Saturday, January 1, 2011

It ain't necessarily so…



[This is a reply to a commenter at Dr Feser's blog. The comments were having so many glitches that, once I glued my hair back into my scalp, I decided to post it here. Effing technology.]

First of all, the very ability to make false predictions, and then correct them, is proof that science works with contingency. A necessitarian cannot coherently say both "Science shows X is true" and "I might be wrong that X". As a devotee of the scientific method, you admit this or that scientific claim can be falsified––well, there's more contingency for you. Or are you really a full-blown fatalist?

Second, specific quantities are inherently contingent: it is not an a priori truth that the atomic weight of carbon is 12.01 (if it is, of course, that's no longer a scientific claim but a Platonic demonstration in the making). What is of-a-specific-amount could have been, and could be, of a different amount, by the very notion of what "specific amount" means. Only an infinite object is free of quantitative contingency: the quantitatively specific is what it is, and not something else, and is therefore confined to its proper, contingent features. The act of measuring implies there is a contingency in our knowledge of the object, otherwise there would be no need to measure. If you reply this contingency is merely due to our ignorance of otherwise necessary circumstances, you still grant the point by admitting at least the contingency of our knowledge/ignorance.

Third, radioactive decay (emission rates, exactly which atoms get emitted, etc.) and quantum indeterminacy are inherently contingent. Along the same lines, nearly all evolutionists agree a "second run" of terrestrial evolution would not result in the world as we now know it, even despite metaphysical necessity. Moreover, the notion of evolution itself demands contingency, for a necessary change is incoherent. Why? Because insofar as the state of affairs named by that change (SOA:c) includes the conditions for its coming to be, SOA:c can not not-exist, otherwise its conditions for being would not in fact be necessary. That which includes absolutely necessaryr conditions of being exists from all time, and therefore cannot come to be from not-being. Evolution literally cannot happen if, necessarily, only what happens can happen. That's called contingency, my neo-Darwinian friend.

Fourth, let's not forget Gödelian incompleteness and Turing-Church undecidability. There's contingency even in them thar "formal" hills you love so much.

Fifth, there is the contingency of our competing claims in this very exchange. You claim D: that contingency is unverifiable and probably even unreal. I claim C: that contingency is real and evident. One of us is right. And yet which of us is right is intrinsically contingent (obviously so if C is granted even without the point I'm making now). Even were D true, however, it would still only be so contingently. Why? Because there is no analytic, apodeictic necessity in D. It is not an identity statement, nor is it manifestly "evident to the senses" (otherwise we couldn't even be having this dispute). Insofar as it's up for debate, the truth of D is contingent, since truth only exists in a mind, even if the truthmaker of D is not contingent.

Now, only if you mount a radically actualist ontology (á la A: necessarily, whatever is, is, and whatever is, necessarily is, since only that which is can possibly be)––only on such a teratological Parmenidian-Meinongian hybrid could you defend thoroughgoing necessitarianism of the kind needed to eliminate contingency even as a meaningful category. If you were to mount A, however, you would commit yourself to death by "Ockham's" razor and suffocation in a grotesque Borgesian ontology (have fun barbering Plato's beard). You're not a philosopher by trade, so you might not be aware that it's actually necessity which has taken more of a beating than possibility in the last century or three of analysis (Scotus, Ockham, Hume, Sartre, Quine, et al.). Even if you accept a Kripkean essentialism, with its attendant modes of necessity, you still only have the resources for subsequent necessity, not antecedent necessity per se.

Finally, my point about the fallacy of affirming the consequent and evolutionary science is that your confidence in the latter is vitiated by your own claim that "Any logically invalid argument is always logically invalid, even when it is accidentally true." Ergo, evolution is logically invalid. You're being parsimonious with your logicism. You've admitted you come here to be antagonistic. You have the stink of sophistry about you in more than one pair of nostrils. You have five children and a wife: perhaps more time with them and less time online pedaling ineffectual and seemingly willful pedantry would be for the good.

Best,

28 comments:

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

[One Brow replied to me but I can't find his comments on my blog, so I'm reproducing them. He said:]

First point: I agree with this. You seem to be responding to someone who think science can prove something it true. To paraphrase Gould, science can only provide enough evidence that it is ludicrous to withhold provisional consent. I separate ontological necessity from epistemological necessity.

Second point: a claim such as the atomic weight of an element is a probabilistic claim. I agree that measuring itself is a method subject to error and epistemological contingency.
...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

...
Third point: If you had an identical earth in identical conditions, I'm not sure why something would change. None of the mechanisms for evolution are inherently stochastic, even random mutation only means random with respect to the needs of the organism, as opposed toa product of some random chemistry. Sure, there are inherently stochastic physical phenomena, like radioactive decay, but I don't see them as having a macro-significance sufficient to change the course of evolution. I interpret that statement to mean that the results of evolution would be sensitive to very small changes in the starting conditions.

Fourth point: I see incompleteness and undecidability as matters of choice, not contingency. I can choose to accept the Axiom of Choice, or not, as my needs require, much like I can choose to use the parallel postulate, or not, as my needs require.
...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

...
Fifth point: You're correct that I don't have the skills nor knowledge to fully defend a "teratological Parmenidian-Meinongian hybrid". However, unless said hybrid contains internal contradictions or makes predictions completely inconsistent with reality, that's still a question of preferences, not epistemology.

Sixth point: I have already conceded that any sciectific enterprise does not meet the standards of logic, and further stated that they should not be expected to, any more than you would expect metaphysics to meed the standards of of a science.

You interpretation of my intentions is interesting. I am here to learn and to share, but I do acknowledge I am naturally antagonistic. I think that such antagonism is often good for learning.

It's a shame you think I'm engaging in arguments I don't believe in, because you are among the few posters who seems to have the knowledge to back up what you say, and I think each of us can learn a lot from the other. But life will be what it will be. It's nice of you to be so concerned for my children.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

One Brow:

Thanks for your reply. I have no idea what's going on with Feser's blog comments, but it's just easier to correspond at my own blog or yours until I can reliably comment there.

First of all, I want to clarify that I only provisionally "called you on" being a sophist. I was combining two things I had seen: one, your admission of showing up to be antagonistic and, two, the recurring impression from a few others commenters that you were just being difficult for sophistry's sake. I take your profession of good faith on good faith, but I do still think you are parsimonious with your logic.

Also, I wasn't being tongue in cheek about spending more time with you kids. I genuinely have concerns about how the Internet compromises/infests otherwise normal human existence. You'll recall I voiced my concern about sometimes coming across as brusque or snooty. With someone like JT, I really have decided not to engage him (which I thought I had told him, until the comment disappeared at Feser's!). You and I are still on good terms and I agree we have much to offer each other, as time permits.

Second, the point of my many sub-arguments was to establish the reality of contingency in our world. You grant contingency, so, QED: we are brought back to my points about the "infectious" nature of fragility in a supposedly unbreakable piece of glass. Especially if you believe in total causal closure, contingency spreads to the whole spacetime continuum (for point related to those I made about conditions of coming-to-be). Ours is a world subject not just to instances, but to entire kinds of contingency, and this plays into the hands of the cosmological argument.

Third, I see no intelligible way for you to distinguish between "ontological and epistemological contingency", since you believe our epistemological states are but functions of an underlying deterministic causal base.

Fourth, it's a pretty uncontroversial notion in evolutionary biology that "rewinding the tape" would not result in exactly the same states of affairs after time t. Your reference to supposedly unvarying results from identical "initial conditions" strikes me as outdated Laplacianism. Word search this piece for "rewind": http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/chance/chance.html

If you take the quantum void as your absolute initial conditions (a common maneuver for naturalists these days), there is no non-contingent basis for things turning out the same way, since the point of the first quantum collapse is that it's entirely random, not subject to antecedent laws. You can't prescribe random events as norms (leaving aside the ramifying indeterminacy that would occur in each cosmological expansion), and therefore you can't coherently imagine the exact same initial conditions as normative parameters for subsequent runs of the "cosmos" program.

Best,

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator),

I appreciate you kind words, forbearance and decision to wait before judging.

As Feser's blog, all Im sure of is that the Hume post has fewer comments today (100) than yesterday (127). I don't know why.

... I do still think you are parsimonious with your logic.

I hope you will continue to call me out on that, then. The sharpness of an axe is enhanced by the hardness of its whetstone.

... I agree we have much to offer each other, as time permits.

The truth is the my job time had been largely free, but will be filling up this coming week. But Iwill be around as time permits.

... we are brought back to my points about the "infectious" nature of fragility in a supposedly unbreakable piece of glass. Especially if you believe in total causal closure, contingency spreads to the whole spacetime continuum (for point related to those I made about conditions of coming-to-be).

If you mean that the spacetime continuum (as opposed to the larger object, the universe) had a beginning, I agree that seems likely. I even acknowledge that change in the universe means the universe itself is subjectto change. Perhaps we are arguing past each other.

I have understood the argument to be that, since things/everything in the universe have been created and may possibly not have existed, the universe is also something that has been created, and may possibly not have existed. Perhaps for you this is the same state as being subject to change, but for me they are not the same. The failure the Aquinas' First and Second way means there is a distinction to be had.

One Brow said...

Third, I see no intelligible way for you to distinguish between "ontological and epistemological contingency",

By this, I meant, and probably stated poorly, the difference between may not have possibly existed and existing in a state of flux.

Fourth, it's a pretty uncontroversial notion in evolutionary biology that "rewinding the tape" would not result in exactly the same states of affairs after time t.

I agree it's widely accepted, but I'm not sure what the basis for that would be, as long as time t is anytime in the past 4 billion years or so, and the state of affairs is *exactly* the same, as opposed to very, very close to the same. Evolution has no inherently stochastic mechanisms, but it is a chaotic process.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/chance/chance.html

There is no basic randomness here, except as far as it arises from the general indeterminacy of the physical world (known as stochastic processes). The same is true for Development Rules. Fetal development in mammals is becoming well understood in terms of the causes of cell differentiation and gene activation. Once these processes have been fully uncovered, there will be no randomness here, either.

Therefore, randomness must enter into evolution per se, if it does, at the level of Ecological Rules; that is, in the ecological struggle [Sober 1984]. However, nobody can fairly argue against the statement that certain phenotypic properties -- a longer beak or stronger hindlegs -- can influence their relative reproduction in a population. So, even if the correlation is only a matter of frequency, there is still a nonrandom relationship between what is claimed as the cause and the effect.


This is two paragraphs from your link. Compare this to what I have been saying and the rest of the article. One more:

Gould has written that if we could rewind the "tape" of evolution and replay it, the result would not be the same (Gould 1989). Among other things, humans are almost certain not to re-evolve. This is because the number of contingent causes (asteroids hitting the earth, continental drift, cosmic radiation, the likelihood of significant individuals mating and producing progeny, etc) are so high that it is unlikely they would occur again in the same sequence, or even occur at all. If an asteroid hadn't hit the Yucátan Peninsula 65 million years ago, for example, mammals probably would never have diversified, as they didn't in the 100 million years before that.

A cheerful day to you and yours,

Crude said...

Hey gents. A question.

If someone were to embrace A - "Necessarily, whatever is, is, and whatever is, necessarily is, since only that which is can possibly be" - I'm curious about something that may fall out of the reasoning.

Presumably an explanation of a trait in terms of natural selection would go like this: Peppered moths have a wing color of type X because wing color type X was a net survival gain to the population compared to other color types, and thus X-moths flourished at time A.

Now, let's say a God-like being decides to recreate this perfectly: They make a perfect replica of the moths, the forest, and everything else (the universe, if you like) at time Z (say, 10 years before X-moths became dominant in the population), and start it up. Sure enough, we reach time A in the simulation, and the exact same state obtains.

Are X-moths in world 2 the result of natural selection? I suppose we could argue that in world 2, the selection is all artificial rather than natural. But if what you have is just a strict unfolding of an absolutely determined process that is devoid of contingency, doesn't that reduce natural selection to a kind of useful fiction at best? Natural selection didn't "cause" X-moths. X-moths necessarily had to exist, all the moths and predators necessarily had to do exactly what they did.

Just some idle wondering. It's like imagining a DVD with a movie showing footage of a peppered moth population. Is "natural selection" actually present in the DVD?

One Brow said...

Crude,

That's a great question. I have a response, but I'm certainly not going to say it's definitive.

Are X-moths in world 2 the result of natural selection? I suppose we could argue that in world 2, the selection is all artificial rather than natural. But if what you have is just a strict unfolding of an absolutely determined process that is devoid of contingency, doesn't that reduce natural selection to a kind of useful fiction at best? Natural selection didn't "cause" X-moths. X-moths necessarily had to exist, all the moths and predators necessarily had to do exactly what they did.

My take is that natural selection is a deterministic process. Sure, there are many, many, many variables, and the process is chaotic, but ultimately it is deterministic. So, natural selection would be a subgroup of processes within this deterministic world that relate to population propagation.

Crude said...

My take is that natural selection is a deterministic process. Sure, there are many, many, many variables, and the process is chaotic, but ultimately it is deterministic. So, natural selection would be a subgroup of processes within this deterministic world that relate to population propagation.

Right, but then is natural selection present on a DVD? Or, if the 2Dness of that is a stumbling block - is natural selection present in World 2, which is an utterly start-to-finish choreographed sequence (such that there are no 'open possibilities' about what will take place at any time leading up to time A - everything that happens, happens necessarily)?

Also, you mention there are many variables. But are there really, in the sort of world we're discussing? After all, a variable is supposed to be exactly that - variable. But if X was the case in the sort of world we're talking about, X wasn't a variable in that sense, because X couldn't have failed to be X.

I'd also note that taking such a view of necessity does some odd things to contemporary renderings of Darwinism. One of the points of Gould's 'rewind the tape' talk is to highlight that the outcomes of evolution were not preordained - "we got lucky", in other words. (Or unlucky, if you're a misanthrope.) For someone with so strong a view of necessity, Gould's example is at best a useful fiction, and talk of our being lucky no longer seems to make sense: The outcomes of evolution, including humanity, were destined, unavoidable, certain.

Consider this Simpson quote: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

Now compare what someone who holds that everything is necessary would have to say.

"Man is the result of a process that produced him by unavoidable, absolute necessity."

Something funny's going on.

One Brow said...

After all, a variable is supposed to be exactly that - variable.

As a mere mathematician, for me a variable is something that might be different, but is not necessarily different. If you start out saying that all the variables are exactly the same value, I don't see that as an oxymoron. I can appreciate why others might.

For someone with so strong a view of necessity, Gould's example is at best a useful fiction, and talk of our being lucky no longer seems to make sense: The outcomes of evolution, including humanity, were destined, unavoidable, certain.

I believe that Gould's notion of luck refers to the idea that on a billion different planets circling a billion different stars in a habitable zone, very few of them will produce something that looks like a human. You don't need inherent stochasticity for that.

Something funny's going on.

I once played a carnival game where three dice were rolled inside a cage. I think we agree the physics of the situaiton are such that any given roll is determined by the prior position of the dice and how the cage moves them. Once in a while, you'll get three sixes, even though the forces that produced that roll did not have an intention of producing them.

Crude said...

As a mere mathematician, for me a variable is something that might be different, but is not necessarily different. If you start out saying that all the variables are exactly the same value, I don't see that as an oxymoron. I can appreciate why others might.

"Might be different"? "Not necessarily different"? In the context of this conversation re: the past, the former would be flatly untrue given the assumptions, and the latter was what it was necessarily.

I believe that Gould's notion of luck refers to the idea that on a billion different planets circling a billion different stars in a habitable zone, very few of them will produce something that looks like a human. You don't need inherent stochasticity for that.

But you do need it when you start talking about rewinding tapes and suggesting that history could have unfolded in a very different way, which in turn implies results were contingent. I think Gould's claim is wrong (or at least, worthless for the science) for other reasons, but really, once we start talking about this very strong view of 'necessity' I think it's clear there is some inevitable fallout re: evolutionary theory.

There's a price for saying that contingency just isn't real at all, and all outcomes are necessary outcomes. Again, look at the Simpson quote, and even compare Gould's quote. On the view that there is no contingency, our evolution was absolutely certain. Pre-ordained. Unavoidable. There are Darwinists who feel uncomfortable suggesting that the evolution of broadly 'moral, intelligent beings' was even relatively likely in the entire universe (Michael Ruse immediately comes to mind). This idea of necessity would choke them. At first blush it sounds a lot more like some version of ID.

I think we agree the physics of the situaiton are such that any given roll is determined by the prior position of the dice and how the cage moves them.

But we're discussing contingency versus necessity. Just what's going on with the laws of physics in some ultimate sense, to say nothing of what place intention has when discussing 'forces', is something else. Was each roll of the dice you performed a necessary outcome, preordained from eternity?

One Brow said...

"Might be different"? "Not necessarily different"? In the context of this conversation re: the past, the former would be flatly untrue given the assumptions, and the latter was what it was necessarily.

In the context of this discussion, that happens to be the case. I don't see that as invalidating the usage of the term.

On the view that there is no contingency, our evolution was absolutely certain. Pre-ordained. Unavoidable. There are Darwinists who feel uncomfortable suggesting that the evolution of broadly 'moral, intelligent beings' was even relatively likely in the entire universe (Michael Ruse immediately comes to mind). This idea of necessity would choke them. At first blush it sounds a lot more like some version of ID.

I don't see a difficulty in resolving that an outcome would have been unlikely in a billion similar places, but is inevitiable in a particular place. If others do, so much the worse for them. I've never said being a good scientist makes you a good philosopher, and in many way the types of thinking for each are very different.

Was each roll of the dice you performed a necessary outcome, preordained from eternity?

I don't know of any inherently stochastic effect that operates on a large enough level to change something like the roll of a die. So, at this point I see that as being possible.

Crude said...

I don't see a difficulty in resolving that an outcome would have been unlikely in a billion similar places, but is inevitiable in a particular place. If others do, so much the worse for them. I've never said being a good scientist makes you a good philosopher, and in many way the types of thinking for each are very different.

You keep talking in terms of 'likely' and 'unlikely' and so on, but that's just not available when everything that happens, happens necessarily. All outcomes that happen weren't more or less likely, they were absolutely certain. Outcomes that didn't happen weren't "unlikely", they never had a chance.

You suggest these guys may be bad philosophers, but if so, they're bad philosophers who (explicitly in Ruse's case, implicitly in the case of Simpson and others) would judge this sort of view as being flatly incompatible with Darwinism. Not just because it seems to do a number on natural selection - that's still up in the air - but because it makes the outcomes of evolution dead certain in advance of it taking place. You may as well jump on the ID bandwagon vis a vis front-loaded evolution.

I don't know of any inherently stochastic effect that operates on a large enough level to change something like the roll of a die. So, at this point I see that as being possible.

You're denying stochastic effects in the sense of indeterminism entirely in this conversation, so what else could you be talking about? At best it would be stochastic-on-paper. Maybe some kind of platonic-stochasticism that is never actualized.

One Brow said...

You keep talking in terms of 'likely' and 'unlikely' and so on, but that's just not available when everything that happens, happens necessarily.

Such certainty is dependent on knowing all involved variables (or inputs, if you prefer). When you don't know every input, you can represents the range of results probabalisically. That is stochasticism via ignorance, as opposed to inherent stochasticism.

I have yet to hear an attempted scientific argument against front-loading. I'm not even sure what form that would take.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Darwinism", the defintions vary too much among people. However, the idea of random change in evolution does not refer to inherent stochaticity, but merely to being unconnected with the needs of the organism (need being generally tied to successful propagation). So ontological necessity does not alter the notion of random change in evolution.

I'm not sure what you are driving at, if anything. we seem to be going around in a circle, yet I think you are trying to reach a point. What is that point?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Okay, guys, I've been reading your comments and doing my usual cogitating thing, and decided to comment. I don't think you are actually just going in circles. Crude has made an interesting point, but I surmise the ultimate reply One Brow might like to make rests on the strong anthropic principle (SAP).

In any event, here seems to be the nub:

One Brow is arguing for strict (albeit compatibilist) determinism, while Crude is pointing out how this makes it a scientific *necessity*, in the only world we actually know, not only that humankind has arisen, but also that each of us in this discussion has arisen. As such, on a determinist reading, given the initial conditions of the world as disclosed by science, each of us was personally predestined and the world as we know it was foreordained from eternity. So much the separation of science and theology, right?

I don't accept strict determinism, but I also don't think the SAP cuts much ice here, since the only *empirically grounded* basis for initial conditions we have is the world we in fact inhabit. As such, determinism *coupled with our existence* means the world is necessarily personally sentient, and that sounds a lot like ID, or something more. The tortuous spread of time in which it took for us to 'get here' is just an anthropocentric illusion: the universe was 'getting to' our level (and perhaps beyond) from the very beginning. Indeed, on strict determinism, the present is but a holographic function of the very first instant, and thus the first instant contained within itself, as in the mind of God, all subsequent potentialities of its own immanent necessity. Only if we have some empirical basis for saying there could have been a "different world altogether" (i.e. absolutely different initial conditions) could we say we might not have existed in it. But then, if the actual world's initial conditions could have been different, then the actual world (i.e. its most basic set of conditions for being) is radically contingent.

What, then, of strict and total determinism?

One Brow, you make a lot of noise about “probability”, but your determinism renders the term vacuous. Nothing is more or less probable in your metaphysics, since everything is absolutely determined.

Meanwhile, the multiverse is a mad grab for contingency by otherwise narrow-mindedly deterministic folks. Look at David Lewis' modal hyperactualism: physicalist Platonism.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

OB: When you don't know every input, you can represents the range of results probabalisically. That is stochasticism via ignorance, as opposed to inherent stochasticism.

As I noted in an earlier post, here or at your blog, you have no coherent basis for distinguishing between our epistemic uncertainty and the ontological necessity of the world, since the latter causes the former without any 'slack'. As such, if the former is genuinely stochastic, as you grant, and yet is genuinely continuous with the underlying physical world, then the physical world itself generates genuine stochasticty (i.e. in us, if nowhere else).

Further, are you familiar with D. M. MacKay's arguments about the inherent unpredictability of self-knowledge? Briefly stated, MacKay argues that even if we at time t knew every possible 'input' about ourselves at time t+1, we could not predict our action at time t+n, since at t+1 our knowledge that we will certainly do A or not-A would recursively influence our total epistemic state at t+1 and force us to recalculate what we-at-t+1-with-A-certainty versus we-at-t+1-with-not-A-certainty would do. Interestingly, no one, not even an omniscient calculator (OC) who knew as much about us possible would be able to assert a prediction of our action (OC[A]), since, first, OC[A] would be a certainty only if OC told us our action and we in fact bore its truth out (but then the recursive self-prediction problems arise), and, second, the truthmaker of OC[A] (even if OC whispered it in secret) would be true only when we in fact did A. Since there is always a logical possibility I will do not-A, OC's prediction depends on my doing A, not vice versa. OC[A] is not a scientific prediction if it is not in principle falsifiable. As such, once again, science is inherently non-deterministic.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I was not clear enough above. The distinction between my two points about OC's prediction is this:

The first point means that OC[A] would support determinism iff OC's assertion of OC[A] to me could not even logically influence me to do not-A. However, once I know OC[A], I know that I know OC[A] and my knowledge of OC[A] (k:OC[A]) becomes a new factor which OC factor in his prediction of my action. So in order for OC to prove to me that I am subject to complete determinism, he must announce his prediction so I can witness how I invariably comply with it. Once he tells me my future, however, he is logically one step behind the epistemic state k:OC[A] to which OC[A] applies. He must then recalculate OC[*] to include what OC[A] did not, namely k:OC[A]. No one can ever prove to me that I am a deterministic system.

Second, if determinism is true and could be mapped onto a complete knowledge of the world, there would be no logical space for "prediction". Prediction is an assertion about a state of affairs (SOA) which will arise with a certain probability. A necessary effect cannot be anymore predicted than one can "predict" the sum of 2 and 2 or that with which X is identical. Determinism and Laplacian omniscience removes the secondary causal efficacy of anything being examined, since "what it does" at time t is nothing more than what "the world prior to t" is. If Distinct entities are just illusory epiphenomena of the encompassing total causal SOA. As such, there is nothing to predict, only descriptions to be made. If that were true, though, there would be no "me" about whom to make predictions. Only if I contribute something ontologically distinct to the SOA can predictions be made about my effects. In which case, the prediction is not justified by a reference to SOA prior to my effects, but hinges on the actuality of my effects. The truthmaker, therefore, for OC[A] is not SOA at time t(OC[A]), since an assertion about that SOA would predate (viz. not include) the occurence of A and would therefore have SOA:t(OC[A]-1), but, crucially, not SOA:t(OC[A]), as its truthmaker.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

On top of all this, there is the matter of the inherent physical underdetermination of theoretical explanation. Briefly, since any physical SOA can be subsumed to innumerable competing formal explanations, no physical SOA perfectly and exclusively exemplifies a single, determinate formal operation. On the other hand, we know we perform dterminate formal operations. Ergo, we know we are not merely physical SOA. The physical is formally indeterminate, but formal truth is not. As such, formal truth is not purely physical and there is no basis for total physical determinism.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

[This comment of Crude's showed up in my email but not in this combox so I am reposting it. Let me know if other comments have gone missing, I might be able to get them from my email.]

OB: Such certainty is dependent on knowing all involved variables (or inputs, if you prefer). When you don't know every input, you can represents the range of results probabalisically. That is stochasticism via ignorance, as opposed to inherent stochasticism.

Cr: Which has the effect of making 'randomness' an illusion, or at best a comment on our own ignorance. It's not a cost-free move.

OB: I have yet to hear an attempted scientific argument against front-loading. I'm not even sure what form that would take.

Cr: I didn't say that the people who were dead set against it were thinking straight, being reasonable, or even had a good argument. I've seen some people (self-described Darwinists, prominent ones at that) insist that the idea that past states could determine future states is some kind of crazy magic. Go figure.

OB: I'm not sure what you mean by "Darwinism", the defintions vary too much among people. However, the idea of random change in evolution does not refer to inherent stochaticity, but merely to being unconnected with the needs of the organism (need being generally tied to successful propagation). So ontological necessity does not alter the notion of random change in evolution.

Cr: First, if the definitions of 'Darwinism' vary so much - and I agree, they do - then what makes you think a denial of inherent stochasticity is ground-level? I've already mentioned Ruse, not exactly a small player in these (modern) discussions, taking the line that if evolution's outcomes are forseeable even in principle, then Darwinism it ain't.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

… CONTINUED…

Cr: Mind you, I think Ruse is nuts and his argument flawed. But then, I also think it highlights the tension of holding such a strong view of necessity and its interface with Darwinism, among other things. (Are you a Bohmian?)

Second, if everything that happens happens necessarily, it isn't clear that even your modified definition of 'random change' goes through. Back to the world-2 example where everything that happens happens necessarily. It's not clear natural selection really is taking place in that example anymore than it really takes place in a storybook.

What you seem to mean here is 'Well I can define natural selection to mean what it would have to mean if my strong views of necessity were in fact the case'. No doubt. I'm more interested in how your view would interact with modern and common views, hence Ruse.

OB: I'm not sure what you are driving at, if anything. we seem to be going around in a circle, yet I think you are trying to reach a point. What is that point?

Cr: I've been pretty clear from the outset: I've been pointing out some of the apparent costs of signing on to such a view of necessity. I'm not saying it refutes said view, just noting where it ends you up. Humanity's arrival (and all other animals) were not chance outcomes in any meaningful sense, but absolutely preordained and destined in every way. There's no truly random variation, and natural selection (among other things) quite possibly end up as little more than useful fictions.

If you think my goal is to try and get you to drop your view of necessity, that's not it. Believe what you want. Just know what's entailed by what you believe.

One Brow said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
[This comment of Crude's showed up in my email but not in this combox so I am reposting it. ]

Do you know how to check the Spam filter? I's probably there.

One Brow said...

Since Codgitator (Cadgertator) took most of his comments into a post, I'll comment there.

I agree that randomness above the quantum level is basically a comment on our ignorance.

The definiton of random change in evolution is fairly textbook, and it works whether the processes are considered truly stocahstic or merely stochastic-through-ignorance. I can give you a few links detailing that definition, if you like.

Ruse can make a philosophical claim that evolution is not foreseeable in principle, but not a scientific one. I haven't read Ruse's work extensively, some I'm not sure how my philosophical views would interact with his. I know he's controversial among many atheist bloggers, but I don't want to judge his work based solely on what they have chosen to present of it.

I fully acknowledge that the exact conditions of 10 billions years ago inevitably lead to humans. I don't think natural selection depends upon inherent stochasticity under any defintion, not any reason to see it's outcome as being random. In fact, you can see it's non-random effects by comparing, for example, puffins and penguins.

Crude said...

I agree that randomness above the quantum level is basically a comment on our ignorance.

Are you a Bohmian, then?

The definiton of random change in evolution is fairly textbook, and it works whether the processes are considered truly stocahstic or merely stochastic-through-ignorance. I can give you a few links detailing that definition, if you like.

I'm well aware of the textbook definitions (usually 'random in that statistically there is no obvious correlation of variation to fitness') - I'm pointing out what tack contemporary Darwinists are taking. Hence...

Ruse can make a philosophical claim that evolution is not foreseeable in principle, but not a scientific one. I haven't read Ruse's work extensively, some I'm not sure how my philosophical views would interact with his. I know he's controversial among many atheist bloggers, but I don't want to judge his work based solely on what they have chosen to present of it.

The problem is that Ruse, and others, ties Darwinism to these takes on 'randomness'. What got lost in Codge's pasting was this link where Ruse spells his views out pretty clearly. An evolution that was predestined towards certain outcomes is, by his (and others') lights, not Darwinism. A view of Darwinism that declares humanity in particular, and creatures generally, as necessarily coming about is going to be even worse of a fit.

Now, you can say "Well, that's just Ruse." But I think Ruse's basic sentiments here are, for better or for worse, well-represented among modern Darwinists. Again, when you say...

I fully acknowledge that the exact conditions of 10 billions years ago inevitably lead to humans.

...You're more at home with various ID proponents than conventional Darwinists. It's the front-loading hypothesis all over again. In fact, it's even stronger than conventional front-loading since at least the front-loaders don't generally pin their views on such a strong view of necessity.

One Brow said...

I don't know nearly enough quantum mechanics to take a position on it. That's why I keep qualifying my position to "above the quantum level".

At the link, Ruse says he sees the notion of inevitability as being connected to that of evolution having a direction, and this is what he finds objectionable. I see the link as being virtually non-existant. I find his multiple-universe solution to his perceived problem even worse that the problem itself. I see no reason to think that Ruse's opinion on inevitability implying directedness will be well-represented among biologists who are not already theists. This is more a case of taking out what you put into it.

If the ID arguments involved only front-loading, I would have no objection to them. They still don't belong in a science class, but it's a valid philosophical position.

Crude said...

I don't know nearly enough quantum mechanics to take a position on it. That's why I keep qualifying my position to "above the quantum level".

That makes no sense. So you believe everything that happens, happens necessarily, except you're not sure re: the quantum level? So... everything that happens, happens necessarily, except maybe it doesn't?

And what - you think the quantum level is walled off, so that even if there is indeterminism at the quantum level, it never has a macro-level effect?

At the link, Ruse says he sees the notion of inevitability as being connected to that of evolution having a direction, and this is what he finds objectionable. I see the link as being virtually non-existant.

You think the idea that the existence of humanity being preordained from the initial conditions of the universe does not paint evolution as 'having a direction'? I suppose the fact that I wrote up this comment doesn't show, or even imply, any direction in the motion of my fingers too?

Remember, I'm working with your own apparent views on necessity here. Going by those views places you in contrast to Simpson, Ruse, and plenty of others. Contra the Darwinists, our arrival was inevitable. That's stronger than even Simon Conway Morris' position, which he already realizes places him in some opposition to Darwinism simply by virtue of thinking that certain broad classes of evolution products are quite likely. You're taking the tack that these products weren't merely likely, they were certain from the beginning.

More and more, it's clear you accept evolution - you just don't accept Darwinism. No criticism from me there, so long as you can enjoy such.

If the ID arguments involved only front-loading, I would have no objection to them. They still don't belong in a science class, but it's a valid philosophical position.

Valid philosophical positions are easy to come by. And wait - the idea that past states determine future states isn't appropriate for a science class?

One Brow said...

As I've said before, I'm still exploring this whole thing. I'm not firmly committed to a strict determinism, but itseems a viable position.

What quantum-level effect would change the course of evolution, and in what way?

Again, you can build an automated dice-roller where the outcome of the dice rolls are completely determined. That doesn't mean any specific dice roll is being aimed for. Every some combination of lottery numbers is chosen, but no particular combination is aimed for. Similarly, human can be an inevitable result of our exact environment, but not be a goal of it. Nor is this position out of the mainstream. You are conflating the notion of different worlds in similar conditions (which would produce different results) with the notion of identical conditions.

the idea that past states determine future states isn't appropriate for a science class?

Is that all that front-loading claims?

Crude said...

As I've said before, I'm still exploring this whole thing. I'm not firmly committed to a strict determinism, but itseems a viable position.

Nothing here I've said is meant to undermine that, in fact. I'm just pointing out what's entailed.

What quantum-level effect would change the course of evolution, and in what way?

Just think of how mutations show up at least in part. Think about what happens if a (assumed indeterministic) quantum effect 'bleeds up' in any way (say, at the level of an ion channel.) Hell, just look at the evidence that quantum-level effects play a role in photosynthesis.

Again, you can build an automated dice-roller where the outcome of the dice rolls are completely determined.

I think you're mistaking an ideal with the reality. What happens when there's a power outage while running the machine? I don't deny that it's possible for things to be utterly predictable in principle - it just depends on who would be doing it and what power they'd have.

Similarly, human can be an inevitable result of our exact environment, but not be a goal of it. Nor is this position out of the mainstream. You are conflating the notion of different worlds in similar conditions (which would produce different results) with the notion of identical conditions.

I quoted Ruse at you. He takes the very notion of evolution being predictable even in principle as contrary to Darwinism. Personally, I think Simpson and others are engaged in serious obfuscation when they start talking about 'a process 'that did not have man in mind'' - but yeah, once you start embracing such a strong form of necessity, what they're saying does go down the toilet. Man was predestined from the very beginning.

For a position that's 'not out of the mainstream', it sure seems unpopular. When's the last time you saw any self-described Darwinist making the connection that humans were an inevitable outcome of the conditions present at the start of the universe? I gave you Ruse and Simpson, Gould was already on the table, and I could drum up more if I wanted who either strongly imply indeterminism, or out and out claim it.

Is that all that front-loading claims?

Not necessarily, but that's the part that gets tremendous criticism believe it or not. Hell, ever wonder why deep homology (itself quite a front-loading friendly concept) was a surprise to evolutionary biologists?

One Brow said...

Crude said...
Nothing here I've said is meant to undermine that, in fact. I'm just pointing out what's entailed.

In that case, thank you.

Just think of how mutations show up at least in part. Think about what happens if a (assumed indeterministic) quantum effect 'bleeds up' in any way (say, at the level of an ion channel.) Hell, just look at the evidence that quantum-level effects play a role in photosynthesis.

I remeber that photosynthesis depends on effects at the atomic level level. I don't recall that these effects where subject to quantum fluctuations, but it was a biology class. To which effects do you refer?

Also, to clarify: I can see quantum effects playing a significant role in the life span of an individual. The correct random event might cause cancer, or a frameshift mutation that prevents the production of Vitamin C. However, to make it to the evolutionary level, these changes need to be significant for a population. In a population of fruit-eaters doesn't need Vitamin C, in a different population the individual dies of scurvy (or something). Either way, the success of the population is not affected.

I don't deny that it's possible for things to be utterly predictable in principle ...

Do you see that it can be done without intending speccific consequences?

I quoted Ruse at you.

I found his argument flawed.

Personally, I think Simpson and others are engaged in serious obfuscation when they start talking about 'a process 'that did not have man in mind'' ...

You have stated you see design in all events, IIRC. So, I find this reaction quite consistent with that position.

When's the last time you saw any self-described Darwinist making the connection that humans were an inevitable outcome of the conditions present at the start of the universe?

How many have discussed it from the idea of identical, as opposed to similar, conditions?

I gave you Ruse and Simpson, Gould was already on the table,

I haven't read the relevant passage from Simpson, that I recall. Gould was referring to singular events like a meteor impact changing the direction of evolution (i.e., without the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, mammals never change from being small-rat-like creatures). If you rewind the tape and the meteor never strikes, humans never arise.

I understand you see a guiding hand in the meteor strike, but most of the people you quote do not, which is why they don't talk about man being predestined.

and I could drum up more if I wanted who either strongly imply indeterminism, or out and out claim it.

If you do so making sure that, in the context, they are referring to identical situations and not highly similar but with different possible events, I would be interested in reading them.

Not necessarily, but that's the part that gets tremendous criticism believe it or not.

I would like to read examples of such criticism from evolutionists, if that is really the part they are criticising.

Hell, ever wonder why deep homology (itself quite a front-loading friendly concept) was a surprise to evolutionary biologists?

I thought it was the over-reliance on population genetics, myself.