Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

The Equivocation of Chickens
by Dean Michael Gores

In the case of many words, each individual uses different definitions for the same word. Also, individuals frequently change what they are referring to with a word, and they do so mid-conversation, mid-argument, and mid-logical process. This leads to much greater of a problem then one might first realize.

The commonly known "chicken and egg problem" is an excellent example. It goes like this:
Q: Where does a chicken come from?
A: An egg.
Q: Where does an egg come from?
A: A chicken.
Q: If a chicken comes from an egg, and an egg came from a chicken, then which one was first, and how did it come into existence? God must have done it.

Now, of course I could have attacked the last claim, "God must have done it", by arguing whether God exists. Instead, look at this:
In reality, every egg is different, and every chicken is different. When I say "Chicken", I mean the collection of the common attributes I have identified between the set of the organisms which I refer to as "Chicken". Every individual has a slightly different definition of "Chicken", because they have identified more or fewer common attributes between a different set of organisms. "Egg" is the collection of the common attributes of a particular stage of many life form's lives. I know a different collection of common attributes then you, and the meaning of "egg" that I use is different then the meaning you use. Between individuals, the definitions of most words are inconsistent to various degrees.

In the "chicken and egg problem" I referred to "chicken" as a particular instance of a chicken. Then later I referred to a different instance of a chicken, which of course had different attributes. So in the argument above I changed the meaning of the word "chicken" half way through the argument (the two chickens have different attributes).

The logical fallacy described above isn't so big of a deal when you only look as far as chicken, egg, chicken, egg, chicken, egg. The things we are referring to are still pretty much consistent with what we refer to when we say "chicken". In common every day communication this doesn't matter because the differences are practically non-essential.

But then as we go further into the past (continue going further back in the past, chicken, egg, chicken, egg), the thing you call "chicken" has fewer and fewer attributes that current chickens have. At some point they will be so different that you won't recognize the organism as a chicken, you might say "That looks kinda like a chicken, but its kind of small, and it can fly much further than chickens I've seen."

Just because each of us call a set of organisms as human beings "human" doesn't mean that every instance of a human is the same. What each individual human being is and does determines what they are. What they are is what they are, the names we give them do not guarantee that every single instance has the properties that we associate with the name.

I could pose the question "What is "human"?" And we could argue endlessly about which set of common attributes makes a life form "human". We could define the word-- but then some people will go "Boo hoo, I call this life form a human, but your definition classifies it as non-human!" So be careful when you use the word "human", it is not well defined, and you may find yourself calling a dinosaur a chicken.

Of course, in every day language, using the word "human" and "chicken" can be very useful, because the definition you use for "human" is very similar to mine, and the definition you use for "chicken" is very similar to mine, especially when we compare how different "human" is to "chicken".

I expect that one day I will stop calling myself human, it would be misleading for me to call myself such. And maybe I'm too smart now to be classified as human. When I was younger, some called me "Dean the machine". I'll call myself "Rational Living Machine", Ralima for short. Hmmm... yes, that name is much more fitting to me now than "human". Note: I am not a simple machine. Haha, you might find it more suitable to call me crazy. But examine what I do: I'm extremely different, so you at first you might think I'm crazy, but then look at how successful I am, and how consistent my words and actions are. And I'm improving too. "Rapidly Self-Improving Rational Living Machine", Raseim-Ralima.

I expect that one day many descendants of chickens will be like this: Mouth on top, digestive system through center, bunches of meat that grow large and tender and then peel off and fall down onto a conveyor belt. All descendants of chicken will not be like this. Some chickens may go wild again (soon), and maybe they will be able to fly much further again (flying will become important for their survival once again). At some point in the future, it would not be useful to refer to all descendants of chickens as "chicken". Or maybe we will call them all "chicken", and each individual will use multiple definitions for the word "chicken".

Would the patent run out of time before I patent my proposed descendants of chickens?
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