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Go to: Why Are Religious Beliefs Off Limits?

Skeptic Tank's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Skeptic Tank

"This, in spite of the fact that, as my colleague and Templeton prizewinner Paul Davies reminded me at the time, Wiccan theology is in many senses no less strange than Christian theology."

That should probably read "... no more strange...", given the context of the rest of the sentence.

"The bible is full of dubious scientific impossibilities, from Jonah living inside a whale, to the Sun standing still in the sky for Joshua."

Actually, the bible says Jonah lived inside a "big fish", not a whale.

Come on Krauss, get your facts straight!

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 16:43:41 UTC | #925409

Go to: Free Will

Skeptic Tank's Avatar Jump to comment 207 by Skeptic Tank

But clearly that recursive process must come to an end, so that there is in fact an "I" at the top level.

The "I" is not at the "top level" per se, but is more accurately a result of recursive interactions between the levels, whether they are "conscious" or "unconcious".

It's all "I"... but it's all just perception, at bottom.

Consider this: I want to kick my heroin addiction, but I want to enjoy heroin. These are contradictory "wants", but they easily exist inside one "self".... which one represents the "real" me?

The answer is that they both do, because both describe true physical processes going on in your body. If we had free will, we would be free to enjoy our heroin, or free to kick the habit, depending upon our "free will"... but our will is not free: it is tied to both of these contradictory wants, and we are compelled to go along for the ride, and see where we end up.

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 15:13:48 UTC | #924857

Go to: Beholding beauty: How it's been studied

Skeptic Tank's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by Skeptic Tank

... and most art is not very good.

This is especially true for the stuff called "performance art" (which usually just means bad theatre), and the class of ephemeral, ill-conceived aggregations of detritus commonly labelled "installations", but is also true of paintings and sculptures, too.

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 15:05:11 UTC | #924855

Go to: Beholding beauty: How it's been studied

Skeptic Tank's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Skeptic Tank

I agree, Dennis Dutton misses the mark. Art was not always necessarily about "fidelity", as you put it, before the advent of the photograph. Art, no matter the style or subject, has always been about inducing aesthetic experience. That goal has been well served by mimicking the natural world, human bodies, etc... things of 'beauty', but this is only one avenue, just as mimicking the bird beak (in the Ramachandran example) is one way to excite the birds, but a stick with three dots is another, abstract way to excite the same response.

Also, don't confuse fashion with the objective exercise of taste. Fashion changes, but taste is a result of human intuition, and human nature is stable over long periods of time.

Aesthetics is like morality. Both are human dependent universals. Sam Harris' analogy of the moral landscape works very well for the "aesthetic landscape" as well... lots of ways to hit the peaks, and many more ways to fail.

Tue, 06 Mar 2012 02:06:47 UTC | #924765

Go to: Free Will

Skeptic Tank's Avatar Jump to comment 203 by Skeptic Tank

Consciousness, and the resultant illusion of free will, is merely the effect of recursive perception. This is clear if you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, just as we do in the example of the development of the eye... a patch of cells is sensitive to light, then the patch forms a depression, and can then perceive the direction of the light... fast forward to the point where a patch of mental cells develop, that can perceive the information from the eye, and another patch of cells that can perceive the perceptions of the other patch, and so on.

With recursion comes strangeness. Perceptions of perceptions of perceptions build up, and we cannot help put place our 'selves' into this perceptual chain as an 'overseer'... but all that perception happens involuntarily: there is no 'overperceiver', there is only recursive perception.

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 15:18:29 UTC | #924616

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