Talk:Morphogenetic field

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This page is devoted to discussing the article on the mainstream biological usage of the term morphogenetic field. For discussion relating to Rupert Sheldrake's concept of the same name, see Talk:Morphogenetic field (Rupert Sheldrake).

Field is a FIELD[edit]

I don't know where you find that the field are 'cells' themselves, because it is a pure nonsense, or a mistake in expression. The field simply cannot be cells only. Here on this link that you posted as DOI:10.1006/dbio.1996.0032 it says clearly: >>These fields (which exemplify the modular nature of developing embryos) are proposed to mediate between genotype and phenotype. Just as the cell (and not its genome) functions as the unit of organic structure and function, so the morphogenetic field (and not the genes OR THE CELLS) is seen as a major unit of ontogeny whose changes bring about changes in evolution. << So how can now after this sentence anyone editing wikipedia conclude that the morphogenetic field is cells (when it clearly says NOT the cells). Ndru01 19:19, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

You omitted the immediately preceding sentence.
To confirm that Gilbert is speaking of regions within the embryo, see the reference to his highly regarded text on developmental biology, also cited in the article.
(Note that a gradient field is a special case of a field; more discussion in the full chapter.) And in the third cited reference (a different author)
When he says "not the cells", Gilbert means not the individual cells; but rather the whole region within the embryo. This is a powerful insight in developmental biology. All cells have the same genes, but they behave differently, basically because different genes are activated in different regions. Hence it is the regions — that is the fields — and not the cells themselves, that are usefully seen as the major units of ontogeny.
Part of the problem here, I suspect, is that you are thinking of a different concept, due to Sheldrake. I'm not trying to disparage that; just point out that yes, the concept in developmental biology is precisely as I have given here. Sheldrake's notion is something different. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 07:54, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

But it doesn't say that these 'discrete regions' are in/within ONE embryo. And 'embryonic process' doesn't mean that the process itself occurs in the embryo. If the process is of INFORMATIONAL nature, than it can extend to something much larger than one single embryo. Just in this article it is not explicitely said. Also, cells constitute a morphological STRUCTURE. And (morphological) structure is something entirely different than (morphogenetic) field. Ndru01 08:24, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

That's fine; but only if you are talking about Sheldrake's version. The term as used in conventional biology certainly is within one embryo. Which is why your merge will be opposed by just about everyone in biology. They are different concepts. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 08:32, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

There seem to be different interpretations of that same concept in existence long before Sheldrake. And this view of the morphogenetic field being something local (and not non-local, like quantum non-locality in quantum physics) is simply wrong. But common everyday practice in biology simply accepted these simplifications/misconceptions since it was easier that way to go with the concept than understand something so strange as 'nonlocality'... But that still doesn't mean that Sheldrake (and this concept of nonlocality, which is not only his) shouldn't be here under this same entry. Especially since that aspect is how it is, in reality. Ndru01 08:43, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Merging of the two morphogenetic field articles proposed[edit]

Please discuss if you for some reason don't agree with the merging! Ndru01 (talk · contribs)

Well, morphogenetic fields are accepted by the scientific community, whilst morphogenetic fields (Rupert Shelldrake) are rightly ridiculed as nonsense. Such a merge would be like combining astrology with astrology astronomy. Jefffire 09:15, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
I concur with Jefffire against a merge (though I presume the statement should read " combining astrology with astronomy"). Regardless of the position one has on Sheldrake's opinions, the two concepts are demonstrably different - enough so that two articles are appropriate. -- MarcoTolo 15:28, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Object to merge, per the section of WP:NPOV that says views held by tiny minority need not be covered at all. Odd nature 17:37, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

If you object this merge, then you must object the merge of the morphic and morphogenetic fields articles as well, since that merge is less logical than this merge, whether someone thinks those two articles cover 'sillier' subjects than this one or not. NDru01 (talk · contribs)

I object to the merging of morphic fields and morphogenetic fields. They are two seperate, but related, concepts. Morphogenetic is a SUBSET of morphic. They are not synonymous. They deserve seperate articles to elaborate on both. --sloth_monkey 03:36, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

(Oops. See my immediately following comment on identifying which proposal you mean.) No-one is proposing they are synonyms. The merge is explicitly recognizing the subset relation you mention. The existing article on Sheldrake's conception of morphogenetic fields already contains a considerable amount of information on the more general morphic fields which is necessary to explain the special subset which is morphogenetic field sensu Sheldrake. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 03:42, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
(A different merge proposal?) Sloth_monkey, I think your comment may be mixing up two merge proposals. This section here is about a proposed merge of two articles dealing with two (unrelated, imo) conceptions of morphogenetic field; there is no proposal to merge this article here with morphic field. Your comment might be in relation to a different proposal, merging two articles, neither of which is this one here. See talk section of morphic field. Do have a read of the discussion first, please. My comment above was actually in relation to that other merge proposal. Sorry for any confusion. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 03:52, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
(Whoops - this comment should be part of the Morphogenetic field (Rupert Sheldrake) into Morphic field discussion) - moving comment to Talk:Morphic_field#Merge with Morphogenetic field (Rupert_Sheldrake). As an example of a similar article structure, consider lacZ. lacZ is a structural gene, and a part of a larger genetic structure called the lac operon. lacZ redirects to the article lac operon - not because the two terms are synonymous (they're not), but because having a standalone lacZ page is not necessary: everything that can be said about lacZ fits nicely into the larger lac operon entry. This merger proposal is the same - not a suggestion that the two terms are equivalent, just that the sub-topic Morphogenetic field (per Sheldrake) can be accommodated as a (large) section of the Morphic field entry. -- MarcoTolo 03:58, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

So we see that some other people oppose the merging of morphogenetic and morphic field entries, same as I do. That should be noted on the discussions about that particular merge. Ndru01 (talk · contribs)

I agree. That is why I directed sloth_monkey to the appropriate discussion area. If he still feels the same way after checking out that other merge proposal, he can and should say so. Let's not discuss it here, please. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 13:17, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

With regard to the proposed merge of this article (Morphogenetic field) with Morphogenetic field (Rupert Sheldrake), we have four editors opposed, and one in favour.

I will be removing the tags indicating a proposed merge in a little while, unless we have some startling new development. -- Duae Quartunciae (talk · cont) 07:33, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

As indicated, I think we have reached a fairly plain consensus against this merge; with no prospect of it being revived. I'm removing the flag indicating a proposed merge. -- Duae Quartunciae (talk · cont) 08:51, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

A field is a region within an embryo[edit]

The definition of morphogenetic field in all references is a physical region within an embryo. It is a group of cells, with a physical boundary, which has the potential for formation of some specific morphological structure or organ. Please Ndru01 do not replace this with the notion of "field" as a distinct thing that influences the embryo. That is a different and unrelated idea. Thanks -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 09:49, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Well, as far as it is known, it is SOMETHING with potency. And for sake of simplicity someone named it 'region WITHIN' the embryo without any proof that it is really WITHIN the embryo (since such thing can never be proven, as the exact location of quanta also cannot be factually determined) which was somehow accepted again for sake of simplicity, by the blind sheep of so-called 'biologists'. But this just says that the official biology is silly, non-serious and irresponsible, and not Sheldrake... Ndru01 (talk · contribs)
No. It is a definition of how this term is used in a particular technical field. You can certainly disagree as to the utility of the term, but it is simply not valid to presume that there is some independent thing (a field) for which people disagree as to what it made of. A recent change (diff) proposed by MarcoTolo (talk · contribs) has attempted to find a compromise by replacing "is a region within a developing embryo" with "is a field (possibly existing as a region within a developing embryo)".
I appreciate the intent, but I am replacing in turn with "is defined as a region within a developing embryo".
It is simply not the case that there is some kind of debate over the proper nature of a particular thing known by some other means and called a field. Rather, it is proposed in developmental biology that regions within the embryo take on specific physical changes localized to that region that destine the region for development into a particular organ. Biologists therefore introduce the word "morphogenetic field" to refer to these regions, as a way of facilitating technical discussions of this idea, and open questions of how these field are established and how they interact and develop. There has been a range of ways in which the field is defined; but they are always in relation to physical regions within the embryo, to my knowledge. This is not an assumption of fact, but a definition of terminology.
What we have have here is very close to a dispute over the meaning of "energy". Some individuals interested in various forms of nonstandard holistic medicine use the term energy in a rather different sense to the way it is used in conventional science of physics and medicine. This is not a good basis for qualifying the definitions proposed in an article on the energy of certain foods measured in calories. The proper approach is already in place. Provide an alternative link for disambiguation and a pointer to a different page on other subjects where similar terminology might be applied with different meanings. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 21:37, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
The lead sentence I have now applied reads
-- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 21:56, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Clarification: the diff you mention was actually made by User: (who appears to be "NDru01"). For the record, I prefer the "is defined as a region within a developing embryo" wording as well. -- MarcoTolo 23:07, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
My apologies! To be brutally frank, I think it was best as given before the contentious change.
I don't really want to make too much of formal definitions, since there is a bit of fluidity in how the term is used. It should be enough to note that the term does indeed refer to a physical region in the embryo, and not in any sense to the distinct notion due to Sheldrake of some new factor that influences the embryo to take a certain form, and for which there is search to identify its nature. Speaking explicitly of "definition" may be necessary to avoid potential confusion with those read the article with some kind of expectation that it is connected with Sheldrake's concept. It is not. Sigh. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 23:36, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I think a "definition" is necessary for the exact reason you point out. And, while the original phrasing may sum-up how professional Devo folks think about fields, I'm a little worried with the "developmental potency" terminology since Wikipedia doesn't have a link to explain it. I suppose a parenthetical explanation would be okay, too, though the concept seems large-ish. Rats - I don't think I can write a decent "developmental potency" article.... -- MarcoTolo 03:25, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand why is that ugly word PHYSICAL there at all. We indeed physically (as bodies driven by souls) leave in a 'physical' universe, but this article is in biology and not physics. Also, I don't understand why you remove the neutral approach of including the word 'possibly', like I did, since the fact is that in scientific community (and Sheldrake IS very much part of the scientific community, otherwise Microsoft wouldn't pay him tribute with inviting him to hold lectures on telepathy and extended mind at the Microsoft Research Center) there is NO concensus on the exact aspect how to view morphogenetic fields. So it is not fair to blanco accept someone's definition, when that definition doesn't really represent all of the scientific community. Ndru01 (talk · contribs)

It doesn't matter whether you understand or not. This article is about a concept that is defined as a physical region within the embryo, and this is backed up with references. Stop reverting. This article is not about Sheldrake's notion. There IS a consensus here for the change I have made, as shown above. Leave it alone. -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 13:13, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

It is you who does not understand something. The thing is that you cannot exlude Sheldrake from morphogenetic fields subject. There is no scientist (biologist) in the history of humankind that devoted so much of his work to that particular subject, as it is well known. His publications are serious science and not something irelevant, and it is extremely unscientific, plus irrational, to want his view totally ignored. That is simply not how things are done in civilized world! Ndru01 (talk · contribs)

It is not ignored. There is a whole page developed to his particular notion. There is an explicit link at the top of this page that will direct people to Sheldon's page if that is the sense of morphogenetic field they are after. -- Duae Quartunciae (talk · cont) 05:35, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Historical overview[edit]

I am currently writing a new historical overview section. The existing reference to Turing and Thompson is not really appropriate; the ideas are much older. I am using the sources currently listed as a basis. The reference to Turing and Thompson seems to have been taken from the morphogenesis article, which might also stand a review. It could be that this article here should be kept fairly brief, with more of the technical material under morphogenesis. Comment from biologists particularly welcome! -- Duae Quartunciae (t|c) 03:21, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

You're right - Turing and Thompson were a little late given that the MF concept was "in the air" in the 1920s. Which sources are you using for the re-write? Gilbert's stuff is usually pretty accessible - this might be a place to get some info (though I've only skimmed it). -- MarcoTolo 06:06, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
For a review focused more directly on MF itself, this paper by Gilbert, Opitz, and Raff has some good background and might be useful for "reference mining" as well. -- MarcoTolo 06:35, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
I've been using a pile of papers I have been able to find and read, and now the historical section is up. I think this helps to clarify the whole concept a lot. -- Duae Quartunciae (talk · cont) 07:22, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Intro copyedits[edit]

I've tried to re-write the intro using slightly more accessible sources (where "accessible" means either textbook sources, online sources, or both). While I think the concept is (slowly) becoming better explained, I'm afraid I may have been overly verbose. Suggestions on tightening-up the prose would be appreciated. -- MarcoTolo 05:58, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Looks pretty good. I've been slow putting up a historical introduction, which will help clarify further, I think. (Addendum. It's up.) -- Duae Quartunciae (talk · cont) 06:04, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Excellent work - the historical perspective is quite helpful. -- MarcoTolo 07:55, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. I'm pleased to see the progress which has transpired while I was looking elsewhere!  :-) Anville 20:10, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

"A Cell function can only be defined shape."[edit]

I just reverted the following addition by (talk · contribs) to the "Historical development" section:

[NOTE: A Cell function can only be defined shape. This states that by communication between cells will enable the cell to cahnge it's shape. If this happens the Anti-bodies will hunt the mutated cell down and destroy the cell.]

If anyone can figure out what it's supposed to say, feel free to reinsert it with appropriate clarifications. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 00:07, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

Assessment comments[edit]

I have rated this article as 'start' class. It would be nice (for the general reader) if this article had a section on what the implications are for this idea. As in, why does the average person care about this, what diseases or treatments might it relate to, what kind of research is being done, and so forth. If memory serves, there was some very interesting work being done for aplastic anemia that is based on this understanding of cell development. Also, if there is any opposition to this idea (I'm aware of none), then that should be mentioned. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:50, 18 June 2008 (UTC)