RE: Logic

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon Jul 30 2001 - 12:38:13 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Logic
    Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 12:38:13 +0100
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    >> I'm sorry, this is pants. Did our ancestors make the days hots?
    >> Evolution doesn't need 'a kind of non material, species memory',
    in other
    >> words a macguffin to make it work. All you need is a process
    where there
    >>is replication, variation and selection.

            <In other words, a macguffin?>

            A macguffin is a a piece of artifice needed to make something work.
    There's nothing like that about the processes of replication, variation or
    selection. Replication happens because of chemistry. Variation happens
    because that replication system isn't perfect, and selection happens because
    the context in which both replication and variation occur varies. That's
    not to say we necessarily understand in exact detail as yet how these
    processes work, but there's little doubt that the notion of genes, and the
    discovery of DNA, did provide the theory of natural selection with a
    mechanism, and yes IMHO mechanism is an appropriate term to use, as long as
    it's usage here is properly understood.

            <You can't trust a theory that invokes the name of someone who
    > rejected its central tenet. >
            Yes, you can. Einstein's theories predicted black holes, but he
    explicitly rejected them as impossible. Black holes are now not only
    possible but probably widespread throughout the universe, not east at the
    heart of spiral galaxies like our own.

            <Darwin was certainly aware of the "germ-plasm"theory.
    > He dismissed it on the basis of the absence of monsters in nature.
    > If phenotypic characteristics could be individually molded on the basis of
    > units of germ-plasm, then alterations in these units should produce
    > grotesque changes in outer form. If the "germ" for ears mutated in such a
    > way as to increase their size by three-fold, the world might soon witness
    > the onset of a race of Mickey Mouses. Yet this doesn't happen. Clearly,
    > it's because the body's form is governed holistically. This is why
    > evolution is driven according to the sensible behavior of the organism
    > rather than the blind workings of its macromolecules. The atomistic model
    > of inheritance is unsuitable for evolution. Aristotle, Goethe, Whitehead,
    > and yes, even Bergson (despite his vitalism), tell us far more about life
    > than Crick and Watson ever could.>
            Just visit, if it's still there, for some of the
    remarkable quirks of nature that are born into this world, but usually do
    not survive very long before dying. This simply isn't true, major mutations
    do occur in individuals of all species, but rarely survive to breed, unless
    that mutation confers some survival advantage. There are numerous species
    with, to human eyes, highly exaggerated physical characteristics, which
    persist because they are adaptive within that organisms environmental nice.

            <Blame the wee folks for all this mischief. What we're up against
    is the
    > "homunculi" meme. We've never been able to drop the idea that outer form
    > is
    > a scaled-up version of inner form. Just as Newton updated Plato's Forms
    > into "laws of physics," Weismann refashioned the homunculus as a set of
    > (genetic) instructions. Mechanistic evolution made a lot more sense when
    > speciation was given plenty of time to unfold in simple, discrete steps.
    > Yet we know, based on jumps in the fossil record, that evolution occurs in
    > brief bursts punctuated with great gulfs of calm. Mechanistic ontogeny
    > made
    > a lot more sense when the body contained vast numbers of genes and
    > proteins.
    > But the recent revelation that the genome is one-third smaller than
    > previously imagined did nothing to call into question the reduction of
    > morphology to genetics. The power of the meme against all logic ensures
    > that the genetic model, both evolutionary and developmental, remains
    > untouchable.>
            Punctuated equilibrium versus gradualism. Jumps in the fossil
    record are difficult to genuinely assess given the extreme variability of
    rates of fossilisation of different species. Remember, no-one had found a
    coelacanth fossil younger than about 75 million years old, until one was
    caught in fisherman's nets off the coast of Africa before WWII. Genuine
    fits and starts in the fossil record appear to be largely due to manjor
    environmental changes anyway.

            That recent assertion that the number of active genes is far
    smaller, that got lots of publicity, has subsequently been widely challenged
    as a very bottom end guesstimate based on the skeletal results rather
    prematurely announced by the two bodies competing to complete the sequence
    first. As has been discussed on the list, it's the complexity of
    interactions that is important not the basic number anyway.

            <It works, not at the level of individuals, but at the level of
    species. The
    > form of the species evolves. As to whether this collective form is
    > reducible to DNA, we don't know.>
            Again, it works at the level of the genes. Go read some Dawkins.


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