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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Issues
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1340  Saturday, 18 May 2002

[1]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 May 2002 17:58:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1322 Re: Issues

[2]     From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 May 2002 14:47:59 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1322 Re: Issues


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 May 2002 17:58:10 -0700
Subject: 13.1322 Re: Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1322 Re: Issues

We are *way* off topic, but I really love this thread.

Gabriel Egan <
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 > wrote:

>On the contrary, the world around us, for all its faults, is more
>complex and admirable than the primeval soup.

I think I'll take a pass on the "admirable" (though it certainly suits
my lifestyle better <g>), but complex certainly. I would add "coherent,"
though one could say that it's already implicit in "complex." (In a
frantic attempt to link this to Shakespeare, I would argue that
complexity and coherence are what make Shakespeare--and all great
literature--great. [cf. Theory of Literature by Welleck and Warren,
1956, in which this position is taken, though only diffusely and
implicitly.])

I've mulled since my young teens the oddity that organic life itself
(and most any other type of life that one would care to assert or
ponder) contradicts the second law of thermodynamics. I know there's
been a great deal written on this, which I haven't attended to for some
decades. I'm happy to see that I'm in good company among some weighty
Shakespeareans; not much citing of sources going on here.

So, some possibilities which must be weighed in light of their lack of
authoritative backing:

1. Life's complexity and coherence is just an abberation, a randomly
generated blip in the larger-scale tendency toward entropy.

2. There is an intentional force promoting the development of
complexity, and/or the environment in which that development is
likely/possible.

3. The second law of thermodynamics is wrong, or at least
incomplete--only true at certain scales or in certain contexts.

I mostly favor 3b, the "incomplete" theory, though 1 is in pretty much a
dead heat for me.

The most interesting approach for me would be to explore the ways and
contexts in which the second law is wrong. What is it about the
intrinsic nature of the universe that allows or encourages life's brash
affront to that law?

Thanks for prompting me to return to those questions that we tend to
stop asking when we realize with age that contrary to all expectations,
we will not in fact be the ones to solve them.

Steve

P.S. Speaking of scale, yes: the general trend of evolution is toward
greater complexity. But there are many examples of individual
evolutionary developments that result in less complexity. (Please don't
ask me to cite them--haven't read about this stuff for years.)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Kamaralli <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 17 May 2002 14:47:59 +1000
Subject: 13.1322 Re: Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1322 Re: Issues

> ...the world around us, for all its faults, is more
> complex and admirable than the primeval soup.

Complex, yes. Admirable? A very subjective, androcentric point of view.
Regarding the natural world as some kind of hierarchy has always been a
convenient perspective for humans, giving us both a sense of reason for
our existence, and an excuse to treat the world as a resource over which
we have an absolute right.  Nature doesn't care about hierarchies or
plans; natural selection will reward a short-term benefit that is
ultimately destructive for the species just as readily as something that
seems to make better sense to the human observer.

May I give the highest recommendation to _The Waning of Humaneness_ by
Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz for a fascinating and intellectually
rigorous argument on the mechanics of natural selection and how they
pertain to morality.

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