Thursday, February 14, 2008

Middle-of-the-Road Clam

Or else, I have broken another test. I tried the questionnaire of these guys, which claims to move beyond the left/right continuum and plot your political beliefs on a two-dimensional surface. I have ended up very near the centre... in the 'Left-Libertarian' quadrant. Muahahaha! There is obviously a z-axis they haven't put in that I am out on the end of.

My nearest neighbours in idea-space appear to be Romano Prodi and the Dalai Lama. It seems like a nice quiet neighbourhood.

So, is anyone out there even more centrist than me? I am keen to find out...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Crux of the Matter

The line of comments is getting too long, so I thought I would pull things together again.

(1) I agree with Marco that it is plausible that there be unexpressed genetic ‘subroutines’ that might be expressed under particular environmental stresses, leading to changes of phenotype that mimic Lamarckian evolution.

(2) I agree with Marco that is plausible that there be control mechanisms that under the pressure of particular environmental stresses allow increased levels of mutation in particular ‘subroutines’ that correlate with responses to the particular stress.

(3) I agree with Marco that a filter can plausibly be applied to these randomly mutated subroutines to allow only some to be expressed.

(4) I further agree with Marco that gametes containing selectively expressed altered sub-routines could possibly be tested with respect to some parameter *correlated* with fitness to survive a particular environmental stress, before they are used.

So what are we still arguing about?

I think all this amounts to a plausible model for something which is tolerably close to Lamarckian evolution, but does not amount to *directed* mutation towards a phenotype that will provide better fitness under specific environmental conditions. And Marco still seems to be pressing for classical *directed* mutations. He says:

However this really opens up a door to: a theory that postulates selective 'good' mutations in the direction of better fitness ...

But it doesn’t. And 'it really opens up a door to' is not an argument. There is no physical way you can selectively mutate a particular gene such that the organism will be better able to cope with a particular condition. How can you selectively let through mutations that *will be* useful? How can an organism’s control systems have any foreknowledge of how a change in the gene will alter the fitness of the phenotype? My answer is, it can’t. To find out what the ‘program’ does, you have to ‘run the code’.

That's where we're up to. Anyone else want to join in? It really is good fun :)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Principia Marconomica

Marco claims that Marconomic Principle 4 is incompatible with some aspects of my philosophy. ‘Contradicts [my axioms] heavily’ in fact. Here is Marconomic Principle 4:

Complex design and creation - Complex artefacts of any description or purpose always have precedents that are complex. A lineage must always be assumed to exist to a less complex precedent with either trial and error pathway for any additional complexity, or a lineage with an added component that has extensive precedent in itself. Whether the pathway to the antecedent is directed or undirected is immaterial to this principle. "Creation" of a complex artefact without precedent does not exist under Marconomic principles. "The design process" is also a complex "artefact" under this concept and thus itself necessarily has precedents and lineage that can be traced back. This Paradigm of code generation demonstrates creation/design as a unified concept (nearly)

Quoth he: ‘I believe this principle to be Universal (with a capital U) This makes my views quite incompatible with your concept of God.

I can’t see it.

Perhaps Marco, like Dawkins and Haldane and so very many disputatious atheists, is under the misapprehension that my concept of God is of an entity that is complex? If it was, then it would clearly be vulnerable to principle 4. I would equally clearly be a nitwit. However- like Spinoza, and in agreement with the doctors of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I conceive of God to be an entity that is simple.

As St. Augustine says, God is truly and absolutely simple.

Time enough to verb

I was browsing through 'Teach Yourself Swahili' this morning, and felt inspired to dig out my folder on Tsiolkovskian to have another go at making up the verb, and what do I find in the back of one of the lesser notebooks in the folder but this poem-like object, thought long-lost many years ago:

When I went to Fairfield
I did not seek my doom.
I did not hunt for goblin gold
or seek to follow fairy feet
through the dewy gloom.

When I went to Fairfield
I sought a cask of red;
I sought to buy a carton cold
and some Australian sparkling wine.
Home I went instead.

When I came to Fairfield,
to buy some liquor there,
it made my blood run cold to see
The door beneath the tavern sign
was shuttered, dark and bare.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

An Invitation Reiterated

I wrote this a little while ago, tucked away as a comment. The ever-alert Lexifab picked it up, but otherwise there was the grim waiting-room silence of the outer suburbs of the blogosphere. Here it again:

I get so tired of batting ineffectively at the air... Obviously I disagree with other people, and obviously I don't want to believe anything that's not true, so I feel depressed that nobody ever seems to try and change my mind about anything. So, do you fancy making an attempt to logically outline your position- the what and why of it, starting from foundation axioms- sometime? Consider this an open invitation on all topics... for anyone who is out there. If you believe there is such a thing as truth... if you don't want to see me sunk in hopeless error... please, please, refute what I have written. Give me a more self-consistent, more logical worldview that is more consistent with experimental observations. I haven't got much longer to figure things out. Maybe fifty years max.