In search of Perfect
Posted: 22 April 2007 08:40 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Got into a discussion with a friend the other day about perfection, where I argued that such a thing does not exist. I pointed out that for something to be objectivly perfect it would have to be infinitly perfect.

What I meant with that is that subjectiv perfection, as in "My girlfriend is perfect" or "This movie is perfect" could at best fall under the category "above avarage" or "really, really good" but would never be seen as perfect by all people on Earth or all coming generations.

Objective perfection, as in flawlessness for enternity does not exist. I argued that we live in a universe of constant struggle. Let go of any part of your life and it falls to pieces. Look deep enough or close enough and you will find a flaw. Eat or be eaten.

My friend went with the "best of all worlds" argument. That evolution, in a sense, has created as good as a world as possible. The maximum of it's potential, which to him, constitutes perfect.
I said that "as good as possible" is not perfect.

At this point we both became to drunk to continue the discussion and the rest of the evening centered around Jessica Biel. smile

Your thought on this(Not Jessica smile ) are welcome.

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“If your original Hebrew disagrees with my original King James—- your original Hebrew is wrong.”—FSTDT

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Posted: 23 April 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“Storm”]Eat or be eaten.

My friend went with the “best of all worlds” argument. That evolution, in a sense, has created as good as a world as possible. The maximum of it’s potential, which to him, constitutes perfect.
I said that “as good as possible” is not perfect.

Given the principles of non-linear optimization, I’d say you were about right.

In a world in which Keira Knightley can be compared to Jessica Biel, perfection is a pipe dream. One of them is a better actor.

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Posted: 23 April 2007 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“Storm”]

In a world in which Keira Knightley can be compared to Jessica Biel, perfection is a pipe dream. One of them is a better actor.

Unfortunately, the better actress is not the more attractive of the two.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 April 2007 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Strangely enough, acting skills never entered into the discussion. Other assets were discussed repeatedly, though smile

What do you think of his argument? At first he had me with saying that in a survival of the fittest world, the fittest are the ones that reproduce, thus creating the best next-generation possible. That in the realm of the physical laws and possible options, that generation was perfect. I said that in that case “perfect” would be synonym with “slightly flawed”

It was, and still is, my view that objective perfection does not exist.

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“If your original Hebrew disagrees with my original King James—- your original Hebrew is wrong.”—FSTDT

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Posted: 24 April 2007 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Storm”]
What do you think of his argument? At first he had me with saying that in a survival of the fittest world, the fittest are the ones that reproduce, thus creating the best next-generation possible. That in the realm of the physical laws and possible options, that generation was perfect. I said that in that case “perfect” would be synonym with “slightly flawed”

It was, and still is, my view that objective perfection does not exist.

So, I’ve thought some about this and I think that I have some things to say, but I am not sure that what I have to say makes sense.

First, I think it is wrong, biologically speaking, to think that because the fittest are the ones who leave the most offspring (unfit organisms can leave offspring, by the way, as I’m sure you pointed out to your friend), that therefore the next generation is the best generation possible.  Two things to remember:  Number one: the evolutionary concept of fitness is a relative (rather than absolute) notion;  it is a relation that holds between organisms and their environment.  Thus, for example, though an organism may be very fit in a dry, savanna-type environment, it may be very unfit in a rainforest environment.  So, an organism can be the offspring of very fit parents and yet, due to changing environmental conditions, find itself unable to flourish (i.e., to survive and reproduce).

Number two: Even if we confine our thinking to the environment to which the organism is adapted, it is an error to think that the offspring of fit parents are, just in virtue of being such offspring, themselves the fittest possible.  Thinking this would make a mockery of the entire notion of adaptation and evolution.  That my parents were fit implies that I have a good chance of being fit.  That is true.  But perhaps the children of my parents’ neighbors will have an advantage over me because of a random genetic mutation, or because the genes of their parents combined to form a particularly effective improvement in some adaptively significant trait (e.g., speed, intelligence, size, etc.).

So I think your friend is wrong if he thinks that there is a biologically significant notion of perfection.

Next, I do think that it is possible, within any realm of discourse, to given a precise definition of perfection.  We could describe the perfect fastball, for example, or the perfect jump-shot.  And I do want to emphasize that I am not just talking about some subjective opinion on what perfection would be in such realms.  I mean that we could just stipulate, for example, that the perfect fastball would be over 95 MPH and would tail down and away from left-handers (I DO NOT stand by this definition, by the way).  But such a definition would not be very interesting or informative, I think.  And the reason is that what counts as perfect is going to change from context to context. 

So, for example, assume that we decided that the above account of the perfect fastball is adopted.  In such a case, left-handers would be well-advised to learn to hit such a pitch.  And there is every reason to believe that, given enough practice, many hitters would become very skilled at sending that pitch into the opposite field gap for a double.  Thus, eventually, this “perfect fastball” would not be very effective. In fact, something very much like this happens in baseball: new pitches are developed and then batters have to learn to hit them.  This process is very much akin to the so-called evolutionary arms-races that are described in evolutionary biology.

In conclusion, then, I am inclined to believe that any interesting notion of perfection is probably a subjective notion.  I don’t hold very tight to this opinion, though, and would be happy to be convinced otherwise.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 24 April 2007 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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When applied to specific and limited parameters or expectations, some things are clearly perfect while other things are less than perfect. A car engine that has never failed to start when called upon to start, has a perfect starting record.  But it would be a mistake to call the engine itself “perfect,” since anyone with a modicum of insight about the world would understand that the engine eventually will not start when called on to do so, given enough time or lack of maintenance.

Perfect is one of those words that tends to slip from descriptions of reality to fantasy. But of course in normal language use, it’s “perfectly” fine to say that a particular car engine is in perfect shape, because it’s assumed that literality comes in a variety of levels.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 24 April 2007 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]In conclusion, then, I am inclined to believe that any interesting notion of perfection is probably a subjective notion.  I don’t hold very tight to this opinion, though, and would be happy to be convinced otherwise.

The problem with analogies in the real world is that you end up trying to go opposite field into the gap on a tailing fastball using a greased eel for a bat.

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Posted: 24 April 2007 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“waltercat”]In conclusion, then, I am inclined to believe that any interesting notion of perfection is probably a subjective notion.  I don’t hold very tight to this opinion, though, and would be happy to be convinced otherwise.

The problem with analogies in the real world is that you end up trying to go opposite field into the gap on a tailing fastball using a greased eel for a bat.

While an eel will not make a very good baseball bat (and not just because it is slippery), THIS video about electric eels has a batting average of .290.

Furthermore, the electric eel is not really an eel at all, but a fish more closely related to catfish than true eels.

The blood of a true eel will make a very good (thought perhaps not perfect) poison, since eel blood is toxic to humans.

Humans who are heterozygous for the gene that, in its homozygous expression, results in sickle-cell anemia, have very good, though not perfect, immunity to malaria.  This explains why the gene persists through generations even though the homozygous genotype is deadly.  Yet, again, another reason to think that Storm’s friend was mistaken that children of well-adapted parents will be perfectly adapted.


Be sure to tune in next time for more Free-Association with your good friend, waltercat.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 25 April 2007 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]
First, I think it is wrong, biologically speaking, to think that because the fittest are the ones who leave the most offspring (unfit organisms can leave offspring, by the way, as I’m sure you pointed out to your friend), that therefore the next generation is the best generation possible.

Err….no, I pointed in another, random, direction. (Blaming the beer here).
Wish to plead the Thicky Thinking Clause (Let’s call it the Beer Amendment)

I did however make a slightly crappier statement about genetic mutation, that I will not express here, due to a high risk of verbal spanking…

I agree that we could all come together over the definition of a perfect fastball, but it would, as you pointed out, be a temporary version of perfect. Maybe that’s the only perfect there is.
In religion, perfection was easy. God’s perfect. End of story. “But what about the ‘saw that it was good’ and then he drowned the lot?”
Perfect I tell you, now shut up.
In reality it seems harder to find “perfect”. Impossible even.

Thanks for the input, guys! I will now have a “perfect fastball” to throw at him during our next discussion.

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“If your original Hebrew disagrees with my original King James—- your original Hebrew is wrong.”—FSTDT

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Posted: 25 April 2007 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Stormy”]
In religion, perfection was easy. God’s perfect. End of story. “But what about the ‘saw that it was good’ and then he drowned the lot?”
Perfect I tell you, now shut up.

LOL!  You’re making me nostalgic for my cathechism classes . . .  not.

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Posted: 25 April 2007 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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waltercat: 
    Thanks for the eelucidating post. grin

    As for perfection, I think it does exists, here and there.  My daughter frequently gets perfect scores on her math tests. (she takes after her dad, thankfully)  There’s perfect timing, and a perfect martini, and perfect teeth. A perfect throw, a perfect shot… A perfect circle, a perfect square… and my favorite:  a perfect day.  I guess it comes down to how you define perfect.  One definition could be “something that completely gets the job done.”

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Posted: 25 April 2007 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“woofy”]waltercat: 
    Thanks for the eelucidating post. grin

    As for perfection, I think it does exists, here and there.  My daughter frequently gets perfect scores on her math tests. (she takes after her dad, thankfully)  There’s perfect timing, and a perfect martini, and perfect teeth. A perfect throw, a perfect shot… A perfect circle, a perfect square… and my favorite:  a perfect day.  I guess it comes down to how you define perfect.  One definition could be “something that completely gets the job done.”

Back in 1987 I moved to Vancouver, BC and during that year there was one perfect day in each of the four seasons.  A hot summer day on a boat out in the harbor; a cool, rainy fall day with the leafs part fallen; a surprising snow fall followed by bright sunshine; and a misty warm spring day with new blooming flowers.  Fantastic!

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Posted: 27 April 2007 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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As my learned colleagues have pointed out, “perfection” is a concept governed by space and time and is therefore relative and not absolute. It can only exist compared with everything else at a given moment. If we presume that there is only “now” and that the past and future don’t exist, it might be possible to have a “perfect” event within that context. However, measurement of perfection will always be colored by the observer’s perception, i.e., “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

In a larger sense, perhaps the universe is perfection in itself.

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