Morphic fields

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Aug 14 2001 - 06:56:44 BST

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    Subject: Morphic fields
    Date: Mon, 13 Aug 2001 22:56:44 -0700
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    From: Scott Chase

    > >From: <>

    > >The hundredth monkey syndrome will probably be the next
    > >thing Ted attributes to morphogenetic fields (along with the
    > >disappearance of Amelia Earhardt and the kidnapping of the
    > >Lindbergh baby...;~).
    > >
    > Don't mistake morphogenetic fields for morphic resonance or formative
    > causation. Sheldrake IIRC even makes the distinction of *morphic* fields.
    > Ted has pointed out morphogenetic fields are a conceptual direction
    > by others besides Sheldrake, such as Brian Goodwin. Not having read much
    > lately about MF's I can't say a whole lot, except that they are not
    > necessarily connected with Sheldrake's ideas, common misattributions
    > the point.

    Morphogenetic fields were first hypothesized in the early 20s by Hans
    Spemann, Alexander Gurwitsch, and Paul Weiss. All three came upon the
    notion independently. Field-theory has always been central to the work of
    developmental biologists, but only a handful, such as Goodwin, have asserted
    that these fields are real in some way. They've mostly been regarded as
    useful devices for understanding organic form, a stop-gap measure to be
    employed until we come up with a precise molecular model based on DNA as the
    source of organic form. This view is gradually being eclipsed. As
    Scientific American put it in their August issue, "the past few years have
    seen a growing movement among mathematically minded biologists to challenge
    the central dogma as simplistic and to use computer simulation to search for
    a more powerful theory." This is what UC San Diego researcher Bernhard
    Palsson is referring to when he says we're in the early stages of a
    "grand-scale Kuhnian revolution in biology." Rather than basing computer
    simulations on the worn-out notion of genetic reductionism, the
    mathematical, top-down theorists intend to start looking for a new approach.

    James E Bailey of the Swiss-based Institute of Biotechnology rattles off a
    number of reasons as to why the gene-based model no longer enjoys dominance
    among researchers. For one thing, the predictions based on it haven't
    panned out. He says the reason we're not producing large numbers of
    powerful, new drugs is that the methods we've been using, such as cloning,
    sequencing, combinatorial chemistry, and monoclonal antibodies are all based
    on the "naive idea that you can redirect the cell in a way that you want it
    to go by sending in a drug that inhibits only one protein." According to
    the central dogma, it should work, but it rarely does. Bailey notes that
    the efforts to produce abnormalities in bacteria and mice by disabling an
    important gene usually has no discernible effect on the organism. Standard
    dogma is also unable to account for the fact that the human genome turns out
    to contain a paltry 30,000 genes. Bailey compares the current "confused"
    state of biology with astronomy prior to Kepler. What we need is a new

    Perhaps we'll be able to design better drugs when we've got that equation.
    But what will it really tell us about organisms? Does the discovery of an
    equation mean that life is a function of mathematical principles? This is
    exactly what Brian Goodwin argues. He's calculated plenty of morphogenetic
    field equations, and he regards them as having an independent reality, much
    like Plato's Forms.

    Like Goodwin, Sheldrake foresaw the current crisis in reductionist theory
    and recognized the great explanatory power of fields. But being a good,
    British empiricist, he rejected the notion that these fields could be based
    on eternal, "metaphysical" principles. He tried to find a way of bringing
    them into the realm of scientific investigation. Perhaps, like
    electromagnetic fields, they involve resonance. The point of these fields
    is that they account for the maintenance of form over time. Like genes,
    their purpose is to explain biological memory. So perhaps their resonance
    works across time instead of space. Current organic "particles" resonate
    with past particles. Like electromagnetic particles resonating across space
    on the basis of similar charge, organic particles, such as macromolecues and
    cells, resonate on the basis of similar form. He noted that all organic
    structures vibrate, and these cycles occur at characteristic frequencies.
    This enables them to resonate with other structures that share the same form
    and frequency. This is morphic resonance. "Morphic fields" are thus
    morphogenetic fields based on time rather than eternity.

    As reductionist biology wanes, we face a choice between fields that express
    transcendent forms versus those that inhere to the organisms they organize.
    In other words, it's Plato vs. Aristotle all over again.

    Ted Dace

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