Okay, I think maybe we're getting somewhere!

On Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 3:37 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 28 February 2010 17:38, Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>>> People believe and do all sorts of crazy things, as I'm sure you know.
>>> The psychological capacity for just about any possible behaviour is
>>> there, but the very maladaptive behaviours are rare. It's not that
>>> it's difficult to make an animal that does not feel hungry, it's just
>>> that these animals don't pass on their genes. Is that not a causal
>>> mechanism for evolution?
>>
>> Isn't there already a complete causal account at the level of quarks
>> and electrons and the fundamental forces that govern their
>> interactions, stretching back to the first instant of the universe,
>> for the existence and demise of any specific animal that doesn't feel
>> hunger?
>>
>> If this physics-based account is complete, then what does this extra
>> causal mechanism of evolution that you are proposing actually do?
>> Either evolution "really" does something - or it's just an imaginary
>> device that we've made up...a descriptive metaphorical narrative that
>> is broadly compatible with a Victorian conception of how the world is,
>> but which in itself doesn't actually explain anything.
>
> I can say
> (a) I ate the sandwich because I was hungry; or
> (b) I ate the sandwich because signals from my hypothalamus acted on
> my motor cortex which then caused the muscles in my arms and jaws to
> contract in a certain coordinated way; or
> (c) I ate the sandwich because of the initial state of the universe
> plus the laws of physics.
>
> All these are valid explanations for why I ate the sandwich. The first
> two are explanations at a higher level of description than the last.

Well, your words mean whatever you want them to mean.  So if you
intend for your statements about hunger and eating sandwiches to
exactly reduce to more detailed explanations involving initial states
and fundamental laws, then good enough!

But this would seem to support my assertion that evolution doesn't
explain anything.  Higher level descriptions don't add information -
in fact they leave out details, sacrificing definitiveness for
increased comprehensibility via the use of abstraction and analogy.

SO, what got this particular subthread going was this:

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.

So you proposed evolution as the reason that you think of yourself as
a single individual who persists through time.  But taking the
equivalent of option (c) from your example above, what you are
*actually* saying is:

"The initial state of the universe plus the causal laws of physics
have programmed me to think that I am a single individual travelling
in the forward direction through time."

Correct?  If so, I agree with you that this translation is the
equivalent of your original statement - but it doesn't sound quite as
good, does it?  It sounds less like an explanation and more like the
statement of a brute fact.  But it's just a matter of wording, not
because of a change in content.

To make it even more clear:  "I think of myself as a single individual
travelling forward in time because that's the way things are."

To say that you could have been otherwise is to say that the initial
conditions of the universe and/or the laws of physics and/or random
quantum events along the way could have been otherwise.  But if they
*could* have been otherwise, why weren't they?

Ultimately I think you have to say that there is no reason that you
think of yourself as a single individual travelling forward in time.
You (or rather your OMs!) just do.

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