Saturday, 11 June 2011

Chance and Necessity - Jacques Monod I

In the book he makes arguments for distinguishing signs of life from crystalline growth and other ways of creating order. A simpler approach is that of Lotka who said it was just a matter of definition and avoided the question all together. This is based on the idea of Paley and the watch-maker, showing that there must be design,

The cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective. In other words, the systematic denial that "true" knowledge can be got at by interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes - that is to say, of "purpose" ...

Objectivity nevertheless obliges us to recognize the telenomic character of living organisms, to admit that in their structure and performance they act projectively - realize and pursue a purpose. p21-22.
Is this true? Do we need purpose? It is indirect because selection requires the purpose of being able to deal with the environment.
that invariance necessarily precedes teleonomy. Or, to be more explicit the Darwinian idea that the initial appearance, evolution, and steady refinement of ever more teleonomic structures are due to perturbations occurring in a structure which already possesses the property of invariance - hence is capable of preserving the effects of chance and thereby submitting them to the play of natural selection. p23-24.
This is the point that the genome is separate and "invariant" as in it allows the random changes to be passed between generations. But this also echoes the ideas of Claude Bernard and that complex organisms carry their environment around with them and so are more robust to environmental changes. He accuses Elsasser and Polanyi of scientific vitalism which is unfair.Teilhard de Chardin is intellectually spineless (this is the use of the personal fallacy - attack the person and not the idea). Teilhard has evolution act on all components not just living things. This agrees with Lotka's definition of evolution but there is a genotype in living things.

Living things are robust, plastic and evolvable. So they have a balance between  a defined shape/function and flexibility. They respond to the environment, yet they are separable pools of information. They are homeostatic but not closed.

We know however (contrary to what Laplace believed, and after him the science and "materialist" philosophy of the 19th century) that these predictions could be no more than statistical.
In a general manner the theory would anticipate the existence, the properties, the interrelations of  certain classes of objects or events, but would obviously not be able to foresee the existence or the distinctive character of any particular object or event. p43.
This is the point about biology being a phenomenological subject and that it might not have an fundamental predictive laws.
Plainly enough, the functional coherence of so complex a chemical machine, which is autonomous as well calls for a cybernetic system governing and controlling the chemical activity at numerous points. p45.
This specificity is two-fold:
  1. Each enzyme catalyses but one type of reaction.
  2. Among the sometimes very numerous compounds in the organism susceptible of undergoing that type of reaction, the enzyme, as a general rule, is active in regard to only one.
Nonsense - they are not so specific and there is a lot of kinetic control.

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