RE: virus: Re:MS Flip Software Price

David McFadzean (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 09:33:10 -0600

At 11:42 AM 10/17/97 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:

>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

I fully admit that the colour of my glasses is due
in a large part to my education and career. (But that
really shouldn't be a surprise, should it?)

>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

Wait a minute, are sharp teeth "for" rending flesh?
Are they "for" eating meat? Are they "for" survival
by co-opting the unfortunate herbivore's energy
reserve? Or, are they just a set of random mutations
that benefitted the corresponding genes? Does the
truth of one statement preclude the truth of any
other in this list?

>which they were operating. There's no logic there,
>other than that implicit in every element of objective

If logic is "implicit in every element of objective
reality" how on earth can you say "There's no logic there"?

>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

Of course it isn't really a rational designer. I was hoping
we had got past the point of adding disclaimers whenever
we use this kind of language. Evolution does behave as if
it is a rational designer without forethought (if you can
imagine such a beast).

I forgot to add that when one makes the assumption that
there must be a good reason behind a trait or a behaviour,
that is just a method to assist in thinking about the
problem and finding an answer. It is no guarantee that there
is a good reason from any gene's or meme's point of view.
It could be because of a disease and/or chemical imbalance
in the brain. If assuming a reason guaranteed that a
reason would be found, then the method would be very
suspect. But it doesn't so it isn't (in that respect

>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

Exaptations. Gould likes to think that exaptations
are non-adaptive, but I can't see the difference
between an exaptation and a 2nd order adaptation.
(Both are accidental features retained because they
conferred some selective advantage.)

>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.

It is certainly possible I'm wrong. I'll wait to
see your replies to my objections above.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus