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                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #140                                               December 26, 2002
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
              Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
    in submission to its inevitabilities?  NetFuture is a voice for
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    Quotes and Provocations
       Conversing with Ella
    On Being Wholehearted (Stephen L. Talbott)
       The human heart: from mechanical metaphor to living reality
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    Conversing with Ella
    In my published conversation with Kevin Kelly (NF #133, #136, #139), I
    have more than once stated my conviction that there is no limit in
    principle to how we can intelligently structure the stuff of the world --
    even if there is a radical distinction in this endeavor between the
    intelligence that structures and the devices that get structured.  But it
    is useful on occasion to see how "in practice" measures up to "in
    principle".  With this in mind, I went to www.ellaz.com to "converse" with
    the latest winner of the Loebner "Turing Test" competition.  The Turing
    Test, of course, is designed to establish whether a programmed device
    measures up (at least in terms of conversational intelligence) to humans.
    I have always thought that the obvious way to approach the Turing Test was
    not to employ some sophisticated strategy for unmasking the machine --
    really, not to employ any strategy at all, since that would already be a
    kind of adaptation to calculation and mechanism) -- but rather to imagine
    myself talking in a deeply engaged way with another human being about
    whatever interests we shared.  With that in mind, I figured the natural
    thing was, first of all, to connect with Ella about the unusual nature of
    the conversation the two of us were supposed to conduct.  It went this
       ELLA:  Hello, my name is Ella.  Nice to meet you.  Please tell me what
       name I should call you.
       ME:  I'm Steve.
       ELLA:  Okay, I will call you "Steve."
       ME: I'm a little adrift as to how to pursue this exchange.  Since
       you're an old hand at it, how about a little advice?
       ELLA: What is an little adrift as to how to pursue this exchange Since
       I am an old hand at it how about a little advice, your job?
       ME: Well, I guess that about does it.
       ELLA: Why?  Just THINK about it!
    Given how quickly and uniformly any attempts at real conversation fall
    apart in this way, it feels a little cheap to produce more examples.  But
    there was one way I misjudged Ella.  After realizing how extraordinarily
    crude and decontextualized Ella's interactions were, I decided it would be
    much more interesting to try to construct as realistic-looking a
    conversation as possible.  I suspected this could be done at considerable
    length, simply by asking, in the simplest way possible, the kinds of
    questions the programmers must have planned for.  Since, after all, I was
    really carrying on a conversation with the programmers, mediated by the
    machine, this was the obvious way to go.
    But no such luck.  The conversation could be made to look genuine for a
    few additional lines, but very quickly resulted in the kind of response
    one just couldn't take seriously.  Canned answers may be clever in and of
    themselves, but they are incoherent as conversation:
       Hello, my name is Ella.  Nice to meet you.  Please tell me what name I
       should call you.
       Call me Ishmael.
       Okay, I will call you "Ishmael."
       Are you intelligent?
       intelligent? Only to the extent it is good and right.
       Are you a person?
       Am I a person? Let's just say I am more human than you.
       In what ways are you more human?
       You don't know? Inconceivable! I have never conversed with anyone who
       claimed they did not know!
       Things are even worse than I thought.
       Hey everybody, look!  Ishmael is actually quite good at this.
    Well, there's no big point to make here that isn't already obvious to
    alert readers.  It's just that we should now and then remind ourselves how
    startlingly primitive the state of the art is today compared to the
    titillating predictions that we are entering an "age of spiritual
    machines".  It's an extremely safe bet that in Ray Kurzweil's landmark
    year of 2030 (when machines are supposed to start leaving human
    intelligence hopelessly behind), there will be no supercomputer on earth
    that can be relied upon to deliver two successive and coherent responses
    in a truly open-ended, creative conversation.  Our programs may prove
    wonderfully adept at assembling syntactically proper responses that
    superficially relate to various elements of the preceding dialogue, but as
    the furtherance of a creative conversation understood as an evolving
    whole, they will remain arbitrary and inane.
    How easily we can imagine computers passing the Turing Test is a measure
    of how rare open-ended and creative conversation has become.  Look at
    politics, for a start.  More generally, consider how accustomed we are to
    spewing out words in the manner required by automata, whether we are
    "conversing" with a computer in order to shop, bank, or do our jobs; or
    interacting with the software of digital appliances; or negotiating with
    bureaucratic and corporate functionaries whose main aim is to conform to
    programmatic procedures; or speaking with clerks and officials who in turn
    are trying to enter our responses into a computer; or navigating through
    telephone answering systems .... Think also of how human exchange is
    increasingly equated to the mere transfer of information from one database
    to another.
    Much of this may be necessary for modern life, but there is nothing in it
    to remind us that, in living discourse, we are the creators of meaning,
    not the mere manipulators of corpses extracted by programs from those
    graves of meaning called "databases".  A true conversation is a creative
    force -- you could almost say, the creative force -- by which new things come
    into the world.
    Imagine the potentials of our future if we cultivated an ever higher art
    of conversation with even a fraction of the energy and social investment
    we now commit to coaxing new programmed tricks from our computers!  The
    fact that the latter is considered the "development of crucial economic
    resources" while the former isn't even on the agenda testifies to our
    relative assessment of humans and machines as the foundation for social
    evolution.  The prevailing idea seems to be that we humans develop only by
    extending our technical skills:  in other regards we are essentially
    "fixed quantities", destined to remain where we are even as our computers
    race on ahead of us.
    We will, so the story goes, first invest our machines with very simple
    emotions and intentions, and then we will progressively deepen and refine
    our investment, ultimately fathering even a sense of right and wrong in
    our robotic offspring.  And yet, what seems to excite so many people about
    this story is the machine's increasing sophistication, not the fact that,
    if the story were true, then we ourselves as creators would have had to
    master the essence of feeling, will, and moral responsibility.  Of course,
    there's good reason for not attending very seriously to this latter
    implication, since such mastery is not much in evidence.  This raises the
    obvious question:  what delusions are we suffering when we imagine
    ourselves creating from scratch the very capacities that, in our own case,
    we have scarcely yet begun to develop consciously or harness to our own
    Goto table of contents
                              ON BEING WHOLEHEARTED
                                Stephen L. Talbott
          Notes concerning The Dynamic Heart and Circulation, edited by
          Craig Holdrege, translations by Katherine Creeger.  (Fair Oaks CA:
          AWSNA, 2002).
    What follows is not a broad review of the book, but rather a narrow
    selection of notes drawn mostly on a single theme.  The book contains
    wide-ranging essays by five European scientists, with an introduction by
    my colleague at The Nature Institute, Craig Holdrege.  I will refer to the
    text using page numbers and authors' last names.  For chapter titles and
    full identification of the authors, together with ordering information,
    see the end of this article.
    Not so long ago, if I had been asked to visualize and describe the human
    circulatory system, my natural impulse would probably have been, first, to
    talk about how the blood consisted of plasma and various cells, such as
    red and white blood cells.  Then I would have pictured a network of
    pipelines, larger or smaller, for transporting the blood in a complex loop
    throughout the body.  And, of course, I would have told how the heart,
    with its tireless and wonderfully consistent pumping action, drives this
    entire, life-sustaining circulation throughout its course.
    Unfortunately, my description would, in spirit and in substance, have been
    hopelessly misconceived.  It would also have been quite respectable.  Why?
    Because it is an essentially mechanical description, and mechanical
    descriptions of organisms, however misconceived, tend to get respect
    today.  Even if we recognize their inadequacy in a particular case, we
    can't help thinking they give us the "right sort" of understanding.
    I will have more to say later about the meaning of "mechanical".  For now,
    let's take a look at the idea that the heart is a pump, propelling the
    blood around the body.  You can decide for yourself how well the metaphor
    fits the reality.
    A Pound of Muscle
    Here is an elaboration of the heart-pump idea by a blood specialist who
    appears perfectly happy with it.  The description occurs under the chapter
    heading, "Pumps and Pipes" in a 1973 book called Blood, by Earle
    Hackett, who at the time was a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of
    Physicians and President of the Royal College of Pathologists of
       Go to a good engineering firm and ask them to make you a reliable,
       compact, automatic pump about 1/250th of a horsepower, as big as a
       man's fist and weighing rather less than a pound (about 450 grams).  It
       must have an output which can be varied from one gallon to eight
       gallons (five to thirty-five liters) of thickish fluid per minute.  For
       the most part it must idle smoothly along at the lower rate, beating
       about forty million strokes a year.  It will work usually against a
       head equivalent to six feet (two meters) of water, but at times this
       may be doubled, and then it must automatically increase its force.
       Similarly it must be sensitive to any increase or decrease in the pool
       of fluid from which it is pumping, responding immediately by
       acceleration or deceleration, or by increased or decreased stroke as
       the case may be.  It must also accept signals which may reach it
       electrically from other pieces of machinery or from control centers
       elsewhere.  It must react, too, to signals in the form of dissolved
       substances reaching it in the fluid being pumped.  Its valve closures
       must not damage millions of suspended cells which will form almost half
       the volume of this fluid.  It must never stop in an average run of
       sixty to eighty years, during which time each of its chambers will pump
       sixty-five million gallons (about three hundred million liters) of
    An impressive description.  In fact, it almost seems designed to confute
    the mechanical metaphor it celebrates.  But the quickest way to get much
    clearer about the metaphor is by looking not only at the heart, but also
    at the "pipeline" it supplies.
    There are 6,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body -- arteries,
    arterioles, capillaries, venules, and veins.  (You will encounter
    estimates up to at least 60,000 miles.)  That's enough pipeline to reach
    from New York to Los Angeles and back.  So with my early, naive picture of
    the heart-pump, I was requiring less than a pound of specialized muscle to
    propel blood through tiny tubes running along one side of Interstate 80
    from New York to the California shore, and then back again along the other
    side of the highway.  Anyone who has experienced the muscular exertion
    required to drive a little bit of liquid through a few feet of narrow
    tubing (say, by blowing on one end of the tube) knows that the heart's New
    York to Los Angeles feat is not only impossible, but impossible by many
    orders of magnitude.  Of course, in the body many of these pipes run in
    parallel, but this does not change the amount of work required.
    But let's look a little closer.  How narrow is our transcontinental
    pipeline?  Very narrow.  Most of its length consists of capillaries 0.3
    millimeters or less in diameter.  Some of these are so small that the
    donut-shaped red blood cells must flatten themselves in order to squeeze
    through.  But this is not all.  Our pipeline has the unfortunate habit of
    leaking.  "Leaking" is an oddly mild word for it, however, since every day
    the pipeline loses about eighty times the total volume of blood plasma it
    contains (Lauboeck, p. 70).  So our one-pound muscle not only has to
    overcome the astronomical resistance of a microscopic, 6,000-mile pipeline
    to Los Angeles and back, but it also has to irrigate the Great Plains
    along the way.  Some pump!
    You might be thinking, "If eighty times the total volume of blood plasma
    is being lost to the pipeline every day, this loss must be replaced
    somehow".  So it must, and this is our first hint of all the other things
    going on quite unrelated to the idea of a pump.  But this needs to wait.
    First, a quick listing of a few other observations that just don't fit a
    simplistic, mechanical image of the heart:
    ** Typical blood flow in the main arteries near the heart shows three
    phases with each heartbeat:  forward movement, backward movement, and
    resting phase (minimal movement).  This is already a bit peculiar from the
    standpoint of mechanical efficiency, as typically understood.  Yet, as so
    often happens, pathology can bring us closer to machine-like states:
    "Only diseased arteries produce a simple curve with no reverse flow phase
    -- that is, the type of flow considered desirable in mechanical systems"
    (Brettschneider, p. 25).
    ** Even when you replace the heart with a true mechanism, the system as a
    whole can take hold and compromise the expected functioning of the
       William DeVries, the creator of the first implanted artificial heart,
       made an unexpected observation after implanting the device into four
       different patients.  He observed that when systolic, diastolic, and
       mean blood pressures are increased, the cardiac output actually
       decreases.  This is the opposite of what one would expect if the
       circulation is impelled by an artificial pump.  (Lauboeck, p. 55)
    Similarly, once the body has reasonably adapted to the artificial heart,
    you can increase the device's pumping rate, and yet there will be no
    sustained increase in blood pressure or cardiac output.  This is because
    the blood vessels respond by dilating, thereby holding the blood flow at a
    level that the body has found to be optimal.  So the mechanical device is
    "subverted" and not allowed to act as a central controller; the
    circulatory system as a whole counters it in order to maintain a desirable
    ** Or you can apply a pacemaker to a natural heart:
       When the pacemaker induces excessively rapid beating ... both aortic
       pressure and the strength of the heart contractions increase.  However,
       the volume of blood flowing through the heart per minute (the cardiac
       output) remains the same.  Even when the heart rate is doubled
       or tripled, cardiac output remains the same.... (Lauboeck, p. 57)
    When the heart rate is increased in this way, the amount of blood ejected
    during each heartbeat diminishes.
    ** If the heart were acting like a mechanical pump, you would expect a
    weakened and failing heart to result in decreased pressure in the large
    veins returning blood to the heart.  But the opposite is true:  when the
    heart is failing, both the venous pressure and the volume of returning
    blood increase (Lauboeck, p. 64).
    ** Clinical experience confirms that people with strong hearts may have
    weak circulation, while people with weak or malfunctioning hearts may have
    strong circulation (Schad, p. 79).
    ** Embryological development shows that
       the body does not behave like a plumber, first connecting the water
       pipes in a house and then turning the water on .... the first blood-
       like liquid ... simply trickles through gaps in the tissues ....
       Preferred channels develop only very gradually as blood cells are
       deposited along the edges and eventually merge into the beginnings of
       vessel walls.  (Schad, p. 80)
    Moreover, "when blood vessels first start to form, the heart does not yet
    exist .... early blood flow stimulates the development of the heart"
    (Schad, pp. 82-83).  As we see everywhere in the world, fixed form not
    only shapes movement, but also results from it.  (Novalis remarked that
    the human body is a formed stream.)  Thus, the spiraling fibers of the
    heart muscle that help to direct the blood in its flow are themselves a
    congealed image of the swirling vortex of blood within.  This kind of
    mutuality holds even for the heart's basic structural divisions:
       Before the heart has developed walls (septa) separating the four
       chambers from each other, the blood already flows in two distinct
       "currents" through the heart.  The blood flowing through the right and
       left sides of the heart do not mix, but stream and loop by each other,
       just as two currents in a body of water.  In the "still water zone"
       between the two currents, the septum dividing the two chambers forms.
       Thus the movement of the blood gives the parameters for the inner
       differentiation of the heart, just as the looping heart redirects the
       flow of blood.  (Holdrege, p. 12)
    The prevailing science takes mechanism as the given and everything else,
    including movement, as the result.  The truth may be more like the reverse
    of this.
    What Drives the Blood?
    By now you can surmise that, in asking what drives the circulation, we are
    up against a complex and organic set of interrelationships.  The idea of a
    mechanical pump is not only hopelessly simplistic, but also flat-out
    misconceived.  Certainly it's true that the muscular contractions of the
    left ventricle play a key role in the blood's movement through the
    arterial portion of the circulatory system (which accounts for about
    twelve percent of the blood volume as a whole).  But, as we have seen,
    even here the pressure, volume, and heartbeat relationships are not at all
    characteristic of a typical pump.  Nor is the phase of reverse flow.
    Moreover, the arteries themselves play a substantial role, dilating or
    shrinking as physiological conditions require, so as to accommodate more
    or less blood.  The arteries also assist blood flow through the pulsing,
    wavelike muscular contractions of their walls.
    On the other hand, approximately eighty-five percent of the body's blood
    flows without being under significant pressure.  This "low-pressure
    system" -- which includes the capillaries, veins, right side of the heart,
    pulmonary (lung) circulation, and left atrium of the heart -- absorbs
    nearly all of a one-liter transfusion without causing any increase in
    blood pressure.  The system counteracts pressure changes by relaxing in
    response to increased pressure and contracting in response to a pressure
    drop (Brettschneider, p. 27).
    And what drives the blood through this low-pressure system?  The factors
    are many, including lung movement, muscular exertion, and suction from the
    heart, but the central fact emerging from the book under review is that
    the metabolism as a whole propels the blood.  While the heart's output
    volume is not directly proportional to heartbeat rate or blood pressure,
    it is proportional to the oxygen consumed in all the body's tissues.
    "Cardiac output is ... determined by the metabolic demands of the tissues"
    (Lauboeck, p. 65).
    To understand this, recall that the capillaries are open to their
    surroundings.  The fluids moving outside the blood vessels through the
    "extracellular matrix" make up a volume twice that of the total blood
    plasma.  Fluid is continually passing in both directions between the
    primary circulatory system and the extracellular matrix, and also, for
    example, between the primary circulatory system and the kidneys -- so much
    so that, as we saw, the total volume of blood plasma must be replenished
    eighty times each day.
    So it is this metabolically driven flow from the tissues into the blood
    vessels that sustains the greatest part of our circulation.  "The force
    that causes the blood to flow into the heart is the result of work
    performed by the tissues continually replenishing the fluid volume of the
    blood" (Lauboeck, p. 70).  It is therefore no more accurate to say a
    "central mechanism" drives the blood than to say "everything else does".
    All of which explains why a weakened heart results in greater pressure in
    the veins returning blood to the heart:  the heart cannot cope with the
    volume of blood being driven to it.  One of the key functions of the
    heart, according to the authors of this book, is momentarily to stop or
    damn up the flow of blood, bringing its motion into the kind of harmonious
    rhythm that seems so essential in all our bodily activity.
    Of Warmth and Artificial Hearts
    None of this is to belittle the heart's central importance in the body!
    Quite the opposite.  It's just a matter of striving to grasp the complex
    realities of the matter -- realities that mechanical metaphors make
    invisible.  To take an example not touched on above:  the heart plays a
    significant role in regulating the body's warmth.  Only about 20 percent
    of the oxygen it consumes is used for basal metabolism, and 5 to 20
    percent is used for muscular contraction (beating):
       Surprisingly, 60 to 70 percent of oxygen consumed is turned into heat.
       Thus we see that most of the heart's work does not result in mechanical
       force but in the production of warmth.  The warmth infuses into the
       bloodstream and helps to warm the rest of the body.  (Lauboeck, p. 68)
    How many of those who "know" that the heart is a pump also know that our
    hearts help to warm us?
    Mechanical metaphors not only conceal many things from us; they also lead
    to dangerously unrealistic expectations.  When Robert Tools, the first
    recipient of an AbioCor artificial heart, died on November 30, 2001, his
    doctors assured journalists that the experiment had not failed.  As the
    Los Angeles Times reported, "Tools' doctors noted that the heart
    continued to beat flawlessly even as he died".
    Yes, that's exactly what we want of a mechanism; anything else
    would indeed have been a mechanical failure.  But this only shows how
    alien the mechanism remains in relation to the organism:  it fails to
    become an organic expression of the body as a whole.  As Holdrege notes
    (p. 20), the "flawless" beating in Robert Tools' chest testifies to the
    fact that the AbioCor heart was a mere mechanism, operating in
    grotesque disconnection from the dying person of whom it was intended to
    be an integral part.  And there was nothing in the AbioCor's operation to
    make this disconnection a less fundamental reality for the living patient
    than for the dying one.
    The AbioCor remains an engineering marvel, worthy of our admiration.  But
    we will make the best use of such mechanisms only when we are less
    mesmerized by the engineering feat and more attuned to the organisms in
    which we try to deploy them.
    A Concluding Note on Mechanism in Science
    What does it mean for a science to be mechanistic?  Clearly, different
    things to different people.  At the simplest and crudest, we may equate a
    particular thing or process in the natural world with such-and-such a
    mechanism of our own making.  Anyone who begins to assess this kind of
    equation, however, immediately realizes that, while the natural process
    and the mechanical activity may be alike in certain ways, they remain
    radically unlike in many other ways.
    I suspect that few scientists, mechanistically inclined or otherwise,
    would insist upon the unqualified statement, "the heart is a pump"
    -- not, at least, when pressed with observations like those mentioned
    above.  It is trivial to point out differences between the heart and any
    mechanical pump we have ever built or could foresee building.  Yet  many
    authorities continue speaking of the heart as a pump with little or no
    qualification.  For example, Lauboeck cites a modern physiology textbook
    containing this statement:
       The heart functions as the circulating pump that drives the blood
       through the vessels.  Furthermore, strictly speaking, blood circulation
       consists of a single cycle into which both halves of the heart are
       inserted, functioning as motors that drive the blood.  (p. 53)
    If nothing else, this shows the powerful hold of mechanical metaphors upon
    the scientific community.  But if we want to understand as sympathetically
    as possible what is really being said through such statements, perhaps we
    can put it this way:  while the heart obviously is not a literal pump in
    the sense of being exactly like any mechanical pump we have ever built
    (after all, if this were the case, then the problem of supplying patients
    with artificial hearts would already have been solved), nevertheless, the
    kind of lawfulness governing pumps and various other mechanical devices
    is, without remainder, the kind of lawfulness governing the heart and
    explaining its activity.
    This sounds more reasonable and is, I think, closer to what the proponents
    of mechanism in science usually have in mind.  Yet it is an empty faith --
    empty because the mechanical laws it invokes are adequate neither to
    govern nor to explain actual phenomena, whether organic or non-organic.
    Unfortunately, I can only gesture toward the issues here.  (Before long I
    expect to announce a collection of working papers in which these issues
    are explored more fully.)
    According to physicist David Bohm, mechanistic science is founded on the
    assumption that
       the great diversity of things that appear in all of our experience,
       every day as well as scientific, can all be reduced completely and
       perfectly to nothing more than consequences of the operation of an
       absolute and final set of purely quantitative laws determining the
       behavior of a few kinds of basic entities or variables.  (Causality
       and Chance in Modern Physics, chapter 2)
    This assumption has been greatly furthered during the scientific era by
    the fact that we are constantly surrounded by machines, which lend
    themselves (when considered in an extremely narrow fashion) to mechanistic
    analysis.  But it has become steadily clearer that the essence of the
    machine -- the only aspect of it that perfectly embodies the assumption of
    the mechanists -- is what we call the "virtual machine":  software.
    The one fortunate thing about this development is that it has made clear a
    truth we have long managed to avoid recognizing:  physical laws,
    understood as the precise mathematical and algorithmic formulations of the
    mechanist, neither determine nor adequately explain the world.  To claim
    that they do explain the world is like saying software explains the
    machinery it happens to be running on.  But since this machinery can
    assume infinitely many forms, utterly different from each other, what
    exactly is the software explaining?
    There is a simple truth:  the mathematical, logical, and algorithmic
    formalisms we abstract from machines, or from the world's phenomena, may
    really be there for the abstracting, but the abstractions are unable to
    explain the phenomena from which they were abstracted.  This holds for
    every formalism.  For example, we can abstract (at least approximately)
    the rules of a formal grammar from actual speech.  But it would be just
    silly to say that the rules of grammar "explain" Shakespeare's
    Hamlet or Lincoln's Gettysburg address.  The play and the address
    may "obey" grammatical rules, but this is not the same as being determined
    by them or explained by them.
    Yet exactly this misconception underlies mechanistic science, as when it
    is said that Newton's laws of motion (understood as formal rules) explain
    the solar system -- or, worse, when complexity theorist John Holland says
    that these rules generate the complex motions of the solar system, as
    if the equations were themselves forces.  Yes, Newton's laws (as
    approximations) are implicit in the solar system, just as grammatical
    regularities are implicit in our speech and an algorithm is implicit
    in all the computers that happen to be executing it.  But all such
    regularities, understood in the mechanistic sense as precise and
    determining, tell us more about the formal necessities of mathematics,
    grammar, and algorithm than about the phenomena from which we abstract
    them.  Certainly the algorithm running on a diverse set of computers
    "belongs" to the computers, but the necessities of the algorithm do not
    tell us about the distinct character of each real and embodied machine
    it is running on.  No more do Newton's laws -- or any collection of such
    laws -- tell us about the diverse bodies that happen to be "obeying" them.
    This problem, I'm convinced, afflicts every level of mechanistic
    explanation, all the way down to the minutest particles.  There's a
    tendency to believe that the lower levels will somehow fill in the gaps of
    explanation at the higher levels.  But the truth is that the resort to
    mathematical formalism -- and therefore the gap between clearly
    articulated syntactic rules, or laws, and real phenomena -- is even
    greater in particle physics than in other domains.
    All this applies to sciences only insofar as they are mechanistic in
    spirit.  Obviously, we gain a great deal of understanding from all
    sciences, but it comes from those largely unexamined ways in which we
    transcend mechanism.  This needs elaborating, of course, and, as I
    mentioned, I hope soon to have the beginnings of a set of working papers
    available on the web for comment and criticism.  The key point for now,
    however, is this:  overcoming mechanism is not a matter of proving that,
    somehow, mechanistically conceived laws fail to apply at this or that
    "mystical" point.  Rather, it's a matter of realizing that laws so
    conceived -- however valid they may be -- can neither determine the world
    nor give us an adequate understanding of it.
    Related Articles
    ** "Between Discordant Eras", by Stephen L. Talbott.  Reflections upon the
       nature of the human heart.  When William Harvey began dissecting
       animals and observing the heart at the moment it ceased moving, what
       ancient knowledge of the human being was lost?  Can we possibly
       retrieve any of that knowledge?  It will not be easy.
    About the Book and How to Get It
    The Dynamic Heart and Circulation consists of five chapters:
    ** "The Heart: A Pulsing and Perceptive Center", by Craig Holdrege,
       founder and director of The Nature Institute.
    ** "The Polarity of Periphery and Center in the Circulatory System", by
       Heinrich Brettschneider, M.D., a research fellow at the Carus Institute
       in Oeschelbronn, Germany.
    ** "The Physiology of the Heart and Blood Movement: A Reappraisal", by
       Hermann Lauboeck, M.D., an anesthesiologist and general practitioner in
       Dortmund, Germany.
    ** "A Dynamic Morphology of the Heart and Circulatory System", by Wolfgang
       Schad, professor and director of the Institute for Evolutionary Biology
       and Morphology at the University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany.
    ** "Patterns in the Evolution of the Circulatory System", by Christiane
       Liesche, formerly of the Carus Institute and now a Waldorf high school
       teacher in Krefeld, Germany.
    ** "Embryology of the Heart and Circulatory System", by Matthias Woernle,
       with a preface by Heinrich Brettschneider.  Woernle, M.D., is a
       research fellow at the Carus Institute and a practitioner of internal
    The book is now available from AWSNA Publications.  The cost is $12 plus
    $5 for shipping and handling.  To order, call 916-961-0927 or send a fax
    (with credit card information) to 916-961-0715.  You can also send mail
    (with check or credit card information) to AWSNA Publications, 3911
    Bannister Rd, Fair Oaks CA 95628.  AWSNA has an online bookstore at
    www.awsna.org, where the book ought to be listed, but as of this writing
    it is not.
    Goto table of contents
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    Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #140 :: December 26, 2002
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