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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Degenerative

Degenerative Quotes (2 quotes)

If we sink to the biochemical level, then the human being has lost a great many synthetic abilities possessed by other species and, in particular, by plants and microorganisms. Our loss of ability to manufacture a variety of vitamins makes us dependent on our diet and, therefore, on the greater synthetic versatility of other creatures. This is as much a “degenerative” change as the tapeworm’s abandonment of a stomach it no longer needs, but since we are prejudiced in our own favor, we don’t mention it.
In 'The Modern Demonology' (Jan 1962). Collected in Asimov on Physics (1976), 150.
Science quotes on:  |  Abandon (48)  |  Biochemistry (46)  |  Change (364)  |  Creature (155)  |  Diet (46)  |  Human Being (73)  |  Manufacture (15)  |  Microorganism (22)  |  Plant (200)  |  Stomach (25)  |  Synthesis (44)  |  Tapeworm (2)  |  Versatility (4)  |  Vitamin (11)

The other line of argument, which leads to the opposite conclusion, arises from looking at artificial automata. Everyone knows that a machine tool is more complicated than the elements which can be made with it, and that, generally speaking, an automaton A, which can make an automaton B, must contain a complete description of B, and also rules on how to behave while effecting the synthesis. So, one gets a very strong impression that complication, or productive potentiality in an organization, is degenerative, that an organization which synthesizes something is necessarily more complicated, of a higher order, than the organization it synthesizes. This conclusion, arrived at by considering artificial automaton, is clearly opposite to our early conclusion, arrived at by considering living organisms.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
Science quotes on:  |  Artificial (32)  |  Automaton (10)  |  Complete (87)  |  Complicated (62)  |  Conclusion (160)  |  Contain (67)  |  Description (84)  |  Living (56)  |  Necessarily (30)  |  Organism (150)  |  Organization (84)  |  Potentiality (7)  |  Productive (13)  |  Synthesis (44)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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