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Evolutionary Psychology

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Urges are built in by evolution, that's true, but the needs predate any sort of evolution;

I meant urges. :)

Sorry for the confusion.

About these urges:

Do they exist for the benefit of the individual or for the benefit of that individual's genes.

In the end all these urges only survived genetically because they helped bring forth more such genes. Not because they made this individual happy.

Which brings me directly to the definition of happiness. If all our urges are genetically predetermined, and they are not always to our own best interest but we still need to satisfy them to feel happy, doesn't this lead to an inner clash of interests vs. biological urges?

Unless we say that these urges are 'good', there is a problem here.

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For further reading on this subject for your own edifacation, try The Mating Mind by Geoffery Miller, probably it is available on Amazon. Its basic premise is that the human brain was the driving force of late human evolution, and is a very accessable resource on the subject.

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. . . but we still need to satisfy them to feel happy . . .

We do? Not that I'm aware. We have to provide for our needs, not satisfy urges, in order to be happy. Sometimes we have to deny some urges entirely in order to be happy! Keep in mind that happiness is an overall, long-term emotional state.

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We do? Not that I'm aware. We have to provide for our needs, not satisfy urges, in order to be happy. Sometimes we have to deny some urges entirely in order to be happy! Keep in mind that happiness is an overall, long-term emotional state.

What I took from the Jmegan's earlier story is that our "urges" are simply physical sensations that we have come to associate with a particular action, or set of circumstances. My point being, is that we are free to rewire our heads though conscious decisions to turn negative urges into positive ones. Im no psychologist, but, it does't seem that happiness should be defined in whole or in part on something like urge satisfaction. I also will not advocate a repressive attitude, but rather a knowledge of what these feelings are, where they come from, and the knowledge that one is totally in control of them (at least on a long term level).

I think evolutionary psychology is a real mess, in other words. It is like a cat chasing its tail, full of rationalizations, and no clear direction (as evolution is ad hoc on any meaningful human time scale).

lgk

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We do? Not that I'm aware. We have to provide for our needs, not satisfy urges, in order to be happy. Sometimes we have to deny some urges entirely in order to be happy! Keep in mind that happiness is an overall, long-term emotional state.

The only reason you know that you need food in the first point is that you feel the urge called hunger. You feel the urge called thirst. You feel the urge for sleep and the urge for sexual satisfaction.

By this I don't mean any whim that you may have but actually existent basic animal drives.

You need to identify these to fulfill them. All they tell you is that something is wrong. But they will continue to do so (and become stronger) until satisfied.

Repressing these urges does not lead to long-term happiness. Since these urges become stronger over time when not satisfied this is a surefire way for leading a miserable life.

If you repress hunger, you die.

If you repress sleep, you die.

If you repress thirst, you die.

If you repress your need for sexual fulfillment you will lead a miserable life, because, biologically, procreation is the meaning of life. You only need the first three urges for fulfilling the last.

As a species, you can be as brilliant and capable of life as you want, if you don't create offspring, you will be extinct. It's not survival of the fittest, it's survival of those who procreate. The rest just dies.

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I believe that evolutionary psychologists do have some good points; it's just that a number of them go overboard in proclaiming that people are "meat machines" without free will, whose personality traits are "genetically programmed." I notice that a particularly egregious fallacy of evolutionary psychologists like Jared Diamond and Edward O. Wilson is that they cannot tell the differences between human beings and chimpanzees.

Diamond and Wilson quite correctly note a number of behavioral similarites between chimps and humans. But then this leads them to ignore certain important differences. They observe that chimp populations actually do go through a Malthusian cycle in which the population exceeds the food supply, leading to many chimps in a band dying from starvation, and also to some clans of chimps "making war" on other chimps for resources. Diamond and Wilson then conclude that this must necesarily happen to human beings living under capitalism, too.

What they ignore is that capitalism leaves human beings free to exercise their rational faculty in combating the problem of resource depletion by discovering new methods of extracting greater levels of output while using fewer and smaller inputs of natural resources and manhours. Every input of natural resources and manhours represents a cost to the entrepreneur, so the market rewards entrepreneurs who can reduce such inputs while maintaining output. Because they do not allow for such intellectual freedom, it is socialist economies that inevitably suffer from the Malthusian "collapses" that plague chimps. That's Say's Law of Markets (it was a misrepresentation when John Maynard Keynes summarized Say's Law as "supply creates its own demand"). Say's Law is actually "production necessarily precedes consumption." And Atlas Shrugged demonstrated this point far more clearly than Say did. But because Jared Diamond and Edward O. Wilson insist on refusing to see a difference between rationally efficacious humans and arational (or pre-rational) chimps, this all goes over their heads.

However, I do believe that evolution does describe certain basic human behaviors that are analogous to other members of the animal kingdom.

For instance, why do human beings find sex physically pleasurable? The physical pleasure from sex is a consequence of natural selection -- its purpose is to provide an incentive for passing on the gene.

It goes like this. Suppose there are two mammals of the same species. "Pro-Sex Mammal" has a gene that makes sex physically pleasurable for him. "Anti-Sex Mammal" has a gene that makes sex physically displeasurable for him.

Thus, "Anti-Sex Mammal" will refrain from having sex. He won't pass on his genes to the next generation. When he dies, his genes die with him.

Contrariwise, "Pro-Sex Mammal," seeking pleasure from sex, does copulate. And he passes those "pro-sex" genes on to another generation.

Over a period of generations, the members in these species with the "sex is pleasurable" gene grow more plentiful, while those with the "sex is uncomfortable" gene are gradually phased out. In fact, the "I find sex pleasurable" gene is self-perpetuating. It's a meme.

Of course, all of this is pre-rational. I am describing a phenomenon that has occurred millions of years before the evolution of the human rational faculty.

But I believe it's the same reason why people find others physically attractive.

In our modern industrial times, we consider it shallow to want to marry someone and have kids with him or her solely on the basis of physical attractiveness. But, as far as natural selection is concerned, that wasn't as bad an idea in prehistoric times when the average human lifespan was 27 years and life was much more dangerous.

In prehistoric times, it was very easy to judge someone's health just by looking at him or her. Without modern medicine, people contracted diseases which made their presence very obvious on the outside, such as smallpox. Large sections of the population were grotesquely deformed by syphilis. If someone was what we modern people would call "ugly," he or she more than likely had a terribly dangerous disease. The survival of the gene was largely contingent upon a person avoiding sex with an "ugly" person because

(1) he or she might pass his or her disease onto you, making it difficult for you to parent,

(2) if that disease is genetic, he or she will probably pass on those genes to another generation, creating children that will probably not survive in the long term (of course, I doubt any caveman had such concepts of genetics)

(3) even if healthy children result from mating with an "ugly" person, that "ugly" person probably would not live long enough to raise and protect those children before they themselves reached mating-age.

Such prehistoric humans did not reject "ugly" mates for such conscious reasons, of course. There was just the visceral response of "disease-ugly = not worthy of mating with."

Of course, the human rational faculty eventually culminated in the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, which lengthened lifespans from 27 years to 47 years in the duration of 1800-1900, and then to 77 years by 1988. The result of the Industrial Revolution is that the majority of the Western population is so much healthier than the vast majority of prehistoric human population. By prehistoric standards, "healthfulness" among Westerners is the rule, whereas it was exception in prehistoric times. Someone whom we may consider "not good-looking" by our modern standards will not necessarily have a shorter lifespan than someone we call "good-looking."

We still don't ignore good looks entirely, of course. And much of our concern with physical appearance can be attributed to evolution.

For instance, if I look at a woman I consider good-looking, I might have the visceral reaction of, "Wow! She's hot!! I want to ask her out." A part of that can be attributed to genes.

Yet the discovery of fire and the inventions of written language and the wheel had much more to do with the flourishing of Homo sapiens than someone "having a visceral aversion to people who look like they have terrible diseases."

As Dr. Ellen Kenner observed,

Is sex purely physical such as when a man sees a voluptuous woman in a bikini and becomes immediately aroused? If you're a guy, try another thought experiment. Imagine having sex with this woman. I suspect you imagined that she had character traits that you value. Now imagine that you met her in real life and discover that she's a child abuser, who lies to you and she stole your wallet. Notice what happens to your arousal. Even a lovely body can't cover up a lousy character.

Why is that? For a lower mammal, it's good enough to mate with a member of the same species solely on the basis of a superficial assessment of that member's health. For modern human beings, however, choosing a rational person with a good personality is lieklier to yield the long-term survival of one's genes than on picking someone who's good-looking but also dangerous and mentally unstable. Some evolutionary psychologists ignore that volition -- free will -- is also a consequence of the evolution of human biology.

I believe that evolutionary psychology provides adequate explanations of how certain "pre-rational" or "proto-rational" (as opposed to "necessarily irrational") behaviors in human beings came into existence, such as being physically attracted to someone, or learning a new skill through imitation. I would say, though, that evolutionary pscyhologists would avoid many errors if they recognized that whether one exercises his or her rational faculty -- the greatest evolutionary adaptation of all -- has much more to do with whether one survives in the long-term and passes on his or her genes in the long term (if he or she so chooses) than "genetically-created predispositions" and urges.

But this raises a question I would like to ask all of you about.

In a very interesting book titled Survival of the Prettiest, psychologist Nancy Etcoff discusses an experiment. First, the photographs of a certain various people are shown to a group of adults, and the people in the photos are rated on how "good-looking" they are.

When those same photographs are shown to newborn infants, says Dr. Etcoff, the experimenters found that, on average, the people rated as "best-looking" by the adults were also the ones whose pictures the babies stared at for the longest intervals. This leads some evolutionary psychologists to conclude that the idea of human beauty is innate.

Even if the experimenters' methodology is "on the level," I disagree with the conclusion that this proves that there are innate ideas. I make this distinction because I believe that an idea is a conceptual integration. A baby may have the same visceral reaction to a "good-looking person" that an adult may have, but that's just a reaction to various concretes. That's not the same as a baby making the integration of, "What all of these faces have in common is that I like looking at all of them." That sort of integration comes later, probably when the baby is learning some words.

What do you think?

Edited by Legendre

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Hal    0
But I believe it's the same reason why people find others physically attractive.

In our modern industrial times, we consider it shallow to want to marry someone and have kids with him or her solely on the basis of physical attractiveness. But, as far as natural selection is concerned, that wasn't as bad an idea in prehistoric times when the average human lifespan was 27 years and life was much more dangerous.

In prehistoric times, it was very easy to judge someone's health just by looking at him or her. Without modern medicine, people contracted diseases which made their presence very obvious on the outside, such as smallpox. Large sections of the population were grotesquely deformed by syphilis. If someone was what we modern people would call "ugly," he or she more than likely had a terribly dangerous disease. The survival of the gene was largely contingent upon a person avoiding sex with an "ugly" person because

While physical appearance give an indication of health, theres a lot more than that involved in mate selection. For instance, in some 'tournament species' your ability to mate will depend on you being able to literally fight the other males to get the best females. Its also debateable how much 'choice' females have had about their mate throughout history, since they are physically weaker and usually subordinate.

Also, take into account how variable physical attraction is amongst humans - 'uglyness' isnt an objective category. What's considered attractive in one culture isnt necessarily attractive in another, and a proper explanation of why this is so will need to take social-historic factors into account rather than just genetics. There isnt a gene saying 'be attracted to girls with blonde hair' or anything like that.

Have a look at Lorenz's classic imprinting studies. He found that there was a certain period just after birth where goslings would imprint whatever object was presented to them as being their mother. Of course in the wild, this object actually would normally be their mother. However in the laboratory Lorenz was able to manipulate the environment so that the goslings imprinted objects like ping-pong balls (and even Lorenz himself) as being their mother, and would follow them around the laboratory. Its possible that similar things could play a role in deciding the traits that a human will find attractive - for instance an encounter with a certain female at a critical stage in your childhood could result in you being attracted to people who resemble them later. Have you ever heard people say they theyre attracted to girls who somehow remind them of their mother? (I'm speculating here rather than saying this sort of thing is true, because the amount of actual factors at work is so incredibly large its almost impossible to give a simple theory of what 'causes' attraction).

For instance, if I look at a woman I consider good-looking, I might have the visceral reaction of, "Wow! She's hot!! I want to ask her out." A part of that can be attributed to genes.
But this can't explain what makes you find her attractive, nor can it explain the actually reaction that you will have to her. You might think 'god, I really want to have sex with her right now', which I suppose makes obvious sense from an evolutionary point of view. But this is not the only reaction that humans can have towards attractive people - someone from a strong religious background might turn down sex if she offered because he was seeking marriage and something more 'spiritual'. An artist of a certain disposition might be more concerned with painting a picture of her rather than 'demeaning' her by performing an act as 'base' and 'unspiritual' as sex. A man who is married might not want to sleep with her because he is already committed to a monogamous relationship. And so on.

I believe that evolutionary psychology provides adequate explanations of how certain "pre-rational" or "proto-rational" (as opposed to "necessarily irrational") behaviors in human beings came into existence
I would agree, but only in conjunction with (eg) neuroscience, ethology and anthropology. The history of human behavioral sciences is filled with people who think they can look at some narrow aspect of reality and explain everything from that alone, from the behaviorist ignorance of genetics ("give me a child for 5 years and I can turn him into whatever I like"), to the biologists lack of concern with culture. A proper account of human behavior would need to take everything into account, rather than drawing its boundaries too narrowly. Evolutionary psychology can certainly give a valuable pespective, but its not a be-all-and-end-all (even when it comes to explaining the behaviour of non-human animals).

In a very interesting book titled Survival of the Prettiest, psychologist Nancy Etcoff discusses an experiment. First, the photographs of a certain various people are shown to a group of adults, and the people in the photos are rated on how "good-looking" they are.

When those same photographs are shown to newborn infants, says Dr. Etcoff, the experimenters found that, on average, the people rated as "best-looking" by the adults were also the ones whose pictures the babies stared at for the longest intervals. This leads some evolutionary psychologists to conclude that the idea of human beauty is innate.

Was this carried out cross-culturally? Were the people who white American babies found attractive also thought to be so by the babies of rainforest tribesmen? Are there other possible explanations of this? Consider the following hypothesis: people who are thought to be attractive by their society are likely to be treated better throughout their lives. This will perhaps make them more confident, open and outgoing. Therefore, their body language and general attitude might be more positive than those who are ugly, and these subtle differences will be picked up by babies who hence respond more favourably to them. I'm not saying that this is true or anything, but you have to consider possibilities like this before you jump to conclusions about it being directly related to genetics.

(Fixed quotation blocks - sNerd)

Edited by Hal

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Hey Hal, thanks for the reply! :P

Also, take into account how variable physical attraction is amongst humans - 'uglyness' isnt an objective category. What's considered attractive in one culture isnt necessarily attractive in another, and a proper explanation of why this is so will need to take social-historic factors into account rather than just genetics. There isnt a gene saying 'be attracted to girls with blonde hair' or anything like that.
This is a good point, and I'm kind of stuck on the sidelines with this one.

One example I can give you of a culture having a different idea of "beauty" is the idea that an Ancient Hawaiian queen was beautiful if she were fat. That contadicts Western standards.

In Survival of the Prettiest, Nancy Etcoff has a rebuttal to this, but I don't know if I completely agree with her.

Anyhow, evolutionary psychologists reply that there are some transcultural beauty standards. They say that in experiments conducted in both the East and West, there is a correlation between how attractive someone is rated and how symmetrical his or her face is. The more symmetical, the more good-looking a person is considered on average (the evolutionary pscyhologists' computers say that former President Clinton has a very mathematically symmetrical face).

With respect to certain royal women being considered better-looking if they're fat in some cultures, Dr. Etcoff replies that this is an exception that has to do with status. Since food is scarce in many tribal cultures, a high-status woman having tremendous girth is a sign of her wealth. However, Dr. Etcoff maintains that, in the lower classes, thinner is still considered preferrable.

I would like to discuss a phenomenon I once believed disproved the idea of "transcultural beauty," but one I now think is evidence of the other viewpoint. I saw some news reports of some women in some East Asian cultures (I wish I could remember which countries) who wear certain special collars to artificially elongate their necks. Their necks grow unnaturally long. When I saw that on TV, my immediate reaction was, "Ewwwwww!!!" I thought right there that that proved that conceptions of beauty varied from culture to culture.

However, Dr. Etcoff says that, in Western culture, men on average prefer women to have necks that are slightly longer than normal. Thus, it can be argued that East Asian women who artificially elongate their necks actually share the Western notion that women are better-looking with long necks, and that it's just that women in these Asian countries take it to such an extreme that Westerners no longer find them attractive.

But this can't explain what makes you find her attractive, nor can it explain the actually reaction that you will have to her. You might think 'god, I really want to have sex with her right now', which I suppose makes obvious sense from an evolutionary point of view. But this is not the only reaction that humans can have towards people they find good looking - someone from a strong religious background might turn down sex if she offered because he was seeking marriage and something more 'spiritual'.

That's very true. There's nothing inherently irrational about a guy finding a woman attractive based on looks. This only becomes a problem when the guy drops context and judges the woman's attractiveness primarily on these grounds.

I think one problem with evolutionary psychologists is that, when they see a guy judging a woman based on the "whole package," especially on her personality, rather than just her physical health, the evolutionary psychologist says, "Oh, this is the triumph of the human mind over biology." What utter Platonic/Hume-ish poppycock!! The rational mind is an evolutionary consequence of biology, and so a person's exercise of rationality is entirely consistent with his or her biological nature.

Was this carried out cross-culturally? Were the people who white American babies found attractive also thought to be so by the babies of rainforest tribesmen? Are there other possible explanations of this?

I have read that some evolutionary psychologists say that, to some extent, people of different ethnicities might have different taste with regard to things like nostril size, nose shape, eyelid type, etc. I believe that Dr. Etcoff said that, on average, people tend to be attracted toward people of similar ethnicities, though, of course, people fall in love with those of different ethnicities all the time, especially in America.

Evolutionary psychologists admit that certain behaviors in human beings are more the result of "conditioning" instead of "genetic programming," but they do not concede that this is outside the realm of their field. Edward O. Wilson and primatologist Frans de Waal say that the fact that a human being can learn new behaviors through conditioning -- such as driving a car, as there is obviously no "driving gene" -- is itself a consequence of natural selection.

For instance, many chimpanzees will place a stick into an ant hole, let the ants crawl up the stick, and then eat the ants on it. Evolutionary psychologists maintain that this is the result of evolution even if there is no combination of genes "programming" chimps to perform this complex action. The model can be like this:

There are two chimps, neither of which have genes that "program" them to use a stick when eating ants. However, one chimp is "Easily-Conditioned Chimp," who has genes that make him or her more receptive to learning new behaviors. "No-Conditioning Chimp" has genes that make it difficult for him or her to learn new skills.

If "No-Conditioning Chimp" does not learn new skills in an perilous environment, he will probably die, and his "no-conditioning genes" perish with him.

"Easily-Conditioned Chimp," on the other hand, learns the new skill of eating ants in the manner I described earlier. He lives and has babies. These babies in no way inherit a gene for "placing a stick in an ant hole and then eating the ants off the stick." However, these babies do inherit the genes that make it easy for them to learn new behaviors through conditioning and through imitation. When the babies with the "easily conditioned" gene combinations observe their parent eating ants that way, they eventually learn to behave that way themselves.

Among the chimpanzees, whether or not some members of the species acquire a certain trait through conditioning -- rather than through "genetic programming" -- will determine which members will have the opportunity to pass on their genes in the long term.

I have heard that Matt Ridley has written an entire book on this subject, saying that "nature" and "nurture" are in this kind of eternal feedback loop.

I have come across a similar argument from Edward O. Wilson, saying that "nature" and "nurture" co-exist simultaneously in any environment, though, as is typical with him, he did not acknowledge the importance of free will in human beings.

Edited by Legendre

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... I saw some news reports of some women in some East Asian cultures (I wish I could remember which countries) who wear certain special collars to artificially elongate their necks.
Here's a link.

I have a more general question about "Evolutionary Psychologists". Do they primarily seek to explain human behavior, or do they favor a certain category of prescriptions as well. For instance, if someone goes to them with depression, how would their approach be different from other psychologists? Or, do they not do that? Are they more anthropologists than psychologists?

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Thanks for the link! :D

I have a more general question about "Evolutionary Psychologists". Do they primarily seek to explain human behavior, or do they favor a certain category of prescriptions as well. For instance, if someone goes to them with depression, how would their approach be different from other psychologists? Or, do they not do that? Are they more anthropologists than psychologists?
Those are good questions!!

I only became interested in this subject a year or two ago after reading Survival of the Prettiest and Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue, so I have to admit I'm still a dilettante with this subject, and an evolutionary psychologist might say that I have a simplistic view of this school of thought.

So far, I think that "evolutionary psychology" is more of a descriptive than prescriptive field. That's because evolutionary psychologists believe that everything that "is," in human society, is that way for some sound evolutionary reason. So, whether they intend to or not, they often end up performing a lot of apologetics for whatever the status quo happens to be.

Some evolutionary psychologists have made some prescriptive arguments, but not for psychotherapy. Instead, they try to invoke evolutionary psychology when it comes to public policy. So far, their prescriptions for political economy have been illogical and unimpressive (as I will discuss later in this post).

I don't know of any advice that evolutionary psychology pioneer Edward O. Wilson or sociobiology sympathizer Jared Diamond has for psychotherapists. Yet they believe that evolutionary psychology proves that the free market is evil and self-destructive and that the government must curtail industrial production to prevent the West's "collapse" (as if their brand of Statism never caused the "collapse" of a society).

Indeed, the late Ronald E. Merrill, who claimed to sympathize with Objectivism, bought into that ridiculously Malthusian assumption:

The Objectivist ethics must deal with the importance of competition and conflict in crowded ecologies. The "frontier" model of abundant resources and steady growth needs to be supplemented with an account of ethics in a crowded, constricted environment in which discontinuities are the norm and not the exception. . . .

We must consider the possibility that in modern, high-density societies, Objectivist ethics as currently formulated may break down. Empirically, individualism seems to be associated with conditions of low population density (though the converse does not hold). It remains to be shown that Rand's version of egoism can be adaptive in a crowded and constrained environment.

Say's Law has refuted Merrill for the past 200 years in the West. And it has refuted him in East Asia for the past 30 years. Or, to say it in simpler terms, Merrill's prediction fails to come true to the extent that a society lives under economic freedom.

If evolutionary psychologists applied many of their current assumptions to psychotherapy, I think that the results would be pretty terrible. The authors of the book Mean Genes have a view of human nature that is comparable to Sigmund Freud's (which is Platonic in the long run), though they don't admit that their view is Freudian.

Mean Genes's authors, Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan, imagine a Freudian mind-body dichotomy where none exists. They believe that, on the one hand, a person has his rationality. In his rational mind, he knows that he must think long-range and about his long-term survival. That's their equivalent of the "ego" and "superego" (in the Freudian sense). On the other hand, insist Burnham and Phelan, humans have an uncivilized, irrational, biologically-evolved set of predispositions that somehow "tempt" you to only think short-range and seek immediate gratification. That is Burnham and Phelan's version of the "id."

In Mean Genes, Burnham and Phelan maintain that it is good when a person can allow his rationality (his mind and soul, or "ego" and "superego") to triumph over the "temptations" of his or her own evolution-created biological impulses (his body, or "id"). And Edward O. Wilson endorsed this book.

Burnham, Phelan, and Wilson believe in the nonsensical view that the human mind is constantly at war with one's "inborn biology" because they do not admit that the human mind is part of a person's "inborn biology."

What I find hilarious on so many levels that evolutionary psychologists try to separate themselves from "Social Darwinists." They constantly say, "We are not Social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner."

Please forgive my long interlude in discussing "Social Darwinism"; by the end, I will show why this is relevant to the "prescriptive" elements of evolutionary psychology and not a true digression.

First, historians have yet to cite a single example of either Spencer or Sumner calling himself a "Social Darwinist." The term "Social Darwinism" became popular long after the two died. No one who has ever been dubbed a "ninteenth-century Social Darwinist" popularly used that term for himself in public. One may be surprised to find that, though "Social Darwinism" is considered a ninteenth-century ideology, this term was not widely used before 1944. Actually, it was a pejorative epithet that leftwing historian Richard Hofstadter coined in 1944 to smear anyone who believed that some people in society deserved to have some "higher status" than another, even if that "status" merely involved being richer than other people.

Hofstadter and his followers (particularly John Kenneth Galbraith) pretty much created a strawman image that they applied to Herbert Spencer, W. G. Sumner, and anyone else who wanted a reduction in welfare spending. Galbraith puts the following words into Spencer's mouth: When somebody goes from rags to riches, it is necessarily because he has superior genes. And then this rich guy can spread his superior "get rich" genes to the next generation. If somebody stays poor, it is because he has inferior "stay poor" genes, so poor people should just die without reproducing so that they can spare the human race of passing on their inferior genes.

That's a misrepresentation of what Spencer and Sumner said. Contrary to the leftists' smear, Spencer and Sumner didn't hate poor people per se. They did, however, say that many poor people in economically-freer countries like America and England are ultimately responsible for their own financial situation (and they had very harsh words for drug addicts) and that there is such a thing as "misguided philanthropy." Leftwing historians quote Spencer and Sumner's criticisms of drug addicts out of context in order to make it sound like they hated poor people as such.

Plus, Spencer didn't even agree with Charles Darwin about natural selection; he believed evolution occurred in the way that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck described. Spencer did not even have a concept of "genes" in the Gregor Mendelian sense. Spencer -- characterized by the Left as the ultimate "social Darwinist," did not use the adjective of "Darwinist" for himself. (In fact, Spencer believed that it was Darwin who should have learned more from him).

Ironically, the economist who comes closest to making a "Social Darwinist argument against the welfare state," as described by Hofstadter and Galbraith, is an economist widely hailed and cited by leftists, environmentalists, and evolutionary pscyhologists: Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus. When Malthus said that population will eventually outstrip food production in the West, he actually thought he was arguing against the welfare state.

Malthus said that, if welfare spending and private charity keep increasing, then the population of poor people will grow too big and limit the amount of food available for the entire population. Malthus believed that if you discontinue welfare (and even vaccinations) for the poor, then this will prevent the population from growing too big, which will then leave enough food resources for everyone. To some extent, Rev. Malthus really did just want poor people to die so there would be less "competition for natural resources."

Malthus, like every collectivist who follows in his footsteps, failed to acknowledge that free enterprise provides the greatest profits to those who can increase a region's "carrying capacity." (And one of the first economists to dispute him on this was -- you guessed it! -- Jean-Baptiste Say.)

Spencer and Sumner, contra Rev. Malthus, strongly advocated private charity (something one would never know when going by the words of Hofstadter, Galbraith, and practically any leftwing or conservative intellectual), and, in fact, Spencer made the nauseating argument that a person was necessarily evil if he were rich and did not give to charity (this appears to be Andrew Carnegie's favorite aspect of Spencer's philosophy).

Thus, the leftwingers' critiques of Spencer and Sumner are based on what are misunderstandings at best and distortions at worst. Leonard Peikoff and Ayn Rand are among the very few intellectuals to publicly criticize Spencer for what he actually deserved to be criticized for (his embarrasing concessions to socialist ideology) and Dr. Peikoff is one of the few people to take Sumner to task for his actual failings.

Anyhow, in Social Darwinism in American Thought Hofstadter first presents his strawman argument against "free-market Social Darwinism" and then he equivocates it with other ideologies that use "evolutionary" terms to say that some people deserve a higher status than others, such as (1) advocates of state-imposed eugenics (like Charles Davenport and Karl Pearson), who argued that states should coercively sterilize people who have mentally-relatives, (2) supporters of "scientific racism," who said that whites are inherently superior to other races, (3) those who argued for "imperialism" because different countries are in "competition" and a country's superiority is proven by its victory in war, and (4) Nazis who simultaneously espoused state-imposed eugenics, imperialism, and "scientific racism."

Herbert Spencer was a classical liberal who argued for laissez faire (aside from his atrocious concessions to altruism and his agreement with David Ricardo and Henry George that all land rents should be taxed 100 percent), and yet Hofstadter, Galbraith, and other leftists chose to exploit his evolutionary rhetoric to lump free-market advocacy together with the statism of state-mandated eugenics and National Socialism.

Spencer and Sumner said that rich people in a free market deserved their "economic power" because they earned it. Statist eugenicists and fascists said that dictators had political power because they had genes that made them superior. Just because Spencer, Sumner and these statists all talked about evolution and "defended inequality," Hofstadter, Galbraith, and the rest of the Left chose to classify all of them in the package deal of "Social Darwinists."

Basically, Hofstadter's underlying point was that any classical liberal who argued against the New Deal and the welfare state was really a crypto-Nazi.

And this is why I find it extremely funny that evolutionary psychologists try to separate themselves from the "Social Darwinism movement" -- there never really was a Social Darwinism movement! Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner were wishy-washy classical liberals who tried to invoke evolution in their arguments, and they emphatically denounced another political movement that Hofstadter called "Social Darwinism" -- British colonization of other countries.

The eugenicists espoused genetic determinism. Spencer and Sumner did not.

In some sense, the term "evolutionary psychology," as well as its synonym, "sociobiology," do sound like "Social Darwinism."

In the case of "evolutionary psychology," both "psychology" and "Social" refer to behavior, while "evolutionary" refers to "Darwinism."

Likewise, with "sociobiology," "socio-" means "Social," while "biology" has to do with "Darwinism."

When Edward O. Wilson created the modern "evolutionary psychology" movement in the 1970s by writing the book Sociobiology, he was attacked by campus Marxist groups who said that he was trying to revive "the Social Darwinism of John D. Rockefeller and Adolf Hitler."

And do you know what Wilson's response was? He said that he resented seeing his own work be equated with the evils of "Rockefeller and Hitler."

Neither E. O. Wilson or his critics perceived any difference between John D. Rockefeller, Sr.'s economic leverage and Hitler's mass murder.

This is why I see "Social Darwinist" as an anti-concept. Its literal meaning is "Someone who tries to apply evolutionary theories to the social sciences." But its underlying meaning is, "Anyone who disagrees with egalitarian statism is a Nazi who wants poor people to die." This is why we see often see leftists and conservatives smearing Ayn Rand as a "Social Darwinist."

Because of all this, I find much humor in sociobiology-sympathizer Jared Diamond disclaiming "the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner," as he repeats ad naseum the arguments of Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, who much more accurately fits the modern image of a "Social Darwinist economist" than do either Spencer or Sumner.

What's even funnier about Diamond proclaming himself to be unlike and superior to Sumner is that, in the early 1900s, Sumner even anticipated the central point to Diamond's Pulitzer-Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel. According to Guns, Germs, every society is the way it is today because of its geographic conditions. Basically, Diamond says that every society has certain customs today because of "gene-culture co-evolution."

Edward O. Wilson's "gene-culture co-evolution" stems from the idea that the passage of customs from one generation of people to another is the result of human beings having genes that make it easy for them to be conditioned. Great apes learn certain behaviors through copying what they see, and, in some ways, so do human beings (for instance, a baby learns to talk by observing adult speech and then trying to copy it).

Among humans, it is not only "genetically programmed" behaviors that determine which people are most successful at propagating their genes, but also the skills that they learn. To the extent that a set of learned behaviors affect which groups of people become "reproductively successful," varieties in conditioning itself affect whose genes are passed on. In this way, says Wilson, customs and social mores themselves become factors in determining which members of society have the easiest time passing on their genes in the long run.

Anyhow, all human cultures undego the process of "gene-culture co-evolution" simultaneously. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond contends that the West is dominant today because Europeans got a "head start" as a result of the Eurasian region having a natural environment most conducive to agriculture. Basically, he says that the Mesopotamians invented agriculture first because they lived in the best geographic location, and that these customs spread throughout Europe thanks to geographic circumstance.

Then Diamond makes the ridiculous (il)logical leap that, just because Eurasians got this "head start," all Western prosperity existing today should be attributed much more to luck than hard work, rationality, or economic freedom.

Diamond's contempt for "Social Darwinism" is here laughable, because his argument was already made by "Social Darwinist" William Graham Sumner in his 1907 book Folkways. Sumner contended that every society has its current set of customs because a society's geographic circumstances led to certain customs being adopted through the natural selection of "gene-culture co-evolution" (not the term he used). For instance, he noticed that people wore very little clothes in hot regions, while they wore a lot of clothes where it was cold.

In this sense, Sumner, so demonized by the academic Left, actually helped form a concept held very dearly by the academic Left today: "cultural relativism." Wikipedia claims he even coined the term "ethnocentrism," which the academic Left now employs as a euphemism for "evil."

Sumner admitted, though, that certain traditions could outlive their usefulness and, at some point, they should be abandoned (such as the ridiclous practice of sacrificing somebody's life to appease the gods). Sumner is different from his academic descendants in that he admitted that one could objectively judge some non-Western customs to be counterproductive.

Anyhow, given that Sumner anticipated Diamond by decades in saying that a given society's customs were determined by a combination of "geography" and the "naturally selective" interaction between geographic environment and generation-to-generation conditioning, it is ironic that Diamond is today hailed as a genius while everyone scorns Sumner.

Incidentally, what is so specious about Diamond's Guns, Germs argument is that it gives insufficient credit to what sustains societal longevity in the long term.

If a guy won a many-mile triathlon after having a two-second head start, should we attribute his victory solely to that two-second head start? Or could we say that, even if his head start was unfair, that guy still had to exert some effort to win?

When people buy into Diamond's idea that "the West dominates because of its geographic head start, and that's all there is to it," they ignore the fact that civilizations are sustained in the long term by economic freedom.

The Mesopotmians lived in what is now Iraq. If geography were everything, why isn't Iraq still the world's richest region? If the natural resources in a geographic environment are everything, then why are Russia, Latin America, and Africa -- so abundant in natural resources -- so poor? And why are Japan and Hong Kong -- which are so poor in natural resouces that the latter doesn't even have adequate farming land -- so wealthy per-capita?

Jared Diamond, like so many evolutionary psychologists, comes to specious conclusions as a result of dropping context. This is why so many evolutionary psychologists make prescriptions for public policy that are outright execrable.

However, evolutionary psychologists are more insightful than most political advocates in one sense: they are much more aware, under certain circumstances, that life is not a zero-sum game.

Despite the Malthusianism of so many of its adherents, there are some people in evolutionary psychology who admit that peaceful commerce is a positive-sum game.

Game Theorist and evolutionary pscyhologist Robert L. Trivers, as well as science writer Matt Ridley, observe that, when both buyer and seller make a peaceful trade without violating anyone's rights, both sides profit. They admit that this is a "positive-sum game" (John von Neumann's term) in which all participants win.

In this sense, Ayn Rand's observation that there is not a conflict of interests between rational individuals actually anticipates a popular notion of evolutionary psychologists and Game Theorists.

Unfortunately, these evolutionary psychologists and Game Theorists have their semantics all mixed up. Because both sides benefit in a peaceful commercial transaction, Robert L. Trivers and Matt Ridley refer to commerce as "reciprocal altruism."

What insanity!

Trivers, Ridley, et al. consider voluntary trade to be "altruism" because your participation in a trade benefits someone else.

They don't care that altruism, as coined by Auguste Comte, involves sacrifice of the self -- something completely absent in a mutually profitable exchange.

Better terms would be "mutually self-interested beneficience" or "mutual profit."

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Hey, I have ideas for two experiments that scientists could perform to the test the claims of evolutionary pscyhologists. Experiment #1 has to do with pre-rational behavior, and #2 can look for correlations between genetics and personality type.

Experiment #1:

Okay, first, here's the evolutionary explanation for why mammals get hungry. Actually, I should have used this example in my first post on this thread, since it's simpler than the one about physical beauty.

Suppose there are two mammals of the same species. The first one, Pro-Hunger Mammal, has genes that give it sensations that prod it to eat when it needs to. The second one, Anti-Hunger Mammal, has genes that make sure that it never feels hunger ever.

Throughout the course of their lifetimes, Anti-Hunger Mammal will refrain from eating. It will die of starvation, probably before rerproducing. Its genes are not passed on.

Meanwhile, because Pro-Hunger Mammal receives physical sensations telling it when it needs to eat, it eats. It lives long enough to reproduce, spreading the "pro-hunger genes" to the next generation.

Thus, the "anti-hunger" genes are gradually phased out, growing scarcer with each generation. Simultaneously, the "pro-hunger genes" are a self-perpetuating meme.

And that's why humans get hungry.

Now, there is a laboratory experiment one can do to test this (perhaps scientists have already done it). You can use laboratory mice.

In the experimental group, get a random sample of baby mice and do something that extinguishes their appetite. You could inject them with a drug that makes them incapable of getting hungry. Or, if we already have the technology to do so, you can use mice that are genetically engineered to never get hungry (genetic engineer Mario Capecchi has created mice that cannot close their eyes). Make sure that food is always available to the mice in the experimental group (expect that this food will go uneaten).

In the control group, you have a random sample of baby mice. You don't do anything to change them. Just go on feeding them like normal.

Let both groups breed. Observe them for three generations.

We can expect the majority of mice in the experimental group to die before reproducing. But we can expect the mice in the control group to have a lot of reproductive success.

The control group having greater reproductive success than the experimental group would show hunger's contribution to the propagation of the genes of a mammal species.

And this has implications for us humans. It helps explain why people get hungry.

But, again, note that this explains pre-rational sensations. If an adult human being becomes an alcoholic, this lab experiment with mice does not explain whether this person became an alcoholic primarily because of his genes, primarily because of his conditioning, or primarily because this was his own fault.

However, there might be a way to measure the extent to which genes influence our personalities.

Experiment #2:

There is a very silly best-selling evolutionary psychology book out now called The God Gene. It purports to explain that most humans are "genetically programmed" (my term, not the evolutionary pscyhologists' or the eugenicists') to believe in God, while atheism is an evolutionary aberration. (This book doesn't take into account that, in The Story of Civilization, Will Durant said that some anthropologists believe that many groups of early cavemen might have been atheistic and might not have believed in an afterlife.)

There is one aspect of The God Gene I found interesting, though. It described an experiment conducted in the early 1900s by Sir Francis Galton. Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin, but he was a famous scientist in his own right. He was one of the first people to observe that no two fingerprints are alike, and he also made contributions to statistics. Unfortunately, he was also a pioneer in eugenics.

Anyhow, Galton devised a very long personality test which quantified a person's various preferences. (Unfortunately, The God Gene doesn't go into detail about what this test was like.) Galton then gave this test to both fraternal twins and identical twins.

His idea of using fraternal- and identical twins was a good one, because this was supposed to take "environment" out of the equation. How can you explain any divergence in the scores of twins (identical or otherwise) for the personality test when each member of a pair of twins (fraternal or otherwise) was raised in the same environment as the other? And each member in a pair of twins is the same age.

Galton found that, statistically, there was a greater disparity in the personality test's scores between each fraternal twin than each identical twin. In other words, on average, each set of identical twins scored as having personalities that were more alike in preferences and temperament than each set of fraternal twins.

Galton then proclaimed that these results "proved" that genetics are the sole determinant of personality.

However, it recently occurred to me that environmental factors still could have biased these results. One can ask the question, "But do parents usually expect identical twins to be more alike in personality than fraternal twins?" Suppose that I, as a parent, would expect fraternal twins to be very different in personality while, at the same time, I would expect identical twins to be much more alike in personality. If that is the case with many actual parents of fraternal- or identical twins, then that can create a social environment that "conditions" and encourages identical twins to see themselves as more alike personality-wise than fraternal twins.

If this happens, then Galton's results aren't as perfect as he thought.

However, this can be remedied.

The newsmedia sometimes report stories about identical twins who have been separated at birth and are then re-united many years later as adults. The news people then like to remark about how the identical twins, who were raised apart, are so much alike in behavior and preference. They have spouses with similar jobs, etc.

So here's a new experiment. In the Control Group, you have a random sample of identical twins. Both members of each pair of twins were raised in the same household. In Experimental Group #1, you have a random sample of identical twins who were raised in separate households. And, in Experimental Group #2, you have a random sample of fraternal twins. Both members of each pair of fraternal twins were raised in the same household.

Then you give each group a quantifiable personality quiz -- possibly one similar to Galton's (I don't know how to make such a quiz, though).

If, on average, a pair of fraternal twins raised in the same household rate as being more alike in personality than a pair of identical twins raised in separate households, then this would suggest that personality is affected more by environment than by genetics.

What do you think?

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The first one seems like the result would be obvious.

The second one would be interesting. However, even if the experiment were to show that genetics has more influence than environment, the latter is still "randomly chosen nuture". It would be interesting to test the influence of strong explicit philosophical values, as opposed to randomly-selected environments. (E.g. identical twins, where one was adopted by a very religious family and the other by an un-religious one; or, identical twins, where one read Ayn Rand and became a fan, while the other did not). Better still would be to test identical twins where one has been raised in a family that stresses the importance of individual choice and the other family doesn't (assuming that one can construct an objective measure for this.)

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Hal    0
. It would be interesting to test the influence of strong explicit philosophical values, as opposed to randomly-selected environments. (E.g. identical twins, where one was adopted by a very religious family and the other by an un-religious one; or, identical twins, where one read Ayn Rand and became a fan, while the other did not). Better still would be to test identical twins where one has been raised in a family that stresses the importance of individual choice and the other family doesn't (assuming that one can construct an objective measure for this.)

Along these lines, I've always wondered whether its sheer coincidence that a lot of prominent Objectivists, including Rand and Peikoff, come from Jewish upbringings. Judiac culture has, to my knowledge, always promoted a 'this-worldy' type of philosophy, based around some kind of individualism and a comparatively high commitment to rationality and self-improvement, and it seems possible that someone exposed to these ideas as a child would be more likely to react positively towards Objectivism than someone who grew up in (eg) a Christian enviornment. Should we be surprised if we found out that the % of Objectivists who came from Jewish backgrounds was higher than that in a random sample of the population? (I'm not saying this is actually true - I've no idea). And even if it were true, would it necessarily show a connection between the ideas one is exposed to as a child, and the philosophy one later has (there would be other possible explanations - for instance, afaik Jewish families are on average more wealthy than other ethnic groups which means their children could have had greater access to books and hence a higher probability of being attracted to philosophy. And I think Judiasm generally has strong committments to education, which could have similar consequences. Alternatively, it could be because people who come from a culture which has historically been persecuted by society are more likely to accept a philosophy which strongly condemns collectivism).

Edited by Hal

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KMS    0

I need to ask, what about the effects of diet in evolution?

The food we digest as a species shapes our physical systems and apperance.

Protiens and enzymes ingested as fuel cause a physical change, to better digest, the addition of meat into a diet produces sharper teeth, bigger bodies, and the physical ability to hunt the food source. Making the hunter change physically into a bigger stronger, faster animal, both to catch and eat dinner.

As a part of this the evolution debate, I would like to ponder how our diets as humans may have changed our evolution over the years.

Could humans have come across a food source that changed chemical processes inside our bodies causing an evolution on some internal level, unseen by the fossil records?

KMS

Edited by KMS

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As far as I know, man is the ape that entered the savanna. He lost most of his body hair and developed a special kind of sweat that evaporates very fast. He also learned/evolved towards both bipedal movement, tool production and hunting, all of which went hand in hand.

Man's gut became smaller as he was eating more and more meat above anything else (It's denser food. Just see what digestive system a cow has to get something of value out of grass), which allowed more energy to be used for his brain (instead of his stomach), which then improved his tool-making capabilities as well as his capabilities to outsmart and thereby hunt down prey more easily. Which then increased his meat consumption...

Before the "dawn of civilization", also known as the beginning of agriculture some 10.000 years ago, man was the most efficient hunter there was. He even extinguished an entire bear species by hunting for its flesh (and - because it happened to live in caves humans wanted to live in).

Archeologists determine whether a man lived before or after this 10.000 year mark by taking a look at the bones. If they are longer and more dense, then he lived before agriculture. Usually seen as an improvement in human health, it is now known that the step from hunting to agriculture was hazardous to man's health. Why this shift happened still puzzles Anthropologists today.

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I actually suspect that because of volition, ordinary evolutionary mechanisms are much less relevant to humans.

E.P. essentially boils down to the idea that psychology is determined BY genes and that certain psychologies assist in the propogation of certain genes. Volition alone contradicts this idea: one has actual control over one's psychology.

Do you assume that volition has no physical basis in the brain?

And if you reckon that it does have a physiological basis, how do you suppose that it is built and functions if not by the blueprint set by genes?

As for my opinion of this subject: I think that it is quite obvious that genes play a role in people's psychology. Genes set the blueprint for the physiological mechanism which give rise to volition, and to other cognitive abilities. No cells, no genes ==> no brain, no thought, no volition.

I think that any other opinion that volition somehow exists without a physiological basis is mysticism. It is a blind belief, or a wish. No evidence supports this.

So just like different genes give rise to different properties of tissues like muscles, lungs, eyes, so it makes perfect sense that genes that are the blueprint to construct the brain give rise to different brains which function differently, which in turn cause different cognitive performance.

It's enough that one protein receptor of a certain neurotransmitter to be slightly deformed to make synaptic transmission less effective in some part of the brain, thus making the individual less able to process a certain kind of information, or changing his/her emotional state. I am not aware of any such disease, but it makes sense that it exists, because mutant genes cause diseases/variety in functionality in other tissues. (if anyone knows of any please link it).

However, the brain is unique, since it is designed to interact with the environment, to change it's structure according to signals from the outside, to process information according to changing patterns (since we are able to learn new methods of analyzing things). It is not passive in the same degree that the muscle is, but eventually it is passive, and obeys the laws of physics much like a rock obeys gravity.

Edited by ifatart

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No cells, no genes ==> no brain, no thought, no volition.
I think that any other opinion that volition somehow exists without a physiological basis is mysticism. It is a blind belief...

It is also a blind belief, Ifat, to think that all the phenomena of life, including conscousness will necessarily prove to be reductible to laws of physics and chemistry.

I hold that most is but perhaps not all.

Mental states are not identical with physical-chemical states. True, consciousness does depend on the brain for its existence. It is however wrong to think that consciousness is nothing more than the brain processes.

Thus, it is appropriate to look for correlations between physical-chemical events in the brain and psychological experiences. It is, however, incorrect, in my opinion, to claim them to be an explanation.

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It is also a blind belief, Ifat, to think that all the phenomena of life, including consciousness will necessarily prove to be reductible to laws of physics and chemistry.

No it isn't. No supernatural phenomenas have been observed that could not have been reduced to laws of physics. So in the absence of any evidence to support that phenomenas can happen without any physical change occurring in the world, it is a blind belief to think that there are.

From all the evidence available, everything that happens in living things obeys laws of physics (and chemistry*) , that includes the brain. From what is known there is also evidence that mental processes are driven by (or happen at the same time as) some physiological-electrical change. All the evidence suggests that consciousness is a phenomena which existence is driven by or supported by the brain.

Therefor, any other view that somehow the 'spirit commands the matter', yet that the spirit has no physical manifestation, is totally unsupported. Zero evidence exists to back this up. The best argument you can say is "I just don't feel that something so complex as the entirety of my spiritual world and my ability to make choices is driven by deterministic biochemical/physical processes", but then it would be just like the person who says "I just don't feel like it is possible that all this complexity of the universe just happened by itself: god must have been involved".

If you have any evidence that some activity in a living thing can happen without some physical phenomena driving it, please let me know. My assumption in this post and the previous one is that no one has any such evidence.

*which according to my view stems from physics, but is more specific to interaction of atoms of different/same elements.

Basically, there are three different views about reason vrs. faith that one can adopt:

1) There is no reason to believe that something may exist unless there is some evidence to suggest it. (Occam's razor)

2) As long as there are several possible explanations, which none of them can be refuted, assume that all can be true. For example: if you can't refute the hypothesis that god created the universe, assume it is possible.

3) As long as some explanation cannot be refuted, feel free to believe it is true if it fits your needs and gut feeling.

Mine is #1: can you say the same about yours?

Mental states are not identical with physical-chemical states. True, consciousness does depend on the brain for its existence. It is however wrong to think that consciousness is nothing more than the brain processes.

First I would just like to emphasize that we need to use terminology carefully here... "Consciousness" refers to our mental experience, it is not physical (by definition). However, "consciousness" can only exist if there is a physical basis for it, a brain. So when you say "Mental states are not identical with physical-chemical states." I would agree: they are not identical, but one supports the other, though they are two different concepts.

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No it isn't. No supernatural phenomenas have been observed that could not have been reduced to laws of physics. So in the absence of any evidence to support that phenomenas can happen without any physical change occurring in the world, it is a blind belief to think that there are.

....

First I would just like to emphasize that we need to use terminology carefully here... "Consciousness" refers to our mental experience, it is not physical (by definition). However, "consciousness" can only exist if there is a physical basis for it, a brain. So when you say "Mental states are not identical with physical-chemical states." I would agree: they are not identical, but one supports the other, though they are two different concepts.

I don't think Sophia had any mysticism in mind in her previous comment (If you did, I apologize, and carry on...I'll just laugh from the sidelines.) But rather a reversal of causation. The mind and it's experiences certainly have a direct correlation to the brain and it's activities, but that doea not mean that the brain is the cause of the experiences of the mind. As I understand, it is an integrated whole. Chemical changes in the brain can affect the experiences of the mind, and changes in the mind from the experience of percepts to the decision to focus can also affect the brains chemistry. This is how determinism can be avoided while not giving up causation. If the cause was unidirectional, then we would all be a bunch of billiard balls.

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No supernatural phenomenas have been observed that could not have been reduced to laws of physics.

I did not mean the supernatural.

I do not accept any positive claims without evidence.

For me to be certain that all of the unexplained phenomena of life (consciousness, violition, free will) will be reduced, in the future, to the laws of physics - I would have to be acting on faith. It is possible but I can not be certain of that today.

This is not mysticism - this is as anti-mystic as you can get.

Chemical changes in the brain can affect the experiences of the mind, and changes in the mind from the experience of percepts to the decision to focus can also affect the brains chemistry.

Yes.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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I did not mean the supernatural.

I do not accept any positive claims without evidence.

For me to be certain that all of the unexplained phenomena of life (consciousness, violition, free will) will be reduced, in the future, to the laws of physics - I would have to be acting on faith. It is possible but I can not be certain of that today.

This is not mysticism - this is as anti-mystic as you can get.

Yes.

What else can it be reduced to?

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What else can it be reduced to?

Good question!

I can't make any positive claims.

My point is this:

The acceptance of an explanatory concept on faith (the not to be questioned dogma), inverts the very purpose of an explanation. It does not matter if this is in the area of philosophy/religion or the realm of science. A rational scientist accounts for the unexplained in terms of the known.

When I think of violition, consciousness, abstract thinking, choice to focus - I do not accept as an absolute that there are not fundamentally different principles of action found in living as contrasted to inaminate entities.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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<_< smarta$

Seriously, though. I dont ubderstand how it could be anything not physical without inclusion of supernaturalism in someway.

Supernaturalism implies outside forces of some kind. Something outside of realm of rational explanation.

I think of it more in terms of man as a self made 'soul'. Interconnection between the physical and the self choosen, which then alters the physical.

There is no choice possible to the non-living and yet we want explain everything in terms of inaminate entities.

I am just speculating of course.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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Good question!

I can't make any positive claims.

My point is this:

The acceptance of an explanatory concept on faith (the not to be questioned dogma), inverts the very purpose of an explanation. It does not matter if this is in the area of philosophy/religion or the realm of science. A rational scientist accounts for the unexplained in terms of the known.

When I think of violition, consciousness, abstract thinking, choice to focus - I do not accept as an absolute that there are not fundamentally different principles of action found in living as contrasted to inaminate entities.

Hey! No fair adding two paragraphs in an edit. I think that I understand your approach. There is a fine line though between heathy skepticism and agnosticism. In a circumstance like this, I don't think Ifat is off mark to say that

...So in the absence of any evidence to support that phenomenas can happen without any physical change occurring in the world...
The experiences of our mind are what is happening in our brain. I am confident that nothing else could have an impact. There can be no 3rd component in the equation because they are really just descriptions of two aspects of the same thing. Any mental component has to have a physical component. Actually sorting out those particulars I suspect will keep nueroscientists busy for a centuray or better, but I think he can state with reasonable certainty that the mind doesn't float in an ethereal plane. Well, usually it doesn't float. Mine is somewhat buoyant. <_<

Supernaturalism implies outside forces of some kind. Something outside of realm of rational explanation.

I think of it more in terms of man as a self made 'soul'. Interconnection between the physical and the self choosen, which then alters the physical.

There is no choice possible to the non-living and yet we want explain everything in terms of inaminate entities.

I am just speculating of course.

I agree with that, but that seems more relevent to the direction of causation. Not to whether there is in fact a physical element attached to the minds activities.

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