Nick -

... continued

     What is presented to the world by the epigenetic system is not
    mutations but “hypotheses” about ways to live.  And presumably
epigenetic systems are shaped by natural selection to produce more or less plausible hypotheses.

And what is the "hypothesis generator" in epigenetics? Is it stochastic or deterministic? (and what examples of epigenetics are you thinking of?) Is "plausable" the term you want, or is it more "utilitarian"?

*/[NST==>What exactly do we imagine a “mutation” to be …nothing more or less than a change in one or more letters of the code, or the surprising change in the morphology or behavior of the creature that results? The epigenetic system has to “make” something of the code change. There are gene editing mechanisms and error correction mechanisms, and switches, on and off. Drop one letter of the code and the organism cannot make melanin; but a lot of work has to be done to turn that mishap into a “white bear.” <==nst] /*

Yes, a "mutation" to the genome is a change in one or more letters of the code. A "mutation" in the metabolic processes implied by said genetic sequence (a changed protein, a modified level of production of an unmodified protein or set of same, etc.) and ultimately in the mature phenotype (if the precursors to this are viable enough for a mature specimen to arrive?) and beyond that the larger social unit (herd/pack/tribe) that might benefit or suffer from the behaviour of the individual experiencing the mutation. Add individuals with a mutation in their bone-production that causes extremely large cross-section bones and thick crania into the Vikings and you get (what has been hypothesized to be) Berserker warriors who drop into a blind rage when their blood pressure rises in response to threat. As long as they are pointing *toward* the enemy when that happens, it is (maybe) highly functional for the group to have you around?


      The randomness is largely notional.

I do think that "random" is a very loosey-goosey concept (like so many we call out on this list), but whether the variation is produced by random processes, pseudo-random processes, or merely processes with appropriately broad distribution functions,

the point is that the variation is not correlated with the selection process in any significant way. I think THAT is what *I* mean by random.

*/[NST==>did you complete that thought? I am eager to know where you were going with that sentence.<==nst] /*

I'm acknowledging that "random" is at least relative in most cases. If we go down to the quantum level, it takes on a more meaningful meaning but I would claim one that requires much more sophisticated discussion to penetrate. I would claim that this is the kind of "random" that Penrose postulates is necessary for (and explains) consciousness.

       I still think you guys are more captured by your model of
    evolution than by the actual facts of it.

I think we (collectively) are guilty of this all of the time, though in the spirit of "all models are wrong, some are useful" I'm not even sure I know what a "model-free" fact might be?

*/[NST==>Oh, no, Steve. WAY too broad a brush. The problem is that you in danger of using the same model to explicate your understanding of the phenomenon of evolution as you later use to explain how evolution came about. <==nst] /*

BTW, I think you are conflating my words with those of the larger group. I don't think I've ever tried to even suggest "how evolution came about", because that description doesn't even make sense to me... evolution "just is" .

I'm looking forward to Dave West's condensed summary of "Arrival of the Fittest".

- Steve
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