Category Archives: General Relativity

Deriving Natural Selection = Fitness × Acceleration

As you can see from my previous post, I now have postulated a direct relation between Natural Selection and Fitness (N.S.=F.×A.).  This relation follows from the theory.

The short short short version of the theory is this general postulate: one organism’s traits are another’s environment and vice versa.  Hence all competition can be viewed as environmental phenomena.  This gives Natural Selection as a result of Fitness and an environmental factor, which I refer to as Acceleration.

If you want to see the paper as it stands now, you can access it here or below.[6in/120mm ebook formatted]

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Rewrite of Evolution

New theory of evolution!  Hooray!

Patched a bunch of things together to make a nice story.  Fixed the little issue about fitness being circular.  Expanded natural selection to apply more generally.  Causal structure.  Epistemological foundations.  ooOoOO0Ooooooo.

And it’s good fun.  I swear.  Epistemology, history of physics, evolution… makes me happy.  You should really read it.

Download here. [pdf, 304kb]

Posted in biology, epistemology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, measurement, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

… Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh

via BackRe(Action)

Posted in fun, General Relativity, measurement, physics, Relativity, science, Special Relativity. Tagged with .

Hypotheses Natura Non Fingo

Newton famously wrote [1] [2]:

I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses…  It is enough that gravity does really exist and acts according to the laws I have explained, and that it abundantly serves to account for all the motions of celestial bodies.

as a response to those who challenged him to provide causes of gravity.  He said, “Hypotheses non fingo,” or, “I feign no hypothesis,” or if you will, “I haven’t even a guess.”

Earlier in a letter he wrote:

That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one another, is to me so great an absurdity that, I believe, no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking could ever fall into it.

These passages show that Newton recognized a fundamental causal problem within his theory: that although his mathematics described gravitational physics, it did not provide a causal explanation.  It was not until General Relativity 200 years later was this problem solved.

Recently another major fundamental theory of science has been accused of lacking the proper causal structure:  Fodor & Piatelli-Palmarini’s attack on evolution, What Darwin Got Wrong.  Consider what Fodor says in his recent reply to Block and Kitcher,

A mere chronicle of instances of adaptation would not therefore amount to a theory of adaptation. It would just be “natural history.” We haven’t the slightest doubt that Darwin thought that he had discovered a theory of adaptation. It was, to be sure, a pretty thin theory, as it would have to be in order to apply to evolving creatures as such, whatever their phenotypes and whatever their ecologies.

He is saying that evolution is a mere chronicle of natural history — not a cause of it — just as Newton’s gravitation described gravity without revealing its causal structure.  Later he says,

[Biologists should] give up on the project of finding a mechanism for evolution and study the fixation of adaptive traits case by case. Since all the evidence suggests that they are extremely heterogeneous, this should keep evolutionary biologists busy well into the indefinite future.

This means that biologists should give up on repairing evolution and just try to explain individual phenomena moving forward, just as physics moved forward even as Newton knew his theory was on metaphysical shaky ground.

Hence it is Fodor now saying, “Hypotheses non fingo,”  because he believes he can describe natural history accurately, but also has no guess as to what caused things to work out the way they did.

* * * * *

In light of this analysis, consider this statement from Block and Kitcher’s counter argument:

After our critique, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini have apparently decided that the crucial point is the lack of a “theory” of natural selection. But, as we have noted here, nobody needs a “theory” of the type they demand.

And this from Sober’s recent review [pdf]:

What is the net gravitational force now acting on the earth?  That depends on the mass of the sun, the moon, the stars, and of everything else.  It does not follow that there are no laws of gravity, only that the laws need to have numerous placeholders.  FP may object to my analogy because it is always the mass of these various objects and their distance from the earth that are relevant to the gravitational force that the earth experiences.  My reply is that this makes no difference…

Neither has understood the argument as presented above.  If Block and Kitcher had understood, then they would have recognized that yes, for the vast majority of people, the “‘theory’ of the type they demand” is unnecessary, but it is, nevertheless, of critical importance to the likes of Newton and Einstein.  If Sober had understood, then he wouldn’t have used the worst possible example to make his point:  by saying it is “always the mass of these various objects and their distance from the earth that are relevant,” and not mentioning motion, we know he was only thinking about Newtonian Mechanics.

* * * * *

Should we, with Fodor, believe that we are stuck in a philosophical absurdity?

No.  What I said in my original criticism of Fodor, found in What Fodor Got Wrong (18 March 09),  still applies.  Though the above description of the problem is likely clearer than my analysis based on his claims that Natural Selection is statistical and that the struggle for survival is only a metaphor, the problem of causal structure is the same.  My solution focuses on using individual struggles as local interactions of Natural Selection — like a gravitational field in General Relativity — and hence provides the causal structure that Fodor wanted.

[EDIT 6 April 2010:  I’m thinking I gave Fodor too much credit in this post.  I now think his arguments amount to saying that for each instance of evolution we have, we are merely relaying natural history, not a causal explanation.  The argument I attributed to Fodor above says that evolution by natural selection is natural history.  Fodor must be more agnostic about evolution’s ontology because of how he says it is possible to look for some alternative to natural selection in his reply to Block and Kitcher.  My solution is still viable though:  since I provide causal structure, this also provides how to describe evolution in a causal way.]

Posted in biology, evolution, General Relativity, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

Dismantling Fodor’s Argument

Fodor argued that the theory of evolution is not a legitimate theory of science because it is either vacuously true or wrong.  He accused Darwin of committing the intentional fallacy. (synopsis here)

Insofar as he made no logical mistakes in his reasoning, we need a different strategy to defend the theory of evolution.  In this post I will argue that his argument is an instance of gerneral underdetermination, and hence not a problem of evolution but of philosophy of science.

Underdetermination means that we can’t specifically identify the exact cause of scientific phenomena.  For example, given some phenomenon, say darkness during the day, there can be many possible explanations: an eclipse, an exploding volcano shooting ash into the air, the sun has gone out, the electric company has blocked the sun to make more money, it was the work of Claw Vipers, etc.  The exact cause of the darkness is underdetermined; sure we can research the problem and eliminate some of the possible explanations, but because of our limitations we will never be able to check everything.  So the cause of the darkness can be said to be underdetermined, i.e. there is just not enough determining evidence.

Fodor argues that the theory of evolution is vacuous becuase given any trait we identify as benficial to the fitness of the organism is arbitrarily selected.  Since there are too many factors to identify within an ecosystem or organism acting within that ecosystem, any hypothesis we propose about the fitness of that organism in that ecosystem will be trivially compatible with evolution.

For example assume there is an argument that having a certain trait, say longer legs, increases a zebra’s fitness.   We can recognize that this argument could be unfounded because it might not be the longer legs but something else that increases the zebra’s fitness.  It just happened that increased leg length was a harmless side affect of this truly beneficial trait.  Either way, if it is the longer legs or some other unidentified trait, evolution is always compatible with our theories, and so it is trivially vacuously true.

In short I would say that he is arguing the cause of natural selection is underdetermined.  The task is to identify whether this is a unique case of underdetermination or an instance of general underdetermination.  I will now show that this sort of underdetermination can exist in physics*:

Imagine we are doing physics and we want to know which of two metal ingots is the more massive.  We pull out our scale, place each object on one of the trays and wait for the scale to indicate which is the more massive.

Why does the scale tip in the direction of object A?  We could argue that object A has a trait, it is composed of iron, and that trait makes it more massive than some other object.  However, maybe object B is connected to a helium balloon.  Maybe there is a gravitational anomaly in the location where we are doing our experiment.  Maybe the iron is magnetized and there is another ingot with the opposite polarity under the table.  Maybe a God is tampering with our experiment with a noodly appendage.  Feel free to make up as many of these as you want.  There any number of reasons why one object could tip the scale in its favor, and being more massive is among them, though selecting this as the reason is arbitrary.

(One of the things that is wrong here is that we don’t expect General Relativity to predict which objects are more massive.  The mass of an object is the result of the history of its creation and ‘life’ up till the point we measure it.  We do expect Relativity to suggest methods for testing such claims, which it does.  Likewise Evolution should not be expected to predict which organism is fitter, but to suggest methods for testing fitness.)

If I now recast Fodor’s criticism into physical terms, in reference to the above thought experiment, this is the result: The theory of General Relativity (gravity) is vacuous because any given trait we identify as increasing the mass of an object is arbitrarily selected.  Since there are too many factors to identify within a physical system, any hypothesis we propose about mass of the object in that physical system will be trivially compatible with General Relativity.

Therefore physics suffers from the same kind of underdetermination that Fodor accused of evolution.  Anyone who persists in disbelieving evolution on these grounds should also deny General Relativity.  Of course this is excessive: since the underdetermination criticism goes to the heart of our scientific theories in general, it is a problem of philosophy of science and not a problem of biology or physics specifically.  Insofar as underdetermination remains an issue within the philosophy of science we still have to take it into consideration, but this should not be seen as a reason to think our current scientific theories are wrong.

.

[EDIT:  I’ve put up a new analysis (24 March 2010) of Fodor’s argument here: Hypotheses Natura Non Fingo]

See a continuation of the argument against Fodor in What Fodor Got Wrong, and in Fodor’s Intensional Criticism of Evolution.

.

* This is the argument I presented Fodor with during our brief conversation after his talk at CUNY.  He tried to block it by saying that Natural Selection is statistical, whereas General Relativity is not.  In my previous post, What Fodor Got Wrong, I argued that this position begs the question or is just wrong.

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, measurement, philosophy, physics, science. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

Relativity in Biology notes from 2005

It’s always interesting to see the start of ideas. Although I don’t have anything from the Spring of ’04 when I recall realizing biorelativity for the first time, I have found a file with a ‘last modified’ date of June12, ’05, the contents of which are below:

Quantum Biology

biology: the study of the physical attributes of life.

the rate of mutation is constant, much as the speed of light

organisms mutate. light shines. hence organisms bend/curve life-time as objects bend/curve space-time. greater the mass, the more the curve… the greater the inertia (momentum), the greater the curve. so what is meant by inertia in biology (or in physics)? what does mutation light, as photons light objects? [mutation is the smallest unit of life. photons smallest things with momentum.] we use mutation to view changes of a species. so if a species remains the same, its genetic(?) inertia/ momentum is remaining constant. that with the greatest inertia/ momentum creates the most gravity. that with the greatest inertia/ momentum creates biological gravitation towards itself…

space as vacuum for objects, DNA as vacuum for mutations. objects bend space; mutations do what to DNA? organisms bend life. as objects move to the speed of light their mass (apparently) goes to infinity. as organisms move to the rate of mutation (sex), their DNA (apparently) goes to infinity. as objects slow to absolute 0, their mass (apparently) disappears; as organisms cease mutation (death) the DNA (apparently) disappears. [space is a non-material object, same as concepts, numbers, words etc]

so when there is some massive change to the organism.. say when bats developed sonar, every other mutation became pulled closer around that as to become a part of it. nose, ears, face… eyes are just satellites now

we can then use the fossil history to see what was a major mutative innovation of the day- when preexisting mutations became reoriented around a new mutation (as we can see objects by the change they cause in the motion of other objects, and know their relative size)

location * momentum </= const
species * mutation </= const

——————-

Biological General, Special and plain Relativity in both physics and biology are all confused and mixed together and I was nowhere near my current understanding of biological mass (which didn’t happen till sometime in September of this year and perhaps I’ll go through how I came to that a bit later). It looks like I used DNA for biological mass.

Still, there is a lot of good stuff here.

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, measurement, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science, Special Relativity. Tagged with , , , , , .

Evolutionary Drift, revisited yet again

With my recent paper on Measuring Fitness I realize that my previous responses to evolutionary drift, though not incorrect, may have not stated the solution particularly clearly. When fitness is defined and measured as described in the aforementioned article, evolutionary drift is irrelevant. The method of measuring the fitness of an organism or species makes no reference to any mutations whatsoever. Therefore evolutionary drift is no problem for the theory of fitness described here.

If we are trying to identify whether a certain mutation makes an organism more fit, we can of course test it against an organism without that mutation. However if we are unable to test it (say we are studying a historical period or it is just unfeasible), then I believe my previous posts are accurate. I mainly argue that you can’t tell what exactly makes an organism more fit- it’s an underdetermination thesis of sorts – based upon our limited evolutionary perspective.

I think I just failed to say how irrelevant drift was to fitness before this.

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, measurement, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Measuring Fitness

The basic premise is to measure fitness in a conceptually similar way to how we measure mass.  To measure mass we can use a scale to compare the effect of gravity on a test object to an object with an agreed upon mass, or we can compare the test object’s resistance to acceleration as compared to an object with an agreed upon mass.  These methods measure the ‘gravitational’ mass and ‘inertial mass’ respectively.

Gravitational Mass and Selection Fitness

Measuring an object’s gravitational mass requires a uniform gravitational field, e.g. the gravitational field at the surface of the earth.  The gravitational field accelerates things based upon how massive they are: the more massive an object is the greater the force that the gravitational field exerts.  To measure the mass of an object it is placed on one pan of a scale and pre-calibrated masses (objects of known mass) are placed on the other pan.  When the two pans are level the test object has an equivalent mass to the calibrated masses because they have equivalent forces being applied to them by the gravitational field.

To measure fitness we require a similar experimental setup.  First, a uniform gravitational field: according to the General Theory of Biological Relativity ecosystems create large natural selection fields.  A uniform natural selection field requires an ecosystem free from disturbances which could skew the reproductive rates of the organisms.  Secondly we would need organisms with a standard fitness.  A suitable organism would be easily clonable and of a fitness that we suspect our test organism to be near.  That organism’s fitness would be defined as one ‘biogram’ (or what you will).  Lastly we would need to see how the organisms fair in the ecosystem.  Their fitness will be proportional: if both proliferate (or die off) at the same rate, then their fitness will be equivalent, if one does much better than the other then it’s fitness will be proportionally higher.

Inertial Mass and Survival Fitness

Measuring an object’s inertial mass is measuring how resistant it is to acceleration as compared to how resistant to acceleration an object of known mass is.  To measure inertial mass the test mass is attached to a spring clamped horizontally to a stable structure.  The mass and spring are then pulled to one side and let oscillate back and forth: the more massive the object, the slower oscillations.  The number of oscillations per unit of time can be compared to the oscillations per time of a known mass and thence the inertial mass can be calculated.

As above a controlled environment and an organism whose fitness is known (even if by definition) is needed.  However the organisms need to be ‘accelerated’ for this measurement.  According to the General Theory of Biological Relativity environmental conditions will dictate how a species changes over time.  Therefore to ‘accelerate’ a species a changing environment is needed.  Simply put: measuring ‘survival fitness’ is measuring how well an organism or species fairs in a changing environment.  For example a plant that can survive in a wide range of temperatures will be fitter than one that requires a narrow temperature range.  If a test plant proliferates and the benchmark organism withers under a temperature swing, the test organism has a greater fitness.

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, measurement, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science. Tagged with , , , , , .

NEWS: General Relativity in Evolutionary Biology Final Version and NYC Area Philosophy Mailing List started!!!!!

I’ve posted my final version of General Relativity in Evolutionary Biology to the articles section (and to GroundReport) and I’ve also started a mailing list/rss for philosophy events in NYC. So lots to check out.

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, General Relativity, internet, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science, Special Relativity. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

General Relativity in Evolutionary Biology DRAFT

EDIT, July 2015:

See the full draft at the phil-sci archive: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/11557/

Also check out my other Research.

Below are old notes:

—-

I’ve discussed relativity in evolutionary biology with regards to uniform change but, as with the Special Theory of Relativity in physics, we want a theory that covers all change.

This means that insofar as relativity applies to biology under uniform motion, i.e. when a species is reproducing in a regular fashion, we want a theory of relativity that applies to biology even when a species is undergoing non-uniform motion, i.e. when the species reproductive cycle has undergone a serious change.

It is a fundamental equivalence of evolutionary biology that the struggle for survival and natural selection yield the exact same results.  This relationship has yet to be interpreted.  If we consider a person in love, financially secure and who wants nothing more than to raise children for foreseeable rest of his life.  That person may view this situation as the culmination of his struggle to survive and replicate.  That person may equally view the situation to be nature selecting him as suitable to continue life.

For what apparently are good reasons action at a distance is not allowed.  Struggle for survival does not occur at a distance; ‘struggle’ seems to inherently imply some local interaction.  Natural selection, however, is much more amorphous in nature: how exactly does nature select?  I suggest that we think of natural selection as a biofield that acts upon organisms.

Inertial ‘fitness’ and Gravitational ‘fitness’

The fitness of a thing creates a (teeny) natural selection field.  The fitness of a species creates a (small) natural selection field.  The fitness of an ecosystem creates a (large) natural selection field.

Posted in biology, fitness, General Relativity, philosophy, physics, Relativity, science, Special Relativity. Tagged with , , , , , .