Welcome to the website for STS 0010, the Reading Lab on Living Systems and Those Who Study Them, for Fall 2017.

Professors  Ricky Crano, PhD

Course meetings     Mondays 10:30-11:20am, Paige Hall, Room 007


This​ ​reading​ ​lab​ ​will​ ​survey​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​range​ ​of​ ​scientific,​ ​philosophical, historical,​ ​sociological,​ ​and​ ​anthropological​ ​research​ ​on​ ​LIVING​ ​systems​ ​and​ ​those​ ​who​ ​study them.​ ​We’ll​ ​be​ ​thinking​ ​about​ ​LIFE​ ​at​ ​all​ ​levels,​ ​from​ ​the​ ​bacterial​ ​to​ ​the​ ​human​ ​to​ ​the​ ​planetary (and​ ​beyond!),​ ​and​ ​from​ ​many​ ​different​ ​angles,​ ​as​ ​we’ll​ ​consider​ ​the​ ​various​ ​economic,​ ​political, ethical,​ ​aesthetic,​ ​and​ ​even​ ​existential​ ​implications​ ​of​ ​conceptualizing,​ ​talking​ ​about,​ ​experimenting with,​ ​and​ ​fabricating​ ​LIFE​ ​in​ ​this​ ​way​ ​or​ ​that.​ ​As​ ​a​ ​reading​ ​lab,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​no​ ​formal​ ​assignments​ ​for this​ ​course,​ ​other​ ​than​ ​to​ ​come​ ​prepared​ ​to​ ​discuss​ ​each​ ​week’s​ ​reading(s).​ ​I’ll​ ​supply​ ​some questions​ ​for​ ​discussion,​ ​but​ ​most​ ​of​ ​our​ ​weekly​ ​meetings​ ​can​ ​and​ ​should​ ​revolve​ ​around​ ​what​ ​you each​ ​find​ ​most​ ​interesting,​ ​strange,​ ​revealing,​ ​confusing​ ​and/or​ ​problematic​ ​in​ ​each​ ​of​ ​the​ ​readings. We’ll​ ​start​ ​with​ ​the​ ​most​ ​basic​ ​(but​ ​also​ ​impossible)​ ​question​ ​of​ ​“what​ ​is​ ​LIFE?”​ ​We’ll​ ​glance​ ​briefly back​ ​at​ ​Aristotle​ ​and​ ​then​ ​ask​ ​how​ ​and​ ​why​ ​recent​ ​developments​ ​(mainly​ ​since​ ​World​ ​War​ ​II)​ ​in microbiology,​ ​sociobiology,​ ​climatology,​ ​information​ ​theory,​ ​demography,​ ​and​ ​telecommunications have​ ​forced​ ​us​ ​to​ ​rethink​ ​some​ ​of​ ​our​ ​most​ ​ancient​ ​definitions​ ​and​ ​demarcations​ ​of​ ​LIFE​ ​and​ ​THE LIVING.​ ​Over​ ​the​ ​past​ ​few​ ​centuries,​ ​the​ ​past​ ​few​ ​decades,​ ​even​ ​the​ ​past​ ​few​ ​years,​ ​our​ ​ideas​ ​about what​ ​constitutes,​ ​conditions,​ ​and​ ​animates​ ​those​ ​things​ ​we​ ​think​ ​of​ ​as​ ​being​ ​ALIVE​ ​have​ ​drastically changed.​ ​What​ ​does​ ​it​ ​mean​ ​to​ ​say​ ​something​ ​is​ ​capable​ ​of​ ​being​ ​ALIVE​ ​anyway?​ ​Is​ ​that​ ​the​ ​same as​ ​saying​ ​it’s​ ​capable​ ​of​ ​​having​ ​​A​ ​LIFE?​ ​Who​ ​gains​ ​and​ ​who​ ​loses​ ​when​ ​a​ ​culture​ ​sorts​ ​out​ ​the LIVING​ ​from​ ​the​ ​non-LIVING​ ​in​ ​a​ ​given​ ​way?​ ​In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​fundamental metaphysical​ ​and​ ​moral​ ​questions​ ​regarding​ ​the​ ​proposition​ ​of​ ​LIFE,​ ​we’ll​ ​also​ ​interrogate​ ​such topics​ ​as​ ​the​ ​racial​ ​politics​ ​of​ ​genetic​ ​testing,​ ​the​ ​pursuit​ ​of​ ​profit​ ​in​ ​biomedicine,​ ​the​ ​use​ ​of metaphor​ ​to​ ​inscribe​ ​and​ ​legitimate​ ​certain​ ​concepts​ ​and​ ​methods​ ​in​ ​the​ ​LIFE​ ​sciences,​ ​the​ ​turn​ ​in political​ ​economy​ ​by​ ​which​ ​human​ ​LIFE​ ​at​ ​the​ ​level​ ​of​ ​the​ ​population​ ​became​ ​something​ ​to​ ​be governed,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​dream​ ​of​ ​eternal​ ​LIFE​ ​made​ ​possible​ ​through​ ​the​ ​nascent​ ​pseudo-science​ ​of cryonics.