Darwin-L Message Log 26: 68–93 — October 1995
Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences
Darwin-L was an international discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences, active from 1993–1997. Darwin-L was established to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among scholars, scientists, and researchers in these fields. The group had more than 600 members from 35 countries, and produced a consistently high level of discussion over its several years of operation. Darwin-L was not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin, but instead addressed the entire range of historical sciences from an explicitly comparative perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical geography, historical anthropology, and related “palaetiological” fields.
This log contains public messages posted to the Darwin-L discussion group during October 1995. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and error messages and personal messages accidentally posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster.
The master copy of this log is maintained in the Darwin-L Archives (rjohara.net/darwin) by Dr. Robert J. O’Hara. The Darwin-L Archives also contain additional information about the Darwin-L discussion group, the complete Today in the Historical Sciences calendar for every month of the year, a collection of recommended readings on the historical sciences, and an account of William Whewell’s concept of “palaetiology.”
---------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L MESSAGE LOG 26: 68-93 -- OCTOBER 1995 ---------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L A Network Discussion Group on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu is an international network discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences. Darwin-L was established in September 1993 to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among academic professionals in these fields. Darwin-L is not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin but instead addresses the entire range of historical sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical anthropology, historical geography, and related "palaetiological" fields. This log contains public messages posted to Darwin-L during October 1995. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and some administrative messages and personal messages posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster. The master copy of this log is maintained in the archives of Darwin-L by email@example.com, and is also available on the Darwin-L Web Server at http://rjohara.uncg.edu. For instructions on how to retrieve copies of this and other log files, and for additional information about Darwin-L, send the e-mail message INFO DARWIN-L to firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect to the Darwin-L Web Server. Darwin-L is administered by Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com), Center for Critical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A., and it is supported by the Center for Critical Inquiry, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Department of History and the Academic Computing Center, University of Kansas. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:68>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Oct 18 13:24:12 1995 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 13:25:57 +0000 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Genetic Algorithms Use Blind Variation [from Gary Cziko to Elihu Gerson] > = Elihu Gerson I can understand that we have different ideas and disagreement about what "blind" means in "blind variation." But I don't understand why we have such a different view of genetic algorithms, which are in essence quite easily understood. You say: >In biological evolution, organisms do not store explicit information >about previous generations' success or failure at problem solving. The >relative success is given in the fact that there are more of some kinds of >organism than others. In Holland's genetic algorithms, that is not the >case-- the organism-analogs store and refer to information about their >"characters'" past success. What each "organism-analog" stores is simply a sequences of ones and zeros, a base-two genome analgous to the base-four DNA code of living organisms. To start the process, a population of these algorithms is generated using a completely random, blind procedure of generating sequences of zeros and ones. From this initial population of algorithms, each is evaluated according to some fitness function, and those which are most fit are allowed to pair off and have "sex" and produce the most offspring (actually, they are forced by the programmer to have sex). The crossover point is _randomly_ varied, and an occasional _random_ mutation is thrown in for good measure. The evaluation function has absolutely nothing to do with the generation of these blind variations. This is the classic genetic algorithm as developed by John Holland and as described by David Goldberg in is 1989 text. Perhaps there are other genetic algorithm procedures whereby the variations produced are somehow guided by the evaluation function, but I have not heard of these. The classic genetic algorithm procedure is analogous in every important respect to the adaptive biological evolution of sexual organisms, including the dependence on the generation of blind variation. >Once again: the source of variation and >the criteria of selection are tied together; the variation is not "blind"; >the variations produced are not "in all directions", but some directions >are preferred over others. This is not Darwinian evolution. In genetic algorithms, as I describe above, the crossover point for "gene" shuffling is randomly determined, and random mutations are occasionally applied. The variations are therefore blind, "in all directions," with no variations preferred over any others. This is classic Darwinian evolution. Of course, offspring will more closely resemble their parents than they will random strings of the same length (otherwise they could be no cumulation of fitness). But the _variations_ from the parents are "in all direction." >Selective breeding is Darwinian, precisely because the mechanism which >generates mutations does not consult with the breeder. It generates >variations in all directions whether the breeder is there or not, and the >breeder selects the ones s/he likes. In this case, source of variation and >criterion of selection are separate and uncorrelated; evolution is >Darwinian. And this is also what happens in genetic algorithms, the only real difference being that the selection criterion is built into a computer program. If you don't see that genetic algorithms depend on blind variation, there ain't no way I am going to convince you that human knowledge processes (learning, problem solving, invention, perception) depend upon within-organism blind variation and selection. So I will not try and I trust that you will not waste your money on my book! >We seem to be repeating ourselves without making progress here, so I think >we should move on to another topic. It's nice to end on a note of agreement.--Gary References: Goldberg, D. E. (1989). Genetic algorithms in search, optimization, and machine learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Holland, J. H. (1992). Genetic algorithms. Scientific American, 267(1), 66-72. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:69>From email@example.com Wed Oct 18 13:39:43 1995 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 13:38:28 -0500 (CDT) From: czbb062 <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Universal Selection Theory To: Dalton de Souza Amorim <email@example.com> On Wed, 18 Oct 1995, Dalton de Souza Amorim wrote in reply to my question "Like F=ma"? No, like the situations where F is different from ma. There are no such situations. What are you getting at? Michael Eisenstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org) http://www.eden.com/~madelon (<-Madelon's Recent Paintings) _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:70>From email@example.com Wed Oct 18 15:49:53 1995 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 16:49:46 -0400 (EDT) From: J Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Definition/Supervenience of Fitness On Fri, 13 Oct 1995 Hugo Bouckaert (Bouckaer@central.murdoch.edu.au) wrote: > Yes, I think fitness is definitely a supervenient concept, and this > isfurther clarified, I think, by the ideas put forward by Bock and von > Wahlert, who provide a detailed analysis of the concept of adaptation > (without these authors proclaiming that fitness is a supervenient concept > - this idea is definitely to be found in Sober). It all hinges on having > a closer look at fitness from a causal perspective, and of course many > people would disagree with such a causal approach - I can only say that I > find it a very good heuristic device to clear up some of the confusion > surrounding the concept of fitness. I think when you read the passage in > Sober's (1984) The Nature of Selection on the supervenience of fitness it is > difficult NOT to be convinced of the supervenience of fitness. I'm afraid I do not share Hugo's enthusiasm. Let's remember that Sober's supervenience of fitness is conceived as a dual-purpose stratagem. It is designed to enable him to attack reductionism without at the same time appearing to endorse mysticism. As such, it is a clever device indeed, but the approach is not new. Attempts to reconcile this fundamental dichotomy by introducing some recondite conception go back at least as far as Kant. And none too successful, I might add. In Sober's case, problems begin to emerge when we try to scrutinize how well supervenience accomplishes its dual task. Let's take the reductionism prong first. The key here is that since fitness means different things for different species, no unified physicalistic definition of fitness is possible. Here is Sober: "Although one physicalistic explanation may account for fitness differences among zebras, and a second such story may explain fitness differences among cockroaches, no physicalistic account can be offered of what fitness is. The reason is simply that fitness is not a physical property." This last sentence is interesting because it appears in both the premise and the conclusion of the supervenience argument. Earlier Sober argues that fitness is supervenient _because_ it is not a physical property. This raises some questions about the logical status of the proposition "fitness is not a physical property" and about the argument as a whole. But one thing is clear: Sober didn't need the concept of supervenience in order to criticize physicalism. He could have just as easily gone directly from "fitness is not a physical property" to "physicalism cannot explain fitness." We are obliged to conclude, then, that supervenience is introduced for the sake of the other - vitalist - prong of the argument. Since supervenience requires that physically identical systems have identical fitness, Sober concludes that it leaves no room for the mysterious _elan vital_ that breathes life into physical systems. "If there really were such an extra added ingredient," he writes, "it should be possible for two physically identical systems to differ with respect to their biological properties. One system might have this elusive admixture, while the other would lack it." To claim that this entails the falsity of vitalism, as Sober does, is logically inadmissible. While it is indeed possible for two physically identical systems to have different amounts of _elan vital_, it is by no means necessary. Sober's argument _could_ be true only if vitalism had an explicit requirement that physically identical organisms must differ in their _elan vital_. I am not terribly familiar with vitalist schools of thought, so I would invite experts out there to correct me on this, but I do not recall - at least in Bergson - any such stipulation. Without it, I'm afraid, Sober's attack misfires, and vitalists can relax - they have nothing to fear from supervenience. It appears, then, that as a weapon against vitalism, supervenience is ineffective; and as a weapon against physicalism, it is unnecessary. And since supervenience doesn't seem to have any other function in Sober's theory, whether or not it applies to fitness becomes a non-issue. But that's not all. I also have some worries about Sober's assertion that a property is not physical when "different objects may share the property and yet be physically quite different." Does it mean that two different objects cannot have the same mass, or the same velocity, or the same kinetic energy? Or is it that mass, velocity and kinetic energy are not physical properties? I don't want to judge too harshly; Sober may have elaborated this point in some other work with which I am not familiar. But as it stands in _The Nature of Selection_, it is obviously wrong. Finally, a word in defense of reductionism. When Sober says that physicalism cannot explain what fitness is, he is right insofar as fitness is conceived as a property of the organism taken in isolation from its environment. I prefer to think of fitness as a property of the system (ecological, social, economical, physical, etc.) which comprises both the organism and its environment. An example from physics may help to elucidate this point. Drag is a resistive force generated when a solid body is propelled through liquid or gas. As with fitness, different bodies can have the same drag. It doesn't mean, of course, that drag is not a physical property. It is - but not of the body alone; it is a property of the mechanical system which comprises the body and its medium. I don't have a clear idea of how it is to be done, but I believe that fitness must ultimately be reducible to empirical terms, conceived along the same lines, as a property of the organism plus its environment. J.Miller (All citations are from E.Sober _The Nature of Selection_, 1984) _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:71>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Oct 18 17:15:43 1995 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 15:15:34 -0700 From: email@example.com (Ron Roizen ) Subject: Fwd: CADUCEUS-L 4:48 To: DARWIN-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu Darwin-Lers: The following query occurred today on CADUCEUS-L, a e-newsletter for history of health sciences librarians. I forward it thinking someone on DARWIN-L may know the answer. Ron Roizen CADUCEUS-L: History of the Health Sciences Forum <CADUCEUS-L@Beach.UTMB.Edu> CADUCEUS-L 4:48 18 October 1995 <snips> Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 11:55:31 -0500 From: Addeane Caelleigh <ASCAELLEIGH@aamc.org> Subject: quotation from Charles Darwin Can anyone verify the wording of the following quotation from Charles Darwin and give a reference citation for it? "A naturalist's life would indeed be a happy one if he had only to observe and not to write." Thanks for any help you can give me. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:72>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Oct 18 23:37:52 1995 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 23:39:39 +0000 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: Cziko's universalism [from Gary Cziko to Jeremy Ahouse] Jeremy, I found your post interesting and insightful. You have indeed boiled some recent discussions down to their essences, and I will do my best to continue this dialogue. > Implicit in a title like _Without Miracles_ is that competing >explanations somehow rely on "miracles." I suspect that if we asked for a >show of hands for vitalists, creationists, skyhook sympathizers... few >would step into that spotlight from this list. So where does such baiting >come from? I certainly hope and suspect that you are right about the non-creationist beliefs of subscribers to this list. But I am less hopeful about some of our most influential intellectuals and scientists (see below). >So Gould is a marionette hanging from skyhooks. I have >previously expressed my opinion that this is a misreading, and I think the >burden of proof rests heavily on the (pan,universal) selectionists to show >that this is the case and not on the rest of us to dissuade them. I don't know how Gould hangs around. But when he hints that hopeful monsters may be an important phenomenon in evolution, I smell a miracle. When he and Eldredge suggest that adaptive evolution can occur in large jumps and not gradually, I smell a miracle (or an extraordinary amount of luck, which amounts to the same thing). When Gould and the most influential intellectual of the latter part of this century* say that human language ability is a side effect of big brains and was not honed by natural selection, I smell a miracle. When the "Bauplaners" and Brian Goodwin say that the well-adapted forms of organisms are the result of natural selection but rather the result of some mysterious (to me) laws of form and function, I smell a miracle. When one of the world's most renowned biologists, Lynn Margulis, is quoted as saying about Darwinian natural selection: "It's totally wrong. It's wrong like infectious medicine was wrong before Pasteur. It's wrong like phrenology is wrong. Every major tenet of it is wrong." . . . I can only wonder about what miracles she may have in mind to explain adaptive evolutionary change. > It has happened before that people who gain a clear understanding >get frustrated when they return to share it and the "pivotal" importance of >their accomplishment doesn't overwhelm their friends. > > When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and > the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets > out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot > of the mountain. Exodus 32:19 (English-NIV) > > Does this feeling stoke the engines for Gary and/or Dan Dennett? I can't speak for Dan Dennett, but I, unlike the Evangelists, would LOVE to lose my (selectionist) faith (although so far I am getting precious little help form this list). I can only imagine that it would be as exhilarating, enlightening, and liberating as when I lost my Catholic faith. It would also allow me to write another book to correct the misinformation contained in _Without Miracles_. But right now natural selection is the only nonmiraculous explanation we've got for adaptive evolutionary change, and I think that it is important to emphasize that state of affairs, particularly when some of our most influential scholars suggest otherwise. > It may be that the intended audience for Gary's book does regularly >use miracles to get them through an explanation. But Bob O'Hara has >rightly pleaded with us to not engage the American pathology of creationism >here. Besides I suspect that Gary's book is not really for Duane Gish. So >maybe, like Dan Dennett, Gary sees miracles lurking in the shadows pulling >the strings. No, as mentioned above, I don't see them lurking, I SMELL them. > Nevertheless I will try to dissuade Gary from "universal >selctionism." I am suspicious (with Dalton de Souza Amorim and Karl >Popper) about theories that seem to explain too much. But Sir Karl would have LOVED universal selection theory. Indeed, he remains the most important selectionist philosopher who ever lived, and a major cause of my selectionist perversion, saying things like: "From the am=A6ba to Einstein, the growth of knowledge is always the same: w= e try to solve our problems, and to obtain, by a process of elimination, something approaching adequacy in our tentative solutions." And Popper had a special fondness for bold, falsifiable hypothesis like E = =3D mc^2 and universal seletion theory. Please leave Popper on MY side (and that goes for Dalton, too). >In trying to >reconstruct the unique history of this planet (see Sober) we run the risk >of having a theory that says something like; the world is populated by >those forms that are not selected against (to be selected against is to >die, leave no offspring, go extinct,...), therefore every instance is one >that is selected for (or atleast not against). Loose talk like this can't >help but be the case. It is part of the job of the Universal selectionist >to demonstrate how this caricature is _not_ what is claimed. Is it loose talk to say that adaptive change requires the mechanisms of blind variation and selective retention when these mechanisms can either be demonstrated (as in adaptive biological evolution and antibody production) or shown not to exist? Indeed, it gives us specific mechanisms to search for, and if not found, a reason to modify our theory. And it also provides a powerful method to generate adaptive computer programs and new drugs (also described in my book). > I want to know all of the details of the history of life. Once I >get my story will Gary/Dennett/Williams see variation and selection in it? >Certainly. So do we have not basis for disagreement? No, not unless you propose skyhooks and miracles for adaptive change. And who knows, maybe variation and selection will not be part of it after all (why such faith in natral selection?; look what happened to Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characters). But please, no skyhooks and miracles. So, you tell me if we have a basis for disagreement. I should add that I am really not too concerned about the status of natural selection as an explanation of adaptation in the biological sciences. I can trust people like Dawkins and Williams to be vigilant on this front. My major, much harder task is to demonstrate (or motivate others to demonstrate) that all forms of ONTOGENETIC adaptation depend on blind variation and selective retention WITHIN organisms. And, believe me, there is a lot of fishy (and smelly) miraculous stuff floating around in the cognitive sciences, particularly in cognitive development and language acquistion. But since this list of about the historical sciences, these may not be fitting topics for discussion here (Bob, whaddya say?). --Gary *Noam Chomsky, in case you couldn't guess. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:73>From wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU Thu Oct 19 04:09:47 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 19:10:51 +1100 From: John Wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU> Subject: Re: Learning as Variation and Selection To: email@example.com Andrew Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: |>I also don't buy the argument that "planning" and natural selection on |>random variation (or acquired characteristics) are mutually exclusive. |>(Appologies if this is my mis-reading) Clearly both occur in the same |>process of cultural change. |> |Yes. But they are different processes. It is the attempt to conflate the |two which Elihu Gerson is arguing against. | |>More importantly, however, is the whole question of exactly how much of |>human society is really planned by any one (or any small group of people). |>Hayek's argument, which is almost never mentioned in discussions such as |>this, is that society is a self-organizing system, and that really no one |>is planning it at all. The amount of knowledge that is necessary to plan |>a society (or institution, or whatever) is far beyond what any small group |>of people could ever know. This doesn't stop us from deluding ourselves |>that somehow we really could be (and should be) in control of everything. |>Hence we have things like prohibition (being echoed in the various "wars |>on drugs" in the last decades), and the Soviet Union and other attempts at |>communism, and so on. Hayek's point is that complexity of a social system |>is not evidence for planning, conscious forethought, etc. | |This is surely further evidence that planning, forethought and so on, as |things which individuals do and experience, are different from the unplanned |processes which shape society, and which are much closer to the operation |of evolution in biology. QED The relationship between planned and unplanned self-organisation of social structures is analogous to the relationship between "natural" and "artificial" selection. Sure, there is intentionality directing the selection pressures (but not necessarily the outcome), but the process is still one of environmental sorting of hereditable characteristics. The fact that some of the selection pressures against the replication of (biological and cultural) traits involves deliberation doesn't change the fact that the environment (which sometimes includes deliberating selectors) is sorting differentially. Cultural evolution is *exactly* analogous to Darwinian evolution because the replication rates of cultural traits on average correlate with ecological success relative to close competitors. Certainly we can distinguish between the properties of different selection events (some being intentional and others being "blind") and truly accurate intentional choices would result in a more rapid and severe selection process, but there is no difference in kind, just degree. Ecological success is a matter of outcomes, not inputs. To use Lewontin's  terminology: the transformation rules that cover ontogeny (and here by analogy intentional planning) are distinct from those that cover phenotypic success (ecological, and analogously here, social advantage). If cultural items are generated intentionally, their success rate depends on how well they interact in the social environment; ie, how many brains they spread through, how much time those brains spend applying those cultural items, and how many socially necessary resources those brains acquire to apply those items, not whether they were created consciously or unconsciously. The QED is a bit quick  Lewontin R 1974 _The genetic basis of evolutionary change_ Columbia UP _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:74>From email@example.com Thu Oct 19 06:20:16 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 09:20:03 -0500 (CDT) From: Dalton de Souza Amorim <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: F=ma I would like to answer Eisenstadt's reply to my note a little longer, since I believe his comment touches one important question of Popper's approach on how theories evolve (if you allow me to use "evolution" for the development of ideas). >[From Eisenstadt] > On Wed, 18 Oct 1995, Dalton de Souza Amorim wrote in reply > to my question "Like F=ma"? > > No, like the situations where F is different from ma. > > There are no such situations. What are you getting at? > > Michael Eisenstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org) > > http://www.eden.com/~madelon (<-Madelon's Recent Paintings) I wonder if there are _definitely_ no situations in which F is different from ma. Black holes are known to behave differently from Earth in a number of aspects. Eventually, F=ma could be one of them. Even if _I_ don't know any situation in which this occurs, it does not matter at all for science itself. There _may_ be a set of conditions in which such generalization is not valid. Popper, with his very sharp sight, stated that a theory seldom comes completely destroyed. Usually, its validity is restricted from universal to a much more defined context when it is outranged. Anyway, this is how theories should begin: proposing that its predictions are _absolutely_ valid and waiting for observations that show how far this is incorrect. From a psychological point of view this is a difficult part of Popper's model for the development of theories: namely that we know that an area of research grew better only when one of its theories fall down. In other words, we should hope every morning that our theories have been overstepped during the night. This is something that people who expect science to give absolute truth have a lot of problem to understand, to accept and to deal with on the every-day of science. These are, hence, the two main steps of the development of science. First, 'F=ma' for ever --with 'F', 'm' and 'a' very well defined. Second, the discovery that 'F =/ a' under a number of special circumstances --that is, the model should incorporate some variables not known before. Let's say, if there is a so strong gravity that light cannot escape, then F is different from ma. I see that some of these points could be profitably applied to evolution (and obviously the ability to employ Popper's and other epistemologists to a particular area of research is just the difficult point): (1) to have very precise definitions for the terms used (this is a major point; it is unacceptable that while discussing theories, models and hypotheses we employ the same words or expressions to express not exactly, or even very different concepts; biology is just full of such kind of disgraceful problems); (2) to transform natural language theories into formal models (this requires knowledge on mathematics, maybe the only tool that can avoid an unending discussion on confusing words and opinions) (I would say that Hamilton's (1964a,b) and many of his more recent papers are excellent approach in such direction); (3) to deduct from the models what should be expected in any particular situation; (4) to look for those situations and whenever finding them, not to resist against changes. The question of limiting pre-existing theories to more restrict situations will probably mean for evolutionary studies that selection, for example, under a given definition can be used only in a quite restrict context. This seems to have already occurred. The mathematical definition of selection (from the first half of the century!) applies only to co-existing alleles for the same locus, not to interspecific comparisons. Adaptation, on the other hand, on its common sense is a severe tautology and most frequently used teleologically. I don't want to go any further in the discussion of the theory. I feel much more like an observer in this particular field of evolutionary biology. I just would like to see biology free from some common errors in science. I am sincere enough to say the I myself am not able to propose sharp solutions now (maybe never). But I see that epistemology would help a lot. I don't have particular interest in seeing theories that are able to explain everything; I would prefer to see hypothesis that forbid lots of things, i.e., that say how the world should _not_ behave, so it is easier to falsify it. Dalton. Dalton de Souza Amorim Depto. de Biologia - FFCLRP Universidade de Sao Paulo Av. Bandeirantes 3900 14040-901 Ribeirao Preto SP BRAZIL e-mail: email@example.com Hamilton, W.D. 1964a. The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I. J. Theoret. Biol. 7:1-16. Hamilton, W.D. 1964b. The genetical evolution of social behaviour. II. J. Theoret. Biol. 7:17-52. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:75>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Oct 19 17:45:56 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 18:45:35 -0400 (EDT) From: J Miller <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Universal selection theory and induction On Wed, 18 Oct 1995 email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) wrote: > I'd be interested to hear what other Darwin-L subscribers have to say about > this discussion. > > --Gary Cziko Gary, I would like to focus on the other half of the Darwinian paradigm - selective retention - as it relates to such phenomena as learning and science. I don't have too much of a problem with the first half, viz. blind variations, provided it is understood that this blindness affects only their foresight, not the hindsight. I am not sure whether you will agree with this particular way of phrasing it, but I think we are in substantial agreement thus far. Now the process of the selection of phenotypic variations is fairly straightforward. Those that "don't work" get eliminated. But when it comes to various human activities, what "works" and what "doesn't work" becomes less clear. I know that some people are not dismayed by this difficulty. Popperians, for example, insist on applying the same model of selection by elimination to everything. Induction, they say, is a myth. Humans learn and discover things by making random assumptions and then having them falsified either through experience or by matching them against the body of already accumulated (and presumably more reliable) information. What remains unfalsified, at least for the moment, is what we call knowledge. I find this part of the argument a little harder to swallow. I can think of several reasons why inductive learning would be favored by natural selection as opposed to the assumption-falsification route. But before I get into this, I would like to hear your comments. Do you also believe that induction has no role in human functioning and that we learn _only_ by eliminating assumptions that didn't work? J.Miller _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:76>From CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu Thu Oct 19 19:35:33 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 95 19:35 CDT From: Tom Cravens <CRAVENS@macc.wisc.edu> Subject: Re: Universal selection theory and induction To: firstname.lastname@example.org Gary Cziko invites other Darwin-L subscribers to chime in, and I follow on J. Miller's notes about the complications of human activity and blind (or not) variation. One nagging problem in historical linguistics (I hope my linguistic colleagues will correct me if I go too far astray here) could, perhaps, be boiled down to the effect of conscious intervention in language change. From where I sit, today's view is that although the facts of change are certainly participated in by all members of the speech community in the aggregate, they are controlled by no one. Nigel Vincent (1978) sums it up with something to the effect that "language change moves inexorably onward, and it is up to the individual speaker to mend any broken pieces." What he means is that the language as *system* evolves (sorry) in such a way that the individual can have no effect in stopping or diverting it. Unfortunate results may be mended one by one, but the systematic drift (loaded term) goes on in spite of any possible individual intervention. The variation that results in selection and change is thus blind to the individual human, by definition condoned by the aggregate if it takes effect, but for many *not* blind to the linguistic system in question, which has, in a sense, developed its own momentum. Each new-born speaker has to deal with a system in perpetual flux, and interprets it as best s/he can. Some details will be missed, and others will be misinterpreted from the point of view of the past feeding states, thus change takes place. (Example which would probably take place if we didn't teach everyone to spell these days: kids hear the normal American pronunciation of 'water', and interpret it as having the same medial consonant as 'leader'; the structure of the word thus changes, and a rule pronouncing /t/ as roughly [d] dies.) The possible point of interest, or at least of contrast with the non-human world as I've tried to follow the discussion is that the variation itself which produced the form subject to reinterpretation is *not* blind. It's conditioned by basic articulatory phonetics and such, and more interestingly, by the long-term ongoing directionality of variation and change in, i.e. inherent to, the particular linguistic system. Tom Cravens email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:77>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Oct 19 21:09:05 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 21:10:43 -0600 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: Universal selection theory and induction [from Gary Cziko to J. Miller] >Gary, I would like to focus on the other half of the Darwinian paradigm - >selective retention - as it relates to such phenomena as learning and >science. I don't have too much of a problem with the first half, viz. >blind variations, provided it is understood that this blindness affects >only their foresight, not the hindsight. I am not sure whether you will >agree with this particular way of phrasing it, but I think we are in >substantial agreement thus far. J., Sounds OK to me. Variations (call them hypotheses or thought trials in this context) are blind (although may be constrained), but selection is "rational," certainly NOT blind or random. >Do you also believe >that induction has no role in human functioning and that we learn _only_ >by eliminating assumptions that didn't work? Yes, this is my position as well (but of course, I will only be too happy to eliminate it if it shown to be problematic). I take the classical Popperian position on the nonexistance of induction in human knowledge processes. I think Popper (or someone paraphrasing him) said something like "The human mind proposes, nature disposes" to emphasize the creative role of the human mind in the generation of knowledge. As you may know, there is a very large literature on induction and Popper's noninductive epistemology. I could point you to some sources, but I'm sure the philosphers on the list know this literature better than I. I think I may go even further than Popper when I speculate that language comprehension also involves the same process of noninductive variation and selection. The meaning you take away from these words on your computer screen is NOT meaning transmitted from me to you, but rather the meaning YOU create yourself, using these words (as well as other sources of knowlege you already possess) as an environment to eliminate your unfit hypotheses. These issues are treated in chapters 6, 10 and 12 of _Without Miracles_.--Gary _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:78>From email@example.com Thu Oct 19 21:09:22 1995 Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 21:11:11 -0600 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: F=ma [from Gary Cziko] Dalton de Souza asked: > I wonder if there are _definitely_ no situations in which F is >different from ma. Black holes are known to behave differently from Earth >in a number of aspects. Eventually, F=ma could be one of them. You don't need to find a black hole to refute F = ma. All you need is a golf ball. Accelerate it to close to the speed of light. You then find that more and force is required to get to move even a little bit faster. Newton's F = ma is actually wrong. But still good enough to get men to the moon and back. Einstein's relativity theory is better, but probably wrong too.--Gary _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:79>From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Oct 20 08:09:06 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 08:12:24 -0500 From: email@example.com (William H. Jefferys) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: F=ma #You don't need to find a black hole to refute F = ma. All you need is a #golf ball. Accelerate it to close to the speed of light. You then find #that more and force is required to get to move even a little bit faster. #Newton's F = ma is actually wrong. But still good enough to get men to the #moon and back. Einstein's relativity theory is better, but probably wrong #too.--Gary Since this is a list devoted to Historical Sciences, I hope that no one will find it too pedantic if I mention that Newton didn't say F=ma; he said F=dp/dt where p is the momentum. This form of the law of motion is even correct in special relativity. Bill _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:80>From email@example.com Fri Oct 20 13:51:07 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 14:51:14 -0400 To: Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu (Darwin List) From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeremy C. Ahouse) Subject: reflections on the current debate Darwin-listers, I am impressed (depressed) that this back and forth between Gary Cziko and others (including me) seems to circle around the same issues with little transmission of perspectives. There seems to be general consensus (among modernists) that teleological explanations are "bad". The pan-selectionist position is in part a "less-teleological than thou" view. The irony here is that those from paleo or developmental biology view the panadaptationist position with a similar suspicion - since the ultra-selectionists offer a scenario where "the world" is "sculpting" the ever (inevitably) increasing complexity. This drive to complexity with reason at the top seems like teleology through the back door. So there is the feeling that this (solely) adaptationist approach is too endpoint directed. (That is why Gould emphasizes strong contingency.)* Interesting to me is that the Dennett, Dawkins, Cziko approach is not about data or experiments, and as I mentioned in a previous post is potentially over-explanatory. There seems to be extra pleasure in empirically free thinking, for example; in discussing a 50:50 sex ratio Dawkin's ends with "This remarkably simple conclusion is a consequence of pure armchair logic. It doesn't depend on any empirical facts at all, except the fundamental fact that all children born have one father and one mother." I am mystified that they seem to take no interest in the details that we have learned about what happens to variance when moving from one level of organization to the next. To expand on this (in biology); even if all bases mutated with equal probability (unlikely), it now matters if the the mutation is in an exon or promoter or enhancer or if in an exon if it is in the first, second or third position of a codon, if the mutation does cause an amino acid change then it matters which amino acid and where on the protein and what kind of protein - structural or regulatory and if the organism has many cells and develops tissues it matters crucially when the regulatory gene comes into play... it matters where on the chromosome the gene sits (near the telomeres may have higher rates of change) and on and on and on... this doesn't make variation prescient but it does mean that the variance is not simple... To use the Dennett lingo; all points in design space (even close points) are not easily accessible by walks in mutation space. This is the main (if only) take home message from the NK models that Kauffman has been exploring. Is there an analog to this in linguistics? Judith Masters ends her review of the recent books by Dawkins, Dennett and Eldredge by quoting Voltaire's Candide: "All this is very well, ... but let us cultivate our garden." And maybe too much ink can be spilled on this. - Jeremy _____ Masters, Judith (1995) "The Rules of the Game" Book World. 16 July. Rorty, Richard (1995) "Cranes and Skyhooks" Lingua Franca. July/Aug. This review of Dennett is very positive. Dawkins, R. (1995) River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. Basic Books. (http://bose02.delphi.com/hc/) Dennett, D.C. (1995) Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. Simon & Schuster. Eldredge, N. (1995) Reinventing Darwin: The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory. John Wiley. * Does part of the appeal of this position for computer scientists come from the "failure" of top-down AI, as they hope that the smarts will emerge? _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:81>From email@example.com Fri Oct 20 15:41:56 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 13:42:15 -0700 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (Elihu M. Gerson) Subject: Re: Learning as Variation and Selection I think it's past time we had some specifics on claims that cultural (and/or institutional) change can be described as an evolutionary process analogous to Darwinian evolution. So far, we don't even have a plausible sample just-so story. In particular, we need answers to these questions just to get started: 1) What varies, and how does it do so? 2) What reproduces, and how does it do so? 3) What selects, and how does it do so? 4) What connections, if any, are there among that-which-varies, that-which-reproduces, and that-which-selects? 5) What is adapted to what, and how is this measured? Elihu M. Gerson Tremont Research Institute 458 29 Street San Francisco, CA 94131 Phone: 415-285-7837 Fax: 415-648-7660 firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:82>From email@example.com Fri Oct 20 17:45:28 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 17:47:24 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: Learning as Variation and Selection [from Gary Cziko] Elihu M. Gerson writes: >I think it's past time we had some specifics on claims that cultural >(and/or institutional) change can be described as an evolutionary process >analogous to Darwinian evolution. So far, we don't even have a plausible >sample just-so story. In particular, we need answers to these questions >just to get started: > >1) What varies, and how does it do so? >2) What reproduces, and how does it do so? >3) What selects, and how does it do so? >4) What connections, if any, are there among that-which-varies, >that-which-reproduces, and that-which-selects? >5) What is adapted to what, and how is this measured? These are good questions. But, I would like to see two preliminaries settled before we start discussing possible answers: 1. Do you now agree that classical genetic algorithms rely on BLIND variation and selective reproduction? As I mentioned earlier, if we can't come to agreement on this rather straightforward (in which the answers to your five questions obvious), there is no way that we will ever make progress toward consensus on the above issues concerning cultural (and/or institutional) learning. 2. Do you believe that some aspects (not necessarily all) aspects of culture (and/or institutions) are adapted to their environments, that adaptive change has taken place (not that all change is necessarily adaptive)? If you don't there is no reason to invoke selectionist explanations since selection theory is intended to explain only adaptive change. If you believe such adaptive change does take place, give us a clear example so that we can begin to explore the answers to 1 through 5 in a particular context where we agree adaptive change has taken place. I look forward to your responses to my questions 1 and 2. I will also send you directly a response from a researcher in the Illinois Genetic Algorithms Laboratory to make your answer to 1 easier. And related to 2, I will add below an extract from _Without Miracles_ (I think Jeffrey House should take a look at the extract as well so he doesn't continue to think of me as a "panselectionist" or "ultraselectionist." --Gary " . . . selection theory is not intended to account for changes that are not characterized by increases in adapted complexity. It is possible that a species may change over time in ways that are essentially neutral or perhaps even maladaptive. A decrease in the ozone layer may result in increased rates of radiation-induced mutations so that a species may no longer be able to preserve and pass down the accumulated wisdom of its genome. For various social, geographical, and economic reasons a society may lose adapted cultural and scientific knowledge; book burning and persecution of scientists occurred many times during periods of social conflict and upheaval. It is, of course, interesting to consider just how much evolutionary, cultural, scientific, and cognitive change is adaptive, and a comprehensive study of any of these fields will certainly have to go beyond selection theory. But to the extent that adaptive change has occurred, a selectionist perspective would see that cumulative blind variation and selection must be involved. To the extent that no change occurs or that change is not adaptive, other mechanisms (or factors interfering with cumulative blind variation and selection) must be involved. Selection theory is neither able nor intended to explain stasis or neutral or maladaptive developments, and to criticize it on this count indicates a misunderstanding of its intent." _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:83>From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Oct 20 18:04:36 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 18:06:32 +0000 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: reflections on the current debate [from Gary Cziko responding to Jeffrey Ahouse] > I am impressed (depressed) that this back and forth between Gary >Cziko and others (including me) seems to circle around the same issues with >little transmission of perspectives. Well, I don't believe that perspectives can be "transmitted" (that's Lamarckian instruction), but I do feel that I have developed ("evolved" if you will) a better understanding of your perspective as a result of the selection pressure of our interaction. So I have found our discussion useful. Can you truly say that you really don't better understand my perspective now? That I am only trying to understand _adaptive_ change, and that I restrict selection theory to only those instances? Like you, I am also quite critical of the ultraselectionism of individuals like Wallace and Romanes. I have tried quite hard to make my position clear. But I still am not sure what you object to in it. I do know that you are interested in far more than just adaptive change, and in this sense you are much more ambitious than I am. I am interested primarily in adapted complexity, and figuring out the process by which in happened, but not just in biological evolution but in cultural change, science, cognitive development, language acquisition and all areas in which we find a remarkable fit of one system to another (apparent design). In this sense I am perhaps more ambitious than you. The only mechanism I know of explaining such fit is a selectionist one, and no one on Darwin-L has yet offered any alternatives. If you were let me know what you disagreed with in my basic position (at least as it concerns adaptive biological evolution) we might make some progress. What I object to in your perspective is the implication that some process other than blind variation and selective retention can result in adapted complexity. I would be very interested to find an alternative explanation, but so far I have not seen one offered free of miracles or skyhooks. --Gary _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:84>From Catalinus@aol.com Fri Oct 20 19:08:29 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 20:08:21 -0400 From: Catalinus@aol.com To: email@example.com Subject: If the Shoe Fits The following is excerpted from The Journal of Irreproducible Results, Volume 40, Number 3, pp.11- 12. I thought it appropriate to distribute in light of some of the discussions that have appeared on this list of late. I have substituted chaste dashes for the A-word, in keeping with the no-obcenity rule, but I urge you to get the original. It's VERY funny, not less for being right. Title: The A--hole Quotient: Transcending Ethnicity in Anthropology and Daily Life. Author: Eugene Cooper, U. of Southern California. "...For too long, anthropologists and practitioners of its sister social science disciplines have allowed the concept of ethnicity to become incorporated into the lexicon of "science", giving undeserved credence and legitimacy to the politically tainted categories of popular consciousness. Happily, a new, more critical perspective lies within our grasp... ...The A--hole Quotient hypothesizes that the proportion of a--holes in any given population is a constant (A) which is equal to the number of a--holes (n) over the total population (t): A=n/t (A) remains constant regardless of how one might choose to define the population -- by race, language, nationality, religion, or even occupation, age, gender, or shoe size. Thus, one would be equally likely to encounter an a--hole in one's interactions with, say, dentists, or French speakers, or Jews, or Ecuadoreans, male or female, of dark or light skin, large or small feet... ...The theoretical implications of this finding are genuinely revolutionary in the social sciences... ...The irrelevance of "ethnic" distinctions having been established from the outset, we might not only dispense with any number of professional journals which address the issue by merely restating what every layman believes anyway, but might also come to understand "ethnicity" as the phenomenon of popular consciousness that it is, rather than continue to misconstrue it as an objective analytical category. We might even come to see it for what it often ends up being, a device employed by demagogues to divide us from one another politically... ...As the beguiling simplicity of the finding captured the imagination of larger sectors of the world's population, each of us would be more inclined to approach our interactions with all comers with only one thought in mind, "Is this person an a--hole or not? Having made the assessment (sic), we would proceed with the business at hand, or not, without prejudging our opposite number on the basis of his or her superficial "ethnic" attributes." Hi ho. John A. Giacobbe Western Archaeological Services, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:85>From email@example.com Fri Oct 20 22:58:06 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 23:57:55 -0400 (EDT) From: J Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Universal selection theory and induction On Fri, 20 Oct 1995 firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) wrote: > >Do you also believe > >that induction has no role in human functioning and that we learn _only_ > >by eliminating assumptions that didn't work? > > Yes, this is my position as well (but of course, I will only be too happy > to eliminate it if it shown to be problematic). I take the classical > Popperian position on the nonexistance of induction in human knowledge > processes. I think Popper's position _has_ been shown to be problematic. But of course this is no reason to abandon it altogether - only to keep a healthy dose of skepticism about it. Let me share with you a couple of points which, I think, support this skepticism about the nonexistence of induction. First of all, when compared with induction, the acquisition of knowledge by assumption-falsification appears to be frightfully uneconomical. When you observe that every B you encounter is A, your conclusion that the next B will also be A may be uncertain and unjustified, but it requires a good deal less effort than trying to falsify every competing assumption. That is to say, it is a lot easier than trying to establish that B is not C, and that B is not D, not E, F and so forth to the end of the alphabet and possibly beyond. What's more, if the assumption to be falsified has to do with your personal safety, it is easy to see that induction may also be a much less painful alternative. For these reasons, I think it is evident that natural selection must place a premium on inductive learning. Consider two rabbits, one of which tried to falsify the assumption that it is a good idea to run like hell at the first sight of a fox. He probably left far fewer genes for the next generation than his sibling who learned inductively by observing his mother once or twice. Of course the downside of the inductive method is that next time this second rabbit may take off after seeing a piece of red cloth or something equally innocuous, but his error will be on the side of safety, whereas assumption-falsification leads directly into the maw of extinction. Another problem I have with falsificationism is that to be effective it too must rely on induction. Suppose you want to falsify my assumption that every B is A. You find one B that is not A. Technically, you are correct of course, but for practical reasons it may still be advantageous for me to believe that next B I see is going to be A. And so I argue that your case is a rare exception that happened because of some special circumstances. You must then show that your finding is independent of these circumstances, or of the fact that it's a leap year, or that it's the full moon, or any other excuse I can think of. In the end you will have a string of observations from which you must generalize. But what is it if not induction? In other words, if you observe that B is not A during the full moon, is it an aberration or a trend? I don't see how this can be answered without induction. I am also skeptical about those cases where no falsification is possible. Suppose I ask, How do you know that the sun will rise tomorrow? The Humean inductivist would answer that we don't really know that it _will_ rise, but given the exigencies of life, we must accept the unjustified but unavoidable assumption that the future will resemble the past and conclude that it is reasonable to expect that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow. Now what will the falsificationist say? Since the alternative hypothesis (i.e. that the sun will not rise) cannot be falsified, he will be obliged to say that he doesn't know. But this will be disingenuous; he _does_ know that the sun will rise tomorrow as well as anyone else. And the reason for this is that we all are naturally predisposed to accept inductive generalizations, whether we like it or not. I think I will conclude by pointing to what I think is at the root of these difficulties. Popperians are very keen on admonishing others not to confuse the logical problem of induction with the psychological problem of induction. For some reason, they are totally oblivious to the fact that there is only one problem of induction - psychological. It is the problem to which Hume devoted Book I of his _Treatise_ and which I am not going to repeat here in the interests of brevity. There is no logical _problem_ of induction. The logical fact that the proposition "some swans are white" does not entail the proposition "all swans are white" is no more of a problem than the similar fact that 2+2 does not entail 5. I think a lot of confusion generated by falsificationism could be cleared up if only we remembered that the induction problem is always psychological. Gary, I apologize if you already addressed these issues in your book. I hope you wouldn't mind highlighting your points for those of us who haven't read it. I don't mean to suggest, by the way, that I am not interested in reading it, but at the moment I have no access to a good library (this is what the "com" in my address means). If you have an extra copy looking for a good home, I could certainly to put it to a good use. J.Miller _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:86>From email@example.com Fri Oct 20 23:55:21 1995 Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 21:55:14 -0700 (PDT) From: Timothy Hunt <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Learning as Variation and Selection On Fri, 20 Oct 1995, Elihu M. Gerson wrote: > I think it's past time we had some specifics on claims that cultural > (and/or institutional) change can be described as an evolutionary process > analogous to Darwinian evolution. So far, we don't even have a plausible > sample just-so story. In particular, we need answers to these questions > just to get started: Hmm, seems to me that the aegis is on you to prove that evolutionary theory is _not_ appropriate for cultural evolution. As far as I know, the only criterion for the use of evolutionary theory is whether or not there is transmission of information between individuals. The data that is explained by evolutionary theory is changing relative frequencies of variants of a trait. If a owning particular variant impacts the owners ability to transmit that variant, relative to the other variants of the trait, then natural selection can be proposed as the mechanism for the changes in frequency (the default explanation should be drift). Seems to me that cultural evolution ("human" or "animal" or "digital") is suitable for evolutionary theory (culture is transmitted information just like genes or binary digits), and that selection as well as drift has patterned the distributions of cultural traits through time. As far as "Lamarkian" evolution goes, the argument is about where the variation comes from that is later to be sorted by natural selection. Is it "blind" or is it "directed"? The source of new variation is not a component of evolutionary theory: if the physiological mechanism that produced new variation was "directed" in some way, evolutionary theory and natural selection in particular would still be explanatory. The question of "how" new variation is produced is a physiological problem, the question of "why" a particular trait variant increased or decreased in frequency through time is an evolutionary problem. In either case, what we're talking about are empirical issues, not theoretical ones. So, if you want to make a case for human cultural evolution being the result of the selection of "directed" traits, it is only necessary to: 1) present a idea-generating mechanism that is capable of producing new trait variants which will be "selected for" more frequently than than those produced by a "blind" mechanism _AND_ 2) demonstrate using the changing relative frequencies of trait variants that new variants produced by this mechanism increased in frequency through time _more often_ than traits produced by the "blind" mechanism. If you do this than you have proved your point and avoided "just-so"s. The hard part of 1) is finding a mechanism that is capable of predicting the future reliably (since the new "directed" trait variant must yield higher fitness than its counterparts in the "future" environment). The hard part of 2) is figuring out whether the trait variant arose "blind" or "directed" (thats your problem since you must disprove that it arose "blind"). The hard part of using evolutionary theory on humans is that we tend to think that we're always right, while if you examine the past you'll find that most people were wrong. Most of the people that have existed on this planet do not have surviving heirs: their lineages have gone as extinct as T. rex. However, I'm sure if one could have asked them, they would have said that what _they_ were doing was right,made sense,and was directed towards a prosperous future; while what _our_ ancestors were doing was wrong, blind, and hopeless. ______________________________________________________________________________ Tim Hunt Phone: (206)610-5178 Department of Anthropology, Box 353100 FAX: (206)543-3285 University of Washington Office: Denny Hall 409 Seattle, WA 98195 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:87>From email@example.com Sat Oct 21 10:49:07 1995 Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 08:48:59 -0700 (PDT) From: "Jonathan A. Smith" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: reflections on the current debate On Fri, 20 Oct 1995, Jeremy C. Ahouse wrote: > * Does part of the appeal of this position for computer scientists come > from the "failure" of top-down AI, as they hope that the smarts will > emerge? No. AI has not failed. Every AI program uses some form of search. This is what distinguishes AI from other areas of computer science. Search always involves the generation (or modification) or solutions and some form of selection of a set of candidate solutions that may be useful for further elaboration. For this reason even an AI program that is not explicitly based on a genetic algorithm is in some sense a Darwinian program. This goes for "top down" or any other form of AI. There are scores of AI programs that have been successful -- often outperforming many human experts in real world domains. Recent advances in machine learning have proven to be especially important. Successful learning software includes both symbolic and connectionist programs. AI has not failed -- some smarts have already emerged. firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:88>From email@example.com Sat Oct 21 13:54:53 1995 Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 13:56:47 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Today in the Historical Sciences No, this is not Bob O'Hara, but Gary Cziko (again). I couldn't resist stealing Bob's title and posting today's important event. It was on this day in 1879 that Thomas Alva Edison invented the electric incandescent lamp. Here is an extract from the Enyclopedia Britannica: "The invention of a completely practical lamp ordinarily is credited to Edison, who began studying the problem in 1877 and within a year and a half had made more than 1,200 experiments. On Oct. 21, 1879, Edison lighted a lamp containing a carbonized thread for the filament. The lamp burned steadily for two days. Later he learned that filaments of carbonized visiting card paper (bristol board) would give several hundred hours' life. Soon carbonized bamboo was found acceptable and was used as the filament material. Extruded cellulose filaments were introduced by Swan in 1883." After Edison demonstrated his invention in December 1879, he was declared the "genius of Menlo Park." Imagine, calling someone a "genius" who took a year and a half and over a thousand failed attempts before coming up with something that worked! Looks like a lot of blind variation to me (I understand Edison sent associates to forests in South America and Japan to find exotic materials for his lamp filament--obviously sensing the importance of trying lots of different variations). Appended below is a relevant extract from _Without Miracles_ (note that I got the date wrong in my book; December is when Edison made his invention public--most likely after he had filed for a patent).--Gary ================================================================ [from chapter 15 of _Without Miracles_] "That we tend to forget or ignore the many failures in our attempts to better understand and control our surroundings and remember only the successes makes a selection theory epistemology appear unnecessary and unappealing. This is much the same as considering only the living and adapted end results of biological evolution and ignoring the countless unadaptive variations. But unlike biological evolution where the failed organisms and extinct species are usually well hidden from view, we can take notice of the fruitless trials of our experiments and conjectures. An informative case from the history of technological innovation is Thomas Alva Edison's two-year attempt to find an appropriate substance for the filament in the first electric light bulb. After trying out dozens of substances, including red hair from a man's beard, Edison finally found success in December 1879 using carbonized sewing thread. His oft-quoted statement that "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" reflects the long hours and countless failures that accompanied this and his many other inventions and technological advances. But when we buy a new product, whether it be a new video camera or a more effective laundry detergent, we take no notice of the many failed attempts that preceded its development. We also know nothing of the countless would-be inventors and scientists who do not produce noteworthy breakthroughs. We usually consider only the successes and not the failures, making it appear as if science and technology progress through the sheer brilliance and insight of scientists and inventors rather than through painstaking trial and error and only occasional exhilaration of trial and success. Walter Vincenti, whose account of advances in aeronautical engineering was introduced in chapter 10, remarks: "From outside or in retrospect, the entire process tends to seem more ordered and intentional--less blind--than it usually is. It is difficult to learn what goes on in even the conscious minds of others, and we all prefer to remember our rational achievements and forget the fumblings and ideas that didn't work out." _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:89>From Eliana@attach.edu.ar Sat Oct 21 18:10:16 1995 From: Eliana@attach.edu.ar Organization: Attachment Research Center To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 18:39:15 +0000 Subject: Re: Universal selection theory and induction On Thu, 19 Oct 1995 J. Miller wrote: > On Wed, 18 Oct 1995 email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) wrote: > > > > I'd be interested to hear what other Darwin-L subscribers have to say about > > this discussion. > > > > --Gary Cziko > > Gary, I would like to focus on the other half of the Darwinian paradigm - > selective retention - as it relates to such phenomena as learning and > science. I don't have too much of a problem with the first half, viz. > blind variations, provided it is understood that this blindness affects > only their foresight, not the hindsight. I am not sure whether you will > agree with this particular way of phrasing it, but I think we are in > substantial agreement thus far. > > Now the process of the selection of phenotypic variations is fairly > straightforward. Those that "don't work" get eliminated. But when it comes > to various human activities, what "works" and what "doesn't work" becomes > less clear. I know that some people are not dismayed by this difficulty. > Popperians, for example, insist on applying the same model of selection by > elimination to everything. Induction, they say, is a myth. Humans learn > and discover things by making random assumptions and then having them > falsified either through experience or by matching them against the body > of already accumulated (and presumably more reliable) information. What > remains unfalsified, at least for the moment, is what we call knowledge. I > find this part of the argument a little harder to swallow. I can think of > several reasons why inductive learning would be favored by natural > selection as opposed to the assumption-falsification route. But before I > get into this, I would like to hear your comments. Do you also believe > that induction has no role in human functioning and that we learn _only_ > by eliminating assumptions that didn't work? Now this is a real melange. The following misconceptions can be found in Miller's contentions : 1. He is wrong on Popper 2. Wrong on Discovery Context 3. Confuses Discovery Context with learning 4. Introduces the obscure notion of "inductive learning" 5. Arbitrarily introduces the notion that Natural Selection favours a method of learning. (Inductive learning to Miller's mind). 6. He seems to ignore Popper's repeated statements regarding learning, i.e., trial and error. (BTW, what's so sophisticated about it?) 1. In the first place, Miller seems to have totally missed Popper's point as regards induction. Induction is not a myth. Induction is simply an inadequate method to assess the validity of scientific theories; simply because one never knows, one cannot possibly know, whether a counterexample would not turn up to falsify the theory. That's why Miller is wrong about Popper's contentions on induction. See Popper's Logik der Forschung, 1934!! (The logic of Scientific Discovery) 2. It is far from clear whether human minds discover anything randomly. The way scientific theories are concocted in human minds is still obscure and badly wants psychological research. This is known by the mane of Discovery Context. (Nagel, 1975; Hempel, 1969) 3. Learning must be teased apart from the discovery of scientific theories. Most animals learn, but no science whatsoever is involved. (Hinde, Robert A., 1975, 1977, 1985) 4. What is inductive learning? I have never heard of anything like it. 5. How do you know that Natural Selection favours "inductive learning"? 6. Trial and error has been found to be the commonest form of learning in mammals (Youniss, 1987, Demorel, 1990). Besides, if we humans were prone to adhere to induction, we wouldn't prove to be so addicted to maintaining theories even at the risk of our lives. Take, for instance, the well-known case of the MIchelson-Morley experiment which was devised to detect the velocity of the Earth with respect to the hypothetical luminiferous ether, a medium in space proposed to carry light waves. It was first carried out by physicists A.A. Michelson and E.W. Morley in 1881 and the test was later refined by them and many others for about 25 years. The procedure depended on the interferometer - of Michelson's invention- a sensitive optical device tought to detect the difference between the speed of light in the direction of the Earth's motion and the speed of light at right angles to the Earth's motion. No difference was ever found. In spite of that, the experiment was repeated over and over for about 25 years in the most trying settings, The Rocky Mountains, The Alps, The Himalayas, and so on. In spite of the fact that reality repeatedly denied them over and over for almost a quarter of a century that no difference in the light speeds could possible be detected, they obstinately thought something must have been wrong with their experiment but never even dreamt the theory they unwittingly were putting to trial was false. It was not until Einstein delivered his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905, that the Michelson-Morley experiment was definitely dispensed with -since Einstein showed that lightspeed could not be surpassed in the real world, There are dozens of similar examples to be found in the history of sciences. It seems that belief in a certain theoretical body of knowledge is much more powerful than direct observations from reality, and that falsiability is a modern construct -which we owe to Popper- we are all too reluctant to adopt. Moreover, the fact that reality checking is a belated acquisition in human recorded history comes from the fact that the first to try to explain earthly phenomena without resorting to supernatural causes were the Greeks, about 2500 years ago, albeit that approach prevailed for barely over 2 centuries and was interrupted till the Renaissance. So, taken all in all, reality has been reluctanly adopted as a method of monitoring our hypotheses about it for a meagre 800 years, as against 6000 years of recorded history. ---Eliana Montuori ********************************************* * Eliana Montuori, MD * * Attachment Research Center * * Department of Early Development * * 1966 Juncal 1116 Buenos Aires ARGENTINA * * Tel: +54-1 812 5521 Fax: +54-1 812 5432 * ********************************************* _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:90>From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Oct 22 12:35:25 1995 Date: Sun, 22 Oct 1995 12:37:23 +0000 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Patience Requested [from Gary Cziko] As a result of my introducing certain topics recently on Darwin-L, I have been receiving quite a few private messages in addition to those sent to Dawrin-L. I do plan to respond to the issues raised in these messages, but given the number of them and limits on my time, it make take some time before I get to them all. And while I don't want to make every one of my messages to Darwin-L seem like an advertisement for my book, it is the case that many of these issues ARE addressed in _Without Miracles_. In the meantime, I am pleased to see others on Darwin-L joining the dialogue, and this is one advantage to posting relevants comments to Darwin-L rather than to me privately. --Gary Cziko _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:91>From email@example.com Sun Oct 22 22:53:29 1995 Date: Sun, 22 Oct 1995 20:53:15 -0700 (PDT) From: Carl Lipo <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Today in the Historical Sciences > From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) > Subject: Today in the Historical Sciences > > After Edison demonstrated his invention in December 1879, he was declared > the "genius of Menlo Park." Imagine, calling someone a "genius" who took a > year and a half and over a thousand failed attempts before coming up with > something that worked! Looks like a lot of blind variation to me (I > understand Edison sent associates to forests in South America and Japan to > find exotic materials for his lamp filament--obviously sensing the > importance of trying lots of different variations). >[This is taken from another message from Eliana Montuori] > 2. It is far from clear whether human minds discover anything > randomly. The way scientific theories are concocted in human minds is > still obscure and badly wants psychological research. This is known > by the mane of Discovery Context. (Nagel, 1975; Hempel, 1969) A great book that documents the "blind variation" generation in human invention is: Pool, Ithiel de Sola 1983 Forecasting the telephone : a retrospective technology assessment. ABLEX Pub, Norwood, N.J. This books is a wonderful collection of studies and statements about the telepone made before our current form of telephone became fixed. It makes the point that it is too easy to look at the history of successes rather than the failures -- scientists had no clue to what the telephone would do, look like, how it fit into our society, etc. Another related and extremely interesting study was published in Science ("Research Papers: Who's Uncited Now. Hamilton, David P., Science, January 4, 1991). This study shows that few papers published by scientists (in all fields) are ever cited *even by their own authors*. Science is far from the directed, intentional endeavor we like to make it out to be. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Carl Lipo Department of Anthropology University of Washington Seattle, Washington 98195 Phone: (206) 543-7712 Fax: (206) 543-3285 email: email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:92>From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Oct 23 12:15:57 1995 Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 12:17:51 +0000 To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Induction and Selection Theory [from Gary Cziko] Here is a rather general response to some recent discussion of the role of induction in the growth of knowledge. I think what is most important about a selectionist view of the growth of knowledge is that sees theories as the creative invention of scientists. Theories are not "caused" by the environment by repeated observations and a process of induction. Theory precedes observation, in the same way that variation precedes selection in biological evolution. Observation is then used a type of "reality check" of theory eliminating those which are inadequate, and tenatively retaining those which pass muster. Biological evolution is also creative. The enviroment does not cause organisms to develop useful adaptations. Instead, organism create their own variations, and those that are useful (adapted) are retained and passed on to offspring. The back of the tree toad may look like a photo of the tree bark, but there is no photographic, inductive process which put it there. Instead, the tree frog itself created the pattern on its back. Who ever saw a object in motion, never slowing down or stopping in Newton's time? Who ever saw light bent by gravity before Einstein came up with his outlandish theory. How could induction (repeated observations of a certain phenomenon) ever explain the origin of these theories? Einstein himself said that theory is not based on observation. I will try to find this quote, unless someone else has on hand. I have appended below a relevant abstract from chapter 10 of _Without Miracles_. --Gary Cziko [from Chapter 10 of _Without Miracles_] The Problem of Induction Bacon's writings on science and its method had a great impact in England and on the European continent. Both Newton and Darwin acknowledged their debt to Bacon, and shortly after his death various scientific societies, such as the Royal Society in England and similar institutions on the continent, were established to undertake the type of systematic, scientific research that Bacon had advocated. Indeed, the remarkable success of Newton in discovering the laws of nature that govern the movements of both terrestrial and celestial bodies hinted that it was only a matter of time before all of nature's secrets would eventually be uncovered using the empirical, inductive method based on unbiased observation and objective comparison. But this was not to happen in the manner envisaged by Bacon and the new breed of empirical scientist whom he influenced. A century after his death, David Hume (see chapter 6) pulled the epistemological rug out from under all attempts to arrive at a foolproof method of induction by which general laws and theories could be discovered and justified by unprejudiced observation of the natural world. In fact, it would appear that Bacon was at least partially aware of the impending problem, as indicated by the importance he placed on negative instances, as he shows in this account of the power of prayer: "And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods,-"Aye," asked he again, "but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?" And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgements, or the like." Bacon's concern with negative instances anticipates Popper's similar emphasis on the essential role of refutation in science (to be discussed next). But it apparently did not occur to Bacon to wonder, as it did later to Hume, that if a negative instance (for example, experiencing silent lightning) can lead one to reject a belief (that all lightning produces thunder) previously supported by countless observations, how could one be sure that for any general belief supported by observation that a negative instance does not exist somewhere? Inasmuch as it is not possible to prove that negative instances do not exist somewhere, it is not possible to be absolutely certain of the truth of any general belief, scientific or otherwise, no matter how well the belief has been supported by past empirical observations. Despite this serious logical and methodological difficulty, however, science does appear to make progress in ways in which other belief systems, such as religion, astrology, and palmistry, do not. If science is indeed able to attain progressively better fit to the world it describes, we are left with the puzzle of how this fit is achieved, since it is evident that empirically based induction of the type advocated by Bacon and found wanting by Hume is simply not up to the task of providing infallibly true knowledge of the world. Popper and Falsification Science continued to make important breakthroughs at an accelerating pace from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. It could be argued, however, that no comparable breakthroughs occurred in understanding how science was able to continue to make progress, that is, achieve better and better fit with the objects and phenomena it described, until Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) confronted the problem. Popper grew up in Vienna during a time of great intellectual and scientific activity in Europe in general and in the Austrian capital in particular. As a student of the philosophy of science, he was fascinated by the ability of science to achieve better and better fits to the world it described, and consequently he set his mind to determining what it was that set science apart in this respect from nonscientific domains. What was it that allowed Newton and Einstein to propose theories that were convincingly better than those provided by their predecessors, whereas the political and economic theory of communism offered by Marx and the psychoanalytic theory developed by Freud were not demonstrably better than competing theories? Popper proposed a simple yet bold solution to this problem of the "demarcation" of science from nonscience and in so doing offered a solution to the vexing problem of induction raised by Hume. According to Popper, what sets science apart from nonscientific beliefs and theories is that scientific theories are falsifiable. For instance, one of Newton's laws of physics is that force is equal to mass times acceleration. This theory can in principle be falsified by experimentation, since it makes specific testable predictions. If the theory is correct, it should take the same force to impart a certain acceleration to an object as it takes to impart twice this acceleration to an object which has half the mass. If this is found not to be the case, and no methodological errors have been made, the theory must be rejected and a better one formulated and tested in its place. This contrasts with Freud's psychoanalytic theory, which is formulated in such a way as to make it immune from falsification. If psychoanalytic theory says that all males are jealous of their father and covet their mother but a certain male denies having these feelings, a confirmed Freudian would argue that the male was repressing his true feelings of paternal jealousy and maternal desire. Similarly, fields such as astrology and palmistry are not scientific, since if a prediction does not prove accurate, reasons can always be found after the fact why things did not turn out as foretold. Popper's discovery of the importance of falsification also had a side benefit in that it solved the problem of induction. As already noted, a scientific theory that proposes a general, universal law of nature can never be rationally justified, since by virtue of its universality it must go far beyond the limited observations of mortal scientists. So no matter how many times it is observed that event A is followed by event B (for example, heating water to 100=B0 C causes it to boil), it cannot be proved logically that all A are followed by B. But whereas apparently confirming cases cannot justify a scientific theory, disconfirming cases do allow us to refute it. Finding a clear instance of A that is not followed by B (for example, finding that in Death Valley water at 100=B0 C does not boil) means that our theory must be revised or abandoned. Then a new theory must be proposed that accounts for all that the old theory accounted for as the well as new findings that it could not handle. According to Popper, the fit of science is not due to observation and induction of true, justified (or justifiable) theories, that is, the accurate, instructive transmission of knowledge from the environment to the scientist. Rather, science progresses through the creation of conjectures (guesses) and the subsequent weeding out of inadequate hypotheses, leaving those that are better than the ones eliminated only because they have not yet been eliminated themselves. It did not escape Popper's attention that his view of the process of scientific achievement had much in common with Darwin's selectionist theory of biological evolution: "The growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called "natural selection"; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses: our knowledge consists, at every moment, of those hypotheses which have shown their (comparative) fitness by surviving so far in their struggle for existence; a competitive struggle which eliminates those hypotheses which are unfit." Popper's view of scientific progress as a cumulative selection process throws interesting new light on science and its achievements. First, in the same way that biological evolution depends on the existence of blind variation in the structure and behavior of organisms, science depends on similar blind variation in hypotheses that are proposed. This does not mean that the hypotheses are not constrained by the knowledge already achieved. No respectable scientist is going to propose that the core of the earth is made up of strawberry jam or the moon's surface is Swiss cheese. And no whale is likely to give birth to a horse. In both biological evolution and science, such constraints reflect the past accumulation of knowledge by prior blind variation and selection and are essential in narrowing down the types of future variations that appear. But the constraints alone cannot account for the emergence of new and better fits of organism to the environment, and scientific theory to the universe. Second, an evolutionary perspective accounts for the tentative nature of scientific theories. Each now-extinct species, which together make up a much larger number than those species still extant, had before its extinction been successful in surviving for quite some time, in some cases hundreds of millions of years. But in none of these cases was this long period of survival (which is clear evidence of fit to the environment) able to guarantee the future success of the species. Similarly, the long-term, popular acceptance of a scientific theory in no way guarantees that it will not become extinct as better theories evolve to compete with it and eventually replace it. The phlogiston theory of fire, the caloric theory of heat, the ether theory of outer space, Newton's theory of mechanics, and Lamarck's theory of evolution have all been eliminated in the struggle for survival described by Popper, despite the fact that each was the best and dominant theory of its day. So in addition to explaining how science can achieve progressively better fit to the universe, the selectionist view as proposed by Popper explains why we can never justify any particular theory as absolutely and infallibly true. In the same way that previously successful species become extinct, scientific theories are eliminated and replaced by better ones. Finally, a selectionist view emphasizes the creative role of the scientist. Popper contended that the scientist's mind is not an epistemological bucket that is filled with knowledge from the environment through the eyes, ears, and other sensory organs. This is not unlike a Lamarckian view of evolution in which the environment somehow instructs the reproducing organism to create new adapted forms. Instead, the scientist actively constructs knowledge in the form of unjustified theoretical conjectures, which are then tested and compared to competing conjectures. In this way, the scientist's experience of the world does not provide the theories to be tested. Rather, observation is used to weed out the unsatisfactory ones already constructed. As it is not possible to predict the course of biological evolution, it is similarly impossible to predict the future course of science. And because technological and social changes are strongly influenced by scientific developments, it is similarly impossible to predict the future course of history. As falsification is the key ingredient to Popper's philosophy of science, it should come as no surprise that Popper valued serious attempts to falsify all proposed scientific hypotheses because it is only in this way that the better theories can be selected and the poorer ones eliminated. =46or this reason, Popper believed it is important that scientific theories be given an "objective" existence in the form of spoken or (even better) written words and other symbols that can be disseminated widely to other scientists for scrutiny, for example, in the form of conference presentations and publications. The critical worldwide attention any important new scientific theory now receives makes it increasingly difficult for inadequate theories to survive for very long, as shown by the animated flurry of research and refutation that followed the announcement of cold nuclear fusion by two University of Utah physicists in 1989. Indeed, it will be argued later that the increasingly strong global selection pressure put on theories is an important factor in science's rapid progress, and that considerably less global selection pressure has been put on tradition and technology. It should not be surprising that a philosophy of science as radically different as Popper's has attracted considerable criticism. But whereas some philosophers continue their search for a completely reliable scientific method based on the foolproof induction of general scientific laws from observation and experiment, modern mainstream philosophy of science has joined Popper at least insofar as rejecting an empiricist, transmission perspective based on justified induction, and taking instead a much more cautious, probing, fallible, tentative, and often evolutionary view. _______________________________________________________________________________ <26:93>From email@example.com Mon Oct 23 21:26:59 1995 Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 21:28:43 -0600 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Selection, "Induction," Language [from Gary Cziko] Here's a nice summary of Popper's view of (the nonexistence of) induction, followed by a selectionist view of language comprehension. I find it particularly intriguing the possibility that much or all of human perception involves cognitive variation and selection (evolution _in_ the brain) since our perceptual experiences usually seem so direct and "instructive." ============================================================ "Popper shows that induction does not exist. Rejecting the empiricist theory of learning as primitive and in conflict with biological knowledge, Popper sees the mind as no passive "bucket" into which experience simply rains and which can, at most, recombine that experience in various ways. On the contrary, the mind actively anticipates the future with hypotheses that, of necessity, go far beyond experience: hypotheses precede observations psychologically, logically, even genetically: all experience is theory impregnated. Every animal is born with expectations--that is with something closely parallel to hypotheses, which, if verbalized, express hypotheses or theories. The role of experience is to _break_ expectations: to criticize and to challenge hypotheses. The ability of an animal to learn will depend on the extent to which it can modify expectations contradicted by experience, on the extent to which it is able to invent new expectations or theories to deal with unanticipated situations" (p. 264). Bartley, W. W., III. (1982). A Popperian harvest. In Paul Levinson (Ed.), _In pursuit of truth: Essays on the philosophy of Karl Popper on the occasion of his 80th birthday_ (pp. 249-289). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. =================================================== "The sense in which utterances are understood not by a process of decoding, but by an instrinsically variation and selection process of interactions and apperceptions, just as for other "perceptual" processes, is often not directly evident. Much adult language understanding is of the well practiced and habituated variety that needs only an initial satisfactory interactive trial to be able to complete the interaction--it appears algorithmic. But the underlying variation and selection realities show up whenever language understanding is difficult. Such difficulty can be manifested, for example, in attempting a garden path or ambiguous sentence, or a difficult text, understanding a person in psychotherapy, or learning a language as a child. In all such cases, understanding proceeds, not algorithmically, but with trials and errors, and shifts of considerations among various aspects of the text, attempting to find an interpretation, and understanding, that satisfies the selection pressures of the words, the sentences, the text, the persons, and the context. This process has come to be called the hermeneutic circle (Heidegger, 1962; Gadamer, 1975)." (p. 24) Bickhard, Mark H. (1992). How does the environment affect the person? In Lucien T. Winegar & Jaan Valsiner (Eds.), _Children's development within social contexts: Metatheoretical, theoretical and methodological issues_ (Vol. 2; pp. 33-52). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. _______________________________________________________________________________ Darwin-L Message Log 26: 68-93 -- October 1995 End
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