No matter how much you guys and gals talk about stochastic events, the rules of structure make whatever happens deterministic to a surprising degree!

Stephen M. Levin
Ezekiel Biomechanics Group
Presented in the Embryo Physics Course, December 14, 2011


Embryologic development, from ‘origin of life’ to organism, has been regarded by scientists as a series of chance occurrences, the “Blind Watchmaker” theory popularized by Richard Dawkins, “a universe without design”. What is argued in this talk is that the laws of physics as applied to structures must play a dominant, and often deciding, role in organism structure and evolution. Structural stability of the developing organism becomes a driving force and adherence to physical laws makes much of emergence “deterministic”. Only certain forms are acceptable and physical laws must be followed. A newly developing embryo will always cede to stable configuration rather than an unstable one, and to a lesser energy form rather than to a higher energy consuming form. The underlying structural ‘design’ features from viruses to vertebrae, their systems and sub-systems, are remarkably similar. ‘Chance’ is only relative and whatever emerges can do so only by following the Laws of the Game.




7 responses to “No matter how much you guys and gals talk about stochastic events, the rules of structure make whatever happens deterministic to a surprising degree!”

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  1. I have somewhat a philosophical question, concerning the definition of structure. Is structure created by the mind or it exists independent from the mind?

    If we consider evolution, then at some point back there was no mind, and when structure has influenced evolution then that it presumably must exist independent from the mind. Then it would be good to find pure structure in Nature that is not mind depended.

    I am not kidding, such a question really bothers me (well, I listen right now nice lectures on philosophy by Prof Hoehen), so if you have any comments, I would appreciate them.

  2. Evgenii,

    The closest I can get to an answer is to refer you to Buckminster Fuler’s definition, In his concept, it is a “self-stabilizing energy event complex”, and then goes on from there. This would make it independent of “mind” and defined purely in terms of energy and not observation.

    A less esoteric definition, given by Gordon in, “Srtucture, or why things don’t fall down”, is “any assemblage of materials which is intended to sustain loads”. My personal understanding is probably somewhere between those two.

  3. We can ask the same way, whether energy is independent of the mind. My question in this sense is actually broader and it is not about structure only. We search for understanding but it might be good to ask ourselves what understanding ideally should look like.

    Let us imagine that the mankind has understood evolution and embryogenesis completely. What does it mean? Does it mean that there is some Equation-Of-Everything that allows us to simulate embryogenesis and evolution? Then the question is whether mathematics is independent from the mind or not?

    Well, these are completely useless philosophical questions but for some strange reasons right now they touch me.

  4. Dick Gordon says:

    Dear Steve & Evgenii,
    I think the broader question of structure is one of wholeness. In this context, I’m asking the same question. I think the best starting point is:

    Smuts, J.C. (1926). Holism and Evolution. New York, Viking Press.

    Yours, -Dick

  5. My question was actually even more abstract. I listen to lectures of Prof Hoenen on philosophy and this is the reason. So, does wholeness exist in the Nature independently from the mind?

  6. Dick Gordon says:

    Can you direct me to these lectures and/or writings of Hoenen?