Re: virus: Logical beliefs

David McFadzean (
Tue, 03 Jun 1997 09:59:11 -0600

At 11:39 AM 03/06/97 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:

>However, I stick firmly by my view that you use "rational"
>in a non-standard and therefore confusing way. The most
>obvious example of this, for me, is when you say that most
>instinctive action is rational. When people talk about the
>rationality or otherwise of action, what they almost always
>mean is defn #1: using reason or logic in thinking out a
>problem. Which is the exact opposite of acting

OK, we're making good progress now. I think that instincts
*do* use logic. All organisms have evolved to embody information
about their environment. It isn't knowledge in the same way
humans have knowledge about, say, football (strange attractors
of neural activations perhaps), but knowledge reflected in the
physical form of the organisms nevertheless. Biologists can
deduce a great deal about an animal's environment by just
examining the animal (even if the animal hasn't lived for
a billion years). How? Because it has adapted to its environment
which means it has changed to fit the environment. Not only
its form, but its behavior. An organism is constructed in such
a way so that its hormonal and nervous system cause behavior
that fits the environment. Some organisms are hard-wired, some
are somewhat plastic (ie. they can try a bunch of variations
and keep what works), some are sufficiently complex that they
can simulate the actions in their head and "let their ideas
die in their stead" (I think Mayr said that). The latter kinds
are more flexible, but not qualitatively different. They embody
information and rules about their environment and goals, and use
them to act. The ones that embodied less accurate information and
bad (illogical) rules did worse in the survival game.

To sum up, I'll claim that in order to act logically (I'll stay
away from that "r" word for now), something must act in accordance
with rules of logic but it doesn't have to consciously think about
rules of logic. For example a computer has logical behavior but
doesn't (necessarily) have a mind. Can everyone agree on that much?

>So my revised complaint is that you use definitions that
>are certainly correct in some situations, in ways that make
>them, by the standard of conventional usage, incorrect.
>In addition, I suspect, though I admit I do not have an
>example to prove it, that you equivocate: you slide from
>one of the meanings of the word to another during the
>course of an argument.

If so it is not intentional and I would appreciate it if you
(or anyone) would point out specific examples. But please keep
in mind the equivocation may only exist with your interpretation
of what I wrote.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus