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Re: Essentialism and such (was a bunch of previous subject lines)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl" <Carl@dondwiggins.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 28, 2006 5:12 PM

In "Form and Transformation: Generative and Relational Principles in
Biology" Gerry Webster writes:

"...the position adopted in this book is that the causal mechanism
responsible for the production of empirical morphologies is that
structure of the organism referred to in the classical literature as the
morphogenetic field.  I have also suggested that morphogenetic fields
should be regarded as putative natural kinds.  From this perspective,
the theory... is a Theory of Field Structure and, as Goodwin will
explain, the embryological and genetic transformations... should be
understood as field transformations. [...]"

This sounds like a philosopher writing in clouded ways about Sheldrake's "morphogenetic field". (The mention of "classical literature" clearly argues against this, but what literature is there that uses that term? ~:-| )

Now, Sheldrake's morphogenetic field is an entirely superfluous speculation. Developmentary genetics shows that genes alone can easily explain all of development -- embryogenesis, as well as regeneration which Sheldrake found so deeply mysterious --, so there's simply no need for that extra idea. By 1996 the good man should have known this full well (as any "Introduction into Developmentary Biology" lecture should have taught him), so I declare him guilty of mistaking ignorance for knowledge -- the original sin of pseudoscience -- and start getting my holy wrath. :-)

"[...] Thus, insofar as any set of
specifically different empirical forms or patterns can be understood as
being produced by the same generative mechanism in this sense, that set
can be conceived as comprising a single kind.  From this perspective,
kinds are theoretically significant kinds, that is, natural kinds.

I have suggested that, despite all the difficulties traditionally
associated with it, the Linnaean hierarchy should be regarded as
representing some aspects of a real natural order, albeit approximately
and schematically..."

So, each Linnaean taxon (ideally) reflects one such "natural kind", and therefore Linnaean nomenclature has some advantage over other nomenclature systems? That strikes me as a leap of faith -- even if the existence of the morphogenetic field is preassumed.