Re: The evolution of "evolution"

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Mon 17 Oct 2005 - 08:31:02 GMT

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    At 23:15 14/10/2005, Dace wrote:

    > > Was Elsasser really
    > > proposing that the embryo of, say, a dinosaur developing in the late
    > > Jurassic is currently, as we speak, exerting some
    > > space-time-independent effect on a vertebrate embryo developing right
    > > this moment?

    I'm shocked. That really is just bonkers. Do you believe that too? If so, you do believe in magic.

    > > You see, when I set that against standard developmental biology, I
    > > just can't grasp why a sane reasonable person would choose such a belief.
    >How could a sane person believe that organisms are machines, that evolution
    >can be reduced to random genetic mutation,

    Hoyle's fallacy again! It's not reduced to mutation. It's mutation plus selection over a _very_ long period of time.

    >that cellular order can be
    >reduced to molecules whose behavior is as random as particles in a gas, and
    >that we ourselves are mere hallucinations generated by our own brains?

    Wait, this is a sleight of hand. Just because we can't explain consciousness, doesn't mean that we can't explain developmental biology. Our knowledge of embryogenesis is orders of magnitude more developed than our knowledge of what goes on in the brain.

    >You're conflating two separate issues. When I say "adaptation," I mean the
    >adjustments organisms make during the course of their lives in order to keep
    >up with environmental changes (which mostly boil down to the adjustments
    >made by other organisms). Those creatures that make the best adaptations
    >are "selected" for survival. By "accident," I mean adaptations that arise
    >from genetic mutations.

    The mutations _are_ accidents. But the selection isn't.

    >Thus it's really a question of intelligent versus
    >random adaptation.

    No, the word is "contingent", not random (Gould). There's a difference.

    >See Hill, Miroslav, "Adaptive state of mammalian cells and its
    >nonseparability suggestive of a quantum system," Scripta Medica, 73 (4):
    >211-222, October 2000.

    Yes, I read it. He's obviously got some contamination problem in his cell cultures - it's easily done. If what he says is correct, other people would have seen the same thing. I did cell culture for nearly 2 years, and I never saw anything like that.

    >Which one is magical? The unmediated transmission of traits or the
    >unmediated transmission of light?

    The former, obviously.

    >Not necessarily. It could be that we're tinkering with a blueprint, or it
    >could be that genes themselves tinker with species memory, causing it to
    >manifest one way instead of another.

    Occam's razor. Choose the simplest of two alternative hypotheses,
    (especially if one of them requires you to believe in magic).

    >Nobody has ever calculated the correct combination of genes needed for the
    >timing of penicillin production in the haploid mold Aspergilla. That's
    >because the number of possible combinations is 2 to the 1000th power (or 10
    >to the 300th power), way beyond the realm of calculability. This is to say
    >nothing of the production of multicellular organs out of diploid genomes.
    >See *Reflections on a Theory of Organisms,* by Walter Elsasser, for which
    >Rubin contributes an introduction.

    But this is Hoyle's fallacy yet again. Aspergillus doesn't need to calculate anything from scratch. Natural selection over billions of year, and in Aspergillus's lineage that is many dozens of billions of generations, has honed the genetically programmed sequence of enzyme activations.

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