EDIT: Whoa. More than a month since my last entry and I've had to include another update prologue. I certainly didn't intend to prolong the entry for so long but sometimes I drag stuff on by leaving them for a while, then adding more to it bit by bit...it's slow, but that is how I am able to actually add content I am satisfied with. This isn't - nor should it be - a justification, though. For now on, or at least for the next while, I am only going to put in short(er) entries that are directly related to my conworld. No more of this philosophical shit, no more rants... I'm typing this on a public computer that is going to time out in less than half an hour so if I do forget to add something in here then I will put it in a MUCH shorter entry later tonight. Anyway, the parts in red are updated bits of text that were added right before I posted this entry. Please keep in mind this entry was typed four weeks ago and everything NOT in red will reflect that.
Yeah, hello Conworld Wikia. I'm typing a
n early blog entry because I left out a couple of explanations in my last entry and figured I'd better get them in while I still can. No, I'm not that busy (yet). My internet connection has slowed down a great deal since our antenna has been replaced and played around with. It was supposed to boost speed but I am not seeing that happening. Keeping in mind my CPU is now in a different location, I still thought it would be better than this. But now it's worse. I was thinking about using my laptop to post blog entries and do other stuff online but I do not yet have a good text application installed on my laptop yet. I want Microsoft Word 2003 or higher but I may need to settle for Wordpad. I dunno...things might turn out differently, in one way or another. So I have the time to spend. I just don't always have the opportunity.
As of this entry, I am going to try a new trick: If I spend too long on a single entry and need to continue at a later time, I will save this page and work on the entry further when I am not logged in. Just to be safe, though, the text will still be backed up somewhere else until I finish the entry. It works better to type directly into the text box and it seems to bring out more progress but you still can't be sure...
EDIT: This doesn't work.
Another thing to point out: you may have noticed in some instances that I start a new line with only five periods and then continue into a new paragraph afterward. The five periods indicate a change in topic and/or mood. A consecutive paragraph will indicate a link with the previous paragraph's topic but five periods in a row indicate that the topic is henceforth over unless I bring it up later. And yes, I'm standardizing it to five periods only. No more, no less. Any more periods aren't necessary and any less will mean something else, like maybe a reflection on an idea. I'll demonstrate both repeatedly in this entry so you will know what I mean.
OK, so let's get started.
In the fifth paragraph of my last entry I introduced "Chaos" as an antithesis to the concept of a "higher order in the universe" but no more was typed about it after that. Albeit the word itself was capitalized; "Chaos" has a more specific and technical meaning in the context of science. It is a theory of dynamics in mathematics that explains why randomized sequences of events with no apparent order and hence no predictability are still deterministic. That is, there is no way to predict how these sequences of events will play out because they are - at their core - entirely random; they still obey the laws of nature so they still have certain parameters to work against, and you can ascertain what these parameters are, but it won't help you when the sequence in which the events happen still determine what the outcome will be. You know that one event leads to another, which is the whole point of Determinism, but if you don't know which events lead to which others - and in what order - then you still don't really know what exactly the end result is being determined by. Which is - from an empirical standpoint - pretty much the same as saying it wasn't affected by anything. Randomiziing the occurrence of events disrupts the chain of events in such a way that you no longer know what leads to what, and hence the deterministic aspect is gone. In short, there is no way to know exactly how something will happen, only that it will happen in a certain way. Chaos Theory is Deterministic, you just can't determine it.
Where it applies to the philosophical dichotomy, while Chaos Theory is a Deterministic theory, the concept of Chaotic Determinism agrees more with the Indeterministic stance because the idea of Determinism in the philosophical context implies not only that something will happen in a certain way but also that we can know what causes it to happen in that way by looking at the initial set of conditions it has to work with. Going back to the last bit of the preceding paragraph, "Deterministic" then means that something's "environment" will determine what it becomes.
But if you don't know what the end result will be, then how do you know it is deterministic?
The scientific use of the word "Deterministic" is applied to future events and means that an occurrence will lead to a certain outcome (any outcome - not necessarily ones we are aware of). We just need to find out what it will be. So in this sense, all of the sciences are equally Deterministic, even though we don't know exactly how something - like an experiment - will end up.
In the more basic traditional sense, Determinism is used to explain current outcomes using past circumstances. So for that purpose it needs to be more specific and carry more certainty. Which means making a prediction; due to the empirical nature of science, predictions – in this case known as hypotheses and theories – do not carry absolute certainty. Consequently, due to the different applications of the term “Deterministic” in the contexts of science and other areas covered by philosophy, there is not much sense in confusing the two. I therefore refrain from calling scientific theories and hypotheses "predictions" whenever I refer to Determinism, especially for the purposes of this blog entry. So Determinism is Prediction in the philosophical context but not necessarily in the scientific context.
To put it more simply, Philosophical Determinism is intended to be 100% certain every single time while scientific Determinism never goes beyond 99% at the very most. This gives you a better idea of what each type can be - and is - used for, and in which instances.
Of course, different branches of the sciences - and particularly the natural sciences - will allow varying degrees of certainty and thus will vary in how much they use Determinism in the more general philosophical sense. Physics is extremely Deterministic in the full sense of the word but Biology not as much, as we shall see in the following paragraph.
Where Chaos Theory applies to evolution, think of the natural environment that an organism needs to adapt to as a set of variables. Of course I say "variables" and not "constants" because environments never stay exactly the same. They change, so they create exceptions to the evolutionary process rather than borders that rigidly "contain" it, so to speak. Not only do you have big annual changes like flooding and drought, and the more recurrent phenomena of weather patterns like rain and snow, you also have earthquakes, volcanoes, water erosion, and so on. And then there are interactions with other organisms: predation, inter-species competition and selection, and the procuring of food (this can mean predating on other species, too). These variables can determine how the organism will evolve but we will never know to what end until it actually happens because there is no order in which the organism in question will adapt to each environmental variable.
Jaws evolved first in the vertebrates, followed by paired appendages that were articulated to help with locomotion, then came lungs in terrestrial vertebrates. But it could have gone in reverse, as it did in my conworld. Eyes evolved after a gut in bilateral Terran animals to find food, but it could have happened before the evolution of a gut so that said animals could avoid becoming food. Plants evolved seeds before they evolved toward a symbiosis with pollinating insects, but had those plants been sporophytes it would have been the other way around...in which case a different kind of symbiosis may have evolved instead. Live birth has evolved before homeothermy in several other animals already, so what if it had happened with the mammals?
Some adaptations are sequential (I.e. supporting a preceding adaptation), like homeothermy leading to fur and subcutaneous fat, but not all of them are. Some adaptations arise independently, such as the case with hair in a number of different mammalian groups: hairlessness has evolved in humans, naked mole rats and a few pig species as a way to increase the efficiency of sweat glands which - in turn - evolved to regulate heat in hot, dry environments, but it also evolved in the cetaceans and the phocidae (earless seals) to help them survive in colder aquatic environments. In both cases there are alternatives: many mammals evolve larger ears and longer snouts to allow more heat to escape their bodies, and many other mammals retain their fur in cold aquatic environments; the latter including polar bears and fur seals (Otariidae). So some adaptations that appear to be sequential, like hairlessness, are actually unrelated and hence more-or-less coincidental. Thus raising the possibility of evolutionary alternatives.
And what of those preceding adaptations?
Well, they are part of a sequence, so what affects one will affect the others; if said adaptations hadn't evolved, then theoretically any subsequent adaptations would have evolved differently (if even at all). We would know whether they really were sequential or not because if they still do evolve then they will have evolved separately and hence will not be sequential. In accordance to Dollo's Law Of Irreversibility, then, any separate trait that happens before another will most likely be different than it would if things had been the other way around. This is how Chaos Theory works in evolution.
Keeping in mind I am no mathematical expert, I couldn't tell you everything there is to know about Chaos Theory beyond how it is relevant to me. This page is a good introduction. And for further reading, I would suggest this book.
In the sixth paragraph of my last entry, after the first sentence, I was supposed to have described exactly how the philosophical concept of Free Will fits into the conflict between Deterministic and Indeterministic thinking. Well, if showing a Free Will means you act regardless of external factors like your environment and/or current situation, having a Free Will then means you are "unpredictable." That is, other people can't really know what you will do. And if they try to pretend that they do know, you can always surprise them and prove them wrong. So of course the idea that Free Will exists is Indeterministic in its nature. To look at behaviour - and particularly human behaviour - deterministically, you then need to deny and disprove the existence of Free Will. You do this by finding ways in which what the person does and how they think are affected solely by what they are not responsible for. This can include the person's own body, because - as we all know - there are some things we do that we cannot control.
Now, as I said in my last entry, Determinism can have theistic (I won't say "religious" here and I'll explain why shortly) as well as atheistic connotations. For an example of the former, a religious figure - like a Christian sermon minister or a Jewish rabbi - will say it is the will of [a] God that decides what we do and how we think, and they will use their divine authority, their knowledge of sacred texts, or even a coincidental occurrence, to validate the reasoning behind their interpretation of human behaviour. In atheistic Determinism, a prediction is made by other means; those who identify with the "atheist" label specifically will more likely choose a scientific explanation and this means the prediction must be based off of something physical (I.e. something you can be made empirically aware of). There are two ways in which to base such a prediction. You can look to an external basis, which means that you think behaviour is shaped by a person's surroundings, or you can look to an internal basis, which means that you think behaviour is shaped by what - not who - that person is. By this, I mean what is physically responsible for human behaviour: their brain, their biochemistry, their genes, and so on.
A person's surroundings can be their physical environment (I.e. location and conditions thereof) or their social environment (I.e. the influences of the people around them) and this is where my retraction of "religious" in the preceding paragraph comes in. Religion is a social phenomenon, not a supernatural one. Someone who denies the existence of [a] God and/or other forms of the supernatural can still say that an external basis for a person's actions is religious. You don't need to be a Christian to know that wearing white on Sunday is for religious reasons. You know this because the people around you who are Christian will probably transmit that information to you either directly (by telling you) or indirectly (by example).
Understandably, then, the idea of Free Will defies everything I have just described as far as Determinism goes. You cannot predict what someone will do if only they themselves are responsible for what will become of them, and you cannot base your prediction on anything if only they can know why they do what they do.
The argument that humans are irrational only serves to complicate the matter further, though there are those who would say that the only way to really know someone is to "walk a mile in their shoes" (or something like that). Everyone is irrational, so to find out why they do what they do, you essentially need to “become” them (so to speak). This is the idea behind the concept of empathy. It is also the foundation upon which the academic study of the social sciences is built.
Of course, the argument of irrationality can also have the opposite effect: it can lead people to evaluate each other based on similarity and cause those who are different to be thought of as "defective." In other words, you may not understand why other people do the things they do, but you do understand your own rationalé for doing the things you do, so you can at least know what your actions are determined by. Assuming you don't think you are delusional or insane, whatever standards there are for a rational mind that is fully determined by internal and/or external bases, you must then have them. Anything that is done differently in the same context must therefore be an indication of impairment. Not irrationality; when arguing for Free Will, irrationality is the norm because it demonstrates that the human mind was never meant to be determined. Rationality as an antithesis is considered to be the norm because it is an indication of Determinacy.
If it is possible to make sense of something, then it is possible to determine what someone in that context will do. Something that appears nonsensical cannot be determined so someone who argues against Free Will would need to say there is something functionally wrong with it in order to justify their stance. Someone who argues for it merely needs to say “I don’t know” because Indeterminacy should be expected and you should therefore not be expected to know what will happen.
And then there is the Relativistic approach, which holds that people - as a product of their environment - cannot be evaluated against a single absolute standard due to the differences within that environment. Which is fine, but Relativity requires an external basis and not an internal basis for behaviour; it is all too easy to pass judgment on people based on shared commonalities like skin colour and sexual orientation without realizing or acknowledging exactly how they are related to behaviour. Assuming we are referring to a behavioural end by a physical means, the two examples I gave already no longer count: skin colour has no behavioural end, and sexual orientation has no physical means. Internalizing any means for behaviour (exempting temporary biochemical changes like low blood sugar level, and inflicted neurological conditions like brain injury, which can happen to anyone and does allow the same person to act as the basis of comparison) denies the validity of one’s own individuality, which is ultimately self-defeating because even those who do argue for Determinism are bound to be different behaviourally from one another somehow.
The argument then shifts to the so-called “mental illnesses,” as well as to PDD’s and learning disabilities: are these conditions indicative of impairment or do they merely represent some extreme cases of individuality?
Some Relativistic Determinists have made assertions that are more implicitly controversial, with pervasive undertones that are questionable from a moral standpoint. Such is the theory of Sociobiology; while Edward O. Wilson may have intended it to be a species-wide theory in his two books Sociobiology: The New Synthesis and On Human Nature, the concept behind it leaves too much room for criticism of its application on the intra-species level. Those who support the theory can be (and often are) criticized for having racist and/or ethnocentric intentions, especially when they correlate with certain political ideologies.
Regardless of what their real motives may be, the idea that genes can affect one’s rationalé is too presumptuous for the purpose of this blog entry. Simply because there is no proof, and whatever support there is for it does not really need to be there. The only reasons why it is there – as was mentioned in the preceding paragraph – are questionable in their intent. Physical characteristics may go hand-in-hand with certain behaviours in some isolated instances but there is no evidence at all that proves they are directly (or even indirectly) linked to each other. For that matter, homosexuality (I.e. being gay) is not a physical condition that causes you to to be attracted to the same sex. It is the state of being attracted to the same sex. So nothing makes you gay. And being gay does not determine how you behave or interact with other people. Your sexual preference is just who you are, and nothing more. Anyone who strives to disprove this in the face of contrary evidence is obviously doing so for ulterior reasons.
I should mention that Relativity works both ways; it can also be Indeterministic by nature, but Indeterminists say that behaviour is only influenced by the environment as opposed to being determined by it. That is, environmental constraints may affect how one behaves to some degree, but it is that person’s interpretation of the environment – and not the actual environment itself – that convinces them to decide how they want to act and/or how they should act in such circumstances. This may be one of the contrasts between Cultural Relativity (Indeterministic) and Philosophical Relativity (Deterministic) but I am not entirely sure about that. I do know about the principles for Relativity and the arguments it has against Aesthetic Absolutism, but until I read Wikipedia’s article on it I had no idea there was more than one kind of Relativity. Or rather, that it could be interpreted in different ways depending on the academic discipline being studied.
No matter what approach you take in determining human behaviour, and no matter what justification you have for it, Free Will – as ironically simple a concept as it is – instantly comes to mind as perhaps the biggest contradiction to the endeavor, so it rightfully becomes a central argument for this particular philosophical area.Interestingly, though, other conflicting dichotomies in philosophy seem to have similar basic premises. I introduced Chaos & Order in my last entry; from this we can derive the ontological dichotomy of Agnosticism & Foundationalism (justification of belief as knowledge – “Gnosticism” in the diagram on the right), the philosophical dichotomy of Fallibility & Infallibility in regards to certainty, and the epistemic dichotomy of Empiricism & Rationalism, as well as the political dichotomy of Liberalism & Conservatism, to name a few. Respectively, all of these dichotomies have something to do with Chaos and Order: lack of knowledge or the inability to gain knowledge can be associated with the concept of Chaos, while the acquisition and/or justification of knowledge can be associated with the concept of Order.
In the concluding paragraph, right before the five-period page breaker that precedes the final paragraph in my last entry, I typed briefly about my goal when it comes to conbiology. I not only like to recreate extinct flora and fauna and place them in hypothetical “Alt-Evo” scenarios, I like to make them do different things. Things that Terran organisms can’t do (yet). And in many cases, things that Terran organisms can do, but better. So I am not really as much a follower of Occam’s Razor as I would otherwise like to be, or should be. This shouldn’t be taken to mean the creatures I invent are fantastical or anything like that, but this is one area of conworlding that I use my imagination for a lot. And I feel I have enough knowledge of science to get away with it, so…no, nothing fantasy-like here. This part is more of a confession than anything else but I thought it would be worth bringing up. I like to think that if some extinct animals did wind up on my conworld, they would not only survive, they would be “better” in some way than what we have on Earth. That would be my xenocentric side coming out…see, I think I typed in another entry that I was a xenocentric elitist so there you go.
And that's it.
I probably won't use the five-period page breaker as much as I just did in this entry. I over-used it here because I wanted to provide an example of what it could be used for, but in most other cases the five-period thingie is only used when I can't blend two topics together without effectively showing that they are two separate topics. Expect the five-period page breaker to show up often near the end of an entry right before the paragraph I use to conclude the entry. I have already used the 5P page-breaker a lot already so this entry will be an exception.
Also, as you can see, this is not as short an entry as I made it out to be. I get carried away. And this happens a lot, so I am going to stop trying to predict how short the entry will be. Even though it does encourage me to make the entry longer for some reason. This entry also took me more than a day to type.
I shouldn't put it that way, since I didn't spend more than a day just sitting here typing. Rather, I'll say it carried on past one day. In this instance the entry began on Tuesday, June 12th (before midnight) and I will probably finish it on
Saturday, June 16th. Again, be mindful of the time difference on this site: I am on EST so the time during which I post an entry will be different than the Wikia's standard time. I may post the exact time difference in a future entry. For now, though, expect a possible one-day delay unless I post after midnight tonight.
Anyway, one thing I will do from now on is that I will put the date I started the entry on at the very beginning of the entry. After a while, if I notice a trend, I might decide to do something about it. Or not. I dunno.
But that's it. I stop typing now. Thanks for reading.