Mathematical Darwinism and Automatic Proof Systems

I applaud and encourage anyone who is interested in entering the field of mathematical biology, and in particular the mathematically rigorous formulation and elaboration of Darwin’s ideas about evolving populations. But I am more sanguine about the prospects for using the Coq proof assistant in that endeavour.

I don’t share the common reaction of many that the term ‘Darwinism’ is just a misleading label invented by creationists. To me it’s a fair label for the adoption and study of Darwin’s main thesis – namely that the present distribution and variety of biological species can be explained as the result of a process of natural selection from the results of reproduction with random variation.

And it is certainly possible to formulate various mathematical models of the evolutionary process and prove theorems about them. Such models, like most classes of mathematical objects, can often be defined either in terms of axioms of their own or as structures within some broader axiomatic system. (For example, the important class of von Neumann algebras can be identified either concretely as subalgebras of the set of bounded operators on a Hilbert space or more abstractly by the axioms of a W*-algebra.)

However, no such model claims to capture all of the complexity of real-world biologies, so there is no single officially recognized set of such axioms for Darwinism.

The basic first step towards entering this field is probably getting a firm background in basic probability theory (not just the discrete case but also including probability measures on continuous spaces) and stochastic processes of various kinds. And a parallel step should probably be learning as much as possible of what is currently known about the actual processes of inheritance – including both the genetic coding of protein sequences and the inheritable epigenetic systems that govern the reading and expression of those genes.

This is an exciting area of study ripe for the application of new mathematical techniques (such as renormalization group theory which originated in theoretical physics). But I am almost certain that automated proof systems will not be of any use in formulating plausible conjectures, and doubt that the mathematical structures involved are particularly well suited to their capabilities for constructing proofs once such conjectures have been identified.

So if your real interest is in learning about and applying automated proof systems, then I would suggest that doing so in a different context might be more fruitful.


Source: (1000) How does one develop mathematical theorems on Darwinism? For example, what are the axioms officially recognized by academia? I want to know what the basic first steps in the process are. I intend to write a paper and use the Coq proof assistant. – Q

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

The evidence to support medicalised gender transitions in adolescents is worryingly weak

Source: The evidence to support medicalised gender transitions in adolescents is worryingly weak

Posted in uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Signal, Noise, and Practical Significance

In this article Roger Pielke Jr. notes that it may take a long series of trials to detect shifts in the mean of a variable if those shifts are small  compared to its random fluctuations. The example he uses is based on numbers of severe hurricanes observed in the years 1995 to 2022 (which fluctuate wildly between 0 and 7 with an average of about 2.6 and a standard deviation of about 3) whose frequency distribution he then uses to assign random values to the years 2023 to 2050. First unmodified, then with increases (ie shifts of the frequency distribution to the right) of one and two. The ostensible point of this exercise is to show the reader why there are many possible consequences of climate change from which the IPCC does not expect to see convincing evidence in the next few decades. But it is presented with a subtle(?) subtext that appeals to those who deny the need to limit our CO2 emissions by claiming that the media are citing extreme events as evidence for climate change when they might just be the result of random fluctuations(*). Furthermore, by looking just at the overall shape of the resulting time series plots, he overlooks the fact that it is often just those extremes that are truly relevant.

The historic data never goes above 7, and so neither does the randomly generated “no change” projection (even in the longer projection shown later in the article). But the one step up projection reaches 8 (though by chance only once in the run that Pielke chose to show us) and the two step up reaches 8 or more twice.

This might not be so much of an issue with the number of hurricanes per year but might be more so if one considers instead the greatest magnitude occurring in any given year. So let’s look at those randomly generated pseudo-projections as if the number for each year was the highest storm surge that year at some specific location. From the historical data it seems safe to have dykes capable of protecting us from anything up to a 7ft surge, but after the “climate change” that will not suffice and almost every run of the pseudo-projection now yields a disaster within the next 25 years. So, according to that toy model, despite not being able to “see” the effect in a first look at the trend lines of those graphs, if we don’t invest now in higher dykes we are almost certainly screwed and if we don’t stop driving the change we’ll have to repeat that investment again and again.

(*) The article opens with a complaint that “ABC News wrote an accurate story about how climate was not a major or even significant factor in the Lahaina, Maui fire and disaster” but “After being mobbed by the enforcers, the story was changed to emphasize the role of climate.” But although there were certainly other factors (such as a change of local vegetation as a result of reduced market for sugar cane), it would be just as wrong to assert with confidence that climate was not a significant factor as to claim for sure that it was. And actually what the substance of the article discusses would be more in support of a claim that the fire was not significant evidence for climate change than that climate change was not a significant factor in causing the fire – which is a completely different question (hint: both the words and their order are different).


Source: Signal and Noise – by Roger Pielke Jr. – The Honest Broker

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Misunderstandings or Deliberate Obfuscations?

Source: (1000) Are the denialists seriously claiming that today’s global heating is just coincidence and has nothing whatever to do with the CO2 we are pumping into the air? – New Real Climate Science – Quora

The foolishness of citing a local cold spell as evidence against a global average warming trend is just the most obvious of many misunderstandings (or deliberate obfuscations?) in the above answer.

Another is the following:

“CO2 is indeed a ‘greenhouse’ gas, and so is H2O. Care to guess which has a higher effect on the earth’s temperature? (Hint, it’s not CO2)”

H2O is indeed the biggest contributor to the overall global greenhouse effect, but since there is masses of exposed water surface in contact with the atmosphere the amount of H2O in the atmosphere depends on the temperature, and once equilibrium is reached it is not a source of further changes. What it does do though at least to first order is amplify the effect of any other source of temperature change, so the net effect of increased CO2 is actually much greater than that due directly to the IR absorption by just the CO2 itself.

The question of whether higher order effects (such as changes in albedo due to changes in cloud cover) act to damp or to amplify the simple first order effects is much more complex. So we don’t yet know for sure how bad it might get. But until we have a better understanding of that it is foolish to keep our foot on the accelerator in the hope that the brakes might just come on automatically to save us before we crash.

Source: (1000) Are the denialists seriously claiming that today’s global heating is just coincidence and has nothing whatever to do with the CO2 we are pumping into the air? – New Real Climate Science – Quora

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Isabel Crook 

There’s a fuzzy line between Stockholm Syndrome, fanatic devotion to a corrupted regime, and admirable forbearance of “mistakes” made in pursuit of laudable goals. Source: Isabel Crook devoted her long life to making a new China

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why can’t journalists get things right?

It’s not just the headline writer that got it wrong in the Economist’s article: Propane-powered heat pumps are greenerThe expression “propane-powered” is actually used in the body of the article too, but it is clear that what is being advocated is use of propane as the working refrigerant fluid and not to replace electricity as the power source.

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Facebook News Ban Is Risking Lives in Wildfires, Say Eby and Trudeau 

So now we are complaining that they don’t want to pay for the privilege of transmitting our public service announcements?

Source: Facebook News Ban Is Risking Lives in Wildfires, Say Eby and Trudeau | The Tyee

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Right-Wing Writer Richard Hanania’s Racist Past Exposed | HuffPost Latest News

Source: Right-Wing Writer Richard Hanania’s Racist Past Exposed | HuffPost Latest News

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Make It Difficult?

There is a pattern that often happens when people feel the need to change the behaviour of others, where for some reason those who want the change seem to see it as in some sense punitive and so actually make it less attractive and so less likely to happen.

There are many examples in the environmental movement, but another is in the area of aboriginal place names.

Frequently while driving around BC, I would be happy to learn and use an aboriginal name for the place where I find myself. But I am obstructed by the unnecessary use of unfamiliar symbols to display those names. Of course I am aware of the fact that the Latin alphabet only imperfectly and inconsistently specifies the pronunciation of a word, even just in the English language (and if you don’t believe me then I’ll desert you in a desert). But the use of an imperfect transliteration into the Latin alphabet would at least allow me to get started.

The following comment by Bob Jones on a recent Tyee article says it maybe better than I could.

Getting rid of Powell River? – I understand, and no objection there.

Renaming it with local indigenous moniker? – Great idea.

But representing the name using an IPA linguistic orthography that’s no less a colonial construct than the Latin alphabet – I’m out.

I’m not saying that obscure IPA orthographies don’t have a place in academia or in assisting with the pronunciation of a distinct language that historically was communicated only orally. But the pronunciation aid should not eclipse the accepted alphabet (for better or for worse) of the country and province, and the rest of the western world for that matter.

Maybe the main impediment is not the fear that the new name will be “hard to pronounce.” It’s more likely the fear that the new name, in written form, will be completely indecipherable to almost everybody.

So instead of: θaθχaysəm (thath-hay-sum)

How about: Thath-hay-sum (θaθχaysəm)

Source: The Case for Changing Powell River’s Name | The Tyee

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Evolution without accidents?

The subheading of this article claims that “Despite advances in molecular genetics, too many biologists think that natural selection is driven by random mutations”.

Several examples in the article show how the random changes which natural selection acts upon do not always have to be small. This is something that Darwin himself eventually acknowledged and for which modern theorists have identified a number of plausible mechanisms which are widely understood and accepted. So no modern biologists think that natural selection is driven by random small mutations. The article’s discussion of some of those mechanisms is well informed and interesting, but the false claim that they are not “random” and confound a “physicalist” interpretation makes it something that I could not in good conscience recommend to anyone – and even raises doubts in my mind as to the intentions and integrity of the author.

Source: Why did Darwin’s 20th-century followers get evolution so wrong? | Aeon Essays

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

 ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ 

This  story reminded me of the fact that I have often been puzzled by premature references to the anthropocene as an epoch rather than an event. Source: Opinion | The ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ movie craze tells a dark story – The Washington Post

See also

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

What was Wrong with ‘National Socialism’

It’s nice to know that Stephen Harper thinks of himself as a collaborator with Viktor Orban in the re-branding process:

Nazi=National Socialist<=National Conservative<=”right-wing, conservative”<=”centre-right parties”

On the other hand, I might be being unfair “Perhaps Harper was there to try to get Orbán on side in the unhappy matter of Ukraine, Russia, NATO, and the Hungarian premier’s stubborn tendency to see things Vladimir Putin’s way in that conflict. Harper’s tweet certainly suggests so. ”

Source: He’s Back. Stephen Harper Jumps Back into the News | The Tyee

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bill C18 is Stupid Overreach.

It’s perfectly reasonable to prohibit the copying and embedding of content in a way that bypasses the revenue generation mechanisms that have been implemented by the owners of that content. But if you demand that the aggregators pay just for sending traffic to your site, then it’s perfectly reasonable for them to refuse.

Source: Well, Meta Went and Blocked The Tyee. That’s a Big Deal | The Tyee

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Failing at Failure

The existence of this article is proof that Emil Cioran (and perhaps to an even greater extent, Beckett) was in the end an abject failure in his goal of avoiding any hint of success.

Source: Learning to be a loser: a philosopher’s case for doing nothing | Psyche Ideas

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

For These(?) Colleges…

For this story about Covid-Relief Money for US Colleges, the illustration shows a Canadian high school

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are conservatives more “balanced” than liberals?

I wrote earlier about how I found Jonathan Haidt’s claim “a bit offensive”, but the more I think about this the more irritating and offensive I find it.

I just don’t buy the claim that ” Conservatives appear to endorse all 5 values” any more equally than liberals. For a less fraught example, the question of whether I am more sensitive to variations in colour or to those in musical pitch does not make sense – because in each case the sensitivity is defined in terms of the unit of change, and changing the sizes of the units used can change the relative magnitudes of the two sensitivities. Furthermore, it is not possible to have a situation in which conservatives are at the “midpoint” of a distribution and liberals above or below it since then it would no longer be the midpoint. If we have roughly equal populations of conservatives and liberals, then for each variable, whatever the midpoint is, if liberals are above it conservatives must be equally below it and vice versa. To define where the conservatives end up as the “midpoint” is biased and forces me to question either Haidt’s competence or his honesty. (Which brings up another question for me. Why is not truthfulness identified as a value in its own right?)

P.S. While I don’t think there is any ground for declaring whether or not a person is or is not equally sensitive to each of the values, I do think that it might make sense to compare the amounts by which they attach “moral” weight to that sensitivity. For example the question of whether I am more sensitive to variations in colour or to those in musical pitch does not make sense – because in each case the sensitivity is defined in terms of the unit of change, and changing the sizes of the units used can change the relative magnitudes of the two sensitivities. But on the other hand, regardless of my sensitivity levels, if I were to consider any noticeably offensive sound combination as evil but considered offensive colour combinations just ugly without any moral weight, then that might be compared with someone else who attaches equal moral weight to both a noticeably (to them) offensive sound and an offensive colour. If the distinction between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives assign equal moral weight to anything that offends or delights them along any of Haidt’s five axes while liberals assign more moral weight to some than others, then what Haidt describes as “balance” might be interpreted more as saying that conservatives lack a moral compass and just consider anything that offends them as evil rather than possibly reflecting a deficiency on their own part (as perhaps a liberal might do on feeling disgust when encountering a deformed or otherwise “ugly” person).

Source: Moral Foundations | alQpr

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bizarre Projection of a Political Agenda

The role reversal in the ‘Roman Charity‘ story reminds me to some extent of that in Robert Munch’s delightful little tear jerker Love You Forever.

The daughter’s adoption of a maternal role is especially apparent in representations like these two:

Others show the fear of being discovered in violation of the verdict (of death by starvation)

– but I see no particular suggestion there of lasciviousness or embarrassment at the social situation.

What they all most definitely do NOT bring to mind is a woman’s filial debt to the patriarchy (especially since in the earliest version of the story it was apparently the mother who was being saved from starvation by her daughter).

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s This Nonsense About “Electoral Interference”?

There has been a lot of noise lately about alleged Chinese “interference” in recent Canadian elections, but the suggestion that anything has somehow compromised the actual vote counts is just a load of crap.

Of course any kind of covert support for an electoral candidate is to be decried. That’s why we have campaign contribution limits and disclosure laws. But they get violated and/or circumvented all the time and the prime offenders are not foreign governments. And even when it does happen it is not interference in the electoral process itself.

Neither bribery nor coercion of potential or actual elected officials is “electoral interference”. Nor are attempts to influence public opinion in favour of policies that favour some particular group, entity, or nation.

The former is rightly illegal but does not affect the outcome of an election; and the latter may affect the outcome but is entirely within the scope of how we expect to make our collective decisions.

I have no more objection to having the PRC try to persuade me to support its interests than I do to the similar efforts of Shell Oil and Exxon. But if a nation blackmails its diaspora, or a corporation its employees, into support of a political position, then I will object to both with equal fervour without pretending that either is somehow more deserving than the other of being labelled as “electoral interference”

Source: China’s Big Canadian Mistake | The Tyee

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zombie Mathlets

So… For any who have been wondering about the lack of posts recently, here’s a partial(*) explanation for the most recent gap.

Back in the waning years of the last century, I became interested in the potential for web-based “applets” to support the learning of mathematics by providing an opportunity for the student to interact with diagrams in a way that might help build an intuition for how relationships are either maintained or changed when the situation is varied. Several people were developing such “Mathlets” in the widely promoted Java programming language, and I joined in and used some both in class demonstrations and in some early attempts at on-line instruction.

Unfortunately, concerns about security eventually led to the abandonment of support for Java in web browsers and so a large body of really useful material became unavailable in the years following my retirement in 2010. Similar materials were provided by other means of course, but a lot of ‘classics’ disappeared (along with my own lesser efforts as well).

With the onset of COVID, the need for both alternatives to the classroom and ways for students to fill in the gaps left by missed classes led to a renewed interest in on-line instruction and I wondered if there was any way to revive those old materials without re-programming them all from scratch.

It turns out that a lot of businesses who had been running software in web browsers had the same problem, and that there was in fact a way of taking existing Java programs and running them on the server rather than the client – with an interface in the browser that made it look just like the old applets.

So I decided to see if it would work for me.

And to make a long story short, in the end it seems to have done so; and, while I don’t know if it really took less effort that rewriting everything from scratch, I have been able to restore the function of my old page of  Mathlets.

(Whether they will be of any use to anyone else now is another matter, but at least I enjoyed getting them to work again!)

(*)- other factors being holiday travel, focus on a new family member, and possible failure of the old automatic email system.

Posted in uncategorized | 1 Comment

Adolescence is a ‘use it or lose it’ time for moral development | Psyche Ideas

Not exactly in accord with Loyola, but consistent with the theories behind many educational movements – from “public” schools through Boy Scouts to Hitler Youth, Red Guards, and street gangs (and perhaps why the current fights over school curricula are so important).

Source: Adolescence is a ‘use it or lose it’ time for moral development | Psyche Ideas

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment