To me, the clearest argument against this position is that horses can walk within a couple hours after being born. That doesn't seem like anywhere near enough trials to learn how to walk from first principles. The method to walk must be encoded in the horse's DNA.
Humans can't walk at birth, obviously. But Occam's Razor suggests that if the ability to walk can be encoded within a horse's DNA, it can also be encoded within a human's DNA.
Anecdotally, when I watch a baby learn to walk, it doesn't really seem like they are trying a zillion things and picking the one that works. It seems much more like their instincts are telling them to move a certain way, and once they grow strong enough, it succeeds and they are walking.
Yes, even regardless of other examples you have provided, that's just basically bad poor logic in the article? Why would anyone assume that the number of connections of neurons would need to linearly relate to the number of genes describing them? What if a couple of genes describe a process that is then repeated for a billion times during development?
Isn't even the famous moth that changed color in the early days of the industrial evolution an example? I think it carries both genes (for black and white expression), and they get triggered depending on the environment during development. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution
I could be wrong about the moth, but certainly, genes that are only expressed depending on environment are common knowledge.
(Aside: what's the currently accepted pronoun there? I was always taught "they" is incorrect grammar, but without devolving this discussion, that seems to be accepted now?)
My son is 13 months old now, and crawls like a maniac, ever since he was roughly 5 months old. Very social, talkative, active, all those good things. Pulls up and stands all the time, can climb in and out of toy vehicles, climbs stairs, all of that. When I hold him while he stands, he is barely putting any weight on me. Even if he's not walking, he should be able to stand on his own. But he doesn't, and he absolutely refuses to do so. He sees cousins and other big kids walking, and isn't afraid to crawl to them and play, but it doesn't inspire him to walk.
We know a lot of other kids that are younger than him, his age, or a few months older, and they are walking. He's stronger and more capable than them, but they're walking and he isn't.
My wife and I comment on this fact all the time, about how it seems that walking has nothing to do with strength, and it's more about readiness. I doubt that my son isn't walking because he's not strong enough, nor is it because he doesn't have a good environment, save for the fact that I'm not pushing him to walk (i.e. I'm enjoying the calm before the storm.)
Readiness for walking is definitely dependent on a number of factors, but I'm willing to bet that genetics is a big part of it too. Apparently I didn't really walk until I was 2 years old.
Babies and walking is a very interesting phenomenon that really lets you see into the working of genetics and environment.
From Merriam-Webster: "they has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you... and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing."
IE: "is Pat coming to lunch with us?"
"Yes, they're coming in a moment."
Leaves me wondering if 'they' is perhaps referring to some implied group of which Pat is a part, like a SO or team at work (meaning we might need to take two vehicles and get another table at the restaurant) or just Pat.
I wish there was an acceptable non-gendered singular pronoun we could all agree on.
Singular they are? they is? Both seem pretty offputting to me.
So the unambiguous (but weird sounding to those unused to it) version:
"Is Pat coming to lunch with us?"
"Yes, they is coming in a moment."
Perhaps one of:
"Yes, they will be here soon / joining us shortly / along later."
would be better.
None of these clarify singular vs plural of 'they.' All of them work whether 'they' refers to one person or multiple.
Also if you're in the US, the use of singular "they" can be intertwined with certain politics and legislature, but that only matters for legal documents and government publications.
For casual speech, though, singular "they" is certainly correct and widely used.
* An exaggeration, of course. We got a few hours of sleep in a row as recently as last week.
I think some people interpret this as babies just becoming strong enough to do things they innately know how to do, but with my 4 children, it's always struck me as learning through trial and error, like the neurons and muscle fibers gradually form in a way that is something like the average of all the ways they tried to achieve a goal. That's just my perception, of course. But then I also agree that babies seem to come pre-programmed with a desire to attempt a whole bunch of things. Like I said, I think it's very difficult to separate these things out!
You could imagine a hierarchy that goes something like this:
- Reward neurons that successfully transmit signal from brain to muscle fiber
- Reward neuron groups that get co-located muscle fibers to fire together.
Now the next levels can operate on muscles as a group (calf/hamstring) rather than individual fibers:
- Reward neuron groups that sense balance
- Reward neuron groups that move a muscle in response to balance output.
Believing that genes have to operate at the level of individual neuron connections to shape behavior just doesn't make sense.
A bodily and neurological structure capable of walking must emerge in the horse's phenotype as a result of development in the horse's environment guided by its genes.
It sounds like the same thing, but it's not. Genes do not encode anything explicit except RNA and protein sequences. Everything else is emergent. They are not a blueprint. Birth a horse on the Moon and I'm not sure if it would be able to walk as quickly.
How much of that comes from seeing everyone around them walking?
It seems hard to argue that horses don't have a genetic component, but I don't think Occam's Razor applies as well for humans when it takes 1-2 years of observing the world in order to start walking unsteadily.
So I'm going by what is generally well known and accepted about visually impaired development (the time line and stages). Here are a couple of references below which might be helpful. Infant development is a pretty noisy process though which makes definitive statements difficult.
I'm sorry but if that's the best argument you can come up with if you're a Stanford Prof, you owe it to yourself to refresh yourself on the literature of how genes work and how they lead to phenotypes. It looks like he ascribes to the "exact blueprint" mental model of phenotypes, rather than the competitive/generative model that is more consistent with modern science.
I think the greatest ratio would be an AI that can fully program itself (including its emotions).
Point being, I suspect we're a lot less nurture than we'd like to think.
Let's say you had four, all identical, split into two groups ran in parallel simulations. Two in the same womb then split at birth, the other two split at conception implanted in two separate mothers. Of the two borne to separate mothers, one mother is heavily stressed, chronically exposes the fetus to cortisol, while the other is very stable.
When looking at outcomes between these pairs, how do you account for the difference in nature vs nurture when almost all of our twin studies rely on a shared womb, shared first 9 months of nurture?
I think the question stands: what is it about twin studies that is insufficient and needs to be replaced with ethically questionable techniques like cloning?
For those who aren't aware: cloning of vertebrates isn't remotely mature technology. It remains routine for such an organism to be born with significant developmental flaws. Now tell me how you're going to get consent from such an individual pre-conception.
The problem with twin studies is that they are not repeatable, and the sample of just two is too small to make any strong conclusions. It's like saying we do not need particle accelerators, because there are high energy particles coming from space.
paper (PDF) : https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Constantin_Polychronako...
So it's one of those things that depends on how close you are looking.
Perhaps, generations from now, our descendants will look back and consider us massively immoral for permitting our children to be born with unoptimized DNA.
But they can consider us stupid for not investing more into research.
Also I'm not sure how representative of the field he is, and (speaking as somebody who shares some of his scepticism) you would think the consensus would be the prevailing tone.
If you believe in evolution, you have to believe in the genetic determinism of genes.
Sure, there is leeway for nurture, but a lot of people are holding contradicting opinions (they believe in evolution but not as much in "nature") because we as a society are hiding the truth of human determinism.
Evolution is simply three observable phenomena: first, living things carry genetic information; second, genetic information is rarely transmitted without any change to a descendant; third, a living thing that does not have descendants doesn't directly contribute their genetic information to any descendants.
There's nothing there to "believe" in any more than you need to believe in gravity.
Next, everything that happens to an organism that is not determined by genes is determined by the rest of the universe. That's pretty obvious.
A really interesting aspect, though, is that genes can't do anything if they aren't being read and processed correctly. Reduce the supply of essential nutrients, and it doesn't matter how awesome your genes are, you're going to get a deficiency disease. Fill the environment with chlorine compounds, and you're going to get poisoned. Too much lead? Too much alcohol? Say goodbye to proper development.
When it comes to humans, it's even worse. If you don't interact with them enough, they don't develop well. Language skill has a few years to develop properly -- without society, humans can't function in society.
None of those results suggest that we are hiding some sort of determinism that we should be paying more attention to.
There is a very hard species boundary, so it must be something that is giving to the offsprings.
If you further accept that the ability to learn advanced math does not fall from the sky and we somehow descended from an ancestor that did not have this ability, then the only way we got here is that (something that correlates to) this ability was heavily selected for in the past.
And you need some kind of continuum (it can also be multi-dimensional) where you can gradually converge to. I don't think this is something that spontaneously emerged.
If you accept all this, then the same things will likely still play a role within current humans.
Evolution works through genes (well, mostly). That doesn't say other things have zero effect, and I'm really curious about what led you to think so.
Most likely you will slam me for the lack of rigor in my comment, which is fine, I don't have the time to spell it out and provide studies.
The determinism part doesn't follow. Evolution works on probabilities, so you have to believe that genes influence the outcome. Influence. That's all that's needed.
I am 5'10" tall, born and raised in Western society. I am taller than my most of my ancestors, but only marginally taller than my father. He grew up in India, but his family was non-vegetarian in a village of pure vegetarians.
We might have been able to be a little taller if we understood nutrition a bit better, but it's probably within an inch or so. Our height is limited by genetics, not by environment.
It stands to reason that if physical attributes like height are subject to genetic determinism, aspects of our brain & mind should be too. Now, comparing brains to height is very reductive, since the brain is infinitely more complex. But there's a probably a pretty good reason why my father and I have very good memories, and are fairly intelligent people. But we're also not superstar athletes, or great artists. Genetics and environment have optimized our brains in a certain way. And I'm already seeing the same traits in my 1 year old son.
But isn't that the beauty of genetic determinism? Isn't that the beauty of all of us having vastly different life experiences? I don't lament the fact that I don't have the genetics of Usain Bolt, but I can admire and appreciate his prowess. Similarly, I don't lament the fact that I'm not a great creative like Picasso or Mozart. Something about their genetics and environment allowed them to achieve greatness in areas I am not capable of. And that's fantastic, because our society is enriched because of this diversity.
I think a society that celebrates the individual, gives them the resources and environment to achieve whatever they're capable of, and thus, reach the limits of their own genetics is one I'd like to live in. Realistically, most of us are not even close to be limited by our genetics, but man, how awesome would it be if we were?
And if you don't believe in creationism and also don't believe that intelligence is subject to evolution, then you need some very good explanation where intelligence comes from in the first place.
Worse it comes absolutely loaded with social and political implications. It doesn't describe anything we can really point to, but is just a highly charged, culturally variable label we place on a cluster of outward appearances (e.g. excess or lack of melanin, hair or eye color, height).
You might be able to tell if a particular individual is likely to have a lack of melanin or blue eyes from DNA, but you can't say genetic differences are caused by race. That in the famous words of Pauli is not even wrong.
It's a category error, and even if it were useful it also inverts the causality. We apply the label "race" to a cluster of possibly DNA influenced outward markers. We humans cause "race" and apply it to people. Not genetics.
Using a poorly defined term like race in an argument like this is worse than just poor reasoning. It will confuse people at best and cause harm at worst.
It's not unacceptable because people are afraid of the truth or something.
It's unacceptable because it's incoherent, vacuous and empty. It adds nothing to the discourse.
Either you're making a scientific point or you're just complaining that people get upset when you discuss race. Which is it?
They're saying that people seem to fail to acknowledge how much our genes determine who we are because it can feel like a scary disconnect from free will.