Dialectical Biologist - Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin

Dialectical Biologist - Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin...

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Unformatted text preview: Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law. Printing note: If you do not want to print this page, select pages 2 to the end on the print dialog screen. THE I DIALECTECAL BIOLOGIST Richard Levins and Richard Lewon’rin ‘ Harvard University Press Cambridge, MaSSachusetts, and London, England 1985 SElF-NIIES: like other intellectuals, cantata shsir...n9rlr.iritttangrld a set of preconceptions that provides the framework for their analysis of the world. These preconceptions enter at both an explicit and an implicit levei, but are wheat“?9.15s?....saritsitirtssstssaned and, unexpressed assumptions on r iemthem. The attempt to analyze evolution-as-anminteraction between internal genetic causes and external environmental causes makes the distinction between organism and en- vironment explicit. Yet underlying that distinction is the unexamined and implicit principle that organism and environment are indeed sepa— ' rate systems with their own autonomous properties. too harssurqws terrestrial..prsssncertiess- If we differ from most scientists, it is in our deliberateattempt:tolinalt’ethese preconcep— tions explicitwherewegan. The earlienrichapters in this boolt wété'ttta- ten largely from a Marxist perspective. They reflect the conflict be- tween the materialist dialectics of our conscious commitmentand the meshanimic... resustipaist;Iafid'fissitirist one; that dbminafed"6ur academic education and that pervades our intellectual environment. We have nowhere, however, attempted to define the dialectical method or set forth its principles in an explicit list. These chapters were not based on some clearly enumerated list of “dialectical principles.” Rath~ er, they reflect certain habits of thought, certain forms of questioning that we identify as dialectical. Nevertheless, it seems necessary, in order to pursue the intellectual program of this coliection, to attempt some ' explicit discussion of this way of thinking. Formalizations of the dialectic have a way of seeming rigid and dog matic in a way that contradicts the fluidity and historicity of the Marx— ist world view. This is especially the case when it is set out as “laws,” by analogy with the laws of natural science. Yet most scientific laws estab- lish quantitative relations among variables and serve as a basis for pre- 268 CONCLUSlON diction. The “laws” of dialectics are clearly not analogous to, say, Ein— stein’s equation e m mc’, but rather are analogous to prior principles, the constancy of the speed of light in all inertial frames, and the conser- vation of momentum. Perhaps the principles of dialectics are analo- gsxus “t9, Darwinis .princiriléi'fiffréfiafibh ..hs1"ilaiiilily;fifld. 'Sélébtidillln tha they create the terms whichquantitigationsmand .. " second reason for our reluctance to formulate the dialectic in terms of laws is that it creates the illusion that dialectics are rules cle— rived simply from nature. They are not. A dialectical view of dialectics”; would emphasize that the principles and vocabulary taken over fromi f philosophers have been transformed and invoked polemically in oppo- sition to, as a negation of, the prevailing ideological framework of bourgeois science, the Cartesian reductionist perSpective. fiftievaluguof -3 tassiaiestigis as a conscious challenge tattlestainsanarstsrrsspf the pro knt, aiid '63;de EiéEEiifiiiafi’Hi dialectical principles is specifi‘ cally designed to help solve the problems we work with in both our sci- entific and our political lives. Given the remarkable flexibility and capacity for novelty that char- acterize human thought, it is at least possible that any conclusion about the world could be reached by anyone, irrespective of the person’s pre~ vious commitment to an ideology or world view. Newton, who accept- ed the supernatural world of religious belief, nevertheless conceived of a world of uncompromising mechanical necessity. But it is not neces— sary to insist that construction of a particular model of nature needs a particular world view to argue that ideology strongly predisposes us to seemsownge in the world and not others: It tibiii‘d' have ‘Bé‘éiiVéHEi- traordinary indiiedif'fi natfifaligttrfiiielirig with Columbus or Magellan around the turn of the sixteenth century had returned home with the same views that Darwin held when he stepped off the Beagle. Indeed, one can hardly imagine even sending a naturalist on a trip around the world in 1519. Ideas! of cause and effect, subject and partwland whaletgrnaa,indignant" 536.1 ' ,. a§tmctiqa...9f.re- ality, although we are barely aware dif'itsexistence or, if we are, we af- iiriri it as a self—evident reality that must constrain all thought. We do not and cannot begin at square one every time we think about the world. Knowledge is socially constructed becauseonruniinds are social- 1y .sonstocedifiia'iiétftagging tournaments "airy substratum. edge by a process of being ad ptedint alien ‘ ‘ veistiéationorphefimaa. Whisk! .....en'b,é99mes. arsmfp .Lin's mastic... or théwiiltbliitfligéfi- CONCLUSION 269 I Ine‘flifibly£9916_.,Pr°bl¢ll‘5...9f..llflil§lf§tanflll§8 Flt? World, cannot be . er. These afé innascidahle. or distantly ignored either conSidered Il‘Ifundamenflt-alw m _ in the 'rriartihtpif‘discovery. The'grflowth of knowiééigéiit‘itsn akin to the conquest of land by a medieval army. Cities are laid seige to, and most surrender, but a few hold out indefinitely. The army sweeps around these, leaving behind some of its troops, who settle down to a- long and frustrating encirclement. This has certainly been the case in biology, where the extraordinary progress made in molecular studies has been the consequence of a straightforward reductionist program, while the understanding of embryonic development and of the func— tioning of the central nervous system have remained in a rudimentary state. Even evolutionary biology, which is widely accepted as a triumph of modern science, has swept a lot of problems under the rug of undecid- ability. Thedominant mode of___analysis of the physical and“ biological world and byeaersignihe sqcia2w.ar1a':aih bananas. sen .msiystinnism- This Candied fields-is Eli'a'iaéiéfiied by four ontological commitments, which then put their stamp on the process of creating knowledge: 1- There..isanstutalsstginninnrpans of which any whole sys- tem is made. _ 2- 11129.5? trainers12.9{usesassnsnithiatnsnsslreSg at least inso- far as they affect the whole of which they are the parts. 3- TheharassBushman pristtethsntals: that is, the parts e'irist in isolation and come together to make wholes. The parts have intrinsic properties, which they possess in isolation and which they lend to the whole. In the simplest cases the whole is nothing but the sum of its parts; more complex cases allow for interactions of the parts to produce added properties of the whole. 4. Qauses are separate from effects, causes being the properties .. W. .. ., , . wringéafigés g from the elfects (so— called “feedback loops”), there is no ambiguity about which is causing subject and which is caused object. (This distinction persists in statistics as independent and dependent variables.) We characterize the world described by these principles as the gig;- ntgd'world, the world in which parts at 270 CONCLUSION tii锑rii“st glimrri'erings o erchant entrepi‘ tury Europe, and culminating in the bourgeois revolutions of the seven- teenth and eighteenth centuries, social relations have emphasized the primacy of the alienated individual as a social actor. By successive acts of enclosure, land was alienated from the peasant cultivators, who for— merly were tied to it and it to them. Individuals became social atoms, colliding in the market, each with his or her special interests and prop— erties intrinsic to their roles. No individual person, however, is con— fined to a single role in bourgeois s0ciety. The same people are both consumers and producers, owners and renters, bosses and bossed. Yet bourgeois social theory sees society as constructed of homogeneous in— terest groups. “Consumers” have their interest, “labor” its interest, “capital” its interest, the whole of society talring'a shape determined by the action of these V, .. . MMWWW.VM swat...“ w WWW/«m the...aiienateangrnsighhangars and rear. Clearly. the ciaim that the social order is the natural result ollthewadjwiistments of demands and interests of competing groups is __ani_deolqgical formulation meant to mks the Shastatasssninsvitaizls Plant alter . H orkers and employers generally. Consumers do have an interest in the com- modities oflered them that is antithetical to the interest of the produc~ ers. But these interest groups have been created by the very system of social relations of which they are said to be the basis. In like manner, the alienated physical world is not only a structure of knowledge, but a physical sti- chi; iié ione of' it'aiai‘fif‘ér"iiitéiiseéiiiighafigét"iiecomes thévcause of a given effect is determined in part by social practice. For example, medical research and practice isolate particular causes of disease and treat them. The tu- bercle bacillus became the cause of tuberculosis, as opposed to, say, un~ regulated industrial capitalism, because the bacillus was made the point of medical attack on the disease. The alternative would be not a ‘.‘medi— cal” but a “political” approach to tuberculosis and so not the business of medicine in an alienated social structure. Having identified the ba— cillus as the cause, a chemotherapy had to be developed to treat it, rath~ er than, say, a social revolution. Sometimes problems are sartsrtssrsrrsslutioasisrsne ed’to thfihjfi‘hé‘ competition of certain weed species with CONCLUSION 271 crop plants is a serious problem for farmers, a problem that is now “solved” by wholesale application of herbicides. But not all weeds are bad for crops, and weed species compete among themselves. By using broad—spectrum herbicides, beneficial weeds, those that compete with harmful weeds, are destroyed along with the harmfui weeds they dis~ place, so the “weed problem” is partly created by the very operation that is supposed to cope with it. The same is true for insects, which are selected for genetic resistance to insecticides by the very insecticides used to cuntrol them. As a consequence, the greater the cure, the great~ er the problem. 7 No War of thinking about,.thrnsrlssfshssonssa can I . . ,. d . ‘ H ER? ‘ . events. Iii-s our contenti' V p 7 ticulariy impoverished shadgw of the-actual- relations among phenom- . fl. an: hi: , r " w— rriensional objects on fixed planes of low dimensionality. Indeed, it is an explicit objectifieofmcarfesian‘Fedfibfiibfil'shimtdlihd'amvery small: set of independent causal pathways or “factors” that can be used to reconm struct a large domain of phenomena. An elementary exercise in design courses is to make an object that is circular in one projection square in a second projection and triangular in the third. (We leave the solution as an exercise for the reader.) Alienated science deals with the alienated world of these projections, while a dialecticalwviewarrangingnggnder- “giggld the objectmin its Of course, some objects, iike sphéi'Ei";“éiE"ifiE"séiifie' ihiiall projections, so the reductionist strategy suc- ceeds. { The error of reductionism as a general point of view is that it sup— poses the higher~dirnensional object is somehow “composed” of its lower—dimensional projections, which have Ontological primacy and which exist in isolation, the “natural” parts of which the whole is com- posed. In the alienated world things are at base homogeneous; indeed, the object of reductionist science is to find those smallest units that are internally homogeneous, the natural units of which the world is made. The history of classical chemistry and physics is the epitome of this view. In classical chemistry microscopic objects were made of a mixture mof molecules, each of which was homogeneous within itself. With the development of the atomic theory of matter, these molecules were seen to be made of mixtures of atoms of different sorts, so the molecules were then seen as internally heterogeneous. Then it appeared that the very atoms defied their name (aromas, indivisible), because they too 272 CONCLUSION were internally heterogeneous, being composed of elementary neu~ trons, protons, and electrons. But even that homogeneity has disap— peared, and the number of “elementary” particles has multiplied with each creation of a more powerful particle accelerator. Physicists believe that the present theory predicts all particles that can exist, but since that theoretical apparatus is only half a dozen years old, the cautious person may reserve judgment. Iflfigflififlain til?.SiifilSEElEflfiQEiQ.3.535% things are assumed from Téiiiiheproslemnisisssiifr the anatdinical,mbehavidiai’rour physroldgiiimafilf intign. Is the handa initial"é‘taitiiiéfi,"3f is"itihenentireliaielimb or, on the contrary, is each finger or each joint of each finger the appropriate unit? The an~ sner..sisri=aslsspanrestraints?tinterestmattress.grannies“ 06 the” development of the hand and the way‘inwhich natural selection‘vbp- email“ "litigate 'iiiiéiiaiiii6h§iliéiii§i£fiésmevolveiiand"theViiiiiiifémiif‘the race of natural selection varies from time to time and species to spe— cies, so the hand Iii) Jets. Moreover, the by its very evolution, .annihilat , é agitator Simple 1cgi6iii5t‘ parts ééii'té’péttEonIy when there is a whole for them to be parts of. Part implies whole, and whole implies part. Yet reductionist practice ignores this relationship, isolating parts as preexisting unitssoi‘ which wholes are then composed. In the dialecti— cal world the‘logical dialectical relation between part and whole is tak- en seriously. Bart mtglgqsvwhglegandh hole maggspart. it seems “clearwthat allhits of thé 'WWW ' H flashlights who--- a..- - M .... _-- . ismirrelevant. It may be that “thou canst not stir a fi0wer without tron- bling of a star,” but in fact, our gardening does not have any effect on the sun, because gravitation is a weak force that falls off as the square of the distance. The grewth of our flowers, on the other hand, is affect— ed by the sun because photons travel across 80 million miles without losing their energy. The community in ecology does not lose its meaning as a unit of analysis nor its effectiveness as a level of interaction just be— cause it is possible to connect every species in the world with every oth- CONCLUSION 273 a“. -.f6 .. ” " ‘Vart'nro‘ng‘"interacndiis and betwm _ I ah ie species may be p ‘Eommunihésnwithhutl thereby Joining those communities into one. The owl as a predawr belongs to one community; as a defecator it is part of a quite different one. The first principle of a dialectical view, then, is that a wnhwglgisawgela- height}.,REiSZLiElSiERFIISkillsiéifilfiafigfl I The second principle, which flows from the first, is that, 5r , the properties of parts have no prior alienated existence but are ac~ quired by being parts of a particular whole. In the alienated world the intrinsic properties of the alienated parts confer properties on the whole, which may in addition take on new properties that are not char- acteristic of the parts: the whole may be more than the sum of its parts. ether indeed whenes may have id . ' Darts .Qf. who. hQPEOQ‘Efliai tflhatmrrialgevs_thewhgle. A person cannot fly by flapping her arms, ho ' matter how much she tries, nor can a group of people fly by all flapping their arms simultaneously. But people do fly, as a consequence of the social Organization that has created airplanes, pilots, and fuel. It is not society that flies, however, but individuals in society, who have ac— quired a property they do not have outside society. The limitations of individual physical beings are negated by social interactions. The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action on the parts. 7 The dialectical emphasis on wholes is shared by other schools of mm...” mm W..W.m_.._...,..w..m,,.. , W Mm ., ,....._..W.M.,H=MM thohght"'that'ie5Elmagainstwtiiefragmentati in oflii‘iihhder capitalism, fii'é‘fiiiiidiiiiieéé"diépecializatibh, the redilEiiBiiiEih”chiéfiiééifiiiéifigii- cultural theory. ' lthfitutipmvements stress the inseparabiiity of psychological and physro ogical processes; the relevance to health of nutrition, exercise, and emotions; and the complex interactions of dif— ferent nutrients. eclglogymmovernent emphasize thewurflrityijrna— tar?! whigh‘ifiqudggus‘ -. . .. . - .. .. We agree with these criticisms of current practices, but we differ iterathssssresptisms: Most of the atternative health (movements focusuon the individual, without integrating thatwiiidividiial 274 CONCLUSION into social processes either in analysis or program. And their organiz- ‘ P1 '5 h - Marissastifoaenessf? cinnam- ,ltiihfifli?" re milinher_sailyflhalans§dfisherme- e e loci of internal opposing hair tem- filfianly. A third dialectical principle, then, is that the interpenetrationwof entailing lanthanum“abjects are the E‘atéiii’éjtiiflgéaV ts ‘of’other active, causal subjects. In evolution~ ary theory organisms are usually seen as the objects of evolution: through natural selection, autonomous changes in the environment cause adaptive alterations in the passive organism. As we argued in Chapter 3, however, the actual situation is quite different. Organisms are both the subjects and the objects of evolution. They both make and a; .. . tionary history. ""‘i‘h’é’i‘éparsaon between cause and efiect, subject and object in the alienated world has a direct political consequence, ‘summed up in the expression, “You can’t fight city hall.” The external world set the con- ditions we must adapt ourselves sB'E'i ,.Q.1.1_fl_1ent ; “’ZiifL'Tji'fi "ideoiogy of “being realis- tic” manifests itse in theories of human psychic development, such as Piaget’s (1967) claim that “equilibrium is attained when the adolescent understands that the proper function of reflection is not to contradict but to predict and interpret experience.” To this we counterpose Marx’s (1845) eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: ‘fIhe.philosophersuhave only insurers.ths...mrls.iasalesman; therein , is to . . . . .. ., ' “Two other schoolsof thoughtualso recognize the heterogeneity of the Liberals harshesttransmit Situations “are not all black or white,” that each course of action has its advan- tages and disadvantages, costs and benefits. Their solution is to see the world as shades of gray, to weigh costs and benefits on some scale that comes with a single resultantwnet profit or lossmor to insist that, giv— en two extremes, “The truth lies somewhere in between.” I’neach case the gifferenegsmage Quadrature..and.....contr.adietione..are...reso. . .. oist tradition in China shares with dialectics the emphasis on wheelies; the, Whglsmbsing maintainssl...brtssparasites CONCLUSION 275 such as yin and yang. Although balanced, yin and yang do not lose their identities in some puddled intermediate. Chinese medicine recog- nizes excess of yin and deficiency of yang as distinct pathologies. How ever, balance is seen as the angimthe goal of in» redesign, .. - _ “ m M " of harmony ratherthian development: " t, her by interacting finders r§9reated bins ,grwhammre an systems and all spects of all sys ms. That is a‘féfifth’diéiéctiéfiiBlind- 'pi'eI‘rn‘so‘uigééis‘thotigm 'change"o'ccupies an apparently contradictory position that follows from the history of the bourgeois revolution. The triumph of capitalism was accompanied by an exuberant, arrogant, and liberating iconoclasm. What was, need not be; ideas do not have tenure. Change, in Herbert Spencer’s words, was a “beneficent necessi~ ty. ” People could change their status; success came by innovation. But with the‘eventual dominance of bourgeois institutions, bourgeois soci- ety itself was seen as the culmination of social development, the final release of humanity from the fetters of artificial feudal restraints intq the natural state of economic man. From that point on, change was to be restricted within narrow boundaries: making technical innovations, improving laws, balancing, adjusting, compromising, expanding, or declining. Legitimation of bourgeois society meant denial of the need for fundamental change, or even the possibility of itLSMtalguilitfimbalgnce, equilibrium ans,...,99ntinuitx.becarrismositiysrinses—"in resists. anil ,thstsiors aisgthmbie ‘ H I h Change was increasingly seen as superficial, as only appearance, masking some underlying stasis. Even in evolutionary theory, the”, Quintessential study of change, we saw the deep denial of change. Evo~ lution was merely the recombination of unchangeable units of idio- v plasm; species endlessly played musical niches; the seemingly sweeping changes through geological time were only prolongations of the mi- croevolu-tion observed in the laboratory; and all of it was merely a se- gquence of manifestations of theiseifish gene in dilferent contexts of, guselfishness. " ' lnflcho_osingwarnong alternative possibilities, priority has been given to the null hypothesis that no change has"6é¢iitiéti;”iixiui' iterate; "mod- els of dynamics focused 'onlrcoiiditions” forstable equilibrium. This di~ rertsd. enteritis? from the. many wires )3?in in. in: systems Wald-ire unstable. Since stability requires the simultanetms satisfaction of a” large number of different criteria (twice as many as there are variables "F 276 CONCLUSION in the system), systems can be stable in only one way, but they can be unstable in many wavs- Only recsIatixl:1a§att§atipa...§liiftsslto thinni- ness of noneggilibrium pro” In bourgeois thought 93351.net......,.9ftsn_§ssaa§the.,rssslarfinldflss?f what is already there (in principle in the genes, lfmnot physically pre- faffiiéfi'iiiii‘é'Ei'éé’éfibes by listing the sequence of results of change, the necessary stages of social or individual development. This shift from process to product also contaminates socialist thought when the dy— 9.frrisla§§....§imesis.it$991.??? lathe grand marchflfustages, from primitive communism through slavery, feudalism, capitalsiii', socialism, and on into the glorious sunset. Thus even where deep change cannot be ignored, it is acknowledged reluc— tantly and denied with the world—weary aphorism, “The more things change, the more they are the same.” lathe alienated world‘there are constants andnariabies,those“thing?Wt Changsha consequence 9f litigate 9wasa;lilthliasstmnnslér values. ~47 dialecticalwworld since all elements (being both subject and object) ar an a afid‘v 1a.at?mightiestElegant” reha- ‘Flle fineness aldifferefii demerits mayhem:- i6§"“i;éi£é" the environment as constant for long periods in order to calculate the trajectories of gene frequencies and their equilibria. But as the environment changes slowly, the equilibria themselves may be changing more slowly. Reciprocally, population ecology assumes that species are not changing genetically in order to calculate the demographic trajectories of age classes, although the equilibrium will slowly change as the genotypic composition of populations changes. Finally, commu— nity ecology takes both the demographic and genetic properties of spe- cies as constants in order to predict the equilibrium of species numbers in a community, although these may slowly change as genetic changes occur in an evolutionary time scale. Untgaunatsin unseat these PFQE§§§E§ as. often not diffe- entT'so the-assumption that one prbb駧""éiih be held _ “:tw'liilethe ans; "rising;-(rnéj‘aainson of the Mauritian fiaiétfi'aét for following the genetic changes in a population made the error of supposing that age distribution would remain coustant during the selective process. It was not until forty years after the publication of The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection that the demographic and c...) ' Not only do parame CONCLUSION 2'77 genetic processes of change were finally treated simultaneously (Charles— worth 1970). Another manifestation of the same error is to treat the fit- nesses of genotypes in populations as independent of the frequencies of those genotypes, relegating so-called “frequencyfidependent selection” to the category of a special and unimportant case. Yet selective processes are necessarily frequency dependent, especiiallymiwfn tglxisgp? t. ‘ There are, of course, physical constants like the mass of the electron, the speed of light, and Planck’s constant, which we regard as fixed and has been the same since the beginning of matter nor, even if it has been so constant, that its value is not an accident of the history of matter. Whether such values are indeed changing and, if they are, at what rate, is a contingent question, not to be answered from principle. The dilfern ence between the reductionist and the dialectician is that the former re- WMWWW , gards‘constancy as the normal condition to be proven otherwise, while misuse WWW-w,” of which they are a part. butthslewssltransfatalatioathemsslves change. In” alienated world view, entities may change as a come quence of develomeiit’a] forces", but the foreesthemselves remain con- years ago. Life originally arose from inanimate matter, but that origi— nation macle its continued occurrence impossible, because living organn isms consume the complex organic molecules needed to recreate life de novo. Moreover, the reducing atmosphere that existed before the be- ginning of life has been converted, by living organisms themselves, to one that is rich in reactive oxygen. {henchangethat"ismcharacteristic of systems arises from both internal andflesternalrelations; fig"insists“assassins"era lye-ea aims". duce a dynamic instability ha it t ‘ "lit; nit-“the Salfiéiimt‘ llisféllstéfil 315". fillfilélssl .V relation t9 thé‘lékléfiiél Wild, which. influences. sails .lllflli, , e ushering not-aria priori imposition on nature bu 278 CONCLUSION internal and external forces affect each other and the obiecthwhichflis the nexus of those forces. Classical biology, which is to an alienated bi— angina;alwafitéfiéfated the internal and external forces operating in organisms, holding one constant while considering the other. Thus iii-embryology has always emphasized the development of an organism as a consequence of internal forces, irrespective of the environment. At most the environment is regarded as a signal that sets the interior devel- opmental forces going. Developmental biology is consumed with the problem of how the genes determine the organism. On the other hand, evolutionary biology, at least as practiced in Anglo-Saxon countries, is obsessed with the problem of the organism’s adaptation to the external world and assumes without question that any favorable alteration in- the organism is available by mutation. There is abundant evidence, however, that the p toggny of an indi— , V- a. as W t. it Moreover, it is certainly the case that no tetra-pod has ever, no matter what selective forces areinvolved, succeeded in acquiring wings without giving up a pair of limbs. The separation of the external and in- ternal forces of development is a characteristic of alienated biology that must be overcome if the problems of either embryology or evolu- tion are to be solved. magnetic)“ that 91! 9122992533? internally heterogenssas leads main two aimlessingestsag"gags "sausage metatarsal":"in;is . . .. ... . . . r .. i. . ... ., fiféfifixpfli‘ ence: all previously proposed undecomposable “basic units” halite} far turned out to be decomposable, and the decomposition has opened up new domains for investigation and practice. Therefore the proposi— tion that there is no basement has proven to be a better guide to under~ standing the world than its opposite. Furthermore, the_,_a,s__se_rtio__ri that theisisrlo tenth:legitimacyof.investigatiugsash.lev- j; smothers haying l9.§§§F9l1f9§..ltlflfil§l§?lll31 “nits- A second consequence of the heterogeneity of all obj eels-lis‘that it di~ reds us toward the eaglessiteant,shattesiatstsis 0f theeenesisssrw cesses united within thatslgjssi. Hesr.sgsasiti..isast,Interstates: .11" ,nfront,seizhntheras.mesites. condemnation ihsnhglt. 9E For example, in the predator-prey system of lemmings and owls, the two species are opposite poles of the process, predation simultaneously determining the death rate of lem- mings and the birth rate of owls. It is not that lemmings are the oppo— CONCLUSION 279 site of owls in some ontological sense, or that lemmings imply owls or couldn’t exist without owls. But within the context of this particular ecosystem, their interaction helps to drive the population dynamics, which shows a spectacular fluctuation of numbers. What characterizes the dialectical world, in all its aspects, as we have described it is that it is anstantly in motion. Constants become varia- bles, causes become effects, anaytiittéfiit (denvelop, destroying the condi- - tions that gave rise to them. Even elements that appear to be stable are igwamdynarnic equilibrium of s i m iii- anced, as‘wlieiiwamdiillgiaylumphf"metalwhf a critical size becomesa fireball brighter than a thousand suns. Yet the motion is not uncon— strained and uniform. Organisms develop and differentiate, then die and distritegrate: Species arise but inevitably become extinct. Even in the simple physical world we know of no uniform motion. Even the earth rotating on its axis has slowed down in geologic time. The devel~ opment of systenisthrough time, then, seems to be the consgqud This appearance of opposing forcés has given rise to the most de- bated and difficult, yet the most central, concept in dialectical thought, _the__pr_incipl_eefficontradiction. For some, contradiction is an epistemic - principle only. it describes how we come to understand the world by a history of antithetical theories that, in contradiction to each other and in contradiction to observed phenomena, lead to a new View of nature. Kuhn’s (1962) theory of scientific revolution has some of this flavor of tastiest!“enhancement...ts§_9lsti2s, runaway tontradic- tion. For others, contradictipnwis not only epistemic but fiéiit’i‘éfi'iHS weli?,.,.t.h§ sentradictio between 91 " ' " tort Thus contradiction becomesaa mightiest epitaxialteaéfbf lip its”, contradiction is not only epistemic and political, but ontological in the broadest sense."_Contradictions between forges are“ I hilt only-“iii hthiani'EoEifil"in‘stiiiitioiis. This tradition of dia ics goes back to Engels (1880) who wrote, in Dialectics of Nature, that “to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics of nature, but of discovering them in it and evolv— ing them from it.” Engels’s understanding of the physical world was, of course, a nineteenthwcentury understanding, and much of what he wrote about it seems quaint. Moreover, dialecticians have repeatedly attempted to make the identification of contradictions in nature a cen- tral feature of science, as if all scientific problems are solved when the t: is M ~ 2.“ it». 280 CONCLUSION contradictions have been revealed. Yet neither Engels’ factual errors nor the rigidity of idealist dialectics changes the fact that _ppposing forces lie at the base of the evolving_phys_icalandbiological world. I ., ,. .. ‘ pp Singféieésuafiihem, and hints aw e'y _ _ _ _ .' extramarital)" p6§ifi§i6icés m‘tse'uiry'dsy; of biology as 'iné'rti'al'view prevailed: 'fiéive”"'éé'1‘l§”liéere at rest until stimulated by other nerve cells and ulti- mately by sensory excitation. Genes acted if the raw materials for their activity were present; otherwise they were quiescent. Gene frequencies in a population remained static in the absence of selection, mutation, random drift, or immigration. Nature was at equilibrium unless per- turbed. Later it was recognized that nerve impulses act both to excite and to inhibit the firing of other nerves, so the state of a system de" pends on the network of opposing stimuli, and that network can gener- ate spontaneous activity. Gene action is regulated by repressors, repres- sors of the repressors, and all sorts of active feedbacks in the cell. There are no genetic loci immune to mutation and random drift, and no pop- ulations are free of selection. The dialectical view insists that persistencepnd equilibriurnvareflnot the natural state of thinSiPlll..Eillllirtfill .a .. .. grabs sought the Agpposiung for s: The conditions under which the opposing forces balance and the system as a whole is in stable equilibrium are quite special. They require the simultaneous satisfac— tion of as many mathematical relations as there are variables in the sys- tem, usually expressed as inequalities among the parameters of that system. If these parameters remain within the prescribed limits, then external events producing small Shifts among the variables will be erased by the self—regulating processes of stable systems. Thus in humans the level of blood sugar is regulated by the rate at which sugar is released into the blood by the digestion of carbohydrates, the rate at which stored gly- cogen, fat, or protein is converted into sugar, and the rate at which su- gar is removed and utilized. Normally, if the blood sugar level rises, then the rate of utilization is increased by release of more insulin from the pancreas. If the level of blood sugar falls, more sugar is released into the blood, or the person gets hungry and eats some source of sugar. The result is that the blood sugar level is kept not constant but within tolerable limits. So far we are dealing with the familiar patterns of ho- meostasis, the negative feedback that characterizes all self—regulation. CONCLUSION 23; However, the pancreas might respond weakly to a high sugar level, which could result in diabetic coma. Or the blood sugar level may fall so low that the person is incapable of eating. Theuopposingwforces are seenuaus‘ contradictorywifln the sense that each in???.lisfilllerefilitem..ths.rssulfjiif summit 515%- So far, the ject may’séern‘to'be the passive victim of 'uiééé‘diaiiiii'iag forces. How- everI the principlemthat things are internally heterogeneous directs ourmatt the opposi a will" . These opposing prb'a'éé's'éi'éa‘h now be seen as partof the self~regulatioii and development of the object. relationsamong the stabilizing and destabilizing, 09g}? 0 t is Seen as a System ., .. . . .. .t . The negative feedbacks are the more familiar ones. If blood pressure rises, sensors in the kidney detect the rise and set in motion the pro— cesses which reduce blood pressure. If more of a commodity is pro- duced than can be sold, prices fall, and the surplus is sold cheaply while production is cutback; if there is a shortage, prices risei'and that stimu— lates production. Or if a baby cries, this tells the responsible adult that ' something is wrong, and he or she initiates action to remove the cause of discomfort and stop the crying. In each case a particular state of the system—high blood pressure, overproduction, crying—is self—negating in that within the context of the system an increase in something initi~ ates processes that leads to its decrease. But systems also contain positive feedback: high blood pressure may damage the pressure-measuring structures, so that blood pressure is underestimated and the homeostatic mechanisms themselves increase the pressure; overproduction ma}r lead to cutbacks in employment, which reduce purchasing power and therefore increase the relative sur— plus; the crying of the baby may evoke anger, and the abuse of the child can then result in more crying. Beal__sys_ternsinclude pathways for both positive and negative feed- Esck- use??? .,_ all}? .. . .. .1. l y: titans- tence of a system requires self¥negat1ng pathways. But negative feed— bick. it??? guarantee .9" Stability.andhastensuneiéiiéfiiiisiéuiees}an throw, _ mlle laiign. If there is a preponderance of posi— tive feed or it" the indirect negative feedbacks by way of interven- ing variables are strong enough, the system will be unstable. That is, its 282 CONCLUSION own condition is suflicient cause of its negation. Thus systems are either self-negating (state A leads to some state not-A) or depend for their persistence on self—negating processes. mainstream, first stellar islfiessatisn- From this Perspec- tive it is not-too different “from-logical“contradiction. In formal logic process is usually replaced by static set—structural relations, and the dy— namic of “A leads to B” is replaced by “A implies B.” But all real rea— soning takes place in time, and the classical logical paradoxes can be seen as A leads to not—A leads to A, and so on. For instance, consider Russell’s paradoxical barber who shaves any and all men who do not shave themselves. If we assume that the barber shaves himself, then he belongs to the set of those he does not shave. Therefore, he is eligible to be a shaver by himself, and so we go round and round, as each alfirma- tion is in turn negated. (Logicians would exclude the feminist solution that the barber is a woman and does not shave herself.) Materialand logical 912sttr..,9t.b.sips,..§slf:nssstittsato- WM WM... mm»- 068565. The stability or persistence of a system depends on auparrivetilarc]balw ance of positive afia"illegal"tié'vf'tiibfié‘ii'i‘j BH“5§14§E{E£EE§ governing the rate'so'f processes falling within certain limits. these parameters, al- though treated in mathematical models as constants, ar 1 rldob— Jest? that are t.hsn§rlrs§.§ssisst ,i9..‘€1}fi9g.¢- Eventually some of these paiahieters will cross the threshold beyond which the original system can no longer persist as it was. The e'duilibrium is broken. The system may go into wider and wider sucifiélionéttfitisiéik'down, or the parts themselves, which have meaning only within a particular whole, may lose their identity as parts and give rise to a qualitatively new system. Further, the changes in“emanateslastastonishmensf tits sta- ble blillfililgli condition in'lthefirst place. As a re« firi‘bf the cycle of over— and"“iiiiaéfisftiaiiétiafi;'bfit‘ifiéssei' fail, firms merge and expand, a permanent body of unemployed people is created, and political struggles culminate in the replacement of the capitalist system with its whole dynamic. If predator and prey are in demo graph- ic balance, this may hide the prey’s evolution toward better predator avoidance, thus eventually resulting in the extinction of the predator; or the predator’s efficiency at hunting may evolve beyond the threshold compatible with the survival of the prey, and both becorne extinct. The diacritics! model. suggests that no systsrn is really masterly static, alt ay be eq The qira‘nrt‘éiivé place within the apparent stability cross CONCLUSION 233 thresholds beyond which the qualitative behavior is transformed. All systems are in the long run self—negating, while their short-term persis§ tense dspseili vflilfilslllel elitiijljéééttfiéthat?“' ‘ I The dialectical viewpoint-sees" stability as rather special situation that must be accounted forfsyi’térfi’s’bi"iii§"’éb M m 7 central nervous system, the national and world capitalist economies, ecosystems. the physiological networks of organisms—arg‘more likely to. registration! unstable: Ennsyttmsdssigned explicitly to be sta~ ble, such as nuclear power plants, have____ own’areinarfllrable to behave-in-unplanflequways- .. 4. ,. . .. ,.,. The important point here is thatcomplex systems show 5130 an ous actiyity. Each of these systems responds to‘events riiifilfi'ut‘iiiié, bii apt, necessary is. lack t9 sitters?! sources for the crimes. ..ot..movement. * The capitalist business cycle does iiotdepend on sunspots. “unrest” is not explained by outside agitators. Changing abundance of species is not evidence of human impact on the environment. And it is becoming increasingly apparent that the prevention of change in wiId~ life management, environmental protection, or society is, in the long run, an impossible goal. fislfraegatioa isnot .sinialy an ministries:inititr dented from argu- ments____about the universality of change. We observelit a- ll}? and saciety. Monopdly arises no’t'its'a result of “free enterprise” but as a consequence of its success: hence the futility of antitrust legislation. The freeing of serfs from feudal ties to the land also meant the possibility of their eviction from the land; freedom of the press has increasingly meant the freedom of the owners of the press to control information. The self-negating processes of capitalism are often expressed as ironic commentaries, as the realization of ideal goals turns-oat to thwart their original intent. Sometimes theuconuse'q'ue'nceibf riges that cross a threshold. For in- stance, at one time the Polish got}érfiiiiéiitéitafiii'niéd a subsi- dizing the price of bread at a fixed level in order to guarantee the basic food supply. As inflation developed, the gap between the subsidized price of bread and the prices of other goods widened until one morning Warsaw was without bread: farmers had discovered that it was cheaper to buy bread to feed their livestock than to grow feed: the very mecha— nisms designed to guarantee the urban bread supply were turned into their opposite. A second aspect of contradiction is the interpenetration of seemingly mutitally categories. A necessary 'i'ii‘"iii‘é‘é’iét‘i’éawait}Eta IéXitylt'EE' 284 CONCLUSION make distinctions. But whenever we divide something into mutually ex- clusive and jointly all«encompassing categories, it turns out on further examination that these opposites interpenetrate. In Chapter 3 we exam- ined the interpenetration of organism and environment. Here we note briefly several more examples. At first siesta ‘jdetstministis:and freedom” proces.§st....§ssnreex- snplitr. 'Maniiiééihiié'been sacrificed to the cause of printing debates about whether the world, or species ag- gregates, or evolution, is deterministic or random. (The deterministic side implying order and regularity, the stochastic side implying absence of system or explanation). In the first place, however, completely de— ~ terministic processes can generate apparently random processes. In fact, the random" numbers used for computer stimulation of random process are generated by deterministic processes (algebraic Operw maticians havs,..ta¢ssme intarsstsdinrecalled “disease? to equilibriurnnor toregular per- uuuuuuuuu p p pattern-"that In systems of high ~ wkggglimple ity the likelihood of ’stableequilibrium may be quite small un- ‘Nless the system was explicitly designed for stability. Thewrnorecornmon outcome is chaotic motion (turbulence) or periodic motion with per- ‘..igdsf....sid. iii-fins?‘diii‘ifiséiéfirififié"ifiiéfi51§“Blinds- ti’o-HSI imp-SI 53150 fippfiaflpgnasmndorfil .. .. ...... .. , .. ., Second, random processes may have deterministic results. This is the basis for predictions about the number of traffic accidents or for actu- arial tables. A random process results in some frequency distribution of outcomes. The frequency distribution itself is determined by some parameters, and changes in these parameters have completely deter- mined effects on the distribution. Thus the distribution as an bject of studrisnststnintstissrsg though i """""" m willhird,Mnearuthresholds separating domains of tiréliéfiiiriors 12, TI] displacements arise from lower levels of organization, they will be un- predictable from the perspective of the higher level. And in general the intrusion of events from one level to another appears as randomness. Finally, theisteraction9treating.snailsiszminisiififil?065535£13733 results in evolutien «its ditfsttnt item thesessssssnss..of either type_of__pro_cess_actingam In Sewall Wiigh't’s model, selectidiifialone would lead all local populations to the same gene frequencies, so no se- lection among populations would be possible. The random drift that arises from small numbers within each population would result in the CONCLUSION 28S nonadaptive fixation of genes. “The._j__oint_,_effect, however, is to allow variation amongwloical populati0n$,_}vhich provides the variability-Em new cycles of selectipn d_ifier_ent___directions. People-have :h‘atl rangom search can be an important part of adaptive processes the ma an error procedure leading to desired resul ’ ts paths. ‘ by unexpected Similarly, the dichotomyhbetween equilibrium and nonequilibrium systemswis no 7 e. When 7 éc‘aiis'gi'éié’ié‘léiiSEEi there was a rush to abandon equilibrium analysis as unrealistic. How: ever, it is not at all obvious that a changing system is not also in equilib— rium. The proportions of various ionic forms of phosphorus in a lak reach equilibrium in seconds, even though the total amount of pho: phorus may change. Algae populations may equilibrate with the miner— al level, which itself changes, changing the algae.‘Phenomena that are verymuch slower than those of interest can be treatedprovisionally as 1f constanttwhflé"iiitaggiihéttaisirstitin. ter can ready atmeg in. In the long run 1t 15 important to see equilibrium as a form of motion rather than as its polar opposite. Our conclusion - n - ’ borne out by the history of our scrence, Is that suchwdichotomies are Piste. (16.99.1119. widen“ Contradiction also'""iiié£ii§ V the (rather, than thsssses) whichrtaltsn Iii] pheasant 9r.sosssssgnsss...thssthey Would have If taken separately Commodities embody the contradiction between ex: change value (reflected indirectly in price). If objects were produced 51mply because they met human needs, we would expect the more use- fui'thlngs to be produced before less useful things, and we would ex ect objects and methods of production to be designed to minimize Izany harm or danger and maximize durability or reparability. The amounts produced would correspond to the levels of need; any decline in need would allow either more leisure or the production of other objects If obiects had no use value at all, of course, they couldn’t be sold' use val— ue makes exchange value possible. But the prOSpect of exchange value leads to results that often contradict the human needs that called forth the commodities in the first place. Commodities will be produced for example, only for those who can afford them, and priority will be given to the production of those commodities with the highest profit mar- gins. Productive innovations which make commodities easier and cheaper to make may create unemployment or ill health for workers necessary misleading and that there is no nontrivial and com- - KM, 286 CONCLUSION and consumers. Thus the process of supplying human needs by the cre» ation of commodities whose exchange value is paramount actually cre— ates new hardship. _A single proposition may have opposing implications. Consider, for example:"Elie‘Etéiéiiiéiitiliaiihé{é'tiliaiivhall population of Puerto Rico receives food stamps. This serves as a basis both for the party in power to justify the continuation of American rule and for the opposi- tion to criticize that rule. On the one hand, eighty-six years after the United States occupied Puerto Rico, the island’s economy is more de- pendent and less able to support its population than before. Some $5 billion are extracted annually by United States businesses in the form of profits and interest, preventing Puerto Rico from accumulating what it needs for autonomous development. 0n the other hand, food stamps are not available in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. For the recipient of food stamps, the direct experience is of American benevolence. It requires an intellectual detour to perceive also that the necessity for food stamps is a result of being absorbed into the Ameri- can economy, that the United States is the cause of the problem that it partly ameliorates. Much of the political conflict around the status of Puerto Rico derives from the contradictory implications of the same fact. The principles of materialist dialectics that we attempt toapply to activtt P, atlas err-angina edges- tioaalneltsrasnetl.swathenslqsimtizrstbhpt105s? V ’ V W 4‘ I Histor' ity. Each problem has its history initwworsenses: thehistory of the object of study (the vegetation of North America, the colonial economy, the’lrange of Drosophila pseudoobscura) and the history of scientific thinking about the problem, a history dictated not by'fiat’filt hilt iiy'ihé 'asy's"ts‘stttrasr sonata act on and think about nature. Once we recognize that state of the art as a social product, we are freer to look critically at the agenda of our science, its conceptual frame— work, and accepted methodologies, and to make conscious research choices. The history of our science must include also its philosophical orientation, which is usually only implicit in the practice of scientists and wears the disguise of common sense or scientific method. It is sure to be pointed out that the ‘diglecticalgapproachisInorlesscon- tingth histstisallxsnsl.smallsthanthe viewpqints We, criticise, and thatifittti’fiiectiE'iliuét‘ itself be analyzedvtlialecticallyfilhis(is no embar— rassment; rather, it is a necessary awareness for self-criticism. The pre— occupation with process and change comes in part from our commit— CONCLUSION 287 ment to change society. An alertness to the fallacies of gradualism derives from a challenge to liberalism. An insistence on seeing thin s a integrated wholes reflects a belief that much of the suffering wistes and destruction in the world today comes from the operation (if patri: archal capitalism as a world system penetrating all corners of our live rather than from a list of separable and isolatabie defects. And the en: phasrson the social interpretation of science comes from a political commitment to struggle for an alternative way of relating to nature and knowledge that is congruent with an alternative way of organizing soci~ ' ety- ,Qnshrastisal.99nssauensentthis....riswpoint is that the study of the history sociology and philOSO ll 0 C'CIICC . I a ,. ., ., 1 . . ._ .. ......f,.5 .1 .15 a HCCCSSE 9 ll ‘— ugpiversgl interconnection. 155 against objects are isolated proveHHtiiEnh" , for us the simplest assum '- tion _1s_____th_at ar§__conn 'tééi’i‘nié" 'ifitéiééii’iiéétléfii‘ ' : pec1ally across disciplinarymboundaries, has been the main source oi" er: ror and even disaster in complex fields of applied biology such as public health, agriculture, environmental protection, and resource mana ment and the cause of the stagnation of theory in these areas. Therefgfe we urge that an early stage of any investigation should be to trace out the indirect, speculative, and even far—fetched connections among he- nomena of interest and to justify any ignored connections. p gergr‘qgepqeity internal”heterogeneity of all things and all po u— lations _of_thing_s_is_the complementary péiibeétitée”t6 ’ n u differentihings greater; "tet'e‘rogenéaa;use This perSpective leads us to focus on Quantitative-and qualitative ability as objects of interest and sources of explanation. Then certain problems become especially appealing, such as the organization of phenotyplc variability in plants and animals, the differentiation of classes in society, the recognition that plants which bear the same 5 - cres name can be quite difl‘erent to the herbivores that eat them or till}; the same species may have diiferent ecological significance in different places. When faced with an ensemble of things of any sort we are 5115- " pic10us of any apparent homogeneity. - ’ {Hermeneutics afiypmritra Thsmqrs we see distinctions in na- ture, and the more we subdivide and set up "the gieater the alienated nariclrisuthat the___danger_ 9}: these__diiferenc_es. Therefore, complementary to an?! assess. of subdividing isths hypnthesis. that is do I! r'iiiél and 99mins subclasses; that opposite-s interpenetratéménd"thatthis “interpenetration is often critical to the behavior ofthe system 288 CONCLUSION Integrative levels. As against the reductionist view, which sees wholes as reduciBle"to"'collECtions of fundamental parts, we see the various lev~ els of organiza ' V xiifi'éi'réje'ét tfioiécfii'a’i ‘eufii’iai‘iathaf 166 many unlvei‘s'itiés to shift biology to the study of the smallest units, dismissing population, organismic, evolutionary, and ecological studies as forms of “stamp collecting” and allowing museum collections to be neglected. But once the legitimacy of these studies is recognized, we also urge the study of theyerticalrelati among Eevels, which ope‘rmateuimn‘hoth'directiofisfiw We do not k116i}: éi'iié?‘6E’ii6i’ifiéééaéinmts of a‘re'séamhhhd'edu— cational program will in fact result in solutions to long—standing prob— lems of biology. Dialecticalhpliilosophershave thus far only explained science._ Iheu’problem, however, is to change it. Bibliography Index ...
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Dialectical Biologist - Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin...

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