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Materialism will always turn on itself 
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Post Re: Materialism will always turn on itself
Robert wrote:
The thread title does not relate to the article, which freely admits that many readers consider its argument to be idiotic. Of course fitness is a function of attunement to reality. For example at the end of the dinosaur age small mammals proved fit for the reality of the asteroid winter, and therefore survived and evolved.


I think my prior hunch is close. There are times when we aren't precisely tuned to reality, and instead skew what we see or believe for fitness reasons. These areas that are skewed are called biases, and are well documented. The author of the article is merely approaching this from a new angle.


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Fri Sep 30, 2016 6:18 am
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Post Re: Materialism will always turn on itself
Interbane wrote:
There are times when we aren't precisely tuned to reality, and instead skew what we see or believe for fitness reasons.
You are using a non-evolutionary concept of fitness here. In evolution, fitness is an analytic concept, defined tautologically as seen from the successful genes of cumulative adaptation. Therefore just because we imagine that a trait is adaptive, we do not in fact know this to be the case for the future, since something that seems adaptive in the absence of a threat can prove maladaptive when the facts change.
Interbane wrote:
These areas that are skewed are called biases, and are well documented.
An example is the belief that low-fat diets are healthy. People imagine they become fit by eating food labelled as low fat, but modern medicine is suggesting that the traditional high carb food pyramid fails to address how sugars and fats metabolise differently. But that just illustrates that an idea about fitness is untrue, if the science is that high sugar and starch diets produce worse results with heart disease and cancer and obesity and diabetes.

The same principle applies in genetic evolution: megafauna of the Americas and Australia seemed to have high fitness, but were not adapted to the emergence of human hunters – a new reality - and went extinct. The point is that apparent fitness may not be real fitness. So for humans, if we wish to remain fit to live on earth, it is essential to study reality and adapt to it, not complacently imagine that our dreams are true.
Interbane wrote:
The author of the article is merely approaching this from a new angle.

Consider ant’s quote that he sees as a refutation of materialism: "Given an arbitrary world and arbitrary fitness functions, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness."
The concept of "an organism that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness" is logically absurd. To be tuned to fitness is to see reality.
Materialism essentially argues that nothing trumps the laws of physics. Arguing otherwise suggests there is a supernatural power that could prove human knowledge of physics is incorrect. It is reasonable to say knowledge is partial, but it is fanciful speculation to assert that scientific knowledge is incorrect, since the evidentiary methods of science provide the highest available standard of knowledge. The real problem of "an organism that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness" applies far less to materialism than to religious mythology, which develops ideas that seem to be fit but which often conflict with evidence.

As well, for materialism, “fitness functions” are not “arbitrary”, but are assessed methodically against evidence to develop a consistent explanation of the evolutionary fossil record. Evolutionary biology is materialist, and presents our best available framework to assess what traits are fit. If anything "will always turn on itself", popular religious ideology will, since its values are determined more by popularity than by accuracy.


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Post Re: Materialism will always turn on itself
Robert wrote:
You are using a non-evolutionary concept of fitness here. In evolution, fitness is an analytic concept, defined tautologically as seen from the successful genes of cumulative adaptation.

Here's an example of what came to mind when I read the article. Someone eating a specific type of food then dying, and everyone who knew them refrains from eating that food for fear that it was the cause. Even though others had eaten the food in the past and were perfectly healthy. There is bias at play here. The reality behind cause and effect is dismissed in favor of bias.

Is this sort of bias not a fitness function? Has it not passed down the genetic stream because it imparted success on our ancestors?


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 Re: Materialism will always turn on itself
Yes, remember tomatoes were considered poisonous for several hundred years in Europe, now they're a staple in many healthy diets.

If I understand Donald Hoffman's main points in the Ted Talk, he compares our view of reality with someone who confuses a computer desktop interface with the actual inner workings of a computer. No, your documents are not literally stored in a blue colored folder labeled "dox" that opens when you double-click on it. And no, files that are being downloaded do not actually have blinking status bars, etc. etc.

Granted our views of nature have many illusions and distortions, but Hoffman takes it to an extreme, claiming even data from the Hubble telescope, the Cern LHC collider, or the Chandra X-ray observatory are not exploring behind the "desktop interface" to view an underlying reality. No, that scientific data is just like holding a magnifying glass to a monitor and claiming computers are made up of pixels.

That brings up a lot of problems. If we can't see beyond the false front of reality, how is it possible to falsify Hoffman's statements? And how would it be possible to prove them? As far as I can tell, the only information Hoffman has to support his hypothesis are numerous computer simulations related to evolution. We need MUCH stronger evidence than simulations to prove something so radical. As Adam Frank (author of the original linked article) says, "It's gonna take a lot of proof to tip the scales in my (and most others') view."

However if reality is indeed veiled and we somehow manage to sweep that aside and look beyond the "desktop interface", Hoffman says scientific investigations would continue. The "desktop interface" problem makes no claims for the supernatural.



Sun Oct 02, 2016 3:57 pm
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