mind/soul (blueprint??))

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Sun Nov 1 11:59:44 EST 1998

F. Frank LeFever wrote in message <71gkgt$ibc at sjx-ixn6.ix.netcom.com>...
>In <71cqlh$gol at ux.cs.niu.edu> rickert at cs.niu.edu (Neil Rickert) writes:
>>The DNA does not construct either the pancreas or the brain.  DNA is
>>a set of specifications for making proteins.  A blueprint does not
>>construct a house or anything else, but carpenters and bricklayers
>>may use the blueprint in carrying out their construction.  DNA
>>doesn't construct anything.  The machinery of the living cell
>>constructs, and uses the DNA in the construction.
>I suspect that Ray understands what you are TRYING to say, better than
>you do yourself.  Certainly, I do.
>Homunculus reinvented?  The little-man-in-the-cell "using" a blueprint
>while IT ("he") constructs more cells and eventually a person?
>Poor metaphore.  How about this one (it has its own flaws, but at least
>it is different): is the cell like a computer "using"  DNA like a
>program? or is the program "using" the computer?  (Not QUITE the same
>question as "is a chicken an egg's way of making another egg?", but
>reminds me of it...)

As a professor of computer science, Neil may enjoy your computer story but I
doubt it. It is too close to the notion that the software is the mind and
the computer the brain.

>None of these metaphores does justice to the complexity and elegance of
>the process.  At each stage, the organism is the outcome of an
>interaction between the organism's elements within its internal
>environment (including its DNA) and between it and its external
>environment.  The DNA remains (relatively?) stable and unchanged
>throughout all these interactions, but of course which portions of its
>information are acting on ITS environment (or is being "accessed" by
>it) changes froom moment to moment.

"complexity and elegance" I am re-reading The Neuron, Levitan and
Kaczmarek,--how true this is.

Why are we drawn to DNA, the "Great Man" theory of history, possibly?
Certainly, of all the molecules in the cell DNA stands out in its
complexity. The worker ant molecules do their thing but they are mostly
faceless and live only temporarily, I feel happier with DNA when I
contemplate life. The notion of the cell as merely providing the homeostasis
needed for the reproduction of DNA intrigues me. (I know--which came first,
the cell or the DNA. Whoo Boy!)

>re relative amount of influence: the question makes as much sense as
>asking which contributes more to the area of a rectangle--the height or
>the width? (not ooriginal; forget who said it first--Hebb??? about that

Let us not forget the many men (and women) who fought and bled, and are
fighting and bleeding, over this question. We must all live together
somehow. I am reminded of my son, age five, telling me, (he now chairs an
humanities department) "Some people live in houses made of straw and some
people live in houses made of sticks. But it is all right because we are all
members of the World Community." He picked up this nugget on early TV (West
Coast) when all broadcasts were live.


>Bottom line: no substitute for the painstaking moment by moment
>analysis of develomental interactions.  Those who undertake this
>analysis are not the strawmen Rickert imagines.

These are my sentiments, exactly. But it takes a strong man to remember that
both molecular biologists and sociologists are members of the World

>(Bytheway: just what IS his point, anyway? In 50 words or less.)

Possibly politics. He is much taken by Rose (and Lewontin?), Marxists both.
(Please, Please! I have absolutely nothing against Marxism, however DNA is a
dirty word to some.)

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

N.B. For those too young to remember those early live broadcasts, I once
watched a complete open heart procedure broadcast live in San Francisco. The
camera was looking down into the chest cavity and I remember being startled
as the lungs suddenly stopped pumping air as a machine took over the
oxygenation of the blood.

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