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. PeterP:

    CharlieM: The whole could not progress unless it contained parts within which regressed

    Why would the whole need regressed parts to progress? That seems like a move towards specialists rather than a generalist lifestyle which seems counterfactual to this claim of yours:

    Examine the whole life of a butterfly. Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly are all parts of this whole. For this cycle to progress to the stage of the butterfly the caterpillar must lose its organisation, it must regress to a relatively disorganised mixture of chemicals.

    CharlieM: Any creature that through evolution finds itself in a narrower niche than its ancestors occupied has actually regressed.

    Humans have regressed then according to your criteria.

    You will need to explain why you believe the niches occupied by extant humans are narrower than their ancestors.

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  2. PeterP:

    CharlieM: Why do you see as trouble inventing and constructing machines such as aircraft?

    What proportioon of humans can pilot an aircraft? What proportion of humans have an aircraft available to fly themselves (not as passengers) wherever their whims might take them?

    And here you’ve hit the screw bang on the head. Humans have a level of individuality that other species do not have. Some live in the same village all of their lives, some travel all over the world by various means. Some eat a very restricted diet others eat anything that they can put in their mouths.

    What proportion of herring gulls will fly if they live a full and healthy life? One hundred percent. They stand out among the rest of life by what they have in common with other herring gulls. Humans stand out through their individuality.

    Having wings would be much more advantageous for humans to move about the landscape. It isn’t the trouble its the limitations that are imposed on humans for not choosing to have wings. Why couldn’t humans choose to have wings and arms at the same time?

    CharlieM: We are tetrapods, so if we had developed wings we would have forfeited the chance to develop our forelimbs into the creative constructors that they are.

    Not if we choose to be hextapods! It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

    Having wings may be an advantage physically but not mentally. Possessing wings would distract from and take away much needed resources from our organ of thinking, the brain. Our powers of observation would no doubt increase but at the cost of the ability to reason about what we observe. Achieving flight involves trimming back anything that adds weight. This is not what you want if you wish to develop a larger brain.

    Gaining wings would mean losing other attributes. In the evolution of consciousness wings would have been a hindrance.

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  3. PeterP:

    CharlieM: What can I say. You’ve convinced me that gills are wonderful structures but they have their limits. And in different species they have different ranges in where they can be used.

    Likewise with lungs. Why would humans not choose to have both lungs and gills?

    Why not wings and gills? Why waste resources on something that we do not require? Maybe if Einstein had gills he would have been out in some lagoon enjoying himself. Or if he had poseesed wings he might have been soaring over the meadows admiring the view. Instead he was spending a relatively large amount of time sitting quietly pondering on the nature of reality.

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  4. PeterP:

    CharlieM: You’ve convinced me that gills are wonderful structures but they have their limits

    The purpose would have been to disabuse you of your mistaken notion that carp and other species are getting oxygen directly from the air when they are not Some species make a living surviving in hypoxic waters by breathing the oxygen enriched water at the air-water interface. Any air gulped does not contribute to this oxygen supply. There is insufficient time for oxygen diffusion, in any meaningful amount, to occur in your scenario It is why species, e.g., siamese fighting fish have a labyrinth organ as well as functional gills. It requires time for diffusion to occur a simple gulp and expulsion won’t cut it.

    So are you saying that they get more oxygen by gulping water than gulping air? Would oxygen diffuse slower from air to blood than oxygen diffusion from water to blood?

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  5. PeterP:

    CharlieM: The relevant heat exchange is not between the blood and the water, it’s between venous blood and arterial blood using a counter-current system .well known to engineers.

    that isn’t the gills as you claimed then is it?

    What is it then? Are the gills not the site of action of this heat transfer? I know the automated voice is annoying but did you watch the video?

    from here

    Bottom line: The opah is the first known truly warm-blooded fish. Using a network of arteries and veins in its gills to concurrently warm its body and raise its internal temperature, this fish has gained a unique advantage for thriving in deep water.

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  6. PeterP: Now another quandry, charlie, is that hemoglobin oxygen affinity is affected by temperature. Generally, an ncrease in temperature will result in decreased affinity for oxygen. so if the gills are the site of oxygen loading then what happens when the ‘cold’ oxygenated blood meets warmer veins, arteries, etc? What keeps the oxygen bound to the hemogobin instead of having it diffuse into plasma and, therefore, not reaching the tissues which need it?

    Theory is fine but it’s actuality that counts. Everything in life is a balancing act and when everything is in order then bodily systems and functions are masters of this act.

    From here

    The researchers collected temperature data from opah caught during surveys off the West Coast, finding that their body temperatures were regularly warmer than the surrounding water. They also attached temperature monitors to opah as they tracked the fish on dives to several hundred feet and found that their body temperatures remained steady even as the water temperature dropped sharply. The fish had an average muscle temperature about 5 degrees C above the surrounding water while swimming about 150 to 1,000 feet below the surface, the researchers found.

    Warm blooded fish, who would have thought it!

    engineers are late to the party or they copied the successes that evolution ‘found’.

    Yes another marvel of engineering that evolution ‘stumbled upon’.

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  7. PeterP:

    CharlieM: Apart from humans animals do not consciously decide on future events.

    but….but…but you said organisms choose to make these evolutionary developments. Are you now backtracking on that claim of yours?

    No I didn’t. I said animals make choices and the choices they make affect their development. If mountain goats choose to climb steep sided rock faces then the ones that aren’t any good at it will fall off more frequently. This will have an effect at species level.

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  8. PeterP: there are several ‘retes’ that have evolved in fishes. from the muscle retes that maintain higher body temperature via conserving heat produced in muscles, to eyeball and brain ‘heaters’ found in numerous pelagic fishes as well as gas glands to inflate swim bladders at depth. Many variations on this theme are found in fish.

    That’s true. Some fish control the heat in selective parts of their bodies. We maintain a fairly constant core temperature of our entire body. Those fish are selective whereas we are generalists in this regard.

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  9. Alan Fox:

    PeterP: At least it has occupied a substantial amount of my time over the years!

    It shows! 😉

    Yes it helps to have criticism from an expert. That way I can focus on any mistakes I make. I can be confident that those mistakes I do make will be highlighted.

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  10. Corneel: I know all that, and I hoped you would recognize that I was parodying the shortcoming of your approach: we only have a single example of a spacefaring species. Just declaring this single example “the whole” doesn’t magically increase the amount of information you can glean from it.

    You criticize how undersampling can lead to misleading results, but you base your entire story on a sample size of one.

    The ‘whole’ I look at depends on what I am actually studying. If I am studying moonfish physiology then the whole would be the species. If I am studying fish in general then the whole would be all aquatic environments and the life within them over time and space.

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  11. CharlieM: The ‘whole’ I look at depends on what I am actually studying. If I am studying moonfish physiology then the whole would be the species. If I am studying fish in general then the whole would be all aquatic environments and the life within them over time and space.

    If you study moonfish physiology without considering other species to put your findings in context, then you are doing it wrong.

    This explains a lot, I must say.

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  12. Corneel:

    CharlieM: The ‘whole’ I look at depends on what I am actually studying. If I am studying moonfish physiology then the whole would be the species. If I am studying fish in general then the whole would be all aquatic environments and the life within them over time and space.

    If you study moonfish physiology without considering other species to put your findings in context, then you are doing it wrong.

    This explains a lot, I must say.

    Sorry, I wasn’t being very clear in what I was meaning by ‘whole’. I did not mean that the ‘whole’ as in all that I study to the exclusion of everything else. I meant the whole as in the unit that the object under study belonged to and from which it cannot be seen in isolation without regard to this whole. For example when one studies an organ or cell from a particular creature then it is important to understand that this cell or organ is an integral part of the whole that is the creature and it owes its existence to the creature. To isolate it in order to study it is to create artificial conditions which loses the reality to which it belongs.

    Although isolation is a legitimate and necessary way to study, it must be realised that ultimately for a true understanding the object must seen in the context of the whole to which it belongs.

    Regarding my study of moonfish I should have said, the whole would be the species in its environment.

    When studying human minds the whole can be seen as the individual self. When studying the human body the whole can be seen as the species, Homo sapiens.

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  13. Here is some more of my thinking on how the parts relate to the whole:

    The evolution of consciousness involves the coordinated progression in the development of three aspects of our interactions with the world. The three activities of thinking, feeling and willing are closely related to different aspects of our make up.

    My thinking is related to my head and central nervous system. My feeling to my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. And willing to my metabolism and limbs. The world affects me through my feeling and I affect the world through my willing. The more advanced the consciousness the more that feeling and willing are mediated through the thinking. We should think before acting and we should not allow our feelings to control us.

    The evolution of the brain for thinking, the limbs for willing and the senses for feeling are integrated systems which did not evolve separately. They are intimately linked and must each develop in a harmonious way if rationalistic self-consciousness is to develop.

    What would happen if evolution had emphasised brain developement to the exclusion the rest of the body? There would be a tendency towards an organism which people have speculated as ‘a brain in a vat’. And that would result in a being which was conscious of itself but it would be unable to give expression to the results of this consciousness to others. A body is needed to convey intentions or actions through speech, gestures, drawing or writing.

    And at the opposite pole, the development of the limbs without an equivalent development of the brain has resulted the evolution of animal forms that we can observe around us. Also where the three areas of development became less integrated then rational self-conscious beings will not develop to any significant extent..

    Look at the hoofed animals. Their limbs are well developed for supporting their bodies and for locomotion and there is little difference between the forelimbs and hind limbs in this respect. Bats are completely different their fore and hind limbs have become more specialised, fore limbs for locomotion and hind limbs for support. But because both hoofed animals and bats have developed in this way they have lost the chance to use their limbs and brains in an integrative creative way. But the limbs of both of these types of animal are ideally suited to their purpose.

    We owe our level of consciousness to the balanced development of limbs, upper torso and head with all that they contain. Evolution requires coordination and coordination can only come from the whole.

    To finish on a lighter side. Both my wife and myself on separate occasions saw a fledgling bird land on our washing line and do a three hundred and sixty degree spin on the line before regaining its balance. Gaining control of the gifts one has been given takes time.

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  14. Allan Miller:
    Still think tetrapods missed a trick not being hexapods.

    Strictly speaking they would still be tetrapods. Insects didn’t become octopods or decapods when they developed wings. They remained hexapods. In fact two-winged insects are thought to have derived from four-winged insects.

    In my view physical evolution is the forerunner of spiritual evolution. Tetrapods that gained wings might well have benefited physically from such a development. But humans are on a different course. We have gained by transforming locomotery limbs into creative limbs and advancing from being tetrapods into bipeds. By losing a physical attribute we have gained a spiritual attribute. To preserve the body by cryogenics so that it can be revived at some future time may be a materialists dream, but for a spiritual person this is a nightmare.

    In his mind Michelangelo could ‘see’ David within the block of marble and it was his job to release him. He created something beautiful by reducing the physical substance.

    Transformation involves destruction as well as construction. In order to increase spiritually we have to expect to decrease physically. Wisdom comes with age but so does bodily decay. To dream of gaining wings would be to wish to advance physically when we really ought to be wishing to advance spiritually.

    Angels are depicted with wings not because there are any sort of being with physical wings but because these beings are thought of as soaring spiritually. The physical wings artists give them are a symbol of an existence in the spiritual heights. Eagles soar in the earthly heights while angels soar in the spiritual heights.

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  15. CharlieM,

    No, they’d be hexapods. Unless you’re now buying into the cladistic grouping previously resisted. Just as we are all fish, if we were hexapods descended from tetrapods, we’d be both hexapods and tetrapods.

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  16. Alan Fox: I’m sure you have heard of HOX genes and how regulatory genes switch other genes on and off to oversee development in the embryo

    If you watch this video (I’ve set the link to the relevant section if you don’t want to watch the whole video), you will see that it is unclear how the regulation of hox gene expression such as Ubx is achieved.

    They are trying to unravel all this gene regulation by looking within the genome itself for the source. Is it not more likely that there is an overall regulation acting on the genome from a higher level?

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  17. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM,

    No, they’d be hexapods. Unless you’re now buying into the cladistic grouping previously resisted. Just as we are all fish, if we were hexapods descended from tetrapods, we’d be both hexapods and tetrapods.

    I’m going by the root of ‘pod’ which means ‘foot’. Unless you can convince me that wings are feet then I stick with ‘tetrapod’

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  18. CharlieM: I’m going by the root of ‘pod’ which means ‘foot’. Unless you can convince me that wings are feet then I stick with ‘tetrapod’

    Goethe would have been so disappointed with you. Angels’ wings are clearly homologous structures to limbs.

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  19. CharlieM: When studying human minds the whole can be seen as the individual self. When studying the human body the whole can be seen as the species, Homo sapiens.

    If I am not mistaken, you were claiming that the raison d’être for the whole of creation is to support our development of self consciousness. Thus, whenever you make some claim about human minds, the whole must include all living things.

    CharlieM: My thinking is related to my head and central nervous system. My feeling to my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. And willing to my metabolism and limbs.

    Why is it so hard for you to clarify yourself without introducing completely new whoppers? I mean … have you never heard about sensory neurons?

    Where did you get this from and whatever it is, will you please burn it?

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  20. Corneel: Goethe would have been so disappointed with you. Angels’ wings are clearlyhomologous structures to limbs.

    Goethe preferred to stick to what he could observe. You might have seen the wings of angels but I haven’t.

    Wings aren’t just homologous to limbs, they actually are limbs.

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  21. CharlieM: I’m going by the root of ‘pod’ which means ‘foot’. Unless you can convince me that wings are feet then I stick with ‘tetrapod’

    So birds aren’t tetrapods? And neither are we?

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  22. Corneel:

    CharlieM: When studying human minds the whole can be seen as the individual self. When studying the human body the whole can be seen as the species, Homo sapiens.

    If I am not mistaken, you were claiming that the raison d’être for the whole of creation is to support our development of self consciousness. Thus, whenever you make some claim about human minds, the whole must include all living things.

    Yes but it’s all to do with relationships. If the human individual is considered as a whole unit, this would be equivalent to an animal species or kind as being the whole unit.

    The human is a microcosm of life as a whole. The animal is a microcosm of the whole which has become one-sided.

    CharlieM: My thinking is related to my head and central nervous system. My feeling to my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. And willing to my metabolism and limbs.

    Why is it so hard for you to clarify yourself without introducing completely new whoppers? I mean … have you never heard about sensory neurons?

    Where did you get this from and whatever it is, will you please burn it?

    ‘Related to’ does not mean ‘exclusive to’. All three systems interpenetrate and merge into each other, they cannot be separated in reality. In the structure of the head with its relative lack of moving joints we can see the tendency for stillness and contemplation. In the limbs with their joints and muscles, there is willed activity. And the central rhythmic system mediates between these two poles.

    But it is obvious that nerves extend into the feet and toes and movable joints extend into the head. I am not claiming that these things are exclusive to specific areas, I am talking about what has prominence in specific areas,.

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  23. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM: I’m going by the root of ‘pod’ which means ‘foot’. Unless you can convince me that wings are feet then I stick with ‘tetrapod’

    So birds aren’t tetrapods? And neither are we?

    Both birds and humans have progressed beyond their previous existence as tetrapods. We are tetrapods in the same sense that we are single celled organisms. Both these conditions belong within the process of our becoming.

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  24. CharlieM,

    Therefore, if we’d grown an extra pair we wouldn’t be tetrapods any more, and ‘strictly speaking they’d still be tetrapods’ would be incorrect, by your own ‘hand/wing vs foot’ dichotomy. I hadn’t appreciated your non-standard definition of ‘tetrapod’ when I made my throwaway remark, of course, but either way that doesn’t work.

    Anyhoo, I’m working on a winged centaur: an octopod. I’ll sort the arms and wings out later.

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  25. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM,

    Therefore, if we’d grown an extra pair we wouldn’t be tetrapods any more, and ‘strictly speaking they’d still be tetrapods’ would be incorrect, by your own ‘hand/wing vs foot’ dichotomy. I hadn’t appreciated your non-standard definition of ‘tetrapod’ when I made my throwaway remark, of course, but either way that doesn’t work.

    Anyhoo, I’m working on a winged centaur: an octopod. I’ll sort the arms and wings out later.

    How about this specimen? Tetrapod or not? 🙂

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  26. Allan Miller: If you can get some DNA I’ll run some tests.

    Could be difficult. I think I’ve seen him flying over my house but I’ve never seen him landing, so unless he drops a feather. I’ll ask my mate Zeus if he can help. He’s always flying around on his winged chariot so he’s got a better chance of bumping into him.

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  27. From Plato’s Phaedrus

    Now we must try to tell why a living being is called mortal or immortal. Soul, considered collectively, has the care of all that which is soulless, and it traverses the whole heaven, appearing sometimes in one form and sometimes in another; now when it is perfect [246c] and fully winged, it mounts upward and governs the whole world; but the soul which has lost its wings is borne along until it gets hold of something solid, when it settles down, taking upon itself an earthly body, which seems to be self-moving, because of the power of the soul within it; and the whole, compounded of soul and body, is called a living being, and is further designated as mortal. It is not immortal by any reasonable supposition, but we, though we have never seen [246d] or rightly conceived a god, imagine an immortal being which has both a soul and a body which are united for all time. Let that, however, and our words concerning it, be as is pleasing to God; we will now consider the reason why the soul loses its wings. It is something like this. The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of the gods. More than any other thing that pertains to the body [246e] it partakes of the nature of the divine. But the divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities; by these then the wings of the soul are nourished and grow, but by the opposite qualities, such as vileness and evil, they are wasted away and destroyed. Now the great leader in heaven, Zeus, driving a winged chariot, goes first, arranging all things and caring for all things.

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  28. CharlieM: Goethe preferred to stick to what he could observe.

    Me too. Perhaps you should consider that as well.

    I started replying to your other comment, but couldn’t find anything I could latch onto. There are no observations in there, just a gently swaying ocean of make-belief. You may enjoy submerging yourself in such a thing, but I like to have some solid ground to stand on.

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  29. CharlieM: If you watch this video (I’ve set the link to the relevant section if you don’t want to watch the whole video), you will see that it is unclear how the regulation of hox gene expression such as Ubx is achieved.

    They are trying to unravel all this gene regulation by looking within the genome itself for the source. Is it not more likely that there is an overall regulation acting on the genome from a higher level?

    Following on from the video above, Nipam Patel actually produced three related videos of which the one linked to above is the second. I would recommend any interested amateur like myself watch these videos.

    In the first video, ‘Patterning the Anterior-Posterior Axis: The Role of Homeotic (Hox) Genes’ he expains that Darwin understood that changes in the process of embryonic development, embryogenesis, would underlie many of the changes in morphology that you see in evolution. Individual development is a microcosmic reflection of the evolutionary macrocosm. The whole reflected in the parts.

    In the third video he says:

    So, we have, now multiple examples of where evolution is altering the body plan of crustaceans by actually shifting around Hox gene boundaries. And that’s very different from the picture we have from insects, where there can be some late modifications to Hox gene expression – in fact, there are some quite striking ones. But in fact the early domains of Hox gene expression in insects is very well conserved. But in crustaceans there seems to be major alterations that go on in the expression pattern of Hox genes very early in the development. And those appear, actually, to then be responsible for the differences in morphology that you see between crustacean species. So what are some other things that we can look at?

    So what I’m showing you here again are the legs, and the outline of the legs is in blue, but the red are the muscles. Now one of the things I want to highlight is that the muscles between a jumping leg and a swimming leg are very different. So that’s a T8 reverse jumping leg, the A1 wild type pleopod. But when we transform the pleopod into this jumping leg, not only are we transforming that external morphology but lo and behold we’re actually also transforming the musculature.

    So then, this presents an interesting problem, because we don’t expect that in evolution there were these giant jumps in morphology. We expect that in evolution, that the changes in expression were gradual, and that there was a slow change in the morphology of these appendages. something like that T2 appendage I showed you in the mysids that’s somewhat in between the maxilliped and the swimming leg. But one of the problems in that kind of scenario is that you have to, of course, always keep the limb functional, right? It has to be doing something useful. You can’t just evolve a function-less limb as some sort of intermediate.

    But complicating that, then, is understanding, like, how you would also keep the muscle in some sort of usable fashion as you were transitioning between different types of limbs.

    So one of the issues then is how do you actually regulate Ubx? Do you need to regulate Ubx differently between the muscle and the ectoderm? Between the mesoderm that makes the muscle and the ectoderm that’s making the external morphology?

    So one of the things that we’re actively doing now is actually manipulating Hox gene expression differentially between the ectoderm and mesoderm. And again, we can do that in Parhyala because these macromeres that you’re seeing here make the ectoderm, but these two micromeres, ml and mr, they actually are making the mesoderm. So what we’ve started to do is to actually genome edit, separately in the ectoderm from mesoderm, to ask how you actually regulate the genes separately in the two tissues, or do you need to, or does one actually follow the other? So those are ongoing experiments.

    Another really interesting questions how do you keep the nervous system wired up the entire time? That’s another interesting question that we’re continuing to pursue.

    He asks some very interesting questions that as of yet there are no satisfactory answers.

    The Hox genes are supposed to be the master regulators so why is he asking how they themselves are regulated?

    When transitioning from one form to another (one type of limb to another), The exoskeleton morphology, underlying muscle and nervous system, all need to be modified in a coordinated manner. He asks how this is achieved.

    A fruit fly mutation that produces an extra pair of wings is a severe handicap without the accompanying development and positioning of the muscles and nervous system changes. To be of any use changes need to be coordinated and Hox gene expression needs to be tightly regulated.

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  30. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Goethe preferred to stick to what he could observe.

    Me too. Perhaps you should consider that as well.

    I started replying to your other comment, but couldn’t find anything I could latch onto. There are no observations in there, just a gently swaying ocean of make-belief. You may enjoy submerging yourself in such a thing, but I like to have some solid ground to stand on.

    Feel free to latch on to anything I say. You could comment on my posts about Hox genes if you like. It’s quite relevant to what I’ve been saying about wings in general.

    What benefits would wings give us? They would be primarily physical. But as I have been arguing we are evolving spiritually and any extra physical enhancement would detract from this evolution.

    And just to be clear what I mean by ‘evolving spiritually’, here is part of the quote from Plato I posted above:

    The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of the gods. More than any other thing that pertains to the body it partakes of the nature of the divine. But the divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities; by these then the wings of the soul are nourished and grow, but by the opposite qualities, such as vileness and evil, they are wasted away and destroyed.

    The spiritual is the nature of the divine. And so to evolve spiritually is to increase one’s inner ‘beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities’. A being with these qualities is of benefit to the whole of life and the world. Whereas to desire to have physical wings is to seek for something which is of benefit to oneself.

    Evolution has seen both birds and humans take a course towards freedom from earthly forces. But whereas birds seek physical freedom, freedom of the body, humans have the opportunity to attain spiritual freedom, freedom of the mind and consciousness.

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  31. Allan Miller: Anyhoo, I’m working on a winged centaur: an octopod. I’ll sort the arms and wings out later.

    Be careful about adding appendages.Daedalus.was wise enough to know how to use the wings he had made. His son, despite the warnings, didn’t have this wisdom and paid the price.

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  32. CharlieM: A fruit fly mutation that produces an extra pair of wings is a severe handicap without the accompanying development and positioning of the muscles and nervous system changes.

    Dipterans lost a pair of wings, Charlie. The halteres are modified wings.

    You are all over the place again.

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  33. Corneel:

    CharlieM: A fruit fly mutation that produces an extra pair of wings is a severe handicap without the accompanying development and positioning of the muscles and nervous system changes.

    Dipterans lost a pair of wings, Charlie. The halteres are modified wings.

    You are all over the place again.

    If researchers induce a mutation that produces wings in the third thoracic segment where the halteres should form this severely hinders the fly’s viability. Do you agree?

    Image below

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  34. Halteres are beautifully designed structures that human designers could learn from.

    From the book, ‘Engineered Biomimicry’: Chapter 5. Bioinspired and Biomimetic Microflyers, by Jayant Sirohi

    The halteres on insects are highly developed angular velocity sensors. They vibrate up and down in resonance with the wing-flapping motion, and any angular velocity of the insect body, for example, in yaw, results in a bending moment on the halteres due to gyroscopic moments. Fine hairs or other sensors at the root of the halteres measure this bending moment and provide feedback of the angular velocity to the insect. It has been observed that insects are unable to fly properly if thses halteres are removed, and therefore they form an integral part of their flight control and stabilization systems.

    And also from here:

    Our study of MEMS devices has brought our attention to some of the small-scale sensors and transducers that nature exploits. Nature’s design is particularly elegant and oftentimes awe-inspiring. We, in collaboration with colleagues from the department of biology, are studying the mechanics of insect hateres as gyroscopic sensors.

    Since its inception, MEMS gyroscope design, as well as its sensing technique, has not changed much. We are evaluating the possibility of incorporating a new design of gyroscope inspired by a class of flying insects known as Diptera

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  35. CharlieM: Halteres are beautifully designed structures that human designers could learn from.

    OK

    Who or what designed halteres?

    And how?

    And where?

    And when?

    And how do you know?

    Where you there?

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  36. CharlieM: If researchers induce a mutation that produces wings in the third thoracic segment where the halteres should form this severely hinders the fly’s viability. Do you agree?

    Researchers induced nothing, Charlie. The first mutations in the genes of the bithorax complex that were discovered were spontaneous ones. There is nothing wrong with having two pairs of wings. Many insects have two pairs of wings (e.g. honey bees). They are doing fine.

    I am not sure what you are getting at, but the significance of Ultrabithorax seems to be going over your head. The transformation of halteres into wings in flies expressing mutations in Ubx demonstrates that halteres and wings are homologous structures. This is exactly like the phenomenon your beloved Goethe observed for buttercup leaves (and you missed it, oh the irony). Genes that have mutations that confer this trick are called homeotic genes. The fate of the wing/haltere precursor during development is controlled by selector genes like Ubx. The ensuing developmental steps are of course mediated by other genes, not Ubx itself.

    Now, you need to realize that the two-wing-pair set-up is ancestral. That is, there never was a time that dipteran flies gained a pair of wings. What happened was that the 3rd thorax segment (T3) pair of wings was transformed into halteres during evolution. It shouldn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this was made possible by selector genes that bestowed upon the T3 segment a separate identity from that of the other wing-bearing T2 segment. This enabled the gradual transformation of the T3 wing pair by bringing genes under downstream control of the Ubx gene. That the sudden loss of Ubx activity yields unhappy looking flies proves nothing.

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  37. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: Halteres are beautifully designed structures that human designers could learn from.

    OK

    For what I am going to say below I don’t claim knowledge. Most of it will be reasoned belief. So I will begin by telling you what I believe and then I will answer your questions as best I can.

    There are levels of reality above normal present human awareness. We can only know up to the level we occupy. Everything in physical existence in reality consists of or is an integral part of even higher levels of its being, or to say it more accurately its becoming. This may be a long-winded answer but if you are to have any understanding of my views it is necessary.

    Four levels of the ascendance of life on earth are material body, life ‘body’, feeling ‘body’ (usually designated astral ‘body’), and the bearer of the ego or thinking self. Evolution is a process whereby these bodies condense so to speak to a level where they become apparent to us. Plants to the level of the life ‘body’, animals to the level of the astral ‘body’ and fellow humans to the level of the ego. This is a generalisation and there are many levels within and between each category.

    So we humans have a very basic fundamental awareness of our own egos. We are aware of animals up to their astral ‘bodies’ but the ego the animal is a part of is above our level of awareness. Plants show us the effects of their life ‘bodies’; their astral ‘bodies’ are above our level of awareness and their egos are at an even higher level. Each step in this sequence is a growth out of and a further step away from the earth which has always been thought of as the Mother of life.

    Everything is connected and we have within us a plant nature, an animal nature and an ego. Insects are more sentient than plants and reveal more of their astral nature to us. However they are intimately connected with plants. The life cycles of insects can be seen to frequently parallel the life cycles of plants. Egg, growing larva, pupa, ephemeral imago from which the next generation is produced; compared to seed, growing shoot, bud and ephemeral blossom from which the next generation is produced. The insect can be thought of as a plant which has freed itself from the earth.

    In the image below comparing a crane fly and blossom it can be seen how similar the wings and halteres resemble the petals and stamens. This resemblance can be explained by the same archetypal form being used for different purposes in a similar way in which in vertebrates the archetypal limb can be used as a wing or a leg. Instead of the source being one single original structure which is modified in various ways, they all come from the one overarching ‘form’ which encompasses them all. Neither wing nor flipper can be said to have derived from fins or legs, they are all equal expressions of the one archetype.

    And so, on to your questions.

    Who or what designed halteres?

    in my opinion the higher ego of which the insect is a part will have had some input in this wise design.

    And how?

    By expressing the archetype in a way suitable for its nature.

    And where?

    The archetype is above space as we experience it.

    And when?

    The archetype is outwith time as we experience it.

    And how do you know?

    I don’t. It is my reasoned belief.

    Were you there?

    I am not conscious of being ‘there’. Mind you I’m not conscious of being in my mother’s womb, but I have been assured that I was there.

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  38. Corneel:

    CharlieM: If researchers induce a mutation that produces wings in the third thoracic segment where the halteres should form this severely hinders the fly’s viability. Do you agree?

    Researchers induced nothing, Charlie. The first mutations in the genes of the bithorax complex that were discovered were spontaneous ones. There is nothing wrong with having two pairs of wings. Many insects have two pairs of wings (e.g. honey bees). They are doing fine.

    Yes because that is their natural state. Fruit flies are naturally two-winged. A mutation which prevents the development of halteres in the position where they should be and produces an extra pair of wings will hamper the fly. Are there any viable four-winged fruit flies in existence? I was not saying that researchers have produced this mutation, I was giving a scenario as to what would happen if they did. I don’t know if researchers have achieved this, do you? Do you think it would be possible for them to do so?

    I am not sure what you are getting at, but the significance of Ultrabithorax seems to be going over your head. The transformation of halteres into wings in flies expressing mutations in Ubx demonstrates that halteres and wings are homologous structures. This is exactly like the phenomenon your beloved Goethe observed for buttercup leaves (and you missed it, oh the irony).

    Yes halteres are yet another way in which the archetype responsible for wings can be expressed. It is fairly straightforward for mutations to produce ectopic structures because the fly already produces these structures. But the coordination needed to produce functional structures such as wings and halteres from a state in which they are absent is beyond just a few mutations.

    Genes that have mutations that confer this trick are called homeotic genes. The fate of the wing/haltere precursor during development is controlled by selector genes like Ubx. The ensuing developmental steps are of course mediated by other genes, not Ubx itself.

    Exactly, coordination of a network of multiple genes. And not just the ensuing development but prior to that the expression of Hox genes themselves are controlled.

    Now, you need to realize that the two-wing-pair set-up is ancestral. That is, there never was a time that dipteran flies gained a pair of wings.

    You are repeating what I have already said here. I said, “In fact two-winged insects are thought to have derived from four-winged insects”.

    What happened was that the 3rd thorax segment (T3) pair of wings was transformed into halteres during evolution. It shouldn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this was made possible by selector genes that bestowed upon the T3 segment a separate identity from that of the other wing-bearing T2 segment. This enabled the gradual transformation of the T3 wing pair by bringing genes under downstream control of the Ubx gene. That the sudden loss of Ubx activity yields unhappy looking flies proves nothing.

    This explains nothing about the complicated process of bringing these marvellous structures into existence in the first place. Crustaceans are a good example of repeated segments having many different adaptations of a common archetypal ‘form’.

    I will probably quote from some videos I have watched on this when I get the time.

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  39. CharlieM: Fruit flies are naturally two-winged.

    Translation: “Fruit flies have two wings now, and that’s how I want them to be”

    CharlieM: Yes halteres are yet another way in which the archetype responsible for wings can be expressed.

    I dunno. I think a fly with two stamens on his sides and a pistil for a bottom would look rather jolly. Do you think researchers can achieve this, Charlie?

    CharlieM: I said, “In fact two-winged insects are thought to have derived from four-winged insects”.

    So fruit flies are NOT “naturally two-winged.”? Or what do you mean?!?

    CharlieM: This explains nothing about the complicated process of bringing these marvellous structures into existence in the first place.

    Whereas posting a picture of a crane fly and a stylized flower side-by-side showers us with insight. What the hell?!?

    You are starting to sound exactly like a standard IDer now. Organisms are waaaay too complex to have evolved without intelligent input. But what about all this stuff thousands of researchers have learned during decades of hard labour? Oh, that explains nothing!

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  40. For a materialist/physicalist there is only one option. A particular form somehow appears and subsequent forms are developed out of this original form. For someone who believes in the primacy of mind/spirit things are different. It may still be correct to say that one form develops out of another, but it may also be correct to say that forms originate from an archetype which dynamically contains all conceivable forms of that general type. The form does not just happen to appear from nowhere it was already present in potential. Multiplicity from wholeness.

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  41. CharlieM: it may also be correct to say that forms originate from an archetype which dynamically contains all conceivable forms of that general type.

    It is never correct to say that dipteran halteres and flower stamens are homologous structures, Charlie. That is pure and utter nonsense from someone who has obviously never seen either up close.

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  42. Corneel:

    CharlieM: I said, “In fact two-winged insects are thought to have derived from four-winged insects”.

    So fruit flies are NOT “naturally two-winged.”? Or what do you mean?!?

    No. I mean that if we look at living fruit flies in their natural surroundings they have two wings and two halteres. I’ve seen plenty of fruit flies but I’ve never seen a four-winged fruit fly.

    From Wikipedia

    Halteres provide rapid feedback to the wing-steering muscles,[3] as well as to the muscles responsible for stabilizing the head.[4]

    Insects of the large order Diptera (flies) have halteres which evolved from a pair of ancestral hindwings, while males of the much smaller order Strepsiptera (stylops)[5] have halteres which evolved from a pair of ancestral forewings.

    So we could believe, like the author of this section of the Wikipedia entry, that both of these orders stumbled on the same intricate solution separately. Or we could say that they were both expressing the same archetype in their own individual way.

    There are convergences everywhere you look. There are instances of convergent evolution in every area of nature I’ve looked at in this thread.

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  43. Corneel: CharlieM: it may also be correct to say that forms originate from an archetype which dynamically contains all conceivable forms of that general type.

    It is never correct to say that dipteran halteres and flower stamens are homologous structures, Charlie. That is pure and utter nonsense from someone who has obviously never seen either up close

    I never said they were homologous in the same way that vertebrate limbs are homologous. For a start the tissues they are composed of are completely different in the case of insects and plants. But the development of the parts of the adult insect out of the pupal form mirrors the development of the blossom out of the bud. Petals, styles and stamens are variations on a theme in the same way that wings, legs and halteres are variations on a theme.

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  44. CharlieM: Petals, styles and stamens are variations on a theme in the same way that wings, legs and halteres are variations on a theme.

    And what is.that same way? Selected variation. Biologically speaking, what exceptions can you think of. What isn’t selected variation?

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  45. CharlieM: Petals, styles and stamens are variations on a theme in the same way that wings, legs and halteres are variations on a theme.

    Though some species of fly are important pollinators.

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  46. CharlieM: I never said they were homologous in the same way that vertebrate limbs are homologous.

    As a matter of fact, you did:

    In the image below comparing a crane fly and blossom it can be seen how similar the wings and halteres resemble the petals and stamens. This resemblance can be explained by the same archetypal form being used for different purposes in a similar way in which in vertebrates the archetypal limb can be used as a wing or a leg.

    Please don’t turn all Nonlin on me. You clearly stated that both types of resemblance were caused by the usage of the same archetypal form.

    CharlieM: But the development of the parts of the adult insect out of the pupal form mirrors the development of the blossom out of the bud. Petals, styles and stamens are variations on a theme in the same way that wings, legs and halteres are variations on a theme.

    And similarities arise when they happen to draw from the same archetype. That is what you said. But there are homeotic mutations that turn halteres into wings and there are homeotic mutations that turn stamens into petals. Yet there are no mutations that allow a fly to shed pollen from its sides.

    Why does that limitation exist? You already retreated to your “they are different tissue” claim, but why is that a limitation? Tissue differences are merely differences in cellular organization. So I will gleefully point out that this explanation is a score for the “materialist/physicalist” viewpoint you so despise, since it acknowledges that morphological development is limited by the inherent possibilities that the source material offers.

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