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

  1. walto: I think classical determinism only requires the forward moving results.

    Remember I’m from Missouri. Is this a reference to determinism allowing “time travel” by reversing trajectories and being able to extract information about the past having only a precise knowledge of the present?

    It doesn’t have to be “unitary” AFAIK.

    As I am not sure what “unitary” implies in the context of causal determinism (or is it in the context of quantum determinism that “unitarity is a restriction on the allowed evolution of quantum systems that ensures the sum of probabilities of all possible outcomes of any event is always 1.”*) I’m not clear what you are saying.

    *link

  2. Alan Fox,

    I was trying to say that, traditionally, determinism requires only that future states be entirely determined by present states and operative laws. The past need not be perfectly determined by the present, because, even given determinism (in the direction of the arrow of time) different pasts would seem to have been compatible the same present state. Patrick has given examples above.

  3. walto, to Alan:

    I was trying to say that, traditionally, determinism requires only that future states be entirely determined by present states and operative laws. The past need not be perfectly determined by the present, because, even given determinism (in the direction of the arrow of time) different pasts would seem to have been compatible the same present state.

    That’s right. The present determines the past only if the deterministic laws are also time-reversible.

  4. keiths: That’s right. The present determines the past only if the deterministic laws are also time-reversible.

    Even if everything is time reversible, it would simply mean that the past (as projected from the present state) is no more knowable than the future.

  5. petrushka: Even if everything is time reversible, it would simply mean that the past (as projected from the present state) is no more knowable than the future.

    It would mean it’s no LESS knowable.

  6. keiths:
    walto, to Alan:

    That’s right.The present determines the past only if the deterministic laws are also time-reversible.

    Assuming they are, what consequences do you think that has for Swampman stories about meaning (if any)?

  7. walto: It would mean it’s no LESS knowable.

    One can (and one does) rule out absurd extrapolations of the past. Which is why we argue that evolution is a more likely past than YEC.

    But we cannot know the past.

    And if we are presented with two atomically identical entities, we cannot say much about the possibility of different origins.

    Perhaps the point I wan to make is moot, but the language one speaks (etc) is embodied in the structure of the brain. It is wired, not programmable in the manner of computers. More akin to the early patch board programmable computers.

    It is not possible for atomically identically humans to speak different languages.

  8. petrushka: It is not possible for atomically identically humans to speak different languages.

    That’s a good way of putting the counter-intuitiveness of Bruce’s extreme externalism, I think.

  9. walto: Keiths says we can’t know the present or future either. I disagree tout court,

    I would tend to agree that we can’t know the present. It follows from indeterminacy.

    In spades.

  10. petrushka: I would tend to agree that we can’t know the present. It follows from indeterminacy.

    In spades.

    Amazing how many people here who have opinions about nearly everything, but don’t even know their own names.

  11. I’m amazed at how many people have no curiosity about what other people mean when they post.

    I post a lot of opinions — many of them off the wall — but they are just my opinions.

    I really try to avoid telling other people what they meant when they posted their opinions. Perhaps I fail at this, but I do try.

    This is a hint that I think your interpretation of what I said is orthogonal to my intended meaning. A discussion would be appropriate.

  12. walto:
    OK, I’ll bite.What did you mean when you said you can’t know the present?

    I mean you can’t know the present in enough detail — even assuming total determinism — to know or predict the future.

    We do predict the future all the time, and reality diverges exponentially from our expectations.

    We have this process called science that attempts to catalog regularities — predictable phenomena — and we’ve had great success where we are able to constrain the variables, but in the realm of human behavior — politics, economics, religion, and so forth — things fall apart, and regularities cannot hold.

  13. petrushka,

    You say you can know the present, but not the future or the past. I take it from that that you think you know your name. Keiths doesn’t think he knows his. He doesn’t think we can know the past, the future OR one single fact about the present.

  14. keiths: …you are taking “veridical” to mean “perfectly veridical”. That’s a red herring — I have never asserted that perfect veridicality is at issue. It obviously isn’t.

    Imperfect veridicality in action.

  15. keiths: You, Alan, and Sal are taking a profoundly anti-intellectual position. Alan and Sal don’t know any better, but you certainly should.

    Pure unadulterated ad hominem.

  16. walto:

    I take it from that that you think you know your name. Keiths doesn’t think he knows his. He doesn’t think we can know the past, the future OR one single fact about the present.

    Incorrect. You’ve misunderstood my position, as usual.

  17. petrushka,

    It is not possible for atomically identically humans to speak different languages.

    Or to differ in any of their non-indexical capabilities.

  18. petrushka,

    And if we are presented with two atomically identical entities, we cannot say much about the possibility of different origins.

    Not if we refer only to the entities’ states, but there are other potential sources of information about their origins and histories.

  19. keiths: Incorrect. You’ve misunderstood my position, as usual.

    Just reporting what you’ve said. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  20. keiths:

    The present determines the past only if the deterministic laws are also time-reversible.

    walto:

    Assuming they are, what consequences do you think that has for Swampman stories about meaning (if any)?

    Not much. Unlike Bruce, I don’t think it’s essential that Swampman’s origin be random — only that it differ in the right way from non-Swampman’s.

  21. keiths:
    petrushka,
    Not if we refer only to the entities’ states, but there are other potential sources of information about their origins and histories.

    Assuming the entity that poofed the duplicate into existence allows us to know which is which.

  22. walto,

    Just reporting what you’ve said.

    No. I haven’t claimed that we can’t know anything.

  23. petrushka,

    Assuming the entity that poofed the duplicate into existence allows us to know which is which.

    Why do you assume that some entity is responsible?

  24. keiths,

    Oh, please. Are you bringing up 2+2 = 4 or your supposed infinite disjunctions again? I want to know if you know your name or any other contingent fact about the world.

    ETA: And btw, unless you follow Descartes into “clear and distinct” land, the demon could be deceiving you about the apparent tautologies you DO think you know.

  25. Just out of curiosity, does anyone doubt that knowledge of the past diverges from our expectations at much the same rate as knowledge of the future?

    I make predictions about the near future all the time, and I bet my life on my expectations. But I also know things about the past, some of which are disputed when I talk about them with others.

  26. It’s astonishing that somebody who concedes he doesn’t know one interesting thing about the world, still manages to try to correct everybody on pretty much everything they say. A know-nothing know-it-all.

    #classickeiths

  27. petrushka: Just out of curiosity, does anyone doubt that knowledge of the past diverges from our expectations at much the same rate as knowledge of the future?

    keiths doubts there’s EVER any knowledge of the past, so….we couldn’t know about such apparent divergences.

  28. walto,

    Oh, please. Are you bringing up 2+2 = 4 or your supposed infinite disjunctions again? I want to know if you know your name or any other contingent fact about the world.

    ETA: And btw, unless you follow Descartes into “clear and distinct” land, the demon could be deceiving you about the apparent tautologies you DO think you know.

    I’ve been over all of this, more than once, in the last couple of days. If you don’t care enough to actually read my comments, I’m not going to spoon-feed you the things that you miss.

  29. walto: keiths doubts there’s EVER any knowledge of the past, so….we couldn’t know about such apparent divergences.

    I would say there are definitions of knowledge that imply we have no knowledge of the past.

    I have already stated my opinion that there is no irrefutable argument against last thursdayism. But we struggle on as if we can know things. I live my life as if I know stuff.

  30. petrushka,

    One can (and one does) rule out absurd extrapolations of the past. Which is why we argue that evolution is a more likely past than YEC.

    But we cannot know the past.

    Bruce isn’t arguing that humans can determine the future or the past from the universe’s present state. He’s simply pointing out that that the universe’s quantum history is implicit in its current quantum state.

    He wants there to be something physical upon which his history-based meanings can supervene. Whether humans can interpret that substrate is irrelevant.

    The problem with his approach is that the relevant physical state isn’t in the right place, as explained here.

  31. petrushka,

    I have already stated my opinion that there is no irrefutable argument against last thursdayism.

    That’s right. Any evidence of events prior to last Thursday could be false evidence.

  32. Patrick,

    In a deterministic universe the state at one point in time determines all future states. There is no reason, though, to think that a state at a given point in time has only one possible history.

    Only if the laws aren’t time-reversible. That’s the point I was making here:

    If there are two paths to the same end state, it means that the paths join somewhere.If you run time backwards, they fork at that same point, which means the time-reversed system isn’t deterministic.

    Patrick:

    The chess game is part of the universe. At some point in time the state of the universe includes a chess board with a half-dozen pieces remaining in an unfinished game. Someone steps into the room to find both players have suffered fatal aneurisms simultaneously. There were no other observers of the game. There is no way to tell from the current state of the universe how the pieces came to be in their current configuration.

    Keep in mind the difference between state and quantum state. From your perspective within the universe, some wavefunctions have collapsed, and it is wavefunction collapse that introduces indeterminacy. You can’t deduce the history from a collapsed wavefunction, even in principle.

    It is the universe’s uncollapsed wavefunction that preserves its history and determines its future.

  33. Alan,

    I am actually not seeing what is obviously obvious to Keiths.

    Consider the definition I quoted:

    u·ni·verse
    ˈyo͞onəˌvərs/
    noun
    all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.

    If an entity satsfies that definition, then there is no matter and space outside of it. It is self-contained.

    Your objection:

    But you claimed the universe is self-contained and you know it is so. Yet we are constrained by the finite speed of light never to know what is outside the past light cone of the Earth.

    That’s like asking how I know that all bachelors are unmarried if I haven’t checked with each one of them.

    Or like asking if all men named Alan have the name Alan. You don’t need to check; it’s true by definition.

  34. KN:

    At this point, your steadfast refusal to answer questions I put you, your attempts to use the dictionary as if that settled all questions of conceptual analysis, and pugilistic style all indicate to me that I am no longer capable of treating you as if you are arguing in good faith. Hence I shall withdrawn from this exchange before I say something in violation of the site rules.

    KN,

    You’ve done a poor job of defending your anti-skeptical views in this thread, and you’re obviously disappointed about that, but it’s not a reason to pretend that I’m arguing in bad faith.

    I’ve presented a valid argument for Cartesian skepticism that you have not refuted. You’ve presented an invalid argument against Cartesian skepticism that is circular, as you acknowledge. Not only that, you even state that there are no non-circular arguments against Cartesian skepticism:

    There is no non-circular argument against Cartesian skepticism.

    My question to you, again, is this:

    Why resort to a invalid circular argument against Cartesian skepticism when a valid non-circular argument for it is available?

    It’s of course easier for you to pretend that I’m not arguing in good faith than it is for you to rise to the challenge, but that’s childish and dishonest. Set the childishness aside and face the question. If you don’t have a good answer, then admit that.

  35. walto: That’s a good way of putting the counter-intuitiveness of Bruce’s extreme externalism, I think.

    No, it is not.

    It confuses emitting language behavior with the normative analysis of the meaning of words. See my last post to KN where I tried to be clear about this by differentiating the prediction of next state from explaining norms.

    (ETA: Of course, I made the same point in many earlier posts, eg the random-machine which painted JP pictures where I pointed out how the judgement of art experts would change when they knew a painting’s causal history).

    Swampman’s predicted emitted behavior at its creation cannot have meaning because it lacks any causal history. I think that has to be true on any version of externalism.

    Do the inhabitants of Earth and twin Earth speak different languages because their meanings differ only in a natural kind (water versus twater) and I suppose any words associated with that natural kind? I have said yes in previous posts, I believe. I agree that is taking it to the extreme. It’s probably more reasonable to argue there is a vagueness involved in “understanding the same language”. But where’s the fun in such a wishy-washy position?

    While I am on the topic of confusions, some of P’s posts seem to me to confuse (practical) predictability and determinism. They are not the same thing. Determinism assumes perfect knowledge of the relevant type of initial state (which for QM is a quantum state).

    Laws of physics at the basic level, both quantum and classical, are time reversible, as long as one understands the nature of the state being described by those laws*.

    Unitariness is a mathematical restriction on the operators of QM which models state mathematically as a vector in a vector space. It ensures that two orthogonal vectors and only two orthogonal vectors stay orthogonal when one calculates future state. That gives time reversibility. AFAIK, that word is only used for QM.

    It has been proved mathematically that energy conservation requires time reversibility (and conversely) as long as the laws of physics can be formulated in a certain standard mathematical way. So that is one motivation for seeing reversibility as a good thing.

    —————-
    * Except for weak force interactions which are Charge-Parity-Time reversible.

  36. BruceS: walto: That’s a good way of putting the counter-intuitiveness of Bruce’s extreme externalism, I think.

    No, it is not.

    It confuses emitting language behavior with the normative analysis of the meaning of words. See my last post to KN where I tried to be clear about this by differentiating the prediction of next state from explaining norms.

    (ETA: Of course, I made the same point in many earlier posts, eg the random-machine which painted JP pictures where I pointed out how the judgement of art experts would change when they knew a painting’s causal history).

    Swampman’s predicted emitted behavior at its creation cannot have meaning because it lacks any causal history. I think that has to be true on any version of externalism.

    Do the inhabitants of Earth and twin Earth speak different languages because their meanings differ only in a natural kind (water versus twater) and I suppose any words associated with that natural kind? I have said yes in previous posts, I believe. I agree that is taking it to the extreme. It’s probably more reasonable to argue there is a vagueness involved in “understanding the same language”. But where’s the fun in such a wishy-washy position?

    While I am on the topic of confusions, some of P’s posts seem to me to confuse (practical) predictability and determinism. They are not the same thing. Determinism assumes perfect knowledge of the relevant type of initial state (which for QM is a quantum state).

    Laws of physics at the basic level, both quantum and classical, are time reversible, as long as one understands the nature of the state being described by those laws*.

    Unitariness is a mathematical restriction on the operators of QM which models state mathematically as a vector in a vector space. It ensures that two orthogonal vectors and only two orthogonal vectors stay orthogonal when one calculates future state. That gives time reversibility. AFAIK, that word is only used for QM.

    It has been proved mathematically that energy conservation requires time reversibility (and conversely) as long as the laws of physics can be formulated in a certain standard mathematical way. So that is one motivation for seeing reversibility as a good thing.

    I think you misunderstood my remark, Bruce. I said petrushka’s remark lit up the counterintuitiveness of your position, and you replied by defending that position–i.e., arguing that it’s true in spite of what people may think. I didn’t say it wasn’t true.

    I understand that you think understanding language depends on following norms, which in turn require certain causal conditions. My point was only that that position must overcome the fairly strong intuitions that internalists peddle. The fact that you HAVE had to repeat your claims numerous times on this thread points to the power of petrushka’s intuition. That it’s misleading (if it is) is no argument against its existence.

  37. petrushka: I would say there are definitions of knowledge that imply we have no knowledge of the past.

    Absolutely. Just as there are definitions according to which one can’t know any contingent fact at all (like one’s own name). Such definitions are contrary to common usage, but of course, one is free to use words as one likes.

  38. keiths,

    KN is right, of course. You’ve presented NO arguments for anything. You’ve simply repeated claims that are contrary to what nearly everybody means by “know.” Claims according to which nobody knows his or her own name. He’s right too, that you generally don’t reply to questions, but simply attack those who don’t agree with you.

    In a word, as those who have dealt with you will all know, KN’s post was right on target. And he is among the most gentle posters one can find on this site.

  39. walto: Do the inhabitants of Earth and twin Earth speak different languages because their meanings differ only in a natural kind (water versus twater) and I suppose any words associated with that natural kind? I have said yes in previous posts, I believe. I agree that is taking it to the extreme. It’s probably more reasonable to argue there is a vagueness involved in “understanding the same language”. But where’s the fun in such a wishy-washy position?

    While I am on the topic of confusions, some of P’s posts seem to me to confuse (practical) predictability and determinism. They are not the same thing. Determinism assumes perfect knowledge of the relevant type of initial state (which for QM is a quantum state).

    I know what you mean with your “wishy-washy” (i.e., weaker position) quip, but I think there may be important philosophical principles missed if we take such terms as “understand” the wrong way.

    I agree with you that petrushka has been confounding predictability and determinism (or map with territory) in a couple of his posts. A bunch of Alan’s remarks on this thread have done that too, I think. It’s one of the most common mistakes people make when they discuss philosophy. Alan’s whole “light cone” confab required that confusion–which I think keiths pointed out quite well.

  40. walto: Absolutely.Just as there are definitions according to which one can’t know any contingent fact at all (like one’s own name).Such definitions are contrary to common usage, but of course, one is free to use words as one likes.

    My background is in special education. From my perspective, it is quite common to see people whose knowledge is both certain and divergent from common. When you converse for hours with someone whose perception differs radically from ones own, you might reach the conclusion that what we call knowledge is brain behavior, and subject to the whims of chemistry and physics.

    There are good utilitarian reasons for living as if our perceptions are reliable, in the common sense of the word, but it remains an assumption, grounded only in usefulness.

  41. walto: I know what you mean with your “wishy-washy” (i.e., weaker position) quip, but I think there may be important philosophical principles missed if we take such terms as “understand” the wrong way.

    Sure, all sorts of fun stuff like narrow content, how/whether mental contents cause, and whether there is any beer in the fridge regardless of what I believe, desire and therefore (?) do. No doubt* you have other examples in mind.

    But tomorrow is another day. And never knows, for that matter.

    ————–
    * Fooled you – CD.

  42. petrushka: it is quite common to see people whose knowledge is both certain and divergent from common.

    You again use “knowledge” there for “map of knowledge”. I.e., you are talking about what they THINK is certain. I am talking about knowledge, not ostensible knowledge.

    Sometimes we think we know stuff when we don’t. That’s true. But sometimes we think we know stuff and we’re right. Can we always tell the difference between those states? No.

  43. petrushka: When you converse for hours with someone whose perception differs radically from ones own, you might reach the conclusion that what we call knowledge is brain behavior, and subject to the whims of chemistry and physics.

    There are good utilitarian reasons for living as if our perceptions are reliable, in the common sense of the word, but it remains an assumption, grounded only in usefulness.

    I’m not clear on why the fact of neurodiversity is supposed to undermine our confidence in the reliability of our sensorimotor abilities to detect and track real patterns of varying salience. A honeybee can detect UV light, and a rattlesnake can ‘see’ into the infrared. Many fish can detect electrical fields (the platypus is the only mammal with this sensory modality).

    It seems to me that we should say that there are many different ways of detecting and tracking real patterns, and which patterns are salient depends on the needs and goals of the organism. Animals will usually (thought not always) be unable to detect patterns which are not salient to them, and salience is certainly affected by the sensorimotor abilities of the organism in question, but it really doesn’t follow from those considerations that the salient patterns aren’t also causally grounded in real patterns.

    In short, I don’t think that neurodiversity across humans or across animals generally supports skepticism about the senses. The reliability of perception isn’t an assumption; it’s supported by embodied cognitive science. (Though arguably embodied cognitive science lightly revises the meaning of “the reliability of perception”.)

    Of course that point won’t convince the foundationalist who points out that science depends on the reliability of the senses. But to the anti-foundationalist — whether an epistemic holist like Sellars and Michael Williams or a ‘foundherentist’ like Haack — there’s nothing amiss with provisionally using our senses to explore the world around us, using our growing knowledge of the world to explore how our brains and senses work, and thereby both explaining why our senses are reliable (to the extent that they are) and perhaps also revising the meaning of “the reliability of the senses.” The meaning of “the reliability of the senses” is not the same for Gibson or Clark as it was for Aristotle or Descartes, and that is as it should be, because — if semantic holism is true — changes in our knowledge of the world affect the meanings of words.

    walto: I understand that you think understanding language depends on following norms, which in turn require certain causal conditions. My point was only that that position must overcome the fairly strong intuitions that internalists peddle. The fact that you HAVE had to repeat your claims numerous times on this thread points to the power of petrushka’s intuition. That it’s misleading (if it is) is no argument against its existence.

    I haven’t been following the discussion of Swampman or Twin Earth all that closely, because I have deep misgivings about thought-experiments. But I do think that some version of semantic externalism is correct. On a Brandomian inferential semantics, since meaning is constituted by inferential relations that are instituted by normative statuses that we attribute to others and to ourselves, the ‘unit of meaning’ is the linguistic community as a whole. That seems compatible with social externalism, though I don’t know if anyone has really looked at Brandom in this light.

    walto,

    Thanks for the word of support there!

  44. petrushka: My background is in special education.

    Fwiw, my younger daughter, still in high school, is thinking of majoring in special ed.

  45. walto: I think you misunderstood my remark, Bruce.I said petrushka’s remark lit up the counterintuitiveness of your position, and you replied by defending that position–i.e., arguing that it’s true in spite of what people may think.I didn’t say it wasn’t true.

    Yes, you are right I missed your point. In fact, I missed your entire post (KN’s quote of it prompted me to find it).

    I would add another issue: my suspicion is that many posters are not familiar with the philosophical issues in distinguishing perceptions from misperceptions. In particular, why the simple causal explanations of perception which come from science do not address that issue.

  46. walto: Fwiw, my younger daughter, still in high school, is thinking of majoring in special ed.

    Plenty of need. Money, not so much. I wound up in IT.

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