Try “The Two Faces of Tomorrow”, by James P. Hogan. Fictional evidence, to be sure, but well thought out fiction that demonstrates the problem well.
Personally I think I actually tend to anthropomorphize more as a result of my ability to guess what others are thinking being learned rather than instinctive. Because I really am using the same circuitry for comprehending people as I do for comprehending car engines and computers and using it in essentially the same way.
But I may not be typical. Best guess is that my particular quirks are mostly the result of a childhood head injury rather than anything genetic.
A lot of the things that ancient cultures attributed to God are this kind of thinking.
If you see a dead pig on the side of the road with no signs of violence, stay the heck away from it. You don’t have to know which specific disease it died of, or even what a disease is. People have just noticed that anyone who goes near such a thing tends to die horribly later and maybe takes half the tribe with them. The precise intermediate steps are largely irrelevant, just the statistical correlation.
There are two failure modes to watch out for.
The first is when people start worshiping their own ignorance and refuse to update the rules as their understanding of the underlying principles improves.
The second is when people recognize that the idea of “God” as an old man with a long beard who lives in the clouds is patently ridiculous and assume therefore that all of the principles and rules intended to “stay his wrath” may be ignored with utter impunity.
To the first type I generally point out that whatever creator they believe exists gave us our intelligence as well, and refusing to use that gift to the utmost would be an insult.
To the second I like to suggest that, since “Thor” is imaginary, maybe they should go stand in an open field and wave a metal stick around during the next thunderstorm… A “primitive” understanding of something is not the same as being stupid, and a few thousand years of experience that says, “If you do X, bad things happen,” should not be ignored lightly.
If there weren’t people who had a strong desire, not just for sex, but to actually have a child, and a willingness to go to extreme measures to do so, then sperm banks wouldn’t be a thing.
Given the number of people who specifically, and openly desire to make babies, postulating a subconscious desire that might push them to “forget” their contraception isn’t unreasonable. Especially given that cycle timing and coitus interruptus have been staples of human sexual behaviour since… Well… At least as far back as we have any records about such things. Dawn of civilization.The two sets of replicators reminds me of an article I read about a species of birds that seems to be splitting into effectively four sexes. Male and female, but then also coloring patterns that have formed a stable loop that alternates back and forth. If the loop were unstable they’d split into two species, but it alternates generations regularly, so they keep mixing, but in a pattern of four.
Alternatively, consider the various sects in history which have thought that the world was evil and therefore bringing children into it was doing them great harm. Needless to say, the majority of them seem to have died out...
I would submit that most other species on the planet, were they to rise to our level of intelligence, would not bother inventing condoms. In most other species, the females generally have no particular interest in sex unless they want babies.
Humans though, are weird. Because of our long phase of immaturity, and the massive amount of work involved in raising a child, we need really strong social bonds. Evolution, being a big fan of “The first thing I stumble across that gets the job done is the solution” repurposed sex into a pair-bonding trigger, and then, as our ancestors’ offspring required longer and longer care, divorced it from any specific attempt to make a baby at that particular moment.
Now fast forward to the point where infant mortality drops and churning out babies as fast as possible is no longer the best strategy. But we still need the pair bonding because the length of childhood hasn’t gotten any shorter, and it still goes way better with two sets of hands to look after the little one. Evolution would probably come up with another quick hack for this… (One might suggest that it already has in the form of oral sex.) But it will take a while. Our brains are faster.
Evolution now will simply need to favor genetics that introduce an explicit desire for children, rather than the other behaviours which used to inevitably lead to them. Which… There are a lot of people out there for whom not wanting children is a dealbreaker when looking for a potential spouse. So it seems like it’s already on top of that one too.
Personally I think the Inquisitor has a much better case than the Phlogiston theorist.
If humans have an immortal soul, then saving that soul from an eternity of torment would easily justify nearly anything temporarily inflicted on the mortal body in the same manner that saving someone’s life from a burst appendix justifies slicing open their belly. While brutal, the Inquisitor is self-consistent. Or, at least, he could be.
Magnesium gaining weight when burned, however, has to be special-cased away to fit with Phlogiston theory. There aren’t really any coherent explanations for it that don’t boil down to “Magnesium doesn’t count.”
Still, it’s a good example of the lengths to which people will go to justify their own preferred courses of action. The Inquisition was, after all, largely political rather than religious, concerned with rooting the last of the Moorish sympathizers out of Spain.
Reminds me of one of the early AI research projects using some variety of optimization algorithm to try to “learn” the ability to solve a wide variety of problems in a single program. Genetic algorithm I think, random mutation and cross-pollination of the programs between the best performers, that kind of thing.
After a while, they noticed that one of the lines that had developed, while not the best at any of the test problems, was second-best at all of them.
Yet when they tried to make it the base of all their next generation… it didn’t work...
Cue a massive analysis effort to rip it apart at the machine-code level and figure out what the heck was going on. Eventually they found that it had stumbled upon a security flaw in their running environment and learned to steal answers from the other programs running on the system.
Evolution doesn’t care if it’s cheating, only if it works.
Hard to say if politics was the entire reason… We are also endurance hunters and trap layers and both of those require being able to predict what your intended prey will do many steps in advance...
Question is, which came first?
And really, evolution didn’t come up with a general intelligence to solve ape politics. Pay attention when you’re thinking about things. How often do you reflexively think of inanimate objects as “wanting” or “happy”? You’re probably modeling plants and animals and machines and complex physics as though it were another ape. Ape behaviour is so complex that other, complex systems can fit right into that rules processing engine, but that engine leaves its fingerprints all over the results...Which is the entire reason this website exists. If we truly had a general-purpose intelligence most of the glitches in our thinking that we have to learn to be careful of wouldn’t be there to start with.
‘I say “evolutions”, plural, because fox evolution works at cross-purposes to rabbit evolution, and neither can talk to snake evolution to learn how to build venomous fangs.’
Interestingly, as we’re getting better at analyzing genomes, we’re discovering that this isn’t strictly true. Rabbit and fox cross-pollinating with snake would be a bit of a stretch maybe, but there are actually a number of what we once thought to be entirely separate lines of evolution which genetic testing has revealed to be true-breeding hybrids between a set of nearby species.
Also, it’s looking like viruses can play a fairly substantial role in picking up genes from one species and ferrying them around to others.
Of course, all of that will pale in comparison to genetic engineering once we finish sorting that out.
Sure. Your cells have two methods for copying DNA. One of them is fast and highly accurate. The other is quite slow and makes mistakes several times more often.
The chemical structure of the accurate method is basically an order of magnitude more complex than the inaccurate one. It seems likely that the inaccurate method is the remnant of some previous stage of development.
The inaccurate method has stuck around because the error checking on the accurate method also causes the process to stall if it hits a damaged segment. At which point the strand being copied gets kicked over to the older machinery.
The new method, being significantly more complex, is dependent for assembly on significantly more complicated structures than the old method, structures which could not have been created without the old method or something like it. Figuring out exactly how far down the stack of turtles goes is tricky though since all the evidence has long-since decayed. Maybe as we get better at decoding DNA we’ll find leftover scraps of some of them lurking in the seemingly-unused sections of various genomes.
Go visit any machine shop. You’ll find tools there like lathes and mills which, given a supply of raw materials, can be used to manufacture another machine shop.
And yet… Where did the first lathe and mill come from if all lathes and mills are made using other lathes and mills? Obviously God created the first ones and gifted them to us, because nobody even knows how to make the high-precision slides and rods and threads needed for lathes and mills without lathes and mills to use for tools...
Oh… Wait… The first ones were made with tools other than lathes and mills via processes that we don’t use anymore because they really stink by comparison.
You can see some evidence of this in cellular machinery in places where cells have more than one way to perform some function. What the originals were… We’ll never know for sure without a time machine, there are several possibilities for each. But they all stink compared to what’s become ubiquitous now. But, like with the machine shop, they worked well enough to get the job done and pave the way for something better later.
Note that this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of some intelligent entity watching over the universe and tuning it to get some desired output according to some master plan. It just means that the watchmaker analogy is a bad argument for that. Just like the other common argument that evolution is a decrease in entropy, and therefore a violation of the laws of physics. Stupid, ridiculous arguments that don’t survive more than a cursory examination and, therefore, make all theists look bad via “guilt by association.” Stop it. Evolution and God are not mutually exclusive, and trying to deny that evolution happens as a way to discredit atheism is letting the atheists frame the argument in such a manner that they can’t possibly lose. Not a good strategy. If you’re going to waste time arguing something that neither side is likely to concede on regardless you should at least take pride in being good at it.
The poisons are variations on digestive enzymes, only turned up to 11 potency-wise. Lots of enzyme producing organs have bladders to store their output until needed, so that likely would have copy-pasted in at the same time, and there are several species of reptiles which are venomous, but don’t have fangs. There seems to be a progression of teeth near the venom entry point becoming longer and grooved, eventually culminating in fangs.
Digestion first, then pre-digestive saliva (your saliva has digestive enzymes too for that matter) then more potent saliva, then teeth to stuff it into the prey more effectively once it was strong enough to help with incapacitation and not just chewing, then more specialized saliva, then more specialized teeth. Pretty easy to see how it would have developed a piece at a time.
Intermediate mutations don’t necessarily need to provide any benefit at all, they just need to not have any detrimental effects.
As I recall, a rattlesnake’s rattles are formed more-or-less by its skin failing to shed perfectly cleanly. That costs practically nothing and is exactly the kind of weird mutation that can crop up in an isolated segment of the population where it doesn’t take long for genes to stabilize.
Then the isolation ends, and it turns out that the weird new trait has some amount of benefit over the population at large, so it spreads.
An interesting choice since horses are one of the few other animals on the planet that sweat and, therefore, are one of the hardest to run down.
Interestingly, the ability to sweat also coincides with the ability to run oneself to death. Other creatures use panting as their primary cooling mechanism, and, as a result, when they become too warm, they cease to be able to take in sufficient oxygen to maintain their exertion and have to stop. Non-sweaters will drop from exhaustion, but it’s rarely fatal.
Horses use their extreme running ability to get away from predators. Humans use it to be predators. When we finally teamed up we became nearly unstoppable. :D
That is a reasonable possibility, although if it only interacts with normal matter via gravitation, which is relatively weak, then I’d expect to see its dispersal lag significantly behind, say, a supernova. And that lag would seem likely to result in such events skewing the distribution over time.
Unless we’re also going to postulate that dark matter has its own energy, chemistry, and physics which resemble those of normal matter so closely that such things happen in both realms at the same time...
Measurement error and/or gravity having some kind of propagation properties we haven’t worked out yet still seems like a contender for the explanation, unless they have, indeed found pockets in the universe with differing amounts of excess gravitation that match what one would expect in the wake of fast-moving objects. I haven’t seen any reports about that myself, but I can’t say I’m an insider on the latest research or anything.
I would say that the non-nerds can’t save the human race either though. Without nerds our population never exceeds what can be supported by hunting, gathering, and maybe some primitive agriculture.
Which isn’t much. We’d be constantly hovering just short of being wiped out by some global cataclysm. And there’s some evidence that we’ve narrowly missed just that at least once in our history. If we want to survive long-term we need to get off this rock, and then we need to find at least one other solar system. After that we can take a breather while we think about finding another galaxy to colonize.
Yes, we might destroy ourselves with new technology. But we’re definitely dead without it. And if you look at how many new technologies have been denounced as being harbingers for the end of the world vs how many times the world has actually ended, I’d have to think that gut feelings about what technologies are the most dangerous and how badly we’ll handle them are probably wrong more often than they’re right.
One thing that occurs to me while reading this is that for most people, their religion consists nearly entirely of cached beliefs. Things they believe because they were told, not because they derived the result themselves.
This makes any truly critical examination of one’s religious beliefs rather a daunting task. To start with, you’re going to have to recompute potentially thousands of years of received wisdom for yourself. That’s… A lot of work. There’s a reason we cache beliefs, otherwise it would take a lifetime just to be minimally educated.
And then there’s the bigger one that I think most of the other commenters have glossed over. Recomputing your religion into self-consistency can be scary because if you recognize that previous generations were no less intelligent and no less searching for truth than you are, then there is a not-insignificant chance that your recalculations will introduce more errors than they correct. That would be bad.
On the other hand, if nobody ever grinds through all the equations again, then any bad values that slipped in somewhere never get caught. At some point the balance of old mistakes vs. potential new mistakes tips in your favor.
My personal strategy is that, when there’s a contradiction, recompute until it is resolved without creating any new ones. If you can’t, flag it as a hole in your model and keep your eyes open for a better fit.
Obviously, any religion that prohibits honest questioning should be laughed off the face of the Earth.
So I grew up around Jesuits and, while I obviously can’t speak for all of them, I’d say that they probably qualify as proto-rationalists, if not rationalists. To the point where a large portion of other Christian sects denounce them as atheists because they refuse to wallow in mysticism like everyone else.
A core principle of the Jesuit philosophy is that God gave us our intellect specifically so that we could come to better understand him. You won’t find them trying to quibble about “micro” vs “macro” evolution or any of the other silliness that other groups use as a membership badge and try to talk in circles around. They do still believe that there is a super-natural world beyond our ability to directly observe, but everything about this world must be logically consistent and any apparent inconsistency is a flaw in your own understanding, not a flaw in the world or a “divine mystery”.
They are trained to draw a hard line between what they believe and what they know, and to treat any perceived inconsistency between the two as a reason to probe deeper until it makes sense. And any fellow Christian who gives the appearance of engaging in “belief in belief”? They’ll tear him a new one just as fast as Yudkowsky would, if not faster. They have his lack of tolerance for it, coupled with encyclopedic knowledge not only of the Bible’s contents, but also generally of practically every work by every significant Christian and major pagan philosopher before or since.
I suppose a good way to explain the fundamental difference is that where most Christian sects believe that certain things are true because they are in the Bible, the Jesuits would say that the stories in the Bible were selected because they teach a fundamental truth or two. Were it not for the weight of Catholic tradition, I strongly suspect many Jesuits would be in favor of continuing to add to the anthology that is the Bible as we develop better stories for teaching the desired lessons. Or, at least, developing an updated one that would make sense to a modern reader without having to spend decades studying all the cultural context necessary to understand what’s going on. I first heard the observation that “The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally Christian story and worldview, just dressed up in different mythology” from a Jesuit for example.
Definitely interesting people and nearly always worth developing a relationship with when you can. And while they’ll try to convert you, they’ll do it by presenting logical arguments, not by shouting and hitting you with a large book. They’ll take what they consider to be the core lessons and principles of Christianity and recompute how to explain them couched in your own world view. And if you end up agreeing on everything but the mythology? Well that’s good enough.
The odds are long because all the obviously good ideas with no risk of failure are immediately snapped up by everyone.
The key is to learn to spot those so you can move on them first, and also to keep a sane estimate with how much you’re gambling vs the potential reward so that your net expected payout remains positive.