On Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM, John Clark <johnkcl...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 7:25 PM, Telmo Menezes <te...@telmomenezes.com>
> wrote:
>> > Evolution doesn't make decisions at all.
> You may be pedantic about the use of anthropomorphic language but I am not.

It can become distracting / misleading in deeper discussions about the
mechanisms of evolution.

>> > It's an emergent phenomena.
> Emergent is another great buzz word that isn't of much use.

I would prefer if you argued the point instead of just stating your
biases. Quantum is also a buzz term, so what?

Emergence is just a way to connect different levels of abstraction.
It's certainly useful for visual thinkers like me to understand the
world. It allows me to picture, for example, the beautiful machinery
that sequences proteins from nucleoid acids, how these proteins fold
and aggregate in larger structures, how they feed back to the DNA
decoding mechanism and regulate the production of other proteins, how
all this leads to cells and membranes, and signalling between cells,
all the way up to organs and then organisms, how all these organisms
behave in ways that configure social structures and how each one of
these steps feeds back backwards, both to the morphogenetic and the
evolutionary processes.

What do you mean "useful"? Who are you to say what's useful or not as
a tool for other people to think and understand?

>>> > And Evolution has no foresight, it doesn't understand one step backward
>>> > 2 steps forward, it only understands if there is a advantage to the animal
>>> > right now.
>> > That is debatable.
> Like hell it is.

Well maybe not with you :)

>> > There is the possibility of the evolution of evolvability,
> Well OK, maybe you could look at the Evolution of segmentation as the
> Evolution of evolvability, if you want to evolve a longer animal just do
> more of the same and add more segments.

it's deeper than that. There is a many-to-many mapping between
genotype and phenotype. The same phenotype can be expressed in ways
that are immediately the same but are more or less susceptible to
future adaptations. More adaptable versions may tend to survive more
because they are more robust to uncertainty, leading to higher
adaptability (or a more effective type of adaptability) in the future.
There are some theories that propose that this might have been the
case for the selection of DNA/RNA itself.

>> > Why only two genders?
> A better question is why there are as many as 2 genders, the greatest
> mystery in Evolution is how and why sex evolved.

Ok, if you prefer. There are a lot of theories on why, but here's one:

>>> >> Richard Dawkins has said that in today's pop culture admitting to
>>> >> being a reductionist is like admitting that you like to eat babies, but 
>>> >> the
>>> >> fact is that every disease science has found a cure for it has done so 
>>> >> with
>>> >> a reductionist approach,
>> > This is entirely not the case. The most obvious example is the field
>> of psychiatry, using drugs for which mechanisms of operation are not
>> understood combined with therapy techniques that are completely based
>> on practioner's experience and intuition. Yet it manages to get
>> results above placebo for some classes of diseases, like depression.
> OK, but what does that have to do with the "holistic approach" whatever that
> is? As I said science is not the only way to gain knowledge, induction works
> too. Usually.

Holistic means the opposite of "divide and conquer".

The therapist has to treat the patient has a whole, with chemical
processes, past experiences, family relationships, world views, and so
on, all entangled in a complex web. Attempting to find a single cause
and a single treatment to address that single cause doesn't seem to
work for many psychiatric issues. The same is true of many other
medical conditions.

>> > Being able to duplicate the brain does not imply that we understand it,
> I believe it does, or at least it would mean we understand the brain as well
> as we ever will.

Ok, imagine we have this amazing 3D scanner that can provide a
detailed enough description of a brain, and this amazing 3D printer
that can print a copy, and the copy works. Can you claim we understand
the brain because we duplicated it under this scenario?

>> > nor does understanding it imply that we can replicate it.
> I agree in principle but in practice I think it probably will mean we can
> replicate it.
>> > Actually understanding how the brain works means exactly the opposite:
>> > not having to consider all the billions of little details but instead
>> understanding the fundamental principles -- which are holistic for sure.
> That's the trouble with this list, everybody is a big picture man with their
> own fundamental holistic theories about consciousness

Isn't "big picture" the theme of this list?

> (but never about
> intelligence because that's much too hard)

If consciousness is easier than intelligence, how come we have
scientific progress in the latter and not in the former?

> that is completely useless and
> doesn't advance science by one inch.

We should have a stock market style ticker for science.

>> > How do you know that the universe can't think?
> The same reason I believe a rock can't think, it doesn't behave
> intelligently; but of course  I could be wrong, maybe the rock and the
> universe are both just playing possum. But probably not.

Intelligence can only be measured in terms of goals. The universe os
playing possum???
Also, how do you know that intelligence is a requirement of consciousness?

>> > My view is that the difficulty in defining certain terms is a hint about
>> > where our ignorance lies.
> You can define free will anyway you like and I will be happy to join the
> debate about Human beings having this interesting property or not. But when
> nobody knows what the hell "free will" is supposed to mean, not even
> approximately, and then have long impassioned debates about people having
> free will or not is just ridiculous.

We can talk about free will if we want, but this discussion was about causality.

> When he was a student at Princeton Richard Feynman had an encounter with
> philosophers, years later this is what he had to say about it:
> "In the Graduate College dining room at Princeton everybody used to sit with
> his own group. I sat with the physicists, but after a bit I thought: It
> would be nice to see what the rest of the world is doing, so I'll sit for a
> week or two in each of the other groups.
> When I sat with the philosophers I listened to them discuss very seriously a
> book called Process and Reality by Whitehead. They were using words in a
> funny way, and I couldn't quite understand what they were saying. Now I
> didn't want to interrupt them in their own conversation and keep asking them
> to explain something, and on the few occasions that I did, they'd try to
> explain it to me, but I still didn't get it. Finally they invited me to come
> to their seminar.
> They had a seminar that was like, a class. It had been meeting once a week
> to discuss a new chapter out of Process and Reality - some guy would give a
> report on it and then there would be a discussion. I  went to this seminar
> promising myself to keep my mouth shut, reminding myself that I didn't know
> anything about the subject, and I was going there just to watch.
> What happened there was typical - so typical that it was unbelievable, but
> true. First of all, I sat there without saying anything, which is almost
> unbelievable, but also true. A student gave a report on the chapter to be
> studied that week. In it Whitehead kept using the words "essential object"
> in a particular technical way that presumably he had defined, but that I
> didn't understand.
> After some discussion as to what "essential object" meant, the professor
> leading the seminar said something meant to clarify things and drew
> something that looked like lightning bolts on the blackboard. "Mr. Feynman,"
> he said, "would you say an electron is an 'essential object'?"
> Well, now I was in trouble. I admitted that I hadn't read the book, so I had
> no idea of what Whitehead meant by the phrase; I had only come to watch.
> "But," I said, "I'll try to answer the professor's question if you will
> first answer a question from me, so I can have a better idea of what
> 'essential object' means.
> What I had intended to do was to find out whether they thought theoretical
> constructs were essential objects. The electron is a theory that we use; it
> is so useful in understanding the way nature works that we can almost call
> it real. I wanted to make the idea of a theory clear by analogy. In the case
> of the brick, my next question was going to be, "What about the inside of
> the brick?" - and I would then point out that no one has ever seen the
> inside of a brick. Every time you break the brick, you only see the surface.
> That the brick has an inside is a simple theory which helps us understand
> things better. The theory of electrons is analogous. So I began by asking,
> "Is a brick an essential object?"
> Then the answers came out. One man stood up and said, "A brick as an
> individual, specific brick. That is what Whitehead means by an essential
> object."
> Another man said, "No, it isn't the individual brick that is an essential
> object; it's the general character that all bricks have in common - their
> 'brickiness' - that is the essential object."
> Another guy got up and said, "No, it's not in the bricks themselves.
> 'Essential object' means the idea in the mind that you get when you think of
> bricks."
> Another guy got up, and another, and I tell you I have never heard such
> ingenious different ways of looking at a brick before. And, just like it
> should in all stories about philosophers, it ended up in complete chaos. In
> all their previous discussions they hadn't even asked themselves whether
> such a simple object as a brick, much less an electron, is an "essential
> object."  "
>> > Suppressing discussion about these definitions is a form of mysticism.
>  Wow, calling a guy known for not liking religion religious! Never heard
> that one before, at least not before the sixth grade.

I didn't call you anything. I am merely pointing out that if we are
going to use a term -- like causality -- we have to debate its
meaning. Otherwise, what we are doing is mysticism, because we are
grounding our beliefs in symbols that we do not understand.

>>> > >Philosophy is necessary but philosophers are not.
>> >I don't know what to say here. Isn't philosophy a human endeavour?
> Yes, and there have been many huge philosophical discoveries made in the
> last 200 years, but not one of them was made by a philosopher,  the
> discoveries were made by scientists and mathematicians.

How are these scientists and mathematicians not also philosophers,
given that they have made contributions to philosophy?

>> > what you mean by "philosopher"?
> Somebody who puts  "philosopher" in the occupation line on his tax form

Ok, I guess Plato and Aristotle and the rest of that gang are out then.


>   John K Clark
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