Re: Macguffin

From: Dace (
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 18:32:37 BST

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: Macguffin"

    Received: by id SAA29802 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Sat, 4 Aug 2001 18:34:39 +0100
    Message-ID: <001301c11d0b$7a1ab160$8a86b2d1@teddace>
    From: "Dace" <>
    To: <>
    References: <>
    Subject: Re: Macguffin
    Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2001 10:32:37 -0700
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    X-Priority: 3
    X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
    X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4133.2400
    X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.50.4133.2400
    Precedence: bulk

    Hi Vincent,

    Hope your pile of emails isn't too high when you get back. Will try to keep
    this short.

    > <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
    > > 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
    > > number of possible gene interactions involved in this process is 2 to
    > > 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
    > > 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
    > > 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
    > > 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.

    Hold on, there. DNA provides a template for RNA, which provides a template
    for a sequence of amino acids. In other words, a sequence of nucleic acids
    is mechanically translated into a sequence of amino acids. There's no
    "code" involved, as there's no interpretation, just a simple process of
    stamping the form of one material onto another material. No one has ever
    demonstrated any link between the linear structure of DNA and the complex,
    four-fold shape of a protein crystal.

    If DNA doesn't contain a design of the body, what's the source of our form?
    It's not as if the functions of the body are entirely explicable in terms of
    mechanics. There's no school of biology that makes that assertion. It's
    long been understood that organic processes cannot disobey mechanical
    principles but at the same time are not bound by those principles. The
    folding of amino acid chains is a perfect example. For each sequence of
    amino acids, there are numerous mechanically correct configurations. The
    one type of protein the amino acids fold up into is no more mechanically
    necessary than scores of others. So why does the amino acid chain fold into
    the correct configuration? Now extend this principle through every level of
    bodily activity, right up to the cognitive functions facilitated in the
    brain. Again, we can't decide to do things that disobey the laws of
    physics. But there's still a lot of room for choice within the context of
    those laws. From proteins to humans, life is not mechanically determined.

    This is why biologists developed the notion of genetic blueprints or
    programs. Something must be telling the proteins and cells and tissues and
    organs what to do. It either arises from somewhere inside the body, or it
    comes about through the resonance of the body with its species form.
    Ultimately it boils down to to a question of space versus time. Is there a
    design of the body spatially located within the body? Or is the source of
    current form "located" in the body's past form? No scientist on earth can
    demonstrate that it's the first possibility. The question is entirely open.

    > 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
    > stop turning when applied. One of the disadvantages of line production,
    > 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
    > 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.

    Unlike a production line, organic processes do not blindly follow mechanical
    necessity. There's always choice along the way, and something has to govern
    the process to ensure that the right choice is made.

    > <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
    > > 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
    > Dennett's notion of the self as a benign user illusion).

    If the world is limited to purely physical interactions, then there cannot
    be such a thing as self-existence. Physical existence is relative. Nothing
    exists intrinsically. Everything is a function of relations with its parts,
    with space and time, and with other objects. Blackmore and Dennett are
    following the logic of physicalism to its ultimate conclusion. We do not
    exist. Blackmore does *not* think the self is a memetic macguffin for the
    very simple reason that Blackmore doesn't exist. If the self is a benign
    user illusion, then the "user" is the illusion itself.

    Ted Dace

    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)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Aug 04 2001 - 18:38:51 BST