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Thread: The Observing Self vs The Thinking Self

  1. Top | #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    Can you give a few examples of traits that are biologically based but haven't been selected for?

    Note my use of 'haven't'. Not necessarily functional now, but may have been functional at one time, therefore selected for.
    It would be far easier and faster if you could give the list of traits that are biological and for which there is clear scientific empirical evidence of how it was selected for.
    Every essential organ in the body, sensory, reproductive, endocrine, nervous etc. While I couldn't point you to any papers, these features of the body are being selected for every time they produce a functional human that can reproduce.

    I wasn't trying to be combative, just interested in where you were taking the conversation.
    You were asked traits. Not organs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    Every essential organ in the body, sensory, reproductive, endocrine, nervous etc. While I couldn't point you to any papers, these features of the body are being selected for every time they produce a functional human that can reproduce.

    I wasn't trying to be combative, just interested in where you were taking the conversation.
    Notice how your list is basically tautology? "essential organs" are by definition things that humans cannot exist without and thus, by definition, humans without those things could not survive to reproduce.
    That's immaterial to whether they've been selected for. It's just that they are so intrinsic to our functioning that they are always selected for, as is the overwhelming amount of human physiology.

    Also, that only explains the simplistic binary presence or absence of such systems. Each of those systems vary in countless ways and have specific features that don't need to exist and could have been replaced with an infinite number of alternative "specs". The reason that the specs are what they are is not b/c that is the most functional way for them to be. It is usually b/c the many genes and alleles that give rise to any particular "spec" also give rise to countless other specs and the net benefit of all the other specs impacted by the set of alleles that give rise to that one particular spec determine was gets passed on and thus force that spec onto the a given system whether its functional for that system or not.
    I'm with you, and don't disagree, but a concrete example would help so I can better understand what you mean.

    I would add from my tenuous understanding of your meaning, that if multiple alleles are interdependent and some produce a dysfunctional spec but contribute to the overall system and are intrinsic to it, then those alleles themselves are selected for as a part of the overall system. So the dysfunctional trait may not be selected for, but the alleles that produce it are selected for, and it's the alleles that are the unit of selection, therefore by corollary the dysfunctional trait is a product of selection as an intrinsic part of the overall system.

    The above doesn't imply purpose or function for all traits, but it does imply that there was an evolved pathway for it coming into existence.

    But again a concrete example would help.

    In addition, what about all of the variation in each of those specs? Both individuals and groups (like genders) vary along many dimensions of those specs and they almost all survive to pass on those variations. Thus, there is nothing essential or particularly functional about having one variant over the other.
    The fact that humans can observe at all or think at all likely has a functional basis that was selected for. But the exact ways in which we do so and the variations in those ways are not likely to be functional or selected for.
    Agreed, a lot of variation is just plain phenotypic variation. Some variation is selected for. And some scales of phenotypic variation lean a certain way within specific cultures.

    Also, note that your list includes no specifics about the millions of traits that impact exactly how humans process information and who processes it differently. Because, the "evidence" of trait selection is limited to most broad categories of traits that are essential to the person even surviving the first year of life. But within those "traits", i.e., broad "systems", are actually millions of other traits, most of which went along for the ride on the backs of those things that were essential or of major importance to survival.
    Sure, you could get more atomistic, but my memory bank for specific genes and gene products is a bit limited.

    Here is one last try to dispell the religion of "biology means adaptive function". This time using formal logical structure and showing that your own premise that a given biological trait was selected for requires that you also accept that most other biological traits were not.

    Let's say we accept a particular functional argument for a trait in the form of the following premise"
    P1"The specific impact on trait Y is what caused Allele X to be propagated in the genepool".

    Basic genetics and evolutionary mechanisms confirm the following additional premises:
    P2"Allele X has many other impacts other than it's impact on trait Y."
    P3"If the specific impact on trait Y is what caused Allele X to be propagated in the genepool, then all those other traits impacted by Allele Y would also be propagated in the species, regardless of their functionality and relation to selection pressures."

    Then basic math tell us
    P4 "Many traits are many more than one trait."

    Conclusion: There are many more traits produced by Allele Y that were not functionally selected for than there are traits produced by Allele Y that were selected for.

    Since the above logic applies to all Alleles, we can further conclude that for every genetically based trait variations within a species there are many more genetically based trait variations that were not selected for.

    So, either you must reject the most basic facts of genetics and evolutionary mechanisms, or or must accept that most biologically based traits (which includes all variations of human thought and behavior shaped by genes) were not themselves selected for a particular function.
    I agree that variation is not always selected for, and in fact likely often is not selected for. Beyond that I believe one of my above comments applies.

  3. Top | #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    Every essential organ in the body, sensory, reproductive, endocrine, nervous etc. While I couldn't point you to any papers, these features of the body are being selected for every time they produce a functional human that can reproduce.

    I wasn't trying to be combative, just interested in where you were taking the conversation.
    You were asked traits. Not organs.
    Ok can one or both of you clarify the meaning?

  4. Top | #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    In an abstract since, this way of treating evolution as perfect and every bug as a features smells of religious thinking: Instead of accepting nature in its imperfection, in all its fascinating complexities, god the perfect, omnipotent creator has been substituted for evolution without changing the attributes.
    I haven't been implying that at all, not sure where it's coming from.

    If there has been any implication it's that every feature of the body, and every testable gender variation, at one point in our evolutionary history, has had survival value. Not that evolution has purposely created these features and there is a reason for their existence in the here and now. Those are two very different implications.

    I'll grant that my example in the original post is basically nonsense, and that stories not being plausible evidence is obvious. It was just a throwaway question.

    **Although I'll add that when we're talking about psychological traits, a lot of the emergent features are indeed by-products of some deeper system.
    And to add: in our theoretical example I would assume propensity for observation isn't psychological or behavioral, but rather an intrinsic part of our nervous system.
    How is that a contradiction? An intrinsic function of the nervous system is to provide us with a behavioral toolkit.

  5. Top | #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post

    "What?" is an appropriate response to your post.

    Could you try to repeat whatever point you thought you had in full English sentences? German and Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian works too, if it's not to complex, even Russian and Spanish might. You see, I'm not picky.

    You bring up an important point, however: If a trait can be linked with testosterone/estrogen levels within both men and women, than that's fairly solid evidence for its biological basis even absent a direct cross-cultural information. It does nothing, however, to indicate it is a selected trait. Like every other drug, hormones have side effects.

    In an abstract since, this way of treating evolution as perfect and every bug as a features smells of religious thinking: Instead of accepting nature in its imperfection, in all its fascinating complexities, god the perfect, omnipotent creator has been substituted for evolution without changing the attributes.
    Agreed. A trait being biologically based in no way implies that it is functional or was selected for. In fact, few psychological/behavioral traits would be, because each one is the product of so many genetic factors with every genetic factor influencing countless traits. So, the number of evolutionary functional, selected traits is inherently far outnumbered by the incidental non-functional byproducts of selection. In fact many of those byproducts can be dysfunctional in themselves, but are preserved in the genome b/c their negative impact is outweighed by the more influential positive functional effects of the genetic factors they have incidental overlap with.

    Many who accept evolutionary theory believe that it's elegance and power come from it's ability to tell us why everything is the way it is, but the real power comes from the fact that makes "by random happenstance" and "For no damn good reason" perfectly acceptable and deterministic answers to most such questions.
    Can you give a few examples of traits that are biologically based but haven't been selected for?

    Note my use of 'haven't'. Not necessarily functional now, but may have been functional at one time, therefore selected for.
    First to clarify: "traits" is a phenotypic category, not a genotypic one. Are we agreed so far?

    An example, also in the realm of sex differences: Growth hormones are correlated with the speed of aging, and variants in growth hormone genes are empirically associated with men living to an older age (e. g. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/s...-male-dna.html). So men having a lower life expectancy than women (even controlling for more risky behaviours/lifestyle choices) is likely due to the way how testosterone interacts with growth hormone pathways; from a selectionist perspective, it could be paraphrased as a side effect of larger body sizes being selected in men (along with other factors). Sure, if you want to insist that the difference in life expectancy has been selected for, you could come up with a semi-plausible story of how grandmothers have been more instrumental in taking care of the young in our species history, or about how men were more likely to die young anyway due to their role in risky activities like hunting and intertribal conflicts, and thus longevity was more strongly selected for in women than in men. But that would be treating a bug as a feature. Also, a trait that is strongly selected for in one gender is actually still more likely than not to be expressed in both unless it is specifically selected against in the other - the Y chromosome isn't all that big.

    Or male pattern baldness: while over 200 gene variants have been identified that are correlated with its incidence (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308812/), it seems clear that it is ultimately linked with the ways testosterone (or a lack of estrogen) interacts with the pathways producing hair growth - for one because women carry the same variants (all of the variants they identified are X-chromosomal or autosomal, not one on the Y chromosome) yet we don't see baldness at anywhere near the same rates in women. At best, you could claim that pattern baldness is a side effect of the selection for more body hair in males, which implies that testosterone dampers with hair growth in ways that have side effect - and quite possibly, even body hair isn't actually selected for but itself a side effect of the biochemistry of testosterone and selectively neutral.

    Or the fact stimulation of the clitoris is for many women the best and often only way to reach orgasm - the clitoris being the female analogue of the penis, this is likely because orgasm as a reaction to penile stimulation has been selected in men - and women, colloquially speaking, just got to ride along.

    As ronburgundy said, it's probably easier to exhaustively enumerate the traits for which there is a well-known, confirmed selective history than to enumerate the ones which are almost certainly a by-product of either another trait that was selected, or simply the product of blind luck. And since there are many more of the latter, the null hypothesis for any trait that cannot be determined, at the present state of our knowledge, to fall into either category is that it also falls into the latter type.

  6. Top | #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    That's immaterial to whether they've been selected for. It's just that they are so intrinsic to our functioning that they are always selected for, as is the overwhelming amount of human physiology.
    Says who?


    Also, that only explains the simplistic binary presence or absence of such systems. Each of those systems vary in countless ways and have specific features that don't need to exist and could have been replaced with an infinite number of alternative "specs". The reason that the specs are what they are is not b/c that is the most functional way for them to be. It is usually b/c the many genes and alleles that give rise to any particular "spec" also give rise to countless other specs and the net benefit of all the other specs impacted by the set of alleles that give rise to that one particular spec determine was gets passed on and thus force that spec onto the a given system whether its functional for that system or not.
    I'm with you, and don't disagree, but a concrete example would help so I can better understand what you mean.

    I would add from my tenuous understanding of your meaning, that if multiple alleles are interdependent and some produce a dysfunctional spec but contribute to the overall system and are intrinsic to it, then those alleles themselves are selected for as a part of the overall system. So the dysfunctional trait may not be selected for, but the alleles that produce it are selected for, and it's the alleles that are the unit of selection, therefore by corollary the dysfunctional trait is a product of selection as an intrinsic part of the overall system.

    The above doesn't imply purpose or function for all traits, but it does imply that there was an evolved pathway for it coming into existence.
    No, it doesn't, not in any meaningful sense.

  7. Top | #47
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    Things in existence tend to stay in existence. Perversion of a law of Newton. Fact of the matter we evolve from what is at time t through random accidents of genetics across genome. so evolution isn't really an individual thing at all. It is a statistical consequence of likelihood of outcomes across a population over time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Things in existence tend to stay in existence. Perversion of a law of Newton. Fact of the matter we evolve from what is at time t through random accidents of genetics across genome. so evolution isn't really an individual thing at all. It is a statistical consequence of likelihood of outcomes across a population over time.
    Alright. Now if you could tell us what if anything this has to do with the rest of the discussion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Things in existence tend to stay in existence. Perversion of a law of Newton. Fact of the matter we evolve from what is at time t through random accidents of genetics across genome. so evolution isn't really an individual thing at all. It is a statistical consequence of likelihood of outcomes across a population over time.
    Alright. Now if you could tell us what if anything this has to do with the rest of the discussion?
    A bit of reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I've been reading The Happiness Trap recently and it had a chapter on the 'observing' self, in contrast to the 'thinking' self. The distinction is that a part of our mind is observational and aware of it's surroundings, and the other part thinks, typically about problems and issues.
    Those categories map reasonably well on observing and prescriptive thought. While the human mind does a pretty good job of mimicking what is necessary for descriptive thought leading to observing and collecting as-are processes and scenes subserving the scientific method it doesn't do so well when bringing stuff together without multiple observations and constraints in what is observed when generating conclusions since the mind reverts to cause and effect which is why the scientific method had to be invented to get a realistic description of how things work in the world.

    Your critiques of causality and everything's up for grabs every new being are mostly on point. What I find distressing is that you seem to fall into the same morass when you say such as:

    An intrinsic function of the nervous system is to provide us with a behavioral toolkit.
    There is no actual goal here, no design. The Nervous system is just a cobbling of features that result better chance of getting to progeny. There is no nervous system feature that results in behavioral toolkit. There are features mostly unique to nervous tissue like information collection, preparing, conduction and transmission but these are way down in functional weeds of any toolkit idea.

    I've just been repeating my realization that the brain tends to parse out descriptive and prescriptive theater which we use.

  10. Top | #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post

    A bit of reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I've been reading The Happiness Trap recently and it had a chapter on the 'observing' self, in contrast to the 'thinking' self. The distinction is that a part of our mind is observational and aware of it's surroundings, and the other part thinks, typically about problems and issues.
    Those categories map reasonably well on observing and prescriptive thought. While the human mind does a pretty good job of mimicking what is necessary for descriptive thought leading to observing and collecting as-are processes and scenes subserving the scientific method it doesn't do so well when bringing stuff together without multiple observations and constraints in what is observed when generating conclusions since the mind reverts to cause and effect which is why the scientific method had to be invented to get a realistic description of how things work in the world.

    Your critiques of causality and everything's up for grabs every new being are mostly on point. What I find distressing is that you seem to fall into the same morass when you say such as:

    An intrinsic function of the nervous system is to provide us with a behavioral toolkit.
    There is no actual goal here, no design. The Nervous system is just a cobbling of features that result better chance of getting to progeny. There is no nervous system feature that results in behavioral toolkit. There are features mostly unique to nervous tissue like information collection, preparing, conduction and transmission but these are way down in functional weeds of any toolkit idea.

    I've just been repeating my realization that the brain tends to parse out descriptive and prescriptive theater which we use.
    If you trace back you'll find this was I'm response to Rousseau making a distinction between "psychological and behavioral" traits on the one hand and"nervous system basic functions" on the other. My point was that the too can't be meaningfully disentangle.

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