Re: Me against the meme

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Fri 28 Oct 2005 - 09:47:10 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Me against the meme"

    At 22:35 27/10/2005, Dace wrote:

    > > 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.

    You want to pretend that contact mechanics is just an assumption. However, contact mechanics has been demonstrated for many drug-protein interactions. There are (again) literally hundreds of experimental examples of this. One selected at random:

    >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.

    It certainly is.

    >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.

    It is an established scientific fact that the development of embryos is due to a genetic program working within the egg. What more explanation can you need? If you don't believe experimental results constitute evidence (I strongly suspect you don't), then holistic memeory is in any case something that fails Occam's Razor.

    >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.

    Again, Ted, you seem to simply pretend that the 20th century never happened. How can you possibly claim that scientific progress has been blocked?

    >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).

    Straw man. That sort of thing went out of fashion in the late 60s - and even then was only held as a strong null hypothesis.

    >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

    No, this is a misrepresentation. Science is about logical cause-and-effect hypotheses backed up by experimental evidence. The reason we believe in mechanism is that when you spend your life actually studying living systems, you actually see the mechanism. If we ceased to see evidence of mechanism, we'd drop it as an explanatory framework.

    >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.

    Don't try to shift the subject onto the brain. As I said before, we are nowhere near understanding the brain. Development, however, is a problem that has been cracked.

    >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.

    According to experimental evidence, the forms and functions of an organism follow from the information contained in genes. Not just "according to reductionistic theory". Why do you keep denying what hundreds of scientists have painstakingly established over the last century?

    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

    If genes "merely serve to individuate" why are there genes involved in totally fundamental as pects of development? Even the up-down, left-right, front-back polarity of embryos is governed by genes. You seem to think it's just a matter of who has blue eyes and who has brown.

    >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.

    I am familiar with combinatronics, but you're not familiar with biochemistry. That calculation never needs to be made.

    >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's just the "God of the gaps" argument. How much particular evidence do you need? There's 110 years of it.

    > > 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.

    Except biological ones (Blind Watchmaker).

    >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.

    Darwin was working in the nineteenth century. Of course his ideas on heredity have been ditched. The alternative has 110 years of evidence to back it up.

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