Abstract Details

Emergence In The Time Of Covid-19  Augusta Gooch (Philosophy, University Of Alabama-Huntsville, Lacey's Spring, ALA )   P1

Francisco Varela (1946-2001)) has guided us to ?putting human life back in? our scientific investigations and theoretical reflections (Neurophenomenology 1996). This is an important imperative because it is human life that interests us and amazes us. Whether or not we can figure out our origins in a distant cosmic past, we can examine human life as it is now. Varela?s interdisciplinary approach includes his training in the biological sciences; his work in neuroscience; his inclusion of phenomenological principles; and his personal respect for Buddhist tradition. His interdisciplinary interests confirm that no one discipline is sufficient. We need to go beyond philosophical abstractions, biochemical events, and unchallenged historical biases. Life occurs within a place, an environment, an arena for awakening. To see this integrated life, Varela used the autopoietic theory defined by his teacher, Humberto Maturana (b. 1928, Chile). Autopoiesis, a widely used principle in understanding biological systems, emphasizes the enactive participation of a living organism and its environment. An autopoietic system thrives in its environment. This is essentially what life is: succeeding in thriving. Failure to thrive means the closure of life. An autopoietic life includes the emergence of novelty, the unexpected development of a single life form and its assimilation of the world around it. Novelty is a surprise in genetic development. New research is focusing on re-assessing the view of ?junk genes? by Susumu Ohno in 1970. Not all genes seem to fall neatly into a group of mutating variations. The implication is that some life may be de novo rather than expected adaptive variation. Human life itself seems to be a novel emergence among living beings. But, how to scientifically explain such novelty is the question. De novo gene research is producing new challenges to old ideas. This paper seeks to explore novel emergence from two perspectives. First, a brief review of current de novo gene research. Even though most experiments do not involve human beings, the research is pointing to a variety of ways to explore human life as well. The de novo gene arena is filled with genes-in-waiting with a variety of implications for human life. Second, novel emergence flows directly from Varela?s notion of ?living as sense-making.? We make sense of whatever happens around us. We exist within a context. In the time of Covid-19, we have made surprising and unexpected responses to extreme events. We have absorbed the urgency of the world and brought to life novel moments: walking long distances to support health workers; thanking others for their commitment to life around them; making a journey of commemoration for Black Lives Matter; realizing new ways we can help the hungry in our communities. Seeing the link among kinds of novel emergence in genetic development and in life experiences, we can refocus our attention on human life and human origins.