Ph.D. Candidate in Evolutionary Biology at SUNY Binghamton
Till death do us part: The Intertwining of Fidelity, Mortality and Identity
Nucleotides and Gods: Organismality Redefined
Newton’s Alchemy and the Modern Segregation of Science and Spirituality
Summary of Research Interests
I exist on the edges, and my academic work cannot fit into a single discipline. A good description would be that I study what lies at the intersection of Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology, and Philosophy. I focus on symbiosis and organismality. How do organisms define themselves and what are the conditions under which their boundaries merge? The major transitions of evolution are good benchmarks: 1) The origin of life 2) The first cells & DNA 3) Endosymbiosis 4) Multicellularity 5) Symbolic Language. Symbolic language is facilitating a major transition in evolution that is akin to the origins of DNA. Humans use symbols as a new inheritance medium. Significant portions of our identities now flow through symbolic channels. This new medium for identity replication has had a radical effect on our boundaries of self. A new kind of organism is emerging – a societal superorganism – consisting not just of humans and our artifacts, but of all of the domesticated flora and fauna that have codependently evolved with us – a global endosymbiosis. On a personal level, we use words to empathize with one another, effectively recreating each other inside ourselves. Thus the self-other boundary no longer lies at the skin, and communication is an act of reproduction.
Throughout human history, words and symbols have taken on a sacred aura – the effects of these symbols is closely associated with the effects of magic. I incorporate alchemical symbolism into my writing because alchemy was one of the last areas where rigorous human inquiry took place before a clear distinction was made between science and magic. In our exuberant and fruitful foray into the realm of reductionist logic, we were hasty to abandon all modes of thought that could not produce quantifiable, testable hypotheses. This rejection of the ineffable was essential for the scientific progress of the last 300 years to occur, but now it is time to reach around and grab our own tail, and rediscover the value of what is deffinitionally incomprehensible. There is still merit in discarded ideas, if you know how to look for it. Magic still exists, but despite its eerie connection to symbols, its nature is to resist lexical definition. Our challenge is to discover – and not to proscribe – a place for the sacred and magical in modern society. I strive to show how scientific facts, especially biological facts, can still have an aura of numinousity around them. Ultimately, I hope to develop a new cosmology, a story that is consistent with astronomical – biological theory, and yet still glows with cosmic mystery.