Re: Me against the meme (2)

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon 14 Nov 2005 - 23:50:18 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Re: Me against the meme (1)"

    [Part the second]

    >>And I would suggest you consider something like this:
    >>Cells are ordered and managed to a degree that _almost_ baffles
    >>the imagination. No need for influence.
    > Sure, cells are ordered, but where does that order come from? Why assume it
    > comes from the physical and chemical principles of its molecular components?

    In gross terms, their parents. Repeat (almost ad infinitum -- cf. the above). Cytoskeletal structure is _very_ old and not per se a set of gene products assembled from scratch; those gene products only maintain what was always there, a subsample of the parent cell. For the specifics, as with the brain, some quite complex structures can be thrown up from simple rules (less genes make your brain than your liver, which is structurally less complex but chemically more so[...]) allowing complex organisation to come out of simple rule sets (see the anthill mob below also).

    And there is another thing here; consider the wiring up of motor neurons and Karl Sims 'learning to swim' sims. All you need to do is throw out a random set of motor neurons then afterwards work out which ones go somewhere useful by applying some simple rules and trashing the rest. Lots of dev is like this; _very_ wasteful of materials, but the only thing that can evolve

    > The answer to this question is actually quite simple. You make this
    > assumption because you've been indoctrinated into a subculture in which
    > reductionism is the default assumption. To maintain yourself in good
    > standing in your exclusive club, you must always assume deterministic
    > causation based on contact mechanics.

    Easy big fella. I'm not even a practicing scientist anymore...

    > This attitude cropped up again in the
    > news recently when it was reported that a small number of Arabidopsis
    > thaliana plants had mysteriously reverted to the genes of its grandparents
    > in place of the mutant genes of its parents. All the mutations of their
    > parents had been repaired, as if they'd been descended directly from their
    > wildtype grandparents. Researchers were baffled as to how the plants knew
    > what the pre-mutant genetic sequences were. They then concluded that there
    > must be a complete copy of the plant's genes contained in its RNA, and it
    > was from this copy that the numerous, disparate mutations in its genome were
    > repaired. Now, there's no evidence that RNA contains any genes at all, much
    > less a complete set of them. Whether or not the researchers are correct,
    > they're making an awfully big assumption. Both Scientific American and
    > Science reported it as a done deal: there must be another copy of the genome
    > in RNA. No evidence, just blind allegiance to reductionistic metaphysics.
    > Of course, it's just as likely that the wildtype reversion is based on
    > holistic memory, but the cult of reductionism doesn't allow for this
    > possibility.

    Reference (the original)? Sorry, lazy I know, forgive me...

    >>>[regarding the mysterious ability of termites to produce perfect arches
    >>>even when a steel plate is inserted between the two bases of the arch]
    >>I covered this one already! It is really straightforward, based
    >>on actors following rule sets applied to _local_ stimuli without
    >>need of intermediate-range signalling of any kind whether
    >>chemical or vibrational knee-hearing or whatever.
    >>The plate was as you said _inserted_ implying that the mound's
    >>development was already well underway, setting up a set of basic
    >>conditions before intervention (point one). The actors continue
    >>to follow _local_ rules of the form 'if you are confronted with
    >>X, do Y' (point two).
    > Okay, let's assume termites utilize an if-then, algorithmic logic in the
    > creation of their mounds, including arches. Presumably, if the termites
    > rely on sense-perception to get the two sides of their arches to meet
    > cleanly in the middle, then the sudden, catastrophic loss of sense data
    > coming from the opposite side would cause them to abandon the arch. The
    > algorithm would look something like this: If the other side of the arch
    > vanishes behind a solid steel wall, abandon the arch! Yet that's not what
    > termites do. Therefore they don't rely on self-perception in the first
    > place. Their behavior is modulated by a field of influence much like
    > particles in a magnetic field, the difference being that this type of field
    > is based on form in place of charge. Unless you can explain why such a
    > field cannot exist, you must accept this is as the default explanation.

    Their field of perception is much more limited than you assume. Mostly direct touch; their eyesight is abysmal. So no ability to coordinate sides of arches at all as you suggest, they are emergent. Point is you can find rule sets that do this kind of thing without needing to sense further than your absolutely immediate surroundings -- and bear in mind that the model agent sim systems can already accomplish a lot without _millions of years_ of (much more complex) rule set tuning. Based on those preconditions, they would continue to blindly (forgive the pun) make whatever they were making, based on (very) local conditions as set up before plate insertion; so yes they would appear to construct the arch almost as if the plate wasn't there.

    >>To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes; when you have eliminated the
    >>impossible (or daft), what remains, however improbable, must be
    >>the truth.
    > A process can certainly be impossible, such as the genetic calculation of
    > the correct means of combining to produce multicellular organisms,

    BZZZZ. Already shot that one dead (and then shot the horror movie corpse a few times when it kept sitting up).

    > but it can't be daft except in the minds of people who don't like it.
    > Impossibility is objective; daftness is subjective. Your addition of daft
    > to impossibility as a criterion for rejecting an explanation tells a lot
    > about how you think. Yet to maintain yourself in good standing in the
    > memetically-mediated cult of reductionism, you have no choice but to add
    > this criterion, as there's nothing known to physics that rules out
    > morphogenetic fields.

    Daft is a qualified version of impossible that combines one's experience of the world and the world-context. It is clearly shorthand -- let's not get snippy -- this is supposed to be fun.

    >>Occam through Conan Doyle's eyes (who was himself
    >>then fooled by two little girls' pictures of fairies as he had
    >>insufficient mental awareness of the potential to be misled by
    >>the new technology of photography).
    > Conan Doyle was fascinated by the occult, the unexplained, the odd little
    > detail that just didn't fit the conventional explanation. This is a regular
    > theme in the Sherlock Holmes stories. He fixates on the one thing that just
    > doesn't make any sense, and out of this examination solves the entire
    > mystery. Rather than flee from the odd details, such as the ability of
    > termites to build arches perfectly without the benefit of sense-perception
    > or the ability of pets to know when their masters have decided to come home,
    > the scientific mentality welcomes such anomalies as clues to a better
    > theory. What the reductionist cult reveals is the mentality of dogmatism,
    > not science.

    Anything standard is dogma. You apparently only see the perjorative definition (1) rather than allowing it to be an observation of the status quo (2), which you seem to automatically discount:

    Noun: dogma
    (1) A religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof
    (2) A doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative

    This is like all the horrendous TV 'science' journalism we get nowadays -- always the brave struggle of the courageous (and therefore fallaciously assumed to be correct, in the 'good guys wear white and are usually vastly outnumbered like in Star Wars' mode) minority against orthodoxy (which btw is itself a value-free label like dogma so don't start) and the supporting cohorts of small-minded bigots in the dogmatic mainstream.

    The few are _not_ always right when pitched against the many. Nazism anyone? Any flat-earthers out there? The many (made up of normal freely-meme-recombining people, not robots as you would define it) usually (_not_ always -- the majority in the UK still favour the death penalty iirc) get it right as a group; democracy rather than a cult..?

    Sorry I just think we need to stick to fencing about the substantive issues not get all critical of each other's internal gooey bits.

    >>Here's Marais's orginal.
    >>In the middle section there is:
    >>"While the termites are carrying on their work of restoration on
    >>either side of the steel plate, dig a furrow enabling you to reach
    >>the queen's cell, disturbing the nest as little as possible. Expose
    >>the queen and destroy her. Immediately the whole community ceases
    >>work on either side of the plate. We can separate the termites from
    >>the queen for months by means of this plate, yet in spite of that
    >>they continue working systematically while she is alive in her cell;
    >>destroy or remove her, however, and their activity is at an end."
    >>So if there is a spooky field, it must emanate from the body of the
    >>queen. Therefore, it cannot be a property of the whole nest, but
    >>merely of the queen's individual body. Therefore it is not a
    >>holistic field at all. QED.
    > Nice try. That the field requires a queen doesn't mean it's somehow not
    > really a field (which is inherently holistic). Take away the big chunk of
    > iron, and all the magnetic particles fall out of alignment. Every field
    > exists in conjunction with matter. The point is that it can't be causally
    > reduced to matter. The field is itself a causal mechanism.

    So why is this a special case? Why is it that if the principle applies to molecules, cells, organs, individuals and
    (presumably) societies, does it need a queen termite to channel the field in this instance (that was supposed to be a gag not a lifeboat for gods sake!)?

    >>>>A species is self-determined to the extent that an
    >>>>intelligently chosen functional adaptation has
    >>>>generated a structural variation to be selected
    >>>>or not by the environment.
    >>>Intelligently chosen?
    >>>Why do psychological features that
    >>>evolved within one branch of great apes apply to
    >>>distinct branches such as plants or bacteria? I just
    >>>don't get it.
    >>Nor do I. And there's also a deeper problem with the notion of an
    >>kind of "chosen" functional adaptation (intelligent or otherwise),
    >>which is that there is no empirical evidence for such a process,
    >>despite a century of failed attempts (from Kammerer to Steele via
    >>Michurin and Lysenko) to find it.
    > So there's no evidence for intelligently adapting to a given situation.
    > It's just never occurred in the history of the world. Nobody's ever, say,
    > called a plumber when the faucet started leaking or put on a coat when it
    > was cold outside. Never happened. Just another occultist/commie
    > fabrication.

    Fallacious argument (two, actually). Firstly, the point was that there is no ability to reason in bacteria, so how on earth could they call a plumber (so to speak)? Second (more my own agenda) there is no _foresight_ by you in calling the plumber -- don't kid yourself that you are doing more than throwing experiences
    (~memes) against each other in your head and seeing which of the many, many little resultant ecologies from that 'thought' process end up with you smiling at the end cos your feet aren't wet anymore; you didn't make anything new in your head, just mixed and matched. This is not different in kind from standard evolution, just in turnaround time (and although it isn't standard biology it is the same process -- Dennet and crabgrass vs bluegrass in his yard, or whatever it was). Niches (most often defined by other life, probably infinite in variety and often never discovered/exploited) pre-exist (in the same sense that fitness landscapes also have essentially infinite numbers of locations). Stuff is generated essentially at random. If some stuff sticks in the niche, it prospers; be it a bug or a ~meme.

    Cheers, Chris.


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