Home » Darwinism, Evolution » How much of the body plans of organisms can be explained by laws of form, not Darwinism or design?

How much of the body plans of organisms can be explained by laws of form, not Darwinism or design?

Quite a bit, say Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, in What Darwin Got Wrong.

They offer an interesting example, the ‘fourth dimension’ of living systems,

The body masses of living organisms vary between 10^-13 grams (bacteria) to 10^8 grams (whales), that is, by 21 orders of magnitude. It’s interesting to see how other physico-chemical and biological properties and processes, and their ratios, scale with mass. How, for instance, surfaces and internal rates of transport, rates of cellular metabolism, whole organism metabolic rate, heartbeat, blood circulation, time and overall lifespan scale with mass. Thee are, of course, all three-dimensional systems, so it seems astounding that all the scaling factors, encompassing microorganisms, plants and animals, are multiples of a quarter, not a third. ^16

Physicists and biologists at Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque institutes attribute the “fourth dimension” to the fractal-like architecture of the organisms’ vascular networks. The guiding criteria, they found, was “the maximization of the inner and outer exchange surfaces, while minimizing distances of internal transport (thus maximizing the rates of transport).” They quote West et al. (1999),

“Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.

They comment,

In the words of these authors, natural selection has exploited variations on this fractal theme to produce the incredible variety of biological form and function’, but there were severe geometric and physical constraints on metabolic processes.’

The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection. It’s inconceivable that so many different organisms, spanning different kingdoms and phyla, may have blindly ‘tried’ all sorts of power laws and that only those that have by chance ‘discovered’ the one-quarter power law reproduced and thrived.

Of course, the Darwinist puts questions like down to an entirely misguided reason for doubting Darwin, that their theory sounds unbelievable and  doesn’t add up. Richard Dawkins might say of Fodor, as he has of Mike Behe, that it is Fodor’s job to get back to work and show how Darwinism indeed accomplishes this feat.

On the other hand, Fodor could be on to something.

Thoughts?

Note 1: Quotations from Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79.

Note 2: The image of Jerry Fodor is from Wikimedia Commons.

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20 Responses to How much of the body plans of organisms can be explained by laws of form, not Darwinism or design?

  1. How interesting indeed Ms. O’Leary, definitely tucking this note away for future reflection,,, yet the last time I suggested that God could very well have a fairly direct hand in body-plan formation, due to the fact that nobody really has a firm grasp on where the higher levels of epigentic information reside, I was met some fairly bemused, and disbelieving, responses. Yet since space-time itself is 4-D in its construct (i.e. all 3-D points of the universe are expanding equally as to centrality of the expansion of the universe), and since universal quantum wave collapse of photons does indeed focus on each unique point of ‘observation’ in the universe, then the mechanism is definitely in place for God to have a ‘higher dimensional’ hand in body-plan formation. Yet even if God is found not to have such a direct hand in body plan formation, the basic 4-D construct of the space-time of the universe itself does indeed lend itself to the ‘higher dimensional’ quarter power scaling revealed in this work and that would naturally flow from a 4-D space-time perspective. It definitely does not lend itself to ‘archaic’ 3-D materialism, and as you alluded to Ms. O’Leary, definitely is inexplicable to the chaos of scaling we would rightfully expect from a Darwinian framework:

  2. I’ve heard of these “laws of form” before, but hopefully someone can better explain Fodor’s contention to me here.

    Is it that certain results in evolution (assuming macroevolution and such, of course) are predetermined by such ‘laws’, such that natural selection is going to keep right on finding the same things, therefore it’s improper to say that ‘natural selection’ is the reason for the quarter-power scaling laws? But Fodor seems to be saying that it’s inconceivable that NS ‘tried’ all the other types of scales and then ‘found’ said law, so…

  3. I’ll have a go at a Darwinian explanation. Natural selection ensures that the fittest survive. The fittest are those organisms which maximize vascular exchange while minimizing transport difference. That this is a fourth-power law is simply a physical truism, just as weight scales with the third power of body size. In other words, natural selection just naturally produces the 4th power law effect. Nothing too hard compared with the normal feats of evolution.

    Next?

  4. It’s beautiful, really: “Survival of the Fittest”. We look around, and anything we see, well it obviously has survived, and amazingly, no matter what we measure, it seems to be the fittest possible thing. Q.E.D. It’s so simple, like Occam’s razor, but it covers everything. There you have it. Beauty. Simplicity. All-encompassing. Science is amazing.

  5. Hmmm…can’t say I fully understand their point, but it seems to me that from the beginning, life would need to conform to the fourth power scaling law, and any new mutated life forms, would go along with it.

  6. In this video Dr. Bradley speaks of the laws of math that govern the universe being ‘set up’ to ‘just so happen’ to allow a 3 dimensional ‘material’ reality to exist that is conducive to life:

    The Underlying Mathematical Foundation Of Nature -Walter Bradley – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491491/

    Yet I believe that Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini are rightly surprised to find that body-plans are not conforming to such a 3-D ‘materialistic’ foundation. What I think Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini fail to realize is that this ‘higher dimensional’ 4-D power scaling, that body plans are conformed to, is a fairly strong indication that the foundation of ‘life’ itself does not arise from a 3-dimensional material basis, i.e. it seems to strongly support the contention that ‘life’ is dependent on a ‘higher dimensional’ foundation (God) for its existence:

    notes:

    This following video is excellent for highlighting the different perspectives that Theism and Materialism have on classifying ‘life’:

    The Mystery Of Life – God’s Creation & Providence – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4193364

  7. I think it is simpler to say:

    ‘We should not expect such ’4 dimensional’ power scaling for life if life had accidentally ‘emerged’ from a 3-dimensional basis as Darwinists dogmatically contend, but should rightly expect such ‘higher dimensional’ scaling if life is ultimately dependent on a higher dimensional Being (God) as the Theist contends.

  8. SCheesman:

    :

    I’ll have a go at a Darwinian explanation. Natural selection ensures that the fittest survive. The fittest are those organisms which maximize vascular exchange while minimizing transport difference. That this is a fourth-power law is simply a physical truism, just as weight scales with the third power of body size. In other words, natural selection just naturally produces the 4th power law effect. Nothing too hard compared with the normal feats of evolution.

    Next?
    =====

    So in simpler terms your faith in the old time religion is still intact. Got it!
    —–

    On another note looking at many of the reviews by the so-called experts on this book, “What Darwin Got Wrong”, though the reviewers acknowledge the gentlemen Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini are indeed “Evolutionists”, they seem to be demonized by the Darinian Ecclesiastical Hierarchies for being heretics if nothing else. I guess even evolution has it’s own various religious denominations. Orthodoxy being pure classical Darwinian defenders and anything other than that given a sort of Protestant labling or signage.

  9. Eocene1,

    I’m sure it was a typo, but I think we should use the term Darinian from now on.

  10. Eocene:

    So in simpler terms your faith in the old time religion is still intact. Got it!

    Just to be clear, I was being mildly sarcastic… I don’t think the 4th dimension of biology will keep Darwinian defenders up at night — I actually do expect that this aspect of biology is a consequence of the requirement of mathematics and physics and might actually provide a “fitness gradient”, but count me in as sceptical of the true powers of RM & NS to accomplish that goal.

    In fact, it strikes me as somewhat analagous to how the Fibonacci Series inserts itself with surprising frequency into our physical world. Is it design? Or does it just “fall out” of the way more fundamental natural laws are set up? I tend to lean to the second option.

  11. I’m not sure what O’Leary is trying imply here. Surely the ratios being discussed are developmental rather than genetic. That is, they arise during biological development and are not explicitly coded for in the DNA. At least that would be my best guess (as a non-biologist). I have not read the book (“FAPP” appears to be the blogosphere acronym for the book and its authors), but perhaps FAPP just mean what I have suggested about it being developmental. On the other hand, the expression “laws of form” seems to suggest something else.

  12. SC:

    And, too often emptily tautological.

    The fittest survive.

    Why, because they are the fittest.

    And, how do we know that?

    They survived.

    GEM of TKI

  13. Neil Rickert:

    I’m not sure what O’Leary is trying [to] imply here.

    Your uncertainty is because she wasn’t really trying to imply anything. It was more just something interesting tossed out for discussion.

  14. This four dimensional scaling for living systems is something we should expect from a Intelligent Design perspective since we hold that ‘transcendent information’ is more foundational to life than either matter or energy is as opposed to the Darwinian framework which holds that information, and indeed even life itself, is merely an emergent property of the material realm:

    notes:

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH
    Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/p.....038;jID=19

    ‘The information content of a simple cell had been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    of note: The 10^12 bits of information number for a bacterium is derived from entropic considerations, which is, due to the tightly integrated relationship between information and entropy, considered the most accurate measure of the transcendent information present in a ‘simple’ life form. For calculations please see the following site:

    Molecular Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy:
    http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~a.....ecular.htm

    Information? What Is It Really? Professor Andy McIntosh – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4739025

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    Getting Over the Code Delusion (Epigenetics) – Talbot – November 2010 – Excellent Article for explaining exactly why epigentics falsifies the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic reductionism:
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....e-delusion

    Stephen Meyer on Craig Venter, Complexity Of The Cell & Layered Information
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4798685

    Also of interest is that a cell apparently seems to be successfully designed along the very stringent guidelines laid out by Landauer’s principle of ‘reversible computation’ in order to achieve such amazing energy efficiency, something man has yet to accomplish in any meaningful way for computers:

    Notes on Landauer’s principle, reversible computation, and Maxwell’s Demon – Charles H. Bennett
    Excerpt: Of course, in practice, almost all data processing is done on macroscopic apparatus, dissipating macroscopic amounts of energy far in excess of what would be required by Landauer’s principle. Nevertheless, some stages of biomolecular information processing, such as transcription of DNA to RNA, appear to be accomplished by chemical reactions that are reversible not only in principle but in practice.,,,,
    http://www.hep.princeton.edu/~.....501_03.pdf

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) — Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport.
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

  15. Scheeseman,

    Is it design? Or does it just “fall out” of the way more fundamental natural laws are set up? I tend to lean to the second option.

    See, I happen to wonder if those two options are distinct.

    Though I hesitantly suspect FAPP’s point here may be that if it’s the latter, it’s not “natural selection” doing it. Rather akin to their explanation of “why pigs can’t fly” – they see it not as some consequence of natural selection, but because wings and flight require a drastically different body plan from that of a pig. To say pig wings ‘have not been selected for’ is, if I take them right, to miss the point.

  16. OT: ID The Future has this new podcast:

    Michael Behe: Challenging Darwin, One Peer-Reviewed Paper at a Time
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_46-08_00

  17. As a YEC I have pondered whether laws of nature or form have been overthrown by chance Darwinism .
    All I see in nature is logic in form, function, and smaller details of the bodies. I see bright colours for creatures of deadly poison whether bees, snakes, skunks. I see radar for different creatures. Everywhere there is order in conclusions about what creatures need. No chaos as evolution says there should be in results.
    It seems simply the Newton or Einstein of biology has not come forth yet. Biological origins and changes is still unknown as mechanism.
    Darwin was wrong. Nature has laws like in physics after all. Just more complicated.

  18. OT:

    Quantum Entanglement and Teleportation – Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5705317/

  19. 90GB of data stored in 1g of bacteria
    http://www.bluesci.org/?p=632

    notes:

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-89………4

    of note: The 10^12 bits of information number for a bacterium is derived from entropic considerations, which is, due to the tightly integrated relationship between information and entropy, considered the most accurate measure of the transcendent information present in a ‘simple’ life form. For calculations please see the following site:

    Molecular Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy:
    http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~a.....ecular.htm

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH
    Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/journals.asp?iid=47

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.” Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/16037/

    Though Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini rightly find it inexplicable for ‘random’ Natural Selection to be the rational explanation for the scaling of the physiology, and anatomy, of living things to four-dimensional parameters, they do not seem to fully realize the implications this ‘four dimensional scaling’ of living things presents. This 4-D scaling is something we should rightly expect from a Intelligent Design perspective. This is because Intelligent Design holds that ‘higher dimensional transcendent information’ is more foundational to life, and even to the universe itself, than either matter or energy are. This higher dimensional ‘expectation’ for life, from a Intelligent Design perspective, is directly opposed to the expectation of the Darwinian framework, which holds that information, and indeed even the essence of life itself, is merely an ‘emergent’ property of the 3-D material realm.

  20. The love of resistance is a religious faculty, and this is causing problems for both Fodor and Chomsky.

    There are roughly two kinds of philosophers: those create constructs of value, and those who are unhappy with those constructs and try to undo them (call them “lovers of resistance”). Constructs come in two colors. There are empirical constructs that attempt to describe being in concrete physical terms (Bacon, Newton, Locke), and then there are the constructs of synthetic philosophy, which is interested in the good of happiness, usually described as a ratio of reciprocal causes (Aristotle, Kant, Hegel).

    Being, however, is complicated and elusive, whether sensuous or philosophical. No construct has yet been described that seems entirely satisfactory, which leaves plenty of room for the lovers of resistance. They include Plato, with his antipathy to Sophists and any description of being that commingles intellect and sense; Descartes, who resisted Scholasticism and its fanciful metaphysics; Hume, who resisted the determinism of Newton and Locke; and Nietzsche, who succeeded in negating the Absolute Idea.

    With the exception of the last, all of these philosophers considered intellect to be of divine origin and justified their resistance by claiming that it reflected the difference between Divine Mind and matter. This claim implies a religious faculty in the mind, or the “soul,” which appears to be so constituted that it cannot fully accept any account of being that blends matter and intellect, causes and effects.

    The great appeal of the lovers of resistance down through the ages has been their ability to strike fire. Resistance is full of passion and turbulence, facilitating poetry as well as prophecy. Lovers of resistance are generally more fun to read than the metaphysical philosophers, those tedious spinners of definition and fine shade of difference. They are the rebels. They don’t go along with the status quo. They question authority, which endears them to us wherever authority is pale or bankrupt. And their resistance makes them “playful,” like Socrates, a quality that endears them to the child in us all.

    The enduring value of resistance suggests something fundamental to the human mind. There seems to be a fiery, restless quality in intellect that is incapable of being quieted by our own descriptions of being. Resistance is a fact of human existence, as certain as any adduced by science. Empiricism describes the mind as a blank state, but the inability of science to overcome the force of resistance found in the mind indicates that certain mental faculties are built-in.

    With Hume, a new and strange kind of resistance came into being, which is called “empiricism” but is far from the thing as it is commonly known. Empiricism traditionally attempts to describe objects in nature and solid, observable phenomena; in contrast, the new “empiricism” claimed to be capable of disclosing the architecture of the mind and its thoughts, which do not have any physical properties and cannot be measured by space or time.

    But what we find at the bottom of this “empiricism” is in fact resistance. First and most prominently, it is Hume’s insistent resistance to the relation between cause and effect that is at the basis of traditional empiricism. Second, it is his stout resistance to metaphysics; his insistence that every idea produced by those airy schools of thought be dragged into the courtroom of philosophy and forced to demonstrate an exact correspondence to some “impression” of sensuous reality.

    This resistance suits Hume well. He seems to have been an intensely religious man in his own way—or at least he was free with religious language and clung to the old belief in the divine nature of mind. This is natural, since his cultural given was Christendom, and since man had not yet become bold enough to embrace a radical break with God. He was not forced to confront the consequences of his own skepticism or his eagerness to turn the critical powers of the mind inward upon itself.

    Hume’s religion did not survive Darwin and Nihilism among modern philosophers, but his religious sensibility—his resistance to the limitations of constructs of being and longing for freedom and play—continues on as strong as ever. If we sever the phenomenon of resistance from the social forms of religion that served as its platform in the past, what seems to be left over is a religious faculty of the mind itself, so designed as to resist the limitations of its own constructs of being.

    For reasons that are opaque to science, mind continues to be drawn to resistance even after the link between resistance and transcendent being has been broken. This suggests that resistance is a property of mind itself. Chomsky and Fodor, both self-proclaimed atheists, continue to resist the empiricism of the behaviorists and Darwinists for the simple reason that they cannot help themselves. They are unhappy with those constructs, and their happiness manifests itself as resistance.

    In both cases this resistance seems linked to a passionate character. Indeed, Chomsky wrote an essay called “Resistance” and is famous for his passionate opposition to what he regards as the corruptions of capitalism. Throughout his non-technical writings there is an undercurrent of passion and warmth that is conspicuously missing from empiricists, who must affect dispassion in order to seem objective.

    With Fodor, this passion seems to be taking on new and uncharted directions. His antipathy to the cold-blooded reductionism of Pinker and Evo Psych is steering him into the path of unreason, or a disjunction between the worldview he claims to espouse and the passionate nature of his resistance. If it is true that “God is dead,” then all of being is composed of matter. Passion and resistance are meaningless if matter and its laws are all that exists.

    But this is just what Fodor seems increasingly unable to accept. As he himself admits, he is in a state of transformation. He began by touting the “massive modularity” and “nativism” proposed by Chomsky but almost seems willing to abandon them, since they have been co-opted by the Neo-Darwinists. Now he can be found using terms like “mystery” to describe the operations of the mind, but a “mystery” is a negation of the power of science.

    Foror’s recent writings make us think of a powerful, sleek little steam engine that is headed for a turn round the Christmas tree but going too fast to stay on the tracks. He finds, perhaps to his own chagrin, that he cannot remain on the narrow, single-minded track established by Darwinism because there is something he passionately wants. He is out of right-reason, by the light of modern materialism, as seen in the responses of his detractors.

    But perhaps he doesn’t care. Perhaps he is willing to jump the tracks for the sake of his love for his friend or his children, as he himself states. There is something in him that cannot allow these great and generous feelings, the source of all real joy and pleasure in life, to be trivialized by blue-stocking in their strident attacks on human nature. Resistance may be leading to something new after all.

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