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Cosmic apprentice : dispatches from the edges of science by Dorion Sagan PDF

By Dorion Sagan

ISBN-10: 081668135X

ISBN-13: 9780816681358

ISBN-10: 0816681368

ISBN-13: 9780816681365

ISBN-10: 0816684375

ISBN-13: 9780816684373

In the pursuit of data, Dorion Sagan argues during this dazzlingly eclectic, conscientiously crafted, and deliciously witty selection of essays, medical authoritarianism and philosophical obscurantism are both ambitious hindrances to discovery. As technology has develop into extra really expert and extra expensive, its questing spirit has been restricted via dogma. And philosophy, probably the self-discipline most sensible positioned to question orthodoxy, has retreated at the back of dense theoretical language and arcane issues of learning.

Guided by means of a capacious, democratic view of technological know-how encouraged through the examples set through his past due parents—Carl Sagan, who popularized the examine of the cosmos, and Lynn Margulis, an evolutionary biologist who again and again clashed with the medical establishment—Sagan attracts on classical and modern philosophy to interfere provocatively in often-charged debates on thermodynamics, linear and nonlinear time, function, ethics, the hyperlinks among language and psychedelic medicinal drugs, the quest for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the profession of the human physique by way of microbial others. knowledgeable by means of a countercultural sensibility, a deep engagement with speculative suggestion, and a hardheaded clinical skepticism, he advances arguable positions on such doubtless sacrosanct topics as evolution and entropy. even as, he creatively considers quite a lot of thinkers, from Socrates to Bataille and Descartes to von Uexküll, to mirror on intercourse, biopolitics, and the loose will of Kermit the Frog.

Refreshingly nonconformist and polemically incisive, Cosmic Apprentice demanding situations readers to reject either dogma and cliché and in its place get well the highbrow spirit of event that should—and can as soon as again—animate either technological know-how and philosophy.

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And if they continuously recycle bio-elements to support their symbiont-like humans, then we have not just an allegory but a literal description of present ecological relations on what 46 F r o m “ P r o t o z o a n ” t o P o sth u ma n Buckminster Fuller called Spaceship Earth. A human being feeds collectively on its external ecosystem; one is not a Platonic island separate unto oneself. Thus the posthuman lesson from van Vogt’s story (as I choose to interpret it, imagining the necessary details of the life-supporting craft) is that what we call “human” really includes the bacteria, the protists, the plants, and fungi—everything we need both within and outside our bodies to be what we are.

What we call “human” is also impure, laced with germs. We have met the frenemy, and it is us. But before leaving this point of the pointillist composition that is our Being made of beings, please notice that even those cells that do not swarm in our guts, on our skin, coming and going, invading pathogenically or aiding probiotically—please notice that even these very central animal cells, the differentiated masses of lung, skin, brain, pancreas, placental, and other would be strictly human tissues that belong to our body proper—even they are infiltrated, adulterated, and packed with Lilliputian others.

Like other natural complex thermodynamic systems, material cycles as energy flows, and the system, if possible, grows to use up available resources. Microbes have mastered complete recycling of chemical elements in ecosystems. But if we look at evolutionary history, there comes a time when organisms developed the potential to consider themselves individual selves. I 36 F r o m “ P r o t o z o a n ” t o P o sth u ma n would provisionally locate this potential chronologically with the Ediacaran fauna, among the first organisms to have heads.

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Cosmic apprentice : dispatches from the edges of science by Dorion Sagan

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