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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:28 pm 
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The BBC website has an article today titled Zebra stripes evolved to keep biting flies at bay and I just thought "No, no, no!".

It's hardly surprising that so many people are confused by evolution when huge swathes of mainstream reporting seem unable to avoid teleological headlines or explanations. In the article I've just linked to I think it would be too kind to call it just another case of teleological shorthand.

Sorry, I know I'm not really posing a question but I felt the need to express my annoyance.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:31 pm 
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Hello, John!

I don't think there is any reason to be upset by teleological explanations. They just come in handy. And they are not necessarily wrong. Please bear with me now:

You see, my own posts regarding quantum physics and the arrow of time in other threads got me thinking down a different track when I read this post of yours.

Mutation might be random, but the selection is not. Surviving traits like zebra stripes are selected by being usefull for survival. A phrase like "the stripes came about to keep away blood-sucking flies" can of course be read as "the stripes proved usefull to survival by keeping blood-sucking flies away."

Then it struck me that the selection process could be viewed as analoguous to the process of determining quantum events by observation.

In other threads I've argued that there is no difference between predetermination and postdeterminaion (mostly debating against free will and the existence of choice). My point being that the world is determined either way and the future as valid as the past.

Mutation is a random event. But by definition a random event is just an event with an unpredictable outcome. You can't tell beforehand how a species will evolve in order to cope with an environmental problem like flies. But you can tell after the fact. (Which is what the scientists in the BBC article did.)

Now, teleology holds that final causes exist in nature. But if (like in quantum physics) there is no difference between cause and effect, then it's sufficient that final effects exist.

In this sense, evolution could be determined backwards through time by final effects, like the history of a quantum particle can be determined by making one observation instead of another.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:02 pm 
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John wrote:
The BBC website has an article today titled Zebra stripes evolved to keep biting flies at bay and I just thought "No, no, no!".

It's hardly surprising that so many people are confused by evolution when huge swathes of mainstream reporting seem unable to avoid teleological headlines or explanations. In the article I've just linked to I think it would be too kind to call it just another case of teleological shorthand.

Sorry, I know I'm not really posing a question but I felt the need to express my annoyance.


I could not agree more!!!!
It is one of my pet peeves!
I have even found "great" evolutionary thinkers sinking into to this hideous fallacy. Whilst we might expect it from the likes of Susan Blackmore, it's inclusion into the works of Dawkins and Dennett is unforgivable.

The shorthand argument is completely bankrupt as it simply portrays a lie.

There might be many reasons HOW stripes have assisted in the continuation of the species Zebra; flies, camouflage has been suggested rather predictably, self identification; the visual confusion of a pursuing predator and so on. All of these and more might be relevant - But the simply fact is that evolution needs not offer ANY explanation of this kind.
The simply fact is that as long as the trait to have stripes does not adversely affect the reproductive success of the zebra then there is no other reason by randomness that needs explain stripes.
If you have to insist on a telenomic explanation then you would also have to explain how it is that other similar species such as horse have managed to survive without them!

With these explanations - of ANY kind speaks to a myth of evolutionism.


Last edited by chaz wyman on Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:15 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
Hello, John!

I don't think there is any reason to be upset by teleological explanations. They just come in handy. And they are not necessarily wrong. Please bear with me now:

You see, my own posts regarding quantum physics and the arrow of time in other threads got me thinking down a different track when I read this post of yours.

Mutation might be random, but the selection is not. Surviving traits like zebra stripes are selected by being usefull for survival. A phrase like "the stripes came about to keep away blood-sucking flies" can of course be read as "the stripes proved usefull to survival by keeping blood-sucking flies away."

Then it struck me that the selection process could be viewed as analoguous to the process of determining quantum events by observation.

In other threads I've argued that there is no difference between predetermination and postdeterminaion (mostly debating against free will and the existence of choice). My point being that the world is determined either way and the future as valid as the past.

Mutation is a random event. But by definition a random event is just an event with an unpredictable outcome. You can't tell beforehand how a species will evolve in order to cope with an environmental problem like flies. But you can tell after the fact. (Which is what the scientists in the BBC article did.)

Now, teleology holds that final causes exist in nature. But if (like in quantum physics) there is no difference between cause and effect, then it's sufficient that final effects exist.

In this sense, evolution could be determined backwards through time by final effects, like the history of a quantum particle can be determined by making one observation instead of another.


Sorry but they really have to be WRONG.

The only way for there to be a purpose in a teleological sense for any trait is for that trait to have KNOWLEDGE of its usefulness.
So tell me by what means can an emergent trait KNOW how it might be useful?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:01 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
Hello, John!

I don't think there is any reason to be upset by teleological explanations. They just come in handy. And they are not necessarily wrong. Please bear with me now:

You see, my own posts regarding quantum physics and the arrow of time in other threads got me thinking down a different track when I read this post of yours.

Mutation might be random, but the selection is not. Surviving traits like zebra stripes are selected by being usefull for survival. A phrase like "the stripes came about to keep away blood-sucking flies" can of course be read as "the stripes proved usefull to survival by keeping blood-sucking flies away."


I'm afraid I have to disagree that the first statement could be read like the latter one. They might be read this way on a superficial level but the first statement implies that the zebra's stripes were selected for a purpose when they were not. This is what has lead people to say things like "Zebra's evolved stripes because of....." when it's simply not true that there is any intent behind the zebra's stripes.

Notvacka wrote:
Then it struck me that the selection process could be viewed as analoguous to the process of determining quantum events by observation.

In other threads I've argued that there is no difference between predetermination and postdeterminaion (mostly debating against free will and the existence of choice). My point being that the world is determined either way and the future as valid as the past.

Mutation is a random event. But by definition a random event is just an event with an unpredictable outcome. You can't tell beforehand how a species will evolve in order to cope with an environmental problem like flies. But you can tell after the fact. (Which is what the scientists in the BBC article did.)


Then they should be saying that zebra's survived because they evolved and not that they evolved to survive.

Notvacka wrote:
Now, teleology holds that final causes exist in nature. But if (like in quantum physics) there is no difference between cause and effect, then it's sufficient that final effects exist.


You have an event causing another event though and the two events are not the same.

Even if your quantum analogy is valid though it's unhelpful to assign intent, and by implication the guidance of an intellect, to events that have none.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:07 pm 
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chaz wyman wrote:
So tell me by what means can an emergent trait KNOW how it might be useful?
The same way an elementary particle in a two slits experiment "knows" which slit to choose. This is of course not "knowledge" in the common sense of the word.

I jumped into this thread on a line of thought about postdetermination being just as valid as predetermination. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:14 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
So tell me by what means can an emergent trait KNOW how it might be useful?
The same way an elementary particle in a two slits experiment "knows" which slit to choose. This is of course not "knowledge" in the common sense of the word.

IN OTHER WORDS THERE IS NO WAY.

SO you are :D trying to tell me :lol: that because an electron can go through a slit that means that a zebra's stripes KNOW that if they impose their gene on a zebra it will scare off flies? Or that somehow that a species can select a mutation that will be useful to it because of the 2 slot experiment.
Please ellucidate!!!
:lol: :lol:


I jumped into this thread on a line of thought about postdetermination being just as valid as predetermination. :)

How is this relevant?



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:32 pm 
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John wrote:
Even if your quantum analogy is valid though it's unhelpful to assign intent, and by implication the guidance of an intellect, to events that have none.
Yeah, I know that I'm less sensitive to teleological metafor than you and chaz are. :)

However, rather than suggesting such divine guidance here, I'm fascinated by the idea that natural selection could be seen as a process equal to the selection by observation made in experiments involving quantum uncertainty. (Like the famous two slits experiment.)

My agenda is to disprove the existence of choice, and this is a sidetrack. But the notion of natural selection, like any kind of selection, implies choice. What I suggest is that natural selection doesn't have a choice. The future is determined by the past as the past is determined by the future.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:58 pm 
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chaz wyman wrote:
Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
So tell me by what means can an emergent trait KNOW how it might be useful?
The same way an elementary particle in a two slits experiment "knows" which slit to choose. This is of course not "knowledge" in the common sense of the word.

IN OTHER WORDS THERE IS NO WAY.

SO you are :D trying to tell me :lol: that because an electron can go through a slit that means that a zebra's stripes KNOW that if they impose their gene on a zebra it will scare off flies? Or that somehow that a species can select a mutation that will be useful to it because of the 2 slot experiment.
Please ellucidate!!!
:lol: :lol:
You are quick to laugh, and your comment indicates that you have not understood what I mean. But. let me ellucidate! :)

The two slits experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment) is an example of how the choice of an observer seems to determine the behaviour of an observed particle, leading to questions like how did the particle know where it was going to be observed? The choice of observation seems to affect the observed system backwards in time.

I'm replacing quantum randomness with the randomness of mutation, and the selection of observation with natural selection, suggesting that the process is essentially similar, and that the effect dictates it's own cause.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:30 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:

SO you are :D trying to tell me :lol: that because an electron can go through a slit that means that a zebra's stripes KNOW that if they impose their gene on a zebra it will scare off flies? Or that somehow that a species can select a mutation that will be useful to it because of the 2 slot experiment.
Please ellucidate!!!
:lol: :lol:
[/color]
You are quick to laugh, and your comment indicates that you have not understood what I mean. But. let me ellucidate! :)

The two slits experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment) is an example of how the choice of an observer seems to determine the behaviour of an observed particle, leading to questions like how did the particle know where it was going to be observed? The choice of observation seems to affect the observed system backwards in time.

I'm replacing quantum randomness with the randomness of mutation, and the selection of observation with natural selection, suggesting that the process is essentially similar, and that the effect dictates it's own cause.


Thank you but I am very well aware of this particular interpretation of the 2 slots experiment. Fine so far.
Now please relate it to the matter at hand.
You seem to be implying that just because I think Zebra's stripes are useful for confusing flies, then that is exactly why the zebra adopted stripes 5 million years ago.
Or are you trying to say that zebra's somehow know that if only they had stripes they could evolve they to confuse flies?
Or are you trying to say something else?
When I say elucidate I did not expect you to regurgitate one of the interpretations fo the 2 slot experiment. I was expecting you to relate it to the matter at hand.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:48 pm 
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chaz wyman wrote:
You seem to be implying that just because I think Zebra's stripes are useful for confusing flies, then that is exactly why the zebra adopted stripes 5 million years ago.
:lol: No. Yours is not the role of "observer" in this case.

The "why" is established after the fact. But I'm suggesting that it works backwards, like in the two sit experiment. Why did the particle "choose" the left slit? Because that was the slit I chose to observe. Why did zebra strips evlolve? Because that's what proved to work.

chaz wyman wrote:
Or are you trying to say that zebra's somehow know that if only they had stripes they could evolve they to confuse flies?
:lol: :lol: Absolutely not. The notion of "knowledge" is misleading.

Mutations might be random, but how natural selection works is analogous to spinning a wheel of fortune until a winning number comes up. And what constitutes a winning number is defined by circumstances. Did the primordial soup "know" how life would evolve? Of course not. But it was all there, in the circumstances.

Some would suggest that life could have evolved differently. I'm saying that nothing but what actually happened could have happened, and if predetermination is not enough for you, I'm offering postdetermination.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:42 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
You seem to be implying that just because I think Zebra's stripes are useful for confusing flies, then that is exactly why the zebra adopted stripes 5 million years ago.
:lol: No. Yours is not the role of "observer" in this case.

Oh but I am - that would be the perfect analogy with the 2 slots.

The "why" is established after the fact. But I'm suggesting that it works backwards, like in the two sit experiment. Why did the particle "choose" the left slit? Because that was the slit I chose to observe. Why did zebra strips evlolve? Because that's what proved to work.

That is completely ridiculous. QM has become the dumping ground for every crack pot meaningless theory.

chaz wyman wrote:
Or are you trying to say that zebra's somehow know that if only they had stripes they could evolve they to confuse flies?
:lol: :lol: Absolutely not. The notion of "knowledge" is misleading.

But then you have nothing at all but your confused words.

Mutations might be random, but how natural selection works is analogous to spinning a wheel of fortune until a winning number comes up. And what constitutes a winning number is defined by circumstances.

NO - it is defined by NOT dying. But this does not help your case.

Did the primordial soup "know" how life would evolve? Of course not. But it was all there, in the circumstances.

So what? That does not begin to assert purpose.

Some would suggest that life could have evolved differently. I'm saying that nothing but what actually happened could have happened, and if predetermination is not enough for you, I'm offering postdetermination.

Determinism is enough. There is no need for predetermination, and certainly not the looney post determination which is simply a contradiction.




Now tell me exactly HOW this mechanism is supposed to happen!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:52 pm 
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Notvacka wrote:
John wrote:
Even if your quantum analogy is valid though it's unhelpful to assign intent, and by implication the guidance of an intellect, to events that have none.
Yeah, I know that I'm less sensitive to teleological metafor than you and chaz are. :)


I think it's fair to say that this annoys both chaz and I quite a bit :lol:

Notvacka wrote:
However, rather than suggesting such divine guidance here, I'm fascinated by the idea that natural selection could be seen as a process equal to the selection by observation made in experiments involving quantum uncertainty. (Like the famous two slits experiment.)


I'll admit that I'm not familiar with this interpretation and I check out the Wiki article and wonder if you're referring to Carlo Rovelli's Relational interpretation. If so I should point out that I had left university the better part of a decade before he came up with it and my record of keeping up with developments since then is patchy and selective.

Notvacka wrote:
My agenda is to disprove the existence of choice, and this is a sidetrack. But the notion of natural selection, like any kind of selection, implies choice. What I suggest is that natural selection doesn't have a choice.


As choice implies intellect I agree.

Notvacka wrote:
The future is determined by the past as the past is determined by the future.


If that were the case I'd already have the hangover for the wine I'm drinking.

I'm trying to sort out what you mean and I'm thinking: I drank wine tonight (past) and I have a hangover tomorrow (future) and I have a hangover tomorrow (future) because I drank wine tonight (past) but I must be missing a nuance in your argument because that doesn't equate to the past being determined by the future.

Or is it more like: I have a book in which the butler did it and the butler did it because there was a murder at the beginning? There's an author involved here though so I'm not sure where it gets us.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:54 pm 
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chaz wyman wrote:
Notvacka wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:

SO you are :D trying to tell me :lol: that because an electron can go through a slit that means that a zebra's stripes KNOW that if they impose their gene on a zebra it will scare off flies? Or that somehow that a species can select a mutation that will be useful to it because of the 2 slot experiment.
Please ellucidate!!!
:lol: :lol:
[/color]
You are quick to laugh, and your comment indicates that you have not understood what I mean. But. let me ellucidate! :)

The two slits experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment) is an example of how the choice of an observer seems to determine the behaviour of an observed particle, leading to questions like how did the particle know where it was going to be observed? The choice of observation seems to affect the observed system backwards in time.

I'm replacing quantum randomness with the randomness of mutation, and the selection of observation with natural selection, suggesting that the process is essentially similar, and that the effect dictates it's own cause.


Thank you but I am very well aware of this particular interpretation of the 2 slots experiment. Fine so far.
Now please relate it to the matter at hand.
You seem to be implying that just because I think Zebra's stripes are useful for confusing flies, then that is exactly why the zebra adopted stripes 5 million years ago.
Or are you trying to say that zebra's somehow know that if only they had stripes they could evolve they to confuse flies?
Or are you trying to say something else?
When I say elucidate I did not expect you to regurgitate one of the interpretations fo the 2 slot experiment. I was expecting you to relate it to the matter at hand.


I can understand Notvacka's use of example of the double slit experiment, as it involves applying teleology to a non sentient phenomena, but I think the teleology in that example is in part true, due to the information transfer. It of course knows nothing, but it does react to information, which is what we do in a sense. But that would be where the similarity ends.

Now in the case of zebra stripes, of course the stripes themselves can't know anything, and are in fact the cause of the increased survival rates. But there is no information the stripes gain from the fact that they increase survival rates. The only information that is even about the stripes is of course genetic. However this information does lead to the expression of the stripes within the organism. And yet the stripes, through a sort of feedback mechanism, allow that the information which produced them can continue to be present in the organism. But of course nowhere within that process are the stripes aware of anything they do, they are just an effect which happen to increase the chance of survival, and therefore their continued phenotypical expression. No teleology involved.

But of course it is easier to use teleology to explain this, and maybe it is so easy to do this as where we see some form of structure or useful process we tend to assign the creation of the process a form of intelligence or intent. Undoubtedly this must be eradicated if it is taken literally, however I would argue that within the scientific community this kind of shorthand might be useful given the person reading is aware of the true nature of evolutionary processes.

However for clarity and to eradicate intentionally destructive misinterpretations it would be beneficial for writers who discuss evolution within the media to use correct explanation.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:09 am 
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Dimebag wrote:
however I would argue that within the scientific community this kind of shorthand might be useful given the person reading is aware of the true nature of evolutionary processes.


The problem is that precise terms tends to be used within scientific publications but the teleology creeps into popular science publications which are often what the media reviews and where scientific "catchphrases" are coined. Dawkin's "selfish gene" is possibly the most famous example of teleological shorthand and although it probably does work within the scientific community it has been terribly misrepresented elsewhere, not least by opponents of evolution. Dawkin's would be horrified at the advancement of a teleological explanation for evolution but he will insist on using metaphors that lay him open to misinterpretation.

Dimebag wrote:
However for clarity and to eradicate intentionally destructive misinterpretations it would be beneficial for writers who discuss evolution within the media to use correct explanation.


They don't though and I actually don't think the teleological shorthand is useful in many cases, the linked example being a case in point. We think it's useful because we've become programmed to think of things as purposeful when often they are not.


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