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

From: Reed Konsler (
Date: Thu 19 Jun 2003 - 15:03:36 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Fwd: Brain shows unconscious prejudices"

    > 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.<

    How does a cultural studies major know which part of the library to use? As cells differentiate they turn off inappropriate genes. One known mechanism is methylation of the phosphate backbone. This change in structure makes it impossible for DNA transcriptase holoenzyme to unzip the helix, thus the gene cannot be expressed.

    This methylation-lock is reversible and cells sometimes take genetic damage to the methylation control genes. This leads to activation of inappropriate genes and cancer. Cells have genes that direct the formation of proteins that recognize this internal damage and, in most cases, the cell undergoes apoptosis (cell suicide). However, if the gene directing apoptosis is also damaged, then the cancer cell becomes "immortallized" and you are that much closer to developing a malignant tumor.

    > 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.<

    I don't see a difference between a "spacial mechanism" and a "material mechanism". What in the observable universe does not occupy space? What is immaterial?

    >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.<

    I said that. Genes direct cells to differentiate based on their realtive location to each other. At some point the organism grows too large for a comprehensive biochemical gestalt. It is precisely the lack of any holistic top-down guiding principle that leads to problems in development if the genetic processing gets disrupted afterwards.

    >*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.<

    After a while the genes in the nuclei cannot directly communicate with each other becuase the distances are too large. At least, that is the useful theory that most scientists use. Asserting an alternative doesn't make a difference unless you can demonstrate the alternative is more useful.

    >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).<

    [shrug] OK. You're not supporting morphic resonance (or any top-down holistic theory) with such a statement. Positive arguments are always more effective than negative ones.

    >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...<

    ===== Description of Appeal to Authority An Appeal to Authority is a fallacy with the following form:

    This fallacy is committed when the person in question is not a legitimate authority on the subject. More formally, if person A is not qualified to make reliable claims in subject S, then the argument will be fallacious...

    ...This sort of reasoning is fallacious when the person in question is not an expert. In such cases the reasoning is flawed because the fact that an unqualified person makes a claim does not provide any justification for the claim....

    ...When a person falls prey to this fallacy, they are accepting a claim as true without there being adequate evidence to do so. More specifically, the person is accepting the claim because they erroneously believe that the person making the claim is a legitimate expert and hence that the claim is reasonable to accept...

    ...If a person makes a claim about some subject outside of his area(s) of expertise, then the person is not an expert in that context. Hence, the claim in question is not backed by the required degree of expertise and is not reliable...

    ...It is very important to remember that because of the vast scope of human knowledge and skill it is simply not possible for one person to be an expert on everything. Hence, experts will only be true experts in respect to certain subject areas. In most other areas they will have little or no expertise...

    ...It is also very important to note that expertise in one area does not automatically confer expertise in another. For example, being an expert physicist does not automatically make a person an expert on morality or politics. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked or intentionally ignored...

    > "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.<

    They do vary within the parameters that are genetically determined.

    > "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.<

    I don't agree with your point of view becuase I don't think you understand that statistical phenomena aren't neccesarily holistic.

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

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

    I disagree.

    >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. <

    How would you test it?

    >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.<

    But you haven't given me a reason to do that. I don't think morphic resonance explains anything in biology.

    >Not in the least. See Boltzmann.<

    He's dead.

    >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).<

    The Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that free space the only medium required for transmisson of electromagnetic radiation. The electromagnetic radiation is an independently detectable carrier of the force that causes a reciever to vibrate in resonance with the transmitter. What is the independently detectable carrier of "morphic resonance" force?

    >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 don't understand that on even a gramatical level.

    >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.<

    Ummm... O-kayyy.? That just makes no sense at all to me. I do appreciate you trying to tell me in a positive sense what you support.

    Can you give me an example of how this understanding might help me do something I cannot do now? Even in principle?

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


    "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."

    I'm still waiting for a potential application of this philosophy.

    >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.<

    I was unimpressed.



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