Biology and Philosophy – the makings of a great day

I am really starting to enjoy my Tuesdays. It gets me looking at life from two very different angles. As some of you already know, I have returned to school full time to pursue an undergraduate degree in Geography with a minor in Environmental Studies. One reason for doing this is to understand the issues facing our planet, and species, on an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. So what does this have to do with Tuesdays? I have a biology class in the mornings and a philosophy class in the afternoon on Tuesdays.

The biology class is first year level where we talk about the building blocks of life. The different kinds of cells–prokaryotic and eukaryotic–and all the stuff that goes into them. We talk about water molecules and hydrogen bonds. DNA, peptides, and amino acids. It is a great way to re-awaken a wonder for life in general and how amazing it is at all levels. A great video we recently watched was this YouTube clip of an amoeba digesting a single celled protist. If you watch on the right-hand side, you can see the amoeba wrapping its pseudopodia around the protist. The amoeba then excretes a digestive enzyme to break down the protist. The crazy thing is that you then see the protist wriggling around, trying to escape. This is a single celled organism we are watching having what equates to a flight response. Interesting!?

Tuesday afternoon is a second year philosophy class called Knowledge and Reality. If you are a purist, that would be Epistemology and Metaphysics. To para-phrase, it asks what do we know about reality and how do we know that we know it? Currently, we are reviewing the meditations of Rene Descartes. He’s the guy that wrote “I think therefore I am”. This is around the question “how do I know I exist?” He argues that the very fact that I am having these thoughts must mean that I exist. If I have these thoughts, how can I not exist? It all seems self evident, but what Descartes was trying to do was to take everything back to basics and see what kind of foundation our knowledge was based on. He also asks how we can trust our senses and how do we know that the things we see really exist. Again, this all may seem a bit self evident, but think The Matrix. The work of Descartes has been credited, in part, for the story-line of the film.

It all make you go hmmm, eh? How do we know that protists and amoeba are not thinking things? How do we know that we are not the equivalent of an amoeba inside some larger organism? How did all of this marvel and intricacy come about? Cool stuff to contemplate. One thing it really does for me it to renew my excitement about life. It truly is an amazing and precious thing.

If this all seems a bit on the heavy side I’ll end this post with a clip of one of my favorite philosophical statements–that no matter how much you think, there is often alcohol involved 🙂