Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Because Big Cetacean Brains Are Good at Long Odds

The shibboleth appears again.

Once again, the point is not that evolutionary explanations are bad, it is that this is not an explanation: it is a signal, like wearing tie-dyed shirts for Deadheads or doing a secret handshake for Freemasons.

If there were some other branch of the evolutionary tree good at the type of problems always brought forward with this trope, it would make sense: for instance, if the question were, "Why are humans bad at echolocation?", then noting we are primates, not bats, would be some sort of explanation, at least. But in every case I have ever seen, the sort of problems presented are ones that primates solve better than any other living order!

So the "explanation" is essentially:

Q: "Why are humans bad at conceiving astronomical odds?"

A: "Because we come from that branch of life that is far better than any other at understanding probability."

And my poor primate brain cannot get a prehensile grasp of that as any sort of explanation at all.

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