Thursday, May 23, 2013

Group selection poleaxed

Not a red herring - Britannica 1911

  Sethren, there is a little more to say on Praxis, but there is a beast lurking beyond the ringroad, a lumpen beast, shapeless, miasmic, rough, slouching towards us, to be born again and again in each ideoverse if we only let it in, for that is the way of the evolution of culture; not truth, but successful reproduction; and that beast is not the AntiChrist, nor Baal nor Beelzebub, but group selection.  Or what is often known as group selection, in the same way as any heresy can be called by an innocuous name, Intelligent Design or Christianity (if you’re Jewish, sether, if you’re Jewish).
  Group selection is okay as long as you know what's being inferred.  If people operate in groups by which they are to an extent definable, then the aggregate of the evolutionary processes in that group may result in it being selected over another group.  Though to demonstrate that with any degree of detailed accuracy would be a long and complex task.  In principle it would be thus:  (GP is a praxis that has evolved in or been adopted by the group)

The four possible outcomes

   GP (e.g. scientific medicine) is selected, and increases the competitive survivability of its host Homo sapiens population.
  GP (e.g. Messianic religion with added suicide) is selected and decreases the survivability of its host Homo sapiens population.
  GP (e.g. Messianic religion with added suicide) is not selected and its absence increases the survivability of its host Homo sapiens population.
  GP (e.g. scientific medicine) is not selected and its absence decreases the survivability of its host Homo sapiens population.

  I will not go into the caveats which should apply when describing this immensely powerful feature of cultural evolution as “group selection”.  Fucking obvious, so elegantly and correctly put, as always, sether.
  No, the heresy is when the term “group selection” is used to suggest that the evolutionary process takes place at the level of the group.  And there are much wiser and even more learned men than me who make this mistake, sethren.  No, no, please, spare my blushes.  I know, I know, seemingly boundless.  But you must stretch your credulity (no, no, sether, not there) to the extent that it can encompass the knowledge that there are those beyond the Huddersfield ringroad who think I am an uneducated twat.  If that.  Enough.  I will now, with a brief wave of my wand (no, sether Albert, for fuck’s sake), demonstrate the illusion of evolution at the level of the group.
  We shall start with that unimpeachable source of scientific data, the BBC nature programme.  You know, sethren, the generic one about life in the oceans, whales slapping their tails, an Orca skim-boarding out of the surf, grabbing a baby seal, and retiring again to the foam to play catchy with it.  And then the shoaling sardines, attacked from the air and from the deep, gannets, whales, porpoises exploding with gaping maws from every direction.  And the sardines shoal, tighter and tighter, breaking formation radially at just the last moment.
  The Group Selectionists say, shoaling only works as a group activity, by definition.  Therefore it must have evolved as a group thing.  (it’s useful to spot the place where a well camouflaged “and then a miracle happened” can lurk.  By definition is just such a cover.)
  Here’s a model of the actual process.  There are something like twenty seven members of the herring family in European waters that can be called, for commercial purposes, sardine.  We’ll take the red herring.  It is a pelagic species, feeding on drifting shoals of small organisms.  It used to forage on its own, oh Best Beloved, but one day an algorithm evolved in a red herring’s brain which caused it to swim more or less in the direction of the nearest other red herring.  This was annoying for the other red herring, but the first red herring didn’t notice it had become an irritant.  And by and by it mated, despite its social awkwardness, and there is the advantage that a herring can produce a lot of eggs, and in the next generation this following-the-closest behaviour proved productive, because a dispersed but coherent group of herrings can search more efficiently than a lone individual.  You see where we’re going here.  Clearly the algorithm has to be just right.  Shoulder to shoulder is no good.  On the other hand you don’t want to get out of sight of everybody else.  Now I suggest that that algorithm has a good chance of being selected in subsequent generations of red herring.
  Then come the predators, as in the BBC nature programme.  Within an individual red herring the original mutation mutated again (okay, there must be a difference between “a miracle happened” and accepting a given.  No, sether, have you not been listening at all.  How that given occurred is what I’ve been on about all through the dark months of the winter which is not the summer winter.  Okay?)  So then the mutation mutated, and there was added a distance/velocity/size vector.  (Because there fucking was.  That’s how.)  And the bigger the distance/velocity/size vector, the closer you got to the nearest other red herring.  Okay, it was more complicated than that, routines were running that would require complex mathematics to reproduce, whereby the algorithm took into account all other red herrings within sight.  And while we’re about it, we’ll add another.  When the distance/velocity/size vector was coming straight at you, at the very last moment (additional algorithm, sether) you turned a pre-set number of degrees, (I don’t know, 45, 90, selection would have defined it) away from the axis of the vector.  (I don’t now whether a vector can have an axis, sether, I’m an unlettered twat, remember).  I don’t know that, either.  If the vector is pointing straight up your own axis, you just guess.  Any which way is better than the way you’re going.
  That’s how the behaviour of a group evolves sethren.  Always and invariably.  Tomorrow back to praxis.    Okay, off you fuck.

No comments: