Materialism and the Contemporary Natural Sciences (page 7)

Robert Steigerwald

It should be mentioned, finally, that theories of self-organization do not at all maintain that, in principle, the way would be open in any direction at a bifurcation point. If they said this, all self-organization conceptions would fail in regard to one principal question. The abstract mathematically defined possibilities to synthesize living substances from the available atomic materials are so many that the time since the big bang would not have been sufficient to try them all. These abstract possibilities, however, are limited for mathematical reasons.

The transition from prebiotic to biotic macromolecules

The source of the origin of life is also an old controversy between materialism and idealism. It is no wonder that among natural scientists, materialists have tried repeatedly to solve this problem. And indeed, the materialist position has essentially been substantiated by Manfred Eigen’s discovery of macromolecules with the ability to store the information necessary for their self-reproduction. Thus they possess the basic qualities of living matter. Eigen was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discoveries. In the chemical development of the earth, two groups of chemical substances provided the essential combination for the origin of life. One were the nucleic acids that were the precusors to RNA (ribonucleic acid), and the other the amino acids that could be catalyzed into proteins (chains of amino acids) by the RNA. The chemical and physical properties nucleic acids and proteins are rather well-understood. It is generally believed that the further development of RNA led to the formation of the self-reproducing molecule of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The elaboration of DNA and the processes associated with it have earned several Nobel Prizes. Although we do not yet have all the answers to questions about the origin of self-reproducing molecules, the principle issue of the way living matter arises from nonliving has been clarified.

Reproduction, in which DNA, RNA and proteins are involved, is complex and is an example of the interdependence of many processes. Natural biochemical and biophysical laws are the basis of these processes, but the ways in which reproduction takes place and the resulting new organisms are related to the evolutionary and individual history of the organisms involved. These processes are worthy of a dialectical-materialist analysis that could prove important in the further development of the philosophy.

The process of biological development

Living matter obviously has a great potential for change, the characteristic of all matter. In the adjustment of the organism to continuous changes within itself and in the environment in which it lives, the changes that promote the integrity of the organism are likely to persist and result in structural and functional changes of the organism that may affect the reproductive process on all levels, including the biochemical, that is, genes and proteins, so that offspring are also changed in relation to the characteristics of the environment. These changes in the genes and proteins are also affected in the new individual by the environment in which it lives, so that those changes may or may not remain active. In all the integrative effects of changes within and outside the organism, the activity of the organism is potent in the processes of change and persistence in the species. Changes in genetic material favorable for the organism’s interaction with its environment are carried forward genetically and thereby remain available for subsequent activities. This means that organisms undergo a kind of learning process. They are thus the subjects and objects of evolution. They remain within environments that offer them favorable conditions, which implies a sort of recognition of such conditions, in contradiction to the autopoiesis conception.

The Darwinist view of survival of the fittest has been entrenched as indubitable knowledge, as was the case in an earlier time when the overturning of the Ptolemaic system by Copernicus collided with mass consciousness as well. New thinking about the evolutionary process has questioned whether natural selection is the only fundamental process in evolution. Developmental processes as focal points in the process of speciation, the activity of the individual organism, and the concept of epigenesis as incorporating environmental as well as developmental histories of change have been stressed by a number of investigators. The positing of a mechanical materialist dichotomy between genetic (sometimes termed “evolutionary”) factors and environmental factors is decried by many, but the persistence of a genetic-determinist view is evident. “Pure environmentalism” and “pure hereditarianism” are denied, but the search for genetic bases for complex human behavior is supported financially by genomic programs. Neither the materiality of the environment nor of the organism are being challenged by the aforementioned reference to a kind of learning process. Only another subject-object relationship is being elaborated, or more accurately, the internal conditions of the organism are seen as determined. This is only part of the old dialectical thesis that development arises from the inner contradictory moments. The dialectical thesis also sees development as arising from external contradictory moments.

Important new neuroscientific research on the mind and the brain

Neuroscience has been able to show that our sense organs transmit chemical/electrical signals to the brain, not pictures or copies of environmental stimuli. The dominant view is that the brain is autonomous, responding to the environment on the basis of its internal processes and according to them only. The brain “makes” the environment. I am speaking about the conceptions of Maturanas, Varelas, von Foersters, and others.

« 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 »

Notes


1. Reference to a German poem by Christian Morgensternm “Die unmögliche Tatsache” (The Impossible Fact) in which a man named Palmström is run over and killed while improperly crossing an intersection. Upon contemplating the circumstances of his death, he reasons that the car that ran him over should not have legally been there. He then concludes that he is not dead because “what must not be, cannot be.”—Ed.


2. Translation of quotations from non-English sources in the Reference List were made by the translator.


3. In the discussion that follows, I do not deal with differences in the kinds of models or the difference between material and theoretical models.


4. The author is referring here to the historically dominant variety of critical realism in Europe, which is akin to a form of neo-Thomism. See Hörz, Röseberg, et al. 1980, 165-77).


Reference List

Acham, Karl. 1974. Analytische Geschichtsphilosophie. Munich: Alber. 1977. Über Parteilichkeit und Subjektivität in der Gesellschaftswissenschaft. In vol. 1 of Theorie und Geschichte. Munich: Kossel/Mommsen.

Albrecht, Erhard, Werner Ebeling, et al., eds. 1974. Streitbarer Materialismus und gegenwärtige Naturwissenschaft. Vol. 33 of the series Zur Kritik der bürgerlichen Ideologie. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Aristotle. 1912. Aristotle’s metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2000. Nicomachean ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Becker. Oskar. 1954. Grundlagen der Mathematik in geschichtlicher Entwicklung. Freiburg: K. Alber.

Bernal, John D. 1969. Science in history. London: C. A. Watts.

Bertalanffy, Ludwig von. 1953. Biophysik des Fließgleichgewichts. Brunswick: Vieweg.

Beurton, Peter. 1978. In 100 Jahre “Anti-Dühring,” edited by R. Kirchhoff and Todor I. Oiserman, 325 ff. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Biller, E. 1992. Chaos-Forschung: Revolution des naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbildes. In Freidenker, Organ des Deutschen Freidenker-Verbandes. No. 4. Dortmund.

Bitsakis, Eftichios. 1988. Quantum statistical determinism. Foundations of Physics 18, no. 3. 1988. Potential and real states in quantum mechanics. Manuscript. 1989. Quantum probalities, Manuscript. Athens. 1993. Scientific realism. Science and Society 57, no. 2:160-93

Blokhintsev, Dmitrii I. 1968. The philosophy of quantum mechanics. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Bolhagen, P. 1967. Gesetzmäßigeit und Gesellschaft. Zur Theorie gesellschaftlicher Gesetze. Berlin.

Born, Max. 1969. Quantenmechanik der Stoßvorgänge. In Wellenmechanik. Einführung und Originaltexte, by G. Ludwig. Berlin.

Brugger, Walter. 1980. Der dialektische Materialismus und die Frage nach Gott. Munich.

Brugger, Walter, ed. 1988. Philosophisches Wörterbuch. Freiburg: Herder.

Buhr, Manfred. ed. Enzyklopädie der bürgerlichen Philosophie im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Leipzig 1988.

Buhr, Manfred, and Todor I. Oiserman, eds. 1981. Vom Mute des Erkennens. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Bunge, Mario. 1963. Causality: The place of the causal principle in modern physics. Cleveland: Meridian Books. 1973. Quantum mechanics in search of its referent. In Philosophy of Physics, by Mario Bunge. Boston: Reidel. 1980. The mind-body problem: a psychobiological approach. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Darwin, Charles. 1998. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

Descartes, René. 2001. Discourse on method, optics, geometry, and meteorology. Indianapolis: Hackett.

de Vries, Joseph. 1958. Die Erkenntnistheorie des dialektischen Materialismus. Munich: Pustet.

Dingler, Hugo, 1952. Über die Geschichte und das Wesen des Experimentes.Munich: Eidos Verlag

Ebeling, Werner. 1989. Chaos Ordnung Information: Selbstorganisation in Natur und Technik. Frankfurt-on-Main: H. Deutsch. 1990. Erneuerung als Grundmerkmal der Evolution. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, no. 7.

Ebeling, Werner, and Rainer Feistel. 1994. Chaos und Kosmos: Prinzipen Evolution. Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag.

Edlinger, Karl, Wolfgang F. Gutmann, and Michael Weingarten. 1991. Evolution ohne Anpassung, Frankfurt-on-Main: Waldemar Kramer.

Eigen, Manfred. 1992. Steps towards life: A perspective on evolution. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Eigen, Manfred, and Ruthild Winkler. 1981. Laws of the game: How the principles of nature govern chance. New York: Knopf.

Einstein, Albert. 1929. Über den gegenwärtigen Stand der Feldtheorie. In Festschrift für Prof. D. Aurel Stodola, edited by E. Honegger. Zürich. 1979. Albert Einstein: Autobiographical notes. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court. 1995. Physics and reality. In Ideas and Opinion, by Albert Einstein, edited by Carl Seelig. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks.

Einstein, Albert, Hedwig Born, and Max Born. 1969. Briefwechsel 1916-1955, Munich: Nymphenburger Verlagshandl.

Einstein, Albert, and Leopold Infeld. 1950. The evolution of physics, London: Scientific Book Club. 1969. Über spezielle und allgemeine Relativitätstheorie, Brunswick.

Eisenhardt, Peter, et al. 1988, Du steigst nie zweimal in denselben Fluss. Die Grenzen der wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnis. Reinbek: Rowohlt.

Engels, Frederick. 1942. Letter to Conrad Schmidt, 12 March 1868. In Selected corrrespondence 1846-1895: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 527-531. New York: International Publishers. 1987. Anti-Dühring [Herr Eugen Dühring’s revolution in science]. In vol. 25 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected works, 1-309. New York: International 1990. Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy. In vol. 26 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected works, 353-98. New York: International Publishers.

Erpenbeck, John. 1980. Psychologie und Erkenntnistheorie:Zu philosophischen Problemen psychischer Erkenntnisprozesse. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. 1989. Das Ganze denken: Zur Dialektik menschlicher Bewußtseinsstrukturen und Prozesse. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Feynman, Richard P. 1965. The character of physical law. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Foerster, Heinz von. 1985. Sicht und Einsicht: Versuche zu einer operativen Erkenntnistheorie. Brunswick: F. Vieweg and Sohn.

Frank, Philipp. 1947. Einstein: His life and times. New York: Knopf.

Friedmann, Aleksandr A. 1922. Über der Krümmung des Raumes. Zeitschrift für Physik 10:377-86.

Gamow, George. 1952. The creation of the universe. New York: Viking.

Geissler, H.-G. 1987. The temporal architecture of central information processing. Evidence for a tentative time-quantum-model. Psychological Research 49, no. 8:99 ff.

Gell-Mann, Murray. 1994. The quark and the jaguar: Adventures in the simple and the complex. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Gutmann, Wolfgang F., and Klaus Bonik. 1981. Kritische Evolutionstheorie. Ein Beitrag zur Überwindung altdarwinistischer Dogmen. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg.

Gutmann, Wolfgang, and Michael Weingarten. 1991. Maschinentheoretische Grundlagen der organismischen Konstruktionslehre. Philosophia Naturalis 28, no. 2. 1990. Die biotheoretischen Mängel der Evolutionären Erkenntnislehre. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 21:309ff. 1995. Die Konstruktion der Organismen: Struktur und Funktion. Frankfurt-on-Main: W. Kramer.

Haken, Hermann. 1984. The science of structure: Synergetics. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Hawking, Stephen W. 1993. Is everything determined? In Black holes, universes and other essays, by Stephen W. Hawking, 127-39. New York: Bantam Books.[[Chk title]] 1996. A brief history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Heisenberg, Werner. 1971. Physics and beyond; Encounters and conversations. New York: Harper and Row.

Hejl, Peter M. 1989. Self-regulation in social systems: Explaining the process of research. Siegen, Germany: LUMIS, Siegen Univ. 1992. Konstruktion der sozialen Konstruktion: Grundlagen einer konstruktivistischen Sozialtheorie. In Zur Chaos-Theorie : ideologiekritische Betrachtungen: Neue Perspektiven für Natur- Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften, by Rainer Hess und Gerhard Hofner. Frankfurt-on-Main: Verein Wissenschaft and Sozialismus.

Hörz, Herbert, and Karl-Friedrich Wessel. 1983. Philosophische Entwicklungstheorie. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Hörz, Herbert, and Karl-Friedrich Wessel, eds. 1986. Philosophie und Naturwissenschaften. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Hörz, Herbert, and Ulrich Röseberg, eds. 1981. Materialistische Dialektik in der physikalischen und biologischen Erkenntnis. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Hörz, Herbert, Ulrich Röseberg, et al. 1980. Philsophical problems in physical science. Minneapolis: Marxist Educational Press (MEP Publications).

Holbach, Paul Henri. 1889. The system of nature: Or, laws of the moral and physical world. Boston: J. P. Mendum.

Holz, Hans Heinz. 1983. Dialektik und Widerspiegelung. Cologne: Pahl-Rugenstein. 1986. Widerspiegelung und Konstruktion. Topos (Bonn), no. 7. 1990. s.v. Widerspiegelung. In vol. 4 of Enzyklopädie der europäischen Wissenschaften, edited by Hans J. Sandkühler, 825 ff. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag.

Hoyle, Fred. 1960. The nature of the universe. New York: Harper.

Kamke, Erich. 1950. Theory of sets, New York: Dover Publications.

Kanitscheider, Bernulf. 1981. Wissenschaftstheorie der Naturwissenschaft. Berlin: de Gruyter. 1984. Kosmologie Geschichte und Systematik in philosophischer Perspektive. Stuttgart: Reclam.

Kedrow, Bonifati M. 1979. Friedrich Engels über die Dialektik der Naturwissenschaft. Berlin: Dietz.

Klix, Friedhart. 1980. Erwachendes Denken: Eine Entwicklungsgeschichte der menschlichen Intelligenz. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Kuhn, Hans. 1973. Entstehung des Lebens: Bildung von Moleküleigenschaften. Forschung 14, no. 3: 78-104.

Kuhn, Hans, and J. Waser. 1981. Molecular self-oranization and the origin of life. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl 20:500-20.

Kuznetsov, Boris G. 1979. Einstein. Leben, Tod, Unsterblichkeit. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Landau, Lev D., and Yurii B. Rumer. 1974. What is the theory of relativity? Moscow: Mir.

Lanius, Karl. 1988. Mikrokosmos Makrokosmos. Das Weltbild der Physik. Leipzig.

Lenin, Vladimir I. 1961. Philosophical notebooks. Vol. 38 of V. I. Lenin: Collected works. Reprint 1972. Moscow: Progress Publishers. 1962. Materialism and empirio-criticism. Vol. 14 of V. I. Lenin: Collected works. Reprint 1972. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Lucretius Carus, Titus. 1998. On the nature of the univeerse, Oxford: Clarenden Press.

Marquit, Erwin. 1980. Stability and development in physical science. In Marxism, Science and the Movement of History, edited by Alan R. Burger, Hyman R. Cohen, and David H. DeGrood, 77-104. Amsterdam: B. R. Gruener.

Maturana, Humberto R. 1982. Erkennen: Die Organisation und Verkörperung von Wirklichkeit: Ausgewählte Arbeiten zur biologischen Epistemologie. Brunswick: Friedr. Vieweg and Sohn.

Maturana, Humberto R., and Francisco Varela. 1987. The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Boston: Shambhala. 1980. Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. Boston: D. Reidel.

Mayr, E. 1984. Die Entwicklung der biologischen Gedankenwelt, Berlin. 1994. Ethik and Sozialwissenschaften, edited by F. Benseler et al. Opladen.

Nelson, Leonard. 1911. Die Unmöglichkeit der Erkenntnistheorie. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

Newton, Isaac. 1934. Sir Isaac Newton’s mathematical principles of natural philosophy and his system of the world. 2 vols. Translate1d by Florian Cajori. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Oparin, Alexandr I. 1957. The origin of life on earth. New York: Academic Press. 1961. Life, its nature, origin and development. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.

Planck. Max. 1910. Zur machschen Theorie der physikalischen Erkenntnis. Vierteljahreszeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie und Soziologie, no. 4:498.

Plato. 1973. The Timeaus of Plato. New York: Arno Press.

Prigogine, Ilya. 1986. Natur, Wissenschaft und neue Rationalität. In Dialektik: Beiträge zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften (Cologne), no. 12.

Prigogine, Ilya, and Isabelle Stengers. 1984. Order out of chaos: Man’s new dialogue with nature. Boulder, Colo: New Science Library. 1993. Das Paradox der Zeit. Munich.

Prigogine, Ilya, and P. Glansdorff. 1971. Thermodynamic theory of structure, Stability and Fluctuations, New York: Wiley-Interscience.

Röseberg, Ulrich. 1978. Quantenmechanik und Philosophie: Standpunkte des dialektischen Materialismus. Brunswick: Vieweg. Philosophie und Physiks. Leipzig. 1983. Dialektische Widersprüche der physikalischen Bewegungsform der Materie. 1984. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, no 12. Szenarium einer Revolution. Nichtrelativistische Quantenmechanik und philosophische Widerspruchsproblematik. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Roth, G. 1986. Selbstorganisation und Selbstreferentialität als Prinzipien der Organisation von Lebewesen. Dialektik: Beiträge zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften (Cologne), no. 12. 1988, Annalen für dialektische Philosophie, Cologne.

Ruelle, David. 1993. Zufall und Chaos. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Paris/Tokyo/Hong Kong/Barcelona/Budapest 1992.

Satshkov, Juri V. 1988. Konstruktivnaya rol slutshaya. Voprossi filosofii. German tranlation: Die konstruktive Rolle des Zufalls. Sowjetwissenschaft, no. 5 [1989]).

Schilpp, Paul A., ed. 1970. Albert Einstein: philosopher-scientist. La Salle, Ill: Open Books.

Shmal’gauzen, Ivan I. 1986. Factors of evolution: The theory of stabilizing selection. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Schramm, E./Weingarten, M. 1987. Biologische Moralund Ethikkonzeptionen zwischen Weltanschauung und reaktionärer Ideologie. Dialektik, Heft 14, Köln.

Schrödinger, Erwin. 1967. What is life? The physical aspect of the living cell and mind and matter. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Smart, John J. C. 1963. Philosophy and scientific realism. New York: Humanities Press. 1972. Further thoughts on the identity theory. The Monist 56.

Spickermann, Wolfgang. 1978. Kosmologie und die Legende vom Schöpfungsakt. Berlin: Frankfurt-on-Main: Verlag Marxistische Blätter.

Steigerwald, Robert. 1999. Abschied vom Materialismus? Zur Antikritik heutiger Materialismus-Kritik. 2d ed. Schkeuditz, Germany: Bonn: GNN-Verlag

Treder, Hans-Jürgen. 1974. Philosophische Probleme des physikalischen Raums: Gravitation, Geometrie, Kosmologie und Relativität. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Varela, Francisco J.. 1990. Kognitionswissenschaft Kognitionstechnik: Eine Skizze aktueller Perspektiven. Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp. Principles of biological autonomy. New York: North Holland.

Wahsner, Renate, and Horst-Heino von Borzeszkowski. 1989. Physikalischer Dualismus und dialektischer Widerspruch, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

Watson, James D. 1997. The double helix: A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Weinberg, Steven. 1977. The first three minutes. New York: Basic Books.

Weingarten, Michael. 1991. Darwin, der frühe Darwinismus und das Problem des Fortschritts in der Evolution. In Natur und Museum, Bericht der Senckenbergischen Naturforschen den Gesellschaft, no. 121, May 1. (Frankfurt-on-Main). 1993. Organismen—Objekte oder Subjekte der Evolution? Philosophische Studien zum Paradigmenwechsel in der Evolutionsbiologie. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. 1992. Organismuslehre und Evolutionstheorie. Hamburg: Kovac.

Weizsäcker, Carl F. F. von. 1972. Die philosophische Interpretation der modernen Physik: zwei Vorlesungen. Leipzig: J. A. Barth. 1958. Zum Weltbild der Physik. Stuttgart.

Wetter, Gustav A. 1958. Dialectical Materialism. New York: Praeger. 1958. Philosophie und Naturwissenschaft in der Sowjetunion. Hamburg: Reinbek. 1966. Soviet ideology today. New York: Praeger.

Wolff, Michael. 1981. Der Begriff des Widerspruchs. Eine Studie zur Dialektik Kants und Hegels, Königstein/Ts.: Hain.

Vol’kenstain, Mikhail V. 1964. Sushchhnost’ biologitcheskoi evolyutsii. Uspechi fisitscheskich nauk 143:441ff.

Zahrnt, Heinz. Die Sache mit Gott: Die protestantische Theologie im 20. Jahrhundertt. Stuttgart: Evangelische Buchgemeindex