Re: Morphic fields

From: Dace (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 06:13:45 BST

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    Subject: Re: Morphic fields
    Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 22:13:45 -0700
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    From: Chris Taylor

    > Yeah but...
    > Although Goodwin goes on about phenotypic inheritance and info from
    > outside the genome (mitochondria, whatever thet funny little thing that
    > phenotypically inherited its pellicle was), these are direct and
    > measurable effects, passing info *directly* from one generation to the
    > next, contiguously. There is no need for an ancient referent there.

    You've got Goodwin all wrong. He's not a materialist. Genes merely direct
    the organism toward the appropriate morphogenetic field, which then
    determines the organism's final structure. Though it's not directly
    observable, the field has an independent reality. Not chemicals but a
    "logical relational order is what defines the distinctive organization
    properties of living organisms." A rational taxonomy is "based on the
    logical properties of the generative process rather than a genealogical
    taxonomy based upon the accidents of history." Goodwin believes in math,
    not history. Morphogenetic fields are "generative field equations." While
    Goodwin's fields are eternal equations that generate organisms, Sheldrake's
    fields are influenced by-- and evolve in accord with-- the organisms they
    influence. It's a question of eternity versus memory.

    > As for the 'biologists throw their hands up' snippet from the mag, I
    > think they're just acknowledging that the interactions between genes can
    > be wildly nonlinear (1) and that (2) we still don't know about all the
    > extended effects of all our genes.

    It used to be that the blueprints of the body were stored sequentially in
    genes. As I learned in my cell biology class in college, this is no longer
    taken seriously by most researchers. Now it's believed that genetic
    information is somehow lodged in the nonlinear "dance" of genes with each
    other and with proteins. The whole point of reducing the organism to
    molecular storage of information was to get around having to define life on
    its own terms. Then it turns out the storage device is itself animated,
    alive, free. This is akin to
    neuroscientists conceding that memories aren't really contained in the brain
    like data in a computer but are somehow dynamically stored in the
    continually shifting arrays of synaptic transmission. First life is reduced
    to machine, and then the machine springs to life.

    Clearly, the theory is shot. The white flag has gone up over the citadel.

    > Using field theories in developmental
    > biology is fine, but those fields are (almost exclusively) made up of
    > concentration gradients of gene products, set up by diffusion or
    > frequently by cytoskeletal transport, and no (uh-oh) developmental
    > biologist would say otherwise.

    Goodwin is a developmental biologist. So's his side-kick, Webster.

    > Modellers do use fields as a shortcut (nothing wrong with that as any
    > mean-field-approximating physicist will attest) but these approximations
    > have no independent reality.

    Even Waddington was ambiguous on this point. One of the creators of
    morphogenetic field theory, Paul Weiss, completely flip-flopped more than
    once on this issue.

    > The whole thing (MF) still seems too elaborate really, I mean, doesn't
    > it imply that there are time bridges that are presumably exploitable?
    > Should we not be able to find out what dinosaurs really looked like if
    > we could tap into this etherial thing (I'm not ridiculing, just trying
    > to explore the scope of the implications - would be cool actually,
    > finally kill off 'walking with dinosaurs'[ack]).

    It's called, "atavism." Ancient traits crop up all the time.

    > Also, while you're here, I didn't get a good answer to the MF version of
    > descent with modification...

    Formative causation is a theory of memory, not origins.

    But it should be noted that origins are much easier to explain according to
    the morphic model. Life began from the interaction of organic compounds
    that were already stabilized in their structure through resonance with
    similar, past compounds. This helps to bridge the chasm between simple,
    organic material and the first bacteria. And rather than relying on blind,
    genetic mutation, organisms can pass on to future generations their creative
    adaptations to changing environmental circumstances.

    > Cheers Ted, Chris.
    > (again, good solo scrap!)

    Thanks, Chris.

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