Re: Me against the meme

From: Dace (
Date: Mon 07 Nov 2005 - 20:16:40 GMT

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    > - --- Dace <> wrote:
    > >
    > [snip]
    > >
    > > It is an established fact that development of
    > > embryos cannot take place
    > > without genes. Necessity and sufficiency.
    > >
    > Depends on how you word it. Some species' embryos can
    > develop for a little while without having a nucleus
    > (ie- zygotic gene activity), but I think this has much
    > to do with maternal products getting the embryo to a
    > certain point before the nucleus kicks into gear (see
    > Brian Hall's _Evolutionary Developmental Biology_ 2nd
    > ed pbk, p.116). Thus to a very limited extent we could
    > say development takes place sans embryonic gene
    > activity, but maternal gene products would take up the
    > slack. This makes necessity slightly problematic in a
    > very limited context.
    > Genes are not sufficient for development. What's a
    > zygotic genome going to do without a...ummm...zygote.
    > And what about nutrients? Aren't proteins, carbs etc
    > important to development? Aren't vitamin deficiencies
    > bad for a developing fetus? Malnutrition surely can't
    > be good. Genes can't do much without a surrounding
    > cell and without food (such as a yolk) and water.
    > Would calcium be important for bone growth? Just
    > asking. If the sun were to disappear, wouldn't this
    > have a negative effect on embryonic development of
    > most species?

    My statement was in the context of a discussion about biological information. In terms of the information required by the embryo to properly develop, genes are necessary but not necessarily sufficient. Due to the fact that cells and multicellular organisms are organized top-down, not bottom-up, we shouldn't expect an embryo to gain its developmental direction entirely from particulate information. Some of the information, perhaps even the bulk of it, ought to be transferred holistically, without material mediation, much like an antenna receiving information from a distant transmitter.

    > > 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. A
    > > theory that can't account for self-determination is
    > > not a complete theory of
    > > life. This applies to the self-determination of
    > > species (evolution) as much
    > > as individuals.
    > >
    > Self-determination? Why are you taking something from
    > human-centric political and or moral philosophy and
    > applying it to realms where it's not appropriate? How
    > can a plant express self-determination like a nation
    > (in the Wilsonian sense) or a person with a cortical
    > organization complex enough to formulate and
    > understand the concept of volition? How can a species
    > (an aggregate of individuals) express
    > self-determination?

    Human self-determination is the product of an evolutionary process stretching back to our prokaryotic ancestors. Self-determination has existed every step of the way. The meaning of evolution is that species are self-determined in the context of environmental pressures. What humans do is to extend this capacity to the level of the individual. Where plant and animal species define themselves in the context of a physical environment, people define themselves in the context of a cultural environment.

    To posit human self-determination without organic self-determination is to leave it hanging in the air, as if it were a gift from a benevolent deity.

    > A behavioral isolating mechanism
    > doesn't come close, since neither the individual nor
    > the aggregate of individuals biologists place it
    > within are "aware" that they are determining anything.
    > An isolating mechanism arises by chance and keeps
    > individuals of distinct groups from interbreeding on
    > average. This is a byproduct of a genetic, structural,
    > or behavioral incompatibility arising over time when
    > two groups are geographically isolated, not a species
    > saying: "You know I'm going to go out into this world
    > and stake a claim for me and my kind" like the
    > legendary architects of some struggling nation.

    To define itself, a population breaking off from the main body of its species doesn't have to know it's generating a new evolutionary lineage. Self-consciousness is not a prerequisite for self-determination. A species is self-determined to the extent that an intelligently chosen functional adaptation has generated a structural variation to be selected or not by the environment. This brings us back to holistic information transferal across the generations.


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