In fact, of course, science is an unparalleled playground of the imagination, populated by unlikely characters with wonderful names (messenger RNA, black holes, quarks) and capable of performing the most amazing deeds: sub-atomic whirling dervishes that can be in several places - everywhere and nowhere - at the same time; molecular hoop-snakes biting their own tails; self-copying spiral staircases bearing coded instructions; miniature keys searching for the locks in which they fit, on floating odysseys in a trillion synaptic gulfs. .
I was once interviewed in Italy and the headline of the interview the next day was wonderful. I saved this for my collection it was... "YES we have a soul but it's made of lots of tiny robots" and I thought that's exactly right. Yes we have a soul, but it's mechanical. But it's still a soul, it still does the work that the soul was supposed to do. It is the seat of reason. It is the seat of moral responsibility. It's why we are appropriate objects of punishment when we do evil things, why we deserve the praise when we do good things. It's just not a mysterious lump of wonder stuff... that will out live us. .
For two things both to believe that snow is white, they need not to be physically similar in any specifiable way, but they must both be in a "functional" condition or state specifiable in the most functional language; they must share adescription according to which they are both in some particular logical state (which is roughly like two different computers having the same program and being in the same "place" in the program). ...it is a type —each mental type is identifiable as a functional type in the language of Turing machine description. .
The trouble with the canons of scientific evidence [...] is that they virtually rule out the description of anything but oft-repeated, oft-observed, stereotypic behavior of a species, and this is just the sort of behavior that reveals no particular intelligence at all - all this behavior can be more or less plausibly explained as the effects of some humdrum combination of "instinct" or tropism and conditioned response. It is the novel bits of behavior, the acts that couldn't plausibly be accounted for in terms of prior conditioning or training or habit, that speak eloquently of intelligence; but if their very novelty and unrepeatability make them anecdotal and hence inadmissible evidence, how can one proceed to develop the cognitive case for the intelligence of one's target species? .
Philosophers are never quite sure what they are talking about - about what the issues really are - and so often it takes them rather a long time to recognize that someone with a somewhat different approach (or destination, or starting point) is making a contribution. .
The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)* * The analogy between the sea squirt and the associate professor was first pointed out, I think, by the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas. .
I find it breathtaking [...] that when musical composition competitions are held, the contestants often do not submit tapes or records (or live performances) of their works they submit written scored, and the judges confidently make their aesthetic judgements on the basis of just reading the scores and hearing the music in their minds. How good are the best musical imaginations? Can a trained musician, swiftly reading a score tell just how that voicing of dissonant oboes and flutes over the massed strings will sound? .
Up till now [the development of proto-consciousness], we can suppose, nervous systems solved the "Now what do I do?" problem by a relatively simple balancing act between a strictly limited repertoire of actions - if not the famous four F's (fight, flee, feed, or mate), then a modest elaboration of them. .
As Akins observes, it is not the point of our sensory systems that they should detect "basic" or "natural" properties of the environment, but that they should serve our "narcissistic" purposes in staying alive; nature doesn't build epistemic engines. .
Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. A conscious mind is an observer, who takes in the information that is available at a particular (roughly) continuous sequence of times and places in the universe. A mind is thus a locus of subjectivity, a thing it is like something to be (Farrell, 1950, Nagel, 1974). What it is like to be that thing is partly determined by what is available to be observed or experienced along the trajectory through space-time of that moving point of view, which for most practical purposes is just that: a point. For instance, the startling dissociation of the sound and appearance of distant fireworks is explained by the different transmission speeds of sound and light, arriving at the observer (at that point) at different times, even though they left the source simultaneously. .
But if we ask where precisely in the brain that point of view is located, the simple assumptions that work so well on larger scales of space and time break down. It is now quite clear that there is no single point in the brain where all information funnels in, and this fact has some far from obvious consequences. .
The evidence of evolution pours in, not only from geology, paleontology, biogeography, and anatomy (Darwin's chief sources), but from molecular biology and every other branch of the life sciences. To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant - inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write. Doubts about the power of Darwin's idea of natural selection to explain this evolutionary process are still intellectually respectable, however, although the burden of proof for such skepticism has become immense... .
Much of the controversy and anxiety that has enveloped Darwin's idea ... can be understood as a series of failed campaigns to contain Darwin;s idea within some acceptably "safe" and merely partial revolution. Cede some or all of modernto Darwin, perhaps, but hold the line there! Keep Darwinian thinking out of cosmology, out of psychology, out of human culture, out of ethics, politics, and religion! In these campaigns, many battles have been won by the forces of containment: flawed applications of Darwin's idea have been exposed and discredited, beaten back by the champions of the pre-Darwinian tradition. But new waves of Darwinian thinking keep coming. .
There is a familiar trio of reactions byto a purportedly radical hypothesis: (a) "You must be out of your mind!", (b) "What else is new? Everybody knows that!", and, later - if the hypothesis is still standing - (c) "Hmm. You *might* be on to something!" Sometimes these phases take years to unfold, one after another, but I have seen all three emerge in near synchrony in the course of a half-hour's heated discussion following a conference paper. .
People ache to believe that we human beings are vastly different from all other species - and they are right! We are different. We are the only species that has an extra medium of design preservation and design communication: culture. ... We have language, the primary medium of culture... In a few short millennia - a mere instant in biological time - we have already used our new exploration vehicles to transform not only our planet but the very process of design development that created us. .
Philosophers might care to ask themselves ... how often they are accomplices in increasing the audience for a second-rate article simply because their introductory course needs a simple-minded version of a bad idea that even freshmen can refute. Some of the most frequently reprinted articles in twentieth-century philosophy are famous precisely because nobody believes them; everybody can see what's wrong with them. ... The confirmation of this claim is left as an exercise for the reader. Among the memes that structure the infosphere and hence affect the transmission of other memes are the laws of libel. .
If you have ever asked yourself if there are facts about yourself (about your health, your competence, your prospects) you would rather not know, and decided that there were, you should be prepared to consider seriously the suggestion that the best - perhaps the only - way to ensure that such facts are not imposed on people is by prohibiting investigations likely to discover them. .
It is not "scientism" to concede the objectivity and precision of good science, any more than it is history worship to concede that Napoleon did once rule in France and the Holocaust actually happened. Those who fear the facts will forever try to discredit the fact-finders. .
, in the extreme versions worthy of the name, is antithetical to almost all surprising advances in thought. We might call it eumemics, since it is, like the extreme eugenics of Social Darwinists, an attempt to impose myopically derived standards of safety and goodness on the bounty of nature. Few today - but there are a few - would brand all genetic counseling, all genetic policies, with the condemnatory title of eugenics. .
[I]t makes little difference where we draw the line between the pruning and shaping [of behavior] by natural selection which is genetically transmitted to offspring (the wiring you are born with), and the pruning and shaping that later takes place in the individual (the rewiring you end up with, as a result of experience or training). nature and nurture blend seamlessly together. .
Unpredictability is in general a fine protective feature, which should never be squandered but always spent wisely. There is much to be gained from communication if it is craftily doled out - enough truth to keep one's credibility high but enough falsehood to keep one's options open. (This is the first point of wisdom in the game of poker: he who never bluffs never wins; he who always bluffs always loses.) .
Of all the mind tools we acquire in the course of furnishing our brains from the stockpiles of culture, none are more important, of course, than words - first spoken, then written. Words make us more intelligent by making cognition easier, in the same way (many times multiplied) that beacons and landmarks make navigation in the world easier for simple creatures. Navigation in the abstract multidimensional world of ideas is simply impossible without a huge stock of movable, memorable landmarks that can be shared, criticized, recorded, and looked at from different perspectives. .
We alone can be wracked with doubt, and we alone have been provoked by that epistemic itch to seek a remedy: better truth-seeking methods. Wanting to keep better track of our food supplies, our territories, our families, our enemies, we discovered the benefits of talking it over with others, asking questions, passing on lore. We invented culture. Then we invented measuring, and arithmetic, and maps, and writing. These communicative and recording innovations come with a built-in ideal: truth. The point of asking questions is to find true answers; the point of measuring is to measure accurately; the point of making maps is to find your way to your destination. ... In short, the goal of truth goes without saying, in every human culture. .
are just as vulnerable to wishful thinking, just as likely to be tempted by base motives, just as venal and gullible and forgetful as the rest of humankind. Scientists don't consider themselves to be saints; they don't even pretend to be priests (who according to tradition are supposed to do a better job than the rest of us at fighting off human temptation and frailty). Scientists take themselves to be just as weak and fallible as anybody else, but recognizing those very sources of error in themselves and in the groups to which they belong, they have devised elaborate systems to tie their own hands, forcibly preventing their frailties and prejudices from infecting their results. .
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