their guarantor, with the theist?

Most debates over evolution and human nature simply assume that the answer to these questions is “No.” They oscillate between the two poles of scientific reductionism and theism.

In this post, and two follow-ups, I will make the case for answering these questions with a tentative “Yes.” More specifically, I will show (i) why we have good reason to believe that agency in a strong normative sense is an objective feature of reality (Part I), (ii) why the mainstream Darwinian account of life is radically inadequate (Part II), and (iii) which areas of current scientific investigation might conceivably point the way towards a deeper understanding of living things, and thus of ourselves (Part III).

– James Barham, “What Is Life? Part I: The Problem of Agency,”The Best Schools blog (28 December 2011). More.


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