(urth) 5HC : Skinner, Turing (fwd)

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 4 18:54:15 PST 2005

I am not sure where Hume's fork comes into play here. The fork, as I 
understand it, isn't about determinism or randomness. It's a division of 
types of statements as either analytic (strict products of definitions and 
logical operations) or synthetic (products of empirical observation, 
statements about the world). Some people think this distinction is more 
important than others; Quine, for example, argued that there was really no 
such thing as an analytic statement in (natural) language.

As far as determinism, randomness, and evolution go: if you take an ideal 
coin with zero thickness (so that it can't land on an edge), is it a 
determined system (because there are a fixed set of ways it could possibly 
come down: heads or tails) or is it random (because on any given toss it 
could come down either way)? The answer to the question is "yes". As a poor 
pseudo-evolutionary example, let's use the game of chess (pre-computer). If 
you take a set of players, then a guy who always starts with the Queen's 
Gambit will do more poorly than one who chooses from a range of similarly 
decent openings, because his opponent will key in on the Queen's Gambit when 
preparing for the game. The second person does choose their opening 
randomly, but not just any random opening move will do - the random 
selection is made from a set of viable choices, some of which may be 
slightly worse than others but gain a little something back by way of 
unexpectedness. Does chess, then, select for randomness or not?

re: the nuclear example, it is not so much a matter of randomness that is 
selected for, but it does show that sometimes non-prudential 
strategies/traits *are* selected for. That is, prudential in the sense of 
immediate gain. Nuclear weapons fail to act as a deterrent if your opponent 
knows that you won't use them against your own best interest. Similarly and 
more to the point with a (normal) bee's sting.

>Why is it every philosphical idea I think is amazingly clever turns
>out to have been stolen from me by some long dead philosopher?!
>"Hume's fork" ?  Dammit!
>Well, I hope I at least get credit for the adaptationist addition.
>Time to dispose of your arguments:
>Randomness in nature is bad for obvious reasons.  If any time I meet a
>dreaded lion or hippo (let's pretend I am a human pre-cursor living in
>Africa) I have a random chance of either a) fleeing in abject terror,
>wetting my pants, and the next time I go to that place I am
>extra-cautious or
>b) walking up to said dangerous, unfriendly creature and poking him in
>the snout. Or some other random action which doesn't involve
>killing/fleeing the creature.  It's equally obvious, I hope, that the
>set of actions which will preserve my life is shrinkingly smaller than
>the set of all possible actions.
>  So, random actions would be selected against, and actions with sense,
>which are non-random (ie, presented with an identical situation, the
>actions will not be utterly chaotic when iterated. If a creature is
>hungry and good food is near by, we should see it the majority of
>times engaging in the highly ordered, non-random sequence of going to
>it, checking it out, checking out teh surroudnings, eating it etc.)
>and fairly deterministic would selected for.
>Your analogy with WWII nuclear strategies is not really relevant.  It
>was an attempt to manipulate an opponents game-theoretic optimum
>strategy. The one acting 'crazy'/'random' was anything but.
>And your second thing?
>Evolution is *very* fine-meshed.  The slightest advantage, compounded
>like interest over thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of
>millions etc will win out.
>If you wish to argue that 'non-enviromental' influence exist, please
>provide an example, any example.
>For my purposes, 'enviroment' is anything which affects an organism's
>chances of living or reproducing.  This keeps everything nice and neat
>and evolutionary :)
>I once wrote up a weak version of 'Hume's fork' as a fancomic for DC.
>This is just to show I did think of it a while back.  Too bad I can't
>prove I never read Hume or anything about him. Oh well.
>On Fri, 04 Feb 2005 14:27:33 +0000, Iorwerth Thomas
><iorweththomas at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > It sounds like version of Hume's fork (either my actions are determined 
> > the laws of physics, or in this case, the environment] or not; if they
> > aren't, they are random, which is false; therefore they are determined) 
> > an adaptionist sting in its tail.  The problems with this version are:
> >
> > 1) Why are random events (wrt the environment) selected against? There 
> > situations where being unpredictable is an advantage (an example from 
> > society that could be generalised are some forms of Cold War nuclear
> > strategy).
> >
> > 2) It assumes that evolutionary selection is a fine mesh, not a coarse 
> > (it probably varies between the two extremes depending on the
> > circumstances).  If something doesn't provide a significant advantage or
> > disadvantage _when all circumstances are taken into account_ (say,
> > compensating factors, low selection pressure and so forth) then it may 
> > passed on to the successive generation regardless.
> >
> > 3) What, exactly, do we mean by 'environment'?  It's a lot less obvious 
> > it seems.
> >
> > Hence, it is possible that non-environmental (for some value of 
> > influences on behaviour exist.
> >
> > Iorwerth
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