Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Posts Of The Damned

If I have a major problem writing OaO, it's that I start these entries on enormously weighty subjects and then don't know where to go with them. This, rather than any particular time pressures in my life, is the most frequent reason I don't post for long periods of time--I'm working on a particular post and I get stuck. I've got six or seven posts sitting in this unfinished, unpublished state. Today I've decided to drag them out in a sort of pastiche of things never to be blogged about, on account of how they are no longer timely. Maybe you and your reader-response can fill in the missing narratives.
  • Thought Experiments

    Emery says this:
    The eternal return thing is just strange. Clearly, the repetition of my consciousness is an impossibility, because if it happened again, it wouldn't be mine. Part of individual identity is the continuity of existence. I am me because I was me yesterday, and the day before, and back in 1985, and back in first grade, in 1975, and so on. If there was some physically identical-to-me person in three trillion years, that would be a physically identical-to-me person, not me.
    I made this same statement, although in a totally different context. Suffice to say I agree with the conclusion of the argument. I don't, however, agree with the a priori (that it's because of some sort of bodily or existential continuity). Most all of the cells that made up Emery in 1975 have died and been replaced, the osteoclasts and osteoblasts have torn down and rebuilt the matrix of his bones several times over, and that person was four years old or so and Emery is in his mid-30s (I have met Emery only once, and I didn't know Emery the person I met and Emery the blogger were the same person (and I will happily accept arguments that they still aren't) until last week). But this isn't why I reject the idea of continuity as being the key to our sense of identity. In fact I think that continuity is a complete illusion....

  • "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

    Seeing things on stage, for whatever reason, tends to often speak to the state of our (where, for the purposes of this sentence, "our" = "L.'s and my") existence. So it was at the end of last week, where the official and actual end of our epic real estate saga and seeing August Wilson's last play, Radio Golf at the Seattle Rep, coincided. Radio Golf is about a lot of things, but one of them is about "playing the game," so to speak. If you, e.g., believe that the process of politics in this country is in some way broken, should you run for office? Yes, you've thrown your hat into the same broken process you want to fix thereby further validating it, but at the same time, how else can you change things...?

  • Coastlines

    How would you measure a coastline? Do you walk along the waterline with a tape measure? At high or low tide? Or what if you took a piece of string and started winding it around each stone, or pebble, or each grain of sand? There is of course, no numerical answer to this question, but there is an interesting non-answer. For some abstract definition of the word, "interesting," anyway....

  • Camp

    When I was 18, I was in a high school production of Grease....

  • (Baseball + "The Zone" * Kant) / (Steve Miller)2 modulo Synchronicity = superposition(Randomness, God)

    It just seems so obvious that organisms or systems that are more "fit" would naturally survive, even if they emerge totally by chance, because...well, because they're more "fit." It's a hidden tautology. This is something I've long been meaning to blog about--maybe next post.

    So here it is, the next post. This thread has gone in all sorts of directions at this point, you can pick it up at Freedom From Blog, or Second Americano, or not at all if you choose.

    Some defender of ID, perhaps in the recent Pennsylvania court case, trying to envision an experiment which would support ID as a theory (which, of course, you can't do, but that's for the next paragraph) came up with observing some bacteria in a petri dish, get a number of generations going, and seeing if any of them evolved some sort of flagellum. His argument was that you wouldn't, because a flagellum is irreducibly complex, therefore ID is true (no word on why the Intelligent Designer wouldn't decide to intervene in the experiment and give all the bacteria flagella immediately--maybe his or her work is already done here?).

    The only problem with that example is that this experiment can actually be done, and it proves exactly the opposite, that a flagellum is very reducibly complex. This is what happens: you put, say 100 million immobile E. Coli in a agar solution and they sit there. Eventually, they run through the food that's around them and, since they can't move to a place where there's more food, they die. Or rather, 99,999,999 of them die. One of them has a mutation that makes a protein filament near its cell wall stick out a little bit, and when the cell is literally in its death throes, the filament wiggles a little bit, and it actually propels the bacterium a few millimeters to some available food, and it survives. That's the only one that lives to pass on its genes, and now the next generation has a little extra filament that helps it move. Soon that generation uses up all the food within a few millimeters, and so the only ones of that set that will survive have to be able to move a little bit farther. Repeat ad infinitum, for a billion years.

    Even among the evolution crowd the language used to describe this process is about "nature engineering a solution," or "adapting." That's not what happens--what happens is that everybody else dies. Survival of the fittest isn't about being fit at all. It's about being incredibly lucky. Given a very large number of organisms, someone might get lucky. Given a few billion years and the luck might pile up. You can tell this is true because, you know, it has already happened.

    Rebecca has nicely pointed out (Second Americano, linked above) that Intelligent Design isn't about God, religion, or faith--it's about politics. ID is, like just about every other model of God, about trying to put Him/Her in the gaps--the gap between the model and reality. Rebecca says this quite nicely:
    If there's anything that exhibits Derrida's point about nothing being outside the text, it's faith.
    What bugs the living crap out of me about ID is the fact that it tries to create gaps to fill (and, as Rebecca points out, those gaps are entirely political in nature). The guy giving the example above is not saying, "It's not understood how flagella were created, therefore it must be God," he's saying, "I can't understand how flagella were created, therefore it must be my God...."

Next: Who freaking knows?!

1 comment:

dan said...

"Camp: When I was 18, I was in a high school production of Grease...."

This excites me! Can we, the audience, as represented by me, Dan, hear more about this?

Lately I've heard "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" many, many times. Sing it, Stockard.

The thing about musicals is that they, in their seeming superfluousness, suddenly become representative of all of the most important things.