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Author Topic:   Stephen Jay Gould: The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 4 of 92 (759533)
06-12-2015 5:58 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by MrHambre
06-12-2015 8:44 AM


MrH writes:


As Gould describes in the book, scientists see the idea that there are limits to the applicability of empirical inquiry as a red flag.

And that's fair enough, why wouldn't they until proven wrong? It's just another hypothesis.

But the notion that reductionist explanations are necessary for us to understand the arts or morality is a form of pseudoscience.

This has the look, smell and feel of a straw man.

There's a big difference between describing the brain states of people listening to music and the human experience of music.

And there he is again.

I'm losing the plot a little....where are. You going with this?


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by MrHambre, posted 06-12-2015 8:44 AM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by MrHambre, posted 06-12-2015 7:48 PM Tangle has responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 6 of 92 (759561)
06-13-2015 4:00 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by MrHambre
06-12-2015 7:48 PM


MrH writes:

In that case you either think that we can approach the arts and ethics without science, or that art and morality are trivial, personal matters that aren't meaningful next to the hard sciences. Which is it?

I think neither. Why are you making these dichotomies? I understand that some - it seems to me, a very few - people think that everything about the human experience will ultimately be understood by science. That seems unreasonable to me, but it does seem more reasonable that we will make great inroads into it. Some things will be more amenable than others.

Well, there are a lot of people who feel they're getting an explanation of a phenomenon through a description of the brainwave activity of a person undergoing the phenomenon. Can I be excused for recognizing this as classic reductionism? What human experience can't be described as a change in brain chemistry, etc.?

But it is totally accurate to say that people's experiences are caused by changes in brain chemistry and electrical states. The more we understand the chemistry, the more we'll understand the person. It's highly likely that eventually we'll be able to predict thought and feelings based on them. - hell, we do now.

I'm not sure how far we'll be able to go with this, it strikes me that the human is far too complex a mechanism to reduce to its components and expect it to be no more than the sum of its parts. But I do expect us to go a very long way with it because the other view is hubris - we want to believe that we're special and can't be deconstructed and understood by a third party other than a god.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by MrHambre, posted 06-12-2015 7:48 PM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by MrHambre, posted 06-13-2015 10:36 AM Tangle has responded
 Message 10 by mikechell, posted 06-13-2015 11:29 AM Tangle has responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 9 of 92 (759583)
06-13-2015 11:21 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Faith
06-13-2015 10:53 AM


Re: Science, Humanism and Spirituality
Faith writes:

I always felt we were special

We all know *you're* special, Faith.

That aside, it's this mistaken idea that's causing all the problems. You, like all your ancestors, proved to themselves how special they were by creating a god to create them. After all, only a god could create someone as special as you.

Horseshit of course but there you are - mankind's belief in God(s) explained.

Once you understand that man created god, it's pretty easy to work out why man couldn't/can't agree on which god - they were isolated from each other so they each made up their own forms of god. You could say that god diversity evolved.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Faith, posted 06-13-2015 10:53 AM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 78 by ramoss, posted 06-16-2015 6:37 PM Tangle has not yet responded
 Message 81 by Faith, posted 06-16-2015 7:25 PM Tangle has not yet responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 11 of 92 (759588)
06-13-2015 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by mikechell
06-13-2015 11:29 AM


Mike writes:

Unfortunately, for those people, we aren't. We are just an organic result of millions of years of selection and evolution. When science catches up (if the race lives long enough) and can create an inorganic computer with the capabilities of our organic one ... what will you say then?

Probably something like 'wow, that's cool.'

Artificial Intelligence is coming ... maybe not in our lifetime, but it's coming. When it gets here, do you revise religion to give the A.I. a soul?

Now why would I do that? I think you may be confusing me with someone else.

We have developed into creatures that can realize their own death. Because we can't stand the thought of being dead, we've created a "place" (heaven) where our ... lifeforce? ... soul? ... essence? ... whatever you want to call it, will continue to live after the body dies.
If you accept that, then you can do good deeds for how they make you feel, not because it qualifies you to be god's friend and allows you a seat at his table. That turns your whole life into a hazing event, to prove your good enough to join god's fraternity/sorority.

We have developed into creatures that can realize their own death. Because we can't stand the thought of being dead, we've created a "place" (heaven) where our ... lifeforce? ... soul? ... essence? ... whatever you want to call it, will continue to live after the body dies.
If you accept that, then you can do good deeds for how they make you feel, not because it qualifies you to be god's friend and allows you a seat at his table. That turns your whole life into a hazing event, to prove your good enough to join god's fraternity/sorority.

Sure.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by mikechell, posted 06-13-2015 11:29 AM mikechell has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by mikechell, posted 06-13-2015 11:49 AM Tangle has not yet responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 18 of 92 (759605)
06-13-2015 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 10:36 AM


MrH writes:

Gould takes issue with the way Wilson defines a reductionist approach as "solving" matters by breaking them down into their constituent elements. Even in science, emergent properties can't be explained using this approach: defining water as H2O tells us nothing about the property of liquidity, because it's not contained in the constituent atoms. So a reductionist approach is going to be useful in some sense, but the notion that it's sufficient for explaining complex human cultural phenomena is simply not true.

Well yes....I understand the point that you're making but that's a very misleading way of describing how a scientist might approach the problem of explaining the properties of water. In practice he's use multiple methods, including looking at its molecular make-up and comparing it to other fluids.

Scientists trying to understand human experience would - and do - take multi-disciplinary and multi-method approaches and try to piece things together. How far that will get neither us can say, but to claim that science can never do it, is itself, unscientific.

I fully share your skepticism about the ultimate worth of such an approach. However, I wonder whether there's not an equal amount of hubris in the view that Scientific Man will not only tame time and space and decode the universe, but also solve existential questions about the meaning of existence with the tools of empirical inquiry.

I don't see why we can just assume that we can crack the lot either. - it seems a montrous hubris. But we are barely out of the cradle as far as scientific and social development goes. We've only had science proper for a few hundred years and for most of that we needed steam. We only unscambled our DNA a couple of years ago

I certainly don't feel that human beings are "special" in that they're separate from the biosphere or blessed; but we're unique in the sense that we've developed an understanding of our place in the universe and our responsibility to each other and the rest of life on Earth.

I think the real point is that life itself is special - seemingly rare. Being able to fly is damn special too, as it breathing under water. Picking consciousness out as specially, special is very human. (But I agree, it seemingly is.)

I don't see this specialness as necessarily being impregnable to scientific enquiry though. And I wouldn't reduce scientific enquiry to a reductionist accusation of reductionism. If you get me.

Edited by Tangle, : No reason given.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by MrHambre, posted 06-13-2015 10:36 AM MrHambre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 21 by MrHambre, posted 06-13-2015 11:20 PM Tangle has responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 7218
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 27 of 92 (759660)
06-14-2015 4:58 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 11:20 PM


MrH writes:

The only approach Gould is criticizing is the reductionist approach.

I doubt many would disagree. But it's a necessary first step in trying to understand something - pull it apart and see what it's made of.

Except when they don't. Yale professor David Gelertner criticizes neuroscientists for sticking to the mechanistic analogy of brain-as-biological-computer long after it has outlived its usefulness. Machine fantasies might be preferable to religious ones, but are they getting us any closer to the truth about consciousness?

But neuroscience knows diddly-squat so far. You start with what you know and then branch out - the machine analogy is partially successful, but it gets discarded when it outlives its usefulness. That's just science and it's inevitable that some will hang on to their pet theories longer than they probably should. I don't see it as anything worth shouting about - it happens in every field of science.

And scientific endeavor has become the domain of an elite who are beholden to corporate largesse rather than motivated by a commitment to the truth. It's no wonder that science defines us as gene machines and cosmically irrelevant pollution. That's exactly the way our corporate overlords would like us to think of ourselves, as nothing more than docile consumers and obedient employees.

Oh dear now we're into conspiracy territory. Science has always been an elite field, confined to those with time, money and a brain. It arguably now less elite than its ever been as it happens not just in the heads of the Victorian gentry but also in universities and industry.

Science rightly defines us as gene machines because that's what we are. But it also says we're a product of our environment and upbringing and our genes are not our destiny. It's wrong to pull out one strand of the story and present it as the whole story.

It's just that I don't think questions of value, meaning, and agency are scientific matters.

Well I couldn't disagree more. I think we're perfectly at liberty to see how far we can get in understanding these things and to rule it out on the basis of - what? a belief of specialness? - is unscientific.

Gotta go - may be off-grid for a few days.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by MrHambre, posted 06-13-2015 11:20 PM MrHambre has not yet responded

  
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