Re[2]: The evolution of "evolution"

From: Dace (
Date: Wed 26 Oct 2005 - 07:06:27 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: The evolution of "evolution""


    > Friday, October 14, 2005, 11:32:12 PM, Ted wrote:
    > >> "Action at a distance" is a profoundly unscientific concept.
    > >> Like "intelligent design" it's an attempt to dignify ignorance and
    > >> make it permanent. Can't see how a particular cellular mechanism could
    > >> have evolved? Then it obviously must have been designed! Can't find a
    > >> link in a supposed causal chain? Well, it must be action at a
    > >> distance!
    > > Nice try. Would you claim that field theory is profoundly unscientific?
    > > Where there is field, there is action at a distance, be it
    > > electromagnetic, or quantum.
    > Not at all. The whole point of field theory is that it accounts
    > for what APPEARS to be action at a distance. What mediates the force
    > is the field. We might not wholly understand it, but it is detectable
    > and (allowing for the inherent difficulties of operating at the
    > quantum level) measurable, unlike the influences you propose. What's
    > unscientific is a supposed causal chain that lacks a link. The field
    > is the link in electromagnetics etc. What's your link?

    From a material standpoint nothing mediates the mutual attraction or repulsion of objects as a result of either gravity or magnetism. This is why the field is postulated, in order to account for the undeniable reality of such long-range effects. No field of physics has ever been detected. Rather, it is *deduced.* The strength of a field must be calculated on the basis of abstract equations, not read off from a meter that directly measures it. This is no different from the morphogenetic fields inferred from the holistic functioning of a cell or a tissue of cells. The principle of living matter is that order is maintained in whole despite disorder in the parts. To make sense of this, we must posit a field effect, just as we do in physics regarding planets and stars. Rather than being composed of tangible parts, the field can be regarded as the existence of the system as an intangible whole. If it's made of anything, it's made of space.

    However, evolution appears to demand a different kind of field, one in which the system is taken as a whole over time, not merely space. We could say this type of field is made of time, and indeed that's exactly what we experience in the field known as mind. We are conscious, i.e. present, and through memory our past is present too. We can regard memory as a temporal field mediating influences from the deep past or simply as a function of the absolute nature of time. While matter skates the surface of time, mind is not only the conscious surface but the living depths that keep us informed and directed. Mind is time seen from the inside, as a thing in itself. Taken absolutely, time is not merely the ephemeral presence of one moment that succeeds and displaces another but the absolute presence of a single moment that stretches but never breaks, the current always at one with its past. Only from the standpoint of matter, including brains and genes, is the current severed from an irretrievable past. It's in the nature of matter to demarcate what is now from what is past. From the point of view of time itself, no such demarcation exists. In the mind, it's always now-- now just keeps getting bigger, encompassing more experiences that stay with us whether we like it or not. Rather than acting at a distance across an expanse of abstract, spacelike time, memory merely expresses the indivisibility of living time.

    > > Of the various fields, the quantum field has
    > > the greatest resonance with life, for quantum fields are probabilistic.
    > Quantum fields resonate with life because both are probabilistic. I
    > guess this typifies your thinking.

    Quantum and morphic fields are analogous (not homologous) in the sense that there's wiggle room. We're not talking determinism here. The mind is a probability field. We can follow tradition or jump ship, depending on two factors: intelligence and will.


    > Why do human embryos go through the trouble of
    > developing stuff similar to other vertebrate embryos
    > if they are free to forget their heritage? Why a
    > notochord?

    If intelligence means abandoning what no longer works, instinct is the preservation of what still does. Why fix it if ain't broke?

    > "Novelty" tends to be nothing more than taking old
    > stuff and using it differently.

    Like memory, novelty is an expression of time. Because time, taken intrinsically, is a single moment continually renewed, what has come before can influence but not determine what happens now.

    > Stuff with an origin
    > for something entirely different (jaw articulation)
    > can shift function and have current utility for
    > hearing. Yet the embryonic origins are pretty much the
    > same. *Amphioxus* has a notochord. We have slipped
    > discs. Ouch!

    Right. So why don't we get genetic mutations that streamline embryogenesis right along with those that improve the adult body? The reason is that memory is keeping us in check while intelligence, not genetic accident, is what drives us forward. Why bother with intelligent adaptations when you're adrift in presensory oceanic bliss?

    > The fields postulated in developmental biology are
    > quite a bit more down to earth than all this quantum
    > stuff. Pretty much a conceptual tool that allows a way
    > to look at how gene products come into play within
    > given embryonic regions. No paranormal events allowed!
    > Rather mundane if you ask me.

    Couple of memes here, one attractive and one repulsive. "Down to earth" means your belief is in agreement with the general belief system, while the negation of "paranormal events" means you're at a safe distance from what is taboo in the belief system. Of course, "quantum stuff" is every bit as down to earth as any other facet of physical existence. And who said anything about paranormal? When you label something paranormal, you're simply placing it in the taboo box. The significance is not the meaning of the word but the cultural effect of using it. As Sheldrake points out, any
    "psychic" phenomenon that actually occurs is by definition normal. I happened to be present at a recent lecture in which Dawkins introduced the term "perinormal" to denote a phenomenon once believed impossible but later accepted as real. He gave radio as an example of the perinormal.

    > Now there's something marginally memetic. Are we by
    > nature solipsistic selfplexes?

    No, I'm afraid that has to be learned.


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