Re: The evolution of "evolution"

From: Dace (
Date: Sun 30 Oct 2005 - 20:16:26 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: Me against the meme"

    > From: Chris Taylor <>
    > Hiya.


    > >>God? Intelligence? What's all this about then?
    > >
    > > Intelligence is integral to evolution. While many adaptations may very
    > > result from spontaneous mutation, in general if a species alters its
    > > behavior and ultimately its form to better fit a given environmental
    > > this results from the will and the intelligence of individual organisms
    > > making decisions that will improve their lives.
    > >
    > > evolution becomes a purely mechanical process involving mutation and
    > > selection, leaving no room for will and intelligence, the hallmarks of
    > > Reductionism substitutes life with organic machinery and tries to
    > > that instead.
    > I just don't see the problem tbh. What is it that cannot
    > currently be explained? What requires more than the standard
    > model of the generation of novelty (mostly by recombination with
    > a tiny, geological-timescale contribution from changes in
    > methylation, and mutation) and selection acting on that?

    The problem is that the central actor of life, the organism, has been photoshopped out of the picture. A theory of evolution that places no causal role in the intelligent adaptations of organisms is not a viable theory. It's that simple.

    Evolution is all about organisms adapting to environmental conditions such that the adaptations become cumulative over the course of generations, causing new species to emerge. In other words, species are self-created rather than externally created. As Darwin pointed out, either we explain how organisms generate functional and then structural adaptations which become ingrained in progeny, or we don't have a theory of evolution.

    You're not seeing the forest for the trees. You're too close to the subject matter and too immersed in an environment that demands reductionistic allegiance. An obviously pathological meme such as neo-Darwinian evolution cannot survive outside an environment in which everybody is in lock-step, in which the "correct" belief is repeated so continuously that it becomes background noise, never noticed much less scrutinized. So preoccupied with the mechanics of variation, you don't see that the entire framework within which you operate makes no sense. It's got to the point where adaptation has ceased to mean adapting to an environment and has been reduced to a mechanical process carried out in our chromosomes during cell division. There's really no such thing as adaptation, just variation and selection. Nor is there any such thing as memory, just the task of looking up stored information about a given event-- precisely what you *don't* have to do when you actually remember it. Nor is there any such thing as intelligence, just effective neural algorithms. It goes without saying that consciousness and all the functions of human life, such as thinking, trusting, deceiving, loving, grieving, etc., are just prescientific misconceptions. Life itself is a romantic delusion to be replaced with the correct equation as soon as we can work it out.

    The greatest weakness of reductionistic theory-- that it seems to be explaining a set of machines instead of living things-- is mistaken for its greatest strength. If organisms are machines, then a mechanistic explanation, no matter how absurd in the face of what we innately know about being alive, must be the truth. Yet the assumption that organisms are machines is never verified, as it lies in a metaphysical haze beyond the realm of questionability.

    When you work out the mechanics of a particular process, you think, okay, now I understand this process! But as Stephen Rothman points out, you haven't learned anything about the process. The underlying mechanics of the cardiovascular system tell us nothing about the heart and what it does. Based on the mechanics alone, you could be describing any of an infinite number of possible processes. The whole does not appear as if by magic from a complete description of the parts. When it comes to organisms, you start with the whole. That's where the action (cause) is.

    > > The only reason to assume genetic reductionism is the belief that no
    > > options are conceivable within a scientific framework. This is where
    > > memetics enters the picture. We might call it the transubstantiation
    > > wherein one substance-- a chromosome-- substitutes for the man, much as
    > > wafer substitutes for the Son of Man. To deny genetic
    transubstantiation is
    > > as unthinkable for a reductionist as the denial of communion would be
    for a
    > > Catholic.
    > Nope. Just Occam again... We are not in awe of genetics. It is
    > though demonstrably key to a whole load of stuff -- there is no
    > future for the denucleated cell!

    Necessity and sufficiency.

    > > Indeed, there are numerous parallels between the Christian meme and the
    > > reductionist-science meme. Determinism, which originally held a
    > > connotation, is essentially another word for creationism. Instead of
    > > creating species, a combination of mutation and selection determines it.
    > > Part of the allure of genetic engineering is that it provides us with
    > > godlike power of making new species. Instead of the millenium we have
    > > future," a magical time that never quite arrives in which all
    > > assumptions are at last bolstered with the kind of hard evidence so
    > > conspicuously lacking at the present.
    > I just don't see the world this way!

    You don't consciously see the world this way. Memes are often under the radar, operating unconsciously, where the bulk of mental activity takes place.

    > >>The point being that genes were never in blueprint form. They
    > >>are the brain of the cell, not the bauplan.
    > >
    > > Clearly, a blueprint requires a brain to interpret it. This is part of
    > > problem of genetic reductionism. Genome is both information and the
    > > that manipulates it. What you really mean to say is that the genome is
    > > computer. Yet a computer is a human artifact. Again, we're theorizing
    > > not according to nature but according to our own artifice, which we
    > > onto the organism, casting it in our own image as God molds us in His.
    > Nah I'm afraid you are taking this in the wrong direction. The
    > fundamental misconception here (and this relates to the Hoyle's
    > fallacy thing also) is that there is a moment of creation. The
    > genome clearly does take part in computation, literally, not
    > just figuratively, but as an inseparable part of the cell, just
    > as the brain is an inseperable part of the body. There is never
    > a 'make the cell from scratch' step the way there is for a human
    > artefact; cells divide and that is all, they never _create_
    > other cells. Organisms are classical Von Neumann machines, but
    > for that system to work you have to have one to start with! This
    > is why the genome (and the rest of the cell) being both
    > performer and subject of calculation is not a problem; there is
    > no 'start' to the process to contend with.

    For cells, yes. But for multicelled organisms, the start button is that first, fertilized cell. Within that cell, we find order in the large and disorder in the small. That is, we can describe overall patterns of activity, but at the molecular level, it's as chaotic as a gas. Embryogenesis is also fundamentally holistic, with no definite assigment given to particular cells until after the large-scale patterns have been established. Both within and without them, cells operate according to the needs of the whole, not the other way around.

    > And at the risk of provoking you back into the 'no matter what
    > you say I just don't believe you' absolutism of a few months
    > ago

    You're bordering on ad hominem here.


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