Re: Two draft papers: AI and existential risk; heuristics and biases.

From: Michael Vassar (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2006 - 10:28:07 MDT

I know that there are very specialized cases where evolution is locally
pseudo-Lamarkian, but I would say that Lamark's simple ideas were wrong and
the underlying concept has no truth to it. However, Darwinian evolution is
extremely flexible/capable and "organism" is a fairly crude and naive
concept so organisms evolve to adapt and sometimes phenomena that look
slightly Lamarkian from an organism centric perspective take place within
Darwinian evolution.
I make this distinctin because the data that modern pseudo-Lamarkianism is
based on was absolutely not predicted by Lamark's theory nor was similar
data any part of the foundation of his theory. His theory was simply
totally wrong, just like the Greek theory where the Earth orbits the
"central fire" which is NOT identified as the sun. In general, by
themselves, surface feature similarities != agreement or confirmation.

At any rate, I have not been denying that science, experiment, and
empiricism are EXTREMELY useful, only trying to clarify exactly how
extremely useful they are. MNT is extremely useful, but it's easy for
cranks to get carried away and claim that it will give us alchemy or cheap,
useful and unlimited zero point energy.

>From: "Ben Goertzel" <>
>Subject: Re: Two draft papers: AI and existential risk; heuristics and
>Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 08:40:19 -0700
>About Lamarckian evolution...
>In fact there is a lot of recent evidence that the "central dogma" of
>molecular biology (as Francis Crick called it) [the lack of
>significant information transfer from the environment back into the
>genetic material during the lifespan of an organism] is worked around
>in interesting ways, in real biological systems.
>Back in the 80s, Cairns et al argued based on some experiments with
>bacteria that there is significant transfer of information back into
>the genetic material based on the environmental experience of the
>organism. They talked about "directed mutation."
>However, it seems that this phenomenon could possibly be explained by
>judicious environmental effects on mutation rate, thus remaining
>basically consistent with the central dogma
>There is a bunch of more recent work following up this theme, though I
>don't have the references handy....
>So, yeah, Lamarck's simple ideas were wrong, but the underlying
>concept does appear to have some truth to it, in subtle ways.
>Something which is being discovered via EXPERIMENT, obviously, not by
>armchair theorizing....
>Armchair theorizing should be able to tell you that both Darwinian and
>Lamarckian evolution are possible, as well as various complex
>combinations thereof.... But exploring which combinations are used in
>nature is obviously a matter of experiment...
>-- Ben G
>On 6/7/06, Michael Vassar <> wrote:
>>Lamarckian evolution is, as a general principle, trivially refuted by all
>>manner of day-to-day experiences such as the need for children to learn
>>skills their parents have already acquired. Lamarkian ideas would predict
>>far far more change between generations than is actually observed.
>> >heavy objects do seem to fall faster than light ones
>>No. People assumed that they did but the evidence never supported that
>>supposition. Denser objects do seem to fall faster than less dense ones,
>>but two bricks don't seem to fall faster when together than when apart and
>>the observation of drag is a commonplace one.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:56 MDT