Re: The evolution of "evolution"

From: Dace (
Date: Tue 25 Oct 2005 - 21:04:44 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re[2]: The evolution of "evolution""


    > > Thus it's really a question of intelligent versus
    > > random adaptation. As I've said, intelligence will re-enter biology one
    > > or another, either via the mind of God or the minds of organisms ranging
    > > from bacteria to hominids.
    > God? Intelligence? What's all this about then?

    Intelligence is integral to evolution. While many adaptations may very well result from spontaneous mutation, in general if a species alters its behavior and ultimately its form to better fit a given environmental niche, this results from the will and the intelligence of individual organisms making decisions that will improve their lives. Darwin gave the example of sea mammals, claiming that carnivores might have found better hunting conditions in lakes and streams than on dry land. This is an intelligent decision which, over many generations, may have led to organisms "so thoroughly aquatic as to brave the open ocean." What Darwin didn't know is that this requires materially unmediated transmission of traits across the generations.

    If you insist on materially mediated transmission-- a metaphysical proposition having no relationship to scientific investigation-- then adaptations arising from the intelligent behavior of creatures cannot be passed on, and the only source of adaptation becomes genetic mutation. Thus evolution becomes a purely mechanical process involving mutation and natural selection, leaving no room for will and intelligence, the hallmarks of life. Reductionism substitutes life with organic machinery and tries to explain that instead. The result is an inherently unsatisfactory theory. Intelligence will find its way back in somehow, if not in the Darwinian way then in the creationist way.

    > > Nobody has ever calculated the correct combination of genes needed for
    > > timing of penicillin production in the haploid mold Aspergilla. That's
    > > because the number of possible combinations is 2 to the 1000th power (or
    > > to the 300th power), way beyond the realm of calculability. This is to
    > > nothing of the production of multicellular organs out of diploid
    > > See *Reflections on a Theory of Organisms,* by Walter Elsasser, for
    > > Rubin contributes an introduction.
    > This is just the same old reductio Im afraid. 'It's hard' is not
    > a proper objection as this is a miscasting of the problem.
    > Consider glycoproteins etc. The number of combinations of those
    > things should be beyond comprehension but because of genetic
    > history/ancestry only certain reactions can be catalysed and so
    > the number of 'families' of sugar structures and indeed the
    > actual total number seen are vanishingly small as a percentage
    > of the theoretically available space of possible sugar decoration.

    How does the cell know which types of glycoproteins to produce? How does it avoid making the wrong types? How much information would have to be encoded in its genes in order to ensure that it makes the right decision? Given the vast number of possible mistakes, wouldn't the cell's genome have to store vast amounts of information? Could all that information really fit in there? Keep in mind the cell has to do a lot of other things besides combining sugars and proteins.

    The only reason to assume genetic reductionism is the belief that no other options are conceivable within a scientific framework. This is where memetics enters the picture. We might call it the transubstantiation meme, wherein one substance-- a chromosome-- substitutes for the man, much as a wafer substitutes for the Son of Man. To deny genetic transubstantiation is as unthinkable for a reductionist as the denial of communion would be for a Catholic.

    Indeed, there are numerous parallels between the Christian meme and the reductionist-science meme. Determinism, which originally held a theological connotation, is essentially another word for creationism. Instead of God creating species, a combination of mutation and selection determines it. Part of the allure of genetic engineering is that it provides us with the godlike power of making new species. Instead of the millenium we have "the future," a magical time that never quite arrives in which all reductionist assumptions are at last bolstered with the kind of hard evidence so conspicuously lacking at the present.

    > The point being that genes were never in blueprint form. They
    > are the brain of the cell, not the bauplan.

    Clearly, a blueprint requires a brain to interpret it. This is part of the problem of genetic reductionism. Genome is both information and the program that manipulates it. What you really mean to say is that the genome is a computer. Yet a computer is a human artifact. Again, we're theorizing life not according to nature but according to our own artifice, which we project onto the organism, casting it in our own image as God molds us in His.


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