Re: Me against the meme

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Mon 21 Nov 2005 - 09:04:13 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: Me against the meme"

    Try this one, Ted:

    A large object has a gravitational field. For instance, if the earth was split into two masses, each would still have a gravitational field (although the strength of gravity on the new smaller size planets would be different). Likewise, if a magnet is chopped in two, there are now two magnets. Therefore, for a phenomenon to qualify as a field, it must obey this kind of general non-destructability.

    So if there is some kind of field buzzing away around a fertilised egg, one would expect that field to be fundamentally equivalent if the egg was divided, ie. qua field, it ought to be able to produce 2 mini-embryos.

    So why is it then that this kind of experiment produces very variable results depending on the species and the time of the division? For instance, dividing a frog embryo at the 2-cell stage will get you 2 little tadpoles instead of one. But try dividing a fly embryo - it just dies. Dividing a frog or sea-urchin embryo at the 4 and 8 cell stages will produce a variety of results - for instance at the 8 cell stage in the frog, you'll no longer get mini-tadpoles from your divisions, but partial tadpoles (eg ones that are all gut and no nervous system, and the converse). Sea-urchins are better at giving mini-embryos at later stages, but eventually they also start to give just partial embryos.

    So this field is not much of a field really, is it? Or if it exists, whatever it is, it is clearly so different to the normal understanding of field as imported from physics, to invalidate the analogy.

    PS: there are mechanistic explanations for all the above phenomena in the embryos, in case you're interested.

    At 00:53 21/11/2005, you wrote:
    > > On Nov 11, 2005, at 11:05 AM, Dace wrote:
    > >
    > > > Their behavior is modulated by a field of influence much like
    > > > particles in a magnetic field, the difference being that this type
    > > > of field
    > > > is based on form in place of charge. Unless you can explain why
    > > > such a
    > > > field cannot exist, you must accept this is as the default
    > > > explanation.
    > >
    > > The thing that sticks out to me is that you say the field is "based
    > > on form." This sounds very neo-Platonic to me; the idea that The
    > > Forms themselves have a separate existence outside of physical
    > > reality, and in fact, pre-existed what Is now. Except Sheldrake's
    > > idea of a morphogenetic field seems to imply that as new forms come
    > > into being, the field grows to encompass them, which makes the first
    > > instance of a new form come into being slower than subsequent
    > > repetitions of it. This is counter to the idea that all forms pre-exist.
    >Right. Sheldrake is no Platonist. Like the creatures they govern,
    >morphogenetic fields evolve into being. They have no eternal existence
    >outside time but are reinforced by past, similar fields. The longer a given
    >organic form has been in existence, the stronger the field that maintains it
    >in current organisms. This is in contrast to Brian Goodwin, who believes
    >that developmental fields are manifestations of timeless equations. It's
    >true that such fields can be given mathematical form, but Sheldrake sees
    >these equations as merely descriptive rather than causal.
    > > Now I don't know whether or not this is true. I have often wondered
    > > about Possibility: even if everything is as the reductionists have
    > > it, with the mechanical aspect being sufficient to explain Cause,
    > > then wouldn't it be true that before the Big Bang, when it was just a
    > > singularity with no constituent parts -- wouldn't it be true that at
    > > that moment, everything that now Is was Possible?
    >You might want to pick up a copy of *Introduction to Metaphysics* by Henri
    >Bergson, a very short book in which he outlines his theory of time. Because
    >time is real-- because it's all really happening and not just the playing
    >out of a predetermined program-- the future isn't just the fleshing out of
    >pre-existent possibility but entails the truly novel and unforseeable.
    >Rather than merely narrowing possibilities into actualities, time is the
    >production of possibilities.
    > > Certainly we must
    > > agree that even before I was born, everything that has happened in my
    > > life was Possible. Where did this Possibility exist? Was it a Side of
    > > the great Die that is always being Cast?
    >You're using possibility in the abstract sense. In this sense it's nothing
    >more than the shadow of the thing cast back into the past. True possibility
    >is an artifact of time, a reflection of the open-ended nature of temporal
    >existence. Where abstract possibility denotes a definite thing which
    >precedes its actualization, real possibility is vague and undefinable. It's
    >not that a particular thing pre-exists its actuality in potentiality but
    >simply that the future is open. Existence doesn't shift from potential to
    >actual. Rather, existence and actuality are the same thing, while
    >potentiality is nothing, a mere figment of the imagination. That's not to
    >say, however, that it's not a useful abstraction. So is 2 + 2 = 4. But
    >unless you're talking about particular things, all the addition in the world
    >adds up to nothing. The essence of human mentality-- and the ground of
    >memetics-- is the useful lie, the nothing that's something. This is why it
    >makes no sense to reduce mind to brain. The mind is bigger than the brain
    >because the brain is merely something, while the mind is not only something
    >but nothing as well.
    > > > there's nothing known to physics that rules out
    > > > morphogenetic fields.
    > >
    > > Nor is there anything that suggests these so-called 'fields' exist.
    >I've been over this before. We cannot comprehend mentality as a compilation
    >of particles. Nor can we make sense of development and evolution without a
    >holistic approach to the organism and the species.
    > > Now, to be fair, I realized some things that would suggest the
    > > existence of something like a morphogenetic field, during an acid
    > > trip I had one time. But that acid trip also suggested a lot of other
    > > things, as well, such as the existence of Hell; that it is possible
    > > to experience time backwards and forwards; that souls always choose
    > > to experience Hell by traveling backwards through evolution, slowly
    > > reincarnating as less and less complex creatures, until they reach
    > > total nothingness, rather than going straight to nothingness; that
    > > individual existence is an illusion and in reality each experience is
    > > not unique but merely composed of elements of similar experience that
    > > are shared in various combinations by all experiencers, and actually
    > > link those experiencers to each other, but our minds normally block
    > > this link from us to perpetuate the illusion of individuality (this
    > > is the thing that's suggestive of a morphogenetic field); the
    > > existence of Heaven, in which all Possibility can be experienced
    > > penalty-free; and that each person is in reality all of their
    > > ancestors simultaneously.
    > >
    > > Yet, despite having realized these things, I recognize that it could
    > > have all been a hallucination for all I know, and just because these
    > > things seem perfectly acceptable as possibilities to me, people who
    > > have not had such an experience can not be expected to understand
    > > what the heck I'm talking about.
    >Right. A theory of life need not depend on the extraordinary. The mundane
    >will suffice to eliminate reductionism as a logical possibility.
    > > I mean, can you, for example, propose an experiment that would
    > > measure the morphogenetic field of an organism,
    >Sheldrake's trials on the ability of a dog to anticipate the return of its
    >master demonstrate the existence of a field that embraces both master and
    >pet. His results were replicated by a "skeptic" named Richard Wiseman.
    >Wiseman later claimed he had refuted Sheldrake, though it's obvious he
    >obtained exactly the same results.
    > > or that would block
    > > part of an organism or colony of termites from being able to receive
    > > it?
    >It's well known that killing the queen causes the colony to fall into
    >disarray. There's no material explanation for this. Nor is there a
    >material explanation for when the colony operates properly.
    > > Can it explain things that currently accepted science has a hard
    > > time accounting for, like cancer and programmed cell death,
    >How about life itself? What is it that lives? Reductionists cannot
    >comprehend life, which is why they reject it, along with consciousness,
    >imagination, purpose-- the whole kit and kaboodle.
    > > Hello Ted,
    > >
    > > With regard to how complex structures form from much simpler
    > > I tend to disagree with your statement that "No one has the slightest idea
    > > how cellular order might arise from molecular disorder".
    > >
    > > In fact, complexity theory (a subfield of chaos mathematics) provides some
    > > very good explanations of how this happens. "Emergent phenomenon" is the
    > > term used to describe how complex, organized behaviors emerge from the
    > > seemingly random interactions of simpler components.
    >At least in the spatial sense, emergence is synonymous with holism. While
    >there's no difference in the meaning of the two terms, there's a very big
    >difference in their memetic charge. Many people who accept "emergent"
    >without reservation are repulsed by "holistic." Check out the wikipedia
    >definition of holistic to see the amazing contrast. Reminds me of the
    >memetic difference between teleology, which places purpose at the center of
    >behavior and is therefore verboten among reductionists, and teleonomy, which
    >means exactly the same thing but is considered acceptable.
    >Biology is never about order in the abstract sense but only in the
    >particular sense. Why this particular order and not that? This is where
    >memory comes in, both genetic and holistic. The mathematics of complexity
    >and self-organization will never suffice.
    >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)

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