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Guess Who I Meant By Mr. Controversial Himself!!!

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Posted by Luis Hamburgh on June 1, 2002 00:14:29 UTC

Harv,

>>>”I pulled this off the PBS.org site, if you have problems with it let me know:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/cat01.html#Q08”

I cannot find anything in this primer supporting the notion that “selection mechanisms are not nearly as sophisticated to spot mathematical patterns from non-mathematical patterns.” In fact it seems to reflect what I am saying (more like, what I'm trying to say).

For instance, one might accuse me of paraphrasing the following statement from pbs.org: “The survival and reproductive success of an individual is directly related to the ways its inherited traits function in the context of its local environment.” Indeed, the core of my suggestion is that when a species’ inherited traits relate to the context of its local environment in non-“random” ways, that species is apt to endure.

(I think our dispute here rests within much deeper presumptions, but I'm getting ahead of myself...)

>>>”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.”

You and I are in complete agreement here. I especially appreciate the added quotes to the term ‘dumb.’

>>>”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.”

Well, let's bring up Mr. Controversial Himself, because he’s taken it upon himself to mathematically prove what many of us have suspected since we were teens: might it be possible that what we call “symmetry,” “equal,” “lopsided,” etc. are merely functions of our coexistence/growth with nature itself? If evolution reads the way I think it does, then it is entirely consistent with the idea that the part of us which “makes sense” of the world is well honed to do so only because it represents our recognition of the relationships between us and nature itself, especially those which have allowed us to make it this far.

Now, before you formulate a response to this, consider one last statement from the PBS web site:

"Indeed, many scientific advances, in a range of scientific disciplines including physics, geology, chemistry, and molecular biology, have supported, refined, and expanded evolutionary theory far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined."

>>>”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!)”

Only if you work from the strong anthropic principal does this notion even suggest itself.

>>>”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.”

Interesting. A significant portion of the latest studies suggest that the most important factors determining sexual attraction are perceived physical symmetry, and ability of a potential mate to reproduce. I can’t wholly dismiss your idea, however; it is based within valid observations. Societal differences are a real phenomenon, but the list of universals is much longer than the list of societal quirks. Hence, I think that which you identify as the prime force behind evolution is simply a consequence of that which I identify as this force.

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

I hesitate to get into epistemology with you, since you’re so much better at philosophy than I am, and since this means I could easily spend four or five threads clarifying my unorthodox terms in order to properly identify how my opinion differs here. But here goes anyway: remember when you asked me how, as an “anti-realist,” I could function on a day-to-day basis? You wondered how I could do something so simple as sit down without blowing a mental fuse trying to rectify the internal struggle “is the chair real?” I responded that from experience, and on an instinctive level, I knew the chair would support me, much like my dog knows the small square hole in my back door will allow him to enter (or something along these lines.)

Anyway, to me knowledge exists on an instinctive level. The knowledge humans share is a step beyond instinctive knowledge, but I do not consider the human ability to share information with others, or even to reflect upon himself, the beginning of knowledge itself. These are simply extensions of knowledge.

>>>”If we make choices according to some internalist criteria, then we discount the effect of these evolutionary factors.”
+
>>>”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.”
Etc.

A good deal of what you say, in my opinion, is based within an assumption of the SAP, and a rejection of the idea Mr. Controversial Himself claims to have proved (that reality and our assessment of it are interdependent counterparts). Obviously my presumptions tend to lean more toward the WAP and the acknowledgment that I cannot know whether reality and our assessment of it are counterparts.

By way of example let's consider your statement, “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.” I think the “sophistication” we perceive is merely a function of the environment and its denizens evolving as a whole.

As such, I think you and I disagree because our most basic presumptions (WAP vs. SAP, reality vs. “anti-reality” [what I call agnosticism]) are incompatible. If one accepts as a valid possibility the notion that concepts like ‘symmetry’ are fundamentally ad hoc, then ideas like some complex and subtle rational is behind all art are nothing more than tautology.

Unfortunately, if I’m on the right track, and we eventually reveal in mathematical terms that our affinities are logical in nature, folks like me would still find themselves stuck in the paradox that the proof is constructed within the very system we question.

So go easy on me. :)

-LH

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