Re: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun 08 Jun 2003 - 17:48:14 GMT

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    At 12:46 PM 07/06/03 -0700, you wrote:

    > > From: Keith Henson <>
    > >
    > > At 01:57 PM 06/06/03 -0700, Dace wrote:
    > >
    > > > > From: Keith Henson <>
    > >
    > > snip
    > >
    > > > > Which would you say applies to a person who has internalized the
    > > > > meme and knows how to play it?
    > > >
    > > >If you grow up in the USA, baseball is a meme. If you grow up in a
    > > >country, it's an idea.
    > >
    > > People have enough trouble trying to grasp the meme about memes. Making
    > > meme or not meme dependant on who hold them and how is just over the top.
    >The simplest answer is not always the right answer. What if you're wrong?
    >What good is a simple explanation if it's the wrong explanation?

    A definition is just that. Not an answer, not an explanation. The definition most researchers/writers in the field use is 1) most congruent with the common features of genes and computer viruses 2) simple 3) leads to predictions that are not (to my knowledge) violated.

    > > - 11k - Cached - Similar pages
    >You're getting your information from a creationist website? You must be

    Mass clip of half the first page Google displayed.

    > > It is generally considered that the original pole of the egg is determined
    > > by an external factor. Morphogenesis is now thought to rely on chemical
    > > gradients, which sequentially (head to tail, front to back) activated hox
    > > regulator genes.
    >Coen goes into a lot of detail on this, but even he agrees this is not a
    >final answer. What, then, determines the chemical gradients?

    Ultimately geometry. Any point on a sphere (the egg) identifies an axis. The body plan, head to tail is along that axis. Cells at the point produce the first gradient chemical, diffusion establishes the gradient. One other point on the equator, even a random point, is enough to produce the left/right and back to front axes.

    Sample articles

    Reference: Scientific American February 1994 PAGES 58-66 Articles Name- The Molecular Architects of Body Design. By William McGinnis and Michael Kuziora Jest of Article- Putting a human gene into a fly may sound like the basis for a science fiction film, but it demonstrates that nearly identical molecular mechanisms define body shapes in all animals.

    Reference: Science News September 3 0,1995 VOL. 148 NO, 14 PAGES 209-224 Articles Name: The Ghost of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire page 216 By John Travis. Jest of Article: Vertebrates resemble upside-down insects. The genes that regulate the body design in insects and vertebrates are similar. As an example: A insects gene dpp's, in varying levels, determines cell fates during development The vertebrates equivalent was a gene called bmp-4. While operating in deferent regions, dorsal versus ventral, their function is similar.

    Try "left-right asymmetry heart molecular biology body plan" in Google.

    >This is not as off-topic as you might think. As an engineer, you're
    >predisposed to think about things in terms of mechanics. I'm having trouble
    >getting you to understand organic development due to interference from the
    >machine meme. In other words, a meme which has *replicated* in your mind is
    >preventing a simple piece of nonmemetic information from being *re-created*
    >in your mind on the basis of your cognitive capacities.

    At the root of it, you are attracted to a world with magic. I not only understand that, but I can trace out (with Pascal Boyer's help) why human minds were shaped by evolution in a way that makes such propensities common. There is no magic and I regret that. (My mind--no less than yours--was shaped to find magic attractive.)

    Still, there is no doubt in my mind (or anyone else who is well grounded in the sciences) that the universe is based ultimately on physics and the chemistry of matter.

    That does not keep the universe from being vastly complicated and endlessly interesting. Simple math generates the bewildering complexity of the Mandelbrot. Simple chemistry and evolution has generated a vast and fascinating biology--one consequence of which leads to topic of this mailing list.

    The root of biology, DNA and proteins, *is* mechanical as anyone who has followed developments in this area over the last 50 years should know. (I started reading Scientific American almost 50 years ago.) One of the enzymes for making ATP is known (by direct observation) to rotate.

    The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase closes up like a nutcracker, DNA separates like it was unzipped.

    Rather than regret the lack of magic, perhaps we should glory in digging out the details on the really neat machines of life.

    Keith Henson

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