• Hrvoje
    16
    Is it usually just a bad style, redundant, instead of concise and precise, or is it usually a sign that a content is also lacking quality?
    I can give you one example (that I think it's an example, you may not agree with me), for which I think it is just a bad style. The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.
    As a naturalist, I reject existence of supernatural processes that may influence natural processes, and as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes. What criteria could we establish to distinguish between them (at least in the context of evolution)? If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

    The other alternative is to talk about "Environmental Selection" process, as it has more sense, as environment is that agent that is acting selectively.
  • fdrake
    1.8k
    Redundancy is bad in formats with word limits. It's generally good to say the same thing in a few different ways while writing pedagogically.
  • karl stone
    430
    You're a naturalist? How so? Do you walk around naked?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    I can give you one example (that I think it's an example, you may not agree with me), for which I think it is just a bad style. The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.Hrvoje

    The problem here, is that nature really does not "select". Selection is a matter of choice, and some sort of will is required to choose. So the phrase "natural selection" creates the illusion that nature has the capacity to choose. This breaks down the classical division between natural and artificial.

    So "Natural Selection" is not redundant at all. It's a phrase purposely chosen to break down that division between natural and artificial, thereby bringing human beings, along with all of the "artificial" things which they create, into the realm of "nature". Whether or not this is a good, and true, representation is a matter of opinion. I think it's false, as represented in my first sentence, nature really does not select, individual living beings make choices, not nature.
  • Ben92
    6
    "as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes" - I think that's a really interesting thought @Hrvoje. I 100% agree with you that from a scientific perspective, everything should be considered natural, but I can't help but feel the word 'natural' vs 'unnatural' still has some kind of meaning.

    Take for instance when Heidegger writes about technology distancing people from nature, or the ordinary language claim that a food contains 'only natural ingredients'. Would you take these statements to mean something else, or to be using the phrase natural incorrectly?
  • StreetlightX
    3.4k
    'Natural' in 'natural selection' isn't redundant though. It serves to distinguish it from, say, sexual selection, which Darwin also wrote about. This doesn't mean sexual selection isn't 'natural' - it just means that 'natural' is being used in a more technical way than you're giving it credit for (i.e. it doesn't just serve as a bulwark against the 'supernatural').
  • SophistiCat
    696
    Even more to the point, Darwin opens the presentation of his new theory in On the Origin of Species with a chapter on selective breeding, which had been well-known in England, and had been studied by Darwin before he wrote his magnum opus (he bred pigeons himself). Darwin does not even get to natural selection until the fourth chapter of the book. The very obvious point of his chosen terminology is to draw an analogy between the purposeful actions of a farmer and the unconscious processes elsewhere in nature. He argues that on an abstract level such seemingly disparate phenomena can be described by the same process: variation and selection. So natural selection here is compared with artificial selection (both Darwin's terms). Is it "anthropocentric"? Well, of course it is - appropriately so!
  • StreetlightX
    3.4k
    D'oh. I always forget about artificial selection... because its artificial lol.
  • Hrvoje
    16

    No I don't, and I thought that is what naturists or nudists do. I think naturalist means something else. :lol:
  • Hrvoje
    16

    OK, do you think that human beings, along with all of the "artificial" things which they create, need "bringing into the realm of nature"? Aren't we already there, always were, and always will be part of nature? Maybe our anthropocentric views are the real problem here, and just an illusion, what criteria justifies them? If we are as natural as the rest of nature, how come the selection that we do is not natural, so that it deserves special attribute, ie "artificial"? Maybe that is the only thing here that is artificial, our notion of artificiality?
  • Hrvoje
    16

    I don't agree that farmer (ie homo sapiens) is the only being capable of purposeful actions, and that elsewhere in nature only unconscious processes can make selection.
  • Hrvoje
    16

    I agree that artificiality may have some kind of meaning. For example, artificial smile, artificial lake, artificial insemination, all things that happen in a not usual, "natural", way. But "usual" is very imprecise word in a scientific context, as well as "natural" in the same context. The only artificial thing that I admit gives any right to human kind to think we are above nature, is artificial intelligence, and more generally, artificial life. If and when both of these things happen, only that can justify our anthropocentrism.
  • Hrvoje
    16
    OK, all other technology (apart from AI) is distancing people a bit from nature, since the invention of fire. So, maybe provoking in controlled way such a process that naturally arises uncontrolled, could be another definition of artificiality. Or producing a device, that only a human can assemble, could be another. But that does not mean that only a human is capable of purposeful selection.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    If we are as natural as the rest of nature, how come the selection that we do is not natural, so that it deserves special attribute, ie "artificial"? Maybe that is the only thing here that is artificial, our notion of artificiality?Hrvoje

    I think there is a division to be made between living things and non-living things. And I don't
    see how a non-living thing could make a choice or a selection. Yet we refer to non-living things as being natural. So "natural selection" doesn't appear to refer to anything reasonable to me because it still requires a division between living natural things, and non-living natural things, the former being capable of selecting.
  • Hrvoje
    16
    OK, so by your definition, natural is something that is performed by non reasonable agents, like non-living things, and we still have to decide what living things qualify as reasonable?
  • SophistiCat
    696
    It is not the function of scientific terminology to cater to your narrow ideological agenda (such as avoiding any hint of setting humans apart from nature).

    Also you should not confuse notation with meaning. No one who reads scientific literature expects to encounter some specialist term or symbol and instantly understand its meaning without any explanation or context. The fact that, when taken out of context, notation can be misunderstood is not a serious concern. Some care is usually taken to make a term appropriately suggestive and not grossly misleading, but in the end this is a matter of personal taste.
  • karl stone
    430
    Even more to the point, Darwin opens the presentation of his new theory in On the Origin of Species with a chapter on selective breeding, which had been well-known in England, and had been studied by Darwin before he wrote his magnum opus (he bred pigeons himself). Darwin does not even get to natural selection until the fourth chapter of the book. The very obvious point of his chosen terminology is to draw an analogy between the purposeful actions of a farmer and the unconscious processes elsewhere in nature. He argues that on an abstract level such seemingly disparate phenomena can be described by the same process: variation and selection. So natural selection here is compared with artificial selection (both Darwin's terms). Is it "anthropocentric"? Well, of course it is - appropriately so!SophistiCat

    Close, but no cigar! You have all the right notes here - they're just not quite in the right order.

    Natural selection is a term that distinguishes selection due to the high mortality rate of animals from hunger, cold, heat, predation and so on, from sexual selection. Both are means by which only a select few are able to pass on their characteristics to subsequent generations - one due to death before breeding, the other from not being chosen as a mate by the opposite sex. So, it's not a redundant term, and it is not employed to distinguish natural from supernatural, nor primarily - to distinguish natural selection from selective breeding by pigeon fanciers, or farmers.
  • Benkei
    1.8k
    I'm certain sexual selection is a mode of natural selection. See Chapter IV of Darwin's book: http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/contentblock?itemID=F373&basepage=1&hitpage=1&viewtype=side#
  • karl stone
    430
    If you think so, post the appropriate passage so everyone can see what you mean.
  • Benkei
    1.8k
    No. You can derive it from the contents description in his book, the first paragraph of Chapter IV and by reading Chapter IV in its entirety. You can find it when you google "sexual selection" as well. I don't need to repeat verbatim what can be easily found by following the link or using Google.
  • sime
    266
    Artificial selection is derivable from natural selection, while natural selection is derivable from artificial selection, yet their distinction is merely practical rather than formal or ontological, because this distinction rests upon the notion of an algorithm which is itself a merely intuitive concept, recalling the reason why the Church Turing thesis isn't provable.
  • karl stone
    430
    No. You can derive it from the contents description in his book, the first paragraph of Chapter IV and by reading Chapter IV in its entirety. You can find it when you google "sexual selection" as well. I don't need to repeat verbatim what can be easily found by following the link or using Google.Benkei

    Then I'll simply thank you for your unsubstantiated opinion.
  • sime
    266
    "Natural Selection" seems analogous to "Lawless Sequence of Numbers" in arithmetic.

    We never see a completed infinite sequence. So "Lawful" only refers to actively using a recipe to generate a sequence or to predict a sequence, say an equation or calculator, whereas "Lawless" refers to merely observing a sequence unfold before us 'without us having an idea or plan'.

    But isn't there always uncertainty when using a recipe? Don't we invariably resort to consulting with a calculator? So unless we are platonists, Lawfulness and Lawless aren't terms that describe unfolding sequences in and of themselves. Rather they are merely informal practical designators for how we are using or generating sequences.
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    Since it seems posters are distinguishing natural from artificial selection, it's worth noting that we, humans, the master craftsman of the aritificial, have become the single greatest selection pressure in nature. Our ways affect almost every lifeform, from the microscopic to the blue whale.
  • Benkei
    1.8k
    :lol: I understand from this you can't read very well or know how to use Google or indeed understand the meaning of the word unsubstantiated. You claim "no cigar" without any reference whatsoever and I give you a a site and chapter to find the correct answer. Unsubstantiated indeed.
  • Benkei
    1.8k
    Since it seems posters are distinguishing natural from artificial selection, it's worth noting that we, humans, the master craftsman of the aritificial, have become the single greatest selection pressure in nature. Our ways affect almost every lifeform, from the microscopic to the blue whale.TheMadFool

    I think the distinction is a bit meaningless anyway. It's not clear what sort of human behaviour is no longer natural but artificial. Or at what point natural behaviour produces an artifact. Monkeys using a branch, tearing of leaves and twigs to make a stick, to reach ants in a tree bark made an artifact out of the branch. Or possibly not. It depends on your definition, which is a bit arbitrary.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    OK, so by your definition, natural is something that is performed by non reasonable agents, like non-living things, and we still have to decide what living things qualify as reasonable?Hrvoje

    No that's not the case at all, because non-reasoning creatures make selections as do reasoning beings. The non-reasoning ones just don't make rational choices. But non-living things don't make choices at all. So where I see the problem is in classing the living together with the non-living as "natural".

    I think that in the case of "natural selection", "selection" is not a good choice of words. That is because there is nothing which makes a choice, nothing which decides the creatures "selected", and this is what is required for "selection", a choice. For example, when you flip a coin there is nothing which chooses the outcome, so whether it lands heads or tails it is not an act of selection. To say that something "selects" whether the coin ends up heads or tails would be a misuse of the word.

    I'm not debating myself, and I'm not debating Darwin.karl stone

    Only a master debater could debate oneself.
  • Christoffer
    371
    I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes.Hrvoje

    How do you define controlled evolution then? It is not supernatural and not programmed by any other, but ourselves. Controlled evolution is going to be a thing moving forward. Both in genetics and in cybernetics, so that would apply "artificial" to the terminology of "selection".
  • unenlightened
    3.1k
    In the good old days, there was a grand triple order - God, Man, Nature. Now folks that want to manage without God have a problem, which has been pointed out here, that Man and Nature, or artificial and natural, collapse as man is part of nature sans god. And such a collapse deprives 'nature' of any meaning, because it deprives it of any negative. If there is nothing that is unnatural, then 'natural' means the same as 'everything'. But this is a purely linguistic phenomenon, and non-philosophers are happily immune from such vandalism of useful words and continue to use 'natural' in contrast to 'man-made', and trust that god has provided an appropriate hell for philosophers.
  • Christoffer
    371


    Are you essentially saying that when getting rid of "God" in the terminology, there is nothing that could be called artificial, since each artificial result is the result of what is essentially natural?

    That a car is essentially natural since it was made by machines, which were made by man, which designed the car, using computer simulations designed and invented by man.

    But can we distinguish things as artificial and natural by the initial state as "active thought"? That a car cannot be evolved as a natural thing in nature and might possibly never be without the active thought of making something like a car? So by thinking, we create something that isn't part of natures automatic causality, but controlled? Like I described "controlled evolution" above.

    In that sense, artificial can be negative to natural in order to have a terminology outside of concepts like God.
  • StreetlightX
    3.4k
    Sexual selection is not a mode of natural selection, but an entirely different mechanism of selective pressure. Not only are they distinct, but they can in fact work against each other to the extent that sexual selection can make a species less robust to natural selective pressures. And even more, this is something Darwin himself recognized in the Descent:

    "In 1871, with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin boldly addressed both the problem of human origins and the evolution of beauty. In this book he proposed a second, independent mechanism of evolution—sexual selection—to account for armaments and ornaments, battle and beauty. If the results of natural selection were determined by the differential survival of heritable variations, then the results of sexual selection were determined by their differential sexual success—that is, by those heritable features that contribute to success at obtaining mates.

    ... in Origin, Darwin saw sexual selection as simply the handmaiden of natural selection, another means of guaranteeing the perpetuation of the most vigorous and best-adapted mates. This view still prevails today. By the time he wrote Descent, however, Darwin had embraced a much broader concept of sexual selection that may have nothing to do with a potential mate’s being more vigorous or better adapted per se, but only with being aesthetically appealing ... Within Darwin’s argument for mate choice in Descent was [the] revolutionary idea: that animals are not merely subject to the extrinsic forces of ecological competition, predation, climate, geography, and so on that create natural selection. Rather, animals can play a distinct and vital role in their own evolution through their sexual and social choices.

    If evolutionary biology is to adopt an authentically Darwinian view, it must recognize, as he did, that natural selection and sexual selection are independent evolutionary mechanisms. In this framework, adaptive mate choice is a process that occurs through the interaction of sexual selection and natural selection." (Richard Prum, The Evolution of Beauty).
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