Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood 鋼之鍊金術師

荒川弘的漫畫《鋼之鍊金術師》﹐二零零三年首次改篇為動畫﹐隨即捲起一陣鍊金術熱漸﹐引來不少以此為題材的動漫。劇中的「等價交換」和「一即是全﹐全即是一」等慨念﹐更從動漫界打進日常生活中﹐讓不少自以為追貼潮流的文化人爭相引用。《鋼鍊》更衝出日本和東南亞﹐瘋靡西方的動畫迷。可惜當年漫畫版只連載到一半﹐動畫版要自行創作結局﹐故事虎頭蛇尾大玩哲學﹐觀眾投訴結局看到一頭霧水。後來的劇場版更是評劣如潮﹐純萃借動畫的名氣趁機賺錢之作。

二零一零年《鋼鍊》動畫版砍掉重鍊﹐跟足漫畫版原著的故事﹐重新製作六十四集的新電視動畫版。更難得是荒川弘和動畫企畫的緊密配合﹐史無前例動畫和漫畫在同一個月完結的創舉。當年看完舊動畫版後﹐我也有斷斷續續追看漫畫版﹐基本上休斯遇害後兩者的發展完全不同。原著可以說是很王道大路的少年冒險故事﹐鍊金術和找回失去的身體等等﹐不過是用來帶起後來故事的契子﹐不像舊動畫版由始至終著找這點不放。

六十四集動畫看似很長﹐但漫畫版要說的故事實在太多﹐每集動畫的劇情也很緊湊﹐完全沒有多餘的拖戲情節﹐才可以在把故事主線交待清楚。不過細節難免有所刪減﹐早期作舖排介紹的短篇冒險﹐因為與舊動畫版重覆被大幅略去﹐只留下對日後伏筆有影響的重要事件﹐保持故事的完整性。

漫畫版的壞人不再是鋼鍊兩兄弟的父親﹐而是外貌似父親的燒瓶裏的小人﹐發動國土練成陣﹐用國民生命製成賢者之石﹐達成他要吞下神的野心。鋼鍊兩兄弟開始旅途只想找回自己的身體﹐到了發現關乎全國人民性命的大陰謀﹐他們已將自己的身體拋諸腦後﹐與其他主要角色一起努力﹐阻止末日的發生。

漫畫版的故事規模更龐大﹐出場人物更多﹐結局收線合理而巧妙﹐沒有舊電視版亂來局的問題。舊動畫版刪去了清國王子﹐小梅﹐北方軍等重要角色﹐在漫畫中斯卡更是逆向國土鍊成陣的關鍵。新版結局弟弟用自己的靈魂﹐在生死關頭換回哥哥的右手﹐打倒大壞蛋後哥哥用真理之門換回弟弟的身體﹐是熱血感人的神來之筆﹐比舊版真理之門通住現實世界的結局合情合理。

人物作畫以漫畫為根據﹐新舊版感覺差不多﹐只不過溫莉在新版比較萌﹐但鷹眼上尉則舊版樣子好看些。新版所有戲份集中在主線發展上﹐我倒有點懷念舊版用來攝時間﹐炎之鍊金術士和他一眾手下的輕鬆劇情﹐特別是可愛的黑色疾風號﹐新版牠只有剩下過場客串的出場機會。

喜歡舊版《鋼鍊》的朋友﹐一定不能錯過新版《鋼鍊》﹐補完原著漫畫版真正的結局。認為舊版《鋼鍊》不知所謂的朋友﹐更加一定要看新版《鋼鍊》﹐因為這將會令你對《鋼鍊》完全改觀。

IPSC training

There are many competition events in shooting sports. The Olympics Games has .22 rifle and .22 handgun, trap and skeet shotguns. The marksman in Olympics shoots from static position on paper target or flying clays, which is very different from real-life combat scenario. In contrary, the IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) is an very dynamic shooting sport that provides good training on marksmanship and shooting skills. The competitors has to compete on courses or stages featuring different combat scenario including draw the firearm, fire from different positions, moving, reload and avoid shooting no-shoot target. The competitors are ranked based on their speed and accuracy.

I just completed the IPSC black badge training course. But I am not yet black badge certified. I have to shoot a qualifier match to obtain my class classification and provincial ranking first. My instructor Murray Gardner is 8 times national companion and he is really good. The 3 days training course emphasis on safety and we also have a fun time. The IPSC rules are very strict, any unsafe handling of the firearm is a disqualification and you are out of the competition right away. We were given exercises that breaks down all the actions in combat shooting into movements and drills to train us how to shoot safely and effectively.

I learnt a lot from my IPSC instructor. I have been shooting for 3 years and I was holding the gun the wrong way all along! Once I correct my grip, I can see improvement on my accuracy. IPSC is all about speed and accuracy, and out of the two, accuracy is more important. No matter how fast you can pull the trigger, it is useless if you can’t hit the target. You are just wasting ammunition. My accuracy is OK but my time is pretty slow. I scored 44 out of 60 points with 50% of shots hitting the A zone in the target. It took me 2.5 seconds to draw the gun and fire the first shoot, 4.8 seconds to reload and over 15 seconds to fire 6 rounds on 3 targets, reload, and fire another 6 rounds. The world companion can finish the same sequence in less 4 seconds and the instructor can get it less than 5 seconds. Slow is not a problem for IPSC beginners, your will speed up the more you practice those movements. The key is to practice so much that you don’t have to think about how to draw or how to reload, your hands should know where to move from subconcious level. I can practice those movements at home with unloaded firearm to build up my muscle memory, it only takes 15 minutes a day.

I will probably start off at class D in the bottom and my goal is slowly move my way up to class A. Above class A is Master and Grand Master and that is probably out of my reach. There is a long road ahead of me in IPSC. Skiing is my sport in Winters and IPSC is my sport in Summers.

日劇Mr. Brain

剛剛一口氣連看兩齣日劇《Change》和《Mr. Brain》﹐雖然都是木村拓哉當主角﹐但兩齣電視劇的氣氛完全不同。前者輕鬆中暗藏政治訊息﹐後者則是純萃娛樂的公式化偵探劇。木村飾演天材腦科學家﹐在警察科學研究所工作﹐前後八集解決六個案件。神探伽俚略用物理學去解謎﹐木村則用腦科學去破案。不過橫看豎看﹐他除了滿口腦科學術語外﹐他的破案方法其實只是捉心理﹐略施小計設下心理陷阱﹐讓兇手自己掉進去露出馬腳。

這齔電視劇十分熱鬧﹐除了木村當神探主角外﹐其他配角也很有趣。無腦靚女助手﹐火爆老差骨﹐菜鳥手下﹐與警科研其他古怪科學家﹐為劇集增添不少歡樂。食蕉更成為劇中木村的招牌﹐還感染到其他人一起陪他食蕉解謎。木村的角色設定十分搞笑﹐﹐腦部受創前原本當男妓﹐豈料因禍得福受創激發腦潛能成為天材。不過他卻喪失了普通人的社交能力﹐亦不能感受到愛情。靚女助手對木村一見鐘情﹐不過經常神女有心襄王無舞而表錯情。

不知為什麼所有偵探戲﹐懸案到了主角的手中﹐總是很輕易便破案﹐這套劇集自然也不例外。六個案件的設計很有心思﹐怪不得無線也要抄橋﹐要林峰學木村當神探。血十字和音符兩個案件的設計巧妙﹐都是用疑兇名字去扭橋。使用疑兇名字倒方便﹐反正編劇要角色叫什麼名字也可以。隱形人那個案件太容易猜﹐電視畫面影著蔽路電視平面圖﹐我已經估到了殺人的方法﹐比木村還要快破案。食人魔和精神分裂那兩個案件最好看﹐兩個也是案中有案受害者設計報仇﹐把受害者繩之於法有點無奈。不過似乎劇中木村破到案便像是解開謎題﹐那管法律不外人情網開一面﹐當法律不能制裁到壞人時﹐受害人連報仇也不許﹐只能默默承受法律的不公義。結局那宗案件很精彩﹐有雙雄對決的味道﹐可惜最後只找到被人利用的傀儡﹐木村知道誰是壞蛋也沒有證據拉人﹐這大慨是為劇場版留下伏筆。

日劇Change

剛剛放一個星期的大假﹐除了閒在家中搞裝修外﹐便一是口氣連煲兩套日劇《Change》和《Mr. Brian》。上一次看日劇己是大學時代的《悠長假期》和《戀外世紀》﹐無獨有偶十多年後再看日劇﹐竟然還是木村拓哉當主角﹐好像全日本只有他一個電視明星。不過我也很佩服木村﹐十多年來他樣子沒有變過﹐好像吃了防腐劑一樣﹐依然保持他的招牌迷人笑容。

《Change》的故事完全天馬行空﹐講述在小學當教師的木村﹐一個對政治完全外行人﹐忽然間當上日本首相﹐。據說劇本的靈感來自奧巴馬當選美國總統﹐一個藉藉無聞的新丁議員﹐不過三數年時間便當上美國最有權力的人。看電視劇集不用太認真﹐木村比奧巴馬還厲害﹐只用了短短三個月便當上首相。雖然故事過份跨張﹐但從日本的政治制度來看﹐也不是完全沒有可能的事。日本地方政治由鄉紳壟斷﹐議席父傳子的世襲。日本中央政府的政治﹐由幕後權力玩家操控﹐把政壇新人當鬼儡推上首相的寶座﹐借新面孔來吸引選民支持﹐也有一定的說服力。

木村很兒嬉地當選﹐做了首相依然還是很兒嬉﹐他不住首相府﹐與美少女助選員和古怪競選經理﹐一班人柴娃娃繼續住﹐大慨是方便拍攝吧。故事分開兩條主線﹐木村當主角的電視劇﹐又怎能缺少漂亮的女主角呢。深津絵里被政黨總部派去幫木村競選﹐一個具政治野心的女強人﹐另一個是厭惡政治的小學教師﹐很例牌的冤家鬥氣擦出愛火花。機緣巧合下木村從地方國會選﹐搖身一變成為日本首相﹐掉進政治爭鬥的旋渦的中心。深津當上首相秘書﹐與一眾從鄉下帶去東京的怪人﹐與木村一起並肩作戰﹐逢凶化吉安然渡過一個接一個的政治陰謀。

這套電視劇諷刺日本政壇﹐政客只顧自己的權力﹐為人民服務淪為空口大話。木村未被政治污染﹐首相的大權又從天掉下來﹐他滿腔熱血一心想為市民做點事﹐卻發現處處受到制肘﹐政府官寮傲僈自以為事﹐政客則自私自我中心。不過這是一齣童話式的電視劇﹐木村發揮主角威能﹐其他人紛紛被他的熱誠感染﹐重捨當年初踏足政壇﹐為民請命的崇高理想﹐每次難關也幫助他大步檻過。奸角是把木村捧上神臺樣子很似陶傑的政黨主席﹐木村有自己的主見﹐不甘心做他的扯線公仔﹐打破他當幕後攝政王的如意算盤﹐便處心積慮把木村拉落臺﹐好讓自己出面當首相。這齣電視劇也算是大團員結局﹐男女主角的愛情開花結果﹐木村與奸角主席勉強打成平手﹐木村宣報解散國會重新舉行大選。最後一幕是木村為選舉拉票造勢﹐大慨為開拍續集舖路。

最後一集木村的國情咨民演講﹐雖然長篇大論沉悶了些﹐但勝在畫公仔畫出腸借木村之口﹐說出現實政治與理由政治的差落﹐冀望新一代能改變對政治的負面看法。也許電視劇的世界太美好﹐現實中不會有木村這樣靚仔的政客﹐也不會有他那樣真心真意為人民謀福祉的政客。不過日本始終是成熟的民主制度﹐縱使臺底下有千絲萬縷的權力關係﹐太離譜的政客還是會被選民趕下臺﹐亦能容納社會上想改變的聲音。至少在劇中木村能以高民望作後盾﹐與政治權力的幕後老闆一較高下。日劇能夠把政治作電視劇題材﹐在嚴肅與娛樂之間找到平衡點。反觀香港的小圈子選舉制度﹐只能出產聽教聽話的特首﹐香港政治不會有轉變只是一潭死水﹐而無線也永遠拍不出Change這種級數的電視劇。

Chess Game Analysis #2

This week my rating in chess.com is still fluctuating around 800-900 level, but I stop dipping down to the 700 level. I can easily beat any 500-600 level players and stand a good chance playing against 900-1000 level players if I did not make any blunders. In number of times, I have material lead in mid game but lost a major piece making a obviously stupid move.

I found studying the chess game of Grant Master Kasparov really improve my chess skill. It is an eye opening observing how the grand master plays. I learn a few things in due process. The number one lesson I had learn is when I have material advantage, I should patiently exchange pieces one at a time, don’t rush for checking that will not force a mate or it will end up destroying my formation. Advance the pieces by marching them slowly, make sure every piece is protected by another piece with the chain of defense starts at the King protecting the pawn. Beginner usually thinks an attack is an attack on a piece, but I start thinking attack in terms attacking empty squares to limit how the opponent can move his piece.

I played against a stronger player in this game and I won. Comparing this game to the last game I analyzed, I can see my improvement.

1.e4 c6
I always use king-pawn opening. I will master this opening before I try other opening style. Black response with Caro-Kann defense.

2.Nc3 f6
I protect my prawn with queen-side knight. The standard response should be march queen-pawn. He advance the king-bishop-pawn for no reason.

3.Nf3 Qb6
I mobilize the other knight. Black move the queen to add my king-bishop-pawn. After many losses, I think I finally learn how to deal with queen’s attack by setting up traps.

4.d4 Qb4
Advance the queen-pawn to block black queen’s attack and black queen move again to skewer my knight.

5.a3 Qa5
I can’t move the bishop to block the skewer yet or I will leave the b2-pawn defenseless. I need to chase the queen away with the a2-pawn. Queen moves but stay in the diagonal.

6.Bd2 Qb6
I move the bishop to protect the king and prepare for a discover attack. The black queen is being chased around. He is losing tempo keep moving the queens when I slowly develop to castle

7.b4 g5
b2-pawn is under attack, march it forward to get protection from the queen-rook-pawn. Black is developing on the right, I think he wants to mobilize his king-bishop.

8.Be3 g4
I move the bishop to prepare for another discover attack on the queen. Black falls for the trap and march the pawn to threaten my knight. A lone marching is useless.

9.Na4 Qc7
Computer analysis think I should move king-knight to h4, but instead I chase the queen away with the queen-knight.

10.Nd2 d6
I retreat the knight from the pawn. Black advance the queen-pawn and block the queen. Advancing the pawn to d5 is a better move.

11.Be2 h5
I move the bishop to attack the lone pawn. Black back it up with the rook pawn.

12.f3 b5
I throw in the king-bishop-pawn. Black march the queen-knight-pawn to threaten my knight.

13.Nc3 Bh6
I retreat the knight, black wants to exchange the dark-square bishop.

14.Bxh6 Rxh6
Since no piece can protect my bishop, I accept the exchange. Computer analyze suggest march the king-bishop-pawn to protect the bishop, but I am not very convinced. I expect him to develop the knight which will protect the g4 pawn, but he use the rook instead.

15.fxg4 hxg4
Since g4 pawn is under protected, I started the exchange.

16.Bxg4 Bxg4
Continue the exchange.

17.Qxg4 Rh8
I finish the exchange and my queen has an eye on the black knight. Black retreat the rook to protect the knight. It is better to use the king instead. Remember, the king should be at the end of the chain of defense.

18.O-O-O Kd8
I castle to the left and black move the king. I should have move the queen to g7 and take the rook. Black should move the knight to chase my queen instead.

19.Nb3 Qb7
I move the knight to build up the defense for my king. Black move the queen to the left, probably want to attack my king from the left.

20.e5 Qa6
I thought for quite some time to design which pawn to march. I guess I should just take the free knight (or rook) instead.

21.Kb2 Nh6
Move Knight to guard a4 square. King is protected by the two knights. Black finally chase my queen away.

22.Qh5 fxe5
I move my queen to pin his knight against the rook. Black takes my middle pawn

23.dxe5 Qc8
I retake his pawn. Black wants put his queen to use on the right side.

24.exd6 Nd7
I prepare for a discover check, black move a knight to block the way.

25.Rhe1 exd6
Exchange pawn

26.Rxd6 Qc7
Take the pawn with rook. Black queen try to chase my rook with the queen and let me take the unprotected knight.

27.Rxh6 Nf6
Prepare for the rook trade. Black keep chasing my queen with his knight.

28.Qh4 Rf8
I move queen to pin his knight against his king.

29.Rxf6 Kd7
I propose a rook trade. Black move the king

30.Ref1 Rfe8
The black queen is skewered, I should trade the queen instead.

31.Rf7+ Re7
I line up the rook, but I missed a force mate.

32.Rxe7+ Kd6
I took another rook. Black is pretty much done.

33.Rxc7 Kxc7 34.Rf7+ Kb6 35.Nc5 a6 36.Qh7 Ra7 37.Rxa7 a5 38.Qb7# 1-0
The rest of the game is just the painful dead of black. However I missed so many force mate opportunities. I need to work on learn how spot force mates.

哲學功課: What is function in biology?

在生物學上如何決定一個器官的功能﹐是一個具爭議性的課題﹐這涉及如何分辨運作正常或失靈。心臟的功能是泵血﹐但發出啪啪的心跳聲﹐又算不算心臟的功能呢﹖如果一個人的心臟能夠泵血但不會發出心跳聲﹐他的心臟又算不算運作正常呢。在近代生物學的傳統﹐生物的各個器官的功能﹐可以用進化論去解釋﹐從物競天擇適者生存的定律﹐去推論什麼是器官的功能。任何器官的功能﹐最終也是以增加生存或繁殖後代的機會為準則。心臟若果不能泵血﹐生物便會死亡﹐所以泵血是心臟的功能。但心跳聲並不會增加進化優勢﹐所以那便不是心臟的功能用。

用這個說法去解釋生學的功能有一個問題﹐就是沒有辨法定義與無關進化的生物或器官的功能。例如人類解剖到外星人﹐人類並不知道外星人如何進化﹐那便無從決定外星人器官的功能。又例如X-Men漫畫裏的Cyclops﹐他的眼睛可以射出激光﹐可是那個能力是因為基因突變﹐並不是從物競天擇進化而來。根據這個功用源於進化的定義﹐射出激光並不是Cyclops眼睛的功能﹐但這個說法明顯地十分荒謬。這篇功課便是探討生物學上功能的定義﹐並提出能夠應付上述情況的新功能理論。

What is function in biology?

Abstract: In this paper, I am going to argue Prior’s account of functional analysis is most promising theory of function in biology based on the selected important desiderata for a theory of biological function. I will then defense Prior’s view against Neander’s attack from the prima facie problem with teleological explanations.

In the second half of the course, we have surveyed many accounts on theory of function in biology. Namely we have studied a few rejected classical theory of function in [1] and [2], the standard etiological approach proposed by Wright [1], the system approach proposed by Cummins [2], the goal oriented approach proposed by Boorse [3], the forward-looking approach proposed by Bigelow [4] and the functional analysis approach proposed by Prior [6]. Neander’s paper does not make any new proposal but rather fortify the Wright’s argument. Godfrey-smith’s paper spoil the fun of the party by proposing that the two major camps in this debate, Wright and Cummins respectively, are talking about two different notation of functions. Out of the all the functional theory, I think Prior’s account that is based on a modified Cummins approach is the most promising approach to explain what is function in biology. I will first summarize the desiderata for a theory of biological function by collecting all the functional criteria from all the papers.

An acceptable account of theory of biological function must able to answer the following questions:

  1. An acceptable functional theory must distinguish between function and merely effect. For example, the heart’s function is to pump blood; its function is not to make throbbing sound. This example is used by both Wright and Cummins. This is pretty much one of the most fundamental acid test for any functional theory.
  2. An acceptable functional theory must explain both artificial (conscious) and natural (biological) function. Actually in my opinion, throwing away this criterion will open up all the limitation of biology functional theory. If we can treat artificial function and natural function as two distinguish and non-intersecting categories, most of the argument in functional theory will simply disappear. Biological function will become much like physical function and chemical function that is just a descriptive account of the causation effects and what happen as it is. However Wright, Cummins and pretty much everyone else choose to keep the criteria, I have to include it in this paper to keep the premise consistence with all the papers

  3. An acceptable functional theory must distinguish function from malfunction, non-function, vestige, statistically normal function, accident and unintended function. This criterion is where the different functional theories disagree with each others, in another word this is the heated battle ground. The Cummins camp attacks the Wright camp that the etiological approach cannot deal with any one of those distinctions or all of the above. The Wright camp defenses the etiological theory by counter argue that their account can handle the distinctions. One problem I observe is that the actual meaning of function seems twisted one way or another by each camp to fit their functional theory. Here I will propose an acid test for each type of distinction to keep the criterion simple. A heart that cannot pump blood, say there is some genetic defect and the heart is born with a missing a valve, is a malfunction heart. An appendix is a non-functioning and vestige organ in human. If a virus causes 99% of the population to go blind, the function of an eye is still to see. The function of a belt bucket is not stopping bullet, although sometimes accident does happen and it does stop bullet and saves life. The function of Prior’s hypothetical grape-prawn peeler is to shell prawn. Alternatively, we can substitute a real world example for the grape-prawn peeler. When laser was invented, it was intended be used as laser weapon, but it turns out laser also is very useful in reading data from DVDs.

  4. An acceptable functional theory must take into account of super function. Here is an example of super function. Normally the function of an eye is to see. However in the comics X-Men, Cyclops, a mutant superhero, can shoot laser from his eyes. Therefore function of his eye is both seeing and shooting laser. Yet we do not know whether shooting laser from eyes has any evolutionary advantage or even an inheritable genetic trait. The comics do not mention he has any offspring and just the fact of being a mutant always puts his life in great danger. In the next section, I am going to outline Prior’s functional theory and contrast it with Wright’s etiological theory. I will examine both theories base on the desiderata defined above. Prior’s define function statement as the output of functional analysis. “According to this account the ascription of a function is both theory and interest relative – the function of a particular organ will be that of its effects which features in our best account of some interesting (higher-level) capacity of the organism in question.”[6] He also said that his account is familiar similar to Cummins’ functional analysis that “functions are appealed to in order to explain the capacities of their containing systems, and not the existences of the item to which the function is attributed.”[6] In contrary, Wright’s etiological account states that “The function of X is Z means: (a) X is there because it does Z, (b) Z is a consequence (or result) of X’s being there” [1] In short, Prior’s theory does not care about how the organ comes into place, it only cares about the effect and relationship between the organ and the organism or the organism and the ecosystem. On the other hand, Wright’s theory requires the function to explain how the organ comes into place.

Both Prior and Wright’s theory easily pass the first criteria although they have different explanation. In Prior’s account, he can follow Cummin’s explain the function of heart under the context of the blood circulatory system. Since the pumping of blood but not making the heart beating sound is a desired effect of the heart in the circulatory system in explaining its capacity, we can distinguish the function of the heart as pumping blood against making noise is merely an effect. Wright would explain the function of heart by stating that the heart pumping blood gives evolutionary advantage to the species hence increase the fitness to survival for those who population within the species who process this genotype, as a result a blood pumping heart exists because that is what was selected for. The heart beating sound does not give any evolutionary advantage, it is a selected of, a trait merely got inherited tagging the tagged along with the pumping function of heart. Since the first criterion is the most basic requirement of any functional theory, I am not surprised both theories can explain it well.

The second criterion is does not have much controversy since both Prior and Wright deliberately took the effort to make their theories compatible with artificial selection. Prior’s approach actually originates from functional account of artificial function and extend it to cover natural function. The function of a mechanical part is determined by its design intention within the mechanical system. In the pre-Darwin where creationism rules the study of nature theory, natural function pretty much share the same account as artificial function. The only difference is the conscious agent for artificial function is human and the conscious agent for natural function is God. Medieval doctors explain biological function in term of physiological function which a result of the functional analysis procedure for the whole body. However this account is not without problem. By definition no one know the real intention of God, so the natural function is really only based on what people’s guesses about God’s intention or on powerful religion figure’s claim on knowing the intention of God. If the intention is not known or incorrect, the function could be totally wrong. For a long time in the history, people think generating emotion is also a function of the heart, which is obviously wrong under the light of modern science. Wright’s approach is the opposite; it extends the biological account of natural function to cover artificial function by replacing natural selection with the selection by the designer or user. In this sense, it actually simplifies the problem of the etiological account. The biggest problem of etiological account is base on the natural selection theory which it is somewhat questionable as we learn in previous lectures. Replacing natural selection with an artificial selection originated from a conscious agent eliminate the uncertainty in the equation. If there is any doubt, we can always get clarification by asking the agent for his selection criteria.

Prior’s theory does not have much problem with the third criterion. Once the nominal function is identified through functional analysis in the context of the system and its capacity, any derivation from the nominal function can treat as malfunction, non-function or accident. If the system changes and the nominal function are no longer required, it becomes a vestige. If the context of the system and its capacity is indentified correctly in related to a higher level system, we can deduce the intention of the function and figure out the difference between the statistical normal function and the nominal function. Unintended function can be deal with by a running a new functional analysis after updating the context and capacity of the system. Wright account has a harder time answering the question posed by the third criterion. Malfunction and non-function can be understand in the relationship of token and type, deviations from of token from the type that lower the fitness can be seen as a malfunction or non-function. Vestige is the easiest to deal with since the etiological account keeps track of the historical record of the function. Statistical normal function is a bit harder to deal with using the backward looking account, but if we patch the etiological theory with Bigelow’s [4] forward looking account, we can still distinguish between function and statistical normal function. For example, a virus that blind 99% of the population would not change the function of the eye, because having an eye that can see still have an evolution advantage. In the etiological account if a function is not inherited then we can treat it as an accident instead of a function. Backward looking account cannot deal with unintended function, but it has no problem in the forward looking account since unintended function is still a function as long as it has a selective advantage.

I believe the forth criterion really sets the two theories apart. According to the comics, Cyclops acquires the ability of laser eye due to first generation genetic mutation. Clearly there is no previous selection history Wright can use in the backward etiological account. Having a laser eye does not make him more attractive to women, so it does not give him any reproductive advantage. In the world of X-men, the government hunts down mutants, the evil mutants launch a war on the good mutants for world domination and occasionally the good mutants have to defense the Earth from alien invasion. Mutants seem to have a worse survivability compare to the normal people. If there is no forward selection advantage, we cannot use Bigelow’s forward etiological account. However, it would be odd to say shooting out laser is not a function of Cyclops’ eyes because that’s what they really do. Prior’s account has no such problem, we can examine Cyclops as mutant, which is a different system compare to normal people. We can easily perform functional analysis on his eyes and concludes they have the function of seeing thing and shooting lasers. This approach is exactly how the medieval doctors determine the function of human body parts and the X-File scientist in Area 51 figure out functions of alien body parts when they dissect the alien.

In Neander’s paper [5], she argues against Cummin’s account following a different strategy. She employed the prima facie general problem concerning all teleological explanations which explains the means by the ends; a development or trait is explained by reference to goals, purposes of functions. Teleological explanations appeals to the effects but it is often that the purposes, goal and functional effects are never realized. In the case of artificial function, instead of appeal to the actual effect of the function, the teleological explanations appeal to the intended effect of the agent. When the purposes go unfulfilled, the agent still has a purpose. Clearly, the explanatory power of purposive explanations does not derive from their explicit reference to future effects so much as their implicit reference thereby to past intentional attitudes to those future effects. In short, teleological explanations are just a species of ordinary casual explanation. The problem with biological function is there is no intentional agent. Prior cannot appeal to God nor Mother Nature’s intention or evolutionary design, since those misguided pseudo-explanation are not scientifically respectable.

In Prior’s paper, he sort of response to the teleological problem by stating that it is just a “fundamental fact about human beings (or animals, plants, insects) that they are highly interested in survival and reproduction.” [6] He dodged the theological question of the ultimate intention by simply assuming it is a fact. He also stated that the ultimate purpose of biological life from is contagious by citing an example of an imaginary world with human life form wish to die happily instead of survive and procreate. I am not very please with Prior’s defense since his defense is pretty weak. He is just making a groundless assumption about human nature or biological life form in general. I can already contradict his idea about human purpose with any major religion beliefs. For example: to Christianity, the purpose of human being is not to survive or to reproduce; rather it is to go to heaven; to Buddhist, the purpose of human being is to reincarnate and reach nirvana.

I am going to response Neander teleological problem by using the human centric view that stating it is us, the human being, gives purpose to the nature. Nature may not have any purpose by itself; but that does not mean human cannot assign some purpose to the nature. At the end of the day, it is human, neither God nor Mother Nature, is where the conscious agent that all the teleological intention ends. With the advance of modern science, like genetic engineering, geo-engineering, climate control, space colony, human will eventually has the power to shape the nature to the way we want. There will be no natural intention, everything is artificial intention. For the time being, natural intentions are merely artificial intention that we haven’t figure out a way to control yet. To summarize, the function of an egg to a chicken is a mean to reproduce. The function of an egg to human is breakfast, and the function of a chicken to human is lunch or dinner. Prior’s account is the most possible explanation for function, my minor twist to Prior’s account is human is in the center of all system, so we are the conscious agent and eventually nature function will be mostly equivalent to artificial function, except that nature function is generated by evolution engineering.

References:
1. Wright, Larry (1973) “Functions” Philosophical Review. Vol. 82, pp. 139-68
2. Cummins, Robert (1975) “Functional Analysis” Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 72, pp. 741-64
3. Boorse, Christopher (1976) “Wright on Functions” Philosophical Review. Vol. 85, pp, 70-86.
4. Bigelow, John, and Robert Pargetter (1987) “Functions” Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 84 (4), pp. 181-96.
5. Neander (1991) “The Teleological Notion of ‘Function’” Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
6. Prior (1985) “What is Wrong with Etiological Accounts of Biological Function?” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
7. Godfrey-Smith (1993) “Functions: Consensus Without Unity” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.