RE: Macguffin

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu Aug 02 2001 - 13:19:02 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Macguffin
    Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2001 13:19:02 +0100 
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            <Yes, but replication, variation, and selection of *what*? The
    > itself, or a chain of macromolecules buried in the depths of our cells?
    > Neo-Darwinism reduces evolution to the replication, variation, and
    > selection
    > of *genes*. These genes constitute a design.>
            How so?

            <As long as we insist on a "design" by which the body is produced,
    then we're
    > faced with a choice between Darwinian "stupid design" and theological
    > "intelligent design.">
            Darwinian 'design', if there is such a thing, is not stupid, it's
    blind- in other words it's not being directed towards any particular goal.

            <Did the design come about through blind chemical
    > processes in conjunction with environmental pressures...>
            Yes, that's exactly it.

            <To recognize the factuality of evolution is to forsake the notion
    of a
    > design which is somehow other than than the thing designed. "Blueprint"
    > or
    > "program" is anthropomorphic projection. We're superimposing human
    > techno-methodology onto the workings of the organic world. God itself is
    > a
    > projection of human qualities onto nature. In other words, we're still
    > haunted. The deity still lurks in the guts of our theory. Darwin is
    > God-as-Oedipus. If I blind myself, cut the soul out of myself, then I
    > have
    > no more sin. That's basically the psychodynamics we're dealing with. (Or
    > psychobabble, take your pick.)>
            I really don't get what you're going on about here. Perhaps you're
    looking at this at a much more fundamental level then I'm familiar with, or
    perhaps you're just missing the point completely. It sounds to me like the
    same kind of problem theists have with the origin of the universe, because
    they can only see direction in the universe's development and therefore they
    say something must be behind it. They do not recognise that extreme
    complexity can emerge as the result of extraordinarily simple processes that
    do not require motivation or intent to occur.

            <Black holes are not essential to Einstein's outlook. The
    equivalent of a
    > germ-plasm theory known as "neo-Darwinian" would be a theory positing
    > absolute space and time that called itself "neo-Einsteinian.">
            I'm no astro-physicist, but black holes as far as I'm aware are
    extremely important to Einsteinian physics, at the very least to the extent
    that their discovery provided further evidence that Einstein was on the
    right track in his effortst to explain the universe, even beyond his own
    lack of belief in them.

            <If evolution works blindly at the molecular level, then bizarre
    > would be commonplace. We would see them all around us. >
            Again, they are more common than you'd think, they just don't
    survive very long for anyone to notice them. Indeed, the presence of severe
    human disability is actually on the rise in developed populations because
    medical science enables many more people to survive, when in the natural
    environment they would not. Not to mention the impact of pollution of a
    whole range of species...

            <Complexity of genetic interactions works against mechanistic
    biology. Where
    > is the inherited information according to which this interaction is
    > governed? As Harry Rubin of UC Berkeley points out, there are 1000 genes
    > influencing the production of penicillin in the mold, Aspergillus.
    > Assuming
    > there are two types of each gene, a wild type and a mutated type, then the
    > number of possible gene interactions involved in this process is 2 to the
    > 1000th power. This can also be expressed as 10 to the 300th power. By
    > contrast, the total number of particles in the universe is only 10 to the
    > 80th power. At least the world's most powerful supercomputers would
    > require
    > only 100 years to perform a complete protein-folding computation. By
    > contrast, calculating the interactions of genes in the production of
    > penicillin is "transcomputational," meaning that it cannot be calculated
    > in
    > an infinite amount of time. Yet this is a simple, haploid organism. In
    > drosophila, there are 10,000 genes involved in the production of an eye.
    > There's no possibility that a mechanical system, natural or technological,
    > could control this process. There's no possibility that the information
    > encoding the steps of this process could somehow fit into our genes. If
    > the
    > genome were large enough to contain all this information, its own
    > interactions would be so complex that the information stored in it
    > couldn't
    > possibly account for its functions. The problem is that the hypothetical
    > function of genes-- storage of design information-- is incompatible with
    > their actual function, the complex interactions with proteins and with
    > each
    > other that provide the ground floor of cellulary acitivity.>
            Genes don't contain blueprints, all they do IIRC is code for
    proteins. The brake disc of a formula one car doesn't contain the blueprint
    for the entire car, it doesn't have to, all it has to do is make the wheels
    stop turning when applied. One of the disadvantages of line production, is
    that it de-skills workers who went from being able to build an entire car,
    to being able to construct, and latterly to simply stick together particular
    parts of the car. In other words, the guy who puts the brakes on a road
    car, probably doesn't know how to put the whole car together. You're
    confusing the components with the end product. The genes do not,
    individually, store information about all the possible interactions with
    other genes need to create an organism.

            <The key to a genuine biology is the concept of "self." All organic
    > processes are self-controlled. There's no division between program and
    > execution of program. Life is self-creative and self-regulating. This is
    > the basis of our intuition of selfhood. Mechanistic biology substitutes
    > the
    > human being with Homo macguffin.>
            Was there a "self" in the primordial soup? Isn't self a macguffin
    (Blackmore thinks it's a memetic macguffin, or more accurately concurs with
    Dennett's notion of the self as a benign user illusion).


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