Sheldrake's Morphogenic Field - Innovation (Evolution)

by dhw, Sunday, September 25, 2016, 12:37 (425 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: (under Evolution: a different view): Another essay from Andreas Wagner which explains the enormous protein landscape and how evolution seems to navigate it through large relationship networks.

https://aeon.co/essays/without-a-library-of-platonic-forms-evolution-couldn-t-work?utm_...

Thank you, David, for another interesting approach to the subject. I'm transferring it to this thread because although the first quote below applies to mathematical “truths”, it could be extended to tie in with BBella's suggestion that ALL the information is already there, which could mean that organisms do not invent but they discover. I think, though, that this is a difficult concept to pin down. Did Shakespeare “invent” his plays, Beethoven his symphonies, Whittle his turbojet, Marx his Marxism, the legless lizard its leglessness, or did they just happen to come across them in the infinite library of the ALL THAT IS? I am inclined to opt for the former. Here are the relevant quotes:

"Some believe with the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that mathematical truths are human inventions. But others believe with Plato that our visible world is a faint shadow of higher truths. Among them are many mathematicians and physicists, including Charles Fefferman, winner of the Fields medal, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in mathematics. He expressed his experience when breaking new mathematical ground this way:
There's something awe-inspiring. You aren't creating. You're discovering what was there all the time, and that is much more beautiful than anything that man can create."

The conclusion: "Nature's libraries are the fountains of biological innovation that Darwin was looking for. And unlike the realm of abstract forms that Plato envisioned, they are richer, more diverse, and more complex than the visible world. They harbour enough innovations for all the species Darwinian evolution has created - and could create. No planet would be large enough to explore all of them. The legless lizard and the rest of the living world, in all their glory, are just faint shadows of this Platonic realm of the possible."

“Nature's libraries” seem to me to be very akin to Sheldrake's "morphic fields", though it is still not clear how organisms gain access to the right "book", or whether there is an almighty librarian in charge of the whole shebang.


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