A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Non-Naturalistic Evolution

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on December 22, 2007

What follows is a pretty outlandish metaphysical speculation, so if outlandish metaphysical speculations get on your nerves you better stop reading now :).

Reality and its aspects

Say that we have a normal three-dimensional (3D) object. If we have a projection of the 3D form of this object on certain 2D plane, we can say that this projection is an aspect of the 3D object. We can distinguish in this relation the real thing, from its particular aspect.

The aspect will depend on two things. Firstly it will depend on the real thing, and secondly it will depend on the nature of the projection. Because it depends on the thing itself, the aspect will correlate with it.

To see the physical world as an aspect means to think of it as standing in relation to the real world analogous to the relation of the 2d projection to the 3d object.

Here ia an example… Say, we have an event where we see a rabbit. If we take this situation, and explore its physical aspect, what we will find is light bouncing off of the rabbits fur, the rabbits fur having some reflectance characteristics, some of the light being focused by the lens of the eye on the retina, there affecting the cone and rode cells, which send further signals to the cerebral cortex, and so on…

The idea is then that what we are describing here is merely an aspect of the situation, and it leaves out some things which are present in the situation and of which we are aware. Here we might include things like the actual seeing (as intentional perceptual act) or say… the colors (which is usually called ‘qualia’, but I don’t think that this is needed, as actually people have in history, and outside of philosophy use ‘color’ to refer to those things which are now called ‘qualia’). Of course, given that one accepts that the physical is merely an aspect, there is no principle reason to think that there are yet other things which are a) neither in the physical aspect, but also b) of which we are not aware the way we are aware of seeing and colors.

The nature of the physical aspect

The aspects of things aren’t self-subsistent. Things aren’t sum of their aspects. Aspects can be picked-out by us because we can attend to them. Attending is abstracting – separating the aspect in thought.

What we attend in the case of the physical, are those aspects of the world that are susceptible to measurement. The measurement is when we can form a ratio between two magnitudes, and we have two aspects that we know how to directly measure – the distance in space, and the amount of time. Further we can measure the basic change – that of movement, by measuring those two aspects of the movement (space traversed and the time it took), and then characterizing the movement by the ratio of those two (v=s/t).

Because of the nature of the measurement, there are invariances which will appear in the physical aspect. For example, the measurements in general are invariant to the ‘point of origin’. If you measure how much time something takes, by making a ratio to some recurrent event, by counting how many times this second event happens while the first measured event happens, it doesn’t matter if you start counting from zero, or you start counting from e.g. 1544. So, the measurement of amount of time will show invariance vs the “translation in time”.

Similar thing will be there for the measurement of length. It doesn’t matter which mark of the ruler you make ‘coincide’ with the measured length, it can be 0 or 1544. The ratios are invariant to translations. Also there are other invariances, like invariance vs. directions, as measurements abstract from directions in space, so you will have invariance vs. rotation in space.  So, from the very nature of our way of approaching one particular aspect (and approaching an aspect is setting some limits), the aspects ending up having some nature – for example related to those invariances we have the so called ‘laws of conversation’ (of momentum, energy, etc..)

There are also other things in the nature of this aspect, that we might identify with the way we approach it. For example, we quantify movement through measuring two of its aspects – the space traversed, and the amount of time it took. Anyway, it is possible that such things as ‘special relativity’ are actually the necessary metaphysical relations between some measurables, which relations are there because of the nature of those measurements. This is something that I find very believable. (You can find dozen of attempts, published or not, to come to the special relativity ‘a priori’ on the net. Here is one which seems promising.).

How far can we go here? If we acknowledge possibility that some of the physical laws are metaphysically necessary (or if you want – that they follow a priori from how the aspect is defined), maybe we can entertain the possibility that all of the “physical laws” are such. If the special relativity is such, why not general relativity? Why not Schroedinger equation? And why not even what kind of fundamental particles there can be?

The complexity of the physical aspect

So, following this metaphysical speculation, what do we have now? We have an aspect which by its nature restricts what kind of projections we can see in that aspect. It might restrict it in the way, that when we put attention on those aspects, the projection will always appear as developing under the physical laws, and even that it consist of some kind of particles.
What we get here might be understood through a metaphor (which might not be quite suitable, but let me try). It would be like if we are asked to create a copy of something, just that we are given a set of parts, and set of rules of how those parts work with each other. Now, imagine that the projection IS such an engineer, which given some thing, it produces that same thing using the parts available. Now here is this principle:

Depending on the thing that we are asked to re-create, and given the parts and rules, the implementation might be very simple or very complex to do. And this complexity might not correlate with the complexity of the original thing. So to say, it might be that A will have more complex implementation than some B given the parts and rules, but that original A0 is in fact simpler than B0 given that reality is not limited to those parts and rules.

This principle is interesting, because it doesn’t really matter how simple the original thing is. It will depend a lot on the nature of the available cogs and wheels how complex the implementation will be. (Further, of course there is the possibility that things which are similar, will have to be implemented in quite a different ways. But I think that this is not important here).
Using this principle now when thinking about the relation of the real thing and its physical aspect, we can say that actually a pretty ‘simple’ real thing, might appear as complex in the physical aspect, and that more complexity in physical aspect might not in fact correlate with more complexity of the thing.

Evolution and its physical aspect

Now we come to the point where we can further speculate about evolution freed from the limits of the physical rules.

Say that we accept that in the case where we are seeing something, there are things of which we are aware of, but which are not present in the physical aspect. But why would be inclined to think that there is missing from the physical aspect when talking about phenomenon of evolution?

The simple argument would be that the evolution needs to be an explanation of there appearing beings which have those things which are not there in the physical aspect. So to say, we can see, and if this ‘we can see’ is not something in the physical aspect, but if it is product of evolution, than the phenomenon of evolution plausible will be a phenomenon not limited to the physical aspect also.

What this means is that the evolution can be seen as a real phenomenon which goes beyond the physical aspect of the evolution, and further it means that whatever principles we theorize as being “behind” the evolutionary developments, they will have to work not merely on the level of the physical aspect.
Now, the principle of survival of the fittest as a principle is not limited to the physical aspect. We can say for example, that a being that can see (and here we are using “seeing” to refer to this phenomenon of seeing we are aware) will have more chances of the survival. However besides this principle, there is the principle of random mutations, and those, when we are limited to the physical aspects are related to the random mutations of the DNA, plus the combination of the DNA information in the cases of sexual animals.

This belongs, it seems to me to the physical aspect. We are free to speculate here, what kind of processes actually are mapped/projected into this physical aspect? The questions appear like – are those random, isn’t there maybe some other thing of which we are not aware (not just in the physical aspect, but in general also) which plays role here? What is it that actually changes, when we in the physical aspect see a random mutation?, and so on…

Further into the uncharted territory

What kind of speculation-space this opens for views on evolution?

As one, given what was said in the previous part of this post, the change towards greater complexity in the physical aspect, for which we ‘give credit’ to evolution, doesn’t have to correlate with actual change towards greater complexity in reality! It might be even the opposite.

Instead of thinking of the species gaining abilities and features from the growing complexity of their make-up, we can speculate that what is actually happening is a case of removing limits. Further we speculate that such things as consciousness and intentionality are what is there present in the reality not as constructions, but as something which is there on very basic level. (A cog which is not present in the physical aspect, but which is present in the reality, so to say).

We can speculate then, that what we are seeing in evolution, is a movement from the complex limitations on this underlying nature (and which in the physical aspect is seen as simple species) towards removal of those limitations and species which come, so to say, closer to this underlying nature. We get to species that can perceive, think, make choices, be ethical and so on, getting closer to what we can call understanding of the reality. However this removal of limits, because of the nature of the physical aspect will appear in it as complex species.

Anyway, this thing got pretty long, so I better stop. Congratulations to anybody which made it to the end of this post! You gain 4 Strength, 5 Magicalness, and 10 Moxie.

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