Critique of TSW Part 21 The Biological Microcosm

Blog 20141008 

Bill shows a bit of “yesbutitis” as he resists new words that do not fit his world view.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked TSW are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Biological Microcosm

BW: The chapter is a muddle of jargon, with no point except that some processes are analogous to others. That there are equilibrium conditions for both chemicals and species in an environment is a mundane observation.

TSW:  "... the motion called life has changed little since biopoesis."

BW: The change from plant to animal was huge. The change from instinct to sentience, and then to sapience, were enormous modifications to the characteristics of animal life. Are humans just pond scum?

[GB: One can think of all changes as either significant or insignificant. That judgment is purely subjective. It all depends on your emphasis and the story you are trying to tell. After all, according to the Ninth Assumption of Science, relativism, all things have characteristics that make them similar to all other things as well as characteristics that make them dissimilar to all other things. As I was careful to point out in discussing that assumption, one can reason either by analogy or by disparity. In this case, you have chosen disparity, presumably just to pose a disagreement—the sort of “yesbutitis” that afflicts most folks, particularly academics. In the quoted discussion, I was emphasizing similarities, which is what we do when we say “all motions are similar.”]  

TSW:  "All dissimilarities are relative dissimilarities and all similarities are relative similarities."

BW: I don't understand the point. Similarity is a comparison of two things. Of course it's relative. However, that doesn't in any way mitigate the value of identifying or forming distinct identities for things with similar characteristics, on the basis of those comparisons.

[GB: Sorry, but there are no identities. Those only exist in the mind of the idealist. Reread my section on classification.]

TSW:  "The imagined absolute disconnection between the physicochemical and biological models is widely and uncritically accepted today."

BW: What "absolute disconnection"? Have you ever heard of something called a pharmaceutical company? I've never heard of any biologist that didn't depend heavily on chemical processes to study and characterize biological processes. I don't see any disconnection whatever.

[GB: This goes back to our discussion of neo-Darwinism, the mechanism of evolution that requires genes for its operation. At the time, you thought that univironmental determinism was redundant and unnecessary even though abiogenesis or “biogenesis” (the transformation of inorganic chemicals into living organisms) cannot possibly be explained by neo-Darwinism because there are no genes involved during the early stages.]

TSW:  "... that organisms, like all other microcosms, respond equally to what is inside them and to what is outside them."

BW: An artificial construct. If you define boundary conditions, the internal and external influences are never equal.

[GB: False. Remember that a cause can involve an absence just as much as a presence. Newton’s object does not travel in a straight line unless there is “nothing” or at least very little in the way to stop it.]

TSW:  "All microcosms have a univironmental boundary, the place where the macrocosm exerts its influence ..."

BW: This is like saying "distinct parts of a distinct thing influence other distinct parts of a distinct thing". It's just a bunch of words strung together that contain no information beyond "things interact."

[GB: You missed the point. The “other distinct parts” are not parts of “a distinct thing.” They are parts of the macrocosm, otherwise known as the environment.]

TSW:  "Biological and chemical 'refugia' have many important dissimilarities."

BW: The ONLY similarity is analogical: chemicals change configurations when exposed to other chemicals and species change in response to changing environments. The analogy of one to the other doesn't provide us with any new information or better knowledge of either one.

[GB: This was simply contextual. Both types of refugia have many similar properties as well as many properties that are dissimilar. Reread the discussion.]

TSW:  "The universe consists of two parts: microcosm and macrocosm ...

BW: The universe is ALL things. Nature doesn't divide them into two parts, ever. Conceptualization requires that we identify the natural boundaries of distinct things, based on their characteristics. That's the only way that we acquire knowledge of how nature produces those things and how those things interact with other things. There is no "dialectic" in nature. Artificial "divisions" into two parts teaches us nothing about how nature works.

[GB: False. Nature may be “all things,” but it also has an infinity of divisions. One can always take any one of those xyz portions of the universe and observe its interactions with the rest of the universe. Your last four sentences contradict each other: “identify boundaries of distinct things” and “artificial ‘divisions’ into two parts teaches us nothing.” Which is it?

Next: The Human Microcosm

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