Positional information and morphogens
6 hours ago
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7There are many who literally want to do, and have done this, among them Malcolm Beck (alive), and W.D. Hamilton (dead). In a pedocentric world, perhaps the purpose of death is to return to mother earth, enrich the soil with our bodies, and allow our matter to find reanimation in another form of life. [Update: Helen Knight's article in New Scientist explores this in more depth.]
“For dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
… But the most popular of the group [of French and German existentialists] was the saturnine Algerian-born writer Albert Camus (1913-60). In his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," a meditation on the predicament of humans attempting to make sense of a senseless universe, he memorably expressed a central existentialist tenet: the absurd. Reflecting on the Greek figure of Sisyphus, who is condemned eternally to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll down again, Camus tells us that by recognizing the absurdity of his situation, Sisyphus gains at least the dignity of forthright clarity. "We must imagine Sisyphus happy," Camus famously concludes, for "being aware of one's life, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum." Camus died in the most absurd way of all - a car crash.We value our lives and think them important, but we also know that we will die and that time will erase all our work. Though we long for it, we cannot create meaning or hope in a world that contains neither. Our awareness of the paradox between our desire on the one hand and our disappointment on the other are the terms of an absurd life. Camus states: “Knowing whether or not one can live without appeal is all that interests me.” And later concludes: “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” The image of a happy man devoid of hope is the mark of absurdity. (This reminds me of the story of the monk hanging on the end of a rope above a chasm. Above him a black mouse and a white mouse gnaw at the rope, slowly reducing its width to that of a single strand. The monk sees a strawberry near the cliff by which he hangs, so he picks it, and eats it.) "The present and the succession of presents before a constantly conscious soul is the ideal of the absurd man." "The absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter end, and deplete himself."
And just how widespread must "glimmerings" of morality be among other animals before Collins - who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes - begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors? What if mice show greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They have.) What if dogs do too? (Ditto.) Wouldn't these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?I wondered at one point, that if morality is a system of thinking about and maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures (who stand in relation to specific environmental states) then does it not also follow that science can determine aesthetic values as well? One of the criticisms of a science of morality is Hume's assertion that it is impossible to deduce “oughts” from what “is”, but I wonder what the distiction between these two really consists of, or for that matter the difference between truth and goodness. Have we answered the question of why a science of morality is important? Our intuitions of right and wrong are fallible (87). Population ethics govern some of the most important decisions societies ever make (68). What of the ethics of nuclear power? Or of particulate air pollution? Some of these questions bear on matters closer to home than others. Harris identifies a few more advantages (188):
We would all be better off in a world where we devoted fewer of our resources to preparing to kill one another. Finding clean sources of energy, cures for desease, improvements in agriculture, and new ways to facilitate human coop0eration are general goals that are obviously worth striving for.Now I am ready to enjoy reading Anthony Grayling's book, which is also about ethics and morality, though I gather without as much speculation on science's role in determining it.
Metaphysical - What are things really?6. Chinese Cracked Ice Pattern. When I first saw it several years ago in a book about Chinese architecture, I loved it. Here's a mathematical description. I got to thinking about these patterns when I read about "Li Symmetries" on pg. 120 of Quadrivium, a book with many illustrations from early thought in math, geometry, and music. The short description included a reference to Alan Turing, who wrote "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis". You can see some examples of modern application of this idea in this Wired article. While these look like fractals, they seem somehow different. Oddly, searching for "Li Symmetries" online turns up no results. So where did that name come from?
Epistemological - How do I know?
Topics: experience, reason, intuition, revelation
Ontological - What do I mean?
Topics: definitions, meaning, language, what is being/existence
Axiological - What is true/beautiful/harmonious?
Topics: good/evil, subjective/objective, true/false
Dialog - [after telling J that they're going to check the "hot sheets," K buys some tabloid newspapers]As for myself, I turn to the most comprehensive local magazine rack, which happens to be at Barnes and Noble. There I read two inspiring articles that are also available to read online:
Agent J: These are the hot sheets?
Agent K: Best investigative reporting on the planet. But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.
Agent J: I cannot believe you're looking for tips in the supermarket tabloids!
Agent K: Not looking for.
[tosses down a paper whose headline reads "ALIEN STOLE MY HUSBAND'S SKIN!"]
Agent K: Found.
This alone might make morality, in Nietzsche’s words, “the danger of dangers.” Plenty of powerful religious and political figures have insisted that their followers have a moral duty to destroy some country, or to abuse or even kill the members of some race, religion, or alternative persuasion. Our future will be much brighter if we can all stop our self-involved and combative moral posturing, develop a more realistic understanding of our conflicts of interest, and come up with ways to resolve them that are based on mutual respect and the best information we can get.I look forward to reading the contra position to moral abolitionists such as Garner - Sam Harris' recent book The Moral Landscape presents this opposite case. He believes that there are in fact objective values and argues for a kind of neo-utilitarianism as Coyne describes it. But I am currently more skeptical of a science of morality than I am of moral nihilism.
On a more subtle level, specific praise admires the task, not the child. Admiring the task helps the child feel confident about his abilities. Admiring the child can build expectations that may hinder the child later... praising the task gives children feelings of accomplishment which, in turn, raise their self-esteem. With positive self-esteem, the child feels even more confident and willing to try more new things.One of the best things parents can help their children learn are decision making skills. Thierman writes: "What we can do is look toward the future and plan to encourage our children, to help them gain confidence and the skills of decision-making, problem-solving, and self-discipline." Teach self-discipline, not obedience (218).
But how can we non-believers accept something as evidence when that “evidence” is supposed to point to something which is beyond logic, beyond rules? What does “evidence” even mean in such a situation? ...This astonishing complexity of God adds yet another barrier to evidence, as literally anything else is a better, more likely explanation of phenomena in the real world.When thinking about this question yesterday, I also arrived at this conclusion. If evidence is something you can understand, but God transcends understanding, then he also transcends evidence. Hence, no evidence for God is possible. But this is just a silly game of logic. Zara continues:
The idea of evidence for miracles being taken seriously was shown to be unreasonable by David Hume centuries ago...While Coyne sets his position as opposing that of Myers and Zara on the question of evidence for God, I think when it comes to Hume's quote they do agree. This is the common ground they share. Hume wrote:
The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), 'That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish....' When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.Zara and Coyne both refer to Hume as correct on this issue, Coyne wrote:
To take Hume’s view, when the probability of that evidence adducing a god exceeds the probability that it’s either a trick or due to some unexplained natural process, then I think it’s okay to provisionally accept a god.Coyne, defending his scientific integrity, states this is a possibility, but Zara and Myers do not. I think it is because they take one extra step that Coyne doesn't when Zara writes, following Hume's argument to its natural conclusion "literally anything else is a better, more likely explanation of phenomena in the real world". The possiblity of it is so remote, it has passed the vanishing point. But can't we all be happy that we agree with Hume?
The foot claws of some species - most notably the Fishing bat Myotis vivesi - are extremely impressive or totally ridiculous, depending on your opinion. In case you didn't know, this bat (unique to the coasts of the Gulf of California) fishes at sea - a pretty incredible bit of behaviour that has led some biologists to describe it as an honorary marine mammal.Recently I also came across an old photo of a bat about to eat a frog. Were I to title it, I'd call it "death by winged teeth":
|The red arrow indicates the workshop with outbuildings (white and blue roofs), this is before 3/11.|
|Zooming out of the above photo, the workshop is in upper left.|
|This is after 3/11. The workshop is just barely outside the left of the frame; making it clear that it was affected by the tsunami.|
|Another aerial view of Abukuma river before 3/11, workshop is at far left center.|
|Image of Abukuma river after 3/11.|
|same workshop; view from chimney corner in above photo|
|interior of workshop|
The main requirement of the Finnish sauna is that it create bathing conditions which cause the bather to perspire freely. These conditions include the regulation of temperature, humidity and ventilation... The sauna should have an invigorating, rejuvenating, and tempering effect, while cleansing the body, refreshing the spirit and giving the feeling of complete well-being which is always the result of a good sauna.