Electrochemistry/epiphenomenalism vs. electricity/ionic channels and the clinical irrelevance of modern neurology

grokelly at delphi.com grokelly at delphi.com
Sat Jan 28 21:32:06 EST 1995

	I would like to make available once again for comment and 
consideration a paper which addresses the issue of mistaken and 
incomplete notions of what electricity is, said notions being the 
foundation of the ionic channel school's account of neuron 
functioning and nerve impulse propagation.  For various reasons 
some who requested this paper in the past could not receive it due to 
some e-mail inadequacy in the system.  Their addresses appear 
below.  If they still want the paper they can request it once again.
	The paper discusses the inadequacies of the ionic channel 
school as presented by Bertil Hille et alii.  It points out that the 
favored definitions for electricity (the net movement or flow of 
electrical charge, or, pace Hille, 'charges of opposite sign are 
separated or can move independently') are based on 19th century 
treatments of electricity as a fluid, but still fail to account for a 
phenomenon noticed in the early 19th century with regard to 
electricity, that of induced magnetic fields.  The paper discusses 
how flimsy definitions of electricity are relied upon by the ionic 
channel school in order to allow for the possibility of proton or 
molecular electricity, ion currents, and to allow for the use of 
Nernst's 19th century, thermodynamic equations which express in 
volts the difference in order/entropy between two concentrations of 
a single ion.
	The paper points out that in Hille's 'classical biophysics' 
"Membrane biophysicists seek to explain these rules of cellular 
response in terms of physical chemistry and electricity."  But the 
'biophysical method' "...is austere on the chemical side, however, as 
it cares less about the chemistry of the structures involved than 
about the dynamic and equilibrium properties they exhibit."  So the 
ionic channel school of nerve impulse propagation has risen to 
dominance in orthodox neurology not because of theoretical 
superiority, indeed it is austere in chemistry and dependent upon 
archaic definitions of electricity;  the ionic channel school has 
ascended because of the complicity of the Nobel Prize committee 
which set itself up in 1924 and 1963 as the arbiters of truth with 
regard to the nature of bioelectricity.  So today the world has prize 
winning neuroscience that leads to nothing clinically, and the 
unwitting public is assured of its veracity because of its prize 
winning character even if it hobbles the clincal neurologist.
	The paper presents one possible 'epiphenomenalist' (Hille's 
term) explanation for the readings gained by the ionic channel 
neuroscientist.  This explanation stresses electrochemistry rather 
than electricity as the motive force of nerve impulse propagation, 
and contends that biophysics should be every bit as up to date with 
physics as chemistry is, no matter how austere that chemistry is.
	The theoretical explanation presented is embedded in a 
discussion of the claims of Ernst Mayr that biology is scientific, and 
how certain ideas of Mayr's with regard to the non-existence of 
systemic changes are not at all 'scientific' in Mayr's definition of 
the term.  The paper points out how Mayr's definition of science, 
however incorrect and irrelevant it is, is not even measured up to by 
his own pronouncements upon the pace of genetic change and the 
fossil record which smack more of 'religion' as he defines it.
	The paper is 55 pages in length and available on request in the 
standard e-mail format which, unfortunately, eliminates italics, 
superscripts, underlining, font size changes, etc. as if a manual 
typewriter were its source.  It is also available in binhexed form by 
special request, preserving these embellishments.  Respond to 
IN%"grokelly at delphi.com"  
I could not reach:  IN%"ecm.sf at darwin.clas.virginia.edu";  
In%"Beltrame at um.cnuce.cnr.it";  and 
In%"kmuldrew at mccaig.ucalgary.ca"  in the past.

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