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Scoop Feedback: More on self-organization of life

Scoop Feedback: ‘More on self-organization of life’

This feedback is in response to the Altenberg Series by Suzan Mazur. The most recent episode was entitled ’Stuart Newman Video Interview: Evolution Politics’.

Dear Ms. Mazur:

I am a graduate student in the History and Philosophy of Science. I am writing my dissertation on the concept of teleology in biology, and in the course of my research I have become intrigued, like you, with self-organization theory.

I am writing partly to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your reporting on the Altenberg 16 conference, and especially your interviews with some of the principals. I am very much encouraged that this important work is finally coming to the attention of the general educated public. We who are professionally concerned with the conceptual foundations of evolutionary theory have reason to be grateful to you.

But the main reason I am writing is to ask whether you are aware of some other work, which I consider to be as important as that of the Altenberg group, if not more so.

First, there are a number of alternative models of self-organization (i.e., macroscopic physical organizing principles), based on the formalism of nonlinear dynamics. One might mention here the work of the recently deceased French mathematician, Rene Thom. Mainly, though, I wanted to draw your attention to what I take to be the very important theory of "homeodynamics" developed by F. Eugene Yates, of the UCLA Medical School.

Second, there is an entirely different approach to self-organization based, not on nonlinear dynamics, but on quantum field theory. The idea here is that the massive coherence and coordination of the physical processes sustaining all life at the cellular level may be an expression of quantum-field theoretic collective phenomena. The authors I have principally in mind writers in this connection are Gerald H. Pollack, Mae-Wan Ho, and Giuseppe Vitiello.

I won't burden you with more names for now; I just wanted to point out that the undermining of the conceptual foundations of neo-Darwinism goes much deeper than is reflected by the Altenberg group, important as they are.

If you would be interested in following up on any of this work, I would be delighted to provide you with references.

At any rate, thanks again for your wonderful reporting on the true situation in contemporary evolutionary theory. Neo-Darwinism is like a dam that is springing more and more leaks. Its defenders may continue to stick their fingers in the cracks, but I don't think it can be much longer before the whole edifice comes crashing down.

Best regards,

James Barham


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