Progress?
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03-08-2010, 08:37 AM (This post was last modified: 03-08-2010 08:43 AM by Ghost.)
Progress?
Hey, erbody.

I think that the idea that progress is necessarily a good is conflated with the idea that the progression from the simple to the complex is a good. That second idea, in my mind is a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory because evolution says nothing about complex being better than simple, ie, blue whales are not better than amoebas. I believe that there are cases in which a simpler idea or a simpler technology is better than a complex one, in terms of it being better at times for a specific application and in terms of passing the point of diminishing returns and in terms of the added impact of a more complex idea or technology.

What do y'all think?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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03-08-2010, 09:00 AM
RE: Progress?
It's true, more abilities typically mean more use of energy, and so any extra abilities and complexities can be a series impairment to an organism. Only when a new ability is needed and outweighs it costs does it work with natural and becomes a part of the species.

Here's a little article, written by the oh so wise Kent Hovind, of him being amazing ignorant of how evolution works. Slightly off-topic, since it deals with chromosomes numbers, and more chromosomes doesn't mean more complex, but I found the stupidity of it entertaining. Link

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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03-08-2010, 09:51 AM
 
RE: Progress?
Can technological progress be compared to biological evolution? I think some of the mechanisms at work are vastly different.
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03-08-2010, 12:34 PM
RE: Progress?
(03-08-2010 08:37 AM)Ghost Wrote:  I think that the idea that progress is necessarily a good is conflated with the idea that the progression from the simple to the complex is a good. That second idea, in my mind is a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory because evolution says nothing about complex being better than simple, ie, blue whales are not better than amoebas. I believe that there are cases in which a simpler idea or a simpler technology is better than a complex one, in terms of it being better at times for a specific application and in terms of passing the point of diminishing returns and in terms of the added impact of a more complex idea or technology.

What do y'all think?

I agree, but if this was what you were trying to imply in the other thread, then you were strawmanning our position again. We - or I, at least - do not support the idea that complexity is always a good thing.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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03-08-2010, 05:39 PM
RE: Progress?
I'm going to try and play nice here so please take my next comment at face value and don't read anything negative into it.

What was the question?

Seriously, I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you asking us if we agree that complex is not always better? Or, are you asking if evolutionary theory makes people believe they need an iPod instead of a Walkman?

In the immortal words of Vinnie Barbarino: "I'm so confused"

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When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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05-08-2010, 05:35 PM
RE: Progress?
Unbeliever.

I can't strawman your position by making a statement about what I think. "I agree," would have been sufficient. That is unless you would like to add a caveat to what I said.

BnW.

I fail to see what is so difficult. I made a statement then asked what people thought. For example, the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire. Discuss.

That is what I think about the idea that progress is necessarily a good and why. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have something to add? Perhaps you have an alternate opinion?

To clarify what I said, I am not suggesting that evolution tells us that complexity is better. Quite the opposite. Darwinism says, what works flourishes. It does not say, that which is more complex or increasingly complex flourishes and/or is better. That's why I said I think the idea that that which is more complex is necessarily better is the result of a wrongheaded interpretation of Darwin. I am offering an alternate position to the idea that we must progress at all costs because that is a good, that progress means making things more complex and that which takes away from our ability to change things in order to make them more complex or that which takes away from our ability to pursue progress as framed is necessarily bad. For example, a Luddite is necessarily bad because they were trying to stop a more complex process from increasing production, which is why Luddite has become a pejorative term.

Hey, AH60.

Thanks for the input!

Hey, Truth Addict.

Quote:Can technological progress be compared to biological evolution? I think some of the mechanisms at work are vastly different.

Absolutely. It's a question of memes and if Susan Blackmore is correct, which I actually doubt, it's a question of temes as well. But without doubt, Dawkin's principle of Universal Darwinism applies. Technologies have variation, mutation and compete against each other to be used by us. Therefore selection is at work.

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Matt
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05-08-2010, 06:23 PM
RE: Progress?
Your question may be obvious to you but it's still not obvious to me. That could simply be a result of my not being very bright, though.

I don't recall where anyone said "things must get more complex so they will be better!". It's not so much a strawman argument as it is an argument against nothing. It's like going on a rant about the lack of atmospheric pressure on the moon. I'm not aware anyone is really arguing the point so why have a rant about it. I'm not trying to pick here, I'm just somewhat at a loss to understand where you are going.

But, in the interest of furthering the discussion, I will offer this: I think 1,000 years from now when future archeologists and historical anthropologists try to trace the decline of our civilization, they are going to find that it all started to fall apart with the invention of the fax machine. Prior to the fax, it would take someone 3 days to ship you something, a week for you to work on it, and 3 days to ship it back. With the fax machine, that 3 days was reduced to 30 minutes (we're talking the 1980s fax machines here). People then said "hey, if I can reduce the time it took to send you something from 3 days down to 30 minutes, then instead of 5 days to work on it, you should need like 1/2 a day". And so started the 15 hour work day, the 7 day work week, and the need to be reachable on vacations. From there we developed first email, and then blackberries. And, that's when it all hit the fan.

Man struggled for thousands of years to free himself of the rigors of having to survive day by day and have time to relax, only to invent more and more technology that invited the rigors of life into his relaxation time, thus adding to his stress level, turning his hair gray at an earlier age, and shortening his life span. Kind of a reverse Darwinism. Eventually, all of us in the rat race will keel over and die, leaving the planet to the sloths of society who require our tax dollars for their very existence. I figure from there, mass extinction is just a few years away as all these people starve while waiting for their hand-outs but their being no more hands.

The fax machine, people, is evil. It is plotting against you. And, it knows where you live. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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05-08-2010, 06:33 PM
RE: Progress?
(05-08-2010 05:35 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Unbeliever.

I can't strawman your position by making a statement about what I think. "I agree," would have been sufficient. That is unless you would like to add a caveat to what I said.

No, I wouldn't. I am simply restating what happened in the other thread, where you claimed that atheists were guilty of thinking that progress was always a good thing. I asked in that thread what it was that you meant by that, but you didn't answer. Then you created this thread, wherein you state that progress is often confused with complexity.
What I was saying was that, if you meant "progress" in the other thread to mean "complexity", you were strawmanning our position, which is true.

Now, did you mean it that way? Because, if you didn't, fine; I was just asking if you did mean it that way.

Quote:To clarify what I said, I am not suggesting that evolution tells us that complexity is better. Quite the opposite. Darwinism says, what works flourishes. It does not say, that which is more complex or increasingly complex flourishes and/or is better. That's why I said I think the idea that that which is more complex is necessarily better is the result of a wrongheaded interpretation of Darwin. I am offering an alternate position to the idea that we must progress at all costs because that is a good, that progress means making things more complex and that which takes away from our ability to change things in order to make them more complex or that which takes away from our ability to pursue progress as framed is necessarily bad.

I don't think you'll find anyone here who objects to the idea that simply increasing complexity is a bad thing. But the problem here is that you have employed twisted logic in your statement.
First you claim that progress is often confused with complexity. Then you say that complexity is not always a good thing. Then you state that progress is not always a good thing because complexity is not always a good thing. But the very objection that you raised in your first claim is that complexity and progress are not the same thing!
I think that what you're trying to say here is that complexity and progress are not identical, and that we should therefore not simply increase complexity and call it better. But you mix up your terms in the end, and use "progress" where you mean to say "complexity"; what you've typed out here makes it sound like you object to all progress simply because progress is sometimes confused with complexity.

Just to make sure you understand, I agree with what you're trying to say. I'm just trying to help you phrase it more clearly.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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05-08-2010, 08:12 PM
RE: Progress?
Hey, BnW.

Ah. Mockery. That's great. That's just great. Thanks for that. You really kicked things up a notch. You're a pleasure to talk to.

Hey, Unbeliever.

I realised in the other thread that this was something I wanted to pursue and so I created a new thread. I restated things so that I wouldn't be accused of putting words in anyone's mouth. Perhaps I ignored history. Perhaps we're both right. Can we agree to move on?

Quote:First you claim that progress is often confused with complexity. Then you say that complexity is not always a good thing. Then you state that progress is not always a good thing because complexity is not always a good thing. But the very objection that you raised in your first claim is that complexity and progress are not the same thing!

I'm not a logician so I'll have to take your word that my logic is flawed.

I think I meant that the idea I am disagreeing with is the idea that when we make things more complex, it is a good and it is viewed as progess, which is also a good. I didn't mean that making things simpler was the true definition of progress and the true good. I don't think I believe in progress at all. It implies that something is better. I don't believe in better. I believe in what works and what doesn't work. As long as we're doing what works, that's the good to me.

Quote:I think that what you're trying to say here is that complexity and progress are not identical, and that we should therefore not simply increase complexity and call it better.

I don't think what I'm saying is that they're not identical. I see where you're going but that's not quite it. More that they're self-supporting ideas. Progress is a good because we make things more complex and more complex is better than less complex. But that's a fallacy because there's really no such thing as better.

But you hit the nail on the head. I am trying to say that we can't just make something more complex and call it better.

So I don't think I object to all progress. I think I object to the idea of progress. I think we're chasing a fallacy. We should be concerned with what works, whether that's something complex or something simple. An ICBM isn't better than a club and a club isn't better than an ICBM. If either works in a given situation, then it works. If it doesn't, we should concern ourselves with things that do work regardless of their simplicity or complexity.

Also, to give AH60 a shout out, we should include in our planning the externalised costs of both simple and complex technologies. My Blackberry might be more convenient than my land line but perhaps using a mineral in the phone that is mined by slaves isn't considered when people call the Blackberry better. Maybe using a land phone solves that issue but maybe we'd benefit if we pursued the advantage of mobility.

Did that help or hinder?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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05-08-2010, 08:13 PM
RE: Progress?
Hey, someone else had trouble following the question. I feel better, validated, maybe a little giddy with some euphoria thrown in for good measure. Perhaps I'm not as am as I think I dumb.
Sorry to double post but I just saw Ghost's response to me.

Ghost - that was not mockery. It was levity. There is a difference, and a key difference is nothing I said was said at your expense. Lighten up, Francis.

And, I'm dead serious about the fax machine.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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