Re: Science as Idea & Meme

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Thu 19 Jun 2003 - 13:45:54 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: Meme definition"

    > Who does that? I was just offereing an example of how a single gene can
    > change morphology. Nobody I know thinks that *every* characteristic is the
    > result of a single gene. Saying that the phenotype is a result of the
    > geneotype isn't demanding a one-to-one correspondence.

    What is really funny is the alarm spread through the transcriptome community now the proteome data is coming through - the two seem almost impossible to map onto each other so the gene chip revolution may be losing steam rather more rapidly over the next year or two (cos lets face it proteins are the main do-ers). That doesn't mean that there
    *isn't* a mapping though...

    > The meme of genes is that genes produce the individuals themselves as well
    > as differentiating them. The first is transmitted through rational inquiry;
    > the second follows from its own culturally-ingrained force of habit.<

    >>...the theme itself can be regarded as a throwback to Platonic thinking.<

    *What* eidos? What is the _intended_ organism when no two *genomes* are alike anyway?

    > Scientists familiar with the facts... do acknowledge the wide variation left
    > to an organism in executing the "genetic blueprint" encoded in the germ
    > cell

    Smells of heresy to me...

    > be. The distinction used to carry an undertone of strictly preformationist
    > thinking, as if the "genotype" were the true ideal type in the Platonic
    > sense, while the "phenotype" represented its corrupted realization.... some
    > residue of the old preformistic purism has lingered on, and the description
    > of any terminal "character" of an organism as "genetically determined" is
    > clearly of that old tradition.

    There he goes again...

    >>Weismannian biology (also known as ultra or neo-Darwinism) has been so
    > successful because it hides the Platonic basis of the theory underneath a
    > sheen of molecular determinism. This is what makes it so memetically
    > powerful. It appeals to our unconscious attraction to mathematical idealism
    > while catering, on the surface, to our empirical pretensions.<

    Nice story but sadly, erroneous.

    >>...Genes clearly individuate members of a given species. My challenge to
    > you is to explain why we should also believe that genes produce the
    > underlying pattern of development. As Weiss says, genetic determinism is
    > like proposing that "separate magnetic needles could ever orient themselves
    > in a common direction without the guidance of an outer magnetic field." (p
    > 15)...<

    This is such rubbish. Just go look at the stained drosophila embryos
    (after reading Turing on pattern generation, and looking at all those groovy periodic chemical reactions in petri dishes). I can't show you movie footage of actual chemical processes occurring, but I can definitely show you the gradients of signal molecules (sometimes RNA, sometimes not) that are the *real* fields at work here. Real theory (!) outclasses this tomfoolery in explanatory and predictive power by several orders of magnitude. Give it up.

    >>If physics has had the sense of realism to divorce itself from
    > microdeterminism on the molecular level, there seems to be no reason why the
    > life sciences, faced with the fundamental similitude between the arguments
    > for the reunciation of molecular microdeterminacy in both termodynamics and
    > systems dynamics, should not follow suit and adopt macrodeterminacy...<<<

    WHAT are you talking about? Are you saying that if you truly (in a thought-experiment God-like manner) knew the state of all the items in a system you still could not predict what would happen?

    > Physicists don't adopt "macrodeterminancy" except when it is the most useful
    > strategy to explain their observations.

    You mean that they approximate when it provides sufficient predictive power, or they can't feasibly do all the calculations? Or that they gloss over cracks with bullshit?

    > They usually do so under
    > circumstances where they are trying to explain something larger still.

    So the problem is simply one of compute resource? Does that require a new theory? (Clue: No.)

    > When, in physics, one *is* observing small numbers of particles then one
    > *does* adopt a model that attepts to trace the individuals. Furthermore,
    > according to the physics I understand, macroscopic observations are the
    > result of microscopic events. Again, Weiss is stating that the connection
    > is incalculably complex...not indeterminate. He makes no argument that
    > there is some disjoint between the microscopic and macroscopic, simply that
    > you cannot predict the outcome with exact precision.


    >>>>...regardless of whether or not the behavior of a system as a whole is
    > reducible to a stereotyped performance by a fixed array of pre-programmed
    > microrobots.<<<
    > An admission that it may be?
    > Weiss:
    >>>>...we evidently must let such positive scientific insights prevail over
    > sheer conjectures and preconceptions, however cherished and ingrained in our
    > traditional thinking they may be [i.e. memetic]...<<<
    > OK. Fiat this philosophical point. Are you asking scientists, as a whole,
    > to abandon a useful model in a favor of a poorly developed, untested one? I
    > encourage the mavericks, for they will be the authors of tomorrow's
    > paradigm. But, I can't know a priori who will be successful. Wiess himself
    > argues that conjecture is an inappropriate measure of worth. I argue that
    > utility is.

    Well you heard the man. Down tools and reskill att he double.

    >>Physics long since abandoned microdeterminism, not merely at the quantum
    > level (quantum indeterminacy) but at the atomic and molecular levels.<

    Oh don't be so silly. You're just making that up. For starters, what the hell is 'physics'? Where and when do they meet to make these decisions?

    And as for the quantum stuff, just cos you don't know yet doesn't mean you should accept a theory because it is self-satificing. We did this when people thought that what felt like free will to them had to be underpinned by some cosmic random number generator to be worth a damn.

    Nothing more of mine below here. Cheers, Chris.

    > I don't know where you get this idea. I spent years in grad school at
    > Harvard discussing the reaction mechanisms for individual molecules and was
    > successful at predicting the outcome of novel reactions on a "macroscopic"
    > level. In other words, I drew pictures of individual reactions on the board
    > and then made macroscopic amounts of product based on those predictions.
    > "Microdeterminancy" was *the* useful theory, certianly not abandoned. I
    > also discovered novel reactions and then investigated their reaction
    > mechanism. Then I used that understanding to develop new reactions. All
    > the while I was assuming that all the molecules did what I thought a single
    > one would do. We were able to get 90% + yields, which (statistically) is
    > pretty good. Who cares if it was true? It worked.
    > Ted:
    >>>>It's not simply a question of the "unfeasibility" of tracking a given
    > molecule but that it's "scientifically uninteresting and inconsequential."
    > Why? Because each particular event posesses "nonrecurrent uniqueness" and
    > thus cannot help us predict future micro-events.<<<
    > I think that's incorrect.
    > Ted:
    >>>>That no event disobeys physics doesn't mean that physics determines
    > everything.<<<
    > Perhaps. But, given that situation, if I *assume that it does* my
    > predictions will be pretty accurate. That is what is meant by a Scientific
    > Law. Such Law is not a restriction on the universe, it's a statement that
    > if you*assume that is* you will seldom be wrong.
    > Do you want to go back and claim that an individual event can disobey
    > physical law? Otherwise, I'm not sure where you are going.
    > Ted
    >>...we must conclude that "the system as a whole coordinates the activities
    > of its constituents."<<<
    > Who argues? The question is, how best to explain HOW the system does this.
    > To explain HOW you need to develop the theory into more specific entities,
    > or else you are just being circular.
    > Best,
    > Reed
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    > see:

      Chris Taylor ( »people»chris
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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