Friday, October 29, 2010

Determine this

I was reminded today of the following fundamental tenet of quantum mechanics: Events at the level of fundamental particles do not have causes.  If so, at least in our universe, such events can neither be determined in advance, nor can they have been predetermined by some heretofore supernatural force or forcer.  Determination of any sort being, of course, causative.
Predetermination on the macro level will at best determine some measure of probability, such measure decreasing exponentially over time.  At least if that's the present state of particle affairs in this particular world.  On the micro level we start with 50/50 odds, and conceivably it's 50/50 all the way down.  (Or not.)

Not much chance here for omnipotence or omniscience, whether you'd like your God to be a creator or just prefer to see the universe as intrinsically intelligent, all by its lonesome.

One caveat as to fundamental particles not having causes:   If they exist at all to serve a strategic function that permits nature to evolve, with randomness a necessity for that function, then in effect they have a strategic role to play, and have been "caused" to play it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No purpose, no responsibility

(Prompted in part by reactions to an 'experimental philosophy' paper on Moral Responsibility and Determinism.)

We are choice makers by default.  Unless we can turn off our unconscious (i.e., emotional) processes entirely, we cannot react with logical consistency to any assumption that in the end there's no such thing as choice, where we would also feel required to assume that choices are part of that deterministic world, yet at the same time be functionally illusory.

Our underlying "theories" are based on instinctive assumptions that all things (living or not) that act against our interests do so with some element of intent.  Some seek to be trusted, some seek to violate that trust, some seek primarily to harm or eat us with any "trust" relationship being secondary to that.  It's all about some aspect of trust, and trust would not come into existence in a determinate world.  Everything there would already be in a permanent state of neutrality, no trust required, since there would be no contrasting distrust.
We can't deal instinctively or intuitively with a "logical" assumption that trust is not to be considered.

We also can't set up an "experiment" where we "accept" that people in a determinate universe would nevertheless act as if they had the right to choose.  We "know" instinctively that such a universe would contain no such behaviors without the illusion of indeterminacy being a permanent part of that world.  In which case we would act toward others accordingly, continuing to punish them as the illusion requires.

Cultural differences cannot in the end erase these instincts, only channel the ways that we choose to apply consequences.  We can't be barred from choosing that some consequences are applicable.

This does not require us to have anything like an innate ‘moral responsibility module.’  We have an innate responsibility strategy that is archetypical.

And any differences that divide us into compatibilists versus incompatibilists (a false dichotomy in any case) are in themselves strategic responses based on our pecking orders, learned tactics, cultural differences, etc.

We don't have "compatibilist" intuitions as opposed to "incompatibilst" ones.  We are basically incompatibilists by "nature"  - we function probabilistically with an overlay of logically abstract certainties as to the inevitability of fate.
We act as if to outsmart nature for the short term, "knowing" it will outsmart us for the long term.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Experience drives the evolution of strategies which apply that knowledge to the evolution of their forms.

An archetypical biological strategy, defensive or aggressive, would require the entity to equip itself with a limited array of varied or variable forms - the equivalent of tactical restructuring according to anticipated needs.  The initial experiences from which it developed strategies had to give rise to expectations of environmental change as well - those prospects limited of course by the history of its species'  cumulative experiences.

Thus the strategy that can "choose" a more effective form won't have to engineer a new version on the spot if there's an appropriate one already in the bank.  It won't require that long, long wait for a chance mutation either.  Which doesn't preclude such events from happening - but nevertheless these strategies, if any good at all, will have provided other options for themselves as a consequence of their own evolvement.

(I'm reminded that Hermit Crabs choose empty shells as protective structures - and the shells weren't there for the expectant purpose of being chosen by a crab.  But of course this could be consistent with either of the rules in play here.  Except we see that strategies are essentially opportunists.)

So if it looks to neo-Darwinists that the accidentally acquired longer neck of the Giraffe gave an advantage to an existing strategy for eating leaves, and that strategy adapted itself to the new neck, that might ( theoretically) have happened.  Except the mistake has been to rule out other roads the adaptive process could have taken.  Such as the one I recommend above.

And we are already learning that there are preadaptive elements in our genomes that may be there for just that purpose - to avoid the wait for randomness to make a structural alteration that can (and not just theoretically) be arranged in advance in anticipation of its future usefulness.

(Certainly these variations were in wolves that dog breeders used to form new varieties of dogs, fitting the breeder's strategic goals to wolf/dog primary strategies in the process.  Manufacturing "learned" behaviors that, voila, became almost immediately heritable!  And don't tell me the wolf was always man's best friend somewhere within its backup planning).

Aphorism of the day:  Experience drives the evolution of strategies which apply new "knowledge" to the evolution of their forms.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How instinctive strategies have evolved

Excerpt from: Stomatopod Deceptive Use of Reputation, Roy L Caldwell, In: Deception: Perspectives on Human and Non-Human Deceit. R. W. Mitchell and N. S. Thompson, eds., State University of New York Press, pp. 129-145.

"The use of reputation and bluff in stomatopods should not be viewed as conscious acts.  Rather, they are the product of natural selection operating on probabilities of performance and response.  The selective equation has balanced over many generations the costs and benefits of generating, as well as accepting or discounting, signals that correlate with the probable outcome of a contest.   The resulting product is further tuned by experience and by the degree to which information so derived is available and accurate.
I hope that by demonstrating the occurrence of such supposedly complex mechanisms as reputation and bluff in relatively simple animals such as stomatopods, I can suggest the existence of similar processes producing "deceptive" interactions in more sophisticated animals whose sensory and integrative capacities make objective analysis much more difficult."

My comment:  Note how the writer avoids direct reference to the heritability of the lessons of experience, yet at the same time lays out fairly clearly how it leads to to the evolvement of non-conscious strategizing in a species.

Excerpt from: A 21st Century View of Evolution,
James A. Shapiro
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637

"Molecular genetics has amply confirmed McClintock's discovery that living organisms actively reorganize their genomes (5). It has also supported her view that the genome can "sense danger" and respond accordingly (56). The recognition of the fundamentally biological nature of genetic change and of cellular potentials for information processing frees our thinking about evolution. In particular, our conceptual formulations are no longer dependent on the operation of stochastic processes. Thus, we can now envision a role for computational inputs and adaptive feedbacks into the evolution of life as a complex system. Indeed, it is possible that we will eventually see such information-processing capabilities as essential to life itself."

My comment: To "sense danger" equates to a suspicion of potential harm.  We can see how the necessity for a strategic response has evolved in the complex strategies  of "deceptive interactions" employed by the stomatopods.  So did the strategies produce the forms, or the forms select the strategies?  The answer should be obvious.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blind to one's purposes?

A typically ignorant comment on purposive behaviors in organisms, recently received (at another site) went like this: "Likewise, there is no purpose in a human sense behind a stick insect's camouflage. It just so happened that its ancestors did not die because they just happened to have random mutations that conferred this morphology when without it they would have."
Except that commenters like this fail to realize that the individual entity here will be born with instinctive knowledge, in the form of an inherent strategy, so that if this insect responds in a certain way to threats, for example, the morphed structure is expected to be useful.  The insect doesn't have to know the purpose to act exactly as if it did.  Somewhere back down its evolutionary line, something, in some sense, was cognizant of the deceptive value of the camouflage, whether or not that something was instrumental in its morphological acquisition.
Camouflage has become that morphology's acquired purpose, because the insect uses it deliberately to achieve that purpose.
It's simplistic to explain that "without it" the insect would have died, yet "with it" was allowed to survive, regardless of any advantage the insect would have learned to take from its acquisition.   Of course these simple folk might not accept that an insect could learn, or worse, that such learning could be heritable.  The watchmaker, if blind, can't learn by his experience to see the watch - or can he?

Deceptive strategies being common (if not basic) in the biological world, it's more likely that the opportunity afforded for the adaption of the archetypical mimicking strategy drove the evolution of the structure, rather than the structure having influenced the development of the strategy.  One reason being that strategies adapt themselves to environments, and the forms that activate their functions are made to suit their strategic purposes, rather than the reverse.

But wouldn't this mean that life forms engineer their own structures?  If so, how would they manage the replication process?  Wouldn't it  be the same way they supposedly manage to replicate a mutation "engineered" through (somehow) selecting from a series of random trials made by some unknown force of nature?
But then what exactly is the makeup of any such replicative mechanism?  If it allegedly allows the organism to copy an accidental restructuring of a gene, why can't it copy one that has to  some extent been deliberately restructured?  Either way, it will have taken advantage of the randomness of opportunity. So the question would seem to come down to this:  Can an organism participate at all in its reconstruction?  Because it surely seems that all those we've been able to examine want to.

(Disclaimer: The preceding questions have been for the most part rhetorical.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We are all purposive

Strategies and their functional apparatus exist for a purpose, they are algorithmic structures, they enable choice making by providing a range of optional responses to stimuli.  These tactical responses are probative and expectant.  They enable comparative analysis, relating expectations to feedback, assigning relevant meaning to the data accordingly. They allow for storage of results and continued analysis of data from the feedback loop, adjusting the relevance of the stored results accordingly.  In short, they allow for learning.  They form the structures of biological intelligence.

Self-caused selection?

The organism's shared experiences over time are the causative factors that drive and control its evolution.  The natural selection function operates within those organisms, not simply some autonomous process doing without the need of their assistance until the time arrives for the organisms to somehow in concert accept the use or usage of that randomly generated selection. 
That's tantamount to arguing that purposive behaviors have found their purposes readymade by some non-purposive mechanism of nature.

(More teasers to come.)