Re: Science as Idea & Meme

From: Dace (
Date: Wed 18 Jun 2003 - 18:39:41 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: Origin of memes"

    > From: "Reed Konsler" <>
    > Dace:
    > "...yet it was a biochemist who expressed it. The key phrase is "at least
    > some level of detail." Cells are not without mechanisms that predictably
    > perform a given task. But as Paul Weiss points out, every causal chain has
    > terminus, a point beyond which no further analysis is possible."
    > Sounds reasonable
    > "A true causal chain can be traced all the way back to its source."
    > If you mean "it must trace it's predictions to it's axioms" that makes
    > sense. But, if you're demanding that a causal chain must link everything
    > from the infinitesimal to the infinite, that's an unreasonable

    I mean that a causal chain ought to link morphology to gene-protein interactions in the nucleus. That this has never been done ought to raise the red flag on reductionism.

    > "Between the alleged source, DNA, and its alleged effects in the cell lies
    > sea of indeterminate micromolecular processes."

    > Do you mean "statistical" when you're saying "indeterminate"?

    No. I mean literally indeterminate. As Weiss notes, (pg 17, *The Science of Life*): "A macroevent can be fully determinate in the sense that, given the premises, we can predict the general outcome, the confidence of our prediction resting on the infallibility of countless earlier experiences; yet at the same time, the component microevents involved might take courses that are in detail absolutely unpredictable and unique..." Our mistake is to hypothetically extend macrodeterminacy downward to the molecular level. In reality, determinacy increases by grades as we move upwards in scale. During fetal development tissue samples are *always* novel, "unpredictable and unique, unlike any other sample in the detailed distribution of its cells." (p. 49) This principle applies even to genetically identical twins. At the cellular level, there's no identity whatever. You would never know, from tissue samples, that you're dealing with individuals bearing exactly the same genes. Equivalent daughter cells of a given mother cell "can differ in dimensions and content by as much as one to three." (p. 50). Rather than being determined from the get-go by their genes, cells get their cues from their position in the "total geometry of the cell mass." It's because the determining factor is spatial rather than material that the only logical theory relies on a field concept.

    > However, this does not disprove the following theory:
    > Every change in microstate follows a physical law.
    > The accumulation of changes in microstates results in a change in
    > macrostate.

    Given the indeterminacy of microevents in organic systems, this view is not tenable. The (determinate) macrostate is not traceable to (indeterminate) microstates.

    > Just because the effects of microchanges are "blurred" by probabilistic
    > interconnections, there is no reason to believe that another "force" is
    > acting as an overall guiding principle. Weiss does not argue for such a
    > force.

    He argues for a holistic system (not a vitalistic "force") that determines macrostates regardless of individual variations in microstates. Life is characterized by micro-individuality in the context of macro-regularity. One could say the same about human societies. Indeed, Richard Brodie made a similar point recently in regard to crowds leaving a football stadium. This is a fundamental principle of life.

    > The error is that you assume that because *a human*cannot predict with
    > precision what is going on that *the tree* cannot be following simple
    > deterministic rules. The rules might only *appear* probabilistic because
    > they are effectively incalculable.

    Not at all. This has nothing to do with what humans (or computers) can or cannot predict. In other words, my argument is not epistemological but ontological.

    > This is why, as scientists, we have to chuck the idea of "truth". We
    > ever comprehend reality because reality is incalculably complex. Instead,
    > we create simple ("reductionist") models that take as much information
    > account as we can reasonably access. We use the models to make
    > with the knowledge that these predictions are educated guesses, not
    > inevitable outcomes.

    One might say Weiss "reduces" morphology to fields.

    > "I mean that outcomes are not generally necessitated by physical
    > principles."
    > > I believe that they do behave according to laws, to the extent that
    > anything
    > > in the universe does. I wouldn't call it simple, though.

    As Walter Elsasser pointed out (*Towards a Theory of Organisms* 1987), life appears to be obey the law of conservation of form. What this means is that the system that determines the organism at the macro level is itself determined on the basis of the forms of previous organisms belonging to that species. At the micro level, life is radically novel. At the macro level, it is ultra-conservative.

    > "So you're not just a nose-to-the-grindstone pragmatist. You do have
    > beliefs, and these beliefs are not based on known facts."
    > Present evidence supports the theory that cells behave according to laws,
    > the extent that anything in the universe does.

    Researchers consistently find unpredictable novelty in tissue samples. Most of this data is simply tossed aside because what researchers are looking for is repeatable experiments. This is how mechanistic science systematically filters out data that demonstrate micro-indeterminacy in organisms. It's like the guy who lost his keys in the middle of the street but is searching for them on the sidewalk because that's where all the light is.

    > "It's the inability to do so in regard to living cells that defines them
    > living."
    > No. Everything unpredictable isn't alive.

    Life is indeed predictable at the macro level, but if it were also predictable at the micro level, it would be machine, not life. It's this micro-unpredictability that opens the way for a *living* system. It's the system that lives, not the atoms and molecules.

    > "Ultimately, you can't understand the organism by killing it. It must be
    > taken on its own terms."
    > I agree. I'm not sure how this applies to the conversation.

    We'll never understand life by hypothetically converting it into mere mechanism and then trying to explain that.

    > "Sheldrake's theory could just as easily be known as "morphic mechanics"
    > ...The mechanism by which morphic information is transfered is similarity
    > previous organic forms (which can only be holistic)."
    > That isn't a mechanism. A mechanism is an explanation of how previous
    > organic forms transfer "morphic information" to their progeny. How does
    > happen?

    Through resonance, i.e. similarity. This is no different than saying that my tuner picks up a radio station because they're resonating; that is, the charged particles in my tuner are vibrating at the same frequency as the transmitter. If I change the frequency in my tuner, then it will resonate with a different radio station. Electromagnetic resonance suffices to explain how radios work. The same goes for morphic resonance and organisms.

    > >>>
    > According to "Cybernetic Cells" (W. Wayt Gibbs, Aug 2001 Scientific
    > American, page 54), "the past few years have seen a growing movement among
    > mathematically minded biologists to challenge the central dogma as
    > simplistic and to use computer simulation to search for a more powerful
    > theory."
    > >>>
    > I think this establishes my point: scientists are in search of more
    > powerful theories.

    Theories more powerful than the one relying on the central dogma.

    > "Do you mean utility at generating reliable predictions? Endy and Yin
    > to predict whether a given virus would develop resistance to RNA-based
    > therapies. Why? Because their model assumed simple, genetic causality."
    > Maybe it was simply too deficient to predict the outcome. Just because it
    > was based on everything we know doesn't mean that an identical approach
    > fifty years from now won't be successful.
    > "Their next model won't include that assumption."
    > You work in the research group?

    According to Endy and Yin. This was the whole thrust of Gibbs' article.

    > "That a magnetic field cannot be reduced to a magnet is demonstrated by
    > fact that the field cannot be divided into two discrete halves, even when
    > the magnet it's associated with is cut in half. Instead of two halves of a
    > magnetic field, you get one whole field for each half of the magnet.
    > Same goes for quantum theory. An electron can be viewed as either a "wave"
    > or a "particle." These are simply different ways of looking at the
    > one from the spatial point of view, the other from the material point of
    > view. Neither is reducible to the other; both merely describe the electron
    > in different ways."
    > I agree. I'm not sure how this is relevant to the conversation.

    Holism is a legitimate scientific concept. Therefore we cannot simply assume material reductionism.

    > "It allows us to make predictions, such as the fact that members of a
    > species will perform better at a given task if many other members of that
    > species have already successfully performed it. Read *The Presence of the
    > Past* for details of numerous experiments, from a wide variety of fields,
    > that demonstrate this effect."
    > Give me an example.

    We discussed evidence for morphic resonance in August 2001 under the heading
    "MR Evidence." The thread begins here:

    > >Nonetheless, science has uncovered many
    > > truths, such as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun while
    > > rotating on its axis. I'd say this has been satisfactorily proven."
    > >
    > > You're mistaken. Present evidence is consistent with that theory.
    > > in science is ever proven.
    > "For all intents and purposes it's a proven fact. Don't go philosophical
    > me."
    > [shrug] I also firmly believe it to be the case. I think the word "fact"
    > blinds us to the consciousness that all knowledge is a deficient model of
    > reality. It's that kind of absolutist thinking that makes one pointlessly
    > pursue "truth" and restrict oneself to a single interpretation of
    > observations. I prefer a little more flexibility.

    Interesting point. Of course, with a little flexibility, you might just come around to the holistic view.

    > "Science, the idea that we can obtain knowledge of nature, has been
    > corrupted into the memetic idea that we can obtain data that allows us to
    > *manipulate* nature."
    > That is your opinion
    > "Unlike the original idea, which resulted from reasoned reflection on the
    > part of early scientists (and continues to be renewed by many contemporary
    > scientists), the meme is perpetuated precisely through a *lack* of
    > reflection as it replicates from mind to mind. That science is a blind
    > mechanism churning out technological applications, i.e. "machine science,"
    > is a deeply ingrained culturally-shared habit of thought bearing no
    > to reality and which is perpetuated strictly through its own momentum--
    > like a personal habit-- rather than by appeal to reason."
    > That doesn't make complete sense to me, but I think I get your point.
    > I'll agree with that except for the "unlike the original idea" part. When
    > the desired outcome is "truth" this outcome isn't questioned. In that
    > sense, it is an unreflected habit perpetuated through it's own momentum
    > rather than an appeal to reason.

    Truth and reason are first cousins.


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