Rand and Darwin - Conflict or Not?

Doug Bandler's picture
Submitted by Doug Bandler on Fri, 2011-01-14 09:06

A common critique of the Objectivist ethics from evolutionary theorists is that it is in violation of the facts of biological reality. These critics say that Rand based her ethics on an Aristotelian meta-biology and not a Darwinian one. Thus for Aristotle, the teleology of an oak tree, the essence of the tree's existence, is the full grown tree itself. But Aristotle's biology has been replaced by Darwin's, in which an oak tree is an acorn's way of making more acorns.

The criticism is that Rand is wrong in one of her basic statements about life. She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival. But this isn't true. Living organisms have reproductive organs, and the functioning of those organs is not directed to the organism's survival. Most living organisms spend a significant part of their lives living for the sake of something that will happen when they are no longer there to care about it, that something being the survival and reproduction of their descendants.

Thus the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by reproduction, not by survival. It is argued that this fact seriously undermines if not destroys the Objectivist ethics.

What are some opinions on this. I understand that Binswanger weighed in on this subject. Does anyone know what his answer was?


No worries, no worrier.

Frediano's picture

So not only would the knowledge in the books be gone, but the books, qua books, and library, qua library would be gone, too.

No. They exist in your hypoothetical as facts, but in your hypothetical there is no knowledge of those facts because there is nobody around to have knowledge of those facts.

It wouldn't be a problem in the least. For anybody.

Fizzler

gregster's picture

You posit the scenario son. No-one would be around to do the regarding - are you on drugs, or high on god?

Caught even when not pitched...

Frediano's picture

So, when a fact is understood by someone, it is understood by someone as a fact and becomes knowledge of that someone.

A Library of Congress in some future without humans would be filled with facts but there would be no knowledge. It would also be filled with facts no longer in existence, in some cases, just as it is now, when it refers to what was, not what is. It might even contain discussions of 'knowledge' -- but there would be no then current knowledge.

A library of Congress in some future without humans would refer to facts that existed before man, facts that existed only after man, and guesses about the future which may or may not after the passing of man have become facts but were not facts while man was around, even as man had knowledge of (and even made) those possibly even intelligent guesses. Man had knowledge of both the guesses about the future that became true facts, and the guesses about the future that were wrong and were never facts.

And through that entire continuum of facts, some irrefutable laws: "What works, works. What can be, can be."

@ gregster

darren's picture

Thereafter, it would not be able to be regarded as knowledge.

To be regarded as knowledge? To be regarded by whom? A consciousness? After the wipeout?

You can't help committing the Stolen Concept Fallacy even after accusing others of having done so. You're a knucklehead.

@ dazzler

gregster's picture

From some of your recent output;

”Taking gregster's position (knowledge is discovered): that would mean that every time a schoolboy somewhere in the world learns Newton's law of of universal gravitation, that knowledge -- i.e., The Law of Universal Gravitation -- is re-discovered? We realize that the schoolboy is learning it perhaps for the first time; but does it make sense to say, 400 years after Newton already discovered it for us and wrote it down, that each time it is learned it is simultaneously being discovered again?

Been through this Dazzler – all new knowledge is added to the whole, and the schoolboy didn't get there first.

”Once you discover buried treasure, and you decide to share it with the world by drawing a map clearly tracing your footsteps to the site, the pilgrims who venture forth following your map are not "discovering" buried treasure after you've already pointed it out to them. They're just following your map, and they already have an expectation of finding what you've told them would be there."

What a trite example. If one follows a map, he is not discovering, but on a planned expedition.

”Clearly, then, there are different kinds of knowledge, a typology of knowledge, which includes (but is not limited to) knowledge that is discovered, knowledge that is invented or created, knowledge that is learned, knowledge that is remembered, knowledge that is tacit, knowledge that is implicit, etc. It's not all clearly-focused conscious knowledge in the mind of a rational being."

Shake that pedantry, it’s dazzling garbage.

”You even admitted that there is "instictual knowledge." I agree.

Instinctual knowledge is a contradiction in terms. I’m not surprised you agree.

”That rather covers knowledge embraced by the totality of life on this planet with only a possible exception of man (assuming you don't attribute instincts to man, which many do not).
As for the plant not being consciously aware of the activity of photosynthesis -- as if there were no difference between a plant and a machine -- this is simply untrue. Plants don't have a conceptual consciousness but they are aware of their own activities and they are aware of their surroundings.”

Get your dic out and look up “aware.” A plant is not capable of awareness.

”Similarly, by the way, awareness of surroundings is now understood to be a part of certain single-celled organisms, which are no longer viewed by geneticists as simply passively reacting to stray micro-sized "bullets" from outside itself causing it to mutate. It has a built-in genetics "toolbox" that it chooses from -- sometimes correctly, sometimes not -- that allows it to maximize its chances of survival. It doesn't wait around for Natural Selection to choose it for survival; it's proactive in its own survival."

Same again. You need a lot of work, grasshopper. No guarantees from me, and some jobs are not achievable, observe Rosie Purchas for validation of my claim.

@ blake

darren's picture

Your example contradicts itself. You say all humanity is wiped out, but in making the declaration that "They now contain nothing", you are assuming the role of a human consciousness, ie that there is someone present to say "They now contain nothing". To come to this conclusion, you need consciousness.

Ahem. There are only two choices: either the books contain NOTHING or they contain SOMETHING. You're claiming that because there are no consciousnesses around, we cannot say whether or not there would be something or nothing in the books? That's absurd. That would also, therefore, apply to my use of the term "Library of Congress" and "books." Those terms, too, imply a consciousness hiding out somewhere in the hallways, right?

Essentially what you're saying is that in the absence of human consciousness actually existing to be aware of reality, one can say absolutely nothing about reality. Would that be a correct assessment of your position?

If in fact all minds are wiped out as you say, who would the books provide facts for? Knowledge is knowledge of the facts of the reality, and if there is no one to perceive or be conscious of reality, what is knowledge for?

To use your own argument: since I have defined the situation as one in which all minds have been wiped out, then you can't even properly speak of "books" and a "Library of Congress" because that would assume a consciousness sneaking around somewhere able to be aware of these things, right? So not only would the knowledge in the books be gone, but the books, qua books, and library, qua library would be gone, too.

Knowledge is not discovered.

You're going to have to get permission from gregster to say that. He asserts that knowledge IS discovered.

For example, upon discovering the "law of gravity", we are not discovering gravity per se, but rather have discovered an organized method to account and predict for an aspect of reality.

Which is merely one kind of knowledge-discovery. What about the kind where we discover oil, per se? We now have knowledge of where to find oil.

Reality exists independent of consciousness.

"Reality" is the sum total of that which is . . . which includes consciousness. Consciousness is just one more fact of reality. It makes no sense to say "reality exists independent of consciousness" since consciousness is itself part of reality. Perhaps more precise: "Material things exist independent of consciousness."

Next question: How do you know that?

@ gregster

darren's picture

Value differs from knowledge in that other living things too seek what can be termed values.

So "value" is relative to all living things; to life qua life.

"Knowledge" is relative to man only, because of his conceptual faculty?

Callum seems to think that "knowledge" is relative to all living things, not just man, because of "instinctual knowledge" which includes the knowledge that plants tacitly have of how to convert light into food, among other things.

I agree, though I would widen it to include more than just "instinctual knowledge." I would include learned knowledge (which even animals use up to a point); discovered knowledge, habitual knowledge (e.g., the grammar and syntax of one's native language), and probably many more.

Further .. Blake

gregster's picture

Dazzler; "...suppose the unthinkable nuclear holocaust occurs, and all of humanity and all other life is wiped out, and the only thing remaining intact is the Library of Congress with its millions of volumes of books, periodicals, journals, etc.. You are claiming that all those books on physics, philosophy (including Objectivism), chemistry, agriculture, architecture, mathematics, etc. now contain NOTHING. Since there are no men to "relate to", there is no knowledge."

Blake; "Your example contradicts itself. You say all humanity is wiped out, but in making the declaration that "They now contain nothing", you are assuming the role of a human consciousness, ie that there is someone present to say "They now contain nothing".

We could also allow for Dazzler's poor linguistic precision. He may have meant 'they would then contain nothing." And that would be wrong. Nothing would change with regard to the books and the knowledge within, previous to man's wipeout. Thereafter, it would not be able to be regarded as knowledge.

@Callum

darren's picture

Conceptual knowledge (henceforth simply referred to as "knowledge")

I pointed out in earlier posts (without objection from anyone, by the way) that there are many different kinds of knowledge, not just conceptual knowledge. You conflate the part with the whole.

Conceptual knowledge (henceforth simply referred to as "knowledge") has no objective existence independent of man (or any rational being). Facts, however, do. Facts are discovered. Knowledge is created.

You and gregster should get together and work out your alibi since you're both telling different stories. He claims that knowledge is discovered; you claim it is created. Neither position makes much sense if you limit yourselves to conceptual knowledge only. Both are irrelevant to my own position of knowledge objectivity since discoveries outlast their discoverers and creations outlast their creators.

Taking gregster's position (knowledge is discovered): that would mean that every time a schoolboy somewhere in the world learns Newton's law of of universal gravitation, that knowledge -- i.e., The Law of Universal Gravitation -- is re-discovered? We realize that the schoolboy is learning it perhaps for the first time; but does it make sense to say, 400 years after Newton already discovered it for us and wrote it down, that each time it is learned it is simultaneously being discovered again?

Taking your position (knowledge is created): that would mean that every time a schoolboy somewhere in the world learns Newton's law of universal gravitation, that knowledge -- i.e., The Law of Universal Gravitation -- is re-created? We realize that the schoolboy may be learning this law for the first time; but does it make sense to say, 400 years after Newton already created it, that each time it is learned it is simultaneously being created again?

I think the upshot of both positions is absurd. Once the universal law of gravitation was discovered/created, that's it. It's here. The schoolboy doesn't discover/create anything that wasn't already discovered/created, so either it is not knowledge at all -- which I think is also incorrect -- or it's a different kind of knowledge, acquired in a different way, from that of its original discoverer/creator. Once you discover buried treasure, and you decide to share it with the world by drawing a map clearly tracing your footsteps to the site, the pilgrims who venture forth following your map are not "discovering" buried treasure after you've already pointed it out to them. They're just following your map, and they already have an expectation of finding what you've told them would be there.

Clearly, then, there are different kinds of knowledge, a typology of knowledge, which includes (but is not limited to) knowledge that is discovered, knowledge that is invented or created, knowledge that is learned, knowledge that is remembered, knowledge that is tacit, knowledge that is implicit, etc. It's not all clearly-focused conscious knowledge in the mind of a rational being.

You even admitted that there is "instictual knowledge." I agree. That rather covers knowledge embraced by the totality of life on this planet with only a possible exception of man (assuming you don't attribute instincts to man, which many do not).

As for the plant not being consciously aware of the activity of photosynthesis -- as if there were no difference between a plant and a machine -- this is simply untrue. Plants don't have a conceptual consciousness but they are aware of their own activities and they are aware of their surroundings. Similarly, by the way, awareness of surroundings is now understood to be a part of certain single-celled organisms, which are no longer viewed by geneticists as simply passively reacting to stray micro-sized "bullets" from outside itself causing it to mutate. It has a built-in genetics "toolbox" that it chooses from -- sometimes correctly, sometimes not -- that allows it to maximize its chances of survival. It doesn't wait around for Natural Selection to choose it for survival; it's proactive in its own survival.

Summing up: the major problem in your position is that you conflate the wider concept "knowledge" with the narrower concept "conceptual knowledge."

Regarding the books in the Library of Congress:

They contain facts, which are independent of man's mind. Facts don't have to be knowledge. E=MC^2 was a fact in Ancient Greece, yet Aristotle (and the rest of the human population) didn't know it.

You just said that knowledge is created. Most of us would have thought that the law demonstrating the equivalence of matter and energy was something created by Einstein, and that this knowledge was expressed in the form E=mc^2. Now you're telling us that this equation isn't knowledge at all but a mere fact -- something requiring no creation at all to bring it into existence and which existed for all time and eternity. Which is it? Is E=mc^2 a fact, existing independently of mind, including Einstein's mind? Or is it knowledge, requiring mind, probably Einstein's mind, to create it or to discover it?

Are you saying that E=mc^2 is both fact and knowledge?

In other words, are you claiming that Einstein created something in the 20th century ("knowledge") that was identical in every way to something that already existed since the beginning of time ("fact")?

As I say, it makes no sense.

Additionally, your dictionary is not quite in agreement with you regarding the definition of the word "fact." It doesn't say that it exists independently of mind, but, on the contrary, suggests that it, too, requires a knower; viz.:

1. something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.

2. something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.

3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.

Finally, you claim that the LoC books contain information of what was known when there were minds around to be the knowers, but that they nonetheless contain facts.

Are you equating "information" with "facts"?

We can have false information about something; can we have a "false fact" Aren't facts always facts OF reality? If so, how can there be a "false fact"? If this is so, then "information" and "facts" are not the same thing.

And

gregster's picture

"So knowledge (like value) is relative to man only?"

Dazzler injected this falsity into the conversation. Value differs from knowledge in that other living things too seek what can be termed values.

You've spoiled my fun Callum. Smiling

"So knowledge (like value) is

Callum McPetrie's picture

"So knowledge (like value) is relative to man only? Knowledge has no objective existence of its own independent of man?"

Conceptual knowledge (henceforth simply referred to as "knowledge") has no objective existence independent of man (or any rational being). Facts, however, do. Facts are discovered. Knowledge is created. Facts exist independently of man's mind, knowledge is relative to man. This does not, however, mean that knowledge is arbitrary. The fact that knowledge is objective doesn't mean that it has an existence independent of man.

"Hello? I see no mention here of "a rational being", and the closest this dictionary comes to using the word "discovers" is "investigation" (not the same thing)."

This was interesting. Let's go over those definitions that were listed:

1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition: knowledge of many things.

"Acquaintance with facts, truths or principles" requires someone to be acquainted with them.

2. familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning: A knowledge of accounting was necessary for the job.

"Familiarity or conversance" requires someone to be familiar or conversant with their subject or branch of learning.

3. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: a knowledge of human nature.

"Acquaintance" and "familiarity" again.

4. the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.

"Knowing" - who's doing the knowing? Who's doing the perceiving, or the mental apprehending? Note that the words "knowing", "perceiving" and "apprehending" are verbs, which require a subject in a sentence.

5. awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: He had knowledge of her good fortune.

"Awareness" - who's aware?

6. something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities.

"Knowing" again.

7. the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time.

Truths or facts accumulated - by who?

8. the sum of what is known: Knowledge of the true situation is limited.

"Knowing" again.

All these definitions require a subject - someone to know, perceive, be aware of, be acquainted with, familiar with, or accumulate facts. And these require a being who is capable of performing these activities - a rational being. The only case when this is not true is when the knowledge is instinctive - ie, a plant knows how to photosynthesize. But it is not consciously aware of this activity, and therefore would not constitute conceptual knowledge - knowledge of the facts as they exist independent of the mind of a rational being, as per the above definitions.

Now for the Library of Congress scenario:

"You are claiming that all those books on physics, philosophy (including Objectivism), chemistry, agriculture, architecture, mathematics, etc. now contain NOTHING."

They contain facts, which are independent of man's mind. Facts don't have to be knowledge. E=MC^2 was a fact in Ancient Greece, yet Aristotle (and the rest of the human population) didn't know it.

"You might reply, "Those books contain information, stored in a code called 'language'"; and I will reply "information about what?" And the only answer is: information about different kinds of knowledge."

It would contain information about what was known; it would only become knowledge again once a rational being comprehended its meaning. What doesn't change is that the books contain facts.

To return to your original

gregster's picture

To return to your original context;

Biological evolution creates knowledge. It is a very inefficient process since countless creatures must die for even the tiniest sliver of knowledge to be created. The knowledge created is not explanatory knowledge - that type of knowledge is the exclusive preserve of human beings - yet knowledge it is. If it is not knowledge, then what do you think is passed on when an animal reproduces? The genes of an animal contain the specification for building the animal. That specification is like a computer program and contains knowledge just like a computer program contains knowledge.

[..]
But that special kind of information does not have to be encoded as base-pair combinations in genes. It is one of the tenets of information theory that the substrate doesn't matter. So that special kind of information in principle can be encoded as bit-strings inside a computer. Calling it "genes" is therefore parochial.

You may use any adjective, parochial will do. But genes was the context. And my point was that information held in cells was never knowledge until humans first discovered the fact. If not genes, then "information" or similar. No biggie.

darren

Blake's picture

"...suppose the unthinkable nuclear holocaust occurs, and all of humanity and all other life is wiped out, and the only thing remaining intact is the Library of Congress with its millions of volumes of books, periodicals, journals, etc.. You are claiming that all those books on physics, philosophy (including Objectivism), chemistry, agriculture, architecture, mathematics, etc. now contain NOTHING. Since there are no men to "relate to", there is no knowledge."

Your example contradicts itself. You say all humanity is wiped out, but in making the declaration that "They now contain nothing", you are assuming the role of a human consciousness, ie that there is someone present to say "They now contain nothing". To come to this conclusion, you need consciousness. If in fact all minds are wiped out as you say, who would the books provide facts for? Knowledge is knowledge of the facts of the reality, and if there is no one to perceive or be conscious of reality, what is knowledge for?

Knowledge is not discovered. For example, upon discovering the "law of gravity", we are not discovering gravity per se, but rather have discovered an organized method to account and predict for an aspect of reality. Reality exists independent of consciousness. It is the interpretation of the facts of reality via consciousness. Without consciousness, there is no knowledge.

"Genes" is parochial

BrianScurfield's picture

Gregster, genes code "for the special kind of information which gives instructions that correspond to reality in a truth-like way". But that special kind of information does not have to be encoded as base-pair combinations in genes. It is one of the tenets of information theory that the substrate doesn't matter. So that special kind of information in principle can be encoded as bit-strings inside a computer. Calling it "genes" is therefore parochial. Do you have a better term, one that accounts for the fact that that information is substrate independent?

@ gregster

darren's picture

Knowledge. Note that even the common dictionary meanings infer that to be "knowledge," there must be a knower.

The common dictionary meanings infer that there must be a "knower"? Or do they imply that there must be a knower?

You might want to spend a bit more time with that dictionary, son.

Only after a rational being discovers certain facts, . . .

Whoa!!!! You linked to an online dictionary whose several definitions for "knowledge" were the following:

1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition: knowledge of many things.

2. familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning: A knowledge of accounting was necessary for the job.

3. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: a knowledge of human nature.

4. the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.

5. awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: He had knowledge of her good fortune.

6. something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities.

7. the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time.

8. the sum of what is known: Knowledge of the true situation is limited.

Hello? I see no mention here of "a rational being", and the closest this dictionary comes to using the word "discovers" is "investigation" (not the same thing).

As with the term "value," it needs a "valuer." Without a living creature, obtaining a value from an entity - it holds no intrinsic value. No thing in the universe has value until a living organism requires it for survival. So it is relative, just as knowledge relates to man only.

So knowledge (like value) is relative to man only? Knowledge has no objective existence of its own independent of man?

First of all, if that were true, then we'd never be able to discover knowledge. "Discovery" implies that something was existing independently of your existence and your consciousness, and then -- through luck or investigation -- came to your attention. You didn't create, imagine, or invent the discovery, right? You were brought into a relation with the discovered object, but obviously for that to have happened at all, the discovered object must have had an existence independent of you.

Since that which is discovered is objective, then so is knowledge.

Second of all, suppose the unthinkable nuclear holocaust occurs, and all of humanity and all other life is wiped out, and the only thing remaining intact is the Library of Congress with its millions of volumes of books, periodicals, journals, etc.. You are claiming that all those books on physics, philosophy (including Objectivism), chemistry, agriculture, architecture, mathematics, etc. now contain NOTHING. Since there are no men to "relate to", there is no knowledge.

You might reply, "Those books contain information, stored in a code called 'language'"; and I will reply "information about what?" And the only answer is: information about different kinds of knowledge.

Then you quoted me:

To which Darren wrote;

"It was knowledge; it was stored in the cell as information by means of code; the code can be cracked (and to some extent, has been cracked) by humans, and then translated back into explicit, conscious knowledge . . . the important point being that this information need not be so translated by human minds, but can perfectly well perform its task as latent, or implicit knowledge"

And rejoined:

And the task is performed automatically.

Not sure if your rejoinder is meant as an actual response, but if so, then it's entirely irrelevant if the process of knowledge-use occurs "automatically" or by an act of conscious choice. You might choose to speak or not in some social context, but if you so choose, then the words come out with NO conscious effort on your part at all, yet you are obviously drawing on a well of knowledge of your native language stored somewhere in your mind. The same is true of walking, playing the piano (by a concert pianist, for example), riding a bicycle, etc.

Darren then asks us to consider;

”According to some on this board, we can't even infer the existence of a long-forgotten civilization from the current existence of the book. We must first prove that such a civilization existed, and then show how such a book must have come to be written.”

I don’t know from where Darren gleaned this. Looks to me a straw man.

The relevant quote is:

You see, for God to have designed everything, he must first be shown to have existed in the first place. You haven't offered any proof of that.
http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Quoted from Robert Winefield.

That quote is the same as saying "You see, for a long-forgotten civilization to have written a recently discovered book found during an archeological dig, such civilization must first be shown to have existed in the first place."

Clearly, the book written in the exotically strange language is itself the evidence pointing to the prior existence of the civilization. The book is the evidence from which we infer the prior existence of the civilization whose authors wrote it.

Then you quote me again regarding the book/civilization example:

”Since the procedure, however, forbids us from reasoning backward and making inferences at all, obviously NO currently existing fact could ever be taken as even prima facie evidence for the existence of said civilization.

True enough, because any other sort of evidence for the long-lost civilization -- pottery shards, for example -- would, of course, be subject to the same prohibition: before we could claim they pointed to the existence of a long-lost civilization whose potters created them, we'd first have to prove that the civilization existed. Ad infinitum.

However, you then soil yourself (cognitively speaking) by writing this:

But contradicts himself by;

”What's especially ironic about this is that the same thing is done all the time in Darwinian evolution -- in fact, the process of starting with a currently existing fact (a fossil, let's say) and reasoning backward to an inferred (though unseen and experimentally unverifiable) cause -- like "randomly-caused mutation chosen by Natural Selection" is THE modus operandi of evolutionists.”

So, on the one hand he posits (only) the accusation that ‘some here’ need “some sort of evidence by which to infer [the long lost civilisation’s] existence,” while then saying “the same thing is done all the time in Darwinian evolution.” That strikes me as an argument against oneself, and to give credit I won’t equate it with circle jerking.

Well, that's very kind of you, and very cleverly said, too. You're a man of almost inexhaustible wit (how your friends must envy you). However, my position was clear: inferring backward to prior causes (i.e., mysterious beneficial mutations + repetitions over many generations + natural selection) from a present fact requiring explanation (i.e., fossilized remains of some organism) is precisely S.O.P. of Darwinism. So if an Objectivist rejects this procedure in the case of a book and a prior civilization, then, for the sake of consistency, he had better reject it in the case of a fossil and a group of prior mutations.

Continuing to break your own arms while trying to pat yourself on the back with well-deserved congratulations, you thus continue:

And it gets worse from Dazzler;

”[evolutionists] implicitly accept the idea that matter must have preceded mind”

Too right [evolutionists] do – how else could it be?

Ah! Some momentary metal-fatigue of your famous steel-trap mind? There are obviously two other possibilities:

1. Mind preceded matter (making matter an emergent property of mind); or

2. Mind and matter complement each other and are the two sides of existence. Assuming the Big Bang, they arose together.

That answers the "how else could it be" question.

But wait! We thought your Cognitive Concerto had ended . . . but you grace us with a brilliantly improvised cadenza:

Now this is another clanger from Dazzler;

”Your assertion that knowledge requires discovery would mean that immediately after someone discovered some new bit of knowledge, it would no longer be knowledge when he recalled it in order to make use of it (since it had already been discovered).”

All discovered knowledge is added to the whole.

The "whole"? The whole what? Ah, yes: The whole of our existing body of knowledge. Knowledge remains knowledge even after it has been discovered. Making use of it -- whether by deliberate volition or "automatically" -- doesn't change the fact that it is what it is: knowledge.

We can skip the rest of your post regarding Brian.

In sum, I have to say, gregster, that your responses don't even rise to the high level of a total fuckwit, but only to the mid-level of a complete fuck-halfwit -- which, in the curious arithmetic used to calculate mental deterioration, is not the same as half a fuckwit but is, rather, twice a fuckwit.

Look up "fractions" in a common dictionary for further information.

Genes

gregster's picture

genes.

What term do you propose?

BrianScurfield's picture

Gregster wrote:

My point here was purely that genes are information which give instructions, they are not knowledge to the non-rational entity.

If you don't want to call "information which gives instructions" knowledge what do you want to call it? Calling it just "information" is misleading. It is a special kind of information which gives instructions that correspond to reality in a truth-like way. What term do you propose for that special kind of information?

Gregster

Frediano's picture

Without a living creature, obtaining a value from an entity - it holds no intrinsic value. No thing in the universe has value until a living organism requires it for survival. So it is relative, just as knowledge relates to man only.

True enough, and living things seek that which is required for survival, but man values much more than just that. The ability to choose what we value, above and beyond survival, is what distinguishes us. Our highest order neural nets -- wet bits that weight the stimuli of lower order neural nets, where through volition, we can choose the weightings -- are self re-programmable. Man can do that...even as men do not always. In fact, men can, through this same volition, choose to value totally self-destructive things. Happens every day.

In the end, what works, works.

But for sure, 'value' and 'knowledge' are recently introduced local concepts amid all the cold process unfurling in the universe. They are attributes of the local mankind club, the one with the fresh paint.

The more I think about the concept value, the more I see it mapping directly to a weigthing in a neural network. What makes man's brain unique is, our ability to self-tweak our weigthtings. At the highest level of brain functioning, our very top level neural networks, we choose what to value. We jack our highest level neural network weightings.

Just found this

Blake's picture

If anyone is interested in hearing Peikoff's take on this issue, you can listen to the first question from his #27 podcast from 2008.

http://www.peikoff.com/2008/08...

Blake

Frediano's picture

A more interesting question is, where does the desire to run skins not our own come from? Where does the urge -- by individuals -- to assert universal answers, and pose the question as 'why are we here?' come from?

I suspect, from irrational existential terror. The ethics of survival in a lifeboat, or stranded in the Andes mountains, where clawing over the bodies of others, if it means one more day of existence, is readily embraced.

Note how many times in Mein Kampf that Hitler referred back to the hunger he experienced as a child. He was driven by existential terror, and is the poster child for 'desire to run skins not our own.'

Blake:

Frediano's picture

There is no inherent purpose in the Universe or existence, it just is. Humans need philosophy to guide them;

That is exactly my point, that there is no single answer, such that it is reasonable to ever pose those philosophical/religious questions in the form 'why are we here?' and only in the form 'Why am I here?' There is objectively no single OneSizeFitsAll answer- 'no inherent purpose' -- that is impressible on all.

Individual humans answer that question by living their lives in this existence -- even if they never consciously ponder or ask themselves the question. When they do, they are introspectively engaged in philosophy/religion, but that introspection is not a pre-requisite to answer those questions. Their lives, plural, are the de facto answers to those questions. However, by not consciously pondering those fundamental questions, we risk blowing in the wind and becoming easy fodder for the aggressive politics of others, anxious to run skins not their own. When that happens, others attempt to answer those questions for others; that is the core foundation of violence. That is violence. Violence, as in, violation of the individual by others.

That is to say by "Why" you are implying an inherent purpose. If that's the case, you are assuming your premise; that we have an inherent purpose. Of course from that, one must unavoidably conclude the existence of an intelligent creator.

I disagree. The above is true only if I am assuming an externally impressed purpose for being here, not a self chosen purpose for being here. The only similarity in those two alternatives objectively sharable by 'we' is the acknowledgment that 'we' are here. Let me rephrase the question: 'Now that I am aware that I am here, why am I here? What purpose do I choose for my life?" Does that more clearly depict the sense that I mean by those fundamental questions? And, as well, how abhorrent the 'Why are we here?' form of those questions truly are?

And yet, to realize a self-chosen purpose for being here -- why am I here? -- it isn't even necessary(only, I would argue, desirable)to ponder the question. In the end, by definition, our lives are the answer. Only in that case, the answer is chosen randomly, without conscious choice. So, I agree with Rand in the sense that the active pondering of those questions is an 'essential' need of man, in the sense that without that active pondering, the likelihood of answering those questions well is minimal and left to chance, but not in the sense that it is essential to be alive.

I'll use Random House's definition of creation: "1. the act of producing or causing to exist." An "act" is an event, but an act implies volition.

It is an entirely acceptable parochial definition of 'creation.' By parochial I mean, it has cropped up very late and locally in the cold process that has emitted us, as we are, in the universe as it is.

It is also a kind of celebratory definition. That is some exclusive club we find ourselves in, but objectively, the paint isn't even dry on the club.

When I examine that which 'emitted' us, all I find is more evidence of cold process, and I am fine with that. I am still here, as I am, where I am. Nothing has changed, except my awareness of where I am.

And, the more I examine the functioning mind, the more evidence I see of cold process, and I am equally fine with that, as well. I am still here as I am, where I am. Nothing has changed except my awareness of who I am. Wrapped around our low level brain stem is our reptilian circuitry ("Can I eat it? Can it eat me?") and layered on top of that is ever more complex wet bits based neural nets, and at the top most level, the most amazing bit of cold process: neural nets that are self-programmable, which can through volition alter the weighting of the higher order value seeking neural nets. At the top of our cold process wet bits is the ability to choose what we value. We have sensory apparatus and can sense 'what is.' We have memory, and can playback past experiential sequences of stimuli of 'what was.' But we can jack with the playback. In remembering we are not limited to hi-fidelity playback of 'what was.' We can 'what if?' past experience. As well, we can imagine, and in our imagining, we are not limited to 'what can be,' but as well, we are not limited to 'what is', even as 'what can be' is limited to 'what can be.' And, through that process, we create new things in this universe, as it is, but limited only by what can be, not what is.

Does part of my neural network wiring value survival, continuation of my experiential existence for the longest possible time? No doubt. And yet objectively, even that value can be self-deweighted, via will. Happens every day. And yet, with such a strong 'will to survive and even prevail' generally driving our higher order neural net value seeking wet bits, would that drive lead some to imagine a persistent 'soul' that will survive beyond the physical 'can be' limitations of our cold process and its merely borrowed star dust? No doubt. And even other special attributes, if we believed those attributes to be supportive of our specialness, our immortality, our insulation from this universe's apparent cold march to a dim 3 deg K future.

And all of that can still be ultimately just cold process, with man as a continuum, and not change anything. If it gives any other instance of life comfort to arbitrarily(in the sense of using constructs that appear long after our factual emission into the universe, as it is) regard us as either cold process or other than cold process, then whatever get's one through the dark is fine with me. But, all of that regarding - all of that exclusive club membership rule making , the admissions process to a new club with paint freshly drying on the club walls as the universe grinds out its cold process, is a side show of semantics.

I regard man as unique even if he is soul-less, even if we are ultimately just cold process. I'm happy to be. Here. Now. Exactly as we are and can be, where we are and can be. I don't demand other universe magic in the face of a miracle in plain sight here and now.

Is the governing law of the cold process that emitted us really that much different than the cold process that mankind continues? As in, 'what works, works.'

Man can imagine and synthisize and create new knowldege. Sure enough. But, do men always? Man can also imagine complete gibberish. In the end, 'what works, works.' Just as it did in what emitted us...

Knowledge me.

gregster's picture

Knowledge. Note that even the common dictionary meanings infer that to be "knowledge," there must be a knower. Only after a rational being discovers certain facts, and forms from these concepts, and builds upon those concepts. As with the term "value," it needs a "valuer." Without a living creature, obtaining a value from an entity - it holds no intrinsic value. No thing in the universe has value until a living organism requires it for survival. So it is relative, just as knowledge relates to man only.

Now Brian said;

"Suppose you have just stumbled on a book written by some long forgotten civilisation. By your criterion, the symbols in the book do not contain knowledge."

in answer to my;

"It is not knowledge. It is information that can be cracked by humans. Knowledge becomes such when discovered by someone. It is not knowledge beforehand."

This is incorrect because to discover any sort of book is to discover evidence of an intelligence – that of man. My point here was purely that genes are information which give instructions, they are not knowledge to the non-rational entity.

To which Darren wrote;

"It was knowledge; it was stored in the cell as information by means of code; the code can be cracked (and to some extent, has been cracked) by humans, and then translated back into explicit, conscious knowledge . . . the important point being that this information need not be so translated by human minds, but can perfectly well perform its task as latent, or implicit knowledge"

And the task is performed automatically.

Darren then asks us to consider;

”According to some on this board, we can't even infer the existence of a long-forgotten civilization from the current existence of the book. We must first prove that such a civilization existed, and then show how such a book must have come to be written.”

I don’t know from where Darren gleaned this. Looks to me a straw man.

But he continues;

”Since the procedure, however, forbids us from reasoning backward and making inferences at all, obviously NO currently existing fact could ever be taken as even prima facie evidence for the existence of said civilization.

But contradicts himself by;

”What's especially ironic about this is that the same thing is done all the time in Darwinian evolution -- in fact, the process of starting with a currently existing fact (a fossil, let's say) and reasoning backward to an inferred (though unseen and experimentally unverifiable) cause -- like "randomly-caused mutation chosen by Natural Selection" is THE modus operandi of evolutionists.”

So, on the one hand he posits (only) the accusation that ‘some here’ need “some sort of evidence by which to infer [the long lost civilisation’s] existence,” while then saying “the same thing is done all the time in Darwinian evolution.” That strikes me as an argument against oneself, and to give credit I won’t equate it with circle jerking.
And it gets worse from Dazzler;

”[evolutionists] implicitly accept the idea that matter must have preceded mind”

Too right [evolutionists] do – how else could it be?

Now this is another clanger from Dazzler;

”Your assertion that knowledge requires discovery would mean that immediately after someone discovered some new bit of knowledge, it would no longer be knowledge when he recalled it in order to make use of it (since it had already been discovered).”

All discovered knowledge is added to the whole.

Then back to Brian – (my apology for lumping you in with Dazzler);

”knowledge is not just discovered, it must be created, brought into being.”

No, it was there without anything realizing it was knowledge, until a man did. Re-check even the dictionary definition. We don’t need to be philosophers for some of this stuff.

”and that knowledge is represented in its genes and was put there by the process of evolution”

[..]

”So something did create the knowledge: evolution.”

Well Brian “evolution” does not exist as an entity. It cannot create anything.

@gregster

BrianScurfield's picture

Brian's example is poor and Darren contradicts himself. It is not knowledge I repeat. Knowledge requires discovery. It is not knowledge stored in a primordial amoeba- but you two say it is.

First, knowledge is not just discovered, it must be created, brought into being. We don't just find the equations of relativity lying around under a bush. That's why I talk about "knowledge creation". And whenever knowledge is passed on it must be created afresh. When you explain something to me I must try to interpret and understand what you are saying and so I recreate the knowledge in my own head.

OK, now let's be clear: The amoeba does not create knowledge; it has no ability to learn whatsoever. But the amoeba does contain knowledge and that knowledge is represented in its genes and was put there by the process of evolution. Although evolution is purposeless, slow, and very inefficient it does nevertheless create knowledge and it does so via trial and error.

So something did create the knowledge: evolution.

As I said before, it is not explanatory knowledge - nor can it be as evolution cannot understand anything - but it is knowledge. You seem to prefer the term information, but information represents knowledge.

There are two things we know of that can create knowledge: the process of biological evolution and human beings. Only human beings can create explanatory knowledge and only human beings can create knowledge volitionally.

"We can, jarringly, after the

Blake's picture

"We can, jarringly, after the fact, attempt to define traffic rules for creation('must be by an intelligent sentient being and two draft picks to be named later"), and create no end of literary tales pondering magical myths of creation, but that is a curious act of revisionism by the ... already merely created."

I'll use Random House's definition of creation: "1. the act of producing or causing to exist." An "act" is an event, but an act implies volition.

I'm not trying to make up my own rules. From what I know, the Universe is what it is; perhaps eternally expanding and collapsing.

Intelligence:
1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.

^Our capacity relies on reason, which is what any claims of creationism attempt to bypass.

I am not calling that "cold process" unintelligent, nor intelligent. I am not so much "insisting this is so", rather I have no reason or cause to believe otherwise. There is no inherent purpose in the Universe or existence, it just is. Humans need philosophy to guide them; it's an essential need. Also, Rand called Objectivism something like "A Philosophy for Man's life on Earth", not "THE Philosophy for Man's life on Earth". She based her ethics on man's nature, which we can both agree should be based on individual rights; (what I understand you refer to as "one skin/one driver.")

As I said, "WHY are we here?" is arbitrary. That is to say by "Why" you are implying an inherent purpose. If that's the case, you are assuming your premise; that we have an inherent purpose. Of course from that, one must unavoidably conclude the existence of an intelligent creator.

Blake

Frediano's picture

Creation is an act of a conscious being, and implies volition. The universe did not "create" us, and until and unless a discernible voice comes echoing down through the cosmos, that sort of speculation is arbitrary.

... or, as I said,

We can, jarringly, after the fact, attempt to define traffic rules for creation('must be by an intelligent sentient being and two draft picks to be named later"), and create no end of literary tales pondering magical myths of creation, but that is a curious act of revisionism by the ... already merely created.

We can -- only after the fact of our arrival here from a state of non-being -- define arbitrary rules for 'creation' -- just as you(and others like you and me)have. We can even -- after the fact -- define arbitrary rules for 'intelligence.' And having stated those rules, we can say, 'the process by which we got here is not 'creation', it is not intelligence, it is something else -- cold process -- that resulted in our factual state of being from a factual state of non-being.

I'm fine with that. So, technically, I am a cold process guy, not a warm , classical creationist. Yes, when 'creation' is defined with those must have attributes, then none of us was demonstrably 'created.'

But we were then ... emitted, by cold process. Does that comport with the parochial (by which I mean, we objectively came along very late and very locally in the unfurling cold process to define 'creation' and 'intelligence,') definition of 'creation?'

Then, let's tally up the scoreboard, shall we? For billions of years in this universe, there was only cold process. Creation and intelligence was emitted sporadically and sparsely and locally, as evidenced in our processes and our borrowed bits of dead stardust , heavy elements forged in the furnaces of stars long dead(in a universe that is still 90% simple Hydrogen) after about 4 billion or so years of cooling from a local 'hot' singularity, when, objectively, all of the known matter and energy in the universe occupied an expanse of space no larger than a pinhead. This could have been a singular event (as in, the collision of 'M' branes in some muiltiverse), or it could have been a cyclical event, but on this side of that event, it was our local 'big bang' singularity from which we measure time in our current expanding universe.

Let's imagine the sum of all of mankinds intelligent creative efforts, including those yet to come. Impressive. Awe inspiring. And, all of it the direct consequence of what we want to refer to as 'cold process,' which has 'emitted' not just us, but much more. That which has brought mankind from a state of non-being into a state of being.

We can certainly call that 'cold process' unintelligent. We can call it 'non-creative.' But, we can do all of that only after that 'cold process' emitted us, and by definition, all we intelligently create... long after the fact. We can, from our parochial context, insist that there is no intelligence in that cold process, and equally, we can insist that there is no cold process inside of mankind. We can insist that the universe is a cold process, a machine that emits creative intelligence, and we can also claim that we are more than cold process ourselves, even as there is ample evidence of the machine inside of man and his self reprogrammable wet bit neural networks, where we can dynamically change the wieghting of our high level neural networks, layered on top of all that reptilian and other simple wiring. And, we can do all of that, and not change this universe from what it is, with we in it, as we are, even as what is is limited by what can be, even as what we can imagine is not.

It bothers me not even a little to regard that as 'cold process' or to call it a (non-classical) 'creative' process -- the objective outcome is the same, not one damned atom moves differently.

But no, I don't mean 'Why am I here?" as in, what was the cause of my appearing here, but rather, what is the purpose of my life here, and what should I be doing now as a consequence of that purpose? The fundamental political conflict is, who should define that 'purpose?' Ourselves, or others on our behalf?

The causative effect (the 'how did I arrive here?) is the trivial, mundane question, and in fact, the question that can be readily scientifically shared at some level without consequences in general, though not in the specific. (At the last stage of our arrival here, we all have 'parents', even as we don't all have the same parents.)

'Why' is not 'how.' How is, I agree, an objective scientific question, and is readily objectively discoverable. The entire point is that the answer to 'why' is not, nor should be (an ethical assertion, based on an ethical axiom-- 'one skin, one driver') impressed on others by others(except by free association, a willingess to accept that impression by others.)

The ethical nature of 'one skin, one driver' is immediately apparent when it is conjugated with its non-chaotic alternatives.

'one skin, multiple/other drivers'

'multiple skins, one driver'

'one skin, one driver' is not 'my skin uber alles' and is not 'most skins uber alles.' It works, for me, as an axiom, like an NBS standard against which to measure state actions, my stance on public issues, and more importantly, my stance on whether an issue is properly a public issue at all. As in...

Murder? Rape? Theft? Extortion? Slavery? Forced association? My personal axiom 'one skin, one driver' weighs those very quickly, and readily justifies state action on those issues, and as well, begins to make it difficult to extend the 'matter of public interest' list much beyond that.

An example of 'forced association' would be, a firm polluting the common water supply with toxic waste. Freedom is not the freedom to sprint across the public square without regard to the objective existence of others. Freedom is the freedom to navigate, mindful of the existence of others. Failure to do that is 'forced association', and justification for state intervention, because ultimately it violates 'one skin, one driver.'

In order to extend the list much beyond examples like that, others must resort to the brute force of numbers -- what the majority wants. On those issues, I see no ethical basis in 'brute force of numbers', and so, those issues carry no ethical persuasion to support them. As well, I can find no basis to ethically condemn those who would resist the murky actions of an ethically unconstrained state using any means at their disposal, including undisclosed Cayman Corps, the buying of corruptible legislators, and generally, the creation of the economies-for-some that our out of all control unconstrained tribal mess has resulted in.

regards,
Fred

Take-Down of an O'ist

Richard Goode's picture

In a nearby possible world, Darren's most recent comment on this thread is copied and pasted as a post in its own right, and dignified with the title, Take-Down of an O'ist.

Welcome to SOLO, Darren. Your comments are a joy to read.

Lindsay

Doug Bandler's picture

Whatever rudiments of manness may exist in animals, and whatever "lower" animality may remain in man (more than Rand thought, perhaps) the qualitative difference—the difference in kind—between them is real, huge and decisive. Man is not just the rational animal; he is the rational animal, the only species whose knowledge is held conceptually, the only species for whom morality is possible and necessary, the only species who must choose and has the capacity to do so. That we do know. Seems like a pretty solid foundation for a philosophy to me.

Well said. It is that qualitative difference between man and every other species which is at the heart of Objectivism. I feel it is that qualitative difference which is under attack by today's materialists.

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Regarding Rand's definition of reason, once again I am seeing that Rand's formulations will need to be updated. I think she got the basics right. Humans are the only species we have encountered to be able to do what she defines as conceptual thought and that fact is at the center of the entire Objectivist philosophy. It is the basis of rational egoism and by extension of laissez-faire. It is important to never forget that and Lindsay's response to you a few entries below yours makes the point brilliantly.

which I'd consider reasoning, though not on a human level.

This is precisely what Rand dealt with, the human level. But, I do think you are right though that reason can be defined in an non-binary way as Rand seemingly defined it; ie you either reason conceptually or you don't. It does seem that reason exists on a continuum (as does pretty much everything else). This continuum would explain the rudimentary cognitive skills of animals and possibly the cognitive capacities of earlier humans (the point you make about the evolutionary chain leading to man).

But I still don't see anything fatal in Rand's epistemology. Its her definitions which do seem at times to be imprecise. (Although at other times some of her definitions are master works of integration.) Perhaps reason is a broader term than Rand thought but the human form of reason is just as Rand describes it.

If you haven't read Rand's "The Missing Link," I "recommend" it re her not understanding what "the missing link" issue was about. I felt a squirmy embarrassment for her when that article appeared.

I haven't read that essay in years. I will read it again to see what she got wrong, although I am willing to bet her main philosophic point was right. I've yet to see Rand err fundamentally. Do you think she did?

I'll try to come back with some thoughts on the question later this week.

Please, no need to rush, nor do you need to answer. I enjoy your comments tremendously. Yours are some of the more insightful and well thought out comments here.

@gregster

darren's picture

My favourite sport- leaving the hook out and catching two of em.

It's obvious to all that mental masturbation is your favorite sport . . . and you're so good at it, too.


Brian's example is poor and Darren contradicts himself.

Usually, when a champion mental masturbator such as yourself -- and your reputation far precedes you, my friend -- brags that he's found a contradiction in his opponent's argument, he points it out. That you did not do so suggests to me that you're bluffing. You've found disagreement, but you haven't found any contradiction.

It is not knowledge I repeat.

Tiresome. Another Objectivist who believes that repeating the original assertion is the same thing as proving it.

Knowledge requires discovery.

It's a bit like saying "Continents require discovery." New knowledge requires discovery, just as (by definition) new continents do. To make use of previous knowledge, one merely has to remember it and choose to exercise it. One doesn't "rediscover" previous knowledge every time one makes use of it.

Obviously, then, there are different kinds of knowledge -- newly discovered, long forgotten, fully conscious, tacit, etc. It's not just one big undifferentiated block.

It is not knowledge stored in a primordial amoeba . . .

Absolutely it is. You're just too enslaved to the idea that "knowledge" means "concepts held in full self-consciousness." That's one kind of knowledge but not the only kind. There's also, for example, tacit/implicit knowledge.

Your assertion that knowledge requires discovery would mean that immediately after someone discovered some new bit of knowledge, it would no longer be knowledge when he recalled it in order to make use of it (since it had already been discovered).

That's a rather silly thing to say, even for a champion onanist-egoist like you.

Frediano - Creation is an

Blake's picture

Frediano -

Creation is an act of a conscious being, and implies volition. The universe did not "create" us, and until and unless a discernable voice comes echoing down through the cosmos, that sort of speculation is arbitrary.

"What are we supposed to do?" is a question of ethics. "Why are we here?" is not applicable to Objectivism. To search for such an answer is arbitrary; we just ARE.

"HOW are we here?" is metaphysical, and is approached scientifically. "We" in this context is not "totalitarian"; it is used because this is a discussion of evolution, which involves discussing species. We are humans. No one is trying to impose a universal ethics. Evolution is objectively integral to understanding our existence. It makes sense for a philosophy called Objectivism to address it.

I agree with you, though, in that the question Doug poses is equivocating ALL living organisms. Our brains are much more complex, and what we have are not merely physical needs, but psychological ones. The idea that human life is solely for promoting one's genes disposes with the idea of values, and really of human psychology all together. Evolution can give us metaphysical answers, but not ethical ones.

Totalitarian bias in the premise

Frediano's picture

Thus the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by reproduction, not by survival.

A totalitarian bias.

Although she might well have occasionally roared into cul-de-sacs of rhetoric fraught with quicksand, by even attempting to speak to an issue as broad as 'the characterictics of living organisms', I never interpreted Rand as ultimately giving a rat's ass about anything other than the characteristics of living mankind as individual men, not mankind as members of a much larger group 'living organisms.'

That black widow spiders might engage in reproduction at the expense of their existence in no way reflects on man as man.

The game is rigged as soon as one enters into the arena of 'the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by _______________________.' It is yet again a totalitarian's urge, to find 'the' answer which, via forced association, must be 'the' answer for all individual instances of life.

Man is way beyond mitochondrial DNA. We are well into the meta-concepts philopsophy/religion: "Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing now as a result of that?"

Only totalitarians pose those fundamental questions as "Why are we here? What are we supposed to be doing now as a result of that?" -- as if there was only a single totalitarian answer to those fundamental questions, that via forced association must be imposes on all individual instances of mankind.

To me, that is the essence of the political struggle, between those who believe that the answers to those fundamental questions are answered individually (freedom) and those who believe that an unseen higher authority (God, "S"ociety, human dignity) that yet requires some to speak for it imposes a singular totalitarian answer for all/we.

The quest to focus on commonalities and seek singular answers is the quest to turn mankind into subservient bees. (Subservient to the lucky leg-lifters who get to define 'the' answer to those fundamental questions.)

Mankind, plural, are not bees.

Mankind answers those fundamental questions by living their individual lives. In the end, their lives are the individual answers to those questions(even if they've never conciously pondered the actual questions.)

I am not a classical Creationist, but I can't deny that we were created. It is patently obvious. We as mankind once were not, and now we are. To transition from a state of not being to being required an act of creation. We can, jarringly, after the fact, attempt to define traffic rules for creation('must be by an intelligent sentient being and two draft picks to be named later"), and create no end of literary tales pondering magical myths of creation, but that is a curious act of revisionaism by the ... already merely created.

Some, not all, insist that there be an external 'purpose' when they seek answers to those fundamental questions("Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing now as a result of that?") After all, as children, our parents told us when to sit and when to eat and when to wipe our ass. Surely, some say, if we were created, then we were put here 'for a purpose' and it is our mission to uncover that externally impressed purpose and have at it.

OTOH, if, as the evidence before us and not safely removed in some other universe not in evidence suggests, we were created by the universe, as it is, then the answer to those fundamental questions might simply be "to live our one and only lives here in this universe."

For some, that isn't enough. There must be more. This can't be it. It is not miracle 'enough.' There must be a 'better' existence beyond this( let me assure you, we could have done much better if we'd have known in advance and would have called ahead and made better reservations, ) imperfect existence. And safely in this universe, maybe those some are right, we here can never know.

I'm fine with their assessment of the answer to their fundamental questions. It is theirs to answer, for themself. They can even share, through free association, those answers with as many as they want, and if that act of sharing gives them pleasure in this life, as it is, then who am I or anyone else to deny them that pleasure, in this life, as it is?

As a non totalitarian leaner, I don't find it necessary in the least for all of us to have the same answer to those fundamental questions. As long as our rleationship to each other in the factual boundary condition of existence -- our simultansous coexistence in the universe as it is -- is based on free association and not forced association, then let freedom ring and more power to ya.

Haha

gregster's picture

My favourite sport- leaving the hook out and catching two of em.

Brian's example is poor and Darren contradicts himself. It is not knowledge I repeat. Knowledge requires discovery. It is not knowledge stored in a primordial amoeba- but you two say it is.

Creationism

Richard Goode's picture

[Goode] will attempt to [question] the accepted definition of the words in the direct statements above or of his statements on this thread.

I'm not the one questioning the accepted definitions of words; you are. Google's results for "creationism definition" confirm this.

creationism definition

"I'm an evolutionist, not a creationist." Oh very funny. This is designed to tell the reader precisely nothing as usual.

As usual, it tells the reader precisely what I said, viz., that I'm an evolutionist, not a creationist. Creationism is the religious doctrine, opposed to naturalistic evolution, that life on this planet was created by a special, unique act of God. Creationism denies the theory of evolution of species.

Goode admits that he is a Creationist.

You're drawing too long a bow. It's obvious from the context what I meant when I said God is the Creator. Do you know what supervenience is? Did you follow the link?

You're a troll, BTW.

Suppose you have just

darren's picture

Suppose you have just stumbled on a book written by some long forgotten civilisation. By your criterion, the symbols in the book do not contain knowledge.

Good example. According to some on this board, we can't even infer the existence of a long-forgotten civilization from the current existence of the book. We must first prove that such a civilization existed, and then show how such a book must have come to be written. Of course, such a procedure is pointless; for in order first to prove the prior existence of the long-forgotten civilization, we require some sort of evidence by which to infer its existence. Since the procedure, however, forbids us from reasoning backward and making inferences at all, obviously NO currently existing fact could ever be taken as even prima facie evidence for the existence of said civilization. Obviously, the point of this procedure is to exclude certain kinds of explanations from arising in the first place.

What's especially ironic about this is that the same thing is done all the time in Darwinian evolution -- in fact, the process of starting with a currently existing fact (a fossil, let's say) and reasoning backward to an inferred (though unseen and experimentally unverifiable) cause -- like "randomly-caused mutation chosen by Natural Selection" is THE modus operandi of evolutionists.

The only difference between the archeologist inferring the existence of a prior civilization to explain the book, and the Darwinian evolutionist inferring the existence of unseen prior mutations and selections to explain the fossil is that the former realizes that he must explain the book by reference to the prior existence of minds, while the latter believes that he must explain the fossil by reference to material causes only.

The main objection to any sort of design inference in biology on the part of Darwinians is thus that their metaphysics precludes it: they implicitly accept the idea that matter must have preceded mind, and that mind must therefore be some sort of "evolved" or "emergent" property of matter.

As far as Objectivism is concerned, Miss Rand made no such assertion, and would have found it repugnant to her philosophy. She asserted merely that "Existence exists"; not "Matter existed first, and then consciousness, or mind, existed later". She didn't say that, and she never suggested such a thing. For details on the Objectivist view of this issue, see an article in The Objectivist titled "Biology Without Consciousness -- and Its Consequences".

@gregster

darren's picture

It is information that can be cracked by humans. Knowledge becomes such when discovered by someone. It is not knowledge beforehand.

It was knowledge; it was stored in the cell as information by means of code; the code can be cracked (and to some extent, has been cracked) by humans, and then translated back into explicit, conscious knowledge . . . the important point being that this information need not be so translated by human minds, but can perfectly well perform its task as latent, or implicit knowledge, in the cell, when the coded information is translated by the cell's own machinery into proteins that further the cell's survival.

By your criterion

BrianScurfield's picture

Suppose you have just stumbled on a book written by some long forgotten civilisation. By your criterion, the symbols in the book do not contain knowledge.

Not quite right

gregster's picture

"The genes of an animal contain the specification for building the animal. That specification is like a computer program and contains knowledge just like a computer program contains knowledge"

It is not knowledge. It is information that can be cracked by humans. Knowledge becomes such when discovered by someone. It is not knowledge beforehand.

Ellen, in answer to some of your other questions...

BrianScurfield's picture

I don't know what "knowledge [...] encoded in [...] genes" means. What do you think "knowledge" is if you think it's something which could be encoded in genes?

Biological evolution creates knowledge. It is a very inefficient process since countless creatures must die for even the tiniest sliver of knowledge to be created. The knowledge created is not explanatory knowledge - that type of knowledge is the exclusive preserve of human beings - yet knowledge it is. If it is not knowledge, then what do you think is passed on when an animal reproduces? The genes of an animal contain the specification for building the animal. That specification is like a computer program and contains knowledge just like a computer program contains knowledge.

From the viewpoint I am adopting, each individual animal represents a guess, an hypothesis. The hypothesis comes hard-coded in the animal's genes and each individual animal is incapable of altering the hypothesis it represents. It is only via selection pressure that the hypothesis can change and that requires many generations. When the jump to universally occurred, hypotheses could now be represented by ideas and these "could die in our stead" (to paraphrase Karl Popper). The evolution of ideas is therefore much more efficient than biological evolution.

Nor do I have any idea what it would mean to say that walking is encoded in genes.

What I mean is that the genes contain a program for building a brain and instantiating on that brain an algorithm for walking. Human beings don't need this algorithm to be encoded in their genes because we are universal knowledge creators and we can create the knowledge for walking ourselves. So the walking algorithms encoded in the genes of our ancestors dropped away - as did many other things.

So your idea is that if an animal can learn one thing, it can learn anything?

If so, I think the idea is very false

If you think the idea is false you need to explain what prevents an animal learning another thing if it can learn one thing? I maintain that any animal or machine that is complex enough to learn must, whether it was intended or not, have jumped to universality. And that jump means that it can learn anything. These ideas are not my own by the way.

Ellen, the jump to universality is compatible with graduality

BrianScurfield's picture

I made the point earlier that you often get universality whether you want it or not - it comes cheaply. Consider universality in another context: computing. A universal computer is a computer that can run any computation. Instead of building a dedicated machine to run each computation you want to perform you can program the universal machine to run the computation. You might think the specification for the universal machine is hugely complicated, but some remarkably simple systems have turned out to be universal. The simplest known universal machine has just two states and three symbols. Also there is no gradual transistion to universality: it occurs suddenly and there are no partially universal computers. So a small change in a existing system might be enough to take it from not being universal at all to being fully universal. So one can be surprised to have built a universal machine even though you were only trying to build a machine to solve a particular problem. Hopefully you can see where I am going with this. The context in which we are discussing universality is knowledge creation not computation, but the point remains the same. It did not take a huge change in a certain type of brain to go from not being able to create knowledge at all to being able to create any kind of knowledge. Once this change occurred, however, the dominant driver of the evolution of the species in which the change occurred passed from genes to those things that carry knowledge: ideas. It was a small step for evolution, if you will, but a giant leap for mankind.

"I bet, if you'd stop to think about it..."

Marcus's picture

You mean storage of food?

Well, who said the animal was hungry at the time?

Look, a dog sniffs bums and eats it own chunder.

Do you need to know anything else?

Doug re reason

Ellen Stuttle's picture

[ES]the way Rand defines "reason," in Galt's Speech and with the subsequent modification, it isn't distinctively human -- nor do I know of any way of defining "reason" which entirely limits it to humans.

[Doug] I am somewhat confused by this. Rand's view of human reason ultimately has to do with her theory of concept formation. How can it be argued that any other animal forms concepts by that method? (Or any method?) To my understanding, human reason is distinctively human. I am open to the argument that "something cognitive is going on" with the higher animals. My cat does seem to make decisions on some level (he gives affection for food for example). How he does that, I am not sure. But does he reason? That would be a hard sell for me.

See me reply to Blake for a hint about concepts. Using Rand's requirements, no other current earth animal forms concepts, but, as I said, I think the requirements artificially draw a cut-off, and besides don't include human non-named categorizations.

Rand thought of reasoning as only occurring on what she called "the conceptual level." But notice how she defined "reason" -- another of her Rand-special definitions. (I'll quote her second definition. In Galt's Speech she included perceiving as part of her meaning of reason.):

"the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."

Only her including the "man's" in the definition -- and thus limiting the applicability by fiat to humans -- would rule out all non-human animal cognitive activity. Mammals (and birds) to an extent identify and integrate their sensory material. Also, they engage in an amount of localized anticipations and testings and drawings of conclusions -- which I'd consider reasoning, though not on a human level.

If Rand had defined reason as an ability to engage in propositional thought, then of course only humans amongst current earth species would qualify, as they're the only current earth species which have true language and higher-order concepts.

BUT: What of our forbear species? At some stage along that sequence prior to us a capacity for propositional thought had to have developed, considering evidences of what species along the development could do.

--

Regarding your question: how do you think that a defense of rational egoism should proceed in regards to biology? What do you think needs to be "fixed" from Rand's ethical theory?

Man, you sure like to ask questions which would need an essay at least. Eye

I can't frame a quick answer just off the top -- and I won't be home much the next couple days. I'll try to come back with some thoughts on the question later this week.

Ellen

PS: If you haven't read Rand's "The Missing Link," I "recommend" it re her not understanding what "the missing link" issue was about. I felt a squirmy embarrassment for her when that article appeared.

The Lucy find was the following year, 1974. I don't know if she ever even heard of that.

(Incidentally, I was SO thrilled by the find, since I'd been of the belief that it had to have been upright posture first, big brain second, partly for anatomical reasons -- if the brain had started to develop first, increased neck muscle would have been needed and the anatomy might have been too set for the needed changes in body structure, including in the placement of the cranium on the cervical orbit. Plus it did seem to me that freeing of the hands for maneuvering would have been key to the usefulness of increased brain capacity, and a full freeing of the hands would need upright posture. Re the meat-eating -- Don't get carried away with that. Eye See the cautions and discussion in the comments in the article I excerpted in the post to Linz.)

Ellen

Meat-eating and the big brain

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz: 3) Yes, the chasm between man and even the highest of the lower animals is a yawning one, and the evolving from one to the other is as yet unaccounted for. (Personally I suspect it was caused by meat-eating, which made our brains bigger. [....])

I wouldn't say the evolving "is as yet unaccounted for," instead that we've acquired a pretty good idea of the stages. We don't know when language started, but language would have been linked with the expansion of and changes in structure of the larynx, and there was a critical time when that could have occurred without other structural changes being too set to allow the development.

(Speaking of the larynx, the placement is one of those evolutionary jerry-riggings which would reveal any designer to have been, not an "intelligent" designer but a bumbling one -- the cross-over of the esophagus and trachea producing a chronic threat of choking for an upright creature. The human backbone itself is another such jerry-rig. My father, who was an orthopedic surgeon, used to reference the human backbone as the ultimate disproof of God, since the design is so poor, he said, any sophomore engineering student should be able to come up with better. But I digress...)

Meat-eating is indeed hypothesized as having been a factor in the evolution of the big brain.

Here's an excerpt from an article in the Seattle PI (I don't know what the initials stand for). This was written in 2008, when the bones of "Lucy" were being toured amongst various US museums:

link

[Underscores added]

Last updated September 29, 2008 1:49 p.m. PT

Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil, is a key piece in evolution's puzzle

By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

[....]

Technically, Lucy is a fossil member of a class of hominids, or proto-humans, known as Australopithecus afarensis who lived between 3.9 million and 2.9 million years ago.

[....] For simplicity's sake, human evolution can be broken into three phases -- early and very apelike hominids, Australopiths such as Lucy and our genus Homo.

Lucy and her ilk occupied a critical phase in the evolutionary process that scientists believe led to a variety of other pre-modern human species such as Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis (the Neanderthals) and eventually to us, Homo sapiens.

[....] Back in the 1970s, scientists were still arguing over what came first in human evolution -- growing a much bigger brain or moving from four-legged to two-legged walking.

Unlike most such ancient fossils, Lucy was more than just a piece of skull, femur or jaw. She was 40 percent intact, including much of her skull and most of her pelvis.

It was her pelvis and leg structure that nailed it: Bipedalism clearly had preceded the boom in brains.

"There was no question that we were bipedal millions of years before our brains got big," said the UW's Kramer.

[....]

Put brutally simply, here is a quick summary of how Lucy's bipedalism contributed to human evolution:

* Standing up freed our hominid hands to eventually allow for tool use.

* Tool use led to greater success in hunting or otherwise acquiring meat in the diet.

* A diet rich in meat provided more of the basic biochemical building blocks needed for brain development.

* Someone, at some point, learned how to use fire. Someone started talking. Someone started writing.

It's an absurd abbreviation of our story, of course, and of the scientific evidence. The complete story of human evolution, like the human brain, is too incredibly rich and complex to be so simplistically boiled down to such a short description. What makes Lucy so special is that, to some extent, she represents a stage in our prehistory, our evolutionary development, that we can comprehend.

There are still many mysteries, many gaps and unresolved issues to this story. Why did the Neanderthals disappear some 28,000 years ago? Did they really disappear or did they interbreed with us? Do the diminutive fossils dubbed the "Hobbits" recently discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores represent a new branch of Homo that lived contemporaneously with modern humans?

What does it really mean to be human?

[....]

See the comments section of the above article for discussion/debate re the meat-eating:

link

Ellen

Brian

Ellen Stuttle's picture

You are saying that some animals learn to walk and don't have the knowledge already encoded in their genes.

I don't know what "knowledge [...] encoded in [...] genes" means. What do you think "knowledge" is if you think it's something which could be encoded in genes?

Nor do I have any idea what it would mean to say that walking is encoded in genes.

As to learning to walk, see my post to Blake, which might help. No animal invents the motions, if that's what you thought I meant by "learning" in the context, including humans. Some mammals can walk within a short time of birth (my comments were limited to mammals; the development is different with other animal types). Other mammals take longer and need practicing to do it.

Your next part gives me some clue as to what you're talking about with your "universality" claim:

If you think they learn, why can they learn some things and not others? Why are their learning abilities restricted? To say animals can somewhat learn contradicts what we know about universality. Universality jumps: Either you can create knowledge and have the capacity to do so universally or you cannot create any knowledge at all.

So your idea is that if an animal can learn one thing, it can learn anything?

If so, I think the idea is very false and I haven't a clue who the "we" are who you say know its truth. Pursuing the question I asked you about saltation, it would mean that at some point in the course of evolution there was an abrupt jump with all creatures up to that point being entirely pre-programmed in everything they did whereas afterward there was the human with zero pre-programming and a need to acquire its every skill from scratch (which then would leave you with the question why there are some skills which all physically normal humans acquire). (I used the term "pre-programmed" because I couldn't think of an alternate off the top. I dislike resorting to computer analogies at all in speaking of biological processes, since I think they're misleading. I cringed each time Rand used a computer analogy.)

Ellen

Blake...

BrianScurfield's picture

...why has no animal ever learnt to do some basic philosophy or anything remotely creative? The abilities of all animals are broadly similar and these abilities can be accounted for by genetics and without attributing any knowledge creation capacity to them. The thing about knowledge creation capacity is that when you can create a little knowledge you can create a lot - a potentially infinite amount. This is the jump to universality I have been talking about. The process for creating some knowledge is the same as the process for creating all knowledge. You get universality whether you want it or not - it comes cheaply. So if dogs can create some knowledge why can't they create any amount of knowledge? What is your explanation for restricted learning in animals?

You mentioned that learning is related to genetics. No it isn't. Learning requires that you can create and criticise ideas and ideas don't come from your genes. Even if we inherit some ideas that would be irrelevent because we can criticise and reject those ideas. The behaviour of animals comes from their genes and not from ideas and animals have no ability whatsoever to criticise and to change what they are born with. In the studies you mentioned what exactly were the animals doing that could not be accounted for by their genes? Did the authors know about philosophy and universality? Did they anthropomorphize by thinking mice have "social abilities"? Animal studies are very unreliable and you have to be careful.

Blake (including animal concepts)

Ellen Stuttle's picture

An hour-old baby, when supported, can make all the necessary walking motions. After 6 weeks the reflex seems to disappear, however the baby still performs the motions when placed in a water tank about chest high; indicating that we have these abilities at birth. Gaining coordination and strength are certainly necessary in becoming a successful walker. Like walking, many instincts are modified through learning.

Just to clarify: By "learning" in connection with walking, I didn't mean acquiring the abilities to make the motions but developing the skill of managing to coordinate the motions and the balancing. It's a skill which all physically normal human children acquire, though with different degrees of grace, ease, and other characteristics. Each person's walk has individual features.

--

I think animals cognitive abilities are being over-simplified in calling them automatic. Perhaps they will themselves in an extremely limited context of knowledge; seemingly minuscule to that of humans.

This makes me wonder about the Objectivist theory of concepts, and the idea that only man is a conceptual being.. A dog can differentiate from a human and a chew toy; between his owner and a random stranger. Doesn't this indicate some sort of non-contradictory identification and/or separation of characteristics taking place in the dogs mind? If so, the dog would have concepts, at least enough to suit its needs. Given that a human's needs rely a great deal more on mental processes, we have the ability to better modify them, which requires the ability to introspect.

Mammals (and birds) have category recognitions and reactions. Objectivist and some other literature use the term "perceptual abstractions" for these first-level abilities to cognize types. I'd simply call those abilities first-level concepts. Rand, however, considered having a word with which to "place hold" (my description) the concept necessary to completion of the concept. If one includes that requirement, then only humans among current earth species have concepts, but I think it's a requirement which artificially eliminates a cognitive similarity between other mammals and humans and furthermore isn't really correct about humans either, since we do a lot of identifying, comparings and separatings, which isn't stated in words.

Ellen

So ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I haven't been on site much in recent days because of the bereavement I've posted about at the top of the page. Looking at this thread again, now, I'm wondering what the fuss is about.

To reiterate:

1) Animals do what they can't help doing. That includes learning, to the extent that they do. The learning may be "effortful" but it's not volitional. They can't help making the effort, and they don't debate with themselves whether to do it or not.

2) Animals , as best we can tell, do not form concepts. They do not "mentally integrate two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition." They do not then retain this integration by means of inventing a word for it. They don't even come close. A dog's awareness of the difference between a man and a chew-toy is perceptual (and not identified conceptually as a "difference"), as is its learning to associate a word—which to it is another percept—with an object, a percept, like "toy" or "man." To the extent you teach it to recognise such an association, it associates the word with a particular toy or a particular man. It has no clue that the word "man" represents the concept integrating every man who ever existed or ever will exist and that this concept's definition is "rational animal." I taught my German Shepherd Nicky to "kissie Tallulah" but that didn't mean she was conceptual. She already knew "kissie" was the slobbering motion she performed wantonly over objects of her affection; she knew "Tallulah" was the cat; she learned these things by repeated perceptual association; she was able to grasp that "kissie Tallulah" meant "slobber over the cat." The most you could say about her being able to make that link and perform the action was that it showed rudiments or intimations of a conceptual faculty that was still light years from the real thing.

3) Yes, the chasm between man and even the highest of the lower animals is a yawning one, and the evolving from one to the other is as yet unaccounted for. (Personally I suspect it was caused by meat-eating, which made our brains bigger. That would also explain Baade, a vegetarian). So what?! We don't have to rewrite Objectivism on account of what we don't know. For one thing, Objectivism says whatever was the case was the case, including what we don't yet know about it. Rand was not "agnostic" about evolution; she didn't say we couldn't know, just that we as yet don't know and she in particular didn't know. But there is nothing in what we do know that requires us to reformulate the Objectivist theory of concept-formation or the Objectivist ethics. Or if there is, it hasn't been stated here. Whatever rudiments of manness may exist in animals, and whatever "lower" animality may remain in man (more than Rand thought, perhaps) the qualitative difference—the difference in kind—between them is real, huge and decisive. Man is not just the rational animal; he is the rational animal, the only species whose knowledge is held conceptually, the only species for whom morality is possible and necessary, the only species who must choose and has the capacity to do so. That we do know. Seems like a pretty solid foundation for a philosophy to me.

Not true, Marcus

Ellen Stuttle's picture

If you put food in front of an animal, it will eat until full. It can not "decide" not to eat.

I bet, if you'd stop to think about it, you could come up with a standard sort of instance which I further bet you've seen thousands of times where an animal (a hungry animal) doesn't eat food in front of it but does something else instead -- even such critters as insects and spiders (which I do consider almost entirely robotic, only the merest smidgin of discretionary-judgment powers).

I'll wait to see if you guess the sort of instance I'm thinking of before I pursue eating decisions further. Eye

Ellen

An hour-old baby, when

Blake's picture

An hour-old baby, when supported, can make all the necessary walking motions. After 6 weeks the reflex seems to disappear, however the baby still performs the motions when placed in a water tank about chest high; indicating that we have these abilities at birth. Gaining coordination and strength are certainly necessary in becoming a successful walker. Like walking, many instincts are modified through learning.

Animals are able to learn, and learning is related to genetics. An experiment found that the removal of a particular gene inhibits social and learning abilities in mice. In the study, the descendants of 7 generations of quick-learning mice were compared to the descendants of 7 generations of the mutated learning-deficient mice, and it resulted in an even greater disparity in learning abilities. Sounds like evolution to me.

Also, the reason dogs don't learn to "walk all sorts of different ways" is because they don't need to. They can learn to roll over and play dead, if it proves beneficial.

I think animals cognitive abilities are being over-simplified in calling them automatic. Perhaps they will themselves in an extremely limited context of knowledge; seemingly minuscule to that of humans.

This makes me wonder about the Objectivist theory of concepts, and the idea that only man is a conceptual being.. A dog can differentiate from a human and a chew toy; between his owner and a random stranger. Doesn't this indicate some sort of non-contradictory identification and/or separation of characteristics taking place in the dogs mind? If so, the dog would have concepts, at least enough to suit its needs. Given that a human's needs rely a great deal more on mental processes, we have the ability to better modify them, which requires the ability to introspect.

If you put food in front...

Marcus's picture

...of an animal, it will eat until full. It can not "decide" not to eat.

In front of a human, even if hungry, they might not eat at all. They may "decide" not to eat is the rational course of action. To over-rule their instincts.

An animal can't do that. It cannot decide to ignore an instinct, even when the rational course of action.

Ellen, universality is pertinent to your question

BrianScurfield's picture

The question I was asking pertained not to the maturation/learning process of an animal's acquiring the ability to walk but instead to walking as an ongoing activity performed by an animal that has learned to walk.

You are saying that some animals learn to walk and don't have the knowledge already encoded in their genes. If you think they learn, why can they learn some things and not others? Why are their learning abilities restricted? To say animals can somewhat learn contradicts what we know about universality. Universality jumps: Either you can create knowledge and have the capacity to do so universally or you cannot create any knowledge at all. Of all animals, only humans have made the jump. The jump to universality meant that knowledge about walking and so forth did not need to be encoded in our genes. We learn how to do it. So when a human gets up and walks that ability comes via quite a different route to when an animal gets up and walks. And that is also why humans can walk in all sorts of different ways that a dog cannot - we have the capacity to learn everything that can be known about walking. We have to devote effortful attention to walking because that is all part of our learning process and we use walking to solve all sorts of problems that dogs and other animals could have no knowledge of whatsoever (since they are not universal knowledge creators). This is not to say that the dog walking algorithms that are encoded in a dog's genes are not sophisticated. They are amazing and they go beyond any robot walking algorithms that humans have currently implemented. Nevertheless, dogs "just do what they can't help doing".

Fascinating comments Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Really. What you are showing me is that Rand did not understand evolution at all and thus she could not truly ground her ethics in biology. The question remains if this is fatal for the Objectivist ethics as stated. I am becoming more convinced with each passing week that Objectivist ethics is going to need to be reformulated and restated. 'The Objectivist Ethics' will not hold I don't think.

I think its ultimate conclusions are right; egoism and individualism are valid. But how to link this with man's nature - his biological nature? I don't know.

You say:

the way Rand defines "reason," in Galt's Speech and with the subsequent modification, it isn't distinctively human -- nor do I know of any way of defining "reason" which entirely limits it to humans.

I am somewhat confused by this. Rand's view of human reason ultimately has to do with her theory of concept formation. How can it be argued that any other animal forms concepts by that method? (Or any method?) To my understanding, human reason is distinctively human. I am open to the argument that "something cognitive is going on" with the higher animals. My cat does seem to make decisions on some level (he gives affection for food for example). How he does that, I am not sure. But does he reason? That would be a hard sell for me.

Lastly, how do you think that a defense of rational egoism should proceed in regards to biology? What do you think needs to be "fixed" from Rand's ethical theory? This is a big problem. Without an egoistic grounding there can be no principled defense of capitalism and political freedom. Freedom, as we are learning by the headline, can not be sustained on either an altruist or a utilitarian ethics (it sure as hell can't be maintained or even achieved on a deontological one). Without egoism locked in solid, there can be no laissez-faire revolution.

Richard

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Re #95377:

"I've pointed out that Rand's understanding of the theory of evolution was poor. I've argued that Rand was either a closet creationist or very much mistaken about human nature."

My view is that she was neither a "closet creationist" nor "very much mistaken about human nature." I've described her as an Aristotelean rather than a Darwinist. She's like Aristotle, amongst other respects, in her seeming to have thought of species as givens. Unlike Aristotle, of course, she knew of the existence of Darwin's theory (I'm not sure if she'd heard of the "neo-Darwinian synthesis"), but she plainly hadn't studied this theory (in any of its stages) and didn't understand it, even to the extent understanding its relationship to human nature would have been possible at the time she was writing. I don't think she was, as you say, "suggesting that it is impossible to go from Pre-humans to Men *with evolution*" -- she didn't know enough about evolution to make this suggestion. See her "The Missing Link" (May 7 and May 21, 1973, The Ayn Rand Letter), in which she was obviously at sea as to the theory of evolution as of the time she was writing.

I agree that "Man, as conceived by Rand, is an evolutionary chimera," but I think she didn't know this.

Regarding "the distinctively *human*—[the human's] capacity to reason": the way Rand defines "reason," in Galt's Speech and with the subsequent modification, it isn't distinctively human -- nor do I know of any way of defining "reason" which entirely limits it to humans. Do you have a suggestion?

Ellen

Brian

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Your post "The Jump to Universality" (#95370) both comes out of left field to the question I was asking and leaves me (further) puzzled as to where you're coming from. I note that earlier you supported the "memes" idea. In the current post, best I can tell, you're supporting the idea of some sort of saltational leap between other animals and humans.

The question I was asking pertained not to the maturation/learning process of an animal's acquiring the ability to walk but instead to walking as an ongoing activity performed by an animal that has learned to walk.

Maturation/learning factors in the ability to walk are more weighted toward maturation and more toward learning depending on the species. Ungulates pretty much know how straight out of the womb. About a half hour to an hour -- a dangerous time stretch if predators are watching -- is needed for the newborn ungulate to be able to run with the herd or small group or parent. Carnivores take longer. They're born pretty helpless, not yet able to see, huddled in nurturing need, requiring some days or weeks to acquire locomotion skills. Humans require even longer. Humans are born with a lot of maturation still to be done, and learning to walk with upright posture is harder than learning to walk on all fours.

But none of this addresses the question I was asking. Consider a full-grown dog navigating in its environment. Are you claiming that the dog needn't pay attention, that its navigating is a mere result of "algorithms"?

Also, are you claiming that there IS some sort of leap from other animals to humans of a saltation type, instead of a gradual development?

Ellen

Direct Quote: Goode admits that he is a Creationist.

Robert's picture

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Submitted by Richard Goode on Fri, 2010-04-23 22:20.

"My conception of God is whatever it takes to underpin the moral facts.

Morality supervenes on God. So, too, does the physical Universe.

God is the Creator, purposive, loving, just, eternal, immutable, omnipresent and supreme."

[Emphasis mine.]

Submitted by Richard Goode on Fri, 2010-04-16 19:55.

...

"Of course, I have my own conception of God. Everyone does."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Game. Set. Match.

As I stated Goode: You are a creationist who doesn't take the Book of Genesis literally. Again, the flaw in your creationism argument (whatever that may be comprised from at this very moment) starts with you proving that a creator existed.

Continue to post all you like on this thread about this topic, I shall not reply. I've spent all the time I care to expend on this topic and you.

One prediction before I go.

Should Goode decide to reply to this post, he will attempt to shift the goal-posts of the debate or his previous statements (or both) by questioning the accepted definition of the words in the direct statements above or of his statements on this thread. He may even attempt to state that he was merely attempting to disprove 'Objectivist biology' (which you will note is a Strawman of his making) and had no intention of being drawn into a debate on the Origins of the Universe/Life on Earth.

Regardless, he will avoid -- at any cost -- the task of clearly and directly addressing the existence of God or the supernatural.

Robert

Richard Goode's picture

Everything I said previously about the hole in your argument applies.

What was my argument? (Please link to it.)

FFS!

Robert's picture

"I'm an evolutionist, not a creationist." Oh very funny. This is designed to tell the reader precisely nothing as usual. You can't help yourself can you?

Gasp! Does he believe in intelligent design or not? Does he believe that God is the creator of everything or just some bad tempered celestial Hippie squatter with a weird kid? Oooh the suspense!

Utter Balls.

In case the reader didn't know, there are two sorts of 'evolutionists.'

The naturalist/realist/atheists who believe the universe started 14(?) billion years ago and that life got started on Earth in the last 4.5 billion years ~probably~ as a self replicating organism and it began evolving ever since. All this occurred through purely natural forces without any input from any god or other deity.

Then you have the Theist evolutionists. They believe some variation of God turning up, flipping on the switch then buggering off, leaving the engine running. He hasn't been back probably because he's too busy in the living room dimension eating pizza and drinking beer in his y-fronts and wife beater while watching the Hustler channel on his celestial cable TV.

It's bloody obvious which one of these you are: a creationist who doesn't take the Book of Genesis verbatim. Big f---ing deal! Everything I said previously about the hole in your argument applies. Stop wasting my time.

The Wise and the Foolish

Rosie's picture

"Those who wish to appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish."

Quintilian, De Institutione Oratoria

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

Robert

Richard Goode's picture

I'm an evolutionist, not a creationist.

Here's what I've said previously on SOLO.

[It's a] fact that man is an animal (a fact which has been common knowledge for nigh on 150 years)

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. Evolution occurs whenever there is replication, heredity, variation and differential fitness.

[E]volution has resulted in a staggering variety of efficient survival machines... [T]his is simply the outcome of natural selection.

I'm an evolutionist because no other explanation of life as we know it seems even remotely plausible.

How can you possibly conclude that I'm a creationist? Of course, I don't expect you to have read and remembered everything I've ever said on SOLO. Even so, how do you come to the conclusion that I'm a creationist? I'm curious. Is it because I believe in God? Well, Charles Darwin qua author of On the Origin of Species believed in God. Do you conclude that Darwin was a creationist?

I don't expect you to have read and remembered everything I've ever said on SOLO, but I do expect you to have read and remembered everything I've said on this thread. An unrealistic expectation?

I realize that the questions that you are proposing are intentionally tangential to the nub of the matter: God vs Evolution.

You realise nothing. Elsewhere, Linz proclaims that I've hijacked this thread with my "goblinite agenda". But I haven't hijacked this thread. You have. This thread is titled, "Rand and Darwin", not "God and Darwin". Contra Linz, I don't have a "goblinite agenda". I've stayed on topic. I've pointed out that Rand's understanding of the theory of evolution was poor. I've argued that Rand was either a closet creationist or very much mistaken about human nature.

Goode was suggesting that it is impossible to go from Chimps to Men without god.

No, I've argued that *Rand* was suggesting that it is impossible to go from Pre-humans to Men *with evolution*. According to Rand, we shouldn't even be here. But we are. Man, as conceived by Rand, is an evolutionary chimera.

I mean it's obvious that I haven't thought about all this isn't it?

Plain as day. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've deliberately defaulted on that which is distinctively human—your capacity to reason.

The Jump To Universality

BrianScurfield's picture

For instance, do you think that a dog needn't make an effort paying attention in order to walk, whereas a human needs to pay effortful attention? That a squirrel makes no attentional effort to leap successfully through trees?

Dogs have pretty sophisticated algorithms for walking that are inborn and that have some generality; for example, dogs have no problem walking on floors, although they would never have encountered these in their natural environment. Human beings must learn how to walk and it usually takes them around a year or so to do it, unlike dogs. And unlike dogs, humans learn all sorts of different types of walking. They learn to go backwards, to skip, to dance, to march, to skate and so on. Humans are universal knowledge creators, dogs are not. Dogs don't even come close and the reason is that universality is all or none. It is likewise with the universal computation machines you are reading this on. We don't build partially universal computers - that is actually much harder than building a fully universal computer. Universality doesn't arise gradually, there is a jump to universality. That was the case with our universal computation machines and it was the case with the universal knowledge creators that are our brains.

OK Ellen ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... you've got me just as I'm going to bed. Damn time zones. You also got me excited, so I probably won't sleep. In any event, I shall get onto this tomorrow.

Yes, Linz...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I'm responding to Linz's #95309.

[ES] Rand was correct that humans can't survive without some amongst them paying enough effortful attention to reality to bring in food.

[LP] That's not what she said.

I'm extracting the core which holds factually and without which the Objectivist ethics has no biological ground.

Food has to be provided by some human(s ) or no human survives, and food doesn't fall into open jaws.

(Slight emendation: There are environments wherein human living is pretty easy -- some of the Polynesian Islands, the maritime upper Northwest coast of the (current) US/lower Canada -- but those sorts of environments aren't the ones in which humans evolved, quite the contrary. "The bad weather animal," as Robert Ardrey characterized human origins, seems to be accurate.)

~~

An interjection about critiques of Rand in relationship to evolutionary theory. Rand was writing before a lot that we've learned about the hominid past was known, also before the "selfish gene" theory was given explicit statement. Dawkins was surprised by some of the reaction to The Selfish Gene, since he'd thought he was pretty much stating obvious implications, but those implications *weren't* obvious even to many evolutionists. I don't agree with critics of Rand who have faulted her for not grasping that individual survival isn't the motor of evolution. The first edition of The Selfish Gene was published in 1976, the year when she stopped publishing, except for her subsequent Ford Hall Forum speeches. And, as she said, she was never a student of evolution. Plus there's no way she or anyone could have known details we know now about the evolutionary sequence of the hominid line. Details were only beginning to be learned as of the time I was an undergraduate taking some paleoanthropology courses at Northwestern in 1963 (six years after Atlas Shrugged, two years after Rand's "The Objectivist Ethics" speech). The department at Northwestern was "ahead of the curve" on the subject, what with Melville Herskovits being the chair, but no one could foresee the implications of fossil finds yet to come.

~~

[LP] She said that "effortful attention" in the case of humans is, uniquely, conceptual and volitional. Other mammals, and birds, are not conceptual and volitional, best we can tell. I don't see any of them having the kind of debate we're having here, or opting in and out by choice. They just do what they can't help doing. I don't think it can even be called "effortful attention." They are percept-driven and pre-programmed. Automata if you will. They don't have to make an effort to "pay attention." They just do. If they don't, they perish. But they don't know that.

One problem is that if, as you state, "'effortful attention' in the case of humans is, uniquely, conceptual and volitional" is true, how did that ability ever evolve in the human? Are you proposing some radical change between other animals and humans?

Plus I think that if you think that other mammals and birds (and even, to a slight degree, vertebrate fish) are simply "percept-driven and pre-programmed," you haven't been doing much studying of said creatures. I don't mean, please note, that they have human-level *conceptual* abilities. I agree that humans today are the only extant (earth) species with human-level conceptual abilities, but I think Rand made a bad mistake in believing that it's only on that level that volition kicks in and operates.

For instance, do you think that a dog needn't make an effort paying attention in order to walk, whereas a human needs to pay effortful attention? That a squirrel makes no attentional effort to leap successfully through trees?

And if you do think that, then where in the evolutionary line do you believe humans' needing to effortfully pay attention arose? Did it suddenly appear with no precursors, unlike anything else we know of in evolution?

[LP] Rand makes the point that humans *do* have to make an effort to pay attention—and before that, a choice, which is *not* the same as effort—and many can't be bothered, but they don't perish because of the efforts of those who *do* pay attention and *can* be bothered and *do*, having taken the trouble to reason, take the trouble to *act* as well.

That comment leaves me wondering if you're one of those who interpret Rand as meaning some sort of primal "choice to think" rather than a constant, instant-by-instant effort. Hospers interpreted her in the former way in his 1990 Liberty "Memoir," and I know of some others -- have met a few -- who did. But she does indicate in Galt's Speech that she's talking about an ongoing process. Plus there's Nathaniel Branden's subsequent elaboration in The Objectivist Newsletter, which elaboration had her approval.

[ES] Rand has a kind of volition "switch" turning on the conceptual "faculty" -- but never addresses how the turning on of reason produces action.

[LP] It doesn't, necessarily. The action too is volitional.

That isn't what she said. She said that the choice to think determines all other choices. And she NEVER discusses the basic problem, the root problem, with *any* theory of (genuine) volition (by genuine volition I mean an ability to select or direct amongst real physical alternatives -- there are "compatibilist" versions which mean by "volition" only an inability to predict what physical alternative will be selected): HOW does volition produce motion???

The fundamental problem is a problem of mechanics and the discrepancy between the idea of a determinist physical universe and real options of action. Quantum indeterminacy aside -- that would only produce random "swerves," like Heraclitean swerves, but what's needed is directed action -- how, at any stage of evolution, muscles might move as a result of intention remains, as it already was known to be at the time of the pre-Socrates, the big problem. (The problem has only gotten worse with the advancement of physics.)

Ellen

Calm down Robert...

Marcus's picture

How many times do I have to say it, it was not about you.

When I speak of a political context I mean the clamour by human rights groups that chimps should be given "rights" because they are 99% human. Even Dawkins propagates such nonsense, when he should know better. In fact, strike that, Dawkins is ignorant when it comes to molecular and cell biology - after all, he comes from a zoology-evolution background.

I am not blaming you for putting it in your post, nor am I calling you a socialist.

You were not making that assertion and as a general statement about genes, it is correct.

Robert...

Marcus's picture

...I wasn't criticizing you.

I was criticizing that generalized piece of knowledge being used to make an assertion which is fully bogus.

It reminds me of the stupid myth that humans only use 10% of their brains, as if it were a scientific fact, which it is not. People use to constantly tell me that it came from Einstein, which turns out to be rubbish too. At the time I realised that if Einstein had said such a thing that it was not based on any scientific study - it must be just an opinion.

There a good list of refutations of this claim on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1...

However before the internet was invented, logic alone dictated that this was a load of crap.

Unfortunately there are certain people around that so want to believe these things because it fits in with their biased world view that they never bother to do any critical thinking and simply repeat it over and over.

Be it man-made global warming, chimps being 99% human, only using 10% of our brains or the soul weighing 21 grams.

It's simply bollocks!

Really Marcus?

Robert's picture

"this line about humans and chimps being 99% similar is being pushed by scientists with a political agenda"

You are annoyed by the the fact that I didn't launch into a mind-numbing off-topic discussion about 'junk' DNA, transposons, RNAi and all of the other complications that would make a lay-person's eyes glaze over in a discussion about God vs science.

I believe that Dr Goode had a similar problem generalizations. Did you miss my counter argument? I think it applies in this case.

Now I'll grant you that I could have been more precise; you have a valid scientific point. But does that change the argument?

Goode was suggesting that it is impossible to go from Chimps to Men without god. I was pointing out that he was proposing that mankind arose by Horizontal evolution.

In other words I same point (in simpler terms) that you've just busting my balls with.

Why does your comment raise my hackles?

No, it isn't just because it's 'my time of the month.'

It's because I too have noticed something about Scientists and Economists (as it happens). Most of them can't talk to lay people.

Why? Some are just bloody awful communicators. Which is a problem because 50% of science is communicating your results - even if it's only to the people who provide the capital for you to do your work.

For the rest, you will find that very few of them bother to expend the time and mental effort required to distill the variety of knowledge that they possess into simpler, coherent terms and then pass them out to the public at large. Hell! Throw Objectivists in that mix too.

This has led (IMHO) to the appalling lack of knowledge displayed by the public on key topics such as economics, the business of medicine, the environment etc. The public has been left intellectually defenseless & ripe for the picking by silver-tongued Chalatons like Paul Krugman, Al Gore, Michael Moore and whomever else you care to name.

Part of the problem is that it takes time to learn how to edit yourself. Obviously, given the length of this post complete with it's crappy grammar and all, this is something I struggle mightily with.

But it's also that every scientist/objectivist/economist who avoids the fray then thinks that they have a right to pick your argument apart because it wasn't specific enough for them, the experts in the field. It's hard to talk to lay-people when you are forever having to minimize the risk that you overstate something or fail to mention a detail raised by a paper published in the latest of the thousands of scientific journals that get published every week. Yes, I should try harder.

Or I could just shrug my shoulders and get on with my job as so many pro-capitalism Economists have. Only look where that has landed us.

As you've just demonstrated, I could have thrown in two dozen more fun facts that complicate the simplistic picture of evolution everyone is presented with in High School Bio class. But I'm not here to give a University lecture. Context!

I'm here to answer a troll. I'm here to prevent him from convincing his readers, by the shear volume of his postings, that he knows what the fuck he is talking about.

So yes. Every now and then I'm going to throw in the occasional non-specific fact. Correct me all you like. I'm a scientist. The truth matters to me.

But please, when you do, drop the crap about me (and others like me) falling for or perpetuating a socialist political agenda.

Do me a favor and realize that those who are using the chimps=humans argument for nefarious political ends have bigger fucking problems with their argument then forgetting (as I did) about junk DNA.

Realize that with such flea-like bait, they have distracted you from attacking their real weakness.

Not used to literal LOL being

Aaron's picture

Not used to literal LOL being induced from SOLO, but this:

"How in all that is holy do stark & sudden alterations in the lineage prove the existence of an invisible, omnipotent part-time potter and celestial electrician with a fetish for married Jewess virgins and the smell of burnt lamb?"

did it. Best Yahweh description ever - awesome!

No, Ellen ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Rand was correct that humans can't survive without some amongst them paying enough effortful attention to reality to bring in food.

That's not what she said. She said that "effortful attention" in the case of humans is, uniquely, conceptual and volitional. Other mammals, and birds, are not conceptual and volitional, best we can tell. I don't see any of them having the kind of debate we're having here, or opting in and out by choice. They just do what they can't help doing. I don't think it can even be called "effortful attention." They are percept-driven and pre-programmed. Automata if you will. They don't have to make an effort to "pay attention." They just do. If they don't, they perish. But they don't know that.

Rand makes the point that humans *do* have to make an effort to pay attention—and before that, a choice, which is *not* the same as effort—and many can't be bothered, but they don't perish because of the efforts of those who *do* pay attention and *can* be bothered and *do*, having taken the trouble to reason, take the trouble to *act* as well.

Rand has a kind of volition "switch" turning on the conceptual "faculty" -- but never addresses how the turning on of reason produces action.

It doesn't, necessarily. The action too is volitional.

Lots of animals...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

...besides humans require effortful attention in order to survive. Rand was correct that humans can't survive without some amongst them paying enough effortful attention to reality to bring in food. She was wrong in thinking of all other animals as automata. Effortful attention is required throughout the mammalian line. Also in birds, though the bird lineage started later and isn't on the human line of development.

Rand was oddly similar to Descartes in her view of man versus animal. Descartes thought of all other animals as automata, and thought that the pineal gland was the locale where the "soul" intersected the body and produced volitional motion in the human. Rand has a kind of volition "switch" turning on the conceptual "faculty" -- but never addresses how the turning on of reason produces action.

Ellen

Robert

Lindsay Perigo's picture

But suppose I'm mistaken or lying through my teeth.
How in all that is holy do stark & sudden alterations in the lineage prove the existence of an invisible, omnipotent part-time potter and celestial electrician with a fetish for married Jewess virgins and the smell of burnt lamb?
Oh, that's right. You don't answer questions on the fundamentals. No fun in that. Go on question my intellectual curiosity again. That was a good one. I mean it's obvious that I haven't thought about all this isn't it?

I do declare you have surpassed yourself in this response to that thing. Magnificent! I'm sure I don't need to advise you you shouldn't hold your breath awaiting an answer.

In speaking of the "pre-humans" in our midst, Rand was of course not referring to a literal biological precursor of human beings still prowling through the world ... as Baade, dishonest to a fault as always, knows full well. She was making a moral judgment on those "humans" who deliberately default on that which is distinctively human—their capacity to reason. I'd suggest, and frequently use, "sub-human" as more accurate. In that category, of course, I certainly place the thing.

Robert...

Marcus's picture

"So while our genome is 99% the same as the Chimpazee."

This is not a criticism of you, but this statement is a particular bugbear of mine.

Human beings are only 99% similar in their coding genes, not all the junk in between.

Why would God put so much junk in our DNA, was he wanking off at the time? Or is it in fact the left-over’s of evolution? I'd opt for the later.

Of course, a lot of this junk consists of important regulatory sequences. Gene dosage, transcription, and protein processing also make up significant differences between chimps and humans.

It's like saying that a mini is 99% identical to a SUV. It might be if you only consider that both are cars made in a factory consisting of metal, rubber and glass designed by engineers.

So the formulation: Chimpanzees are 99% genetically similar, ipso facto 99% similar to us, is rubbish.

It's frustrates me that supposedly intelligent people can propagate such nonsense, when its falsity is apparent to even a five year old child.

Similar to global warming, this line about humans and chimps being 99% similar is being pushed by scientists with a political agenda. It has no correspondence with the facts of reality though.

God give me strength!

Robert's picture

Where in Hades does there exist something called 'Objectivist Biology?' You're the pillock who coined the term 'Feminist Geography' aren't you!

Regardless of your lunatic lexicon, even a clot would realize that Ayn Rand was generalizing when she defined the boundary between the cognitive power of animals and humans. Generalizing being a way to condense a large number of related concepts in order to illustrate a greater truth.

And that truth was? That man was unique amongst all the species that have ever existed on this planet.

Even God-botherers should accept this to be true. Were not we alone amongst God's creatures made in God's image?

As for your God proof: the thing you are misrepresenting is that the current crop of primates are mankind's evolutionary contemporaries. Their lineage missed the mark that mankind's lineage hit.

So when you choose to evaluate the tree that represents the ascent of modern primates you don't look horizontally at the limitations of chimpazees and conclude that the critical change that caused mankind had to have been stochastic.

You have to look down the branch on towards the trunk. So while our genome is 99% the same as the Chimpazee. It is 99.9% (or whatever) to Homo Habilis and 99.7% (or whatever) to Homo erectus and so on. Get it now?

Besides no one that I know of has ever stated that evolutionary change precludes sudden changes.

And if they did, they'd be ignoring the evidence offered by related plant species that have differ in their ploidy. Some have 4 or more copies of every chromosome illustrating that mutations can occur not just during replication (affecting single nucleotides) but also at the segregation stage of mieosis (entire chromosomes or chunks thereof can be mislaid). By definition evolutionary significant mutations that occurred by the latter method would be stochastic.

The fact that animals have a low tolerance of this method of mutation does not invalidate evolution. Plants are living evolving organisms also no?

Don't like plants raining on 'Goode's theory of Evolution'? What about bacteria.

How do you think antibiotic resistance can pass between species?

Because bacteria can be transformed in a single step to accept a plasmid encoding a new gene. Do you imagine that this cannot be classified as evolutionary change? Or is it just convenient for you to ignore it.

As an aside, transforming bacteria with plasmids is one of the fundamental techniques of modern Molecular Biology and something that I have personally exploited more times than I care to count in the pursuit of my own scientific research. It was invented in the late 70s (if I recall correctly) and it amazes me that someone as knowledgeable as yourself about 'Modern Evolutionary Theory' wouldn't have heard of it.

But suppose I'm mistaken or lying through my teeth.

How in all that is holy do stark & sudden alterations in the lineage prove the existence of an invisible, omnipotent part-time potter and celestial electrician with a fetish for married Jewess virgins and the smell of burnt lamb?

Oh, that's right. You don't answer questions on the fundamentals. No fun in that. Go on question my intellectual curiosity again. That was a good one. I mean it's obvious that I haven't thought about all this isn't it?

Goode take note!

Marcus's picture

[Reason] is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort.

“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness.

Creationism

Richard Goode's picture

Creationism

Reed

Richard Goode's picture

Do you believe that all life on earth has a common ancestor?

Yes. Thanks for asking.

I've never seriously doubted the modern evolutionary synthesis. The synthesis reflects the current overwhelming consensus. Among other things, it states that

Evolution is gradual: small genetic changes, recombination ordered by natural selection. Discontinuities amongst species (or other taxa) are explained as originating gradually through geographical separation and extinction (not saltation).

This aspect of modern evolutionary theory conflicts with Objectivist biology.

According to Rand, an animal has an automatic code of survival, but man does not. The capacity to think is man's only means of survival.

How did man—a creature with, allegedly, no automatic code of survival but a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—evolve from a pre-human predecessor with no power at all to extend its limited knowledge but completely reliant on an automatic code of survival?

Evolution is a process of gradual change in a population over time. Thus, either the origin of a creature so radically different from other animals as man was an act of special creation, or there existed intermediate forms. Evolution is gradual, and is the accumulaton of small genetic changes. But, according to Rand

There is an enormous breach of continuity between nature and man's consciousness

Furthermore, Rand speculates about pre-humans living among us, pre-humans who are "incapable of rationality as a method to guide their lives". She says,

they have no way of living, no method or means of survival—except through imitating us, who have acquired the human method and means... They'll perish without us, anyway. But we will not he sacrificed to them.

These are the creatures we evolved from, according to Objectivist biology. But they have no method or means of survival—except through imitating the creatures they are yet to evolve into!

According to Rand, we shouldn't even be here. But we are. Rand's conception of man—and, thus, her conception of man qua man—is irredeemably wrong. It doesn't take a creationist to see that.

Richard - Do you believe that

reed's picture

Richard -
Do you believe that all life on earth has a common ancestor?

Wit with a library card

Richard Goode's picture

I got Atlas Shrugged from the library and didn't even realize the irony

Right answer

Richard Goode's picture

Why don't fish have propellers?

Fish don't have propellers because they aren't equipped with combustion engines or drive shafts or gearing.

"These are all interesting questions."

Robert's picture

No, they are Coffee house day-dreaming bullshit and a complete waste of time.

Any half-wit with a library card and a will can answer these questions by simply understanding what a propeller and a wheel require to function in the manner you are prescribing.

A propeller is a means for turning rotational motion into vectored thrust. For it to work in water, the axle providing the rotational motion must be coupled to a gearing system to efficiently change it's angular momentum when operating water.

Fish don't have propellers because they aren't equipped with combustion engines or drive shafts or gearing. What they actually have is far lighter, far more effective and less likely to cause predator attracting cavitation when traveling at maximum speed.

As for 'wheels.' Anyone with a modicum of curiosity would realize that 'four-wheel drive' systems consist of more than just a pair of flat round disks with an outer layer of rubber.

They would then realize that four legs is a far lighter, far more efficient means of all-terrain drive with the added advantage of being a fairly descent close combat system.

But before all of this, the curious man would soon realize that you are just being an annoying cunt. Gasp! How can be be so crude? From whence do I derive the authority to issue such an inflamatory judgement?

Because I realize that the questions that you are proposing are intentionally tangential to the nub of the matter: God vs Evolution.

I realize that you have crafted your argument so because you seek to diminish the power of the ample actual, physical evidence to support the ascent of modern species by evolution whilst simultaneously distracting your opponents from the lack of evidence supporting your own position that God intelligently designed it all.

I realize that you have intentionally incorrectly conflated the theory of evolution (which deals with the mechanism by which many species have arisen from a few that we know existed thanks to archeology) with the origin of the Universe or the manner in which that original self-replicating organism came into being. These are things about which evolution and its author are mute. Dawkins has postulated a mechanism by which the first self-replicating organism came into being. But his postulates are just that, postulates. There isn't even a means to test them scientifically and when that means becomes available, doubtless those postulates will need refining as has every other scientific theory known to man.

But you've deliberately chosen to raise Dawkins ideas to the level of accepted scientific theory (which they are not) in order to build yourself a flimsy straw man in the hope that the spectacle of you destroying it (look, there is no evidence! Three physicists from lower Zambotoo disagree! Evolution is dead! Religion rules!) will distract people for examining the glaring fucking hole in your argument.

You see for God to have designed everything, he must first be shown to have existed in the first place. You haven't offered any proof of that. You have merely posed a stream of inane questions about why animals don't use Yokohama Tires, McPherson strut suspension and Rotol four-bladed variable pitch aluminum propellers.

You masquerade as an innocent seeker of knowledge wishing to seek out the truth in the God vs evolution argument. But for you opponent to buy that crap they'd have to presume (incorrectly as it happens) that you have conceded that reality exists and that man has the ability to perceive it correctly.

From that, the debate would then need to prove the existence of a means to get from bundle of molecules to a single-celled organism to ourselves that is bound in the natural, provable world as opposed to ill-defined (and for the purposes of your strategy for winning any debate: pliable) parameters that exists in the world of your imagination.

And now you know why I consider this argument to be Coffee-House bullshit. When you slip the ties to reality, then there is no serious scientific debate to be had. There is only imaginary fictional crap where God can give light by a single word and 'magic' is the only explanation that is required because you have faith. Harking back to the necessity of stipulating the supremacy of reality above above; if I hadn't made that stipulation, I'd then be forced to accept 'magic' as a mechanistic explanation of the Intelligently designed universe. Why? Because in a system that is detached from reality, magic actually IS something.

I hasten to add that I couldn't give a rat's arse if you want to spend your time dreaming about being a wizard, a druid or just a God-addled day-dreaming waste of space. But don't accuse me of lacking intellectual curiosity because I've got better fucking things to do with my life.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. You aren't here to debate the merits of theology, the existence of wizards, warlocks, ghosts or a God, let along an intelligently designed explanation of the origin of the Universe. You are hear to graffiti this site.

That's why you have never and never will accept that (or even enter into debate) reality is what it is (A=A) and that reality is ALL that there is.

Because if you did and lost (as you must surely do, because if there is more than reality you would have to PROVE it for the claim to stand), your God-centered argument would fall on it's arse and you wouldn't have anything to poke Objectivists with any more.

Thus, I'm not suffering from a lack of intellectual curiosity. I've looked at the evidence and concluded that you are merely being a Smart-Alec and a cunt - as per usual.

Why is...

Marcus's picture

...complaining about your inane clever dickery a lack of curiosity?

No Goode

gregster's picture

It's Philosophy: Who Needs It.

Just goes to show...

Richard Goode's picture

Why don't animals have wheels? Why don't fish have propellers? Why do men have nipples? These are all good questions. These are all interesting questions. In answering them, not only did Roedolf (for example) come up with non-stupid answers, he came up with a non-stupid argument for the non-existence of God. Answering those questions was a worthwhile exercise; ergo, so was asking them.

Just goes to show that you lack curiosity, which is the first of the Twelve Virtues of Rationality.

The fact that Goode PhD resorts to these tactics gives you a clue as to the value he puts on philosophy. Answer: Philosophy is a parlor trick, nothing more.

Philosophy? Who needs it?

Just goes to show...

Robert's picture

that you have more patience for Goode's game of "But why?" then I do.

But Why is the gambit of a 2-year old with a mind to test the patience of their parent/minder. The winner is the parent who can hold out the longest, talking civilly to the infant before melting down and threatening to drop kick the fucking brat through the nearest closed window.

The fact that Goode PhD resorts to these tactics gives you a clue as to the value he puts on philosophy. Answer: Philosophy is a parlor trick, nothing more.

Just goes to show...

Marcus's picture

...that wheels and propellers, as used by humans, really are purely human inventions.

A sophisticated example of tool use that nature has not managed to provide.

This fact definitely knocks any pantheistic ideas on the head and makes monotheistic deities look a bit stupid.

We are the Daleks!

Richard Goode's picture

Well, this certainly buggers our plan to conquer the Universe.

Come to think of it Rich,

Roedolf Smit's picture

Come to think of it Rich, these are good questions.

Surely, if wheels and propellers are more efficient then an inteligent designer would have used them.

Thus we are left with one of 2 options: either a: wheels and props are not very effecient, in which case your questions are really as stupid as they sound, or b. The inteligent designer was not all that inteligent.

Assuming b. leaves us with proof that the goblin either doesn't exist, or he's not very smart.

Maybe animals on mars might

Roedolf Smit's picture

Maybe animals on mars might develop wheels, if given a chance.

Nearly 6 years after the original mission limit, Spirit had covered a total distance of 7.73 km (4.80 miles) but its wheels were trapped in sand.[2] Around January 26, 2010, NASA admitted defeat in its efforts to free the rover and stated that it would now function as a stationary science platform

On the other hand, maybe not.

On Earth, however, there is are things such as vegetation and precipitation, which would turn that flat piece of dirt in to a soggy marsh, rendering your wheels (even more) useless.

Bacteria have propellers...

Marcus's picture

...called flagella.

Some fish use jet propulsion and echo-location.

Why don't fish have propellers?

Richard Goode's picture

Why don't fish have propellers?

Wheels wear out quickly...

Marcus's picture

...and get stuck in mud and rivers.

Wheels exist at the molecular level and - perhaps one might argue - for light objects such as Tumbleweed and seeds.

Indeed Philip Pullman imagined in his dark materials trilogy a species that evolved wheels by attaching their limbs to round seeds from a huge tree. Of course the advantage of this was that they could change their wheels whenever they wore out.

Is there life on Mars?

Richard Goode's picture

wheels require roads, which tend not to occur in nature.

Mars rover

Because wheels require roads,

Roedolf Smit's picture

Because wheels require roads, which tend not to occur in nature.

Without roads wheels are a really inneficient transport mechanism. Ask anybody who's done a 4x4 safari.

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