From: Dace (
Date: Fri 20 Feb 2004 - 00:08:22 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Epigenetic rules, archetypes, memes, culturgens"

    > From: Chris Taylor <>
    > >>>>*An* organism (individual) is stuck with the form it has.
    > >>>
    > >>>An organism is a living form that's stuck with a particular set of
    > >>>(though, over time, it undergoes a complete changeover of molecular
    > >>>constituents). An individual is a materialization of a collective
    > >>>What evolves is not the materializations but the form.
    > No. The 'form' is effectively little more that the mapping used by
    > selection to examine the ability of a set of alleles to act together,
    > and to respond appropriately (in concert with the rest of the cell for
    > which they are in large part responsible) to irritants.

    Form is shape, structure, and function. Evolution is changes in form that are passed on to future generations. Hence Darwin's preferred term,

    > >>>However, as Darwin emphasized, evolution is propelled forward by
    adaptations made by
    > >>>individual organisms.
    > Aargh -- adaptations _MANIFESTED_ in individual organisms, _'made'_
    > before they were even conceived. Deliberate and diabolical Ted.

    Darwin argued that organisms are capable of making morphological adaptations in youth and then passing on these adaptations as adults to their offspring. He speculated that flat-fish gained their unusual eye position because their ancestors pushed their eyes up in their youth when their skulls were still relatively soft. They distorted their anatomy and passed on the distortion to their young. (Darwin, The Origin of Species, Modern Library, 1993/1859, p. 292).

    > Where are the tradeoffs in bears
    > to account for the cetaceans? I can show you them the other way around
    > (i.e. what remains of the bear in the whale),

    Darwin cited a black bear swimming with its mouth open to catch insects as a hypothetical example of how evolution or "transformism" takes place. "As we sometimes see individuals following habits different from those proper to their species... we might expect that such individuals would occasionally give rise to new species." (p. 224) "A strictly terrestrial animal, by occasionally hunting for food in shallow water, then in streams or lakes, might at last be converted into an animal so thoroughly aquatic as to brave the open ocean." (p. 282)

    Darwin found a great deal of evidence for inherited adaptations in domesticated species. "Changed habits produce an inherited effect, as in the period of the flowering of plants when transported from one climate to another." (p. 29) Plants don't have to wait for a genetic mutation to tell them to bloom earlier or later. They simply adapt and pass on their adaptations to future generations. Because domesticated ducks walk more and fly less, they develop heavier leg bones and lighter wing bones than their wild counterparts. It's not just their muscles, which could adapt in their lifetime, but their bones, whose development is in-born and thus inherited from their domesticated ancestors. He notes that domesticated chickens have no fear of dogs and cats (p. 326). Are we to assume a genetic mutation eliminated this fear? Or did chickens simply realize they had nothing to fear from dogs and cats, and this knowledge was inherited by future generations? He notes that young dogs of a certain breed will point, retrieve, and run around-- rather than at-- a flock of sheep *without training* (p. 324). They inherited the habit.

    The question is, do we direct evolution through our living adaptations that are passed on to our progeny, or does everything happen blindly, by chance, in the nuclei of our cells? Is life all about making decisions and adapting to changes, or is it about chance alterations of genes as they're copied deep in our cells? For Darwin, there was simply no question about it. A theory of evolution that fails to recognize the centrality of the organism as it goes about its day-to-day business is simply not believable.

    Every inherited variation has a commonsense explanation on the one hand, and a convoluted and incredibly implausible explanation on the other hand. And in every case, we're supposed to believe the implausible explanation. This is simply not serious, and it's why creationism continues gaining ground. Certain dogs just happened to undergo a mutation that caused them to run around sheep instead of at them? And this just happened to occur only to dogs whose ancestors had been trained to perform this very task and to no other types of dogs? It's impossible to believe this regarding even one example, but to multiply it by millions of species is to strain credibility, to say the least.

    Darwinian evolution depends on two features; one, that individual variations are inheritable and two, that these features are inherited at the same age or younger by progeny. "For if each part is liable to individual variations at all ages, and the variations tend to be inherited at a corresponding or earlier age-- propositions which cannot be disputed-- then the instincts and structure of the young could be slowly modified as surely as those of the adult; and both cases must stand or fall together with the whole theory of natural selection." (p. 331)

    > but there is no feedback
    > in this system, to some 'out there' form. Neither can we expect that
    > memes should conform to such a Platonic ideal in any sense -- except
    > where external factors dictate that form.

    Platonic forms exist in an eternal, unchanging state and are therefore incompatible with Darwinian evolution, aka transformism.

    > > The literal meaning of
    > > evolve is "unfold," which implies that the newly unfolding form already
    > > existed in some ideal, predetermined state. Darwin was a materialist
    > > not a determinist. He believed in the inherent creativity of matter.
    > > Evolution is all about creative adaptations among individuals that lead
    > > transformations of whole populations into new species.
    > Darwin would've loved a Lamarckian mechanism, but Lamarck's mechanism
    > is not as robust as the 'Darwinian' alternative

    We know Weismann's "Darwinian" view was wrong because genetic mutations take time, and inherited adaptations pop up in domesticated species in only a few generations. But we know Darwin's "Lamarckian" view was wrong as well because he thought there was some kind of material means by which adaptations were conveyed from parent to offspring. It turns out phenotype doesn't affect genotype. So both of the materialistic views are wrong. This leaves only one option. New adaptations are inherited nonmaterially and collectively. Rather than parents passing on an adaptation directly to their offspring, each newborn inherits it from the collective memory pool of the population to which it belongs.

    Darwin was well aware that his materialistic view was problematic. He asked, for instance, how the traits of worker ants are passed along generation to generation when worker ants don't reproduce? (p. 353) He considered this to be the single most serious objection to the theory of natural selection (p. 358). Noting a similar problem in the theory of light prior to Faraday and Maxwell, he regarded the "undulatory theory of light" as an example that biologists should follow in overcoming their own difficulty with evolutionary theory (p. 637). Darwin admired Goethe and emphasized the importance of a holistic theory of organisms (p. 188). So it's not such a stretch to conclude that Darwin would have accepted a theory of inheritance that relies on holistic memory.

    > because of the danger
    > of overadaptation to ephemeral/local conditions, so you only see
    > Lamarckian stuff at the fringes of systems, like clonality (the
    > exact opposite).

    All evolution is local. Organisms evolve according to local conditions.

    > >> Individuals can change (or adjust) during a lifetime to match the needs
    > >> imposed by the environment within a reaction norm influenced by their
    > >> given genetic repertoire, but they are not evolving.
    > >
    > > Right. They are merely adapting. Evolution is the inheritance of
    > > adaptations.
    > No. Evolution is the inheritance of chance variations

    The question is not whether evolution is primarily about chance variations but why so many people hold such a patently bizarre belief. Are biologists simply crazy? As tempting as the notion is, we just reject it. The answer is to be found, not in psychology, but in memetics. Darwin believed he could be a materialist about evolution because he didn't know that living adaptations have no effect on genes. But once the Darwin meme had gotten a solid footing, it proved impossible to kill off. Darwin himself, had he lived long enough, would clearly have abandoned materialism so as to save evolution as a viable theory. But his meme has taken on a life of its own.


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