David's theory of evolution: Stephen Talbott's view (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Friday, June 26, 2020, 22:26 (93 days ago) @ David Turell

He now asks, in life how does form appear? We do not have an answer, and he raises the issue of a ghost in the machine, to use an old concept phrase:

http://natureinstitute.org/txt/st/bk/form1.htm

The power of transformation is, in a puzzling manner, holistic. The part is caught up within the whole and moves toward its new identity based, not merely on local determinants, but also on the form and character of a whole that is not yet physically all there.

***

"Richard Lewontin once described how you can excise the developing limb bud from an amphibian embryo, shake the cells loose from each other, allow them to reaggregate into a random lump, and then replace the lump in the embryo. A normal leg develops. Somehow the currently unrealized form of the limb as a whole is the ruling factor, redefining the parts according to the larger, developing pattern. Lewontin went on to remark:

"Unlike a machine whose totality is created by the juxtaposition of bits and pieces with different functions and properties, the bits and pieces of a developing organism seem to come into existence as a consequence of their spatial position at critical moments in the embryo’s development.

"But how can this be? How can spatial position within a not yet fully realized form physically determine not only the future and proper sculpting of that form, but also the identity of its parts?

"In one way or another, the problem is universal. A key feature of holistic, end-directed, living processes is that the end plays a role in shaping the means.

***

'But how can this be? How can spatial position within a not yet fully realized form physically determine not only the future and proper sculpting of that form, but also the identity of its parts?

'In one way or another, the problem is universal. A key feature of holistic, end-directed, living processes is that the end plays a role in shaping the means.

***

"An observer surveying the biological disciplines today can hardly help noticing that every organism’s stunning achievement of form has become an enigma so profound, and so threatening to the prevailing style of biological explanation, that few biologists dare to focus for long on the substance of the problem.

***

"...the mere fact of physical lawfulness does not explain the coordination of events along an extended timeline in the narrative of healing, from infliction of the wound to the final restoration of normalcy. Nor does it explain the narrative of RNA splicing, from the occurrence of an RNA molecule in need of reconfiguration, to the final product of those hundreds of participating molecular “surgeons”. We can “watch” the molecules performing in a way that gives expression to the overall sense, or meaning, of the activity, but we do not have even the barest beginnings of a purely physical explanation for their commitment to that meaning.

***

"The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “How can the physical body of a relatively undeveloped organism — a body already exhibiting coordinated physical processes perfectly adapted to the organism’s present state — redirect and transform those well-adapted physical processes so as to conform to a different and more “mature” pattern that is not yet there?”

***

Organisms are not designed and tinkered with from without, but rather are enlivened from within. The wisdom we find at play in them is intrinsic; it is their own in a sense wholly untrue of the external intelligence with which our mechanical inventions are structured.

***

"I have several times mentioned in these pages that all biologists do recognize the agency — the telos-realizing, purposive, task-oriented, and storytelling (narrative) activity — of organisms... this awareness of agency remains, for most biologists, blindsighted, and therefore does not make its way into biological theory and explanation, or even into the biologist’s own clear consciousness. Levin therefore provides a valuable service by encouraging a more general awareness of what he occasionally refers to as the “teleological” dimension of biology.

***

"The problem of telos-realizing activity is universally recognized, even if nearly all biologists assume it has somehow been explained away by natural selection.

***

"prominent and well-respected researchers had already grasped the centrality for biology of the coordinating (“top-down”) agency at work in organisms seen as wholes. "

Comment: Talbott strikes again thoughtfully. I have no problem as God runs the show. His ghost is in the machine. This helps explains dhw's problem, about God not have full control over living biology. It pretty much runs itself.


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