Tuesday 2 August 2011

Natural selection and me


From May 1994, I added evolutionary theory to psychiatry as my main spontaneous, inner-driven scientific interest.

I have published one evolutionary theory related to aging:


And some others relating to psychiatry, two of the best of which are:



Currently I am enjoying working on a book chapter on the evolution of the 'systemizing' trait in relation to Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing-Systemizing; Female-Male brain ideas (he is an editor of the planned book).

I have also written on the selection process itself (see Appendix):


So it is clear that I get considerable satisfaction from reasoning within the paradigm of Natural Selection.


My attitude is that I regard Natural Selection as potentially but not necessarily the truth, and not the whole truth - because in applying natural selection I am assuming (while I am actually engaged in the reasoning process) that Natural Selection can provide the correct answers and that the assumptions of natural selection are indeed applicable to the situation at hand - which may or may not be correct, but the correctness of which is outwith the system that is the theory of natural selection.


Having partly synthesized, partly discovered and partly created these theories; what then is their status?

Certainly my natural tendency is to assume that they are first true and secondly relevant. It is easy to get carried away with this!

But on reflection I am sometimes aware of a pluralism of alternative explanations for phenomena.

For example, after my explanation of the malaise theory as an explanation of depressed mood -


- I formally modified this by adding another four types of depression, causes of depressed mood:



And the method by which one might distinguish these was very 'pragmatic' - essentially the trial and error, pragmatic approach of looking at signs and symptoms and introspecting about inner sensations before-and-after trying various treatments - to see if they seemed to work.

In the end, I think this always ought to happen in relation to science - whether theoretical science or experimental science: the bottom line validation is and ought-to-be individual human judgment.

If or when human judgment is not possible, then science has not been validated; yet of course human judgment is fallible - so the validation of science can never be any better than individual human judgment.

(And if - as often - this is not one's own individual judgment, then it is or ought to be the individual judgment of someone whom one judges to have better judgment than oneself in this domain - or, the judgment of an individual whose judgment is vouched for by another individual whose judgment one judges to be better - and so on!).


At the bottom of all this is necessarily trust - and trust is a voluntary act that depends on judment of the motivation of others.

And what is the necessary motivation that ought to be rewarded by trust?

The motivation to seek The Good - i.e. a transcendentally-orientated motivation to seek Truth, Beauty and Virtue in Unity.

The corollary of this is that when people are not seeking the Good, there can be no grounds for trust in the judgment of these people; therefore no valid knowledge - including no science.


(Dishonesty is a pervasive state, dishonesty permeates like a metallic alloy, it is not added like chrome trim bolted-onto steel. Thus it is seldom possible to tease-out truth from the communications of a person who is not even trying to be honest. It is not worth attempting. It is a hazardous enterprise at many levels. People who are pervasively dishonest must be understood as a vet diagnoses, not as a doctor diagnoses.)


A world without people motivated to seek the Good - a nihilistic world - is a world where there can be no real science.

And in such a world, evolutionary theorizing is merely a Glass Bead Game - a sophisticated distraction for intellectuals.

(So I hope there are at least some people motivated to seek the Good, or else I have been and still am wasting my time - albeit pleasantly.)



dearieme said...

Two colleagues and I submitted a paper recently on modelling a particular physicochemical process. Models I & II made different simplifying assumptions, and made predictions that were different enough that they should be experimentally observable. Model I has a much higher computational burden so it occurred to us to fabricate a model III which would be as easy to compute as Model II but would emulate the output of Model I: it might prove handy for future applications. The price to pay was that model III was physically implausible, and of course we said so.

To our surprise, one of the referees rhapsodised about our honesty in this matter: I can only suppose that he is astonished to meet honesty nowadays. Dear God!

Anonymous said...

Professor Charlton,

I notice you are interested in the relationship between nihilism and science.

You might wish to read Harry Neumann's _Liberalism_, which is most interesting on the theme of nihilism.

Chris said...

This is an interesting post and interesting article on malaise. Another theory of depression that I find compelling and that you may have come across before was from an economist at the Max Planck Institute. Looking at how depression works in primitive societies, he concluded that it can be described as a response to powerlessness consistent with Game Theory. Say you are a low-status woman whose husband is killed. You can't fix the situation or take revenge. The only avenue you have to make demands on those in authority is to withdraw your productivity from the community. However, if you do this intentionally, you risk retaliation. But if you do it by demonstrating that you are sick, you receive support from the community. He suggests, therefore, that depression may be an evolved sickness response toward making economic demands within a low-social-status framework.

The theory had some more complexities such as suggesting that because depression was a recently emergent trait, it might not "work" robustly--thus explaining why, for example, people in modern socities get depressed when they are not socially powerless.