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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

And on a related topic...

...to the previous post, a few years ago before his current blow-up, John Derbyshire wrote:
“If you don’t like eugenics, you are not going to like the 21st century. ... The desire to have smart, healthy, good-looking offspring is wellnigh universal. If parents can get assurance of such an outcome for a few thousand bucks, why should they not purchase that assurance? In a free country, how will you stop them? And why would conservatives or libertarians want to stop them? 'Eugenics' has become such a scare-word that we’ll probably have to re-name the process to avoid all the shrieking and skirt-clutching; but it will be eugenics just the same.”
 And you thought the utilitarian approach to human beings was restricted to liberals?  On certain matters, the elites really do think alike.  But there are two objections to this hope for an earthly eschaton in which we will put on new bodies of a glorified nature.  One is technical and one is fundamental.


1. Why it doesn't work.
The technical objection first.  What genetic manipulation does the Derb imagine will lead to "smart" offspring?  From his most recent screed, one may assume that he believes that ensuring a non-black skin is one way; but in general, what exactly is "smart" and which "gene" ensures it?  Being "smart" is not like being "blue-eyed."  On a physical plane alone, it involves involves two brain hemispheres, the nervous and glandular systems, and who knows what else?

Besides which, genes are not atoms.  They are often distributed across many loci in the chromosomes, much like an acrostic or cross-word puzzle.  Depending on when and under what epigenetic conditions they are activated, they may accomplish multiple tasks.  This is an issue known as design coupling.

A coupled design.  You cannot change
temperature without changing flow,
and vice versa.
For a simple example of coupling consider the typical shower faucet arrangement.  There are two functional requirements (FR): Y1 temperature of water and Y2 volume of water.  The two design parameters (DP): X1 hot water control and X2 cold water control.  To attain the desired temperature and volume, both controls must be jiggered.  See left. 

A decoupled design.
Temperature and flow can
be controlled independently
The design can be decoupled by providing separate controls for temperature and volume, as for example a joystick in which vertical changes the flow and horizontal changes the temperature.  See right. 
For another example consider the Transmission Vane Oil Pump found in Yang and El-Haik, Design for Six Sigma.  At the second indenture, the displacement mechanism subassembly, we find the functional requirement to charge the chamber is affected by the expanding chamber, sealing device geometry, movable bore ring, rigid cover, and rigid body.  To achieve the proper charging of the chamber, we must target these five controls. 
But notice something funny happens.  Setting specs on the expanding chamber affects only the charging function; but the sealing device geometry affects all four of the functional requirements (Y's) on the displacement mechanism:
  1. charge chamber 
  2. discharge chamber 
  3. prevent slip flow 
  4. provide displacement charge
    That is, when we choose a specification on X3  to optimize Y1 we will also affect Y2, Y3, and Y4.  We will be unlikely to hit the target on all four Y's with the same target value for X3.  With a few exceptions, each desired outcome (Y) is affected by multiple parameters (X's) and each design parameter (X) affects multiple functional outcomes (Y's).  Depending on the arrangement of coefficients in the design matrix (the second one in the illo), it may not be possible to optimize all four functions no matter how the eight parameters are specified.

    Got that?

    Good.  Now, replace the Y's with "smart," "healthy," and "good-looking," and replace the X's with various and sundry genes.  Even if you could operationally define the three functional requirements -- and don't hold your breath on that one, either -- chances are that tampering with your baby to make her smart will wind up making her unhealthy or not-good looking.  Perhaps one of the genes in a suite that affects "smart" is also a player in how the heart muscle forms.

    The Derb asked, The desire to have smart, healthy, good-looking offspring is wellnigh universal. If parents can get assurance of such an outcome for a few thousand bucks, why should they not purchase that assurance? 

    The good news, we suppose, is that parents will get no such assurance.  

    2. Why we shouldn't work at it.

    Which brings us to the second and more important objection.  The very concept of making this sort of effort requires us to divide humanity into untermenschen and übermenschen, into those humans that are more desirable and those that are less desirable.  This sort of Nietzschean mindset is inherent in considering the program at all, regardless of the unlikelihood of success.  It is fascist in its heart.

    Derbyshire thought that eugenics programs had gotten a bad name back in the 1920s because they were state-run.  Free enterprise eugenics, he thinks, would be kinder and gentler.  "How can you stop them?" he asks.  But, of course, it doesn't matter whether children are tampered with by the state or by their parents.  It will never be voluntary on the part of the children.  Think about the number of experiments required to learn which genes do what; the number of children scrapped out because they don't meet specs.

    Does it really matter if all this is run by state bureaucrats in spiffy uniforms or by corporate droids in smiling business suits?  In either case, people are treated as objects rather than as persons, and you cannot do that for long without becoming numb and dead in your core.

    50 comments:

    1. And you thought the utilitarian approach to human beings was restricted to liberals?

      Sadly, no; almost all the libertarians I know of are pretty utilitarian; probably a side-effect of rejecting liberal emotional arguments.

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    2. Most of the time, there is very little daylight between liberals/progressives and libertarians. And, in the really important issues, the ones with an obvious moral component, the libertarians will almost always side with the progressives.

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      1. The liberals and libertarians share the same roots. The anarchist libertarian David Friedman in his book the Mechanics of Freedom describes himself as an Adam Smith liberal and a Goldwater conservative.

        The common root is the view of neighbor as someone to fear, not someone to love. Thus this fearsome being is either to be controlled, leading to collectivization or to be separated from, the libertarian response

        The liberals view man as social animal, living in society for mutual benefit like animals in herds.
        But man is also a political animal owing to his rational nature. Thus he can reason to common good whereas liberals have to rely on Harm Principle of JS Mills-only violence or fraud, other harms must be scientifically proved. Thus we ban porn only if the studies show them harmful to children.

        Thus the liberal emphasis on self-interest and the view of society as the network of mutually beneficial transactions where both parties are pursuing their own self-interests.
        Note that pursuit of self-interest rules out love.

        Dostoevsky that the measure of liberals: he parodied their pretensions of building the Crystal Palace based upon enlightened self-interest in Notes from Underground and Dreams of a Ridiculous Man.

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    3. IIRC, "children" are the traditional problem-area for libertarians; best theory I've heard is that it's because they figure the basic building block for society is the person, rather than the family or the idea.

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      1. Well, classically, the society has no building blocks. It is prior to the Individual and the Family.

        The Christian view, I suppose, lays more emphasis on Family but all three levels Individual, Family and City are rather holistic and not reducible to others.

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      2. Well, classically, the society has no building blocks. It is prior to the Individual and the Family.

        Specifically, that works, but generically, there has to be something that society consists of and is organized around... guessing this is one of those things that might've been covered in philosophy classes if it hadn't been so vitally important that we have our yearly "sex ed" class. -.-

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      3. I'm not sure how society could be prior to individuals and families. That would be like a circuit pre-existing the components.

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      4. Similar to how an organism could be prior to its composing cells, I should say.

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      5. I don't think words are being used the same, and I start to think you don't realize how I and, I resume, our host are using them... or you don't agree, and just haven't written it out....

        As I'm using it, "society" is a people group. (I'll ignore characteristics.) So only the very new societies will be newer than the people in them-- but people as a group far predate both the specific society and societies in general.

        The philosophic point is "how are societies organized."

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      6. That's why I figured you were referring to a standing philosophical theory-- I can't remember which Greek it was, that figured on perfect archetypes, perhaps?

        So you're talking about an organism existing prior to the cells in it, and we're talking about any organisms existing before any cells.

        Sorry if I'm beating this to death, I'm generally less clear than I think unless I'm over-explaining.

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      7. Foxfier,
        a society, or a City as classical writers write, is not simply a group of people. An individual is born into a family and also a City.
        There are no isolated families. It is the City that has families, a language, a shared culture, a shared history etc.

        It is a City that has authority to punish evil-doers. In fact, as Anthony Esolen writes in notes to his translation of Paradise, the virtue of justice sews up people in a body. It is precisely where the City is weakened one finds vendetta.

        The liberals view society as any group of people but ancient and Christian writers always viewed society or city as a body or organism.

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      8. ... which is why, in the Classical Polis, when Joe Schmoeus fell on hard times, the Polis was always there to help him out.

        Oh, wait: that's not how it went. What actually happened is that if he didn't have family willing and able to help him out, he starved to death.

        Delete
      9. Look, Gyan, this 'distributionism' (or whatever you all want to call it this week) that so many Catholics are so keen on, is just another form of socialism -- it's just another way of asserting ownership over other human persons. For their own good, of course.

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      10. Gyan-
        "Body of Christ" a nice, poetic way of explaining how a Christian society is supposed to work, but the need for it points to the fact that there are new societies, and that people can move between them.
        There is a HUGE difference between "just a group of people" and the various ways the three major philosophies view society. Liberals tend to try to organize in support of a perfect, shared ideal (and make sure it's shared no matter what individuals would prefer); Libertarians tend to organize it along the lines of protecting individual interests(but run into problems when it comes to obligation-- such as to children or parents); Conservatives tend to organize along the lines of protecting families and opposing attempts to radically alter or replace the society (which runs up against idealists, anyone who wants to change how everything works, "I'm not my parents" offspring, older unattached males, those who have left their family, those without family, etc.)

        Of course the classical writers viewed the City as pre-dating people-- they were looking from a totally different perspective, one that had relatively black-and-white differences like which city one was in. (I'd love to hear how the dealt with those that weren't living inside of a city, like farmers, but that's just the country kid in me suspecting town-kid blindness.)

        Ilion, we're not talking about anything vaguely related to distributionism. Or even Catholicism. If you're going to snarl, can you at least snarl on the topic you're responding to?

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      11. Ilion,
        Among Hindus, the caste fraternity was there to regulate and help out distressed families. Each caste had its own family law and elders that settled its family disputes.

        We have not come to economics yet.
        Definitions are all we are doing.

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      12. Foxfier,
        City is another, a more ancient term for "We The People". As in American Constitution or Rousseau, The People is sovereign
        However, that is 18C Enlightenment absolutism that perhaps should be qualified. Belloc accepts it though.

        The term City though implies a local-ness and sensitivity to human scale that is not captured by scale-invariant term We The People.

        (Scale-invariant is a physics jargon that means something that looks same at any scale, you could look at it with lens of any power and not find difference).

        The City respects subsidiarity. For example, in the City of New York, we may recognize a Catholic City, a Jewish City, a Chinese City, and so on. All these cities are appropriately sub-governing e.g. could be having their own family law.

        There are three irreducible levels: the Individual, the Family and the City.

        A family can only exist if the comprising individuals believe that it does and are intent upon the Good of the Family. That is, they are willing to sacrifice their personal good for the sake of the greater good of the family.

        A City can only exist if the comprising individuals or families believe that it does and are intent on the Good of the City,.
        That is, they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good of the City.

        The libertarian err preaching the just authority of the Govt to be delegated from Individuals.
        Whereas it is the People that is sovereign, and not the Individuals.

        The underlying worldview of both socialism and libertarianism is the same atheistic pessimism. To them, love can not exist and society must be bound by self-interest. The neighbor is someone to fear, not someone to love. This fearsome neighbor must either be controlled, thus the socialist collectivization response, or be separated from, thus the libertarian response. Both not amiable to human aspirations and fulfillment.

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      13. Contrary to Fixfier's emotive bleating of a couple posts previous, Gyan *is* talking about Catholocism -- anyone can scroll back and read his comments about the views of "ancient and Christian writers" -- and trying to present an argument against American free-market capitalism grounded in 'distributionism', which is to say, the Catholic gloss on socialism, the Catholic version of anti-free-market capitalism (and in which, as is traditional with socialism, the word 'capitalism' is used to refer to anything but capitalism).

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      14. Ilion-
        since you apparently can't read very well when you're touching on Catholicism, I'll just point out: FOXfier. Gyan was talking in general before you decided to thread-jack to what you thought the ultimate destination was.

        Gyan-
        That is very interesting, but doesn't support your claim that society doesn't have any building blocks.
        The point of the Christian view being more holistic is true enough, but not really to the point. You can't have a hand running around without a body (no offense to Thing of the Adam's Family) but that doesn't mean a body isn't made of two hands, two feet, etc. The metaphor is limited and shouldn't be over-extended, even if it is perfect for the purpose it was used....

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      15. Guys, play nice.

        This discussion may be worth a post one day, however.

        Delete
      16. Gyan wrote: "Well, classically, the society [...] is prior to the Individual and the Family."

        Foxfier wrote: "Of course the classical writers viewed the City as pre-dating people [...]"

        When Aristotle wrote in the Politics that the polis is "prior" to the household and the individual, he was not referring to a temporal relation. If he had been, then his mention, just several sentences after this remark, of "the man who first united people in such a partnership [the city-state]," would directly contradict that which he had just asserted.

        http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0058%3Abook%3D1%3Asection%3D1253a

        Later on, Cicero discussed how it was a great speaker who first encouraged people to associate politically--or something like that. I can't provide a reference here because I don't remember where I read him on this point.

        And Polybius in his Histories posited a pre-political state of man from which political society arose: "Originally then it is probable that the condition of life among men was this,—herding together like animals and following the strongest and bravest as leaders."

        http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0234%3Abook%3D6%3Achapter%3D5

        And the idea of man's pre-political state was not lost on medieval Christian authors, who after all were familiar with the book of Genesis.

        Gyan wrote: "[...] Christian writers always viewed society or city as a body or organism."

        Phrases such as "mystical body" (corpus mysticum), used by Christian jurists through medieval times and beyond in reference to communities, were legal terms that referred to aggregates of individuals. The jurists understood such terms as legal fictions, similar to how lawyers today regard references to modern corporations as "persons." So I think it about as accurate to assert that "Christian writers always viewed society [...] as a body" as it is to assert that contemporary writers view Apple as a human being. For legal purposes, it can be useful to refer to a corporate group as an individual even though we recognize that it actually consists of individuals.

        Foxfier wrote: "That is very interesting, but doesn't support your claim that society doesn't have any building blocks."

        Whether the idea is true or not, it's certainly not the "classical" view as far as I can tell. Aristotle, for example, referred to individuals and households as "parts" of the polis, which is the "whole." A whole consists of parts, which one may reasonably call "building blocks."

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      17. Foxfier,
        The relation of Individuals to the City is given by Aristotle as Material Cause, that is, . The City is composed of Individuals. You may consider them as building blocks but in Aristotelian thought is not reductionist and the building blocks need not be logically prior to the thing itself.

        The formal cause of the City is the Constitution (in the sense of the ordering principle) and the efficient cause of the City is the Ruler (or State in
        modern terms).

        Thus, for Aristotle, State is not a mere hireling of the People

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    4. Parents will get assurance when geneticists get enough practice. Which is ... chilling.

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    5. I was bemused yby your usual at-best-half-true swipe at liberals, and generally agree with your post otherwise. I would add an additional reason it would not work: sans a specific biological condition like Down's Syndrome, nuture typically has more to with intelligence and health than nature. If you want intelligent, healthy, good-looking kids, raise well-fed, well-read kids.

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      1. You were **confused** by The O'Flainn's "at-best-half-true swipe at liberals"? Or were you **amused**?

        Well, no. A pathological trisomy aside, intelligence, health, and beauty require the minimum foundation of certain genes and, in the latter instance, the acceptance of certain phenotypes within a cultural context.

        Narrow-spaced, crossed-eyes, cinnamon-skinned, squat-body, long straight-hair and hooked-nose compared to tall, narrow-build, black-skin, short-kinked hair, and broad-nose compared to pale, freckled skin, green-eyes, long, curling red hair, and a short, upturned nose are only beautiful within the sexual selective, cultural-genetic matrix of a society. [Of course, there's beauty is as beauty does, but you're otherwise arguing the outward signs and not the inner grace aspects.]

        Any, you understand the math of populations [I presume] that half the population has an IQ of less than 100 [except in Lake Wobegon] and at some point reasonable intelligence is not attributable to nurture. Intelligence [whatever that is] is somewhere between 0.6 and 0.9 inheritable, regardless of nurture.

        As refutation, geniuses have risen from impoverished, hard-scrabble childhoods and lumps from cushy backgrounds.

        This says nothing regarding the value of persons as person nor of their moral worth.

        JJB

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      2. JJBrannon,

        I have always understood that "bemused" indicated both (unlike "bewildered" meaning confused in a way where regularity seems suspended, or "bedazzled" meaning confused in part by an overwhelming aspect).

        I agree a certain minimum foundation is necessary. Some might have noted that I included the "sans a specific biological condition like Down's Syndrome".

        Intelligence seems to be highly inheritable among people of higher SES, and much less so among people of lower SES (although there are many studies that disagree). I find it easy to accept that once all of your other needs are cared for, genetics is all that is left to play a factor. It doesn't really impact what I said.

        If IQ were truly .9 heritiable, given the large correlation between SES and IQ, yoiu would see very few hard-scrabble geniuses and lumps from cushy backgrounds.

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      3. Well, One Brow, as is seemingly characteristic of your posts [I don't know you or of you otherwise], you have always understood wrongly:

        Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
        bemuse
        ▶verb (usu. as adj. bemused) confuse or bewilder.


        Here's the main problem with the SES vs IQ studies: they mostly look at young children where the heritability goes down to 0.45 or below. The long-term studies from childhood to adulthood provided the 0.60-0.90 heritability [cute of you to squash the range to a single point; you must enjoy distorting numbers]. The warning on the heritability showed that there's uneven development or spurts among younger children. [By the way, the young-age environment fallacy shows the longstanding flaw with Head Start programs: eventually biology absorbs the gains of nurture. Nurture needs something of Nature to exploit.]

        Here are some other problems with those studies, in which you also indulge: 1] the low heritability plagues the SES "south tail" or **impoverishment**, where the effect largely vanishes from the second-quintile north; your "much less so" is bad methodology in experimental design; 2] the earlier studies of last century were much less well-constrained genetically [Surprise! On review many of the children in the low-SES did not have the same ostensible biological father]; 3] the variability in IQ in young children adopted out of their SES does not prevail at testing older ages.

        We're getting back to your much-favored "witch-doctor" science publications that purport to evince something they do not.

        Beyond **adequate** [id est, non-starvation] diet, absence of abuse [whether through violence or chemical], and exposure to education in a non-hostile fashion, genes make the largest lasting amount of difference in life-time intelligence.

        Your Down's Syndrome comment is precisely what I was refuting because you set the variability threshold too low when you used the example of a "trisomy pathology", which I took pains to set aside as unacceptable as a standard for the purposes of this discussion.

        Your final paragraph is factually and statistically unwarranted. What is the upper [tighter] bounds of sport frequency at that rate? Plus or minus 9%??? [I leave that as an exercise for the savants. I am a mere dullard in those matters.] One out of every eleventh child rises high above the wellspring? The Law of Large Numbers suggests that of the backed against the hard, unyielding backdrop of poverty and mediocrity a beacon of brightness observed is nearly a requirement from sheer contrast.

        JJB

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      4. JJBrannon,

        I was aware of the denotation. I'm not sure why that means my understanding of the connotation was wrong. Do you think "confused", "bewildered", and "bemused" are truly identical in connotation?

        Do you think it is heritability iteself that has a range, or just our estimates of it? I was thinking you meant the latter, with .9 as a high estimate, but if you meant the former, on what does the range depend?

        1) was something I relied on in my sugestion, 2) is moot since I was looking at a summary of later results, and 3) is prey to the issue that adopting families are seldom impoverished, and tend to been on the upper ends of the SES scale.

        Your assertions are no more supported by the current state of the literature than mine.

        I recently read a post that compared two different things that were very much like your parents, relatively fixed by adolesence, etc. They were heredity and dialect. Oddly, no one thought that meant dialects were inherited/genetic.

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    6. This, I think, offers an insight into Derb's thought processes, from another article he's written at Taki:

      In the long biological view, the only criterion is survival. The humble sea cucumber, which has been around for 400 million years, is a “superior” organism—more successful—than the saber-toothed tiger, which I don’t think lasted even one million. Likewise, the premise of the movie Idiocracy is that coarse, dumb people will inherit the Earth by out-breeding refined, smart people. If that happens (and I wouldn’t be surprised) then from a biological perspective, which is actually my own perspective as a stone-cold empiricist, the coarse, dumb people will have proven “superior” to the refined, smart ones. Personally I prefer the latter type, but Ma Nature doesn’t care what I prefer.

      Let's set aside the question of whether "natural selection," as coined by Darwin, was meant to be teleological (It's my view that he was just inconsistent and incoherent on this question, trying to have his cake and eat it too). It's clear that Derb's interpretation of it, like that of most neo-Darwinists, is that it's not.

      Now, I happen to agree that smart people do not have greater objective worth than dumb people, but Derb's claim here is obviously more broad than that. What he's saying here is that evolution has no point or ends. Some things survive, some things die, and that's that. The idea that some things (such as intelligence, or moral imperatives to the effect that you must not murder people or use them as objects of eugenic experimentation, etc) have objective goodness or value is all illusion. Our values are a mere byproduct of survival, on this view, which is the only selection criterion that matters. And even that doesn't *really* matter, since it has no real purpose and no real goals or ends. There are merely peculiar objects that duplicate themselves. Some have duplicated more than others, and some didn't duplicate at all. Sometimes smart things survive, sometimes dumb things survive. Ultimately, that some duplicated and some didn't is just a curious fact of history, making the survivors no "better" in any objective sense than red light is "better" than blue light on account of its longer wavelength.

      And that's why Derb's got no problem with treating people like objects: in his mind, people simply *are* objects. There is no such category as "person" in his view - just various objects that we apply the label "person" to. And they're objects with no true purpose or objective worth at that. Their only significance is that they're what's happened to have survived at the present moment. The idea that they matter is all in their heads, no doubt simply a result of such notions having increased their ancestors' survival. If they die out, it doesn't really matter. If they play around with eugenics and maim or kill their children, it doesn't really matter, just as it doesn't matter if they collectively become dumb. It's all just objects of no genuine significant being modified and replaced by other objects of no genuine significance. In Derb's view whatever survives eugenics is what survives, and it doesn't matter what it is.

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      1. What he's saying here is that evolution has no point or ends. Some things survive, some things die, and that's that.

        Very likely he does say that; but the scientific theory of natural selection says otherwise. Those things that are better fit for their niche will survive [reproduce] proportionately more. Hence, "favored races." Evolution therefore works toward greater aptness [for a niche].

        Quite likely the Derb does not understand what telos means. It is certain that Darwin did not. It far easier to deny something if you don't understand what it is.

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      2. I still think you are confusing evolution working toward something with mere probabalistic responses. It's like saying inertia is a final cause.

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      3. The whole Darwinist model is predicated on natural selection working toward greater adaptation, and the subsequent differential reproductive success of the better adapted.
        + + +
        Intertia is not a final cause. It is the net gravitational attraction of the rest of the universe. (At least in Mach's conjecture.)

        The final cause of motion in any system governed by a potential function is the region in parameter space known as the "attractor basin."

        A final cause is simply the "towardness" of an object or system. If there were no towardness in nature, there would be no coherent natural laws. A would not lead to B "always or for the most part" unless there were something in A that "points toward" B. You may be confusing finality with intention, which is only one sort of finality.

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      4. TheOFloinn,

        I know inertia is not a final cause. That was my point. Similarly, evolution is not working toward anything, not even greater adaptation.

        I realized that, since for some reason I could not comment on your blog at the time, you probably never saw this post.

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      5. Oh, dear. If natural selection is not working toward greater adaptation, Darwin and his epigones have wasted a whole lot of words talking about adaptive advantage. I suppose it cannot be a scientific natural law then, since scientific laws are marked by their towardness, not by some bizarre chaotic randomness. If they "just happen" to survive, then there is no natural selection at all. Which puts you among the creationists and other Darwin-deniers. Who'd've thunk it.

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      6. TheOFloinn,

        What a great sense of humor you have. It's almost like you think that, because a process results in something, it must be working toward that thing, and by-products don't exist.

        Scientific, natural laws are expressed in equations and similar constructions. Boyle's Law is a law, aerodynamics is a theory. Natural selection is a full-bodied theory, not some meager law.

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      7. I agree that natural selection is not so scientific as Boyle's law, or Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, given that it lacks the mathematization privileged in scientific discourse.

        I'm not sure what you mean by "working toward." How is this different from "results in" where the results are consistent and repeatable. That common course of nature is important since otherwise "results in" might result in anything and poor old Darwin would see nothing enlightening in the beaks of the finches of Galapagos.

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      8. M.Flynn: "Oh, dear. If natural selection is not working toward greater adaptation, Darwin and his epigones have wasted a whole lot of words talking about adaptive advantage ... Which puts you [DarwinDefenders] among the creationists and other Darwin-deniers. Who'd've thunk it."

        Anyone actually paying attention wouldda thunk it.

        You're what, in your 50s now (or is it 60s?), and you'd still rather turn up your nose in disdain at those horrible, nasty, ignorant, fund_ ... er, creationists, than understand the content of the proposition that is the non-negotiable core of 'modern evolutionary theory' (*), aka Darwinism, no matter what permutations the DarwinDefenders will apply elsewhere to their ... religion?

        (*) 'modern evolutionary theory' is kind of like the Holy Roman Empire: it is neither modern, nor evolutionary (used in its original and proper sense, the word 'evolution' is inescapably teleological ... which is why Saint Chuckie avoided using it whenever he could), nor is it a scientific theory.

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      9. Evolution is not a scientific theory; it is a body of facts to be explained. Natural selection is a theory, one of several that seeks to make sense of the matter. Do not confuse the scientific theory with the socio-political uses made of it by fanboys. Or for that matter with the philosophical confusions of its formulators.

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      10. The term evolution is used of both a body of facts and an overlaying theory combining and interrelating a collection of theories; one word describing two different, related things.

        I'm curious what you think the "socio-politcal" uses are, outside of relatively uncontroversial programs like vaccination.

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      11. **Uncontroversial** programs "like vaccination".

        Really, sir! From what planet do you hail?

        However, I feel your pain. The O'Flainn and have had the same quarrel over the theory of gravity and its fact.

        The contention became so prolonged and fierce it led to the wielding of much sharp, slashing and piercing metal instruments, not to neglect the crushing metal pincers, the extraction of flesh, and the application of hot oil.

        [Nay, I dissemble -- we were assured the oleaginous liquid was dairy in origin.]

        We adjourned from the snowy -- stained purple, hither and thither -- field of battle, bearing our prime cuts, to a pacified -- some would hazard, somnambulant -- truce.

        JJB

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      12. Well, uncontroversial among scietists and the vast majority of the public. YOu could probably find controversy over the notion "animals need oxygen", if you looked hard enough. :)

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    7. TheOFloinn,

      The scientists I read would say theories are more scientific than laws, since theories explain and suggest new ideas, while laws do not.

      "Working toward" assumes a goal. If I burn a log to warm myself, I am working toward heat. The ash is a byproduct, not an intention (in that I would still burn the log even if there were no ash). The ash is nonetheless consistent and repeatable. If consistent and repeatable were all that is required for a final cause, than inertial behavior, being consistent and reapeatable, would be a final cause.

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      1. Intention is only one sort of finality. There are others. The burning log "moves toward" ash regardless whether you set it afire for the warmth or whether it was set afire by a bolt of lightning. The oxidation process has a towardness, otherwise there wouldn't BE an oxidation process.

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    8. An mass moving inertially is still moving toward something. Why don't you think inertial movement is an example of final causality?

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      1. Because the finality is what it is moving toward. This is the region of minimum gravitational potential known as the attractor basin. The attractor is the example of final causality, not the motion as such. For example, Aristotle presciently regarded the regular cyclic motion of the heavens as being "at rest." Nowadays, we recognize that the equilibrium state of a system may be an orbit or an oscillation or some other such regularly repeating motion, provided they are on the equilibrium manifold in state space.

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      2. Inertial masses are not moving toward attractor basins. Moving toward an attractor basin results in acceleration.

        Still, if you wish to say that final cause is defined by a regular result of a process, then why don't you think scientists study final causation? They may not label it as such, but it is certainly an object of study. Would you agree that scientists study the non-intentional sorts of finality?

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      3. Of course they are moving toward attractor basins. Unless interfered with, they don't wind up somewhere else. If you drop a cannonball, it does not fly up into the air; if you raise a tiger cub, it does not mature into a tiger lily.

        And of course scientists must consider final causes. There cannot be scientific laws otherwise. It is the refusal to admit that they are doing so that is a source of amusement. An example would be any discussion of evolution. Among the New Breed, there is even a ROFLOL effort underway to deny the very existence of intention among human beings.

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      4. If you drop a cannonball, it accelerates. It is not inertial.

        What scientists refuse to admit they are studying the regular results of processes?

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      5. "it accelerates. It is not inertial."

        So what? There is still an end to its motion.

        "What scientists refuse to admit they are studying the regular results of processes?"

        Well, there are some who study irreproducible, one-of-a-kind events; but to take your meaning: it is not that they don't, it is that they are adamantly in denial that in doing so they are touching on final causation.

        But this is now turning into the One Brow Neverending Commentary that is waaaaaay off the point of the post; viz., the Madness of the Derb and the implications of coupling on the eugenics movement.

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      6. I will save any response for a more on-topic thread.

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