The purpose of this paper is to present a critique of the current view that reduces cancer to a cellular problem caused by specific gene mutations and to propose, instead, that such a problem might become more intelligible, if it is understood as a phenomenon that results from the breakdown of the morphological plan or Gestalt of the organism. Such and organism, in Aristotelian terms, is characterized for presenting a specific morphe or logos (form) and for having a telos (end) (...) to fulfill. A malignant tumor represents an entity separated from both the organic logos and the organic telos. According to the basic postulates of Semiophysics – a blend of Aristotelian physics and Catastrophe Theory developed by René Thom – an organism is a source (original) form individuated by a dominant pregnance that corresponds to its morphogenetic field. Here it is suggested that cancer in aged individuals might result from the progressive exhaustion of developmental constraints that regulate the process of ontogeny, that it is expected to go from the fertilized non-differentiated zygote to the mature fully developed organism, because there is no further point ahead in the developmental pathway past the reproductive age. Cancer in young individuals (before their reproductive maturity) may then be consequence of the premature derangement of such fundamental developmental constraints. In all cases the result is the loss of morphological coherence within the organism. Thus representing a conflict between an organized morphology (the organism) and a part of such a morphology that drifts towards an amorphous state (the tumor). (shrink)
David Hume's famous riddle of induction implies a second problem related to the question of whether the laws and principles of nature might change in the course of time. Claims have been made that modern developments in physics and astrophysics corroborate the translational invariance of the laws of physics in time. However, the appearance of a new general principle of nature, which might not be derivable from the known laws of physics, or that might actually be a non-physical one (this (...) means completely independent of physical science) supports the notion that the course of nature can change in time. Here it is argued that natural selection satisfies the criteria that identify a general principle of nature which so far, appears to be non-derivable from the known laws of physics and therefore, it is likely that it arose in the course of time, thus leaving open again the quest for a true solution to Hume's second problem. (shrink)
La pregunta sobre la esencia de la tecnología no atañe sólo a la filosofía, sino que tiene un alcance más vasto y una repercusión más general; transforma cualitativamente la relación entre el hombre y la tecnología al añadir un elemento fundamental: la libertad.
Chance and necessity are mainstays of explanation in current biology, dominated by the neo-Darwinian outlook, a blend of the theory of evolution by natural selection with the basic tenets of population genetics. In such a framework the form of living organisms is somehow a side effect of highly contingent, historical accidents. Thus, at a difference of other sciences, biology apparently lacks theoretical principles that in a law-like fashion may explain the emergence and persistence of the characteristic forms of living organisms (...) that paradoxically, given the current importance attributed to chance, can be grouped into organized structural typologies. Nevertheless, the present essay shows that since its origins in Aristotelian natural history, biology aimed at achieving rational, non-accidental, explanations for the wide variety of living forms endowed with characteristic behaviors that constitute the landscape of biological species. (shrink)
This note discusses the importance of Natural History (biology) in the development of Aristotle philosophy and scientific outlook, and so the importance of considering Aristotle's philosophy as a necessary and useful background for contemporary biology.
The current mainstream in cancer research favours the idea that malignant tumour initiation is the result of a genetic mutation. Tumour development and progression is then explained as a sort of micro-evolutionary process, whereby an initial genetic alteration leads to abnormal proliferation of a single cell that leads to a population of clonally derived cells. It is widely claimed that tumour progression is driven by natural selection, based on the assumption that the initial tumour cells acquire some properties that endow (...) such cells with a selective advantage over the normal cells from which the tumour cells are derived. The standard view assumes that the transformed bodily cell somehow acquires "responsiveness" to natural selection independently of the whole organism to which the cell belongs. Yet, it is never explained where such an acquired capacity to respond to natural selection by the individual bodily cell comes from. This situation poses many difficult questions that so far have been left unanswered. For example, there is no explanation why some cells belonging to an organised whole and as such having no independent capacity for survival, apparently become 'independent' entities, able to respond to selective pressures in an autonomous fashion and then to be evaluated by natural selection. Hereunder it is argued that such a qualitative change cannot be the consequence of specific genetic mutations. Moreover, it is shown that natural selection is unlikely to be acting within the organism during tumour development and progression and that tumour evolution is a random, non-adaptive process, driven by no fundamental biological principle. Thus, mutations in the so-called oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes observed in epithelial cancers (that constitute more than 90% of all cancers) are not the result of selection for better cellular growth or survival under restrictive conditions. Instead, here it is suggested that they are the consequence of genetic drift acting upon gene functions that become non-relevant, either for the individual or the species fitness, once the organism is past its reproductive prime and as such, they also become superfluous for cell survival in the short term. It is proposed that the origin of cancer is epigenetic and it is a consequence of the need for a continued turnover of the individuals that constitute a species. (shrink)
Considerar un evento como descubrimiento científico es tarea compleja que, casi siempre, se ve influida por la sistematización de las investigaciones, la publicación de los hallazgos, o las ideas sobre la realidad del contexto donde se presenta.
This text answers the question, posed by the editor, on the philosophical and social issues resulting from the synthetic assembly of a modified bacterial genome that was introduced in an existing bacterial species (M.mycoides)and so it was claimed to represent the first ever kind of synthetic life produced by human manipulation.
En este artículo se analizan la nueva concepción en la apreciación de la ciencia y la crisis de racionalidad que provocó la obra de Thomas Kuhn, enmarcadas en el proceso que la filosofía de la ciencia ha seguido a lo largo de la historia.
Postmodern thought has focused itself on the critique of modern epistemology that was founded on a clear distinction between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge. For postmodern thought such a distinction is non-existent or dubious at best. Postmodernism has carried to its logical conclusion the postulates of structuralism; therefore, for postmodern thought there is no general intrinsic meaning in a fact of thing, but there are only particular ways for attributing meaning to such facts and things. Hereunder, we (...) attempt to trace the genealogy of postmodern thought on the history and philosophy of science, because science, traditionally regarded as the summit of knowledge and rationality by modern epistemology, has not been immune to the wholesale critique practiced by this new school of philosophical cynicism that we call postmodernism. (shrink)
Existen inconsistencias fundamentales entre el paradigma de la biología molecular y el paradigma de la física contemporánea y, por lo tanto, el marco conceptual vigente en la biología molecular resulta insuficiente para abordar las cuestiones del origen y desarrollo de la forma y organización biológicas.
The wealthiest nations in the World have a knowledge-based economy that depends on continued innovation based on research and development sustained by a pool of problem-solvers able to tackle the most diverse challenges. The Research University is the current gold standard for higher education and the research professors working in such an environment are the key figures responsible of fostering the new generations of problem-solvers.
Since Aristotle the central question in biology was the origin of organic form; a question put in the backyard by neo-Darwinism that considers organic form as a side effect of the interactions between genes and their products. On the other hand, the fashionable notion of self-organization also fails to provide a true causal explanation for organic form. For Aristotle form is both a cause and the principle of intelligibility and this coupled to the classical concepts of potentiality and actuality provides (...) a rational framework,currently embodied in the contemporary concept of ‘attractor’, for understanding the origin of organic form. (shrink)
Los editores de la revista han planteado dos preguntas: ¿Están los ciudadanos en condiciones de incorporar el espíritu científico en sus deliberaciones públicas? ¿Es esto requisito necesario para la democracia? Así, este artículo pretende ofrecer una respuesta que va más allá de tales preguntas.
Two hundred years after Darwin’s birth, the evolution of living systems is an accepted fact but there is scope for controversy on the mechanisms involved in such a process. Mainstream neo-Darwinism champions the role of natural selection (NS) as the fundamental cause of the evolutionary process as well as of random, contingent events at the genetic level as the main source of variation upon which NS performs its causal role. Thus, according to neo-Darwinism the course of biological evolution is quite (...) unpredictable and the past can only be partially reconstructed by means of a historical narrative.This second-class status for biology within the natural sciences as a merely descriptive, historical science results from the chronic neglect of biological form in the neo-Darwinian discourse. Hereunder I discuss the need for reintroducing form as the central object of biology, aiming at the identification of the general and fundamental principles of biological form. Such a formal biology may go beyond simple historical description achieving a complete, rational explanation of how previous and current morphologies corresponding to identifiable species were established, and so providing a rational foundation for predicting the possible outcomes of future biological evolution on earth and perhaps elsewhere in the universe. (shrink)
Molecular biology is a relatively new and very successful branch of science but currently it faces challenges posed by very complex issues that cannot be addressed by a traditional reductionist approach. However, despite its origins in the providential shift of some theoretical physicists to biology, currently molecular biology is immersed in a blind trend in which high-throughput technology, able to generate trillions of data, is becoming the leading edge of a discipline that has traded rational and critical thinking for computer (...) power, data crunching and statistics in hope of finding, once more, its way. However, the complex questions facing MB may only be solved by a paradigm shift in the causal way of thinking, so that complex, emergent, non-linear phenomena may be effectively understood in top-down and not in bottom-up terms. (shrink)
For some the gene-centered reductionism that permeates contemporary neo-Darwinism is an obstacle for finding a common explanatory framework for both biological and cultural evolution. Thus social scientists are tempted to find new concepts that might bridge the divide between biology and sociology. Yet since Aristotle we know that the level of explanation must be commensurate with the particular question to be answered. In modern natural science there are many instances where a reductionist approach has failed to provide the right answer (...) to the corresponding question. Thus social scientists risk becoming non-relevant when mimicking some features of the natural sciences (such as hard or soft reductionism) just for the sake of it, instead of finding autonomous explanations commensurate with the level of phenomena studied by social science. (shrink)
The unit of selection is the concept of that ‘something’ to which biologists refer when they speak of an adaptation as being ‘for the good of’ something. Darwin identified the organism as the unit of selection because for him the ‘struggle for existence’ was an issue among individuals. Later on it was suggested that, in order to understand the evolution of social behavior, it is necessary to argue that groups, and not individuals, are the units of selection. The last addition (...) to this debate was the formulation by Dawkins, in 1976, that the genes themselves are the units of selection while the organisms are merely the temporary receptacles and vehicles for such genes. Thus, the preposterous dissolution of the organism into genes and the proteins coded by such genes has been introduced in the evolutionary discourse by neglecting that the explanations for biological phenomena can be either synchronic or diachronic, depending on the phenomenon to be explained. Therefore explanations in molecular biology are synchronic while evolutionary biology needs diachronic explanations. Nevertheless, for ultra-Darwinians such as Dawkins, efficient replication is all that biology is about. Here I develop an argument in order to show that there is nothing in molecular and cell biology that might support such a contention and that the idea of the gene as the unit of selection is incompatible with the evident evolution of biological complexity. (shrink)
The unit of selection is the concept of that ‘something’ to which biologists refer when they speak of an adaptation as being ‘for the good of’ something. Darwin identified the organism as the unit of selection because for him the ‘struggle for existence’ was an issue among individuals. Later on it was suggested that, in order to understand the evolution of social behavior, it is necessary to argue that groups, and not individuals, are the units of selection. The last addition (...) to this debate was the formulation by Dawkins, in 1976, that the genes themselves are the units of selection while organisms are merely the temporary receptacles and vehicles for such genes. Thus, the preposterous dissolution of the organism into genes and the proteins coded by such genes has been introduced in the evolutionary discourse by neglecting that the explanations for biological phenomena can be either synchronic or diachronic, depending on the phenomenon to be explained. Therefore explanations in molecular biology are synchronic while evolutionary biology needs diachronic explanations. Nevertheless, for ultra-Darwinians such as Dawkins, efficient replication is all that biology is about. Here I develop an argument in order to show that there is nothing in molecular and cell biology that might support such a contention and that the idea of the gene as the unit of selection is incompatible with the evident evolution of biological complexity. (shrink)
This book deals with embryology although it is not a book on embryology. It is in itself like a developing embryo and at a difference of textbooks it does not pretend to be an introduction to any particular scientific discipline. This work was born from a fascination about forms and it is the draft of a morphological process: the account of a form coming into being, the form of an as yet unnamed but emerging science. A new science of qualities (...) in which the natural phenomena are understood as wholes, as complex entities, possessing integral properties that are non-reducible to discrete or quantifiable magnitudes. This book is like a jump into the future of science but also it is a return in time in order to find the founder of science. The first thinker that blended speculative thought with the direct observation of facts. This book is a return to the organism, to purpose and meaning, a return to Aristotle. (shrink)