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Posted by Harvey on May 31, 2002 06:54:40 UTC

Hi Luis,

Let's see if we can straighten out this mess.

***In the 7th grade all my older friends were getting into a certain type of music. It was apparently the cool thing to do. Naturally, I listened to a lot of what my peers listened to, not all of which was stuff that appealed to me. Classic peer pressure. At the same time, there was a new album out by Michael Jackson called "Off The Wall." Nationwide it was very popular, but among my peers it was taboo! Yet I still found myself attracted to it. My parents bought me the album (remember those big, black vinyl things? LOL), and I listened to it whenever possible, hiding it when friends were over. I was a closet Michael Jackson fan! How can your model explain this and still be consistent with Occam's Razor?***

There are many factors that affect individuals, and just like individuals in a species, we cannot expect that all evolutionary factors are present in one individual. For example, it is possible that a male bee will sacrifice its life to mate with the Queen bee, but that doesn't mean evolutionary explanation has failed since the bee has not saught self-preservation. Self-preservation is found at the species level, and this translates into individuals acting in the best interest of that particular species. In your case, you could have a hidden 'alpha male' role model that would have liked Michael Jackson, or maybe you are more drawn to the movements of the whole species versus your isolated group, etc.

***H: "evolutionary science has demonstrated that selection mechanisms are not nearly as sophisticated to spot mathematical patterns from non-mathematical patterns (for example)." L: Evolutionary science doesn't say this***

I pulled this off the site, if you have problems with it let me know:

"How does natural selection work? In the process of natural selection, individuals in a population who are well-adapted to a particular set of environmental conditions have an advantage over those who are not so well adapted. The advantage comes in the form of survival and reproductive success. For example, those individuals who are better able to find and use a food resource will, on average, live longer and produce more offspring than those who are less successful at finding food. Inherited traits that increase individuals' fitness are then passed to their offspring, thus giving the offspring the same advantages."

Notice that what drives certain pattern selection is adaptation to a particular set of environmental conditions and having the advantages of survival and reproductive success (i.e., leaving more offspring to conquer the planet). Evolutionary science demonstrates that selection mechanisms are 'dumb' in that the adaptation is introduced in a trial and error environment where sometimes the adaptation is beneficial to survival and reproductive success and sometimes detrimental to these benefits. Nothing in evolutionary theory that I know of suggests that species choose a mathematical solution (if there is such a solution to complex problems of evolution). There might be structures that have mathematical form (e.g., nautilus shells), but that is far from saying that these structures are 'spotted' as appropriate patterns because they are mathematical. Evolutionary science certainly would reject this notion (it brings back the whole notion of intelligent design, except the intelligence is assumed in the species - rather so in that they should recognize mathematical patterns!).

***nor did I say this (failure to acknowledge a thesis is not the same as supporting, or even acknowledging, its antithesis). Recognizing patterns is what I claim we do through our "tastes." The inability to express them in our language of numbers is not the same thing as the inability to recognize ("spot") them.***

And, as I mentioned, I claim that our 'tastes' are fine-tuned to pick out benefits of survival and reproductive success that is best accomplished by sticking with the likes and dislikes of groups. Human taste, I believe, is encouraged by nature so that we can reproduce. For example, our taste in sex and mate selection is strongly driven by evolutionary factors. The patterns we recognize and are fond of (generally speaking) are assets to our survival and reproductive success. For example, infants I've heard have better success at recognizing a human face than other objects. This is a predisposition in favor of a human face pattern (a good thing since babies are more likely to survive if they recognize their mother and give their mother a smile of appreciation). This is, from what I can tell, mostly evolutionary driven.

If we translate this into our discussion of art, we can quite easily imagine that humans select art based on evolutionary factors. With a baby it is mostly genetic, but I like the memetic theory that ideas have selective advantages for their hosts - even if the host is completely unaware of those evolutionary benefits. For example, your liking certain music might carry evolutionary benefits that you are completely unaware of. Perhaps it provides confidence, or easier access to women that you found attractive prior to marriage, etc.

***I totally agree that what separates scientific study from art appreciation is the purposive quantifying of phenomena. With science and philosophy we intentionally arrive our own ”primary internalistic criteria”; with art we reach a much more complex level of the same, discovered relationships, but at an instinctive level.***

We agree that science and philosophy are arrived at using primary internalistic criteria, but differ in opinion on the rest of your statement. Art is not more complex in its selection criteria, it is simply completely different in that we are the hosts of art memes that are propagating through us. We are acting out our evolutionary journey in which 'appreciation of art' happens to be aiding us in that journey. It is entirely supervenient on 'instinctive' human psychological/evolutionary drives (sex, food, success, etc).

Science and philosophy also are driven by 'instinctive' drives in that we probably have more advantages as a species if we pursue these endeavors (with philosophy less so since there are currently less professional philosophers than professional scientists), but the main difference is that science and philosophy are dealing with primary internalistic criteria and treats the evolutionary influences as general distractions. For example, it is a distraction of science if the popularity of an 'alpha male' is able to squelch a good hypothesis. Since science and philosophy give higher precedence (overall) to primary internalistic criteria, there are procedures in place which prevent science and philosophy in becoming like art, music, literature, scriptwriting, etc. These are wonderful pasttimes, but their goal is not to find some consistent truth of the world that is built on a superstructure of knowledge that we should consider as true. We might regard some art as true to life, or music as expressing the mood of the audience, etc, but this is not accumulative truth built over the centuries. Without some internalistic criteria (i.e., a more formal system) it is not generally possible to create this special structure (of knowledge).

***H: ”These internalist criteria include making sense of the world at some fundamental level…” “Making sense of the world” is a grand leap, but not nearly as important as recognizing and responding to patterns (surviving).***

We don't have to choose between understanding that comes from scientific explanations and technology that comes from scientific explanations. We are lucky in that we get them both.

***By “making sense of the world” we only tell ourselves about what we already know.***

What do you mean? The whole purpose of introducing new and better theories is to understand what we presently do not know.

***And while our science/language may not be a perfect match with reality (e.g., as per Godel), we have arrived at a superb way of “making sense of the world.” But currently our “internalistic criteria” can only reveal a fraction (punny) of what we already know. On an instinctive level we’ve understood the world since the dawn of man. Sloths, caterpillars, bears and cockroaches understand the world.***

By understand I mean having in place a theoretical structure that allows us to speak in terms of counterfactuals. That is, we can simulate what-ifs and then see if our understanding is valid. For example, in order to know for sure that you understand the meaning of a word, you might try using the word in different contexts. If you truly understand the word, then you should be able to construct new sentences with that word. This is something that 'making sense of the world' can accomplish for us.

***H: ”if certain patterns are favored because of certain (mathematical) reasons of nature, then our tastes are not directly driven by those reasons…" L: I fear you should reexamine exactly what evolutionary theory states...***

I can't imagine why you would say that my statement is incorrect. Do you really believe that selection is so intelligently guided at the species level? How can a bee recognize a mathematical structure if that relationship happens to be present (as an approximation) in nature and happens to be the best means for finding a meadow of flowers? A bee cannot do that. Evolutionary theory states that "In the process of natural selection, individuals in a population who are well-adapted to a particular set of environmental conditions have an advantage over those who are not so well adapted. The advantage comes in the form of survival and reproductive success... Inherited traits that increase individuals' fitness are then passed to their offspring, thus giving the offspring the same advantages." The 'reasons' are just inherited traits that are passed to the offspring. There are no 'reasons' that a species selects a mathematical pattern over a non-mathematical pattern other than this is what most species have inherited from their ancestors to do. With humans the situation is more complex, but most people are not familiar with mathematical patterns and have no reason to select a mathematical pattern over a non-mathematical pattern. But, humans are very intuitive creatures and realize when certain selections bring rewards (e.g., positive feedback from their friends, or a feeling of power and confidence, or other psychological/evolutionary needs that are met).

***H: "nature is too dumb to make such sophisticated selections. Selection is guided by the evolutionary factors that are at hand." L: For instance, these last two statements are incompatible: 'dumb' is the inability to adapt to something already existent or mapped out. Evolution is nature; it is stuff moving through time. There’s no blueprint labeled “evolution” preceding evolution itself. Evolutionary theory does not require some manifest destiny, or road map laid out for the universe to hazard.***

I think you misunderstand what I am saying. Selection is based on certain cues that are at hand. For example, if a bear smells certain scents, it has a brain that is wired to recognize that scent for a particular purpose (e.g., food, sex, etc). This recognition algorithm inside the bear's brain is not sophisticated enough to recognize patterns that are complex (e.g., sophisticated mathematics). Rather, it only recognizes very simple scents. Nature (i.e., acting inside the bear) is too dumb to make sophisticated selections such as certain fish have a richer mathematical pattern to them so the bear eats those fish first. There might be more favorable scents that attract the bear, but probably nothing as elaborate as sophisticated mathematical recognition. Nature (i.e., acting on a species level) is also blind in what it selects for adaptations that are passed down to the species' descendents.

***An interpretation consistent with evolutionary theory would suggest that our tastes are a result of evolution, not 'directed by' anything.***

Luis, go back and read the last post. You said that "I assert that what determines our 'tastes' is our predisposition to recognize and react to patterns" and I said that "I assert that what determines our 'tastes' is our predisposition to recognize and react to what the majority or leaders (e.g., the hip people) are doing. We are reacting to patterns, but the patterns are memes that hold selective advantages if we are attracted to those tastes."

My statement all along has been that tastes are a result of evolution. In fact, I explicitly said that "[w]e are reacting to patterns..that hold selective advantages". However, notice what you said:

"I'm not saying we can enumerate these exact relationships just yet. I'm just saying that we will some day be able to see these relationships & express them mathematically."

This is contrary to an evolutionary argument that states that we can enumerate these relationships in terms of very clearcut evolutionary advantages that food, sex, status, etc all bring to an individual within a species.

***Evolution is not a manner through which life proactively chooses what it should do and what it should not do in order to survive. Evolutionary theory states that life survives when it is encoded to adapt to the course of nature.***

I didn't say that life is proactively choosing survival. This is what our choices reduce to when we do not use an internalist criteria. If we make choices according to some internalist criteria, then we discount the effect of these evolutionary factors. This is why art and music cannot be considered on the same footing as philosophy and science since these fields are much less susceptible to evolutionary factors of survival and reproductive success.

I did say that "[o]ur tastes are directly driven by evolutionary ones that exhibit themselves as I said above - in terms of some form of a meme theory selection." So far, I only see you coming to agree with this statements. Of course, meme theory is not in anyway proven (unlike natural selection). However, I think it has a lot going for it in determining our specific tastes in art and music.

***It seems your definition of evolution is life first understanding its environment and THEN adapting to it. That's not exactly what evolution says.***

Just the opposite. I've said all along that fields like tastes in music and art are grounded on evolutionary factors (which means they are grounded in issues of survival and reproductive success). When we are born we are already 'wired' for selecting patterns that are rooted in evolutionary explanations. Further, we enforce this 'wiring' with memes that are also rooted in evolutionary explanations. The idea that "[a]rt progression isn't simply a matter of who thought of it first, and how original it was. Indeed, there is complex and subtle rationale behind all art" is entirely misleading because it attempts to justify evolutionary choices with ideas that some complex and subtle rational is behind all art, when rather it is Nature winking at us.

I hope that you can see my point that tastes in art and music are mostly driven by evolutionary factors which aren't all that sophisticated. As a result, art and music aren't in the same category as philosophy and science which try to eliminate the influence of psychological/sociological/evolutionary factors. It isn't always successful, but overtime the focus on internalist criteria is our best means to understand and appreciate what is true.

Warm regards, Harv

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