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Comments by DavidMcC

Go to: Morality without 'Free Will'

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 1001 by DavidMcC

Comment 1000 by keith

No sensible person is arguing that we can somehow escape determinism.

You are obviously a "hard" determinist, who believes that our lives were determined at the big bang, on the basis that time only happens once, presumably. Hard determinism is nonsense .

But being open to coercion and being able to act in something other than an instinctive way is surely the definition of free will, at least Dennett's slimmed down version.

No, because coercion does not change your thoughts - it is forcing you to act against your own thinking. In other words, coercion is the expression of the free will of the coercer, but reduces the effective free will of the coerced.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 09:35:26 UTC | #950866

Go to: Cleric says polio vaccination 'un-islamic', warns of jihad against docs

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by DavidMcC

Hmm.... Exploiting the Abbottabad incident, perhaps?:

ABC News

It has since been reported the CIA used a fake international polio eradication program as a front to track the fugitive terrorist leader down in the city of Abbottabad.

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 13:59:22 UTC | #947568

Go to: Where We Split from Sharks: Common Ancestor Comes Into Focus

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by DavidMcC

Interesting. The lack of large fossil remains suggests that not only was the head shark-like, but the skeleton was, too, in that it must have been cartillaginous, not bony (otherwise, you might expect to find more substantial fossils). Also, head evolution was always going to be more reliable than scales and spines as a guide to evolution, because of what heads tell about the brain, and because the brain is less wont to sudden and dramatic evolutionary changes than scales or spines. Ironically, by similar reasoning, Acanthodes are more likely to have evolved from a lamprey-like agnathan than from a bony-headed agnathan (the ostracoderms), because lampreys also have a cartillaginous skeleton, and only have a little bit of bone-like material (the rasping tongue).

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 11:52:07 UTC | #947381

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 87 by DavidMcC

Comment 86 by Retusa :

Comment 30 Alan4discussion"If my hammer breaks and I finish knocking in the nail with a rock, I have given the rock a purpose"I'd be more inclined to say you've found a use for the rock, 'purpose' is a goal or aim: 'use' is employment for or toward a purpose. Either way, the rock doesn't have a single use or purpose.

Quite so. Unless, of course, it's a rock that doesn't like nails. :-)

Tue, 01 May 2012 11:49:43 UTC | #938628

Go to: Evolutionary equivalents of human intelligence

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by DavidMcC

Comment 30 by GreatWhiteShark

But to suggest it stands alone as some special adaptation, worthy of note above others is I think wrong.

Perhaps what made it seem so "special" was its chance synergy with other traits we have, such as manual skills, social nature and playfulness, and being terrestial, so that use of fire is not ruled out. Thus we became "powerful", and think highly of ourselves as a result.

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:02:17 UTC | #938326

Go to: Why Chimpanzees Kill

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by DavidMcC

Comment 20 by Sue Blue :

If male chimpanzees kill other males due to possible sexual rivalry, then it makes sense that bonobos don't kill. There's no sexual rivalry, competition or tension among bonobos because they have sex all the time, with anybody. Males don't have to fight over females. Males work off the "aggression" caused by testosterone by having sex instead of fighting or killing. Just a thought, but it makes sense to me.

Sexual rivalry no doubt plays a role, but politics must come into it as well. That is why it isn't a free-for-all of every male against every other male.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:41:22 UTC | #937153

Go to: Why Chimpanzees Kill

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by DavidMcC

Comment 1 by Metamag :

What did appear to be a factor was thenumber of males in a group: the higher the number of males in a group, thehigher the number of kills.

Hm, I wonder how human homosexuality would fit into this?

Maybe it's chimp politics, not sexuality.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 14:07:22 UTC | #936998

Go to: Religion is not the disease - lack of education is

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by DavidMcC

Comment 1 by Spiritual Atheist :

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

Even if it only affects pupils who are strongly influenced by relgious peers, parents or schools, it is still true that religion reduces the effectiveness of the educational system.

EDIT: In many areas, the relative success of religious schools is due to socio-economic factors, not the effect of religion itself, which is obviously negative, in terms of the understanding of science.

Sat, 14 Apr 2012 12:13:36 UTC | #934599

Go to: A lot of science is just plain wrong

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by DavidMcC

Comment 73 by ccw95005

So we truly don't know if we are in a natural warming period which is being aggravated by greenhouse gases, or if those gases are responsible for the entire rise in temperature.

It may even be more than "the entire rise in temperature", if Milakovitch cycles mean anything:

Natural History Museum article

EDIT: Basically, we're getting overdue for an ice age.

Fri, 13 Apr 2012 08:19:20 UTC | #934350

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by DavidMcC

PS, I am, of course, not referring to the "talking snake"-related version of free will! :)

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 10:07:53 UTC | #933851

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by DavidMcC

I agree, nazani14. I think the "deep human need" is an exercise in use of the "free will" to think about what we damned well want to, when there's plenty of time to spare.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 08:55:08 UTC | #933843

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 82 by DavidMcC

... My own "theory of free will" is precisely that free will means the ability sometimes to override both instinct and habit (neither of which require conscious decisions, IMO) by gauging emotional weights of different possible actions, if there is a choice. None of this requires "embodied cognition", because of to the central nervous system.

Could this be more about science publishing in an economic crisis than real progress?

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 12:43:45 UTC | #933615

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 81 by DavidMcC

Comment 80 by phil rimmer

. At the start it notes the important reason for us to have brains at all is NOT so we can have thoughts and the like, but so we can move reliably.

Absolutely, but it must not be forgotten that "the brain" isn't a single organ, but an organ complex, performing diverse functions. The "thinking" aspect (required for the exercise of a "free will", by my definition of the latter) is known to have evolved much later than the autonomic system, which any animal with a CNS has.

The article you linked is full of waffle about how emotions and the condition of our bodies affect our thinking. From this, the need for a new theory is claimed. I deny that.

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 11:39:39 UTC | #933598

Go to: A lot of science is just plain wrong

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by DavidMcC

Comment 10 by Red Dog :

One last thought, people sometimes talk about peer review as if its supposed to be some infallible guarantee of goodness. That's not the way I view it at all. Peer review is the first step in the process. It says that a paper shouldn't have any obvious glaring errors and most importantly is worth reading -- may have some new bit of data or a new idea. But that's just the first step, once something has been peer reviewed and published the real work starts of having the community rigorously examine it, subject it to repetition, etc.

True. That's why journals with the title, "Letters" are important to progress in science, because they publish detailed criticism of previously published papers, and the responses of the original authors.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 17:40:21 UTC | #933387

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 79 by DavidMcC

Comment 74 by phil rimmer

Emboded Cognition

Not only did it illustrate how prevalent metaphors are in everyday language,...

In brief, it demonstrated that “our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”

BUT:

it also suggested that a lot of the major tenets of western thought, including the idea that reason is conscious and passionless and that language is separate from the body aside from the organs of speech and hearing, were incorrect.

The only bit that's convuincing here is that our thought processes are indeed fundamentally influenced by emotions, but these emotions are surely expressions of hormones from glands in the brain stem. Any problems in the rest of the body only have an indirect effect, via such things as pain receptors, sending messages to the brain. In the first instance, therefore, the brain does all the mental effort, surely.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 16:01:52 UTC | #933369

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 76 by DavidMcC

Comment 75 by jimblake

I think it evolved and that its evolved functional purpose is to preserve order as long as possible.

Jim, the universe didn't evolve in the Darwinian sense, nor does it have a brain to give itself some "purpose in life". It does not even have a functional purpose within some greater structure (as if it was an organ within an organism). I say that, even though I do not rule out that it is part of a "multiverse", because it would still not be a functional "organ" of such a structure. It is only obeying physical laws, without any purpose whatsoever.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 09:55:33 UTC | #933255

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 73 by DavidMcC

Comment 69 by phil rimmer

"Having a purpose", which, I contend, must be rooted in some genetic heritage, is to be contrasted with "being given a job".

Phil, whilst I agree that we probably did evolve a tendency to see purpose in things, I don't see how the universe can have an "allotted task", any more than a purpose, because someone/something had to allot that task, and we're back to square one. If the universe is like your car, then who/what plays you?

Sun, 08 Apr 2012 09:42:26 UTC | #933036

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by DavidMcC

Comment 66 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Comment 65 by DavidMcC

So, you think saying that there is no "now-ness" to the "universe-without-the-'the' " is scientific, do you? I've no idea what point you are trying to make. That there is no universally definable moment of 'now' is bog standard science and part of the basis of relativity.I'm simply pointing out that the universe is not a coherent temporal 'thing' in the sense in which we apply the word 'the' to when using nouns.

I think you might have an exaggerated idea of the significance of the size of the universe. The reason there is no purpose in the universe is because it is only obeying the laws of physics, not becaause it's too large to have a purpose. It had no purpose even when it was the size of your back yard, IMO.

Sat, 07 Apr 2012 15:32:00 UTC | #932900

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 65 by DavidMcC

Comment 62 by Schrodinger's Cat

My argument against 'the' universe having purpose was a far more scientific one of arguing that there is actually no such thing as 'the' universe. It is precisely because of relativity that the universe cannot be described as a single coherent thing having a now-ness to which one could attach the word 'the'.

So, you think saying that there is no "now-ness" to the "universe-without-the-'the' " is scientific, do you?

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 19:06:25 UTC | #932797

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 64 by DavidMcC

Comment 61 by jimblake

Without order the universe could not exist.

Only if "order" means the law of quantum gravity (not yet elucidated).

Could it be said that the function of the universe is to preserve that order as long as possible?

IMO, no, if only because the universe doesn't have a "function", because that is no different from "purpose", as you said.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 19:01:01 UTC | #932794

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 60 by DavidMcC

Comment 57 by jimblake

That may be true if you consider purpose to be only by design. Purpose can also mean functional role, and doesn't have to imply intent. It can be said that the purpose of a heart is to pump blood. That is the functional role of the heart even though there is no intention by the heart to pump blood.

Firstly,"design" can be non-conscious, as with "design by natural selection" (from which human designers have learnt a method and many useful designs), but also, the "purpose" of a heart only means anything in the context of something greater than the heart - a living organism. Ie, a functional purpose has to be in the context of something larger.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 09:57:31 UTC | #932726

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by DavidMcC

Comment 46 by Zeuglodon

Out-of-date does not mean out of existence.

Comment 52 by Schrodinger's Cat

Oh but it does ! That is the very core of relativity. There is no universal 'now'.

Cat, you have a strange idea about what "relativity" means. I can only conclude that you have blended Einsteinian relativity with some unrelated sort of philosophical relativity, and that this is confusing you.

This is important precisely because it is that 'the' universe that people try to impose purpose and meaning on as if it were a single coherent thing existing 'now'

No, the real reason why any appearance of purpose is an artifact has nothing to do with Einsteinian relativity, and everything to do with human psychology, and the fact that the universe obeys physical laws, that apply to all of it, all of the time, in spite of the finite speed of light. It's just that the details of how these laws work takes into account Einsteinian relativity, with its finite speed of light.

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 13:50:58 UTC | #932544

Go to: A universe without purpose

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 55 by DavidMcC

Comment 54 by jimblake

According to this analysis, it may be correct to say that the ‘de facto’ purpose of the universe is to find ways to preserve order as long as possible.

No, whatever consistent physical changes may be occurring does not make them "purposeful", they are not "intentional" by the universe. they just happen, as a result of obeying physical laws, which is a different thing altogether.

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 10:09:52 UTC | #932531

Go to: New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by DavidMcC

Comment 30 by DEWDDS :

The whole idea is ridiculous. By the way a standardized test does not preclude the use of essay style questions.So imagine these hypothetical questions:Discuss the concept of (censored) selection as it applies to biological (censored).Which constitutional amendment banned the production and sale of (censored) in the U.S.?Does this seem silly? Yep! Welcome to the world where ignorance trumps the use of harmless words that some think may cause offense when read.

You are missing the point, DEWDDS, that the banned words are only banned from school MATHS tests. Since when have school maths tests involved essays on constitutional amendments?

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 11:01:03 UTC | #932312

Go to: New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by DavidMcC

Comment 24 by MilitantNonStampCollector

They might as well go the whole hog. It makes sense.

No, it does not.

Do you oppose banning the use of knives in the street on the grounds that "they will go the whole hog" and ban them in the kitchen too?

Tue, 03 Apr 2012 12:01:28 UTC | #932114

Go to: Higgs’ View: The Real Reason People Doubt Richard Dawkins is an Ape

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by DavidMcC

.... Forgot one point - that the asian peafowl probably (IMO) evolved from a monal bey being forced down into the forested lower slopes, probably in search of food, that I guess might have become scarcer on the open mountain slopes (where monals live) at the time.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:16:04 UTC | #931892

Go to: Higgs’ View: The Real Reason People Doubt Richard Dawkins is an Ape

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by DavidMcC

Comment 37 by NakedCelt

Let us suppose that pantherines in general really are deterred from attack by being stared at.

The snag with that argument is that pussy cats are not pantherines, and I doubt they would be deterred by mice that stare at them, as long as the mice are small. They are more likely deterred from attacking us by the size difference than by us staring at them.

I have a crazy hypothesis, for which my evidence is one episode of David Attenborough's Life of Mammals series, in which a troop of vervet monkeys respond to the threat of a leopard (in this instance, a life-size stuffed toy leopard placed there by Attenborough) by surrounding it just out of reach and staring at it. Attenborough explains that, as stealth hunters, leopards generally prefer not to attack prey that is clearly aware of their presence.

I saw the same program, but the message I got from it is that the pseudo-tail of an asian peacock evolved to retain little patches of the irridescent colour of its ancestors (which might well have been more like a Himalaya monal than an African peacock) to mitigate the disadvantage to the male of having to attract a mate on the forest floor (where such bright colours would be like a dinner bell to any cat nearby) by mimicking a band of staring monkeys in the eyes of a young leopard, yet not looking like a gate-crasher in the eyes of the peahens, which have better colour vision than cats. (BTW, Pardus pardus, the African leopard, was widespread in Asia until recent times.)

Of course, what the vervet monkeys were really doing when they stared at the "stuffed panther" is wondering why David A. had given them a soft toy. Was it a Trojan horse, or something? :)

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:38:39 UTC | #931879

Go to: Planetary natural selection?

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 103 by DavidMcC

... Also, I was specifically addressing pfrankinstein's conflation of stabilisation of solar systems with "learning", and of learning with evolution, rather than the OP.

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:36:43 UTC | #930905

Go to: Planetary natural selection?

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 102 by DavidMcC

True, Cat, but planetary systems do tend to "evolve" (in the general sense of "develop") relatively non-colliding planetary trajectories. Of course, there are no genes controlling these, any more than there are genes for anything else in a solar system, so this is also not a Darwininan process.

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:30:16 UTC | #930904

Go to: Planetary natural selection?

DavidMcC's Avatar Jump to comment 100 by DavidMcC

Is there the equivalent of planetary 'genes'?

No. Planetary collisions are not determined by nature of the planet, only by its trajectory, and those of other planets. Thus "planetary selection" is random to planet type, so there is no planetary equivalent of Darwinian adaptation.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 13:13:53 UTC | #930730