• 180 Proof
    10.9k
    Life breeds eats and shits, then feeds and fertilizes more life. Local disorder increases because local order dissipates as it despoils its environment (e.g. soil erosion, resource depletion, pollution, climate change). Order is a phase of disorder. Evolution is a product of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. "Negentropy" is merely describes thermodynamically-open systems (e.g. ecologies, biomes).
  • Bradskii
    72
    If you can't understand when an argument is refuted discussion is pointless.Wayfarer

    The argument is that a ceramic frog (or a train in the interview quoted) is objectively different to you as it would be to me because our senses interpret it in way that determines our individual evolutionary prospects.

    I'd like to see some sort of support for that so I'd have something to to refute.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    The argument is that a ceramic frog (or a train in the interview quoted) is objectively differentBradskii

    No - the argument is about objectivity, not about particular objective differences. You and I, being members of the same culture, period of history, and evolutionary process will share a consensus on what is objectively true. But that is not the point at issue. Hoffman's argument is that as our sensory apparatus have been shaped by evolution, then what we perceive is not objective in the sense of 'existing completely separately from our senses'. It is not independently real in the way we generally assume. The way we perceive is a function of evolutionary adaptation, not the perceptions of how things truly are apart from that or outside of that.

    What is being called into question is the notion of the 'observer-independence' of the objective domain.
  • Bradskii
    72
    What is being called into question is the notion of the 'observer-independence' of the objective domain.Wayfarer

    Which is what I reject. I completely accept that what we see is not necessarily an accurate representation of objective reality. But that's internal to us. Maybe I see the necker cube turned towards me. Maybe you see it facing away. Maybe you see the snake and I see the stick. But if it IS a stick then it's a stick whatever you or I think about it. It's a stick if there's no-one to observe it.

    The moon existed billions of years before anything like multicellular life existed. Let alone intelligent life. So for a few billion years there was an observer-independent objective reality a few thousand kays away. Size, mass, composition etc all objectively real.

    So what happens to that objective reality when Man gradually emerged? What changes could there have been to that objective reality that we could propose?

    Again, what you see and what I see may not be exactly the same. It may be important to one of us. It may be just a rock or maybe one of us thinks it has some control over animal behaviour. But what we personally observe has zero impact on the objective reality of whatever it is that we observe.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    I completely accept that what we see is not necessarily an accurate representation of objective reality. But that's internal to us.Bradskii

    But you can't step outside that. There's not 'the world how it is' and 'how it appears to us' because what we know is a function of how it appears to us.

    What changes could there have been to that objective reality that we could propose?Bradskii

    The objective reality you propose is a creation of the mind. Of course the moon and the universe existed in some way before your existence, but the way in which it existed is entirely unintelligible, completely meaningless.

    Imagine that all life has vanished from the universe, but everything else is undisturbed. Matter is scattered about in space in the same way as it is now, there is sunlight, there are stars, planets and galaxies—but all of it is unseen. There is no human or animal eye to cast a glance at objects, hence nothing is discerned, recognized or even noticed. Objects in the unobserved universe have no shape, color or individual appearance, because shape and appearance are created by minds. Nor do they have features, because features correspond to categories of animal sensation. This is the way the early universe was before the emergence of life—and the way the present universe is outside the view of any observer.Charles Pinter, Mind and the Cosmic Order

    I totally get how outlandish these ideas sound when you first encounter them. The reason it provokes such a strong reaction is because it challenges your innate sense of what is real. But that is what philosophy calls into question (or should, although that is rarely found in what is taught as philosophy in today's academy.)

    Notice the similarity between these two Q&A's. The first is from Donald Hoffman, whom we've been discussing, the second comes from Chris Fuchs, who is a quantum theorist and an advocate for a philosophy of physics called Quantum Baynesianism (QBism).

    If it’s conscious agents all the way down, all first-person points of view, what happens to science? Science has always been a third-person description of the world.

    Donald Hoffman: The idea that what we’re doing is measuring publicly accessible objects, the idea that objectivity results from the fact that you and I can measure the same object in the exact same situation and get the same results — it’s very clear from quantum mechanics that that idea has to go. Physics tells us that there are no public physical objects. So what’s going on? Here’s how I think about it. I can talk to you about my headache and believe that I am communicating effectively with you, because you’ve had your own headaches. The same thing is true as apples and the moon and the sun and the universe. Just like you have your own headache, you have your own moon. But I assume it’s relevantly similar to mine. That’s an assumption that could be false, but that’s the source of my communication, and that’s the best we can do in terms of public physical objects and objective science.

    Compare that to

    Treating quantum mechanics as a single-user theory resolves a lot of the paradoxes, like spooky action at a distance.

    Yes, but in a way that a lot of people find troubling. The usual story of Bell’s theorem is that it tells us the world must be nonlocal. That there really is spooky action at a distance. So they solved one mystery by adding a pretty damn big mystery! What is this nonlocality? Give me a full theory of it. My fellow QBists and I instead think that what Bell’s theorem really indicates is that the outcomes of measurements are experiences, not revelations of something that’s already there. Of course others think that we gave up on science as a discipline, because we talk about subjective degrees of belief. But we think it solves all of the foundational conundrums.

    Note the convergence of the bolded passages: there is not a single, objective reality which different observers see, there is only reality-as-experienced by those observers. (Notice both these articles are from scientists and are published in a popular science magazine, Quanta, rather than a philosophy journal.)
  • Bradskii
    72
    Objects in the unobserved universe have no shape, color or individual appearance, because shape and appearance are created by mindsCharles Pinter, Mind and the Cosmic Order

    This is categorically wrong. In thinking that red, for example, only exists if there is someone around who decides it's red. But we don't do that. What we decide is that objects that emit a wavelength around 700nm we shall describe to each other with a particular sound we can make with our vocal chords. And scratch a few runes on a suitable material to represent that sound. But whether anyone observes the colour of the object, it still emits wavelengths at that frequency.

    The same applies if an object is spherical or has a given mass or size or has a specific temperature. Those facts are objective and aren't dependent on how we decide to describe them.

    It's as nonsensical as saying that there aren't objectively 5 objects unless there is someone who can actually count them.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    But to extrapolate that to suggest that nothing is as we see it is truly bizarre.Bradskii

    I don't think it's particularly bizarre. It's useless philosophy flopping around like a fish in the bottom of the boat. That's not even all that unusual.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    There's a similar principle in biology concerning the protein hyperspace. That refers to the possible ways that amino acids can be combined, only a very small number of which will actually produce a protein. The numbers there also are astronomically minute.Wayfarer

    I was interested in this so I looked on the web. The explanation I found indicated that the proteins necessary for life can be very flexible. Many amino acids are interchangeable with others in proteins while still maintaining their function in living organisms. That reduces the unlikelihood of proteins needed for life "evolving" by orders and orders of magnitude and allows life to get started. After that the more limited range of proteins we find now could evolve.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    I know this may be difficult to accept, but that is also the point at issue. You're speaking from a position of naive realism (no pejorative intended, it's a textbook description) which assumes the reality of the objective world (or the sensory domain, call it what you will). But precisely that has been called into question in the history of philosophy, and certainly also by more recent cognitive science and the philosophy of physics. It doesn't mean that reality is all in your or in my mind, but that the mind - yours, mine, everyone's - provides a foundational element of what we designate as real, but which we're not aware of, because it is largely unconscious, it mainly comprises automatic (or autonomic) processes. One version of this argument is The Evolutionary Argument against Reality, by Donald Hoffman - particularly apt because it is (purportedly) based on evolutionary theory. It actually ties in with some of what Robert Lanza says (although they're very different theorists.)Wayfarer

    This is a reasonable and useful metaphysical explanation of the nature of reality. But it's not the only one. I've made the case many times that objective reality and materialism are metaphysics, not physics. They also are very useful. They provide the foundation for science. I know both you and I recognize the limitations of a scientific worldview, but the reality you offer is not somehow more real.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    I was interested in this so I looked on the web.T Clark

    I read about it in Simon Conway-Morris' book, Life's Solution.

    I've made the case many times that objective reality and materialism are metaphysics, not physics. They also are very useful.T Clark

    Scientific materialism arises precisely in the attempt to apply scientific method to the problems of philosophy. Science is predominantly a method of acquiring knowledge but is not a worldview per se. In fact part of the implication of scientific scepticism is that it should not be taken as a worldview.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    I'm not assuming that physical laws exist. They do. And everything is determined by them. Why those laws exist as they do is an interesting question.Bradskii

    Saying physical laws exist somehow out in the universe somewhere without people is just old fashioned idealism. That doesn't mean it's wrong, it means it's metaphysics, not science. Physical laws were created by humans to document and explain observed regularities in the behavior of the universe. Calling them "laws" is metaphorical, as if these laws somehow cause things to happen rather than describing how they happen.

    Not that there's anything wrong with any of that. The idea of laws of physics has been a useful and productive one.
  • 180 Proof
    10.9k
    Saying physical laws exist somehow out in the universe somewhere without people is just old fashioned idealism. That doesn't mean it's wrong, it means it's metaphysics, not science.T Clark
    :100:

    Science is predominantly a method of acquiring knowledge but is not a worldview per se. In fact part of the implication of scientific scepticism is that it should not be taken as a worldview.Wayfarer
    :100:

    @Agent Smith @Gnomon
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    The objective reality you propose is a creation of the mind. Of course the moon and the universe existed in some way before your existence, but the way in which it existed is entirely unintelligible, completely meaningless.

    Imagine that all life has vanished from the universe, but everything else is undisturbed. Matter is scattered about in space in the same way as it is now, there is sunlight, there are stars, planets and galaxies—but all of it is unseen. There is no human or animal eye to cast a glance at objects, hence nothing is discerned, recognized or even noticed. Objects in the unobserved universe have no shape, color or individual appearance, because shape and appearance are created by minds. Nor do they have features, because features correspond to categories of animal sensation. This is the way the early universe was before the emergence of life—and the way the present universe is outside the view of any observer.
    — Charles Pinter, Mind and the Cosmic Order
    Wayfarer

    This is just a bad translation of the Tao Te Ching without the poetry or soul. It shares with the Tao Te Ching the fact that it is metaphysics. If you insist that this is the only way to see things, you are just repeating the error you are arguing against.

    Donald Hoffman: The idea that what we’re doing is measuring publicly accessible objects, the idea that objectivity results from the fact that you and I can measure the same object in the exact same situation and get the same results — it’s very clear from quantum mechanics that that idea has to go.

    I know you disagree with me on this, but, for me, conflating the uncertainty formlessness described by Taoism with that described by quantum mechanics is mistaking a metaphor for reality. Up here at human scale, we don't live in a quantum world. We can know pretty exactly where baseballs are and how fast they are going at the same time. To say that the world we live in everyday is somehow less real than that found at the scale of subatomic particles makes the whole idea of reality meaningless, ridiculous.

    Treating quantum mechanics as a single-user theory resolves a lot of the paradoxes, like spooky action at a distance.

    Yes, but in a way that a lot of people find troubling. The usual story of Bell’s theorem is that it tells us the world must be nonlocal. That there really is spooky action at a distance. So they solved one mystery by adding a pretty damn big mystery! What is this nonlocality? Give me a full theory of it. My fellow QBists and I instead think that what Bell’s theorem really indicates is that the outcomes of measurements are experiences, not revelations of something that’s already there. Of course others think that we gave up on science as a discipline, because we talk about subjective degrees of belief. But we think it solves all of the foundational conundrums.

    These don't seem like similar statements to me at all. I wonder if they would to Chris Fuchs.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    This is categorically wrong. In thinking that red, for example, only exists if there is someone around who decides it's red. But we don't do that. What we decide is that objects that emit a wavelength around 700nm we shall describe to each other with a particular sound we can make with our vocal chords. And scratch a few runes on a suitable material to represent that sound. But whether anyone observes the colour of the object, it still emits wavelengths at that frequency.Bradskii

    I'll say it again - the existence of objective reality is only one way of looking at the world. It's metaphysics. If you can't see that, or at least understand what @Wayfarer is trying to say, and it's clear that you don't, there is no way you he can come to any common understanding. You will bash each other for hours and days and never get anywhere.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    I read about it in Simon Conway-Morris' book, Life's Solution.Wayfarer

    I put it on my reading list.

    Scientific materialism arises precisely in the attempt to apply scientific method to the problems of philosophy. Science is predominantly a method of acquiring knowledge but is not a worldview per se. In fact part of the implication of scientific scepticism is that it should not be taken as a worldview.Wayfarer

    Materialism is a metaphysical worldview. Science is a method or series of methods to gather knowledge. Materialism or something similar are, or at least have been, the absolute presuppositions, basic assumptions, which are the foundation for the scientific methods.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.3k
    Richard Dawkins has time and time again, stated during interviews/lectures/debates etc that any emulation of Darwinian rules within human society, is vile.universeness

    But he wrote a book could the Selfish Gene and in it he specifically tried to put the worst interpretation on altruism because he was determined to make altruism ultimately self serving and for the good of the Gene and found self sacrifice problematic and puzzling.

    He clearly has wanted people to accept his model of evolution and the negative ideas found in his books regardless of what else he has said. People do make contradictory claims. He is like the Bible. But his theoretical ideas are different then his ventures into pop psychology and pop philosophy.

    The problem is that a theory that has a notion of survival of the fittest, selection, fitness, competition, hierarchies, selfishness etc built in to explain biological success has innate negative connotations.

    It means they are saying that anything going against these trends is undermining biological viability or success and health which is exactly what Darwin himself said in a quote I cited.
  • universeness
    4k
    But he wrote a book could the Selfish Gene and in it he specifically tried to put the worst interpretation on altruism because he was determined to make altruism ultimately self serving and for the good of the Gene and found self sacrifice problematic and puzzling.Andrew4Handel

    He now regrets the title 'selfish gene,' and has stated many times that it was an unwise choice.
    Altruism, as demonstrated in many species, does indeed 'handshake,' with the natural imperative that a species has for it's own survival. Humans have also used such phenomena as altruism to build moral imperatives, no god required.

    He clearly has wanted people to accept his model of evolution and the negative ideas found in his books regardless of what else he has said.Andrew4Handel

    His model of evolution is correct!
    Descriptions and observations such as the cruelty of animal interactions are only negative idea's if we accept them within our current or developing human society. Dawkins has NEVER recommended jungle rules for human society. He has also NEVER tried to suggest that humans who currently live as if they still lived under jungle rules (like some of the current rich or some political leaders or military groups or even some celebrities) are justified, in acting that way or even in thinking that way. We can't blame fictitious gods for our bad behaviour. We must 'sort it out,' amongst ourselves, no matter how many generations it takes.

    He is like the Bible.Andrew4Handel
    No, the bible is fable based. Dawkins books are fact based.

    The problem is that a theory that has a notion of survival of the fittest, selection, fitness, competition, hierarchies, selfishness etc built in to explain biological success has innate negative connotations.Andrew4Handel

    No, that's your(and others) interpretation. I see little connection between evolutionary fact and what humans decide to implement/legislate under the label of 'human morality.' The detailed workings and consequences of evolution through natural selection need not dictate any human morality AT ALL.
    What source are you referring to that states human morality must follow the dictates of evolution via natural selection? Only BS such as Nazi propaganda or the divine right of Kings to rule, comes to mind.

    It means they are saying that anything going against these trends is undermining biological viability or success and health which is exactly what Darwin himself said in a quote I cited.Andrew4Handel

    No it does not suggest any such thing, unless you and others decide to interpret it in such ways.
    I suggest to you that humans are quite capable of, and many many millions of us have (since we came out of the wilds) very strong intent towards, creating moral systems, that are benevolent to all humans and all objects in the universe which come into contact with humans, and we don't, nor ever have, needed a god to do so. Don't allow your primal fears to cause you to think irrationally about any notion, that we are forever compelled to act like we did, when we lived as hunter gatherers in the wilds under jungle rules.
    We are under no such dictates!
  • Mikie
    4.4k
    Saying physical laws exist somehow out in the universe somewhere without people is just old fashioned idealism.T Clark

    How is that idealism? You meant realism, yes?



    Dawkins is a fairly nice bloke. I don’t think he is as negative as you paint him. I still like Unweaving the Rainbow— which is worth a read to see a different side than what you may be familiar with.
  • Bradskii
    72
    How is that idealism? You meant realism, yes?Mikie

    I'd concur. For example, a body will remain at rest or continue in motion at a constant speed until it is acted upon by some force. There had to be someone to actually point it out so Newton's First Law didn't exist as such until Newton existed. But all bodies remained at rest until acted on by some force whether he or anyone else existed to formulate that law.
  • Mikie
    4.4k


    I really don’t know what you’re concurring with. Believing laws (or objects) exist without people is not idealism. It’s the opposite of idealism. It’s realism.
  • Bradskii
    72
    He clearly has wanted people to accept his model of evolution and the negative ideas found in his books regardless of what else he has said.Andrew4Handel

    So how about this view?

    "...we must understand what it means to be a gene machine, what it means to be programmed by genes, so that we are better equipped to escape, so that we are better equipped to use our big brains, use our conscience intelligence, to depart from the dictates of the selfish genes and to build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. And when we sit down together to argue out and discuss and decide upon how we want to run our societies, I think we should hold up Darwinism as an awful warning for how we should not organize our societies."

    Dawkins himself, explaining in no uncertain terms, that your comment above is wrong. My guess is that you haven't read the book.
  • Bradskii
    72
    I really don’t know what you’re concurring with. Believing laws (or objects) exist without people is not idealism. It’s the opposite of idealism. It’s realism.Mikie

    I agree.
  • Mikie
    4.4k


    Thanks for clarifying.
  • T Clark
    10.7k
    How is that idealism? You meant realism, yes?Mikie

    I call it idealism because it claims that there is some sort of abstract entity in the universe independent of actual phenomena. Something that we can't see or sense that somehow causes things to happen. Do these abstract entities control the behavior of matter and energy? I thought phenomena were caused by interactions between matter and energy.

    I'd concur. For example, a body will remain at rest or continue in motion at a constant speed until it is acted upon by some force.Bradskii

    Why do I need some explanation for why something doesn't change it's motion? Even if I look at Newton's second law, it says that bodies will change their velocity if acted on by a force. The force causes the change, not some law. All the so-called law does is describe how it happens.
  • Bradskii
    72
    I call it idealism because it claims that there is some sort of abstract entity in the universe independent of actual phenomena.T Clark

    Abstract entity? That's an odd way to describe physical laws. As in Newton's First for example. And yes, it's just a description. Of something that happens whether there is somebody there to see it or not. Whi h was the bone of contention.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.3k
    Dawkins himself, explaining in no uncertain terms, that your comment above is wrong. My guess is that you haven't read the book.Bradskii

    Is that a quote from The Selfish gene? Because I can quote from the Selfish Gene to prove my points.

    This is how he starts the book:

    "Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If
    superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the
    level of our civilization, is: 'Have they discovered evolution yet?'"


    Based on this comment he appears to be asserting that evolution is the only way for life to come into existence. That doesn't follow even if evolution is taken to be true. Because hypothetically we can now possibly make life from scratch quickly using the latest bio technique but he is clearly arguing for the predominance of the evolutionary/natural selection explanation as the sole and dominant explanation and not for a flexible less dogmatic position.

    He then goes own:

    "We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there
    a meaning to life.' What are we for? What is man? After posing the last of these questions, the eminent
    zoologist G. G. Simpson put it thus: 'The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that
    question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely.'"


    Once again he is arguing for the preeminence and complete explanatory power of the evolutionary perspective.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    I've often heard Dawkins make comments to the effect that Darwinism is an awful social philosophy. What I haven't heard is any plausible suggestions for an alternative, and what sort of basis it might have. If, after all, we really are genetically programmed to behave a certain way, then what can we bring to bear on the human condition to improve it?

    I'm guessing that Dawkins' answer will be along similar lines to Steve Pinker's - 'enlightenment values' and 'scientific rationalism'. And indeed they have a lot going for them, but behind them, what image of man are they built around? I'm also not going to propose an answer to that, but I don't see much hint of it in Dawkin's anti-religion polemics.

    Philosophers and humanists are interested in what has been called, in 20th-century continental philosophy, the human condition, that is, a sense of uneasiness that human beings may feel about their own existence and the reality that confronts them (as in the case of modernity with all its changes in the proximate environment of humans and corresponding changes in their modes of existence).

    Scientists are more interested in human nature. If they discover that human nature doesn’t exist and human beings are, like cells, merely parts of a bigger aggregate, to whose survival they contribute, and all they feel and think is just a matter of illusion (a sort of Matrix scenario), then, as far as science is concerned, that’s it, and science should go on investigating humans by considering this new fact about their nature.

    And much of that is implicit, rather than stated upfront.
  • Bradskii
    72
    "Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: 'Have they discovered evolution yet?'"

    Based on this comment he appears to be asserting that evolution is the only way for life to come into existence.
    Andrew4Handel

    He's simply saying that we know how we got here. If you know of any other means other than the evolutionarty process, then let's hear it. But let's face it, it's the only game in town. Apart from a six day week's worth of creating.
  • Bradskii
    72
    I've often heard Dawkins make comments to the effect that Darwinism is an awful social philosophy. What I haven't heard is any plausible suggestions for an alternative...Wayfarer

    Secular humanism. You've not heard of it as an alternative to religiously based morality?
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