Re: Clincher?

From: Dace (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 20:16:40 BST

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Clincher?"

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    Subject: Re: Clincher?
    Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 12:16:40 -0700
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    Hi Scott:

    > >As long as we assume that genes in some way contain the structure of the
    > >body, then the passing on of acquired characteristics is impossible.
    > Genes can exert influence on development of structure without containing
    > some sort of homuncular "blueprint".

    That genes merely exert influence on development is precisely what Sheldrake
    is saying. According to standard theory, genes are the guiding principle of
    development, which implies a blueprint of some kind.

    > >Acquired traits can't directly change the genome. But keep in mind that
    > >Darwin rejected the notion of units of "germ-plasm" coding for units of
    > >bodily structure.
    > I have in mind that Darwin put forth a shaky speculation about particles
    > from various modified parts of the body (gemmules) somewhow influencing
    > gonadal structure and allowing for acquired traits to be passed to
    > offspring. Was he aware of Weismann's doctrine of the germ-plasm?

    Darwin died in 1882, five years before Weismann published his theory.
    Darwin would certainly have rejected the "atomistic determinants" that code
    for particular traits. But Weismann's theory was double-stranded.
    Intertwined with his notion of particular germs coding for particular
    structures was the idea of germ-plasm as a kind of "central directing
    agency." While the atomistic view was developed by Dawkins into "selfish
    genes," the more holistic approach came to be known as the "genetic
    program." By the end of the 20th century, the notion of a "gene for this
    and a gene for that" was mostly discredited. Darwin would have approved.

    The really interesting question is how he would have reacted to the news
    that phenotype cannot directly influence genotype, thus banishing gemmules
    forever. This would have required him to reject either the centrality of
    the passing on of acquired characteristics or the necessity for strictly
    material inheritance. Since he was committed equally to both views, it's
    impossible to say which way he would have gone. And, as Chris pointed out,
    it really doesn't matter. But it's significant that all of this has been
    airbrushed out of the history books. Pretending as if Darwin would have
    given any kind of unambiguous seal of approval to "neo-Darwinian" theory has
    served to reinforce the dangerous and illegitimate notion that all rational
    people are in agreement about the basic issues.

    As neo-Darwinism steadily loses its grip, the old uncertainties are
    beginning to bubble up to the surface again. It's fast becoming clear that
    all the great questions, right back to the very core, are still open to
    dispute. Welcome to the 21st century.

    > IIRC Gregory Bateson considered Lamarck a great biologist who turned a
    > similar to the Copernican revolution in that L. inverted our views of mind
    > versus biology. Before Lamarck it was Mind first from on high. After
    > the mind emerged from the realm of biology itself. Lamarck was also a
    > pioneer of comparative psychology, however crude his attempts by our
    > standards.

    So Lamarck would be the origin of the genuine study of mind. Fascinating.


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