Re: Science as Idea & Meme (cont'd)

From: Dace (
Date: Thu 19 Jun 2003 - 04:31:32 GMT

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    > "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
    > 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.

    How do they do that when every cell has precisely the same genes (including the homeobox genes)? Clearly the answer comes from its spatial position, i.e. the "field" effect.

    > You're making a false distinction between "spatial" and "material".

    Surely we may distinguish between space and matter. Even if, ultimately, they belong to the same relativistic, Einsteinian continuum, we may still distinguish them, just as we distinguish "heads" from "tails," though they belong to the same coin.

    > Furthermore, there have been experiments in which developing embryos have
    > had portions surgically removed and reattached at different locations or
    > 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.

    This is only half the story. If cells are moved around *before* their location determines a role for them, they will adapt and develop normally for their new location.

    > 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
    > top-down guiding principle that leads to problems in development if the
    > genetic processing gets disrupted.

    *After awhile* the field is no longer relevant because the cells have by then been assigned their role and will proceed from that point forth mechanistically. As I said, the body is full of mechanisms, but that doesn't make it a machine.

    > "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
    > 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.

    You cut out the preceding sentence: "Life is characterized by micro-individuality in the context of macro-regularity. One could say the same about human societies." In other words, you're repeating my own statement back to me (while implying that you're explaining it to me).

    > "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
    > the system that determines the organism at the macro level is itself
    > determined on the basis of the forms of previous organisms belonging to
    > species. At the micro level, life is radically novel. At the macro level,
    > is ultra-conservative."
    > As you aren't quoting him directly, I have no idea if what you are saying
    > 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.

    Elsasser was the first to accurately describe the earth's magnetic field and for that reason was among the most highly respected of the German scientists who fled Hitler for the West. As someone genuinely knowledgable about physics, he was shocked by the pseudo-physics subscribed to in biology departments. (And yes he discusses a "law of conservation of form" in regard to organisms. He also refers to it as "holistic memory.")

    > "Life is indeed predictable at the macro level"
    > No, it isn't

    It certainly is. People don't generally develop four legs and a tail.

    > "It's the system that lives, not the atoms and molecules."
    > I agree. I'm not sure how this is relevant.

    I'm not sure you realize you just capitulated to my point of view. You've now graduated from Weismann to Weiss.

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

    It explains how they become distinguished from one another. The rest is meme.

    > You have offered observations:
    > A little tree looks like a big tree. A little person grows to look
    > a big person.
    > You have not offered any alternative *explanation*.

    Not so. Embryos develop as they do because they resonate with similar embryos before them. That is a fully testable explanation. Not that this is necessary, of course, to refute reductionism.

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

    Why would you abandon biochemistry? What's required is only a theoretical shift, such as the one Faraday underwent in his transition to electromagnetic field theory. He continued his studies, but from a different point of view.

    > > "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.

    Not in the least. See Boltzmann.

    > In any event, an analogy isn't an *explanation*. In electromagnetics,
    > a carriers like sound or radio waves that can be independently detected.

    Again you're *way* behind the curve. The Michelson-Morley experiment, which falsified the existence of universal "ether" (on which light electromagnetic waves were thought to be carried), was conducted in the 1890s. Karl Lorenz developed an equation intended to show that the ether was real after all. Einstein then tweaked the equation and demonstrated that light does not require anything to "ferry" it across space (and that E = mc squared).

    > What are the independently detectable carriers of "morphic resonance"?

    Sheldrake and I disagree on this point. He regards time to be the carrier, that somehow organic forms from the past keep to the current of time so as to remain present. I find this unsatisfying, to say the least. In my view, the concept of the "past" does not apply to living form. From the POV of matter (e.g. the brain), time is the substitution of one moment with another. From the POV of organic form (e.g. the mind), time is the
    *accumulation* of moments rather than their passage. This is the basis of memory. We can remember the past because, as far as mind is concerned, it never went away. Thus we need not posit a "carrier" for morphic influences, any more than we need a carrier for light waves.

    Regardless of how we explain it, the influence of past organic form on current form is easily demonstrable.

    > "Holism is a legitimate scientific concept. Therefore we cannot simply
    > assume material reductionism."
    > I don't think you know what you mean by "holism".

    As Kant pointed out, what defines an organism is that, instead of explaining the whole according to the parts, we must explain the parts according to the whole. This remains the best definition of 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.

    The experiments under review, taken together, clearly demonstrate the influence of past generations of rats on those currently engaged in a maze. The more who've done it before, the faster subsequent generations are able to solve it. There are many more such experiments.

    > "Truth and reason are first cousins."
    > When one points at the moon, only a fool looks at the finger.

    And only a fool tries to point at the moon without a finger.


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