Saturday, January 05, 2008


Universal Basis For Science And Religion, Remark 1

Universal Basis, Remark 1

A sense of the import of the Spencerian and Darwinian Models can be obtained from looking at the Gaussian probability curve. The Spencerian model that says "Survival of the Fittest" says, in effect, that fitness can be represented by a single number with a probability distribution something like the gaussian in the figure. Then "The Fittest" would be something like the dark section on the right and only they would contribute to the future population of the species. The rest of the existing population is "junk" and can be discarded as far as evolution is concerned.

The Darwinian model, on the other hand, says "The Non-survival of the Unfit", which says that the dark area on the left makes no contribution, and all the rest of the population contributes to future populations. This not only avoids classifying most of the present population as junk, but it says that cooperation and altruism would decrease the number that are "unfit" and garner their possible contributions to the species.

The American Presidency is an interesting experiment in the Spencerian model: two families, the Adams' and the Bush's have demonstrated genetic successors in that office, and the Adams line faded after one generation and the Bush line resulted in a disasterous war. If nothing else that would demonstrate the inadequacy of the Spencerian model.



I want to use this for a logo for something, maybe Western Civilization. Lets see what it looks like.

It may be a Tenniel copy of a Dodo that he used as an illustration in Alice. I like it. He knows as little about what's coming as we do.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Universal Basis For Science And Religion, Part 3b, Evolution (Continued)

Universal Basis For Science And Religion, Part 3b, Evolution (Continued)

If the environment changes there is no provision exept extinction under the Spencerian model because the individual who is "fittest" in the original environment, i.e., the one who best fits that circumstance, is not likely to fit the changed environment. Therefore the only things that survive in the Spencerian model are those whose environment never changed. Since even the creationists believe in the flood, it is unlikely that the environment all over the earth never changed.

Let us consider a species that is more tolerant of environmental changes. This is represented by Fig. 3. In equilibrium, the survival zone will be filled with individuals who are just barely able to survive or fitter. If the environment changes, there will be some individuals who will not be able to survive, but there will be others who will survive more easily. Eventually the survival zone will fill. If the environment continues to change, as long as it changes less than the dimension of the survival zone in a generation, the survival zone will continue to be filled. It is thus possible to get a new population that is different enough from the original population as to constitute a new species.

In some cases the survival zone will expand, for instance when a flood connects two bodies of water or a land bridge opens up. In the period after that the new survival zone will fill up with as many variations on the original population that will just barely survive in the new zone, as shown in Fig. 4. This provides an explanation for the variety of creatures in the Burgess shale. That would not happen under the Spencerian model because none of the variants would be "the fittest" in the original environment.

This provides the difference between the Spencerian and Darwinian models with regard to variations and mutations. In the Spencerian Model a mutation cannot survive unless the mutant is is "the fittest" in its present environment; but in the Darwinian Model the mutation merely needs to be barely able to survive in the original environment. A Spencerian mutation has to provide an immediate advantage; a Darwinian mutation merely has to avoid doing significant harm. A Darwinian mutation can be carried in a population for generations before it provides a survival advantage.

In fact this shows that complexity, by itself, has an evolutionary function, because a complex structure can tolerate many more variations that may not be advantageous but do no particular harm.

In addition, this provides an explanation for the advantage of cooperative behavior. Cooperation increases the survival zone for the breeding population, even if it does not provide a competitive advantage for a particular individual. Cooperation, and even altruism, are survival qualities for a population. There are animals that survive as individuals, but there are also many animals that live in groups and derive a survival advantage from that behavior. This is consistent with the Darwinian Model but not with the Spencerian Model.

The Intelligent Design Model is unnecessary because the Darwinian Model provides for complexity of form without the assumption of a supernatural designer. The Spencerian Model is unscientific because it does not explain phenomena like the Burgess Shale and cooperation as well as the Darwinian Model. But why do these models retain their popularity?

The Spencerian Model is popular among academic, and other, bureaucrats because it provides a justification for hierarchical systems. That allows the bureaucrats to consider themselves superior (i.e., more "fit") than the people they are supposed to serve. It also provides a justification for racism and classism. Similarly, Intelligent Design provides a basis for belief that the status quo was created by a divine fiat, and that therefore those in high status were placed there by divine decree. The Darwinist Model explains that all the individuals in a breeding population contribute to its survival, so that democratic rather than feudal institutions are more natural.

It will, therefore, be difficult to get people in authority in the present bureaucratic systems to adopt the Darwinist Model as "scientific". It does, however, provide an explanation for the evolution of human behavior.


A Universal Basis For Science And Religion, Part 3a, Evolution

A Universal Basis For Science and Religion, Part 3a, Evolution

As we said in part 2, the best way to make choices among the repertoire of human behaior is to use the methods of science. As far as we can tell there were three general periods which were characterized by styles of behavior: the paleolithic, in which we survived by gathering and hunting, and which laster 50,- to 100,000 years; the post-Neolithic, in which we practiced agriculture, and which lasted 8- to 10,000 years, and the Industrial, which has lasted the last 500 years or so and in which we made extensive use of devices in manufacturing. In the paleolithic we organized ourselves into small, conformist groups; in the post-Neolithic we created urban structures with a hierarchical organization. The industrial era may only have been a transition that might yet return us to the egalitarian organization of the paleolithic but on a global, rather than tribal, basis; but we can't be exactly sure how we will get past the present period of regression. It may be that the whole time since the Neolithic Revolution was a transition period between two stable periods, the paleolithic and post-Industrial, but we won't be sure for a while. In any case the most stable period we know of, and the one least influenced by the accidents of technological development, is the paleolithic; so we can use that to provide the key to the systematics of human behavior.

Unfortunately, we can't observe ourselves in a paleolithic state. Peoples that still live in a hunter-gatherer economy are to some degree in contact with modern technology, even if that is only metal implements. What we can do is find a theory of evolution that will describe human development from the most primitive cultures to the present, and see if that will give us some indication of what the fundamentals of behavior are like.

There are three models of evolution that can be applied to human behavior. All claim to be scientific, but only one is accepted by academic students of evolution: the Spencerian model based on "Survival of the Fittest". In the New York Times of January 13, 2007, Dr. Michael Tomasello, the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology wrote: "Evolutionary theory tells us that, in general, the only individuals who are around today are those whose ancestors did things that were beneficial to their own survival and reproduction". This is a weak form of Spencer's "Survival of the Fittest". He also wrote:
"We are still a long way from figuring out why humans evolved to do so many complicated things together: from building houses to creating universities to fighting wars."

There is a distinct difference between science and ideology and it is demonstrated by these quotes. We can be grateful that Dr. Tomasello was naive enough to see nothing wrong in what he said. If the Spencerian model was actually judged by scientific criteria it would have been junked because it doesn't explain cooperation, the primary basis of human survival. It is accepted because it allows academics to believe that they are superior to (i.e., "fitter" than) their students and the student's parents.

Unfortunately they are "fitter" as surviving in the academic bureaucracy, so that the non-academics have no response except religion. The model based on the creation of all present living forms by an "intelligent designer" who also created artificial fossils to fool paleontologists is primarily a religious model, but it makes an argument that sounds scientific when it says that complex forms will not evolve without special creation.

The third model is based on Darwin's initial concept: "Non-survival of the unfit". This phrasing seems like it states the same principle as Spencer's model, but we will see that there is a significant difference. If we put it in the same form as Spencer's model it is: "Survival of the Just-Barely-Fit and Fitter". That shows the difference: Spencer's model says that the only one that survives is "The Fittest"; whereas Darwin's model speaks to the survival of a substantial fraction of the breeding population. Since this is what normally happens, it is clear that Darwin's model is more descriptive of experience than Spencer's.

{There are explanations on [] and [] if the explanation below is inadequate.}

We can represent the way evolution works by considering Fig. 1. A prey animal will be more likely to be found if it is colored like the environment: if it is too light or too dark it will be seen too easily. But even if it is seen it may survive if it can run faster, but if it is structured to run too fast it will need more calories to survive. This will produce a "survival zone" in the space whose dimensions are coloration and speed. Individuals from any part of the zone may meet and their offspring may fall within the zone and survive to have offspring of their own, or outside the zone and leave no offspring. In the long run this will let the whole zone be populated on the average.

Figure 2 shows the case where the environment is intolerant of variation in one dimension: if the environment changes none of the then present generation will survive. This is what happens when a species goes extinct.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Universal Basis For Science and Religion, Part 2

Universal Basis, Part 2 - Free Will

Aside from a lack of imagination, there would be no reason not to assume that we have free will. We certainly feel like we have free will because we are upset when we can't do everything we want. We certainly act like we have free will because we make choices whenever we are allowed to by circumstances. We act like other people have free will because we expect them to take responsibility for their actions. The only reason to assume that we don't is because we have a primitive religion with an omniscient God that has the same perceptual limitations that we do. A more sophisticated religion has no trouble accommodating free will and omniscience.

Consider a sequence of events that represents the life of an individual. At each point that represents a decision, there will be different sequences that represent the repertoire of choices allowed by the circumstances. The next point on each of those sequences that represents a decision will have its own repertoire of choices. But there is no reason why an omniscient entity (who we will call a "Deus ex Machina" or DeM) can't be aware of all of them. We can also look backward at all the paths that connect the initial point to the various past point that might precede it in a sequence. Finally we can consider all the points in the life-sequence of anything that has a life-equivalent, like a pebble that gets worn down as it rolls down the bed of a river. If we combine all of those sequences for everything that has suffered, is suffering or will suffer any changes, we can call that the history of the universe. A DeM with omniscience will perceive that history as something static. If we can imagine a DeM with that kind of perception, surely God, if a God exists, must have at least that extensive perception even if God may perceive other things that have no relationship to us or our universe.

However, that level of perception makes other powers irrelevant. Omnipotence, for instance, would be exhibited by making a change in the history of the universe. But if a DeM already perceives everything that represents a possible event in that history there is no point in the DeM changing something in such a way that it results in something that, to the DeM, already exists. It is like rotating a perfect sphere: no matter how you hold it, it looks the same. No matter what a DeM might do to the History of the Universe it always looks the same; so there is no point in doing it.

The effect that this has on religion is that if there is no point in a DeM (or God, if a God exists) doing anything to change the history of the Universe that it perceives, there is no point in our doing anything in particular to try to manipulate the DeM (or God) into doing anything. No acts of behavior like prayer or ritual is going to manipulate the DeM (or God) to do anything that will change the history of the Universe.

However, there are plenty of actions we take that can have an effect on us, some of which will affect the particular life-sequence that we perceive. The trick is to figure out what actions to take that will be the most effective.

The best way we know to do that is to seriously apply the methods of science to what choices we make, i.e., to invent a science of human behavior, which is to say create a model of human behavior that is self-sustaining and beneficial.


Universal Basis For Science and Religion

I'm going to start a new blog around the concept of a Universal Basis. I'll probably drop some of the other blogs.

A Universal Basis For Science And Religion

The key is that the more difficult things about doing science, especially on the fundamental level, is that one has to "believe in" science as it is practiced in the present, while, at the same time, searching for some instance in which science as practiced is "wrong" or, at least, incomplete. You have to be prepared to "believe in" and "not believe in" science at the very same time.

This technique is not entirely unknown in religion. If one reads the literature of Zen Buddhism one keeps running into the idea that having the insight of "Satori" makes it unnecessary to "believe in" Buddhism as practiced, yet unless one "believes in" Buddhism one does not have the spiritual basis necessary to attain Satori because only Buddhism is consistent with Satori. It is reasonable to believe that that paradox is somehow necessary (but not sufficient) to the attainment of Satori.

The reason this seems to work is that science is not a description of the universe as it is, but is, instead, a description of a model of the universe that is self-consistent; i.e., that is consistent with the accepted logical (and preferably mathematical) description of all the experienced physical phenomena that we are aware of at a particular time and place in the history of the universe. We could not, for instance, recognize the physical phenomena that are described by quantum mechanics until we recognized that the darkening of photographic film by pitchblende was caused by a previously unrecognized form of radiation, and that phenomenon wasn't observable until we had created photographic film and mined pitchblende.

We can reasonably expect that there will be phenomena that are observed in the future that will require changes in the scientific model of the universe that we use today. We should also expect that the religious models that were used yesterday will not necessarily fit the phenomena we observe today.

This will be difficult for theologians because the tradition in religion is to follow the insights of some particular individual at a particular time and place. That individual will articulate those insights in terms of the common perceptions of the time and place (or, if he does not, they will be recorded in terms of those perceptions) and, in general, the religion that results will not have a convenient mechanism for adjusting those insights and perceptions to the changed circumstances of other times and places.

But there is no reason why religious models can't be adjusted the way scientific models are. We give great respect to Isaac Newton for his insights into classical mechanics, but we feel free to use the insights of Einstein and the quantum theorists in the areas where those modification of classical mechanics work better. There is no reason why we can't respect Jesus and Mohammed and Gautama and Lao Tzu, and their insights, and still find modifications of the systems of behavior that they inspired. The trick is to know how to do that in a way that works as well as the modifications of science we have made in the last few centuries.

On the other hand we do not discard the scientific models of the past simply because they don't explain everything. We use 19th century classical statics and dynamics as the basis for civil engineering, and we find that the 19th century model of the universe is good enough for constructing buildings and bridges and machinery. It seems reasonable to retain the existing religious models to the extent that they work, i.e., to apply to those models the same kind of criteria that we use for scientific models.

What we will find is that when we start to apply scientific criteria to religion, we have to look at certain aspects of science that have become so ideological that they are more like primitive religions than the sciences they pretend to be.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Science and Theology

One of the more difficult things about doing science, especially on the fundamental level, is that one has to "believe in" science as it is practiced in the present, while, at the same time, searching for some instance in which science as practiced is "wrong" or, at least, incomplete. The reason one can do that at all is that science is not a description of the universe but is, instead, a description of a model of the universe that is self-consistent; i.e., that is consistent with the accepted logical (and preferably mathematical) description of all the experienced physical phenomena that we are aware of.

The intent is to make that model as close to experienced reality and as consistent with itself, as possible; but historical (i.e., no longer valid) versions of that model may well be useful for pracical purposes.

As an example, civil engineering is built on classical statics and dynamics. When it uses quantum effects, such as the straightness of laser beams, it uses them as tools whose properties are stated a priori and in classical terms. Classical mechanics is simply "good enough" for the purposes of civil engineering without being a description of how each particular atom and molecule contributes to the final result.

Any version of science is "good enough" if it is a model that is consistent with itself and with those prior scientific models that are fundamental and accepted, and which is also consistent with those experiences of reality that have not been adequately modeled. Because science is a model of reality rather than a description of it, it is entirely possible for an area of science to be "good enough for all practical purposes" and still not be a completely satisfactory explanation of experienced phenomena: electrical curcuit theory, for instance, is "good enough" for the purpose of building most of the electrical and electronic devices we use and still not explain the phenomenon of superconductivity or even ordinary conductivity.

There are places where models of differing sophistication intrude on one another. There are instances in classical thermodynamics where thermodynamic constants that can be measured by 19th century laboratory equipment can only be explained by recourse to quantum mechanical models. They remained mysterious until the quantum model was invented.

So we have to look at science as being composed of many levels of sophistication, some of which are "good enough" for practical purposes and other levels that may be more sophisticated and explain more phenomena, but may not be necessary for many purposes. On the other hand, a school of thought claiming to be a "science" but that does not explain a commonly observed phenomenon is not a science but an ideology that can be called a "pseudoscience". We will demonstrate this phenomenon later in the case of Spencerian Evolution.

Theology is normally an ideology. It is generally not a pseudoscience to the extent it does not claim to explain those physical phenomena that are the subject of common experience. Instead, it generally makes certain statements that are believed to originate (or be about) some kind of supernatural entity, and which are therefore a priori "true".

There is no problem if that "theological truth" is consistent with ordinary experienced reality or even the more sophisticated kinds of scientific reality. If that "truth" is inconsistent with common experience there is a conflict that may be difficult to resolve. In that case the conflict will usually be called a "mystery" that is inherently unexplainable by ordinary human beings. In other words it is accepted that ordinary human beings are too stupid to find a way to make theological truth consistent with ordinary experience or scientific truth.

If we look at the history of science we see the progressive development of models that constitute more and more sophisticated descriptions of experienced phenomena. The history of theology, on the other hand, shows no significant progress in the sophistication of thinking about God. Any god-based theology is locked into the model of god that is adopted by the founder of the religion using that theology, and there is seldom anyone with sufficient authority within that religion to make a significant change in the qualities of their god. What, if anything, happens is that a new religion, with a new model of god, replaces the old and then that religion freezes its ideas as of the date of its founding.

This succession of slightly different models of god, each proclaimed as an absolute truth by a religious founder or reformer, makes it hard to believe in any model of god. Science, on the other hand, when the contemporary content of science is recognized as a model, and where the normal activity of scientists is to make that model an even more precise description of the universe by changing it, gets more and more believable as it gets more sophisticated.

It is possible to create a theology that is as believeable as science because it meets the same criteria that science does. That theology can be considered a model of the universe as experienced by a being or beings whose qualities are different from ours.

Let us consider a "Deus Ex Machina", or DEM, that is Omniscient in that it knows everything that happens, has happened or will happen in our universe. In that case there are two possible circumstances that are of significance to us: that we have "free will" or we don't have "free will".

If we don't have "free will" then there is no point in doing or saying anything about the DeM (or, for that matter,the universe) because everything is predestined. We don't have to make any decisions because those decisions won't have any effect. That circumstance is of no theological interest because we will just believe what we are predestined to believe. Scientists will "discover" what they are predestined to discover, no matter what they think they are doing. That circumstance doesn't merit thinking about.

If we do have "free will" then we can use our cognitive abilities to propose a set of qualities for a DeM that is consistent with our experience. If one of those qualities is omniscience, then the DeM must be aware of all of the possible choices we might make, i.e., the repertoire of possibilities that we can choose from.

We can model the life we experience as a sequence of events in which each possible decision point is a transition between a single path in and a multiple path out. Each of those multiple paths leads to another decision point with its own repertoire of choices. We can consolidate this model by combining all those decision points that are experienced as identical so that the path up to the decsion point is the aggregation of all the past paths that result in that point, and the path away from that point includes all the possible results of a decision at that point. This aggregation, made for every decision point touched by the possible decisions, can be called the "lifeline" of the deciding individual. It can be represented by a series of matrices that represent the transformation of one decision point to the next.

We can consider the aggregation of all the lifelines of all the entities in the universe that have a "lifeline" in the sense that they occupy different states at various points in time (e.g., an entity posessing "life", a volcanic ejecta cooling down, a canyon produced by erosion, or anything whose qualities change over time). We can call this aggregated lifeline the history of the Universe.

If a DeM has omniscience it must at least have the history of the Universe as part of its experience. It may or may not have other experiences that do not relate to the Universe we experience, but those experiences are meaningless to us. One presumes that God has at least the qualities of that kind of DeM, whatever other qualities God might have.

Another quality considered appropriate for a God is omnipotence. If we consider the DeM that has omniscience, omnipotence can be defined as the ability to change the history of the universe from one state to another state. Since the history of the universe already includes all the possible states that can come into existance, there is no point in changing it. To the DeM any change would be like rotating a perfect sphere--whatever changed state that results in looks the same as the starting position.

So there is no point, for example, in asking the DeM to change one's circumstances, i.e., move one's awareness to a different lifeline. But what that DeM would do would make no change perceptible to us. If that personality already exists in that other lifeline then it would simply continue to experience itself as it was, memories and all, and the personality on the original lifeline that we now experience as ours would simply continue to experience itself as before. If one asks the DeM to transform oneself to a lifeline that the DeM had not already experienced, it would be impossible because the DeM already experienced all the possible states of the universe. For example, if you asked the DeM to allow you to live in the core of a sun, that state of the universe is simply inconsistent with the rules by which our observed universe operates.

So the DeM has no need for omnipotence, because any change that is consistent with the rules of the universe has already been experienced by the DeM, and any hypothetical change that would result in a state that is not cnsistent with the rules of the universe would not be made by a consistent DeM. We can say that even if we don't know what all of the rules governing the state of the universe are.

Since a god would at least have the qualities of the DeM, no matter what qualities it has that are irrelevant to us, there is no point in the god being omnipotent. It would simply be irrelevant.

At the same time it is irrelevant for us to ask the god to do anything because that action would merely change the history of the universe into itself. Thus it is irrelevant for us to perform actions or refrain from performing actions in such a way that the result will be that the god will perform or refrain from performing some action. Actions like prayer or the performance of ritual are irrelevant to our lifelines except for the effect that they have on us.

On the other hand, actions by us that provide a benefit or do an injury to ourselves, some other person, or aggregate of persons, or our species, can be analyzed by the methods of science to create a model of behavior that is desireable or undesireable. This topic is still under active consideration by biological and behavioral scientists. We can consider that in terms of whether it is more desireable to act in terms of our individual benefit (i.e., Spencer's "Survival of the Fittest") or the benefit of our species (i.e., Darwin's "Non-survival of the Unfit").

We will discuss that in this context in future blogs. In the meantime there is a version of the relevant argument in "Wholly Holistic Evolution, Mr. Darwin" [] or "What Now?" [].

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