Wednesday, 3 June 2009

1. Preface.

Blogs normally have their newest posts first, in order to be up-to-date. The original blog on the theory is arranged in this way and can be reached by clicking here. As indicated above in the header panel, the present blog is a second version and is arranged with its oldest posts first, in order to provide an outline that can be read as a natural narrative (down the pages). The new ordering has been obtained by artificially reversing the timing of the posts. The method works well but introduces a small (easily managed) anomaly, in that the clickable phrases Newer Posts and Older Posts at the end of each page are also reversed. Please note that both blogs are outlines for ready access. Details on all topics are provided in the main publication.

The other difference between the two blogs is that this prefatory Post 1 is much shorter. Details concerning the perceived justification for blogging the theory, the broad posting policy adopted and the pre-blogging history of the topic have been omitted here and may be found in Post 1 of the original blog. All the remaining posts in the present introductory Outline are the same in both blogs.

The main messages of both versions of the blog are these. Evidence clearly compatible with the theory has been found in a large range of subjects including molecular biology, comparative and human morphology, clinical neuropsychology, philosophy, logic, mathematics, physics, cultural studies, politics, ideology, philology, computation and history. Evidence clearly incompatible with the theory has yet to be found by this writer. Despite this encouraging degree of apparent compatibility, the theory has many implications which are at first sight counter-intuitive and thus heretical. The most central of these is that if future research continues to support the theory, in due course our traditional and much-cherished one-truth (one correct perspective) thinking conventions will arguably need to be replaced by two-truth (two correct perspectives) thinking conventions. This central heresy leads to others, including the apparent 'unmasking' of the dualistic, circular, self-referential and incomplete nature of knowledge in subjects such as those listed in the header panel. Such contradictions to prevailing paradigms appear to be Suitable Heresies for our modern age, because they represent scientific challenges to truth concepts at the heart of the aspiring authority of science itself. In view of all this, the author suggests that we have now reached the stage where the theory is highly arguable, even though of course it is much too early to claim that it has been 'proved'.

You are invited to join the debate.

2. Introducing the theory.

The central concept of the formal inversion theory may be stated very simply. The theory suggests that there is an apparent structural similarity between certain basic brain forms and certain basic mind forms and that the brain forms provide a credible explanation for the mind forms.

The basic brain forms are neuron wiring patterns present in the uppermost reaches of bilateral animal brains (including our own) that are characterised by left-right bicyclic inversion. By this I mean that signals in left brain cycles travel in inverse directions to signals in right brain cycles and that there are further mutually inverted cyclic paths for the exchange of signals between the two sides.

The basic mind forms are extremely pervasive human thought patterns characterised by formally inverted duality. One pole of each duality typically represents form-to-content or analytic patterns and the other pole content-to-form or synthetic patterns, each being the formal inverse of the other.

The dualities seem to match the clinically evident analytic and synthetic biases of left and right human brain/mind activities respectively.

Much of our mental life seems to involve a constant switching between analytically and synthetically biased thought, and the implied reinterpretation of philosophy and other subjects that will be discussed in later posts is apparently concerned with our brains being necessarily and inescapably wired for this constant switching process. The next post will describe some apparently obligatory features of the basic forms.

3. Obligatory features of basic forms.

The apparently obligatory features of the basic brain forms are their duality (since there are both left and right cycles), their circularity (on each side and also between the sides), their consistent self-reference (in that all three kinds of cycles 'turn back' on themselves) and their incompleteness (in that all three kinds of cycles appear endless). As we'll see, modern 'molecular clocks' indicate that these features seem to have been part of our animal brain heritage for about 1000 million years.

The arguably obligatory features of the basic mind forms are their perceived central problems of duality, circularity, self-reference and incompleteness, as epitomised for example in the famous Liar Paradox (of which more later). As we'll see, these features seem to have been part of our mind heritage for at least 42,000 years and the perceived central problems have been recognised for at least 2,600 years.

Future posts will summarise the evidence and argument for the brain forms (beginning with some introductory concepts), then for the mind forms and then for the surprising implications of the theory.

4. Introductory concepts: brain forms - A.


Homology. The general idea is shown on the left. An item of content in an organic form (like the thumb of a flying fox) is the homologue of an item of content in another organic form (like the thumb of a human) if some significant content-to-form relation is the same in both and both forms derive from a common ancestor.

In brain biology, this may be extended to further levels of analysis. For example, as shown on the right, items of content in bacteria like the molecular Sensors, Transmitters, Receivers and Motor units (S, T, R, M) are legitimately seen as the 'long-distance' or 'deep' molecular homologues of the neural versions in humans. [Modern bacteria and modern humans derive from a common (bacterial) ancestor. ]

5. Introductory concepts: brain forms - B.


Human molecular timescale. As shown on the left, our forebears are thought to have emerged from an RNA-based world into a DNA-based world about 4000 million years ago and current understanding of our journey to today may be usefully divided into 1000 million year chunks.

It is now very clear, on molecular and much other evidence, that all multicellular living things (animals including humans, and plants and fungi) evolved from the same or similar single cell organisms and that descendants of stages in this evolutionary process are with us today. Our understanding of our human place amongst living things has been assembled by studying modern versions as models of the evolutionary stages. As a result, we now know that we share a small fraction of our most basic molecular make-up (our genes) with bacteria and some viruses, about a third with daffodils, about half with worms, about three-quarters with dogs and almost all (about 98.5%) with our cousins, chimpanzees.

Of the many kinds of evidence underpinning the broad concept that all our natures are one, none is more cogent than the shared strategies we have evolved for our survival. For example, we must all consume food and we must all maintain an internal physical and chemical equilibrium in our bodies despite constant change in our surroundings. Our standard answer to the equilibrium problem has been the evolution of stimulus-response devices, beginning with molecular versions and proceeding via simple to complex nervous systems.

As shown on the right, there have been numerous instances of formal inversion during human neural evolution, and the diagram shows just six of these -- 3 molecular and 3 neural.

The point of the illustration is to emphasise that formal inversion appears to have been a consistent mechanism during our animal evolution, including the evolution of stimulus-to-response flexibility for survival in the natural world.

The next post will begin to look at these specific examples in more detail.

6. Molecular formal inversion - A.

DNA. As soon as DNA was established as the Thread of Life, a formal inversion principle was firmly in place. The two strands of the sugar-phosphate backbone of DNA run in inverse chemical directions, and it is this locking nature of the arrangement that provides the relative genetic stability that DNA brings to the living world. This feature of DNA might be regarded as the Fundamental Formal Inversion, even though it is not as yet clear how (or if) this particular kind of formal inversion is translated into the others that will be mentioned.

7. Molecular formal inversion - B.

Viruses. In the virus called phage Mu, in addition to the Fundamental Formal Inversion, there are also further DNA inversions that provide it with flexible function in the interests of survival. For example, it has an invertible sequence of 3,000 base pairs called the G segment. Depending on whether the segment is in its G+ or G- orientation, the virus can attack B. coli or other host cells. Thus formal inversion was apparently an already well established principle in the molecular brain-mind homologues of viruses.