“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In Memoriam Lynn Margulis: Speculative Realist

It's been too long since Margulis's death for me to write this without some kind of sense of guilt. The Occupy happenings have been preoccupying me.

I remember when I first heard about Margulis, it must have been in the early 80s when I was making my first discoveries about molecular biology and evolution. The term symbiosis is a very very evocative one.

An essay version of Margulis's work on bacteria was perhaps the first piece of speculative realism I ever read, in a collection of essays on Gaia, coming out of the Lindisfarne conferences. I was stunned by the clear logic of her argument. Here was someone thinking a world unimaginably ancient, a world in which things we take for granted—oxygen, in the main—didn't exist as they do now.

The fact that animal cells contain mitochondria, which have their own DNA, because they are hiding from a cataclysm their ancestors brought about, called oxygen: this was and is profound, wild stuff.

Lynn Margulis was the first to convince me that there are already aliens, some of them inside me.

Here is a class I taught about her published as part of a digital book.

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