October 11, 2016 § 10 Comments
September 23, 2016 § 53 Comments
“Given an arbitrary world and arbitrary fitness functions, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness.”
Now we are getting somewhere. If evolutionary theory is true, as opposed to merely sophistry which has evolved as a political defense of metaphysically naturalist hubris, then the humans who evolved to become evolutionary theorists ‘see none of reality’.
Or, alternatively, it might just be time for some folks to check their metaphysical premises.
August 25, 2016 § 48 Comments
Like all dynamic things which persist over long periods of time, evolution has had to adapt to survive.
Darwin: Very gradual change combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Neodarwinian synthesis: Random mutations in the genome combined with natural selection sufficiently explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Falsified by scientific evidence).
Stanley Miller: Lightning strikes catalyzed the production of amino acids into ponds of primordial soup, which organized themselves into the first cells. (Cool story bro).
Haeckel: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (No it doesn’t).
John Scopes: Teaching kids evolution forms them into better and more critical thinkers. (This is far from clear).
Gould: Gradual changes plus selection cannot explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (True). Radical and fast changes – saltation – actually occurred and this occurrence is supported by the fossil record. (Probably true: see e.g. the Cambrian Explosion. However, what is descended from what in the fossil record is not established either by fossil or genetic methods).
Margulis: New cell organelles originate when one life form colonizes another. Example: mitochondria are the vestigial remains of ancient prokaryotes which colonized host cells. (Makes a nice story. Might even be true in some cases).
Dawkins: Material cause and effect alone explain the origins of new cell types, organs, tissues, and species. (Statement of religious/metaphysical faith).
Behe: Mutation and selection are insufficient to explain the origins of irreducibly complex biological structures such as bacterial flagella and the blood cascade. (True). This leads us to conclude that these were the product of ‘design’ understood as something at least analogous to human beings designing artifacts. (Metaphysical/religious claim).
Kenneth R. Miller: Legitimate practice of science requires the adoption of methodological naturalism in order to demarcate scientific knowledge from other knowledge. (False). Methodological naturalism is not incompatible with belief in God. (Keep telling yourself that). Methodological naturalism is rationally coherent. (False). If we are critical of evolution we won’t get invited to cocktail parties with respectable people. (Probably true: ask Michael Behe).
Bioinformatics: Database driven statistical correlations in gene sequences strongly imply similar protein structures (could be), biological functions (also could be), and phylogeny (cool story bro).
Evolutionary psychology: The stories we tell about how certain human behaviors might have supported the successful reproduction of previous generations of human beings explain the psychology of human beings today. (Probably belongs in the literary class ‘historical fiction’).
My comment: One question is whether anything important about evolution has survived other than the label and its associated self-congratulatory attitude.
July 12, 2014 § 5 Comments
February 17, 2014 § 24 Comments
I’ve spoken before about positivism: about how the enlightened modern insists that everything meaningful about a given part of reality can be formally codified into communicable knowledge; and the postmodern, suspecting (correctly) that the modern project of banishing all mystery and codifying all meaningful knowledge in any sufficiently interesting domain is impossible, leaps to the conclusion that he definitely knows that no definite knowledge is possible and people who say such things are tyrants. The one thing moderns and postmoderns agree upon is that if we cannot in principle become omniscient like God, then a pox on reality.
To the modern knowledge is like a sphere, the acquisition and codification of knowledge fills in the empty spaces in the sphere, and the remaining “gaps” in knowledge are closing all the time. Benighted superstitious Christians fill in those “gaps” in knowledge with their “God”, and because those gaps are now filled in with “God” the Christian is inherently against acquiring more knowledge and specifically against Science[tm]. Acquiring more knowledge would, to the positivist, squeeze out any epistemic “room” left for God. Har har har you superstitious Christians, once the sphere of knowledge is complete your God will disappear.
I’ve also discussed before that God is God of both the gaps and the non-gaps, and that in any case this picture of the relationship between knowledge and mystery is incoherent and irrational. I won’t explain why in detail, but if you don’t understand why positivism (and its reflection in the mirror, postmodernism) is crap you should keep on exploring reality until you do.
That is all just preliminary background to the subject of the post.
I recently visited one of the top medical facilities in the world and spoke to some of the smartest doctors on the planet. What I found interesting is that whenever a particular discipline is forced to look at a particular case and say “I don’t know what is going on”, the immediate (and appropriate) response is to refer to other disciplines. That’s great as far as it goes. But what is pertinent here is that medical science as a whole is very, very reluctant to admit when it has run out of explanations. The neurology clinic at this facility sees many patients who present with the physiologic symptoms of seizures, for example. Of these, one doctor estimated that a third do not have epilepsy; that the cause is unknown to neurology. These are classified as “pseudoseizures” and are referred to … drum roll please … psychiatrists/psychologists. He explained that the mind is much more complex than the brain and that, here is the punch line, because we know it isn’t caused by the brain it must be in the mind.
Got that? We don’t know what caused it, so the cause must not be physiological.
Evolution makes the contrary assertion: we don’t know what caused it, but the cause must be physiological.
Watch those “gaps” close between the scylla of evolution and the charybdis of psychology, ladies and gentlemen, and make sure you remember to take your antidepressants!
Is it any wonder that the great last stop on the modern explanatory railway, the telos of modernity-as-religion, is evolutionary psychology?
January 11, 2013 § 19 Comments
In the previous post I suggested that generally speaking we are much more ignorant about reality than we are willing to let on. It is important not to throw up our hands in a postmodern adolescent fit and proclaim that there is no truth; but it is also important to acknowledge the limits of our methods and knowledge.
Take the subject of “Game” as discussed in the manosphere. I have no doubt that “Game” produces the desired results in certain women under certain circumstances, and the “rationalization hamster” is a funny metaphor for when women who actually do behave badly rationalize away their behaviour.
An open question though when it comes to “Game” is, is Game something specific that mainly works on slutty women that a pickup artist wants to use as a sexual toilet, or is it something which gives greater insight into how to relate to women more generally. Some commenters contend that “Game” is mainly just for cads and sluts, while others contend that it is universally useful. My own guess is that both points of view have some validity; but this makes making distinctions between cases all the more important.
Obviously it is critical to take note of any preselection filters inherent in the data used to advance various arguments.
The experiment and conclusions in the linked post depend upon a study or series of studies by one Meredith Chivers. As described, the studies measure sexual arousal in men and women by showing them pornography and other images with various measuring apparatus attached to the subjects’ genitals. What I would like to make note of here is that such a study doesn’t really tell us much about the general population. The population it tells us something about is the population of people who are willing to sit and watch pornography and animal sex, with measuring apparatus attached to their genitals while they watch. This population has been filtered out of the population at large. I would suggest that drawing conclusions about how normal, functional people think and behave from the population caught in this filter is similar to going down to the local psychiatric ward and drawing conclusions from observations there about how normal, functional people think and behave.
In general, when we want to know the properties of water we draw a sample from the clean side of the sewage filter. When we want to know the properties of fecal matter we draw a sample from the dirty side. And when we are trying to draw general conclusions, we have to make sure that our data isn’t full of shit.
January 10, 2013 § 8 Comments
I’m moderately up to date with basic neurobiology. Here’s a hint, we basically know jack shit with regard to how the brain works. Simplistic understandings based upon glucose metabolism, testosterone, oxytocin are just that…….simplistic.
It is part of the modern condition that we hate to admit how little we know, even to ourselves. Actually it seems to be more than that: there appears to be such a deeply rooted need for comfort in knowledge that we find it impossible to concede the depth of our ignorance. So people do what people have always done: create just-so stories consistent with known facts (er, well, mostly consistent) and treat those (wildly underdetermined) just-so stories as if they were established fact.
Folks sometimes wonder why I think evolutionary psychology is just myth-making dressed up in modern scientific language to make it sound credible to the gullible. The reason why is because a great deal (though not all) of what falls under “evolution” and “psychology” is already in itself just myth-making dressed up in modern scientific language.