Me against the meme

From: Dace (
Date: Thu 27 Oct 2005 - 21:35:14 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Test"

    > From: Derek Gatherer <>
    > Subject: Re: The evolution of "evolution"
    > At 22:03 24/10/2005, Dace wrote:
    > >other people
    > >would have
    > > > seen the same thing. I did cell culture for nearly 2 years, and I
    > >saw
    > > > anything like that.
    > >
    > >You can't see what you're not looking for. In fact, you literally can't
    > >influence passed between physically separated cultures for the simple
    > >that it's not visible.
    > No, the reason why nobody can see signals passed between separate
    > flasks of cells is that it simply doesn't happen.

    I believe that's called begging the question. This takes us to the heart of reductionistic methodology. Contact mechanics among molecular components is assumed to be the basis of all organic events. Since researchers see no reason to look for anything that might contradict this view, they never find evidence for holistic causation and take this as confirmation that they were right all along.

    > But then
    > considering you believe that long deceased dinosaurs are still
    > signalling to us from the Jurassic, I suppose for you it is a
    > perfectly reasonable proposition.

    For humans to be influenced by dinosaurs would be like me having your memory. We have human/hominid/primate/mammalian memory. Dinosaur memory is for the birds. However, any species that evolves into a state similar enough to the dinosaur will fall under its field of influence.

    You may find this proposition odd, but that's not reason enough to dismiss it. All the way back to Copernicus science has been showing us that nature doesn't agree with our ideas of how it should be. If you feel holistic memory is unscientific, you must explain how it contradicts either itself or established scientific principles.

    > >As cell biologist Stephen Rothman points out, if you provide evidence
    > >reductionism can't provide a coherent explanation (e.g. in the case of
    > >protein movement) reductionists simply dismiss the evidence as flawed.
    > >this way their beliefs become unfalsifiable. What this demonstrates is
    > >many scientists are ruled by the reductionistic meme more than the
    > >scientific method.
    > Rothman is a reductionist - he says so in his book.

    Rothman notes that reductionism "has been of inestimable, even transcendent, value" but that "it has been a double-edged sword." To identify yourself as a reductionist is to fail to recognize the way it narrows the field of possibilities and blocks scientific progress.

    > What he is
    > opposed to is "strong micro-reductionism", as am I and as is almost
    > every biologist I know (see Cohen and Stewart's "Collapse of
    > Chaos").

    Strong micro-reductionism states that the whole has no attributes that aren't in some way traceable back to the parts. In biology this is expressed in terms of genotype-phenotype. Whatever is observable about the organism is derived from information contained in its genes (or the gene/RNA/protein complex).

    > This is the same kind of anti-science tactic used by the
    > creationists - identify a healthy disagreement within science and
    > attempt to twist it to claim that science is crumbling.

    Part of the confusion here is the precise meaning of science. As Rothman points out, most biologists would regard the phrase "reductionistic science" as redundant. Same goes for "mechanistic science." In their view, science is a process whereby systems are reduced to their parts, and the behavior of these parts is explained according to contact mechanics. Yet by this definition, physics became unscientific with the advent of field theory, according to which the parts are under the influence of the whole at a distance.

    > >Reductionism rests on the common sense notion of contact mechanics
    > >visible components. This is not a scientific concept but a deeply
    > >ingrained, widely distributed habit of thought, i.e. a highly successful
    > >meme.
    > Reductionism is about cause and effect, that's all.

    Reductionism is a particular view of causation that promotes one type above all others. This despite the fact that field theory abolished the monopoly of reductionistic causation. In a solar system, it's the whole (the gravitational field) that causes the parts (the sun and planets) to move in their characteristic ways. According to Aristotle, whose four-fold view of causation has never been significantly improved upon, what causes a baby turtle, say, to grow up into an adult turtle is its membership in its species. We might update Aristotle by stating that the embryo is under the field of influence of the species of turtle to which it belongs. To view this as unscientific is to confuse science, the study of causation, with reductionism, the study of reductionistic causation. What defines the reductionism meme is precisely this confusion.

    > The Victorians
    > thought brains were probably like very sophisticated steam engines;
    > today we liken them to computers. The mechanical analogies are
    > always going to be rubbish, but that doesn't mean that effects have no

    Not every effect is the result of an "efficient" cause. For instance, that I'm writing this text results from my goal of communicating a set of insights and not merely the mechanical action of molecules in my brain. To understand my behavior you must regard me in whole and not merely in part. Reductionism can't explain life on its own terms and so replaces life with machine and explains that instead.

    > >The reductionistic hypothesis is more complex and
    > >unwieldy insofar as it assumes that genes possess all the information
    > >required to build an organism and that they possesses the magical power
    > >compute precisely how they must combine to bring about this stupendously
    > >improbable event.
    > No, enough Hoyle's fallacy! You keep going on about this even though
    > I keep correcting you. How improbable is it that one person will win
    > a series of say, 10, coin tosses in a row? See Dennett's "Darwin's
    > Dangerous Idea" for the answer (given the correct circumstances, it's
    > 100% certain). Try Dawkins "The Blind Watchmaker" while you're at
    > it. It's only improbable if you have to start from scratch, and
    > organisms never have to start from scratch.

    My statement was about development, not evolution. According to the reductionistic theory, the forms and functions of an organism follow from the information contained in genes.

    > >And how does [Aspergillus] remember its billion year ancestral
    > >history? Is the
    > >knowledge divided into bits of information stored in its genes?
    > It doesn't have to "remember". There is no "memory" requiring to be
    > recalled. Does a motor car have memory of its ancestry from the Ford
    > Model T?

    A car is created by an intelligent designer. In this case, the information on how it's to be built is contained in the mechanic, not the mechanism. Alas, we no longer take seriously the notion of a supernatural mechanic who designs and builds the species of life, so we must therefore locate the impetus for the creation of an organism within the organism itself. There are two ways of achieving this. We can claim that the organism is still a mechanism but whose construction occurs blindly, or we can recognize that an organism is merely a particle in a field of influence known as a species, and the genes belonging to that organism, rather than having to build the damn thing from scratch, merely serves to individuate it from others of its kind.

    > >Given that
    > >the correct sequence of combinations in the timing of penicillin
    > >is transcalculational, how can all that information fit?
    > No, I told you before, that simply is not true.

    I take it you're not familiar with combinatorics. If you have 1000 genes, each having a wild type and a mutant type (the simplest assumption we can make), then the possible number of ways they can combine is 2 to the 1000th power. Believe it or not, this figure cannot ever be calculated by any conceivable supercomputer in any amount of time.

    > It's not
    > transcalculational at all. If biosynthetic processes were
    > transcalculational, biochemistry in vitro would be impossible, as how
    > could a poor human chemist possibly do such things in his/her
    > head?

    Plenty of biochemical processes can be calculated. This is neither here nor there.

    > >If you insist on materially mediated transmission-- a metaphysical
    > >proposition having no relationship to scientific investigation--
    > No, this is wrong. Basic genetics demonstrates that inheritance is
    > materially mediated. Genes are material. There's nothing
    > "metaphysical" about it.

    This is the fallacy of confusing the particular with the universal. That
    *some* inheritance is mediated by genes doesn't mean *all* inheritance is mediated by genes. That all inheritance must be materially mediated is a metaphysical proposition. It says something about the nature of reality that not only can't be verified but appears to be contradicted by physics.

    > >that
    > >adaptations arising from the intelligent behavior of creatures cannot be
    > >passed on, and the only source of adaptation becomes genetic mutation.
    > Ah, the daily Hoyle's fallacy. I should have expected it. I'll say
    > it again, just as I've said it in 2 or 3 previous messages. The
    > source of adaptation is _not_ just mutation, it is mutation plus
    > selection over a very, very long period of time.

    But ultimately it's mutation, since selection merely works with the raw material provided by mutation. Selection can amplify a change brought on by genetic mutation, but it can't generate the change in the first place.

    > >Thus
    > >evolution becomes a purely mechanical process involving mutation and
    > >selection, leaving no room for will and intelligence, the hallmarks of
    > .... which oddly you seem to in any case acknowlege in the next
    > sentence. Maybe, you're actually starting to understand evolution now,

    Note that I wrote "evolution" there, not "adaptation" or "variation." In fact, the conflation of adaptation and variation is a major weakness of reductionist evolution. In our own experience we find that adaptations result far more often from spontaneous discovery than spontaneous variation in the genome. Just as cultural memory allows human adaptations to propagate over time, species memory allows animal adaptations to propagate.

    > >Intelligence will find its way back in somehow, if not in the Darwinian
    > >then in the creationist way.
    > Creationism only flourishes when people are poorly educated about biology.

    Quite the contrary, creationism flourishes when people are all too aware of the mechanistic claims of biology. If you're going to have a mechanism, shouldn't you have a mechanic? All the machines that ever existed in the history of the world were built through intelligent design.

    > >Instead of God
    > >creating species, a combination of mutation and selection determines it.
    > Excellent. Hoyle's fallacy finally gone. Yes, that is how species
    > originate, you might say it is a single sentence precis of the
    > "Origin of Species" (perhaps a pedant might demand "variation"
    > replaces "mutation" in order not to force a Fisherian anachronism on

    Exactly. And for Darwin, the chief source of variation, far outweighing mutation, i.e. "spontaneous variation," is the intelligent adaptations made by creatures in response to environmental conditions. Far better to posit species memory to account for the inheritance of living adaptations than to ditch Darwinian evolution in favor of an inherently implausible, reductionistic alternative.


    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu 27 Oct 2005 - 21:55:24 GMT