Re: MD Randomness & Evolution

From: Jim Ledbury (
Date: Mon Oct 18 2004 - 23:44:39 BST

  • Next message: David Buchanan: "RE: MD A bit of reasoning (correction)"

    Hi Joe,

    Joseph Maurer wrote:

    > Hi Jim, Platt, Mark, Scott....
    > Is random only a scientific principle?

    Good question. I'd have to say that it varied from person to person
    and from theory to theory.

    In quantum mechanics, randomness is pretty much taken as principle (that
    is what is taught) although opinions may vary (most famously Einstein,
    less famously Bohm). As far as I am concerned, QM randomness is not
    really random as I with a thought I can influence the behaviour of
    matter. But if it's to do with a mechanism that's not coupled to my
    awareness, then I'd say that there is an independence that is best
    described by 'random'. This is mainly due to the fact that measuring
    matter in one way (say travelling through space) is not consistent with
    measuring it another way (at a point): although we can get a
    relationship between the probabilities of measurements from one sort to
    another sort. To date, all atempts at trying to explain this on
    inaccuracies in our measurement have failed: despite this, I'd have to
    say that although backed up by a lot of mathematical analysis and
    experiment, it is somewhat an article of faith.

    In chaos theory, 'randomness' is taken to derive from the
    impossibility of determining the state of a system after some point
    because it is impossible to determine exactly the initial state.
    However, chaos theory is generally taken to be a useful model of the
    physical world rather than yet an underlying 'truth' of matter (as say
    quantum mechanics). Given the fluctuating truths of science, this may

    My argument with regard to evolution is that 'random' in this context is
    not the same as QM or chaos theory, but that changes occur to the genome
    which have no regard to the consequence of the beneficial or other

    > [joe:] Are individual scientists falsifying their evidence only
    > exhibiting 'random mutation acted on by natural selection'?

    As far as I am aware nobody's falsifying this - quite likely because
    nobody is really trying to measure this. This was the source of the
    argument as to if current evolutionary thery is dogma or science. I
    would say that given our knowledge of genomes, our knowledge of the
    existence of random mutations and the evidence that evolution exists, it
    isn't actually dogma - and that the assertion of other positions are at
    least if not vastly more dogmatic. YMMV. There have been various
    measurements to natural selection (speckled butterflies...) but it's
    really very hard to pin down any mutation giving rise to a positive
    characteristic carried forward to natural selection (i.e. it is really
    hard to test). We work from imperfect knowledge.

    > [joe:] Can evolution as an inquiry into morals mean 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection' is different for each level?
    > Is that definition, then, a dogma covering different levels? E.g., if
    > the organic level is formed of DQ purpose (I eat) then a purposeless
    > mutation in the organic level is only immoral, and the individual
    > ceases. A purposeful mutation prepares for the social level.

    I would say not. My argument of randomness was down to the fact that I
    believe genetic mutations to be random (haphazard, arbitrary) with
    respect to the benefit of the genome of the organism in question - they
    are amoral. When it comes down to things like the cell selecting which
    part of the genome to use, or selection which other genome to mate with,
    then I would say it is considerably less than random, merely perhaps
    mistaken. My whole arguement with random mutation is that they provide
    an underlying variation on which subsequent selection acts. It's what
    does the selecting that is the 'moral' aspect and the context in which
    it is done that provides the 'moral' aspect. The initial cause of the
    variation is neither here nor there.

    > Is morality meaningless or only a sense of betterness? Can a child
    > know what is moral?. IMO 'the random mutation acted on by natural
    > selection' applied to the level of DQ is a definition or limitation of
    > DQ. How can I know the random without DQ SQ? Is DQ a useful
    > formulation or should it be abandoned? Do I identify 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection' to be the individual? Is there
    > is no basis for a rational morality, only likes and dislikes?

    I'd say that randomness in this context is action at a lower level that
    has no awareness of a higher level: like a large asteroid wiping out
    most life on Earth. Morality would be involved if some entity aware of
    life on Earth could actually guide the asteroid to whatever end. SQ
    reaching DQ tries its best with what is given. It can be set back by
    random circumstances and immoral ones.

    > IMO If I deny evolution into moral levels, I can only know 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection' for existence. If existence is
    > the measure of order must I say that women and men have a different
    > existence? That mind and matter have a different existence? If
    > everything is the same in terms of existence, are mind and matter
    > hopelessly separated and 'value' not to be considered? Is 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection' only a description of an
    > intellectual pattern (unfinished s/o) and changed by 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection'? Is the moq 'the random
    > mutation acted on by natural selection'?

    Again no. I was referring to a particular organisation: that of cells
    interpreting the genome. The morality is the construction of the cell
    and the obedience of the genome, and the selection of (what is best in)
    other genomes. That the genome may be subject to a bit of randomisation
    from time to time is down to happenstance. I suppose an analogy nearer
    to standard definitions of morality is the reading of a moral code that
    is a few thousand years old. Quite frankly much of it has little
    meaning. Its adoption in 2004 therefore tends to be a little haphazard.

    As for men and women having a different existence... :-) At the risk
    of provoking anyone's ire I'd say that there are intrinsic differences
    between men and women. But not ones which should be expressed legally.

    As far as mind and matter go... I'd say that matter corresponds to the
    more static aspects of mind and mind to the more dynamic aspects of


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