Paradise Mislaid: Birth, Death & the Human Predicament of Being Biological

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9780312059446: Paradise Mislaid: Birth, Death & the Human Predicament of Being Biological
From Kirkus Reviews:

Perhaps the clue to this odd rehashing of questions about life and death lies in the credentials of the author: Applewhite's (Cosmic Fishing, 1977) career includes long-term collaboration with Buckminster Fuller (Applewhite co-authored Synergetics) and 25 years as ``one of the chief sifters of intelligence for the CIA.'' Both occupations demand a fiercely inquiring mind, able to rove over the great and the trivial, picking up nuggets along the way. And so Applewhite has in this compendium of conjectures and facts about the phenomena of life and death, the myriad attempts to define them and to distinguish the biological from the merely material. He begins with acknowledging the elusiveness of the goal; there is no scientific definition of life. Indeed, he is quick to acknowledge that right-to-life debates about when life begins are meaningless and irrelevant to biologists, who banish the topic to religion and metaphysics. In due course, he deals with the physics, chemistry, and molecular biology of biota in all forms from borderline viruses to man, with appropriate excursions into cosmology, evolution, sexuality, Freud, cell and molecular biology, the genetic code, the mind-brain conundrum, aging, disease, near- death experiences, death, and immortality. Nearly every page quotes an authority (e.g., Schr”dinger, Ernst Mayr, E.O. Wilson, S.J. Gould). A recurrent theme is the human drive to classify and organize, often resulting in specialization and hierarchical ordering. There is even a long appendix enumerating the many- splintered fields that constitute biology today. The main point of all this erudition seems to be that we don't have answers and that at best we have to live with dualities: identity and change, chance and necessity. ``Ambivalence and ambiguity prevail.'' No news there! -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Infused with the maverick spirit of R. Buckminster Fuller (with whom Applewhite wrote Synergetics ), this eloquent and elegant treatise brings the weight of modern science to bear on age-old questions: What is life? Exactly what differentiates living and inanimate matter? What are the prospects for survival after bodily death? Applewhite concludes that an adequate definition of life eludes scientists, as he ranges from biochemists' and physicists' probings to neuroscientists' modeling of the human brain using neural networks or computers capable of learning. As for post-death existence, he is a reluctant skeptic. His open-ended inquiry encompasses the nature of viruses and tardigraves (microscopic organisms that grow solely by the enlargement of existing cells), sleep and dream research, the thresholds separating embryo, fetus and infant, the concept of self and the human predicament of being a "risen ape."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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