Biology as technology

The idea is old, and it is fashionable to deride it in a sense (i.e., Paley’s arguments, commonly thought to have been refuted).

Yet, it seems so obviously right in a sense (Dennett picks up on this, and starts using ‘design’ and so on to describe biological systems, where design is understood as a process without some intentional thought process behind it – design anyways).

A good trick in design is to start simple (as it is commonly believed organisms did) and then iterate, testing the design at multiple steps along the way. This seems to be what happens with organisms through evolutionary development, as far as our limited understanding of these things goes.

Furthermore, it seems like a very useful metaphor, because technology is a predominant aspect of our time.

Organisms are technological ‘artifacts’, yet of unfathomed complexity and probably making use of unknown causal ‘mechanisms’ (understood broadly as cause-and-effect systems – for example, before electromagnetism was discovered, the use of this by certain organisms would not have been known by biologists at the time).

By understanding this, it might help people to understand what biology encompasses.


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