Tag Archives: philosophy

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 , , , , , , .

Natural Selection = Fitness × Acceleration

Natural Selection is the force that changes species.

Fitness is the resistance to change in the rate of change of the species.

Acceleration is change in the rate of change of the species.

Natural Selection = Fitness × Acceleration

Posted in biology, evolution, fitness, philosophy, science. Tagged with , , , , .

Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors is a game in which 2 players each choose one of three options: either rock, paper or scissors.  Then the players simultaneously reveal their choices.  Rock beats scissors but loses to paper (rock smashes scissors); Paper beats rock and loses to scissors (paper covers rock); Scissors beats paper but loses to rock (scissors cut paper).  This cyclical payoff scheme (Rock > Scissors, Scissors > Paper, Paper > Rock) can be represented by this rubric:

Child 2
rock paper scissors
Child 1 rock 0,0 -1,1 1,-1
paper 1,-1 0,0 -1,1
scissors -1,1 1,-1 0,0
.
(ref: Shor, Mikhael, “Rock Paper Scissors,” Dictionary of Game Theory Terms, Game Theory .net,  <http://www.gametheory.net/dictionary/Games/RockPaperScissors.html>  Web accessed: 22 September 2010)

However, if we want to describe the game of Rock Paper Scissors – not just the payoff scheme – how are we to do it?

Ordinary logics have no mechanism for representing simultaneous play.  Therefore Rock Paper Scissors is problematic because there is no way to codify the simultaneous revelation of the players’ choices.

However, let’s treat the simultaneous revelation of the players’ choices as a device to prevent one player from knowing the choice of the other.  If one player were to know the choice of the other, then that player would always have a winning strategy by selecting the option that beats the opponent’s selection.  For example, if Player 1 knew (with absolute certainty) that Player 2 was going to play rock, then Player 1 would play paper, and similarly for the other options.  Since certain knowledge of the opponent’s play trivializes and ruins the game, it is this knowledge that must be prevented.

Knowledge – or lack thereof – of moves can be represented within certain logics.  Ordinarily all previous moves within logic are known, but if we declare certain moves to be independent from others, then those moves can be treated as unknown.  This can be done in Independence Friendly Logic, which allows for explicit dependence relations to be stated.

So, let’s assume our 2 players, Abelard (∀) and Eloise (∃) each decide which of the three options he or she will play out of the Domain {r, p, s} .  These decisions are made without knowledge of what the other has chosen, i.e. independently of each other.

∀x ∃y/∀x

This means that Abelard chooses a value for x first and then Eloise chooses a value for y.  The /∀x next to y means that the choice of y is made independently from, without knowledge of the value of, x.

R-P-S: ∀x ∃y/∀x (Vxy)

The decisions are then evaluated according to V, which is some encoding of the above rubric like this:

V: x=y → R-P-S &
x=r & y=s → T &
x=r & y=p → F &
x=p & y=r → T &
x=p & y=s → F &
x=s & y=p → T &
x=s & y=r → F

T means Abelard wins; F means Eloise wins.  R-P-S means play more Rock Paper Scissors!

Johan van Benthem, Sujata Ghosh and Fenrong Liu put together a sophisticated and generalized logic for concurrent action:
http://www.illc.uva.nl/Publications/ResearchReports/PP-2007-26.text-Jun-2007.pdf

Posted in game theory, independence friendly logic, logic, philosophy. Tagged with , , , .

$1000 Philosophy Blogging Prize

3 Quarks Daily is putting up a grand for the best philosophy blog post of the last year; $300 and $200 for 2nd and 3rd places respectively.  If any of you out there have written something good, or there is something you read that you really like, nominate it! [philosophy of science needs a better representation people]

3 Quarks Daily Prize

Posted in internet, news, philosophy. 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 , , , , , , , .

Disrespect

If there were a verb meaning ‘to believe falsely’, it would not have any significant first person present indicative.

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, II x

Interesting that there is no significant first person present indicative of self disrespect.  Consider, with Moore’s Paradox in mind:  ‘I disrespect myself by sitting here, but I am doing it anyway.’

* * * * *

Considering disrespect”s relation to Moore’s Paradox at issue here, it begs the question, ‘What is the analysis of Moore’s Paradox?’  For given an answer to that, we might have a parallel answer for disrespect.

My stance is that a person’s statements about the truth are indistinguishable from statements of how he or she is going to act.  Also, statements about a person’s beliefs are about how that person plans on acting.  So Moore’s Paradox breaks down to saying that you are going to act one way but then planning on acting a different way, yielding a contradiction.

This suggests that if you believe that Moore’s Paradox has something to do with predicting how the speaker will act, then the similar form of self-disrespect may likewise be about self-knowledge.

Venturing a tentative opinion, let’s assume that respect has something to do with capabilities.  You have to respect the strengths of your enemies;  they are capable of fighting back.  You have to treat dangerous objects with respect because they can hurt you.  You respect people you like because they have done or can do things that are difficult.

Disrespecting someone is to treat that person as incapable when they are not.

Disrespecting yourself would be to treat yourself as incapable when you are not.  So in any case that you could say you were disrespecting yourself, you would know you were capable of greater things and yet not changing.  Hence it makes sense that there is no first person present indicative of self-disrespect on this analysis.

Posted in philosophy, wittgenstein. 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 , , , , , , , .

Against Physics as Ontologically Basic

1.  Biology is epistemically independent of physics:

Let’s assume that biology is not epistemically independent of physics, i.e. to know any biology we must first know something about physics.  However, consider evolution as determined by natural selection and the struggle for survival.  We can know about the struggle for survival and natural selection without appealing to physics — just as Darwin did when he created the theory — and hence we can fundamentally understand at least some, if not most, of biology independent of physics.

2.  Physics supervenes on biology:

Whatever ability we have to comprehend is an evolved skill.  Therefore any physical understanding of the world, as an instance of general comprehension,  supervenes on the biology of this skill.

3.  Biology is just as fundamental as physics:

If the principles involved in biology and physics are epistemically independent and each can be said to supervene on  the other, then neither has theoretical primordiality.

Therefore physics is not ontologically basic.

.

.

[This argument was inspired by a discussion over at It’s Only a Theory start by Mohan Matthen.

And I want it to be known that I HATE SUPERVENIENCE.  Basically if you use supervenience regularly then you are a BAD PERSON.  The only good argument that uses supervenience is one that reduces the overall usage of the word:  it is my hope that the above argument will prevent people from saying that biology supervenes on physics.  For every argument in which I thought that using supervenience might prove useful, I found a much, much superior argument that did not make use of the term.  I know you always live to regret statements like this, but right now I don’t care.]

Posted in argumentation, biology, epistemology, evolution, ontology, philosophy, physics, science. Tagged with , , , .

Fodor May Yet Be Clever

I was trying to figure out what Fodor could have been thinking.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. If we are trying to figure out what Evolution has done, then we presuppose that Evolution is capable of doing something.
  2. If Evolution is capable of doing something, then there must be some mechanism of Evolution that does the doing.

Now imagine yourself in the position of the mechanism of Evolution that does the doing, i.e. the mechanism that selects the traits that yield a higher fitness.

The question becomes: is it possible for you to select for a trait?

The answer is NO.

To understand why, consider what happens when we try to give an evolutionary explanation of something:  we are beset by a near infinite selection of different possibilities.  Only through careful study can we narrow down which traits are actually the ones that increase an organism’s fitness and, if we are in a historical context, only give a most likely candidate for such a trait.

Now imagine yourself back in the position of the mechanism.  The mechanism is stuck with the exact same sort of problem that we have when trying to figure out what it has done:  it has no more an ability to select a single trait than we have to figure out which trait it has selected with our first guess.  Whenever it tries to select for a trait, it may mistakenly also select for another trait that is not so good for the organism, or it may not have even recognized the trait it thought it was selecting for.

Therefore, since this mechanism can’t work, evolution is bunk.

OK.  Now let’s take a step back and look at this argument.  Basically there are two parts:  the first part is an argument that there is a mechanism that does the doing and the second part says the mechanism can’t have done anything.  When I saw Fodor speak on this topic, I believe (it was a while ago now) he spent a good deal of time on arguing for the first part and I didn’t really understand what he was up to.  Now it makes sense because if we accept that there is some mechanism that does the doing, then we may be committed to admitting to at least some amount of skepticism about evolution based upon the second part.  Getting even some skepticism about evolution would be a sufficiently large accomplishment, and so I figure this must be Fodor’s ultimate goal.

In light of this argument I offer this wild conjecture for your reading pleasure:

Replace “mechanism” with “agent”.  Now, instead of an argument against evolution, it is an argument against Intelligent Design.  Intelligent Design has the designer/ agent built directly into it, and this makes the argument much more knock-down:  There is no need to argue for the existence of a mechanism because it is right in the title, and since the intelligence of ID is something like our intelligence, it makes sense that it would suffer from the same problems that ours does.

What I think happened is that Fodor was sitting around thinking why intelligent design doesn’t work and realized that if he could make a strong enough argument that evolution also required some sort of agent, in the form of an evolutionary mechanism, then he could return a similar result.  Since having a technical reason for discounting ID wouldn’t make much of splash, Fodor dropped the argument against ID and pursued the argument against evolution.

Personally I kind of like this argument against ID.  If I ever run into some ID people, I may even bring it up.

Posted in argumentation, biology, evolution, philosophy, random idiocy, science, wild conjecture. Tagged with , , , , , .

Fodor’s Intensional Criticism of Evolution

Fodor’s intensional criticism of evolution is that the process of evolution is unable to make the necessary distinctions in selecting traits.   This is to say that evolution itself cannot  select for specific traits.  If evolution can’t select for traits, then we will definitely not be able to figure out what’s happening based on evolution.  Hence evolution is not a good theory.

Does evolution need a mechanism to select for certain traits?

No, there is no need for a mechanism which decides that it wants a certain trait and then systematically selects for that trait.

Instead evolution is more like a Plinko / Pachinko machine with moving pins and prize locations.   Organisms – the balls – live and die by bouncing off whatever exists in their environment – pins and prizes -.  Whoever happens to land in a good location gets to have their genes replicated.  In this setup there is no need to appeal to some evolutionary mechanism to select traits because  with the environment and organism described, the evolutionary traits that will be selected are probabilistically determined.

Our evolutionary explanations, then, describe the environment – the position of the Plinko pins and prizes – and the biology of the organism – the shape and location of the Plinko ball – to show why that organism ended up in a position to replicate.  If we want to describe how we evolved to have hands, for example,  we show how organisms that more consistently landed in the right locations had the traits that led to us having hands, and not because there was a mechanism to pick out ‘having hand traits’ at the start.

Therefore Fodor’s argument from intensionality is a straw man:  Evolution does not need to be able to make the distinctions that Fodor says it needs to make.  Hence there is no problem within evolution.

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

For my take on what else Fodor got wrong, see my post What Fodor Got Wrong (which this argument actually presupposes), and the follow up Dismantling Fodor’s Argument.

Posted in biology, evolution, philosophy, science. Tagged with , , , .