A Processual Perspective on Cancer | Marta Bertolaso and John Dupré (2018)

This chapter attempts to illuminate the dynamic stability of the organism and the robustness of its developmental pathway by considering the biology of cancer. Healthy development and stable functioning of a multicellular organism require an exquisitely regulated balance between processes of cell division, differentiation, and death (apoptosis). Cancer involves a disruption of this balance, which results in unregulated cell proliferation. The thesis defended in this chapter is that the coupling between proliferation and differentiation, whether normal or pathological (as in cancer), is best understood within a process-ontological framework. This framework emphasizes the interactions and mutual stabilizations between processes at different levels and this, in turn, explains the difficulty in allocating the neoplastic process to any particular level (genetic, epigenetic, cellular, or histological). Understanding these interactions is likely to be a precondition of a proper understanding of how these mutual regulations are disrupted in the processes we call cancerous.

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The Unspeakable: Understanding the System of Fallacy in the Media | Prof. JOHN McMURTRY (1998)

At the heart of informal logic is its con­cern to detect fallacious structures of reason­ing in natural language discourse. The nor­mal procedure is: where we are able to iden­tify a flaw in premise, inference, relevance or the like in any route of reasoning, we hold that a fallacy has been committed and we seek to demonstrate it. Otherwise put, logical analysis is directed at what is argued, and fallacies are found in this or that par­ticular way of arriving at a conclusion.

This method of analysis is indispensable to sound logical construction of individual arguments, but misses the overall pattern of assertion and non-assertion for the par­ticular claims within it. What has been so far overlooked is that reasoning can be mis­led not only in its steps of making a case, but by what is ruled out from being made a case: not only by what is wrong within this or that route of assertion, but by what is wrong with the structure of these routes of assertion taken together. We have, that is, missed the forest for the trees, or more accurately, for the logical landscape within which the forest and trees are located.

I will argue that there is a deeper, more comprehensive structure of subverting reason that misleads our thinking across propositional routes, and not through any fallacy of any such route. And I will show that this disorder obstructs and deforms our thinking and our reasoning by a general system of deception which has so far operated underneath the reach of our tools of logical detection and correction.

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Why do we need theories? | Giuseppe Longo and Ana M. Soto (2016)

Theories organize knowledge and construct objectivity by framing observations and experiments. The elaboration of theoretical principles is examined in the light of the rich interactions between physics and mathematics. These two disciplines share common principles of construction of concepts and of the proper objects of inquiry. Theory construction in physics relies on mathematical symmetries that preserve the key invariants observed and proposed by such theory; these invariants buttress the idea that the objects of physics are generic and thus interchangeable and they move along specific trajectories which are uniquely determined, in classical and relativistic physics.

In contrast to physics, biology is a historical science that centers on the changes that organisms experience while undergoing ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Biological objects, namely organisms, are not generic but specific; they are individuals. The incessant changes they undergo represent the breaking of symmetries, and thus the opposite of symmetry conservation, a central component of physical theories. This instability corresponds to the changes of the environment and the phenotypes.

Inspired by Galileo’s principle of inertia, the “default state” of inert matter, we propose a “default state” for biological dynamics following Darwin’s first principle, “descent with modification” that we transform into “proliferation with variation and motility” as a property that spans life, including cells in an organism. These dissimilarities between theories of the inert and of biology also apply to causality: biological causality is to be understood in relation to the distinctive role that constraints assume in this discipline. Consequently, the notion of cause will be reframed in a context where constraints to activity are seen as the core component of biological analyses.

Finally, we assert that the radical materiality of life rules out distinctions such as “software vs. hardware.”

Keywords Default state; Mathematical symmetries; Phase space; Biological organization

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A 21st Century Economics for the People of a Living Earth | David Korten

Our most prestigious universities continue to teach economics principles now known to be driving humanity to self-extinction.
An economics for the 21st century will guide us from an economy that empowers corporations in the service of money to an economy that empowers people in the service of life.

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The biological default state of cell proliferation with variation and motility, a fundamental principle for a theory of organisms | ANA M. SOTO, GIUSEPPE LONGO, Maël Montévil, and CARLOS SONNENSCHEIN (2016)

The principle of inertia is central to the modern scientific revolution. By postulating this principle Galileo at once identified a pertinent physical observable (momentum) and a conservation law (momentum conservation). He then could scientifically analyze what modifies inertial movement: gravitation and friction. Inertia, the default state in mechanics, represented a major theoretical commitment: there is no need to explain uniform rectilinear motion, rather, there is a need to explain departures from it. By analogy, we propose a biological default state of proliferation with variation and motility. From this theoretical commitment, what requires explanation is proliferative quiescence, lack of variation, lack of movement. That proliferation is the default state is axiomatic for biologists studying unicellular organisms. Moreover, it is implied in Darwin’s “descent with modification”. Although a “default state” is a theoretical construct and a limit case that does not need to be instantiated, conditions that closely resemble unrestrained cell proliferation are readily obtained experimentally. We will illustrate theoretical and experimental consequences of applying and of ignoring this principle.

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Biological organisation as closure of constraints | Maël Montévil, Matteo Mossio (2015)

We propose a conceptual and formal characterisation of biological organisation as a closure of constraints. We first establish a distinction between two causal regimes at work in biological systems: processes, which refer to the whole set of changes occurring in non-equilibrium open thermodynamic conditions; and constraints, those entities which, while acting upon the processes, exhibit some form of conservation (symmetry) at the relevant time scales. We then argue that, in biological systems, constraints realise closure, i.e. mutual dependence such that they both depend on and contribute to maintaining each other. With this characterisation in hand, we discuss how organisational closure can provide an operational tool for marking the boundaries between interacting biological systems. We conclude by focusing on the original conception of the relationship between stability and variation which emerges from this framework.

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Toward a theory of organisms: Three founding principles in search of a useful integration | ANA M. SOTO, GIUSEPPE LONGO, PAUL-ANTOINE MIQUEL, MAËL MONTEVIL, MATTEO MOSSIO, NICOLE PERRET, ARNAUD POCHEVILLE, and CARLOS SONNENSCHEIN

Organisms, be they uni- or multi-cellular, are agents capable of creating their own norms; they are continuously harmonizing their ability to create novelty and stability, that is, they combine plasticity with robustness. Here we articulate the three principles for a theory of organisms proposed in this issue, namely: the default state of proliferation with variation and motility, the principle of variation and the principle of organization. These principles profoundly change both biological observables and their determination with respect to the theoretical framework of physical theories. This radical change opens up the possibility of anchoring mathematical modeling in biologically proper principles.

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Organisational closure in biological organisms | Matteo Mossio, Alvaro Moreno (2010)

The central aim of this paper consists in arguing that biological organisms realize a specific kind of causal regime that we call “organisational closure”, i.e. a distinct level of causation, operating in addition to physical laws, generated by the action of material structures acting as constraints. We argue that organisational closure constitutes a fundamental property of biological systems since even its minimal instances are likely to possess at least some of the typical features of biological organisation, as exhibited by more complex organisms. Yet, while being a necessary condition for biological organization, organisational closure underdetermines, as such, the whole set of requirements that a system has to satisfy in order to be taken as s paradigmatic example of organism. As we suggest, additional properties, as modular templates and control mechanisms via dynamical decoupling between constraints, are required to get the complexity typical of full-fledged biological organisms.

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How Does It Work? The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms | MARIO BUNGE (2004)

This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is — for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, “How does it work, that is, what makes it tick — what are its mechanisms?” Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control.

Keywords: explanation; function; mechanism; process; system; systemism

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