Archives for posts with tag: Darwin

You are entitled to your own opinion.
But you are not entitled to your own facts!

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal : craze”

“Something that has actual existence. An actual occurence.
A piece of information presented as having objective reality.
The quality of being actual.
A thing done: such as”

Destination first. If you know where you’re going, getting there will be a lot simpler.

According to Daniel Moynihan – “you are not entitled to your own facts”, facts are obvious.
So obvious that doubting their existence, their factuality, would push us beyond the realm of the reasonable.
Appropriating facts – transforming them into ‘private property’, banishes the perpetrator from the community….

Hm…

Let me put it differently.
Moynihan had said something.
What was it? A fact? Or an opinion?

Currently, we – well, most of us – believe that freedom of opinion is the cornerstone of our Weltanschauung.
When it comes to facts… We’re OK with the definition – we do use the word/concept, quite extensively – but we seem to have some problems when dealing with the actual reality. Remember the still famous ‘alternative facts’?

Let me add something personal to all this.
My opinion about ‘facts’.

The current definition is somewhat incomplete.
We take something for granted. To the tune of no longer mentioning it.
We assume all of us see the elephant in the room and no longer talk about it.

For something to become a ‘fact’ we have to notice it.
First.
And then we have to agree among ourselves about its meaning!

Things used to fall down since ….
We’ve been discussing the matter since… we’ve learned how to speak!
But gravity had become a fact only after Newton had noticed the famous apple, wrote about it and we agreed. Gravity had become a fact, and continues to be one, only because his contemporaries had agreed with Newton on this matter. And we continue to believe Newton was right!

In this sense, alternative facts have been with us since day one. Well, something like that…
God had told something to Adam and Eve, the serpent had said something else… and the rest is history! For some…

Newton had said something to us. And most of us had chosen to believe him. Or ignore his words…
Darwin had said something to us. Many of us have chosen to believe him. To accept his arguments about the matter. While some others have chosen to dispute Darwin’s findings. To actively negate Darwin’s explanations about how we’ve got here.

Gravity is a fact while Evolution is still a theory.
Statistically speaking, of course.

In this sense, Moynihan was wrong.
For his words to ‘hold water’, we must to agree on how to separate facts from opinions.
Until we agree among ourselves about how to determine ‘factualness’, we’ll keep having to deal with ‘alternative facts’.

I actually cannot wrap this up before ‘unveiling’ my litmus test for factualness.
Consequences.

Does it have consequences?

Yes? It’s a fact!
No? Then it’s not – not yet, at least – a ‘fact’. It did happen – otherwise we wouldn’t be speaking about it. It even does have consequences – we do speak about it, but that occurrence doesn’t yet have meaningful consequences. It is not a ‘factual’ fact.

Many people interpret Darwin’s Evolution as ‘the survival of the fittest’.
Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, made is crystal clear that ‘evolution is not as much about the survival of the fittest as it’s about the demise of the unfit. Read the book, it’s well worth the time. https://www.scribd.com/document/358382958/Ernst-Mayr-What-Evolution-is-PDF

The meme above had been shared by somebody who was convinced that “Covid is solely a mental disease programmed into the minds of the masses to further ingratiate themselves in their loving servitude to their slave master tyrants“.

The fact that we have so many, and so conflicting, views on such a simple natural law as the law of evolution means that… we don’t know shit!

Hence Samuel Adams was right.
Since we know basically nothing, none of us should have ‘authority’ over others. Each of us should be free. To do as they please. To follow exclusively the ‘laws of nature’.

Which one of them?
Darwin’s – as some of us have chosen to interpret, or Mayr’s?

‘Survival of the fittest’ or ‘The demise of the unfit’?
‘I’m stronger than you so move over’ or ‘If you don’t agree with our commonly shared values, please find another place to live?’
‘Free against all else’ or ‘free together with everybody else’?

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.

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Do you think they’ll ever make it?

You know how much I hate having to admit that I have no clue about something, right?

I didn’t ask you what’s going to happen! Nobody knows that… I only asked you what you feel about it. What’s your impression about what’s going on!

Well… They surely evolved a lot faster than what we’re accustomed with… But none of them reached the point we’ve been expecting… not yet, anymore. And the signs don’t bode well…
On the other hand, evolution is like tennis. A sport they had invented and which is very popular among them. Among all of them!
Coming back to evolution, no matter what the signs suggest, it’s not over – one way or the other, until the very end. Until the last ball had been played and the last individual had died. Or until the ‘field’ had become unusable…

And what seems to be their biggest problem?

They still have to overcome quite a number of hurdles… the most important being the fact that they haven’t yet learned how to balance their need to maintain their distinct individualities with the reality that they have to coordinate their efforts in order to achieve anything worth mentioning. Including their own survival!

Any possible explanation for this inability of theirs?

The only thing I can think of is their particular sexuality. The more evolved among them have only two sexes. And the roles played by each sex are hugely different! Hence they have a clear idea about what complementarity means but also this strange notion of ‘priority’. Each sex considers itself more important than the other…
Starting from here, it’s almost understandable that each individual, as they grow up, attempts to assert their individuality. Defend it from ‘intrusions’. Impose it upon as many of the others as they can…
This impulse is so strong that even now, more than 5 generations after one of them – a certain Charles Darwin, had figured out a theory of evolution, most of them still consider that evolution is about the ‘survival of the fittest’…

This being the only difference?

Yep! They check on all other bench-marks…
We can review each of them, if you want.

‘From virus? What?!? And from which one?’

From none in particular.
From all of them, since all viruses are nothing but information!

‘Huh???’

Most biologists consider viruses to be something ‘in between’. Not exactly ‘life’, since they cannot replicate themselves, but something more than mere matter.

Only this approach sets very straight limits to how we understand life itself.
Or should I rather use ‘narrow’ instead of ‘straight’?
‘Narrow’ as in ‘not wide enough’ minded?

“Information which perpetuates itself”.

Does this sound right for you?

We. humans, are individual human beings. ‘Social’, indeed, but, nevertheless, individual. It’s our individual-ness which sets us apart from our nearest cousins. Chimps and bonobos.
It’s our individual-ness which sets the parameters of our world-view. That being the reason for our attempt to define life as a characteristic of the individual organisms which happen to be alive.

This being the moment when I feel the urge to direct your attention upon a seminal book.

Hmmm… the Origin of Species…

If evolution is about ‘Species’, then what about life itself being more about species than about individuals?

What about life being more about the process through which information is passed along from one generation to another than about an individual organism being alive or not?

In this sense, ‘virus’ would belong to the realm of the living, right?

105 Pastors Wrote a Letter To Keep Yoga Out of Ohio Schools. They Succeeded.
By Terry Firma

The endorsement of yoga is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, which forbids government from picking religious winners and losers and enforcing its choice.

Based on my own experience, I consider transcendental meditation, with its veneration of the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi, uncomfortably close to a (half-baked) religion. Yoga, not so much, but opinion on that score is divided. You don’t have to be an angsty Jesus fan to concede that, depending on which yoga precepts are taught, its practice (derived from the Vedic / Hindu tradition) can veer into spiritual and religious territory. For consistency’s sake, it might be a good idea for atheists and agnostics to make common cause with the pastors (difficult though that may be!), and to err on the side of preferring that yoga instruction and public schools remain separate.

The first quote comes from the letter sent by the 105 pastors to the school districts in Ohio.
The second expresses Terry Firma’s own thoughts. Terry Firma being the author of the article…

Until reading his opinion I was convinced nobody else but those 105 pastors actually believed yoga could be considered a religion. Not in the First Amendment’s sense, anyway.

Here being the problem. A huge one.
By enlarging the definition of religion to encompass yoga – which is basically a practice, you end up with a wide enough definition to ‘engulf’ many other things. Science, and atheism, included.

Which, at some point, will be bundled with the items banned from being studied in schools.

What’s going on here?
Nothing much.
This is how ‘being rational’ works. You marshal all the resources you can identify towards reaching your goal.
Can the First Amendment be ‘helpful’ towards what ever I have in mind?
Does it mean that I’m going to actually weaponize it?

So what, if I’ll get a step closer to my target?

Have you considered all the consequences?

According to ‘science’, life is nothing but a process through which (genetic) information is passed, with small alterations, from one generation to another and during which the environment is, however minutely, changed by whatever the living organisms do during their lifespans.

‘Individually’ – organism by organism, life takes place inside a ‘membrane’. Which you might call it ‘skin’, if you like.
That membrane separates the ‘inside’ – the living organism, from the ‘outside’ – otherwise known as the ‘environment’.
Each individual organism continues to be alive for as long as the membrane manages to keep the inside in, the outside out AND to properly regulate the exchanges between the inside and the outside.
This being the moment when we need to remember that each living organism needs to eat, to drink, to breathe and to excrete. Meaning that it needs a more or less continuous flow of certain substances from the outside and to periodically clean itself. And the moment to understand that each organism continuously changes its environment. By incorporating some of it while feeding/breathing and by ‘polluting’ it when ‘throwing out’ the by-products of its metabolism.

For all the activity above to take place, each individual organism needs to follow some ‘rules’. It’s ‘membrane’ needs to ‘know’ which substances to allow in and which to keep out. Which substances to throw out and which to keep it.
To perform all these duties, the membrane itself needs to be organized in a certain manner. For all to happen as it should, the ‘interior’ has to be organized in a certain – and specific, manner.

On the other hand, for any (set of) rule(s) to make sense, it has to be congruent to the situation it ‘attempts’ to manage. For instance, the rule about what substances are to be ‘allowed in’ has to be adapted both to the specific needs of the organism following it AND to what substances are available in the particular environment in which that organism attempts to survive/thrive.
Since the environment in which the living process attempts to take place is subjected to continuous change – both as a consequence of organisms living in it and as happenstance happening, the ‘rules of life’ cannot be ‘set in stone’.
For life to continue in a consistent manner, it has to preserve its rules while for life to survive in an ever-changing environment it has to adapt its rules to fit the changes in the environment.
This being where evolution takes charge.

That’s why the life we’re familiar with, ours, is comprised of successive generations of many individual organisms which somehow pass genetic information (rules of life) from one another. The fundamental ‘trick’ which makes everything possible being that during the ‘passing’ process the genetic information is slightly altered.
Sometimes with beneficial results – those individuals thrive and, eventually, new species appear. Other times, the results are tragic. The individuals which receive bad – read unfit, rules of life do not survive.
Equally tragic is the fate of those species, otherwise ‘successful’ until that moment, which, at some point, are confronted by so momentous changes in their environment that they are no longer able to adapt. Dinosaurs are the first examples which come to my mind but the list is so long that we’ll never learn about all of them.

A pessimist might conclude that life is all about species and that individuals are expandable.
Au contraire, mon cher ami. Since there’s no way in hell – or in heaven, for anybody to know which individual organism has that particular piece of information which will enable their successors to survive the next alteration in the environment it would be rather dense to consider any individual as being expandable. In fact, it was the ‘individualization’ of the living process that made possible the evolutionary process.

Life is about both individuals and species, simultaneously and with equal importance.

Present owes just as much to Reaction, if not more, as it does to Revolution
Ilie Badescu, PhD.

Newton had noticed  that everything, no matter how ‘inanimate’, reacts whenever ‘prodded’. And, maybe even more importantly, that the reaction is exactly balances the ‘prodding’.
Provided that the ‘prodding’ doesn’t actually ‘destroy’ the ‘target’, of course. But even then, some ‘reaction’ is always exerted against the ‘intruder’.
Walking, for instance. Whenever we walk on tarmac, our weight is fully supported by the pavement. When walking on dry, fine sand, our feet leave an impression. Our weight is eventually counterbalanced but not before some local ‘readjustments’ have been made. Finally, when walking in knee deep water, our feet completely ‘destroy’ the layer of liquid before reaching the ‘terra firma’ below. But not without having been met by some hydrodynamic resistance – which is far greater than the aerodynamic one we constantly overcome when walking on dry land.

Darwin had noticed that species either evolve – and survive, or ‘go under’ whenever something changes in the environment they had been accustomed to.
It’s a no brainer to remark that here the reaction is no longer as instantaneous nor as ‘equally opposed’ as in the first case.

Since Berger and Luckman’s The Social Construction of Reality it is tacitly accepted that our fate is heavily influenced by our actions.
Some of those inclined to entertain religious beliefs will now add that it is our actions which take us to hell or to heaven but since there have always been some ‘misunderstandings’ between the various currents …
Anyway.
My point is that in this third case, each specific ‘reaction’ is actively shaped by the individual ‘reactionary’. According to their own projections of the future, to the prevailing, socially adopted and individually internalized, rules and to the individual understanding of the until then discovered ‘natural laws’.

And that our future, as a species/civilization, is being shaped now.
By us.
Using whatever cultural heritage our ancestors have left us and, maybe more important, according to our limited understanding of the world.
And according to our wishes, of course.

It will be our children who will bear the brunt of our current decisions.

Darwin had wrote “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection“.
Some of us had mistakenly understood ‘evolution’ as being a ‘fight for survival’.
‘Fight’ as in ‘kill/subdue all those around you’, not ‘strive to improve yourself’, unfortunately.

Ernst Mayr had put things right. ‘Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.

Adam Smith, a philosopher, had explained to us that free market capitalism functions because ‘the butcher, the brewer and the baker‘ cooperate across their respective ‘professions’, fully understanding that by respecting each-others work each of them would better serve their individual interests than by struggling individually.
Unfortunately too many of his contemporaries, and some later exegetes, mistook Smith’s words as meaning that ‘Greed is Good’.
And proceeded accordingly. Which was just another ‘application’ of Gresham’s Law. The ‘greedier’ among the capitalists slowly climbed to a dominant position and created a situation later described as ‘savage capitalism.’
Since people have a tendency to over-react, and to make matters worse instead of solving the problem, Karl Marx came up with an even more stupid idea than ‘Greed is Good’. According to him, the world should be run, in an equally authoritative manner, by a different class of people. Not by the ‘greedy capitalists’ but by the ‘virtuous communists’.
As if there ever was any real difference between dictators…

Almost a century later than Smith, Emil Durkheim, a sociologist, revisited the concept of ‘cooperation’ – from another angle, and demonstrated that society had leaped forward when each of its members developed his/hers particular talents instead of toiling together indiscriminately.  And then traded, on the free market, the results of their efforts. Nothing really new, just told in a different manner.
A marked difference from the ‘rantings’ of Marx. Who, by the way, had assessed the situation perfectly. Which makes it all the more baffling the fact that he was able to propose such aberrant remedies.

Almost simultaneously with Durkheim, another guy had noticed two very interesting things.  After a successful career as an engineer Vilfredo Pareto had started to study economics. Then he turned his attention to sociology. As an economist he had noticed the Pareto Principle – 80% of the results (income) are produced by 20% of the causes (agents), while as a sociologist he discovered that whenever social mobility, upwards as well as downwards, is hampered, the society where this happens will, sooner rather than later, experience serious difficulties. In fact this observation is quite straightforward. Whenever young people from the ‘lower strata’ cannot accede, despite being better qualified and harder working, to more meaningful positions because those positions are ‘safeguarded’ for members belonging to the ruling minority, the people from the lower strata stop striving while those from the ruling minority become lazy and careless. The recipe for disaster, don’t you think?
If we put both Pareto’s observations together we discover something similar to Smith’s budding concept of a free market. Whenever an individual, or a group of individuals, become so powerful as to dwarf those around them, economically as well as politically, the free market, economically as well as socially, stops working.

That’s why all monopolies have never failed to collapse.
That’s why all authoritarian regimes, including those built according to Marx’s rantings, have eventually failed – causing great harm to those fool enough to believe in them.

That’s why dinosaurs had disappeared – they had grown too big for their own good.
They behaved as if they were ‘greedy’. They seemed more interested in dominating the world instead of minding their own business.
Fishes – which are older than dinosaurs – survived and thrived.
Crocodiles, alligators, turtles, tortoises, snakes and you name whatever other reptiles come to your mind have survived the same conditions that have cut the mighty dinosaurs down to size.

That’s why Mayr goes on warning us. ‘Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.

Let’s not destroy ourselves, as a species, attempting to prove him wrong.

Update
Pareto’s elite theory is rather straightforward.
As soon as a society ‘grinds to a halt’ tension starts to build up. A ‘lion’ – or a coalition of lions, will sooner or later seize the opportunity and ‘make a grab for it’.
By tearing the calcified sinews which tied the society down the lions actions unleash – for the moment, at least, the creative forces that could not assert themselves. Things become markedly better than they used to be.
Because the lions are ‘lazy’ they soon hire ‘foxes’ to run the show. Unfortunately the foxes tend to be rather narrow minded and soon their narrow-mindedness coupled with the decrepitude of the lion ‘in charge’ bring back the society to the original – aka bogged down, situation.
A younger lion/fresh coalition of lions restarts the cycle.
Basically we have the definition of the boom-bust cycle.
A very compelling example would be the manner in which communist states had crumbled under their own weight. Or the manner in which all monopolies – or even companies in dominant positions, eventually screw up. The automobile industry – a mature economic field, would be a very good example for this.
Nothing dramatically different from Schumpeter’s ideas, albeit at a different scale.
Ideally, in a free (aka fully functional) ‘market’ there are a number of lions which keep each-other at bay and a big enough number of foxes to keep the show together. The lions, acting in concert, make sure that the foxes do not take over while the foxes prevent the lions from driving the whole thing over the cliff.
If the circulation of the elites is hampered, in any way, shape or form, the continuous/evolutionary social and economical fine tuning no longer works and the society reverts to the boom-bust cycle.
A really free market would closely resemble Darwin’s, or more exactly Mayr’s, evolution while the present situation is one where the circulation of the elites has been brought almost to a halt.
The whole process tends to be rather ‘circular’. As in a vicious circle.
Or a virtuous one. As it used to be, until very recently.

NB. This blog is more like a collection of notes than anything else.
I write them down because doing this streamlines my thinking process and I make them public because readers’ feed-back (mostly on FB) is very helpful.

when does chemistry become more than the sum of its parts?”

This evening I’ve read, in rather close succession, two very interesting lines.

The second was the one I just quoted above.  It comes from a BBC article titled: “There are over 100 definitions for life and all are wrong!

A little earlier I had come across Confucius’ “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

I could not resist the temptation to put these two together.

Rather than defining ‘life’ I’ll try to see what obviously (?!?) differentiates ‘living creatures’ from ‘chemically driven’ systems.

Inside/outside.

Life is about individuals. Huge, small, whatever. But each of them are individual beings.
Each of them, including the viruses, have a ‘membrane’ which separates ‘inside’ from outside and the survival of each individual depends on this membrane being able to do it’s job.

Chemical systems also have separations that ‘contain’ them into an ‘inside’ only those separations are not, in any way, controlled by the system itself as it happens with the membranes that separate the living individuals from their environment.

Lineage

While life is about individuals, it’s also about ‘species’.
If you remember, Darwin’s seminal book was entitled “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life“.

Species are nothing but ‘lineages’ of slightly different individuals who somehow manage to pass from one generation to another enough ‘structural’ (genetic) information so that the species remains ‘consistent’ but, simultaneously, the ‘replication process’ is flexible enough to allow for enough ‘mutations’ – which constitute the engine of evolution. The process is very well explained here: “What Evolution is” by Ernst Mayr.
Moreover the information that is, somehow, passed from one generation to another is contained inside each individual and ‘entrusted’ individually and ‘personally’ – not by an outside agent, as it maybe the case for the chemical systems we use in our labs or industries.

According to these ‘criteria’ viruses would be alive while computer programs ‘not yet’. Not until they’ll learn to replicate themselves in a manner flexible enough to be called ‘evolutive’.

 

ouroboros

Ever since people have become aware of their own awareness philosophers have entertained opposing views as to what is more important: matter or soul.

The materialists point out that everything, including us, is made of matter and, hence, nothing would be possible without it while the idealists maintain that everything that exists is nothing but a projection of our own thoughts.

As an engineer who had designed (material) objects before actually building them I find it strangely rewarding that both these fiercely opposing sides are, simultaneously, right.

Just as we are simultaneously made of flesh and animated by souls.

If you disagree, just pinch yourself.
Now tell me, ‘did it hurt?’.
Who felt it? Your flesh or your soul?
And who’s able to meditate about the whole experience? How come are we not only able to feel things but also to think about them? Then to communicate, efficiently, among ourselves about our relatively different experiences?
Surely, there must be something shared amongst us, something that constitutes not only a medium for our communication but also a common base for our experiences.

I’m going to use ‘reality’ to designate that commonality, irrespective of the fact that reality is a two tiered thing.

A material reality, something that exists per se – according to its own, natural, set of laws, and a social reality, something that we, the people, have agreed upon – either willingly or by omission to protest, efficiently, against it.

These two tiers of reality are no longer independent.

In fact they have never been. The social reality has grown, as a bud, ‘on top’ of the material reality. And this has happened according to an opportunity enshrined in the natural laws that govern the very existence of the material reality.

Now, after its birth, social reality has started to alter the material one.
In two ways.
By developing an ever more sophisticated understanding of the inner workings we gradually discover inside the material realm and, subsequently, by using various aspects of that (inherently limited) understanding in order to effect voluntary change.

I’m going to make a brief pause here.
Social reality is a human construct, one that came to life fueled by our own volition and shaped by the sum of the choices we’ve made during our entire history.
The mere fact that we are also ‘animals’ – and have changed the world around us by our mere, and long time unwitting, existence, is something else. Related to our social existence but nevertheless different from it.

What I’m trying to say is that by coming of age – by becoming aware of our own awareness, we are currently adding a third dimension to that Ouroboros thing.
The ‘serpent’ has been ‘eating its tail’ from the very beginning of the world. New stars have been born from the dust left after the older ones have exploded and decaying organic matter is what used to feed our crops until a few short years ago – and still does for the organic farmers.
But now, that we’ve become aware of the entire process – and of our contribution to it, we are in a position to influence its direction.

We can turn it into a vicious or a virtuous circle.

Which will it be?

who needs what

And please, please, don’t make this confusion.
People do, as for now at least, need ‘nature’ in order to lead what we call/feel to be a normal life.
But nature also somehow needs us. Otherwise it wouldn’t have allowed us to become what we are today.

Until now, during our development, we haven’t broken, not significantly at least, any natural laws. Otherwise we wouldn’t have reached this stage – according to Ernst Mayr’s interpretation of  Darwin’s teachings, anyway.
Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.
We’re not dead yet, are we?

Let’s keep it that way, lest we’re gonna be replaced.

Fast.

 

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