Difficulties hearing obvious subtleties. (Flickr CC image by armincifuentes)

Reluctance to Relent

March 23, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Theory

Physics somehow, somewhere along the line, grew accustomed to behaving in a fully functional fashion while embedded in paradox. That light behaved like both a particle and wave contributed to this unusual space. Then, we discovered that while seeking to know something, using instruments that could provide the answer, we not only influence what we seek to know, making it impossible to know certain things, but the speed of the information of that which we can know becomes instantaneous, which is supposed to be impossible.

Physics has embraced ambiguity. Perhaps the supporting structure of mathematics offering opposite answers has made that possible. What would it take for evolutionary biology to acquire a relativistic perspective, bowing its head to the impossible, integrating with that which seems to deliberately contest reductionist interpretations?

Susan Oyama writes books that lambaste hard core genetic interpretations of evolution. She uncovers the many ways that biological theorists refuse to recognize the paradox that is integral to biology. What was called the nature/nurture debate for several decades has settled down to an understanding that the two are integrated. Nevertheless, practitioners of biology mostly seem incapable of fully realizing this. Most still reflexively offer deep allegiance to the genome as central to development, except when something happens where it is clear that the genome is not central to development. Instead of embracing a paradox, they display a continuing belief in the power of code to explain life, except when it doesn’t work.

A physicist does not default to light being a particle, except when a wave. A physicist accepts that light is both.

How best does a biologist seek solutions to a paradox when a biologist does not accept that a paradox is in play? Or, perhaps better than a solution would be the physicist’s disposition to accept noncomplementary paradigms as both true.

My work is deeply imbedded in the biological paradox that the environment influences the lives of parents in ways that the progeny’s physical and behavioral features are affected, so much affected that the acquired features become heritable. This is paradoxical. Evidence supports Watson and Crick’s Central Dogma that genes control evolutionary outcomes. Yet, there is also evidence that the environment heavily impacts development, with the result of those impacts being passed on to future generations.

Instead of accepting that light is both particle and wave, that the speed of information can exceed the speed of light, evolutionary biologists seem loath to consider that both genetics and Lamarckian principles are in play. It is still provocative to use Lamarck’s name when discussing these issues.

Why the deep reluctance to accept that we are confused?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 6:58 am and is filed under Biology, Theory. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
1 Comment so far

  1. david cox on May 17, 2011 4:20 am


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