Monday, July 7, 2008

Evolution: A Glimpse at Truth

Evolution is not a sentient force enacting its will on reality. Evolution has no end goal, no purpose, no intent. When we anthropomorphize Evolution, when we talk about Evolution as if it were a thing which intentions we fundamentally skew the entire concept of Evolution and allow for morons to portray Evolution as something with which one could disagree.

It's a fairly simply situation to understand. When the language used to discuss Evolution denotes the idea of a "design" onto Evolution then Evolution becomes a "designer", a thing, which then allows for other fabricated "designers" to be included in the conversation; we allow a false equivalency. But the problem is not limited to "design" language. See if you can find what is incorrect with these two sentences from the Wikipedia entry:
"The first is natural selection, a process causing heritable traits that are helpful for survival and reproduction to become more common in a population, and harmful traits to become more rare. This occurs because individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to reproduce, so that more individuals in the next generation inherit these traits."

Do you see how those sentences compacted the situation? How "helpful for survival and reproduction" were crunched together when, really, the traits are separate and distinct? Look at the second sentence. It is not the case that "individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to reproduce". Rather, individuals with traits which behoove reproduction are more likely to reproduce. Individuals with traits that behoove survival are more likely to survive.

The problem is that scientists are not equipped to deal with semantics, are not capable of articulating a message. But in a much larger sense the majority of human beings are not capable of identifying the problematic nuances of language. Here is a quick example: We cannot answer the question "Why is the sky blue?". We can answer the question "How is the sky blue?".

But getting back to evolution, the thing that most pisses me off is the self-centered way people discuss evolutionary changes over time. I'm sure you've heard the evolution of the eye argument, founded on the idea that the eye is so complex that it could not have happened by accident; it had to be designed. The problem with this view, as with many critiques of evolution, is that they view the way things are as some goal which evolution had to reach; they maintain the position that evolution was working towards developing eyes and no amount of random change over time could result in that desired end.

Which, as you can probably guess, is FUCKING STUPID and indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the fuck we're talking about. Evolution was not pondering reality, decided that sight would be keen, and so fumbled and tripped its way towards developing eyes. Eyes were a mutation, sight was a mutation within the string of happy accidents which is reality. Things which mutated to have sight were able to fucking trounce sightless things. Therefore, etc.

The only explanation I can think of for why this language problem exists within discussions of Evolution is that to maintain it one must acknowledge that reality has always been a happy accident, that permanence is an illusion and change is the way things are, in a very odd understanding of what "are" means. To have an accurate and correct understanding of Evolution one must accept that fundamentally this, the way things are, is all just something that happened as a result of these random mutations. We, You, I do not exist as a result of our needing to exist and some design for our existing. We're just something that happened. We're not engaged in an evolutionary arms race, developing and changing to accommodate an innate desire to one up other beings. We're just the result of a bunch of mutations. We exist within an infinite expanse of time containing a nigh-infinite universe with nigh-infinite stars around which orbit nigh-infinite planets. When you think about it that way, apply evolution, and abandon a self-centered viewpoint? You begin to understand what reality is all about.

And very few people want to accept that.

19 comments:

Roscoe said...

trying to read as I "work".. and.. well..

you've a classic "Classics Major" sentence, as Banta might say, there in the second line. One needing probably a comma or two..
and likely a typo?

...Evolution as if it were a thing which intentions we fundamentally skew...?

you mean with? or does the sentence need more extensive rewriting to convey a thought?

Roscoe said...

Oh, ye gods, this needs commas everywhere.

It's like you gave your supply to Mikey, since you were stuck in town, and now you've none to use....

Roscoe said...

Oh, oh, ow. ow. ow. ow.

This is really a discussion of language and precision....

and you've written terribly.

Ironies, thy name be Bloggerpost.

(natural selection conflating reproduction and survival makes sense because both are required for the system to work, but that's not spelled out in your selection, yes)

a much faster and clearer way of saying what you want to in the beginning? Use the word implication in place "becomes" and "allows for"...

Roscoe said...

also.. talk about burying your lede.. I dare say you've done a better job at that task than I can do..... which says something.

kylebrown said...

Combining survival and reproduction is not problematic. In order to reproduce a creature must be able to survive to a point in which said creature can reproduce. If a creature were born with all of the reproductive advantages in existence, but couldn't survive to mate, then they are all for nothing and the advantages are not passed on.

Roscoe said...

it is for what he's discussing, though.. namely, how the language we use shapes how we understand a concept.

Hilariously to me, if I'm reading this correctly, J's rant is a imprecise call for precision in language.

and I could be talking out my ass here... but the bigger point seems to be striving to get everyone on the same page.. which is where prescision comes in....

_J_ said...

I'm using "intentions" as a verb. I liked how Heidegger did that sort of thing so I adopted the habit.

"Hilariously to me, if I'm reading this correctly, J's rant is a imprecise call for precision in language."

I work in Irony the way others work in oils.

"Combining survival and reproduction is not problematic."

It is problematic because they are two different things. Certain characteristics may lead to the survival of the individual. Other characteristics may lead to ability to reproduce. Some characteristics may aid both reproduction and individual survival.

But we need to be precise in which any particular trait is rather than just lump them all together.

Roscoe said...

Your sentencce doesn't make that clear, Jay.

The meaning behind it.. hmn. .. still doesn't work.

a thing THAT intentions works, if it's a verb.. but not which.

Which intentions WHAT? it needs a direct object of somesort.

Roscoe said...

This is where context comes in.

Both reproductive traits and survival traits are needed to reproduce, though, at least up until the point of reproductions' completion.

So, contextually, both are work there, especially when the sentence in question refers to neither reproductive nor survival influencing traits specfically, but to advantageous traits.

.... Are you actually bringing MORE outside context to bear on this selection, if your purpose is precision in one's statements?

Becuase.. if so, you're actually totally screwing up your argument, by claiming the selection says something that it doesn't.

kylebrown said...

You are missing my point. Reproduction is necessarily dependent upon survivability. One can not reproduce without surviving. For this reason they can be included together. A car requires wheels and an axle to roll. They are both separate entities within the car, and both have properties which could be altered. But in order for the car to work it must have both. It would not be wrong the include both together in referencing a car's suspension. The same goes for species survivability which is what natural selection relies upon.

_J_ said...

"when we talk about Evolution as if it were a thing which intentions we fundamentally..."

Change it to be "when we talk about Evolution as if it were a thing which runs we fundamentally.."

Works with "run" works with "intention".

And, really, I don't want to talk about it because it's missing the fucking point of the rant in such a drastic way that it is physically painful.

Roscoe said...

it doesn't work without a comma, seperating the clause, J.

And.. No, it's not really missing the point of the rant.

The rant's point isn't about evolution, it's only triggered by it.

_J_ said...

"Reproduction is necessarily dependent upon survivability. One can not reproduce without surviving. For this reason they can be included together."

Acknowledging the separation helps us to reinforce the fact that these are all separate, random mutations which are not working together to achieve some end. It's all random mutation. Certain mutations can have harmony and therefore provide longevity for a given species. But they do not mutate together as a result of some pre-existing plan.

When we shorthand them together it sounds like wangs and fangs and claws all happen together cause Evolution decided that they needed to.

kylebrown said...

Ok, that I understand. You are at odds not with the sentence itself, but instead with the implications that would be drawn from it by a person with no scientific background.

A reasonable person, I like to think, would never draw such a conclusion from that sentence, and this may be why I took issue with your frustration by it, as I could not see the implication that you have drawn from it.

Roscoe said...

Perhaps, but you're intentionalizing, and demanding something that your own statements don't ask for.

Your selection doesn't claim that evolution is random, OR that it's guided. It's agnostic on the subject. It doesn't raise the subject at all. Either your choice of selection was imperfect, or you're not looking for precision, as much as you are looking for a different understanding of evolution, one that is NOT imparted by language, but by expectation.

in which case, your entire rant is something of a misfire, becuase it was primed and aimed at the wrong topic.

_J_ said...

"A reasonable person, I like to think, would never draw such a conclusion from that sentence,"

Right. But you see what occurs. Two people read those words and think they say two different things.

So then we have to try and figure out what they meant. And we can say "a reasonable person would read it X", but the foundation of that is simply what we think reasonble.

Go run John.
Go run, John.

Do we assume a comma into that first sentence? Do we assume the comma out of that second sentence?

To aid in a correct interpretation we need to be precise in how we construct sentences. And with things like Evolution and Abortion we need to be as precise as possible lest idiots say stupid shit and quote us as evidence for their dumb.

Roscoe said...

No, becuase the structure of the langauge TELLS us the two sentences say different things, because of the comma placement.

And yet, you're not showing how the selected sentence is NOT precise. What you're missing, Jay, is the context. The selection IS precise and correct, as presented. It can only cease to be so when further context is presented to raise the question.

If the problem is in presentation and anthromopization of Evolution.. then.. shouldn't you precisely stop refering to it as a proper noun?

it's a process, not a designer, correct?

Roscoe said...

did this come about becuase of the topic of today's YAD? or is that coincidence?

Roscoe said...

oh, man.. the link in that YAD is GREAT.