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Re: [biopoet] Re: Re The Importance of Diversity

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  • Stephen Berer
    Dear Mike, I don t want to make too much of this, but I think your argument doesn t hold water. First, and most importantly, we all need to be thinking of
    Message 1 of 14 , Aug 28, 2006
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      Dear Mike,
      I don't want to make too much of this, but I think your argument
      doesn't hold water. First, and most importantly, we all need to be
      thinking of balance in a more complex and nuanced way than you represent
      here. You have defined balance as achieving a flat line on an
      electrocardiogram. And we both know that's death. But even in that image
      I would see, not a flat line and an end, but a horizon to a world we have
      little or no access to. No, balance is much more interesting and delicate
      and ephemeral and diverse, and essential than that. A raging sea balances
      vast forces; a raging mind attempts the same.
      As for your references to art, sex, sports... Balance is one of
      the remarkable features of great art, and even late c20 post mod art is
      really but a temporary reaction to balance, as art seeks to redefine and
      nuance earlier, and now too simplistic, understandings of balance. As for
      sex, at the risk of being inappropriate, I don't think you'd find being on
      the edge of orgasm for 3 or 4 or 5 hours particularly pleasant or
      desirable. Part of the great wonder of sex is the afterglow and sense of
      profound stillness after the orgasm. And the same is true of sports; we
      can neither play nor watch our favorite sport continuously, just as we find
      that we tire of our favorite food or piece of music if that is all we have
      to eat or listen to.
      As for your statement, "Balance and integration are
      chimerae." Perhaps, but profound and holy, and a defining archetype of
      human mentation. You call them chimerae; I call them the essence of the real.
      for what it's worth, and most respectfully,
      smb


      >So broad a discussion that it's hard to say much of sense.
      >
      >But, briefly, equilibria are for inanimate systems, and a science that
      >sees living creatures as inanimate.
      >
      >Living creatures seek to build to climaxes, and orgasms - in everythig
      >from sex to sports to exercise to conversations - and especially,
      >especially in the arts. Balance isn't healthy. It's bo-o-oring. Would
      >you like a "healthily balanced" dramatic play? Zzzzzzz. When you're
      >dead (and inanimate) you can be balanced.
      >
      >Also life is - pace the dramatic arts - conflict, conflict. Balance
      >and integration are chimerae.
    • Stephen Berer
      Dear Jeff, I would agree with much or most of what you say, but not the heart of what you say . I wouldn t define greatness by mediocre approximations
      Message 2 of 14 , Aug 28, 2006
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        Dear Jeff,
                 I would agree with much or most of what you say, but not the heart of what you say <smile>.  I wouldn't define greatness by mediocre approximations of greatness. If I can't achieve Buddha consciousness, or write poetry as good as the Hebrew Prophets, that does not diminish the truth they've exposed, however far I am from knowing it directly myself.
                 Another detail, but potentially important: "most people are happiest when they are winning, which always implies a loser."  Reality is not a zero sum game.  I don't think you do well to reduce it to that.
                 If we are going to carry the entropy analogy from physics to living systems, it will need some work, since living systems appear to evolve towards greater complexity, while physical systems appear to evolve towards simplicity (as you note).
                 best
                 smb
                 As an addenda for those (few?) who might find this discussion of interest: When you (Jeff) say, "but I don't think most people can achieve that, nor do I think they would accept it," I would question your assumptions and conclusion. Is there any kind of data relevant to this matter, either by intention or coincidentally? If there is, it would be worth chewing on. In general, I would argue unconditionally that anyone who has experienced a deep "mystical" union with the Divine or the Ultimate (such as you postulate for Gandhi or Williams), would be permanently reshaped by the experience.  Only those who have not yet had such an experience would "not accept it" as a guiding principle. That the majority, or even vast majority of people have not had such experiences, means nothing (to me at least).  I am not inclined to think that truth (or our approximations towards it) and popularity are co-equal.

        Stephen--I think we have to be careful about mistaking the desire for balance, or the ability to conceive of balance, for the ability to achieve and maintain it.  I guess it also depends on our definition of balance: how long do we have to remain in a stable state before we can accept it as absolute balance?  In any social species there should always be other conspecifics willing to push at the edges of our inertia, trying to exploit the resources that give us our ambivalent balance.  I suppose the ultimate, self-actualizing achievement of any human being would be the realization that "balance" will always be a performance, a concession to our own imperfections; to the realities of time, age, competition, success and failure, resource fluctuation; and to the fallibility of our peers and loved ones.  Viewing the whole panoply of human vicissitudes, and being able to accept it without angst, might be within the capacity of a few select people (Gandhi?  Robin Williams?), but I don't think most people can achieve that, nor do I think they would accept it.  For the most part most people are happiest when they are winning, which always implies a loser.  It seems to me much more likely that as a species we seek out and attempt to exploit imbalance, and if we can't find it we try to create it.  Instability equals opportunity.

            Beyond that, while I'm no physicist, I believe all natural energetic systems tend towards entropy which, without the negative connotations, could easily be defined as "balanced," simply because there are fewer and and fewer attempts to escape the inevitable.  Death and an ice-cold universe being the ultimate in stability.
            Enough.  Off to try and balance my work, my dissertation work, my teaching, my financial issues, my emotional relationships, my health, and the constant feeling that if I just try a little harder I can attain it.  Wishing us all luck! JT
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Stephen Berer
        To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 11:56 PM
        Subject: Re: [biopoet] Re The Importance of Diversity

        Mike and Jeff responded negatively to the statement, re diversity, that "the belief that individuals and communities have an innate capacity to return to a state of healthy balance."
        Mike wrote:
        I agree: the balance part is wrong - I don't think society is governed by any balance/ homeostasis principle.

        Why not? 
        I see a constant striving for balance and a middle path in religion, politics, psychology, philosophy, and literature/art.  While it is true that 1. personal, social and political equilibria are often established in "places" that turn out to be unstable; and 2. "balance" is itself temporary in a system in flux; still, I would suggest that nature seems to seek equilibrium, and we humans most certainly seem to prefer it.  Is it not possible that the pace of evolutionary change itself is a function of system stability or its lack, where stable/balanced systems generate (or are subject to) a diminished pace of evolution?

        Steve Berer

                The trueth iz a thred, it maezlike weev
                Akross the mobeyus warp ov yur Addom
                And its Shaddiy Seel, wun an the same.
                        from Pardaes Dokkumen (work in progress)
                        http://www.shivvetee.com
                        http://shivvetee.blogspot.com/
      • Jeff Turpin, Supervising Archeologist, T
        Stephen--If you review this e-mail train, you will see that you are the one who was analogizing between living things and physical symptoms. And I m not sure
        Message 3 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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          Stephen--If you review this e-mail train, you will see that you are the one who was analogizing between living things and physical symptoms.  And I'm not sure who attempted to define "greatness" as you introduced it in this post.  Nor am I sure who the mediocre approximations of greatness are that you refer to.  Nor does "winners and losers" imply that all "reality" is a universal zero-sum game.  But to date evolution in macro has more closely approximated a zero-sum game than a non-zero sum game, and I think that evolution is what we are discussing.  The most successful organisms have not all evolved towards complexity (see slime mold).  But this is not intended to take the energy away from your desire from balance.  Rather I would repeat what I'd said earlier, that the pursuit of balance is a much different thing than the actual achieving of balance.  One encourages one to strive harder, the other insists that further striving is unnecessary.  From a behavioral standpoint they are opposites.  JT
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Monday, August 28, 2006 11:22 PM
          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Re The Importance of Diversity

          Dear Jeff,
                   I would agree with much or most of what you say, but not the heart of what you say <smile>.  I wouldn't define greatness by mediocre approximations of greatness. If I can't achieve Buddha consciousness, or write poetry as good as the Hebrew Prophets, that does not diminish the truth they've exposed, however far I am from knowing it directly myself.
                   Another detail, but potentially important: "most people are happiest when they are winning, which always implies a loser."  Reality is not a zero sum game.  I don't think you do well to reduce it to that.
                   If we are going to carry the entropy analogy from physics to living systems, it will need some work, since living systems appear to evolve towards greater complexity, while physical systems appear to evolve towards simplicity (as you note).
                   best
                   smb
                   As an addenda for those (few?) who might find this discussion of interest: When you (Jeff) say, "but I don't think most people can achieve that, nor do I think they would accept it," I would question your assumptions and conclusion. Is there any kind of data relevant to this matter, either by intention or coincidentally? If there is, it would be worth chewing on. In general, I would argue unconditionally that anyone who has experienced a deep "mystical" union with the Divine or the Ultimate (such as you postulate for Gandhi or Williams), would be permanently reshaped by the experience.  Only those who have not yet had such an experience would "not accept it" as a guiding principle. That the majority, or even vast majority of people have not had such experiences, means nothing (to me at least).  I am not inclined to think that truth (or our approximations towards it) and popularity are co-equal.

          Stephen--I think we have to be careful about mistaking the desire for balance, or the ability to conceive of balance, for the ability to achieve and maintain it.  I guess it also depends on our definition of balance: how long do we have to remain in a stable state before we can accept it as absolute balance?  In any social species there should always be other conspecifics willing to push at the edges of our inertia, trying to exploit the resources that give us our ambivalent balance.  I suppose the ultimate, self-actualizing achievement of any human being would be the realization that "balance" will always be a performance, a concession to our own imperfections; to the realities of time, age, competition, success and failure, resource fluctuation; and to the fallibility of our peers and loved ones.  Viewing the whole panoply of human vicissitudes, and being able to accept it without angst, might be within the capacity of a few select people (Gandhi?  Robin Williams?), but I don't think most people can achieve that, nor do I think they would accept it.  For the most part most people are happiest when they are winning, which always implies a loser.  It seems to me much more likely that as a species we seek out and attempt to exploit imbalance, and if we can't find it we try to create it.  Instability equals opportunity.

              Beyond that, while I'm no physicist, I believe all natural energetic systems tend towards entropy which, without the negative connotations, could easily be defined as "balanced," simply because there are fewer and and fewer attempts to escape the inevitable.  Death and an ice-cold universe being the ultimate in stability.
              Enough.  Off to try and balance my work, my dissertation work, my teaching, my financial issues, my emotional relationships, my health, and the constant feeling that if I just try a little harder I can attain it.  Wishing us all luck! JT
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Stephen Berer
          To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com
          Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 11:56 PM
          Subject: Re: [biopoet] Re The Importance of Diversity

          Mike and Jeff responded negatively to the statement, re diversity, that "the belief that individuals and communities have an innate capacity to return to a state of healthy balance."
          Mike wrote:
          I agree: the balance part is wrong - I don't think society is governed by any balance/ homeostasis principle.

          Why not? 
          I see a constant striving for balance and a middle path in religion, politics, psychology, philosophy, and literature/art.  While it is true that 1. personal, social and political equilibria are often established in "places" that turn out to be unstable; and 2. "balance" is itself temporary in a system in flux; still, I would suggest that nature seems to seek equilibrium, and we humans most certainly seem to prefer it.  Is it not possible that the pace of evolutionary change itself is a function of system stability or its lack, where stable/balanced systems generate (or are subject to) a diminished pace of evolution?

          Steve Berer

                  The trueth iz a thred, it maezlike weev
                  Akross the mobeyus warp ov yur Addom
                  And its Shaddiy Seel, wun an the same.
                          from Pardaes Dokkumen (work in progress)
                          http://www.shivvete e.com
                          http://shivvetee. blogspot. com/

        • Stephen Berer
          Dear Tom, ... For what it s worth, the environmentalists I talk to would strongly disagree with your statement that During periods of stability there’s far
          Message 4 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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            Dear Tom,

            I’d just note, also on my way out to work, that the dam-breaks would correspond with dramatic changes in the environment (meteor crashes, large amounts of volcanic activity, continent separation/combination, change in ocean currents, etc…). During periods of stability there’s far less need for diversity. And so, as was noted on the evpsych list, diversity is only adaptive in certain environments. Of course, some minimal level of diversity is necessary to avoid genetic depression.

            For what it's worth, the environmentalists I talk to would strongly disagree with your statement that "During periods of stability there’s far less need for diversity."  What they say is, "the greater the diversity, the more stable the environment; the less diverse, the more sensitive and instable"  and commonly give as an example arctic regions as minimally diverse and highly sensitive areas; and northeast North American temperate regions as highly diverse and stable.  Perhaps you are referring to individual populations and their genetic stability/diversity.
                     smb
          • Stephen Berer
            Jeff, ... I m surprised to hear this. Where might I find out more about this interpretation? ... As I understand it, slime molds are fairly early in the
            Message 5 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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              Jeff,

              >But to date evolution in macro has more closely approximated a zero-sum
              >game than a non-zero sum game, and I think that evolution is what we are
              >discussing.

              I'm surprised to hear this. Where might I find out more about this
              interpretation?

              >The most successful organisms have not all evolved towards complexity (see
              >slime mold).

              As I understand it, slime molds are fairly early in the
              evolutionary process on this planet, and were more complex than most of
              their antecedents. The direction of evolution has been towards more
              complexity, in apparent defiance of physics/entropy.
              over and out.
              smb
            • Tom Dolack
              I would agree with this formulation, Stephen. We re sort of talking past each other here because we re using the terms differently and a bit loosely. On the
              Message 6 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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                I would agree with this formulation, Stephen. We’re sort of talking past each other here because we’re using the terms differently and a bit loosely. On the level of the environment it is good (ie beneficial to other organisms) to have a diversity of species inhabiting many different niches. But, the theory goes, when all the available niches get filled in, genetic diversity *within* a species is limited because mutations will either be detrimental or not give enough of an advantage to supplant the prominent phenotype, the current phenotypes being well-adapted to the environment. It is when the environment undergoes some major change that new niches open up and animals become maladapted to the old ones, thus giving genetic diversity a leg up. This says nothing about the diversity of species as an aggregate whole.

                As another caveat, it’s tricky (not entirely impossible, just tricky) to go from arguments about *genetic* diversity to arguments about *cultural* diversity, which appears to have been how this thread got started.

                Best to all,

                Tom

                 

                 

                -----Original Message-----
                From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Stephen Berer
                Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 4:13 PM
                To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: RE: [biopoet] Re The Importance of Diversity

                 

                Dear Tom,

                I’d just note, also on my way out to work, that the dam-breaks would correspond with dramatic changes in the environment (meteor crashes, large amounts of volcanic activity, continent separation/combinat ion, change in ocean currents, etc…). During periods of stability there’s far less need for diversity. And so, as was noted on the evpsych list, diversity is only adaptive in certain environments. Of course, some minimal level of diversity is necessary to avoid genetic depression.


                For what it's worth, the environmentalists I talk to would strongly disagree with your statement that "During periods of stability there’s far less need for diversity."  What they say is, "the greater the diversity, the more stable the environment; the less diverse, the more sensitive and instable"  and commonly give as an example arctic regions as minimally diverse and highly sensitive areas; and northeast North American temperate regions as highly diverse and stable.  Perhaps you are referring to individual populations and their genetic stability/diversity .
                         smb

                -->

              • Stephen Berer
                Thanx Tom for all your clarifications. ... Yes, I don t look at things from evolutionary biology, tho I m trying to learn to see from that perspective. Thus,
                Message 7 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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                  Thanx Tom for all your clarifications.

                  As another caveat, it�s tricky (not entirely impossible, just tricky) to go from arguments about *genetic* diversity to arguments about *cultural* diversity, which appears to have been how this thread got started.

                  Yes, I don't look at things from evolutionary biology, tho I'm trying to learn to see from that perspective.  Thus, my easy and probably inappropriate slippage from the biological to the cultural (or environmental).
                           best
                           smb
                • Tom Dolack
                  I was actually referring to Mike’s initial post (thoughts, Mike?). The slipperiness of the topic is one of the things that makes it a fascinating area to
                  Message 8 of 14 , Aug 29, 2006
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                    I was actually referring to Mike’s initial post (thoughts, Mike?). The slipperiness of the topic is one of the things that makes it a fascinating area to study. There’s a lot of interesting work (or at least a lot of work, some of it interesting) applying evolutionary biology to culture; the kinks are still being worked out.

                    td

                     

                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Stephen Berer
                    Sent:
                    Tuesday, August 29, 2006 6:40 PM
                    To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: RE: [biopoet] Re The Importance of Diversity

                     

                    Thanx Tom for all your clarifications.

                    As another caveat, it’s tricky (not entirely impossible, just tricky) to go from arguments about *genetic* diversity to arguments about *cultural* diversity, which appears to have been how this thread got started.


                    Yes, I don't look at things from evolutionary biology, tho I'm trying to learn to see from that perspective.  Thus, my easy and probably inappropriate slippage from the biological to the cultural (or environmental) .
                             best
                             smb

                    -->

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