Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hope 5 ~ Cosmos & Reason

Hope, Part 4 discussed 2 of the 5 topics it had laid out, leaving these three for later:
(3) After that, we'll consider why arguments that life has reached, or nearly reached (or that we are currently able to perceive), an upper limit on refinement presuppose normative judgments about potential, both upper and lower. (This would be Gould's narrow hallway.)

(4) Next, we'll expand our scope to astrophysics, and look at the conflict between deductive and inductive reasoning playing out in that discipline, and how it compares to the same in evolutionary biology.

(5) We will close by integrating all these concepts with academia, medicine, exploitative economies, and essential philosophy, and see why Market-Style Evolution is so powerfully, inductively integral to Earth's current elites.

Gould's Narrow Hallway

In his Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, Gould attempts, like Dawkins, to save Market-Style Evolution from the inevitable perils of mathematics.

As discussion began in Part 3, Dawkins' defense of independently branded mutation, sparked by individual organisms before being tested in nature's free market, ran into big mathematical problems when 1-4 billion years of life was forced to confront the colossally larger set of possibilities that the fossil record should show but didn't, and that mathematics should have made impossible but didn't. Dawkins, to deal with the problem, presupposed the preferred conclusions of nature, using his cumulative selection model, broken in Part 4.

Gould's attempt to save the cold, Hobbesian marketplace focuses, like Dawkins', on discrediting the fossil record. Dawkins argues that the fossil record is empty of transitional specimens because it has to be; because nature could have had it no other way. Gould's challenge is different: for Gould, he is arguing not against a lack of supporting evidence in the fossil record (as Dawkins does), but against the presence of contrary evidence. An impartial observer of the fossil record sees that life on Earth has grown from being nonexistent, to unicellular organisms, to bipedal mammals, to humans--so far. The inescapable objective conclusion, backed by billions of years of evidence, is that life grows more complex.

This is what Lightform Evolution argues: that life grows increasingly more complex, in tandem with its environment. Life becomes better able to process energy, leading to states of consciousness, memory, timeliness, emotions, psialtics, and other forms of matter-energy interaction that would be considered, by each prior stage, to be "transcendent." Gould's faith, though, provides him with the ability to disregard this billions-year trend.

How does he do it? By "narrowing the hallway," or presupposing the boundaries of permissible inquiry. Like Dawkins, he is forced to apply normative, un-proven, faith-based conclusions about his studies, in order to generate the results he wants. Also like Dawkins, he lacks evidence to support his conclusions, and indeed, is directly contradicted by life's increasing complexity, but he is famous, powerful, and occasionally referred to by the New York Times and on NPR, ergo considered proper and correct.

From the linked Wikipedia, an accurate (and suitably condescending) summary of his argument:
In the second example, Gould points out that many people wrongly believe that the process of evolution has a preferred direction—a tendency to make organisms more complex and more sophisticated as time goes by. Those who believe in evolution's drive towards progress often demonstrate it with a series of organisms that appeared in different eons, with increasing complexity, e.g., "bacteria, fern, dinosaurs, dog, man". Gould explains how these increasingly complex organisms are just one hand of the complexity distribution, and why looking only at them misses the entire picture—the "full house". He explains that by any measure, the most common organisms have always been, and still are, the bacteria. The complexity distribution is bounded at one side (a living organism cannot be much simpler than bacteria), so an unbiased random walk by evolution, sometimes going in the complexity direction and sometimes going towards simplicity (without having an intrinsic preference to either), will create a distribution with a small, but longer and longer tail at the high complexity end.

All quite true, if we assume that the things we have seen are both the lower and upper limit. We became aware of bacteria, for example, only recently, and prions still more recently, through the use of certain technology. To conclude that life cannot be more simple (or just smaller) than bacteria (or prion chains, or however low you'd like to currently go) is foolish, temporally-bound, and even utterly unscientific. Just as it would be insulting to the all powerful God of the Bible to presume that you knew His thoughts about modern internet culture, or what He had done last Tuesday, it is insulting to science to presume that later technology will not reveal smaller, simpler forms of life. Gould, here, is as clever as a fourteenth century preacher declaring that illness is caused by invisible demons, rather than by bacteria, simply because he can't see the bacteria.

The Doors at the end of the Hallway

Confronted by a history of billions of years of refinement and awareness, Gould should be a bit more humble about his conclusions that he can see just how far down the rabbit hole goes--even more, though, confronted by a mere millennium of human technological advances, he should be at least unwilling to conclude that nothing smaller or less complex could be discovered. If a single-celled organism is simple life, is a lonely mitochondria simple life? What about one a thousand times smaller? If there can be undetectable superstrings, can there be life that small? These paragons of science should know better than to declare end results. Bacteria might not be the most numerous organisms out there. Beyond range of our telescopes, there could be six googol vacuum-breathing cat-creatures surviving, outnumbering all the bacteria now, or ever, on Earth. And beyond the range of our microscopes, there could be a mere fifteen micro-prions alive. Simpler than bacteria, but less numerous. It is Gould's faith alone that sets his lower boundary.

Just as Gould makes the errors of a fourteenth century barber-surgeon, screaming about demons instead of washing his hands, he also makes the mistake of an early cro magnon tribal leader, declaring that cro magnons are at the tip of the "longer tail at the high complexity end" (or a deinonychus shaman concluding that certain subsets of dinosaurs are life's maximum complexity). It certainly seems that way, to the barber-surgeon without a microscope, the cro magnon leader without a time machine, or the deinonychus shaman without the same, but their error is in believing that their own knowledge is conclusive. Any one of them could objectively examine their surroundings and draw the proper conclusion: the cro magnon could note his similarities to great apes, their similarities to monkeys, their similarities to predecessors, and so recognize that cro magnons were not an apex, but a stepping stone--they would later be "bested" by a different kind of organism.

The barber-surgeon could, by paying attention to infection rates, draw accurate conclusions about surgical hygiene and living conditions, and their relationship to illness, and thereby conclude that something smaller than he could see, but present on his hands, was causing him to spread infection (and causing the unclean homes of paupers to do the same).

Gould is in an even better position than they to realize his mistakes. Confronted by a worldwide network of printed and electronic information, he could easily realize that more powerful microscopes might be invented, revealing smaller, simpler life--or, entirely different technologies developed to detect larger, yet simpler, life than we are currently able to. "Modern man" might--despite how impressive it seems to Gould--be surpassed by countless more sophisticated species. One of these species might, then, travel to another star after Sol's supernova. Earth would be consumed in the supernova, along with all its bacteria, leaving the only life left being this more advanced species.

Even if technology fails to demonstrate simpler organisms than the bacteria we can currently identify, Sol's supernova, and the sterile escape of an advanced silicate race, promises that Gould's "full house" will only exist for a tiny span of time: the time of Earth's lifespan during which mammals existed alongside bacteria. For Gould to base an analysis of four billion years of life on such a "spread" is as temporally-centric and ignorant an attitude as any of Gould's British Imperial forefathers would have demonstrated toward the savagery of tribes in the New World that "lacked" the concept of land ownership.

Induction Versus Deduction

The conflict between Creationism, Market-Style Evolution, and Lightform Evolution is but a modern retelling of the ancient philosophical conflict between inductive and deductive reasoning. One of the many hidden philosophical battles in the early 21st century--as invisible to most average people as the vampire world to a background character in Blade or the real world to a background battery-human in The Matrix--is that of redefining "inductive" reasoning so that it is, essentially, the same as "deductive" reasoning.

Why? Well, the mass popularization of science began with attempts by religious men to prove the conclusions of the Bible. To do this, they utilized what was then known as inductive reasoning. In inductive reasoning, as it was known until then, a premise is presupposed as true, and a thinker uses the truth of that premise to draw conclusions that explain real-world observations. For example, Martin Priest encounters a woman pleasuring herself in a barn. Martin Priest has already accepted the premise that witchcraft exists, and that witches may be identified by signs of lust where no husband is present. Therefore, it is inductively reasonable that he kill her--the townsfolk stone her to death. His specific observation--that the woman was masturbating--is an opportunity to prove the truth of his premise, rather than to learn ("deduce") something new (such as that women are biological, sexual organisms, or that this particular woman had never married Satan).

Inductive reasoning led to many of the wonders of pre-Reformation science, such as the belief in Heaven above the clouds, the presence of the Firmament, and the validity of the Torah's commandments and the Gospel's advice. Because the Bible was accepted as true, scientists induced that the sun rotated around the Earth, and so forth: observation must fit premise.

Deductive reasoning is the opposite way of thinking: deductive reasoning involves deducing general premises and broad conclusions based upon observable facts: observable, duplicable, available-to-anyone, observable facts. Deductive reasoning involves deducing reality based upon things as they are, rather than on things as they should be. When Galileo used actual observation of the planets to draw conclusions about their position (and the position of Earth), his deductive reasoning was anathema to the inductive thinkers of the then-current order. So, he was punished. His crime was, as the Indigo Girls put it, "looking up the truth," or drawing a conclusion based upon what he saw, rather than on what experts pronounced. He's popular to remember right now, but many more deductive reasoners, and their work, have been dropped down the memory hole for failing to go along with induction.

Newspeaking Induction

Lately, embarrassed by the intrinsic connections between pop-science and pop-religion, neo-liberal thinkers have been revising word usage to scrub history clean. Like Newspeak, they revise the meaning of words in the attempt to make certain thoughts un-thinkable. Many dictionaries have not yet been changed, particularly older printed ones, and they still define "inductive reasoning" for what it is, while newer versions, approved for public consumption, allow that inductive reasoning is about "probabilities," rather than actual conclusions. This softening of the prose has made modern pop-scientists unable to contend with biblical creationism in debate or schoolroom settings--whatever they may strongarm Oxford Press into editing about "probabilities," there is absolutely no question to them that Market-Style Evolution is completely correct. "Induction," or "faith-based reasoning," has been deleted, replaced by Newspeak induction, or "science-based reasoning"--a meaningless term that will leave future generations in search of a word to use to describe the logic of wishful thinking.

For the purposes of this essay, we'll use the now-outdated forms of the words, because pop-scientists have not replaced the old "inductive" with an equivalent (they just scrubbed that definition completely clean of an associated term). "Inductive reasoning," here, means what it still does in some of the dictionaries: to draw a conclusion about the world based on the way you already know things should be. "Deductive reasoning," here, means what it did in the older dictionaries, as well as the newest: to draw a conclusion about the world based on an observation.

Title Match - Creationism v. Markets v. Lightform

So, we have some observations: 10 billion years of loose matter, forming gradually into more sophisticated arrangements, followed by 1-4 billion years of a fossil record filled with living creatures that progress from simple to complex forms, internally and externally, in tandem with their environments, the later forms better able to process available energy. How does each story of life deal with the evidence?

Old Creationism: Satan's trickery. God created everything really quickly, including all life as we see it now. Satan (or his knowing/unknowing dupes) created the fossil record to trick humans. We can induce this because we already know that the Bible is true.

New Creationism: God's plan. God created everything gradually, but quickly for Him, putting together all life as we see it now as part of a plan to get here to humans, the most complex organisms in creation, modeled after His image. We can induce this because we already know that the Bible is true.

Darwinism: Plants and Animals. Plants and animals on this island seem to be uniquely adapted to this environment. Ones not so adapted die off. We can deduce this from our observations. Things may be evolving in tandem with nature.

Market-Style Evolution: climb the corporate ladder, or go extinct. Everything happened randomly, and the best, toughest, and brightest creatures managed to survive through a winner-take-all deathmatch of the finest things in existence. We can induce this because we know evolution is random.

Lightform Evolution: the whole thing seems related. Over many billions of years, increasingly complex matter structures develop that provide increasingly advanced conduits for entrapping and channeling energy. We can deduce this because we observe organisms evolving in highly coordinated ways with their environments, including simultaneously with other organisms.

Darwin formed reasonable hypotheses given what he'd observed, and his theory of evolution could have developed in two different ways: down one path, concluding ahead of time that mutations must be random, inductive thinkers would come up with any means possible of explaining why missing pieces of evidence didn't matter, because evolution had to be random--it simply had to be.

Down another, deductive thinkers could go forward from the time of Darwin, and learn that evolution was occurring, and nature selecting, but not randomly. As paleontology and geology advanced, and a fossil record began to detail the billions of years prior to the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, showing integrative transitions, deductive thinkers would allow the hypothesis of evolution to evolve to include plants, animals, the air they breathed, and the ground upon which they walked. Instead of concluding that every detail of an initial hypothesis must be correct because it must be, they would allow further observation of the real world to evolve more refined hypotheses.

Superclusters

The inductive v. deductive debate occurs in cosmology, also. When a young priest, struggling to prove that God had created the world in a single instant, came up with the theory of the Big Bang--reasonless, purposeless, creation by fiat--astronomers spent decades using the Hubble redshift to demonstrate that galaxies were moving away from each other, ergo the Big Bang. Their calculations provided a universal age of about twenty billion years.

Everything went swimmingly (well, not really--there were massive problems, but disregard them for the time being) for a while until the superclusters were discovered: clusters of clusters of galaxies, so gigantic that they could not possibly have gravitationally formed in the time the Big Bang allowed for the universe's lifespan.

When confronted with the mathematical impossibility of this random creationism, Big Bang cosmologists spent years relying on authority alone (institutional prestige = debate win). After a time, a new generation of creationists addressed the issue in a way similar to how Dawkins and Gould finally condescended to explain how Market-Style Evolution simply had to work, despite its mathematical impossibility: they used the power of pure thought to induce the existence of "cosmic strings."

Cosmic strings--like dark matter, dark energy, and Higgs bosons--had never been observed, and will never be, but by the power of faith, many learned men were able to speak about them. They knew they existed. And those cosmic strings had spread out from the Big Bang, attracting clusters of galaxies and creating the superclusters, thereby saving their theory.

Once again, creationism was saved: because a theory had to be true, it would be declared true, even for lack of evidence. Confronted by a fossil record that did not bear out the truth of millions of years of random evolution, or massive, beautiful superclusters that would have taken hundreds of billions of years to form, pop-scientists made up, out of pure imagination, concepts that had never been observed, and declared them as weighty as if they had been products of science.

The Death of Evidence

When the fossil record was incomplete, it no longer mattered: Market-Style Evolution is right, therefore evidence is not needed to complete the theory. In fact--mind dizzyingly--the lack of evidence is even said to prove the theory, because it shows just how efficient the theory is. When superclusters of galaxies, or the relative weakness of gravity itself, disprove the Big Bang, it no longer mattered: the Big Bang Theory is right, therefore superclusters are wrong.

Popular scientists have now spent decades out of the laboratory. They write book after book of thought experiments, fantasizing about what the Big Bang was like, or how Market-Style Evolution works. They give interviews. They release scathing critiques of people too stupid and un-educated to agree with them. They facilitate international wealth transfers, starting tax-exempt foundations to influence politics and economies.

Decades earlier, scientists were expected to produce evidence supporting their hypotheses, and to discard hypotheses that were contradicted by observation, but no more. Now, in the post-industrial age, science is so wedded to wealthy nations, armies, and elites that evidence no longer matters. What matters is the end result: if a theory justifies the right kind of social structures, then the corporate media puts out books, magazines, reasonable mature talk shows, sitcoms, and movies drowning the world in its rightness, such that it warrants mockery to even begin questioning it. The ends justify the means. If you ask, "Why do they bomb Iraqi children?" and "Why do they impoverish their own people?" you will find a great part of the answer in the cold logical ends of Big Bang Creationism and Market-Style Evolution.

As in the Dark Ages, and as in almost all times in recorded human history, inductive "reasoning" is triumphant. Observation, self-study, self-worth, and wisdom gained from the world around you are not deemed important. Instead, the arch conclusions of Big Men set policy. Famous, powerful, well-degreed, well-bred men declare that weapons of mass destruction, missing links, and cosmic strings exist, and in the face of no evidence, those powerful men make the whole world cry for their preferred conclusions.

In Part 6, we'll integrate Market-Style evolution more with academia, medicine, exploitative economies, and essential philosophy, as promised earlier. From there, we'll move on to advanced hope: the light at the end of the tunnel of the New Dark Ages, and how Plasma Cosmology, Lightform Evolution, and Verse Structuring indicate what comes next.

8 comments:

  1. I thought the part on inductive vs. deductive was stronger than the evolution "preferences" part.

    There is an unlimited number of things that you can't prove do NOT (god, flying spaghetti monster, etc.), so too much speculation of what "else" could be there is not of interest to science (at least science as an "ideal type"). It can only work with models that have reasonable chance of being tested empirically. Science has obvious limits, and many of the ideologicla problems stem simply from forgetting, ignoring, or disguising those limits. So the problem is in putting science in service to power, rather than inherently in science.

    Also, I think you are at least partially unfair WRT to the importance of 'faith' in science. For example, the DNA was not discovered almost a century after Darwin. He was never able to explain HOW? did traits were inherited. But it was obvious that they were, so there "HAD" to be some mechanism to explain it. He didn't know what it was, but had all the right reasons to believe that it was there - and it was, as it turned out... This has happened many times in the history of science.

    So this is the big difference between the Gould crowd and the ancient preachers crowd - if actually confronted with evidence (if such is ever given a chance in the science-industrial complex...) - or the theoretically sound and potentially verifiable case for - simpler (or more complex) life, science will be forced to revise its conclusions. That it is admittedly easy for them to get carried away with what is currently known and go far beyond the data, does not mean that it inherently forecloses any further inquiry. And if we know the absolute physical limits of matter (planck's length) why can't we know them of life?). Viruses are now considered to be life forms too, so it's not like debate is foreclosed. Besides, we can actually see individual strands of DNA - so unless we change the definition of life, the microscopes are already pretty good. Heck, we even can see molecules, and the shadows cast by single atoms...

    More importantly, there are general things that we know that we know for sure, which have implications for things we don't yet know: for example, the laws of thermodynamics. We are only aware of one universe, and in it they are rock solid, and present the biggest challenge to your claim that life "more complex life processes energy increasingly more efficiently". Complex life is incredibly energy ineficient - it needs to feed on a long food chain of energy transmission, at each step of transformation energy is necessarily degraded/lost. It's ability to do work eventually drops to zero.

    there is no doubt that all this has hideous ideologial implications (in which scientists are unfortunately happy to indulge), but it doesn't necessarily mean that the science is inherently flawed.

    Also - space travel: the thought experiment is nice, but who cares if we/they actually escape earth? Ultimately the whole universe seems to be on track to wind down.

    Unfortunately, we may not have to worry about that - space travel as envisioned in sci-fi is impossible (energy again being the key limitation). There is a lot of emptiness beyond the Oort's cloud...

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    1. Speculation as to what could exist is what would separate positive religion, and positive science, from negative religion/science. It is intellectual humility to be able to admit that your sacred texts or preferred hypothesis is potentially flawed, or that someone else's sacred text or preferred hypothesis is potentially accurate. The inability to do that--the arrogance of unfounded certitude--is on display by Christian fundamentalists and pop-biologists, who each sneer at the soulless stupidity of those who don't agree with them.

      It's possible that evolution is random, and that, in a random, pointless universe, Earth achieved life in this way out of one in a googolplex^googolplex odds. The rules of "randomness" allow for that. So, the pop-biologists could be right. Evidence suggests that they're not, and suggests that alternative explanations are better, but it's possible.

      Accepting all these things as possible--some as "more supported," or "more likely," than others--we can apply a value judgment to the concepts for what they teach us.

      Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek, and to treat the lowest people as though they were God Himself, is an incredibly valuable, worthwhile concept, within the boundaries of a system that values human life. Even though there is little-to-no evidence of a "historical Jesus," we can value a few cherry-picked parts of the Bible as "good for positive human behavior."

      Market-Style Evolution, even if correct, is more like the Book of Leviticus. Like Leviticus, not only does it lack much supporting evidence, and seem incredibly unlikely to be "true," it's also highly toxic, value-wise.

      Leviticus encourages people to beat male homosexuals to death, resulting in centuries of horrible violence against real or imagined sexual behavior.

      Market-Style Evolution, and its Hobbesian predecessors--paeans to selfishness that have been with us long before Bright filth like Darwin--encourages people to believe that survival is possible only by outdoing other beings and driving them to extinction, resulting in zero sum resource grabs and centuries of colonialism, genocide, and geocide.

      You're correct that these hideous ideological implications don't mean that the science--or the religion--is inherently flawed. That's why it is so pleasant to note the dearth of transitory species in the fossil record, and to observe, year after year, no randomized evolution occurring that we can actually observe. Random evolution might still be right, but the evidence suggests the world is more likely to not be dog eat dog.

      More in-post later. :)

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    2. Ah yes... doubts and humility... :).
      How could you possibly have any, if the NIH budget alone is about $30 billions annually. With real money like that, doubt is not an option ;)

      My father is a pretty accomplished nuclear physicist, and he is a pretty interesting character study in this context. As a person, he is one of the cockiest assholes that have ever graced mother earth, and he has made his peace with shaky moral positions such as "the survival of the species is more important than the survival of the individual".

      On the other hand, as a scientist, I find him incredibly humble - he is still genuinely excited about the mystery, fairly confident in what is known, but extremely honest about all the stuff that is either not yet known or simply unknowable. So, as far as things such as cosmology, evolution, and the issues of the cosmos and life in general are concerned, he is very hesitant to even apply the word "science" to them...

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  2. I'd like to go back to Arka' s reference to Hobbes above only to say that of all the books I've read, Leviathan had more impact on me than almost everything else.

    His searing logic was simply a joy to observe as it unfolded.

    I also liked the picture on the frontispiece: http://faculty.etsu.edu/kortumr/HUMT2320/baroque2/adobejpgimages/09leviathanlarge.jpg

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    1. What kind of impact though? It seems that he and the other enlightenment thinkers made a massive mistake to assume that the types of humans they saw in their day represent "the initial condition" of man.

      In reality, what they saw (individualized, emancipating, independent individuals) were at the tail end of a long process of social development - and the further back in time you go, the more humans are integrated in tightly knit familial and cultural communities cooperating on survival...

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  3. I think the biggest impact Leviathan had on me was to open my eyes. Whether he was correct or incorrect in some normative sense wasn't the important point.

    Rather, the feeling I got was something akin to seeing Saturn through a telescope for the first time and being godsmacked by its frightening beauty, while at the same time realizing, 'Oh, there are other worlds out there.'

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  4. What about this one --> observed evolution from unicellular to multicellular organism in 350 generations:

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=122828

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    1. It's a validation of Lightform Evolution, because it demonstrates how quickly organisms evolve in unison when they are put, together, into an environment with specific conditions. Like the preferred end result of Dawkins' model, the scientists segregated multicellular mutations, preferencing them, then providing special new environments to stimulate them. If intelligent life develops from those laboratories after we all blow ourselves up, the "intelligent design" advocates in that culture will be vindicated by evidence of the humans who specially cultured their predecessors' evolution.

      As to Market-Style, the experiment is detrimental. It begs the question; it interferes in the natural process by refusing early forms of the mutation the challenge of competing with pre-existing life forms.

      Comparing what they did to natural selection would be like calling "untouched" an Amazonian tribe that has adapted to industrial deforestation of their ancestral homeland, as well as the regular visits of Christian missionaries. No surprise, then, that western anthropologists are fond of calling such tribes "untouched evidence of what our past was like." They are not evidence of "our past"--they are, instead, evidence of that tribe's present, and it's paternalistic and insulting (as well as illogical) to use contaminated samples to draw conclusions about non-contaminated ones.

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