Of Form over Substance: a review of Sermonti

Note: This review is based on the Italian edition of Giuseppe Sermonti?s “Dimenticare Darwin” - “To forget Darwin” - (Il Cerchio, Rimini, 2003), about to be released in English by the Discovery Institute Press as “Why is a fly not a horse?”. An updated review of the translation, if necessary, will follow. - AB

The front cover of Giuseppe Sermonti?s Dimenticare Darwin sports the picture of a woman?s head made up of a twisting ribbon, through which a cloudy sky can be seen. It is a very fitting image for the main topic of the book, which focuses on the origin of form in living organisms, but even more for its quality: an empty shell practically devoid of meaningful content. Sermonti?s short work is neither a science book, nor a science-inspired philosophical reflection on natural history, but a long rhetorical argument whose purpose is to sway and manipulate the reader, not to inform or educate.

Since Sermonti is a new character on the American Creationist scene, it may be worth providing a little background on the man himself. Sermonti is a retired professor at the University of Perugia in Italy. He did some important work in bacterial genetics in the ?50s and early ?60s, but by the end of that decade he seemed to have become progressively disillusioned with the scientific enterprise. In 1971 he published a post-modernist, religiously inspired critique of modern science, Il crepuscolo dello Scientismo (The twilight of Scientism), filled with pessimistic reflections about the futility of science, and its exploitative and alienating nature. Sermonti’s first anti-Darwinian book (Dopo Darwin - After Darwin) appeared in 1980, and with a pattern common to many biologists-turned-Creationists, his publication record, as far as practical scientific work, had dried up by the mid ?80s. Since 1979 Sermonti has been editor of the Italian-published biology journal Rivista di Biologia ? Biology Forum. Under his guidance, this old and reputable journal has become a veritable haven for anti-evolutionary tracts by a motley crew of respectable structuralists, young-earth creationists, veritable cranks and Intelligent Design advocates (among them, some Discovery Institute fellows and acolytes), as well as for an assortment of fringe- and outright pseudo-science papers [1]. Also in the 1980s Sermonti became o a major contributor to the ?Group of Osaka?, a network of mostly structuralist biologists dissatisfied with mainstream evolutionary theory, who tried, largely unsuccessfully, to come up with a consensus critique to ?neo-Darwinism? and some alternative evolutionary framework. At the same time, and possibly as a result, Sermonti?s anti-scientific cynicism seems to have deepened: in his monthly column answering reader letters in the Italian astrology/New Age magazine Astra, where he lends his credentialed support and encouragement to what he calls ?other science?, which includes astrology, spoon-bending, holistic medicine, etc [2]. Most recently, Sermonti has made an appearance as an ?expert witness? at the Kansas Board of Education anti-evolution hearings.[3]

Despite Sermonti?s protestation that he is not a Creationist, but ?would only aspire to being a creature? [4], Dimenticare Darwin is very much an unabashedly Creationist work. As a Roman Catholic, Sermonti is not bound to Biblical literalism, and he makes it clear that he believes in a billion years-old Earth. The book however is riddled with religious references and images, not to mention repetitions of well-known Creationist arguments. It is hard to understand why anyone would feel so coy about the ?Creationist? appellation, while writing the following comment regarding the possibility of human evolution:

?The position of the Church [i.e. its acceptance of biological evolution of the human species] leaves open a large biological problem. If the Lord has instilled the soul in the human body, when He realized it was so well structured to be able to receive it, how did the organic evolution of Man proceed until the moment of the sacred benediction? How did a brain capable of [accepting] God form in a golem? How did the human body achieve gradually its similarity to Christ? The Church would not find itself in these contradictions, if it had avoided to adhere too rapidly to the idea that, in the history of life, a hominid walked the Darwinian path from monkey to the man of Leonardo, that it gradually stood up from its bent gait on knuckles to a straight back and its eye on the stars. Man ? we have argued ? was born suddenly, in one jump, that is, in a non-Darwinian fashion. The ontological leap was also a biological leap.?[5]

Going back to the topic of the book, Sermonti?s argument about the living form is essentially as old as Goethe?s idealistic Naturphilosophie, and despite the Italian blurb?s assurance that the book was written ?in the light of the most recent discoveries in the field of genetics?, it barely touches on current research. Of the ?essential bibliography? list (the book lacks, for the most part, proper citations in the text), only 11 of 86 items are post-1990, 24 are pre-1970, and exactly 1 is an actual research paper (from 1983). Oddly, but in perfect accordance to the book?s title, Redi?s 1668 and Spallanzani?s 1765 original works on spontaneous generation are on the ?essential? list (though they might be a bit hard to find at your local library!), but Darwin?s Origin of Species is not.

Sermonti pays allegiance to a structuralist approach, but in fact he argues against evolutionary theory from a viewpoint that is closer to a sort of lyrical mysticism than to scientific structuralism [6]. Overwrought, poetic descriptions of living organisms and their attributes pepper the text, often accompanied by aesthetical value judgments that would make even committed anthropomorphists cringe: tigers look fierce and powerful, squirrels inexpressive and plain, horses noble and fiery, donkeys stubborn and indolent, women and children graceful, men less so, and apes, sorry to say, downright repugnant. (Incidentally, I suspect many American readers will be offended by Sermonti’s patronizing descriptions of women, especially younger ones ? please believe me that this attitude is not as prevalent in Italian society as this book, and common stereotype, would suggest.)

By and large, the book consists of a string of loosely connected claims against modern evolutionary theory and the current mechanistic models of development, intermingled with poetic disquisitions that serve as continuing reminders that abstract form exists apart from, and precedes - indeed must precede - its physical ontogenetic and phylogenetic realization. There is no real logical thread along which the argument develops. Sermonti begins in chapter 1 discussing spontaneous generation and the continuity of living matter, and in chapter 2 moves on to early embryonic development. Chapter 3 bemoans the reductionistic/molecular approach to biology (probably to the surprise of those with financial investments in the biotechnology industry, Sermonti declares genetic engineering technology an unqualified failure), and then Sermonti goes back to attacking evolutionary theory in chapters 4 (natural selection as a purely conservative force), 5 (on natural features which supposedly have no selectable value, such as bird song melodies), 6 (the inability of genetics to explain morphology), 7 (on human “de-evolution” - see below) and 8 (on the necessity of pre-existing information for the existence of codes). Chapter 9 is perhaps the most interesting, on the origin of complex forms from simple natural rules (still, nothing that D’Arcy Thompson had not already said, much better, almost a century ago). It doesn’t last: the next 3 chapters make respectively a mess of the evolutionary genetics of development (ch.10), muddle up neurobiology by freely mixing up the concepts of neural activity, mind, consciousness and soul (ch.11) and infuse the concept of fractals and scale invariance with holistic mysticism (ch.12). Chapters 13 and 14 go back to the molecular level, discussing protein structure and the role of electromagnetic interactions and fluxes in biology, only to revert to Sheldrake’s metaphysical mumblings on the topic. Finally, chapters 15 and 16 are an almost comical discussion of paleontology (see also below). Whenever Sermonti tries to go into the specifics of his anti-evolution claims, his poor understanding of crucial issues and anti-scientific agenda become most apparent. To support his contentions, Sermonti uses the three approaches that constitute the backbone of most Creationist and pseudo-scientific literature: he cherry-picks data, ignores well-known counter-explanations and facts, and when everything fails or the evidence does not conform to his rhetorical aims, he simply invents stuff.

In the introduction, he repeats the old canard that the second law of thermodynamics, which dictates a rise in disorder (entropy) of isolated systems, represents a major obstacle to naturalistic evolution. He then tries to pre-empt the known counter-argument with this paragraph:

?Other scholars have defended the plausibility of this climb of life during time, putting forward the idea that living organisms are not isolated systems, and therefore can disobey the entropy principle. This is an argument that could have been made by Darwin, but certainly cannot be accepted by modern neo-darwinists. The ?Central Dogma? of modern biology asserts the absolute isolation from the world of the repository of heredity, DNA. It [DNA] flows indifferent to the invitations of the environment, or to the seductions of the organism, in spite of Lamarck and, let?s say it, the real Darwin.? [7]

This is, frankly, either foolish or plain dishonest. Never mind that it is essentially every other scholar, not just ?other scholars?, who have pointed out the obvious fallacy of the thermodynamic objection to evolution - the ?Central Dogma? (that hereditary information flows from DNA and RNA to proteins, and not backwards) has nothing at all to do with the issue. If DNA were truly thermodynamically isolated it would indeed succumb to entropy. However, organisms expend significant amounts of energy to faithfully replicate and maintain the integrity of DNA, using very complex and metabolically costly quality control and damage repair mechanisms. I very much doubt that Sermonti, a geneticist, is unaware of this.

Another example: in order to depict the founders of neo-Darwinism as out-of-touch with the natural world, Sermonti characterizes them as geneticists and biochemists only interested in their laboratory experiments [8]. This is simply false. In fact, several of the fathers of the New Synthesis were accomplished naturalists. For instance, plant geneticist G. Ledyard Stebbins was also an excellent field botanist and ardent conservationist, and Theodosius Dobzhansky started his career as an entomologist, and although his best-known work was laboratory-based, he published several papers on the biogeography of Drosophila species and lady beetles. Ernst Mayr alone, of course, had enough ?hard-core? field experience in the jungles of New Guinea and Melanesia as an ornithologist and naturalist to put to shame Sermonti or, for that matter, every other notable anti-evolutionist I can think of. Other than out of a basic disregard for reality, it is incomprehensible to me why anyone would fabricate such an easily disprovable claim (that all neo-Darwinism founders were ignorant of natural history) merely to support the rather irrelevant and subjective point that they lacked a feeling for, or an interest in nature.

Sermonti?s view of paleontological evidence fares no better, and seems to have been taken straight out of lower-level Creationist pamphlets. He states in no uncertain terms that there are no known transitional fossil forms for cetaceans or for the origin of mammals, and that all animal phyla (including Protozoans!) appeared almost simultaneously in the Cambrian, and none went extinct since [9]. He also devotes significant space to argue for a sort of upside-down ?theory? of human evolution: that Homo sapiens is an archaic, essentially unevolved species, of which fossil Australopithecines and other hominids (including the great apes) represent ?degenerate? forms (ch. 7). This is based, apparently, on three lines of ?evidence?: lack of transitional non-human ape lineage fossils, the slow molecular clock in humans (in fact, the molecular clock is quite slow in all hominids, most likely because of their comparatively long generation time), and, bizarrely, what seems like a ?aeckelian view in which ontogenesis so closely recapitulates phylogenesis (to the likely dismay of the Discovery Institute, Sermonti agrees that early vertebrate embryos resemble each other) that it can be used backwards, as an interpretative tool for it. Sermonti therefore argues that neotenic organisms - in which juvenile traits persist into adulthood, e.g. gills in adult salamanders - must be archaic, because their features appear earlier in development. For instance, that the cranium of a baby gorilla resembles that of an adult human more than that of an adult gorilla indicates to him that we are primitive forms, and gorillas derived. The actual fossil record, with its unequivocal transitional series from older Australopithecus to more recent Homo species, be damned.

When he tries to offer some positive claim, as opposed to hackneyed attacks on evolutionary theory, Sermonti still shows a complete lack of interest for actual science. An early chapter on development waxes philosophical about morphogenetic fields from a long-abandoned vitalistic viewpoint, and one has to read all the way toward the end of the book to learn about their more mechanistic interpretations, as proposed for instance by Goodwin. Even these timid attempts to instill some empirical basis and testability to the morphogenetic field concept, however, seem too mechanical and unappealing to Sermonti?s idealistic esthetic, and do not escape his anti-scientific skepticism. [10]

Despite the fact that the book?s main argument revolves around developmental pathways and their evolution (or lack thereof), if one were only to judge from its pages the entire field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) seems not to exist at all. In chapter 6, in an effort to argue that gene variation simply cannot be the source of morphological change, Sermonti relates studies showing that a cat gene involved in eye development can give rise to insect-like compound eyes in Drosophila, substituting for its homologous form (actually, to my knowledge these experiments have been conducted using mouse, not cat gene sequences [11], but anyway). Gloats Sermonti: what then makes a fly a fly and a cat a cat? If the same “eye gene” can be responsible such different eye forms, certainly the ?eye form? cannot reside in the gene. This argument is so intellectually and scientifically crude, any college student armed with an introductory developmental biology textbook would be able to debunk it. The fact is, there is no single ?eye gene? responsible for mammalian and insect eye morphology. Eyes are formed via long and complex developmental genetic networks/cascades, which we are only beginning to understand, and of which Pax6/eyeless (the gene in question, in mammals and Drosophila, respectively) merely constitutes one of the initial elements. The role of the Pax6 gene product in the process is simply to regulate other genes, some of which are even known, such as sine oculis, eyes absent and dachshund in Drosophila, and their counterparts in mammals, Six, Eya and Dach. These in turn regulate more genes, and so on, which eventually result in specific cellular responses and differentiation processes involved in eye morphology. As long as Pax6 from one species can successfully regulate its homologue?s targets in another, its role in eye development is accomplished, and its contribution to eye morphology is precisely nil (this conclusion is no foggy theorizing or evolutionary hand-waving: this is something we know experimentally). But, ever since Darwin far-sightedly (pardon the pun) chose it as the prototypical ?organ of extreme complexity?, the eye has found way after way to embarrassingly confound anti-evolutionists, and Sermonti is just one more name on the list.

One would think the evidence that highly conserved functional and genetic steps perform the same functions in morphologically different organisms would be an argument against Sermonti?s claim that living forms must be the manifestation of mysterious immaterial forces, but the thought never seems to dawn on him. Maddeningly, he does come inadvertently close to the answer, when he mentions that evolutionary and biochemical evidence shows that an elephant and its flea (or a fly and a horse!) are essentially the same (p. 129-130). This should be better stated as: a fly and a horse, an elephant and its flea are, to a limited but significant extent, variations of the same genetic and developmental theme, and their obvious morphological differences hide a long common phylogenetic history. Indeed, Darwin?s major insights, wholly vindicated by a century and a half of research, are the fundamental unity of life, and the transforming power of small changes. But as Sermonti himself tells us, he has actually forgotten Darwin.

So, why would the Discovery Institute want to translate and publish this mess of a book? Hard to say. On the one hand, it may help give Intelligent Design anti-evolutionism some sort of ?international appeal?. It also adds one more credentialed scientist (a scarce commodity) to the ID roster. I doubt that the Discovery Institute is under the illusion that Sermonti is currently anything more that a fringe figure in Italian and European science and culture. Being a prominent European Creationist is as significant as being a good European quarterback, hardly enough to make it to the NFL: in Creationism as in American football, the Big Leagues are in the US. The final possibility is that Sermonti?s editorship of Rivista represents a highly valuable, possibly unique opportunity for ID advocates to publish, albeit via the back door, in the mainstream scientific literature. As such, it may be useful to keep Sermonti in the fold, even though his work fails the already low ID quality standards. It will be interesting to see how many of the numerous blunders in Sermonti?s book (and there are more than I could mention here) will survive translation and editing by Discovery Institute fellows. As for future ID papers in Rivista, we?ll have to wait, but my suspicion is that the flood gates are open.

Notes/References [1] Along with these, Rivista continues to publish low-level, but legitimate theoretical and experimental science. For a complete record of papers published in Rivista, go to the Pubmed database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed) and search for ?Riv Biol [jo]?. Note the change in character of the articles before and after 1979, when Sermonti took over.

[2] See http://astraincontri.corriere.it/sermonti/lettera21.shtml and following pages. Accessed 6/15/05. In Italian.

[3] Unfortunately, Sermonti?s testimony was not transcribed by the court reporter, apparently due to his heavy Italian accent. Free audio files are however available from Audible (go to http://www.audible.com, and search for “Kansas hearings”). Sermonti?s testimony starts at time 3:40:00 of the day 1 recording.


?Per le riserve che nutro nei confronti dell?Evoluzionismo sono stato accusato di essere un ?creazionista?. Non lo sono: se me lo si permette, aspirerei soltanto ad essere una creatura.?

?For the reservations I harbor about Evolutionism, I have been accused of being a Creationist. I am not: if I am allowed, I would only aspire to being a creature.? Giuseppe Sermonti, ?Dimenticare Darwin?, Il Cerchio, Rimini, 2003, p. 10.

All translations here are mine.


?La posizione della Chiesa lascia aperto un grande problema biologico. Se il Signore ha immesso l?anima nel corpo umano, quando ha constatato che questo era cos젢en organizzato da poterla accogliere, come la evoluzione organica dell?uomo 蠰roceduta fino al momento della sacra benedizione? Come si 蠦ormato un cervello capace di Dio in un golem? Come il corpo humano ha raggiunto per gradi la simiglianza di Cristo? La Chiesa non si troverebbe in queste apor쥬 se avesse evitato di aderire troppo in fretta all?idea che, nella storia della vita, un ominide abbia percorso il cammino darwiniano dalla scimmia all?uomo di Leonardo, che si sia gradualmente eretto dal chino cammino sulle nocche alla schiena diritta e l?occhio alle stelle. L?uomo ? abbiamo sostenuto ? 蠮ato d?improvviso, d?un balzo, cio蠩n modo non darwiniano. Il salto ontologico 蠳tato anche un salto biologico.? Ibid. p.92.

[6] For instance:

?Io mi sento sopraffatto dall?innato che si svela, come da qualcosa di sublime e di unico, senza confronto ed assolutamente inarrivabile al mio giudizio. La bellezza del mondo è ³confinata e minuziosa a fronte dell?idiozia dissennata dei cicloni e delle bufere, o a fronte delle sgrammaticature nella recita della divina commedia dell?essere. E noi dovremmo credere che quegli sfoghi del caos e quelle sfilature siano il fassato che ci ha costruito, e le promesse del futuro? Il fiore sbocciato del mondo è µna cattedrale di cattedrali, e a noi non resta che toccare col ginocchio la terra e recitare _domine, non sum dignus.?

?I feel overwhelmed by the innate that manifests itself, like something sublime and unique, incomparable and absolutely inaccessible to my reasoning. The beauty of the world is unbounded and detailed, compared to the senseless idiocy of cyclones and storms, or to the ungrammatical theater of the divine comedy of being. And we should believe that those outlets of chaos, those tears are the past that built us and the promises of our future? The blooming flower of the world is a cathedral of cathedrals, and all we can do is to touch the ground with our knee, and recite ?domine, non sum dignus? (?Lord, I am not worthy?).?_ Ibid. p. 48


?Altri studiosi hanni difeso la plausibilitࠤi questa risalita della vita nel tempo, avanzando l?idea che un vivente non 蠵n sistema isolato, e cos젰u򠤩sobbedire al pricipio dell?entropia. Questo 蠵n argomento che poteva essere addotto da Darwin, ma non pu򠣥rto essere accettato dai neo-darwinisti moderni. Il ?Dogma Centrale? della biologia moderna asserisce l?isolamento assoluto dal mondo del depositario della ereditଠil DNA. Esso trascorre indifferente agli inviti dell?ambiente o alle seduzioni dell?organismo, a dispetto di Lamarck e, diciamolo, del vero Darwin.? Ibid. p.7.


?Gli elaboratori della teoria, i ?neo-darwinisti? o ?selezionisti?, erano genetisti e biochimici, che della storia della terra poco sapevano o si interessavano. Il loro mondo se lo erano fatto nel laboratorio o nella provetta e pensavano pi?modo di trasformarlo che a capirlo. Come spesso fa la scienza, essi pretesero che le loro piccole astuzie di laboratorio fossero mezzi usati dalla intelligenza della Natura per costruire un a biosfera che essi giudicavano pletorica. Quasi si fanno vanto di non distinguere un abete da un larice, un capriolo da uno stambecco.?

?The devisers of the theory, the ?neo-darwinists? or ?selectionists?, were geneticists and biochemists, who knew little of, and were not interested in the history of the Earth [I think Sermonti means here ?natural history? rather than ?geology?]. They built their world in the laboratory or in the test tube, and thought more about changing it than about understanding it. As often science does, they pretended that their little laboratory tricks were the means used by the intelligence of Nature to build a biosphere that they judged too complex. They almost pride themselves of not being able to tell a larch from a fir, a roe buck from an ibex.? Ibid. p.123.


?Nessuno ha mai trovato il semipipistrello o la quasibalena e nessuno e? mai riuscito ad immaginare l?ascendente comune del bestiario fantastico costituito dagli ordini mammiferini??No one has ever found the semi-bat or the quasi-whale, and no one has ever managed to envision the common ancestor of the fantastic bestiary of mammalian orders.? Ibid. p.124.


?In un periodo geologicamente breve, per incanto, le forme della vita sono apparse l?una di fianco all?altra, in tutti i ?tipi? morfologici ? o phyla ? che hanno in seguito popolato la terra. Si calcola che ci򠳩a accaduto un mezzo miliardo di anni fa. Da quel tempo dei tempi nessun ?tipo? e pi?parso e nessuno 蠳comparso. Protozoi, poriferi (spugne), celenterati (idre ed anaemoni di mare), molluschi, anellidi (vermi), artropodi (insetti, crostacei), echinodermi (ricci e stelle di mare) e, poco dopo, cordati (il nostro phylum) e altri tipi minori sono apparsi agli albori del periodo cambriano. Sotto di loro nessun fossile che potesse averli generati.??In a geologically brief period, as if by magic, the forms of life appeared one next to the other, in all morphological ?types? ? or phyla ? which later populated the Earth. It is calculated that this occurred a half billion years ago. Since those ancient times no new ?type? has appeared, and not one has disappeared. Protozoa, Porifera (sponges), Coelenterates (hydras and sea anemones), Mollusks, Anellids (worms), Arthropoda (insects, crustaceans), Echinoderms (sea urchins and starfish) and, shortly thereafter, Chordates (our phylum) and other minor types appeared at the dawn of the Cambrian period. Below them, no fossil that could have generated them.? Ibid. p. 122

In fact, transitional cetacean and basal mammalian fossils are known, and pre-Cambrian fossil evidence exists for unicellular eukaryotes, sponges, cnidarians (Coelenterates), various kinds of worms and, arguably, primitive arthropods. Phyla for which only post-Cambrian fossil evidence exists include, among others, Bryozoans, Nematodes, Nemertines and Rotifers (the scientific consesus is that most of these phyla may have originated earlier than their fossil record indicates, but since “no pre-Cambrian precursors” arguments like Sermonti’s are based on the purported lack of fossil evidence, its proponents should at least apply the standard consistently). Finally, at least 20, and possibly up to 70 phyla are estimated to have become extinct since their appearance in the Cambrian. To learn more about transitional cetaceans see Hans Thewissen’s paper in Nature 413, 277-281, 2001, and his great lab web site. The literature regarding mammalian paleontology is vast, see Cifelli, J Paleontol 75, 1214-1226, 2001 for a review, or talkorigins specifically for the synapsid to mammal transition. Finally, see Valentine, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 30, 285-306, 2002, and Conway-Morris, Int J Dev Biol 47, 505-515, 2003 for opinionated, but comprehensive reviews of the Cambrian and pre-Cambrian fossil faunas. The web site Palaeos is also a very useful and accurate (as far as I can tell!) source for paleontological info.


?Penso che qualcuno possa chiedersi perch鬠dopo aver adottato ipotesi macroscopiche e metaforici campi morfici, che sfidano la logica della causa-effetto e persino la freccia del tempo, io sia ripiegato, in questi due ultimi capitoli, sull?interpretazione moleculare, sia pure per dare una nuova dignitࠧenetica alle proteine. Me lo sono chiesto anch?io: naturalmente non lo ho fatto con alcuna premeditazione. Soltanto voglio commentare che il legame che consente alle proteine di confidarsi il loro stato e di trasmetterlo ereditariamente non risulta di natura meccanica e causale. Ƞuna solidarietࠤi orientamento, una ?risonanza morfica? (Rupert Sheldrake?) per cui ogni elemento di un sistema coerente 蠡ssoggettato a una forza, e quella stessa forza esprime. Ai sistemi naturali 蠩nerente una memoria collettiva, che rende coerenti le molecole, i cristalli, le cellule, le colonie delle termiti, gli sciami delle libellule, gli stormi degli uccelli, i miti degli uomini. ?Le cose sono come sono, perch頥rano come erano?, scrive Sheldrake.??I think someone may wonder why, after I adopted macroscopic hypotheses and metaphorical morphic fields which challenge the logic of cause and effect and the very arrow of time, I have retreated, in these last two chapters, to a molecular interpretation, even if only to give new genetic dignity to proteins. I have wondered this myself: of course, I did not do it with premeditation. I just want to comment that the bind that allows proteins to confide to each other their status, and to transmit it hereditarily [Sermonti is referring to cooperative effects on protein folding, as in prions], is not of a mechanical and causal nature. It?s a solidarity of orientation, a ?morphic resonance? (Rupert Sheldrake) according to which every element of a coherent system is subject to a force, and that force it expresses. Natural systems have an inherent collective memory, which lends coherence to molecules, crystals, cells, termite colonies, swarms of dragonflies, flocks of birds and human myths. ?Things are as they are, because they were as they were?, writes Sheldrake.? Ibid. p. 113.

[11] Halder et al, Science 267, 1788-92, 1995.