The world, we are told, is made up of particles and forces. Evolution, impelled by the single purpose of survival, is guided by chance through natural selection. DNA directs the chemical-mechanical unfolding of life. Consciousness and self, artifacts of the brain’s firing neurons, are essentially inconsequential.
This is a picture that has been fraying at the edges for some time. Progress in medicine, quantum physics, open-systems biology, consciousness studies, epistemology, the arts, and philosophy all point in a radically different direction. But fresh, coherent narratives have not yet fully emerged out of this progress, and the old model stubbornly endures.
Walter Alexander is a New York City-based veteran medical journalist who covers clinical research across a range of specialties, including cardiology, oncology, and integrative medicine. He is the author of the recently published Hearts and Minds: Reclaiming the Soul of Science and Medicine (Lindisfarne, 2019).
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