Saturday, January 06, 2007

Just don't use the G word

Jeff Vail:Two Mysteries and a Map
Developmental Micro-Biology (a case study in Field Teleology, for lack of a better term): The other fundamental mystery (in my opinion), is the unexplained teleological phenomena at work in our world—that is, the unexplained progress towards an apparent “purpose.” The case study here is human developmental microbiology: when a fertilized egg begins to divide, first into thousands, then millions and billions of cells, some of these cells become one kind, and other become other kinds—facilitating the creation of complex organisms like humans, where the liver is different from the brain from the bones. Where is the master blueprint stored to tell some cells to become a liver (and how to structure something as incredibly complex as a liver) and to tell other cells to become a heart (and how exactly to do that)? Science does not know—they have absolutely no clue. Some suggest that the answer is in our DNA, but the DNA is identical for all the cells, so how do they self-organize into such discrete and complex functions? We don’t know. Some (decidedly “non-scientific” perspectives) suggest that DNA (among other functions) is a “tuner” of sorts to receive instruction from a “galactic field” or some similar concept. Sounds ridiculous—especially to a more scientifically “attuned” mind—but it does no worse than science at explaining the mystery of developmental microbiology. On a grander scale, the mystery of teleological phenomena such as this are all-present. If some force outside the egg/zygote/fetus is responsible for directing development—as many argue and a logical analysis suggests—then what else in our world is similarly influenced? What is the interplay between emergence and teleological phenomana? These are all questions that, for now at least, “science” seems to have no answer for. This shouldn’t be looked on as a failure of science, but rather as a reminder that “science” as a concept is a tool, but not the end-all-be-all of gnosis. There are some things that, by its very method, science cannot explain—and these are increasingly more than just abstract philosophical or theological matters. Increasingly they are critical to advancing our society into new organizational forms, to advancing our consciousness beyond the market-state mentality, to preventing the destruction of our ecosystem, and the other critical tasks of our time.

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