Re: Me against the meme

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Mon 31 Oct 2005 - 09:06:36 GMT

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

    At 22:10 30/10/2005, Dace wrote:

    >The reality of contact mechanics is verified for me with every
    >key I strike while composing this post. The assumption is that contact
    >mechanics accounts for everything under the sun.

    But I don't assume that. I know that there is a quantum realm at very small scale where different rules have to apply. What I'm saying is that it has been proven in the laboratory, many thousands of times over the last 50 years, that biological processes are mediated by molecules in collision, contact and interaction. That is a scientific fact, and if you deny it, then well eppur si muove as Galileo said.

    >You really ought to read Rothman's Lessons from the Living Cell. It may
    >come as something of a shock.

    You're just taking a dispute about the level of appropriate level of reductionism and misconstruing it as
    "reductionism-in-crisis". Creationists often recommend Steve Gould, for similar misplaced reasons.

    > > According to experimental evidence, the forms and functions of an
    > > organism follow from
    > > the information contained in genes.
    >Didn't you just say that was a straw man?

    I meant in terms of embryonic development. Clearly when complex behaviour is involved, it can't be all hard-wired (one reason why we need memetics as a Darwinian but non-genetic theory of human behaviour)

    >The investigations of the last century have enabled us to understand many
    >mechanistic functions of the body, including genetic mechanisms. But this
    >cannot by itself establish that organisms are fundamentally mechanical.

    If you worked in a lab, you'd be convinced that organisms are fundamentally just very flashy machines. Once you roll up your sleeves and really start looking at them, you'd see. Even a year studying the molecular biological literature might convince you, but there's no substitute for actually developing your own autorad and seeing the protein stuck to the DNA right there before your own eyes.

    > >
    > > 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'll grant this is a problem for my view.

    It's a fatal flaw.

    >Nonetheless it's a much smaller
    >problem than trying to explain evolution without inheritance of adaptations
    >or claiming that development proceeds entirely from "scratch" (a single

    But that's why developmental biology is so interesting. In frogs for instance, when the sperm enters the egg, the contact causes the two outermost layers to roll slightly across each other. This brings into proximity two molecules that are apart in the unfertilised egg. They react, and a kick off a cascade of ion channels actions that differentiate the dorsal (back) from the ventral (front) of the egg. Now that's machinery. Everywhere we look we see such things. This is what happens. Eppur si muove.

    >A theory of life that can explain it on its own terms is by definition
    >preferable to a theory that explains it through artifice. It's not up to me
    >to demonstrate to you the value of my theory. It's up to you to demonstrate
    >the value of yours. Why should I accept your mechanistic theory of life
    >when I already have an organic one?

    Because, again as I said above, if you actually work with biological systems, you would simply find your theory impausible to the point of untenability.

    >Evidence for the vesicle theory of protein transport. Rothman notes many
    >examples of unscientific behavior among the proponents of this
    >reductionistic theory. They speak of the vesicle model as if it were a
    >description of an actual mechanism rather than what it is-- a speculative


    >researchers still refused to admit defeat, because to accept Rohtman's model
    >of direct protein transport would be to recognize that a biological process
    >doesn't necessarily entail an underlying mechanism.

    Again, your misrepresenting a healthy disagreement about the mechanisms of protein transport as if it constituted grounds to abandon all science. Proteins have to get between A and B. Maybe current models are unconvincing. So what? There'll be a Nobel Prize waiting for whoever solves it.

    >Again, as a proponent of an artificial rather than organic view of life, the
    >onus is on you. How does your stuff better account for life than a theory
    >that takes life on its own terms?

    But standard science does take life on its own terms. If you have to spend 8-15 hours a day studying it (some people are more hooked than others), you have little choice other than to take what you see before you.

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