Re: [asa] Nudging Evolution

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Mon Sep 14 2009 - 17:37:31 EDT

I would think that a nudge, by its very character, is a slight
intervention. For all the reasons many others have touched on, very much
or very frequent divine intervention (at least in our human era) would
produce a chaotic world that we would not want to live in. So such
nudges would probably be in some form of shading of probabilities of key
event occurrence in order to slightly realign the evolutionary
trajectory. The more naive the understanding of the findings of
chaos/complexity studies, the larger those redirections might be thought
to be tolerable or present in history, up to and including influencing
human choices. Who really knows, but that's my sense how one might think
(and others have hypothesized) of nudges in an evolutionary context.

Regards - JimA

Bill Powers wrote:
> Jim:
> I understand, I think, what you are saying.
> What I don't understand is where or what the nudge is.
> But perhaps we're only talking about front-loading here.
> bill
> On Mon, 14 Sep 2009, Jim Armstrong wrote:
>> I am sort of appalled at the apparent lack of comprehension of this
>> alternative sense of front loading. I would guess that many (most)
>> people
>> of faith who are in biology disciplines would either be thinking of how
>> God might nudge the unfolding of Creation (as suggested in the subject
>> post), or (like Howard van Till - and myself), don't think that even
>> that
>> is clearly necessary (though possible) given the unimaginable
>> fruitfulness of the physical world ...even to the limited degree that
>> we are presently able to understand it.
>> In my view, no new label is required, only the awareness that there are,
>> and have been for quite some time, these two variant sensibilities about
>> front loading.
>> The major root hangup, I think, remains the notion that whatever WE
>> are -
>> at this point of the evolutionary development - represents in every
>> detailed respect that which God had in mind from the outset. That's sort
>> of like launching a paper airplane. That's NOT this latter sense of
>> evolutionary development at all (unless the particular paper airplane
>> has
>> the capacity to be affected and selectively morphed by influences while
>> in flight!).
>> As anthropomorphs, understanding most everything in anthropo-terms, we
>> want that evolutionary course, however convoluted, to somehow be defined
>> or constrained to lead to the process ultimately to anthropo-forms. But
>> in the big picture, is it really reasonable to impose that rather severe
>> limitation on this immense and wildly-creative universe, the author of
>> which is apparently NOT physical as we know it? What on earth
>> [pun-ishness noted] does two-leggedness, for example, really mean to
>> non-corporeal God?
>> But we continue to want to permit the trajectory of evolution (and the
>> workings of its components) to be free to perhaps dipsy-doodle around a
>> bit, but ultimately somehow arrive at the very specifically divinely
>> preordained configuration we call human. That just isn't how evolution
>> apparently works, and yet evolution must virtually by definition work as
>> intended by God, including its innumerable and compounding numbers of
>> variations. Granted, it is apparently how evolution worked once, with us
>> as its interim(?) product, but it would be absolutely impossible for us
>> to get our minds around the number and kinds of other trajectories and
>> interim outcomes concluded, underway, or anticipated in this immense
>> Creation. We have only interesting hints in Earth's history. [And we are
>> still not in the center of the universe, as we "should" be! :-)
>> ]
>> Flipping rapidly to the closing paragraphs of this comment, I think this
>> picture elevates the specialness of us, rather than detracting from it.
>> What a privilege to be an aware sentient "flower" in in this enormous
>> evolving cosmic garden, with its ever unfolding forms and colors and
>> other properties we know not of.
>> JimA [Friend of ASA].
>> wjp wrote:
>> Mike:
>> As I understand your suggestion, we must consider conditional
>> probabilities. So that P(E|C1) may be much greater than P(E|C2).
>> Establishing a condition C1 would be considered a nudge, in that it
>> moves one closer to a given outcome relative to another, or perhaps
>> to all other possible conditions at the time.
>> Since we are speaking here, not, as I understand it, of continual or
>> frequent interventions by God, but of a front loading, where it seems
>> that God only gets one chance, then what nudging appears to entail is
>> that God established initial conditions such that certain events are
>> more likely, if not much more likely, than others. In this way,
>> e.g., we can say that God nudged the universe toward life, and even man.
>> I don't really think this is much different from what we all thought
>> of front loading without "nudging." Can you be more specific?
>> Thanks,
>> bill
>> On Sun, 13 Sep 2009 20:21:06 -0400, "Nucacids" <>
>> wrote:
>> As I have been arguing for the hypothesis of front-loading evolution
>> over
>> the years, not too long ago, it has occurred to me that the term
>> "front-load" has the ability to mislead people into thinking I have
>> argued
>> that evolution is a deterministic process, such that everything we
>> currently see around us was programmed to be as it is as a
>> consequence of
>> the originally front-loaded state. This misperception then causes
>> people
>> to think front-loading is an old, discredited view of evolution. But
>> that
>> is not the case.
>> To demonstrate this, I have just run across a design approach that is
>> very, very similar to the approach I talk about and have labeled as
>> "front-loading." It's a social engineering approach that is becoming
>> increasingly popular known as "nudging."
>> I outline some of the similarities between nudging human behavior and
>> front-loading evolution here:
>> Mike
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Received on Mon Sep 14 17:38:05 2009

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