Email to Andrew Brown,
An idea on the Nature-Nurture duality: There needs to be a third element, call it Chaos.
I believe that a complex biological system such as a mind/brain is formed by a process that is chaotic, ie: it cannot be completely explained by genetics or environment. A complex system is such that major results come from a multitude of "causes" so minor that they are unrepeatable, and beyond complete analysis. Obviously the connections on each neuron are not completely determined by genes. The best picture I have seen is Gerald Edelmans "Neural Darwinism".
In terms of "blame" I would not blame a persons behaviour on his ancestry, nor on her environment. The formation of a mind is like the formation of a hurricane. A butterfly flapping its wings before my eyes may have brought me to this state.
Better parents or better parenting may have been powerless to prevent my misdemeanors.
Another thought: Its odd that Darwin's "Origin of Species" explains evolution adequately but actually fails to explain species.
I like Bill Hamilton's ideas on species and sexuality. Consider a species as a club, where members recognise each other by plumage, shape, behaviour etc.
The "chaotic attractor" here is then to remain the same, so as to be recognised. So there is a strong Anti-change force at work, which may explain Punc-Eq.
A species stays the same indefinitely. Biology is driving things Not to change. Change away from an "attractor" must be large, else it will flow back to the original attractor.
These ideas surfaced in me as a young boy sitting on the wharf. I wondered why there were two distinct forms of seagull, not a gradation between their forms. I was never convinced by the "environmental niche" theory. I reckon that the small red-bill and the large black back maintain discrete forms because of the "club" recognition requirements. There may not be a particular advantage in looking like a black-back, merely a "random" arrangement of colouration, like a club blazer. In another place, such as where I now live, the large scavenger may be a crow, which looks quite dissimilar to a black-back, but very much like other crows.
The "Common Sense" explanation for "why sex" is something like "Sex provides more change for evolution to work on"
This common sense idea is quite wrong. Evolution wants things to stay as they are. However, big slow organisms need to be in a club to exchange ideas (Immunology genes) on small fast parasites. Hence Sex & species. It is dangerous to exchange genes with just anyone, Hence Species.
Unexplained: Why not just exchange Immunology genes? Why have males? It may not be possible to evolve anything less than a full sized gene swapper (a male). I can imagine an animal which is just female, where small "sperm" containing just Immunology genes are exchanged but this may not be Evolutionarily stable. Chromosomes themselves may tend towards equality.
Also Unexplained: Dandelions. They have no males, dont seem to feel the need. Why dont they drift into different forms? Maybe the dandelion is perfect. Certainly the dandelion seed head is beautiful, perhaps it is perfectly beautiful.
Religion: considered as a club where impossible things are believed before breakfast. Transubstantiation, for example, is so impossible that to believe it requires the mind to "snap" out of the rational. Maybe we need to "snap" out of the rational to be in communion.
One reason I am so upset by the April 2003 US war on Iraq is the "reasons" given were so absurd. They seemed to me to be an attempt to use a religious-like mind snap. The vocabulary of reason is essential in this technique. In religion we were taught that the bread "really, actually" becomes the body of Christ, not just "symbolically". This use of language is designed drive you briefly beyond reason, ie mad. Not so problematic for a weekly communion. Similarly maddening pseudo-reasons eg. "The enemy has attacked us" when he patently hasn't, cause me not just to disagree, but to feel pained by the use of rational language forms to produce a lasting anti-rational state in a population, leading to high-explosives on the heads of thousands.