Re: Science as Idea & Meme

From: Reed Konsler (
Date: Wed 18 Jun 2003 - 20:50:19 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Origin of memes"

    "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."

    You are making a statement that, in my opinion, is completely contrary to the experience of most scientists.

    ======= Quoted from the Jackson Laboratory Catalog: 02637

    Gene Details:

    Symbol Adra1b
        Symbol Name adrenergic receptor, alpha 1b Chromosome 11
        Common Name(s) [a]1b; alpha1B-adrenergic receptor;

    Strain Description Mice carrying the CAMalpha1b transgene display stable myocardial specific hypertrophy with ensuing markers of hypertrophy being elevated. In addition, alpha 1 adrenergic receptor signaling through the Gq-phospholipase C-protein kinase C signaling pathway is enhanced.

    I interpret it: When a normal mouse zygote (the single cell organisms begin from) has a foreign gene (CAMalpha1b) inserted into chromosome 11, the result is that during development that mouse's heart, specifically, grows far larger than would be expected ("stable myocardial specific hypertrophy

    In other words, a change in morphology can be traced to the presence of a single gene.

    Furthermore, once the gene is inserted, the alteration in phenotype is inherited.

    That is, in my opinion, pretty damn direct. I might not be able to tell you
    (yet) how every probablistic biochemical step leads to the macroscopic effect. I can tell you with statistical *certainty*, however, that mice incorporating that specific gene in that specific location will develop significantly larger hearts.

    This is my challenge:

    Provide an alternative theory that explains the observations: 1) mouse without gene => normal heart 2) mouse with gene => abnormally large heart 3) progeny of transgenic mouse => both gene and abnormally large heart

    "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..."

    Ted, I have no argument with Weiss. I think you're misinterpreting him. An individual microevent is not indeterminate, it's simply incalculably complex. That is what Weiss is saying by "unpredictable and unique". A coin flip is not comprehensible, but it the process is determined by something. To propose otherwise is pointless.

    "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."

    The genes contain the information that instructs the developing cells to differentiate based on their relative position in the developing embryo. You're making a false distinction between "spatial" and "material".

    Furthermore, there have been experiments in which developing embryos have had portions surgically removed and reattached at different locations or in different orientations. The resulting organisms become nonviable because the surgically modified portion continues to develop *as if nothing has changed*. The restructured embryo has no idea of what it is supposed to become "overall". Rather, each individual cell is responding to those in close proximity.

    The earlier into the developmental process, the more resilient the blastocyst is to restructuring. But, based on genetics, you would expect that. A small collection of cells can communicate directly and "sort out" who belongs where. After a while, it is precisely the *lack* of a holistic top-down guiding principle that leads to problems in development if the genetic processing gets disrupted.

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

    Incalculable isn't indeterminate. It isn't "given" to me.

    "Indeed, Richard Brodie made a similar point recently in regard to crowds leaving a football stadium. This is a fundamental principle of life."

    Richard was saying that there are two ways of looking at a crowd. One is as individuals and another is as a collection. I'm almost certain he would agree that, in any crowd, each individual is an agent following what they believe to be a (self) determined path.

    It might not be useful to think about the intentions of each individual because that is practically incalculable. But, it doesn't mean that it's indeterminate. I could pick and interrogate any one of them. The agency of the individuals doesn't just "disappear". As an observer, you choose to ignore it to serve a specific purpose.

    There is a difference between choosing to ignore a thing and that thing being absent.

    "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."

    I understand. We are in total disagreement. I believe your position does not have the support of the community of scientists and you have yet to provide any significant reason why anyone should adopt it. I believe you are misinterpreting what evidence you offer and I am pretty certain that Dr. Weiss would agree.

    "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."

    As you aren't quoting him directly, I have no idea if what you are saying is actually what he intended. Based on my experience, I would tend to doubt it. If so, I'll put him in the category with Sheldrake: brilliant people that have created theories yet-to-be-found-useful.

    "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."

    [shrug] Sure. Propose a theory that does explain these anomalies. Yell at the top of your lungs about what you are *against*. Until you can articulate what you are *for* it's pointless jabber. I haven't seen the actual mechanism.

    Give me the explanation.

    Give me the truth.

    Give me the HOW.

    Until then, what do you have but absence and negation?

    "Life is indeed predictable at the macro level"

    No, it isn't

    "It's the system that lives, not the atoms and molecules."

    I agree. I'm not sure how this is relevant.

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

    How will we? Do you have some problem with the word "mechanism"?

    Fine. Genetics *explains* how living organisms develop and live.

    To understand life, you need to *explain* how it works.

    You might not think genetics is a good *explanation*.

    You have offered observations:
        A little tree looks like a big tree. A little person grows to look like a big person.


    You have not offered any alternative *explanation*.

    If I abandon biochemistry, what will you give me but an empty void?

    > "Sheldrake's theory could just as easily be known as "morphic mechanics"

    "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."

    Electromagnetic resonance is a mechanistic theory that is intimately intertwined with the rest of physics, chemistry, etc. that you seem so adverse to.

    In any event, an analogy isn't an *explanation*. In electromagnetics, there a carriers like sound or radio waves that can be independently detected. What are the independently detectable carriers of "morphic resonance"?

    I note that, in biology, we call those carriers genes.

    > "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."

    The passage you quoted just said that their first try didn't work. I didn't read anywhere about what that specific research group intended to do next.

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

    I don't think you know what you mean by "holism".

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

    I read it and was unimpressed.

    > [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."

    Of course. As soon as there is a useful theory I'll be right there. If you read my posts, you'll note that I try to be pretty clear that my position is based on what I know right now. All I can say is that what you have presented me hasn't been persuasive.

    "Truth and reason are first cousins."

    When one points at the moon, only a fool looks at the finger.



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