The biologist Driesch asked for permission to speak for the first time: "Gentlemen, whether Darwin or Hoyle, at one point they make it too easy for themselves. Everyone thinks it is enough to activate the genes, and have a protein synthesis initiated and then the organism forms and takes it its final shape. When comparing the DNA of humans and chimpanzees, we find a frighteningly high level of similarities. This is 98.9% which is higher than that of various types of mice or between donkeys and horses. The latter may even have common offspring, though it’s not reproducible. Nevertheless, there are huge differences between the shape of a man and a chimpanzee.
It cannot be so much the type of genes that determines the outer shape, but rather the time when the genes are activated and how long they are actively involved in shaping an individual. This raises the question of how the shaping of an organism is controlled. I have come to the conclusion that factors are responsible for this, which are not explainable in the context of the known laws of nature. I have performed a variety of experiments and I came to the conclusion that a living being has to be seen as a unit. It can‘t be compared to a machine that follows the laws of nature as the representatives of the mechanistic concept are claiming.
How did I get to this conclusion? I will tell you about some of my experiments. Originally I was experimenting with embryos of sea urchins. During embryo development, I killed half of the cells with a hot needle. The result was still a fully functional, but smaller sea urchin. I conducted a similar experiment with eggs, embryos or larvae of dragonflies. I constricted the egg in the middle. Here, too, a complete, albeit smaller dragonfly larva developed.
What conclusions can you draw from this?
The development of an organism works epigenetically. This means, that the organism is not already present in the egg in its entire complexity, and then just needs to grow. This hypothesis of a fully functional homunculus sitting in the egg which then just has to grow has been falsified a long time ago. In contrast, the shape and organization of the organism increases in complexity while the organism grows.
From my experiments, one could also conclude, that it is not determined from the beginning, what should develop from a particular embryonic cell. There are regulatory mechanisms that steer the development of the entire organism towards an overall goal, even if significant damage to an embryo occurs. Thus, the development of an organism's life has little to do with the assembly of a machine.
Other indicators for this are also the regeneration capabilities in animals. For example, a lizard's tail can grow again when it is dropped on the run from an enemy. You may ask me where such a controlling force comes from. I myself have come to the conclusion that it must come from outside of the developing organism. This does not happen in a materialistic way, but by vital factors that affect the probability of the activation and deactivation of genes. Thus they can control the organization of cells.
There are a couple of very interesting experiments to demonstrate such an external force. My colleague Harold Burr put a salamander embryo in an alkaline solution. The result was that this fell apart completely and the cells were separated. But after he transferred the cells into a slightly acidic solution, they joined together again into an embryo. There would be even more examples which show evidence that life always seems to be geared towards the overall goal. I want to formulate a hypothesis to describe this phenomenon, which I call vitalism:
Life is not a product of matter, but an organizing principle behind matter. In other words, natural laws and chance produce the basic building blocks. Then life intervenes and organizes them into complex shapes. "
Huxley spoke up and said: "So, now I have to raise an objection! If we had not agreed that we expand the permissible range of solutions for this discussion, I would have rejected this hypothesis as absolutely unscientific. There are no forces outside the known laws of nature, and without these Driesch’s explanation does not work. What Driesch suggests, leaves the field of science and enters the realm of magic. But this not a part of our discussion! Driesch also does not adhere to the scientific principle, that one should not unnecessarily complicate a solution. We have a much simpler explanation for the evolution: Darwin's approach. Driesch hypothesis is dispensable. "
"You remind me of something," said Driesch to Huxley. "Have you ever seen a South African movie, in which a Bushman plays a role? There is one chapter which never is missing. The Bushman looks in a telescope or a TV, and then asks the simple question how all these people have gotten into the device.
That’s just the way you occur to me. Even if one were to open the device for you and you found out that there are only components in it, you would say that the images still are available somewhere in the device or being produced in it. As proof, you would argue that the images disappear when removing components or that the TV doesn’t become heavier when you turn it on. Compared to the current level of your science you would have succeeded to draw a complete circuit diagram of the device. But even if it would be possible for you to rebuild the device completely, you would still claim that the images were produced inside the device. Your limited horizon within your limited permissible range of solutions prevents you from seeing the correct explanation. Exactly the same applies to you and the other representatives of the mechanistic approach concerning your view of life and the evolution! "
"Is that so?" Huxley got excited. "Then the Bushman is now going to tell you the difference between a DVD player and a TV that receives its images from Radio Creation out of an imaginary vitalistic field! We can explain everything in our own way and with Darwin's mechanism by the laws of nature. You cannot do that!
Hardly anyone doubts that our explanations are correct, unlike you, who demands the existence of something that cannot be proved and violates the laws of nature. "
"Well," said Driesch. "Then please be so kind and tell us your explanation of what resources are involved as it comes to shaping an organism. Why is an arm formed from one cell and a leg from another, even though they were identical in a certain phase of development? Can you explain how and why a damaged body repairs parts and replaces lost ones again? "
"Where should I start?" asked Huxley. "I think how we get from DNA to protein synthesis, I don‘t need to explain once again. So I presume that this is known. What remains is the question of how protein synthesis is controlled, without me having to seek any unknown forces outside the laws of physics and chemistry. We are looking for physicochemical forces that act on a cell. The shape of organic material is then largely depending on the physicochemical patterns that exist within the tissue of the developing organism."
"How is this supposed to look like?" asked Driesch.
"For this there are a number of possible options," Huxley said. "Possibilities are, for example, variations in the concentration of certain substances in the body. This can be acids, salts or other soluble elements. Also a distribution of electric charge or voltage in the organism would be conceivable. Electrically chemical oscillation is a candidate as well as the structure of the surface of adjacent cells that have direct contact with each other. This could give any information to the control of protein synthesis by direct contact. There are a number of more complex alternatives, which I will not present here. The cells react to all of these effects of such factors with a changed protein synthesis.
Such physicochemical factors can be seen as a kind of position information, which are interpreted by the cells. "
"But these are all just guesses! Nothing of this has been experimentally proven!" objected Driesch.
"I admit that the processes for the development of shapes are still very poorly understood and not fully explained," Huxley said. "But my hypothesis is still within the laws of nature."
"But how can a cell process the position information?" asked Driesch.
Huxley replied: "The cells evaluate the position information by their genetic program and so induce the synthesis of certain proteins. Thus, the organism is geared to its final shape. "
"Don‘t you leave your own permissible range now?" asked Behe. "A program requires a programmer who wrote it. But such a person you try banish from science under all circumstances! If you would know the laws of cybernetics, you knew that the programmer must always have a higher intelligence than the program itself, no matter how much artificial intelligence you add. "
"But the genetic program has no programmers!" Huxley replied. "It is the result of evolution by Darwin's mechanism of random variation and natural selection."
"Now, the hypothesis slowly reaches the same level as when someone would say, the operating system on my computer would be, created by a sequence of copying errors that were accepted and appreciated by the users!" stated Jonathan Clayburn.
"I think I need to intervene at this point!" interrupted Vulko. "Huxley has set up a hypothesis about a mechanism, of which he assumes that it exists. But he can‘t describe it accurately in detail. The problem is that he has used a jargon from another field, computer science, to describe it. In this field these terms, however, are used in a different way.
I would therefore describe the facts as follows: Huxley believes in his hypothesis of a genetic control function, which he awkwardly has described as a genetic program. This control function is to be the result of evolution, and it adheres to the laws of nature. He can‘t describe or explain how this exactly works by terms of physics and chemistry. His hypothesis is almost as far away from experimental provability as the one of Driesch with its vital factors.