Today and tomorrow are Rosh Chodesh, inaugurating a new month in the Hebrew calendar — the lunar month of Iyar.
Consider the Hox “master” genes that determine the spatial configuration of the front and back ends of creatures as diverse as frogs, mice, and humans. The Swiss biologist Walter Gehring showed that “the same ‘master’ genes mastermind the three-dimensional structures of all living things….The same master genes that cause a fly to have the form of a fly cause a mouse to have the form of a mouse.” Stephen Jay Gould admitted the “explicitly unexpected character” of this discovery.
Unexpected is right. The physically encoded information needed to form that mouse, as opposed to that fly, isn’t there. Instead, “It is as if the ‘idea’ of the fly (or any other organism) must somehow permeate the genome that gives rise to it.”
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake puts a little differently, hypothesizing “the existence of some ‘field’ by which an organism knows itself, and its parts, in their entirety.” But neo-Darwinism’s proposed mechanism of evolution can only, even in theory, affect a physical entity — the genome. How could it produce an “idea” or a “field”?
Same goes for the brain. Again, physical explanations of how it gives rise to the mind consistently explode upon takeoff. The brain is no computer, where every operation can be traced to physically describable events: “Neither the findings of the PET scanner nor Professor [Eric] Kandel’s scientific explanations can begin to account for the power of memory to retain…visual images over decades and retrieve them at will, any more than they can account for remembering the words of a familiar hymn or recalling a telephone number.”
That’s just for starters. The brain-computer analogy utterly fails to clarify how “just a few thousand genes might instruct the arrangement of those billions of neurons with their ‘hardwired’ faculties of language and mathematics.”
Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), who served as director of Paris’s Musee d’Histoire Naturelle, held that there was an unknown biological “formative impulse,” an organizational principle of some kind, that directed the formation of diverse kinds of life.