• apokrisis
    1.9k
    Adaptation into niches without a primary environmental driver to do so seems like a superfluous action. Do you agree with the idea that a creative evolution model and not survival of the fittest model fits best here?MikeL

    But there is an environmental "driver" if there are resources sitting around needing consuming. So adaptive radiation is no big deal. Life would fill every available crevice even if that search is purely random.

    Then Bergson was indeed right about the hole in early evolutionary theory - the fact that selection can only remove variety - but hardly correct about the answer for where that genetic variety might come from.

    Of course Bergson was years before the machinery of DNA was discovered. We now know how the genetic deck gets shuffled.
  • Rich
    1.7k
    Just to change topic a bit: Rich, did you read my post in this thread on seeing sound? How does that fit in with your holographic model of the real world? Is the mind reconstructing the world as it is, or only those aspects it chooses to see? (much like the theme of this OP).MikeL

    Sorry, I missed your post on sound. If you wish to copy it here, I'll read it and see if I have any comments to share with you.

    The mind filters and constructs through the brain. Each person (the individual mind) filters and constructs differently. Ditto for each form of life. No one approach is superior or inferior, just different because if creative evolution. So what is "out there" is the result of all like creative evolution. What we perceive is our own evolution. I suspect the humans are far behind other species in its ability to perceive and communicate. What humans are good at are tools.
  • MikeL
    236
    I am trying to reason this out with myself as much as with you, and I take your point that divergence can be accounted for in the Survival of the Fittest model, but under a Survival of the Fittest model I would be looking for where is the selection pressure to do so was when delicious leaves and grass were already in abundance. The ancestor possums weren't attacking each other so there was no need to seek out new niches to live in. There's no adaptive advantage here. There's only maintaining the status quo through risky reshuffling of the DNA.

    I guess the Survival of the Fittest model would contend there is equal adaptive advantage for the kangaroo, wombat and koala, so they were all selected for. Normally the environmental forces would have wiped the variants out of existence, except in this case there is a lack of them (your global constraints). The mutant variants got lucky and be damned with thoughts of adaptive advantage.

    When a species is well adapted to its environment though the Survival of the Fittest model would suggest that DNA should be trying to minimize the amount of variant alleles in the population to help ensure its continued survival. It should be increasing the conserved regions of DNA, constraining itself so that it sticks with a winning combination. Allele diversity in the population should fall, or at the least the increase should only be a gradual creep.

    The Creative Evolution Model would contend also that a lack of global constraints enabled the survival of a diverse progeny. It would suggest though, that rather than being an aberration of nature that somehow got out of its intrinsic DNA constraints, it instead would have been almost impossible to stop the variance from arising because variance is the sole driver of life. The organism would have been looking to maximise its amount of variance. For this model to work there would need to be a highly conserved (constrained) portion of DNA and a highly recombinant area. We would expect the allele count in the population to rise rapidly until new species are born.
  • MikeL
    236
    You might have answered it, but here's the post.
    " In one of the examples the man's eyes and optic nerves were functioning fine, but the visual cortex had been damaged. As a result he was 'blind' but could see. He could not create a visual impression of the environment in his cortex, but he could dodge telegraph poles and garbage bins while walking down the street by 'sensing' they were there. Of course he could only move very slowly to do this. My contention at the time was that the difference was the difference between Windows and DOS operating systems. In a Windows based GUI you could see instantaneously and react appropriately without have to sought the code.

    It also give a lot more surety about what you are perceiving. I used the example that there was a time when I was sleeping and I heard a noise - a bang. As I was in the netherworld between sleep and wakefulness my mind manifested the sound visually to me. I saw the sound expanding like a sphere. Several seconds later the bang was repeated. I saw it again. It expanded at exactly the same rate to exactly the same size and I woke up immediately and said "Double barrel shotgun." The visual representation of the image gave me certainty. I had no doubt what so ever that it was the same sound. I have no idea if that's what it was (I have been asked), but I am sure of what I saw...heard.

    It also makes you wonder about other animals such as bats where the dominant sense is not vision. Do they actually visualise what they see, like I did with the sound? It might mean we need to redefine the idea of vision.
    "

    What are your thoughts on this in relation to the holographic theory?
  • Rich
    1.7k
    The holographic-like universe is patterns of energy and our minds sense some of this energy via our senses. Sound has a vibrationally aspect to it that different minds will interpret in different ways. Ditto for light which the mind interprets with different qualia (intensity, color). Because in differences in our history (and I'm also referring to the transcendental memory of life that sounds multiple physical lives) we perceive differently but because there are species similarities, we will agree on many things, in an approximate sort of way. But nothing is universal. As a snowflake has similarities with differences with other snowflakes, and differences within similarities, so does all of life and life within species.

    Such an idea will have a profound impact on the way one views life and lives life. For example, every cell is living and intelligently communicating with other cells (and the bacteria and viruses that are ten times as many as cells in the body), and has the intelligence to heal (correct) if allowed to. Interference in such processes will harm not assist the body. Thus the Body adapts as a whole. The best way to have a healthy life is to nurture the health of your whole body, physically, mentally, spiritually.
  • praxis
    234
    So renunciation is completely off the radar for that kind of attitude, it makes no sense whatever in biological terms. To try and rationalise it in those terms would be to misunderstand its purpose.Wayfarer
    The behavior of the jewel beetle that Hoffman mentions in the TED Talk doesn't make sense in biological terms either. The "evolutionary hack," as Hoffman calls it, is so maladaptive that it could potentially lead to the extinction of the species, but we can easily see that the hack, though efficient, fails in the new circumstances because of its rigidity or narrowness of scope. We can see that the environment changed too abruptly for the beetle to adapt. The hack made perfect sense as long as the beetles environment remained relatively constant. It stoped making sense after the circumstances changed.

    We also know that the goal of the beetle in this situation is simply to mate and that it's not trying to understand an existentially meaningful truth or anything like that. Assuming that the purpose of the renunciate is to understand an existentially meaningful truth, or to realize such a truth, what motivates them to do so? and might not that motivation be understood in biological terms? and if it can be reductively understood in biological terms, does that present a problem for the renunciate, or rather, have the effect of rendering their purpose less meaningful?
  • apokrisis
    1.9k
    under a Survival of the Fittest model I would be looking for where is the selection pressure to do so was when delicious leaves and grass were already in abundance. The ancestor possums weren't attacking each other so there was no need to seek out new niches to live in.MikeL

    If a leaf eating possum suddenly appears, that creates a selective advantage for trees to have poisonous leaves. Then eucalypts having evolved toxins, that creates a niche for specialist eucalypts eaters like koalas.

    For every move, there is a countermove. And eventually things settle into some mutual balance that is tolerable for both.
  • Wayfarer
    3.9k
    Assuming that the purpose of the renunciate is to understand an existentially meaningful truth, or to realize such a truth, what motivates them to do so? and might not that motivation be understood in biological terms? and if it can be reductively understood in biological terms, does that present a problem for the renunciate, or rather, have the effect of rendering their purpose less meaningful?praxis

    Well, if you want to understand religious renunciation in terms misguided biological impulses, I doubt that I will be able to say anything to that, apart from prescribing a large course of study, which you may not have any interest in.
  • praxis
    234

    I have a very high regard for it actually, and I don't believe that understanding the motivation for it in biological terms should make anyone think less of it. Now that I think about it, there are secular forms of renunciation, forms as old as Epicurus and as new as deep ecology.

    I still wonder what you believe the motivation for seeking an existentially meaningful truth is.

    If anyone else finds the question interesting I'd like to know what you think.
  • Wayfarer
    3.9k
    I still wonder what you believe the motivation for seeking an existentially meaningful truth is.praxis

    I had composed a long reply to your above question, and am willing to post it if you are interested. It's only that you gave the impression of not being particularly interested in the answer.
  • praxis
    234
    I didn't mean to give that impression. Please share.
  • Noble Dust
    942
    I still wonder what you believe the motivation for seeking an existentially meaningful truth is.

    If anyone else finds the question interesting I'd like to know what you think.
    praxis

    Existence.
  • praxis
    234
    Isn't it safe to say that we inherently (by virtue of our genes) value life?
  • Wayfarer
    3.9k
    To get back to the point where this particular dialogue began, several days back:

    Indeed I could argue that part of the intuition of philosophy itself, is to transcend the purely biological, the instinctive side of the organism that is only concerned with survival and propagation. After all, it was ancient philosophy, first and foremost, which first preached renunciation and celibacy, and that certainly flies in the face of the presumed supremacy of the 'selfish gene'.Wayfarer

    to which the response came:

    Don't we need to understand the motivations behind renunciation before concluding that it's inconsistent with biology?praxis

    Well, my point was, first, that the meaning of renunciation is not a meaningful question for biology, because 'renunciation and celibacy' means the end of you, as a gene machine! But such things are often depicted in biological terms nowadays - because everything is! Evolutionary biology has become a guide to values, to how educated folk ought to think. This is why, instinctively, people will look for an evolutionary rationale for this or that human trait, including such things as religious or philosophical goals and aims and even for altruism.; everything about us must be explicable in Darwinian terms.

    (For critiques of some of these points, have a read of The God Genome, Leon Wieseltier; It Ain't Necessarily So, Antony Gottlieb; Anything but Human, Richard Polt - none of whom are religious apologists by any stretch, I should add.)

    Now to what renunciation actually meant in the context of the cultures that practiced it. In ancient India, where Buddhism originated, there had always been a 'culture of renunciation', whereby individuals leave home and village life for life in the forests as 'sanyasi', or renunciates. The Buddha was an example of the 'forest-dwelling recluse' and is often described as such in the early Buddhist scriptures. The aim of the renunciate life was to escape from endless re-birth in the 'wheel of birth and death' (samsara or maya) and realise the state known as mokṣa (Hinduism) or Nirvāṇa (Buddhism).

    (I don't know if there are real equivalents to this conception in Christianity, although if you study the history and the literature deeply, some parallels can be drawn. But I think it can be argued that the goal of 'spiritual liberation' is represented in the Western religious imagination by the belief in 'heaven', albeit nowadays conceived as something you'll never know this side of death. Whereas there is a strong emphasis in Eastern spirituality, on attaining 'spiritual realisation' in this life.)

    So to try and draw these points together - the Darwinian rationale for human existence is that everything is predicated on survival - on what contributes to it, or detracts from it. Typically, ethical systems that are built on that (like Sam Harris') amount to some form of utilitarianism, 'the greatest good for the greatest number', and so on.

    But if you really think through the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory there is no over-arching raison d'être for human existence. We are, according to the many popular intellectuals who argue for this point of view, the products of selfish genes whose only real purpose is to dumbly enact the survival strategies which they are driving, unknown to us. Furthermore, the origin of life itself is something very near to a chemical reaction, albeit one complex enough to sustain the so-called 'Darwinian algorithm' towards ever-higher levels of complexity.

    But why this has all happened, is never discussed or even considered. Indeed the very notion of 'why' in the sense of any kind of formal or final cause, is tacitly forbidden in secular philosophies of today; goals can ever only be personal or subjective, cultural or social, as there is no cosmological reason why humans ought to exist. We're in some sense accidents of nature, the outcome of chance and necessity.

    Whereas, the religious vision implies also a religious anthropology; that humans have a particular role to play in the evolution of the cosmos. Now, as explained earlier, this way of thinking about the question may not have occurred to those engaged in it at the time; it is one of the consequences of modernity, that we are able to think about these questions in such an abstract way. But, for example, the Buddha's leaving home and family, and devotion to six years of life of arduous asceticism, then his final realisation of Nirvāṇa, which became the basis and over-arching goal of Buddhist culture, does not, I think, make sense or stack up from the point of view of biology. At this point, he's exited the whole show! He will have no genetic successors. And this is reinforced by the emphasis on celibacy amongst the members of the Sangha (for whom sexual congress meant automatic expulsion.)

    There's a curious thing I noticed once. I found a Dawkins quote, where he says:

    'We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism - something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.

    So Dawkins, here, actually grasps the futility and uselessness of his 'selfish gene' metaphor as a guiding philosophy, and seems to pine for something else - namely, 'pure and disinterested altruism'. But he has spent the whole latter part of his career bollocking religion, which is supposed to embody that very quality! So where he thinks the wellsprings of 'pure and disinterested altruism' might actually be sought, I have no idea - maybe through science, although he ought to know that science is primarily concerned with quantitative analysis and measurement, and not with compassion or altruism.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    2.4k
    Given the premise that only conscious agents are metaphysically real—or, rather, that the whole of the phenomenal universe is derived in one way or another from conscious agents—I don’t find a means to substantiate block time. Again, I do find a requirement that before and after occur within the first-person point of view regarding apprehensions and creations relative to other and—in a more complex fashion—relative to any cohort of individual agents that can causally affect each other. But this would lead to a variant of presentism.javra

    Right, so that's why we need to dismiss block time, and the hypotheses which give rise to it, and start from scratch. Starting from scratch we have conscious agents who are creating a phenomenal universe. Everything from within the phenomenal experience indicates that time is passing, change occurs. So time passing is the number one premise or assumption of what is the case. The second premise is that there is something which is active, something which is changing. We do create spatial and temporal concepts to understand what is given by these two premises, but to validate past memories and future anticipations through referencing these spatial and temporal concepts is a different issue.

    The point I was making is that if we assume the non-spatial point, and give the agent non-spatial, immaterial existence at this point, we can still conceive of the passing of time without any spatial change occurring, simply by assuming the continuous temporal existence of the immaterial agent. The "something which is active" then may be the agent itself. In this way we do not yet need to assume material existence. The next question then is what is the agent doing, and this is where we draw on the concept of creativity.

    Conscious agency (i.e., creative power)?Galuchat

    Right, that's how I'm trying to represent conscious agency, as creative power. If we assume an active agent with no causal necessity to move in any particular way because it is immaterial, and no inclination toward any particular intent, then all we have is creative power. What moves the will of that agent other than the desire to create?
  • Noble Dust
    942

    I'm not sure; you'd have to unpack that.
  • Agustino
    7.1k
    So Dawkins, here, actually grasps the futility and uselessness of his 'selfish gene' metaphor as a guiding philosophy, and seems to pine for something else - namely, 'pure and disinterested altruism'.Wayfarer
    Dawkins is not alone. Pretty much all the more cultured and intelligent atheists adopt a similar point of view. This is a very good book I read awhile ago about decision making and business. It's philosophical in its themes, so it's different than your run of the mill business book.

    The idea is that the "selfish gene" marks our starting position. We start by being controlled by the "selfish gene" and we can only gain independence through sustained effort and education. This is similar to the doctrine often found in religions of the Fall of man. We are thrown into the world in a fallen state, and only recover and clean the surface of the mirror so to speak with time and intense effort.

    So according to these atheists, we need to understand our chains - what binds us to the purposes of the selfish genes - in order to be able to free ourselves and find our own, true independence. The difference from this narrative, compared to the Platonic/Christian one is that the driving force is thymos (will) not eros (love).

    And in this, the atheist is actually a spiritual person. It is a very Hegelian/Schopenhaurian spirituality, and I say that because I've started to read the two as essentially the same. Both Hegel and Schopenhauer develop a system that is driven by self-affirmation. For Schopenhauer, the will seeks to affirm itself. For Hegel, Spirit seeks its own self-affirmation in history through the negation of the other. It seeks to prove its own certainty - to make its certainty truth. Spirit never seeks the other out of love - it seeks the other to posit its own self - perhaps to find its own self in the other. It is very violent to the other.

    The atheist becomes merely the - perhaps final - expression of the logos of modernity. The essence of modernity seems to be the will - and in this, our two last great metaphysicians agree. Love - altruism - is made subservient to the will. The will becomes fundamental. And this is a great inversion from the earlier Platonic thinkers where eros was the fundamental driving force, where desire was other-directed instead of self-directed. In modernity, desire is purely self-directed. Subjectivity becomes pure negativity - it is negation that is constitutive of the subject.

    Indeed, the journey of the subject is fueled by this inner void that compels the subject to bring itself into being as it were. To make itself real. To transform itself - the void - into something substantial. Desire is pointed inward - desire itself is circular. Pure non-being becomes the active force. The end of desire or the will isn't the object anymore - but rather desire itself - its own self-affirmation. Obtaining the object desired is not the essential aspect anymore - rather it is the affirmation of the desire itself - which is exactly why desire is always frustrated in obtaining its object because self-affirmation knows no end.

    That's why Schopenhauer decries the tragedy and cruelty of the Will. It is why Hegel states that Spirit develops only through intense suffering, and suffering is essential to its own development. It is why Marx states that capitalism devours itself. It is why we take suffering for granted in the modern world and dispense it without regard, especially to those closest to us. Even the noblest of modern thinkers can only go so far as the complete self-devouring of the Will - its quietus.

    And all this ends in Nietzsche's will-to-power and Spinoza's conatus. Will turned inwards on itself. Desire is no longer conceived in terms of being caused by the external object, as it is for Platonists, where the Agathon pulls a being out of itself into the external world. But rather desire becomes the in-itself, self-sustaining and driving force of everything. It has to - for otherwise self-consciousness, which is desire, can never make itself all by itself. This is but the necessary result of the denial of transcendence (God), and the effect of spiritual pride. Desire is perverted and becomes demonic, and hence spiritual.

    The self is no longer drawn out by the object through desire. Rather the self doesn't exist - it is anatta, a void. A process, not a being, constituted by desire itself. Objects become merely the opportunity for desire to objectify itself, and hence they're seen only as techne, as tools. Being - as Heidegger would say - is forgotten.

    For all these thinkers, love is self-affirmation. Altruism is finding one's SELF in the other.
    This is a lethe of the Platonic eros, where thymos - or will - takes its place entirely. The wolf becomes dressed in the sheep's clothes, but the sheep is absent.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    2.4k
    Indeed, the journey of the subject is fueled by this inner void that compels the subject to bring itself into being as it were. To make itself real. To transform itself - the void - into something substantial. Desire is pointed inward - desire itself is circular. Pure non-being becomes the active force. The end of desire or the will isn't the object anymore - but rather desire itself - its own self-affirmation. Obtaining the object desired is not the essential aspect anymore - rather it is the affirmation of the desire itself - which is exactly why desire is always frustrated in obtaining its object because self-affirmation knows no end.Agustino

    There appears to be something incorrect in this description. If there is an inner void, then it is impossible that desire is pointed inward, because there is nothing there to be desired. Desire is always point toward what is desired. So you have put together two opposing, or contradictory premises, to create a desire which is circular.

    Either the subject has an inner void and desire is necessarily directed outward from this void, perhaps in an attempt to fill the void, or, if desire is directed inward then there must be a perceived object there which is desired. We could say that one or the other is an illusion, either that the void is an illusion, or that the inner thing desired is an illusion, but we cannot suppose the reality of both. Therefore you cannot propose such a circular desire without involving contradiction in your proposition. So your conclusion of frustration and "no end", is just a product of contradictory premises.
  • Agustino
    7.1k
    There appears to be something incorrect in this description. If there is an inner void, then it is impossible that desire is pointed inward, because there is nothing there to be desired. Desire is always point toward what is desired. So you have put together two opposing, or contradictory premises, to create a desire which is circular.

    Either the subject has an inner void and desire is necessarily directed outward from this void, perhaps in an attempt to fill the void, or, if desire is directed inward then there must be a perceived object there which is desired. We could say that one or the other is an illusion, either that the void is an illusion, or that the inner thing desired is an illusion, but we cannot suppose the reality of both. Therefore you cannot propose such a circular desire without involving contradiction in your proposition. So your conclusion of frustration and "no end", is just a product of contradictory premises.
    Metaphysician Undercover
    It's not my conclusion, I was drawing and spelling out a difference that is present in the thinking of modernity as opposed to more Ancient thinking.

    Modernity does conceive subjectivity to be self-affirming desire, which is turned inwards on itself. I have explained how they have arrived at this conception, whether it is right or wrong I haven't much addressed, but I do think, same as you, that it isn't right. My post should have suggested that.
  • Agustino
    7.1k
    If there is an inner void, then it is impossible that desire is pointed inward, because there is nothing there to be desired. Desire is always point toward what is desired. So you have put together two opposing, or contradictory premises, to create a desire which is circular.Metaphysician Undercover
    Now to address your remarks on your own terms. Here's how the argument would go.

    The inner void is constitutive of desire - it is desire. Desire just is the inner void trying to affirm itself - make itself actual - and failing to do so. Desire in this conception is not conceived with reference to any external or internal OBJECT. Rather it is conceived only with reference to itself. That is why, according to Spinoza for example, or Nietzsche, will-to-power or the conatus is the essence of man. This vain striving to no end - striving for its own sake.

    Either the subject has an inner void and desire is necessarily directed outward from this void, perhaps in an attempt to fill the void, or, if desire is directed inward then there must be a perceived object there which is desired. We could say that one or the other is an illusion, either that the void is an illusion, or that the inner thing desired is an illusion, but we cannot suppose the reality of both. Therefore you cannot propose such a circular desire without involving contradiction in your proposition. So your conclusion of frustration and "no end", is just a product of contradictory premises.Metaphysician Undercover
    Here you illustrate that you're using a different conception of desire.
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