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The Colour of a Rose

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posted on Aug, 8 2010 @ 01:26 PM
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I'm reading a book which was written around 1900 and the author referenced something that seemed a bit superfluous and I discounted, but then the more I thought about it, the harder the question seemed to be, because every answer that I came up with was just a supposition that left it unanswered, and the question remained.

His question was this: Why is a rose red? Is it red by some design or process, or is it simply red because it is not purple?

I started with a dismissal that this was a nonsensical question, but then I saw his point in asking it, and, as I said, as I worked through the ramifications of each answer, I came to the conclusion that it's unanswerable, though not nonsensical.

The closest one I came to siding with was the "red because it isn't purple" end, but even that was a struggle. Both creation and evolution fit into the first response, and both creation and evolution first into the second, though for radically different reasons.

I'm off to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry for the afternoon. Will look forward to others' insights when I return. Jokes or notes regarding the obvious fact that we can make roses that are any colour kind of miss the point. Substitute anything else you can identify with.

[edit on 8-8-2010 by adjensen]




posted on Aug, 8 2010 @ 02:21 PM
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Explanation: S&F!

Form denotes Function!



Starting @ 1min 1sec till 1min 10sec


Carl Sagan: The beauty of living things is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together!


Certain Functions expressions are limited by what Forms they may take and the environment they may take them in! The colour red in roses is an attractant to some species and a repellant to others in various environments and the same goes for smell, taste etc. Another colour would not have the same atomic form and it's functions expression would be different across various different environments as a result of that inherent and physiological change.

Evolution drives the process of refining the best fit form for the function to be expressed!

Personal Disclosure: It's red because that is the most survival efficient form to take to express its function as a rose... which is to procreate as a rose!



posted on Aug, 8 2010 @ 02:40 PM
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I think of it in the philosophical, and quantum mechanics sense.

As humans we can only sense "energy reality" in a few ways. One of those ways is the eye-brain mechanism (duh
). The eyes have sensors which can detect red:green, or blue:yellow, then they translate outside "material objects" into electrical stimuli. The elctrical stimuli go through various levels of our brain to register as a particular object with color, depth, shape etc.

When we see a rose we are looking at energy - an energy of cause and effect that's purpose is far more than we can ever know. We take in everything, perceive some of it, and actually have an emotional reaction to very few things.

Simple... only takes an enlightened master, quantum philosopher, human feeling perceiving being to answer that lil question!

I love being human

I find it so fascinating that there are a few questions that truly cannot be answered without trying to acheive the whole of human purpose, or not answered at all.


[edit on 8-8-2010 by Thermo Klein]



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 12:07 AM
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reply to post by OmegaLogos
 


Just getting back to this, thanks for the video! I love reading Feynman, he's much more accessible than people generally give physicists credit for being.

Okay, for my take on this question which, by the way, comes from G. K. Chesterton's book "Orthodoxy", I have to restate the question, because it's more philosophical in nature than anything else.

Why is a rose red? Is it red by some design or process, or is it simply red because it is not purple?

The first option implies that the colour of a rose is a selection "toward" something. If one is theist, one supposes that God likes red roses, so that's the colour that he has chosen. If one is a evolutionist (or a theistic evolutionist, as I am,) one supposes that natural selection "likes" red roses, that in the current natural environment, red is a colour that is beneficial to roses.

The purpose of this selection is unknown. Because of the unchanging nature of God, a theistic view would be that roses will always be red. Contrary to this, the evolutionist view would be that, given a changing environment, red roses can never be assumed. However, because we are selecting toward something, we come to the conclusion that, in both options, we are left with the impression that red is "good" and not red is "less good."

That's a bit complicated, but the other side is no better.

In the "because it's not purple" option, we are selecting against something. God doesn't like purple, so that is not the colour of roses. Natural selection has found that purple roses don't work very well, so they are red, not purple. With this in mind, a conclusion might be drawn that purple roses are somehow "bad", and red roses are "less bad."

When those two are considered together, the two options rather cancel each other out, leaving only the "simply red because it is not purple" piece remaining, without any real explanation for the statement.

That, I think, is the core answer that Chesterton was getting to, and why I lean toward this as the correct option. We operate with highly limited expectations and understandings. We put up frameworks and balustrades to keep us confined to a way of thinking and a perception of reality that we're comfortable with, but it ultimately becomes a prison of seeing what we want to see, defining things in terms of expectations and pushing aside any notion of contrariness.

As Chesterton says, repetition is not reason. If one cuts the stem of an apple, it will fall to Earth. If one cuts a hundred stems, a hundred apples will fall. But this isn't the reason that the apple falls, and if we insist that the apple will always fall because it always does, we will be disappointed when it does not. And if one takes an apple tree into space, away from the effect of gravity, the apple will not fall.

"We have always done it that way" is no reason to do it that way. It is also no cause to stop doing it that way, and thus, it is nothing in itself at all.

Allowing that roses are red because they are not purple is the embracement of this openness. It acknowledges that there is no reason that roses may not be purple in the future, no reason that they may not simultaneously turn purple, no reason that roses may vanish from existence tomorrow. Rather than taking something away (comfort in constancy) it recognizes that, in a lack of complete understanding, we should not assume that our limitations are reality's limitations.



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 03:35 AM
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This is an interesting situation. An agnostic and a Methodist discussing a Catholic apologist. OK, Orthodoxy was written before his conversion
.

One of the key things about natural selection is that this is false,


However, because we are selecting toward something, ...

There is no toward.

Roses are red because that color has been successful for past roses, compared with other colors that were tried.

Red wasn't tried for any particular reason, by whichever rose or rose ancestor was the first in the line to be red. Red, once tried, worked out well for roses.

Nor was red ever really "tried," in the sense of some rose jockeying for advantage over other roses. Red was only "tried" in the sense of "happened during a particular case or trial."

As Yoda said, do or do not, there is no try. That was a stupid remark in context, since an intentional agent was, as a matter of fact, trying something. But had Yoda said it to describe rose redness, then Yoda would have earned his reputation for wisdom.

"Purpose" (a particular kind of answer to questions that begin with "Why...?" not to be confused with questions that begin with "How...?") is an inference, a human drama projected onto a houseplant.

We can say a lot about how redness confers relative advanatge to roses. But that is not why roses are red.

You and I are human beings. We see patterns in noise, we see purpose in patterns whether or not there is a purpose, and whether or not there is anybody to have that purpose.

We could have a long discussion about how the cognitive mechanisms involved, despite inevitable false positives, confer advantage on human beings. Maybe we will.

Finally, we aren't in general selecting, some active verb-activity, nor is anybody or anything else. Although obviously, artificial selection is a factor in roses, we are discussing wild roses and so natural selection, I think.

Natural selection is a passive process. There are too few resources, too many ways for the process of reproduction to fail, and too many ways for a rose to die. Some roses will die without offspring.

Unless some roses leave offspring, then you and I won't be discussing roses. As it happens, red has been well-represented among successful roses. So, you and I talk about red roses.

G.K. Chesterton writes at the magic moment in history when evolution by natural selection had gained acceptance, but the underlying ideas were still specialist knowledge. So, he asks why roses are red, instead of how redness helps a rose.



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 06:48 AM
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I think this question can be boiled down to: "Why is any given thing X rather than Y?"

Seen from another angle, this is a bit like asking, "why are there specific things at all instead of one single glob of whatever-it-is?"

And ultimately, at the core, this thus becomes variation on the oldest head-scratcher of them all: "Why is there something instead of nothing?"

Let me know if any of you geniuses can figure out that last one. It's OK, I'll wait. I've been waiting to know all my life and the mystery only grows deeper. Interestingly, although I still wonder I no longer wonder with urgency...the joy of wondering itself is worth the wait.



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 07:46 AM
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"Is it red by some design or process, or is it simply red because it is not purple?"

Mu

Well, not really.

The "or" makes it seem like a connundrum when in fact you don't have to choose between these unrelated alternatives that are in actuality both valid correlatives to the redness. Alas, the entire query belies an incomplete understanding of the situation.

So...

Mu

Yes, really.



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 09:32 AM
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Originally posted by eight bits
This is an interesting situation. An agnostic and a Methodist discussing a Catholic apologist. OK, Orthodoxy was written before his conversion
.


Actually, I'm not even sure that I completely followed Chesterton's argument, and I'm pretty sure that mine is not his, because as you note, the view of evolution in 2010 is a lot different than it was in 1910. But, at its core, he's just really a difficult read in a lot of places.



One of the key things about natural selection is that this is false,


However, because we are selecting toward something, ...

There is no toward.

Roses are red because that color has been successful for past roses, compared with other colors that were tried.


Yes, I am likely showing where my rudimentary knowledge of natural selection buttresses my biased view, in that I do see natural selection as having something of a goal, which is the continuation of life. Not a directed goal, but an inherent one that can be inferred.

The root (har har) of the problem, I agree, is personification of what the colour of the rose implies. On the one hand, seeming randomness (that TD argued so vehemently against) in which red is an arbitrary colour that just happens to have filtered out. On the other, some sense that things as they are "fit together" in a way that is beyond understanding. We personify, I suspect, because we realize the first, but want to believe the second. One is order in the face of chaos, the other is order in the face of order, and humans aren't big fans of chaos.

But, as the rose question is philosophical, rather than scientific, it remains whether things are the way that they are because they are good (maybe "right" would be a better word,) whether they are simply not "bad" and the fact that it is red is arbitrary, or whether they are merely the current state of things, in which case they are transitory and the evaluation is a temporal one more that anything else.

I think that the basis of an argument against creationism and Intelligent Design (in the micro sense, not macro) can be found in this question, in that roses are not always red, so God either did not opt for that colour (creationism is wrong,) or he is fickle (which he is not.) A counter argument might be made for the same temporal variation that evolution is allowed, but that seems like a massive stretch to me.



posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 07:01 PM
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The root (har har) of the problem, I agree, is personification of what the colour of the rose implies. On the one hand, seeming randomness (that TD argued so vehemently against) in which red is an arbitrary colour that just happens to have filtered out.

Yes, but TD was vehement because he got lost in his own rhetoric.

What most people mean when they say that "red roses arose randomly" is that there is no foresight in natural selection's novelties. The first red rose didn't occur because red would turn out to be a good color for roses. Its appearance was "independent" of its fitness.

Once there was a first red rose, however, the rails were greased. Red was in fact a good color for roses, and over time, other colors became marginal. Chance still played a role. That first red rose wasn't clobbered by a meteorite, for example. But as Jesse Livermore famously said

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong - but that's the way to bet.

(Lucky for non-red roses, humans came along and had different tastes than hummingbirds. I've been putting serious effort into a pale pink example for the past year. I think it's about to bloom. Or, maybe it's just stringing me along. Again.)


I suspect, because we realize the first, but want to believe the second. One is order in the face of chaos, the other is order in the face of order, and humans aren't big fans of chaos.

Ah, but there is a part of humans that loves chaos. The Dionysian revels! Evoe!

In fact, the last reservation against evolution by natural selection is the sinking realization that it smells of human psychological projection. It is a story about order emerging from chaos, in fact, about chaos ordering itself. Like our own psyches do.

Very suspicious that is
. But we have the evidence. Our dreams and reality coincide for once.




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