Re: randomness and free-will (long post)

Wed, 1 Jun 1994 01:04:01 CDT

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Tom Riley,

You ask at the end of your reply:
Does free will make sense in an evolutionary context?

If by evolution one means those changes which are the consequence of change
in mean fitness, and only those changes, then whether I act with free will or
not (leaving to the side what is meant by free will) is obviously irrelevant
since my action is not driven by change in mean fitness, hence is outside of
evolution so defined. As you note with reference to Rindos, one might
include "free will" under "variation generation", but the source of the
variation is not so important as the consequence; i.e., whether the variant
behavior is produced via free will or not, the concern is what happens to the
behavior once it is introduced.

So the question becomes: Is (cultural) evolution synonymous with change in
mean fitness? Consider as an example the recent introduction of an
African-American ritual that occurs around Christmas time (whose name escapes
me at the moment). This ritual was invented about 8 years ago and now has
become very popular. Is this cultural evolution? DOes it in any meaningful
way involve change in mean fitness? If you answer yes to the first and no to
the second, then cleary something more is going on in cultural evolution and
that something more may require better understanding of what we call "free

D. Read