From the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts.

Alan doesn’t believe that there are any other proposed explanations to rival ‘evolutionary theory’. At least none that so effectively account for the facts.

It is often said that there is no single theory of evolution, there are a group of mutually consistent theories. Be that as it may, I think we all understand the point Alan is making.

Evolution is a process whereby life has somehow emerged from a lifeless physical world and there is no overall teleology involved in its diversification. The reproductive processes produce a natural variety of forms which can take advantage of previously unoccupied niches. The basic sequence of events from primal to present are: lifeless minerals, water systems and gaseous atmosphere, followed by the arrival of simple prokaryote life forms, followed by multicellular organisms. Life is solely the product of physical and chemical processes acting on lifeless matter.

In this view life is nothing special, it just occurred because physical matter chanced to arrange itself in a particular way. And consciousness is just a by product of life.

But I suggest that there is an alternative way in which life as we perceive it could have come about.

Arthur Zajonc in the book Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind

Goethe was right. Try though we may to split light into fundamental atomic pieces, it remains whole to the end. Our very notion of what it means to be elementary is challenged. Until now we have equated smallest with most fundamental. Perhaps for light, at least, the most fundamental feature is not to be found in smallness, but rather in wholeness, its incorrigible capacity to be one and many, particle and wave, a single thing with the universe inside.

In the same way that in the above quote light is understood in its wholeness, so can life be understood as a whole. The variety of earthly life forms that have existed through time and space are individual expressions of an ever present archetypical whole. Life is one and many.

Daniel Christian Wahl writes

Holistic science attempts to get closer to the mystery of the dynamical emergence of the diversity of living forms within the unity of the continuously manifesting whole.

An arithmetical analogy between orthodox accounts of evolution and evolution as the unfolding expression of archetypal forms could be that the former is akin to addition while the latter is akin to division. Novel forms are an extra addition to what came before or novel forms are divided off from what already existed in potential. From the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts. Which is it? Sense perception points to the former while the mind’s eye, perceiving with the mind, points to the latter. And Goethe was an expert at perceiving with the mind.

Instead of life emerging out of matter in an extended version of the spontaneous generation of mice from mud, it could at least be regarded as a possibility that physical organic life is a condensation or hardening of form out of a more subtle general condition which contained all physical forms in potential. This is analogous to crystals emerging out of solution. The perception of salt in sea water is dependent on the senses of the perceiver. Some forms of life have not descended as completely as others and thus retained more plasticity and because of this they are more adaptable to changes in their surroundings.

Life is and always was everywhere but it is only when it coalesces into gross material forms that it is perceptible to our everyday senses.

Convergent evolution is explicable not just by occupation of similar niches but by similar forms coalescing.

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416 thoughts on “From the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts.

  1. CharlieM: It is special in that it can exhibit inner consciousness in a way that non-living matter cannot do.

    LOL. I can play that game as well. I believe life is special because it is a very special kind of physics and chemistry. So there!

    CharlieM: No you weren’t mistaken. […] They had a more participatory, holistic view of reality. We understand these things to be separate because of our analytical, intellectual way of thinking. We see the parts where they saw the whole.

    Yeah, thought that’s what you were getting at. But, except for the odd word, modern English doesn’t derive from ancient Greek. That is why I remarked that a long time ago the precursor word for “wind” just meant “wind”. Sometimes words gain a secondary meaning, other times they lose it. There is no overall trend towards a loss of concomitant meaning. You are just making stuff up to support your narrative (or perhaps that Barfield fellow is, I can’t tell).

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  2. Fair Witness:

    CharlieM:….That’s not the way it’s done (constructing a model) in Goethean science…..
    ….Perceiving reality directly forgoes the need for a model….

    “Knowing Is Not Enough; We Must Apply. Wishing Is Not Enough; We Must Do.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

    His whole method requires activity. First the active study of the external phenomenon and then the inner work of connecting all that has been gathered from the senses..

    The late Liz Attwell in A Drop of Light: Educating for the A-ha Moment wrote:

    Goethe’s method can be adapted for use in the classroom. The first step is to apply rigorous observation of the phenomenon. This differs from conventional science which tends to form a hypothesis and then test it through experiment, often by separating the phenomenon into its constituent parts and analyzing them. Goethe laid a strong emphasis on studying the phenomena in context. With the plant this takes the form of studying it where it grows, over a long period of time, and really coming to know the plant’s form and structure. ..

    The second step is ‘exact sensory perception.’ As Goethe put it ‘we initially see the different leaves as discrete steps in a process’, however, he says that to undrstand the growth of the plant, an intrinsic unity, we have to think the growth sequences through time (Goethe did it both forwards and backwards). Each leaf or part of the plant becomes a snapshot in time of a conscious process. When he did this Goethe experienced, as Miller put it, ‘the dynamic inward archetype’ or as Goeteh put it the Urphenomenon.

    True knowledge is not something that should be a guarded secret for the privileged few. It is something to be shared, and Goethe did that through his art and creative writings. In this he followed his own advice, “We must do”.

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  3. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: When written language was in its infancy the ancient Greeks used single words where we would use more than one, because they thought of these things as a unity. They did not distinguish between breathe and wind in the way we do because the saw the essential unity in them. They had no concept of them as being distinct. They had a more participatory, holistic view of reality. We understand these things to be separate because of our analytical, intellectual way of thinking. We see the parts where they saw the whole.

    Well, this is just nonsense.

    First, written language had been around for a few thousand years before anyone had the idea of using the Phoenician alphabet to represent Greek phonemes. The Greeks were a bunch of upstart barbarians compared to the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, and they knew it. Ancient Greek is not “written language in its infancy” unless one’s understanding of human history ignores non-European cultures.

    Second, it’s not a general truth that the Greeks always used one word where we would use more than one. Here are some Greek words for mind in the Illiad: kardia, noos, phrenes, and thumos. None of those mean the exact same thing and none have the same sense as psyche or pneuma.

    You are right, it was nonsense and Barfield would have agreed with you.

    In his book, ‘poetic Diction’, he wrote:

    Poetic Diction
    We must, therefore, imagine a time when ‘spiritus’ …or older words from which these have descended, meant neither ‘breath’, nor ‘wind’, nor ‘spirit’, nor yet all three of these things, but when they simply had ‘their own peculiar meaning’, which has since., in the course of the evolution of consciousness, crystalized into the three meanings specified-and no doubt into others also, for which separate words had already been found by Greek and Roman times.

    To sum up, if we assume, as it seems only reasonable to assume, that can be touched by modern etymology the main stream of language, whose course is afterwards to become plainly visible to us, was already flowing in the ‘same’ direction (i.e. from homogeneity towards dissociation and multiplicity) and not in an opposite one, what is the result? Both ‘root’ hyothesis and ‘metaphor’ hypothesis fall to the ground together. Muller’s so-called ‘radical’ metaphor, instead of being primitive, is seen to be one of the latest achievements of conscious linguistic development.

    Ancient Greek was well on the way to transforming into a modern language.

    In that book Barfield argues against both the belief that the roots of language arising from giving names to objects that were perceived, and Muller’s proposal that ancient language was metaphorical.

    So by CharlieM’s reasoning, we should conclude that the ancient Greeks saw these things as being distinct because of their analytical, intellectual way of thinking, and we use one word — “mind” — because it is we who have a way of thinking that is more holistic and participatory.

    As I see it the trajectory of human culture should take the path from a past group identity, through separation and fragmentation into a future which leads back to wholeness at a higher level.

    Today humanity is at its most fragmented with the feeling of individuality beginning to take precedence over the tribe, the clan or the race. Those who think that exclusive privileges should be automatically granted to the group to which they belong, are living in the past.

    The major problem is that it is us that carries the responsibility to attain wholeness at a higher level, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will become a reality. We are moving beyond a world in which nations fought nations and empires were built to a time when it will be everyone for him/herself and before we know it we will be in the middle of the foretold war of all against all.

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  4. Richard A. Hocks wrote in The “Other” Postmodern Theorist: Owen Barfield’s Concept of the Evolution of Consciousness:

    Barfield is especially fond of illustrating both processes, the centrifugal and the centripetal, by the Greek word pneuma, which in St. John’s Gospel is repeated several times within a very few verses and correctly translated, first, as “spirit,” then “wind,” and then again “spirit.” What we have in that example is a sort of captured moment just before the splitting apart of a word into what eventually would be its outer and inner meanings, a process which in time would be expressed by two different words altogether, “wind” and “spirit.” Barfield sometimes cites a contemporary example of this same process in our own use of the word “heart”to refer at once to the physical organ and to the seat of affections. Should “heart” evolve like pneuma, there could eventually come a time when, say, a word like “cardium” might refer exclusively to the physical organ, and “heart” to the inner meaning. But for us now to say that wind was once “a metaphor” for spirit would be quite as inappropriate as for future generations to look back and assume that “heart” was in our day “merely a metaphor” for the cardium.

    It would be a mistake to think of these ancient writers as using the word ‘wind’ as a metaphor for spirit. It was being used literally in both senses.

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  5. Corneel:

    CharlieM: It is special in that it can exhibit inner consciousness in a way that non-living matter cannot do.

    LOL. I can play that game as well. I believe life is special because it is a very special kind of physics and chemistry. So there!

    Physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness.

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  6. Corneel: CharlieM: No you weren’t mistaken. […] They had a more participatory, holistic view of reality. We understand these things to be separate because of our analytical, intellectual way of thinking. We see the parts where they saw the whole.

    Yeah, thought that’s what you were getting at. But, except for the odd word, modern English doesn’t derive from ancient Greek. That is why I remarked that a long time ago the precursor word for “wind” just meant “wind”. Sometimes words gain a secondary meaning, other times they lose it. There is no overall trend towards a loss of concomitant meaning. You are just making stuff up to support your narrative (or perhaps that Barfield fellow is, I can’t tell).

    From here

    Wind:

    Meaning “breath” is attested from late Old English; especially “breath in speaking” (early 14c.), so long-winded, also “easy or regular breathing” (early 14c.), hence second wind in the figurative sense (by 1830), an image from the sport of hunting.

    It also says that it is a ‘form of root *we- “to blow.”‘ Our written language has its roots in the spoken word which was in use before it was brought down to earth through the appearance of writing. Even the word itself is formed by the exhalation of the breath.

    Orchestras do not have breath sections, they have wind sections. Although there is one wind instrument that is actually played by the atmospheric wind, the Aeolian harp.

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  7. CharlieM:
    Physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness.

    Here’s an “urphenomenon” that I have observed: That many people seem to get cause and effect totally ass-backwards.

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  8. CharlieM: Physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness.

    To me it certainly looks they are doing fine without.

    CharlieM: Meaning “breath” is attested from late Old English

    You are flailing now. Old English is more modern than proto-Germanic, so it seems to have gained that secondary meaning in English, in contradiction to your claim. The “wind instruments” in orchestras are certainly English idiom. You cannot combine those words that way in Dutch or German, since we use “blowing” (blazen/ blasen) for this activity.*

    Bluffing with peculiarities of the English language doesn’t work with me, Charlie. It’s not my mother tongue. 🙂 Either support your claim that there is a trend in languages to lose concomitant meanings of words or just admit that you were wrong.

    * Though when wind leaves *ahem* the other end, you can use the word in a similar way.

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  9. Fair Witness:

    CharlieM:
    Physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness.

    Here’s an “urphenomenon” that I have observed: That many people seem to get cause and effect totally ass-backwards.

    That’s true. And not only that the simple linear arrow between cause and effect which is perfectly apt for processes in lifeless nature, they apply to living systems where it can be seen that there are many causes all coming from different directions in networks of causality.

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  10. Corneel: CharlieM: Physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness.

    To me it certainly looks they are doing fine without.

    Even quantum physics?

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  11. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Meaning “breath” is attested from late Old English

    You are flailing now. Old English is more modern than proto-Germanic, so it seems to have gained that secondary meaning in English, in contradiction to your claim. The “wind instruments” in orchestras are certainly English idiom. You cannot combine those words that way in Dutch or German, since we use “blowing” (blazen/ blasen) for this activity.*

    I might be flailing, but was Barfield flailing? He spent a lifetime studying philology and both C.S. Lewis and Tolkein were happy to take his advice. So this conversation has given me the impetus to better understand Barfield’s writings on the origins of language and I am beginning to get a clearer picture. But I’m not sure that you want even to try to understand Barfield’s arguments.

    Your point that wind and breath are treated separately in Dutch of German is precisely what Barfield was saying. Modern language treats these activities as unconnected. The Greek use of the word ‘pneuma’ to mean both wind and breath is an echo of an even earlier time when these things were treated more holistically because human consciousness was of a more participatory nature. They were not so conscious of any separation between themselves and what to us is external nature. To us breathing is an inner process while the movement of air currents is an outer process. They considered it to be the same process because they did not possess an objective ‘onlooker consciousness’ as Barfield called it. They saw unity in the polarity whereas we emphasise the separation of the polarity. For us now to unify the polarity between breath and wind It needs to be done in full consciousness.

    Bluffing with peculiarities of the English language doesn’t work with me, Charlie. It’s not my mother tongue. 🙂 Either support your claim that there is a trend in languages to lose concomitant meanings of words or just admit that you were wrong.

    * Though when wind leaves *ahem* the other end, you can use the word in a similar way.

    I’m not sure that you’ll be interested but Mark Vernon talks about Barfield’s ideas on this video here

    The most relevant part of the discussion starts around here

    Incidentally at the time I brought up the subject of the Aeolian harp here, I had no idea that Vernon also talked about it in the above video

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  12. CharlieM: Even quantum physics?

    Why would quantum physics be exempt? There is a mathematical framework describing how matter behaves at the quantum level, and there is sound empirical support for its predictions. Where did you want to squeeze in consciousness? How will it improve the theory?

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  13. CharlieM: Your point that wind and breath are treated separately in Dutch of German is precisely what Barfield was saying. Modern language treats these activities as unconnected. The Greek use of the word ‘pneuma’ to mean both wind and breath is an echo of an even earlier time when these things were treated more holistically because human consciousness was of a more participatory nature.

    You are cherry-picking now. Just one comment ago you were making the point that modern English still preserved the secondary meaning of “breath” in the word “wind sections”, remember? Also, you ignore my point that the reconstructed proto-Germanic word for wind, from that good-old holistic earlier time, probably lacked that secondary meaning.

    But you are right, I have zero expertise in this matter. We need some linguists chiming in. Where is Erik when you need him?

    I will watch the link you have provided, thanks.

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  14. Alan Fox: CharlieM: …networks of causality…

    Hey! You’re pinching my best lines!

    Share and share alike 🙂

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  15. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Even quantum physics?

    Why would quantum physics be exempt? There is a mathematical framework describing how matter behaves at the quantum level, and there is sound empirical support for its predictions. Where did you want to squeeze in consciousness? How will it improve the theory?

    You can’t have a theory without a consciousness to propose the theory.

    How does cause and effect work between two entangled ‘particles’?

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  16. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Your point that wind and breath are treated separately in Dutch of German is precisely what Barfield was saying. Modern language treats these activities as unconnected. The Greek use of the word ‘pneuma’ to mean both wind and breath is an echo of an even earlier time when these things were treated more holistically because human consciousness was of a more participatory nature.

    You are cherry-picking now. Just one comment ago you were making the point that modern English still preserved the secondary meaning of “breath” in the word “wind sections”, remember? Also, you ignore my point that the reconstructed proto-Germanic word for wind, from that good-old holistic earlier time, probably lacked that secondary meaning.

    Yes we can use wind for both inner and outer processes. But we make a distinction depending on the context. The point I think Barfield was making is that there is evidence from the study of language formation to show that the more ancient humans did not distinguish in this way. They did not have the level of self-consciousness which was able to see themselves as individuals separate from nature.

    Another example he uses in the book, “Poetic Diction” is the Latin word ruo. He writes (I’ve bolded the words that he italicized):

    English schoolboys are generally taught to translate the Latin verb ‘ruo’ by one of two words rush or fall. And it does indeed ‘mean’ a great deal more, neither rendering alone is really an adequate equivalent. In the classic context themselves it nearly always carries with it a larger sense of swift,disasterous movement-‘ruit arduus aether’ of a deluge of rain, and again, ‘Fiat Justitia, ruat coelum’. Why is this? The Greek ρέω, ‘to flow’, and similar words in other European languages (whether philologists admit a lineal connection is a matter of comparative indifference for periods so remote), suggest that the old rumblings, guttural ‘r’, which our modern palates have so thinned and refined, once had its concrete with swift, natural movements such as those torrents or landslides.

    Now the conscious realization by men that such motions, with the noise that accompanies them, are often the prelude to disaster, may or may not have been the cause why ‘ruo’ came to convey in such a lively manner the notion, not only of movement, but also of collapse. If so, then we are already at the ‘metaphorical’ stage, and the transition from ‘given’ to ‘created’ meaning has begun, even before the first recorded use. If not, then an older single meaning {‘rush-fall-collapse’) has begun, under the influence of the rational, to split into this treble meaning of the Latin word-which is subsequently going to require three separate words for its expression. In any case it is notable that, when the substantive ‘ruina’ came to be formed, it contained this last part only of the meaning of the verb-in other words, the older meaning, whether still wholly ‘given’ or containing by now a ‘created’ element, was now being further restricted, hardened, arrested, under the influence of the rational principle. And another change soon took place: it could now mean, not only the falling itself, but the thing fallen. It is like watching a physical process of crystallization.

    He argues that metaphors began with rational thought and that the pre-rational minds had a more instinctive poetic way of using language. They did not see an object and then decide to invent a word in order to describe what they saw.

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  17. CharlieM: You can’t have a theory without a consciousness to propose the theory.

    That is besides the point. What is relevant is that the physics the theory describes can be adequately modeled without consciousness in there.

    CharlieM: How does cause and effect work between two entangled ‘particles’?

    Sorry, but I have no clue what you are asking. Could you elaborate?

    CharlieM: The point I think Barfield was making is that there is evidence from the study of language formation to show that the more ancient humans did not distinguish in this way

    Good. Now find and cite that evidence. That would support your case.

    CharlieM: He argues that metaphors began with rational thought and that the pre-rational minds had a more instinctive poetic way of using language.

    Mmm, not very convincing. My impression is that the “poetic way”, with associations, onomatopoeia and references to existing expressions, is still the dominant way neologisms start out today. Nothing new under the sun.

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  18. Corneel:

    CharlieM: You can’t have a theory without a consciousness to propose the theory.

    That is besides the point. What is relevant is that the physics the theory describes can be adequately modeled without consciousness in there.

    But in quantum experiments the role of the experimenter cannot be disentangled from the experiment in the way that you would like. Fundamental particles become clouds of probability in which the very act of measuring them has a decisive effect on the outcome.

    CharlieM: How does cause and effect work between two entangled ‘particles’?

    Sorry, but I have no clue what you are asking. Could you elaborate?

    In classical physics cause and effect are separated in time and space. There is no such causal relationship with entangled particles, they act as a unit, a whole.

    CharlieM: The point I think Barfield was making is that there is evidence from the study of language formation to show that the more ancient humans did not distinguish in this way

    Good. Now find and cite that evidence. That would support your case.

    The evidence is in his writings, much of which can be found on the ‘web. I can find more evidence from his writings if you wish me to.

    CharlieM: He argues that metaphors began with rational thought and that the pre-rational minds had a more instinctive poetic way of using language.

    Mmm, not very convincing. My impression is that the “poetic way”, with associations, onomatopoeia and references to existing expressions, is still the dominant way neologisms start out today. Nothing new under the sun.

    How far back in our evolution do require us to go before you do start seeing something changing under the sun? Have our minds not evolved along with our bodies? Do you think that early humans were as alienated from nature as we are today.

    If Mark Vernon’s talk on Barfield wasn’t to your liking you could try Malcolm Guite on Owen Barfield.
    Here is an excerpt from his talk:

    Howard Nemerov for example, the U.S. poet lauriate said, “Among the poets and teachers of my aquaintance, among those who know, “poetic Diction”, they value it not only as a secret book, but almost as a sacred book. And Saul Bellow, the nobel prize winning novelist wrote about Barfield , “We’re well supplied with interesting writers but Owen Barfield is not content to be merely interesting, his ambition is to set us free. Free from what? Free from the prison we have made for ourselves by our ways of knowing, our llimited and false habits of thought, our common sense.

    Further into the talk Guite quotes from Barfield’s book, ‘The Rediscovery of meaning’:

    The vortic progress of knowledge which has been going on since the seventeenth century has been progress in alienation. The alienation first of nature from humanity which the exclusive pursuit of objectivity in science entails was the first step. And it was followed with the acceptance of man himself as a part of nature so alienated, by the alienation of man from himself. This final and fatal step in reductionism occurred in two stages. First his body and then his mind. Newton’s approach to nature was already by contrast with older scientific traditions a form of behaviourism. And what has since followed has been its extension from astronomy and physics into physiology and ultimately psychology…We decided to stop thinking about the cosmos and nature itself as living moving breathing meaning and we decided to think of it as a mechanism and then to analyse it in mechanistic terms. And then we said, ‘hey the body’s part of that as well so lets do that with the body’. And then we said, ‘the mind’s probably produced by something mechanical in the brain so lets do that with the brain’. And in the end…as we cut the knife to dissect ourselves into little bits, we don’t even know any more what is holding the knife. What is the mind that is doing the analysis? Because we’ve reduced everything to these little bits. We started actually at the wrong end. We started with what we think of as objectively existing tiny particles and thought out of that we can derive something as rich as mind and meaning. We might have been better starting with the prime experience of mind and meaning and then figure out where those bits come in.

    According to Guite that book was Barfield’s analysis of the crisis of modernity in which there is a growing sense of meaninglessness. The more we are able to manipulate the world the less meaning we see in it. This he puts down to the demythologising of nature, the reduction of ‘reality’ to dead particles.

    Barfield predicted a massive crisis, philosophically, financially and economically. And here we sit at the beginning of just such a crisis.

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  19. CharlieM:
    But in quantum experiments the role of the experimenter cannot be disentangled from the experiment in the way that you would like. Fundamental particles become clouds of probability in which the very act of measuring them has a decisive effect on the outcome.

    This is misleading (at best). You are assuming the truth of the Copenhagen Interpretation — assuming a very specific understanding of that interpretation. To the best of my knowledge, the Copenhagen Interpretation (in which there is a “collapse of the wave function”) remains contested amongst quantum physicists. We do not actually know whether there’s any such thing as “the measurement problem” or if consciousness really is causally efficacious in causing the collapse of the wave function. You’re pretending that physicists have settled a debate when in fact they have not.

    The evidence is in his writings, much of which can be found on the ‘web. I can find more evidence from his writings if you wish me to.

    Barfield’s writings are not evidence that what he says is true. We don’t need any more of Barfield’s writings copied and pasted here. We need evidence that what he says is true.

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  20. CharlieM: But in quantum experiments the role of the experimenter cannot be disentangled from the experiment in the way that you would like. Fundamental particles become clouds of probability in which the very act of measuring them has a decisive effect on the outcome.

    And where did you prove that decohorence is caused by consciousness, rather than by e.g. interaction with a macroscopic system?

    CharlieM: In classical physics cause and effect are separated in time and space. There is no such causal relationship with entangled particles, they act as a unit, a whole.

    And what does this have to do with consciousness?

    CharlieM: How far back in our evolution do [you] require us to go before you do start seeing something changing under the sun? Have our minds not evolved along with our bodies? Do you think that early humans were as alienated from nature as we are today.

    I must say you are trying my patience, Charlie. You claimed that the old Greeks had “a more participatory, holistic view of reality” and that we could find evidence for this in their written language. I simply asked you to support this claim and you referred me to a 42 minute video of doubtful relevance and told me the evidence is “on the web”. And now suddenly I need to look way back at our evolution from “early humans”? Early humans spoke ancient Greek? Who knew?

    Can’t you just provide support for Barfield’s claim?

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  21. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM:
    But in quantum experiments the role of the experimenter cannot be disentangled from the experiment in the way that you would like. Fundamental particles become clouds of probability in which the very act of measuring them has a decisive effect on the outcome.

    This is misleading (at best). You are assuming the truth of the Copenhagen Interpretation — assuming a very specific understanding of that interpretation. To the best of my knowledge, the Copenhagen Interpretation (in which there is a “collapse of the wave function”) remains contested amongst quantum physicists. We do not actually know whether there’s any such thing as “the measurement problem” or if consciousness really is causally efficacious in causing the collapse of the wave function. You’re pretending that physicists have settled a debate when in fact they have not.

    Can we at least agree that these fundamental ‘particles’ do not obey the known laws of space and time and therefore cannot be classed as physical objects?

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  22. Kantian Naturalist:

    The evidence is in his writings, much of which can be found on the ‘web. I can find more evidence from his writings if you wish me to.

    Barfield’s writings are not evidence that what he says is true. We don’t need any more of Barfield’s writings copied and pasted here. We need evidence that what he says is true.

    To understand the truth in what he said you first need to have understood his argument. And the surest way to understand his argument is to read what he wrote.

    I have actually found a complete copy of his book Poetic Diction, online here

    If you don’t fancy reading the whole book,in order to get a flavour of his argument you could read a few pages beginning at Page 46 from where I have quoted below, (like it or not). He begins by giving some examples of the position he is arguing against and then references writers who have the opposite view to that position.

    ‘With the beginning of language’ writes Ludwig Noiré, a disciple of Max Müller, ‘the period of spiritual creation began; the light glimmered feebly and inconspicuously at first which now illumines heaven and earth with its rays-the divine light of reason…’ and he adds, still more enthusiastically:
    ‘the first step is herewith hewn, by th joint toil of reason and speech, in the hard rock, where a second and then another must follow, till aeons hence the lofty summit is reached, and reason enthroned on high sees all the world beneath as the theatre where her might and blory is displayed, and ventures forth upon new flights through the unexplored realms of heaven not here without a clue, any more than at the hou of her birth, afforded by her own-but now purely ideal-constructions.’

    Here again we have a picture of language becoming, intrinsically, more and more poetic; for who could make poetry out of a disjonted list of unrelated percepts? And what is the very essence of poetry if it is not this ‘metaphorical language’-this marking of the before unapprehended relations of things?

    And now let us actually examine the sentiments of those who have thought historically, not on language, but on poetry itself. ‘As civilization advances’, said Macaulay, ‘poetry almost almost necessarily declines.’ Peacock’s Four Ages of Poetry, notwithstanding its irony at the expanse of ‘progress’, is a genuine dirge on the gradual murder of the Muse by that very Reason, whose ‘divine light’ the philologist was costrained to hymn.

    Barfield gives other examples and then continues:

    Thus the general view is the exact opposite of what one would be led to expect. Indeed, nothing in the world seems so likely to turn a man into a laudator temporis acti as an historical survey of poetry. Even today it remains a moot point among the critics whether the very first extant poet of our Western civilization has ever been surpassed for the grandeur and sublimity of his diction.

    Yet if language had indeed advanced, by continual accretion of metaphor; from roots of speech with the simplest marerial reference, to the complex organism which we know today, it would surely be today that every author is a poet-today, when a man cannot utter a dozen words without wielding the creations of a hundred named and nameless poets…

    Since, then, ancient poetry is simply ancient language at its best, we must now try and discover why it is that this best ancient language, when it is compared with the best modern language, so often appears, not simply as naive, but, on the contrary, as endued with an extraordinary richness and splendour. Where, must we ask, is the fallacy in that proud conception of the evolution of language from simplicity and darkness to complexity and light?

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  23. CharlieM: Can we at least agree that these fundamental ‘particles’ do not obey the known laws of space and time and therefore cannot be classed as physical objects?

    No, we cannot agree on that, because it is false.

    0
  24. Corneel:

    CharlieM: But in quantum experiments the role of the experimenter cannot be disentangled from the experiment in the way that you would like. Fundamental particles become clouds of probability in which the very act of measuring them has a decisive effect on the outcome.

    And where did you prove that decohorence is caused by consciousness, rather than by e.g. interaction with a macroscopic system?

    I never said that decoherence is caused by consciousness. But where the distinction lies between subject and object or between object and object is a matter of human cognition and thus consciousness.

    CharlieM: In classical physics cause and effect are separated in time and space. There is no such causal relationship with entangled particles, they act as a unit, a whole.

    And what does this have to do with consciousness?

    Because it is through our developing consciousness that we perceive within time and space. We look out at the world around us and take it for reality but it is actually a set of our collective representations as Barfield calls them. But our collective representations are not the same as those of the ancient Greek or the ancient Indians. And they will be different to those of humans a few thousand years from now if we haven’t destroyed the planet by then.

    We do not see a greater reality than ancient humans, we see a different reality. We have a very clear and precise picture of an extremely narrowly focused part of reality, whereas the ancients had a fuzzy picture of a wider section of reality.

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  25. Corneel:

    CharlieM: How far back in our evolution do [you] require us to go before you do start seeing something changing under the sun? Have our minds not evolved along with our bodies? Do you think that early humans were as alienated from nature as we are today.

    I must say you are trying my patience, Charlie. You claimed that the old Greeks had “a more participatory, holistic view of reality” and that we could find evidence for this in their written language. I simply asked you to support this claim and you referred me to a 42 minute video of doubtful relevance and told me the evidence is “on the web”. And now suddenly I need to look way back at our evolution from “early humans”? Early humans spoke ancient Greek? Who knew?

    Have you been following all of my posts? Did you miss my reply to Kantian Naturalist where I admitted with reference to the Greeks:

    You are right, it was nonsense and Barfield would have agreed with you.

    In his book, ‘poetic Diction’, he wrote:

    Poetic Diction
    We must, therefore, imagine a time when ‘spiritus’ …or older words from which these have descended, meant neither ‘breath’, nor ‘wind’, nor ‘spirit’, nor yet all three of these things, but when they simply had ‘their own peculiar meaning’, which has since., in the course of the evolution of consciousness, crystalized into the three meanings specified-and no doubt into others also, for which separate words had already been found by Greek and Roman times.

    In our present day consciousness we have developed our egos to such a point that we see ourselves as separate from nature, we as subjects are distinct from nature as an object. Animals do not display this self-consciousness, they participate within nature. Ancient humans were at a stage between these poles, they lived in nature to a far greater degree than we do today. Their knowledge of the natural world did not involve intimate dissection of the parts, they knew the beings around them as whole, living beings. something most of us these days reserve for our close friends and family.

    Can’t you just provide support for Barfield’s claim?

    I have posted a link to Poetic diction above if you have any interest in what Barfield had to say.

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  26. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: Can we at least agree that these fundamental ‘particles’ do not obey the known laws of space and time and therefore cannot be classed as physical objects?

    No, we cannot agree on that, because it is false.

    Okay. How about, Fundamental ‘particles’ are not constrained by time and space?

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  27. CharlieM: Okay. How about, Fundamental ‘particles’ are not constrained by time and space?

    That’s not right either.

    The view amongst physicists (if that matters to you) is that spacetime seems to emerge from a more fundamental physical structure. But there’s still a lot of debate about what that fundamental structure is.

    In physics and, more generally, in the natural sciences, space and time are the foundation of all theories. Yet we never see spacetime directly. Rather we infer its existence from our everyday experience. We assume that the most economical account of the phenomena we see is some mechanism that operates within spacetime. But the bottom-line lesson of quantum gravity is that not all phenomena neatly fit within spacetime. Physicists will need to find some new foundational structure, and when they do, they will have completed the revolution that began just more than a century ago with Einstein. (from What is spacetime?”)

    But it’s not “beyond” physics or somehow related to a higher realm of being or whatever — it’s just more physics.

    1+
  28. CharlieM: Because it is through our developing consciousness that we perceive within time and space. We look out at the world around us and take it for reality but it is actually a set of our collective representations as Barfield calls them.

    When you claimed that “physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness”, I took you to be referring to the phenomena described by physics and chemistry, not to the body of theory itself. Are we on the same page?

    CharlieM: Did you miss my reply to Kantian Naturalist

    I failed to realize you gave up on that claim there. I am glad you agree that was nonsense.

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  29. CharlieM: We do not see a greater reality than ancient humans, we see a different reality. We have a very clear and precise picture of an extremely narrowly focused part of reality, whereas the ancients had a fuzzy picture of a wider section of reality.

    Just so you know: I always struggle responding to your comments. You post winding monologues that usually bob along and fail to address the initial criticism, but never fail to introduce a whole set of new disputable claims. To remind you: we started discussing why evolutionary theory would give a perspective in which life is “nothing special”. I disputed that. You never retracted that remark but introduced new outlandish claims about quantum physics, linguistics, and apparently now anthropology.

    No, we do not see a different reality than our ancestors did. No, we don’t have focus on “an extremely narrowly focused part of reality”. I disagree with all of that. It’s just stories you make up.

    And that is the problem with all the people you link to: Barfield, Vernon, Guite. I watched parts of the talk by Mark Vernon. He seems like a nice guy, but he argues just like you: He makes up stories that sound really profound and insightful, but are ultimately just that: stories. Stories cannot take the place of science.

    You don’t like the narrative of modern science, and prefer to build your own narratives. That’s fine: I have it exactly the other way around: I dislike your narratives and love learning about the nuts and bolts of nature. But, just because you dislike the narrative of modern science does not mean it has less value. The narrative of evolutionary theory does not reduce life to “nothing special”, modern societies do not focus on “an extremely narrowly focused part of reality”, and we do not fail to see “our close friends and family” as anything other than “whole, living beings” . That is just stories you made up to feel better about your own narrative. It’s simply not true!

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  30. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: Okay. How about, Fundamental ‘particles’ are not constrained by time and space?

    That’s not right either.

    The view amongst physicists (if that matters to you) is that spacetime seems to emerge from a more fundamental physical structure. But there’s still a lot of debate about what that fundamental structure is.

    ‘Seems to emerge’! In other words they begin with the assumption that physical matter is fundamental and then speculate that everything else emerges somehow from this.

    In physics and, more generally, in the natural sciences, space and time are the foundation of all theories. Yet we never see spacetime directly. Rather we infer its existence from our everyday experience. We assume that the most economical account of the phenomena we see is some mechanism that operates within spacetime. But the bottom-line lesson of quantum gravity is that not all phenomena neatly fit within spacetime. Physicists will need to find some new foundational structure, and when they do, they will have completed the revolution that began just more than a century ago with Einstein. (from What is spacetime?”)

    But it’s not “beyond” physics or somehow related to a higher realm of being or whatever — it’s just more physics.

    That is an impressive amount of faith you have in physics. Ever since Faraday it is becoming more clear that material substance is not the fundamental ‘stuff’ that researchers have been trying to get to the bottom of. But the more they have concentrated on the smallest possible volumes of substance the more it is becoming apparent that the entities they find there have another aspect. Concentrated matter is just one pole of reality. The other pole is peripheral. The reality can be regarded as field-like. The world of our experience is a product of the interplay between these two poles.

    The sub-atomic pole can be regarded as the physical pole (particle like) and the wide cosmos as the ethereal pole (field-like). The reason why the theory of the luminiferous ether was seen to be untenable was because it was proposed as a very subtle physical medium which carried the light. But this was shown to be an impossible medium in terms of physics. Not such physical substance could have the properties required of this ether. But light needs no such carrier it is the ether in its fundamental nature.

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  31. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Because it is through our developing consciousness that we perceive within time and space. We look out at the world around us and take it for reality but it is actually a set of our collective representations as Barfield calls them.

    When you claimed that “physics and chemistry only exist by way of consciousness”, I took you to be referring to the phenomena described by physics and chemistry, not to the body of theory itself. Are we on the same page?

    Basically yes. I am just playing round with ideas. How much of physics is really objective and how much do we owe to our subjective perspective. In describing fundamental ‘particles’ we stuck with using terms from the world of our sense experience. This makes it difficult to be truly objective in our thinking.

    CharlieM: Did you miss my reply to Kantian Naturalist

    I failed to realize you gave up on that claim there. I am glad you agree that was nonsense.

    It was nonsense to claim that the birth of language began with the ancient Greeks. It is not nonsense to claim that the birth of language did not start with primitive pointing and grunting as a way of naming things.

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  32. CharlieM: In describing fundamental ‘particles’ we stuck with using terms from the world of our sense experience

    No, we aren’t. That’s why we have math.

    CharlieM:It is not nonsense to claim that the birth of language did not start with primitive pointing and grunting as a way of naming things.

    Nope, this too is nonsense. If you really wanted to know something the evolution of language, I’d recommend books like More Than Nature Needs or The Singing Neanderthals.

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  33. Corneel: Just so you know: I always struggle responding to your comments. You post winding monologues that usually bob along and fail to address the initial criticism, but never fail to introduce a whole set of new disputable claims. To remind you: we started discussing why evolutionary theory would give a perspective in which life is “nothing special”. I disputed that. You never retracted that remark but introduced new outlandish claims about quantum physics, linguistics, and apparently now anthropology.

    I used the phrase ‘nothing special’ in order to stimulate conversations on how life relates to what we consider reality to be. By ‘nothing special’, I was alluding to the belief that with relation to physics and chemistry life is no more special than stars, galaxies consciousness, oceans, mountains or clouds. They all simply emerge from fundamental material processes and that is the source of the story as it is told.

    I consider it a good thing if my contributions raise more questions than they answer.

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  34. Corneel:

    CharlieM: We do not see a greater reality than ancient humans, we see a different reality. We have a very clear and precise picture of an extremely narrowly focused part of reality, whereas the ancients had a fuzzy picture of a wider section of reality.

    No, we do not see a different reality than our ancestors did. No, we don’t have focus on “an extremely narrowly focused part of reality”. I disagree with all of that. It’s just stories you make up.

    Our reality is determined by our concepts. We look up to the sky at night and see lifeless material nuclear reactors sending their energy our way as pinpoints of light. We see the moon as a ball of rock reflecting the sun’s light to us. In our mind’s eye we see receding galaxies, supernovas, black holes and interstellar dust. The ancients saw heavenly beings encircling us. What will a future humanity see? I guarantee it will not be the same as we see it.

    And that is the problem with all the people you link to: Barfield, Vernon, Guite. I watched parts of the talk by Mark Vernon. He seems like a nice guy, but he argues just like you: He makes up stories that sound really profound and insightful, but are ultimately just that: stories. Stories cannot take the place of science.

    What about the stories that scientists were telling in the eighteenth century? The story science tells is changing constantly.

    You don’t like the narrative of modern science, and prefer to build your own narratives. That’s fine: I have it exactly the other way around: I dislike your narratives and love learning about the nuts and bolts of nature. But, just because you dislike the narrative of modern science does not mean it has less value. The narrative of evolutionary theory does not reduce life to “nothing special”, modern societies do not focus on “an extremely narrowly focused part of reality”, and we do not fail to see “our close friends and family” as anything other than “whole, living beings” . That is just stories you made up to feel better about your own narrative. It’s simply not true!

    I do value science. If it were not for science I would not be living in such comfortable surroundings with all my basic needs being catered for.

    And as for close friends and family, I haven’t accused anyone of failing to see them as something other than whole living beings. It’s the understanding of the wholeness of everything else that is lacking in my opinion.

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  35. CharlieM: What about the stories that scientists were telling in the eighteenth century? The story science tells is changing constantly.

    When they are done “telling stories”, scientists also try to get some research done on the side. And yes, if they are doing it right, our understanding of the world around us deepens. That is a feature, not a bug.

    You are always trying to create symmetry between your position and that of mainstream science. But there is no such thing. When Alan claimed that evolutionary theory is the only game in town for explaining biodiversity, he was exactly right.

    CharlieM: I do value science. If it were not for science I would not be living in such comfortable surroundings with all my basic needs being catered for.

    Isn’t that funny? In the comment above you suggested that scientists were just telling stories. Yes, science also furnishes us with the knowledge to develop our technology, but that is not the most important thing. What matters more is that science provides us with the tools to objectively determine how nature works, to help us develop our understanding of natural phenomena and satisfy our curiosity. Stories cannot be substitute for that, no matter how appealing you think they are.

    CharlieM: And as for close friends and family, I haven’t accused anyone of failing to see them as something other than whole living beings. It’s the understanding of the wholeness of everything else that is lacking in my opinion.

    True. I misread that, apologies.

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  36. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: In describing fundamental ‘particles’ we stuck with using terms from the world of our sense experience

    No, we aren’t. That’s why we have math.

    So in reality fundamental ‘particles’ are not physical objects, they only exist as mathematical models.

    CharlieM: It is not nonsense to claim that the birth of language did not start with primitive pointing and grunting as a way of naming things.

    Nope, this too is nonsense. If you really wanted to know something the evolution of language, I’d recommend books like More Than Nature Needs or The Singing Neanderthals.

    Thanks for the links. A quick look shows me that these authors have contradictory views on the birth of language. It’s good to be able to see things from a variety of perspectives so it will be interesting to see what they have to say.

    Here is a quote from an article first published in 1993:

    Barfield’s thesis in Poetic Diction and throughout his career is that consciousness has evolved in fundamental ways during the course of history. We are all used to the notion that humanity evolved physically. Remarkably little has been done, however, in standard scientific research to plot the evolution of the human mind. Despite the nearly countless artifacts and documents and the clear patterns of “progress” they depict, the unspoken assumption among nearly all scholars and scientists even now is that physical and mental evolution are in all ways synonymous and that prehistoric man was just as we are except that he lacked a modern education.

    (Here the author references Bickerton with this note-“There are some very recent signs that this may be changing somewhat. Derek Bickerton’s Language and Species provides a good survey and a very useful bibliography.”)
    The article continues:

    Any person today though who tried to run his life exclusively not merely on a belief in but with the perception of demons, spirits, totems and deities would soon be declared insane. If we accept at face value Gilgamesh, the
    Iliad and Beowulf as literal transcriptions of experience and not as barbarous mixtures of the strangely fanciful and the strikingly factual, literature and history
    appear far differently. This in effect is what Barfield – taking hints from Goethe and Emerson, and ideas from Coleridge and Max Müller – has done with wondrous results.

    Barfield argued against the modern tendency to regard concepts and the words which signify them as originally being connected arbitrarily. As the author of this article says, “We here witness a crucial moment in the formation of the twentieth century. Physical language is simply declared to be separate from the only reason for its existence – meaning.”

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  37. Corneel:

    CharlieM: What about the stories that scientists were telling in the eighteenth century? The story science tells is changing constantly.

    When they are done “telling stories”, scientists also try to get some research done on the side. And yes, if they are doing it right, our understanding of the world around us deepens. That is a feature, not a bug.

    You seem to be envisioning “telling stories” as a negative thing. It isn’t. It is the way in which any culture communicates an understanding of reality. I might find it hard to get out of my mind the picture of electrons, protons and neutrons as tiny solid balls, because that was how I was taught to think of them. The picture we have of reality is changing constantly. Is our technical understanding of reality superior to that of an indigenous Amazon forest dweller? Only in some respects. Even taking account of all my knowledge of the Linnaean system of classification, I still believe that one of these native’s understanding of nature is superior to mine.

    You are always trying to create symmetry between your position and that of mainstream science. But there is no such thing. When Alan claimed that evolutionary theory is the only game in town for explaining biodiversity, he was exactly right.

    Today’s consensus is tomorow’s obsolete theory. it pays not to be too rigid in one’s beliefs.

    CharlieM: I do value science. If it were not for science I would not be living in such comfortable surroundings with all my basic needs being catered for.

    Isn’t that funny? In the comment above you suggested that scientists were just telling stories. Yes, science also furnishes us with the knowledge to develop our technology, but that is not the most important thing. What matters more is that science provides us with the tools to objectively determine how nature works, to help us develop our understanding of natural phenomena and satisfy our curiosity. Stories cannot be substitute for that, no matter how appealing you think they are.

    To believe that science conveys nothing but objective truth is a notion that could well have been promulgated by Hans Christian Anderson. Who is supposed to be the romantic here? This does not mean that the scientific method should be abandoned, only that people should be realistic.

    And the story that molecular biology is telling us is that organisms use and manipulate their genomes in so many ways that were unimagined when neo-Darwinism first came on the scene.

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  38. CharlieM: Thanks for the links. A quick look shows me that these authors have contradictory views on the birth of language. It’s good to be able to see things from a variety of perspectives so it will be interesting to see what they have to say.

    Yes, there’s a nice debate between the holistic approach and the compositional approach. Both have their merits but it’s beyond my limited expertise to adjudicate. I also very much liked the somewhat older The Symbolic Species by Terrence Deacon.

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  39. CharlieM: You seem to be envisioning “telling stories” as a negative thing. It isn’t.

    Stories are great, but they still make a poor substitute for doing research.

    CharlieM: Today’s consensus is tomorow’s obsolete theory. it pays not to be too rigid in one’s beliefs.

    A few comments ago, you really appreciated science for the fruits it has brought forth. If all of today’s science is to become obsolete, why is it being successful?

    CharlieM: To believe that science conveys nothing but objective truth is a notion that could well have been promulgated by Hans Christian Anderson.

    True, but I would never say such a thing.

    CharlieM: Who is supposed to be the romantic here?

    It’s me. 😃

    CharlieM: And the story that molecular biology is telling us is that organisms use and manipulate their genomes in so many ways that were unimagined when neo-Darwinism first came on the scene.

    Sure, but fully consistent with it.

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  40. Kantian Naturalist: Yes, there’s a nice debate between the holistic approach and the compositional approach. Both have their merits but it’s beyond my limited expertise to adjudicate. I also very much liked the somewhat older The Symbolic Species by Terrence Deacon.

    I’m familiar with Terrence Deacon’s thinking in general, but only superficially. Even though his conclusions are generally opposite from mine, I like his attitude and he has some very interesting ideas. He has said that we are not like machines, we don’t work like machines and our brains are not like computers, which I obviously agree with.

    He has explored morphodynamics which is obviously something which Goethe spent a great deal of time and effort on also. And I like his use of the term teleodynamics to distinguish the organisation principles of life from the thermodynamics of entropy. I haven’t read ‘The Symbolic Species’. Maybe I should if I ever get the time. Looking at the book on Amazon, it seems it was inspired by a question posed to him by an eight year old child: Why don’t other animals have language?

    It just shows, we can learn a lot by listening to what children have to say.

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  41. Corneel:

    CharlieM: You seem to be envisioning “telling stories” as a negative thing. It isn’t.

    Stories are great, but they still make a poor substitute for doing research.

    They are not a substitute. Research is carried out and when complete, papers are published. These papers are the stories. The stories are necessary to disseminate the findings to others.

    CharlieM: Today’s consensus is tomorow’s obsolete theory. it pays not to be too rigid in one’s beliefs.

    A few comments ago, you really appreciated science for the fruits it has brought forth. If all of today’s science is to become obsolete, why is it being successful?

    Success does not automatically mean understanding. Most of what is produced is what Barfield termed dashboard knowledge. We can gain a practical knowledge of how to drive a car without ever knowing the details of how the car and its components function.

    CharlieM: To believe that science conveys nothing but objective truth is a notion that could well have been promulgated by Hans Christian Anderson.

    True, but I would never say such a thing.

    Good.

    CharlieM: Who is supposed to be the romantic here?

    It’s me. 😃

    Don’t get too touchy-feely, you know the rules 🙂

    CharlieM: And the story that molecular biology is telling us is that organisms use and manipulate their genomes in so many ways that were unimagined when neo-Darwinism first came on the scene.

    Sure, but fully consistent with it.

    That depends on whose brand of neo-Darwinism we are talking about.

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  42. Convergent evolution and the re-emergence of lost traits are difficult to explain from the orthodox viewpoint. To believe that convergent evolution is purely the result of the occupation of similar niches and selection pressures entails quite a stretch of the imagination. And as more and more examples come to light it becomes even harder to believe. It makes more sense to think of it in terms of dynamic fields and attractors.

    Wing patterning in Heliconius butterflies, echolocation in mammals, morphological similarity between marsupials and placentals, and examples of bird plumage as in the image below, are just some of the examples of convergences that should be seen as a challenge for the standard explanation.

    0
  43. Frogs re-evolved lost lower teeth:

    Frogs re-evolved “lost” bottom teeth after more than 200 million years, according to new research.

    Tree-dwelling Gastrotheca guentheri are the only frogs with teeth on both their upper and lower jaw.

    The reappearance of these lower teeth after such a long time fuels debate about whether complex traits are lost in evolution or if they can resurface.

    Scientists suggest this new evidence identifies a “loophole” in previous theories.

    This is considered to be a “loophole’ in Dollo’s law”. If this complex trait has a purely genetic cause, why has it been conserved in the genome for such a long time with no obvious benefit to the organism?

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  44. CharlieM,

    200 Myr-old ancestors had teeth in upper jaw and mandible. Mandible of most modern frogs toothless. So modern frogs still have teeth so also have genes for them. Absent teeth could be due to regulatory genes suppressing development of teeth in the mandible. Mutation of regulatory gene and teeth reappear. This would need to be driven by niche changes, from mandible teeth being useful or not an issue to disadvantageous back to beneficial. Those niche changes would need to be compressed into less than 200 million years. Impossible?

    0
  45. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM,

    200 Myr-old ancestors had teeth in upper jaw and mandible. Mandible of most modern frogs toothless. So modern frogs still have teeth so also have genes for them. Absent teeth could be due to regulatory genes suppressing development of teeth in the mandible. Mutation of regulatory gene and teeth reappear. This would need to be driven by niche changes, from mandible teeth being useful or not an issue to disadvantageous back to beneficial. Those niche changes would need to be compressed into less than 200 million years. Impossible?

    There are more details of this topic here (RE‐EVOLUTION OF LOST MANDIBULAR TEETH IN FROGS AFTER MORE THAN 200 MILLION YEARS, AND RE‐EVALUATING DOLLO’S LAW), by John J. Wiens.

    The article begins by giving references to other cases of the re-evolution of traits. Wings in stick insects, limpet shell coiling, amphibians regaining a larval stage, lizard digits.

    Wiens states that “mandibular teeth were absent for at least 225 million years (and likely much longer) before being regained.”

    Here is the conclusion:

    In this study, I use a time‐calibrated phylogeny to show strong support for the re‐evolution of lost mandibular teeth in frogs. This example of trait re‐evolution is particularly intriguing because these complex structures have re‐appeared after at least 200 million years of absence. A review of previous studies on Dollo’s law suggests that this time frame is considerably longer than in any other example. The re‐evolution of mandibular teeth after this very long period may be facilitated by the maintenance of teeth on the upper jaw, which may help preserve the genes and developmental pathways needed for tooth development on the lower jaw. Similar mechanisms may underlie other putative examples of trait re‐evolution. Despite recent controversy, this study confirms that striking phylogenetic examples of trait re‐evolution are possible, and are not merely artifacts of statistical methods or questionable phylogenies. In fact, there are methodological biases that may make violations of Dollo’s law hardest to detect under those conditions where it may be most common, and the ability of phylogenetic methods to detect cases in which Dollo’s law is violated remains completely unstudied. Finally, I note that other obvious violations of Dollo’s law may be present but dismissed as “common knowledge” in various organismal disciplines, and should also be explicitly tested using modern methods with time‐calibrated phylogenies (e.g., possible re‐evolution of functional claws on the wings of the bird, the hoatzin, Ophisthocomus hoazin).

    The presence of teeth in the upper jaw merely tell us that this frog possesses genes that are capable of producing materials such as enamel and dentine. But these genes will be present in all of the body cells, it does not explain how the teeth re-emerged in the mandible in the very position they needed to be in to be functionally beneficial.

    In my opinion a better explanation is that this was a case of the re-expression of s feature that is ever present in the archetype. The form comes from archetype which is a peripheral, centripetal ‘force’. But in order to insubstantiate the form it must use materials produced by the pointwise, centrifugal ‘forces’ stemming from the genome. The body is the result of polar opposite ‘forces’ working together.

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  46. CharlieM: The re‐evolution of mandibular teeth after this very long period may be facilitated by the maintenance of teeth on the upper jaw, which may help preserve the genes and developmental pathways needed for tooth development on the lower jaw.

    (Charlie quoting abstract)
    That’s more or less what I said.

    0
  47. Alan Fox,

    Yes, it is what you said. But Charlie, with his “it does not explain how the teeth re-emerged in the mandible in the very position they needed to be in to be functionally beneficial”, failed to understand.

    1+
  48. DNA_Jock:
    Alan Fox,

    Yes, it is what you said. But Charlie, with his “it does not explain how the teeth re-emerged in the mandible in the very position they needed to be in to be functionally beneficial”, failed to understand.

    I always think of this as the “Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that so many large cities have great harbors?” school of thought.

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