The film ‘Expelled : No Intelligence Allowed’ written by Kevin Miller, Ben Stein and Walt Rulof drew a lot of flack and this post explains why. (listen up now, Kevin, Ben, Walt  {;-} )

It mostly goes back to a disagreement between Plato and Aristotle.  Plato believed that nature’s dynamics are characterized by ‘extrinsic final cause’ while Aristotle believed that nature’s dynamics are characterized by ‘intrinsic final cause’.

‘Extrinsic final cause’ corresponds with the gods shaping the development of things from space (the outside).  Geometrically, this elicits terms like ‘intelligent design’.  ‘Intrinsic final cause’ corresponds with the gods shaping the development of things from the inside.  Geometrically, this elicits terms like ‘purposive systems’.  An example is the ‘acorn’.  Aristotle believed that the development of the acorn into an oak tree was directed from the inside of the acorn.  That is, he believed that the organism or local system has ‘purpose’ within it that ‘directs’ its development.  Aristotle won out over Plato in the popularizing of this concept so that is what is entrenched in our western culture to this day (Of course Aristotle was wrong about a lot of stuff; e.g. that men have more teeth than women and that bodies fall to earth at a rate proportional to their weight.  Aristotle had such a powerful influence on popular understanding that these two things, that could have been easily dismissed by inspection, persisted, the latter for a thousand years until Galileo disproved it).

Intrinsic final cause (the acorn purposively pushing itself out into an oak tree) is even slower to fall, having been thoroughly woven into the cognitive fabric of western society.

Extrinsic final cause implies that the spatial receptacle is actively shaping the unfolding form of things and that its not simply what’s inside the system pushing from the inside out.  For example, the growth of a convection cell or hurricane is not simply ‘pushed out from the inside-outwards’, the spatial medium of the atmosphere is opening up for it (more receptively here and more resistively there) as it ‘seemingly’ pushes outward to its final form.  Relativity informs us that ‘extrinsic final cause’ (habitat-shaping-influence) and ‘intrinsic final cause’ (inhabitant-shaping-influence) are in a conjugate relation as given by Mach’s principle; “The dynamics of habitat condition the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat’.

Of course, western mental modeling likes to use absolute euclidian state which reduces the extrinsic-shaping-influence of space to no influence at all, synthetically forcing us to think in terms that intrinsic-shaping-influence is ‘all she wrote’.

The plot thickens here, as Nietzsche has pointed out, with his charge that western science is ‘anthropomorphism’..  His point is that our ego is tied up in this and that physics terms such as ‘attraction’ and ‘repulsion’ derive from our human feelings and do not exist as pure mechanical forces.  That is ‘attraction’ is something we ‘feel’ that comes with our ‘intention’ to embrace and pull it in, and ‘repulsion’ is something we ‘feel’ that comes our ‘intention’ to ‘push something out and away’.

Since we western humans feel like what we do is ‘pushes out from our purpose’, we see ourselves as purposive systems, but it doesn’t stop there.  We impose this image of ourselves on every other ‘organism’ as well, so that all of the developing systems in nature, we conceive of as purposive systems if they are ‘living/animate’ and ‘causal systems’ if they are non-living/inanimate’.

So, ‘relativity’ would support Plato’s view that there is extrinsic final cause (the habitat side of things) influencing the shape of the developing system, as in the strand-in-the-web-of-life view of Amerindians and other cultures; i.e. Mach’s principle applies (‘The dynamics of the web condition the dynamics of the strands at the same time as the dynamics of the dynamics of the strands are conditioning the dynamics of the web).  That is, the extrinsic shaping influence is in conjugate relation with the intrinsic shaping influence.  This situation has been confirmed in experiments with the cultivation of multi-species microbial communities and it is called ‘bidirectional innovation’ (Douglas E. Caldwell et al).

Ok, here’s where the problems start.  Pure extrinsic final cause (shaping by an outside hand) corresponds to ‘Intelligent Design’ (God did it).  But a conjugate relation between extrinsic shaping force and intrinsic shaping force is a description of a ‘relative’ or ‘fluid dynamic system’  Fluid dynamics work like a ‘French kiss’ the tongue with its probing purpose and the receiving mouth that opens spatial receptive possibilities are conjugate aspects of one dynamic.  In Caldwell’s multispecies community evolution, the community dynamic opens up shaped spatial possibility AT THE SAME TIME AS IT elicits the blossoming of assertive potentialities.   If we live in a community and a job for a dishwasher opens up, if we have two hands on the end of two arms (i.e. if we are ‘genetically equipped’), our development into a dishwasher may be induced.  Becoming a dishwasher was not a ‘purpose’ (intrinsic final cause) within us that directed our development.  ‘Stem cells’ are genetically equipped to be many things, depending on how the environmental dynamics they are included in turns on or off the assertive potentialities that reside there (when genes express themselves as combinations, in response to the environmental dynamic, it is call ‘epigenetics’).

In any case, Aristotle’s one-sided choice of ‘intrinsic final cause’ or ‘organisms as purposive systems’ is so deeply infused into western science (by ‘anthropomorphism’) that it is not going to be easy to move on with concepts such as ‘bidirectional innovation’ (although the experiments confirm this and the results are published in peer-reviewed microbiology  journals).   Nevertheless, those scientists such as Caldwell, if they don’t get tainted with ‘Intelligent Design’ get accused of the ‘heresy’ of denying ‘natural selection’.

Natural selection is what one has to invoke to explain the persisting of a purposive system (a system that already has inbuilt intrinsic final cause; i.e. it knows from infancy what it wants to develop into) in a passive space (a space without any extrinsic-shaping-influence).  Of course, if the shape of the developing organism is elicited by the co-evolving spatial niche that is opening up for it, then ‘natural selection’ is an  ‘idea’ or ‘device’ that is no longer needed to keep the ‘purposive system model of Aristotle ‘hanging together’.

Can you imagine a plethora of diverse organisms hanging about, all with intrinsic-shaping-influence sufficient to direct their ultimate final form ‘built in’, without any codevelopmental assistance from extrinsic shaping influence.  They won’t be answering any calls to take their place in the natural scheme of things.  They will instead be competing with one another for sustainable employment in a purely positivist sense (extrinsic-shaping-influence-free sense).   ‘Natural selection’ is a kind of Deus ex Machina’ (God out of a box) ‘fix’ to explain why certain forms persist.   There is no thought here that the community dynamic (extrinsic-shaping-influence) is continuously opening up spatial niche possibilities the codevelop the incumbent by eliciting the blossoming of its assertive potentialities.

On the other hand, consider the ‘stem cell’ and its role in regenerative organs.  When cells die within a regenerative organ, or when the organ suffers an injury, there may be a particular piece missing or a particularly shaped ‘hole’ that needs ‘filling in’.  This requires ‘extrinsic shaping influence’ and not just ‘intrinsic shaping influence’ on the part of a cell is internally programmed to develop into something specifc..  These cells spring forth where and when they are needed in the right quantities; i.e. this development involves extrinsic shaping influence.

100% extrinsic shaping influence = ‘intelligent design’ aka ‘creationism’.

100% intrinsic shaping influence = purposive systems  in the organic realm, causal systems in the mechanical realm.

‘Bidirectional innovation’ involves a conjugate relation between extrinsic shaping influence and intrinsic shaping influence.

But LOOK OUT! … because if you go with this you will be accused of two ‘scientific heresies’ at the same time; ‘intelligent design/creationism and denial of natural selection.  That is what is going in today that is stirring the social scene that Kevin Miller, Ben Stein and Walt Rulof were trying to dig out and present.

But they were missing the Nietzsche connection and the were not informed on ‘bidirectional innovation’ wherein it is no longer an either/or choice between ‘intelligent design’ (100% extrinsic shaping influence) and ‘purposive systems’ (100% intrinsic shaping influence), but rather a conjugate relation between the two (bidirectional innovation).

In the case of Nietzsche’s contention that western science is infused with anthropomorphism; i.e. it starts from how we see ourselves either as having within us the wherewithal to determine our unfolding development, or whether our unfolding development will be determined (at least partly) by the opening of spatial possibility associated with our situational inclusion in the world dynamic.  These two different ‘self-images’ are usually associated with ‘East’ and ‘West’.

East: (as captured by John Lennon)

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — extrinsic shaping influence conjugate with intrinsic shaping influence

West: (as in ‘the American Dream’)

“You can create the future of your dreams. This may seem far fetched for most people, but what they do not seem to realize is that their present is the future they created by their past actions or inaction. You are where you are today because of the decisions and actions you took yesterday.” — intrinsic shaping influence as in ‘purposive system’

That the Aristotelian preference for the ‘intrinsic final cause’ or ‘purposive system’ model  is a distinguishing feature of the western culture is illustrated in the following example, comparing the western view with the Amerindian view;

When the tide ebbs and the water recedes from the intertidal flats, people follow the tide out to pick clams and as as the tide floods and the water encroaches, the people withdraw to the shore.  If there are both ‘westerners’ and ‘Amerindians’ amongst the clam-diggers, if they are interviewed and asked why that are at this place at this time, the westerners will say that it is a good time to pick clams.  If asked why so many others gathered here at the same place at the same time, they will answer that it is because everyone has reasoned in the same way, that ‘great minds think alike’.  That is, they will couch their answers purely in intrinsic-behaviour-shaping-influence terms.   The Amerindians, when asked the same question, will say that their individual behaviour and the collective behaviour, are orchestrated by the dynamics of the habitat they are included in.  That is, they will couch their responses in terms of extrinsic-behaviour-shaping influence.

That this human image of self as a ‘purposive system’ has been infused into our model of organisms of all types in science can be seen in debate that periodically crops up in western medical research.  For example, Nobel laureate for medicine (1937), Albert Szent-Györgyi observed that streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, crowds of them, showed up at the same place and time inside of him.  He didn’t interview them as in the clam-digger (human) example, but he did question whether they were driven there by their own purpose (intrinsic behaviour-shaping influence).  His notion was that their congregating was the result of his illness rather than the cause of it; i.e. he reasoned that extrinsic behaviour-shaping influences were dominant, … that the conditions were fertile for the proliferation of streptococcus pneumoniae.  In his lab, he had been studying animals with scurvy which also got pneumonia.  He treated his pneumonia with large does of vitamin C and recovered very quickly.  His research on vitamin C won him the Nobel prize.

Szent-Györgyi’s contention that extrinsic behaviour-shaping influences dominated over intrinsic behaviour-shaping influences was basically a repeat of Pasteur’s deathbed concession to the contention of Antoine Béchamp that ‘le microbe n’est rien, le terrain est tout’ (the intrinsic behaviour-shaping influence is nothing, the extrinsic behaviour-shaping influence is everything.  None of this has been able to dislodge the prevailing western science modeling in terms of ‘Aristotle’s choice’ of intrinsic final cause (purposive systems) as the preferred model.

This resistance to dislodgement stems not from the particulars of scientific arguments (one can argue that bacteria cause illness and one can argue, as well, that illness is the body falling out of balance and so creating the conditions for bacteria to flourish).

The resistance to dislodgement hinges on the fact that a great many of us in the western culture, and particularly those currently in positions of power, embrace a self-image wherein we believe that “You can create the future of your dreams” while only a far smaller number believe that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

So long as the political machinery of western-style sovereign states convinces us that we should opt for the former self-image, and since we have implemented the corporation as a ‘purposive system’ that also encourages the former self-image, it is going to be very difficult to climb down off the Aristotelian ‘intrinsic final cause’ bandwagon and its created cohorts ‘natural selection’ and ‘corporate organisation’..

My hope is that Miller, Stein and Rulof will make the needed adjustments (acknowledge ‘bidirectional innovation’ rather than putting the spotlight on ‘extrinsic final cause’ as a substitute for intrinsic final cause, and point out how Nietzsche’s charge of science as anthropomorphism anchors in place the notion of ‘natural selection’ and ‘competition’) and come back for ‘another try’.

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