Inductive reasoning is one of our most powerful thinking tools as humans. It allows us to find patterns in what we observe and generalize these patterns to predict what will happen in the future.

Even though we don’t really know the extent to which animals “reason” this way, they do form habits and respond to classical conditioning.

Of course, there’s no inherently logical reason to trust that future events will resemble past events at all. This is just an intuition most humans (and perhaps animals) have, presumably because we’ve evolved in an environment that behaves somewhat regularly and therefore rewards this kind of reasoning. But for all we know, the “laws” of physics could suddenly change at any moment.

QUESTION: Within a universe something like ours (i.e. with the same chemical elements, laws of physics, etc), what kind of environment would support the evolution of organisms that do not have inductive reasoning, habituation, or any other mechanism that uses past experience to deal with future possibilities?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why? Anyhow, questions about evolution are always an issue. It's so complex and abstract atm. I'm not entirely sure what exactly you want here, this doesn't seem like a true world building attempt because it's just such a random thought. Instead of saying what you don't want, what do you want? How should reasoning work for your species? Once you establish what you want to do and get some structure to your approach, you may find world building easier $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 0:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If they don't have inductive reasoning, what do they use to solve problems? If they don't solve problems, why (and how) did they develop intelligence in the first place? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 1:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You would need an environment that is totally unpredictable, such that learning from the past is useless. IMHO. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @NomadMaker, In which case you're not likely to get a lifeform more complicated than the most basic cell, so it won't matter because they won't be thinking at all. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison That is actually my point. Prediction is one of the most important parts of intelligent behavior. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 21:50

7 Answers 7


I don't see how this is possible since life and evolution as we know it is contingent on environmental conditions having some form of stability against change. Even the physical form is a product of the environment in the past and a requirement for it to continue to be effective in the future is that future conditions not vary significantly from those of the past. That's why rapid environmental change tends to make things go extinct.

You not fearing and running for your life from everything (and I mean EVERYTHING: other animals, inanimate objects, your food, the terrain you walk on, the moving clouds in the sky, nightfall) is a result of past experiences. The flip side is also true: the fact you aren't fearless is also due to past experiences. The more mundane form of this is you not noticing sounds, temperatures, or smells that persist also counts as habitutation.

Knowing how to walk or move your own body or that you shouldn't bite into arm is also rooted past success.

Even instincts rely on past success. Without thought or instincts, you just have animals doing one of three things:

  • random and/or irrelevant things all the time
  • the same thing all the time, but if that doesn't work then it just dies out and if it does work it is relying on past success to work so I guess this option doesn't work
  • doing nothing at all. But if it is able to survive doing this, that is still technically due to it working in the past

Even without thought or instincts you can see habituation mechanisms at work in plants. Change conditions too quickly and the plant can't acclimate fast enough and it dies, because conditions of the past were not sufficiently representative of those of the future.

You would basically need something that is able to survive regardless of its environment (or more accurately, all extremes of the environment it is in including the most extreme rates of change between those extremes) regardless of its or its own actions, which doesn't make sense. Even if you supposed that was the case, as soon as those conditions exceed those boundaries, that animal is a goner.

So let us take a ridiculous example: A rock. That would fit that definition most with its hardiness owing to its simplicity but that simplicity disallows for the complexity that would result in the behaviours you seek, ironically, because it doesn't need those behaviours to continue to exist. Its past behaviour of doing nothing worked regardless of environment so it had no need for anything else. But oh, wait, the fact that doing nothing worked is still based on the past successes.

  • $\begingroup$ Lichens strike me as a prime example of an organism that survives by doing the bare minimum. (But maybe I'm missing some secret, fascinating inner world of lichens.) $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 2:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence Yeah those came to my mind too but I'm basically arguing that their biology itself hinges on past influences and successes so inherently is a form of of memory. I'm basically saying the OP needs to greatly narrow their scope and definitions rather than just asking about habituation (i.e. things that don't require conscious thought, and sometimes not even unconscious thought at all) or any mechanism that uses past "experiences" (whatever an experience is defined as) to deal with the future. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ Like if I have a tail that gets lopped off while I am unsconscious, and I actually end up surviving better since it's just a vestigial tail that adds extra weight and volume. Does that count as an experience? My mind might not remember anything, but my body certainly does. It certainly counts as something that happened to me in the past carrying on to improve my survival in the future. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 3:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ to put it simply If the laws of physics were not more or less constant life would not have evolved or survived long enough for the question to come up. Either your life lives in a stable universe or it doesn't exist. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:06

There's only one possible way

I almost VTC'd this question as opinion-based because the idea that someone could come up with natural evolutionary pressures that would circumvent the development of inductive reasoning can't be anything other than a wild, ridiculous guess so grand in it's implausibility that angels would weep and Adolf Hitler would reconstitute and claw his way out of his bunker just to laugh at our Stack.

Until I realized that there's only one answer: the moment the spark of intelligence lightens any creature's mind — it gets eaten.

If the fundamental sci-fi premise of alternate and parallel universes is true then, surely, yours is that unluckiest of universes, the one where every amoeba, every fish, every gorilla, every opportunity for evolution to advance a species toward reasoning intelligence … died a horrible, screaming death. Probably at the hands claws of some dinosaur.

Which is another way of saying...

It's impossible. The moment the first guy or gal asks the question, "what should I wear for my date tonight?" inductive reasoning is born. It's more inevitable than the sun coming up. The moment the first fish anticipates the oncoming shark. The moment the first flower blooms a few moments before the sunrise. The first time my wife has dinner ready when I open the door. Inductive reasoning. As unavoidable as Greeks dancing.

Unless you declare your universe to be entirely deterministic. But that's ugly. Ugly in a way that makes Brexit and the average Trump tweet look beautiful. Nah. Don't do that.

  • $\begingroup$ A deterministic universe does not support conditions stated in the question: 'evolution of organisms that do not have inductive reasoning, habituation, or any other mechanism that uses past experience to deal with future possibilities'. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ What makes you think life is not deterministic, there is a difference between actual randomness and complexity to the point of unpredictability. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like the bugs on Vogsphere. They hit you when you have any idea. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 13:59

The environment can be mathematically predicted.

There is no logical reason why a ball which is dropped should fall. We think it will fall because we have seen that happen many times. But there could be an environment where circumstances follow as logical, inevitable consequences one to the next. There would be no need for the flexibility of inductive reasoning in an environment which could be predicted using logic. It cannot be any more predictable than IF x THEN y.
I note X. I know there is Y because it must be. And if I know IF x THEN y I do not need to remember how that turned out in the past. There is only one way it can turn out.

Evolutionary pressure would be on how quickly the organism notes X and speed of execution - once you note X, can you harvest Y more quickly than competitors? Exactly these circumstances drive the evolution of stock trading programs.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that's the same as inductive reasoning, just a way less practical version. Instead of doing the full calculation considering all variables, in reality we basically do a calculation based on input (like a sound) and some prefitted and learned parameters. This parametrization allows us to be way quicker and works fine in practice most the time. It also contradicts the same laws of physics part because that would make it extra not viable $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: the difference is that if logic/mathematic applies you do not need to learn about individual cases. You do not need to learn that when you multiply by 55555 the answer will end in 5 or 0. That is inductive reasoning applied to math, to help inductive reasoners unsure of their skills to check the answer. If you are a logical / mathematical creature you just do the multiplication and get the answer. You do not need to know how it worked before or how the answer generally turns out Just get the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 18:50

First my logic studying was not done in English. So I'm sorry if I'm not very clear.

Formal logic is a scholarly reflection of how things do exist.

It is not an invention nor a thing that evolved.

It's like how all languages refer to the sun using different words in their own tongues.

Remove all languages and then the sun is actually still there. Heck. Remove humans altogether and the sun is still there.

So basically logic, in the broad sense obviously, is merely a tool that is reflecting something true in itself.

"Of course, there’s no inherently logical reason to trust that future events will resemble past events at all. This is just an intuition most humans (and perhaps animals) have, presumably because we’ve evolved in an environment that behaves somewhat regularly and therefore rewards this kind of reasoning. But for all we know, the “laws” of physics could suddenly change at any moment.

This is not how logic works.

The core of logic is something like A can't be A at the very same time it is NOT A.

This does not refer to things like colors. A brick can be orange or white or blue...etc. So a brick does not have to be either red or green. It can be any color. or not.

It also only applies to things that can apply to. Formal logic is so stupid. A brick is neither alive or not alive. Hooray, we defeated logic.

No. A brick does not even accept the "value" of alive.

So again logic is how we think and can perceive the world.

I can't get into details without requiring you to study formal logic for sometime.

But it's just how things are. No science denies that.

In fact without constants there is NO science.

Here is a little experiment. Give drug A to the people in the test group and they are cured from disease B.

This is science as you gave them the medicine and then they show, in the lab, that they stopped the disease.

Now what tells you that your 100 or 1000 reflect all humans?


Yep. Why? Because humans is a logical, and biological and a lot of other but I'm doing classical logic here, construct and the "truth" of all human beings is the same. So science creates the drug and logic says that it is probably going to work for the rest of the category of humans because they share a fundamental core or truth.

Remove that and tell what remains of science?

This thinking is not "scientific" as it is not done in a lab or with any experiment. It is logical.

Without logic you will have to try every single drug on every single human.

And the applications are endless.

So I'd say that no. You can't have thinking a form or another of logic.

And I'm sorry if I could not explain properly.


Within a universe something like ours (i.e. with the same chemical elements, laws of physics, etc), what kind of environment would support the evolution of organisms that do not have inductive reasoning, habituation, or any other mechanism that uses past experience to deal with future possibilities?

1. Vegetables

There is no point in plants learning to run away from danger - they can't. Even the Venus Flytrap works mechanically - it will not learn to avoid fake prods with a feather. It will be fooled over and over.

2. Prolific reproduction

Many fish produce millions/billions of eggs that propagate through the ocean. These fish behave pretty much like automata. They rely almost entirely on numbers to keep the species going.

3. Extinction

Any animal that specialises too much and relies on a single source of of food or water tends to become "stupid" and will go extinct if that source is destroyed. Humans are particularly good at using their brains to cope with almost any kind of environment.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a very simplistic (and wrong) understanding of reproduction in fish. Fish don't just randomly reproduce, they depend on some form of environmental predictability. The right time of year. The right temperature range and salinity. The right types and locations of food sources. There has to be some stability, hence predictability, in the environment. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 20:21

The OP's question presupposes evolution, and requires an absence of inductive reasoning or habituation.

This must therefore mean that the process of evolution is explicitly excluded from the definition of inductive reasoning or habituation... so we just need to provide evolutionary pressures that make inductive reasoning or habituation unnecessary.

Probably the simplest way to ensure the lack of inductive reasoning is to enforce a low body mass such that the beings that evolve cannot have sufficient body mass to be able to support sufficient neurons for anything other than deterministic behavior.

This may be achieved by having an atmosphere with a low amount of oxygen, so that natural diffusion restricts the size of the organisms that rely upon it. Adding cyanides to the atmosphere will prevent the evolution of the most efficient circulatory pigment, haeme (iron) based substances such as haemoglobin.

Additionally, the presence of predators that deterministically hunt by detecting and/or emitting electrical signals will provide a negative pressure upon high levels of neuralisation... the most effective creatures will then have little or no neural tissue that a predator may detect.

Finally, the environment needs to be stable. A world without significant geological activity - in which plate tectonics had ceased - would be ideal, as would several super-massive gas giants in the outer solar system that could act to sweep up most of the potential meteors that might otherwise shake up the static environment.

This is much like the situation that existed for a great deal of time during the pre-cambrian era on Earth.


I entertained the idea of direct DNA modifications to store information in combination with high reproduction rates. This would result in instinctive responses to stimuli and would allow bypassing inductive reasoning. But this does not satisfy your requirement of 'any other mechanism that uses past experience'.

I think that there is only one way to satisfy your condition:

evolution of organisms that do not have inductive reasoning, habituation, or any other mechanism that uses past experience to deal with future possibilities

You need to make your environment random and unpredictable. I am just not sure what you would get as a resulting species. High speed of a reaction? Impenetrable defences? Highly flexible forms?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ you certainly are not going to get large complex organisms. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ This is what bothers me, too. If everything is random (and it is the only way to satisfy the specs) complexity becomes a disadvantage rather than an advantage. If laws of physics are the same as our universe, maybe some energy-based lifeforms could succeed. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ Not even that, if the universe is not sable you cannot have a self propagating self perpetuating reaction (aka life) for long enough to evolve complexity. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure that life is completely impossible in unpredictable local environments (the universe is stable per OP). We do not know of any examples, true, but we have a sample of one. I do agree, however, that if it is possible it would be something very different from our understanding of life. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ I assume that on the off-chance you did get something, it would be something nigh invincible because that's the only thing that could survive. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 5:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .