Re: Morphic fields

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Aug 21 2001 - 18:53:24 BST

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    Subject: Re: Morphic fields
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    > > You've got Goodwin all wrong. He's not a materialist. Genes merely
    > > 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
    > > not history. Morphogenetic fields are "generative field equations."
    > > Goodwin's fields are eternal equations that generate organisms,
    > > fields are influenced by-- and evolve in accord with-- the organisms
    > > influence. It's a question of eternity versus memory.
    > Point is, Goodwin's fields are like the crystal structures of various
    > minerals - just 'out there' because of the structure of matter etc., cf.
    > the coat patterning thing (stripes v spots). If an organism is at a
    > certain size scale, it must do certain things because of the way the
    > world is. These, as you say, are constants, as much a property of the
    > universe as a vortex round a plughole, therefore outside the realms of
    > which you speak. If he's 'branched out' into MR, which I'm not sure that
    > he has,
    > then that's a pity.

    Goodwin has not branched out into morphic resonance. He maintains that
    morphogenetic fields are unchanging properties of nature. The equations
    governing the forms of dinosaurs existed before dinosaurs came into being
    and continue to exist now. This is why he rejects natural selection as the
    driving force of evolution. Organisms evolve when they get drawn into a
    morphogenetic field representing a different bodily structure.

    He discusses this in his debate with Richard Dawkins, which can be accessed

    > > It used to be that the blueprints of the body were stored sequentially
    > > genes. As I learned in my cell biology class in college, this is no
    > > taken seriously by most researchers. Now it's believed that genetic
    > > information is somehow lodged in the nonlinear "dance" of genes with
    > > other and with proteins. The whole point of reducing the organism to
    > > molecular storage of information was to get around having to define life
    > > 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
    > > like data in a computer but are somehow dynamically stored in the
    > > continually shifting arrays of synaptic transmission. First life is
    > > to machine, and then the machine springs to life.
    > That's science for you. And I don't think the memory thing is best
    > charaterised as a concession; they just inherited some stuff from the
    > neural networks people and applied it.
    > > Clearly, the theory is shot. The white flag has gone up over the
    > All you did was list the successive theories - I believe the last one is
    > alive and well.

    That's exactly the problem. If there really is a state of being "alive,"
    then the deterministic mechanism of neo-Darwinism is false. Keep in mind
    that neo-Darwinism is not a theory of life. It's a theory of organic
    machines. Nothing is "alive and well." This is primitive, pre-scientific
    thinking. Some machines work, while others fail. That's it. It may be
    sterile and suffocating, but at least it's clean. Nothing messy or weird,
    like life or memory or self.

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

    Are you denying the existence of electromagnetic fields?

    > > Even Waddington was ambiguous on this point. One of the creators of
    > > morphogenetic field theory, Paul Weiss, completely flip-flopped more
    > > once on this issue.
    > No I mean that mean field approximations are an accepted *modelling
    > technique* across the sciences.

    I understand what you mean. Waddington was never entirely clear if he
    agreed that fields are only modelling techniques. Weiss stated explicitly
    that they're real but at other times claimed they're not. For fifty years
    we've pretended these confusions don't exist, that we've got everything all
    figured out, but inevitably they pop back up again.

    > > > 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.
    > Unlocked by changes in homeobox genes (or the next layer of control
    > down), which encode proteins possessed of DNA-binding domains that
    > switch other genes on and off; for example antennapedia mutations, or
    > the chicken with teeth and a scaly tail.

    Atavism can certainly be explained according to neo-Darwinian theory.
    Though I think it's actually a function of morphic resonance, it can't be
    used as evidence to support MR theory. That's why I set it aside in my
    earlier post and offered evolutionary convergence instead as evidence for
    MR. There's currently no other explanation for convergence.

    > > > Also, while you're here, I didn't get a good answer to the MF version
    > > > 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
    > > 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
    > > genetic mutation, organisms can pass on to future generations their
    > > adaptations to changing environmental circumstances.
    > This is not a source of novelty. The only answer anyone has given to
    > this (here) was that previous 'patterns' hybridise somehow to give new
    > patterns (another unprovable I suppose), so would you posit particulate
    > inheritance from ancestral patterns? The alternative (blending
    > inheritance) leaves you with decreasing variance in stuff over time.

    Nobody can explain novelty. It's novel. By definition, it can't be
    explained. If something can be explained, then it's not really novel, is
    it? This is why Sheldrake relegates it to "metaphysics."

    > On the protein thing, I want to break it down and see where you object.
    > 1) An extended linear configuration is an unstable configuration for a
    > chain of amino acids.
    > 2) The chain will self-attract where oppositely charged regions drift
    > near to each other.
    > 3) Water-water H-bonds are the best, and statistically the most likely
    > state of a system like this is that most of the H-bonds will be
    > water-water.
    > 4) Therefore the globular state of the protein is most likely.
    > 5) The particular state of the globule is determined in part by
    > self-self interactions and in part by interactions with other molecules.
    > 6) Genetically coded choices of a.a. sequences exploit the properties of
    > the products of the various ways a protein can be predisposed (remember
    > lots misfold and are disposed of!) to fold.

    The first four points are perfectly valid. But the fifth point has not been
    scientifically demonstrated. It's merely taken on faith that someday we'll
    understand how thermodynamics and chemistry cause protein folding. So far,
    no luck. Here's how Science Week recently summed it up:

    "Given an ordinary polypeptide, the number of possible
    configurations is astronomical. If a particular protein always
    assumes the same configuration in a living system (its "native
    configuration"), and if that configuration represents some sort
    of energy minimum for the polypeptide chain, how does the protein
    find that energy minimum within milliseconds? Does the protein
    pass through every possible configuration state until the energy-
    minimum configuration is "discovered"? Or are there constraints
    that reduce the number of possible configurations to a much
    smaller number? As easy as it is to state this problem, the
    problem is a puzzle that has confounded researchers for 40 years."

    Sheldrake is suggesting that these constraints are provided by past, similar
    proteins. Like the late physicist Walter Elsasser, Sheldrake maintains that
    only a kind of "holistic memory" can account for the incalculable complexity
    of the organism.


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