Miscellaneous Musings of Luke Shors

“Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and who can say which has the wider vision?” - Victor Hugo


Cells are Machines

This is a picture taken out of the 2006 Glencoe High School Biology textbook and was one of the texts I analyzed in my thesis. This was the national textbook for the State of California that untold million of students carried around to the detriment of their future back posture.

The textbook boldly claims that 'Cells are microscopic machines'. Not like machines mind you. They simply are machines. What I mean to say is that cells are just little bitty watch gears as pictured above. Got that high school student? It's going to be on the test.

But wait you say, "Cells evolved millions of years prior to any human made machine. Might there be problems in so rigidly equating the two?".

Yes, I'd say to your/my question. Below is a table from my thesis where I highlighted differences between nature (of which cells are a set member) and machines. Note this doesn't quite capture the newest machines on the horizon. But the watch gears pictured above aren't exactly cutting edge technology so lets bracket the neural nets for now. If in fact cells are quite different than human made machines, the more profound question is what are the implications for science students and society at large in being taught to equate the two?

In a thesis, of course, one must substantiate and defend every argument. Not so in a blog post. I wonder then on the long term implications of viewing nature as machine for society? Does this cause us to regard nature as without consciousness? Does this impact the way we function and grow as a society?

It's worth remembering it wasn't always this way nor does it have to be this way. Many earlier societies saw nature as fundamentally alive and conscious. It does not seem to be the case that such an animist view can't be reconciled with science. The philosopher Thomas Nagel recently argued that the phenomena of consciousness exists because consciousness is co-extensive with matter. Thus everything participates in consciousness.


About Me

"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkinn

I think of myself (as well as aspire to be) a curious person. Curious in a book store, but also curious exploring a new city or meeting a new person. Curious in planned and unplanned moments. In an era where knowledge about the world is both vast and deep, curiosity occasionally strikes me as anathema to expertise. Or, more accurately, if you are curious, best to be curious about some very specific topic. But so far at least, that does not seem to be my path. My professional work is orientated towards start ups as well as international development.

In 2019 I decided to make a more concerted effort to write - hence this site. My blog focuses on science and technology, health research and education. My fiction is of the speculative variety - Science fiction that uses scientific ideas to explore human experiences. Thanks for reading!

People Walking


University of Iowa, BA Philosophy (2000)

Johns Hopkins, MPH (2005)

Johns Hopkins, MBA (2005)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.D. (2017)


©2018 by Dr. Luke Shors