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Selective pressures 
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Post Selective pressures
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No way. A selective pressure is a factor in the environment that determines if a trait or a genetic line will continue or not. CO2 emissions are the biggest factor in our environment determining if humans will go extinct, given that business as usual is already producing disruptive climate change and it will steadily get far worse without policy reversal.


I'd like to see what the gene for "climate denial" looks like. :)

The jews that were massacred under Hitler shared a common ideology. Do you think there was a common gene behind that ideology? Even though our issue is associated with an environmental factor(co2), the selective advantage for our species is how we handle the problem ideologically. If and when the Earth heats up, then our environment will apply a selective pressure. Or perhaps the selective pressure will be rising sea levels and the tangible effects from that. As it stands right now, the pressure is ideological.

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Humans are near unique in the evolution of terrestrial life in having language to understand and avoid selective dangers. On the model of baboons having different words for snake, leopard and eagle, we have different words for carbon dioxide and methane. These trace gasses are threats to our survival, but we can turn them to advantage through deliberate evolution of political systems. We can use our brains to adapt to our environment, exactly the same process as humans used over paleological time scales to evolve big brains. Big brains are for making wise decisions about how to survive.


But Robert, that's exactly what I'm saying. Our big brains don't need to change for us to solve this issue. If you claim there is a tangible physical selective pressure that would alter brain chemistry, then I'd like to hear the hypothesis. Because even if "stubborness" is a trait that would be selected against in the upcoming ideological battle, those stubborn people will not die. They will have offspring. When ideas are selected against, it is the death of an idea, not the death of the holder of the idea.


Interbane wrote:
In this respect, genetics and information are distinct. Ideas can be selected for or against, at the same time that no selective pressure is applied to our genes.


Quote:
Eventually ideas apply selective genetic pressure. Diamond gives the example of state peace. Without a state enforcing peace, humans face very different selective pressures, seen in the culture of non-state societies. But at what point does this become genetic rather than just cultural? On the model of how concern for maternal health is leading to slow narrowing of hips, genetically, it must necessarily be the case that the social structure in which we live ultimately determines long term genetic success. Genes that are incompatible with their niche get weeded out by natural selection. Cultural evolution is so much faster than genetic evolution, but the two are necessarily linked.


In what way would "concern for a sustainable energy source" translate into selective pressure on genes? Concern is an ideological characteristic. If it were concern for "red-haired people", or concern for some other phenotype or phenotypic extension, then the two would be necessarily linked. Or perhaps if the sustainable energy source you had in mind were matrix-style human batteries. But as it stands, the concern you mention is entirely ideological.


Quote:
The gene for avoiding threats. See leopard, hide or run away. See scientific data, adjust energy systems.


Which of us dies when a portion has the correct gene? The genes will not be selected against when one ideological party wins the debate. Unless winning the debate also includes slaughtering the losers. A leopard kills a single person without the gene. The threat you're referring to would be indiscriminate, not causally linked to the gene for threat avoidance. It would affect us all. However, a gene for "paranoia" may in fact be causally linked, showing up in people who survive the coming dystopia in underground bunkers filled with food and sex slaves.


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That is absurd Interbane. Our brains are finite entities on a finite planet, with permutation bounded by planetary reality. Not anything like infinite, except as rhetoric.


The concept of a permutation is rhetoric. I wasn't speaking of a literal person having an infinite number of ideas, nor the current state of affairs. I was speaking of the environment for ideas, of the possibilities. Possible array vs existing array. In any case, it isn't central to my point.



Quote:
The meme/gene boundary is blurred. A meme indicates a change in the niche, the invisible tao, which will eventually filter through to physical structures with real genetic effect, even recognising the very slow pace of genetic evolution.


Is that necessarily the case? I know of all the examples where it has happened, you don't need to list them. But is it a necessity? I don't think it is. I believe that in some arenas, there is no connection in the selective pressure of ideas to the selective pressure of genes. Consider all the ideas that have failed over time. All the old science, all the old philosophy. All that has long since been considered false, or outdated. Has any of this information gone extinct in parallel with genetic change, even in some barely detectable fashion? I would say no, and I'm right there with you on how even the slightest of environmental factors eventually leads to a genetic change. They are simply two different fields of play.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
The consensus (that word again) seems to be that evolution doesn't go in reverse, that once a species has changed its structure under selective pressure, it won't return to the former state. Is this perhaps relevant to distinguishing between physical and cultural evolution, since with ideas or ideology we see an undulating course in which recycling and reversal of ideas seems to be the rule? The ideas unmoor themselves from bodies quite easily, making it doubtful that they can be such decisive factors in the human's ability to outbreed others operating with a different set of ideas. If it occurred, this would be at the group level, anyway, which is still controversial.



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Post Re: Selective pressures
Interbane wrote:
I'd like to see what the gene for "climate denial" looks like. :)
The issue here is how selective pressures are operating on human evolution today. This means that various things in our environment operate as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for human flourishing. We can measure the power of these selective pressures through the collection of data. A strength will allow a trait to grow, while a weakness will cause it to decline. An opportunity is a new and innovative path which can allow cultural memetic mutation into a new area of strength. A threat is something such as war, famine or plague that can bring significant destruction.
Threats can be identified and handled. If a species lacks genetic capacity to respond effectively to a threat, that is proof that the selective pressure posed by that threat was too severe, and therefore that the species was not genetically adaptive for the new changed environment. This is a main cause of extinction.
With climate change, I compared the threat of global warming with the meteor that extincted the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs lacked capacity to predict and respond, for example through telescopes and rockets that could have identified and shifted the meteor to a non-lethal path, as we would do today. If dinosaurs were a bit smarter they would still be alive today.
We have capacity to identify, predict and respond to the threat of climate change. However, there are a bunch of human traits, summed up in climate denial, that are preventing adequate response, and so producing the real threat of human extinction or collapse as a result of catastrophic climate change. Yes these negative traits have a genetic basis. One part of it is a wide capacity to respond to what is visible and to ignore threats that are invisible. Only when invisible threats start to manifest do we respond. So denial is genetically programmed.
Use of logic and evidence as a primary basis for decisions is a trait that has proved itself immensely powerful with the rise of science. But logic is not pervasive in human psychology, and illogical traits that had adaptive value in earlier times constrain us from moving to a purely scientific decision process. This is a memetic problem for cultural evolution. A new meme, such as the need for global action to stabilise CO2 level, fights against old memes which have strong genetic purchase that hinder this new meme.
Only the new meme is adaptive to the selective pressure imposed by climate change, whereas reliance on the old meme would cause collapse.
Interbane wrote:
The jews that were massacred under Hitler shared a common ideology. Do you think there was a common gene behind that ideology?
Not true, Jewish people killed under Hitler were extremely diverse in ideology, ranging from atheist to fundamentalist, and from shtetl to metropolis. There were memetic factors in Jewish culture, and in the broad culture of racism that made the genocide possible. What is hypothetically relevant here is that it is conceivable that Jews could have analysed the threat of Hitler more clearly, and adopted strategies to both reduce anti-Semitism in the wider community and prevent Hitler coming to power. Anti-Semitism in this context can be understood as a selective pressure operating on Jews, constraining how they can live and influencing their lives. How long that memetic selective pressure might take to exhibit a genetic effect is hard to say, but cultural traits such as marrying in and retention of strong cultural identity would accelerate genetic change.
Interbane wrote:
Even though our issue is associated with an environmental factor(co2), the selective advantage for our species is how we handle the problem ideologically. If and when the Earth heats up, then our environment will apply a selective pressure. Or perhaps the selective pressure will be rising sea levels and the tangible effects from that. As it stands right now, the pressure is ideological.
But, if a selective pressure manifests as sea level rise, that will only be because of the physics of climate change, with a visible expression of processes that are now underway but harder to see and predict. You don’t have to wait until a leopard jumps you to adapt to the threat of leopards. You can learn about their behaviour and how to avoid them. Similarly, we can now learn about ocean processes and how to prevent unwanted change.
You cannot isolate a selective pressure to a moment in time. It is an enduring factor in the environment that has a physical reality. You would not say that parents warning children about leopards was simply ideological pressure, even though the child had never seen a leopard, because if the child ignores the warning it will risk being eaten. CO2 increase is a physical threat, seen in the tripling of climate related disasters since 1980 in figures provided by reinsurer Munich Re.
Interbane wrote:
Our big brains don't need to change for us to solve this issue. If you claim there is a tangible physical selective pressure that would alter brain chemistry, then I'd like to hear the hypothesis. Because even if "stubbornness" is a trait that would be selected against in the upcoming ideological battle, those stubborn people will not die. They will have offspring. When ideas are selected against, it is the death of an idea, not the death of the holder of the idea.
You are not understanding the climate threat. If sea level rises by twenty meters, or if average temperatures increase by 6 degrees Celsius, the destabilisation of global civilization will be immense. We need to find rapid response measures like a new Manhattan Apollo Project. If global population collapses due to the stubbornness of today’s climate deniers, then it makes sense to say that stubbornness caused a failure to adapt to selective pressure.
Interbane wrote:
In what way would "concern for a sustainable energy source" translate into selective pressure on genes? Concern is an ideological characteristic. If it were concern for "red-haired people", or concern for some other phenotype or phenotypic extension, then the two would be necessarily linked. Or perhaps if the sustainable energy source you had in mind were matrix-style human batteries. But as it stands, the concern you mention is entirely ideological.
My point is that ideology is central to intelligence, and intelligence is the primary trait that enabled evolution of our global civilization. If we now fail to use our intelligence to adapt to selective pressures that we have ourselves created, by failing to shift to sustainable energy, we are on a path to cook our planet. Fouling one’s own nest is generally not adaptive.
The selective pressures here apply to rival scenarios. Under the “stubborn” scenario, we continue to accelerate the increase of CO2 causing global population collapse. Under the “smart” scenario, we manage the global climate to sustain global civilization. The subsequent genetic paths for human evolution after these options are very different.
Interbane wrote:
Which of us dies when a portion has the correct gene? The genes will not be selected against when one ideological party wins the debate. Unless winning the debate also includes slaughtering the losers. A leopard kills a single person without the gene. The threat you're referring to would be indiscriminate, not causally linked to the gene for threat avoidance. It would affect us all. However, a gene for "paranoia" may in fact be causally linked, showing up in people who survive the coming dystopia in underground bunkers filled with food and sex slaves.
You are taking too short term a view. A death from leopard attack is one end of a spectrum of human relation to leopards in Africa, which has produced numerous complex traits to avoid risk. Threat avoidance cannot be pinned to a single gene, but is a complex behaviour with roots going back to the dawn of predation and risk. My point is that if we utilise our genes for intelligence, we can respond to current selective pressures in much the same way that organisms have successfully responded in the past, namely that the traits that are suited to the changed context succeed, while unsuitable traits tend to weaken and fail.
I would class belief in supernatural entities among the unsuitable traits that are now weakening, even though feasible replacement traits have not yet fully evolved.
Interbane wrote:
in some arenas, there is no connection in the selective pressure of ideas to the selective pressure of genes. Consider all the ideas that have failed over time. All the old science, all the old philosophy. All that has long since been considered false, or outdated. Has any of this information gone extinct in parallel with genetic change, even in some barely detectable fashion? I would say no, and I'm right there with you on how even the slightest of environmental factors eventually leads to a genetic change. They are simply two different fields of play.

The meme-gene relation is not parallel but complex. When the meme arose that shifted human society from hunter-gatherer to settled agriculture, it brought genetic change in its wake. Shifting food production patterns over thousands of years changed the selective pressures, for example allowing physically weaker individuals to survive and breed who would have been smothered at birth in earlier days. Jared Diamond discusses this example in Africa.
You cannot expect that memes would change genes in a few generations. Genetic change is so slow that it could probably only begin to be measured over longer time scales.
The core question here is “Is climate change a selective pressure?” Climate change obviously is a primary selective pressure given the movement of plants and animals to cooler latitudes and altitudes happening now. The speed of CO2 increase is unprecedented, so it remains to be seen if human can adapt to our new world and modify it to remain suitable for living in.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
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However, there are a bunch of human traits, summed up in climate denial, that are preventing adequate response, and so producing the real threat of human extinction or collapse as a result of catastrophic climate change. Yes these negative traits have a genetic basis. One part of it is a wide capacity to respond to what is visible and to ignore threats that are invisible. Only when invisible threats start to manifest do we respond. So denial is genetically programmed.


I'm fairly adept on the mechanisms Robert. From the large initial block of text, the above is what I saw as relevant. Denial is genetically programmed? The mechanism that results in denial would be just as applicable to those who deny the words of the critics. It's ubiquitous. If you claim that only the side that denies climate change has a specific genetic difference from those who don't deny it, I'll have to ask for some evidence. Is there a unique neurotransmitter that only applies to one side? What if some of these people "change their minds"? What of the same denial attitude applied only to the words of the critics? What the base attitude applies to is not memetically limited. It can apply equally to either side.

The more important part is that whatever catastrophic effects result from climate change, it will not selectively eradicate the deniers while leaving the proponents alive. The proponents will die alongside the deniers.

It's interesting to see the SWOT rubric applied to evolution.

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Not true, Jewish people killed under Hitler were extremely diverse in ideology, ranging from atheist to fundamentalist, and from shtetl to metropolis.


I didn't say they weren't diverse. I said they shared a common ideology. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

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But, if a selective pressure manifests as sea level rise, that will only be because of the physics of climate change, with a visible expression of processes that are now underway but harder to see and predict. You don’t have to wait until a leopard jumps you to adapt to the threat of leopards.


The "leopard" in our discussion kills the advocates the same as the antagonists. You seem to have some built up angst where you want the deniers to be punished through the evolutionary process.

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It is an enduring factor in the environment that has a physical reality. You would not say that parents warning children about leopards was simply ideological pressure, even though the child had never seen a leopard, because if the child ignores the warning it will risk being eaten.


I certainly wouldn't say that leopard avoidance was merely ideological. Such avoidance was directly selected for in the distant past, and is still selected for today, in a diverse range of associated scenarios. What I will say is that the analogy doesn't translate to climate change. The two are categorically different.

Quote:
You are not understanding the climate threat. If sea level rises by twenty meters, or if average temperatures increase by 6 degrees Celsius, the destabilisation of global civilization will be immense.


But I do understand the threat Robert. I'm not downscoring the significance at all! What makes you think this?

Quote:
The selective pressures here apply to rival scenarios. Under the “stubborn” scenario, we continue to accelerate the increase of CO2 causing global population collapse. Under the “smart” scenario, we manage the global climate to sustain global civilization. The subsequent genetic paths for human evolution after these options are very different.


In either scenario, those who survive are determined by factors other than stubbornness. Or perhaps stubbornness is selected FOR. I could see, within the indiscernably massive web of causation, that stubborn people are those who would be more likely to retain resources in a post-apocalyptic society, thus survive. Climate change will kill massive numbers of people indiscriminately. To claim one is more likely than the other is speculation without support. I'm not claiming either, I'm criticizing the claim.

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I would class belief in supernatural entities among the unsuitable traits that are now weakening, even though feasible replacement traits have not yet fully evolved.


In my experience, zealotous belief is something that applies to both sides of the bell curve. Many evangelicals turn militant atheist, and vice versa. The only common denominator I can see with respect to genetics is the strength of belief, not the content.

The content would be determined by cultural/informational/memetic evolution, untethered from genetic underpinnings due to the symmetry on the bell curve.

With that said, I'm still not convinced there is even a genetic underpinning to how far from the median a person is likely to be. You emphasize how even the most minor of initial conditions can lead to vast change over time. But are you aware that signals can be fully cancelled out by noise?

Quote:
The meme-gene relation is not parallel but complex. When the meme arose that shifted human society from hunter-gatherer to settled agriculture, it brought genetic change in its wake. Shifting food production patterns over thousands of years changed the selective pressures, for example allowing physically weaker individuals to survive and breed who would have been smothered at birth in earlier days. Jared Diamond discusses this example in Africa.


I agree with the above, I've read Jared Diamond's books and greatly enjoyed them. I have no doubt that the results of climate change will select against a vast array of traits. My disagreement is that 'climate change denial' is one of those traits. Perhaps a lust for power is one of the traits. Those who are extremely ambitious and likely to leave descendants in high-price coastal areas. There are countless such possibilities.

But I believe there is a large chunk of belief/information/culture that is no longer tethered to genetic underpinnings. We've transcended, and our information is now selected for or against on a different playing field. As a disclaimer, a "large chunk" certainly does not mean "all". There is far too much I don't know, and barely perceptible meme/gene connections will always be in play, at least until we ossify a pristine genetic code and immortalize it, protected against alteration. 8)


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Post Re: Selective pressures
The way I understand it, memes can lead to decisions that are bad or good for a group, and so ideas can contribute to that group's survival or lead to that group's destruction. For example, you can imagine the shaman of a prehistoric village encouraging the tribe to remain near a smoking volcano that eventually erupts and kills them all, thus removing them from the gene pool.

And, certainly, an individual inclined towards rash or erratic behavior or just plain stupid behavior can contribute to his removal from the gene pool. I remember reading about a guy who used a bullet in the fusebox of his pickup truck. Well, the bullet went off and shot him in the you-know-where.

But I've never heard of ideas becoming genetically encoded. Wouldn't that be Lamarckism?

However, culture can lead indirectly to genetic change. Imagine a group that is ostracized due to, say, a peculiar belief system. That group migrates north to a very cold clime and, over time, the group becomes more tolerant of colder weather. The actual genetic change was caused by environmental factors, but it was an idea or adherence to an idea that led to the expression of alleles that produced cold tolerance.

Doing my five minutes of internet research, I found this article by Susan Blackmore:

Quote:
Most important is that memes compete with other memes and produce memetic evolution, the results of which then affect the selection of genes. On this theory we can only understand the factors affecting gene selection when we understand their interaction with memetic selection.

In outline the theory is this. The turning point in hominid evolution was when our ancestors began to imitate each other, releasing a new replicator, the meme. Memes then changed the environment in which genes were selected, and the direction of change was determined by the outcome of memetic selection. Among the many consequences of this change was that the human brain and vocal tract were restructured to make them better at replicating the successful memes.


http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/cas01.html

Interesting stuff. What a great thread.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
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But I've never heard of ideas becoming genetically encoded. Wouldn't that be Lamarckism?


I think that in general, genetics can predispose people to certain ideas. That is the idea behind the god gene, where the VMAT2 gene is linked to increased mystical experience. If we understand that mystical or out-of-body experience is based on a specific brain-state and subject to neuro-chemistry, it makes sense.

Yet I think Robert takes the idea too far, in claiming that a certain type of denial will be selected against when climate change reaps its harvest.

I'm claiming that ideas can be selected for or against without any genetic change, nor due to any genetic predisposition which may be selected for or against.


One point I didn't mention in my previous post is that stubbornness has been selected for, and would likely be selected for again in any post-apocalyptic society. The example I have in mind is failing to see a lion at a watering hole at a specific time of day, therefore disbelieving in a formerly witnessed pattern. That formerly witnessed pattern has merit, and believing it would increase survivability.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
Just to clarify -
There is no empirical evidence for the existence of a meme.
No one has seen a "meme" in anyone's head.

There is also a gross misconception that genes provide a compete explanation for heredity
They do not. They play a role in heredity but are not the entire story.
If anyone claims this has been scientifically established by empirical means, I'd like to see the unanimous evidence for it.



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Post Re: Selective pressures
I've thought ever since I began thinking about this, that using both senses of the word 'evolution' in the same argument creates vast confusion. Evolution defined as the entirely physical process of adaptation through natural selection is the primary sense. Then we have the spin-off or popular sense of things, usually aspects of culture, that we see transforming over time in a generally gradual way and with no physical chain of evidence (or if we could say there is one, it's at a tremendous remove). But when we use the same word, 'evolution,' in both the biological and cultural spheres, the hazard is that we create a false equivalence.



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Post Re: Selective pressures
DWill, I don't see the concept of evolution in that sense. I see it as an algorithmic process. This process manifests in many forms. One form it takes is the physical, known as biological evolution. Perhaps you're cultured to think of the concept in too narrow a definition, since you're primarily familiar with biological evolution.

Quote:
There is no empirical evidence for the existence of a meme.
No one has seen a "meme" in anyone's head.


You use memes all the time, and refer to them all the time. You use different language to refer to them is all. I don't buy in to much of the associated scholarship. If you wish, swap the word "meme" for "idea". Has anyone seen an "idea" in anyone else's head? Where is the empirical evidence for an idea? :P

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There is also a gross misconception that genes provide a compete explanation for heredity
They do not. They play a role in heredity but are not the entire story.
If anyone claims this has been scientifically established by empirical means, I'd like to see the unanimous evidence for it.


Are you referring to phenotypic plasticity?


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Post Re: Selective pressures
Interbane wrote:
Denial is genetically programmed? The mechanism that results in denial would be just as applicable to those who deny the words of the critics.
You may have glanced at Kahnemann’s superb book Thinking, Fast and Slow in which he explains the genetic basis of psychology. One of his key observations is that we have a syndrome he calls “what you see is all there is”.

Kahnemann explains that genetically, a human trait is to ignore things we cannot see. How might this scientific observation on genetic psychology apply to climate denial?

Denialists maintain that because climate change is invisible it does not exist. By contrast, scientists argue that invisible things (like gravity) can have strong effects. Denialism involves a reptilian level of intellectual understanding, a throwback to a far more primitive intelligence level whereby people accept what they want to believe rather than what logic and evidence reveal.

My point here is that the genetic basis for denial is explained by Kahnemann in his description of why people believe untrue things. The genetic basis for understanding science is quite different, primarily resting on reason rather than emotion.

We could similarly say the genetic basis for creationism is seen in how conventional religion pushes emotional buttons regarding desire for community, tradition, simplicity, etc, and how for true believers these emotional desires genetically trump the desire for coherence, consistency and rationality.
Interbane wrote:
If you claim that only the side that denies climate change has a specific genetic difference from those who don't deny it, I'll have to ask for some evidence. Is there a unique neurotransmitter that only applies to one side? What if some of these people "change their minds"? What of the same denial attitude applied only to the words of the critics? What the base attitude applies to is not memetically limited. It can apply equally to either side.
No it cannot apply equally to either side, because denial is grounded in emotion while science is grounded in reason. There are different sets of genetic drivers for decisions based on emotion and reason. When a person shifts camp from denial to understanding, they decide to utilise a different part of their mental genetic inheritance.

Your question about neurotransmitters misses the point. Global warming is a real environmental selective pressure operating on our planet, and on everything alive. Human decisions taken now will determine the extent of the catastrophe, and whether change is gradual or sudden. We have to decide if we want to rely on the reptilian part of our brain, pandering to primitive instincts, or the higher cerebral part, applying rationality. If we apply rationality then humanity can flourish by managing global climate scientifically, but if we allow primitive instinct to dominate then we are done for. At the moment you would have to say the reptiles are winning.
Interbane wrote:
The more important part is that whatever catastrophic effects result from climate change, it will not selectively eradicate the deniers while leaving the proponents alive. The proponents will die alongside the deniers.
If we have a real catastrophe, with methane clathrate release creating a Permian scale extinction event, then the deniers will take the rational down with them. If we decide now to stabilise the climate, we will still get enough climate change to show that the deniers are as stupid as flat earthers or holocaust deniers, and we will see an ongoing cultural shift towards reason and away from stupidity.
Interbane wrote:
The "leopard" in our discussion kills the advocates the same as the antagonists.
The “leopard” we are talking about is catastrophic global climate change. It is metaphorically waiting in the woods for some naïve innocent child to stroll blithely by and make a tasty snack. But if the child is warned, the leopard will make do with antelope. Climate denial is akin to encouraging a child to wander unprotected into leopard country. The predictable result is very bad. Climate understanding is akin to warning the child about the risk of leopards, thereby preventing the attack. With warning and response, we can avoid getting killed by climate change.
Interbane wrote:
You seem to have some built up angst where you want the deniers to be punished through the evolutionary process.
Of course I do. I want humanity to evolve to ground culture on knowledge rather than belief. Climate denial is about placing belief above knowledge, and for that reason is very stupid and backward, deserving of punishment by the law of natural selection.

Angst is a relevant word in this context. It is variously translated as dread, anxiety and fear, and its object is not a specific threat but our being in the world as such. Climate change should inspire dread about the prospect of human extinction.
Interbane wrote:
I certainly wouldn't say that leopard avoidance was merely ideological. Such avoidance was directly selected for in the distant past, and is still selected for today, in a diverse range of associated scenarios. What I will say is that the analogy doesn't translate to climate change. The two are categorically different.
The category containing both leopards and climate change is “existential threats that are hard to see until too late.” Humans are reasonably well adapted to addressing this category of threat.
Interbane wrote:
I do understand the threat Robert. I'm not downscoring the significance at all! What makes you think this?
Your comment that the issue is primarily ideological could imply that physical processes are not yet in train that make big climate change inevitable. Biological migrations are one canary in the coal mine, and the evidence that scientists have systematically under estimated threats is another.
Interbane wrote:
In either scenario, those who survive are determined by factors other than stubbornness. Or perhaps stubbornness is selected FOR. I could see, within the indiscernably massive web of causation, that stubborn people are those who would be more likely to retain resources in a post-apocalyptic society, thus survive. Climate change will kill massive numbers of people indiscriminately. To claim one is more likely than the other is speculation without support. I'm not claiming either, I'm criticizing the claim.
Again, my point here is that it is possible to prevent an apocalypse. But this prevention requires evolution from stubbornness to intelligence.
Interbane wrote:
zealotous belief is something that applies to both sides of the bell curve. Many evangelicals turn militant atheist, and vice versa. The only common denominator I can see with respect to genetics is the strength of belief, not the content.
My view is that zealotry is unscientific. The sort of cultural evolution I advocate is towards basing our ethical values on science, meaning we should use logic and evidence as the criteria for decision. The meme here is the ethical place of evidence in politics. This meme goes back to Plato, but was very suppressed in the ancient world, and has gradually emerged in modern times.
Interbane wrote:
even the most minor of initial conditions can lead to vast change over time. But are you aware that signals can be fully cancelled out by noise?
A signal can be cancelled out but that does not mean it is destroyed. Even an undetectable signal still exists. The point of weak signals and selective pressure is that if the signal is constant, then it helps to structure the niche.
Interbane wrote:
I have no doubt that the results of climate change will select against a vast array of traits. My disagreement is that 'climate change denial' is one of those traits.
But of course climate change will select against climate change denial. Consider the Holocaust analogy. Before WW2, anyone who said Hitler would kill six million Jews would have been thought crazy. After the war, anyone who denied the evidence became a monster. The historical facts changed what was permissible opinion. Imagine in fifty years, sea level is up two meters and the temperature is up 5 degrees, and someone comes along and denies climate change. The cultural evolution driven by facts makes this impossible.
Interbane wrote:
there is a large chunk of belief/information/culture that is no longer tethered to genetic underpinnings. We've transcended, and our information is now selected for or against on a different playing field.

This ‘untethering’ that you speak of can only be temporary. If I live as though nature is not real, it is a bit like claiming the Titanic can ignore icebergs. The genetic tether can allow drift into craziness lasting many generations, but eventually nature is omnipotent.

To note, this thread spun off from this post at Yes, Evolution


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Post Re: Selective pressures
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You may have glanced at Kahnemann’s superb book Thinking, Fast and Slow in which he explains the genetic basis of psychology. One of his key observations is that we have a syndrome he calls “what you see is all there is”.


Yes, I've read it a couple of times, great book. I would agree that much of our psychology has a genetic basis. However, the WYSIATI concept is an artifact of a finite mind in an infinite universe, and has little to do with genetics. Unless we become omnipotent, it is something every human on Earth will have to deal with.

A key point here is quite nebulous, which is that this concept would not apply without genetics, but does not change within the framework of genetics. It's a constant, meaning it is not selected for or against. The same as a heartbeat, the same as bowel movements. Variations within each function would be a different conversation.


Quote:
No it cannot apply equally to either side, because denial is grounded in emotion while science is grounded in reason. There are different sets of genetic drivers for decisions based on emotion and reason. When a person shifts camp from denial to understanding, they decide to utilise a different part of their mental genetic inheritance.


Such a shift cannot be considered objectively. The same psychological characteristics are in play, but in reverse. Instead of denying science, a person would deny religion. Instead of applying their reason towards understanding/rationalizing religion, they would apply it towards understanding/rationalizing science. It's symmetrical Robert.

Quote:
The category containing both leopards and climate change is “existential threats that are hard to see until too late.” Humans are reasonably well adapted to addressing this category of threat.


There are countless categories we could conceive containing both the scenarios. But the category that's applicable to this conversation is the jurisdiction of selective pressure. A leopard selects individually and specifically. Climate change is universal and indiscriminate.

Quote:
My view is that zealotry is unscientific. The sort of cultural evolution I advocate is towards basing our ethical values on science, meaning we should use logic and evidence as the criteria for decision.


There are definitely zealotous scientists, whether you believe it or not. I'm not saying the process of science is zealotous. I'm saying a fraction of people are, regardless of where that zealotry is applied.

Quote:
A signal can be cancelled out but that does not mean it is destroyed. Even an undetectable signal still exists.


Until it ceases to exist. There are many things in this universe that are not permanent. There are many things that vanish eternally, without a trace.

Quote:
Again, my point here is that it is possible to prevent an apocalypse. But this prevention requires evolution from stubbornness to intelligence.


I understand your point very well, but you seem to be missing my point. Sorry for having to stress this. Show me how stubborness, as determined genetically, would be selected against by climate change. Will the "intelligent" people systematically murder stubborn people? Will flash floods spare intelligent people? What of all the "stubborn" people who support climate change? What of all the benefits of stubborness that will be selected for by a thousand other ancillary factors? There are many follow up questions I could ask that show such a genetic evolution to be ridiculous.

The evolution will be ideological. Causation regarding a genetic basis for stubbornness could easily apply in the opposite direction than the one you're claiming, for reasons you've never considered. We could become more stubborn as a species.

Quote:
But of course climate change will select against climate change denial.


I agree entirely, if we're speaking in terms of ideology rather than genetics.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
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You use memes all the time, and refer to them all the time.


Atheists love referring to religion as a type of infectious meme, something like a virus. I'd note that their proselytizing about everything having a material explanation is itself a meme. Atheists speak as if they are immune to meme viruses. They are not. :P

Materialists with their material explanations for everything are themselves only material beings. To say that memes jump from one person to the next and are somehow imbedded in minds like computer chips is a rhetorical maneuver of convenience.
The middle ground between genetic inheritance and cultural inheritance is a meme. Genetic inheritance is material. Cultural inheritance is immaterial. Strictly speaking, a meme is not a scientifically testable hypothesis.
I just want people here who speak of memes to be free of delusion just in case they believe they are speaking scientifically.
They are not.
Sorry.

Quote:
Are you referring to phenotypic plasticity?


I'd be lying if I said I was clear on what you've mentioned above. And I don't want to google it now.
What I was thinking of when I wrote, "There is also a gross misconception that genes provide a compete explanation for heredity" was the missing heritability problem.

Also, I think many people believe that genes program the form and behavior of organisms.
My understanding is that they do not.
Is your understanding different? I am not a gene scientist.



Last edited by ant on Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Selective pressures
ant wrote:
I just want people here who speak of memes to be free of delusion just in case they believe they are speaking scientifically.
They are not.
Sorry. .


Gee, thanks for that. I frequently use "meme" interchangeably with the word "idea." It's just a different way of looking at how ideas can spread which can, indeed, resemble the way a contaigon spreads. Dawkins himself in The Selfish Gene takes great pains to make that distinction. It can be a useful way of looking at how ideas spread. The process does resemble evolution in some interesting ways.


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Post Re: Selective pressures
Great pains? Really?
You're exageratting:

"As my colleague N.K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: `... memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically."

Richard Dawkins.


Just how familiar are you with his writings and such?



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Post Re: Selective pressures
ant wrote:
Great pains? Really?
You're exageratting:

"As my colleague N.K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: `... memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically."

Richard Dawkins.


Just how familiar are you with his writings and such?


I read The Selfish Gene which is where the idea of memes was first introduced. Have you read it?

Specifically, Dawkins says that memes “propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation” (Selfish Gene 192).

Dawkins does, in fact, take great pains to say there are often two ways of looking at something, both ways equally valid. He uses the necker cube as an illustration of this point.


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