thinking makes it so

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Posts Tagged ‘natural selection

The one about the English fox and the Australian rabbit

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Red fox

Red fox

Thank you Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (F&P-P) for keeping Australian rabbits safe from English foxes:

The number of rabbits in Australia is unaffected by the number of foxes in England. That’s because the predations of the one on the other are all merely counterfactual, and possible-but-not-actual events do not exert selection pressures.

[Follows Just-as story as third in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong, which began with Smear campaign.]

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Just-as story

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Spandrel in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice

Spandrel in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice

In Chapter 6, Many are called but few are chosen: the problem of ‘selection for’, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (F&P-P) launch their ‘conceptual’ assault on the theory of natural selection.

[Second in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong, which began with Smear campaign]

The chapter begins with a review of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin’s ‘iconic’ 1979 paper: The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. This is where Gould and Lewontin attack what they saw at the time as a pervasive methodology of evolutionary explanation:

It is based on faith in the power of natural selection as an optimizing agent. It proceeds by breaking an organism into unitary “traits” and proposing an adaptive story for each considered separately. [Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, 1979]

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Smear campaign

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Jerry Fodor

Jerry Fodor

I was delighted when my son gave me a copy of Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong for my birthday. Not because I did think Darwin got anything significantly wrong but because I didn’t. I like having my opinions and beliefs tested. I had heard of Jerry Fodor but not Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (not a name one is likely to forget).

[First in a series on Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong.]

I read the book through once and then a lot of it a second time. I really struggled to make head or tail of their arguments, and why they thought they had such a killer critique of the theory of natural selection.

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Not thumping but pumping

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One of the frustrating things about Reinventing the Sacred is that it keeps flip-flopping between condensed accounts of areas of science and mathematics I don’t understand well enough and logical leaps which don’t seem justified. So I keep flip-flopping in turn between wondering if it’s my ignorance that’s the problem and wondering if the logical leaps really don’t make sense.

[Follows Reductio ad Professor Plum as fifth in a series on Stuart A Kauffman’s Reinventing the Sacred which began with Reinventing the sand dune.]

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Evolutionary morality

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What have we become?

What have we become?

I have just participated in a blog discussion on ‘Evolutionary Morality’. But what I said can also stand as a self-contained post.

‘Evolutionary Morality’ can refer to at least three things which it is important to keep very distinct.

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Written by Chris Lawrence

10 September 2010 at 3:34 pm

Intelligent design

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I participate in a discussion forum called the Online Philosophy Club. In the context of one of the conversations I came across a link to The Evolutionary Informatics Lab, run by proponents of Intelligent Design. What follows is a response to one of the papers on the site.

The paper is called LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information, by William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II. It promised to be a robust opposition to the view that natural selection is the principal driver of evolution.

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Looking down on a rain forest

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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Tenth in a series beginning with Art in the family.

We must now try to draw a few of these strands together. Last time we applied the essentially Darwinian paradigm of selection and survival to works of art, and found it made a kind of sense.

In fact I think it makes sense in a fairly broad and transparent way. There is certainly variation going on, and replication; and competition, selection and survival. We now need to dig a bit deeper into what kind of selection we are dealing with.

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Written by Chris Lawrence

18 April 2010 at 3:03 pm

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