On Jan 15, 5:15 pm, Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 14, 2010 at 10:16 PM, Stathis Papaioannou
> <stath...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > There is no real distinction between the different possibilities you
> > mention, but evolution has programmed me to think that I am a single
> > individual travelling in the forward direction through time.
> How did evolution do that?  By what means?  Using what causal powers?
> Evolution can't really be used as an explanation for anything can it?
>  Evolution is just a useful fictional narrative that helps us think
> about what we observe.
> For example, if deterministic physicalism is true, then the initial
> configuration of matter at the universe’s first instant, plus the
> causal laws that govern the subsequent behavior of this matter as
> applied over 13.7 billion years fully determines the current state of
> the universe today.
> In this case, there is nothing for evolution to do. It is purely a
> description of what we observe, not an explanation of it. The state of
> the world is today was fixed by the initial conditions plus the causal
> laws of physics.  Any explanation for the way you are lies there, not
> with "evolution".
> There is no “competition” for survival. There is no “selection”.
> Instead, events involving fundamental particles unfold as they must…in
> the only way that they can.
> When we say “competition among creatures”, what we really mean is “it
> is as though there were competition among creatures”. Because what
> really exists are fundamental particles (quantum fields, strings,
> whatever), not “creatures”. It is only in our minds that we take
> collections of quarks and electrons and form them into creatures.
> Since they aren't fundamental laws, evolution and natural selection
> have no causal power.  We just speak of them as if they did.
> Further, even allowing for some kind of quantum randomness still
> doesn’t give “evolution” anything to do. Though it does muddy the
> water a bit.
> Right?  Or wrong?

That argument must apply to any form of explanation, of course. So
rather than me deciding to reply to your post, say, there are only
complicated fundamental processes doing their thing. But even so,
surely the higher-level descriptions have some explanatory power? The
fact that everything boils down to physics is generally assumed, by me
at least, but I also realise that it isn't always useful to look at
things like that. If you wish to explain something, you often need
useful higher-level approximations. Natural selection is one such,
which appears to have some explanatory power....

However, I agree that the statement "evolution has programmed us to
think of ourselves as a single individual", etc is rather contentious
as an explanation of why we think this way. It seems to imply that
there are many other ways we *could* think of ourselves, and that
evolution has been at work on our genes to choose those of us who
think of ourselves this way because it confers some survival /
reproductive advantage. However, it's possible that there are no other
choices: we "move forward in time," for example, because the entropy
gradient won't allow any other form of creatures to exist, we think of
ourselves as individuals because, fictional ant colonies aside, that's
the only realistic (or simple) way to build conscious creatures
(actually, it's quite possible we aren't individuals - we seem to
contain at least two "individuals" who share a lot of their resources,
as split-brain operations show).


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