From arithmetic, geometry and kinematics through mechanics to life.

Steiner’s first lecture of the First Scientific Lecture-Course, the so called, ‘Light course’, given in Stuttgart, on the 23rd December 1919, can be read here and it can be listened to here

He explains how the natural scientists of his day proceeded. They were interested in categorising, looking for causes behind phenomena, and observing phenomena to arrive at the ‘laws’ of nature. Goethe did not proceed in this way. He was not interested in looking for and speculating about unknown causes or categorisation. He looked at nature and observed how it was forever changing and studied this metamorphosis in great detail. He wished to stay within the observable to ask what it could tell him without speculating about any laws or hidden world behind the one observed.

The natural science are forever looking for pointwise forces to explain life. But, according to Steiner, life cannot be explained in this way. Life is formed out of the universal peripheral forces. These forces are not the same as the mechanical pointwise forces which are open to measurement. Steiner explains it thus:

Say you were studying the play of forces in an animal or vegetable embryo or germ-cell; with this method you would never find your way. No doubt it seems an ultimate ideal to the Science of today, to understand even organic phenomena in terms of potentials, of centric forces of some kind. It will be the dawn of a new world-conception in this realm when it is recognized that the thing cannot be done in this way, Phenomena in which Life is working can never be understood in terms of centric forces. Why, in effect, — why not? Diagrammatically, let us here imagine that we are setting out to study transient, living phenomena of Nature in terms of Physics. We look for centres, — to study the potential effects that may go out from such centres. Suppose we find the effect. If I now calculate the potentials, say for the three points a, b and c, I find that a will work thus and thus on A, B and C, or c on A’, B’ and C’; and so on. I should thus get a notion of how the integral effects will be, in a certain sphere, subject to the potentials of such and such centric forces. Yet in this way I could never explain any process involving Life. In effect, the forces that are essential to a living thing have no potential; they are not centric forces. If at a given point d you tried to trace the physical effects due to the influences of a, b and c, you would indeed be referring to the effects to centric forces, and you could do so. But if you want to study the effects of Life you can never do this. For these effects, there are no centres such as a or b or c. Here you will only take the right direction with your thinking when you speak thus: Say that at d there is something alive. I look for the forces to which the life is subject. I shall not find them in a, nor in b, nor in c, nor when I go still farther out. I only find them when as it were I go to the very ends of the world — and, what is more, to the entire circumference at once. Taking my start from d, I should have to go to the outermost ends of the Universe and imagine forces to the working inward from the spherical circumference from all sides, forces which in their interplay unite in d. It is the very opposite of the centric forces with their potentials. How to calculate a potential for what works inward from all sides, from the infinitudes of space? In the attempt, I should have to dismember the forces; one total force would have to be divided into ever smaller portions. Then I should get nearer and nearer the edge of the World: — the force would be completely sundered, and so would all my calculation. Here in effect it is not centric forces; it is cosmic, universal forces that are at work. Here, calculation ceases.

This lecture was given just over a century ago and so the terminology is a bit dated and science has made a vast amount of progress since then, but his points still stand.
The difference between Goethe’s scientific method and the standard methods of natural science is the same difference that separates the practice of Euclidean geometry from that of projective geometry. In the former, lengths and angles are measured and calculated, in the latter there are no measurements as such, it is concerned with the mobility and transformation of form as it is expressed between point and plane.

Goethe takes natural science beyond its self-imposed limits just as projective geometry takes Euclidean geometry beyond its limits.

Feel free to read or listen to the lecture linked to above and comment as you see fit.

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212 thoughts on “From arithmetic, geometry and kinematics through mechanics to life.

  1. CharlieM: Parmenides has asserted more emphatically than any of his predecessors that there are two sources of human knowledge. He has declared that sense impressions are illusory and deceptive and that man can only attain to knowledge of the True through pure thinking that takes no account of experience. As a result of this conception of thought and sense experience that arose with Parmenides many later philosophies came to be inoculated with an evolutionary disease, from which scientific culture still suffers to-day.

    I don’t think this is quite correct. Parmenides correctly recognized that previous accounts of change or becoming suffered from a conceptual incoherence. That put the challenge on subsequent philosophers to meet the Parmenidean challenge — which they did, in different and fascinating ways.

    I do think it’s right to put Parmenides at the root of the divorce between sapience and sentience: what we can rationally justify is not lined up with what we sense and feel. But as I see it, this was Parmenides’s unquestionably greatest gift to humanity. With this discovery, we took a massive leap forward away from the world of culturally ingrained habits, prejudices, and biases towards the world of freedom of thought and conduct.

    CharlieM: Here, side by side with the question: What is the true? — which embraces the question: What is good and practically effective? — the latter question begins to be an independent one. Men ask: How should knowledge be constituted in order that one can attain a practical goal in life? And so in the period of decline we see the stream of Stoicism arising. With Plato and Aristotle the good was directly contained in the wise; impulses of the good could proceed only from the wise. The Stoics ask: What must man do in order to become wiser in the practice of living, in order to live to some purpose? Goals of practical life insert themselves into what was formerly the all prevailing impetus of truth.

    With Epicureanism comes an element that may be described as follows. — Men ask: How must I prepare myself intellectually in order that this life shall run its course with the greatest possible happiness and inner peace? To this question, Thales, Plato and even Aristotle would have answered: Search after the truth and truth will give you the supreme happiness, the germinating seed of love. — But now men separate the one question from the question of truth, and a stream of decline Sets in. Stoicism and Epicureanism are a stream of decline, the invariable consequence being that men begin to question truth itself and truth loses its power. Hence, simultaneously with Stoicism and Epicureanism in the period of decline, Scepticism arises — doubt in regard to truth.

    I think Steiner has gone wrong here. The Stoics and Epicureans did not differ from Plato and Aristotle in thinking that there is a deep internal connection between metaphysics and ethics — between what we should believe about the nature of reality and how we should live our lives. It was central to Stoic teaching that the path to virtue begins with a correct understanding of reality and the nature of the gods. Epicurus had a similar teaching, but he had a different theory of virtue and a different theory of what the world fundamentally is.

    Skepticism, for that matter, has roots in Socrates and Plato, especially in the restlessness of Socratic questioning, where every possible answer to a question can itself be put into question, and in Plato’s later dialogues, where the so-called ‘theory of forms’ is ruthlessly criticized. The Skeptics, confronted with the diversity of philosophical schools in antiquity, and realizing that we lacked an adequate criterion for justifying one set of doctrines over any other, concluded that it is irrational to adopt any set of philosophical doctrines at all and that letting go of the need for philosophical doctrines is the path to virtue, happiness, and peace.

    And when Scepticism and doubt, Stoicism and Epicureanism, have exercised their influence for a time, then man, still striving after truth, feels cast out of the World-Soul and thrown back upon his own soul. Then he looks around him, saying: This is not an age when Impulses flow into humanity from the on working stream of the spiritual Powers themselves. He is thrown back upon his own inner life, his own subjective being. In the further course of Greek life, this comes to expression in Neo-Platonism, a philosophy which is no longer concerned with external life, but looks within and strives upwards to truth through the mystical ascent of the individual. One stream of the cultural life is mounting, another declining, stage by stage.

    A more accurate understanding of the history of philosophy does not support this “stream of decline” narrative.

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  2. Alan Fox: It’s perhaps a shame that only fragments of his writings survive.

    Agreed! Most of what we know of Epicureanism comes from Lucretius’s poem The Nature of Things — which is really quite stunning, a poem in a style strikingly reminiscent of Virgil’s Aeneid and which sets out a comprehensive atheistic worldview.

    Greenblatt’s The Swerve is a lovely book about how The Nature of Things was re-discovered in the late Middle Ages. Personally I could have done without the culture war, science vs religion narrative — but I loved learning about medieval practices of book collecting!

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  3. Entropy: Metaphors are often used to try and convey some understanding about some phenomena for which direct explanations might be lost for an audience. Thus, they’re bound to have limitations, some more than others.

    Your concession speech is way too long.

    Alan Fox: There is much scientists don’t know fully about how DNA sequences result in the replication of organisms.

    That doesn’t prevent them from speaking out of line, apparently.

    Well, sometimes you ask a question and get an answer if you like it or not.

    DNA_Jock: I agree. I can think of no better demonstration of this fact than your contributions here.

    Haha. You just can’t hit that target, can you Elmer?

    DNA_Jock: And to answer your question, yes I ‘stand by’ Eric’s comments on this subject. The ‘parts list’ analogy is a good one.

    That’s a first… answering a direct question that is. Thanks for that.

    Now, regarding the ‘parts list’:
    1. Exactly how many parts are ‘you’ made of? That should be easy since you know “the genome”.
    2. Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’? If not, then what’s missing and where’s that stuff?
    3. Blueprints, parts lists, recipes… someone writes those and someone reads and executes them for specific reasons only. Where’s all that personnel?

    DNA_Jock: I vote for ‘parts list’. For the very specific scope of explaining to a lay audience why the genome sequence is not the end of genomics, but rather the beginning.

    Are they lying to the lay? And wasn’t the Human Genome Project supposed to mean something? Why was it so abysmally inconsequential? After all that effort and trumpeting? Don’t you have a bad feeling your ship is sinking? Now it’s “the beginning” all over again?!?

    DNA_Jock: The genome is like a cookbook, a heavily cross-referenced one: lots of recipes refer to other recipes, as in “first, make a roux” or “make a ghee”.

    Makewho? Where’s your cook? If you give the recipe to your dog, will you get roux and ghee in return?

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  4. DNA_Jock: However, for understanding how the genome works, the cookbook analogy is the best one. Computer program, not so much.

    BTW, remember when genetic code was all the rage? What changed? The human body was mechanical, then pipes, electric system, electronics, computer?

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  5. Nonlin.org:
    Your concession speech is way too long.

    That metaphors have limitations? It’s you who didn’t know, not me. From what you wrote below, it seems like your problem persists:

    Nonlin.org:
    That doesn’t prevent them from speaking out of line, apparently.

    Just look at yourself. Knowing nothing yet speaking out of line.

    Nonlin.org:
    Now, regarding the ‘parts list’:

    Apparently you still don’t understand that metaphors have limitations.

    Nonlin.org:
    1. Exactly how many parts are ‘you’ made of? That should be easy since you know “the genome”.

    What makes you think that the genome sequence is enough to know all the parts even if they were there? Do you really think that research has covered identification of each and everything in the genome? I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought so, given your illiteracy.

    Someone like Eric Lander would quickly and honestly tell you that nobody knows every element in the genome, despite having the sequences, because more precise biochemical work has not been done. That such work is bound to be slow, and that, even ambitious high-throughput research cannot cover it all in its intimate details.

    Nonlin.org:
    2. Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’? If not, then what’s missing and where’s that stuff?

    Again, what part of metaphors have limitations are you failing to understand?

    Nonlin.org:
    3. Blueprints, parts lists, recipes… someone writes those and someone reads and executes them for specific reasons only. Where’s all that personnel?

    They’re metaphors Nonlin! Metaphors! The “reading” and “executing “(also metaphors standing imperfectly for complex physical-chemical processes) is done by mixtures of proteins, RNAs, cofactors, etc. Not tiny gods. Not tiny people. I know it’s hard for you to understand that you’re not made of miniNonlins, but that’s entirely your problem.

    Nonlin.org:
    Are they lying to the lay?

    No. They’re trying to convey some understanding by using metaphors, hoping that the public is not idiotic enough to take the metaphors for the real thing, as some illiterates, like yourself, might still do.

    Nonlin.org:
    And wasn’t the Human Genome Project supposed to mean something?

    It does mean something.

    Nonlin.org:
    Why was it so abysmally inconsequential? After all that effort and trumpeting? Don’t you have a bad feeling your ship is sinking? Now it’s “the beginning” all over again?!?

    I’ve seen a lot of consequences. For a tiny example, a very close relative had been suffering of intestinal problems that seemed to be lactose intolerance. She was using lactase to compensate, which worked for a while, then not that well, other foods started being problematic. A genome analysis and she found out she had a variant giving her proclivity to problems with gluten. Eliminated gluten from her diet and she doesn’t need lactase any more, her intestinal problems a thing of the past.

    Cancer therapies are improving in success because of knowledge of genome variants. I have seen lots of published new avenues in therapy for other illnesses, also brought about by knowledge of genome variants. Much more research is necessary before genomes can be used more effectively, but examples of useful outputs are already out there.

    It seems that your calling the human genome(s) inconsequential is a consequence of your ignorance, which, given your illiteracy, is not too much of a surprise.

    Nonlin.org:
    Makewho? Where’s your cook? If you give the recipe to your dog, will you get roux and ghee in return?

    See that it’s you who has trouble understanding that metaphors have limits? Are you seriously trying to imply that the metaphors stand for much more than what they’re trying to convey and that minigods are performing all that cooking and reading and executing? That would be too stupid, but now I hesitate to end that sentence with “even for you.”

    🤣😂

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  6. Nonlin.org: 1. Exactly how many parts are ‘you’ made of? That should be easy since you know “the genome”.

    I am made up of 9.3 x 10^25 parts. Perhaps you meant to ask how many different parts…
    😉

    2. Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’? If not, then what’s missing and where’s that stuff?

    Of course not. The parts interact. Did you understand the 777 analogy?

    3. Blueprints, parts lists, recipes… someone writes those and someone reads and executes them for specific reasons only. Where’s all that personnel?

    As Entropy noted, analogies will, at some point, break down. In biology, the different parts act on each other.

    DNA_Jock: I vote for ‘parts list’. For the very specific scope of explaining to a lay audience why the genome sequence is not the end of genomics, but rather the beginning.

    Are they lying to the lay?

    No, just using an analogy to help explain something complicated.

    And wasn’t the Human Genome Project supposed to mean something? Why was it so abysmally inconsequential? After all that effort and trumpeting? Don’t you have a bad feeling your ship is sinking? Now it’s “the beginning” all over again?!?

    I do encourage you to try to understand what Eric Lander said; did you notice the bit about ‘the next century of medical work’?
    Like I wrote:

    Scientists, guys like John Sulston and Eric Lander, were always quite clear about the utility of the HGP, and the importance of the mouse, nematode, and cress genome projects.

    To which I would add the yeast and zebra-fish genomes with the caveat that, when the HGP began, the zebra-fish was not an important model organism.
    The HGP has been quite ‘consequential’; your ignorance is evidence of your ignorance, nothing more. But it is a fun place to explore. For instance, in the phrase ‘genetic code‘, the word ‘code’ has no connection to computer programs: it means cipher, as in a Caesar shift or Bellaso (a.k.a. Vigenère).

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  7. CharlieM: Visit MIT – Fundamentals of biology and the first thing you will see is an image of the double helix of DNA.

    Visit The Skeptical Zone, and the first thing you will see is two Chinstrap Penguins and an Oliver Cromwell quote! So flightless birds and oppressing the Irish are fundamental to skepticism?

    Lander still believes it’s all in the genome and it’s just a matter of figuring out how all the genes interact with each other. He believes that the creativity, the story, the melody, lies within the genes.

    Do you have any evidence to the contrary, or merely assertions?

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  8. DNA_Jock: It’s awe-inspiring how much Lucretius got right.

    To some extent, yes. But I wonder how much of it was just luck. He didn’t have any observational evidence for atoms — at the time no one could have. For all he could have known, material reality could have been infinitely divisible. What’s impressive to me about the Epicureans is not just that they figured out the implications of atomism, but also that they worked out a radically non-theistic worldview. (So much so that the ancient Hebrew word for “heretic” is epikoros!)

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  9. Kantian Naturalist,

    “the ancient Hebrew word for “heretic” is epikoros!”

    It is sadly not at all a surprise that KN is aware of this term from Jewish ancestry, to the devout among whom he would clearly suit it. “Secular” Judaism isn’t “real” Judaism, after all.

    Yet it does not appear that the “KN” character at TSZ has much or any, certainly not “great knowledge” of Judaism. Just skepticism. Best to heed to more inspiring thought, rather than getting mired in KN’s philosophistic ideology.

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  10. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: In pure light we would be totally blind, in pure darkness we would be totally blind. Sight is only possible in an area between them both.

    I wonder what you mean by “pure light”. Humans only see certain wavelengths of light (other species have receptors reacting to a broader spectrum and some have additional photoreceptors to the three colour receptors humans have) and we lose colour vision in low light. We are dazzled by bright, direct sunlight and bright enough light will cause physical damage.

    Are you trying to make a point about human visual acuity or is this another bad analogy?

    I am pointing out that our perception of shapes and colours is only possible in the mid range between light and dark. If we think in quantitative terms then this range is measured light intensity in candelas or whatever. But thinking in qualitative terms light and dark equal and polar opposites.

    Now if we allow a validity to this way of thinking instead of thinking about various wavelengths associated with light we remain within the phenomena and study it as it is we observe that it has certain qualities. We see that a white surface has the quality of lightness and a black surface the quality of darkness. Now if we look at these surfaces in various combinations we can see yellow/red edges and blue violet edges when brought together can produce two different spectrums, the famous one with green at the centre and its shy, retiring sister with magenta at the centre.

    According to some people because it has no specific wavelength associated with it, magenta doesn’t really exist, it is something our confused brain invents. But if magenta is just a product of our sense apparatus does that mean that green actually exists independent of this sensory apparatus?

    Others say no. Both green and magenta are real, but only in as far as they are sensations in a brain. We perceive green which has a wavelength of 550nm and we perceive magenta because of the way different wavelengths combine in our brains, but both are just effects of an unperceived reality.

    If I look at a dog, I recognise it because combinations of sensations are brought together in my brain. Does this mean that in reality that dog only exists in my brain? Is this entity in front of me a dog or is it an unknown something that produces an effect in me that I categorise as “dog”?

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  11. Entropy: What makes you think that the genome sequence is enough to know all the parts even if they were there? Do you really think that research has covered identification of each and everything in the genome?

    So they said when they declared victory. What are they missing? And why is it all pretty much worthless? Health trends have not budged on the account of the HGP. There. Worthless. Anecdotal lactose bullshit included.

    Entropy: They’re metaphors Nonlin! Metaphors!

    Yes, I keep hearing how bad these metaphors are. Which was EXACTLY my point.

    DNA_Jock: I am made up of 9.3 x 10^25 parts. Perhaps you meant to ask how many different parts…

    Then either you or your buddy Lander is wrong. Blame him! But then again, have you EVER seen a parts list? Because IF you did, you would know parts are listed only once with their respective quantity. So “different parts” is the default. Haha.

    DNA_Jock: Of course not. The parts interact. Did you understand the 777 analogy?

    Wasn’t it supposed to be ALL in the genome? Including the interaction protocol? Which would be the ‘specification’ fyi. See, you learn new words. Now you’re saying there’s something else?!? Outside of the genome? WHAT ELSE? Are humans NOT 99% chimps, 69% rats and 50% bananas?!? How is this possible? And if so, perhaps humans are not at all related to little monkeys? The Darwin zombie is getting impatient with you.

    DNA_Jock: As Entropy noted, analogies will, at some point, break down. In biology, the different parts act on each other.

    Yes, yes. DNA (and Darwinist in general) metaphors and analogies, are all bad. We’ve already established that.

    DNA_Jock: I do encourage you to try to understand what Eric Lander said; did you notice the bit about ‘the next century of medical work’?

    Sure, all losers of this century will promise to be winners in the next. Where’s the salt mine? Btw, shouldn’t you encourage Eric Lander to understand what the heck he’s saying first and foremost?

    DNA_Jock: The HGP has been quite ‘consequential’; your ignorance is evidence of your ignorance, nothing more.

    Uh-uh. I am looking at ‘consequences’ and there’s none… other than vague promises of the “next century” type: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Project . But that’s only because you forgot to edit the page, isn’t it?

    DNA_Jock: For instance, in the phrase ‘genetic code‘, the word ‘code’ has no connection to computer programs

    Hmm,
    “The genetic code is the set of rules used by living cells to translate information encoded within genetic material (DNA or mRNA sequences of nucleotide triplets, or codons) into proteins.”
    That’s kind of exactly what computer code does too.

    But anyway, you forgot the most important question regardless of parts list, code, recipe or blueprint. Where are the users? Where are the authors? The editors, etc.?

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  12. CharlieM: Now if we allow a validity to this way of thinking instead of thinking about various wavelengths associated with light we remain within the phenomena and study it as it is we observe that it has certain qualities. We see that a white surface has the quality of lightness and a black surface the quality of darkness. Now if we look at these surfaces in various combinations we can see yellow/red edges and blue violet edges when brought together can produce two different spectrums, the famous one with green at the centre and its shy, retiring sister with magenta at the centre.

    I don’t disagree with any of the phenomenology here, though I suspect it could be described more precisely.

    According to some people because it has no specific wavelength associated with it, magenta doesn’t really exist, it is something our confused brain invents. But if magenta is just a product of our sense apparatus does that mean that green actually exists independent of this sensory apparatus?

    Others say no. Both green and magenta are real, but only in as far as they are sensations in a brain. We perceive green which has a wavelength of 550nm and we perceive magenta because of the way different wavelengths combine in our brains, but both are just effects of an unperceived reality.

    I think this is a deeply compelling but ultimately confused way of configuring the problem. The root of the mistake lies in replacing specific parts of the phenomenological description with specific parts of the scientific explanation.

    What I would propose instead is a story that shows how the entire causal process that includes fantastically complex interactions between photon wavelengths, molecular properties of surfaces, the trichromatic color vision of primates, and even the history of language are all different parts of a scientific understanding of what’s going on when we perceive magenta and green as qualities of surfaces, and green as a quality of light.

    The distinction between a phenomenological description of the world as experienced and a scientific explanation of the world as known is not the distinction between subjective or objective, or mind and body. A good phenomenological description is one that describes the entanglement of ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ dimensions of experience. But a good scientific explanation should illuminates the causal underpinnings of the environment-body-brain system that systematically generates our phenomenology.

    If I look at a dog, I recognise it because combinations of sensations are brought together in my brain. Does this mean that in reality that dog only exists in my brain? Is this entity in front of me a dog or is it an unknown something that produces an effect in me that I categorise as “dog”?

    Neither direct realism (“there really is a dog that exists, exactly as I perceive it”) or idealism (“there’s an unknown something that somehow produces the effect, only within my mind or brain, that we classify as ‘dog'”) are fully adequate.

    Instead, my proposal — hardly original with me, in fact little more than Kant updated with 21st century science — is that there are genuinely real, causally entangled, dynamical patterns at work such that the experience of a world with stable enduring objects, easily classifiable into kinds based on perceptible and functional similarities and differences, is systematically generated.

    One of the key differences between us sapient animals and other non-sapient animals is that linguistic interaction creates stable or semi-stable anchors for encoding, decoding, and re-encoding the various perceptual profiles generated by neural computations, so we experience the world as having stable features like synchronic and diachronic identity. The minds of other animals are probably interacting with their environments in a much more “online” way, updating mental contents as detectable environmental features covary with sensorimotor engagement.

    Admittedly this is all quite speculative, but I think it captures in a contemporary scientific context some of Kant’s deepest insights, especially with regard to the incoherence of both direct realism (e.g. Aristotle) and idealism (e.g. Berkeley).

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  13. DNA_Jock: The HGP has been quite ‘consequential’; your ignorance is evidence of your ignorance, nothing more.

    To cut to the chase, name the 3 most important consequences of HGP. To date and real, not imaginary or future promises.

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  14. CharlieM: I am pointing out that our perception of shapes and colours is only possible in the mid range between light and dark.

    Frankly, I suggest you are in no position to point anything out regarding human perception, as your only qualification (as is mine) is being human. Dennett was on to something with his Heterophenomenology.

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  15. CharlieM: Now if we allow a validity to this way of thinking instead of thinking about various wavelengths associated with light we remain within the phenomena and study it as it is we observe that it has certain qualities.

    Nope. This is delusion.

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  16. CharlieM: If I look at a dog, I recognise it because combinations of sensations are brought together in my brain.

    Confident assertion. Are you sure about this? How did you decide a “dog” is a dog?

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  17. Kantian Naturalist: One of the key differences between us sapient animals and other non-sapient animals is that linguistic interaction creates stable or semi-stable anchors for encoding, decoding, and re-encoding the various perceptual profiles generated by neural computations…

    It’s language. That’s what humans have. And recorded language is the key to human civilisation.

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  18. Nonlin.org: To cut to the chase, name the 3 most important consequences of HGP. To date and real, not imaginary or future promises.

    Far too many benefits exist to ever try ranking the “most” important, but here are three important consequences of HGP:
    palbociclib
    alectinib
    olaparib
    you might detect a theme…
    btw, if you want to know how many different parts I am made up of, you will have to define “different”. I predict that your first attempt will be woefully inadequate.

    +1
  19. Alan Fox,

    I don’t know. As an undergrad, I was assured that ‘ring strain’ made cyclopropyl groups ‘reactive’. But it turns out that merely means “more reactive than propane”, and cyclo-propane is a pretty popular side group for medicinal chemists. The synthetic pathways those guys use are quite beyond me. Perhaps one of our resident polymaths can help us out here…
    Bueller? Bueller?

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  20. DNA_Jock: …cyclo-propane is a pretty popular side group for medicinal chemists.

    I’m struck by how many cyclopropanyl rings exist in nature; the pyrethrins for example.

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  21. Alan Fox,

    Ah yes: those are terpenes! Strange how many complicated naturally-occurring molecules are made up from the same branched C5 building block. It’s almost as if…

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  22. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: In the book that rocked your world, according to Ladyman and Ross, earth, water, air, and fire; the previous fundamental constituents of matter have been replaced by:

    tiny, indivisible, ultimate particles-first early modern corpuscles, then atoms, then systems of subatomic particles still often conceived in popular imagination as sub-microscopic solar systems whose ‘stars’ and ‘orbiting planets’ are supposedly the new ultimate constituents from which everything is composed.

    When it comes down to it my observations are regarding modern science and not what Ladyman or Tallis believe

    I don’t know if you picked up on this, but the bit you quoted “tiny, indivisible, ultimate particles . . . from which everything is composed” is exactly the view that Ladyman and Ross think we must reject if we are to take the science seriously.

    Yes I did pick up on that. That’s why I added the bit about their beliefs. Ladyman and Ross obviously think that in general modern scientists believe in “tiny, indivisible, ultimate particles”.

    Although Ladyman has admitted to viewing quantum mechanics as in some way fundamental.

    CharlieM: But they are still divided up in order to categorise them. And because they are so categorised then convergent evolution must be down purely to the environment. It allows for no other explanation.

    I don’t see how this follows. Convergent evolution can be explained in lots of ways, including the idea that there are developmental constraints in how animals respond to the laws of physics at work in their environments. There are good reasons why icthyosaurs and dolphins look so similar — because there are so only many ways to swim. Ankylosaurs and glyptodonts are another good example of convergent evolution.

    Can you imagine the amount of genetic changes that would be required for a terrestrial mammal to morph into a dolphin, or for the general form of a lizard to morph into a icthyosaur? All the internal and external changes that would be required while all of the transitional forms would need to be viable enough to produce the ongoing generations? All those contemporaneous just so stories?

    Populations don’t have the luxury of picking one specific trait at a time and playing about with it. Everythin is much more integrated and interconnected.

    CharlieM: I’m not talking about causal influences, I am talking about correlations. For instance regarding fractals, there is no causal influences between the levels but there is an underlying unity.

    Fractals are structures of pure mathematics, so there’s no possibility of causal influences at all.

    Yes the similarity of form of different levels goes deeper than any causal relationship between them. The underlying unity is in the formulae that generate them.

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  23. Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    To cut to the chase, name the 3 most important consequences of HGP. To date and real, not imaginary or future promises.

    I already gave you some examples you poor illiterate clown. You really should consider some lessons on reading for comprehension.

    0
  24. Alan Fox to Corneel:

    Corneel: By “pure light” Charlie means light that is unsullied by matter or darkness.

    Wow, I’m impressed, Corneel. Did you remember the previous exchange? I confess, these days, I’m often struggling to remember what I had for breakfast.

    I see John Harshman was as baffled by that reply. as I am.

    J Harshman to CharlieM

    Darkness is the absence of light.* We see objects as dark when there are not many photons coming from that direction, often relative to other directions. Darkness does not generate a spectrum, whatever you think you mean by that. You are so hopelessly confused about nearly everything that it’s almost impossible to talk to you.
    *My emphasis

    No darkness doesn’t generate a spectrum. There must be both lightness and darkness present to produce spectra.

    Steiner explains the difference between the quantitative and qualitative way of understanding here.

    Here is an excerpt:

    Modern physics enquires after the number of vibrations in unit time which correspond to a definite colour. From the number of vibrations corresponding to red, and from the number corresponding to violet, it seeks to determine the physical connection of the two colours. The qualitative disappears before its gaze; it observes the spatial and time elements of processes. Goethe asks: What is the connection between red and violet when we disregard these spatial and time elements and consider only the qualitative? The Goethean mode of observation presupposes that the qualitative is also actually present in the outer world, and that it forms, with the temporal and spatial, one inseparable whole. Modern physics, on the contrary, has to proceed from the basic conception that in the outer world only the quantitative, dark and colourless processes of motion are present, and that the qualitative only arises as the effect of the quantitative, on an organism endowed with sense and mind. If this assumption were correct, the ordered connections between the qualitative could not be sought in the outer world, but would have to be deduced from the nature of sense-organs, nervous mechanism, and organs of presentation. The qualitative elements of processes would not be the object of physical investigation but of physiology and psychology. Modern natural science proceeds along the lines of this assumption. According to this view the organism translates one process of movement into the sensation of red, another process into that of violet according to the constitution of its eyes, optic nerves and brain. The external aspect of the world of colour is thus explained if the connection between the processes of movement by which this world is determined have been perceived.

    Modern science quantifies light and treats darkness as in terms of zero light quantity. Goethean science deals in qualities and wishes to remaini within the domain of experience. From this perspective darkness has a quality of its own.

    0
  25. CharlieM: I don’t know if you picked up on this, but the bit you quoted “tiny, indivisible, ultimate particles . . . from which everything is composed” is exactly the view that Ladyman and Ross think we must reject if we are to take the science seriously.

    Yes I did pick up on that. That’s why I added the bit about their beliefs. Ladyman and Ross obviously think that in general modern scientists believe in “tiny, indivisible, ultimate particles”.

    I don’t think that’s quite right. Ladyman and Ross think that philosophers who claim to be “naturalists” or “physicalists” tend to believe very silly things about quantum mechanics. Their point was that a correct understanding of quantum mechanics undermines belief in tiny, divisible, ultimate particles.

    Though they don’t put their point in historical terms, one could also put it as follows: if a naturalist is someone who accepts contemporary fundamental physics as their ontology, then a naturalist should not be an Epicurean.

    Although Ladyman has admitted to viewing quantum mechanics as in some way fundamental.

    Not “in some way”. Ladyman is very clear in his formulation of what the fundamentality of quantum mechanics consists in. I discussed that here.

    Ladyman and Ross are also very clear that, by their criterion, quantum mechanics and general relativity are equally fundamental. The fact that those theories are also logically incompatible is one of the most fascinating and perplexing problems in contemporary scientific metaphysics. (Sadly I don’t have the mathematics to understand philosophy of physics, which is one of the reasons I stick to philosophy of mind, history of philosophy, and political philosophy.)

    Can you imagine the amount of genetic changes that would be required for a terrestrial mammal to morph into a dolphin, or for the general form of a lizard to morph into a icthyosaur? All the internal and external changes that would be required while all of the transitional forms would need to be viable enough to produce the ongoing generations? All those contemporaneous just so stories?

    Populations don’t have the luxury of picking one specific trait at a time and playing about with it. Everythin is much more integrated and interconnected.

    Except that we know that genetic changes don’t happen “atomically” — this mutation here, that mutation there, etc. The discovery that genomes are tightly interconnected, so that changes in a small set of regulatory genes can have sweeping, cascading ripple effects, should make evolutionary transitions easier to imagine. And this is something that we’ve known about since the 1980s. (I learned to think in holistic terms by reading Susan Oyama as undergrad in the early 1990s.)

    More generally, there’s a whole rich tradition of holistic thinking, of which Goethe is certainly one part, which goes back to Aristotle, and which we also find in Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Marx, William James, Dewey, the Gestalt psychologists, cybernetics, evo-devo, enactivism in cognitive science, etc.

    Yes the similarity of form of different levels goes deeper than any causal relationship between them. The underlying unity is in the formulae that generate them.

    Fractals are purely mathematical structures, so there cannot be any causal interactions. But precisely for this reason, they are only tools to be used in modeling what happens in the actual world, which does involve causal interactions.

    0
  26. DNA_Jock: Far too many benefits exist to ever try ranking the “most” important, but here are three important consequences of HGP:
    palbociclib
    alectinib
    olaparib
    you might detect a theme…

    I don’t see direct links to HGP. Just to genetic research in general.

    DNA_Jock: btw, if you want to know how many different parts I am made up of, you will have to define “different”.

    You and your Lander made claims about the genome being your parts list. Back it up or back down. Produce your parts list derived straight from the genome. Which you have from HGP. As claimed. Can you?

    DNA_Jock: I don’t know. As an undergrad, I was assured that ‘ring strain’ made cyclopropyl groups ‘reactive’.

    But what about “evolution”? Are you telling me it is not helping AT ALL? Why are angry little monkeys bad human models? Worse than rats?!?

    BTW, what’s you “parts list” telling you about “human 99% chimp”? About its users? Its Creator? Perhaps you missed these questions?

    DNA_Jock: It’s almost as if…

    You don’t say! As if created by the same Mind, right?

    0
  27. Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    I don’t see direct links to HGP. Just to genetic research in general.

    You don’t see it because of your astounding ignorance. Today there’s little if any distinction between “just genetic” and genomic research. The identification of important cancer-related variants was done by examining genome sequences of cancerous cells. Those variants suggested targets for therapy, as I already explained, but you missed out of that illiteracy that plagues you.

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    You and your Lander made claims about the genome being your parts list. Back it up or back down. Produce your parts list derived straight from the genome. Which you have from HGP. As claimed. Can you?

    Having a parts list in a genome doesn’t mean that we can easily “read” it, since the way these parts are “listed” in the genome is noisy. Predictions fail at identifying some known genes, thus we cannot expect to have a “final” list any time soon until more experimentation for identifying them is performed. The genome is not made by some magical intelligence, but by natural phenomena without any foresight or provisions for our benefit. Thus, there’s no universal rules for finding and identifying every element in the genome.

    It’s amusing that you demand results as if the genome was produced by some magical intelligence and it was just a question of sequencing and having a straightforward answer to everything. Yet, when the expected noise of natural phenomena interfere you think it’s science that failed, rather than your beliefs in a magical designer in the sky.

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    But what about “evolution”? Are you telling me it is not helping AT ALL? Why are angry little monkeys bad human models? Worse than rats?!?

    Why would evolution help understanding if some chemical forms are reactive? Are you truly that dumb?

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    BTW, what’s you “parts list” telling you about “human 99% chimp”?

    That we’re indeed more closely related to chimps than to any other life forms.

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    About its users?

    It’s users? What are you smocking?

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    Its Creator?

    That it doesn’t look like there’s such thing as “its Creator”, since the elements of the genome cannot be read by following some straightforward rules, but has required the development of specialized tools relying on complex statistics that are far from representing everything known, and thus cannot be expected to cover everything else, the unknown.

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    Perhaps you missed these questions?

    You’re looking for another prize for irony of the year, aren’t you?

    Nonlin.org to DNA_Jock:
    You don’t say! As if created by the same Mind, right?

    More as if evolution has shaped and reshaped some shared biochemical pathways.

    0
  28. Nonlin.org:
    So they said when they declared victory.

    You’re very misinformed. I watched the announcement of the first human genome sequence and both parties said, explicitly, that this was but the first step. They never said they they were done. Same thing in every article published, whether scientific or in the news.

    I’m not surprised of your ignorance though, given your profound illiteracy.

    Nonlin.org:
    What are they missing?

    See what I’m saying about your illiteracy? I answered this right below what you quoted. I’m not repeating it because you will miss it again anyway. It’s not as if you suddenly would learn to read.

    Nonlin.org:
    And why is it all pretty much worthless?

    It might seem worthless to you, given that you’re a kindergartener with no health issues. People who have improved their health thanks to genomic research think, obviously, differently.

    Nonlin.org:
    Health trends have not budged on the account of the HGP. There. Worthless.

    As DNA_Jock said: your ignorance is evidence of your ignorance, nothing more.

    Most health-related agencies have large budgets for genomic research for precision and personalized medicine. Where I live the medical community is encouraging people to have their genomes sequenced and analyzed to improve strategies for prevention, cancer therapies have been and continue to be developed from the identification of targets using genome-wide association studies, etc.

    You should inform yourself before making these embarrassing claims. It’s not as if genomic research was a secret. Oh, sorry. you cannot read. OK: it would be a very good idea if you seriously invested a lot of time and effort in learning to read for comprehension. In the meantime you’re bound to ridicule yourself every time you try to pass your ignorance for wisdom.

    0
  29. Nonlin.org: I don’t see direct links to HGP. Just to genetic research in general.

    Yes, I did not expect that you would be aware of the links, since I have a pretty good idea of your level of knowledge of oncology research. My question to you is this: given YOUR understanding of YOUR level of knowledge of oncology research, do YOU honestly think that YOU would be aware of such direct links? Let me put it another way: given YOUR assessment of YOUR ignorance of oncology research, what on earth makes you think that you would be aware of any direct link that did exist?
    How much do you know about gene expression profiling, and its role in biomedical research, for instance?
    What can you tell us about the difference between olaparib and niraparib, palbociclib and ribociclib, alectinib and brigatinib?

    Nonlin.org: You and your Lander made claims about the genome being your parts list. Back it up or back down. Produce your parts list derived straight from the genome. Which you have from HGP. As claimed. Can you?

    You misunderstand. The genome is analogous to a ‘parts list’ for a 777. Eric refers to it as ‘being’ a parts list, since it does list all of the gene products that make up an organism.
    In response to your request, here’s a couple of parts lists straight from the HGP, depending on whether you want to view the parts at the RNA level or the protein level.
    But these do not answer your poorly formed question. If you really want an exhaustive ‘parts list’ for a human, that would presumably include a list of all the “different” parts that are made by these gene products. Even after we have removed all of the ‘repeated’ parts, that’s still going to be a much higher number…
    The baking analogy is a better one: the gene product list is your list of ingredients, but the finished product contains a wealth of molecular variety. If you wish to understand how to make the cake, the list of ingredients is the wholly necessary first step.

    Nonlin.org: But what about “evolution”? Are you telling me it is not helping AT ALL? Why are angry little monkeys bad human models? Worse than rats?!?

    BTW, what’s you “parts list” telling you about “human 99% chimp”? About its users? Its Creator? Perhaps you missed these questions?

    Well, they are not coherent questions. You might want to wipe down your keyboard.

    +1
  30. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: And my point was that there need not be a causal link between planet positions and individual life histories for there to be a relationship.

    A statistical correlation is a conceptual relationship, not an actual one.

    Would you say that this applies to statistical correlations in the likes of genetics and evolutionary theories? What are your views on this? I am asking as I would be interested to hear your views on this. It’s not meant as a criticism.

    0
  31. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM (quoting Steiner): Parmenides has asserted more emphatically than any of his predecessors that there are two sources of human knowledge. He has declared that sense impressions are illusory and deceptive and that man can only attain to knowledge of the True through pure thinking that takes no account of experience. As a result of this conception of thought and sense experience that arose with Parmenides many later philosophies came to be inoculated with an evolutionary disease, from which scientific culture still suffers to-day.

    I don’t think this is quite correct. Parmenides correctly recognized that previous accounts of change or becoming suffered from a conceptual incoherence. That put the challenge on subsequent philosophers to meet the Parmenidean challenge — which they did, in different and fascinating ways.

    I do think it’s right to put Parmenides at the root of the divorce between sapience and sentience: what we can rationally justify is not lined up with what we sense and feel. But as I see it, this was Parmenides’s unquestionably greatest gift to humanity. With this discovery, we took a massive leap forward away from the world of culturally ingrained habits, prejudices, and biases towards the world of freedom of thought and conduct.

    Here is Steiner on the development of the Greek thought life leading up to the time of Parmenides.

    The thinkers mentioned so far are succeeded historically by Xenophanes of Kolophon (born 570 B.C.); Parmenides (460 B.C., living as a teacher in Athens), younger and inwardly related to Xenophanes; Zenon of Elea (who reached his peak around 500 B.C.); Melissos of Samos (about 450 B.C.).

    The thought element is already alive to such a degree in these thinkers that they demand a world conception in which the life of thought is fully satisfied; they recognize truth only in this form. How must the world ground be constituted so that it can be fully absorbed within thinking? This is their question.

    Xenophanes finds that the popular gods cannot stand the test of thought; therefore, he rejects them. His god must be capable of being thought. What the senses perceive is changeable, is burdened with qualities not appropriate to thought, whose function it is to seek what is permanent. Therefore, God is the unchangeable, eternal unity of all things to be seized in thought.

    Parmenides sees the Untrue, the Deceiving, in sense-perceived, external nature. He sees what alone is true in the Unity, the Imperishable that is seized by thought. Zeno tries to come to terms with, and do justice to, the thought experience by pointing out the contradictions that result from a world view that sees truth in the change of things, in the process of becoming, in the multiplicity that is shown by the external world. One of the contradictions pointed out by Zeno is that the fastest runner (Achilles) could not catch up with a turtle, for no matter how slowly it moved, the moment Achilles arrived at the point it had just occupied, it would have moved on a little. Through such contradictions Zeno intimates how a conceptual imagination that leans on the external world is caught in self-contradiction. He points to the difficulty such thought meets when it attempts to find the truth.

    One will recognize the significance of this world conception, which is called the “eleatic view” (Parmenides and Zeno are from Elea), if one considers that those who hold this view have advanced with the development of thought experience to the point of having transformed it into a special art, the so-called dialectic. In the “art of thought” the soul learns to feel itself in its self-dependence and its inward self-sufficiency. With this step, the reality of the soul is felt to be what it is through its own being. It experiences itself through the fact that it no longer, as in earlier times, follows the general world experience with its life, but unfolds independent thought experience within itself. This experience is rooted in itself and through it, it can feel itself planted into a pure spiritual ground of the world. At first, this feeling is not expressed as a distinctly formulated thought but, in the esteem it enjoyed, it can be sensed vividly as a feeling in this age. According to a Dialogue of Plato, the young Socrates is told by Parmenides that he should learn the “art of thought” from Zeno; otherwise, truth would be unattainable for him. This “art of thought” was felt to be a necessity for the human soul intending to approach the spiritual fundamental grounds of existence.

    There was a transition from an ancient dream-like picture consciousness in which thoughts which were previously regarded as belonging to the perceived world to a time when they were becoming more individualised. A time which Barfield described as “original participation” Richard Rohr wrote:

    Roughly before 800 B.C., it seems, most people connected with God and reality through myth, poetry, dance, music, fertility, and nature. Although it was a violent world focused on survival, there is much evidence that many people might have had healthier psyches than we do today. They knew they participated in what was still an utterly enchanted universe. This was the pre-existent “church that existed since Abel” that St. Augustine and St. Gregory spoke of. Barfield called this Original Participation.

    Consciousness emerged worldwide with the Eastern sages, the Jewish prophets, and the Greek philosophers, all around 500 B.C. It was the birth of systematic and conceptual thought. In the East, it often took the form of the holistic thinking that is found in Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism, which allowed people to experience forms of participation with reality, themselves, and the divine. In the West, the Greek genius gave us a kind of meditated participation through thought, reason, and philosophy.

    The abstract thinking of the present evolved slowly. Humans did not always possess a consciousness in the form that we experience today.

    0
  32. I meant to give a link to the Rohr quote. Here it is

    And here Barfield writes about Greek thought and their use of words.

    He explains what words such as “idea” and “theory” would have meant to ancient Greek thinkers. It is imperative that this is taken into account when trying to understand what these ancient philosophers were saying.

    Pythagoras would have had a very different understanding of mathematics than we do today.

    0
  33. DNA_Jock: Yes, I did not expect that you would be aware of the links, since I have a pretty good idea of your level of knowledge of oncology research.

    And yet, if you read the comment again, I am explicit about “direct links”. You do understand the difference between just a plain old link such as between your mom’s shoe size and say… Emperor Nero vs a DIRECT link, don’t you?

    The point is that HGP was supposed to be the be-all and end-all book of humans. The Bible of the Human Body if you prefer. And now you’re telling me that the book is good for nothing? Nothing of ‘consequence’ that is?!?

    Cancer drugs are important, but…
    1. listed ones are not DIRECTLY linked to HGP. Yes?
    2. even IF they were, they are not the breakthrough one would expect from The Bible of the Human Body. True? Btw, some call your list “marginal advances over existing agents”.
    3. Furthermore, a search for “HGP breakthrough” comes up with laughable pure fluff that doesn’t even include your list of “miracle drugs”:
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/3/human-genome-project-tenth-anniversary/
    https://www.slingshothealth.com/blog/2019/04/25/top-10-breakthroughs-of-the-human-genome-project/#:~:text=In 2003, when the HGP,researchers and the general public.

    What gives? I’m especially fond of #9, but they’re all pure gold: “A Framework to Discuss Legal and Ethical Issues”. No fucking way!

    DNA_Jock: You misunderstand. The genome is analogous to a ‘parts list’ for a 777. Eric refers to it as ‘being’ a parts list, since it does list all of the gene products that make up an organism.

    What do you think I missed? You voted for “parts list”, remember? So is it “analogous” or ‘actual’ parts list?

    DNA_Jock: The baking analogy is a better one: the gene product list is your list of ingredients, but the finished product contains a wealth of molecular variety. If you wish to understand how to make the cake, the list of ingredients is the wholly necessary first step.

    A recipe then? A list of ingredients? Without instructions? Can you make up your mind? Analogy, parts list, ingredient list, anything else? And once again, where did you hide ‘the cook’? Can anything happen without ‘the cook’?

    DNA_Jock: If you really want an exhaustive ‘parts list’ for a human, that would presumably include a list of all the “different” parts that are made by these gene products.

    I want only what you offered. YOU promised a parts list and you promised that said list is all one (btw, one who?) needs to make a human. And that it’s all in the genome as written in the HGP Bible.

    I’m puzzled because if you make ghee, a 777, or whatever, you will agree with me that it is not possible to do it… from a parts list. And without a “cook” no less. True? So the only possible conclusion is that Lander is clueless. Yes?

    DNA_Jock: Well, they are not coherent questions.

    I think you’re smart enough to get the questions, but you have no answers.

    0
  34. Nonlin.org: The point is that HGP was supposed to be the be-all and end-all book of humans. The Bible of the Human Body if you prefer.

    According to breathless journalists and a few politicians, yeah. But not according to scientists:

    Every time I see someone spouting off about how the HGP has underdelivered on its promise, it turns out that the promises they bought into were all produced by breathless journalists, and the occasional politician. That’s on them.
    Scientists, guys like John Sulston and Eric Lander, were always quite clear about the utility of the HGP, and the importance of the mouse, nematode, and cress genome projects.
    Here’s Lander on the subject: […]

    Regarding novel cancer drugs, you asked:

    Nonlin.org: 1. listed ones are not DIRECTLY linked to HGP. Yes?

    They are directly linked to the HGP. In multiple ways. I am not responsible for your profound ignorance of drug development, but I’ll offer up this tip: googling “HGP breakthrough” is unlikely to lead you to breakthroughs that are directly linked to HGP. What is it with creationists and google?

    Nonlin.org: some call your list “marginal advances over existing agents”.

    ROFL! I am enjoying your “some say” sourcing — positively Trumpian! So somebody told you that palbociclib is a ‘marginal improvement over existing agents’? That’s hilarious! Have your Canadian girlfriend check out the PALOMA-2 and PALOMA-3 trials. 😉

    Nonlin.org: A recipe then? A list of ingredients? Without instructions? Can you make up your mind? Analogy, parts list, ingredient list, anything else? And once again, where did you hide ‘the cook’? Can anything happen without ‘the cook’?

    Asked and answered.

    Nonlin.org: I want only what you offered. YOU promised a parts list and you promised that said list is all one (btw, one who?) needs to make a human.

    You have yet again misunderstood something I wrote. Provide a link to support this assertion. Note that you asked me “Exactly how many parts are ‘you’ made of?” and when you asked “Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’?” I replied “Of course not.”

    Nonlin.org: So the only possible conclusion is that Lander is clueless. Yes?

    In non-lin world, I guess so.
    For the reality-based world, he was just recruited to the US cabinet.
    But nonlin.org knows more about the HGP than Lander, according to nonlin.org. 😀

    +3
  35. Nonlin.org: Can you make up your mind? Analogy, parts list, ingredient list, anything else? And once again, where did you hide ‘the cook’? Can anything happen without ‘the cook’?

    Watchmaker, programmer, cook, anything else? Can you make up your mind?

    +1
  36. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM (quoting Steiner): Here, side by side with the question: What is the true? — which embraces the question: What is good and practically effective? — the latter question begins to be an independent one. Men ask: How should knowledge be constituted in order that one can attain a practical goal in life? And so in the period of decline we see the stream of Stoicism arising. With Plato and Aristotle the good was directly contained in the wise; impulses of the good could proceed only from the wise. The Stoics ask: What must man do in order to become wiser in the practice of living, in order to live to some purpose? Goals of practical life insert themselves into what was formerly the all prevailing impetus of truth.

    With Epicureanism comes an element that may be described as follows. — Men ask: How must I prepare myself intellectually in order that this life shall run its course with the greatest possible happiness and inner peace? To this question, Thales, Plato and even Aristotle would have answered: Search after the truth and truth will give you the supreme happiness, the germinating seed of love. — But now men separate the one question from the question of truth, and a stream of decline Sets in. Stoicism and Epicureanism are a stream of decline, the invariable consequence being that men begin to question truth itself and truth loses its power. Hence, simultaneously with Stoicism and Epicureanism in the period of decline, Scepticism arises — doubt in regard to truth.

    I think Steiner has gone wrong here. The Stoics and Epicureans did not differ from Plato and Aristotle in thinking that there is a deep internal connection between metaphysics and ethics — between what we should believe about the nature of reality and how we should live our lives. It was central to Stoic teaching that the path to virtue begins with a correct understanding of reality and the nature of the gods. Epicurus had a similar teaching, but he had a different theory of virtue and a different theory of what the world fundamentally is.

    Steiner did not make the sharp distinctions you seem to think he did.

    He wrote

    In a certain sense, one can see a well-rounded picture in the series of Greek thinkers. One will have to admit, of course, that such an attempt to connect the views of the individual thinkers only too easily brings out irrelevant aspects of secondary significance. What remains most important is still the contemplation of the individual personalities and the impressions one can gain concerning the fact of how, in these personalities, the general human element is brought to manifestation in special cases. One can observe a process in this line of Greek thinkers that can be called the birth, growth and life of thought: in the pre-Socratic thinkers, the prelude; in Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the culmination; after them, a decline and a kind of dissolution of thought life.

    Scepticism about reaching truth through thinking was more apparent in later thinkers such as Pyrrho than in Plato. Earlier Anaxagoras had claimed that nous (world reason according to Steiner) was the fundamental unity. There was a gradual transition from a participatory consciousness where experience precluded the need for speculation to later times when individual thinking replaced this consciousness. And with this type of thinking came doubt about the nature of reality. The ascension of personal thinking brought with it an awareness of contradictions in the world of experience.

    Skepticism, for that matter, has roots in Socrates and Plato, especially in the restlessness of Socratic questioning, where every possible answer to a question can itself be put into question, and in Plato’s later dialogues, where the so-called ‘theory of forms’ is ruthlessly criticized. The Skeptics, confronted with the diversity of philosophical schools in antiquity, and realizing that we lacked an adequate criterion for justifying one set of doctrines over any other, concluded that it is irrational to adopt any set of philosophical doctrines at all and that letting go of the need for philosophical doctrines is the path to virtue, happiness, and peace.

    Skepticism is itself a philosophical docrine.

    Steiner: And when Scepticism and doubt, Stoicism and Epicureanism, have exercised their influence for a time, then man, still striving after truth, feels cast out of the World-Soul and thrown back upon his own soul. Then he looks around him, saying: This is not an age when Impulses flow into humanity from the on working stream of the spiritual Powers themselves. He is thrown back upon his own inner life, his own subjective being. In the further course of Greek life, this comes to expression in Neo-Platonism, a philosophy which is no longer concerned with external life, but looks within and strives upwards to truth through the mystical ascent of the individual. One stream of the cultural life is mounting, another declining, stage by stage.

    A more accurate understanding of the history of philosophy does not support this “stream of decline” narrative.

    It is not purely a stream of decline, there is also an accompanying contemporaneous ascent.

    0
  37. DNA_Jock to: Kantian Naturalist,

    It’s awe-inspiring how much Lucretius got right

    Steiner:

    Epicurus (born 324 B.C., died 270 B.C.) developed in his own way the elements that had already been latent in the earlier atomistic thinkers. He builds a view of life on this foundation that can be considered to be an answer to the question: As the human soul emerges as the blossom of world processes, how is it to live in order to shape its separate existence, its self-dependence in accordance with thinking guided by reason? Epicurus could answer this question only by a method that considered life only between birth and death, for nothing else can, with perfect intellectual honesty, be derived from the atomistic world conception. The fact of pain must appear to such a conception as a peculiar enigma of life. For pain is one of those facts that drive the soul out of the consciousness of its unity with the things of the world. One can consider the motion of the stars and the fall of rain to be like the motion of one’s own hand, as was done in the world conception of more remote antiquity. That is to say, one can feel in both kinds of events the same uniform spirit-soul reality. The fact that events can produce pain in man but cannot do so in the external world, however, drives the soul to the recognition of its own special nature. A doctrine of virtues, which, like the one of Epicurus, endeavors to live in harmony with world reason, can, as may easily be conceived, appreciate an ideal of life that leads to the avoidance of pain and displeasure. Thus, everything that does away with displeasure becomes the highest Epicurean life value.

    This view of life found numerous followers in later antiquity, especially among Roman gentlemen of cultural aspiration. The Roman poet, T. Lucretius Carus (95 – 52 B.C.), has expressed it in perfect artistic form in his poem, De Rerum Natura.

    0
  38. DNA_Jock:

    Lander still believes it’s all in the genome and it’s just a matter of figuring out how all the genes interact with each other. He believes that the creativity, the story, the melody, lies within the genes.

    Do you have any evidence to the contrary, or merely assertions?

    As I kept on repeating in other threads, there is no such thing as a bare genome. Context matters.

    0
  39. Kantian Naturalist to: DNA_Jock:

    It’s awe-inspiring how much Lucretius got right.

    To some extent, yes. But I wonder how much of it was just luck. He didn’t have any observational evidence for atoms — at the time no one could have. For all he could have known, material reality could have been infinitely divisible. What’s impressive to me about the Epicureans is not just that they figured out the implications of atomism, but also that they worked out a radically non-theistic worldview. (So much so that the ancient Hebrew word for “heretic” is epikoros!)

    And Democritus gave the void as much a share of reality as the atom. There had to be this polarity between the atom and the void. The void may have been infinite and dark and empty but it did exist according to Democritus.

    Democritus lays the foundation for materialism.

    Steiner:

    With Democritus, the homoiomeries of Anaxagoras have become, to a considerable degree, more material. In Anaxagoras, one can still compare the entities of the basic parts with living germs. With Democritus, they become dead indivisible particles of matter, which in their different combinations make up the things of the outer world. They mix freely as they move to and fro; thus, the events of nature come to pass. The world reason (nous) of Anaxagoras, which has the world processes grow out of the combined action of the homoiomeries like a spiritual (incorporeal) consciousness, with Democritus, turns into the unconscious law of nature (ananke). The soul is ready to recognize only what it can grasp as the result of simple thought combinations. Nature is now completely deprived of life and soul; thought has paled as a soul experience into the inner shadow of inanimate nature. In this way, with Democritus, the intellectual prototype of all more or less materialistically colored world conceptions of later times has made its appearance.

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  40. CharlieM: As I kept on repeating in other threads, there is no such thing as a bare genome.

    Yes, you have gone on and on about that. Two things:
    A) your assertion is completely and utterly irrelevant. As has been explained to you multiple times.
    B) (and this is entirely secondary) your assertion is, in fact, wrong. Naked DNA exists in nature, and it becomes incorporated into genomes. That’s been going on for billions of years. Not that it matters
    I may not have bothered pointing (B) out to you because of, you know, point (A).
    So, no evidence then, just your assertions.

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  41. DNA_Jock: According to breathless journalists and a few politicians, yeah. But not according to scientists:

    I’m with you on fake media and the corrupt, lying, evil politicians. However, this is not up to them or the scientists, is it? Ever since genetics was forced into a shotgun marriage with “evolution”, the genome has been the Holly Grail of “evolution”. And now we know the genome. What else do you need to solve “evolution”, produce humans, and fix broken bodies?

    DNA_Jock: They are directly linked to the HGP. In multiple ways. I am not responsible for your profound ignorance of drug development, but I’ll offer up this tip: googling “HGP breakthrough” is unlikely to lead you to breakthroughs that are directly linked to HGP. What is it with creationists and google?

    I see you don’t link to a source. Because you alone are claiming that? Google has been evil, so I search, don’t google. As all normal people do. And cannot corroborate your fantasy.

    DNA_Jock: So somebody told you that palbociclib is a ‘marginal improvement over existing agents’?

    The cancer problem hasn’t been solved, and the overall cancer survival curve is on trend. One would expect much, MUCH more from the Holly Grail. That turns out it’s not even DIRECTLY related to the drugs you mention. As shown.

    DNA_Jock: Asked and answered.

    Unrelated. Read again my recent question and your old answers which were addressing (very poorly) different comments and questions.

    DNA_Jock: Note that you asked me “Exactly how many parts are ‘you’ made of?” and when you asked “Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’?” I replied “Of course not.”

    You provided an incomplete reply:
    “Nonlin: Is a parts list enough to make ‘you’? If not, then what’s missing and where’s that stuff?

    DNA_Jock: Of course not. The parts interact. “

    Let’s try again. You now have a “parts list”. What else is missing, and where’s that stuff? “The parts interact” based on what exactly?

    Remember, a lot of “evolution” is parasitizing “the gene”, from “the selfish gene” to “molecular clock”, genetic TOL, “evo-devo”, etc. What are you repudiating and what do you still consider valid?

    Because if there’s something else, then OBVIOUSLY, the genome is not as important as it has been made up to be? So which is it? Holy Grail, or “icing on the cake”?

    DNA_Jock: For the reality-based world, he was just recruited to the US cabinet.

    Not a badge of honor, remember? We were just talking about corrupt, lying, evil – and let’s add imbecile – politicians.

    Corneel: Watchmaker, programmer, cook, anything else? Can you make up your mind?

    Intelligent Designers are all of the above and more. Are you not? Sad if so.
    This cannot be said of recipe, list of ingredients, w/without instructions, blueprint, etc.

    That’s why Intelligent Design makes perfect sense but “evolution” just doesn’t.

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  42. CharlieM: Would you say that this applies to statistical correlations in the likes of genetics and evolutionary theories? What are your views on this? I am asking as I would be interested to hear your views on this. It’s not meant as a criticism.

    Statistical correlations with regard to patterns in the actual world tell us where causal relations may be. But since correlation does not entail causation, we need something else besides correlation to generate knowledge of causal relations. That’s where experimentation, intervention, and manipulation are absolutely crucial: that’s what allows us to disambiguate correlation from causation, by prising apart entangled causal relations and determining which patterns are due to how the world is and which patterns are due to our own cognitive biases and habits.

    CharlieM: He explains what words such as “idea” and “theory” would have meant to ancient Greek thinkers. It is imperative that this is taken into account when trying to understand what these ancient philosophers were saying.

    Was this intended as a criticism of what I’m saying here? I assure you, I’ve studied ancient Greek philosophy in its linguistic and historical context.

    Pythagoras would have had a very different understanding of mathematics than we do today.

    Indeed — not least of which is that Greek mathematics was almost exclusively geometry, with a strong emphasis on proofs as what could be constructed by drawing lines in the sand. They didn’t think of mathematics as involving the manipulation of symbols, and they regarded mathematics and logic as two almost entirely intellectual projects. The 20th century project of showing how to construct arithmetic out of symbolic logic would have made no sense to them at all.

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  43. Steiner did not make the sharp distinctions you seem to think he did.

    My objections to Steiner are not based on any sharp distinctions I am attributing to him. My objections to Steiner are based on the fact that his interpretations of Hellenistic philosophy are not accurate.

    Scepticism about reaching truth through thinking was more apparent in later thinkers such as Pyrrho than in Plato. Earlier Anaxagoras had claimed that nous (world reason according to Steiner) was the fundamental unity. There was a gradual transition from a participatory consciousness where experience precluded the need for speculation to later times when individual thinking replaced this consciousness. And with this type of thinking came doubt about the nature of reality. The ascension of personal thinking brought with it an awareness of contradictions in the world of experience.

    Anaxagoras was, one might say, a “scientific creationist”: he articulated a model of the causal processes whereby Mind organizes the elements into a cosmos, an organized whole. Talking about “participatory consciousness” isn’t helpful for understanding what Anaxagoras did or his place in the history of Greek thought.

    I don’t think that it’s really fair to say that Pyrrho was more skeptical than Plato. In Plato’s ‘later’ dialogues he examines very closely what is wrong with the idea of the Forms or eidoi that play a prominent role in his better known dialogues.

    Skepticism is itself a philosophical doctrine.

    If you like, in the same sense that atheism is a religion.

    It is not purely a stream of decline, there is also an accompanying contemporaneous ascent.

    I don’t see why it’s useful to talk about “decline” or “ascent”. Both metaphors are just getting in the way of understanding the history of philosophy.

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  44. Nonlin.org: Me: Watchmaker, programmer, cook, anything else? Can you make up your mind?

    Nonlin: Intelligent Designers are all of the above and more.

    So you were not conceived by your parents but cooked up by an Intelligent Designer? Perhaps He should have gone a bit more easy on the nuts.

    +1
  45. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: Now if we allow a validity to this way of thinking instead of thinking about various wavelengths associated with light we remain within the phenomena and study it as it is we observe that it has certain qualities. We see that a white surface has the quality of lightness and a black surface the quality of darkness. Now if we look at these surfaces in various combinations we can see yellow/red edges and blue violet edges when brought together can produce two different spectrums, the famous one with green at the centre and its shy, retiring sister with magenta at the centre.

    I don’t disagree with any of the phenomenology here, though I suspect it could be described more precisely.

    According to some people because it has no specific wavelength associated with it, magenta doesn’t really exist, it is something our confused brain invents. But if magenta is just a product of our sense apparatus does that mean that green actually exists independent of this sensory apparatus?

    Others say no. Both green and magenta are real, but only in as far as they are sensations in a brain. We perceive green which has a wavelength of 550nm and we perceive magenta because of the way different wavelengths combine in our brains, but both are just effects of an unperceived reality.

    I think this is a deeply compelling but ultimately confused way of configuring the problem. The root of the mistake lies in replacing specific parts of the phenomenological description with specific parts of the scientific explanation.

    What I would propose instead is a story that shows how the entire causal process that includes fantastically complex interactions between photon wavelengths, molecular properties of surfaces, the trichromatic color vision of primates, and even the history of language are all different parts of a scientific understanding of what’s going on when we perceive magenta and green as qualities of surfaces, and green as a quality of light.

    The distinction between a phenomenological description of the world as experienced and a scientific explanation of the world as known is not the distinction between subjective or objective, or mind and body. A good phenomenological description is one that describes the entanglement of ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ dimensions of experience. But a good scientific explanation should illuminates the causal underpinnings of the environment-body-brain system that systematically generates our phenomenology.

    And the only way you can describe any of this including scientific explanations is in relation to sense perceptions.

    You mention that green is a quality of light. Is magenta not also a quality of light?

    If you use a prism to produce a spectrum the equal spread of the rainbow colours only happens at a certain distance from the prism. Decrease the distance between the prism and the image and the green disappears and white appears between the red/yellow and blue/violet ends of the spectrum. Green only appears when the two coloured edges come together. Why don’t the colours spread out equally as soon as the light leaves the prism?

    Regarding perception and reality Peter Heusser, in the book, “Anthroposophy and Science”, writes:

    Helmholtz in his essay, On Goethe’s Scientific Researches:

    For a natural phenomenon is not considered in physical science to be fully explained until you have traced it back to the ultimate forces which are concerned in its production and its maintenance. Now, as we can never become cognizant of forces qua forces, but only of their effects, we are compelled in every explanation of natural phenomena to leave the sphere of sense, and to pass to things of which are not objects of sense, and are defined only in abstract conceptions. […In the final instance] this is a world of invisible atoms and movements, of attractive and repulsive forces.

    The consequence of this course of action is that the sense perceptions are seen as an illusion and the world of atoms as the true reality from which everything else can be derived. Steiner therefore described the scientific view resulting from thsi as “natural-scientific illusionism”. Here the “real” atoms, which are of course invisible, are represented by hypothetical models. In order to be able to picture them it is clear that there is no other option due to the non-perceptible nature of these entities, and as such this is quite legitimate. Problems only arise if the models are ontologically held to be more real than the actual perceived phenomena and the latter then viewed as an illusion and therefore unreal.

    Eugen Kolisko (1893-1939), a close colleague of Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman and one of the first and most notable anthroposophical doctors (Konig, 2000) and scientists working according to Goethe’s methodology (Kolisko, 1989), summarised this development as follows:

    Science has consequently developed in such a way that the pure phenomena have moved into the background and we now tend to have the mental picture of the hypothetical mechanical causes in our consciousness. The mental image of something mathematical and mechanical takes the place of the phenomenon. […] In addition, we view all phenomena from the perspective of cause and effect. We always imagine a cause which does not lie within the phenomenon but is added to it, as though working from the invisible and creating the elements which are before us.

    But what is the nature of these models, the atoms and molecules underlying the phenomena, which are still used nowadays in standard biology textbooks e.g. such as Bohr’s model of the atom? Basically that they are composed of elements which are taken or derived from sense perception. This applies to both the hypothetical atomic spatial configurations (e.g. in the Bohr model) and to the quantitative bonding characteristics of matter. These are initially found macroscopically in the realm of sense perception and not by direct observation of atoms: but they are then transferred to the imagined atoms and their relationship within molecules. Thus-as Kolisko stated-a “massive hypothesis system was developed in modern science which does not describe how nature is but how it can be imagined if you start with certain assumptions. And the assumptions usually made are mathematical and mechanical ones. The question which the entire classical scientific way of looking finally resulted in was: how can you explain the phenomena […] when you assume that they have arisen from mathematical and mechanical causes.

    The properties derived from sense perception which are attributed to the atoms in the models do not , however, include all sensory characteristics but only selected kinds, as Steiner pointed out in his commentary on Goethe’s natural-scientific writings in reference to Descartes, these being magnitude, i.e. spatial size in length, width and depth, shape, location, motion, number, duration, etc., in other words what John Locke called “primary” sensory qualities which are objective characteristics of the outer things. On the other hand, the atomic models contain neither light or colour, nor sound, taste, heat of cold, smoothness of roughness, because these “secondary” sensory qualities

    I know it’s a rather long quote but I’d appreciate any sensible comments on it.

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  46. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I am pointing out that our perception of shapes and colours is only possible in the mid range between light and dark.

    Frankly, I suggest you are in no position to point anything out regarding human perception, as your only qualification (as is mine) is being human. Dennett was on to something with his Heterophenomenology.

    So do you think that there are people who are in a position to do so?

    Dennett’s idea here is a step towards Barfield’s idea of “final participation” as progressing from an “onlooker consciousness”. Final participation is a position in which the perceivers knows that they perceive and their standpoint has a great deal to do with how the perception is interpreted. The object under study can never be isolated from the perceiver.

    In fact Steiner’s book The Philosophy of Freedom deals with this in great detail.

    As Michael Wilson wrote in the introduction:

    Confusion concerning the nature of perception is widespread, because of the reluctance to consider the central part played by thinking. Thinking is all too often dismissed as “subjective” and hence unreliable, without any realization that it is thinking itself that has made this decision. The belief that science can deal only with the “objective” world has led to the position where many scientists are quite unable to say whether the real world is the familiar world of their surroundings, as experienced through the senses and pictured in the imagination, or the theoretical world of spinning particles, imperceptible forces and statistical probabilities that is inferred from their experimental results.

    There is a prevailing belief that it is delusional to have any thoughts that there might indeed be such a thing as a unified reality.

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