RE: virus: Re:MS Flip Software Price

Robin Faichney (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 11:42:25 +0100

> From: David McFadzean[]
> At 01:40 PM 10/16/97 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:
> >No. As in so many other things, this only seems
> >like a logical deduction because you are taking
> >so much forgranted. In fact, this is a matter of
> >contingency, not logic. It only works the way it
> Not so. If the organism can evolve a mechanism
> for implementing the logical rules: "if light
> ahead, go forward, else turn" then its genes
> will be more successful.
But that's not a mechanism for implementing logical
rules. I think this is an occupational hazzard for
computing people -- seeing everything in computing
terms. The logic is implicit in the reality to which
every successful organism -- or more generally,
every stable thing -- must conform. The mechanism
is not actually "for" anything -- this is a convenient
but ultimately misleading way of thinking about such
things. It just so happens that a set of random
mutations resulted in a state of affairs that benefitted
the corresponding genes, given the environment in
which they were operating. There's no logic there,
other than that implicit in every element of objective

> >Can I ask just
> >what you're trying to do, in pushing
> >"parationality"?
> Evolutionary biologists usually start with the
> assumption that evolution is a rational designer,
> then try to figure out what traits are for by
> working backward from that. e.g. "there must be
> some *reason* these males don't fight to the death
> over the females of the herd, I wonder what it
> could be?".
I dare say some do use that assumption, but as
the critics of evolutionary psychology point out,
it is a very dangerous assumption, and in fact,
strictly speaking, wrong, because evolution is
not a designer (far less a rational one!) -- all its
developments occur purely by chance. Thus
you get spandrels, which have no value, and
side-effects, whereby features that were
initially beneficial in one way, and survived for
that reason, turn out also to have other uses.
(Is there a techical term for that?) Viewing
evolution as a rational designer is a path
full of pot-holes. That's not to say it should
never be taken, but you have to be aware of
the problems, and to go that way is essentially
a matter of pragmatics -- at the theoretical
level, it's plain wrong. You seem to using the
concept for theoretical purposes, so I say
you're wrong.