I was reading this article, https://aeon.co/essays/can-animals-be-usefully-described-as-clockwork-machines, and was wondering if people kept viewing animals as machine like would technology and science develop differently.

I think that the classification of parts might be different, but I am uncertain if it would affect other things. If society views animal parts as highly advanced biological machines (that are sentient and alive because they're capable of growing and changing), how would such a concept of animal biology affect the development of technology and science?

Edit: Someone suggested an edit and I used most of it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can you try to make this less opinion based? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 13:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What types of technology are you thinking of? Robotics do exist, and automatons were made really far back. $\endgroup$
    – A Writer
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 14:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There have been a great many different, conflicting ideas about biology & nature. Several dozen contenders. The ridiculous got dropped, eventually. Mostly. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 14:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can you make a tenable argument in favor of the (unusual) idea that biologists did not view animals as intricate but understandable assemblages of parts designed / adapted to work together harmoniously? If they didn't, what other view do you believe prevailed? (Aesop's The Belly and the Other Members is older than the hills.) (I am not at all certain that I understand why the"classification" of parts would be different. The parts of animals are classified according to their role and function, and have always been so classified.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 14:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How is this different from the current paradigm? We generally date the "Enlightenment" and "Renaissance" to about the 1600s, and it is precisely in this modern era that "science" has come to view all of nature as machine-like and tool-like (i.e., it became much less interested in formal and final causation, the interconnectedness in the design of nature, and so on, which had been key ideas of natural philosophy from Aristotle's day). $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


Viewing animals as biological machines creates the question if humans are machines, too. This could go either way.

  • Society could insist that humans are different, which explains why knackered animals can be put down, but elderly humans cannot. Such a dogma might (a) limit biology in general, and (b) limit the use of animal experiments in medicine.
  • Society could acknowledge that humans are not fundamentally different, so humans are also machines. This view of humanity affects what science and society can do to and with people. It might be used to justify a very cruel society.

Your call, as the writer.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .