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Date: Sun Aug 05 2001 - 20:06:47 BST

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    Subject: Teleology
    Date: Sun, 5 Aug 2001 12:06:47 -0700
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    > > 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?
    > >
    > Because in the cases wher such chains fold into other
    > configurations, they fail to subserve the lock-and-key functions
    > necessary to interconnect them with contiguous amino acids and
    > proteins, and the entity unlucky enough to be born inflicted such a
    > malady dies before reproduction; that is, such entities have been
    > selected against.

    Joe, this is a teleological explanation. You're accounting for the behavior
    of the amino acid chain in terms of final cause. It folds up into one
    protein in particular because that's the one that will function correctly in
    the cell. It's as if the future protein already exists, acting like a
    magnet to draw the amino acid chain into its correct configuration.

    Sure, the correct protein is selected over alternative models. But that
    doesn't tell us what actually causes the chain to fold up correctly. What
    we're looking for is not a final cause but the *efficient* cause. Think of
    it like a game of pool. When a ball goes into a hole, is it because that's
    the correct place for it to go? Or is it because it was physically pushed
    into the hole? We need to know what pushes the amino acid chain into the
    correct protein, as opposed to any of the numerous incorrect configurations.
    Sure, if the wrong protein appears, it will be useless. But how is the
    amino acid chain supposed to "know" which one is correct? Since the process
    doesn't follow from mechanical necessity, something must be informing the
    chain. There are two possibilities. According to neo-Darwinian theory, the
    chain is informed by genes. According to Sheldrake, the current chain is
    informed by past chains that have already undergone the same process. It
    simply follows the "grooves" (chreodes) already established by similar
    organic systems. This is a fancy way of saying that organic memory is not a
    function of stored information. It's the influence of one system over
    another across a temporal distance. We can be certain that causation works
    from past to present. The question is whether the present is influenced
    solely by the immediate past or if it can also be influenced by the deep

    > > 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.
    > This sounds like the same newage whitelight fluffybunniness that
    > claims that the entire history of the universe is bound up in what is
    > called 'the akashic record', to be found in the minute growth lines
    > on the surfaces of quartz crystals - faugh!

    Fallacy of association.

    > It is not a corroboration of a long-standing
    > assertion X that its disproof has yet to be found,

    Indeed, scientific statements must be falsifiable. It's quite an easy
    matter to falsify the notion of holistic memory. Simply demonstrate that
    organisms of a given species do not improve their performance of a
    particular task from generation to generation. If you test a group of rats
    in a maze, when the test is repeated with a different group of rats, there
    should be no difference in the average time taken to complete the maze. In
    fact, this is not the case. There is *always* improvement from the first
    group to the second. It doesn't matter whether or not the second group is
    descended from the first, so there's no Lamarckian explanation for this.

    > > 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.
    > >
    > "We do not exist" are the four most semantically absurd words, in
    > that particular sequential relation, ever to issue from the ideational
    > faculty of a self-deluded entity

    Harsh but true. I thought it was clear that I was speaking critically.
    When you start with an incorrect premise (physicalism) logic can only lead
    to absurdity. Dennett has done us all a great favor by rigorously pursuing
    pysicalism to its pathological conclusion.

    > Physical existence is relative? Relative to
    > what? Parts of existence subsist in dependency relations with
    > other parts, but existence as a whole cannot be considered
    > relative, for there is nothing left, once the whole is postulated, for
    > that whole to be relative TO.

    Exactly. But what is the whole? It can't be physical. The lesson of 20th
    century physics is that there's no center, there's no ground, there's no
    whole, there's no essence, and there's no substance. Physicalism is
    nihilism. Yet, as Aristotle pointed out, you can't have accident without
    substance. Since the concept of substance has no meaning in physics, it
    must be metaphysical. The error is to equate physical with natural and
    therefore metaphysical with supernatural. The task is to find a natural
    object whose existence is absolute.

    > The philosophy of wholes and parts
    > comprises a discipline called mereology. And spacetime is a
    > single perceptual and physical manifold; it is a phenomenological
    > error to illegitimately linguistically bifurcate this manifold into
    > 'space' and 'time', as if 'either' is ever found in the absence of the
    > 'other'.

    Physics isn't concerned with time except in relation to space and matter.
    "Space-time" is simply time from the point of view of space. This says
    nothing about time as a thing in itself.

    Ted Dace

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