Monday, February 06, 2017

A philosopher tells us how to think clearly about evolutionary causes ... avoid adaptationism

I think philosophy has lost its way. The discipline gives credence to religious philosophers who write about god(s) and to other philosophers who reject determinism and think the mind-body problem is still an open question. Philosophers still debate the validity of the ontological argument. Philosophers of science have not even settled the question of what is science, let alone come up with a valid answer of how to do it. There are few other disciplines that are still respected after several hundred years of trying, and failing, to answer the most fundamental questions in their field. Many academic philosophy department are hotbeds of political correctness and just plain politics.

The most valid part of modern philosophy is logic. That's the part that absolutely must be taught in schools as early as possible. It's the basis of critical thinking.

Some scientists have a much better appreciation of philosophy. That's probably because they have worked closely, and successfully, with one or two of the best. I sympathize with those scientists because I also know some very good philosophers who have provided crucial insight into some serious problems in biology. I won't name them all (Hi John!) because I might forget one or two.

I think Stephen Jay Gould struck the right balance when he wrote the following passage in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (pp. 28-29).
Most of us would scoff at the prospect of working with a professional philosopher, regarding such an enterprise as, at best, a pleasant waste of time and, at worst, as admission that our own clarity of thought had become addled (or at least a fear that our colleagues would so regard our interdisciplinary collaboration).

An yet, the conceptual problems presented by theories based on causes operating at several levels simultaneously, or effects propagated up and down, of properties emerging (or not) at higher levels, of the interaction of random and deteministic processes, and of predictable and contingent influence, have proven to be so complex, and so unfamiliar to people trained in the simpler models of causal flow ... that we have to reach out to colleagues explicitly trained in rigorous thinking about such issues.....

My own understanding of how to formulate an operational theory of hierarchical selection, and my 'rescue; from a crucual conceptual error that had stymied my previous thinking emerged from joint work with Elisabeth Lloyd, a professional philosopher of science. I take great pride in our two joint articles (Lloyd and Gould, 1993; Gould and Lloyd, 1999) ....
This is a long-winded way of introducing you to Elisabeth Lloyd, a professor in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at Indiana University (Bloomington, Indianna, USA).1

I just stumbled upon an article written by Elisabeth Lloyd a little over a year ago (Lloyd, 2015). Here's the title and abstract ....
Lloyd, E.A. (2015) Adaptationism and the logic of research questions: how to think clearly about evolutionary causes. Biological Theory, 10:343-362. [doi: 10.1007/s13752-015-0214-2]

This article discusses various dangers that accompany the supposedly benign methods in behavioral evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology that fall under the framework of “methodological adaptationism.” A “Logic of Research Questions” is proposed that aids in clarifying the reasoning problems that arise due to the framework under critique. The live, and widely practiced, “evolutionary factors” framework is offered as the key comparison and alternative. The article goes beyond the traditional critique of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin, to present problems such as the disappearance of evidence, the mishandling of the null hypothesis, and failures in scientific reasoning, exemplified by a case from human behavioral ecology. In conclusion the paper shows that “methodological adaptationism” does not deserve its benign reputation.
I realize that most of you won't be able to access this article but for those of you who can, it's well worth reading. As Gould said, sometimes philosophers can clear up conceptual problems. In this case, it's the conceptual problem concerning adaptationism and the proper null hypothesis in evolutionary thinking.

It's been almost 40 years since the publication of the Spandrels paper and yet we still find biologists defending the adaptationist program in its various forms. If you are one of those scientists, read this paper.

Here's her introduction. It shows you what's coming.
We do not usually think that the logic of our scientific methods leads to closed-mindedness, and the inability to see alternatives, or evaluate evidence, but that is exactly what sometimes happens in evolutionary biology of behavioral and morphological traits with one of its most popular methods, despite its benign reputation. In “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm,” Gould and Lewontin (1979) drew attention to several dangers in using this method. In this article, I present a framework for analysis that makes their worries clearer. I also warn of further risks of this methodological framework, expanding on the dangers it poses to scientific reasoning in evolutionary biology. At the same time, I emphasize that I am not attacking the notion of looking for adaptations in evolutionary studies: I am not anti-adaptation. The issues concern which framework is most appropriate and fruitful.

As evolutionary biology is usually taught and conceived, there are a variety of evolutionary forces or types of factors that can influence the form and distribution of a given trait in a population or species (Singh and Krimbas 2000; Futuyma 2013). While natural selection may be the most significant factor, we also have sexual selection, genetic linkage, phyletic history or “inertia,” developmental factors, drift or chance, embryological constraints, and social, environmental, and niche coevolutionary factors (Wright 1931; Odling-Smee et al. 2001; Pigliucci and Müller 2010). Traits can also be byproducts, spandrels, or exaptations of any of these processes in a co-related or linked trait, among other causal and explanatory factors (Gould and Lewontin 1979; Gould and Vrba 1982; Futuyma 2013). Let us call this basic approach the “evolutionary factors” framework of evolutionary theory; its fundamental research question is: “What evolutionary factors account for the form and distribution of this trait?” Often, several of these factors are understood to operate simultaneously on a given trait, but only one or two are the major factors causing its form and distribution at a given time (e.g., Otsuka 2014; see Newman 1988; Amundson 1994, 1998, 2005; Griffiths 1996; Raff 1996; Carroll 2005; Newman and Bhat 2008). When we investigate the evolutionary origins of a given trait, we usually prioritize the functional factors, natural selection and sexual selection, as the most significant factors in evolutionary research, and we might start with the question: “Does this trait have a function?” If the trait, after investigation, does not appear to have a correlation with fitness, or does not appear to have evidence of design (hence, does not appear to have a current or past function), we pursue other possible evolutionary explanations, such as whether it might be due to genetic linkage with another trait, or be an exaptation, or a byproduct of selection (see Gould and Vrba 1982; Gould 2002; Lloyd and Gould ([2002]2014). Alternatively, it may be present due to developmental or embryological constraints, or due to phyletic inertia, and so on (Wake 1991, 2009; Newman and Bhat 2008, 2011; Linde-Medina 2011; Griesemer 2015). Pursuit of such explanations would consist of testing them against available evidence and searching for new evidence specific to those factors, against which they could then be compared.

There is another approach, dominant among leading animal behaviorists, behavioral ecologists, and many human evolutionists and evolutionary psychologists, called “methodological adaptationism.” Under this approach, the leading research question is: “What is the function of this trait?” or “What adaptive explanation can account for this trait?” And the research consists of an exploration and search for supportive evidence for adaptive hypotheses that can explain the trait’s presence in the population.
In case you're in any doubt about her conclusions, let me quote the last paragraph.
I would like to close by again emphasizing that I am not in any way against adaptive explanations themselves. But I have highlighted some risks of a particular very popular approach to research into evolutionary causes. These dangers become obvious when we examine the logic of the research questions and their relevant answers, within the methodological adaptationist approach and the contrasting evolutionary factors framework. When a research method makes any particular types of hypotheses especially difficult to entertain or accept, it deserves serious scrutiny. Keeping the logic of the research questions in mind when dealing with the scientific errors committed by adaptationists allows us to analyze and explain them straightforwardly. The presence of researchers like Symons who engaged in their research using the more inclusive evolutionary factors methodology exemplify a living available alternative method. Evolutionists say that they have learned their lessons about an inclusive approach to evolutionary explanation from Gould and Lewontin’s 1979 “Spandrels” article, but methodological adaptationism seems to make it very difficult for them to act on those lessons.
So, there really are some philosophers who know their stuff! (That doesn't mean the discipline isn't in trouble.)


1. It just occurred to me that "Indiana" is named after the Indian Territories. I thought it was politically incorrect to appropriate the word "indian" these days?

Gould, S.J., and Lloyd, E.A. (1999) Individuality and adaptation across levels of selection: How shall we name and generalize the unit of Darwinism? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96:11904-11909. [doi: 10.1073/pnas.96.21.11904]

Lloyd, E.A., and Gould, S.J. (1993) Species selection on variability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 90:595-599. [doi: 10.1073/pnas.90.2.595]

112 comments :

  1. I thought it was politically incorrect to appropriate the word "indian" these days?

    It's expensive to re-do all the road signs.

    By the way, thanks for the post about this article and the reminder about some of the ways philosophical rigor can be helpful.

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  2. I enjoy hearing about how one discipline is helped out by another. I suspect da Vinci would have approved.

    Also, I often wonder if the mindset among some scientists who always look for adaptation is, in any way, related to the mindset among theists who seem to insist on seeing teleology in everything.

    Humans want to know the purpose of things they see, and sometimes it just isn't there.

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  3. I think philosophy has lost its way.

    Can you remind me please when philosophy has ever had its way; or was useful? I might be exaggerating but I find philosophy for the most part, with few exceptions, distracting and often misleading.
    Let's look at philosophy of evolution by Michael Ruse as an example.
    Would he be able to contribute to any of philosophical issues had not others preformed the scientific experiments?

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    1. Would Dawkins? How about the Canadian loonie Lawrence M. Krauss?

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  4. I thought determinism died in the beginning of the 20th century.

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    1. Of course you did. Christianity and determinism are mortal enemies.

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    2. "...as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

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    3. Quoting an unverifiable, ancient text (replete with errors) to counter the collective works of neuroscience, genetics, and biochemistry is clearly an act of desperation. Let's call it a win for science, and go to bed.

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    4. No place to hide TE. But you really should dress up your comments and call the writers "ignorant goat herders".

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    5. Of course they are enemies. And free will too. Science doesn't say that free will does not exist, as it doesn't say that God doesn't exist. You are stating your beliefs, drawn from scientific knowledge, but they are not scientific knowledge. To me, that attitude is not healthy and is what makes some people be against things like evolution. I'd go to bed but have to go to work.

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    6. Frederick Abascal says,

      You are stating your beliefs, drawn from scientific knowledge, ...

      The only alternative is beliefs that conflict with scientific knowledge. Is that what you prefer?

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    7. Science doesn't say that free will does not exist, as it doesn't say that God doesn't exist.

      Interesting viewpoint. Would you also say that science does not say that unicorns do not exist?

      If not, then please cite the evidence disproving the existence that is so much stronger than that against the existence of gods.

      If so, then would you say that people who steadfastly believe in the existence of unicorns should be taken as seriously as those who believe in God? And that universities should establish departments devoted to the investigation of unicornology?

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    8. It's debatable when determinism died, but it's not debatable whether it is dead. I'd say it got mortally wounded on July 1st 1858 and succumbed to its injury on July 12th 1982, i.e. its death throes lasted from the time Darwin and Wallace proposed a theory of evolution in adeterministic universes to the first empirical violation of Bells inequality.

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    9. to the first empirical violation of Bells inequality

      Looking at things from a whole different Aspect. ;-)

      Corroborated by a so-called "loophole-free" experiment in 2015.

      Anyway, free will is alive and well, strict determinism is dead, but this is no solace for religion, since it means the universe is fundamentally stochastic, i.e., no all-powerful entities such as popular notions of a deity can exist.

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    10. The debate over free will is not a debate over determinism vs indeterminism. Whether your actions are due to deterministic laws, or fundamentally random quantum-fluctuations, neither of those are a form of conscious choice.

      Whether the "laws" that describes how atoms behave are deterministic and predictable, or fundamentally unpredictable and random, the atoms that make you up follow those laws and not your will. If you want to call that "free will", is it even possible for free will not to exist on your view then?

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    11. the atoms that make you up follow those laws and not your will. If you want to call that "free will", is it even possible for free will not to exist on your view then?

      I was thinking of the point of view of an imagined all-powerful deity. If the deity was truly all-knowing and all-powerful, there would be some question about whether free will for the denizens of the deity's domain (the universe, let us say) was possible.

      Since we know that in a fundamentally unpredictable and random universe (perhaps a little too strong a statement - "probabilistic and not capable of being completely determined or known" may be better) there cannot be such an entity as an all-knowing, all-powerful deity, this leaves us humans in a position of knowing we can exercise free will (if this is a problem that concerns you :-) ).

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    12. judmarc,

      What does "free will" mean? If all it means is that a god could not completely predict our actions, how does it differ from randomness? People generally do not find unpredictability due to quantum randomness as a satisfying meaning. I certainly don't.

      If free will is neither determined nor random, I don't see a third option, which I think renders the concept incoherent. You?

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    13. Some forms of Christianity are enemies of free will. Some forms of Calvinism say that "God" has already decided everything that's going to happen ("God controls whatsoever comes to pass"), and thus we really are chosen by "God" to be saved or not, etc, etc, etc. We have absolutely no say in the matter.

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    14. Oh, and agreed with John. Free-will is ill defined (and determinism is ill-defined too). I think the discussion is about incoherent terms in the first place.

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    15. The argument for freewill has always been “It feels that way.”

      Determinism could be defined: All physical events are caused or determined by the sum total of all previous events. (I think that’s from Dennett’s ‘Elbow Room’).
      I think most physicists would agree- that notion of determinism died with the acceptance of quantum mechanics.
      The argument against ‘free will’ historically was that it was impossible given the universe was ‘determined’ in the manner suggested by the definition I have given. But the universe is not like that, so freewill might exist.

      I believe the statement “I have determined on the evidence that I have no freewill,” is self-refuting.

      It appears my choices are to go with my feelings- that I have freewill- or to go with the self-refuting philosophy that somehow I’ve ‘determined’ that I don’t ‘determine’ anything.

      I believe I may be involved in a false dilemma here—
      It’s a messy subject…

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    16. It appears my choices are to go with my feelings- that I have freewill- or to go with the self-refuting philosophy that somehow I’ve ‘determined’ that I don’t ‘determine’ anything.

      Your self-refutation is nothing more than playing with words. You haven't dealt with the real issue that the concept of free will is incoherent. Quantum indeterminacy doesn't save it. When you say "I determine" what does that mean? If your determination is neither caused nor capricious, what is it? As I said, I can't think of a third thing. I don't think you can either. I know Obiwan told you to trust your feelings, but he's a fictional character.

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    17. If free will is neither determined nor random, I don't see a third option

      It's called free will because it includes the concept of individual will or volition.

      Do we have volition? If we know that no other entity can dictate all our thoughts and actions, yes. (It's not just quantum indeterminacy but a host of other problems with the classic idea of a deity, e.g., omnipresence not being possible because it would involve faster-than-light communication.) Are our actions completely random? To the extent we have volition and can trivially render them not so (e.g., traveling directly to a desired destination rather than following a random walk pattern), obviously yes.


      So I don't think the answer to "Do we have volition?" is incoherent. There are scientifically possible alternatives to consider (e.g., Boltzmann brains), but among the classic choices of all our actions being completely determined by a deity or in a Newtonian clockwork universe versus having individual volition I'd come down on the side of the latter, and I'd say the science would tend to favor that choice as well.

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    18. John-
      Freewill is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action.
      "I determined," usually means that given a number of options, I picked one of those options.
      If how I picked it involves 'freewill', then there isn't necessarily going to be a mechanical, mathematical description of the process.

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    19. John -

      Getting OT and I'll shut up on this sidetrack after this, but:

      Y'know, I think it's kinda like evolution - there sure are powerful environmental effects, but there's plenty of contingency and stochasticity(?), too.

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    20. Jack & judmarc:

      I would say that you have done nothing to render the idea of free will coherent. You have merely defined it in terms of synonyms, "ability to choose" and "volition" respectively, that are themselves incoherent. Again, there is causality, and there is quantum indeterminacy. There is no third thing. Free will can't emerge from either or from their combination.

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    21. John-
      I'm not sure we are talking about the same thing.
      I’m not sure why you say quantum indeterminacy can’t explain freewill.
      I’m not sure it does, but there are certainly similarities that make me suspicious.

      Why can’t indeterminacy explain freewill?

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    22. Why can’t indeterminacy explain freewill?

      Because it's random. Is free will random? If your brain flipped a coin for every decision, would you call that exercising free will?

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    23. Harshman, the world was not designed for bright people who are terminally stupid. Rightness, and righteousness, belong to simple, ordinary folks who can tell, without a second thought, possible from impossible, right from wrong, good from evil, normal from abnormal. But you can't.

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    24. @judmarc: There are 3 proposed loopholes and the 2015 paper closed 2 of them (in between there have been various experiments closing single ones). Today a new paper was published (Handsteiner et al. 2017 "Cosmic Bell Test: Measurement Settings from Milky Way Stars", Physical Review Letters 118, 060401), closing another set of two loopholes.

      I've always been rather comfortable with the idea that free will is the subjective experience of being a stochastic system, much in the same way that one would talk about love vs. pair-bonding. So, yes, if the brain is flipping coins then that would constitute FW in my book. But I would note that the way John phrased this above seems to imply that the stochasticity is extrinsic to the brain. It's not. Your brain doesn't flip coins as much as that it consists of a number of more or less reliable neuronal connections. The whole point of a brain as big and resource hungry as ours is to make decisions. In a lot of situations part of the optimal decision making strategy is to be unpredictable. And it's relatively easy to get an unreliable neuron just by reducing the number of receptors.

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    25. Hi Simon. Thanks for the cite to the new paper.

      Re free will, I said I'd shut up about that, and I will. :)

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    26. John,
      The question of ‘freewill’ is this- If I’m asked ‘chocolate or vanilla?’ and I answer ‘vanilla’ could I have done otherwise and answered ‘chocolate’ or even ‘what pie do you have?’

      If I could not have done otherwise and my answer was actually determined before the question was asked as would be the case if the universe is completely determined, then I have no freewill.
      If I could have done otherwise, then I do have freewill.
      That’s what they say- a person who has no freewill could not have done otherwise, whereas a person who has freewill could do otherwise.

      If one imagines that brain state ‘a’ is ‘vanilla’ and brain state ‘b’ is chocolate, then what we get from quantum indeterminacy is the possibility the brain could enter into a state where either answer is actually possible.

      That would not be the case if the universe is deterministic as the brain would never enter into a state with more than one possible future.

      Part of freewill is being able to make a decision for ’no reason’ at all. Isn’t randomness the only way to assure that?

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    27. My suspicion is that most people would not accept a purely random decision as an exercise of free will. Is a plutonium atom exercising free will when it "decides" to fission at a particular moment? If not, how does that differ from the choice of ice cream you describe here? If so, how can the term "free will" mean anything interesting?

      You actually seem to be saying that all of free will — not just part — is making a decision for no reason at all. Do you find that satisfying?

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    28. John-
      The question is
      "Could the person have done differently?"

      If yes, then freewill.

      I could choose chocolate because I like it, I could choose vanilla because I usually pick chocolate and I'm feeling a bit risqué, I could choose whichever for no reason at all.

      If you think the atom has all the salient features of your mind, then I would say, yes, the atom has freewill.

      I don't think an atom has all the salient features in this case.

      I'm not sure the term 'free will' is supposed to have an interesting meaning. Would an interesting meaning imply more truth or something?
      I'm not sure I understand that comment.

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    29. Jack,

      I'm afraid I reject your definition of free will, as, I believe, would most people. They would demand something other than unpredictability. It must be some kind of self-controlled unpredictability. If that sounds incoherent to you, well, that's what I've been saying all along.

      An atom doesn't have all the features of my mind, but it has the only salient feature on which you hang free will. Stop equivocating and either accept that an atom has free will or that you don't.

      By "interesting" I mean something that most people would understand as non-trivial. Generally, this would be something that would validate their feeling of being in control of their own behavior, independent of external causation and sheer randomness both. I think you're fooling yourself about why you could choose chocolate or vanilla. Chance and necessity don't add up to free will.

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    30. John, it seems like you introduce something here that traditionally would be called a soul. If one rejects dualism and thus holds that the brain is the self, then it's rather clear that the self does make choices by being a stochastic system. It actually is in control, because the randomness is not extrinsic to it, but a part of it.

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    31. Simon,

      I don't see why the randomness being intrinsic to the self would result in anything most people would call free will. If we put a random number generator into a computer program (the randomness isn't extrinsic to it!), does that program have free will? Nor does a soul solve the problem either; it merely transfers the problem to another medium. The problem is that free will as usually understood is incoherent. If you want to define it as the ability to offer stochastic responses then sure, free will is easy. But that bears no resemblance to the concept as generally understood, and you will confuse a lot of people.

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    32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    33. John-
      The definition of ‘freewill’ is ‘the ability to choose between different possible courses of action’.
      That comes from a standard English dictionary.
      Unless you have an actual alternative, I suggest we stick with that.

      The test for ‘freewill’ is used regularly as well-

      If someone says “I acted on my own freewill,” what they mean is that they could have taken a different course of action.
      If someone says “I did not act on my own freewill,” what they are saying is that circumstances (a gun to the head, or shackles around one’s legs, perhaps a sleep inducing drug…) made it impossible to actually choose which course was taken and they are claiming they could not have done other than what they did (even though they wanted to in some cases).

      Not all choices have to be made at random, I could choose chocolate be(cause) I like it.
      However, the fact that I can make a choice ‘at random’ is what assures I can make a choice that is not encumbered by any physical reality or past history. You seem to think the ability that assures I have free will some how negates my free will. That’s confusing.

      Is it important to you that you don’t have free will?

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    34. Jack,

      Please stop with the cheap shot. It's important to me that I understand what you're talking about, and it's important to me that I understand how the world actually works. A fairly simple computer program can be made to take a course of action that depends both on inputs — causes — and a random number generator. Does that computer program have free will? According to your definition, it does. I don't think that's a very good definition.

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    35. Evgeny,

      If I admit that you are much, much smarter than I am, will you go away?

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    36. John,
      I’m talking about how human beings express the experience of having a choice and how that might relate to certain phenomena associated with quantum mechanics specifically quantum indeterminism.

      It seems your questions about computers and random number generators are about something else, I’m not sure what.

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    37. Jack,

      What does how people express their subjective experiences have to do with whether free will exists or how to define it? I thought we were talking about the latter.

      How does quantum indeterminism relate to this expression?

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    39. John-
      How people experience the world and how they express that experience is what I am talking about.

      I have attempted to relate how people talk about the experience of making a choice and certain phenomena in physics.

      What are you talking about?

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    40. Jack,

      I'm talking about free will, a supposed phenomenon. The experience of what feels to you like free will is not the phenomenon, nor is how you express that experience. How people talk about the experience of making a choice has nothing to do with certain phenomena in physics, so your attempt has failed.

      So I take it you have no interest in whether free will actually exists or how it might be defined?

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    41. John,
      If it isn't physics that explains how people talk about making a decision, then what does?
      If you want to define 'freewill' differently than I have thus far, then please offer an alternative.

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    42. Jack,

      I can't offer an alternative because the concept is incoherent. Your concept isn't incoherent, if I understand it to mean a basis in quantum indeterminacy, i.e. randomness. But under that definition a computer program with a random number generator is exercising free will, so I suspect few would accept your definition. Anyway, I thought you had denied talking about free will at all, and were merely talking about people's impressions.

      Physics is certainly the ultimate ground of how people talk about it, but the causal chain (ooh, causation) is not so direct as you imply.

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    43. Our unfathomably complex brains make decisions all the time. In what way could we be more free?

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    44. John,
      As I stated earlier- we are not talking about the same thing.
      What I am talking about is reasonably well defined in a standard English dictionary.
      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20will

      What you are talking about is unknown and incoherent apparently.

      It is fairly straight forward to talk about what I am talking about as it is reasonably well defined in a standard English dictionary.
      You can’t tell me what you are talking about, it is incoherent, I have no idea what it is and apparently neither do you.

      Are you beginning to see the differences between what we are talking about?

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    45. Jack,

      I'm beginning to see that you have no idea what you're talking about. You can't say whether you're talking about a subjective impression or the phenomenon behind that impression. You don't seem to know that there's a difference. We are talking about the same thing, at least some of the time. You keep changing what you're talking about. What I'm talking about is free will; and yes, I don't think it exists, among other things because nobody can articulate a concept that would make even logical sense.

      Your definition #1 merely offers an undefined synonym for an undefined term. Your definition #2 may be satisfying to you, but it has problems. First, it requires a way to know that god is not controlling your decisions, which, since god is undetectable, is impossible. Second, it doesn't say what free will is, only what it isn't. Third, it doesn't disallow mere randomness, which I think nobody other than you would count as free will.

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    46. John,
      The first definition given-
      “voluntary choice or decision”
      refers to certain situations and experiences many human beings have in common.
      A ‘voluntary choice’ would be ‘pick a or b’
      This is a bit different from ‘pick a or b, but if you pick b I’ll throw you in jail’. (See how the threat of jail time could make one’s ‘choice’ of a or b less ‘voluntary’ than when there is no threat of jail?)

      If you have ever been in situations similar to what I have given, then you know what it feels like to make a ‘free’ choice as opposed to a ‘forced’ choice and I would suggest the meanings of the terms can only be appreciated through having actually experienced these things so that you can relate the words to actual physical reality.

      If you don’t have these types of experiences (making decsions under varying amounts of duress), then we will have to put the discussion on hold until you do have these types of experiences so the words given have meaning— that is to say you can relate them to actual physical realities.
      I will assume you do actually have these types of experiences and continue.

      The second definition-
      freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention”

      is where the quantum indeterminacy might play a role, as it might explain how a person could make a decision not determined by prior causes.

      I’ll agree the divine intervention aspect is difficult.
      If someone tells me he has no freewill because god dictates his every decision, I would not argue the point.

      That’s what I’m talking about. It is not incoherent if you have had the experiences because you can relate what the words mean to actual physical situations, sensations and observations.

      I’ve had this discussion with others. It usually goes one of two ways and in this case I would like to make a prediction—

      You will claim the people who write dictionaries don’t know what words mean or how to define them.

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    47. Jack & John,

      I think your discussion is of interest to illustrate something. If I understood both of you correctly, John is trying to define free will scientifically, whereas Jack is using reason or common sense. Since free will cannot be tested or defined scientifically, for John free will simply does not exist. His point of view is called scientism. According to wikipedia: "Scientism is a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or the most valuable part of human learning—to the exclusion of other viewpoints".

      The important point to me is that scientism is a belief, it is not something naturally deriving from Science.

      To me, although I regard myself as a scientist, Science is not my only window to understand the world. I will not attempt to demonstrate it scientifically, but my reason tells me that free will exists. On the other hand, the quantum nature of the universe offers an interesting potential connection between what Science and reason tell me. It's just how I see it, I am not intending to say that one can be inferred from the other.

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    48. Federico,

      Since free will cannot be tested or defined scientifically, for John free will simply does not exist.

      Can free will be tested or defined (coherently) in some way that isn't scientifically? If so, what is that way, how can it be tested, and what is the definition?

      I don't think it's your reason telling you that free will exists. If it did, you would be able to explain the steps that led you there. I think it's your subjective experience (which is what you mean by "common sense", I suppose) combined with your wish to be special. I doubt you can explain the potential connection between quanta and free will either.

      You seem most interested in establishing your intellectual superiority here, though I could be wrong.

      Delete
    49. Jack,

      Free will can mean several different things. (That's why the dictionary has multiple definitions.) The absence of coercion is certainly one of them. But if we're talking just about that, it clearly exists and is uncontroversial. If we're talking about that, this is a pointless discussion because we have nothing to disagree about. But I don't think that's all you're talking about, whether you're willing to admit it or not. Once more, I'm trying to consider the internal nature of human decision-making. If it arises from causality, most would agree that isn't free will. If it arises from quantum randomness, most would agree that isn't free will. Any combination of the two isn't free will either. I don't think there is any logical alternative; you certainly haven't suggested one.

      Your prediction turns out to be wrong.

      Delete
    50. Frederico-
      You bring an interesting comment.
      I still think John is talking about something that goes beyond what I am talking about or what is in the dictionary.
      Let’s see…

      Delete
    51. John,
      I am not just talking about a lack of coercion- the quantum indeterminacy has to do with the second definition-
      “freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.”

      Quantum indeterminacy is not determined by prior causes or ‘divine intervention’ (The prior causes part is standard quantum mechanics— I’m nakedly asserting that bit about the divine intervention).

      So, if indeterminacy does account for people’s feeling of freewill, then they really do have freewill because the decisions are not determined by prior causes as per the definition.

      Now please explain why the people who wrote the dictionary got it wrong.

      Delete
    52. Jack, if free will cannot defined scientifically we won't be able to test it, don't you think? What tells me that free will exists is common experience. If you don't think free will exists you will not believe that telling someone to do the right thing makes any sense.
      I don't think your view on my motivations is completely correct. Of course I am interested in defending my point of view, "my truth". If that is not right for you...

      Ah, you also rhetorically asked about a potential connection between free will and quantum physics. There are interesting points on how observation and consciousness can affect the collapsing of quantum states. It is not clear even for physicists how we may affect the world around us.

      Delete
    53. I found this review/opinion entitled "Do quantum effects make our choices our own?" very interesting:
      https://storify.com/gmusser/the-quantum-physics-of-free-will

      Delete
    54. If you don't think free will exists you will not believe that telling someone to do the right thing makes any sense.

      Why? Isn't what you tell people part of the causal framework of their actions?

      Delete
    55. Now please explain why the people who wrote the dictionary got it wrong.

      Ah, now I see what you were getting at. But you really should settle on one definition rather than wiggling back and forth between two. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. I'd say they got it wrong because most people would not be satisfied with the idea that a random number generator in your head counts as free will. If you're satisfied, then again we have little to argue about. But that does mean that a simple computer program can have free will, and you don't seem to be OK with that.

      Delete
    56. I found this review/opinion entitled "Do quantum effects make our choices our own?" very interesting

      Why? The first part is just about compatibilism, which I find uninteresting, just a redefinition of the term. It also says that quantum indeterminacy is not a satisfying basis for free will, which seems to undercut your previous assertion.

      Delete
    57. Federico-
      I don’t know how to test freewill, but I don’t want to underestimate the inventiveness of scientists when it comes to finding ways of testing things. (see Bell’s theorem for an amazing test of something that appeared untestable for decades).

      John-
      Unless you can tell me specifically why the people who write the dictionary are wrong in the definition, I will stick with the dictionary.
      (Your personal incredulity about possible consequences of possible misinterpretations of the definition are not reasons for me to doubt the definition).

      Our exchange has made me ever more confident in my construct, so I thank you for the back and forth.

      Delete
    58. Jack,

      Which definition are you sticking with, 1 or 2? Who said anything about misinterpretation? I'd say the computer exercising free will correctly interprets the definition. And hiding behind the dictionary is not a very respectable form of argument.

      Delete
    59. John-
      The reason I brought up the definitions is because I wanted to make sure we are talking about the same thing.
      What I am talking about is in the dictionary.
      You have made it clear that what you are talking about is not in the dictionary and have thus far refused to clarify what it is you are talking about.
      Since we are not talking about the same thing, I have no idea how to answer your questions.

      Last try-
      What are you talking about?

      Delete
    60. You fail to clarify. If what you are talking about is in the dictionary, is it definition 1 or definition 2? Yes, they're quite different.

      Now what I'm talking about is what most people who have thought about it mean by the term: the ability to make decisions that both have no prior causes and are not random. The reason I think this definition is incoherent is that there is no logical possibility of such an ability.

      Some, generally known as compatibilists, have resolved the problem by eliminating the need for non-causation. I believe you have resolved the problem by eliminating the need for non-randomness (or, more properly, denying that there is any such thing in the definition). Correct?

      My problem with that is that most people would not be satisfied with finding free will in randomness.

      Delete
    61. John,
      The deinition of freewill has to do with human choices-
      Given a choice of ‘a or b’ without any duress is called a ‘free choice’ and one can choose of his own ‘freewill’.
      If you have experienced a choice where you were not under duress, then you have made a choice based on your freewill, by definition.

      Now, there is a claim that part of ‘freewill’ involves the human ability to make a choice that is not determined by prior causes- that is to say ‘at random with respect to prior causes’.

      A real world example-
      If I offer ‘chocolate or vanilla’ a person could choose chocolate because he likes it (his choice in this case involves prior causes)
      He could pick vanilla because he thinks those around him expect him to pick chocolate, but he wants to surprise them (his choice involves prior causes).
      OR he could say— “I will ‘flip the perverbial coin’ for my decision (pick at random).

      Which part of what you think of as ‘freewill’ is missing from the above construct?

      Delete
    62. It's missing the "will" part of free will, since a coin flip is obviously not an expression of the person's will. As John has already pointed out, if a random decision counts as free will, then a computer making decisions based on a random number generator has free will. If free will is what makes us morally responsible for our decisions (which seems to be the general claim by proponents of free will), then we should apparently hold the computer morally responsible for its random decisions. Does this make sense to you?

      Delete
    63. Jack,

      So you're going solely with definition #1. I find that trivial and uninteresting, so as I said before we have nothing to argue about. It's purely about surface features, not the actual causes (or lack thereof). I don't think anyone would disagree about that usage.

      I still suspect that you can't tell the difference between dictionary definitions 1 and 2, which implies that you really don't know what either of them means or what anyone else here has been talking about.

      Delete
    64. Jack,

      And by the way, what's missing in your ice cream scenario is how you choose (if that's the proper term) among the three options for making the choice. You're just putting the dilemma one step back.

      Delete
    65. Radix-
      The decision to ‘flip the coin’ is made freely. That is without duress.
      Also ‘freewill’ is a freedom ‘humans’ have according to the definition.
      I think that’s because nobody knows how to put a computer under duress.
      One of the salient features about humans is they can be placed under duress— that makes them different from things that can’t and this analysis probably doesn’t apply to things that can’t be placed under duress.
      The computer with a random number generator is a moot point.


      John,
      You misread what I wrote. Definition 2 is part of what I’m talking about.
      That which is not determined by prior causes is said to be 'random with respect to prior causes'.
      That's what those words mean.
      You are correct— I have moved the issue back one step— how does the person decide between the three choices he has?
      And we are back to definition 1— unless he is under duress to pick one over the other we say his choice is ‘free’.

      What do you think the term refers to?

      Delete
    66. Jack,

      I have answered several times, including in the sentence beginning "Now what I'm talking about is...", which should have been a clue.

      Cycling back and forth between definitions 1 and 2, as convenient in the moment, is not acceptable. Pick one.

      In your definition of "random" as "random with respect to prior causes", you make two errors: first, by using a word in its own definition, and, second, by the addition of useless verbiage, "with respect to prior causes", as a modifier. I think for our purposes we might best define "random" as "uncaused", e.g. the outcome of a quantum event. Anything less is pseudo-random, i.e. with unknown, possibly complex causes, but causal nonetheless. And thus determined.

      Delete
    67. Jack,
      You're missing the point. Free will has two parts, "free" and "will". This means that a free will choice has to be both free (i.e. not determined by any external conditions) and willed, i.e. intentional. A random decision fails the "will" part, since it's not controlled by the agent and therefore not an expression of his will.

      If the choice is random, it doesn't matter who's making it - a coinflip is a coinflip whether it's made by a human or a computer. This is certainly not a moot point. If a random choice gives a human free will, it also gives the computer with a random number generator free will.

      Delete
    68. Radix-
      I can decide to let the ‘coin flip’ make the decision as an expression of my will.
      I freely choose to have that outcome decided ‘at random’.
      Why is that impossible?

      If you want to grant the computer ‘will’ so that it can have ‘freewill’, then I have to ask— how do I place the computer under duress so that I can see the difference between when it acts on its freewill as opposed to how it acts under duress?

      (You might note that humans act differently when allowed to decide freely as opposed to when they are under duress. That observation is key to understanding the concept.)

      Delete
    69. John-
      “not determined by prior causes= random with respect to prior causes”

      OK, so the people who write dictionaries don’t know what words mean or how to define them.
      Fine.
      So—
      How do you define ‘freewill’?

      Delete
    70. Jack,
      You can't have it both ways. If your decision is random, you're not controlling it - which means it's by definition not an expression of your will. I'm not talking about the decision to make the coinflip, I'm talking about the outcome of the coinflip - which is what determines what the decision is.

      I don't see what duress has to do with anything. Does the duress affect the outcome of the coinflip? If so, how?

      Delete
    71. Radix-
      If I couldn't decide to choose something at random I wouldn't have freewill, would I?

      Have you made a decision before?
      If so, then have you made a decision under duress?
      If so, have you made a decision not under duress?
      If so, was there a difference between those two experiences?

      (I'm checking to see if you are a chatbot).

      Delete
    72. Jack,

      You look more like a chatbot than Radix. You keep asking me for my definition of free will when I keep telling you to look at the definition I've already given. Let me try repeating it here, in case that works: free will is the ability to make decisions that both have no prior causes and are not random. I would say that there can logically be no such ability.

      Of course this is all moot since you persist is going back and forth between dictionary decisions 1 and 2 as it suits the moment, which enables you to avoid any real discussion. It's less the dictionary's problem than your problem in understanding how dictionaries work.

      Delete
    73. John,
      At this point my argument is basically-
      "That which is not determined by prior causes is not determined by prior causes," (something I feel fairly safe in stating).

      Your argument seems to be that the people who write dictionaries do not know what the words mean or how to define them.

      I was so hoping I was wrong that your argument would rest on made up definitions.

      Of course things not determined by prior causes would be 'random with respect to the prior causes', so if your point is that you can define a word so that nothing can fit the description...

      Delete
    74. OK. I give up. You will never understand my argument, and you will never understand your own argument either. Might as well stop trying.

      Delete
    75. Jack:"If I couldn't decide to choose something at random I wouldn't have freewill, would I?"

      My point exactly. If it's random, you're not choosing it. Can you choose if the coin is going to come up heads or tails? If so, it isn't random, is it?

      "Have you made a decision before?
      If so, then have you made a decision under duress?
      If so, have you made a decision not under duress?
      If so, was there a difference between those two experiences?"

      How does any of this make any kind of difference to a coinflip? Do you even know what "random" means?

      Delete
    76. John-
      Thanks for the back and forth-- maybe we can try again on a different topic.

      Radix-
      If I had freewill and was asked- 'chocolate or vanilla?'
      Would I have the option of saying 'surprise me?'

      Delete
    77. Jack,
      Sure - but then the decision on flavour isn't yours. You can't claim to be making a free will decision if you're outsourcing it to someone else.

      If you want to claim that your decision to let someone else make the decision for you is a free will decision, you need to demonstrate that it's not random and not determined by any external conditions. You need to establish that your decision had a reason (otherwise it would be random), what the reason for your decision was and that this reason was under your control, i.e. that the reason for your choice was itself a choice (otherwise it would be determined).

      At this point, the logical incoherence of free will should be obvious. If a free will choice needs to have a reason and this reason has to be a choice, free will inevitably leads to an infinite regress of choices based on previous choices. The only way you're going to get out of it with your free will intact is through an action which is not by choice (since this would just continue the regress) but still under your control. To put it another way, the action would need to be simultaneously involuntary and voluntary - an obvious contradiction.

      Delete
    78. Radix-
      Where do you get your definition of freewill?
      My comes from the dictionary and what you are talking about is not freewill but something else.
      Check the dictionary.

      What are you talking about?

      Delete
    79. I get my understanding of free will from the way it's used by its proponents. They all seem to agree on two things:

      1) Free will means that we can make decisions that are not determined by any external conditions.
      2) Free will makes us morally responsible for our actions.

      From 2), it follows that random choices do not qualify as free will, since we're not in control of them and thus can't be held responsible for them. Consequently, a free will choice can be neither determined nor random. The problem the proponents always seem to run into, is that they can't provide any examples of choices that are neither determined nor random. I suspect that's because no such choices exist.

      Now, if you're OK with random choices qualifying as free will, that's fine - but it seems to me you'd have to give up moral responsibility. Few free will proponents seem willing to do that.

      Delete
    80. I should probably stop using the term "random choice", since it's an oxymoron. A random outcome is by definition not chosen, so there's clearly no choice involved. I guess "random event" is better.

      Delete
    81. Radix-
      Thank-you for clarifying what you are talking about.

      You have taken a definition from some advocates— I would prefer to take the definition from the dictionary.
      Similarly, if we are going to discuss evolution, for example, I would prefer to discuss the version the true experts use rather than some “Darwinism” promoted by some advocates. By attacking the advocates position, it puts one in a position of attacking a straw man, just as the Discovery Institute tends to do.
      Let’s not make the same mistake the discovery people make— I think we can agree to that.

      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20will
      1) voluntary choice or decision <I do this of my own free will
      2) freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine
      intervention

      (If you would prefer to use a different dictionary, that’s fine, but let’s keep our definitions in line with those of the real experts in definitions.)

      I think your first definition is similar to the second in the dictionary, but there is nothing like your second definition in the dictionary.
      In fact, your second isn’t a definition of freewill, but rather a possible consequence of freewill.

      I talk to people all the time who say things like— global warming can’t be true because that would mean I won’t be able to drive my car. Or if evolution is true than god didn’t design every single beetle or whatever. See, they can’t accept something because they are concerned about a possible consequence. I fear you might be making that error in this case- I know I have made that error more than once. It seems almost part of being human—

      If we take ‘external conditions’ to be ‘prior causes’ (they could both mean the same thing), then we have an agreement on that definition (and I think we probably agree on definition 1 from the dictionary as well).

      Here is my reasoning—
      If quantum indeterminacy is true (and I believe it is), then it is possible for a brain to get into a ‘mixed state’ where the outcome would not be determined by external conditions or prior causes.
      This fits the definition and would account for the experience of exercising one’s freewill. (That’s why I talk about the experience, because ultimately it has to fit with what those who supposedly have freewill experience- right?)

      Now, would my construct be in keeping with the idea that ‘freewill’ makes one ‘morally responsible’?

      That’s a different question isn’t it?

      Delete
    82. Jack,

      "Now, would my construct be in keeping with the idea that ‘freewill’ makes one ‘morally responsible’?"

      No, I'm afraid it wouldn't. Whether we describe the outcome as indeterminate or random makes little difference when it comes to moral responsibility. In both cases, the process is beyond our control. We didn't choose the outcome, it simply happened. Since it's not the result of any deliberation or intent, we cannot be held responsible for it.

      Delete
    83. Radix,

      Well, now, being held responsible for things we do, or the knowledge that you will be held responsible, is an external condition, or prior cause if you like, that can influence behavior. So even if free will (which we agree is incoherent) is required for true responsibility, people should still as a practical matter be held responsible.

      I see you aren't getting any further than I did with Jack. See if you can get him to stick to one of his two definitions. That would be a victory.

      Delete
    84. Radix-
      I really don’t know anything about ‘moral responsibility’.
      That’s why I was not talking about that.
      I knew we were talking about different things.

      I was hoping to make the point that because according to the laws of physics outcomes are not completely determined by previous causes, that implies my outcomes may not be completely determined either.

      Does that have anything at all to do with what you are talking about?

      Delete
    85. John,
      I think we should acknowledge the fact that we're not ultimately the authors of our actions and just do away with the concept of moral responsibility altogether. It's a distraction from what we should be focusing on, which is human behaviour and its consequences. If a person gets infected with a deadly and highly contageous disease, we're going to keep him isolated, not because we hold him responsible for being infected but because letting him move about freely would be harmful to society.

      The questions we should be contemplating are "what behaviour are we willing to accept and what behaviour do we consider harmful?", "why do some people behave in a harmful way?", "can we prevent such harmful behaviour from developing?", "can we reverse the process after this behaviour has already developed?" and "how do we deal with perpretrators in a way which is beneficial both to the individual and to society as a whole?".

      I'm not saying these are simple questions. Quite to the contrary, they're exceedingly complex and difficult but if the goal is to have a safe and prosperous society, I just don't think "moral responsibility" is a very helpful concept. Focusing on behaviour seems much more constructive to me.

      Delete
    86. Jack,
      I do agree that outcomes are probably not completely determined. Do you agree that this also means that these outcomes are not determined by us as individuals?

      Delete
    87. Radix-
      I could pick chocolate.
      I could pick vanilla.
      I could pick to let the ‘coin flip’ decide.

      In the first two cases I determined the final answer— in the third case I determined not to determine the final answer.

      In real life, in the first case I would be accountable for ‘chocolate’, in the second case ‘vanilla’ and in the third case I would be accountable for whichever ‘chocolate’ or ‘vanilla’ as I decided to allow either.

      Since I have no idea what ‘moral responsibility’ is I’m not sure how what I said relates to that just to be clear on that.

      Delete
    88. Jack,
      If your choice is chocolate, this choice has a reason. To be a "free" (i.e. not determined) choice, this reason must be under your control, which means it has to be a choice, which needs a reason, which must be a choice, a.s.o. ad infinitum - infinite regress nonsense. The same applies if your choice is vanilla. If the final flavour outcome is random, it's not the result of any choice at all. In neither case are you the ultimate causal agent of the outcome.

      Delete
    89. Radix-
      I understand what you are saying about the regress.

      I’m talking about how people experience making choices and how they describe those experiences and how those descriptions might relate to the underlying physics involved.
      I think you understand.

      I don’t know what an ‘ultimate causal agent’ is or how that relates to physics.

      As far as I know the ‘ultimate causal agent’ is what people generally call ‘god’ (another subject I have no clue about but I guess suffers the same regress difficulty) or ‘the laws of nature’ (which don’t seem to involve an ultimate causal agent, so I’m not sure how that works at all).

      I see from your other comments your concerns in this matter are much different than mine and I would be happy if you could give me a clue about the ‘ultimate causal agent’. I admit I have not been talking about that.

      Delete
    90. Jack,
      By ultimate causal agent I simply mean an agent able to make choices that are truly free (as opposed to determined) and actual choices (as opposed to random events). I don't think there's any such thing - for the logical reasons I've outlined.

      Now, if you're just talking about the experience of making choices, I think Benjamin Libet pretty effectively showed that these experiences cannot be taken at face value. He was able to show experimentally that at the point in time when we feel we are making a decision, the actual process has been underway for a second or even more.

      Libet himself has pointed out that his work in itself does not prove that we don't have free will. I do think, however, that it shows that our experience of making choices cannot be used as evidence that we do have free will.

      Delete
    91. Radix-
      You continue to assert a definition of freewill without reference to a dictionary or any other source.

      At this point you it appears you are asserting the dictionary definition is wrong.

      I have looked in 6 dictionaries for a justification to disallow a free choice to be ‘at random’ but I can’t find one.
      In fact, a choice not determined by previous causes is ‘random with respect to previous causes’ by definition, so it appears you are claiming a number of English words have meanings other than what is in the dictionary.
      Further a check with a couple of my friends indicates the power to make a selection ‘at random’ is part of what they consider to be an aspect of freewill, in keeping with the actual definition from the dictionaries I have looked into.

      Please justify your use of the term as it appears to be rather at odds with the one in the dictionary.

      Delete
    92. Jack,
      As you may have gathered, my interest in free will mainly centers on its implications for moral responsibility, which also has seemed important for the proponents of free will that I've talked to. That's where my definition comes from. To be responsible for our choices, we must be in control of them. This rules out random events and choices determined by external conditions. In an earlier post, I've stated that I'm fine with other definitions of free will, as long as no claims of moral responsibility are made. If there are dictionary definitions of free will that include random events while simultaneously claiming that free will makes us morally responsible, I think these definitions are plain wrong.

      You earlier suggested that I might be a chatbot. Well, here's your chance to demonstrate that you're not a dictionarybot. Can you explain, without referring to a dictionary, how my definition is wrong? Specifically, can you explain how a random event can be a choice?

      Delete
    93. Radix-
      I’ll start by explaining how a ‘random choice’ can be involved in ‘freewill’.

      I could select chocolate.
      I could select vanilla.
      I could select to ‘flip a coin’ to see if it’s chocolate or vanilla.

      Assuming my brain is subject to quantum indeterminism, my brain can do the ‘coin flip’.
      Since my brain can do everything needed for the choice to be made in a way that is not determined by previous causes I would say my brain has ‘freewill’.

      So, assuming quantum indeterminism is correct, assuming the brain can enter into a ‘mixed state’, assuming my choices and my brains activities are related, I would say ‘I’ have freewill because ‘I’ can make a choice not determined by previous causes’ which is what the dictionary defines as ‘freewill’.

      I’m not sure if this freewill makes me ‘morally responsible’ or not and I have no claim there. The dictionary I use does not say 'freewill' = moral responsibility, so my only problem with your definition is that it isn't in any of the five dictionaries I checked.

      Delete
    94. Jack,
      I don't think the "mixed state" works as a model. The process doesn't seem to be a mix at all but rather consists of two separate stages:

      1) The decision to let the issue be determined by a coinflip
      2) A coinflip

      We can quickly dispense with step 2, as it's obviously a random event and not a choice. Step 1 looks like any other choice and should be analyzed as such. Was there a reason to do do a coinflip? If not, this was a random event and not a choice. If there was a reason, did you choose this reason? If not, the decision was determined and not free. If you did choose the reason, what was the reason for this choice?

      As you can see, you will be caught in an infinite regress of choices based on previous choices or (more likely) you will reach a point where the reason for your choice was out of your control because it was either random or determined.

      Delete
    95. Radix-
      Your objection is incoherent to me. I have no idea how to relate the words you are using to the situations that I encounter in the physical universe. It appears you are saying a selection is not a selection and— ding ding ding— incoherent.

      As I typed that, I had the sudden thought— that’s probably true for him- he has rejected what the words I am using mean and so obviously I am incoherent because I’m using meaningless words as well.
      I have no way to know if you can even understand the problem— as I'm fairly sure you don't understand what I just wrote.

      I am certain I don't know what you are talking about.

      What the post is about is a woman who has done a fantastic job explaining the errors in adaptationist methods.
      I would like to thank her for that and sign off this thread.

      Delete
    96. Jack,
      "It appears you are saying a selection is not a selection and— ding ding ding— incoherent."

      No, I'm saying that a random event is not a selection, which is what you seem to be suggesting. This is indeed incoherent to me.

      Nevermind - your argument now seems to mostly consist of an incredulous stare, which tells me this discussion has probably run its course.

      Delete
  5. Its true philosophy is mostly wrong and gets in the way of truth. it mostly, or all, was hiostile to christianity and was used to give intellectual credibility to criticism of christianity and the bible in the old days and still.
    Now its useful for they easily attack any confidence of anyone in anything.
    so they attack atheism, evolutionism, etc etc from those not actually Christian or creationists.
    In North America philosophers never mattered. its a european thing and still.

    The only thing they could add to science is when evidence concepts are being rightly obeyed. LOGIC if you will.
    Creationists welcome this.

    i'm surprised to hear poltical correctness invoked as a bad thing. Thats a conservative criticism for the 'ism's used to stiflee conversation and lots of other stuff.
    poltical correctness means CORRECTNESS is being enfirced by power as opposed to society or government.
    University's are leaders in this. not just some departments.
    Anyways good thread.

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  6. If Gould is not the favorite example of a self-serving liar ginning up fake criticisms of Darwinism---which is his status with the larger part of adaptationist biologists who condescend to popularize---then they aren't going to listen to a philosopher of science. And I suspect that's especially true if she sounds like what she knows what she's talking about, which she does to my ears.

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  7. Laurence, answering your question: I don't think my beliefs are in contradiction with Science. As I tried to state on the other thread I believe there are different spheres of truth, and I believe they are not in contradiction (if they were one or more or the spheres could not be considered truth).

    Lutesuit, answering "Would you also say that science does not say that unicorns do not exist?"
    For Science unicorns do not exist in practice, same for God or free will. But this is because Science is restricted to test demonstrable things. Ergo, Science is not interested in saying anything about unicorns, God or free will.

    For those who defend that there is no such thing as free will and everything is determined, how (or why) should we educate our children? Why anyone should be punished by his/her behavior? Can we be considered responsible of our acts? These are the kind of questions that philosophers try to answer, using reason, not the scientific method.



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    Replies
    1. Federico,

      As I tried to state on the other thread I believe there are different spheres of truth, and I believe they are not in contradiction (if they were one or more or the spheres could not be considered truth).

      Science has determined that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. There are many people whose interpretation of religion is that the earth is only 6000 years old. Are both these statements true, and not in contradiction? If you believe the only truth is that the earth is 4.5 billion y/o, how has that truth been arrived at thru religion alone (with no input from science)?

      For Science unicorns do not exist in practice, same for God or free will. But this is because Science is restricted to test demonstrable things. Ergo, Science is not interested in saying anything about unicorns, God or free will.

      From this it sounds like you are very confused. Are you saying that it remains an open question as to whether unicorns exist? Or that it has been determined that unicorns do not exist thru means other than science and that, moreover, it is beyond the capabilities of science to determine that things like unicorns do not exist? Please clarify, if you can.

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    2. And for at least the third time: In the present discussion, reason is part of the scientific method, not opposed to it.

      But since you say philosophers try to answer those questions, could share some of the answers they have actually come up with? Again, I am talking about answers regarding which there is sufficient consensus to consider them to be "truth." TIA.

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    3. This is getting circular, lutesuite. I don't know which answers philosophers have arrived to, but I guess there will never be "sufficient consensus", though I might be wrong. Reason is part of Science, but is not restricted to Science. Reason is also what philosophers use and what we are trying to use here. I never opposed Science and Reason, as I didn't opposed Faith either.

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    4. Reason is part of Science, but is not restricted to Science.

      I think you need to familiarize yourself with the definition of the scientific method that Larry uses and, therefore, which is the definition under discussion here:

      https://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2013/09/what-is-science-according-to-george.html

      I never opposed Science and Reason, as I didn't opposed Faith either.

      You position remains very confusing. Or perhaps just confused. It would help if you actually answered my questions. When faith determines that the earth is only 6000 years old, is that truth? Are their two truths regarding the age of the earth, that it is both 4.5 billion years old and 6000 years old? How is that possible?

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  8. For those who didn't read it (apparently everyone but Larry), Lloyd contrasts "methodological adaptationism" which asks "what is the function of this trait?" with the "evolutionary factors" approach which asks "What evolutionary factors account for the form and distribution of this trait?" .

    That is, both frameworks are are trying to account for trait existence (unlike in molecular evolution, where the focus is on patterns of change).

    One of the things that Lloyd repeatedly shows, via textual analysis (quotations), is that advocates of methodological adaptationism pay lip-service to the idea that there is more to evolution than the guiding hand of selection, but in fact they privilege selective functional explanations so strongly that other factors aren't considered comparable. For the methodological adaptationist, to invoke those other kinds of factors is a kind of surrender or failure.

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  9. Her book on the evolution of female orgasm is an excellent case study in the analysis of a spandrel vis-a-vis adaptation.

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  10. What exactly do you think the mind-body problem is and how exactly is it a solved problem? This is news to me as a philosopher. The validity of the ontological argument is discussed because it has impact on how modality works more generally (though f.y.i. most people think some version of it is valid).

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