From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 21 Dec 2003 - 04:27:56 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Is Information Informative !?"

    >From: Keith Henson <>
    >Subject: Good EP FAQ
    >Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2003 12:51:21 -0500
    >"Evolutionary psychology is betting that psychological adaptations have to
    >be just as domain specific as physiological adaptations. Information
    >processing appears to be an excellent model for the general class of
    >problems solved by psychological mechanisms. In the field of information
    >processing, no one has invented a computer program that solves all
    >problems. Each information processing problem requires specialized software
    >to solve that problem. Spreadsheets are different from word processors are
    >different from video games. Similarly, vision is different from hearing is
    >different from pain is different from smell is different from sexual desire
    >is different from navigation. In short, transformations of information are
    >just as specialized as any other physical transformation and require
    >equally specialized mechanisms to complete the task. Thus, psychological
    >adaptations are as likely to be as domain specific as any other
    All fine and dandy, but the problem arises when people start seeing psycho-adaptions everywhere and concocting just-so stories to explain those psycho-adapions under eery rock they happen to turn over. The trick is delineation between historic origin and current uility. Gould's arguments for exaptations and spandrels are of value here. It may be that religion, for instance, isn't an adaption in itself, but merely a byproduct of a large enough brain to contemplate mortality. If co-optation and non-adaptive spin-offs are a legiimate possibility, then the rug is swiftly pulled from underneath anyone who would uncritically speculate about this or that psychological phenomenon being an adaption. This isn't to say that psycho-adaptions don't exist, but that not everything that superficially appears to have arisen as a direct product of its current utility is an adaption. It could be a spinoff of something else that is itself an adaption
    (ie a spandrel which could be the case with religion) or it could be a feature that arose and was selected in relation to another function, but the function has shifted (ie co-optation of former ancestral jaw components to be ear ossicles in mammals). Gould has written extensively on this stuff and EP'ers ignore it at their peril, regardless of what Dan Dennett says.
    >To give examples from ideas of mine, the psychological mechanism evoked by
    >being captured is specific to that situation and unrelated to the
    >mechanisms for obtaining status. (Both are mechanisms for spreading
    >certain classes of memes.)
    So did the memes influence these putative psycho-adaptions being selected or did the memes arise as a result of the existence of the psycho-adaptions themselves.

    In other words did the memes drive the creation of the mechanisms or vice-versa?
    >This kind of material relates in three ways to this group. Anyone doing AI
    >work needs know how natural intelligences came about. Second, anyone
    >working on improving humans needs to know what they are starting with.
    Exactly what do you mean by "improving humans"? I start getting a little antsy about vague expressions such as this.
    >Third, it may be of considerable utility in creating a more cooperative
    >group if people had insight into why they act the way they do.
    You're really going to need to reassure me on this one. Anybody having read Aldous Huxley's _Brave New World_ would suffer the red flag syndrome when someone starts talking in terms of biological or social engineering.

    More cooperative? Isn't that what a certain sci-fi author's religion that you've done battle with has tried to do?
    >The rest of the FAQ is here:

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