Wednesday, 28 April 2010

What Clever People Say


Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini have replied to a review of their book What Darwin Got Wrong with a letter which includes this:
Our difficulty with Darwin is very like our difficulty with our stockbroker. He says the way to succeed on the market is to buy low and sell high, and we believe him. But since he won’t tell us how to buy low and sell high, his advice does us no good. Likewise, Darwin thinks that the traits that are selected-for are the ones that cause fitness; but he doesn’t say how the kinds of variables that his theory envisages as selectors could interact with phenotypes in ways that distinguish causes of fitness from their confounds. This problem can’t be solved by just stipulating that the traits that are selected for are the fitness-enhancing traits; that, as one said in the 1960s, isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.
I cannot understand how clever people can get themselves into such a state. This is an argument against everything, as far as I can tell. Darwin isn't advising *how* to buy low and sell high. Otherwise he would be omniscient. He's identifying the mechanism. As is the stockbroker. Here's some news, for the slow of learning; stockbrokers don't know exactly *how*. Otherwise they'd all be multi-billionaires. Sometimes they get it right. The good ones get it right more than others. Nature gets it right because it has no alternative; it's what happens! But Darwin can't pre-figure it. Just because he can't, doesn't invalidate the mechanism, any more than the stockbroker getting it wrong does. Once again, that science doesn't know all the answers, doesn't invalidate it. If it predicted an answer that didn't fit the facts, it would.

This sort of reasoning from professionals baffles me. I wonder how these people get gainful employment.

5 comments:

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    瑜吟 says:
    30 April 2010 at 21:56

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    信皇雯豪 says:
    5 May 2010 at 22:10

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  • larvatus says:
    6 May 2010 at 16:43

    Misunderstanding the analogy between evolving through natural selection and succeeding on the market by buying low and selling high is a clear symptom of being out of one's mind in the following, precisely defined sense:
    1. Natural selection is said to be responsible for evolving all functions of living organisms.
    2. The mind counts among the functions of some living organisms.
    3. The mind of some living organisms is capable of making intensional distinctions such as the one between being renate and being cordate, or the one between being equal to the positive square root of four and being an even prime number.
    4. Natural selection is incapable of making intensional distinctions or evolving the capacity to make intensional distinctions.
    5. Some minds have functions that cannot have evolved through natural selection.
    6. Some functions of living organisms cannot have evolved through natural selection.
    At this point, to echo Sir Winston Churchill, we know exactly what you are as a living organism; we are just haggling about something that determines your price.

  • Mark Jones says:
    7 May 2010 at 03:07

    Larvatus:

    1. No it's not.
    2. Agreed.
    3. The mind can distinguish intentions, yes.
    4. NS doesn't need to make intentional distinctions, it just happens. A ball rolling down a hill doesn't intend to do it; it just does it. NS cannot evolve the capacity to make intentional distinctions? What makes you think that?
    5. What makes you think that?
    6. What makes you think that?

    The individual elements that make up a thing don't determine its value, 'as any fule kno' (Molesworth).

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    呈婷 says:
    11 May 2010 at 01:50

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