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Onar Åm

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  1. Ok, first of all: Race is a valid concept. Race is not an arbitrary category like "striped animals" or "red animals." Such categories bring together entitites based on a non-essential similarity. Race, however, is formed in exactly the same way as species, namely by descent. (the scientific name for race is sub-species) A race is a group of individuals that have a common set of ancestors that differ from other such groups. The negroid or black race is the set of people whose ancestors lived in sub-Saharan Africa 90.000 years ago. The caucasoid or white race is the set of people whose ancestors lived in Europe some 60.000 years ago, and the oriental or mongoloid race is the set of people whose ancestors lived in Asia some 60.000 years ago. Species have the additional property that the groups are separated by reproductive incompatibility. This makes species exclusive categories, whereas sub-species or races are statistical cateogories. We humans use a lot of valid statistical concepts, and one of these is climate -- which is just the average weather over some period. Winter, spring, summer and fall are also such valid statistical concepts. They are valid because they are *useful*. Even though some summer days may be cooler than spring days or even winter days in various parts of the world, there is no question that there is a real physical cause to real statistical differences between the seasons. It is perfectly valid to say that summers are warmer than winters. Race too is a statistical concept. Since it is a measurement of descent it is also perfectly valid to talk about mixed races. To say that someone is 78% white and 22% oriental means that 78% of one's ancestors lived in Europe 60.000 years ago and 22% lived in Asia 60.000 years ago. Just like winter and summer, black and oriental are useful in making statistical predictions. One of the most important variables that can be usefully predicted by race is intelligence. intelligence is a valid concept General intelligence 'g' is a biological metric as valid as height or weight. It can be measured and it can be used to make useful predictions. 'g' is correlated to a range of biological parameters such as brain size, IQ, brain pH-value, brain metabolism and perceptual reaction times. The latter is the key component in constructing a new ABSOLUTE value for 'g', namely the emerging science of mental chronometry. By using simple cognitive tests such as how fast a test person is able to respond to a perceptual signal (e.g. a lamp) one can construct a value of how fast the mind is, and this value -- mental speed -- is equally well correlated with general intelligence as IQ-tests. The advantage of such tests is that they are 100% free of cultural influences. They are so simple that no education is required. For more on this emerging science I recommend "Clocking the Mind" by Arthur Jensen: http://www.amazon.com/Clocking-Mind-Chrono...ndividualdif-20 Intelligence is real and measurable. Now, using mental chronometry it is easy to verify that the 'g'-loaded IQ-tests are largely culture independent. It is a fact that using these simple cognitive tests such as reaction times, blacks consistently score lower than whites on average who in turn consistently score lower than orientals on average. Hence, mental chronometry confirms what the myriads of IQ-studies already have shown, namely that there is a significant *average* difference between the races in general intelligence. While race is not a useful concept for individual assessment, it is most certainly useful in explaining *statistical* data. Why for instance are Ashkenazi-Jews so dramatically overrepresented in all areas of intellectual accomplishment such as chess, mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, entrepreneurship, leadership, wealth, politics, litterature and philosophy? It can easily be explained by the higher average intelligence of ashkenazi-Jews. Why are whites on average richer than blacks? Why are there more illiterates among blacks than whites? Why are there more criminals among blacks than whites? Again, all these variables can be largely explained by intelligence. Obviously culture plays an important role in crime, but the numbers don't lie: if we categorize people based on intelligence then lo and behold: most racial differences vanish. Blacks with an average IQ of 100-110 are typically no more or less criminal than whites within the same range. Furthermore, regardless of race, there is an extremely strong correlation between crime (especially violent crime) and *low* intelligence. Obviously most people of low intelligence are not criminals, but the numbers tell us that they are more *susceptible* to crime than high-IQ people, and this is true regardless of race. Low-intelligence people are simply more vulnerable to absorbing really bad ideas than others. This should not come as a shocker to anyone. The good news is that equipped with this knowledge we have real options about various actions, both interpretative and actions for reducing crime. First, higher crime and out of wedlock pregnancy rates among blacks should NOT automatically be interpreted as bad culture/bad moral. When correcting for IQ we find little differences between the races. Second, one should NOT automatically interpret racial differences in social indicators (such as crime, conviction rates etc) as the result of white racism, but rather as the statistical outcome of racial differences in intelligence. Adjusted for IQ there is no evidence of bias against blacks, quite the contrary. The Bush-Gore ballot recount debacle in Florida is another instance of wrongly interpreted data. Many argued that black votes were systematically thrown out in order to skew the result in favor of Bush, but again, once adjusted for IQ all differences disappeared. In fact, the ballot recount in Florida can be considered the largest elementary intelligence test in human history. Being able to cast a correct vote actually requires some degree of intelligence. Not much, but sufficient to make the success rate less than 100%. Since blacks on average have a lower intelligence than whites they should be dramatically overrepresented in ballot failures, which was exactly the case. In fact, the ballot failure rate of the various races perfectly matched the difference as measured by myriads of IQ tests for the last 70 years, and provided an extraordinary independent validation of them. Again, had the knowledge of racial differences in intelligence been widely known, no false accusations of racism could have been made. Furthermore, we know that there is an extremely high correlation between crime and illiteracy, and since there is a high correlation between illiteracy and low IQ it is no wonder that blacks are so dramatically overrepresented in crime. Luckily this also spells a way out of the problem: reading and writing training specially tailored for the weaker minded. By IQ-testing children at an early age one can identify the children that are likely to need special learning methods (much rote learning) to achieve a high litteracy rate, and thereby dramatically reduce crime. Had this knowledge been widely known and accepted without social stigma crime would be much less of a problem in the US than it is today.
  2. I've enjoyed the series House for a while now and can highly recommend it, not as ideal art, but as an almost perfect artistic representation of the platonic misantrope. House is displayed as rational, brilliant, an atheist, deeply mistrusting of humans, very rude and deeply unhappy. A main theme of the series is that House tries to avoid seeing his patients and when he does he is usually rude. The reason? His theory is that by caring about his patients, getting emotionally involved with them, he loses his objectivity and becomes a bad doctor. Another major theme is "everybody lies." Very often the plot is to solve a medical mystery by finding and revealing the patient's lie. House is deeply skeptical of altruists, not because he thinks that self-sacrifice is bad, but rather because he thinks that altruists are hyopcrits -- they are egoists in disguise. Of course, he thinks that all people are inherently selfish, and by that he doesn't mean that in a good way. So why do I enjoy the show? Apart from spoonfeeding us with the false antagonism of reason and emotion Hugh Laurie, playing House, is actually a brilliant actor and at times very funny. He transforms the show from something that would be a mediocre cliché into an enjoyable experience. And the medical mysteries are quite fun too.
  3. I must say that I am somewhat dismayed by the attempts to go inside the heads of other philosophers. Some claim that they are afraid of her, others think they just hate her. But fear and hate are such strong emotions. If there are any emotions at all among professional philosophers I suspect most of them are along the lines of contempt -- complete and utter disrespect. They think Rand was a crackpot, a simple minded thinker, and I don't think that this view is based on actual assessments of her ideas, but rather of popularized strawmen.
  4. It seems to me that Kant correctly identified the faults with both empiricism and rationalism, yet somehow managed to screw it up in his philosophy, taking the worst from empiricism and rationalism rather than the best. Normally 90% of the job in philosophy is discovering the right question to ask. Kant did this it seems to me, but tripped on the last 10%. Rand succeeded where Kant failed. The puzzling thing about Kant is that for some reason he seems to have identified a major insight, namely that no-one can escape their own consciousness, yet failed to grasp that he fell into the very same trap as all the others with his philosophy. How do you manage to go from "can't escape your own consciousness" to the blatantly contradictory "ding an sich" *outside* consciousness? Well, I guess hindsight is the best vision.
  5. I agree that this is a possibility. It could very well be that if you configure atoms in a particular way, they will generate YOU in a particular state. But not all cells are constantly being replaced. Nerve cells (with a few exceptions) are not replaced. You typically have the same nerve cells throughout your entire life. Whether you also have many of the same atoms in the brain would be interesting to know, but I suspect that at least some parts of nerve cells are replaced with new atoms. In any case, what is the biological reason for not regenerating nerve cells? One intriguing possibility is that we really can't replace our cells (or our atoms) without changing who we are.
  6. I was fascinated by Gaia-theory in my younger years, but as I have studied climate change and evolution it no longer seems like a very convincing idea. The very idea of a stable/stabilizing environment is a myth. The apparent stabilizing properties of an ecology is due to the adaptiveness of its components, namely the organisms. Thus, it is not correct to say that fire is used as a way to control and stabilize a forest ecology, but rather that the ecology of organisms that has evolved has adapted to frequent fires. I am therefore thoroughly skeptical of any claim of the ecology as a homeostatic entity that tries to maintain its unity. The ecology is more like a fire than an organism: it feeds blindly off the material that happens to be available. As to the biosphere being conscious: there is absolutely no evidence that it is behaving consciously or goal directed. A fire could also said to be behaving "goal directed" by consuming everything in its path, but closer inspection shows this to be false. Notice that we aren't even conscious with our whole bodies. We do a lot of things that are unconscious to us. In fact, consciousness seems to be limited to a particular kind of cells: nerve cells. Is this a coincidence? Maybe, but it suggests to me that consciousness is not merely "fickle" relations, but something much more solid. Notice how telepathy never has evolved in any organisms. If Gaia could be conscious, wouldn't telepathy be rather common in the biological world? In fact, consciousness seems to emerge ONLY in well-connected nervous systems. I.e. if a nerve is severed from the central nervous systems, all sensation from this nerve vanishes immediately. This suggests to me that contiguity is an essential requirement of consciousness. Distributed systems cannot be conscious. Notice one possible exception to this: if nerve cells also were electromagnetic transmitters and receivers then organismic consciousness carried by radio waves is conceivable. In that case a kind of "distributed" consciousness could be possible. HOWEVER, that's not the kind of distributivity we are talking about in a biosphere. There,allegedly organisms that are completely physically isolated from each other (i.e. no physical interaction of any kind takes place) form a Gaian consciousness, and I just don't see it. It appears like a mystical idea to me.
  7. I have to agree with David here that you are obscuring things. The question is not whether the brain acts in such a way as to "bring forth" consciousness -- this is obvious -- but rather whether consciousness is something *other* than the brain. I think there is solid arguments that indeed consciousness is not the same as the brain, just like the sound is not the same as the flute. I like the old mythological image of a group of worshippers that "evoke" a spirit, which then takes control over its worshippers and command them what to do. Without the evokation of the worshippers the spirit could not exist as a unity, yet the spirit, once evoked, exerts a controlling influence on the worshippers. I think that the brain in a similar manner evokes consciousness which then becomes an agent of causation. Clearly consciousness is "emergent" in this view, but NOT the same as the brain.
  8. David, could you elaborate why emergence is "a crap-pile"?
  9. This is a topic I am very interested in. I used to work at Webmind, an AI company, a few years ago, and back then I took it for granted that consciousness could be created in a computer by simply replicating the functional patterns of the brain. Now I am not so sure. I've come to look at consciousness as a kind of "ether" which can be shaped and resonated by matter. In this view our brain is actually literally an organ -- a kind of "musical" instrument -- which creates standing waves which we experience as consciousness. Now, just like the organ is not the same as the sound produced by the organ, I think it makes sense to view the brain as the thing that *produces* consciousness, but is not the same as it. From this perspective it is not at all self-evident that consciousness can be created in a silicon chip simply by replicating the functional structures, just like you cannot create sound by creating a perfect 3D model of a church organ in a computer. It's not even self-evident to me that we would retain our consciousness if we simply replaced all the cells or atoms in our brain with new ones. In fact, there is some biological hints of evidence against this: neurons don't typically replicate. Unlike the rest of our body we have the same nerve cells our whole life. That may not be a coincidence. It could actually have been selected for as a precondition for retaining consciousness through time. Now, why would I hold that consciousness is something different from matter? In short, free will. In order for consciousness to be an agent of causation it actually has to BE something, and something etherlike works for me. The advantage of this model is that consciousness and matter are then closely intertwined. Consciousness cannot exist without the brain, just like the harmonic sound cannot exist without the organ.
  10. I would argue that perception acquisition is an instinct. Babies simply cannot help themselves from learning to sense.
  11. All the axioms of objectivism are obviously reached through induction. But this brings about the question of how we came to trust induction in the first place. By what method do we reach the conclusions, including the concept of induction and the laws of causality? Here I think the constructivists as well as the phenomenologists have some useful insights. We are thrown into the world without knowledge and without concepts and from this stream of experiences we try to solidify a base of concepts. The major mistake of the constructivists however was to assume that we cannot properly ground this stream in solid concepts. The grounding occurs according to what I would call the axiomatic method, and is very similar to the similarly named process of mathematics. Mathematics consists of identifying certain basic premises -- axioms -- and then reifying these into propositions through the process of logic. What is not obvious, however, is the fact that every single new proposition in the axiomatic system is an opportunity to falsify the axioms. All that is needed to do this is to prove a statement A and ~A deduced from the same axioms. Thus, every time we deduce a new non-contradictory proposition in the axiomatic system we actually strengthen the validity of the axioms. At some point the truth of the axioms is so well-established that the occurence of a contradiction is unthinkable. This same process is at work with the metaphysical axioms as well, even though the main process here is induction rather than deduction. Induction here is the same process of holding all propositions together forming a non-contradictory whole. Like with mathematical concepts there is a golden opportunity to bring bad axioms down by new observations, and by the axiomatic method some axioms ARE genuinely bad and will fail in the face of observations. But those axioms that survive any attempt at finding a contradiction are the ones we call self-evident truths. These are of such a nature that they 1) reveal themselves in all our observations and 2) cannot thinkably be contradicted. At the base of the axiomatic method is indeed the principle of non-contradiction. That is, even before we conceptualize it we use coherence as an epistemological evaluation.
  12. Indeed, now we are getting somewhere. This proposition is an example of logical implication, i.e. necessary truth. From the equivalence (A=><=>(~B=>~A) it follows that "if the sun does NOT remain below the horizon, it is NOT Christmas in Tromsø." Both derive from the same facts. Obviously identity (one of which is causality) plays a role in this argument, but the the relationship is far from obvious, even in instances when there is a direct causal relationship between A and B. E.g. "if the car crashes at high speed into a concrete wall, the car will deform." Here we can say that A *causes* B. Yet, (A=><=>(~B=>~A) implies that "if the car does NOT deform, the car did NOT crash at high speed into a concrete wall." And in this case it does not make sense to say that ~B *causes* ~A. So even in such a simple case as this the relationship between causality and logic is not trivial. What's going on?
  13. I'm very interested in this line of reasoning although I don't understand it. I fully understand the analytic/synthetic dichotomy and agree that there is no such thing as an analytic truth or a synthetic truth, only truth. Truth means that the statement has a referent in reality. I also understand the notion of floating abstraction, meaning a concept without a referent in reality. But what I don't understand is the claim that "=>" is a floating abstraction. I use the term "imply" in my daily language to mean that if A is true then B is necessarily also true. You could say that "A=>B" is a short hand for "~(A^~" but I don't see the crime in that short hand. (edited for typos)
  14. True, but I never claimed this. What I was asking about was: if A CAUSES B, then clearly A IMPLIES B, (and by this I mean that you cannot have A without also having and from this it is also clear that ~B IMPLIES ~A. But this latter logical implication derives its truth from the causal relationship A causes B, yet it seems unreasonable to say that ~B *causes* ~A. What then is the causal nature of this latter logical implication?
  15. Well, then. Either I posed my alternatives very unclearly or you are engaging in rationalism. I didn't say that it was better to come into existence with trait X than to come into existence at all, I said that it is better to come into existence with trait X than not at all if X is the CAUSE of your existence. A genetic defect is not the cause of your existence, the trait of reproduction IS. Look, please stop with this rationalization and look at the facts. Let me rephrase your rationalistic position in terms of the facts: 1) since the reproduction that causes our existence occurs a split second before we come into existence you argue that we are slaves to our genes and reproduction is the ultimate goal. 2) had reproduction occured just a split second later, right after we came into existence then reproduction is no longer the ultimate goal and we are not slaves to our genes. In other words, what separates your position from mine is literally the blink of an eye. Your rationalization is that this split second is of such immense and insurpassable metaphysical importance as to render us drones in a vicious game of altruism. Based on this blink of the eye we should throw out individualism and accept that we are sacrificial animals. Do you honestly not see the absurdity of this position? And all of this hinges on the insistence on arbitrary accepting the definition of value of the anti-altruistic philosopher Ayn Rand as "that which we act to gain or keep." Think a little bit about the consequence of what you are proposing, namely that ONLY the things that you can "act to gain or keep" in the present is of value to you. If that were the case Aristotle, the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment can have no value to any living being since they occured before anyone was born. Furthermore, I cannot "act to gain or keep" a past experience. So the education I got as a child is of no value to me because it is now no longer in the present. I can't "act to gain or keep it." Clearly this is absurd. All of these things are valuable to me, so let's consider WHY the industrial revolution is of great value to me. It no longer exists, but traces of it still exist in the present: cars, skyskrapers, airplanes etc. And these concretes most certainly are values that I can "act to gain or keep." In other words, the industrial revolution is of value to me because it *caused* things in the present that are of value to me. By the same token, the trait of reproduction is of value to me because it caused ME to exist.
  16. You did not come into existence *because* of a genetic defect, but *despite* it. On the other hand, were it not for reproduction you would not exist. That is, genetic defects have no survival value, whereas reproduction is the most important biological innovation in the history of life, not only enabling your life but ALL life as we know it. Not being able to see the difference between a genetic defect and reproduction is like not being able to see the difference between a defect engine and the making of that engine. Do you really believe this or are you merely rationalizing to make a point?
  17. This is true, but, for the third time, what if you have the situation that A *causes* B. Then obviously you have that A *implies* B. What then about ~B *implies* ~A which is the logical equivalent of A implies B? What is the *causal* status of this statement? That is, if you know for a fact that A causes B, and you also know for a fact that you don't have B (~B ). From this you logically infer that you don't have A either (~A). In other words: A causes B. Not B, hence not A. (Edited for spelling)
  18. Fair enough. The question then is what the relationship between causality and logical implication is. Because if the truth of A implies the truth of B then the non-truth of B implies the non-truth of A. So how can it be that you have a logical implication that goes both ways but not causality? By "if A then B" I mean that the truth of A implies the truth of B. That is, if A is determined to be true then always, always, always B will be found to be true. Are you saying that there is no way to abstract out the general pattern of logic from many instances of reasoning? The way I see it formal logic is merely a way of putting logic into a clearly defined language. I refuse to accept that logic can only be achieved through mumbling and floating thoughts in the head. Logic is the abstraction of identity in reality, the laws of logic are then simply the laws of identity. Yes, obviously this is the case. (Well, not *obvious* given that there are plenty of people who refuses to see this) The question is *how* logical implication relates to causality. I gave a specific example namely A=>B is logically equivalent to ~B=>~A. I fail to see why it is a crime against nature to abstract out the laws of logic and put them in linguistic form like this, but for some reason I cannot express this perfectly non-ambiguous statement in formal logic without ensuring that I never get a straight answer. It's very frustrating.
  19. Because? It would also be useful if you would not use strange symbols that disappear from the text. It makes it really hard to follow. Also, it was not irrelevant because it is certainly true that "if ~B then ~A" follows from "if A then B." The question then is, how do we resolve the apparent discrepancy between the two? In other words why is the TRUTH of ~A dependent on the truth of ~B if there is no causal relationship?
  20. I see that it is really, really, really hard to get a straight answer from anyone on this forum. It seems like the question needs to be framed in a specific code of some kind in order not to trigger an array of complaints about the formulation of the question. So let me try again, rephrasing the question as best as I can: If we know that the event A causes the event B, is it then correct to say that if B fails to occur then this *causes* A not to occur?
  21. The parents owe their existence to the reproduction of *their* parents in turn, so for them too reproduction is a survival value. Look, I don't understand why this has to be so difficult to understand. You are faced with two alternatives: 1) no existence, or 2) some existence with the catch that you need to devote some of your resources to reproduction. Which of these are benefitial to you as an individual? Are you saying that just because something happened in the past it is of no value to me? The enlightenment happened before I was born, therefore it is of no value to me? The Big Bang occured before life emerged, therefore it is of no value to life on earth? That is the most seriously screwed up logic I've seen in years. I value a lot of things that occured before I was born, including the enlightenment, the Big Bang, the emergence of life on Earth and my conception. Actually, this goes to show that the ultimate value is not survival but biological existence, i.e. your life. ("life is the standard of value") If nothing else, that at least is a useful outcome of this discussion. Survival is a subset of biological existence meaning *continuation* of biolgocial existence, but does not include the actual moment of conception. Individual life is the ultimate value, and this includes the coming into being of the individual life and the continuation of that individual life, i.e. survival. If the alternative is to come into existence? Well, duh! Well, we've cleared up an important point in this discussion. For the individual the individual's life is the ultimate value, survival being a subset of this value. Reproduction is a means of acquiring one's ultimate value, namely one's life.
  22. which they don't. This is an utterly, utterly false statement. The reason individuals exist in the first place is because their parents reproduced. Reproduction is thus the very reason they came into being as individuals. It is in our genes to repay that favour. Therefore our nature is tuned to enjoy reproduction and find child rearing a fulfilling way of self-realizing. Again an utterly perverse logic. You yourself have just stated that each individual can thank reproduction for its existence. Is it then not obvious that reproduction is good for the individual? It is reproduction that enabled individuals to evolve into something more than their parents. Evolution is a process of individual liberation from death and reproduction is the means to achieve this. Completely false premises. The choice is not between survival and reproduction as ultimate ends, but between life and death. Death is inevitable and reproduction allows individuals to exist despite their mortality, and reproduction is what allows them to cheat death. What are you talking about? I value reproduction very much. I am very greatful that my parents decided to reproduce, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Therefore I obviously value reproduction *as an individual*, don't you? Aren't you glad you exist? For me it hopefully means living 120 wonderful years on earth living according to my nature. This means a certain set of virtues: integrity, honesty, productivity *and reproductivity*. I was given my life as a precious gift thanks to reproduction, and that is very much in my self-interest because it allowed me to exist which is my ULTIMATE VALUE. Of course, as part of that package I was engraved with the very same nature that allowed me to exist, namely reproduction. Therefore as a downpayment on that existence I was given it is in my nature to reproduce, and yes, even give my life for my children. That's part of the deal. Let's hope it never comes to that. Fortunately nature has also given me a nature which allows me to enjoy reproduction and child rearing. Correct. Downpayment on existence. That's a seriously twisted logic. It's like saying that a trade is self-sacrifice because only what you give up counts. Your alternative is simple: existence or non-existence. Which do you choose? Which is of value to you? This should be obvious. No, only traits that contributes to the survival of the individual. No, because there is no survival value in a deadly disease. There IS however tremendous survival value in reproduction. But I'm not taking an odd perspective here, YOU are! You are claiming that everything in the biological world (individuals) really don't have any value, but only some platonic concept of reproduction has value for its own sake. Value to whom? It's really a very twisted perspective. You conflate diffrent perspectives, the species perspective What on earth is this species perspective you are talking about? I don't see any species around, only individuals. Similar actions by his ancestors allowed *him* to exist, and now he is simply acting out the nature that allowed him to exist. Obviously those previous actions were very beneficial to him since it allowed him to exist. By giving up his life he is repaying the favour through a cross-generational trade: you get your existence, but in return you need to give up that existence (maybe) after, say, 30 years. It's a really, really good deal and all the participants in the various generations benefit greatly from it. What is this reproduction thing you are talking about? Can you point to it and show me a specimen of it? Can you talk to it and ask it if it values itself? Saying that reproduction "clearly isn't" a means to individual survival doesn't make it so. You need to make arguments. It's easy to demonstrate that your existence is conditioned on reproduction. Reproduction is an incredibly smart strategy that not only allowed you to come into existence, but also allowed you to come into existence in an extremely evolved, self-aware state.
  23. Logic and causality are intimately related. If we know that A causes B then we can also say that A logically implies B. Thus, A=>B. However, consider the following logical equivalence: (A=><=>(~B=>~A) If A causes B then A=>B, but this is equivalent to saying ~B=>~A. Is this then the same as saying ~B causes ~A? What makes this so tricky is that in order for A to cause B, A must be an event that precedes B in time, but is it meaningful to say that ~B precedes ~A in time? If not, is it still valid to say that ~B *causes* ~A since A causes B?
  24. But that doesn't explain why the individuals that live longer tend to have fewer offspring. It also doesn't explain sex. If reproductive success is the ultimate value, then why on earth did sex evolve? Sex means to blend your genes with those of a completely different individual, thereby eliminating half of the genes for each of the parents. That makes no sense if conservation of genes is the ultimate value, but makes perfect sense as an evolutionary learning mechanism. Sexual reproduction has become one of the most important survival strategies in the biological world because it allows the genes to *change* faster from one generation to another, thereby increasing the rate of evolution. Virtually nothing exciting happened on Earth in the first 3 billion years. It was only when sex evolved some 1-1.2 billion years ago that the rate of evolution increased particularly in the cambrian explosion some 542 million years ago. Thus, a mechanism for *changing* genes more efficiently is what has caught on. This makes no sense if conservation of genes through reproduction is the ultimate goal. If on the other hand survival is the ultimate goal then it makes perfect sense. Sex allows faster evolution which allows the existence of individuals that are better at surviving. The flaw in this argument is the following: you assume that the existence of the individual just came about miraculously *somehow*. But that's actually not the case. The individual owes its existence to the reproduction of its parents. Therefore, since the individual is its parents offspring, it will have embodied in it the same pattern of reproductive behavior. Think of your existence as a contract. You were lent your precious existence from your parents, but with reproduction as downpayment on that loan. Of course, it's not a contract in the true sense of the word since that requires voluntary consent from all the involved parties. Nevertheless the actions to which you owe your individual existence -- namely your parents reproductive efforts -- is exactly the same set of actions you later in life will repeat. This is turning the problem on its head. The adversary to survival is not reproduction, but death. Death is bad for the individual. It is also a certainty, and in order to assure *some* existence, reproduction is a necessity. As such reproduction is good because it allows the individual to overcome death and extinction. It itself would not have existed as an individual were it not for reproduction. Individual survival and reproduction are certainly anti-correlated in the biological world, but reproduction and individual survival are not competing distinct ends. Survival and DEATH are competing "ends" (death is not an end, but the failure of achieving life). Reproduction is a means of partially overcoming death, and this is why survival and reproduction are anticorrelated. When individual survivability increases the need for reproduction to overcome death is reduced.
  25. If reproductive success is the ultimate value then can you please explain to me why there is a consistent trend throughout the evolution of life towards longer and longer life spans? Today there are individual animals and plants that live for hundreds of years. If reproductive success was all that mattered, we would all be bacteria reproducing at an insane rate. The fact that reproduction is a necessary evil means that every act that an organism takes must be *consistent* with the survival of its offspring (or some other closely related individual). But within those bounds put by evolution on our existence an individual can still find the freedom to exist purely for its own sake. In fact, that is the reason why the life span of animals on Earth is increasing. I define survival as TOTAL survival, i.e. individual survival+reproduction, each being equally important. You're saying that the individual doesn't really matter. Yet ALL of our ancestors' existence was lived out through individual lives. If you could store the genes of an organism in a safe place forever then according to you that's just as good as letting individuals live out their individual lives and reproduce. Isn't that obviously not the case? I hear what you're saying, but you're wrong. By your logic an organism doesn't eat in order to survive but only to satisfy its hunger. An organism doesn't have sex in order to reproduce but to satisfy its sexual urges. An organism doesn't try to avoid harmful situation in order to avoid injury but to avoid pain. An organism doesn't run from its prey to avoid being eaten but because it is afraid. Don't you see the absurdity of that logic? By disconnecting an organism's nature from its survival you are essentially eliminating a conceptual understanding of its behavior. The reason we have our specific nature with all our quirks (pain/pleasure mechanism, fear, hunger, sexual desire etc.) is because in the past they aided our ancestors in their survival. Our nature was selected by natural selection, i.e. because it aids our survival. Therefore, acting according to our nature is beneficial to our survival.
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