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REJOINDERS 2005-04 (Apr)

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jade mcmahon writes...

what are some of the gargoyles myths and ledgens?

Greg responds...

What aren't?

Response recorded on April 13, 2005

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matt writes...

Hi Greg. You said in the archives that as of the time you left the show (The Journey, i'm assuming) that Demona didn't know about Broadway and Angela's relationship, and the only other person who knew was Brooklyn.

1. How did Brook find out? Did Broadway and Angela tell him? Was the scene in "The Journey" how Brook find out?

2. When would the rest of the Clan find out about them? Would they try to keep it quiet for awhile or would they even care who knew?

3. Had Angela had any romantic connections with any of her rookery brothers on Avalon?

Greg responds...

1. Yes, the scene in "The Journey".

2. I don't think it was a major secret. But honestly, I haven't given much thought to the order of how and when everyone learned about it.

3. No. Nothing even vaguely serious.

Response recorded on April 07, 2005

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Valaine Fea writes...

I´m from Austria and a big Gargoyles fan!:)
Thanks for the show!
Now my question:
Will Owen look like the Owen we know? Or older?
You said he has a love life. In 1996 or in 2198(between?)?

Please excuse me if I said something grammatically wrong. I`m not very good in english;)

Greetings from Vienna,

Greg responds...

Owen will look like Owen, allowing for differences in fashion. I'm not going to go into details of his love life at this time.

Response recorded on April 07, 2005

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John writes...

Hi Greg,

Some years ago, people kept permanently asking 'bout Brooklyns permanent "injury" or "disfigurement" he got during his Timedancing. You never told...

By now, you revealed other, in my mind bigger secrets 'bout the future masterplan (especially that Lex is gay), so I ask again, hoping you are in a good mood and want to spoil it:

What is Brooklyns permanent injury/disfigurement he receives during Timedancing? Andif you don't want to tell us, what sort is it? Scar? Loss of Limb? Loss of wing???

So, however, have a nice day,
CU, John

Greg responds...

Eh, sorry. It's a fair question, but I'm just not in the mood.

Response recorded on April 07, 2005

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The Cat writes...

I'm going to ramble and rant, so I hope you can forgive me if I confuse you or loose you along the way.

Response from Greg to Vanity's question that was posted January 6th 2002:

The notion that vengeance begets nothing more than a vicious cycle of further vengeance, is not only true but is if anything UNDERSTATED. Hardly exaggerate. One only has to look at a newspaper to see that the Montagues and Capulets of this world simply refuse to recognize this obvious, obvious FACT. It drives me insane. Your casual dismissal of the notion doesn't thrill me either. (Sorry.)

Okay, I'm going to ramble on this one a bit. Chew it up spit it out type deal.

Okay, what has always confused me about Demona is that she supposably hates humans. She wants to kill them and wipe them off the planet.

If that is true then why didn't she kill the Canmore brat when he was young and not any sort of threat to her. She could have gotten away with it to, to an extent of the imagination anyway, saying that she was protecting herself from attack and that she just happened to rake the young child's jugular vein with her talons would have worked rather nicely as an excuse. The thing is Demona knew, sort of, that Canmore would become vengeful. I mean, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out that this little bratty prince is going to go looking for revenge. He's so spoiled he still needs some one to wipe his butt! If that doesn't say"I'm going to go seeking revenge because somebody lower than me hurt my pride I don't know what does. She could have easily nipped it in the bud and there would no longer be any Hunters. Of course, you put them into the show to keep the plot rolling, but that really didn't work out did it. Of course not.

Also, Demona is suppose to be insane. She could have easily taken out the humans with her plague. Why tell Goliath that all he had to do was destroy the praying gargoyle and then she wouldn't spread the plague. Insane people are not known for having morals! What got me to was she wouldn't spread the plague because it would kill Angela. That made no sense. Demona has always tried to kill Goliath and the clan, saying that they've been corrupted by the humans. Now, the interesting thing is Angela has been the most corrupted. She was raised by humans and taught by humans, so Demona should have wanted to kill her to. Especially her. That would have definitely reinstated the fact that Demona was a villain.

Perhaps I'm looking into this too much, but Demona had the opportunity to kill a lot of people in the last thousand years and save herself a lot of heartache later. I highly doubt that anyone would defend the Canmore brat. I highly doubt anyone would have been capable of stopping her from killing the last hundred or so Hunters that came after her when Canmore didn't succeed.

However, I think I can answer this for myself I just want to know your thoughts on it.

Demona is not evil, per say, and she's hoping that the humans realize that they've treated her kind wrong and will repent, however, she doesn't see that time coming up anytime soon. She also saw that Macbeth's way of handling Canmore was better, not as fulfilling, but better. She, I suppose, was expecting Canmore to realize, later, that she had spared his life and that he might realize that it was out of the goodness of her heart not out of the fact that she couldn't kill him. Men are extremely short sighted in this fact: A woman can kill you! A beast can kill you! *shrugs* I've never understood how come it was so hard for some men to understand this.

Also, I think Demona's looking at the whole revenge thing a bit wrong. If I'm correct she's looking at it as though its her against The Hunter. She's not looking at it as though it is a war. That it is a campaign that she has to plan for. That she has to choose her ground. She needed to think things through!

I honestly have to wonder how many times she has planned out her schemes. Aside from the plague thingy, I don't think she's ever thought any of her things through to the very end. I'd have to say that she never thought about what torture Puck would put her through the night she stole The Mirror, if she had she probably wouldn't have stolen it. The one time she does plan for years upon years she hamstrings her own plan by telling Goliath how to defeat her. Stupid! Utterly stupid!

So, now I've ranted and I want to know am I right? Even to some degree.
Also, I'd like it if you read this. It was the main reason I began this rant. The book is titled: Oathblood and was written by Mercedes Lackey. One of my all time favorite authors. (I know you don't read fan fiction, quite understandable really, but I usually incorporate some aspect of her stuff into my fan fiction.) This book is a bunch of short stories pulled together and the last one is the one that inspired this rant, however, the whole book is good and I would suggest reading the other two that go with this one as well. Their titles are "Oathbound" and "Oathbreakers". They're good books and a must read for anybody because they go into details that most fantasy novels just don't go into. Especially, the ones published back in the 1980's when it was still "a man's world".

Greg responds...

Where do I start?

Okay, let me start with the Oath-recommendations. I have found that I don't enjoy most fantasy fiction books. Isn't that surprising? It surprises me. Among other reasons, it may have something to do with envy. (I don't like admitting that, but it's true.) But I also like to keep my head generally clear of other people's ideas. I just prefer reading detective fiction, for some reason. But if I do decide to read fantasy again, I'll keep your recommendations in mind.

As for Demona... I like to believe that she is a complex character with complex motivations. That she is "human" enough to have inconsistencies. Yes, she tells herself she wants all humans dead, but in fact she isn't always ready to act on those feelings. Also, you need to keep in mind that the Demona of the late 20th century is not the same Demona of the early 11th century. She'd gone through a lot in the interrum that changed her, hardened her.

Likewise, she tells herself that she wants corrupted Gargoyles out of the way. But when push comes to shove, she's not prepared to sacrifice her daughter. So when you say things like: "That made no sense." All I can do is disagree with you and say it made sense to me.

And there are all kinds of "insane". Demona fits a definition, certainly. But of course, it's not like she's brain-dead.

Some of what you write sounds right to me -- or at least in the ballpark. But I don't agree with your assessment of Canmore really. And I don't agree that Demona could have just killed him easily as a child without repercussions. Even Macbeth felt he couldn't kill the kid without repercussions. And I tend to agree with him.

Obviously there were repercussions for NOT killing the kid too. But you roll the dice, you know?

As for Demona often if not always sewing (sowing?) the seeds of her own defeat. Why, yes, she sort of does. I don't think she consciously thought she was giving Goliath the info he needed to stop her. But she did. She's a conflicted character. I think that's what makes her so fascinating to so many people.

Response recorded on April 06, 2005

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Chaos9001 writes...

Hey greg

love the show(obviously) but i have a question, if Fang was cooped up with demona for at least five weeks by the day that it showed on screen demona changing form, why did he looked so shocked when she turned human?

Greg responds...

I don't think he looked shocked. It may have taken him five weeks to come up with a funny line.

Response recorded on April 06, 2005

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Punchinello writes...

<<Gargoyles as well can type on keyboards and relay thought. Lexington with very little experience in terms of years and could only practice at night, was able to punch a keyboard judging by the "clicking" sound of the keyboard at nearly 129 words per minute, without looking and locate Coldstone in MacBeth's mansion. Quite impressive really.>>


<<Yet his thoughts were in English.>>

No. They were not. Look. Mental concepts (especially highly abstract concepts) do not emerge from language. It works the other way around. Concepts are formed internally. We can use language to describe them but we don't need to. That's the important distinction.
Consider the acquisition of tool use. A tool you have never used before. Lets consider something like a construction crane. You see it's controls. By experimentation you might begin to discern the function of each control. But none of this is the product of some mental narrative. Pretend you've never seen a crane before. Maybe you're an aboriginal who has never seen western devices. Better yet, pretend you're Lexington. You're a gargoyle transplanted from 10th century Scotland into contemporary America. Lexington has never seen a lever. He's never seen a gas pedal or a start button. If you sit him in a crane and point to controls and tell him what each one _is called_ what do you think it would mean to him? Nothing. Simply calling something a gas pedal gives it no context. You have not imparted anything about it's function. Lexington has no concept that these structures in front of him have functional relationships with the larger device. However, if he experiments, he can begin to observe that if he pushes the lever forward, the crane rotates clockwise. If he pulls it backwards, the crane rotates counterclockwise. He can make associations now, and he can begin to detect patterns. He can anticipate that if moving a control in one direction corresponds to one function, then moving it in the other corresponds to the opposite function. This process of observation, association and anticipation is an example of conceptual thinking. In order to understand the crane, he would have needed to think about it in concepts. Not in English.

The corollary to the computer should be clear. Lexington simply could not have considered the novelty of the computer in words. He would have no words to describe it's properties, it's function or it's nature. If you were transplanted 1000 years into the future and someone handed you a solid metal sphere and told you to use it to write words, how would you contemplate the thing they handed you? It's surface is smooth. No obvious control mechanisms. No obvious surface features of any kind. So how the devil do you write with it? Speculating about it's functionality is a highly conceptual and visual process. If handwriting and typing are both lost arts in 1000 years, then you don't even have words to describe this thing's function.

Think about how Lexington would actually interpret a computer. You have a conceptual understanding of what a keyboard is, but Lexington doesn't. He's never seen a typewriter. He's never even seen a printing press. Do you suppose that when Lexington ponders this device, his thinking takes the form of mentally spoken instructions? Instructions to do what? To type? He has no concept of typing. He would be as mystified by this thing as you would be by the sphere.

However, if he can observe the device in use, and if he can experiment with it, then just as with the crane, he can begin to infer the functional relationships of the keys. He can form a mental picture of how this device works. At that point, he's certainly free to attribute words to the concepts if he want's to communicate them to someone else, but he doesn't need to. His ability to think about the device is not contingent upon his ability to describe those thoughts linguistically.

Proponents of the idea that thought is a purely linguistic process cling to this fantasy that thought is a perpetual little personal narration providing us with instructions. As though a little person were sitting on our shoulder whispering to us. Even if this ridiculous picture of the thought process were verifiable, consider that it would be useless as a medium for thought. Instructions mean nothing without concepts. Even simple concepts.

What about Bronx...

The point of my original thesis on sentience was that it is frequently treated in an uncritical and mentally lazy way. It enters popular culture, not as anything analytical, but as an imagined distinction between those we have to respect and those we don't have to treat with any kind of consideration.

So, is the mental world of Bronx (or Cagney) diminished by their not being able to articulate it? It should be evident that the notion their thought hinges upon language is ridiculous. Can we say they are sentient? Can we say they have the ability to observe, make inferences and anticipate? Can we say they are aware?

Of course. It's not just a matter of our having significant evidence for the ability of non-humans to have this type of mental experience. It's profoundly unreasonable to maintain that they are not aware and intelligent when we consider the emergence of intelligence in pre-history. It's often supposed that these mental abilities just suddenly appeared in homo sapiens, as if by magic, once we passed a certain threshold in our evolution. Nothing compels this feature to emerge, according to popular mythology. It just shows up unannounced. And it renders homo sapiens capable of language and tool use in a single second of evolutionary history.

Now, evolutionary psychologists have realized for a long time, that this picture of the development of intelligence was as silly as they come. Highly ordered structures like awareness and intellect don't just appear all at once. They emerge over time from more primitive systems. Intelligence evolved under the pressures that all species face in nature.

Awareness and thought did not emerge from nature as a means to get us into college or to allow us to write resumes. They emerged as a means to avoid large predators and distinguish things we can eat from things that can eat us. Living beings need to be able to distinguish between these two things in order to survive. The ability to contemplate concepts of things in our environment is just the natural product of species adapting to interact beneficially with it. All of our mental abilities are inherited from our earliest ancestors and were developed as an instrument for them to survive. The development of these faculties simply could never have delayed emerging until after we developed language.

If you consider it, you will discover that abstract concepts frequently defy linguistic expression, because our ability to think abstractly developed independently of language. You can't really describe a sophisticated mathematical concept or a work of music in words. They can only be contemplated conceptually. In fact very common things defy linguistic expression. Try this experiment.

Describe the color red.

The reason we cant is because the linguistic structure to describe it does not exist. It didn't emerge because it does not serve to benefit our species survival in any way. Yet you can picture red mentally. Or any number of colors. Doubtlessly, a variety of hues, which you might not even have a name for, exist in your mind. They exist as concepts. Mental pictures. And their inability to be defined linguistically does not diminish them. You can picture red. You can apply it to various forms. You can anticipate what would happen if you mixed it with another color. But you don't need language to do that. The imaginative process, the conceptual process, has nothing to do with language.

<<Eskimos have something like seven words that really just mean "snow". Yet an Eskimo thinks like an Eskimo and can judge the minor differences in the type of snow they see and to them one kind of snow is not "a" snow but a "d" snow and ect.. >>

This anecdote about Eskimo's having such a plurality of words for snow is often referred to in arguments for the dependence of thought on language. I don't know why. It does not appear to lend anything to this position. I guess the idea is that the way Eskimo's think about snow is supposed to be structurally different from the way english speakers think of snow. If they do, then it's not evident that it follows from their having more words for snow. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are at least a dozen words for snow in the english language. Flurry, Slush, Hardpack, Frost, Powder, IceLens, etc. And if we include all the descriptive lexemes that we count when we talk about the Eskimo words for snow, then there are probably dozens more in english.

This really is not an indicator that thought is contingent upon language. I can provide an analogous example though, which begins to demonstrate that thought takes place in the absence of language. Colors end up being a good example again, because they are such a large part of our visual world.

In Swedish, there are probably as many words to describe various colors as there are in English. Possibly more. I know they have a special word for light gray. Linguistic relativists would take the position that the Swedish or English must be thinking about colors in a way that is fundamentally denied to people of other cultures, who do not have all these words for colors.

There are many, such cultures. For instance, the Tiv language of New Guinea, where there are only two words for colors, equivalent to light and dark. A Swedish scientific study done years ago sought to test the theory that thought must be absent where language to describe something is also absent. However, when tested, it became apparent that Tiv speakers were able to recognize as many colors (and with the same facility) as Swedish speakers. This is certainly an indicator that thought exists without the benefit of language.

<<Luckily for us I suppose that as humans we all relatively think alike even with our differing way of thinking.>>

I find some arguments for deep structure very persuasive Vanity, but you treat the concept in a way which is very far removed from those arguments.

<<This allows for learning multiple languages each human no matter his language that language has the ability to "learn" or adapt to the use of another language and that is quite a remarkable thing. Almost too remarkable to be chance. >>

Has this become a prescription for theology now?

Greg responds...

Punchinello, I agree with everything you're saying... and yet....

Language, once created, does not then exist in a vacuum. Language itself INFLUENCES thought, influences one's thinking about even the most abstract of concepts -- including Red.

Learning a birth language must wire the brain a certain way. At least out of habit. Not hard-wired of course, but non-survival laziness dictates that a birth language must influence thought. That the learning of a new language (in any depth) must also influence thought.

That introducing new words to a human being may in fact on occasion introduce new concepts not discovered.

In 1984, Orwell posited that the destruction or dissolution of words underlying concepts like "Freedom", etc. would result in a population with less awareness of the concepts themselves. Of course even in that novel, he didn't posit that this was enough to completely WIPE OUT the concept of Freedom. Thus individuals like Smith are intentionally awakened by Ingsoc out of their stupor in order to push them down various roads to "Freedom" while under constant observation. These roads are then cut off -- along with the road-takers -- in order to prevent Freedom from, well, ringing.

Yes, concepts exist independent of language. But language, once created, takes on a life of its own (says the writer -- so take it with a grain of salt). Language has, as I'm sure you'd agree, a power of its own.

I'm not at all sure, but that may be where Vanity was heading.

Response recorded on April 05, 2005

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Punchinello writes...

<< (if you infact cannot speak Russian). In fact the communication would very much be like that between man and an animal.>>

I'm not confident of this, Vanity. I think you need to be more careful in the way you treat the issue. What are you basing this similarity on?

<<When he wants a drink and says (whatever in Russian means 'I want to drink your water'); you will overtime perhaps reckognize what he wants through mere repitition. Never though be able to ask him if he liked the water, describe the compositional qualities that make up the glass, or how the purification system(s) in your water plant makes that water safe for you and your family to drink. >>

I don't understand what your point is here, Vanity. What are you trying to say?

<<You can say it he won't know it.
Yet he can still make the moral judgement on his own princibles that he understands in his own language as to if he will leave the toilet seat up or not. >>

Moral judgement? What relationship do moral judgements have with your thesis on thought and language? This tangent about morality doesn't seem to be anything you could reasonably infer from a theory about language. I confess that I'm a little uncomfortable with this avenue of argument. I suspect that by injecting your thesis with reference to moral principles, you're attempting to take what should be a purely normative argument and turn it into a prescriptive one. I'm anticipating that you're going to advocate the application of some kind of value system down the road, and that you're going to take the position that what you say here demonstrates the validity of that system.

You're going to need to demonstrate the legitimacy of the Wharf hypothesis in this thesis if you want to use it as a prescription for moral behavior. Right now, it would be premature. Even unethical. Of course, your point isn't entirely clear to me. I have to guess at your meaning. What I'm guessing you intend is that the Russian's internal self, his "moral principles," are based in a faculty for language. This would be a strange position to take. I think you're confusing the idea of values with the idea of thoughts.

Maybe it would help to clarify your meaning if you considered the following.
1. Assuming that the Russian's "moral principles" have a foundation in language faculty, does this mean anything? It doesn't seem to reinforce any argument you make.
2. Do you assume that moral principles depend on language? It is not apparent that this is so. But if it were apparent, what would it mean? Would it mean sentience was dependent on language? I don't think so.

<<His sentience is still very much intact as is yours, but in communication most of what we consider humanesque intelligible relay of thought is lost. >>

Why don't you just say..."we don't understand someone when they are speaking an unfamiliar language."
I'm bothered by the way you treat this statement as though you have provided a demonstration of the Russian's intact sentience. I think you're implying that we can agree that his sentience is unique among species and incontestable, but nothing you have written demonstrates that the Russian's experience of awareness is even marginally different from a non-human.

<<He can learn but he may not learn English just as you can but may not learn Russian. Words are words, but diction, structural differences, and phonetic discrepencies between the two languages make changing your thinking process from thinking as an Englishmen(English speaking man not man born on England) to thinking as a Russian quite likely impossible.>>

What do you mean by "changing your thinking process?" I can't make sense of the above statement . Is it a linguistic relativist position? It sounds like maybe you're proposing there is a unique type of deep structure in the mind for every native language? The thesis that thought is dependent on language is frequently attributed to Noam Chomsky's theory of deep universal generative grammar, but you need to understand that Chomsky is referring to the basic universal structures that language emerges from. He is not correlating thinking with regional languages. People who attribute that position to him wildly misunderstand his intent. There is no school of linguistics or cognitive science which advances the notion that there are different deep structures for Russian and English. Wharf and Humboldt have attributed different structure to various cultures. But I don't think any of this amounts to deep structure, and certainly not structure based upon language.

<<Even if you learn Russian as to be able to go to Moscow and fool everyone into thinking that you are indeed a native Russian. Your nueral networking will still under most serious probability process thought in English>>

What is "neural networking?"

I think your position hinges upon this notion of how thought is processed. This is where I fundamentally disagree with you.

Thought is not "processed" in English. Or Russian. I'm supposing you borrow this notion from linguistic relativism even though you seem to subscribe to theories of innate language faculty. I would emphasize that even Chomsky, who is the most prominent proponent of deep structure for language, has explicitly conceded that we also think _without words_ in his response to John R. Searle's critique of his theory. Introspection is not a narrative process.

You should consider that it's probably not appropriate to be treating concepts of deep structure in language as linguistic relativist concepts. Eric H. Lenneberg is a deep structurist, and in his study of the biological basis for language he explicitly defends the antithesis of linguistic relativism. He states clearly "that cognitive function is a more basic and primary process than language, and that the dependence-relationship of language on cognition is incomparably stronger than vice versa."

If it begins to sound like deep structurists consider language independent of thought, that's probably because they do. Their position is a much more realistic one. They regard language as a product and expression of thought. But only one of many such products.

Greg responds...

Okay, I think I followed all that... but I have nothing worthwhile to add. The whole question of language differences doesn't seem to impinge on the original question of sentience a bit.

Response recorded on April 05, 2005

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Punchinello writes...

<<You say you don't have the full answer. I'm just not clear what the question was. I don't disagree with anything you said, except for the notion that Punchinello and I were defining sentience as simply the ability to communicate. I don't think either of us ever did that.>>

Neither of us did. I should stress however, that I disagree with Vanity, strongly. I take this very seriously. Maybe that appears strange. As I read Vanity's thesis though, I think I detect an effort to base a prescription for moral behavior on what he believes sentience is. And if we're going to do that we need to be very careful. It won't be enough to guess at who we judge worthy of some investment of our ethics. We can't limit the moral worth of some creature because we have a feeling. I imagine people couldn't be bothered to have a disagreement over an obscure philosophical issue. Perhaps if it were just a normative argument being made, I wouldn't care either. That's the problem though. Philosophies are never purely normative. They're always potentially prescriptive.

And since you have opened the floor Greg, to really have an exchange about what sentience is, and by extension, what thought is, responding to this provides a good opportunity to do that.

<<(note if you were in Madrid when you first seen Gargoyles and they spoke in Spanish and of course you did too you might argue they thought in Spanish and you would most likely be right mi amigo). But not as an English Man but and English Gargoyle again not as a nationality but as a tongue. Still Lex's moral judgements can be made too stand on thier own and can communicate with anything Man or Gargoyle or Oberon's Child that also speaks English, whether they think "English" or not. >>

<<Language is not merely a tool for communication it is a way of thinking >>

<< Punchinello and yourself discussed "sententiousness"
in quite lenghty detail. If I remember right the main buckling of the topic of one's being sentient was ultimately his ability to communicate ideas. I don't seem to remember any talk about awareness of thought and decision.>>

Well I've reviewed what I saved of that thread, and I cant find any indication that anyone participating intoned that sentience relied upon communication of ideas. _I_ certainly never did. The idea you're describing in your thesis, that thought depends on a faculty for language, arguably originates in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Boas and Humboldt. I'm familiar with this work, and I've never been persuaded that it possessed any kind of intellectual legitimacy. Particularly where Whorf is concerned. The magnitude of error in his thinking is almost comical. Also, while I am unsure of how you are treating the Sapir Whorf hypothesis here, Vanity, it sounds like you suppose that it is not seriously contested by anyone. If that's the case, then you need to understand that it has been the subject of alot of scholarly level criticism among cognitive scientists. In fact, there has been harsh critique in the literature from both the cognitive-neuro camp and the linguistics camp. It's reliability as an hypothesis is alot more tenuous than you might suppose.

<<If a Russian speaker was adopted into your household, and could not understand nor speak a single word of English, you cannot communicate with him on any level of aphroristic expression>>

Aphoristic expression?

Greg responds...

Okay, I'm lost. The problem, as usual being the long gaps between when questions are posted and when I actually see them. That and my poor memory. Even with all the words you quote above, I don't really have enough context to add anything relevent. But I'm happy to give you guys a forum for back & forth and hope that some day the back and forth won't take years.

Response recorded on April 01, 2005

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Punchinello writes...

As long as I'm on the subject of clones...
I've noticed you've been fielding questions about the clones unique coloration. I think at least one person made the observation that there were other structural differences as well. Different types of horns or fins. Different types of builds to the extent that you could interpret some skeletal differences. And maybe I'm crazy, but I would swear I remember Lexington's clone having a spiked ball at the end of his tail?

Now, I don't read fiction (even in a cartoon) in a manner that compels me to think the author must have some kind of explanation for this change. I interpreted it as artistic license. The clones looked like creative variations on a visual theme. They were fun. Interpreting the show as reality, set to film, inspires people to demand to know exactly what obscure feature of "gargoyles science" makes this happen though. I don't think I really like the way it's assumed that a clone of an organism would replicate the donor organism in every detail. That's probably another idea borrowed from star trek.

The concencus right now seems to be that the clones features were altered by a side effect of being rapidly aged in tubes. (They do that with beer now, you know.) However, it's occurred to me that there might be a much more plausible and more interesting explanation. The clones features could have far less to do with the fact that they're clones, than it does with the fact that they're clones of gargoyles.

When an organism is being put together at the molecular level, the process is working against certain forces. Most obviously, gravity, but other forces as well. So there are certain mechanical limitations on the way an embryo can form in the womb. Biology confronts that by developing tissue in various ways. From a mechanical perspective, bone tissue develops by an accretionary process which is technically similar to the way a seashell would form. Muscle tissue forms a gauzy scaffold though, and then develops vasculature into the scaffold.

Ultimately, all of these mechanical processes are compelled to action chemically, by the properties of DNA. That doesn't mean that the final result would be identical for every conceivable circumstance though. Many highly ordered, developmental processes and simple, dumb forces impinge upon our development in the womb, besides the chemical synthesis of our DNA. So while my genes inform the shape of my nose, for example, they are not the only thing which begin to inform it. And some structural features in an organism are more rigidly dictated by genetics than others.

Our genes are more of a blueprint for a theme. We're one theme. I'm not suggesting that the variation could be extraordinary, as I don't want to imply that we are less indebted to our genes than we are. The variation I'm talking about amounts to some subtle changes in morphology. These changes would not always be conspicuous, but sometimes they can be glaring. The coloration of domestic cats, for instance, while informed by their genes, is the product of several developmental forces. And when you clone a domestic cat, you usually get a cat with completely different coloration than the donor. You can easily end up with a calico when you clone a black cat.

If it had been a documentary instead of a cartoon show, I would have suspected that you would get unique results from cloning a gargoyle.

Seeing a gargoyle would be professionally interesting to anyone involved in the biological sciences. But seeing a group of three or more gargoyles would be extraordinary. Even though we define species in terms of reproductive isolation these days, we still use morphology to identify them. And gargates exhibit morphology unlike any other reproductively isolated species in nature. I've mentioned before that the most interesting aspect of the gargoyles, to me, is not the "turning to stone thing," but the fact that you have the morphology of Lexington, Brooklyn, Griff, Una, and Zafiro within one reproductively isolated group.

All members of a species exhibit morphological differences. All tigers and giraffes conform to their species respective morphologies to subtly different extents. We don't usually observe the differences outside our own species, but even when we examine our species differences from person to person, barring aberrations, the changes are never more than minor cosmetic distinctions. Mostly it amounts to slightly different fatty tissue distribution in the face or melanin content in the skin. When racial confirmation is examined, it is only in terms of proportional averages of the length of the limbs to the dimensions of the torso. Even where sexual dimorphism is concerned, the primary characteristics are actually variations on the same organs. This applies to almost every animal on the planet.

When we look at the gargoyles though, they look like Darwin's grab bag. When you compare Brooklyn and Lexington, two members of a species from the same regionally isolated set of genes, you see extreme morphological differences. There is simply no way their skulls can be variations on a single blueprint. There are obvious features that they seem to have in common with each other, and with other gargoyles, that help begin to identify the common origin of their morphologies. The way their lower limbs are designed, their tails and their abdomens seem consistent. But their wings are definitely not. These could _never be_ cosmetic distinctions. These are major structural differences. The way their wings connect would necessitate completely different musculature in their upper bodies, and that, in turn, would require differences in their skeletons to provide structure for the different muscle insertions.

When you add Una and Zafiro to this picture, everything we know about the morphology of species is thrown out the window. I couldn't look at this group and reasonably expect that they even have the same number of vertebrae, let alone be members of the same species. They are unlike anything in nature. But that's not bad. It's fascinating. It gets me speculating about what cicumstances such a creature could emerge from.

One region of speculation I've been entertaining, is that if you had a species with these characteristics, it might be because their genes are arranged into a hierarchy which is different from other organisms.There could be a level of organization to the passing down of their genes beyond just sexual recombination. I'm wondering if genes could be organized into a hierarchy of sets of discrete packages. Sort of like a kit of parts. So that their genes might actually contain blueprints for morphologies for each organ, but have these blueprints disassociated from one another.

From a gene's eye view, it might appear that they were not using gargoyles as a vehicle to perpetuate themselves, but rather, a certain variety of gargoyle tails. Or a certain variety of gargoyle skulls. And each package of genes was pursuing it's reproductive agenda independently of the others, even while multiple packages end up becoming the blueprint for a single gargate.

So I'm thinking... maybe... if external pressures can be a determinant in how genes get expressed in an animal, leading to different tissue distribution in a persons nose or something, then maybe external pressures can have an effect on which "package" gets used for a tail or a set of horns in gargates. Maybe the spiked ball on the end of that clones tail (assuming I was not imagining it) is an alternate package for a tail structure which is as much a part of Lexington as the one we're used to seeing.

The point is that for tissue to take on structure as sophisticated as a spiked ball or a pair of ibex like horns, there would need to something predicating it. It couldn't just happen by accident. So I would be inclined to suppose that some feature of gargate physiology is responsible for such major morphological changes, when cloned, and that their physiology would be unique in that the expression of genes for such radical changes are as much a matter of chance as the extremely minor variations other organisms are subject to.

I have not even begun to consider how a species can exhibit morphological features which seem to be specific replicas of other creatures which they are not related to. How do you get a lion headed gargoyle?

That's sure to be an interesting thought experiment.

Greg responds...

And I'll be very interested to read what you come up with on the subject. Your posts are always fascinating. I love your "package" explanation. As I'm sure you know, I'm no scientist, but Sevarius is... so when he says the discoloration is a result of the age acceleration process, I tend to want to believe him (at least when he has no motivation to lie).

And another thought to keep in mind is that Brentwood was aged beyond Lex's age. Would Lex start to look more like Brentwood as he aged? Don't know, frankly.

But the other physical differences in the clones, as well as the multiple physical differences between gargoyles both inter-clan and intra-clan is nicely explained by the package-theory.

Good fun work!

Response recorded on April 01, 2005

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