Having babies and caring for children. Does it really make any sense?

Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Having babies and caring for children. Does it really make any sense?

If you'll notice, this post is in the Evolution forum.  There's a good reason for that, which I will get to, but first I need to make a disclaimer.  I've run off most of the people who think that having children is the purpose of life, and that people who decide not to are missing out on the essence of being.  This post isn't about that sort of thing at all.  I'm not worried about how you feel about whether or not people ought to be having babies in a particular situation.

With that out of the way, I want to ask a rather simple question that might turn out to be a lot more difficult than it seems:

Why should we care about having children, and having had them, why should we care about their lives?

I'll tackle the first part of the question first.  It's patently obvious to us that we care about having children because that means we pass on our genes and we get to have a family, but that's missing the point.  Why should that be important?  There are lots of reasons people give for why it's important for humans to have babies:

* Because otherwise humanity would die off.  (So what?  We'll be dead, and won't witness it.)

* Because it gives us a sense of community.  (Again, not necessary.  Many people don't have children and still have plenty of community.)

* Because otherwise all of the great things humanity has done will go to waste.  (What great things have we done?  All of them are only relative to our own existence.  We certainly haven't done much for the giant sloth.)

* Because we love somebody so much that we want to make babies with them.  (This doesn't answer the question.  It just restates it.  Why do we want to make babies with someone we love?)

* Because of survival instinct.  (Again... WHY?  Why do we have survival instincts for children that aren't born yet?  Why should we care about any future existence?)

* (The tour de force) Because it's sad not to have kids.  (Duh.. WHY is it sad not to have kids?)

Again, before you accuse me of getting onto the childless bandwagon, that's not what I'm doing.  I'm trying to demonstrate that most of the reasons we have for making babies are easily seen as circular reasoning when we break out of the supposedly self-evident nature of them.  That's just what I want to get at.  Having children is NOT self-evidently a good thing to do:

* It is very expensive  (I mean generically, in resources.  This applies to all animals.)

* It is physically taxing

* It is extremely time consuming

* It can be a severe hindrance in resource gathering, particularly in the most crucial days shortly after birth.

[EDIT:  I thought of a rather crucial element to this.  For all the negative side effects of reproducing, there aren't really any material gains to the parent.  Only losses.  What gains there are -- social standing, respectability, sense of community, emotional gratification -- are the results of what we can call artificial subsidizing.  That is, outside of human society, these benefits do not exist.  We can look at them as circular in the same way we look at the arguments.  We reward parenthood in human society, but why?]

I'm using the language of evolution in an attempt to shock you out of thinking of us as "people" and instead considering us as one of the animals.  Even so, you can see how these points translate into more colloquial language.

Now, to the second part of the question.  Why should we care about our children after having birthed them?  Again, we appeal to many things, but they are all circular.  If we say we care because it's the right thing to do, we beg the question of why it's the right thing to do!  If we cite human compassion, we must ask why we have human compassion.  There are many animals who do not care about their young.  They just set them  free in the world and let them take their chances.  In fact, there are many animals whose young need to get out of the house as quickly as possible to avoid becoming dinner.

Caring for children is not self evident.

This is where evolution comes in, and where theism fails utterly.  It's very simple to explain why altruism arose in nature, particularly when we accept the model of the selfish gene.  However, it will be a good mental exercise to reduce this to bullet points and start from the beginning.

* Genes replicate.

* The cause of genes' replication is nothing more than the laws of physics.  There is no "purpose."

* Natural selection favors genes that replicate very well.

* Natural selection promotes diversity

From here, we learn a few basic truths.  There's nothing magical about wanting to have children.  Evolution makes us want children because this is a very effective way to get humans to reproduce.  We are more consciously aware of our desires than most animals, but that makes them no less innate, and no less a product of genes being naturally selected.  I make this point to try to change your perspective.  We don't want to have children because of a desire for the human species to continue.  We desire the human species to continue because we're effective gene survival machines.  There's nothing supremely moral about it because morals are nothing more than the instincts we have been programmed with by those very same genes that want us to think the way we do about morality!

In the same way, when we think about why we care for our children, it's not ultimately because we're moral creatures.  Morality is an effect, not a cause.  Let me say that again, for emphasis.  Morality is an effect.  It is not the ultimate cause.  Gene expression is the cause.

It may sound callous to say that we care for our children because our genes program us that way, but is it really so awful?  Does the realization of this truth change the desires that we have?  Of course not.  We still feel just as much compassion towards children as we ever did, but now we don't have to answer with circular reasoning.  Evolution gives us the answer that theism never could.

 

Theism:

Q: Why do we want to have babies?

A: Because god told us to be fruitful and multiply.

Q: Why?

A: Because he wanted us to be fruitful and multiply.

Q: Why?

A: Because it's good to be fruitful and multiply.

Q Why?

A: Because god made it that way.

Q Why?

ad nauseum.

 

Evolution:

Q: Why do we want to have babies?

A: Because we are successful gene survival machine.

Q: Why do genes want us to be successful gene survival machines?

A: Genes don't want anything.  They are products of the laws of nature, just like us.

Q: So is it good to want to have babies?

A: Who knows?   Why don't you decide that for yourself?

 

 

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Sleestack
Sleestack's picture
Posts: 172
Joined: 2008-07-07
User is offlineOffline
I'm not sure I can answer

I'm not sure I can answer your questions. My wanting to have kids, in all honesty, is more for selfish reasons. I want to have kids so that a piece of me will continue on into the future and that my family will be around, hopefully, for generations long after I'm gone. Is it rational? I don't know, but, it's what I want. That's not ALL that I want, the rest are just feelings that I don't have the vocabulary to put into words here.

We have kids because we can, it's an easy thing to do. Having childen is no miracle. The miracle is that they don't grow up to be an idiot or a menace to society.

Caring for children may not be self evident, but, it is the parents responsibility to take care of that child in this society.

For the record, I'm a step parent. I'd do anything for those kids to ensure that they have a happy and safe life and are given the tools to succeed. Expensive (money wise)? Hell yes it is. I don't mind though, it really isn't that big of deal to me. It's expensive time wise as well. Take them to practice, band, friends houses, to the mall, movies, etc...It IS time consuming, but again, I don't mind at all. I'm fortunate enough to have a job where I make enough money and is flexible enough to do all that for them and my wife.

I don't care that the reason I care for them is in my 'DNA' or not. Heck, they aren't even my biological children and I still care for them and love them as if they were my own. I do know that it isn't because of some sort of religious background or a supernatural power.

I have to ask, is it really that big of deal if it makes sense or not to have kids and take care of them? In my opinion, no. The bigger deal is being responsible enough to know when NOT to have kids.


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:I want to have kids so

Quote:
I want to have kids so that a piece of me will continue on into the future

This is my point.  Why would you want this?  This is not a cause.  It's an explanation.  I am addressing the cause of the explanation.

Quote:
That's not ALL that I want, the rest are just feelings that I don't have the vocabulary to put into words here.

Again, that's my point.  They aren't really reasons.  They're feelings.  Evolution explains the feelings, whereas theism, spiritualism, humanism, or any other philosophical system just dances around in circles.

Quote:
We have kids because we can, it's an easy thing to do.

We can also give ourselves hot coffee enemas, but we don't.  Having never been a mother, I can't vouch for it, but I'd bet hot coffee enemas and pushing out babies are probably equally painful.  (Actually, I've never had a hot coffee enema either, but you get the point.)

Quote:
Caring for children may not be self evident, but, it is the parents responsibility to take care of that child in this society.

Don't get ahead of me.  Responsibility is something that can be discussed separately, but it's not relevant to this thread.

Quote:
I don't care that the reason I care for them is in my 'DNA' or not.

I love your post.  You're going to be my poster child for it, actually.  You've pretty much demonstrated my points, step by step.  Reference where I said this:

Hambydammit wrote:
It may sound callous to say that we care for our children because our genes program us that way, but is it really so awful?  Does the realization of this truth change the desires that we have?  Of course not.  We still feel just as much compassion towards children as we ever did, but now we don't have to answer with circular reasoning.  Evolution gives us the answer that theism never could.

There's an innate sense of threat for many people when someone tries to explain strong emotional events.  Somehow, people think that knowing why an event happens diminishes its significance.  I'm trying to change that perception by showing that not only does knowing reasons not diminish the sublime nature of human experience, it can enhance it.

Quote:
Heck, they aren't even my biological children and I still care for them and love them as if they were my own. I do know that it isn't because of some sort of religious background or a supernatural power.

Did you know that the incest taboo in humans is not based on relation.  It's based on proximity during imprinting.  That is, children who grow up together during the imprinting phase will pretty much never want to have sex with each other in adulthood.  Biological relatedness doesn't matter.  (In fact, twins separated at birth are often sexually attracted to each other when reunited as adults!)

I say this to say that I'm not sure of the exact explanation for this, but there is one.  Clearly, adults can bond with non-biological children with very strong emotions.  It will be fun to find out why.

Quote:
I have to ask, is it really that big of deal if it makes sense or not to have kids and take care of them? In my opinion, no. The bigger deal is being responsible enough to know when NOT to have kids.

Yes and no.

Yes, it's a big deal because it's a pretty huge part of being human, and I, for one, don't like accepting pat answers just because they sound good.  I like to know the real reasons for things.  For something as central to human existence as reproduction, I think it's akin to sticking one's head in the sand to not probe diligently into the inner workings of it.

No, it's not a huge deal because on balance, most people are going to have kids whether they know the reasons or not.

However, I think it's worth pointing out that if having kids was demystified somewhat, it might be easier to talk more people into not having kids.  Right now, it's seen as some kind of holy grail.  If it is reduced in stature somewhat by the knowledge that it's just genes, it might be possible to do away with some of the more ludicrous notions about human "duty" to reproduce and other such nonsense.

Again, I need to stress that this isn't an anti-kid bandwagon I'm on.  Granted, I do think the world could stand a population reduction, but that's beside the point.  Assuming that it's a good thing that people not have children at a particular time, we could still benefit by convincing people that right now would not be a good time, and that all these "reasons" they're coming up with to justify an ill-conceived (pun intended) conception are not really reasons, but gene expressions.  The endorphins will be there in five years when it's with someone who will help raise them, and when there's a little more money in the bank.

 

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Wow... I just thought of

Wow... I just thought of something concise, so I figured I need to put it into print.

 

The reason this is important is that humans need to know that it's ok to answer the question honestly.   We don't need the magic or mystery for it to be meaningful.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Sleestack
Sleestack's picture
Posts: 172
Joined: 2008-07-07
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Quote:I

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
I want to have kids so that a piece of me will continue on into the future

This is my point.  Why would you want this?  This is not a cause.  It's an explanation.  I am addressing the cause of the explanation.

Quote:
That's not ALL that I want, the rest are just feelings that I don't have the vocabulary to put into words here.

Again, that's my point.  They aren't really reasons.  They're feelings.  Evolution explains the feelings, whereas theism, spiritualism, humanism, or any other philosophical system just dances around in circles.

Quote:
We have kids because we can, it's an easy thing to do.

We can also give ourselves hot coffee enemas, but we don't.  Having never been a mother, I can't vouch for it, but I'd bet hot coffee enemas and pushing out babies are probably equally painful.  (Actually, I've never had a hot coffee enema either, but you get the point.)

Quote:
Caring for children may not be self evident, but, it is the parents responsibility to take care of that child in this society.

Don't get ahead of me.  Responsibility is something that can be discussed separately, but it's not relevant to this thread.

Quote:
I don't care that the reason I care for them is in my 'DNA' or not.

I love your post.  You're going to be my poster child for it, actually.  You've pretty much demonstrated my points, step by step.  Reference where I said this:

Hambydammit wrote:
It may sound callous to say that we care for our children because our genes program us that way, but is it really so awful?  Does the realization of this truth change the desires that we have?  Of course not.  We still feel just as much compassion towards children as we ever did, but now we don't have to answer with circular reasoning.  Evolution gives us the answer that theism never could.

There's an innate sense of threat for many people when someone tries to explain strong emotional events.  Somehow, people think that knowing why an event happens diminishes its significance.  I'm trying to change that perception by showing that not only does knowing reasons not diminish the sublime nature of human experience, it can enhance it.

Quote:
Heck, they aren't even my biological children and I still care for them and love them as if they were my own. I do know that it isn't because of some sort of religious background or a supernatural power.

Did you know that the incest taboo in humans is not based on relation.  It's based on proximity during imprinting.  That is, children who grow up together during the imprinting phase will pretty much never want to have sex with each other in adulthood.  Biological relatedness doesn't matter.  (In fact, twins separated at birth are often sexually attracted to each other when reunited as adults!)

I say this to say that I'm not sure of the exact explanation for this, but there is one.  Clearly, adults can bond with non-biological children with very strong emotions.  It will be fun to find out why.

Quote:
I have to ask, is it really that big of deal if it makes sense or not to have kids and take care of them? In my opinion, no. The bigger deal is being responsible enough to know when NOT to have kids.

Yes and no.

Yes, it's a big deal because it's a pretty huge part of being human, and I, for one, don't like accepting pat answers just because they sound good.  I like to know the real reasons for things.  For something as central to human existence as reproduction, I think it's akin to sticking one's head in the sand to not probe diligently into the inner workings of it.

No, it's not a huge deal because on balance, most people are going to have kids whether they know the reasons or not.

However, I think it's worth pointing out that if having kids was demystified somewhat, it might be easier to talk more people into not having kids.  Right now, it's seen as some kind of holy grail.  If it is reduced in stature somewhat by the knowledge that it's just genes, it might be possible to do away with some of the more ludicrous notions about human "duty" to reproduce and other such nonsense.

Again, I need to stress that this isn't an anti-kid bandwagon I'm on.  Granted, I do think the world could stand a population reduction, but that's beside the point.  Assuming that it's a good thing that people not have children at a particular time, we could still benefit by convincing people that right now would not be a good time, and that all these "reasons" they're coming up with to justify an ill-conceived (pun intended) conception are not really reasons, but gene expressions.  The endorphins will be there in five years when it's with someone who will help raise them, and when there's a little more money in the bank.

Well, like I said at the begining, I probably won't be able to answer your questions. That's all I have, explainations, I have no idea what is causing my motivation to have kids, but, I do know what is not enfluencing it.

I don't like coffee, maybe tea?? Smiling I do get your point though, but, knocking someone up is probably less time consuming than getting an enema. (minus all the courtship and trying to get laid stuff)

I honestly don't think that if I knew what the cause of wanting to have kids was, that it would deminish the significance of being a parent or having kids or wanting to have kids. Some people though might be bummed out about it. I mean, I'm not bummed out because we know what causes the auroa borialis(sp?). I guess what I'm trying to say is, knowing the cause of things, hasn't taken out the 'fun', so to speak.

But, has knowing what causes us to not be attracted (sexually) to someone we are imprinted with, diminish the taboo part of incest? We are slaves to our emotions and I think it would be very hard for people to "get over" the emotional part of wanting to have kids even if they knew what the cause was.

Don't get me wrong, I think your questions are great & very interesting and me being curious, your questions do kind of make me wonder why we do have this 'need' to reproduce and what that cause is. I've never thought of it before. I think it would be cool to know why.

And I'm totally with you on getting people to understand that there really is nothing special about having kids. It's not a miracle. There's over 6 billion of us to prove that it is not a miracle and I personally blame religion on why people spit out kids left and right and don't have the resources to take care of them. I think that just like global warming, over population will soon be knocking on our door trying to solicit us for a solution to the problem.

Please do use me as a poster child for this. Laughing out loud

Again, I think it is an excellent question, now I want to know why too.


Sleestack
Sleestack's picture
Posts: 172
Joined: 2008-07-07
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:We don't

Hambydammit wrote:

We don't need the magic or mystery for it to be meaningful.

I couldn't agree with you more.

 


anniet
Silver Member
Posts: 325
Joined: 2008-08-06
User is offlineOffline
Hamby, I like reading your

Hamby, I like reading your posts because you obviously know more about the operation of the human mind than I do.  So, what about the subconscious telling you to do so? 

At the time I had my son I did so because I just knew I needed to be having a child.  There was absolutely no rational reason I could have given you for this position.  I realize now that having a child has provided focus and a need to create stability in my life.  So, I was right, I needed the effects that having a child has had upon my life.

I care for him because I planned on his existence and it would suck for me to bring him into existence and then make his life less enjoyable (in long-term real terms, not endless watching of Spongebob terms) than is realistically possible.  I don't try to be perfect, but I do feel responsible for the quality of his life. 

That said, I do very much understand your arguments against having children.  The sleepless nights alone lead to insanity.  Those people who have a 10 kids must be masochists. 

"I am that I am." - Proof that the writers of the bible were beyond stoned.


Wonko
Wonko's picture
Posts: 518
Joined: 2008-06-18
User is offlineOffline
anniet wrote:  Those people

anniet wrote:

  Those people who have  10 kids must be masochists. 

 

Masochists ?

Uhhhh, I think they're fundamentalists


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Wow... I

Hambydammit wrote:
Wow... I just thought of something concise, so I figured I need to put it into print.

 

The reason this is important is that humans need to know that it's ok to answer the question honestly.   We don't need the magic or mystery for it to be meaningful.

Well thank goodness; I'd thought you'd taken up pointing out the obvious.

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


anniet
Silver Member
Posts: 325
Joined: 2008-08-06
User is offlineOffline
Wonko wrote:anniet wrote: 

Wonko wrote:

anniet wrote:

  Those people who have  10 kids must be masochists. 

 

Masochists ?

Uhhhh, I think they're fundamentalists

  The one is definitely a subset of the other I'm thinking! 

 

"I am that I am." - Proof that the writers of the bible were beyond stoned.


deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
Quote:Why should we care

Quote:

Why should we care about having children, and having had them, why should we care about their lives?

Waste of time question. There is no "should". The fact of the matter is that we do care about having children and care about their well-being because we are genetically programmed to. End of story.

EDIT: I see you already put this at the end.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
I can't say anything to

I can't say anything to disagree with you, so much, Hamby, but I would be inclined to spin it differently to the way you have done.

 

Hambydammit wrote:

Why should we care about having children, and having had them,

Well, as you already have alluded to, we are compelled by unconscious process[es] to do so; to care about, desire and seek the conditions for procreation. It provides no reason why we should care about, desire or seek procreation but offers a basis for why we should probably expect to at some stage, because it's unusual not to.

Because whatever process that happens to be behind these feelings is by our familiar standards "un"conscious to reason it or model it is necessarily a speculative and anthropomorphic activity. Whatever it is, it occurs spontaneously rather than deterministically;  not necessarily in all cases that are otherwise mechanically ideal, (not all viable fertile people get a strong urge to procreate), and sometimes it occurs in the most non-ideal situations (eg in sterile bodies).

It's seeming then, of course, the obvious parallel between the spontaneity of the urge and the spontaneity of gene propagation, and it would seem natural to model the gene as the protagonist of the story i.e. The biological whole demonstrates reasoning the gene only demonstrates caprice, ergo the gene is responsible for the caprice of the organism.

I see that and I only take a small issue with the somewhat arbitrary separating of the person/organism from its coded, identical, form, the genetics.

Hambydammit wrote:

why should we care about their lives?

Again, there's no reason why we should, there's only reasons, I suppose, why we do and I don't see them as being any more rational than what lies behind our urge to create them. Children are in the perceptible environment, why do we care about anything else in the perceptible environment, our reasons are diverse and we are easily as capricious and spontaneous regarding what we attend in our environment as our genes are. Not even all mammalian parents are predictably attentive to their offspring according to the selfishness model of the gene, care for the wellbeing of highly dependent offspring also only occurs in a sporadic and indeterminate fashion. Which brings me back to the last paragraph, and, wondering if genes really could be said to enforce caprice upon us as though we weren't that way without their direct influence.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
anniet wrote:At the time I

anniet wrote:
At the time I had my son I did so because I just knew I needed to be having a child.  There was absolutely no rational reason I could have given you for this position.  I realize now that having a child has provided focus and a need to create stability in my life.  So, I was right, I needed the effects that having a child has had upon my life.

Speaking of including magic and mystery, be careful of either thinking or sounding like you think that your instincts planned for your long term happiness.  Humans are often guilty of something related to what I call an anthropic fallacy.  If you don't recall the anthropic principle, it's basically just saying that it's no miracle that the universe is precisely fine tuned for human life to exist because if it wasn't, we couldn't ask the question of whether it is or not.  It's sort of a no-brainer:  If the universe wasn't the way it is, it would be some other way.

Humans are highly adaptable creatures with a wide variety of "subroutines" that accomplish similar purposes.  If you hadn't had a child, you'd be a totally different person than you are now.  This is obvious, but what many people fail to realize is that the other person in this alternate existence could be just as happy and fulfilled as the one in this reality.  While it may be completely true that you needed focus and stability, it's probably not true that only having a child could give you those things.  Perhaps you would have joined the Peace Corps.  Maybe you'd have started a business.  Maybe you'd have become a mentor or Big Sister to disadvantaged youth.  Maybe you'd have met someone who became your best friend in the world who had three kids of her own and was trying to make it as a single mom.  Your babysitting and substitute parenting could have been the thing that got her through a really rough time.

You see what I mean?  I'm not saying that you shouldn't have had kids, or that your life isn't meaningful as it is.  Your body was programmed to start screaming at you (metaphorically) to have children about the time that you did.  Your life worked out fine, but it wasn't because having kids was the "answer" to problems in your life.  It's because on balance, humans do their best to adapt to whatever situation they're in, and the drastic change that children brought forced you to make some rather dramatic alterations to your life, which, as it turned out, were beneficial in the long run.

Remember that for every story like yours, there's a haggard single mom with no money, an asshole ex, a crappy job, and bratty kids.  When you ask about her kids, she'll smile through gritted teeth and say, "Yeah.   You know, it's been hard, and yeah, I kinda miss the life I had before I became a mom... I mean, you know, the freedom... but... you know... my kids... yeah... they're my life."  Having kids sometimes makes people's lives better.  Sometimes, it wrecks them.  You were one of the lucky ones.  Remember that this generic haggard mom I just described has the same biology and her body was screaming at her just as hard as yours was.

Quote:
I care for him because I planned on his existence and it would suck for me to bring him into existence and then make his life less enjoyable (in long-term real terms, not endless watching of Spongebob terms) than is realistically possible.  I don't try to be perfect, but I do feel responsible for the quality of his life.

Well, again, you're giving explanations, not describing causes.  Why did you want to plan on bringing him into the world?  Because you thought it would make your life fulfilled and more happy?  If so, why would you think that, when on paper, it looks like it would be a horrible idea that would make your life much more difficult?

Do you see what I'm getting at?  Humans are extremely biased towards the notion that having children and caring for them is self-evidently a good thing, but when we take the "humanity" out of the equation, it becomes very difficult to explain it.  Again, look around the animal kingdom.  There are tons of animals who don't feel responsibility to make their kids lives as good as realistically possible.  Your desire to do so for your own child is not self evident, nor is it an explanation for why you do so.  It's circular:

Q: Why do you want to make your child's life good?

A: Because I have a desire to make my child's life good.

Do you see that the answer and the question are exactly the same?  You've answered the question by restating the question!  This is what I'm trying to explain in this thread.  When humans talk about the joys and benefits of having kids, they use the same kind of logic that theists use when they try to say that the bible proves itself.  (I know that's harsh.  Bear with me.  There's a happy ending.)  Why do humans want to have kids?  Because it's in our nature to want to have kids.  This is not an answer.  It's just restating the question with a period instead of a question mark.  It answers no more than saying Goddidit in answer to a question about the origin of the universe.

Quote:
That said, I do very much understand your arguments against having children.  The sleepless nights alone lead to insanity.  Those people who have a 10 kids must be masochists.

I'm not making an argument against having kids.  Not here, at least.

Eloise wrote:
I see that and I only take a small issue with the somewhat arbitrary separating of the person/organism from its coded, identical, form, the genetics.

I'm a little baffled by the bit about capricious genes and protagonists, so I'm just letting it be.  This, however, I can address.  I don't intend to separate people from their genetics.  On the contrary, I want to explain to people that they are their genetics.  That's the whole point.  Entire populations work because individuals have genetic programming that manifests in large groups as a net gain for the species.  This is why those who choose to remain childless don't "defy their genes."  Part of the genetic model for a huge human population is childless individuals.  It's not good for the survival of those people's genes, obviously, but for whatever particular reason(s), it survived natural selection because it worked on a macro level.

Quote:
Again, there's no reason why we should, there's only reasons, I suppose, why we do and I don't see them as being any more rational than what lies behind our urge to create them. Children are in the perceptible environment, why do we care about anything else in the perceptible environment, our reasons are diverse and we are easily as capricious and spontaneous regarding what we attend in our environment as our genes are. Which brings me back to the last paragraph and wondering if genes really could be said to enforce caprice upon us as though we weren't that way without their direct influence.

* Blinks *

Um... if you're saying that the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to, I generally agree.  Remembering that genes give us templates within which to work, and that they don't "care" about any of our individual responses to our unique environment, we can say that the only things that are possible for humans to do are things which our genes have given us the ability to do.  This gets dangerously close to tautology, but it's kind of the point of the thread.  Having children and not having children are actions which our genes have given us the ability to do.  Neither is any more "obeying nature" than the other.  There is no should in nature, and it's a philosophical mistake to assign one to it.

This gives me a chance to restate my thesis, so here goes:  Invoking nature as a reason for any action is philosophically empty, as we are only capable of that which is in our nature, and nature has no "shoulds."  It is only a blind process.  With the subject of having and raising children, humans are almost universally guilty of a circular justification which is no justification at all.  It is only a restatement of the question.  Evolutionary theory gives us the explanations for why we want to have children, and why we want to care for them.  It is the only valid answer to the question.  Any question of should cannot be answered with an appeal to nature and remain meaningful.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hmac
Hmac's picture
Posts: 93
Joined: 2008-08-03
User is offlineOffline
Wonko wrote:anniet wrote: 

Wonko wrote:

anniet wrote:

  Those people who have  10 kids must be masochists. 

 

Masochists ?

Uhhhh, I think they're fundamentalists

I don't know what they are, but that family in the "Vagina: it's not a clown car" pic has their own "reality" TV show now. I haven't seen a single episode, but my wife has. Mrs. Dugger (or however they spell it) is pregnant with # 18.


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
I suspect that one of the

I suspect that one of the reasons this line of thinking feels threatening to a lot of people is that it does take away an automatic free pass for having children.  By demystifying childbearing, we leave it open to critical thinking, and I think a lot of people realize that in many cases, having kids doesn't pass the test of critical thinking.

In many discussions, I've laid out pages of very clear, well reasoned, factually verified arguments for why it's probably a good idea for a LOT of people to decide not to have children.  The trump card that is usually played involves the offended parent-to-be exclaiming that having children is "what humanity is all about" or "the purpose of life" or "the highest expression of humanity" or some other such nonsense.  I say nonsense not in a pejorative sense, but in a philosophical sense.  All of those statements are meaningless.  They are not good reasons for having children.  They do not answer any questions.  They simply use magical sounding words to justify an action in the same way that theists use God as an answer when it's not really an answer at all.

Before you tar and feather me and run me out of town on a rail, I need to also point out that the negation of magic words to justify childbearing is not, in and of itself, a valid argument against having children.  In other words, I can't use the rational explanation of parental urges to say that someone ought not have children.

All I'm attempting to do is level the playing field.  Nature is neither an argument for or against having children.  We have strong emotions that make us want kids.  Everybody knows this, but these emotions are often used as a justification, as if strong desires make a thing good.  A little critical thinking will show us that there are plenty of situations where we have intense desires to do things that would be bad for us to do.

I'm challenging rationalists and freethinkers and skeptics to be rational and freethinking about everything -- even having children.  If you're going to demand that theists give up their cherished warm fuzzy feelings about their personal god that they've had for so long because it's bad for them, you should be willing to accept the conclusion that your own cherished warm fuzzy feelings about becoming a parent don't constitute a free pass to have children without justifying it rationally the same way you would any other major life decision.

Again, this is not an argument against having children.  It is an argument for justifying having children rationally, and not with circular arguments, appeals to emotion, or empty platitudes.  Understanding the real (evolutionary) explanation for our childbearing urges should make it easier to place childbearing in the same critical thinking category as buying a house, moving to a new city, or having plastic surgery.  It's not magic.  It's just a course of action we might take which will have real consequences on our lives.  Like so many other actions, it also contributes to a cumulative effect on many levels, from our family to our city to our country to our world.  All of these things ought to be considered by anyone who thinks of themselves as a rationalist.

 

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


anniet
Silver Member
Posts: 325
Joined: 2008-08-06
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Speaking

Hambydammit wrote:

Speaking of including magic and mystery, be careful of either thinking or sounding like you think that your instincts planned for your long term happiness.  Humans are often guilty of something related to what I call an anthropic fallacy.  If you don't recall the anthropic principle, it's basically just saying that it's no miracle that the universe is precisely fine tuned for human life to exist because if it wasn't, we couldn't ask the question of whether it is or not.  It's sort of a no-brainer:  If the universe wasn't the way it is, it would be some other way.

I hadn’t heard the term anthropic principle before.  I’m really not trying to get into some spiritual voodoo or thinking that my situation is finely tuned here.  I’ve read a few things here and there about how the subconscious works, but realize I really only know enough to get myself in trouble if I go too far into the subject.  Before I had my child I did go overseas with the Peace Corps (Papua New Guinea) and spent years working with undocumented persons trying to make a go of it here.  None of that gave me something really important around which to order my life.  Is there a way that the subconscious processes that do happen in the brain can categorize information well enough to nudge the conscious into certain directions?  You do seem to know more about this subject than I, so I’m sincerely asking, is this a possibility. 

 

"I am that I am." - Proof that the writers of the bible were beyond stoned.


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Eloise

Hambydammit wrote:

Eloise wrote:
I see that and I only take a small issue with the somewhat arbitrary separating of the person/organism from its coded, identical, form, the genetics.

I'm a little baffled by the bit about capricious genes and protagonists, so I'm just letting it be.  This, however, I can address.  I don't intend to separate people from their genetics.  On the contrary, I want to explain to people that they are their genetics.  That's the whole point. 

The point I'm trying to get at is that I agree with you, Totally, right up to the part where you spin it to imply genetics and humans in a master slave relationship with genetics as the master.

From the position of saying that Humans are their genes I wouldn't go the same way as you. I think perhaps I am trying to point out a hidden dualism in your conclusion. That is, if you're implying that genes overcome the "mind" of the organism in order to be the master of their faculties and the mind is the body and the body is the organism and the organism is the genes, then what is it that they overcome, again? Themselves? 

It's as though you're saying that we should take the organism in sections where the body is the genes but the mind is not. Is that necessarily true? is the mind so distant from the genes, really?

 

Quote:

* Blinks *

Um... if you're saying that the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to, I generally agree. 

I did point out how anthropomorphic the model is already, didn't I? This is the obvious example of that.

But the thing is, if a gene's "want" is basically nothing more than a spontaneous unreasoned action, and the whole organism's "wants" are really just the same thing, then why say one is in control of or, as you put it, programming the other rather than saying that they are both just the same thing doing the same thing.

Now I see that is ultimately what you're trying to say, Hamby, and so like I said, I don't disagree with you exactly, this was really just a semantic argument.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:The point I'm trying

Quote:
The point I'm trying to get at is that I agree with you, Totally, right up to the part where you spin it to imply genetics and humans in a master slave relationship with genetics as the master.

I think maybe you misunderstand my point.  It might be my fault.  I wrote this thread because this is a really hard concept to communicate, and I wanted to try it out before committing it to a real paper.

Quote:
From the position of saying that Humans are their genes I wouldn't go the same way as you. I think perhaps I am trying to point out a hidden dualism in your conclusion. That is, if you're implying that genes overcome the "mind" of the organism in order to be the master of their faculties and the mind is the body and the body is the organism and the organism is the genes, then what is it that they overcome, again? Themselves?

I'm going to go back and reread my posts, but I haven't intended to imply any kind of master-slave relationship.  There's no such thing as genes overcoming the mind of an organism precisely because the mind is simply an extension of the genes.  (Jake forgive me for the computer reference) I would not suggest that a computer "overcomes" its software.  Likewise, there's no reason to say that the genes overcome the mind or vice versa.

Quote:
It's as though you're saying that we should take the organism in sections where the body is the genes but the mind is not. Is that necessarily true? is the mind so distant from the genes, really?

Please, do me a favor and quote what I said that made you think this.  It's exactly the opposite of what I've been trying to say.

Quote:
But the thing is, if a gene's "want" is basically nothing more than a spontaneous unreasoned action, and the whole organism's "wants" are really just the same thing, then why say one is in control of or, as you put it, programming the other rather than saying that they are both just the same thing doing the same thing.

* Continues Blinking *

A "want" is an emergent property of mind, which is an emergent property of brain, which is constructed by genes.  They are intrinsically linked, and can certainly be metaphorically referred to as the same, but a gene is not a want, any more than a chess playing computer program is silicon.

Quote:
Now I see that is ultimately what you're trying to say, Hamby, and so like I said, I don't disagree with you exactly, this was really just a semantic argument.

* Rewets eyes with Visine.  Blinks *

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:  Is there a way that

Quote:
  Is there a way that the subconscious processes that do happen in the brain can categorize information well enough to nudge the conscious into certain directions?

Well, the simple answer is yes.  You might want to stick with the simple answer.  I could go into various explanations of what the subconscious is, how it works, and where the divide between conscious and subconscious is, but I don't think it would really answer the question you're asking.

There's a book you might enjoy reading.  It's called "The Gift of Fear," by Gavin De Becker.  It's not a science book, but it does give a lot of good examples of how the subconscious mind works, without explaining it in any technical sense.  Basically, De Becker is trying to encourage people to trust their instincts, particularly when they feel creeped out, or uneasy.  There are tons of examples of people who have been attacked and have told the police that "it was totally unprovoked, out of the blue, for no reason at all."   When they calmed down and thought through the thing with direction from psychologists, they remembered seeing something out of the ordinary that they dismissed, and then later feeling a vague sense of uneasiness.  In many, if not most cases, that seemingly insignificant event was a tipoff that something was going to happen.

The thing is, our subconscious is unreliable.  That isn't to say it's always wrong.  It's only saying that it can be wrong -- sometimes spectacularly so.  Even so, FBI profilers don't make tons of money because they're guessing randomly.  Much of human behavior can be predicted accurately.  Most people have an instinctive ability to do it, even though it's not as accurate as it could be.

Consider a quarterback throwing a pass to a receiver.  If I were to give you a protractor, calculator, pencil, and paper, and ask you to calculate for the quarterback arm speed, angle of release, percentage increase in wrist velocity during release, and fingertip pressure necessary to impart optimum spin on the football such that a receiver running so many steps per second would be able to catch the ball at the letters.... well, you'd probably be stumped.  It would take you years of school to feel confident in making such calculations.  However, if you and I got out a football and spent a couple of hours practicing, you could probably hit me square in the chest without too much distress.

When we say that the human brain is "doing the calculations" when the body throws a football, it's really metaphorical.  There isn't an abacus in our skulls, and there is no part of our subconscious that is aware of the formulas and variables.  Natural selection, over millions of years, has built minds that are very good at approximating things without "knowing" how to do them.

In the same way, the human mind reads other people's faces, body language, and many other signs, and comes up with "snap judgments."  They're usually more or less correct.  We are good lie detectors.  We're very good at reading body language. 

Now, here's the neat thing.  Though we often suppress what we learn because we don't like it, we're pretty damn good at reading ourselves like books.  That is, we often "know" things about ourselves in the same way that we know them about other people.  In the case of you subconsciously believing that having kids was what would make your life feel complete, we can say that you "knew" what you wanted before you knew what you wanted because you were subconsciously evaluating yourself.

Of course, there's no magic pill.  Sometimes we get what we want and it turns out to be horrible.  Sometimes, our instincts are wrong.  This is why I encourage people to be in touch with their instincts, but not to trust them completely.  When it's possible, I think people should treat instinctive feelings just like any other evidence, and assign them as much weight as they deserve.

Consider two situations:

1) Jane is walking out of a club late at night.  Several street lights are out, and the parking lot is mostly dark.  As she's leaving the lighted front of the building, she gets a creepy feeling.  Was that something moving out of the corner of her eye?  She can't tell.

2) Bob is twenty years old.  He's in love with his high school sweetheart, Sue.  She's everything to him.  She's beautiful.  She's fun.  She's great in bed.  Bob just got a full scholarship to Harvard.  His high school sweetheart did not.  Bob has always wanted to be a scientist.  But, he's always wanted someone just like Sue, and she told him she wants to get married and have a family.  Right now, Bob is just working at a convenience store.  When he looks at Sue, he just knows instinctively that everything will be ok if they get married now.  Every bit of his being wants more than anything to be with her forever.

 

In the first situation, what are the plusses and minuses of Jane trusting her instincts?  Maybe there's somebody in the parking lot waiting to rape her.  Maybe it's just her imagination.  If she trusts her instincts, she will probably go back to the club and ask the bouncer to walk her to her car.  Assuming there was a rapist in hiding, this will avoid enormous loss to Jane, perhaps even her life.  Assuming it was her imagination, she loses approximately five minutes of sleep by waiting until the bouncer can walk her to her car.

In Bob's situation, however, even though the emotion is extraordinarily strong, there's considerably more at stake.  If Bob gets married now, he's effectively giving up tens of thousands of dollars in salary a year.  (Ok... maybe scientist wasn't the greatest example... lets say lawyer.)  The economy's really tough right now, and that could be the difference between a happy life and a miserable life.  This is not to say that Bob ought to rule out marriage now just because it's an instinctive feeling.  It's saying that a proper understanding of evolution reveals that this extraordinarily strong feeling is part of our genetic design, and is not likely to be some kind of magical subconscious signpost towards a happy life.  This is a decision that should be made as rationally as possible, despite the magical feeling pushing him towards marriage.

This is how understanding evolution can help us in our day to day life.  We can evaluate our gut feelings based on science, and not treat them as magical or prescient.  We can then assign them the weight they deserve in a particular instance.  Sometimes, it'll mean that we conclude that we should go against our instincts, even though they're very strong.  Other times, we'll find that we have little to lose by trusting our instincts, and much to gain.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


anniet
Silver Member
Posts: 325
Joined: 2008-08-06
User is offlineOffline
Thank you - both for the

Thank you - both for the explanation you gave and the recommendation.  I have added that book to my list.  I find myself wondering about topics like this, but with little time for any real research and do appreciate others who are willing to take the time to teach me something.

"I am that I am." - Proof that the writers of the bible were beyond stoned.


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Quote:It's

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
It's as though you're saying that we should take the organism in sections where the body is the genes but the mind is not. Is that necessarily true? is the mind so distant from the genes, really?

Please, do me a favor and quote what I said that made you think this.  It's exactly the opposite of what I've been trying to say.

I can easily find more than 3 quotes I'm sure of it - here goes:

"the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to"

"Evolution makes us want"

"this is a very effective way to get humans to reproduce"

"we care for our children because our genes program us that way"

 

Additionally I've pointed out that the last one of those quotes doesn't really hold so simply either, we don't care for our kids as though we were determined to by programming, some people care for their kids and some don't- we care for our kids as though we ourselves were as spontaneous and indeterminate as the programming, not determined by it.

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
But the thing is, if a gene's "want" is basically nothing more than a spontaneous unreasoned action, and the whole organism's "wants" are really just the same thing, then why say one is in control of or, as you put it, programming the other rather than saying that they are both just the same thing doing the same thing.

* Continues Blinking *

A "want" is an emergent property of mind, which is an emergent property of brain, which is constructed by genes.  They are intrinsically linked, and can certainly be metaphorically referred to as the same, but a gene is not a want, any more than a chess playing computer program is silicon.

But you've diverted this, now, from what I was saying. I was referring to your saying that genes have wants. To clarify, you said: "the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to" and I am saying what is this difference between the gene and the organism that you're implying , here?

You say 'want' is an emergent property in the organism implying it's special, complex, more real than a gene's expression of "want" ; but you're also saying that an organism's 'want' is a spontaneous unreasoned action of the genes, don't these contradict each other? It looks to me like you're holding a position that you don't actually believe anymore.

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
Now I see that is ultimately what you're trying to say, Hamby, and so like I said, I don't disagree with you exactly, this was really just a semantic argument.

* Rewets eyes with Visine.  Blinks *

What is that in reference to?

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:I can easily find more

Quote:

I can easily find more than 3 quotes I'm sure of it - here goes:

"the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to"

"Evolution makes us want"

"this is a very effective way to get humans to reproduce"

"we care for our children because our genes program us that way"

 

Additionally I've pointed out that the last one of those quotes doesn't really hold so simply either, we don't care for our kids as though we were determined to by programming, some people care for their kids and some don't- we care for our kids as though we ourselves were as spontaneous and indeterminate as the programming, not determined by it.

Hmm.  I feel like there are only so many times I ought to have to explain that genes are selected because on average, the majority of organisms in a population will act in a certain way that on average is beneficial.  Because of two things -- A) the fact that genes are not actively controlling us minute by minute, but rather building us with parameters within which we function, and B) the fact that there is no such thing as "behaving outside of our nature" since our genes build us with intellects, and so anything we do as a result of our intellect is a direct result of how our genes built us -- it is meaningless to speak of our genes controlling us or us controlling them.  Everything any human has ever done in the history of the earth has been as a result of his capacity to do so, which is a direct result of his genes building him with the parameters they did.

This post was written with the assumption that the reader understands the basics of evolution, and this is basic evolution.  The thing that I'm trying to accomplish is getting the reader to have an "aha" moment where it becomes clear that even the things we think of as obviously "good" are not good because of some a priori construct, but because of our instincts, which are solely the product of natural selection.  They are as open to reason as anything else, notwithstanding our strong emotional and intuitive feelings that they are unquestionable or axiomatic.

Quote:
But you've diverted this, now, from what I was saying. I was referring to your saying that genes have wants. To clarify, you said: "the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to" and I am saying what is this difference between the gene and the organism that you're implying , here?

To be honest, I get tired of including a footnote everytime I use metaphorical language to speak of genes.  I suppose I could use more exact language, but the paragraphs would get really long and tedious.  It's easy to say, "Our genes want us to to do such and such."  It's a lot more complicated, and frankly, a bit pedantic, to say, "Through the blind math of natural selection, genes have evolved via perfectly natural processes such that their expression leads to the building of creatures which increase their survival fitness as a result of acting in accordance with variously strong drives or inclinations which are colloquially thought of as "desires" but can more properly be described as a state of the emergent property known as mind which is a manifestation of a chain of chemical reactions beginning at the molecular level and propagating through the entire affected region of the organism, resulting in the perception, and so, for all practical purposes, the reality of the awareness of a strong prediliction to act in a particular way.  This can be colloquially referred to as "purpose" though genes do not, in fact, have any consciousness of their own, but rather build creatures which experience consciousness within the parameters established through the above mentioned series of events."

To be less pedantic, when I speak of genes "wanting" anything, I am speaking of the fact that the simple math of natural selection creates what appears to humans as a sense of anthropomorphic desire.  Since it is easy for us to think in such terms, it is convenient to use this metaphor to make it easier to cover more material rather than get bogged down in meticulously precise scientific language.

Quote:
You say 'want' is an emergent property in the organism implying it's special, complex, more real than a gene's expression of "want" ; but you're also saying that an organism's 'want' is a spontaneous unreasoned action of the genes, don't these contradict each other? It looks to me like you're holding a position that you don't actually believe anymore.

See my answer to the next quote.

Quote:
What is that in reference to?

I assume that you understand evolution relatively well.  If you do, then you know that I know that genes don't "want" and that this language is metaphorical.  The visine comment was intended to convey the image that I've been blinking in bewilderment for so long that my eyes got dried out.  I'm baffled as to why you, of all people, who understand metaphor perfectly well, and know full well that I understand that genes are not conscious, are busting my balls over metaphor.  When I put this little bit of thought into essay form, I'm going to include my obligatory footnote disclaiming the actual consciousness of genes, because apparently I have to say that every time I intend to use metaphor.

It's just kind of aggravating.  That's all.

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Quote:I

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:

I can easily find more than 3 quotes I'm sure of it - here goes:

"the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to"

"Evolution makes us want"

"this is a very effective way to get humans to reproduce"

"we care for our children because our genes program us that way"

 

Additionally I've pointed out that the last one of those quotes doesn't really hold so simply either, we don't care for our kids as though we were determined to by programming, some people care for their kids and some don't- we care for our kids as though we ourselves were as spontaneous and indeterminate as the programming, not determined by it.

Hmm.  I feel like there are only so many times I ought to have to explain that genes are selected because on average, the majority of organisms in a population will act in a certain way that on average is beneficial.  Because of two things -- A) the fact that genes are not actively controlling us minute by minute, but rather building us with parameters within which we function, and B) the fact that there is no such thing as "behaving outside of our nature" since our genes build us with intellects, and so anything we do as a result of our intellect is a direct result of how our genes built us -- it is meaningless to speak of our genes controlling us or us controlling them.  Everything any human has ever done in the history of the earth has been as a result of his capacity to do so, which is a direct result of his genes building him with the parameters they did.

Aside: Hamby, Earlier in this thread you've replied to Sleestack who said "we have kids because we can" by saying "we can also give ourselves hot coffee enemas" Now you're using "because we can" yourself. Should I respond the same way? We are also granted the capacity to poke out our own eyes with forks for leisure activity, so what? what does 'having the capacity' explain?

Back to the point, you're saying on the one hand, "it's meaningless to speak of our genes controlling us or us controlling them" and also in virtually the same sentence you say (emphasis mine) "since our genes build us with intellects, and so anything we do as a result of our intellect is a direct result of how our genes built us". can you seriously not see how you're clinging to the genes-as-master semantic in contradiction of yourself? SO I repeat my question and perhaps you might answer it this time:

What is this difference between 'genes' and 'us' that you're implying here?

 

 

Also, I think you don't see that you broken down the concept of intellect and then attempted to restore it arbitrarily - so you can attack it again?

 

HambyDammit wrote:

This post was written with the assumption that the reader understands the basics of evolution, and this is basic evolution. 

No, it's basic interpretation of evolution but do go on..

HambyDammit wrote:

The thing that I'm trying to accomplish is getting the reader to have an "aha" moment where it becomes clear that even the things we think of as obviously "good" are not good because of some a priori construct, but because of our instincts, which are solely the product of natural selection. They are as open to reason as anything else, notwithstanding our strong emotional and intuitive feelings that they are unquestionable or axiomatic.

So you're doing this again, Hamby, closing your writing off to criticism by dictating to me what I can and cannot critique about it? You know I agree with this but I happen to think the "hapless gene-slave human" in your conclusion is also material to what you're saying, and I would ask you to refrain from just suggesting that I should "stick to agreeing" with what you think is imperative or ignore what you think is not imperative. Does it ever occur to you that you might be mistaken about that or do you just want a circle-jerk?

 

HambyDammit wrote:

Quote:
But you've diverted this, now, from what I was saying. I was referring to your saying that genes have wants. To clarify, you said: "the only reason we do anything is because our genes want us to" and I am saying what is this difference between the gene and the organism that you're implying , here?

To be honest, I get tired of including a footnote everytime I use metaphorical language to speak of genes.  I suppose I could use more exact language, but the paragraphs would get really long and tedious.  It's easy to say, "Our genes want us to to do such and such."  It's a lot more complicated, and frankly, a bit pedantic, to say, "Through the blind math of natural selection, genes have evolved via perfectly natural processes such that their expression leads to the building of creatures which increase their survival fitness as a result of acting in accordance with variously strong drives or inclinations which are colloquially thought of as "desires" but can more properly be described as a state of the emergent property known as mind which is a manifestation of a chain of chemical reactions beginning at the molecular level and propagating through the entire affected region of the organism, resulting in the perception, and so, for all practical purposes, the reality of the awareness of a strong prediliction to act in a particular way.  This can be colloquially referred to as "purpose" though genes do not, in fact, have any consciousness of their own, but rather build creatures which experience consciousness within the parameters established through the above mentioned series of events."

I'm not actually against the anthropomorphism Hamby, you've read me wrong. I'm trying to point out that an organisms intellect and the chemical chain that it's so-called 'emergent' from aren't really different enough to warrant two categories.

It doesn't sit right with me to use the terms "x is a gene's expression" and "genes building x" interchangeably. Those are not compatible with each other, an expression is a literal manifestation transferred from an internal to an external state, a build is configuring of an external state from an external plan. The plan for an organism is internal to the gene and so expression is the more correct of these two and that being the case the emergent "built" category is superfluously inserted.

Moreover this becomes more evident in your long paragraph - to wit : "mind which is a manifestation of a chain of chemical reactions beginning at the molecular level and propagating through the entire affected region of the organism, resulting in the perception, and so, for all practical purposes, the reality of the awareness of a strong prediliction to act in a particular way." followed by "This can be colloquially referred to as "purpose" though genes do not, in fact, have any consciousness of their own, but rather build creatures which experience consciousness..."

Try "are" rather than "build" eg:

This can be colloquially referred to as "purpose" though genes..... rather ARE [THE CODED IDENTICAL FORM OF] creatures which experience consciousness..

The "blind math of natural selection" or, in other words, the interaction of spontaneous expression with limiting conditions results in the experience of consciousness, yes, but there is no clear point at which spontaneous expression ends and a wholly other "consciousness" begins, or is there?

HambyDammit wrote:

 

Quote:
What is that in reference to?

I assume that you understand evolution relatively well.  If you do, then you know that I know that genes don't "want" and that this language is metaphorical.  The visine comment was intended to convey the image that I've been blinking in bewilderment for so long that my eyes got dried out.  I'm baffled as to why you, of all people, who understand metaphor perfectly well, and know full well that I understand that genes are not conscious, are busting my balls over metaphor. 

I'm not trying to bust your balls over metaphor, though, I hope you can see that now. What I am trying to bust here is the superfluous "emergent" level that I see inserted into your conclusion. I'm almost literally trying to say that it's not even a metaphor, Hamby, it's closer to reality than that.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


acbranch
Posts: 4
Joined: 2008-10-03
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:In many

Hambydammit wrote:

In many discussions, I've laid out pages of very clear, well reasoned, factually verified arguments for why it's probably a good idea for a LOT of people to decide not to have children. 

 

This is my first post so I hope I do it right. I'm a little late getting in on this discussion, but I think the topic is very interesting, because I do think it takes us a little farther along the logical conclusions an atheist must make. But doesn't the above statement seem a little contradictory? Given that we are a product of evolution, and that you've abolished any sense of the word "should", how can you turn around and say it's a good idea for a lot of people to decide not to have children (which is just another way of saying they shouldn't have children)? You'll say because it's rational. Let's suppose you're right. Why should I care about what's rational? And if you're consistent, you'll have to say, there is no reason. Why do you care about what's rational? Because, apparently, you just do. That's what evolution has produced. But that's not a rational reason, "because you just do". What would you say if you asked me why I'm a theist, and I said, "because I just am"? You would say I'm irrational. But you have no better footing than I do, because you just demolished any foundation for rationality by your assertion that all we are is a product of mindless evolution.

 

Just a thought, I may not have understood you completely; if so, please correct me.


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hi acbranch, welcome to the

 

Hi acbranch, welcome to the forums from me, you should feel free to write an introduction of yourself in the General Conversations Forum.  

I hope you won't mind if I comment on your post even though it wasn't addressed to me. In particular I wanted to say, somewhat for the sake of clarifying the position I've been discussing with Hamby, that I also take an exception to the implications of this statement (which I've seen in quite a few forms before):

acbranch wrote:

... demolished any foundation for rationality by your assertion that all we are is a product of mindless evolution.

 

First, the foundation for rationality which has been demolished is mind, therefore if we are to assume this model it quite simply follows that evolution is no more 'mindless', apparently, than we are. 

Secondly,  if you're very attached to ideas about the 'specialness' of mind and the dualistic distinctness from your environment that it implies, then like most who are you'll probably leap from a. (conscious experience being an equally mindless extension of mindless evolution) to b.(human intellect diminishes) automatically. If so, what you probably ought to realise is that you have hung on to the dualism and missed the point. Nothing anyone can say about evolution will make your intellect disappear, it is what it is and if it is merely an extension of the 'mindless' process of evolution then maybe evolution isn't so mindless after all. 

Some get caught up superficially in the allusion to 'mindlessness' and cling to the notion that evolution, thus, is not 'good' or 'sophisticated' enough for us to relate to our own "special" minds. This misses the crucial fact of the matter which is that what we are is what mindless evolution looks like, our minds are what mindless evolution looks like, our sophistication is the sophistication of mindless evolution.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:Back to the point,

Quote:

Back to the point, you're saying on the one hand, "it's meaningless to speak of our genes controlling us or us controlling them" and also in virtually the same sentence you say (emphasis mine) "since our genes build us with intellects, and so anything we do as a result of our intellect is a direct result of how our genes built us". can you seriously not see how you're clinging to the genes-as-master semantic in contradiction of yourself? SO I repeat my question and perhaps you might answer it this time:

What is this difference between 'genes' and 'us' that you're implying here?

Why is this so hard to grasp?  "Build" and "control" are two different things.  We don't say that a computer programmer is controlling your computer.  Your computer is running as it was built to run, and there is no need for it to have a programmer sitting behind your desk manipulating knobs and levers as you type.  This isn't a perfect analogy, since some genes do express differently as we grow, but for the most part, it's adequate.  Our genes build us as essentially autonomous creatures, but it is meaningless to say that we ever "contradict" our genes.

Unlike a programmer and a computer, which are separated physically, our genes are still a part of us after we are "built," so it's not a perfect analogy, but it's good enough.  When we decide to use a condom so as not to make a baby, there isn't a gene throwing a "decision switch" in our brain.  We're employing our ability to use logic to reach a conclusion with regard to our individual desires.  This ability was built into us by genes.

I'm sorry to say it Eloise, but the only person clinging to anything is you.  I have not used the master-slave analogy, and this is the second or third time I've firmly refuted the notion in this very thread.  Look, if you want to use the master slave analogy, use it.  It will work to a limited degree.  I don't like it because masters do not let slaves work autonomously.  They micromanage them and actively oversee their labor.  Genes don't do that.  They're more like builders who create a machine, turn it on, and then leave it to run on its own.

Quote:
Also, I think you don't see that you broken down the concept of intellect and then attempted to restore it arbitrarily - so you can attack it again?

I've done no such thing.  I've simply pointed out the obvious -- intellect happens because we have brains, which were built by genes.

Quote:
No, it's basic interpretation of evolution but do go on..

Eloise, if you would like to argue with evolutionary biologists that mind is not a product of brain which is a product of genes, go right ahead.  In my reading of the textbooks, this isn't an interpretation.

Quote:
You know I agree with this but I happen to think the "hapless gene-slave human" in your conclusion is also material to what you're saying, and I would ask you to refrain from just suggesting that I should "stick to agreeing" with what you think is imperative or ignore what you think is not imperative.

I'm not telling you what you can critique.  I'm telling you you're critiquing a point I didn't make.

Quote:
Does it ever occur to you that you might be mistaken about that or do you just want a circle-jerk?

If I had used the hapless gene-slave human in any of my post, I would be happy to admit that it might be a poor analogy.  I have not used it.

Quote:
I'm trying to point out that an organisms intellect and the chemical chain that it's so-called 'emergent' from aren't really different enough to warrant two categories.

Which is fine, because I'm the one who said we shouldn't try to separate them.  By emergent, I am acknowledging the philosophical concept.  Mind, to most people, is not chemical chains reactions, but a product of them.  I don't particularly care whether you want to call it emergent or not.  It doesn't affect the conclusion.

Quote:
It doesn't sit right with me to use the terms "x is a gene's expression" and "genes building x" interchangeably.

When I say a gene is expressing, I mean that it is being transcribed into RNA which in turn builds amino acids, etc, etc.  A gene that is not expressing is one that is either junk, or is "turned off." 

When I say a gene is building, I suppose I should be clarifying better by saying that the genome as a whole is functioning  through the expression of individual genes such that an organism is formed.

The two are not quite identical, but each is referring to the same process.

Quote:
Those are not compatible with each other, an expression is a literal manifestation transferred from an internal to an external state, a build is configuring of an external state from an external plan.

Christ, Eloise!  It's a fucking metaphor.  I don't mean there are little gnomes reading blueprints.  It's a metaphor. 

Quote:
The "blind math of natural selection" or, in other words, the interaction of spontaneous expression with limiting conditions results in the experience of consciousness, yes, but there is no clear point at which spontaneous expression ends and a wholly other "consciousness" begins, or is there?

What?

Quote:
I'm not trying to bust your balls over metaphor, though, I hope you can see that now. What I am trying to bust here is the superfluous "emergent" level that I see inserted into your conclusion. I'm almost literally trying to say that it's not even a metaphor, Hamby, it's closer to reality than that.

I'm even more confused now than I was after the last post.  I have no idea what you're trying to get me to change.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:I'm a little late

Quote:
I'm a little late getting in on this discussion, but I think the topic is very interesting, because I do think it takes us a little farther along the logical conclusions an atheist must make.

True enough.  Nothing in particular follows from atheism.  I don't recall ever making the claim that anything does.

Quote:
Given that we are a product of evolution, and that you've abolished any sense of the word "should", how can you turn around and say it's a good idea for a lot of people to decide not to have children (which is just another way of saying they shouldn't have children)?

Because I haven't abolished "should."  I've simply pointed out that we cannot derive it from evolution.

Quote:
You'll say because it's rational. Let's suppose you're right. Why should I care about what's rational? And if you're consistent, you'll have to say, there is no reason.

On the contrary.  I will not say, "because it's rational."  I'll say "because it is the logical conclusion given the premise that certain goals are generally in our best interests.  I highly recommend that you read this essay:  What Does Sugar Have To Do With Murder?!.  In it, I explain in greater depth exactly how we can arrive at "should" statements.

I'm the first to admit that if certain goals are not considered to be in our best interest, my conclusion doesn't necessarily follow, and may in fact turn out to be a "should not" instead of a "should."  The real question is whether it is overwhelmingly clear that certain goals are in our best interest.  That is a topic for another thread.  As I've mentioned, this thread is not about whether or not anyone should have children.  It's about whether or not our instincts are entirely trustworthy as to whether or not it's a good thing.

Quote:
Why do you care about what's rational? Because, apparently, you just do.

Um... because rational conclusions are the only ones that are reliably true, and true data is better than false data for decision making.

Quote:
That's what evolution has produced. But that's not a rational reason, "because you just do".

Good thing I have a better reason than that, don't you think?

Quote:
What would you say if you asked me why I'm a theist, and I said, "because I just am"? You would say I'm irrational.

I wouldn't accept the answer as true.   I would continue to press you for the real reason.  If you didn't give it to me, I'd wander away, shaking my head at your stubbornness.  I wouldn't know whether or not to call you irrational until I learned the real reason you're a theist.

Quote:
But you have no better footing than I do, because you just demolished any foundation for rationality by your assertion that all we are is a product of mindless evolution.

I did no such thing.  Logic exists in the same way math exists.  It has nothing to do with evolution.

Quote:
Just a thought, I may not have understood you completely; if so, please correct me.

You have completely misunderstood.  I hope I have sufficiently corrected you.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Quote:I'm

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
I'm not trying to bust your balls over metaphor, though, I hope you can see that now. What I am trying to bust here is the superfluous "emergent" level that I see inserted into your conclusion. I'm almost literally trying to say that it's not

even

a metaphor, Hamby, it's closer to reality than that.

I'm even more confused now than I was after the last post.  I have no idea what you're trying to get me to change.
Eloise belives that, where conciousness does emerge from a system, it emerges at a more basic level in the universe along with everything else we experience at our normal comprehensive level. There's the point of her beef here.

To me, the mind emergence makes more sense as an emergent system of the brain, mainly because of predictable bahaviors like instinct. But; I don't yet quite understand the evidence she's tried to give for this assertion, and so can't really aregue for or against it.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:Quote:You

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
You know I agree with this but I happen to think the "hapless gene-slave human" in your conclusion is also material to what you're saying, and I would ask you to refrain from just suggesting that I should "stick to agreeing" with what you think is imperative or ignore what you think is not imperative.

I'm not telling you what you can critique.  I'm telling you you're critiquing a point I didn't make.

I told you from the start, that I am only addressing a semantic point and here:

HambyDammit wrote:

They're more like builders who create a machine, turn it on, and then leave it to run on its own.

and here:

HambyDammit wrote:

When I say a gene is building, I suppose I should be clarifying better by saying that the genome as a whole is functioning  through the expression of individual genes such that an organism is formed.

it looks to me like you're willing to admit having made the point that I'm addressing.

So which one do you want to stick by, before we go on, are organisms semi-autonomous, built with parameters, by genes, then one day 'turned on" by the genes or is the genome functioning through the expression of individual genes such that an individual is formed? Which is your plain view and which is the semantic interpretation just to one side of it?

I'm fairly sure I've been getting the answer to that question the right way round -- that the genome itself functioning as an organism is what you believe and the rest is just filling it out with interpretation -- so when you ask me what I would have you change it's that small thing, that you spin the emphasis on the genome functioning as an organism rather than functioning to build one.

Consider the semantic difference between saying that your older self is an end product created by your young self and saying your older self is you older, the end product of your young self interacting with an environment. This is what I am talking about, what you've said is as though both were equally true. I've been asking you to commit to one side or argue with me why I should be seeing both as true.

Frustratingly, instead, you've only dodged and deflected it and I fear we'll never actually get to discussing what I believe is an interesting and relevant point. In fact I fully expect you to reply to this with the same old, same old "I didn't say that show me where I said that" and then when I show you you'll *blink* and deflect some more. I give up.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
JillSwift wrote:Hambydammit

JillSwift wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
I'm not trying to bust your balls over metaphor, though, I hope you can see that now. What I am trying to bust here is the superfluous "emergent" level that I see inserted into your conclusion. I'm almost literally trying to say that it's not

even

a metaphor, Hamby, it's closer to reality than that.

I'm even more confused now than I was after the last post.  I have no idea what you're trying to get me to change.
Eloise belives that, where conciousness does emerge from a system, it emerges at a more basic level in the universe along with everything else we experience at our normal comprehensive level. There's the point of her beef here.

Hi Jill,

Yeah you're right that my beliefs about consciousness are behind my question, but at the same time that's not necessarily the point I am trying to get to. I'm open to Hamby or anyone to argue that the implied difference between the gene and the organism is substantial. If someone proves to me that conciousness is sufficiently separated from the body and the gene to warrant the 'builder' analogy for genetics then I'm listening, but what I'm saying is, I don't see it. I see people jump philosophically from the processes of genetics to saying 'product of genetics' without a pause but I don't see why, all the information for an organism (in fact multiple variations of it) is contained in the genome and the autonomy to express itself under the right conditions. I want to know how idea that a gene 'grants autonomy' to the organism is more true or even as true as saying the organisms autonomy is essentially the gene's autonomy carried over into it's continuing evolution.

 

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:it looks to me like

Quote:
it looks to me like you're willing to admit having made the point that I'm addressing.

My intention is to inform you that the point you're addressing was not valid because I was saying the opposite of what you thought I was saying all along.

Quote:
So which one do you want to stick by, before we go on, are organisms semi-autonomous, built with parameters, by genes, then one day 'turned on" by the genes or is the genome functioning through the expression of individual genes such that an individual is formed? Which is your plain view and which is the semantic interpretation just to one side of it?

I don't know if you're trying to get to free will or not.  If so, it's not relevant to my point.  If not, then again, I think you're trying to force me into choosing one of two views which are both true.  First, I am obviously speaking of animals here because plants cannot be argued to be autonomous in any meaningful way.  Animals -- some of them, anyway -- have the ability to react to their environment in ways unavailable to plants. 

When we say that an animal makes a choice, it is making a movement that cannot be attributed to genes directly.  The chain of chemical reactions directly caused by gene expression is far too slow to account for a zig or a zag while a cheetah is chasing an antelope.  We can only say that this is the result of something "above" the level of the genes.  We call the mechanism by which animals react in this way "consciousness."

It is obvious that such organisms are (to use your words) "semi-autonomous, built with parameters, by genes, then one day 'turned on' by the genes."  Your wording is poorly chosen, however.  When an egg and sperm unite, the organism is 'turned on' for all genetic purposes.  Philosophers can dicker over when consciousness begins, but from the gene's point of view (It's a metaphor!!) there is no distinction.  Genes are simply building what they build, namely gene survival machines.

However, it is perfectly legitimate to point out that an animal which has become "conscious" and is capable of "autonomy" (I'm still using the very precise definitions mentioned above, thus the quotes.) is performing acts that are not under the direct control of the genes.  These acts are then the result of " the expression of individual genes such that an individual is formed."  (Your words again.)  Again, your words are poorly chosen, however.  More precisely, the genome has "built," through the mechanism of individual genes "expressing," an "individual," which has "parameters" within which it can "autonomously" "decide" between "actions" that are "above" the "level" of "genes" and can be attributed to "programming."

I'm sick of using scare quotes, but I feel it's necessary since you're insisting that I'm making a semantic error.  All of the quotes signify that I am using those words within very specific and narrow boundaries as indicated at various points in this thread.

I fucking hate semantic arguments.

Quote:
I'm fairly sure I've been getting the answer to that question the right way round -- that the genome itself functioning as an organism is what you believe and the rest is just filling it out with interpretation -- so when you ask me what I would have you change it's that small thing, that you spin the emphasis on the genome functioning as an organism rather than functioning to build one.

The genome functions as an organism.  That's been my point all along.

Quote:
Consider the semantic difference between saying that your older self is an end product created by your young self and saying your older self is you older, the end product of your young self interacting with an environment. This is what I am talking about, what you've said is as though both were equally true. I've been asking you to commit to one side or argue with me why I should be seeing both as true.

The word "create" is used specifically in the context of a metaphor such that it is easier to grasp.  An elementary understanding of evolution makes it patently obvious that genes must interact with the environment if any change is to occur, and that even if we say that our older self is a product (not an end product unless we're dead) created by our young self, (I don't like that word in this context, since our body isn't "creating" us in any meaningful way.  Our body is the whole which has been created.) we are still talking about a continual process initiated and limited by the genes and thereafter limited by both the genes and the environment.

Eloise, you're asking me to commit to one of two statements which, if read correctly, are both true.  I'm sorry that you don't understand what I'm getting at.

Quote:
Frustratingly, instead, you've only dodged and deflected it and I fear we'll never actually get to discussing what I believe is an interesting and relevant point.

Frustratingly, but altogether expected based upon our past discussions, I have no clue what your point is.

Quote:
In fact I fully expect you to reply to this with the same old, same old "I didn't say that show me where I said that" and then when I show you you'll *blink* and deflect some more. I give up.

I gave up after my first reply, but I've been trying anyway.  I'm hardheaded like that.

 

 

 


 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:Hi Jill,Yeah

Eloise wrote:
Hi Jill,

Yeah you're right that my beliefs about consciousness are behind my question, but at the same time that's not necessarily the point I am trying to get to. I'm open to Hamby or anyone to argue that the implied difference between the gene and the organism is substantial. If someone proves to me that conciousness is sufficiently separated from the body and the gene to warrant the 'builder' analogy for genetics then I'm listening, but what I'm saying is, I don't see it. I see people jump philosophically from the processes of genetics to saying 'product of genetics' without a pause but I don't see why, all the information for an organism (in fact multiple variations of it) is contained in the genome and the autonomy to express itself under the right conditions. I want to know how idea that a gene 'grants autonomy' to the organism is more true or even as true as saying the organisms autonomy is essentially the gene's autonomy carried over into it's continuing evolution.

I am not sure anyone is saying otherwise - a phenotype is an expression of the genes in an environment and that expression is a part of the gene's evolution. The phenotype and its genes are one in the same, essentially.

I think that calling a phenotype a product is simply part of our normal comprehensive view, in that our current world appears the end product of what came before, and isn't accurate but does well enough for the discussion.

I hope I understand your point and that my reply here is... well, at least coherent =^_^=

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:I see people jump

Quote:
I see people jump philosophically from the processes of genetics to saying 'product of genetics' without a pause but I don't see why, all the information for an organism (in fact multiple variations of it) is contained in the genome and the autonomy to express itself under the right conditions.

Eloise, people generally see themselves as humans.  They don't see themselves as a complex set of chemical reactions.  When we (we being those who write about evolution) say that something is a product of genes, we are indulging the viewpoint that an animal is a discreet independent entity.  We indulge the viewpoint because it's tedious and unnecessarily pedantic to insist that our readers dispense with their notions of self for the entire article.

Quote:
I want to know how idea that a gene 'grants autonomy' to the organism is more true or even as true as saying the organisms autonomy is essentially the gene's autonomy carried over into it's continuing evolution.

It's a fucking metaphor. 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
Quote:They micromanage them

Quote:

They micromanage them and actively oversee their labor.  Genes don't do that.  They're more like builders who create a machine, turn it on, and then leave it to run on its own.

This is not true. See, this is why I don't like people loosely using terms that only really belong in molecular biology. As a sexually reproducing organism begins life as a zygote with a unique genome, the genome is responsible for the differentiation, positioning, and formation of tissues. But the genome is not only responsible for the permanent changes in the transcription patterns of cells which are formed and positioned in embryonic development. In every single cell at every moment of the existence of that cell in every tissue in every organ in every multicellular organism, every single output is the direct or indirect result of a command being sent through the genome.

Another even more obvious example is that of protozoa and prokaryota. These are all single celled organism which have no developmental or differentiation pathways. But they still have genomes, do they not? The genome is directly or indirectly in control of every output process. Every individual cell constitutes a computational device. Command chains which refer directly back to the genome are those which alter transcription patterns. Every form of control process refers to the genome. Some only indirectly, others directly. Permanent changes are clearly those associated with altering transcription patterns.

The most obvious examples of gene command are of cell differentiation during embryonic development. However, the other obvious ones are cell division and growth. To demonstrate this, below I've drawn out the pathways for two control modules. One of them refers directly to the genome. The other does not. It should be relatively simple to see which does and which does not. In both cases, it should be immediately clear that genes are responsible for reading every input into every cell during the lifetime of an organism and adjusting the phenotypic characteristics accordingly. Obviously the nature and pattern of the input and resulting output processes are several orders of magnitude more complex in multicellular organisms.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:We indulge

Hambydammit wrote:

We indulge the viewpoint because it's tedious and unnecessarily pedantic to insist that our readers dispense with their notions of self for the entire article.

I beg to differ. I don't think I've said anything about insisting readers dispense with the notion of self, and I don't think it would be pedantic at all for someone writing on evolution to dispense with indulging it.

On the other hand, somehow you've managed to confuse me as to your position again. To lay it out straight for you --  I have asked you to choose a side that the implied difference between genes and organism in statements like "genes build us" is either:

1. a semantic spin, or

2. a substantial fact because you can argue as to how "genes are us" and "genes build us" can both be equally true.

In your last post you seemed to argue both ways a bit, but I figured that you had settled on 2. when you said:

HambyDammit wrote:

When we say that an animal makes a choice, it is making a movement that cannot be attributed to genes directly.  The chain of chemical reactions directly caused by gene expression is far too slow to account for a zig or a zag while a cheetah is chasing an antelope.  We can only say that this is the result of something "above" the level of the genes.  We call the mechanism by which animals react in this way "consciousness."

It is obvious that such organisms are (to use your words) "semi-autonomous, built with parameters, by genes, then one day 'turned on' by the genes."  Your wording is poorly chosen, however.  When an egg and sperm unite, the organism is 'turned on' for all genetic purposes.  Philosophers can dicker over when consciousness begins, but from the gene's point of view (It's a metaphor!!) there is no distinction.  Genes are simply building what they build, namely gene survival machines.

However, it is perfectly legitimate to point out that an animal which has become "conscious" and is capable of "autonomy" (I'm still using the very precise definitions mentioned above, thus the quotes.) is performing acts that are not under the direct control of the genes.  These acts are then the result of " the expression of individual genes such that an individual is formed."  (Your words again.)  Again, your words are poorly chosen, however.  More precisely, the genome has "built," through the mechanism of individual genes "expressing," an "individual," which has "parameters" within which it can "autonomously" "decide" between "actions" that are "above" the "level" of "genes" and can be attributed to "programming."

....

Eloise, you're asking me to commit to one of two statements which, if read correctly, are both true.

In this post, contrarily, you've claimed 1. as your position. So I don't even know what to make of this now. I was going to answer your post on the points I've quoted above, but... well... Help?

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
Quote:2. a substantial fact

Quote:
2. a substantial fact because you can argue as to how "genes are us" and "genes build us" can both be equally true.

Genes are the unit of information storage which is used as a blueprint (METAPHOR!) for building (METAPHOR!) an organism and can be thought of (METAPHORICALLY) as the builders (METAPHOR) of organisms, although they are not builders in the sense of little gnomes with blueprints dutifully stacking amino acids.  Regardless of the metaphor you use to form a concept of "genes are us" it is incontrovertible that you and I contain genes.  They are at this very moment a part of the things we call "us."  Everything that is "us" (whatever that may mean to us individually) came to exist through the transcription of RNA according to the "blueprint" of our genome.  Our phenotype is, in its entirety, an expression of our genotype.  We are our genes, and our genes built us.

Why is this so difficult?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 I'm glad DG showed up. 

 

I'm glad DG showed up.  Eloise, will you grant that DG is an authority on this?  I'm going to use his post to explain my metaphors.

Quote:
As a sexually reproducing organism begins life as a zygote with a unique genome, the genome is responsible for the differentiation, positioning, and formation of tissues.

Genes "build" us.

Quote:
In every single cell at every moment of the existence of that cell in every tissue in every organ in every multicellular organism, every single output is the direct or indirect result of a command being sent through the genome.

I'm not sure at this point whether I kept the paragraph about this in an earlier post or deleted it.  In any case, I have no objection to this statement.  Instead, for the purpose of metaphorical (!) understanding, I say that an animal's "choice" is an action that is too fast to be under direct gene control.  In other words, when the antelope zigs, the zag executed by a cheetah is not triggered in that instant by a physical change in the transcription of a gene.  Instead, the genome has built (see above) the cheetah such that it is able to react to its environment in a way that we shall call "autonomous" for the moment.  Autonomous means only that the entire stimulus-reaction sequence of events has happened because of "preprogrammed" mechanisms which are already in place -- muscles, brains, sensory organs, etc -- that react to the environment faster than genes could affect a reaction as direct causes.

Quote:
Another even more obvious example is that of protozoa and prokaryota. These are all single celled organism which have no developmental or differentiation pathways. But they still have genomes, do they not? The genome is directly or indirectly in control of every output process.

Again, I hope I included this in an earlier post.  If not, I should add the disclaimer that this whole discussion applies only to animals.  However, the point is well made, and illustrates what I've been trying to say.

Quote:
Every individual cell constitutes a computational device. Command chains which refer directly back to the genome are those which alter transcription patterns. Every form of control process refers to the genome. Some only indirectly, others directly. Permanent changes are clearly those associated with altering transcription patterns.

Again, perfectly in line with what I'm saying.  That which is controlled directly by the genes is what I am metaphorically referring to as "programming."  That which is indirectly controlled is what I am referring to as "autonomous."

Quote:
The most obvious examples of gene command are of cell differentiation during embryonic development. However, the other obvious ones are cell division and growth. To demonstrate this, below I've drawn out the pathways for two control modules. One of them refers directly to the genome. The other does not. It should be relatively simple to see which does and which does not. In both cases, it should be immediately clear that genes are responsible for reading every input into every cell during the lifetime of an organism and adjusting the phenotypic characteristics accordingly. Obviously the nature and pattern of the input and resulting output processes are several orders of magnitude more complex in multicellular organisms.

All I can say is that this is exactly what I've been trying to say.  I'm so confused by Eloise's objections that I'm not sure if I've misspoken or not.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my OP was assuming a basic understanding of evolution -- namely, what you have just elucidated.  Genes are "in control" of an organism at all levels, either directly or indirectly.

I'm still baffled at why it has to be about slaves and masters.

As to the sentence you quoted, I'm happy to grant that genes are not just like builders who create a machine, turn it on, and leave it.  That's why I said they are more like that than they are masters cracking whips at the backs of slaves in cotton fields.  For a highly autonomous creature, I think it's safe to say that from the perceptual perspective, most actions are the result of indirect gene control rather than a change in transcription.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


I AM GOD AS YOU
Superfan
Posts: 4793
Joined: 2007-09-29
User is offlineOffline
Yeah dumb slow me, but

Yeah dumb slow me, but wasn't poetic Eloise asking what built the Z, as she seems to cleverly battle with "semantics", as it can get rigid and dogmatic ??? I don't see an argument here, my friends ... ???


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Hambydammit wrote:  Genes

Hambydammit wrote:

  Genes are "in control" of an organism at all levels, either directly or indirectly.

I'm still baffled at why it has to be about slaves and masters.

 

Okay, then let's just simplify it really really dramatically and see if we can stop baffling each other, maybe.

If we are our genes and genes are in control of the organism at all levels either directly or indirectly, WHY is it not just ourselves in control of ourselves either directly or indirectly (say: immediately and generally) at every level?  You get me?

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
If you're happy saying that

If you're happy saying that we are our genes, than I'm fine with you saying that we are in control of ourselves.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
IAGAY wrote: I don't see an

IAGAY wrote:
I don't see an argument here, my friends ... ???

Nor do I.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:Okay, then

Eloise wrote:
Okay, then let's just simplify it really really dramatically and see if we can stop baffling each other, maybe.

If we are our genes and genes are in control of the organism at all levels either directly or indirectly, WHY is it not just ourselves in control of ourselves either directly or indirectly (say: immediately and generally) at every level?  You get me?

Because conciousness is an expression of the phenotype.

I know you see conciousness otherwise, but for the life of me I can't see why. "We", menaing our concious selves, are an emergent system of the brain/body, which is itself an emergent expression of the genes ... etc. on down to the most basic bits.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
JillSwift wrote:Eloise

JillSwift wrote:

Eloise wrote:
Okay, then let's just simplify it really really dramatically and see if we can stop baffling each other, maybe.

If we are our genes and genes are in control of the organism at all levels either directly or indirectly, WHY is it not just ourselves in control of ourselves either directly or indirectly (say: immediately and generally) at every level?  You get me?

Because conciousness is an expression of the phenotype.

I know you see conciousness otherwise, but for the life of me I can't see why. "We", menaing our concious selves, are an emergent system of the brain/body, which is itself an emergent expression of the genes ... etc. on down to the most basic bits.

Okay, so this, Jill, is where I argue my idea of consciousness against the emergence "dualism", consciousness isn't the expression of the phenotype, at least, I don't believe the brain expresses on an entirely new level. I'm more inclined to have it that the gene expression continues spontaneously within the cellular environment of the brain so that consciousness is still the genome. So that the phenotype of neural networks hasn't branched out into a new arena of activity over and above the gene it's still doing the same thing it did as a gene, just in a concentrated heat bath environment which has a way of affecting the thermodynamic progression (ie time arrow).

Biology is not exactly my forte nor have I studied neuroscience to any significant extent, so I'm open to arguments about this from anyone who has insight that I might not have. But in any case, that's where I part ways with emergence in materialism.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


I AM GOD AS YOU
Superfan
Posts: 4793
Joined: 2007-09-29
User is offlineOffline
Ahhh, and those basic bits

Jill so Swift   Ahhh, and those basic bits are? And time is? Is an electron conscious of the nucleous or just a reaction, as any less spectacular than our reaction, our consciousness? I don't fucking know. Wish we did. LOL, me god! ....  


Kevin R Brown
Superfan
Kevin R Brown's picture
Posts: 3142
Joined: 2007-06-24
User is offlineOffline
Quote:Biology is not exactly

Quote:
Biology is not exactly my forte nor have I studied neuroscience to any significant extent

In otherwords, Eloise, you're arguing from ignorance.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


I AM GOD AS YOU
Superfan
Posts: 4793
Joined: 2007-09-29
User is offlineOffline
Heck Kevin. Semantics. The

Heck Kevin. Semantics. Ignorance? The god of Eloise, the god of I AM (me) ?? Then Kevin , no god! Yeah, of course, no religion gods, we all scientifically agree, no magic.   We, nor anything is fancy, as we humans are all simply dirt dumb ignorant.

I will bet Eloise is pretty well versed in evolution. Arguing, instead of sharing, teaching, questioning, testing .... and kind of derailing Hamby's informative OP. Yeah I am guilty too.

Hey, but let's always stir the hornets nest of religion. Come on Eloise, get pissed ! LOL RRS ....


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:Okay, so this,

Eloise wrote:
Okay, so this, Jill, is where I argue my idea of consciousness against the emergence "dualism", consciousness isn't the expression of the phenotype, at least, I don't believe the brain expresses on an entirely new level. I'm more inclined to have it that the gene expression continues spontaneously within the cellular environment of the brain so that consciousness is still the genome. So that the phenotype of neural networks hasn't branched out into a new arena of activity over and above the gene it's still doing the same thing it did as a gene, just in a concentrated heat bath environment which has a way of affecting the thermodynamic progression (ie time arrow).

Biology is not exactly my forte nor have I studied neuroscience to any significant extent, so I'm open to arguments about this from anyone who has insight that I might not have. But in any case, that's where I part ways with emergence in materialism.

I have a rough time considering consciousness as an emergent system to be on a level different from the body being an emergent phenomenon of the genes. It's all part and parcel to the unit "individual person".

The bit of evidence that makes me think that consciousness is entirely the result of the phenotype is simple: Change the meat, change the behavior.

It just seems to me that were consciousness to derive from another part of the system, there wouldn't be such a near 1:1 relationship between the condition of the brain and the behavior demonstrated.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


aiia
Superfan
aiia's picture
Posts: 1923
Joined: 2006-09-12
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
Biology is not exactly my forte nor have I studied neuroscience to any significant extent

In otherwords, Eloise, you're arguing from ignorance.

Its a naked assertion, because an argument from ignorance is concluding something must be true because it hasn't been proved false.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


aiia
Superfan
aiia's picture
Posts: 1923
Joined: 2006-09-12
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:I'm more

Eloise wrote:
I'm more inclined to have it that the gene expression continues spontaneously within the cellular environment of the brain so that consciousness is still the genome.
Eloise wrote:
Well, as you already have alluded to, we are compelled by unconscious process[es] to do so; to care about, desire and seek the conditions for procreation.

Please explain the difference. Why is the latter unconscious and the former conscious?

 

 

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
aiia wrote:Eloise wrote:I'm

aiia wrote:

Eloise wrote:
I'm more inclined to have it that the gene expression continues spontaneously within the cellular environment of the brain so that consciousness is still the genome.
Eloise wrote:
Well, as you already have alluded to, we are compelled by unconscious process[es] to do so; to care about, desire and seek the conditions for procreation.

Please explain the difference. Why is the latter unconscious and the former conscious?

 

 

Hi Aiia, thanks for reading closely Ill take it as a compliment. To answer your question I really don't believe that what we call unconscious is any more "un" or not conscious than the activity we usually refer to as conscious, I just hadn't said it directly yet, so yeah, you've caught me slipping up on my own thoughts.   

Ultimately, the way I see it the only difference between what we call conscious and what we call subconscious and likewise unconscious is the environment (not-self) which limits spontaneous expression in particular localities. So when I write, Conciousness vs unconsciousness, in my own head I'm differentiating by locality rather than type which I should stop doing, I know, I'm kind of abusing the language, but honestly what choice do I have? Consciousness is poorly labelled and there aren't any alternative words that anyone would understand.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Quote:
Biology is not exactly my forte nor have I studied neuroscience to any significant extent

In otherwords, Eloise, you're arguing from ignorance.

No, I'm not entirely ignorant about this Kevin, and I'm certainly not arguing from being so. I mentioned my degree of ignorance essentially just to encourage others to question my thinking, I know people have gotten the impression that I am fairly well versed in science and I didn't want that to get in the way of anyone thinking critically about what I have said. So like Aiia said, I've made an assertion, I wouldn't call it a naked assertion cause I feel I've made a lot of good supporting arguments here, I would call it an assertion which lacks some qualification, though, and thus should be open to scrutiny.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com