Are Living Systems Machines?

When all people (including those who make it) call something a machine and you find yourself disagreeing, it’s a sign that something is wrong with how you view machines.
Machines convert energy from one form to another… so combustion in the ICE is in the domain of machines… just a generators which produce electricity from diesel are also machines…

True. Sometimes, though, it comes up with a new concept of dragons that explains why the model was proving technically impossible.

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This is true and it is how science has moved forward in history… whether it was Newton’s new mathematical approach or Einstein’s theory of relativity… or even Darwin’s idea of natural selection…
“New Dragons” lead to paradigm shifts… And perhaps a new approach could open up investigations into design and teleology.

Yes, they do. But the combustion process is less controlled than what we expect of a machine.

The steam engine is also a machine… control has nothing to do with in…
What do you think about the atom bomb… or any bomb/missiles… are they machines?


And yet we’ve been thru this before: Science has no claim for such a view. Science cannot resolve the matter.

Well… as long as scientists know that… And theologians remember that…

Things are ok…

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This seems like a new position for you @Ashwin_s. It looks good on you.

It’s not really a new position… I don’t think the scientists will play by their own rules in questions that matter…I expect only the rule with respect to strict materialism to be upheld at all times.Frankly, the rules are self imposed by the scientific establishment and I don’t see any ontological reality attached to them. Hence at some time, they will be broken with good and proper justification… And they will be broken while maintaining philosophical biases.
That’s where ID is important.

If @swamidass is correct and scientists are serious about the rules of the scientific methodology… Good for them!. Things will really be peaceful in such a scenario.
I am a skeptic though.

I never really thought about that. It does not seem to be a useful question.

If everything is a machine, then to say “X is a machine” is just to say “X is”. We might as well drop the word “machine” from the language.

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I am hardly saying everything is a machine… I am just trying to understand what control or lack thereof of its energy source has to do with being a machine… (Refer your example of the ICE in automobiles)

Machines are not just assemblies of component parts… they also involve systems, processes, energy conversion etc.

I’m pretty sure elementary nechanics (in physics) gave a broad definition of a machine as a contrivance that does work, ie converts energy to work (whether that be human, animal, or internal. We started with levers and pulleys, and ended up via heat engines with the internal combustion engine.

I never thought it was controversial.

One could call it unimpeded reversion to equilibrium. :grinning:

I guess the problem is when people want to differentiate between living organisms and machines while denying some kind of vitalism.

The only option left is to limit what a machine is.

That applies to machines too… you know…
Machines are also non equilibrium systems…:slight_smile:

Wow, you ignored all of what I said. A dead person lacks the power- that voltage I talked about. So yes, the processes stopped running . A broken down machine was still a machine when it was running.

All Neil is saying is that a machine that doesn’t work is not a machine.

“Machine” is not defined precisely enough to settle the question on the basis of the definition.

Sure it is. I even provided an example. The systems that run us are other examples.

If you want to see a living system as a machine, that’s your choice.

Except it isn’t a choice and it isn’t just mine.

For me, it just doesn’t match what I expect of a machine.

That’s it? Really? What is it that Neil would expect? Do tell.

For me, someone who has designed, repaired, and worked with machines for decades, it matches exactly what I would expect of a machine. Biomechanics and kinesiology definitely treat the human body as a machine and a collection of machines. There are entire fields that disagree with you, Neil.

powered by electricity- check; multiple moving parts to create work- check; requires refueling- check

The Human Body as a Machine They even have courses on it. That’s how obvious it is.

Anyway, for perspective, I’ll stick my neck out and say that an automobile is not a machine. It is mainly a machine, but not completely a machine. It’s operation depends on a combustion process, and that combustion process is not something that I would consider a machine.

That combustion process relies on an assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy one to another in a [predetermined] manner. In other words, a machine.

But the combustion process is less controlled than what we expect of a machine.

What? The combustion process is precisely controlled- in a predetermined manner, even.

Well it is a given that Neil isn’t an engineer, scientist nor a mechanic.

If everything is a machine, then to say “X is a machine” is just to say “X is”

No one is saying that everything is a machine. A rock is not a machine. It doesn’t fit any definition of a machine.

This has nothing to do with Neil but it’s weird seeing people who think we share a common ancestor with chimps being opposed to living organisms as machines.

It becomes controversial when you try to apply it to people.

JoeG turned this into a personal attack via a post on his blog.

I won’t be responding to him again.

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@JoeG that is not acceptable. I’m not okay with personally attacking people on other sites based normal interacts here. It has happened in the past and led to a permanent ban. In this case, it is mild enough, you are getting off with a 1 week suspension. Do not do that again.



It was controversial when Descartes called animals “automatons,” indeed, and likewise when humnans are reduced to molecular machines with meat computers.

However, it’s not at all controversial to handle human systems as machines - all those lessons on levers were applied directly to the human limb in my physiology and anatomy training. Again, keeping the definitions simple avoids confusion.

Under materialist metaphysics, it’s hard to think of other analogies to use of people, or animals, than self-motivated machines. Fortunately most people still have a non-materialist view of people as holistic “beings”, and older systems of philosophy had a vocabulary and theoretical framework, as for example the Thomistic concept of substantial forms.