Re: Teleology

From: Dace (
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 19:52:57 BST

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: Logic"

    Received: by id TAA04378 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 6 Aug 2001 19:55:06 +0100
    Message-ID: <001f01c11ea9$0c1fc700$0988b2d1@teddace>
    From: "Dace" <>
    To: <>
    References: <3B6D8772.3785.566EB6@localhost>
    Subject: Re: Teleology
    Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 11:52:57 -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

    > > > > 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.
    > >
    > No, they originally, I believe, could have folded in all sorts of
    > directions (mutation, variation), but the unsuccessful ones have
    > been eliminated by being environmentally (and this includes the
    > internal environment of the rest of the organism) selected against.
    > This is not a teleological explanation, but an evolutionary one.

    That it's evolutionary doesn't mean it's not still teleological. After all,
    evolution does seem to lend itself to a teleological explanation, as if all
    this struggle for survival was intended to lead to Homo sapiens. What is it
    that causes the protein to form correctly? Is it past influence or future

    > > 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 past.
    > >
    > This is where I get the mystical woo-woo vibes, kinda like the
    > newage 'akashic records in quartz crystals' contention gives me.
    > Those that sisn't fold up correctly didn't survive, and neither did the
    > gene that instructed them to incorrectly fold, as the organism died
    > prior to reproduction.

    Genes do not appear to contain instructions for the folding of proteins.
    The very concept of "genetic instruction" is speculative. There is, as yet,
    no evidence to bolster it. Nucleic acid chains produce amino acid chains.
    That genes produce proteins is a meme, and this meme is obstructing the
    emergence of a new theory.

    > Different proteins with different locks and
    > keys are made, according to genetic instruction,
    and those whos
    > locks don't fit into the others' keys simply don't join when they
    > bump into each other. Nothing has to be pushed; there are certain
    > ionic and covalent bonding possibilities that serve as attractors
    > once candidates drift close.

    Very little in the body works according to mechanical or chemical necessity.
    When Drew Endy and John Yin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison modeled a
    virus that attacks E. coli in the human gut, they thought their model would
    tell them precisely how the virus would react to various drugs. Instead
    they found "a tremendous number of degrees of freedom" in the possible
    reactions of the virus. Biochemist Alfred Gilman, a Nobel prize winner,
    summed it up nicely. "I could draw you a map of all the components in a
    cell and put all the proper arrows connecting them. I or anybody else would
    look at that map and have absolutely no ability to predict anything."

    Another biochemist, Enrico Coen, recently put out a book called *The Art of
    Genes* in which he claimed that genes and proteins are creative. They're
    like little Picasso's in there, every cell a work of art. He's not kidding.
    In fact, he's really just restoring biological theory to a more Darwinian
    orientation. Darwin may have been a materialist, but he sure as hell wasn't
    a mechanist. He believed in the inherent creativity of matter. But if the
    Darwin-Coen school is correct, what prevents our cells from experimenting on
    various different forms? Sure, natural selection will kill off the bad
    forms, but what's to prevent the ones that survive from setting off on a new
    round of "experiments?" There's got to be some kind of "mechanism" that
    forces our cells to continue doing things correctly even countless
    generations after natural selection has determined the correct form. The
    problem is that materialist mechanism is proving to have no explanatory
    power whatsoever. This is why Bernhard Palsson, head of genetic circuits
    research at UC San Diego, claims that "We're witnessing a grand-scale
    Kuhnian revolution in biology."

    The cause of this recent upsurge of uncertainty is the Genome Project. It
    was thought that we would finally start seeing some hard evidence regarding
    the existence of genetic instructions, and it just hasn't panned out.
    Instead the reductionist approach is looking increasingly implausible. The
    ultimate triumph of molecular biology is proving to be its undoing.

    > > > 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.
    > >
    > They should try building new mazes with the same configurations,
    > so there's no chance of spoor or wear markd providing clues.

    I can assure you it's been tried. And it doesn't matter if the replications
    are done in the same lab or halfway around the world, the next day or twenty
    years later. The results are always the same. We also see this effect
    among human beings in regard to aptitude tests.

    > > 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.
    > >
    > This is to confuse the microphysical with the macrophysical.
    > While it is true that indiividual quantum particles demonstrate a
    > statistical probability of existing or of occupying a location, once
    > you take dodecadrillions to the nth power of them in the aggregate,
    > the weight of all those individual cases multiplied by each other
    > resolves the probabilities into something prohibitively approaching
    > certainty. That is why light measurement can affect the energy
    > state and location of an electron, and positron-electron pairs can
    > blink into and out of existence, yet viewing a thrown baseball does
    > nothing measureable to its speed, location or existence.

    In other words, the world is not grounded on substance. It's grounded on
    statistics. Physics isn't reality. It's "information." If there's
    substance, it's metaphysical. And if there isn't substance, then the
    universe has no self. Not just people but all of existence would then be a
    recursive hallucination.

    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 : Mon Aug 06 2001 - 19:59:19 BST