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Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 1:04amSanction this postReply
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Fine article, Neil - an intriguing exposition. I have 3 points of consideration to offer, in order to stake out territory for relevant facts and values (or truth and meaning):

1. One issue is over whether human evolution is a fact or; is "true."
2. A related issue is over - if it is true - how it can be true; or plausible (big brains do seem necessary, but are not universally regarded as sufficient, for the "big minds" that humans display).
3. A third issue is over WWRS (What Would Rand Say?). And, while this one seems to be what was primarily addressed in your essay, I feel that an answer to the first 2 delimits the possible answers to the third.

In answer to point 1, there are few theories that have as much systematic and comprehensive support as does evolution (rejecting it would mean throwing out most - more than 50% - of all of our scientific knowledge in order to maintain consistency in our standards for justified belief).

In an attempt to answer point 2 (or at least provide promising avenues for research), evidence indicates that only hominids had access to brain tissues as food (predators left the brains of their kills behind - still encased in the skull).

In the animal world in general, brain size correlates with meat intake (cats, who are obligate carnivores, have well developed brains) and brain tissue itself - due to fatty acid content - would best support brain development.

This still leaves unanswered 2 questions. One of - if eating brains helps brains grow - how the first hominid discovered (before getting a well-developed brain!) that rocks can be used to break open the skulls of carcasses. And two, how to explain the onset of conceptual awareness, which is presumed to arise from having a well-developed brain.

I'll leave the third point open for other Rand scholars, as I am currently not in possession of tremendous insights on this matter, as I am regarding insights over whether human evolution should be regarded as a matter of fact, or not.

Ed

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Post 1

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 9:07amSanction this postReply
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Eating brains to grow brain tissue, even if true (that's debatable...people grow brains outside of cultures that eat brains) wouldn't be passed on genetically anymore than giraffes stretching their necks to reach food would give birth to babies with longer necks.  That's Lamarckian evolution, and has zero support.  Baby pure breeds aren't born with pre-shortened tails.  No living thing evolves during its own lifetime (in the sense that it changes what survival traits it passes on to its offspring).  The key is not how did earlier hominids make themselves smarter; the key is whether or not being smarter, and thinking conceptually, aided in their survival.  I think this is beyond obvious:  something that thinks has a better chance of surviving, and passing its traits to offspring, than something that doesn't think.  If this weren't true, we humans wouldn't have spread to every inch of this planet and found the means to survive.

Suggesting (as Rand implied) that there were people who didn't think, and then suddenly chose to do so, is very strange.  But, let's look at what we have of the fossil record so far (which has some gaps, admittedly).  Larger skulls (implying larger brains) continually emerged over a long period of time (millions of years)along with other physical changes such as smaller and weaker jaw bones.  Some of these changes were as recent as 30,000 years ago with the advent of the Cro-Magnons (a now-dead subspecies of modern humans).  While thought would have been possible to a low degree in some former hominids, the beginning of articulate speech (requiring, among other things, a well-developed larynx and, possibly, certain brain structures) and larger brains allowed for conceptual thinking to take off.  Indeed, it was not until the advent of the above-mentioned Cro-Magnons that bows and arrows were invented (requires thinking that's much different than using a rock to cut open a carcass).

To be honest, I see no issue between human evolution and Objectivism.  Evolution is a very long and slow process.  Consider that, 6,000 years ago, people were just inventing the idea of writing.  That's a LOT shorter of a time frame than, say, the 2,000,000 years since the early hominid homo habilus (the first creature that ever created stone tools...they thought to create things to modify their environment, instead of just using whatever was at hand).  Once fully conceptual thinking was physically possible, the brain took over...and the brain thinks faster than evolution plods.  Human beings still survive by the virtue of using our brains, and we can still only ensure our individual lives, happiness, and prosperity by living by the pursuit of rationally chosen values.  Since Objectivist ethcis apply to any conceptual being, and since humans are still conceptual beings, there is no ethical dilemma.


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Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 9:37amSanction this postReply
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This essay left out one very important Rand statement [just saw that it did not, so I have deleted this nonsense of mine].

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 7/11, 10:27am)


Post 3

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 12:42pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I wasn't suggesting Lamarckian evolution, but - after drawing my attention to my own ambiguous wording - you have led me to the crucial insight explaining the mechanics!:

1. Individuals are the "units" evolution works with (via Natural Selection).
2. Big (human) Brains are necessary, if not sufficient, for Big (human) Minds.
3. Mutations leading to Big Brains ARE ONLY POSSIBLE (can only "survive-inside-individuals-until-mating") against a background diet that is high in specific fatty acids - a diet that can SUPPORT this mutation until its host breeds.
4. As soon as the first primates either take to primitive "fishing" OR to scavenging brains left from predator kills - the background is set and the mutation becomes advantageous (with THAT background diet).
5. Positive reinforcement ensues (smarter hominids - by being better hunters/gatherers - lead to even smarter ones)

This was my first attempt at a sufficient explanatory hypothesis within the conceptual framework and purpose of explaining "how we came to be what we are."

Ed

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Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 2:44pmSanction this postReply
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 ...a diet that can SUPPORT this mutation until its host breeds.
If they cause the mutation, that might be one thing.  However, it requires them not only to notice the larger brain structures of their offspring, and make the connection that it had to do with eating brains, it also requires the same diet to create a larger skull cavity for the brain and stronger neck muscles to support a larger skull (I'm sure that there are other biological developments that would be necessary as well, but these are the only ones that come straight to my mind).  Does research provide for all of this?  I don't know, but it seems a long shot that a primitive diet includes all of this, simply because hominids could eat brains (and did all hominids along the human chain of development eat the brains of animals that they caught?  I don't think we can definitively answer that one).

The situation I would advocate is the following (which does not contain a mechanism for the mutation; any mechanism would do).  I see no need to go beyond this:

In any given population, there will be individuals with greater intellectual (including conceptual) capacities.  If those capacities are advantageous to survival, then those individuals will, on the average, have more surviving offspring to pass on their greater capacities vis-a-vis the rest of the general population.


Post 5

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 3:41pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, you're right that powers of conceptual thought would be self-reinforcing (that was point 5 of my previous post), but you're wrong when you say:

"If they cause the mutation, that might be one thing.  However, it requires them not only to notice the larger brain structures of their offspring, and make the connection that it had to do with eating brains,"

Joe, it's not necessary that "they cause the mutation" (it's only necessary that, by chance, they've taken to eating certain foods THAT WOULD WELCOME such a mutation).

Here's the other side of it for a more global understanding: If they had kept the plant-dominant diet of chimps and gorillas, any chance mutations for increased brain size would be selected against (Big Brains need big fuel and big fat - which plants don't provide) as THEIR gene-planned, larger brain would be semi-starved into disorder before gene expression could be capitalized.

With this in mind, it does not "require[s] them not only to notice the larger brain structures of their offspring, and make the connection that it had to do with eating brains," (unplanned, natural variations in diet explain it all).

Ed

-------------------
As to your question of where the evidence points, below are some relevant excerpts ...

Erren TC, Erren M. Can fat explain the human brain's big bang evolution?-Horrobin's leads for comparative and functional genomics. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Apr;70(4):345-7.

" ... key mutations which differentiate us from Neanderthals and from great apes are in the genes coding for proteins which regulate fat metabolism, and particularly the phospholipid metabolism of the synapses of the brain."


Folley BS, Doop ML, Park S. Psychoses and creativity: is the missing link a biological mechanism related to phospholipids turnover? Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2003 Dec;69(6):467-76.

"Expanding upon Horrobin's theory that changes in brain size and in neural microconnectivity came about as a result of changes in dietary fat and phospholipid incorporation of highly unsaturated fatty acids, we propose a theory relating phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity to the neuromodulatory effects of the noradrenergic system. This theory offers probable links between attention, divergent thinking, and arousal through a mechanism that emphasizes optimal individual functioning ... "


Cunnane SC, Crawford MA. Survival of the fattest: fat babies were the key to evolution of the large human brain. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003 Sep;136(1):17-26.

"Human babies have brains and body fat each contributing to 11-14% of body weight, a situation which appears to be unique amongst terrestrial animals."

"The triple combination of high fuel demands, inability to import cholesterol or saturated fatty acids, and dependence on docosahexaenoic acid puts the mammalian brain in a uniquely difficult situation compared with other organs and makes its expansion in early humans all the more remarkable."


Kuliukas A. Wading for food the driving force of the evolution of bipedalism? Nutr Health. 2002;16(4):267-89.

"Here, a new empirical study of captive bonobos found them to exhibit 2% or less bipedality on the ground or in trees but over 90% when wading in water to collect food. The skeletal morphology of AL 288-1 ("Lucy") is shown to indicate a strong ability to abduct and adduct the femur. These traits, together with a remarkably platypelloid pelvis, have not yet been adequately explained by terrestrial or arboreal models for early bipedalism but are consistent with those expected in an ape that adopted a specialist side-to-side 'ice-skating' or sideways wading mode."


Broadhurst CL, Wang Y, Crawford MA, Cunnane SC, Parkington JE, Schmidt WF. Brain-specific lipids from marine, lacustrine, or terrestrial food resources: potential impact on early African Homo sapiens. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Apr;131(4):653-73.

"The polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) composition of the mammalian central nervous system is almost wholly composed of two long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). PUFA are dietarily essential, thus normal infant/neonatal brain, intellectual growth and development cannot be accomplished if they are deficient during pregnancy and lactation. Uniquely in the human species, the fetal brain consumes 70% of the energy delivered to it by mother."

"Homo sapiens is unlikely to have evolved a large, complex, metabolically expensive brain in an environment which did not provide abundant dietary LC-PUFA. Conversion of 18-carbon PUFA from vegetation to AA and DHA is considered quantitatively insufficient ... "

"At South African Capesites, large shell middens and fish remains are associated with evidence for some of the earliest modern humans. Cape sites dating from 100 to 18 kya cluster within 200 km of the present coast. Evidence of early H. sapiens is also found around the Rift Valley lakes and up the Nile Corridor into the Middle East; in some cases there is an association with the use of littoral resources. Exploitation of river, estuarine, stranded and spawning fish, shellfish and sea bird nestlings and eggs by Homo could have provided essential dietary LC-PUFA for men, women, and children without requiring organized hunting/fishing, or sophisticated social behavior. It is however, predictable from the present evidence that exploitation of this food resource would have provided the advantage in multi-generational brain development which would have made possible the advent of H. sapiens."

Post 6

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 4:40pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

There's another issue I have with your explanation which, in my zeal to show-off expertise regarding the science of evolution, I failed to mention - but it is a key issue. The issue is that your explanation (that whatever conceptual power already existing, was selected for) assumes some measure or degree of conceptual powers in non-human primates.

This presumption causes me great cognitive dissonance (unbearable mental state of helplessly, but not hopelessly, recognizing contradictory beliefs). Don't get me wrong, cognitive dissonance can be a "good" pain (serving as a wellspring for deliberately increasing our understanding of things).

What I like about my interpretation is that it dissolves the contradiction (the REASON we're so different from apes is explained without granting them conceptual power).

All brains - human, or animal - are around 60% fat (by weight). And, on top of that, the proportion of DHA, a fatty acid only found in good amounts in fish (or brains) is stable across brain sizes (I believe brains are 20% DHA). This means that ONLY THOSE ANIMALS living on fish or brains CAN EVER evolve mentally (again, assuming big brains are a prerequisite for big minds - ie. minds with conceptual powers).

Another point is that, while our brain is only about 2% of our body weight, it consumes around 20% of our metabolic energy (calories). But the Big Guts that apes have are built for roughage, and not the calorically-dense foods that are absolutely necessary to fuel a big brain. And finally, maintaining these guts diverts energy away from brain growth - which provides another stop-gap explaining why apes can't theorize.

Ed

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Post 7

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 4:40pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Joe, Ed, Rodney,

You said, "To be honest, I see no issue between human evolution and Objectivism.  Evolution is a very long and slow process. <p>

This, as a matter of fact, is one of the issues between human evolution and Objectivism.

Objectivism regards instinct and rationality as mutually exclusive atributes. Instinct provides those animals that have it the automatic bahavior they need to survive, providing them the kind of food they need, the kind of behavior required to protect themselves, to reproduce, and any other thing their nature requires. Human beings do not have instinct. They must discover everything, what constitutes food and how to acquire it, what they must do to protect themselves from the elements and other dangers, even how to reproduce. To discover these thing, human beings have the faculty of reason, and to do those things they discover to do, they have the faculty of volition. (Volition is actually the primary faculty that makes reason possible.)

But these two kinds of nature cannot exist in the same beings, a being is either volitional or instinctive. An animal must be able to consciously choose on the basis of knowledge, or its choices must all be provided automatically, instinctively.

The problem evolution presents is the very first human being would have to discover everything himself. The chances the fist human being would have survived long enough to breed does not seem possible. (There are related biological problems too, of course. Human babies are helpless for some time. Would a non-human parent know how to care for a human baby? And what are the odds that both a male and female with the same mutation resulting in a human would occur at the same time and the same geographic location?)

There is an unstated assumption implied in your statement that the transition from instinctive to rational creatures could have been gradual. This implies there can be (transitional) creatures that are partly instinctive and partly rational. The argument I'm making is not whether or not this is possible, only that Objectivism rejects that possibility. At least Ayn Rand did.

Outside the context of the objectivist view of the nature of man, the "gradual" is the usual view. Within the context of Objectivism, however, it cannot be. One of the other must be incorrect--the Objectivist view of the nature of man, or the current view of a gradual transition from instinctive to rational.

Regi



Post 8

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 5:02pmSanction this postReply
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Regi,

While you may be correct in speaking for Rand (you know her better than I do), I do not agree that the principles of Objectivism necessitate dichotomy here. Here is some support for my view:

The Transitional Man Hypothesis is tenable because man did not need to be fully-rational at first (he only needed "an edge" over other creatures). In this respect, instincts could have been gradually selected against, and in different areas of life-style, as rationality offered - in those areas - superior fitness.

It is only when one gets to complex social structures (bands of 50 or so, purposefully living together) that rationality becomes a full-fledged, do-it-or-die necessity for some humans to be able to capture the survival-of-the-fittest award.

Indeed, it is thought that the fate of Archaic Homo sapiens (the Neanderthals) in Europe was that they were supplanted wholesale by anatomically modern humans - who were, presumably, "better thinkers" and perhaps completely unreliant on any instincts for their behavior selection in crucial matters - such as how to co-exist productively with others.

Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 7/10, 5:05pm)


Post 9

Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 9:27pmSanction this postReply
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What happened on this thread to practically ignore natural selection? The evolution of the human brain needn't depend on mutations to explain its very rapid development. Every human population has a Gaussian distribution of intelligence. The advantage that the more intelligent ones had over the dimmer ones gave them a HUGE difference in survivability, thus allowing them to pass their genes to their progeny. This wouldn't have been a mere marginal advantage and could have accelerated very quickly. All it would have taken is for several individuals to have an IQ of, say, 50 while all the others were around 25. This needn't be considered as a mutation any more that a person with an IQ of 200 wouldn't be considered a mutation today.

Sure, diet may have been important but the primitive humans had opposable thumbs that enabled them to grasp tools and bash in the heads of their victims to eat their brains. IMO, the opposable thumb came first but after that the opposable thumb and intelligence were separate, but mutually reinforcing phenomena. The brain assisted in advancing the motor control and dexterity that was necessary for fashioning the more elaborate tools that the brain conceived.

I know I'm not arguing at the same academic level as the rest of you but this seems so elementary.

Sam

(Edited by Sam Erica on 7/11, 6:28am)

(Edited by Sam Erica on 7/11, 8:03am)


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Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 9:28pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry for a duplicate post (edited out). 
Sam

(Edited by Sam Erica on 7/10, 9:31pm)


Post 11

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 8:24amSanction this postReply
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Sam,

The reason mutation matters here is because there was a time (~3-6 million years ago) when no humans existed, only animals. This requires of natural selection to "make a human" (from an animal).

I have explained how this transition (from animal to human) is not only possible, but plausible. I'm using "plausible" to acknowledge a stronger sense than the word "possible" implies. In other words, I have shown that it is "more than possible."

If you examine the titles and excerpts I've included at the end of my reply to Joe, you'll see that I've even shown that it is "probable" (more probable than available rival hypotheses).

Note: If I hadn't said what I did, creationists would still have an argument (now they don't)

Ed

Post 12

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 1:29pmSanction this postReply
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Sam, Ed,

I'm not making an argument one way or the other about evolution, I'm only pointing out, if Ayn Rand is right, human consciousness is not just the latest stage in some kind of general or gradual improvement in intelligence, but a consciousness that is a unique kind.

Furthermore, that uniqueness, the rational/volitional concsiousness is incompatible with instinct; a creature must be instinctive or rational, but not both, and no variation of some of this and some of that.

That is the Randian view. If it is correct, it does not invalidate the evolution of man, but it sure complicates it.

My question is, do you think the Randian view is wrong that rational/volitional consiousness is not compatible with instinct, or was she right, and evolution, so far, has failed to notice the problem, much less address it?

Regi


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Post 13

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 5:31amSanction this postReply
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Interesting article. But I see not even a hint of a case that evolution and free will are incompatible.  What is the suggestion here?  Why the a priori assumption that what we regard as persons could not evolve from lower forms of life?  Part of the problem may be a failure fully to get over the mind-body dichotomy, which Rand emphatically rejected.  But if we are to fully reject it, we must put aside any notion of mind as a nonmaterial ghostly organ. (Neither is it the brain.) If it were a nonmaterial organ, it might be hard to conjure up an evolutionary origin for that "thing."  (That's just the beginning of the problems.) But as Gilbert Ryle and Thomas Szasz have emphasized, mind is not a "thing," a nonmaterial brain.  Contra Darwin, thoughts are not secretions.  That idea on its face is absurd. I know what a humorous thought is.  What in hell is a humorous secretion?  Obviously, they are entirely different "things."  The fact that mental activities require a material infrastructure does not mean--indeed, cannot mean--that the mental and the physical are one.  (If X requires Y, X cannot also be Y.)

We have to remember that all references to mind and mental activities as things are metaphorical. In fact, mind is a summary term indicating actions.  Mind is really minding. Thinking, as Ryle and Szasz show, is the ability to engage in self-conversation, to be heedful of one's self and environment and to engage in an internal narrative ("autologue") about them.  When thought of that way, mind (i.e., minding) is entirely consistent with evolution.  Nor does this conception conflict with physical laws and cause and effect. On the contrary, it requires cause and effect.  Try imagining minding in a world without cause and effect.  It would be impossible.

I don't know if there is a name for this position, which rejects both Cartesianism and materialism.  (I guess we can call it Objectivism.)  But Objectivists should reject both. While the Cartesians (advocates of the ghost in the machine) have misplaced Occam's Razor, the materialists don't know when to stop using it.



Post 14

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 10:20amSanction this postReply
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After I submitted this article, I did find 3 references to evolution in OPAR:

1. There is a reference to whether evolution or creationism should be taught in schools.  (Can't remember the page.)

2. On page 405, there is a reference to Spencer in which Peikoff describes Darwinian evolution as "the intellectuals' fad of the period."

3. On page 476, n. 19: "Darwin's theory, Ayn Rand held, pertains to a special science, not to philosophy.  Philosophy as such, therefore, takes no position in regard to it."


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Post 15

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 5:07pmSanction this postReply
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Sheldon,

I don't know if there is a name for this position, which rejects both Cartesianism and materialism.  (I guess we can call it Objectivism.) 
 
That is exactly Ayn Rand's position. She did not regard the mind, or consciousness, for that matter, physical, but nevertheless metaphysical, because consciousness and mind exist independently of anyone's consciousness or knowledge of them. (Of course they do not exist independently of the beings who have them, which beings are physical, by the way.)

She admitted she did not know exactly how consciousness and mind were related to the physical, on which they are dependent, but thought the answer to the problem was the business of science, not philosophy.

Regi


Post 16

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 5:10pmSanction this postReply
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Neil, your quotes above are a little misleading - unless, of course, you are merely trying to show that Rand and/or Peikoff was not in possession of a comprehensive view of both the science of evolution and all the implications it may have for one's world-view or philosophy.

A less misleading quote from p 405 of OPAR would have included the context: Spencer's equivocation of survival-of-the-fittest in the animal world (competing for limited goods) vs. the human world.

This APPEAL-to-Darwin equivocation is then debunked as fallacious because humans "work" differently than animals. Humans produce wealth - via the use of their unique capacity: reasoning - and they produce wealth where it hadn't yet existed (a unique feat that is not observed in the animal kingdom).

It's not the theory of evolution that Peikoff is rejecting (as a "fad"), it is Spencer's equivocation of humans with animals.

Note: This equivocation comes from both the Right and the Left politically. Here's a revealing excerpt from:
http://religion.aynrand.org/faith_ed.html

----------------------
The central issue is not whether there is enough scientific evidence to validate a particular conclusion — but whether science as such, rather than faith, is the basis for arriving at conclusions. There can be no scientific debate between these two positions. There can be no rational argument between a view that rests on observation and reason, and one that rests on blind faith — i.e., on its adherents’ desire to believe something, irrespective of logic.
     If the Creationist approach were taken seriously, what would remain of education? If evidence and reasoning are to be “balanced” by faith or feelings — what, then, would not belong in the curriculum? Even the theory that the earth is flat has proponents who feel it is true. More to the point, what is to stop teachers from presenting any other non-rational view of the origin of man? Why not give equal time to, say, the Nazi claim that the white race descended from the superior Aryans?
     The most ominous implication of the Creationist position is its belief that, in judging the truth of an idea, one can simply ignore rational evidence — if it clashes with one’s desire to believe otherwise. This is a disastrous methodology to inculcate in our children — and it is even more dangerous to back it up with the rulings of a government body.
     The crucial role of education is to provide young people with the information and methods they need in order to learn how to think independently. Education has liberated mankind from the shackles of myth, superstition, and unchallenged tradition. But the prevailing trend — from both the “progressive” left and the religious right — is to reverse this development, by enshrining feelings over facts and faith over reason.
----------------------

Ed

Post 17

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 6:12pmSanction this postReply
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Regi:
"I'm not making an argument one way or the other about evolution, I'm only pointing out, if Ayn Rand is right, human consciousness is not just the latest stage in some kind of general or gradual improvement in intelligence, but a consciousness that is a unique kind."

Ed:
Regi, I've shown how the gap in mental power between animals and humans can be explained by evolution while preserving conceptual human thought as unique kind of power in the world. It's now only a matter of explaining the mechanics behind the jump from Big Brains to Big Minds (I've adequately explained the Big Mind Phenomenon, including it's probable evolutionary origin).


Regi:
"Furthermore, that uniqueness, the rational/volitional concsiousness is incompatible with instinct; a creature must be instinctive or rational, but not both, and no variation of some of this and some of that."

Ed:
Regi, what about the "hair-raising" (on the back of the neck) response to fear that we have - a leftover from evolution which still has survival value in hairy animals that appear larger when their hair stands on end? It is a pre-rational response to threat.


Regi:
"My question is, do you think the Randian view is wrong that rational/volitional consiousness is not compatible with instinct, or was she right, and evolution, so far, has failed to notice the problem, much less address it?"

Ed:
Regi, there are other responses to the environment besides the hair-raising example above (knee-jerk reflex, etc) that are pre-rational and have survival value. I think that a definition of "instinct" is in order here for us to make the correct distinctions. To preempt misconception: I'm not trying to be pedantic, I'm serious in my request for a definition that effectively distinguishes instincts from other things affecting behavior.

Instincts = [insert definition here Regi (or others)]

Ed

Post 18

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 7:22pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, you might look into Nathaniel Branden's discussion of instinct in The Psychology of Self-Esteem, where he argues that "instinct" is not a valid concept, that the effects of every alleged instinct can be attributed to one or more of a series of other motivating factors. (Unless you are familiar with his discussion already.)

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Post 19

Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 7:42pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, Rodney,

(Who cares what that philandering quack Branden says.)

Ed, you are confusing reflex and instinct. The behavior of the autonomic nervous system and reflexes involve no conscious, in fact they bypass consciousness. We are talking about differences in conscious natures, instinctive versus rational.

Rand got that absolutely right.

My definition, Instinct: an automatic pattern of behavior that gurantees the survival of the organsim.

Some notes from Rand:
Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. Are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation? An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. [Atlas Shrugged Part Three / Chapter VII, "This Is John Galt Speaking"]
Man survives through the exercise of his rational faculty. That is his sole means of survival.
Man comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force guided by instinct. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle, and no instinct to guide him. He cannot obtain sustenance for his body except through the exercise of his rational <jrnl_252> faculty. He must plant his food or hunt it. Planting requires a long, consistent process of thought—of observation and logical deduction. Hunting requires weapons; man cannot hunt with his hands, his quarries are his superiors in speed or force, and making weapons requires a process of thought. Man could not survive even as an herbivorous creature by picking fruit and berries at random. He has no instinct to tell him which plants are beneficial to him and which are a deadly poison. He can learn it only by conscious experimentation or by the observation of other living creatures who do not touch poisonous plants—a procedure which, in either case, is a process of thought.
...
Instinct is infallible within the limits of its sphere. Nature gives an animal both the means and the method of survival; he cannot do wrong in his method; he does what he must; if he is confronted by a fact outside the provisions of his instinct, he can do nothing and he perishes. [The Journals of Ayn Rand, Part 3 - Transition Between Novels, 8 - The Moral Basis Of Individualism]
 [Emphasis mine.]

Regi



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