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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Thursday, April 30, 2020

When Biologists Use Verbs and Nouns in Misleading Ways

The many biologists working to protect us from viral threats deserve our thanks and praise. But while the hands of biologists are often very useful, it seems that the pens and tongues of biologists sometimes err. Let us look at some of the cases in which mainstream biologists used verbs, nouns and adjectives in misleading ways.

The world is full of astonishingly fine-tuned organisms having mountainous degrees of organization and functional coherence. But the typical biologist maintains that all this appearance of design and purpose is just a collection of a million illusions, and that fine-tuned biological organisms appeared merely because of what they call "natural selection." Such a claim seems odd when we consider that what is called "natural selection" never occurs in regard to a biological innovation until after that innovation appears -- and you don't explain something by referring to something that happened after that thing appeared. 

Presumably the term “natural selection” refers to something that sometimes occurs in the world: the fact that sometimes fit organisms survive longer and reproduce more. We do not at all know whether "fit organisms" (in the sense of more complex and sophisticated organisms) generally tend to reproduce more than less fit organisms defined in such a way. Lowly bacteria reproduce a lot more often than complex mammals, which casts doubt on whether it is generally true that fit organisms reproduce more. Is the phrase “natural selection” an honest phrase to refer to a superior reproduction rate that more fit organisms sometimes have, or is this phrase a misleading term to refer to that thing?  

A simple and strong case can be made that the term “natural selection” is a misleading term that has no business being used in exact scientific discourse. The case can be based on the fact that strictly speaking, unconscious nature does not select things. Selection is something only done by conscious agents that make choices, and nature does no such thing. Strictly speaking, unconscious nature never chooses and never selects. 

Someone may object to the previous reasoning along these lines: “We must continue to use the term 'natural selection' so that we can have a convenient term for the fact that fit organisms reproduce more.” But such a rejoinder is not compelling, because there are two existing phrases other than “natural selection” for the claim  that fit things reproduce more. The first is the phrase “differential reproduction.” The second is the phrase “survival of the fittest,” which has long been used in an evolutionary context. So there is no need for the not-literally-correct term “natural selection,” when there are two other literally accurate phrases that express the same idea.

Let us imagine a man living in northern Canada, a man with a very dark and misanthropic attitude towards the fellow residents of his town. He tells his son that the people in his town are all bad people. But let us suppose that the man repeatedly wakes up to find that after a night of heavy snowfall depositing many inches of snow, the 10-meter stretch of sidewalk in front of his house has been shoveled. This would be an observation inconsistent with the man's opinions, for it would suggest some unseen benevolent power working for his benefit.



The man might come up with a hypothesis to try to reconcile such an observation with his dark view of his fellow man. He might claim that his front sidewalk only appeared to be shoveled, and that the effect was simply caused by a snowdrift differential: a random difference in the height of snow drifts. We can imagine the man trying this explanation on his son.

Son: Dad, look outside, it snowed all night, but our front sidewalk is all shoveled! Someone out there must like us.
Dad: No, son, that's just an example of what I call a snowdrift differential.
Son: Uh, okay, Dad … if you say so.

The son would be unlikely to believe this explanation, particularly if he woke up repeatedly to see his front sidewalk cleared after a night of heavy snowfall. But if the father wanted to sell his hypothesis in a misleading way, he might come up with a  deceptive term to describe it: the term “natural shoveling.” The father might say that wind blasts can create a digging effect that mimics shoveling, and he might call this “natural shoveling.”

We can imagine the man using this phrase on his son, and the result would probably be more successful.

Son: Dad, look outside, it snowed all night, but our front sidewalk is all shoveled! Someone out there must like us.
Dad: No, son, this is just another example of what I previously described, the effect I call “natural shoveling.”
Son: Okay, I'm sold. I guess if nature can shovel things, then our front sidewalk can get shoveled by nature.

By using this phrase “natural shoveling,” the father would probably be more successful in selling his very far-fetched idea of a natural removal of the snow piling up on his front sidewalk in the middle of a northern Canadian winter. But it would be misleading for him to use this phrase “natural shoveling,” for the simple reason that nature doesn't shovel things. Only people shovel things. A shovel is a tool used only by a human.

The biologist who uses the term “natural selection” is using language as misleading as the “natural shoveling” language used by the father in this example. Just as it is misleading to talk about “natural shoveling,” for the reason that nature never uses a shovel, it is misleading to use the phrase “natural selection,” for the reason  that unconscious nature does not select things. Only living or conscious beings (or computer programs) select things.

I may note that there are several reasons why the father in this case is quite similar to the biologist evoking “natural selection” to try to explain away the fine-tuning in biological organisms. Specifically:

  1. In both cases we have an interpretation of an observational result that is being driven or motivated by a preconceived opinion (in the father's case, that the people in his town are all bad, and in the biologist's case, that nature must be purposeless and that there cannot be some unobserved designer acting for our benefit).
  2. In both cases an inadequate idea is introduced to explain away a result strongly resembling the product of design or intentional action.
  3. In both cases, a misleading term is used to sell such a hypothesis more forcefully, “natural shoveling” being a less accurate but more forceful term than “snowdrift differentials,” and “natural selection” being a less accurate but more forceful term than “differential reproduction” or "survival of the fittest."

Observational reality The biological world is full of organisms with mountainous levels of organization and a host of fine-tuned features, resembling the products of design A man in a snowy climate repeatedly observes that his front sidewalk is mysteriously cleared of snow after a heavy snowfall
Type of person who might be irritated by the observational reality Someone wishing to believe that mankind and other species are merely the product of blind, accidental forces A grumpy  man who thinks all the people in his town are bad, and who doesn't want to believe one of them is nice enough to be repeatedly shoveling his front sidewalk
Phrase such a person might use to try to explain away the observational reality “Natural selection” “Natural shoveling”
Is it misleading to be using this phrase? Yes, because unconscious nature doesn't select things; only conscious agents (or computer programs written by conscious agents) select things Yes, because nature doesn't use shovels
What honest phrase might express a similar idea? Reproduction rate differentials, survival-of-the-fittest Snowdrift differentials

Precision is a key part of good science. A good scientist uses precise and strictly accurate terms, not terms apt to create wrong impressions. Imagine if some scientist were to be frequently referring to “black inferiority,” and were to try to justify this language use by saying that blacks do actually have an economically inferior position in American society. This “black inferiority” phrase would be a bad case of misleading phraseology, since the phrase “black inferiority” is liable to give someone the incorrect idea that blacks are morally or intellectually inferior. Just as we should scold the scientist using so misleading a phrase as “black inferiority,” we should scold the scientist using so misleading a phrase as “natural selection,” creating the incorrect impression that blind nature selects designs. If you want to refer to the lower economic status of blacks in America, use a precise phrase such as “black economic disadvantage”; and if you want to refer to the alleged superior reproduction rate of fitter organisms, use a precise phrase such as “survival of the fittest” or “differential reproduction,” rather than a phrase suggesting nature can do something (choosing) that only conscious beings can do. 

The fact that "natural selection" does not actually describe a choice or selection is why Charles Darwin wrote in 1869,  "In the literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false term." So what on earth is such a "false term" doing at the center of biologists' speech about biological origins? 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says this about Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-founder of the theory of evolution: "Alfred Russel Wallace regularly urged Darwin to jettison the term ‘selection’ as misleadingly anthropomorphic, and substitute Herbert Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest.' " Note well the word "misleadingly" in that sentence. In the same article in that source, we read the following: "In the 1970s a number of biologists working in the fields of paleontology and systematics challenged the Neo-Darwinian dogma that you could account for ‘macro-evolution’ by means of long term extrapolation from micro-evolution."

The misleading phrase "natural selection" is only one example of the many ways in which mainstream biologists use verbs in misleading ways. Another extremely common example is that such biologists frequently make very inappropriate use of mindful-sounding actions words such as "control" and "regulate" and "coordinate" and "drive" when referring to mindless low-level chemical and physical factors, when they should be using much humbler words such as "affect" and "influence" and "limit." 

An example is the widespread use of the very inappropriate phrase "gene regulatory network." The term "regulate" means to control something. Because they are mindless low-level chemicals, genes do not control or regulate anything. Instead, genes merely influence and affect various aspects of human biology.  

Suggesting that biologists are using language inappropriately, the biologist Denis Noble has stated, "The language of neo-Darwinism and 20th century biology reflects highly reductionist philosophical and scientific viewpoints, the concepts of which are not required by the scientific discoveries themselves." The quote below in a biologist's essay suggests that there is a massive problem of biologists using verbs in an inappropriate way when describing genes:

In scientific, as well as popular descriptions today, genes 'act,' 'behave,' 'direct,' 'control,' 'design,' 'influence,' have 'effects,' are “responsible for,' are 'selfish,' and so on, as if minds of their own with designs and intentions. But at the same time, a counter-narrative is building, not from the media but from inside science itself."

Similar nonsense is spouted by biologists who attempt to attribute the embryonic development of a human being to mechanical or physical forces.  Below is some misleading language on a page selling something called "mechanobiology":
  • “In the earliest stages of development, when the tissues are still taking shape, the physical properties of the microenvironment can direct cell differentiation, and initiate the coordinated movement of groups of cells to establish the patterns that will define how the body is arranged.” This is baloney. The verbs “direct”, “initiate” and “establish” here are utterly inappropriate. The mystery of how generic stem cells differentiate to become one of 200 types of human cells is a profound unanswered mystery of biology. We know of nothing in some “physical properties of the microenvironment” that can explain any such differentiation. As “physical properties of the microenvironment” would be a mindless thing not even storing instructional information, they would have no capability to “direct,” “initiate” or establish the vast organizational arrangements needed to form specific cell types. It is all the more ludicrous to suggest that some "physical properties of the microenvironment" have some magical ability to "establish the patterns that will define how the body is arranged," an organization feat more complex than building a skyscraper (since the overall complexity of a human body is vastly greater than a skyscraper).
  • "In multicellular organisms, the developmental programs originating within a small group of cells are coordinated across entire tissues or organs through mechanical connections between neighboring cells."  We do not know of any developmental programs that can explain the progression of a human being from a fertilized egg to a large baby.  The often-made claim that DNA stores such a program (or recipe or blueprint) is false, and DNA only stores low-level chemical information. If such a fantastically complex program existed, it would be inappropriate to claim that it is "coordinated" by "mechanical connections between neighboring cells." At best we should say that development was influenced by such connections. 
  • Mechanical signals arising from the ECM directly regulate cellular functions such as proliferation, differentiation, and survival.” More baloney. "Mechanical signals" would be mindless things lacking in information, and would not have any power to regulate anything. The simple word "differentiation" in this case refers to miracles of organization (the appearance of 200 types of human cells, many being super-complex arrangements of matter that make an automobile look very simple in comparison). Such miracles of organization could not be "regulated" by mere "mechanical signals." 
The mystery of how a human is able to progress from the speck-like simplicity of a tiny fertilized egg to become a large walking talking individual is a mystery 100 miles over the heads of our biologists.  Mainstream biologists have always used the same silly trick to try to fool us into thinking they have some understanding of such a miracle of organization. Their trick is simply to take some microscopic thing (whether it be DNA or "mechanical force" or "the microenvironment") and to misleadingly use all kinds of action verbs in relation to such things, telling us that this or that microscopic thing "controls" or "regulates" or "coordinates" or "drives" this or that wonder of biological organization. Such biologists do not justify their use of such verbs, which are profoundly misleading. We know of nothing in such microscopic things that should cause us to be using such mindful-sounding words about them. 

Then we have the very frequent inaccurate claims that certain brain regions "light up" during particular mental activities, which is not at all correct. Brain regions basically do not look any different when you think or imagine or remember. The difference in signal strength under fMRI scans is typically less than 1% from one brain region to another during different types of mental activity, except for sensory cortex regions that are more actively involved when sensory activity occurs.  Such a difference is about what we would expect from random variations, like the small random variations in temperature between different organs or different parts of an organ. What happens is that neuroscientists make diagrams in which they make it look like some brain region was far more involved than some other region during some mental activity (such as representing in bright red a brain region with a less than 1% difference in signal strength), a misleading technique I have called "lying with colors."  

Besides using verbs in such misleading ways, biologists sometimes use nouns and adjectives in misleading ways. A chief example is utterly misleading sentences in which genomes or DNA are called a blueprint for the human body or a recipe for the human body. Neither genomes nor genes nor DNA are any such thing.  DNA merely contains low-level chemical information, such as the information on how to make a chemical sequence called a polypeptide chain.  As explained here and here, there is no specification in DNA or genomes or genes of how to make a human body or any organ of the body, nor do such things even have a specification of how to make any of the 200 types of cells in the human body. 

"DNA cannot be seen as the 'blueprint' for life," says Antony Jose, associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, who says. "It is at best an overlapping and potentially scrambled list of ingredients that is used differently by different cells at different times."  That's the latest of a dozen similar quotes by biologists I have collected in this post. But I could easily make a list three times greater of biologists who have made gigantically false claims that DNA is a blueprint or recipe for making a human.  The person who tells you such a lie has misled you in a way far worse than the person who tells you that your father is someone you never met. You will not be pointed in the wrong philosophical direction if you are deluded into thinking your father was someone you never met, but you will be pointed in the wrong philosophical direction if you think you arose from a reading of a blueprint of your body stored in DNA. 

Then there are frequent claims by biologists that brains are "hard-wired" for particular behavior.  Hard-wiring is an electronics term referring to an inalterable programming. No one has discovered any type of programming in the human brain. No complex mental behavior is hard-wired in the human brain.  The term hard-wiring refers to something like the wiring in an old-fashioned TV which guaranteed that a particular movement of the dial would switch the TV to a particular channel. There is nothing in the brain that guarantees any particular complex behavior or particular complex mental states given some particular input or stimulus. 

When discussing fossils, biologists are fond of using the term "series" to refer to some set of fossils they may list to suggest some idea.  Almost always, the "series" referred to is no such thing at all. Typically the supposed "series" will be some list of fossils cherry-picked from countless thousands of fossils spanning a range of millions of years, and gathered from scattered locations across the world.  A series is a set of things coming one after the other, such as the baseball games in the World Series.  

Our biologists may also use the term "cousin" to refer to morphologically different organisms, perhaps organisms believed to have a common ancestor millions of years ago. Such language is misleading. Your cousin of the same gender is someone with the same body plan as yours, roughly the same mental capabilities, and  a recent common ancestor (you having a grandfather in common).  It is misleading indeed to be using the word "cousin" to refer to organisms with very different body plans and vastly different mental capabilities believed to have a common ancestor only in the very distant past.  But doing something such as calling chimps and humans "cousins" is only one of a host of gigantically misleading statements biologists have sometimes made trying to persuade you (for ideological reasons) that "you're just an animal" or that "animals are just like you."  A man who believes such absurd ideas may be more likely to kill someone, thinking "he's just an animal" as he pulls the trigger. 

A very common use of misleading language by biologists is to use the word "human" in reference to pre-human species that were not actually human.  For example, a recent press account uses the term "extinct human species" in refering to Homo erectus, a species which was not at all human.  The use of Homo in a species name is no justification for such a thing, such a thing being merely an arbitrary designation applied by scientists.  A species that did not use language and did not use symbols and did not make buildings cannot reasonably be referred to as "human."  

Biologists may also use the term "ancestor" in a misleading way. This week the web site of Smithsonian Magazine had an article referring to Homo naledi, a tiny-brained species dating from about 250,000 years ago. The discussion of a Homo naledi is preceded with a section header saying, "Meet our new ancestors." But Homo naledi had a brain size less than half the size of the human brain, along with some characteristics of organisms from two million years ago. So Homo naledi could not possibly have been an ancestor of humans. 

Biologists have also countless times over the past 70 years made an improper use of the term "building blocks of life."  The building blocks of organisms are cells, and the building blocks of such cells are proteins. But innumerable times low-level chemicals such as amino acids have been called "building blocks of life" in biological literature, even though such things are merely the building blocks of the building blocks (proteins) of the building blocks (cells) of organisms.  In today's science news I see that some nitrogen-bearing compounds that are unrelated to living things (and not components of any living thing) are being called "building blocks of life," which is a particularly egregious abuse of such a term.

Neuroscientists are guilty of very misleading language when they attempt to explain human memories (which can last for fifty years) by appealing to what they call "long-term potentiation."  So called "long-term potentiation" is actually a very short-term effect. Referring to so-called "long-term potentiation" with the acronym LTP, a scientific paper tells us, "In general LTP decays back to baseline within a few hours." "Decays back to baseline" here means the same as "vanishes." 

It would seem that because of ideological motivations quite a few of our biologists are sometimes unreliable and careless in their speech, so unreliable and careless that we should subject all of the pronouncements of biologists to careful critical scrutiny, the same critical scrutiny we should apply to the words of politicians. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

When Dreams or Visions Foretell a Death

There are many accounts of dreams that seemed to presage or foreshadow a death. Some examples:

  • On May 3, 1812, John Williams had the same dream three times in a single night: a very specific dream about someone assassinating Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister. Eight days later Perceval was assassinated, and several of the details matched William's dream. On this page an 1848 book quotes an 1828 London Times account of this dream. 
  • According to an account by one of his friends, a few days before he was assassinated, Abraham Lincoln had a dream that he would be assassinated.
  • The famous writer Mark Twain had a dream about the death of his then-healthy 19-year-old brother that turned out to closely match what happened a few weeks later.
  • As reported here, Lawrence Francis Boisseau had a dream that the World Trade Center was collapsing around him (a dream I also had about a year before the September 11 attack). Boisseau was killed in the attack.

During the many years while Joseph Rhine was doing his famous laboratory experiments with ESP, his parapyschology laboratory would receive many strange accounts from around the world. Rhine's wife Louisa Rhine collected and categorized such accounts. Her book Hidden Channels of the Mind is mainly a collection of first-hand accounts.  On pages 49-51 of the book, we have a striking account of a woman who experienced four dreams, all of the dreams suggesting a death that soon came.

In the first account a young girl of 12 had a dream while her mother was very ill, shortly before her mother died. She recalled it like this:

"I dreamed I saw my mother...She was walking down a beautiful avenue of trees — going away from me. I ran as fast as I could and realized that I could never catch up with her; then I called her. She turned and put up her hand and said to me, 'Go back, my daughter, your father needs you.' I immediately waked up and went into the house. My father met me in the hall and took me in his arms and said, 'Daughter, I need you. Your mother just left us.' When I told him that I had seen my mother, walking fast down this avenue of trees I had never seen before, he said, 'She must have given you her last farewell.' '"

The same female had three similar dreams, all coinciding with a death. Here is her account of the second dream, foreshadowing the death of her brother:

"In the first of these my younger brother was ill in a hospital in another state. I was ill and could not be with him, but my father and brothers were by his bedside when he passed away. I dreamed the night he passed away that he too was walking down this same avenue of trees that I had seen in my dream some twelve or thirteen years before, and I tried to catch up with him and he told me not to come on but to go back. When my father brought my brother's body home for burial, I told him about the dream and the hour. He said that my brother had passed away a few minutes before the hour I had awakened."


rows of trees


Here is her account of the third dream, foreshadowing the death of her husband:

"Then in January, 1947, my husband and I had had friends in for a game of bridge. Afterward we retired and both went to sleep. I had this same dream — this time it was my husband who was walking so fast. I ran and ran and called and called for him to stop — he, too, as in these two other dreams, put up his hand and said, 'Our precious children need you — go back.' I was frightened and turning in my sleep, put my arms around him, awakening him. The first thing he said was, 'I am so sick, please call the doctor.' He died in a few minutes."

Here is her account of the fourth dream, foreshadowing the death of her daughter's friend:

"Then, on Good Friday, 1934, my daughters and a friend of theirs went to a dance. Before their return I dreamed that my eldest daughter and this girlfriend of hers both suffered fatal accidents in front of my home, and the same avenue of trees came into the dream. When my daughters returned home around one o'clock I told them of my dream and my relief that they had returned safely. The next evening, the Saturday before Easter, my daughters had a dance in my home. The girlfriend was killed within a block of our house on her way to her home, and the accident was just as I had dreamed it."

On pages 81-82 of Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa Rhine, we have an account of a man who had a dream that two people in a plane died in a crash in front of a hangar. The next day he saw exactly that happen.  On page 82 is another account of a dream that foretold a plane crash death.  On pages 82-83 we have an account of a woman who had a dream of a man collapsing into a tub. The woman very soon learned that the man was found dead in a tub. 

On page 171 of the same book we have an account of a woman who had a dream of her brother-in-law's accidental death by shotgun a week before it happened:

"One night I had a dream that was so real I remembered every single detail of it. I dreamed that my brother-in-law, Eddy, was out hunting with a young boy who was faceless in my dream. All of a sudden Eddy dropped from a discharge from the boy's shotgun. He had climbed through a fence and didn't have the safety on. The pellets hit Eddy in the hip and he bled to death before they could get him to a doctor....The whole thing bothered me so I wrote to my sister and told her about it. They got my letter on Saturday and laughed about it. But Monday morning Eddy was killed just as in my dream."

On page 180 of the same book, we read a similar case of a dream exactly foretelling a death:

"During the war a woman who had occasionally been under the care of a physician because of a tendency to be anxious and over-nervous awoke one night crying hysterically, 'Jack is dead. Jack is dead.' She said she saw him go down in a burning plane. Jack, her son, was in the U. S. Army in the Pacific. When her husband could not calm her, the doctor was called. He finally gave her sedatives and had her hospitalized. Neither he nor her husband took seriously her idea that Jack was in a plane crash, for he was not even in the Air Force. But word came later that her son had been on a plane, and had indeed gone down in flames. He had been killed at approximately the time of his mother's experience."

On pages 180-181  of Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa Rhine, we are told about a person who had a detailed dream of a deadly train wreck, a dream that foreshadowed a very similar train wreck that soon occurred:

"Before he gave details, she told her dream; and the dream wreck coincided exactly with the actual wreck. When pictures were published, they agreed in every aspect with the dream. The weird part to her was that it was as if she had actually been there and seen it happen! She had not known anyone on that train. And it was the first and, to date, the last experience of that kind she had ever had."

On pages 188-189 of the same book, we are told about a person who had a sudden vision foretelling a tragedy:

"I was walking to work one morning when, to my utmost horror, I was stepping right into a room in a hospital. A figure lay on the bed, his head bandaged. I gazed at the face of my boyfriend. Then, as suddenly as it happened, I was again back on the sidewalk.  A few blocks farther and I saw him alive and well and I laughed to myself about my ridiculous vision. The next day he was severely injured at his work and died soon after of multiple skull fractures."

On pages 201-202 of the same book, we are told about a person who had a sudden dream foretelling his own death:

"One morning the ten-year-old son of a woman in Utah said, as she was getting him and her two other children ready for school, 'Oh, Mom, I had a terrible dream last night. A car ran me down. It was so awful.' "
The mother narrates the tragic ending to the account:
 "When they left I uttered a silent prayer and said to stay on the sidewalk, which they did, as they were very obedient children. Some three minutes later someone came running to me. A truck had run up on the sidewalk and struck him down. He died seventy minutes later, never regaining consciousness." 
On pages 203-204 of Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa Rhine, we read another account of a dream foretelling some of the details of an accidental death:
"On arriving at the T home he found Mrs. T pleading with her husband not to go. On the previous night she had had a dream in which she saw, as she stood at her front door, a cart being drawn by a white horse passing on its way to the hospital. In that cart was her husband.  Mr. T, on seeing my brother, ignored her pleading and they left on the excursion....When Mr. T had eaten his sandwiches, he leaned forward to dip his lips in the water. As he did so, he pushed his gun and the trigger struck a stone and the gun exploded. He jumped back exclaiming, 'Oh, I'm shot!' My father laid him gently on his back, and went at once to get help. He found a man nearby with a horse, a white horse and cart....Mr. T died in the hospital that night."
On pages 204-205 of Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa Rhine, we read another account of a dream foretelling some of the details of an accidental death:
"A woman in New York awoke one morning very depressed because of a bad dream. 'I had clearly seen a plane crash at the shore of a lake and the roof of the third cottage on that dirt track in flames as a result. There was only one man and he burned up...Late in the afternoon I was at the electric range stirring something for dinner when I said, 'That's the plane — the one that's going to crash! Robert, stop the firemen before they try the canal; they have to take the Basin road and they don't know it.' My husband went outdoors to listen, put his head in to say, 'That plane's all right,' only to have me shriek, 'It is not!' Within seconds the plane crashed, the firemen took the canal instead of the Basin road, the pilot was burned to a crisp, the cottage was only slightly damaged . . . and I was a wreck for weeks wondering how I could have prevented it."

On page 262 of Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa Rhine, we read another account of a dream that seemed to foretell a death that quickly came, although in a rather subtle and indirect way:

"She awoke one night from a simple but disturbing dream. It was only 4 a.m. when she awoke, but the dream was so vivid and so upset her that she could not go back to sleep. The dream, she says, was only that 'My cousin Lucille had appeared and told me she was going away... I asked her where she was going, but she just disappeared out the door....Later that morning they called me to say that Lucille, who as far as I knew was in perfect health, had had some kind of an attack and was unconscious. She remained so until she died that same day." 

On the web site of Psychology Today, Sharon Hewitt Rawlette PhD tells us this astonishing account of a dream foretelling a death:

"In December 1975, a woman named Allison awoke from a terrible nightmare in which her 4-year-old daughter Tessa was on a train track. In the dream, Allison had been attempting to get her daughter to safety when Allison herself was struck and killed by a train.... Allison was in tears telling her husband about this terrifying nightmare. Not more than two weeks later, Allison and her daughter were at a train station seeing off a friend. An object fell onto the tracks, and, in an effort to be helpful, the little girl went to pick it up. Allison saw a train coming and rushed to save her daughter, but they were both hit and killed."

On pages 455 to 457 of Volume 5 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have a long account by George King telling how his brother suffered a ship wreck sea disaster that upset his plans to lay an undersea cable.  George tells how his brother set forth on a new ship in a second attempt to lay the undersea cable. After his brother left on the sea mission, George had the dream or vision described below:

"I was soon asleep, but how long I remained so I know not...I found myself in the midst of a brilliant assembly, such as that I had recently left at King's College. I stood in evening dress on the steps at the entrance to a great and crowded hall....Suddenly my brother stepped out from behind them, and advanced towards me... I was much surprised to see him, and, going forward to meet him, I said : 'Hallo ! D., how are you here ?' He shook me warmly by the hand, and replied: 'Did you not know I have been wrecked again?' At these words a deadly faintness came over me. I seemed to swim away and sink to the ground. After momentary unconsciousness I awoke, and found myself in my bed." 

Worried by his dream or vision that his brother had suffered some sea disaster, George very soon learned that his brother had died when his ship had been lost in a weather-related ship wreck. 

Postscript: An 1848 book tells us here of a Mrs. Griffiths who seemed to have dreamed three times of a boating accident the night before she was supposed to go on a boat trip. The next day "the boat and all that were in it went to the bottom"  after a violent storm arose.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Many an Apparition Is Seen by More Than One

In three previous posts I discussed many cases in which multiple witnesses reported seeing the same apparition. The three posts are below:


In this post I will discuss additional cases of this type.  I will give links that will usually take you directly to the exact page I am quoting or citing. 

On page 20 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account of an apparition that appeared as a "phosphorescent cloud" shortly after the death of someone named Cognet. We read this account by someone named Texier:

"Suddenly I saw a glow which made me utter a cry of terror. My father got up and took me into bed with him. The glow persisted; it was a sort of phosphorescent cloud, without definite outlines....My father pronounced these words in a loud voice: 'If you are Cognet, strike three blows on the chest of drawers.' This piece of furniture, marble-topped (it is still in my possession) was in the room giving on to the alcove. Three loud and measured blows were then struck upon the marble of the chest of drawers. Then, little by little, the glow thinned, melted, and I saw nothing more."

On pages 27-28 of Volume 6 of the Proceeedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have an account of a husband and wife in a locked room who saw an apparition of the husband's father, a man who had died long ago. 

"I saw a gentleman standing at the foot of the bed, dressed as a naval officer....I looked at my husband and saw that his face was white and agitated....I was by this time exceedingly agitated too, but remembering that the door was locked, and that the mysterious visitor had not gone towards it all, remarked, 'He has not gone out by the door !' But without pausing, my husband unlocked the door, hastened out of the room, and was soon searching the whole house. Sitting there in the dark, I thought to myself, 'We  
have surely seen an apparition !'....Sitting upon the bedside, he put his arm about me and said, 'Do you know what we have seen ?' And I said, 'Yes, it was a spirit. I am afraid it was Arthur, but could not see his face' — and he exclaimed, 'Oh ! no, it was my father!' My husband's father had been dead fourteen years."  


ghost sighting

On pages 120-121 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account that a child in Italy named Mimi was suprised to see what appeared to be her living father, who she thought was in Austria. A moment later she could no longer find such a person.  Mimi states, "The next day a telegram reached the school: my poor father had died at half-past seven in the evening, at the hour at which he had appeared to me."  Mimi also tells us this regarding her father's apparition:

"He appeared not only to me but also to my grandmother....There were three of them in the dining-room: my grandmother, her second husband, and my grandmother's daughter, when the door opened and my father came in. My grandmother exclaimed: 'There you are! How splendid that you got well so soon!' There was no one there. My grandmother said: 'Let us pray! He is dead.' "

On page 134 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account by Charles Tweedale of an apparition seen by three people:

"I saw, suddenly, a form appear in front of me, before the panels of the cupboard. Indistinct at first, it gradually grew clearer, until I recognized the face of my grandmother. I had been observing it for some seconds, when the vision melted away gradually, and disappeared in the moonlight....The morning of the next day, at breakfast, I was beginning to tell of the apparition of the previous night, when to my great surprise my father left the table abruptly. He was most agitated; he went out of the room hastily, leaving his breakfast almost untouched. I asked my mother for an explanation. She silenced me with a gesture. When the door was closed once more, I repeated my question. Then my mother answered: 'Charles, I'm going to tell you the strangest thing I 've ever heard of. This morning your father told me that he had waked up in the night, and that he had seen his mother standing near his bed, but just at the moment when he wished to speak to her she had disappeared.' This scene and this conversation had taken place about half-past eight, on the morning of Saturday, January 11th. Before noon we received a telegram announcing that my grandmother had died during the night. But that was not all, for my father next learned that his sister, who lived about thirty kilometers from our home, had also seen my grandmother appear. Three persons, therefore, had the same vision independently, and each attributed it to an hallucination." 

On page 168-169 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account by Countess Amelie Caeandini of an apparition seen by two people:

"One evening, about nine o'clock, every one in the house was still up and about. When my sister, aged seventeen, was walking through a hall of the apartment, she was stupefied to see a tall, beautiful girl standing near her under the lighted gas-jet. She did not know this girl, who was dressed in the costume of a peasant. Astounded, she uttered a cry, and the phantom vanished. She wept with fright, and my mother scolded her. Next morning, the cook, a girl of about twenty-five, came to my mother and told her that that evening, when she had got into bed, she had heard a sound of breathing, and felt on her face something that was like a breath; that when she had opened her eyes she had seen, standing near her bed, one of her friends whom she had known in her native place: a tall, beautiful girl dressed in peasant costume. 'That beautiful girl,' said the cook, 'was in the habit of behaving badly; I often gave her good advice, but it didn't have any effect.' She had died on the previous day." 

On page 227 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account by Caroline Judd:

"One morning in October, three weeks after her death, I saw my grandmother distmctly — her face, as always, calm, and her big eyes looking at the old clock as usual. I closed my eyes for some seconds, then opened them again, and still saw her. I closed my eyes a second time, but when I opened them she was no longer  there. Since my family sometimes called me a dreamer, I took care not to breathe a word about this vision. On the following evening my sister, who is not at all dreamy, but most practical, told me in confidence, before we got into bed (her bed was beside mine) : 'If you'll promise not to make fun of me, I 've something to tell you.' — 'What?' — 'Well, I saw my grandmother this morning.' The details which she then gave me were in entire accord with what I had seen myself.' " 

On page 228 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account of a woman who saw an apparition of a friend's dead husband.  The woman reported that soon thereafter the friend reported seeing the same apparition.  On the next page is an account of an apparition of a deceased husband being seen by a wife and the wife's children. 

On page 247 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion we have an account of an apparition seen by more than one:

"My mother and my sister — about a month after my mother's brother-in-law, our uncle, had died — were witnesses of an apparition of him. They saw this on different dates — my mother about a month after the death, and my sister fifteen days later still. My mother saw it spontaneously, without previous warning. As for my sister, she was on this occasion alone in a room. She was astonished to hear some one walking in a hall near my mother's room. She went into the hall and found herself in the presence of the apparition, which vanished immediately."

On pages 93-94 of Volume 2 of the Annals of Psychical Science (1905), we have the following account of an apparition seen by multiple witnesses, occurring at the time the corresponding person died:

"St. Petersburg, May 4th, 1891.-- This is the phenomenon which was witnessed by the whole of our family. It was at St. Petersburg, in 188o, when we were living in rue Pouchkarska. One evening in the month of May, about 6 o'clock, my mother (now Madame Telechof), was in the salon with her five children, of whom I was the eldest (I was then 16 years of age). Just then an old servant of the house, whom we treated as a friend (but who was at that time no longer in our service), had come to see us, and was engaged in  conversation with my mother. Suddenly the merry gambols of the children stopped and the general attention was turned towards our dog 'Moustache,' who had rushed, barking fiercely, towards the stove. Involuntarily we looked lo the same direction, and saw on the cornice of the great stove, made of porcelain tiles, a little boy, of about 5 years ef age, in his shirt. We recognised the boy as the son of our milk-woman -- Andre --who often came to our house with his mother to play with the children ; they lived quite near us. The apparition left the stove, passed above us all, and disappeared in the open casement. During all this time-about fifteen seconds-the dog did not cease to bark with all its might, and ran and barked, following the course of the apparition. The same day, a little later, our milk-woman came to the house and informed us that her son Andre, after a few days' illness (we knew that he was ill), had just died ; it was probably at the moment when he appeared to us." 

Below the statement in this journal, we have the names of three witnesses who attested to such an observation. 

On pages 63-64 of Volume 3 of the Annals of Psychical Science (1906), we have an account of a deceased priest whose apparition was seen by three different people.  We are told, "three out of the five Passionist Fathers who occupied the Ardoyne Monastery had seen the apparition and recognised it, and as they had been acquainted with the deceased during his lifetime, they were able to testify to the fact."

On page 85 of Volume III of the Annals of Psychical Science (1906), we have an account of an apparition seen by a dying woman and three other people, all of whom identified the apparition as being the deceased sister of the person who was dying. 

On page 372 of Volume 10 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, we have an account of an apparition seen by three or four people, an apparition of a godmother:

"My youngest sister, since dead, was called to my mother, and left Devonshire, where she was staying with friends, to come home. Then she arrived at home, she entered the drawing-room, but rushed out terrified, exclaiming that she had seen godmamma, who was seated by the fire in my mother's chair. Godmamma had been dead since 1852. She had been my mother's governess — almost foster-mother ; had lived with her during her married life, been godmother to her eldest girl, and when my father died, had accepted the duty of taking his place as far as possible in the family, to shield her from trouble and protect her — a duty which she fulfilled nobly. My other sister went into the drawing room to see what had scared K , and saw the figure of godmamma just as K had. Later in the day, the same figure stood by, then sat on the edge of my mother's bed, and was seen by both my sisters and the old servant, looking just as she had when alive, except that she wore a grey dress, and, as far as we could remember, she had always worn black. My mother saw her, for she turned towards her and said, 'Mary' — her name." 

On page 432 of Volume 7 of the Annals of Psychical Science (1908), we have an account of an apparition seen by more than one, and heard by many:

"A man named Jules Cenabrita, who had died a few days previously, appeared leaning out of a window of the house in which he had lived, and was thus seen by various persons living in the house opposite. This was the only visible apparition of the deceased man. But the spirit continued to manifest, speaking with its own voice, conversing with people in the house, and declaring that it did not again make itself visible simply to avoid frightening them.  This phenomenon was repeated for two months, and numerous reputable and credible persons have not only been present when it occurred, but have also taken part in the conversations with the invisible Jules, who had been, and still seemed, gay and pleasant, and always began by singing or praying." 

On page 178 of Enigmas of Psychical Research by James Hyslop, we have this account of an apparition seen by three people:

"About the end of November, or the beginning of December, in the same year (1872), I was disturbed one morning before it was light, as near as may be between 5 and 6 a. m., by the appearance of a tall figure, in a long dress, bending over the bed. I distinctly recognized this figure to be no other than my sister-in-law, Mrs. W., who, as I felt, distinctly touched me. My husband, who was beside me asleep at the time, neither saw nor felt anything. This appearance was also made to an aged aunt, residing at this time at Theydon Bois, near Epping, Essex. She told my husband as recently as the 4th inst. (1885), that the appearance came to her in the form of a bright light from a dark corner of her bedroom in the early morning. It was so distinct that she not only recognized her niece, Mrs. W., but she actually noticed the needlework on her long night-dress ! This appearance was also made to my husband's half-sister, at that time unmarried, and residing at Stanhope Gardens. The last-named was the first to receive the announcement of the death of Mrs. W."

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Hypothesis of Continuous Life-Force Dependency

Let us consider an interesting question: what exactly are the requirements for a human being to keep living? I don't mean all the things that are needed to go right for the human race to appear. I mean only things that need to exist for a group of humans to keep living in the present.

The average person would probably list four things: air, food, water, and light/warmth. Some people might also say that a human being requires a planet such as Earth underneath his feet. But we can imagine humans living indefinitely in a wheel-shaped space station that rotated to provide artificial gravity. We might say that the requirements for the indefinite survival of a human being are:

  1. Air
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Light/warmth
  5. Gravity (either artificial or planetary)
I include requirement 5 because even though humans can live for up to a year in zero gravity, we have no proof that humans can live for decades in zero gravity.

Are these all of the requirements for human beings to live for an indefinite length of time? Most people would probably answer: yes. But actually there are two more requirements that the average person would not think of, two things that are absolutely necessary for our existence. They are both laws of nature that allow us to exist.

The first requirement is what is called the strong nuclear force, which is the force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus. Were it not for such a force, no type of atomic nucleus other than a hydrogen nucleus could hold together, and there could be no carbon or oxygen in our bodies. The second requirement is the electromagnetic force, causing a repulsion between protons and protons and between electrons and electrons, and an attraction between protons and electrons. If there were no electromagnetic force, the type of chemistry we see in living things would be impossible.

So we can now expand our list of requirements for the current existence of human beings:
  1. Air
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Light/warmth
  5. Gravity (either artificial or planetary)
  6. The strong nuclear force
  7. The electromagnetic force
The difference between the last two items on our list is rather interesting. The first five items on the list can be satisfied by favorable local conditions. But the last two items on the list are cosmic-level requirements. Scientists think that the strong nuclear force is something that exists throughout the universe, and that the electromagnetic force is something that exists throughout the universe. This raises the interesting question: could there be some other cosmic-level force on which our existence depends? There are several reasons to suspect that there is such a thing.

Let us consider the question of the density of space. We intuitively think that outer space should be just completely empty. But quantum mechanics tells us something completely different than  our intuitions on this matter, as you can read about by doing a Google search for the term "vacuum catastrophe." According to quantum field theory, every unit of space should be teeming with short-lived virtual particles that pop in and out of existence.  According to quantum field theory, there should be so many of these virtual particles that at any given instant any cubic meter of ordinary space should be incredibly dense, even denser than steel. The scientific paper here mentions a figure of 10111 Joules per cubic meter for the energy density that should exist everywhere, according to one way of calculating things. That is a density many, many orders of magnitude greater than the density of steel.  But somehow the reality we experience is totally different from what there should be according to quantum mechanics. Ordinary space is at least 10 to the sixtieth power less dense than predicted by quantum field theory.   Of course, if ordinary space were anywhere near as dense as predicted by quantum field theory, life would be impossible (just as it would be impossible to live inside the denser-than-steel density of a neutron star). 

Given such a situation, there would seem to a strong basis for suspecting that life has an additional dependency: a dependency on a kind of "vacuum correction" force that continually gets rids of all the quantum mechanical vacuum nastiness, allowing relatively empty space. Such a force would have to be acting continuously, just like the strong nuclear force and electromagnetism. 

When we leave the realm of physics, and delve into biology, we find some additional reasons for suspecting that life may depend on some mysterious force or agency. The first of these reasons is the fact of protein folding. Our DNA specifies the linear polypeptide sequences of more than 20,000 proteins used by the human body. But such proteins have intricate three-dimensional shapes, and there is no good evidence that DNA specifies the three-dimensional shape of any protein. The diagram below shows the difference between a polypeptide chain and a protein that results from that chain after protein folding occurs.



Where does the three-dimensional shape of a protein come from when protein folding occurs? For a long time, scientists have assumed that the three-dimensional shape of the protein is somehow a consequence of the one-dimensional sequence of amino acids in the necklace-like polypeptide chain. If such a thing were true, then it would be fairly easy for scientists to predict the three-dimensional shape of a protein from the polypeptide chain specified in DNA. But scientists are still unable to do that, even though they have tried very hard to do this for decades.

For many years, there has been a bi-annual competition in which scientists try to predict the three-dimensional shape of a protein after having been given only its one-dimensional polypeptide chain. When they are limited to “ab initio” predictions that cannot rely on information databases about protein shapes, the predictions of scientists still are poor for any of the more complex proteins. This would not be true if the three-dimensional shape of a protein was somehow a consequence of that protein's polypeptide chain specified in DNA. 

Astonishingly,  a strong case can be made that the three-dimensional shapes of proteins are somehow coming from some life force or mysterious biological facility outside of or beyond the human body. It is as if some controlling force outside of the human body was causing the one-dimensional chains of amino acids known as polypeptide chains to fold in just the right way to become three-dimensional protein molecules.

What is astonishing is that both in the case of protein folding and in the case of morphogenesis (the progression from a fertilized egg to a human baby), we seem to have a crucially important structural progression that is almost completely unexplained by modern science. Morphogenesis cannot occur merely by reading instructions from DNA, because contrary to popular misconceptions, DNA does not store any blueprint or sequential list of assembly instructions for making cells or complex organs. DNA is basically just a long sequential list of amino acids, and there seems to be no way of stating in DNA any such thing as a 3D blueprint. See here and here for several reasons why the whole idea of a body plan stored in DNA is erroneous. DNA is like a big stack of cards in which each card simply has printed on it the name of an amino acid. You can't express body plans or 3D blueprints with such a thing. Expressing a body plan would require some language vastly more expressive than the “bare bones,” minimalist, “amino acid” language in which DNA is written.

What goes on in morphogenesis (the progression from a fertilized ovum to a baby) is something currently inexplicable and profoundly mysterious. Somehow a barely visible speck (a fertilized ovum) progresses to become a full baby, but we don't even know from where it gets the body plan for a human being, which is not stored in DNA (something that seems to be mainly an ingredient list, not a structural blueprint).

Given the mystery of protein folding and morphogenesis, in which human bodies seem to receive external information about forms and structures, it is reasonable to assume a radical hypothesis. I can call this idea the hypothesis of continuous life force dependency. According to this hypothesis:

  1. When humans are growing in a mother's womb, they receive controlling inputs from some mysterious external life force, that supplies information on the human body plan, determining the eventual form of a newborn baby.
  2. Humans continuously receive controlling inputs from some mysterious external life force, which causes protein folding, causing polypeptide chains to fold into functional three-dimensional shapes.
  3. Because protein folding arises from something external to the human body, and is constantly necessary for human physiology, humans have a continuous dependency on some mysterious external life force.
  4. Such a life force may be responsible for other internal bodily processes in addition to protein folding, processes that are not specified by DNA (which does not and cannot specify super-complicated bodily processes). 
Under such a hypothesis, the complete list of requirements for the current existence of human beings is as follows:
  1. Air
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Light/warmth
  5. Gravity (either artificial or planetary)
  6. The strong nuclear force
  7. The electromagnetic force
  8. Some physics force preventing the quantum "vacuum catastrophe" from making each cubic meter of space too dense for life to exist
  9. The continuous existence of some mysterious organizing life force, largely responsible for the ongoing organizational effects inside cells (such as protein folding), and also for the stupendous organization effect allowing a fertilized egg to grow to become a full-sized human 
Protein folding is only one of a host of mysterious processes inside the human body that are very hard or impossible to explain through bottom-up mechanistic chemistry. In the complexity of its structure, an average cell has the complexity of a huge factory. But we err if we try to think of a cell as being like a static factory in the middle of the night.  The cell is more like a factory during the middle of the work day, humming with the activity of a host of complicated processes. But how can all of these processes be happening? It's not DNA that is controlling such things, for DNA does not and cannot state any such things as instructions for how to perform some complicated dynamic process.  

Someone might complain that this hypothesis of continuous life-force dependency is unscientific because it could never be confirmed or falsified. Such a complaint is not correct. The hypothesis could be partially falsified if scientists were ever able to master what they have been long working on, the ability to make ab initio predictions of protein folding, predictions that worked with even the most complex proteins. If scientists were to determine chemical factors that allowed them to accurately predict the three-dimensional shapes of protein molecules from the corresponding one-dimensional polypeptide chains, without cheating by using protein databases, then such a thing might remove any need to postulate some external life force involved in protein folding. If that were to happen, it would be a partial falsification of the hypothesis of continuous life force dependency.

Are there any observations that might tend to confirm this hypothesis of continuous life force dependency? I can imagine some hypothetical observations that might do that.

If there is some cosmic life force that acts to aid the origination of complex forms and structure in our body, it might be possible to block such a force. I can imagine an experiment in which animal subjects were placed in some heavily shielded environment, such as a chamber with lead walls five meters thick. Conceivably such shielding might somehow block a cosmic life force from reaching the organisms in the chamber. Then, unexpectedly, the animal subjects might die. In a similar test, animal subjects might be placed in some chamber surrounded by intense electricity or intense magnetism. The electricity or magnetism might block a cosmic life force from reaching the animal subjects in the chamber, and the animal subjects might unexpectedly die.

One possibility is that a life force might be localized rather than existing with the same strength throughout the universe. Conceivably there might be a life force that is very strong here on Earth, but which has diminishing strength the farther you get from Earth. In that case, there might be an astonishing consequence: it might be that astronauts far from Earth might suddenly die in their spaceships, even though there was no malfunction on their spaceships. The deaths could be caused by diminished protein folding caused by the astronauts traveling too far from a life force  that diminished the farther you get from Earth. If such an effect were observed on multiple space missions, it might be an observational confirmation of the hypothesis that humans have a continuous dependency on a mysterious life force.

The hypothesis of continuous life force dependency is one that is unlikely to be appealing to the average scientist. But what our scientists would prefer to believe in is not a very important consideration. A much more important consideration is whether a hypothesis is strongly suggested by realities of nature that we cannot explain in conventional ways. 

If we evoke a life force to explain organizational effects, it would seem that we must imagine some agency applying rules and principles vastly more complicated than the very simple rules employed by electromagnetism and gravitation. Before anyone knew of computer programming, such agency could only be described as the direct work of a mind. But nowadays there is the possibility of describing such an agency as some kind of programming that might act autonomously according to intelligent rules that were written into the programming.  

In his book The world of life : a manifestation of creative power, directive mind and ultimate purpose, Alfred Russel Wallace (co-founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection) made some statements that are quite the opposite of some of the claims of today's champions of such a theory.  Below (from page 337 of the book) is one of those statements. As you read the statement, keep in mind that DNA does not specify the physical structure of any of the 200 types of cells in human beings, and that DNA is no answer to the "organized by what" question being raised. 

"The cell is now defined as 'a nucleated unit-mass of living protoplasm.' It is not a mere particle of protoplasm, but is an organised structure. We are again compelled to ask, Organised by what? Huxley, as we have seen in Chapter XV., tells us that 
life is the organising power ; Kerner termed it a vital 
force ; Haeckel, a cell-soul, but unconscious, and he 
postulated a similar soul in each organic molecule, and 
even in each atom of matter. But none of these verbal 
suggestions go to the root of the matter ; none of them 
suppose more than some  'force,' and force is a cause of 
motion in matter, not a cause of organisation. What we 
must assume in this case is not merely a force, but some 
agency which can and does so apply, and direct, and guide, 
and co-ordinate a great variety of forces mechanical, 
chemical, and vital so as to build up that infinitely complex machine, the living organism, which is not only self- 
repairing during the normal period of existence, but self- 
renewing, self-multiplying, self-adapting to its ever-changing 
environment, so as to be, potentially, everlasting. To do 
all this, I submit, neither 'life' nor 'vital force' nor the 
unconscious 'cell-soul' are adequate explanations. What 
we absolutely require and must postulate is, a Mind far 
higher, greater, more powerful than any of the fragmentary 
minds we see around us, a Mind not only adequate to 
direct and regulate all the forces at work in living 
organisms, but which is itself the source of all those forces 
and energies, as well as of the more fundamental forces 
of the whole material universe."

In such a statement, Wallace very much suggests a kind of "continuous life-force dependency" along the lines of the hypothesis suggested here, and suggests that such a thing must be something far more organizational and directive than some simple force such as gravity.  Nothing we have learned about DNA invalidates any of Wallace's statement.  In fact, since scientists during the past 100 years have continually discovered ever-more-astonishing wonders of organization, coordination and very precise fine-tuned activity most abundantly in cells and organisms,  which they have almost entirely failed to credibly explain,  Wallace's statement may be more applicable than ever.