BIO-Complexity, Vol 2013

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The Types: A Persistent Structuralist Challenge to Darwinian Pan-Selectionism

Michael J. Denton


Here I first review the structuralist or typological world view of pre-1859 biology, and the concept that the basic forms of the natural world--the Types--are immanent in nature, and determined by a set of special natural biological laws, the so called ‘laws of form’. I show that this conception was not based, as Darwinists often claim, on a priori philosophical belief in Platonic concepts, but rather upon the empirical finding that a vast amount of biological complexity, including the deep homologies which define the taxa of the natural system, appears to be of an abstract, non-adaptive nature that is sometimes of a strikingly numerical and geometric character. In addition, these Types exhibit an extraordinary robustness and stability, having in many instances remained invariant in diverse lineages for hundreds of millions of years. Second, I show that neither Darwinism nor any subsequent functionalist theory has ever provided a convincing adaptive or functionalist explanation for the Types or deep homologies. Third, I discuss how recent advances have provided new support for the structuralist notion that the basic forms of life are immanent in nature. These include the discovery of the cosmic fine-tuning of the laws of nature for life as it exists on earth, and advances in areas of molecular and cellular biology, where it is apparent that a considerable amount of biological complexity is clearly determined by the self-organizing properties of particular categories of matter, rather than being specified in detail in a genetic blueprint as functionalism demands.

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