Re: Telomeres, mutation rates and "breakthroughs"

From: phil osborn (
Date: Mon May 08 2000 - 23:12:10 MDT

>From: Damien Broderick <>>Subject: Re:
>Telomeres, mutation rates and "breakthroughs"
>Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 00:40:34 +1000
> >> Koestler wrote about the DNA code being taped over - as with a piano
> >> certain keys taped over - such that only certain potentialities are
> >> expressed. As cells age, however, they tend to drift back toward a
> >> general expression - to become less differentiated, as the "tape" comes
> >> loose at random points, until they conclude that somehow they are not
> >> fulfilling their mission - or the demented version of it that now is
> >> controlling goal.
> >
> >This is Cutler's dysdifferentiation theory (which seems to have been
> >circa 1985). It sounds like Koestler is recycling it (do you have a ref.
>for that?)
>Koestler argued that back in 1964 (!) in his wonderful cross-disciplinary
>book THE ACT OF CREATION. (Recent editions seem to have deleted the second
>half where he advanced ideas about biology and cognitive psychology that
>are now either commonplace and much more developed, or somewhat antiquated
>or even quite dippy.) He was much influenced by Waddington and Bateson.
>[And I, for what it's worth, was much influenced by him, having bought his
>book the moment it came out, yum yum.]

Ah, Thank you. Yes, agreed, some of his ideas - like the others I cited in
my previous email today - were dippy. Some people are like the old
regenerative radio receivers, I suspect. They feed the ideas back in upon
themselves and often push them to the absolute limit of signal, looking for
coherence. Often this works. When you push it too far, however, you get
that same old distortion or even a coherent feedback squeal that only
reflects the inherent harmonics of the receiving system. The signal is
totally lost. It did and does work pretty well up to that limit. All the
crew I cited - Pirsig, Rand, Fuller - etc., were notorious for going off the
deep end at times, oblivious to how silly they appeared. But in order to
find that optimum, when all you have to go on is turning the dial up and
down, you have to accept an occasional feedback problem. If you're
extremely intelligent and self-aware, you can catch it and back down,

This relates to another, deeper epistemological problem actually, which is
discussed at length in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." In a
nutshell: We might have the illusion that we control our thoughts, but the
question then arises, "who is doing the controlling?" If it is something
outside our thoughts, then how is it even knowable, or predictable? If it
is somehow our thoughts themselves, the stream of consciousness controlling
itself, then how can this be possible without self-referential nonsense?
(This could be phrased better, as I'm typing as usual off the top of my
head, but you probably get the idea.)

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