Monday, 22 August 2016

Are You A Slave To The System?

An interesting cartoon about the world of work.

Industrial society will inevitably lead to work which is dull, repetitious, which renders us as meaningless cogs in a machine where our functional role is the only thing which is important, and our humanity, our needs , our emotions are superfluous and ignored. We become alienated from our true humanity with a large proportion of our lives diverted to this meaningless activity called "work" where we constantly clock watch, hoping that 5pm and the weekend quickly roll by so we can let our hair down. Thus we are effectively wishing our lives away. All this is somewhat ameliorated by the camaraderie of the workplace, but all in all capitalism is deeply inimical to our deepest yearnings and desires.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Return from the dead.

Return From The Dead (2016) | Nat. Geo... by cosmosdocumentaries

A programme about NDEs that advances the case NDEs are purely brain-based hallucinations.  It asks how can we show our brains are capable of generating certain aspects of the NDE like the mystical and spiritual feelings. Apparently such feelings can be induced by being struck by lightening, and epilepsy. This Vicky woman, whose mystical and spiritual feelings are induced by her epilepsy, is convinced this shows her brain generated such experiences. Apparently she knows the brain creates such experiences.

But you'd expect a more objective and nuanced assessment from Professor Steven Laureys . . . right? Er . .no. He says her experiences shows the brain can generate mystical and spiritual feelings!

He seems to think that if a change in x brings about y, that necessarily x generates y. But that's obviously false. Consider a person who is blind due to the fact that the part of the brain dealing with vision is malfunctioning. If this part of the brain repaired itself and that person now had visual experiences, would this show that the brain generated such visual experiences, in other words that they are hallucinations? Clearly not. So additional arguments need to be advanced by Professor Steven Laureys. But he doesn't give any.

Natural Selection

All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics . . . A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If if can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
From "the blind watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins.
So the organised complexity of our bodies was not designed, it was purely the blind forces of physics operating. I'm not in a position to say whether this is possible but I'll trust those evolutionary biologists like Dawkins here who claim this.
But when Dawkins says that the complexity of living creatures is achieved in an entirely different way to human inventions such as a watch, he concedes there is design in nature -- namely human artifacts such as watches. Darwinian evolution surely entails there is no design whatsoever. So human beings cannot be part of nature, or alternatively the mainstream evolution position is falsified?
I confess though I haven't read Dawkins' book. Or any of his books although I've read articles by him. But he just bangs on about God in those articles and doesn't address the shortcomings of naturalism/materialism.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

FAQ's are infuriating!

What is the purpose of FAQ's? In 16 years on the Internet I have never encountered an answer to my question in the FAQ's. Indeed, there's no point in even looking at them.  Also when you contact a company they almost always force you to choose from a list for why you are contacting them. Unless there is an "anything else" option my query is almost always unrelated to any of the options. So I have to start off my query by stating my that query has absolutely nothing to do with the option I've chosen. Then I run into a character limit and have to delete this.  Doh!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Do some animals feel empathy?

Read the following article.

Throughout her career as a neurobiologist, Peggy Mason has been told over and over that the rats she experiments on are not capable of empathy.
Don't people just love to make bald assertions! It would seem strange to me if we're the only animal capable of feeling empathy.

Alex Kacelnik, a behavioral ecologist, argued that Mason was simply projecting humanlike feelings and emotions onto these rat "rescues" — a tendency known as anthropomorphism.

What is the purpose of adding "humanlike"? And why is it "project" rather than "infer"?

To be accurate the sentence should be rewritten:

"Alex Kacelnik, a behavioral ecologist, argued that Mason was simply inferring feelings and emotions onto these rat "rescues" — a tendency known as anthropomorphism".

The question here is why such an inference is unreasonable? If they behave like us when we're showing empathy, then the most straightforward explanation for this is that the animals too are experiencing empathy.

We don’t have evidence that there is an internal first-person experience that leads the animal to do it," Kacelnik tells me on a Skype call from his office in Oxford.

The evidence would be that
they behave as if they have an internal first-person experience. Would I question whether other people have a first person experience? Surely, if animals behave as if they have a first person experience, then our default assumption should be that they indeed have an internal first-person experience? If one wants to doubt this, then they have to advance reasons to doubt it, not simply presuppose they are correct!

Monday, 1 August 2016

The definition of the material is not this

I've heard a number of people on the net, typically those with a scientific background, assert that something is material or physical if it can affect anything else. Or, in other words, if it has causal powers.

This is of course a ridiculous definition. It rules out interactive dualism by definition. If the soul or self can move the body, they assert it is material. That's despite the fact the self/soul might not have any location, isn't made out of atoms or anything else, and indeed doesn't have any physical properties whatsoever.

But it gets even worse. Consider Berkeley's metaphysic (subjective idealism). In his metaphysic the only things that have causal powers are finite spirits (i.e us), and the infinite spirit (God). The "external" world of trees, rocks, and stars, are equated with our sensory perceptions (qualia) and of course this "external world" has no causal powers at all. It is God that does everything.

But this then means that spirits -- whether finite or infinite -- are material, but that what we call the physical world is non-material! 

Needless to say this is ludicrous. It might be helpful if these people with a scientific background actually thought a little about this.