Marc Heremans: A structure is also an abstraction used to simplify the complexity (of areas, in this case). Jay R. Feierman: If one defines a particularMessage 1 of 54 , Jan 1, 2006View SourceMarc Heremans: A structure is also an abstraction used to simplify the complexity (of areas, in this case).Jay R. Feierman: If one defines a particular structure by its shape, then when one sees that particular shape one says that the shape is the structure. I'm not sure that structure simplifies complexity as much as it organizes complexity. For example if one defines a particular shape in an electron microscope of a neuron as a mitochondria, when one then sees a new neuron with the same shape inside of it, one can call that new shape a mitochondria. There is a formal structural definition of a mitochondria in an electron microscope that allows someone to place a shape they see into the category of mitochondria.RKS:
Objects can take on a particular shape without any structure, and can have a structure without any particular shape. For instance a hand full of mud or clay can have a particular shape. It can be formed into the shape of, say a mitochondrion. Mitochondria can be differentiated from other objects because mitochondria move in a particular way.On the other hand, jellyfish, octopi, and numerous other boneless animals have no particular shape though they retain certain features such as their appendages, skin colour and texture, typical size and so on. But the most identifiable aspect of the jellyfish that differentiates it from floating debris of similar size and shape is the nature of its locomotive function.Marc Heremans: Furthermore, I don't think that a structure (anatomical, for ex.) could be defined without any reference to its function(s).Jay R. Feierman: I very much disagree with you, as that contradicts a basic law of comparative anatomy and a basic law of ethology, which is that the function of a structure is a separate property from the structure itself. I can easily define what a mitochondria looks like under an electron microscope. I can do that without any reference at all to the function of the mitochondria.RKS:
If one examines a photograph at great magnification, one is not able to establish which mitochondria are alive or dead, and which objects just happen to be debris of the same size and shape as mitochondria. It is the nature of their locomotive function that differentiates mitochondria from debris floating in the sample (assuming that observation is the only method used to identify these prokaryotes ie that the sample is not prepared so that only mitochondria will be present).Marc Heremans: As it was said before, the two concepts (structure and function) are intimately connected, i.e., a 'structure' doesn't make sense without some function(s) linked to it and, of course, a function couldn't exist without a structure.Jay R. Feierman: Marc, what do you mean "make sense?" I can make a sculpture out of clay. It is a structure. It has no function. I can pick up a rock off of the ground. It is a structure. It has no function just lying there on the ground. All structures in the body have or had functions, although some, like the human appendix, had a function in the past and does not appear to have a function now. However, the functions of many structures in the body are not yet discovered. The function of the pineal gland was only discovered in the past 30 years and the function of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus was only discovered in the past 20 years. There are many cell groups in the brain stem that have been structurally identified but whose function remain a mystery. I completely agree with you that a function couldn't exist without a structure. However, appreciate that EPology has a list of domain-specific functions which are just floating around in space and time and which have not been shown to have structural referents. Mate choice, jealousy, parental investment, etc., are examples.RKS:
The examples you have given are not structures by any scientific definition of structure that I am aware of. Perhaps you would like to give us your definition and its source. The Oxford English Dictionary is the one favoured by science - here is a full extract of the word structure (noun, not the verb) complete with the history of the word and examples of useage:-structure, n.
[ad. L. structura, f. struct-, struere to build: see -ure. Cf. F. structure, Sp., Pg. estructura, It. struttura.]
1. The action, practice, or process of building or construction. Now rare or Obs.
_1440 Pallad. on Husb. ix. 134 This doon, the sidis [of the tank] make vp with structure [L. quo facto latera puteorum structura suscipiat].
1613 R. C. Table Alph. (ed. 3), Structure, building, setting in good order.
1624 Wotton Elem. Arch. i. 48 This is yet a weake piece of Structure, because the Supporters are subiect to much impulsion.
1693 J. Dryden Jr. tr. Juvenal xiv. 116 His Son builds on, and never is content, Till the last Farthing is in Structure spent.
_1704 T. Brown Praise of Drunkenness Wks. 1730 I. 32 If we look back into the primitive history of the first ages,_from the very first structure of the world, we shall find [etc.].
1726 Leoni Alberti's Archit., Life 5 A Florentine, who had worked for him_in the structure of the Choir.
1770 Luckombe Hist. Printing 292 Presses of his structure became_general throughout the Low Countries.
1793 Smeaton Edystone L. Pref. p. v, A distinct account of the progress and structure of the Edystone Lighthouse.
1844 Disraeli Coningsby vii. iii, The scarcity of brick and stone at the period of its structure.
2. Manner of building or construction; the way in which an edifice, machine, implement, etc. is made or put together.
1650 Fuller Pisgah iii. ii. 317 The structure of this City was beautifull and high.
1695 tr. Misson's Voy. Italy II. 158 The structure of the Cathedral is not much unlike to that of the Church of Siena.
1706 E. Ward Wooden World Diss. (1708) 72 He can spy out the Faults in the Structure of a Boat, sooner than those of himself.
1772 Pennant Tours Scot. (1774) 1 Chester; a city without parallel for the singular structure of the four principal streets, which are as if excavated out of the earth.
1826 Art Brewing (ed. 2) 149 There are variations in the structure of these mills---some are worked by hand, others by horse and water.
1837 Carlyle Fr. Rev. II. iii. iv, They_show purchased dirks, of an improved structure, made to order.
1908 Animal Managem. (War Office) 176 In speaking of the structure of the saddle.
3. The mutual relation of the constituent parts or elements of a whole as determining its peculiar nature or character; make, frame.
1615 Chapman Odyss. iv. 1075 An Idoll, that Iphthima did present In structure of her euery lineament [marg. _____ membrorum structura].
1657 J. Cooke Hall's Cures Englisht 203 My Lady Rainsford beautifull and of a gallant structure of body.
1725 De Foe Voy. round World (1840) 262 The admirable structure of this part of the Country.
1757 R. Price Review Morals i. (1769) 13 Then_it [morality] has no other measure or standard, besides every one's private structure of mind and sensations.
1774 Goldsm. Nat. Hist. I. 51 Of the internal Structure of the Earth.
1803 Brougham Colon. Policy I. 50 The structure of society_is the same in all those settlements.
1814 Brewster in Phil. Trans. CIV. 438 The interior part of the drop had a structure similar to that of fluid glass.
1839 Carlyle Chartism iii. (1858) 12 With a feeling of thankfulness rather that there do exist men of that structure too.
1872 Morley Voltaire (1886) 2 Men_became conscious of new fibre in their moral structure.
1880 Haughton Phys. Geog. ii. 20 The structure of the Southern Hemisphere.
b. Anat., Biol., etc.
1615 H. Crooke Body of Man viii. iv. (1631) 730 Of the Vse, Figure and Structure of the Hand.
1725 N. Robinson Th. Physick 49 This imperfect Sketch,_concerning the Structure, Mechanism, Laws, Properties, and Motions of that System of Matter, that compose a human Body.
1774 Goldsm. Nat. Hist. VIII. 11 Many philosophers_have_minutely examined their [sc. caterpillars'] structure and internal conformation.
1814 Sir H. Davy Agric. Chem. 56 Every plant examined as to external structure, displays at least four systems of organs.
1835 J. Duncan Beetles (Nat. Libr.) 142 An exotic group, very closely related to the Gyrini, but offering so many minute modifications of structure as to warrant their separation into a distinct genus.
1859 Darwin Orig. Spec. v. (1873) 114 Variations of structure arising in the young or larvæ naturally tend to affect the structure of the mature animal.
1884 Bower & Scott De Bary's Phaner. 88 The secretion of dermal glands_always appears first in the walls of the cells, and gives them a peculiar structure.
c. Geol., Min., etc.
1813 Bakewell Introd. Geol. (1815) 27 Fragments of stone broken from simple rocks display the structure of the internal parts.
1822 Cleaveland Min. & Geol. (ed. 2) I. 58 The structure of a mineral undoubtedly depends on the shape, size, and arrangement of the minute parts, of which it is composed.
1879 A. Geikie in Encycl. Brit. X. 229/1 There are two leading types of structure among rocks---crystalline or massive, and fragmental.
d. With reference to a literary composition, a verse or sentence, a language, etc.
1746 Francis tr. Hor., Epist. i. xix. 37, I fear'd to change the Structure of his Line.
1749 Power & Harmony Prosaic Numbers Pref. 3 A critical Regard to the Structure of their Periods.
1789 New Lond. Mag. July 361/1 A new farce_was presented last Saturday at this theatre. The structure is light and pleasant.
1814 Keble Occas. Papers (1877) 154 There remain two sorts of imitation instrumental to Poetry: indirect, by which the style and structure takes the colour of the subject; and direct.
1823 Thomasina Ross Bouterwek's Hist. Sp. Lit. I. 260 Combining the unity of ideas, which ought to distinguish that species of composition [sc. the sonnet], with the most elegant rounding and regularity of structure.
1833 J. Rush Philos. Human Voice xlv. (ed. 2) 313 When the structure of a sentence is so much involved as to produce a momentary hesitation in an audience, about its concord or government.
1857 J. D. Morell Gram. Engl. Lang. 49 The Structure of Words. i. Roots and Derivatives.
1862 Stanley Jew. Ch. (1877) I. xix. 371 The Apocalypse is_thoroughly poetical in structure.
1887 Spectator 23 July 996/1 The story itself is in structure extremely simple.
(b) spec. in Linguistics. deep structure: see deep a. IV. c; surface structure: see surface n. 6 d.
1961 Y. Olsson On Syntax Eng. Verb ii. 27 Both collocation and colligation operate syntagmatically._ They are examples of structures constituted by elements.
1965 Language XLI. 73 The nested structures are phrase types which are in clear structural contrast in the language.
4. The coexistence in a whole of distinct parts having a definite manner of arrangement.
1873 Spencer Study Sociol. iii. (1880) 63 Though structure up to a certain point [in the animal organism] is requisite for growth, structure beyond that point impedes growth.
1876 [see structure v.].
5. concr. That which is built or constructed.
a. A building or edifice of any kind, esp. a pile of building of some considerable size and imposing appearance.
1615 R. Brathwait Strappado 104 Her structures ruin'd are, and there doth grow, A groue of fatall Elmes.
1631 Weever Anc. Funeral Mon. 707 The bodies_were buried in the Abbey Church,_in Saint Peters, and in other religious Structures.
1664 H. More Myst. Iniq. 297 Dilichius_not onely mentions the seven Hills, but tells also what magnificent structures stand upon them.
1739 Gray Let. Poems (1775) 69 A church_which is, indeed, a most stately structure.
1818 Byron Ch. Har. iv. i, I saw from out the wave her structures rise As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand.
1853 Phillips Rivers Yorks. viii. 202 Of these humble structures we have only the foundations.
1879 Tourgee Fool's Errand viii. 34 This log house had in time given way to a more pretentious structure of brick.
1671 Milton Samson 1239 [Spoken to the giant Harapha.] Go baffl'd coward, lest I run upon thee,_And with one buffet lay thy structure low.
1637 Saltonstall Eusebius' Constantine 49 Your contentions doe arise from points not concerning the maine structure of Religion.
1660 R. Coke Power & Subj. 269 The whole structure of his civitas might bee dissolved.
1694 Prior Hymn to Sun viii, Eternal Structures let Them raise, On William's and Maria's Praise: Nor want new Subject for the Song.
1892 Westcott Gospel of Life 256 Christianity_is not a structure of institutions.
c. Buildings collectively.
1671 Milton P.R. iii. 286 Ecbatana her structure vast there shews.
6. In a wider sense: A fabric or framework of material parts put together.
1677 T. Jordan Lond. Triumphs title-p., Illustrated with many Magnificent Structures & Pageants.
1728 Pope Dunc. i. 247 Then [he] lights the structure with averted eyes, The rolling smoke involves the sacrifice.
1788 Cowper Gratitude 25 This moveable structure of shelves,_charg'd with octavos and twelves.
1841 Whewell Mech. Engin. 1 Combinations of material parts,_when constructed with a view to support weights, or to resist forces, without being moved,_are termed Structures.
Ibid. 51 Structures are of various kinds, as Frames, which have their parts connected by pins or mortises; and Arches, in which the parts are connected only by contact.
1883 W. J. M. Rankine in Encycl. Brit. XV. 750/1 The principles of the support of a floating structure form an important part of Hydromechanics.
7. An organized body or combination of mutually connected and dependent parts or elements. Chiefly in Biol., applied to component parts of an animal or vegetable organism.
1830 J. G. Strutt Sylva Brit. 6 Each stage of the existence of these wonderful vegetable structures.
1859 Darwin Orig. Spec. vi. (1873) 140 When we see any structure highly perfected for any particular habit, as the wings of a bird for flight.
1876 Spencer Princ. Sociol. _254 (1885) I. 526 The general law of organization_is that distinct duties entail distinct structures.
1882 Vines tr. Sachs' Bot. 1 The substance of plants is not homogeneous, but is composed of small structures, generally indistinguishable by the naked eye._ These structures are termed Cells.
8. attrib. and Comb. structure-dependence, dependency, formula, mill, sensitivity; structure-borne, -dependent, -independent, -sensitive, etc. adjs.;
structure-function attrib. phr., pertaining to both structure and function;
structure plan Local Government, a plan drawn up by a local planning authority for the development, use, conservation, etc., of a prescribed area of land;
hence structure planning, the preparation of such a plan;
structure word = structural word s.v. structural a. 5 b.
1962 A. Nisbett Technique Sound Studio ii. 38 Structure-borne noises are almost impossible to eliminate and rebuilding work is complicated by the need to avoid all noisy work when nearby studios are recording.
1972 Lebende Sprachen XVII. 37/2 Structure-borne noise, a condition when the sound waves are being carried by a solid material.
1976 N. Chomsky Reflections on Lang. i. i. 33 The principle of structure-dependence is not learned, but forms part of the conditions for language learning.
1976 Times Lit. Suppl. 17 Dec. 1590/4 By structure dependency he [sc. Chomsky] means, and I mean, that the significance of any feature is determined by its position in a structure.
1965 Structure-dependent [see analysability].
1978 Logophile VIII. 5/2 All syntactic operations in language are structure-dependent.
1879 Amer. Jrnl. Sci. May 405 On the Structure-formulas of Aromatic Compounds.
1963 Canad. Jrnl. Linguistics VIII. 59 (heading) A structure-function description of Terena phrases.
1977 Dædalus Fall 115 For the moment I want to draw the kind of structure-function distinction we might adopt, say, in discussing walking: what it is versus where it might take you.
1964 E. A. Power Introd. Quantum Electrodynamics i. 5 Also even the structure-independent radiation damping term depends on the arrow sign of time---unlike the fundamental equations themselves---because in calculating the radiation field boundary conditions at infinite time are involved.
1976 N. Chomsky Reflections on Lang. i. i. 33 Construct a structure-dependent rule, ignoring all structure-independent rules.
1860 Tyndall Glac. ii. xxvii. 386 All the ice that forms the lower portion of this glacier has to pass through the structure-mill at the bottom of the fall, and the consequence is that it is all laminated.
1971 Act 19 & 20 Eliz. II c. 78 _7 The local planning authority shall_prepare and send the Secretary of State_a structure plan for their area.
1980 Oxford Times 12 Dec. 10/4 Policy E1 of the Structure Plan says that the Council will restrain growth of employment in the county as a whole.
1973 Times 8 Sept. 14/6 He made it plain that he did not expect an end to the structure planning process, the framework for regulating development which every local planning authority is expected to prepare.
1976 Alyn & Deeside Observer 10 Dec. 16/1 The strange spectacle of two Conservative councils locked in a fierce exchange over structure planning.
1936 Jrnl. R. Aeronaut. Soc. XL. 593 The strength of a crystal across a crystal plane is a structure-sensitive property.
1970 Language XLVI. 261 We demonstrate the use of transformational rules applied to the output of structure-free grammars as a means of generating symmetrical strings which are not only structure-sensitive but context-sensitive as well.
1976 Times Lit. Suppl. 17 Dec. 1590/4 My emphasis on structure sensitivity in _natural' situations leads me to look for leads in linguistics.
1897 M. Kingsley W. Africa 670 They_turn it bodily over and over, with structure-straining bumps to the boat, and any amount of advice_to each other.
1956 Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. xxvi. 59 A listing by parts of speech brings out the numerical superiority of nouns, and the relatively small number of structure words borrowed.
1965 Structure-word [see functor 2].RKS cont.Encarta gives a summary vis:
1. something built or erected: a building, bridge, framework, or other object that has been put together from many different parts 2. orderly system of parts: a system or organization made up of interrelated parts functioning as an orderly whole 3. way that parts link or function: the way in which the different parts of something link or work together, or the fact of being linked together the structure of local government The essay is interesting, but it lacks structure. 4. biology organic feature: a part of a body or organism, for example, an organ or tissue, identifiable by its shape and other properties 5. chemistry arrangement of atoms: the specific arrangement of atoms in a molecule 6. geology component parts of rocks: the physical disposition of a rock mass, for example, its folding and faulting, or the disposition of its mineral components, for example, its texture
Merriam-Webster gives a better historical lineage than most dictionaries vis:
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin structura, from structus, past participle of struere to heap up, build more at STREW
1 : the action of building : CONSTRUCTION
2 a : something (as a building) that is constructed b : something arranged in a definite pattern of organization *a rigid totalitarian structure J. L. Hess* *leaves and other plant structures*
3 : manner of construction : MAKEUP *Gothic in structure*
4 a : the arrangement of particles or parts in a substance or body *soil structure* *molecular structure* b : organization of parts as dominated by the general character of the whole *economic structure* *personality structure*
5 : the aggregate of elements of an entity in their relationships to each other
struc£ture£less \-l*s\ adjective
struc£ture£less£ness \-n*s\ noun
Thus for a lump of clay to be considered 'structure' we are using the now obscure original meaning of the word ie structure contrasted with strewn, which is not the sense in which we have been using 'structure', I would have thought. Indeed, the analogy you make with clay seems to me to be confounding structure with shape.
Robert Karl Stonjek
Robert Karl Stonjek wrote: Ralph L. Holloway ... RKS: Clearly particular functions of a complex animal involve more than one structure and it is the functionalMessage 54 of 54 , Jan 1, 2006View Source
Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:Ralph L. Holloway> I thought this anecdote might interest some: when I took my PhD orals at
> Berkeley back in 1963, I think, I had Dr. Sherwood Washburn on my
> examination committee. The first question came from him. "Heh, heh, Ralph,
> which came first, structure or function?" To which I replied that this was
> too much like a chicken-egg problem, but that in my humble opinion, there
> could be no function without structure, and that since function would have
> to be humanly assessed, it was most probable that structure arrived
> first. I was told that I was dead wrong, that function always preceded
> structure, to which I responded by asking how anything could function
> without an underlying structure of some kind...Fortunately, I was passed,
> nevertheless..perhaps the function of chaos is to offer the promise of
> structure...I have a feeling that much of the argument revolves about
> semantics, with structure having the benefit of more clarity of
Clearly particular functions of a complex animal involve more than one structure and it is the functional ability which determines whether a particular animal will survive and breed.When it comes to the archetype, we can assume that only one structure evolved first. But all structures are made up of components of some kind. Let's assume that the archetypal structure has just four components, but that there are some 20 possible components. There are 2.4x1018 combinations of those components, but only one is the successful antecedent form of life (in this thought experiment). The successful form may be identified by its unique combination of the 20 possible components, but it is the functional ability of the successful form that distinguishes it such that all other forms simply dissipate and the successful form does not (it does something).Thus an archetypal form is identified by its structure, and it is the structure that will proliferate and go on to evolve, but it is its functional ability that assures the structure's success and it is the structure that evolution 'sees' and selects.Ralph Holloway:
We have no argument here, except that natural selection really favored (or didn't) that particular structure (or combination of elements) that worked differentially in terms of surviving offspring, copies, etc, whatever. This is not selection of function, but of that structure which opportunistically "worked".
RKS:Looking back, it is easy to say that structure was selected. But the process as it happened was one of selection of what worked, regardless of the underlying structure. It is no different than one visiting a disc shop and listening to a few CDs before purchasing one. Looking back we can trace the purchase of a particular disc, but at the time of decision, it was the music, not the disc, that was being selected. In hindsight, a disc was selected (we can discard knowledge of the aesthetic appeal of the music, which is far less precise than the purchase of a particular tangible object). But prospectively, if we catalogue only the change of structure (or the purchase of a disc), we have no predictive power at all unless we consider the process of selection - of the function or music as the case maybe.
Where two variations of a structure appear in a population, one that works and one that doesn't, it is the failure of the non-functioning structure and/or the additional success of the better functioning structure that will determine if the animal having that structural variation will proliferate. The functional ability of the structure determines whether one structural variation will proliferate at the expense of some other. Whilst structures are selected (looking back, after the event) the process selects the most advantageous function.Where one structure = one function, the convention of always considering the structure underlying the function works fine because whenever a structure proliferates the corresponding function does as well. But where we have one function and a variety of structures, and where there can be some redundancy of contributing structures, function is the better guide eg if higher consciousness is advantageous, then those animals having it will survive at the expense of those that don't have it. Unless we consider the entire brain as a single structure, there is no one on one correspondence. Language ability may be essential in this process, but insight OR an ability to learn from others may be equally advantageous. How do we catalogue such an evolutionary process when either of two structures, performing above average, will give the same selective advantage?As we move from physical attributes to cognitive ones, this will increasingly become the norm. At some point, even with the benefit of hindsight, it will be easier to follow the evolution of a function than a structure (depending on what one includes in 'function', but I point especially to functions that only emerge from multiple structures).Kind Regards
Robert Karl Stonjek