Hrvoje1

Redundant Expressions in Science

Recommended Posts

Is it usually just a bad style, redundant, instead of concise and precise, or is it usually a sign that a content is also lacking quality?
I can give you one example (that I think it's an example, you may not agree with me), for which I think it is just a bad style. The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.
As a naturalist, I reject existence of supernatural processes that may influence natural processes, and as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes. What criteria could we establish to distinguish between them (at least in the context of evolution)? If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

The other alternative is to talk about "Environmental Selection" process, as it has more sense, as environment is that agent that is acting selectively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When he wrote it, there was widespread- almost universal- acceptance of an alternative "unnatural" version.

 

The word "environmental" has connotations these days which would make the phrase  "Environmental Selection" ambiguous.

(Does it only select for Green party activists?)

I don't see it as doing any harm to remember the Origins of the phrase (pun intended)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Hrvoje1 said:

Is it usually just a bad style, redundant, instead of concise and precise, or is it usually a sign that a content is also lacking quality?
I can give you one example (that I think it's an example, you may not agree with me), for which I think it is just a bad style. The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.
As a naturalist, I reject existence of supernatural processes that may influence natural processes, and as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes. What criteria could we establish to distinguish between them (at least in the context of evolution)? If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

The other alternative is to talk about "Environmental Selection" process, as it has more sense, as environment is that agent that is acting selectively.

 

Well I think some qualifier is useful, if not essential in the phrase "Natural Selection".

I fear you have fallen into the old trap of assuming binary choices (either ...or...)
If it is not 'this' it must be 'that'.

What about "self selection" for instance ?

As I understand the theory, "Natural" refers to selection during the to the normal everyday environment and the selection it produces.
It does not refer to unusual or special environments (accidents) that may only occur once or to specially arranged environments such as human crop selection etc.

 

In any event, in my view, it is worthwhile to distinguish between different filters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, Hrvoje1 said:

Is it usually just a bad style, redundant, instead of concise and precise, or is it usually a sign that a content is also lacking quality?
I can give you one example (that I think it's an example, you may not agree with me), for which I think it is just a bad style. The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.

It differentiates from artificial selection (breeding), so how is that redundant?

 

Quote

as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes. What criteria could we establish to distinguish between them (at least in the context of evolution)? If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

You have rejected it but apparently the scientific community has not. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Hrvoje1 said:

As a naturalist, I reject existence of supernatural processes that may influence natural processes, and as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes.

Reverse of "natural selection" is not "supernatural selection" but "artificial selection" (aka "selective breeding").

Artificial selection is selection made by human on farm animals..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_breeding

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@studiot

No, I don't think I have fallen into any old trap of "assuming binary choices (either ...or...), if it is not 'this' it must be 'that'". If you use some qualifier, then there must be something else, that is outside of its scope, and is not pointless at the same time. I gave two options that I could think of, which both don't have much sense to me, so I concluded that the qualifier is redundant. And "self selection" never occurred to me, as the whole point is that environment selects you, if self selection would be the case, everyone would choose to survive. Right? I mean, it is not like everyone doesn't try to impact the environment in order to make it let them survive, but eventually, the environment is the one that selects you. Unless you don't talk about suicide here?

@Sensei

First of all, you are responding as if I didn't mention artificial selection at all, and then if you think that for some reason this should be separated from "natural selection", then you don't believe homo sapiens is a part of nature, ie as natural agent as, well, everything else that exists in the nature.

 

The only answer given here, that I would tentatively and partially accept, was by John Cuthber, when he said that for historical reasons, one should continue to use that syntagm, as in the start it was used to denote the difference from "unnatural", or "supernatural" causes, ie not that part about Green party activists.

2 hours ago, swansont said:

You have rejected it but apparently the scientific community has not. 

And what about philosophy community? Apparently you can speak in its name too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, Hrvoje1 said:

No, I don't think I have fallen into any old trap of "assuming binary choices (either ...or...), if it is not 'this' it must be 'that'". If you use some qualifier, then there must be something else, that is outside of its scope, and is not pointless at the same time. I gave two options that I could think of, which both don't have much sense to me, so I concluded that the qualifier is redundant. And "self selection" never occurred to me, as the whole point is that environment selects you, if self selection would be the case, everyone would choose to survive. Right? I mean, it is not like everyone doesn't try to impact the environment in order to make it let them survive, but eventually, the environment is the one that selects you. Unless you don't talk about suicide here?

 

1) Your chain of reasoning was limited to a binary choice. Why? There are multiple postulable origins and multiple postulable processes of selection.

2) Why would I refer to the supernatural, since JC had already done so and I don't agree with him, especially on a Science site?

3) We have only recently gained the means of modification by genetic manipulation but, as others have also pointed out, selective breeding has been practised for a long time.
Further consider the taboos "Thou shalt not marry thy sister/mother etc" Do herds or packs of wild animals obey this maxim?

4) Selection is also about 'deselection' ; survival of the fittest implies perishing of the weakest.

5) You posted a general statement about style in English to which the answer is no, even if the qualifier is actually redundant, which it is not in your example.

6) On The Origin of Species is reckoned to be one of the most readable, if not the most readable, scientific treatises of all time. I understand this was by Darwin's design.
Have you read it?

Chapter 1 is all about selection under domestication
Chapter 2 is all about selection under Nature (The environment)
Chapter 4 is all about natural Selection and its comparison with

Quote

Darwin Chapter 4

Natural Selection... it's power compared with man's selection........

So can you tell me where Darwin discusses the supernatural?

It is always useful to avoid the trap of misquoting this wonderful document, either in its Title (as is often done) or in its body text.

origspecies1.jpg.3e27e89257e256a11638b6d959f34b11.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

 

And what about philosophy community? Apparently you can speak in its name too.

Did you or did you not put “in science” in the title?

I am not sufficiently familiar with the philosophy community to know what their position is. OTOH, I don’t care all that much, as AFAICT it has little impact. You might as well poll the sheetmetal workers’ union while you are at it.

7 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

@studiot

No, I don't think I have fallen into any old trap of "assuming binary choices (either ...or...), if it is not 'this' it must be 'that'". If you use some qualifier, then there must be something else, that is outside of its scope, and is not pointless at the same time. I gave two options that I could think of, which both don't have much sense to me, so I concluded that the qualifier is redundant. And "self selection" never occurred to me, as the whole point is that environment selects you, if self selection would be the case, everyone would choose to survive. Right? I mean, it is not like everyone doesn't try to impact the environment in order to make it let them survive, but eventually, the environment is the one that selects you. Unless you don't talk about suicide here?

 

Interesting that you claim not to have fallen into that trap, and then proceed to explain how you fell into it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, studiot said:

On The Origin of Species is reckoned to be one of the most readable, if not the most readable, scientific treatises of all time. I understand this was by Darwin's design.
Have you read it?

Of course that I didn't. I have better things to do in my life, like, for example, discussing it, commenting on it, sharing with you my opinion about it, things like that. And writing my own most readable scientific treatises of all time. Have you read them? They are already reckoned as such by some people, notably my girlfriend...and her sister.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/10/2019 at 11:50 AM, Hrvoje1 said:

If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

Yes and no. Of course one can take the standpoint that humans are natural too, but there is a at least one clear difference between natural selection and artificial selection, namely that with breeding people have a goal. Nature has no goals.

And further I see no problem with this kind of syntagms (new word of the day...). It should be clear and possibly unambiguous what is meant, and I think the way that the concept of 'natural selection' is embedded in the theory of evolution, is clear and unambiguous enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Eise said:

Nature has no goals.

+1

 

(I like the rest as well :) )

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, people are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Monkeys are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Dogs are part of nature, and they have goals, ... you can continue that line of reasoning to understand just how sensible is that what you are saying.

On ‎2‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 12:12 PM, studiot said:

As I understand the theory, "Natural" refers to selection during the to the normal everyday environment and the selection it produces.

"Normal everyday environment" for domesticated species means that people make their selection, which by this definition would be "Natural" for them, but I bet that you consider that "artificial selection".

So yeah, "it should be clear and possibly unambiguous what is meant", but it is not.

On ‎2‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 3:04 PM, studiot said:

5) You posted a general statement about style in English

No, I did not. I posted a general statement about style in science. That syntagm is redundant if you say it in Latin, too. This really has nothing to do with English, or any other language.

 

On ‎2‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 9:35 PM, swansont said:

I am not sufficiently familiar with the philosophy community to know what their position is. OTOH, I don’t care all that much, as AFAICT it has little impact. You might as well poll the sheetmetal workers’ union while you are at it.

So, you dropped by to express your low opinion about philosophy community and their relevance, here, in General Philosophy forum? I can't say that I find that particularly interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

So, you dropped by to express your low opinion about philosophy community and their relevance, here, in General Philosophy forum? I can't say that I find that particularly interesting.

I made no statement about the philosophy community. Please sharpen your reading skills. 

You also said you reject the notion of artificial processes as an evolutionist (evolution is science), not as a philosopher. So I have to wonder why this is in philosophy, or why you brought this up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

So, people are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Monkeys are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Dogs are part of nature, and they have goals, ... you can continue that line of reasoning to understand just how sensible is that what you are saying.

"Normal everyday environment" for domesticated species means that people make their selection, which by this definition would be "Natural" for them, but I bet that you consider that "artificial selection".

So yeah, "it should be clear and possibly unambiguous what is meant", but it is not.

No, I did not. I posted a general statement about style in science. That syntagm is redundant if you say it in Latin, too. This really has nothing to do with English, or any other language.

 

So, you dropped by to express your low opinion about philosophy community and their relevance, here, in General Philosophy forum? I can't say that I find that particularly interesting.

Some words have specific meanings within given specialisms that are well understood, like in evolutionary biology, and you don't get to change them. 

Edited by StringJunky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So the entire discussion is about terminology coined couple hundred years ago, terminology which was accepted and widely used by now... If you want to change terminology of entire scientific community, good luck, but I don't share you opinion that you are able do it.. The more important is, to what would you like to change it? Replace by what? You didn't specify.. Newly created terminology should also straight forward express what is now meant by "natural selection" and "artificial selection"/"selective breeding".

 

ps. Going by your logic, artificial intelligence, is also wrong terminology, because as you said human is part of nature, so everything human made is also natural..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

So, people are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Monkeys are part of nature, and they have goals, but nature has no goals.

Dogs are part of nature, and they have goals, ... you can continue that line of reasoning to understand just how sensible is that what you are saying.

OK, you are right I could have been more precise: evolution has no goal. Is it now correct? Or do monkeys and dogs do selective breeding, based on the output they want to reach?

For the rest, I think you are spoiling your time. What is next: are you going to criticise physics because the 'up'-quark does not point up? You must distinguish between concepts and words. When you would critisise concepts, then your criticism would at least be pointed at something substantial. But you are criticising wordings. 

10 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

"Normal everyday environment" for domesticated species means that people make their selection, which by this definition would be "Natural" for them, but I bet that you consider that "artificial selection".

What means 'artificial'? Please explain in your own words (no dictionary!). Please give some examples.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/10/2019 at 11:12 AM, studiot said:

The syntagm "Natural Selection" in Darwin's theory is redundant in a sense that the word "Natural" could/should be omitted, as there is no alternative to nature when we talk about reality, ie not imaginary processes but real processes.

This is complete and utter balderdash promoted from one who has openly stated they have not the read the opus citatum.

On 2/10/2019 at 9:59 PM, Hrvoje1 said:

Of course that I didn't. I have better things to do in my life, like, for example, discussing it, commenting on it, sharing with you my opinion about it, things like that. And writing my own most readable scientific treatises of all time. Have you read them? They are already reckoned as such by some people, notably my girlfriend...and her sister.

This would seem to me to be false bravado mocking of something clearly not understood.

 

Having referred specifically to Darwin's "Natural Selection", proper discussion etiquette requires that you use his stated definitions in analysing his statement.

So here it is.

origspecies2.jpg.c7dc26cb01a8759314ab32947c37c613.jpg

 

I think it is important to notice that not Darwin adopts the practice of clearly defining all his important terms before he uses them.
This includes both Natural and Selection.
Do you know what Darwin means by his use of the word 'selection' ?
Can you honestly say that you are criticising the same meaning?

D

On 2/10/2019 at 10:50 AM, Hrvoje1 said:

As a naturalist, I reject existence of supernatural processes that may influence natural processes, and as an evolutionist I reject existence of artificial processes, that are somehow separate from natural processes. What criteria could we establish to distinguish between them (at least in the context of evolution)? If we define artificiality as a human intervention into nature, then this is also too anthropocentric for me, and any true evolutionist should disregard that definition, because homo sapiens is just one natural species among many of them.

Naturally ( ;) ) if you read the work, you would also find answers to this part of your post as the great Man has carefully already carefully considered your apparent point of view and detailed how he has dealt with it in his work and in particular in the working definitions he has chosen to employ.


Are you aware that Darwin not only consistently employs his definitions throughout the work, but also includes discussion of the meaning imparted to particular words by other authorities?

 

11 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

So yeah, "it should be clear and possibly unambiguous what is meant", but it is not.

So yeah, "it not only should be clear and possibly unambiguous what is meant", but it actually is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Eise said:

OK, you are right I could have been more precise: evolution has no goal. Is it now correct?

I don't know, you tell me: these organisms, do they evolve as a result of selective breeding? If they do, then this is still not correct, since we agree on the fact that there is a goal in selective breeding. And this is far from being the only weakness in your logic.

 

14 hours ago, Eise said:

Or do monkeys and dogs do selective breeding, based on the output they want to reach?

Every species and every entity during its life places certain selective pressure towards certain others, species and entities, and as well gets under selective pressure from others, through both interspecific and intraspecific competition, in the struggle for life, with the ultimate goal of its own survival. That's how evolution works with respect to selection. Now you tell me, does evolution "have a goal"? So, it's far from the truth that only selective breeding has goal, that's totally arbitrary conclusion. The fact that a farmer and a hunter do not produce selective pressure in the same way, is totally irrelevant, they both have goals.

It is true that selective pressure can be a result of conditions produced by non-living agents, that are goalless, but obviously if some process is caused by some agents that have goal, and some that don't, I would not characterize it goalless as a result.

14 hours ago, Eise said:

When you would critisise concepts, then your criticism would at least be pointed at something substantial. But you are criticising wordings.

I'm criticizing both, content and style, because both is important.

Edited by Hrvoje1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Sensei said:

So the entire discussion is about terminology coined couple hundred years ago, terminology which was accepted and widely used by now... If you want to change terminology of entire scientific community, good luck, but I don't share you opinion that you are able do it.

This is neither my opinion nor ambition. My only ambition was to be thought provoking, but if people feel more like defending established mantras and dogmas, instead of attacking them to see what's wrong with them, then you are right, there is no point.

 

16 hours ago, Sensei said:

The more important is, to what would you like to change it? Replace by what? You didn't specify

I proposed that alternatives are "Environmental Selection", or simply "Selection".

 

16 hours ago, Sensei said:

Going by your logic, artificial intelligence, is also wrong terminology, because as you said human is part of nature, so everything human made is also natural..

There is not much dispute about what is the meaning of the word "artificial" (from dictionary):

1. man made or produced as opposed to something that isn't

2. feigned, insincere, false, affected, mannered, unnatural, stilted, contrived, pretended, put-on, exaggerated, actorly, overdone, overripe, forced, laboured, strained, hollow, spurious; informalpretend, phoney, fakey, hammy, ham, campy

And I could not provide this list without some help from the dictionary, considering the fact that I'm not native in English.

So, no, AI is not wrong terminology, it denotes devices in which intelligence is implemented artificially.

But, "artificial selection" in the context of evolution, is artificial terminology, result of Darwin's anthropocentrism, because the distinction between people and "other animals" is arbitrary and artificial.

@studiot

So, was he satisfied with his working definition of species? That looks like a fundamental notion of his theory, at least one of them.

"This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations" isn't that point of any selection: preserve favourable, and reject harmful? I mean, I don't see that emphasizes the difference between natural and artificial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

 

I'm criticizing both, content and style, because both is important.

Both are important

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hrvoje1, you happily ignored what I wrote. I made it bold for you:

On 2/12/2019 at 9:35 AM, Eise said:

Or do monkeys and dogs do selective breeding, based on the output they want to reach?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

 There is not much dispute about what is the meaning of the word "artificial" (from dictionary):

The dictionary is not a technical resource, but even so, the dictionary does not agree with you.

11 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

 But, "artificial selection" in the context of evolution, is artificial terminology, result of Darwin's anthropocentrism, because the distinction between people and "other animals" is arbitrary and artificial.

The selection criteria are not the same, so this is not so arbitrary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

@studiot

So, was he satisfied with his working definition of species? That looks like a fundamental notion of his theory, at least one of them.

"This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations" isn't that point of any selection: preserve favourable, and reject harmful? I mean, I don't see that emphasizes the difference between natural and artificial.

Yes indeed, 'species' is a fundamental term in Darwin's work.

But you should remember that in his time biological classification was only just becoming developed.
I cannot tell you what the modern definition is. Perhaps a biology expert here will step in and oblige.

What I can tell you is that Darwin was so well aware of the different views about the word species in his day that he not only devoted a chapter to his definition, he suffused his meaning throughout the book and indeed introduced the subject in his historical survey that preceeded the main text.

He also took great pains to differentiate between the terms variety and species.
Note the use of the word variation even included in your extract.
 

But no I don't think he was fully satisfied with his definition of species and was open to improvement.

Edited by studiot
spelling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, studiot said:

But you should remember that in his time biological classification was only just becomeing developed.
I cannot tell you what the modern definition is. Perhaps a biology expert here will step in and oblige.

There isn't really a single definition that can be used in all cases. It is a man-made concept and does not map precisely on to the gradual variations and complexity we see in the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now