2,657 thoughts on “Elon Musk Thinks Evolution is Bullshit.

  1. My introduction of the infinite disjunction was only to show that direct realism is not a logically necessary truth. Bit it is still true as far as our best phenomenology and cognitive science can determine. That’s quite good enough for me.

  2. I actually worked for the state rep who represented Holliston for a couple of years–Andrew Natsios. He was a big Repub, however, and ended up working for Bush (pere) so we didn’t get along fabulously. We co-wrote a book on Federalism (he liked Reagan’s views on the matter), but we couldn’t find a publisher. Fortunately, I was able to move out of his office to the staff of a committee (Commerce and Labor). I think he’s at Oxfam now.

  3. walto,

    And the first disjunct, I know that there’s a glass of water next to me entails that there is a glass of water next to me.

    That isn’t part of the disjunction.

    He’s saying “I know there’s a glass of water next to me unless [the disjunction].”

    Here’s how he puts it later in the thread:

    “we can know things about the real world, unless {A, B, C, D . . . }, where none of the items in that set can be ruled out on a priori grounds”

    The disjunction is “A or B or C…”.

  4. KN,

    My introduction of the infinite disjunction was only to show that direct realism is not a logically necessary truth. Bit it is still true as far as our best phenomenology and cognitive science can determine.

    Phenomenology and cognitive science aren’t in a position to rule out brains-in-vats or other Cartesian scenarios. How could they be?

  5. Neil Rickert: Sure it is.

    That’s an example of the passivity that I see as a problem.

    Perceiving involves action. Okay, you allow some (but too little) of that action with your mention of “move”. But then you discount it’s importance in your last sentence.

    That is like saying that we can do science without laboratories and without experiments. But the labs and experiments are how we learn about the causal structure of what we are studying.

    We do not use the received information alone. We also make heavy use of the actions that we take to elicit that information.

    Right. The question here is whether all veridical perception necessarily involves action, or if action is only necessary for some cases (e.g. resolving perceptual ambiguity).

    On the Gibsonian view (which I know second-hand, through Mark Rowlands, Alva Noe, and Anthony Chemero), all perception involves action, and there’s no perception without action. In the absence of action, there would still be sensations, but it takes action to incorporate sensations into perceptual states.

    Chemero’s version of direct realism is quite appealing to me. He puts it as follows: animals directly perceive affordances. That’s also Gibson. But unlike Gibson and other ecological psychologists, Chemero does not treat affordances as properties of the environment. Nor does he treat them as features alone. Instead he treats affordances as relations between features of an environment and the sensorimotor abilities of an animal.

    So his thesis is that animals direct perceive the relation between perceptible features of their environment (a set of all perceptible features is the niche occupied by the animal) and the sensorimotor abilities of the animal, as causally grounded in the coupling of its neurodynamical processes with its body.

    Presently I’m working on showing that Chemero’s version of direct realism is sufficient to block Coates’s criticisms and take account of what is right about critical realism.

    Of course the infinite disjunct remains in force, but that only shows that direct realism is not a logically necessary truth. And whoever thought it was?

  6. keiths: Phenomenology and cognitive science aren’t in a position to rule out brains-in-vats or other Cartesian scenarios. How could they be?

    Quite right; they aren’t. They are our best guides to what is actual, and cannot rule out what is merely logically possible.

  7. KN,

    But it [direct realism] is still true as far as our best phenomenology and cognitive science can determine.

    keiths:

    Phenomenology and cognitive science aren’t in a position to rule out brains-in-vats or other Cartesian scenarios. How could they be?

    KN:

    Quite right; they aren’t. They are our best guides to what is actual, and cannot rule out what is merely logically possible.

    But direct realism and Cartesian scenarios are mutually exclusive. You cannot know that direct realism is true unless you know that all Cartesian scenarios are unlikely, and phenomenology and cognitive science can’t tell you that.

  8. KN,

    Right. The question here is whether all veridical perception necessarily involves action, or if action is only necessary for some cases (e.g. resolving perceptual ambiguity).

    On the Gibsonian view (which I know second-hand, through Mark Rowlands, Alva Noe, and Anthony Chemero), all perception involves action, and there’s no perception without action. In the absence of action, there would still be sensations, but it takes action to incorporate sensations into perceptual states.

    Yesterday was trash day. I was lying in bed when I recognized the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck. What action was involved in that instance of perception?

  9. fifthmonarchyman: Isn’t the case that even in the universe had a beginning that we are overwhelmingly likely are already in an heat death phase.

    The only way to avoid this conclusion as far as I can see is to assume a relatively recent beginning and very low amount of entropy at the start.

    Funny but that is just what we find to be the case (assuming that our perceptions are indeed accurate)

    Peace

    Funny, we’re living, and happen to be in a universe that can support life. I wonder if there’s a connection.

    Glen Davidson

  10. keiths:

    But direct realism and Cartesian scenarios are mutually exclusive. You cannot know that direct realism is true unless you know that all Cartesian scenarios are unlikely, and phenomenology and cognitive science can’t tell you that.

    I think there’s a conflation of modalities here.

    The Cartesian skeptic tells us that direct realism could be false. (There are possible worlds in which it is.) But the bare logical possibility is not itself (I think) a reason for thinking that we actually live in one of those worlds. Phenomenology strongly supports direct realism (at least one version), and embodied cognitive science also supports it. So all of our available epistemic resources support direct realism (of some sort) as being true of the actual world in which we live.

    Put otherwise: the possibility that direct realism is false doesn’t count as a reason for thinking that is false, but only as a reason for thinking that it is not necessarily true. And the possibility of direct realism being false is as far as Cartesian skepticism can take us.

  11. keiths,

    OK. My interpretation was

    I know there is a tree v (B v C v….)

    In which case we either know that there’s a tree or we are deceived and don’t know anything. On KN’s take what we can know is

    (There is a tree unless B v C v….)

    There, all we can ever know is some infinite ‘unless’ statement that I’m not sure anyone can actually contemplate, never mind know.

  12. keiths: But direct realism and Cartesian scenarios are mutually exclusive.

    Yes!

    You cannot know that direct realism is true unless you know that all Cartesian scenarios are unlikely

    No!

  13. keiths: Yesterday was trash day. I was lying in bed when I recognized the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck. What action was involved in that instance of perception?

    What makes that a genuine perceiving of a garbage truck through the auditory modality, and not just an aural sensation, is the implicit awareness that if one were to get up and move about, go over the window, etc. one expects to see the garbage truck, that if one were to go downstairs the garbage truck would not turn into a dog as soon as you touched it, and so on.

    In other words, it is possible movements — and the expectations, anticipations, preparations etc that are grounded in them — that turn sensations (states of sensory consciousness) into perceptual takings. But what is perceptually taken is, on the view I’m urging here, the affordances qua relations between features of the environment and sensorimotor abilities of organism.

    Notice what this view does not purport to establish: it does not establish that what we perceive, when we perceive veridically, is the causal and modal structure of reality. It is not an argument for metaphysical realism. It is an argument that there are no epistemic intermediaries between the organism and what is perceives. That’s the point of contrast with the sense-datum view, which does require epistemic intermediaries. But it is also a crucial point of contrast with McDowell’s direct realism, which does say that what we perceive, when we perceive veridically, is the structure of reality. It is a disjunctivism about affordances and not about objects in the full-blown sense.

    Thus, while I am a metaphysical realist (of a very weird sort, being a process ontologist), I don’t think there’s any route from direct realism about perception to metaphysical realism. The route is going to be far more indirect, essentially involving the emergence of sapience from sentience and the invention of science among sapient animals. Only then do we get much cognitive purchase on the real processes constituting the causal and modal structure of reality that is phenomenologically “hidden” to us.

  14. GlenDavidson: Funny, we’re living, and happen to be in a universe that can support life. I wonder if there’s a connection.

    We non-skeptics in the house think there is–and that we can even know about it.

  15. walto: Fmm, you are the most result-oriented thinker I’ve ever met.

    I think we are all result-oriented thinkers. I like to think that the reason I appear to do this more than others you have met is because

    1) My “result” is in direct contradiction with yours.
    2) My perspective has made me more aware of the un-examined premises that are assumed by folks I discuss with.

    peace

  16. Neil Rickert: That is far from clear.

    Instead of work I’ve been thinking about BBs all day. What fun

    It now seems to me that the idea we are BB can be thought of as a sort of reverse Anthropic Principle. In which the less the universe is actually fine-tuned for human existance the more likely we are to be BB.

    So that got me to wondering if there is some sort of advantage for a BB to believe he is not a BB. I think I can make a case that there is. I’d share it if you like. Just say the word

    If it is the case that a BB would naturally want to believe it was not a BB then we can think of evidence for fine tuning to actually be evidence that we are in fact a BB.

    needless to say I find that to be a fascinating possibility

    peace

    PS All of this speculation of course assumes for the sake of argument that we don’t know the Christian God exists.

  17. GlenDavidson: Funny, we’re living, and happen to be in a universe that can support life. I wonder if there’s a connection.

    Or I am a BB and imagine I’m in a world that supports life that isn’t BBs

    I find that “theoretical” possibility to be interesting

    peace

  18. Rumraket: Perhaps that is the problem.

    Perhaps,

    Are you suggesting that I try not to think?
    or that I just try not to like it

    😉

    Peace

  19. keiths:
    KN,
    Yesterday was trash day. I was lying in bed when I recognized the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck. What action was involved in that instance of perception?

    A Fechner-Benham top spins, and I see red and blue circles. What action is involved?

  20. petrushka: A Fechner-Benham top spins, and I see red and blue circles. What action is involved?

    Or, I feel hunger pangs, the pain of appendicitis, or nausea, what action is involved?

    While I see the importance of action for a lot of perception, I can’t see how there’s any intrinsic connection between them.

    Glen Davidson

  21. The action of seeing or hearing or feeling. All of which involve complex learned associations.

  22. petrushka,

    The action of seeing or hearing or feeling. All of which involve complex learned associations.

    If brain activity constitutes “action” in your view, then of course all perception requires action. But that’s not at all what Neil and KN mean by “action” in this context.

  23. keiths:

    But direct realism and Cartesian scenarios are mutually exclusive. You cannot know that direct realism is true unless you know that all Cartesian scenarios are unlikely, and phenomenology and cognitive science can’t tell you that.

    KN:

    I think there’s a conflation of modalities here.

    The Cartesian skeptic tells us that direct realism could be false. (There are possible worlds in which it is.)

    Correct.

    But the bare logical possibility is not itself (I think) a reason for thinking that we actually live in one of those worlds.

    Right, and the Cartesian skeptic doesn’t claim that we are living in one of those worlds — merely that we can’t know that we aren’t living in such a world.

    Phenomenology strongly supports direct realism (at least one version), and embodied cognitive science also supports it. So all of our available epistemic resources support direct realism (of some sort) as being true of the actual world in which we live.

    Phenomenology and “embodied cognitive science” favor direct realism over the Cartesian scenarios only to the extent that they already assume the veridicality of perception. That’s the circularity I was criticizing in Hall above.

    Put otherwise: the possibility that direct realism is false doesn’t count as a reason for thinking that is false, but only as a reason for thinking that it is not necessarily true. And the possibility of direct realism being false is as far as Cartesian skepticism can take us.

    It goes slightly farther than that. It also shows that we can’t say that direct realism is more likely to be true than the Cartesian alternatives. We simply don’t have the information needed to make that judgment.

    That’s all Cartesian skepticism needs to do. Lacking a rational basis for favoring direct realism, we can’t say that we know that our perceptions are veridical. And if we don’t know that they’re veridical, we can’t trust what they tell us about the world. They might be wrong.

    It’s impossible to know things about the external world, but we can still know* them.

  24. walto,

    There, all we can ever know is some infinite ‘unless’ statement that I’m not sure anyone can actually contemplate, never mind know.

    We don’t need to know that the disjunction is true in order to justify Cartesian skepticism. If we can’t say that the disjunction is likely to be false, that’s sufficient.

  25. keiths,

    The point is that you can’t know the ‘unless’ statement either if you can’t even contemplate it. You can’t know anything at all.

    Also you’re hypnotized by the might be wrong business. As I’ve explained to fmm countless time–that doesn’t prevent one from knowing things.

  26. keiths:

    Yesterday was trash day. I was lying in bed when I recognized the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck. What action was involved in that instance of perception?

    KN:

    What makes that a genuine perceiving of a garbage truck through the auditory modality, and not just an aural sensation, is the implicit awareness that if one were to get up and move about, go over the window, etc. one expects to see the garbage truck, that if one were to go downstairs the garbage truck would not turn into a dog as soon as you touched it, and so on.

    Then you are acknowledging that actions aren’t necessary for perception. The “implicit awareness” you refer to is an awareness, not an action.

    In other words, it is possible movements — and the expectations, anticipations, preparations etc that are grounded in them — that turn sensations (states of sensory consciousness) into perceptual takings.

    “Possible movements” are not actual movements. An awareness of possible movements is simply a mental state.

    Besides, it’s not even true that possible movements are necessary for perception. Suppose I’m lying in bed, I recognize the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck, and I decide to get up and look through the window. I then discover that I’m handcuffed to the bed. The movement — getting up and looking through the window — is impossible, but the perception still succeeds.

    Now, you might argue that what matters is not possibility in this instance, but rather possibility in general — but even that argument fails.

    Consider a Sentinel Islander who has been kidnapped and taken to my neighborhood. In his entire life, he has never seen or heard a garbage truck. Every day he is strapped to a chair that is placed by an open window, where he can see the street. Over time, he learns to associate the beeping sound with the garbage truck that comes by once a week.

    Today you leave him handcuffed to the bed instead of placing him by the window. He hears the beeping sound and recognizes it as the garbage truck. He perceives the garbage truck on the basis of the sound, yet he has never in his life performed an action in order to make that association possible. Indeed, it has never been possible for him to do so.

    To summarize:

    1. Awareness of possible actions is a mental state, not an action.
    2. Possible actions are not actual actions.
    3. Perception is possible even when actions are impossible.
    4. Perceptual associations are possible even where actions have never been possible.

  27. walto:
    keiths,

    The point is that you can’t know the ‘unless’ statement either if you can’t even contemplate it. You can’t know anything at all.

    Also you’re hypnotized by the might be wrong business. As I’ve explained to fmm countless time–that doesn’t prevent one from knowing things.

    Life might have been designed, too. To look evolved? Fine, but could have been designed, and at UD this “could be wrong” business comes up all of the time.

    Just as I’m little worried about the possibility of life being designed, sans persuasive evidence, I’m little worried about the possibility of our being in a simulation, or other “fake realities,” with nothing persuasively pointing us in that direction.

    There is no end to “could be’s.” Mostly, they needn’t detain us, except as bare possibilities.

    Glen Davidson

  28. walto,

    The point is that you can’t know the ‘unless’ statement either if you can’t even contemplate it.

    We can contemplate it, and that’s what we’re doing right now.

    We can’t itemize all of the disjuncts, but that isn’t necessary.

    Also you’re hypnotized by the might be wrong business. As I’ve explained to fmm countless time–that doesn’t prevent one from knowing things.

    It isn’t the mere possibility of being wrong that justifies Cartesian skepticism. If there were only a .00000000000000001 % chance of being wrong, then I would happily assent to a knowledge claim, despite the possibility of being wrong. Remember, I’m the “myth of absolute certainty” guy.

    What justifies Cartesian skepticism is not the mere possibility of being wrong, but rather that we can’t say that the disjunction is likely to be false.

  29. keiths:
    petrushka,
    If brain activity constitutes “action” in your view, then of course all perception requires action.But that’s not at all what Neil and KN mean by “action” in this context.

    Not just any brain activity. Tha act of seeing or hearing or feeling. Are we doing something when we dream? What specifically is the difference between what we perceive or do in a dream from perceiving or doing while waking?

  30. Glen,

    Life might have been designed, too. To look evolved? Fine, but could have been designed, and at UD this “could be wrong” business comes up all of the time.

    Sure, but at UD they actually assert that life is designed.

    The Cartesian skeptic does not assert that we are in a Cartesian scenario — only that we can’t know that we aren’t.

    Cartesian skepticism is justified, but the assertion that life is designed is not.

  31. petrushka,

    Not just any brain activity. Tha act of seeing or hearing or feeling.

    If you define perception as an action, then of course you can’t have perception without action. It’s a tautology.

    That’s not what’s being disputed in this thread.

  32. I’m not trying to make a tautology. Perceiving is a learned behavior. People who are born blind and have their vision corrected as adults do not know how to see.

  33. petrushka,

    Perceiving is a learned behavior. People who are born blind and have their vision corrected as adults do not know how to see.

    True, but it doesn’t follow that perception only occurs where action is involved. Consider my example of the Sentinel Islander.

  34. GlenDavidson,

    All we’re contemplating is an ‘…unless blah blah” sentence–and we don’t really have much of an idea what ‘blah blah stands for. It’s basically ‘I know X unless I don’t,’ since it seems intended to include every possible defeasor.

    Anyhow, we’re going around in circles at this point. We’re obviously not going to agree. I say we know there are trees, you say we can’t. Got it.

  35. walto:
    GlenDavidson,

    All we’re contemplating is an ‘…unless blah blah” sentence–and we don’t really have much of an ideawhat ‘blah blah stands for. It’s basically ‘I know X unless I don’t,’ since it seems intended to include every possible defeasor.

    Anyhow, we’re going around in circles at this point. We’re obviously not going to agree. I say we know there are trees, you say we can’t. Got it.

    Well, no, I don’t say that, and I just thought I was agreeing with you.

    But yeah, I don’t see any reason to belabor it

    Glen Davidson

  36. GlenDavidson: I’m little worried about the possibility of our being in a simulation, or other “fake realities,” with nothing persuasively pointing us in that direction.

    The key is in the term persuasively.

    I think if we don’t assume the existence of God the evidence for boltzmann brains is persuasive. You on the other had claim not to find it persuasive.

    I would venture to guess that there is nothing at all that would convince you that your perceptions were unreliable. I’m just not sure why your opinion in these matters caries much weight given the implications for you if you are wrong.

    peace

  37. fifth:

    I think if we don’t assume the existence of God the evidence for boltzmann brains is persuasive.

    Then you can refute the Boddy, Carroll and Pollack paper? Somehow I doubt it.

    Besides, assuming the existence of God doesn’t preclude the existence of Boltzmann brains. Maybe God likes Boltzmann brains, or maybe he doesn’t care one way or the other.

  38. walto,

    All we’re contemplating is an ‘…unless blah blah” sentence–and we don’t really have much of an idea what ‘blah blah stands for.

    Sure we do. It stands for “our perceptions aren’t basically veridical.” The infinite disjunction is merely a consequence of there being infinitely many ways for perception to be non-veridical.

    My argument boils down to

    1. If we perceive X, we know X, unless our perceptions aren’t basically veridical.
    2. We can’t say how likely it is that our perceptions are basically veridical.
    3. Therefore we can’t say that if we perceive X, we know X.
    4. Since all of our empirical information about the external world comes via perception, we can’t know anything about the external world.
    5. We can know* things about the external world, but we can’t know them.

    It’s basically ‘I know X unless I don’t,’ since it seems intended to include every possible defeasor.

    No, because we can reject beliefs for reasons other than the non-veridicality of perception. The belief might be incoherent, for instance.

  39. GlenDavidson: Life might have been designed, too.To look evolved?Fine, but could have been designed, and at UD this “could be wrong” business comes up all of the time.

    Just as I’m little worried about the possibility of life being designed, sans persuasive evidence, I’m little worried about the possibility of our being in a simulation, or other “fake realities,” with nothing persuasively pointing us in that direction.

    There is no end to “could be’s.”Mostly, they needn’t detain us, except as bare possibilities.

    Glen Davidson

    Exactly. Not worried how many angels can dance on a pin either.

  40. walto:
    Bruce, I was thinking of something like this (I still don’t know if it’s right, though).

    I’ll call the assumed extremely high probability of BB (given heat death) “PBB.”

    So now I read the sentence I excerpted as

    If heat death then (<>BB ﬤ PBB)then PBB

    And then you conclude PBB.

    But even if you add in <>heat death as a premise–which I’m willing to concede–you can’t get PBB.You need heat death to be true, and that’s what you don’t have.So, again, I *think* that as you stated the BB argument above, there’s a fallacy in play.

    The argument I am making is based solely on the actual world and its science. I assume it is scientifically correct that
    (1) the universe started in a low entropy state but will eventually arrive in a finite time to a heat death state which will last forever.
    (2) Physical brains can evolve and exist before then as perhaps can BBs. Only BBs can exist after heat death.

    The argument is that subjective experience is “infinitely more likely” to be a BB, since the time in which it could occur is infinite.

    It is a concern that “infinitely more likely” is just intuitive here; it would take some work to make that more specific. Possibly that could be done by arguing that the likelihood ratio of BB versus non-BB goes to infinity as the time of existence of the heat death does so.

    I guess that same argument would apply to all possible worlds with the same science as ours. I may no claim about other possible worlds.

  41. BruceS,

    Bruce

    Should we be worried about thé logical possibility of being in a simulation or Boltzmann brain? Is there some contingency planning we need to be doing?

  42. keiths:

    At some point you guys switched to talking about a different disjunction — the one that appears in Bruce’s formulation here:

    That was just me and I agree I worded it poorly.

    I was trying to separate the subjective experience associated with “seeing a tree”* from the various metaphysical possibilities in which that subjective experience would lead to the belief that “I am seeing a tree”. So it should have been
    “the subjective experience of seeing a tree” AND (disjunction of all metaphysical possibilities where the subjective experience could occur)

    I’ve left out any “I” since under some of the metaphysical possibilities, there is no I, only a momentary thought.

    I think the issue of global skepticism is separate from assuming an ontology and then examining the natures of perception and of knowing in a world with that assumed ontology. I take KN’s latest comments and you as saying something similar, and I agree. I don’t think Walt agrees with that separation, but I am not sure how he has addressed why.

    Do you have any thoughts on my previous comment about there being analogous justification based on pragmatic reasoning for knowledge in these two scenarios:
    1. knowing scientific theory despite underdetermination if only empirical data is considered

    2. knowing the ontology despite underdetermination if only subjective experience is considered

    ——————-
    * I’m omitting semantic issues associated with what “seeing a tree” could mean in the various metaphysical possibilities. I’ll post on that later.

  43. Alan Fox:

    Should we be worried about thé logical possibility of being in a simulation or Boltzmann brain? Is there some contingency planning we need to be doing?

    For living our lives day to day? Of course not.

    But that approach to metaphysics would put a lot of philosophers in the unemployment line.

    By the way, on the simulation scenario, it could be claimed that we should be doing contingency planning to keep our world interesting for the entity running the simulation so we don’t get shut down. But then we have the issue of what could interest such a being. So back to philosophy.

  44. GlenDavidson,

    I was actually responding to keiths there. We DO agree! Not sure how your name got on top of my post! I think I must have taken his quote from it.

  45. keith, you’ve said that if the likelihood of these defeasors you’re concerned about were really low, then, in your view, we COULD know there are trees, wearing pants, etc. But you actually have no idea what the likelihood of any of them is. We do know, however, that many of them are mutually exclusive. Here are a few:

    I’m dreaming.
    I’m in a vat.
    There’s a mind ray trained on me from Venus
    There’s a mind ray trained on me from Rigel 7.
    I’m a simulation.
    Professor X has me in his power.
    I’m a Boltzmann Brain.

    Obviously, this could be extended indefinitely. Since we don’t know the probability of any of them, but we do know that each is inconsistent with an infinite number of other ones, why not infer that each is infinitely low? If we did we COULD say that the likelihood of being deceived by Descartes’ demon is less than .000000001, no?

    As said, we’re going around in circles here. In closing, I’ll just say that I think your conclusion–that we can’t know there are trees, etc. should be seen as a reductio of your premises. One ought to simply modus tollens. That is, as we obviously DO know those things, your premises are incorrect. QED

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