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The Great Debate: Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?
Posted: 07 November 2010 11:17 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

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Posted: 12 November 2010 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Here’s a link to the NPR Science Friday audio archive.  Guests were Krauss, Blackburn, Harris and Pinker.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201011055

I wish they could have let Harris and Blackburn debate.  I feel I’m to far over in Harris’s corner and I need to know where the counterpoints are strongest.

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New members see this post:

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/15182/

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Posted: 12 November 2010 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

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Posted: 13 November 2010 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

Yes, of course.  The inabitity to do so is often cited as a factor that contributes to mental illness.  That is, the ability to think about how one thinks is necessary to thinking well.  If it were not so, there would be no point to this forum or Dr. Harris’ books.  The fact the mind can do this is one reason neurobiology is so interesting, yes?

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Posted: 13 November 2010 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Parable - 13 November 2010 11:24 AM
toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

Yes, of course.  The inabitity to do so is often cited as a factor that contributes to mental illness.  That is, the ability to think about how one thinks is necessary to thinking well.  If it were not so, there would be no point to this forum or Dr. Harris’ books.  The fact the mind can do this is one reason neurobiology is so interesting, yes?


So the mind is divided into a seer and a seen?
And the seer part has power to manipulate the seen part?

 


toombaru

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Posted: 13 November 2010 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:44 PM
Parable - 13 November 2010 11:24 AM
toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

Yes, of course.  The inabitity to do so is often cited as a factor that contributes to mental illness.  That is, the ability to think about how one thinks is necessary to thinking well.  If it were not so, there would be no point to this forum or Dr. Harris’ books.  The fact the mind can do this is one reason neurobiology is so interesting, yes?


So the mind is divided into a seer and a seen?
And the seer part has power to manipulate the seen part?

 


toombaru

I think the ability to observe includes ourselves as observable phenomena.  I don’t think of it as being divided, or of one part having the power to manipulate another.  Its an integrated whole that responds dynamically to its experiences.  In this context, I’m not sure the terms “subjective” and “objective” can be distinguished.

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Posted: 15 November 2010 12:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

This is the kind of philosophical mincing of words that lead to rigid definitions stripping words of any practical meaning. I would put it in the same box as this entire misunderstanding of what science really is. This debate should have started with defining science. I couldn´t believe what I was hearing when the panel suddenly realized that nobody was thinking about the same thing when they were using the word science. It has been clear to me since before I can remember that science is “the scientific method” and not just biology, chemistry and physics.

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Posted: 15 November 2010 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Krater - 15 November 2010 05:53 AM
toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

This is the kind of philosophical mincing of words that lead to rigid definitions stripping words of any practical meaning. I would put it in the same box as this entire misunderstanding of what science really is. This debate should have started with defining science. I couldn´t believe what I was hearing when the panel suddenly realized that nobody was thinking about the same thing when they were using the word science. It has been clear to me since before I can remember that science is “the scientific method” and not just biology, chemistry and physics.

For about 15 years, I taught an internship at the university.  The first thing we did was define science so a child could understand it, because the internship targeted children for science education.  Because we humans are story tellers, I put it this way.  Science is a story that we create to help us understand the world, to help us makes sense of what we experience and observe.  In that sense, its like any other story, but unlike mythology or literature, its a story that is created according to a very particular set of rules called the scientific method.  Science is a very particular kind of story about the world that necessarily includes us as story tellers, and its a collective effort that requires us to reconcile our various ideas about how that story makes the most sense.

Science addresses our knowledge of the universe.  As a human endeavor, science is subject to both the constraints and the liberties afforded by the human condition.  Thus, the structure and meaning of science give insight to both the universe in general, and the human condition in particular, as it engages that universe.  If this were not true, science would not have meaning for us as we strive to build a world view in which we make sense of our lives.  In other words, science can help us to understand ourselves as part of the universe.  And, perhaps more profoundly, because the human condition shapes how we practice science, the structure and content of science inherently implies something about the human condition that we cannot elucidate directly.  So, in effect we get two jewels for the price of one, if we are able to see the human condition reflected in our knowledge system called science.
 

Ultimately, according to the materialist view anyway, all observable phenomena are explainable in terms of fundamental physical processes alone. These phenomena include not only the processes of physics, chemistry and biology, but also the processes of psychology, sociology, history, religion and art, to name a few.  Perhaps the most elegant accomplishment will be the understanding of consciousness, self-awareness, emotion, logic, mathematics, language, memory and imagination.  I suspect these latter phenomena may be understood by induction from the human condition as reflected in science rather than through deduction from the data per se, yet this understanding is no less valid for being gained in this way.  I personally am not limited to the materialist view but I do hold that whatever other views I experience must accept the materialist perspective as a subset of whatever else the world may be.

[ Edited: 15 November 2010 06:10 AM by Parable]
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Posted: 15 November 2010 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Parable - 15 November 2010 10:21 AM
Krater - 15 November 2010 05:53 AM
toombaru - 13 November 2010 01:32 AM
Parable - 08 November 2010 04:17 AM

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Great Debate at Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in Tempe. (see http://origins.asu.edu/greatdebate.php)

My date said something that caught my attention.  She’s a teacher a private school. She said “This discussion made me realize how closed-minded I have been.”

If only more people could be this honest and this humble….

Parable

 

Is it your opinion that a “mind” can determine its own condition?
In other words, can a “closed mind” manipulate itself into a more open condition?
Can a mind see itself?


toombaru

This is the kind of philosophical mincing of words that lead to rigid definitions stripping words of any practical meaning. I would put it in the same box as this entire misunderstanding of what science really is. This debate should have started with defining science. I couldn´t believe what I was hearing when the panel suddenly realized that nobody was thinking about the same thing when they were using the word science. It has been clear to me since before I can remember that science is “the scientific method” and not just biology, chemistry and physics.

For about 15 years, I taught an internship at the university.  The first thing we did was define science so a child could understand it, because the internship targeted children for science education.  Because we humans are story tellers, I put it this way.  Science is a story that we create to help us understand the world, to help us makes sense of what we experience and observe.  In that sense, its like any other story, but unlike mythology or literature, its a story that is created according to a very particular set of rules called the scientific method.  Science is a very particular kind of story about the world that necessarily includes us as story tellers, and its a collective effort that requires us to reconcile our various ideas about how that story makes the most sense.

Science addresses our knowledge of the universe.  As a human endeavor, science is subject to both the constraints and the liberties afforded by the human condition.  Thus, the structure and meaning of science give insight to both the universe in general, and the human condition in particular, as it engages that universe.  If this were not true, science would not have meaning for us as we strive to build a world view in which we make sense of our lives.  In other words, science can help us to understand ourselves as part of the universe.  And, perhaps more profoundly, because the human condition shapes how we practice science, the structure and content of science inherently implies something about the human condition that we cannot elucidate directly.  So, in effect we get two jewels for the price of one, if we are able to see the human condition reflected in our knowledge system called science.
 

Ultimately, according to the materialist view anyway, all observable phenomena are explainable in terms of fundamental physical processes alone. These phenomena include not only the processes of physics, chemistry and biology, but also the processes of psychology, sociology, history, religion and art, to name a few.  Perhaps the most elegant accomplishment will be the understanding of consciousness, self-awareness, emotion, logic, mathematics, language, memory and imagination.  I suspect these latter phenomena may be understood by induction from the human condition as reflected in science rather than through deduction from the data per se, yet this understanding is no less valid for being gained in this way.  I personally am not limited to the materialist view but I do hold that whatever other views I experience must accept the materialist perspective as a subset of whatever else the world may be.

 

 

Is there such a thing as a river?

 

toombaru

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Posted: 15 November 2010 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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last time I checked, yes.

unless you mean something special by the terms “is there”, “such a thing” and “as a river”.

(and nevermind that the notion of an interrogative is fundamentally a leap of faith, in that it presumes an answer is possible or has meaning)

Sam Harris’ point at the Great Debate included the notion that philosophy doesn’t help us, so let’s stop debating terms like anti-realism, meta-truth and the meaning of meaning, and let’s start using science to reduce suffering of conscious creatures.  The leap of faith here is “suffering is bad”.  I’m good with that.

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Posted: 15 November 2010 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Parable - 15 November 2010 04:06 PM

last time I checked, yes.

unless you mean something special by the terms “is there”, “such a thing” and “as a river”.

(and nevermind that the notion of an interrogative is fundamentally a leap of faith, in that it presumes an answer is possible or has meaning)

Sam Harris’ point at the Great Debate included the notion that philosophy doesn’t help us, so let’s stop debating terms like anti-realism, meta-truth and the meaning of meaning, and let’s start using science to reduce suffering of conscious creatures.  The leap of faith here is “suffering is bad”.  I’m good with that.


Does your desire to relieve suffering include pathogenic bacteria and human tape worms?

 

toombaru

[ Edited: 15 November 2010 07:01 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 16 November 2010 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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the problem with morality is how to weigh competing interests.  if you’re asking if I would torture a tape worm for pleasure, the answer is no.  if you’re asking me to choose between the suffering of a human and that of a tape worm feeding on a human, then i choose to favor the human over the tape worm.  is that arbitrary or capricious?  i don’t think so because certainly there is a difference between a human and a tape worm, and that difference can be characterized by a proper scientific understanding of the neurophysiology of each.  of course, given that knowlege, it then becomes a question of assigning relative value to each so priorities can be established. this is where the process of consensus becomes important.  The needless torture of tape worms is not something I would support, not only for the sake of the tape worm, but also for the sake of society, to avoid encouraging psychopathic behavior in humans who would enjoy torturing anything for pleasure.

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Posted: 16 November 2010 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Parable - 16 November 2010 11:52 AM

the problem with morality is how to weigh competing interests.  if you’re asking if I would torture a tape worm for pleasure, the answer is no.  if you’re asking me to choose between the suffering of a human and that of a tape worm feeding on a human, then i choose to favor the human over the tape worm.  is that arbitrary or capricious?  i don’t think so because certainly there is a difference between a human and a tape worm, and that difference can be characterized by a proper scientific understanding of the neurophysiology of each.  of course, given that knowlege, it then becomes a question of assigning relative value to each so priorities can be established. this is where the process of consensus becomes important.  The needless torture of tape worms is not something I would support, not only for the sake of the tape worm, but also for the sake of society, to avoid encouraging psychopathic behavior in humans who would enjoy torturing anything for pleasure.

 

That makes perfect sense…...from the human perspective.
The problem with trying to determine the qualities and applications of “morality” is that there is no such thing.
It is an ethnocentric conceptual overlay biased by the human perspective.
There is no morality in nature.
Organisms evolved to “get along” simply because it helps their gene pool survive and reproduce.
Simple as that.
Add to that the fact that there is no such thing as free will and the term “morality” becomes even more meaningless.

 


toombaru

[ Edited: 16 November 2010 09:01 AM by toombaru]
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Posted: 16 November 2010 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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toombaru - 16 November 2010 12:55 PM
Parable - 16 November 2010 11:52 AM

the problem with morality is how to weigh competing interests.  if you’re asking if I would torture a tape worm for pleasure, the answer is no.  if you’re asking me to choose between the suffering of a human and that of a tape worm feeding on a human, then i choose to favor the human over the tape worm.  is that arbitrary or capricious?  i don’t think so because certainly there is a difference between a human and a tape worm, and that difference can be characterized by a proper scientific understanding of the neurophysiology of each.  of course, given that knowlege, it then becomes a question of assigning relative value to each so priorities can be established. this is where the process of consensus becomes important.  The needless torture of tape worms is not something I would support, not only for the sake of the tape worm, but also for the sake of society, to avoid encouraging psychopathic behavior in humans who would enjoy torturing anything for pleasure.

 

That makes perfect sense…...from the human perspective.
The problem with trying to determining the qualities and application of “morality” is that there is no such thing.
It is an ethnocentric conceptual overlay biased by the human perspective.
There is no morality in nature.
Organisms evolved to “get along” simply because it helps their gene pool survive and reproduce.
Simple as that.
Add to that the fact that there is no such thing as free will and the term “morality” becomes even more meaningless.

 


toombaru


In his book “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium “, evolutionary biologist Dr. Joseph Graves argues that there is no biological basis for the belief that race is a legitimate biological classification under species.  Race is more properly understood as a social construct, most decidedly ethnocentric in its origins.  This does not mean “there is no such thing” as race, for we see the consequences of race, as a concept, on the attitudes and behaviors of people.  The moral argument is not that we should ignore race, e.g. by being “color-blind”, but instead that we celebrate race as a manifestation of human diversity by being “color-kind”.  Certainly the various expressions of the human genome we call race have some natural basis, but that does not legitimate race as a factor in morality any more than any other attribute brought about by biological evolution.  What is relevant to morality is how we think about ourselves, other people and other organisms, and science helps us to have reliable information upon which to decide how we should think about ourselves, other people and other organisms.

It will be interesting to see what neurobiology discovers about how belief in free will, or not, affects the brain.  Then we will be able to have a better discussion about whether free will is real and morality has meaning.

[ Edited: 16 November 2010 08:57 AM by Parable]
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Posted: 16 November 2010 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Parable - 16 November 2010 01:55 PM
toombaru - 16 November 2010 12:55 PM
Parable - 16 November 2010 11:52 AM

the problem with morality is how to weigh competing interests.  if you’re asking if I would torture a tape worm for pleasure, the answer is no.  if you’re asking me to choose between the suffering of a human and that of a tape worm feeding on a human, then i choose to favor the human over the tape worm.  is that arbitrary or capricious?  i don’t think so because certainly there is a difference between a human and a tape worm, and that difference can be characterized by a proper scientific understanding of the neurophysiology of each.  of course, given that knowlege, it then becomes a question of assigning relative value to each so priorities can be established. this is where the process of consensus becomes important.  The needless torture of tape worms is not something I would support, not only for the sake of the tape worm, but also for the sake of society, to avoid encouraging psychopathic behavior in humans who would enjoy torturing anything for pleasure.

 

That makes perfect sense…...from the human perspective.
The problem with trying to determining the qualities and application of “morality” is that there is no such thing.
It is an ethnocentric conceptual overlay biased by the human perspective.
There is no morality in nature.
Organisms evolved to “get along” simply because it helps their gene pool survive and reproduce.
Simple as that.
Add to that the fact that there is no such thing as free will and the term “morality” becomes even more meaningless.

 

 

“Meaning” is relevant only within the artificial conceptual overlay that emerges within the mind of man.
Meaning is always referenced to the sense of personal autonomy whose actual existence is imaginary;
Its entire reality consists merely of swirling mnemonic debris.

What is the meaning of the moon?

 

toombaru

 


toombaru


In his book “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium “, evolutionary biologist Dr. Joseph Graves argues that there is no biological basis for the belief that race is a legitimate biological classification under species.  Race is more properly understood as a social construct, most decidedly ethnocentric in its origins.  This does not mean “there is no such thing” as race, for we see the consequences of race, as a concept, on the attitudes and behaviors of people.  The moral argument is not that we should ignore race, e.g. by being “color-blind”, but instead that we celebrate race as a manifestation of human diversity by being “color-kind”.  Certainly the various expressions of the human genome we call race have some natural basis, but that does not legitimate race as a factor in morality any more than any other attribute brought about by biological evolution.  What is relevant to morality is how we think about ourselves, other people and other organisms, and science helps us to have reliable information upon which to decide how we should think about ourselves, other people and other organisms.

It will be interesting to see what neurobiology discovers about how belief in free will, or not, affects the brain.  Then we will be able to have a better discussion about whether free will is real and morality has meaning.

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Posted: 16 November 2010 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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toombaru - 16 November 2010 02:09 PM

“Meaning” is relevant only within the artificial conceptual overlay that emerges within the mind of man.
Meaning is always referenced to the sense of personal autonomy whose actual existence is imaginary;
Its entire reality consists merely of swirling mnemonic debris.

What is the meaning of the moon?

toombaru

So, meaning is relevant only via imagination?  I like that.

The meaning of the moon is humility, a proper sense of one’s place in the universe.

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