Re: Teleology

Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 23:43:42 BST

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    Subject: Re: Teleology
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    On 6 Aug 2001, at 11:52, Dace wrote:

    > > > > > 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 necessity?
    Therer is no such thing as a pull from the future in nongognitive
    processes; we can act upon the world on the basis of what we'd
    like to have happen, to facilitate that, but if the future is not fixed,
    then there is no one direction for it to pull the present, and if it is
    fixed, then the present must be, too, and thus it would not respond
    to any pull. Cause and effect work forwards, not backwards for
    reasons involving entropy and statistics (see THE END OF
    nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine).
    > > > 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 didn'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.
    They do so indirectly, by producing their components (via
    messenger RNA), complete with specific locks and keys to govern
    their combination/assembly.
    > > 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?"
    Of course; mutation isn't a one-time thing. It happens all the time.
    But it's not intentional; just natural. Mutation is as natural a
    process as is 'natural' selection.
    > 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."
    Here cause and effect apply. If a cell evolves with certain
    characteristics and is presented with particular stimuli, then it
    reacts within a certain range. The passage of time and generations
    does not change this.
    > 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.
    We have much work to do to understand the synergistic effects of
    many genes working in concert, and many developments occurring
    at the same time in gestation. Rather than fetal development being
    affected by any kind of vague and mystical "extra-genetic species
    memory", it is much more likely that development of each
    component is affected by the simultaneous development of other,
    physically contiguous areas.
    > > > > 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.
    I'd like to see the references for this, so I can inspect the
    methodology myself. Wishful-thinking-powered gullibility,
    experimental error, and failure to enginneer to remove all variables
    are always dangers.
    When flatworms were trained to jump when a light went on by
    behavioral conditioning (following the light with electric current to
    their cage grid) and their bodies were ground up and fed to other
    flatworms, these others would jump when the light flashed, without
    conditioning; the chemical changes concommitant with their
    conditioning were absorbed by other flatworms in the ingestion.
    If there is no connection whatsoever between the rat tribes, this
    violates more than the nonlocality action-at-a-distance rule; it
    means that patterned information is being passed on with no
    possible channel of passage. I cannot see such an occurrence
    inhabiting the realm of possibility.
    > > > 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.
    No, substance, whether matter or energy, is real enough; it's just
    the definition of what comprises that reality that has changed with
    expeiment-facilitated growing understanding. After all, the world in
    which we live and which we perceive is where we get the entire idea
    and meaning of the word 'real'. Whatever real is, that is 'it'. It does
    involve the cumunative statistics of substance; that does not make
    it unreal. And physics is not reality, it is ABOUT reality; reality is
    what physics studies, and physics gives us information about
    reality when we, through experimentation, ask well-designed
    questions of that reality. The univese doesn't have a self, if by that
    you mean a consciousness, but it does exist, and in that sense it
    is itself (since it is all that there is, it couldn't be anything else, nor
    could there be anything else that is not it). And lastly, there can
    be no sucjh thing as a hallucination without a reality with which to
    compare it so that it can be designated as a hallucination in
    contrast to that reality. To say that the universe is all a
    hallucination basically redefined hallucination as real. It could just
    be that you have not thought long and carefully about these things;
    all people practice philosophy, some just practice it well, and
    others badly. The very idea of the totality being hallucinatory
    without a real referent by means of which to make a grounding
    comparative judgment on the matter is foolish, which is why I was
    sharp with you earlier. Some people do not suffer fools gladly; I
    have a difficult time suffering them at all. But there is a difference
    between ignorance, on the one hand, and dense obtusity, on the
    other; the first is remediable, and the second is not.
    > Ted Dace
    > ===============================================================
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