Announcement: Your votes are in! The January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.

Confounding Cause and Effect

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 12th, 2017, 4:20 am

Londoner:
(There is also a certain ambiguity about 'cause' in that the word still retains the idea of purpose, intention. 'He fights for a cause'. I understand this is not an entirely separate meaning, since it came into Scholastic discussions about 'change' in a general sense, but I do not think we should assume it is meant this way when people like scientists use it.)
Yes. It seems that, like so many words in English, "cause" has many shades of meaning. I think it is this kind of ambiguity around the word "cause" which is part of the problem here. It seems clear that when Rayliikanen uses the word "cause" he/she is talking exclusively about things that happen as a direct result of the will of conscious beings:
...Natural selection is a process, hence, an effect. It can work as a cause in higher organisms, like human beings, who can act as causes...
Using this narrow definition of the word "cause", there are no causes in nature at all outside of conscious beings. There is the "first cause", and a whole load of causes stemming from these beings. Everything else is a chain of effects. Fine, but we then have the tricky problem of deciding where to draw a dividing line between conscious beings and non-conscious mechanical "effects". What exactly qualifies as a "higher organism"? Just humans? Humans and other primates? All mammals? All animals? etc.

-- Updated Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:26 am to add the following --

Clarification: that second quote was from Rayliikanen.

-- Updated Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:41 pm to add the following --

---

Atreyu:
Cause is a question of why. The cause is why it happened. The cause of the ball going in the hoop is because the player shot it in. Why did the ball go into the hoop? Because the player shot it in.
Are you using the narrow definition of "cause" that I mentioned above? Are causes only present when agents with free will are present, in your view? It seems that way because of your use of the "player" (an agent with free-will) in this example. But I'm not sure.

To test whether that is what you mean: If I propose that the cause of an apple falling from a tree is that it grew too heavy to be held up, would you agree? In this case I'm using the word "cause" in the absence of any obvious free agent or sentient being.
Science cannot say why life exists, therefore in explaining causation they are bound to encounter a brick wall. Why did this species arise? (i.e. what is the cause of this species existing?)
In this passage you seem to be mixing the question of why life arose with the question of why a speciation event occurred. Those are two separate things. The Theory of Evolution deals with the latter but not the former. Although, as you've said, it might well shed some light on the former.
Because over time certain genetic mutations accumulated over time, and those that had a selective advantage were much more likely to persist and become permanent. But....
Yes, but as you're about to show, and as every child knows, it's always possible to just keep on asking "why?"
Why do genes mutate in the first place?
Such things as cosmic rays. Why do cosmic rays happen? They're emitted by distant stars. Why are they emitted by distant stars? Because of the structure of atoms and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Why are atoms structured like that? Why are the strong and weak nuclear forces as they are? ... etc.
And why does nature favor certain traits over others? (i.e. why does natural selection go in the particular directions it does?) Be... cause... uh...
Certain traits persist because they're beneficial for survival in the particular environment that the organism finds itself. If, for example, dark skin confers better protection from harsh sunlight but light skin allows better production of vitamin D from that sunlight, then in an environment with weaker sunlight, other things being equal, lighter skinned individuals will tend to do better than darker skinned ones. They won't tend to get rickets so often.

That doesn't mean that there is a conscious agent saying "ok, I want humans to spread to higher latitudes. How can I solve the problem of vitamin D defficiency? I've got it! Lighter skin!"

Nature doesn't deliberately move in a particular direction due to an act of will. It's the simple result of inheritance, death/hard life and time.
Science has no clue, often forcing them to sweep the issue under the rug by saying something like "it's random" or "no reason we can tell" or "that's just how the world works", etc.
No it doesn't. Have you read any of the basics of how the theory of evolution works?
And this answer is never acceptable to any true philosopher....
I think a true philosopher is one who tries to examine exactly what he means when he asks a question and can sometimes conclude that he doesn't know.

As I said, every child knows that it's always possible to keep asking "why?". The difficult question, for people who are not satisfied with the answers that come back is, "what form of answer did I expect?"

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 13th, 2017, 3:17 am

Steve3007
Steve3007 wrote: Ranvier:
Sure, humans and chicken share the Animalia Kingdom and Chordata Phylum but belong to a different Order, which is a long way from "Origin of Species". With that logic, we can trace the common ancestry to a rock or light for that matter :)



Yes, we and chickens are animals with backbones. That is true.

We can state that we have a common ancestor with chickens because there is evidence for it in our DNA (apparently we share 75% of our DNA with chickens) and in fossil records. Rocks and light don't have DNA so there's no evidence that we have a common ancestor with them.

Are you sceptical of the evidence that we share common ancestors with any other species at all? Or just species that appear very different from us? For example, would you find it even harder to believe that we share a common ancestor with, say, pineapples?
I know you so far to be an intelligent and logical individual. However, at times such as in this above reply, I can't help but to wonder how in the world did you get?...
"Are you sceptical of the evidence that we share common ancestors with any other species at all?"
I assume that you understand the difference between Domains; Kingdoms; Phylum; Class; Order; Family; Genus to species? Yes, in the process of evolution, we had eventually evolved from a single celled first microorganisms on this planet to a common ancestor with chicken to a current human genome. However, in my post I had indicated that if we are discussing a process of Natural Selection to describe the "Origin of species", then species is a long way from a common Phylum with the chicken. It would be more practical and accurate to discuss the environmental pressures that caused "Genus" to diverge into different species (origin). Otherwise a vague title: "Origin of species" may be taken as prove of organic life evolving from inanimate organic matter (rock), where under most currently accepted theory "life" was brought to Earth on a rock (asteroid) from outside in the process known as Panspermia.

Logically:
"Rocks and light don't have DNA so there's no evidence that we have a common ancestor with them".

However, logically life had to originate somehow from atoms most prevalent in our universe: H, C, O, N that somehow got together to from inanimate matter of first organic (carbon based) compounds: Carboxylic acid, Amines, Amides, Aldehydes, Ether, Ester, Alcohol --> to form amino acids, sugars, cholesterol and other free fatty acids, as well as nucleotides that gave rise to DNA that somehow became "encased" by lipid bilayer along with some interesting proteins that were capable of replicating that DNA. Giving birth to the first life. Therefore, logically, we can trace all life to a rock that came from stardust, which wouldn't exist without light.

However:
Except that, what Rayliikanen is trying to point out (in his OP), the theory of evolution can't make that claim! (show evidence connecting a rock to life as the "Origin of species")
Evolution and Natural Selection are "effects" resulting from the environmental pressure selecting for specific genes within a population and all life on our planet.

-- Updated September 13th, 2017, 3:42 am to add the following --

Steve3007

I read your last post above mine, again I have no idea how can you interpret words of other people in such peculiar way??

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 13th, 2017, 5:06 am

Ranvier:
I assume that you understand the difference between Domains; Kingdoms; Phylum; Class; Order; Family; Genus to species?
Yes, they are distinctions in zoology created by us to manage the complexity and diversity of the living world. As such, it is important to remember that they exist for our convenience. If you look at the definition of the word "species", for example, you will find that it doesn't represent the hard, objectively existing natural dividing line that you might think it does. An obvious simple definition of the word hinges on the ability or otherwise of individuals to mate and produce fertile offspring. But even there, it is not universally agreed that that is the definition of "species" and the question of whether individuals of each species can interbreed is not black and white. As with so much in nature, we impose our black and white divisions on nature's greyscale continua in order to manage the complexity.

-- Updated Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:25 am to add the following --

A bit more:

Ranvier:
I know you so far to be an intelligent and logical individual. However, at times such as in this above reply, I can't help but to wonder how in the world did you get?...
The above was said as a result of me saying this (the part you highlighted in bold):

Steve3007:
Are you sceptical of the evidence that we share common ancestors with any other species at all?
Your implication seems to be that it was an odd question to ask. The reason I asked that question was because you had said this:

Ranvier:
Sure, humans and chicken share the Animalia Kingdom and Chordata Phylum but belong to a different Order, which is a long way from "Origin of Species". With that logic, we can trace the common ancestry to a rock or light for that matter :)
So I asked the question because you seem to be saying there that you don't think humans and chickens have a common ancestor. If they do have a common ancestor then that common ancestor can be regarded as the origin of the two species "homo sapiens sapiens" and "gallus gallus domesticus". (I'm told that's a fancy term for chicken.)

So if you don't think "origin of species" is an appropriate title, it seems to me that you don't think we have a common ancestor - an origin of our species - with chickens.

If that is not what you meant, then fair enough. But I think it's reasonable, from those words of yours, to assume it's what you meant.

-- Updated Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:02 am to add the following --

And a bit more!

Ranvier:
Yes, in the process of evolution, we had eventually evolved from a single celled first microorganisms on this planet to a common ancestor with chicken to a current human genome. However, in my post I had indicated that if we are discussing a process of Natural Selection to describe the "Origin of species", then species is a long way from a common Phylum with the chicken.
The taxonomic ranks that you listed above are a simple hierarchy devised by us humans for classifying the various forms of life on Earth. That's fine. Hierarchies are useful for ordering large quantities of information. The tip of that hierarchy - the concept of "species" - is the smallest group, whose members are relatively closely related to each other. i.e. their common ancestors (very generally) lived relatively recently. The base of that hierarchy, the concept of "domain" - is the largest group. So the common ancestor of every member of a "domain" lived a very long time ago.

So are you saying it should have been called "The Origin of Domains"? or "The Origin of Phyla"? Is that really your objection - that it purports to be the origin of the wrong layer in the hierarchy? Surely, if you're going down that route, it should be entitled "the origin of all the classifications in the system of biological taxonomy" shouldn't it? Bit of a mouthful?
It would be more practical and accurate to discuss the environmental pressures that caused "Genus" to diverge into different species (origin).
Yes, since "species" is at the tip of the hierarchy and "genus" is the next layer, a work entitled "origin of species" should, strictly speaking, only deal with the divergence from genus to species...
Otherwise a vague title: "Origin of species" may be taken as prove of organic life evolving from inanimate organic matter (rock),...
...so not only does the title "origin of species" not imply anything about the origin of life from non-life, it doesn't, strictly speaking, imply anything about the origin of genera, families, orders, phyla, kingdoms or domains.
...where under most currently accepted theory "life" was brought to Earth on a rock (asteroid) from outside in the process known as Panspermia.
As I said to Atreyu, if we're discussing the question of whether life arose from non-life, then the question of whether life arose on Earth or was brought here on an an asteroid is incidental/irrelevant. It simply moves the problem to a different location - the surface of an asteroid instead of the surface of the Earth. Where did the life on the asteroid come from? Another asteroid?

-- Updated Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:26 am to add the following --

And finally:

Ranvier:
However, logically life had to originate somehow from atoms most prevalent in our universe: H, C, O, N that somehow got together to from inanimate matter of first organic (carbon based) compounds: Carboxylic acid, Amines, Amides, Aldehydes, Ether, Ester, Alcohol --> to form amino acids, sugars, cholesterol and other free fatty acids, as well as nucleotides that gave rise to DNA that somehow became "encased" by lipid bilayer along with some interesting proteins that were capable of replicating that DNA. Giving birth to the first life. Therefore, logically, we can trace all life to a rock that came from stardust, which wouldn't exist without light.
Yes. This is the same point I made to Atreyu elsewhere (which I think he described as "an atrocious argument", strangely). If there was a point in the past history of the universe when the constituents of organic life that you mention above did not exist, and all that existed were the atoms from which they are made, then logically, at some point, those atoms must have combined to form various organic molecules and life.

But, as we've been discussing, The Theory of Evolution doesn't explicitly deal with this. At least not yet.
Evolution and Natural Selection are "effects" resulting from the environmental pressure selecting for specific genes within a population and all life on our planet.
As I've said, this hinges on the definition of the word "cause" that one is choosing to use. According to my understanding of the word "cause", Evolution and Natural Selection are a description of various different events causing various subsequent events and being the effect of various previous events.
I read your last post above mine, again I have no idea how can you interpret words of other people in such peculiar way??
Sorry, for me to answer this one you're going to have to give me a specific example of something I said which you regard as an odd interpretation of someone else's words.

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 15th, 2017, 5:20 am

Steve3007

Never mind all the other stuff, it's irrelevant to the OP.
Steve3007 wrote: As I've said, this hinges on the definition of the word "cause" that one is choosing to use. According to my understanding of the word "cause", Evolution and Natural Selection are a description of various different events causing various subsequent events and being the effect of various previous events.
Evolution and the Natural Selection are changes that are observed in DNA, Fossil records, and molecular studies including carbon dating. These are not "causes" of such change. These are processes of "change" observed over time within the lineages of life forms.

Abiotic factors and environmental conditions: Temperature, Salinity, pH, Atmospheric changes, geological changes etc. are the "causes" for such "change", where certain phenotypes within the gene pool are "better" than others under given circumstances.

Ex: There is a natural variation within any gene pool that stems from the random mutation ("simple" organisms), or independent assortment, cross over (Meiosis), and random fertilization (for more complex sexually reproducing organisms). This natural variation, may be phenotypically expressed as different length of the neck in a population of giraph. In prolonged drought conditions, there will be a decrease in the amount of trees and only giraph with a long neck could feed on 100% of the corona of the three. The giraphs with short necks can only feed on say 20% bottom of the tree corona, while competing with other short neck giraphs. Therefore, the giraphs with long necks will be more likely to feed and survive such drought conditions... what we describe as the process of Natural Selection. However, the process itself is not the "cause".

-- Updated September 15th, 2017, 5:22 am to add the following --

*tree

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 15th, 2017, 5:38 am

Ranvier:
Ex: There is a natural variation within any gene pool that stems from the random mutation ("simple" organisms), or independent assortment, cross over (Meiosis), and random fertilization (for more complex sexually reproducing organisms). This natural variation, may be phenotypically expressed as different length of the neck in a population of giraph. In prolonged drought conditions, there will be a decrease in the amount of trees and only giraph with a long neck could feed on 100% of the corona of the three. The giraphs with short necks can only feed on say 20% bottom of the tree corona, while competing with other short neck giraphs. Therefore, the giraphs with long necks will be more likely to feed and survive such drought conditions... what we describe as the process of Natural Selection. However, the process itself is not the "cause".
It is a description of a whole series of events where earlier events cause later events and later events are the effect of earlier events. I agree that a description is neither a cause nor an effect. It is a description. In the example you have chosen, the series of events is, in simplified form:

Genotype causes phenotype - variations in giraffe genes cause variations in giraffe neck lengths. Therefore phenotype is an effect of genotype. Variations in giraffe neck lengths are the effect of variations in giraffe genes.

Giraffes with short necks starve. Therefore short necks are a cause of starvation and starvation is an effect of short necks.

Starvation causes lack of offspring. Therefore lack of offspring is an effect of starvation.

etc.

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 15th, 2017, 8:31 pm

Steve3007

Why do you have to make everything so convoluted and difficult?

Genotype is not the "cause" of Phenotype. Phenotype is the "expression" of the genotype. For example: A genotypically herterozygous individual with a "dominant" allele for "Brown" eye color and "carrier" of the "recessive" allele for the "blue" eye color, will phenotypically be expressed as Brown eyed individual.
So yes, the length of giraffe necks vary due to genetic variability within the population, however, these are not the "effects" of the "cause" but an observable "expression" of the DNA.

Similar with color... an object is neither "red" nor its "caused" to "become" red due to a specific light frequency. Although, the light is the "cause" that we can perceive that object at all, in the field of our visual perception.

Same with the starvation... it's not the "cause" for lack of offspring. Individual "death" is the "cause", in inability to procreate and pass down the individual genes to propagate within the population.

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 6:46 am

Ranvier:

"Convoluted" = extremely complex and difficult to follow.

My point was not convoluted. It was very, very, simple. Prior events cause subsequent events. Subsequent events are caused by - are the effect of - prior events. I gave some examples of events. It's really pointless to keep telling me that words mean something other than their standard definitions, as you keep seeming to want to do, for some strange reason.

Ranvier:
...the length of giraffe necks vary due to genetic variability within the population...
The physical variation is due to the genetic variation. You said it yourself and then denied it! The genetic variation gives rise to the physical variation. The genetic variation causes the physical variation. Prior events cause subsequent events. The event of being shot caused president Kennedy to die. Kennedy's death was due to being shot. The effect of being shot was death.

Do you speak English?

-- Updated Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:55 am to add the following --

How about this: Type the phrase "due to meaning" into Google. The result will be this:

Due to = caused by or ascribable to.


Do you disagree with this definition of the phrase "due to" in an online dictionary? If so, would you please sell me a copy of the Ranvier dictionary so I can learn to speak your language.

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 16th, 2017, 7:53 am

Steve3007

Context Steve... context

If I wrote: The physical variation is the genetic variation, would that make more sense to you?

Do you comprehend English, or do you just Google it?

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 7:59 am

I'll keep it simple for you.

Ranvier:
So yes, the length of giraffe necks vary due to genetic variability within the population, however, these are not the "effects" of the "cause" but an observable "expression" of the DNA.
A proposed definition of the term "due to":
Due to = caused by or ascribable to.
In Ranvier-speak:

Do you agree/disagree with the above definition of the term "due to"?

Is it an acceptable usage of the word "cause" to state:

"the length of giraffe necks is caused by or is ascribale to genetic variability within the population"

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 16th, 2017, 8:09 am

Steve3007

I'll return the favor and keep it real simple... and type slowly if that should help :)

...vary do to variability... can you comprehend such proposition?

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 8:14 am

A proposed definition of the term "due to":

Due to = caused by or ascribable to.


In Ranvier-speak:

Do you agree/disagree with the above definition of the term "due to"?

(State agree or not agree)

Is it an acceptable usage of the word "cause" to state:

"the length of giraffe necks is caused by or is ascribale to genetic variability within the population"?

(State acceptable or not acceptable)

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 16th, 2017, 8:21 am

LOL

It's not acceptable and it's not what I wrote but you can imagine whatever you wish :)

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 8:23 am

Ranvier:
So yes, the length of giraffe necks vary due to genetic variability within the population, however, these are not the "effects" of the "cause" but an observable "expression" of the DNA.
Proposition: Ranvier wrote the above. True or false?

Proposition: "due to" means "caused by or ascribable to". True of false?

User avatar
Ranvier
Posts: 538
Joined: February 12th, 2017, 1:47 pm
Location: USA

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Ranvier » September 16th, 2017, 8:40 am

Does:

due to and effect

mean the same thing as:

cause and effect?

As in: "he died due to a drawing but the direct cause of death was brain asphyxiation due to pulmonary failure".

True or False?

Steve3007
Posts: 5629
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Confounding Cause and Effect

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 9:01 am

False. My understanding of the meaning of the term "due to" is "caused by". In this term "caused" is a verb. In the term "cause and effect" cause is a noun. The term "Due to and effect" is not coherent English.

Th following are synonyms:

"His death was caused by brain asphyxiation. The brain asphyxiation was caused by pulmonary failure."

and

"His death was due to brain asphyxiation. The brain asphyxiation was due to pulmonary failure."

That was the word "caused" used as a verb. Here is an example of the word "cause" used as a noun:

"The cause of his death was brain asphyxiation. The cause of the brain asphyxiation was pulmonary failure."



Now will you answer my questions?

Post Reply