Wednesday, 29 June 2016

That which is inimical to our yearning souls

I don't really like the idea of a job where you're working for someone else from 9 to 5 and you don't find the work interesting at all, but find it dull and repetitious. The type of work where you occasionally look at your watch and hope 5pm soon comes round. And the weekend! Wishing our lives away. Then feeling gloomy on a Sunday evening as it's soon going to be the start of another week.

The thing is we live finite lives. Maybe there's a "life after death", and I think there is. But maybe I'm wrong and there isn't. But while we're healthy is it really a good idea to spend most of our daylight hours hoping that the evening and weekend will soon roll round?

There's making friends and the general camaraderie with work colleagues. And there's the issue that we all need to have money! But the point I'd like to make is that there seems to be something fundamentally wrong and unsatisfactory about this whole arrangement. Something fundamentally wrong about the way modern society works. Unsatisfactory and unfulfilling and ultimately dispiriting to our yearning souls.

The science of why people insist on making idiotic choices

Just read the following article.  It says:

To find the real reason people seem to disregard the views of experts about important matters, we need to look at how we process information. In The Stupidity Paradox, a recent work I completed with Mats Alvesson, we asked why, in a world of increasingly smart people, we so frequently end up making incredibly stupid decisions.

One reason is our inbuilt cognitive biases. We often make quick decisions about complex issues on the basis of our past beliefs or even chance associations. After we have made these decisions—which often happen in a matter of milliseconds—we start the laborious process of proving ourselves right. We seek information which justifies decisions already made. Many members of the public have already made up their mind about about Trumponomics, Europe, or climate change. All they focus on is finding information that confirms their split-second decisions. Information that challenges their beliefs is carefully ignored; it could make them uncomfortable and require them to think again.

And it is true that paying attention to the evidence of experts can be uncomfortable. There are difficult contradictions that require humiliating climbdowns. Humans tend to avoid what psychologists call cognitive dissonance at all costs. When the facts don’t fit our beliefs, we tend to prefer to change the facts, not our beliefs.

I think this is all true, but it's not clear to me we should simply trust the word of alleged experts.  The problem of course is that it is often the case that those who are alleged to be "experts" are nothing of the kind. The predictions of economic experts, for example, are little better than flipping a coin.

Then we get experts predicting the future. Inevitably such predictions tend to be dramatic, exciting, or apocalyptic, but which inevitably fail to describe anything like the future that actually transpires.

Another problem is that scientists readily pontificate on areas which reside outside their areas of expertise. Specifically they seem to think they are proficient (experts) when it comes to philosophy for example. Hence they make preposterous predictions such that in a few decades computers will become conscious and wish to enslave us! They don't seem to be aware that the existence of consciousness is deeply problematic given our current scientific understanding of reality.

So in short, it is certainly wise to listen to experts, but the problem is how do we know they are experts? And even if they are, how do we know that there are not vested interests involved in what they claim?

Reading the comments below the article I find myself in agreement with a certain Sean Nee Research Professor of Ecosystem Science and Management from Pennsylvania State University says:

It is mysterious why intelligent people think the views of economic forecasters are relevant in the Brexit debate. These forecasters were unable to see that, for example, leaving John Major’s favorite economic mechanism for further integration, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, would turn out to be so beneficial for the UK. They did not foresee the 2008 global financial crisis. Their inability to forecast the future when conditions are apparently unchanging explains why they dislike anything new occurring, like Brexit. There are actual issues that are real now, like the fact that if any member of the EU gives citizenship to anyone at all, as is their right, that person, or those millions of people, immediately have the full rights of British nationality, regardless of the EU status of their country of origin. Some intelligent people consider this more important than the futurology of discredited conservative forecasters.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Depression, Suicide, and the Modern World

According to this article Greenland is the country with the world's highest suicide rate.  From 1900-1930 Greenland had a suicide rate of 0.3 per 100,000. Now it's a staggering 100 in 100,000 and is the highest in the world! Why such a huge increase? In the first half of the 20th Century they lived much as they had for the past 4000 years-- namely hunting and fishing and living in small villages. So perhaps something to do with the change in the way they live?

I suspect people are happier in small closely knit communities with a shared history and identity, where everyone knows each other, and where they do traditional work rather than doing repetitious work for some faceless company in the modern world. I would speculate the modern world, and the style of living it inaugurated, has some role to play in why so many people are depressed and commit suicide.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Reading Books

It's strange when people say something like they don't like reading books. No books whatsoever?? If we consider novels I probably don't like most novels. But a minority of novels I really like. The situation is exactly comparable to someone saying they don't like music. Most music I don't like at all, but some of it is really good! It's just a question of finding what we like.

Reincarnation, Ian Stevenson and Robert Todd Carroll

There's an entry on Ian Stevenson in the Skeptic's dictionary.  The author of the dictionary, Robert Todd Carroll, says this about Ian Stevenson:

Philosophically, Stevenson was a naive dualist. He believed that bodies and souls have separate evolutions and existences, and he seemed not to be concerned or aware of the philosophical problems that ensue from such claims about mind and body.

I emailed  Robert Todd Carroll before regarding his comment above.  I said:

The problems are only puzzles, they are not the conceptual problems which face any type of materialist metaphysic. The point being that materialism faces far more formidable problems than dualism (although depends on the type of dualism, I have no idea what "naive dualism" is. I have never heard of it).

He emailed me back saying:

[T]o be of interest to others (my reason for posting emails) you need to specify the conceptual problems that face any type of materialist metaphysics and how these are more formidable than the conceptual problems of dualism.

I responded:

Bob do you have any qualifications in philosophy? If so you really ought to be aware of them already!
I wonder why it is OK for you to make absurd unsubstantiated assertions, where as it is not OK for me to make assertions which anyone with sufficient philosophical background would already realise?

Are we talking here about the type of materialism inaugurated with the mechanistic philosophy at the birth of modern science in the 17th Century? This philosophy abstracted the qualitative from the material/physical realm. Hence from this time onwards physical/material reality has been considered to be wholly quantitative and is entirely absent any qualitative elements. These were pushed back into the mind. Even colours and sounds were placed into the mind (hence the current preposterous belief that colours and sounds don’t actually exist out there). The upshot of all this was that the mechanistic philosophy *forced* dualism onto us. If consciousness exists, but the material/physical world is devoid of any qualitative elements, it follows that materialism is *necessarily* false.

Now why don’t you be a good chap and mention any problems that dualism might have?

OK perhaps a bit rude of me!  But his response irritated me.  He never responded to me again.  I go into more detail in my other blog regarding what I said above.  Go here and here.

A chat with the AI bot Eviebot

Jus' had a "conversation with an AI bot. Don't think the Turing test will be passed any time soon.

Eviebot: Oh! Hello.

Ian: Is the reincarnation process compelled by our underlying psyche -- our subconscious desires and needs? Or is it a explicit conscious choice? Or something decided by some other conscious entity?

Eviebot: No, Minecraft is the result of creative minds and programming.

Ian: Or, indeed, is it a purely "mechanistic" process?

Eviebot: True, it's only like 15 Euros.

Ian: Is the fact we cannot generally remember previous lives, and the fact we cannot remember our present lives before around the age of five years old, stem from the same underlying cause(s)?

Eviebot: The last thing I remember was you asked me how far the sun was.

Ian: I did not, I know it's 8 light mins (93 million miles) away.

Eviebot: This is an elaborate sentence constructed for the sole purpose of throwing you off and verifying that you are, in fact, a mere bot.

Ian: Do we generally reincarnate as the same gender? Are male and female characteristics intrinsic to that part of us which reincarnates, or is it determined by the brain?

Eviebot: Is a theoretical molecular synthesis of donkey and pineapple epistemologically and ontologically justified?

Chat with Eviebot here

Reincarnation Research and Myths of Scientific Practice

Reading this article regarding research into reincarnation it says:
But what about the ‘scientific community’? Isn’t the fact that you probably never heard about this kind of research sufficient evidence that there must be something fundamentally wrong with it.

No of course not. They will dismiss "extraordinary claims" out of hand and assume there must necessarily be a normal explanation. I do likewise for any extraordinary claims. But, what I consider being an extraordinary claim does not necessarily coincide with theirs.
What constitutes an extraordinary claim? Well, a claim is deemed to be extraordinary if it is not consonant with our background beliefs about the nature of the world. The background belief to justify rejecting reincarnation out of hand is the conviction that consciousness is a product of brains.
The vast majority of scientists (if not philosophers) do not seem to have any awareness of the problematic nature of this brain produces consciousness hypothesis (see my other blog, in particular, this essay). Even ignoring this problematic nature, there are profound counter-intuitive consequences. For example, it is difficult, if not impossible, to rescue the notion that our consciousness is causally efficacious. It seems to imply the notion of an enduring self is an illusion. It seems hard to reconcile anomalous cognition (telepathy and the like) with this hypothesis. Article says:
After all, according to a rather widespread assumption about standards of scientific practice, anomalies irresistibly attract scientists like light attracts the proverbial moth. For in order to be a ‘real’ scientist you are expected to constantly challenge your pet theories about how the world works, always look for refuting instances that may indicate you’re wrong, and follow the evidence wherever it leads and whether you personally like it or not. The more outlandish an anomaly reported by more than one qualified and critical observer, so the myth goes, the quicker it attracts other scientists, ultimately producing a true land-slight of opinion in the ‘scientific community’, which is then faithfully reflected on the pages of mainstream science journals and in textbooks.

As the article subsequently points out, this is sheer nonsense. Research which confirms established beliefs tends to be precisely that which gets approved and gets published. Generally, scientists simply will not accept research which goes against their beliefs. Any maverick stuff is subject to unremitting hostility and ridicule.

As Max Planck once said:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Friday, 10 June 2016

The true nature of reality

It's quite likely to be a mistake to suppose science is discovering the true nature of reality. Scientific theories most probably do not depict how things really are. Contrary to what scientists think eg Hawkings, Dawkins, Krauss et al, it's not truth that science is striving for, but rather improved engineering.

However it's important that scientists do not understand this and think they are revealing the true nature of reality. That gives them the psychological drive to invent new scientific theories. It is a noble lie.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Dietary Advice

From this Guardian article:
There’s no conclusive evidence a morning meal makes you lose weight and feel great, but the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is widely ingrained. This is largely thanks to the efforts of grain companies. Kellogg’s, for example, funded an influential study that linked breakfasting on cereal with lower BMI. And The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence financed research showing that a daily breakfast of porridge reduces cholesterol.
Many people are very adamant that eating breakfast is incredibly important. Indeed they seem to think I'm completely lacking in common sense when I question it. I hope they are not relying on research funded by those with vested interests. I've read that such research is of no value whatsoever and should be disregarded.  And it wasn't someone merely just claiming it. They backed it up with statistics which seemed to me convincing at the time.  Unfortunately I'm unable to recollect the source!

Indeed it is claimed by many that we ought to eat breakfast regardless of whether we're feeling hungry.  Likewise many people claim we shouldn't wait until we are thirsty before we drink since we are already dehydrated by that point.
But it seems strange to me that we should simply ignore our bodily signals. Surely one should eat when one is hungry only? And only drink when we are thirsty?

Presumably non-human animals do not eat and drink when they're not hungry and thirsty? Do they have an obesity epidemic? Er . .no. animals apart from our pets never get fat! Not even when they're in an environment where there is an abundance of food. Do they suffer adverse health consequences
since they don't eat when not hungry and drink when not thirsty? Do they get more cancer, suffer more heart disease, dementia etc more frequently than we humans do? I don't think so. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A brooding enigmatic stranger!

Just recently located to a new area of the UK.  Tonight I've been drinking quite a bit and I decided to have even more to drink at this pub. I was unshaven -- I wanted to try and convey . .umm . . a broody, moody persona, full of enigma, fully of mystery, full of enigmaticness. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Who am I? What am I? Who is this mysterious intriguing stranger??

Apparently no-one cared!

Problem I have is I look too normal. If they had read some of my fb posts beforehand, or my blogs . . .