Re: Morphic fields

Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 07:35:16 BST

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Morphic fields"

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    Subject: Re: Morphic fields
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    On 17 Aug 2001, at 22:13, Dace wrote:

    > 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.
    Goodwin is into the mathematics of complexity, as are John H.
    Holland and Stuart Kaufmann; he is basically rehashing, with more
    sophisticated mathematical tools, the work already done by D'Arcy
    Thompson in his work ON GROWTH AND FORM, which points out
    that geometry also constrains possibility.
    > > 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.
    Actually, ummm, err, no. The fact that synergistic effects between
    multiple genes codes for regulation of organism growth is what
    SAVES genetic theory, as such interrelational combinations vastly
    multiply what can be stored within any particular number of genes.
    The old crusty and crepuscular elan vital meme is as dead as a
    19th century doornail for science, and only lives on in the
    misguided munds of 19th century romantic 'true believers'.
    > > 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.
    And he doesn't say otherwise.
    > > 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.
    Between mysticism and empiricism?
    > > 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.
    Occasionally there are genetic throwbacks, where more primitive
    characteristics manifest, as must happen some time with random
    mutation (it can occasionally mutate back, in an individual, to a
    previousl form).
    > > 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.
    Then the 'theory' (and I use the term loosely) is actually a magical,
    mystical alternative to the discredited genetic version of the
    passing on of acquired traits known as Lamarckianism. Sorry, but
    these Occam-violating velleities cannot be smuggled in through
    either the front or the back door.
    > > Cheers Ted, Chris.
    > > (again, good solo scrap!)
    > Thanks, Chris.
    > ===============================================================
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