Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

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JérômeVilm
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Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by JérômeVilm »

Hi, I am a first time poster and it is an honor to be contributing to your forum!

In part 1 of his series on analytical idealism I heard Bernardo claim that evolution does not reward the perception of truth. Usually I agree with what he says, but here I have some doubts. Why would a creature perceiving the truth be selected out by evolution? My intuition is that the perception of 'truth' is rewarded by evolution: If you grant that perceiving more detailed data is closer to the truth than perceiving less, than we as humans are closer to the truth than unicellular organisms that see only dark or light instead of a broader spectrum of colors allowing us to distinguish better between poisonous and non poisonous food for example. I'm not saying we see the truth, but we certainly see more of it than an amoeba. I agree that we would be overwhelmed if we would see all the truth, and that's why we evolved some kind of filters that certainly are biased. But that doesn't disprove the point that we are closer to the truth than the most primitive organism in biology does it?
In a more general sense, my question would be: What is the exact relation between survival and truth? Thanks for clarifying!
Ben Iscatus
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by Ben Iscatus »

Hello Jerome, I'd say that as in a Court of Law, the difference between "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" and a part truth, part lie is everything. I suggest it's anthropocentric to say we are better adapted than an amoeba because single celled organisms will outlive the human race. They live and die sustainably.
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Eugene I
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

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Jim Cross
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by Jim Cross »

JérômeVilm wrote: Wed Aug 18, 2021 6:24 am Hi, I am a first time poster and it is an honor to be contributing to your forum!

In part 1 of his series on analytical idealism I heard Bernardo claim that evolution does not reward the perception of truth. Usually I agree with what he says, but here I have some doubts. Why would a creature perceiving the truth be selected out by evolution? My intuition is that the perception of 'truth' is rewarded by evolution: If you grant that perceiving more detailed data is closer to the truth than perceiving less, than we as humans are closer to the truth than unicellular organisms that see only dark or light instead of a broader spectrum of colors allowing us to distinguish better between poisonous and non poisonous food for example. I'm not saying we see the truth, but we certainly see more of it than an amoeba. I agree that we would be overwhelmed if we would see all the truth, and that's why we evolved some kind of filters that certainly are biased. But that doesn't disprove the point that we are closer to the truth than the most primitive organism in biology does it?
In a more general sense, my question would be: What is the exact relation between survival and truth? Thanks for clarifying!
This is derived from Hoffman and has pretty much been refuted in all but simple examples.

See this reference.

http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/15846/1/article.pdf
Here I examine the game-theoretic version of this skeptical line of argument developed by Donald Hoffman and his colleagues. I show that their argument only works under an extremely impoverished picture of the informational connections that hold between agent and
world
. In particular, it only works for cue-driven agents, in Kim Sterelny’s sense. In cases in which the agents’s understanding of what is useful results from combining pieces of information that reach them in different ways, and that complement one another (i.e., that are synergistic), maximizing usefulness involves construing first a picture of agent-independent, objective matters of fact.
Edelman has a critique.

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/do ... 1&type=pdf

Part of a post of my own also contains a critique.

https://broadspeculations.com/2020/01/1 ... certainty/

Here's an extensive quote from my post:
One of Hoffman’s favorite examples to illustrate this is the Australian Jewel Beetle. During evolution selection for males that chose to mate with larger brown, shiny females began to be favored. The perception of large, brown, and shiny became tied to the decision and action of mating. Females were large, brown, and shiny. The bigger they were the more fit they were. Males with a better perception of big, brown, and shiny would be selected for because they would be making the better choice for a mate. This worked all to the good if female jewel beetles were the only brown, shiny things to be found on the ground in the outback. Unfortunately, when humans began throwing their beer bottles into the outback, the male beetles began mating with the bottles. The nonveridical perception of big, brown, shiny for a female mate evolved and worked as a nice hack for the jewel beetle until the environment changed and the beetle almost went extinct.

The theory is attractive and seemingly explanatory for the mating of jewel beetle and possibly for developed perceptions of many other simple organisms. Does it work for more complex organisms? I can certainly think of instances where it would be at least partially correct. Take as an example color perception. In a great many species, the ability to distinguish variations in wavelengths of light is tied to identification of food sources. The development of trichromatic vision in primates was probably selected by the improved ability to distinguish ripe fruit in a green forested environment. In a real sense there is no “red” or “yellow” in the world. We developed an ability to perceive of “red” and “yellow” because it helped us find food.

Human beings, however, are not exactly like jewel beetles. Human beings do not simply see red and decide to eat as the male jewel beetle sees big, brown, and shiny and decides to mate. The problem with Hoffman’s PDA loop as a more general evolutionary theory of perception and consciousness is that it leaves out a major aspect of more complex nervous systems: learning and memory. Human beings use red and other perceptions to match to previous experiences to decide if the red is ripe fruit. Between the perception, the decision, and the action sits a consciousness that places the perception into a context based on prior experience. Perceptions are not the entire evolutionary ballgame. Our consciousness consists of matching current sensory data with memories of past sensory data. This is a learning process that guides the decision-action part of Hoffman’s loop. The decisions and actions arise only partially from selection for perception on evolutionary time scales and arise mostly on real time scales. Evolution selected for learning and memory, in addition to perceptions, to permit faster developing and more complex adaptive behavior.
donsalmon
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by donsalmon »

My understanding was not that Hoffman was claiming there's NO accuracy in learning/memory/perception (I'll refer to this as LMP) but rather, it's very limited. It's limited to that much information which is sufficient to support survival.

in that case, I don't see that your critique is relevant to his view.
donsalmon
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by donsalmon »

also, you have to specify the nature of just what "It" is that exists in the absence of qualities. There is no direct evidence - at least, evidence that counts as evidence - that science has certain knowledge of anything that is nonqualitative, or to put it another way, knowledge of anything purely quantitative that exists in the absence of qualitative phenomena.

Which pretty much eliminates the idea of anything "physical" in the sense that physicalists use the word.
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AshvinP
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by AshvinP »

donsalmon wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:24 am also, you have to specify the nature of just what "It" is that exists in the absence of qualities. There is no direct evidence - at least, evidence that counts as evidence - that science has certain knowledge of anything that is nonqualitative, or to put it another way, knowledge of anything purely quantitative that exists in the absence of qualitative phenomena.

Which pretty much eliminates the idea of anything "physical" in the sense that physicalists use the word.
This highlights one of the main problems of modern thinking - it isolates one field of study for whatever dogmatic argument it wants to support or refute and forgets about all the others in the process. Hoffman's game theoretical model of natural selection is not in itself a conclusive way to show that naïve perceptions do not resemble the essential nature of those perceptions. BUT, every single other field of study which has deeply considered perception-cognition has reached the exact same conclusion by way of very diverse approaches. Theoretical physics was one of the first sciences to reach that conclusion, but the materialist only remembers theoretical physics whenever it happens to support their dogmatic aim (which is increasingly less often, as it has now questioned the fundamental reality of space-time itself). I wonder if any of those conclusions, or the ones from psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, etc. are referenced in Jim's post or the other posts he referenced? I don't even have to look at them to know the answer.
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JérômeVilm
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by JérômeVilm »

Hi and thanks for these very exhaustive and interesting answers. I still have to read the articles above but I made myself familiar with Hoffmanns theory and the objection that comes to my mind is this: In the evolutionary simulations made in DH's lab, how does he measure how close an organism is to reality, if by his own admission, even the scientist who runs the experiment does not know it?
As for the Jewel-beetle example, doesn't it count for anything that the beetle got the 3 main characteristics of females right? The Icon-metaphor suggest that the object we perceive looks nothing at all like the complexities it's hiding. But the bottle looks somewhat like a female. It's like a human falling in love with an android (cf. P.K.Dick). Does that prove that our perception of humans is totally untruthful?
Jim Cross
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by Jim Cross »

donsalmon wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:24 am also, you have to specify the nature of just what "It" is that exists in the absence of qualities. There is no direct evidence - at least, evidence that counts as evidence - that science has certain knowledge of anything that is nonqualitative, or to put it another way, knowledge of anything purely quantitative that exists in the absence of qualitative phenomena.

Which pretty much eliminates the idea of anything "physical" in the sense that physicalists use the word.
Let me quote another part of what I wrote:
Edelman in a partial critique of Hoffman argues that “there are interesting ways in which perception can be truthful, with regard not to ‘objects’ but to relations, and that evolutionary pressure is expected to favor rather than rule out such veridicality.” Edelman cites three examples. Categorical consistency allows determination of the identity of stimuli which can vary, such as identifying the same person with different dress or haircut. Second order isomorphism involves ranking similarities, such as seeing different shades of green and yellow in ripe and unripe bananas. Causality involves associating events in a time order, such as understanding thunder to be caused by lightning.

The brain, of course, is all about seeing relationships, identifying differences and similarities. It does this with learning and memory. What our senses present to us may not be veridical but the relationships in what is presented must be veridical or we could not interact consistently with the world. When people are fitted with prism glasses that turn everything upside down, they learn in a few weeks how to interact with the world using completely upside-down input. This is possible because the relationships between the objects are relatively the same. Regularity and consistency in the world still exists and the brain can learn about the regularity and how to operate with it. Hoffman almost acknowledges this when he writes: “Whereas in perception the selection pressures are almost uniformly away from veridicality, perhaps in math and logic the pressures are not so univocal, and partial accuracy is allowed.” I would expand Hoffman’s statement to include the ability to distinguish relationships in general.
Jim Cross
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Re: Does evolution reward the perception of truth?

Post by Jim Cross »

JérômeVilm wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 6:33 am Hi and thanks for these very exhaustive and interesting answers. I still have to read the articles above but I made myself familiar with Hoffmanns theory and the objection that comes to my mind is this: In the evolutionary simulations made in DH's lab, how does he measure how close an organism is to reality, if by his own admission, even the scientist who runs the experiment does not know it?
As for the Jewel-beetle example, doesn't it count for anything that the beetle got the 3 main characteristics of females right? The Icon-metaphor suggest that the object we perceive looks nothing at all like the complexities it's hiding. But the bottle looks somewhat like a female. It's like a human falling in love with an android (cf. P.K.Dick). Does that prove that our perception of humans is totally untruthful?
Of course, there are errors all of the time in perception. We know this from optical illusions. A line that looks longer than another is actually the same size depending upon the context in which the lines are presented. Hoffman spends a lot of time on this in an earlier book Visual Intelligence.

The question is: does this mean all perceptions are hopelessly inaccurate?

Of course not. We can get out a ruler and actually measure the lines and discover they are the same length. We can find some degree of "truth" because we can measure and find relationships.
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