Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Tom Seppalainen


Biology -- Philosophy




Humans use metaphors to communicate internal concepts and connections of experience, and attempt to systematize metaphors used for a more coherent world view. The most structured system of metaphor is science. Theories are not actual representations of the phenomena present to experience, their purpose is to communicate abstracted experience and expected regularity. A science in desperate need of a conceptual, thus metaphoric, realignment is biology. The metaphors used to describe organisms have gone through varying incarnations focusing on either the vitalistic or mechanistic aspects of their appearance; function versus form, physiology or anatomy. The use of culturally relevant terminology can lend itself to greater conceptualization not only in the scientific community but in society as a whole, the metaphors of scientific explanation also provides the goal, inherent in the metaphor. To illustrate the need for a realignment of biology, two accepted descriptions of the criteria of life will be examined. Then a historical perspective concerning the intellectual climates that have led to a continued conceptual bifurcation of organismal life in contemporary science will be analyzed. The two most recent illustrations of the conceptual bifurcation of life; biological specificity and biological information will demonstrate the implications of this division, and be framed in terms of the nature versus nurture dichotomy. Lastly a structuralist account of biological life will be explicated in a hope that it will align with the goals of developmental biology as outlined by proponents of the movement diverging from classical views of biological science, developmental systems theory.


An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in University Honors and Philosophy

Persistent Identifier