Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter
Forms of Life
This chapter pays close attention to biological engineers’ use of mechanistic logic and machine analogies to render living substance in the form of molecular machines. It offers an ethnographic account of protein modelers’ creativity with both words and things as they learn to put machines to work in living organisms. It argues that rendering molecules as machines is a craft practice, one that makes it possible for practitioners to visualize and intervene in molecular worlds in particularly effective ways. This chapter takes a close look at machinic renderings at distinct historical moments. This chapter is concerned with contexts when modelers deny or disavow their inventive use of machine analogies, that is, when they give the impression that they are merely unveiling the underlying machinery of life. It argues that just as these molecular machines can be naturalized as nature’s evolutionary adaptations, they can also be deified as God’s clever creations.