Start Encyclopedia69 Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
dictionary -  encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   




  In biology, the doctrine of mechanism states that organisms are nothing more than self-perpetuating machines which can be broken down into a number of parts, each with a function in the whole and in which each event is entirely predictable from its cause. Since organic matter can be ultimately broken down into basic chemical units, the theory implies that life must conform to the laws of chemistry and physics. The idea was debated intensely during the 18th century by Cartesian philosophers, and, in the 19th century, Samuel Butler in his satirical work Erewhon (1872) examined the idea that man and machine could compete with one another on the same level.

Modern molecular biology was hailed as the proof for mechanism and the scientific study of biological systems presupposes that it will conform to mechanistic principles. Yet the control of the whole organism at the genetic (molecular) levels might also be construed as support for organicism and, due to the enormous complexity of many biological systems, it is impractical (but in mechanistic terms, not impossible) to attempt to derive certain biological principles from those of physics and chemistry. Thus many biologists would describe themselves as organicists in their philosophical outlook, though attempts to study organisms in a holistic sense do not preclude the application of mechanistic principles. RB

See also life; metabolism; vitalism.Further reading Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>


Other Terms : Nuclear Fission/Fusion | Revisionism | Panspermia
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About |
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us