Blog Archive

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Some Dilemas in Veganism

I often wonder about vegans.

It is possible that they are right that eating animals (or any animal products) may be causing undue harm, or that the line is so unclear that we should err on the side of caution. 

Here are some issues with that.

Honey Bees and their domestication lead directly to most of the available plants that we eat. Removing them would essentially cause a food crisis for millions of people.

If we were to all stop eating meat this instant (and never do so again) we have the problem of what to do with all of the domestic animals.  There are far to many to release into the wild, plus most of them are so domesticated that they wouldn't survive.  Not to mention that they are invasive and would completely disrupt any ecosystem through sheer volume.   The options here appear to be either a slow phasing out of eating animals (in which case, calm down about my organic goat cheese) or a quick and painless slaughter of (nearly) all domesticated animals (OMGBBQ?).  In some cases this would effectively wipe out the species (there aren't any Aurochs left after all). 

Scale problem.  If vegans are worried about the suffering of conscious creatures, they should be doing what they can to eliminate it in humans first.  This would include getting more domestic animals to some places (and less to others).  After which they should concentrate on the other apes, cetaceans, and onward down the line of neural complexity. 

If vegans are claiming health reasons, they should focus on promoting vaccination and exercise and well as portioning control and meal planning.  This version can actually coincide with the type of whole food/ organic only attitude they often exhibit.  Locally in the US they should concentrate on getting farm subsidies removed from corn and other low nutrition crops and added to crop variety to try and make the price of "healthy foods" competitive on shelves for families.  Also B vitamins, need I say more?

So if a vegan gives you a hard time about your animal products, especially if they are conscientiously purchased, remember that they are probably a hypocrite that hasn't actually addressed the real problems of their world view.    Most world views are a filter to allow you to not address issues rather than one to let you find an issue.  So before you try to wipe the smug condensation off of their annoying face, ask if you are simply filtering out actual conversation.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Intentionality and the illusion of agency.

Reiterate idea that searching for intentions, as part of our evolutionary heritage as social apes, leads to a cognitive bias towards seeing agency where there is none.

The reason to combat certain terms is the intellectual, social and emotional baggage that we all carry with the term. eg god.

The gestalt construct based on sensory input. How to defeat your illusions with information ( you can't dispel them, only learn the shape and how to navigate within).

Perhaps the greatest driver to brain development was social order. It may have been sexual selection or just the ability to cooperate. But the magnification of the human mind beyond that of the other primates cannot really be called into doubt. It is this device, this intentionality engine that drives our exploration. We must learn to temper our thought and language to differentiate between explanatory reasons and willful design. The difficulty is that we at e using a tool that seeks the risings of other minds like our own. This failure of he imagination is one of tremendous impact.

If this stands true we should see some ties between pattern seeking behavior and the rise of false pattern. There may be a certain trait that leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia as well as gods and angels.
This might be the same thing that leads us to the repeat failure of bad explanation trumping no explanation. explanation I already have trumping new explanation is the conservation of brain power to no relearn he world at every moment. It instead adapt the world to fit our model. The term cognitive dissonance is to describe when we hold contradictory thoughts but there should be a special term for the confrontation with information that demolishes our old understanding. This is the eureka moment plus the loss of the familiar.

We can call part of this problam the Intention bias

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The added value Problem.

That an idea or body of ideas can be tested
That ideas have ascendent consequences which may be tested
that connections between ideas can be ascribed the labels of either; necessary or probabilistic
that the test of one part can help determine the value of another under the assumption of the connection.

One of the key criticisms leveled against the type of world view I suggest is that of "scientism". Which is often associated with reductionism and a lack of appreciation for the arts and humanities. I trained as an artist and musician. I regularly attend events of this type, they are an important part of my life. (non sequitur you are making Phil)

The issue seems to be one of criticizing certain views as not reality based or not thorough. I want to narrow the focus and say that the test of an idea or body of knowledge is that of added values. What does the knowledge enhance? In he case of science there are many examples of improvements in hygiene and medicine. In communications and agriculture. This is not to say here are no drawbacks, no potential risk. Added value certainly exists. If we turn then to art and music we can see that it is emotionally enriching and has some function socially as well. Keep in mind that these are reasons of added value and not the thing themselves or an indication of objectives.

If we turn specifically to bodies of knowledge we can ask if they cross-pollinate. Critical thinking and doubt certainly do. What about post modernism? Or theology? Do they interface and enhance other ways of thinking at the basic level? Do they even add to the conversation they are supposedly engaged in?
How is it of added value to assume or assert the appeal to authority beyond what would be considered a tautology. We know that the thing is true (or seems to be) but we have no proof of a source. Why take this next jump into a fallacy why not do what you accuse me of and stop at a tautological point? This is not my actual belief but it is how you represent me. So what is wrong with it by your own argument.
My point is there are certain assumption that we make as can be considered pragmatically. And held as probably true but potentially not. We do not know that math, logic, physics, etc are universal but the pragmatic utility breaks down as we discard them. It may be that they are some function of the mind that we cannot escape but is not universal. A kind of perceptual event horizon.

It is interesting to engage in this type of discussion. And the questions demand that we seek answers. It might be that by their very nature these questions are meaningless or unanswerable. It might be that try have a real and definite solution. The important thing is to avoid a hand wave. A pretend answer. Be happy with the statement that we don't have enough information, rather than distracting from the search by offering an answer that will avoid empirical test or is so ill defined that it is a mask to there being a question at all.

When a god is offered as an answer. We must test to see if it is actually explanatory.
It becomes a question of enhancing he conversation. Does the assumption of a god really add anything?
If you want to say that morality exists because god wants it to. That doesn't actually tell you what to think about morality or what actions are permissible or required. It does open the door to seeking wisdom in ancient books that at best equal what we could come up with now. And more often are horrific and fail any modern moral test.

Does theology offer any serious ideas that increase knowledge of any other sort? It seems like it can't because it starts with some claims that are considered unimpeachable. They must never be tested or even examined instead all other things are examined in light of them. And these claims are not that reality exists and can be understood but that some specific revealed doctrine is true.
I suppose the counter argument is that we must assume something. But I think we are better off presuming the minimum and doing so pragmatically.

Utilization 2

A structure for comparison.

You can create a connection from one model to another, depending on the strength of the connection oh can measure the first one indirectly by testing the others.

If you find that these connections do not exist or that the do not lead to ideas that can be tested. Then the model can be said to add no value. This is not to debate if it is true or false onl if it is possible to determine if it is. We can dismiss these ideas on grounds of utility. Or judge them as interesting and aesthetic but meaningless in relation to all other things.

If you have such a model it is either gauge or detached. If it is gauge you can refine it until it is specific enough to test. If it is detached then no action can attach it excluding a completely new branch of thought which may attach it or render it merely vague.

The merits of this is that it can be done on a few assumptions. Ones that most do not wish to contest. Proving these assumptions may fail due to incompleteness theory.

We need to be clear of the difference between an assumption and an assertion. One is taking ideas as either pragmatically true or describing the degree of certainty with the degree of probability assumed. An assertion is a statement that is not only taken as a given but said to be necessarily true or maybe to be better phrased as a probability of 100%. This distinguishes it from the formal way of defining necessary truth.

The necessity of a fact or idea putting constraints on your expectation.  If it doesn't; you either don't believe it or don't understand it (in the operational sense)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Word Cloud of this blog.

I decided to use to generate a visualization of the most commonly used words on this blog.  Interesting to see what comes out.  Bayesian may start to show up more, along with prior/priors.  Do Not Be Alarmed.

Wordle: NO&O05052012

Friday, May 4, 2012

A few Base Assumptions

All this time I have been talking about the nature of discourse and how to formulate an argument. There are some implied premises in this and it's worth discussing what they are.

1 Statements should be logically coherent. (link)

2 Judgement should be reserved for when there is enough information.

3 No explanation is better than a bad explanation. We are very bad at holding to this and should not worry to much if we are creating incomplete models but we must be able to adapt and/or abandon them.

4 We should except our incomplete explanations and views pragmatically (understanding the limits to which they work and what is wrong with them)

5 There must be a certain amount of assumption for any given statement. These are the unchallenged premises. It can only be things that are either necessarily true or that all involved in the discussion agree to (at least hypothetically).

6 The difference between assertions and assumptions.

7 Our limits both a reasoners and the limit of our view points lead. To certain consistent mistakes that we must compensate for.  OR  Avoid Fallacies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The strength of doubt.

It is often in discussion about fringe ideas that the following type of statements are made; "science doesn't know everything" or "everyone used to think the world was flat". These are often presented as bolstering the claims put forward, or attacking my critique of certain suggestions that are (thought to be) physically impossible. I do my best to not dismiss these statements as the appeal to credulity that they are often presented as and see them instead as an expression of the desire to expand knowledge.

When taken seriously we can see that of course science doesn't know everything. It hardly knows anything. But this isn't some secret it is an important aspect. Science is a way of knowing, not a body of knowledge. The body of knowledge that is associated with it is a collection of observations and logical constructions to be drawn upon but are by no means science. Alone on an island with no access to this information you would be able to perform basic science.

The second type, about everyone knowing that the earth was flat etc, always strikes me as funny. The observational data from those that tested their beliefs against the world has shown that it is round for thousands of years. It was only when science was not performed that it was thought otherwise.

At times the use of Einstein to replace Newton is put forth as the suggestion that we don't know anything and whatever fresh bullshit is being put forth is true. I like to take this and use it to fertilize ideas rather than allowing the person to think it fruit. When a new theory overturns old, we do not dismiss the old version. Instead we learn it's limits and the new idea is some form of refinement. At least in the case of scientific ideas. If only one is based on observation and experiment then it may well overturn another showing it to be very wrong.

But even the flat earth model has a use. If you are calculating the physics of a baseball game, or car crash you can treat it as Newtons physics on a flat earth. Quantum effects, relativity, and the curvature of the planet are not going to be needed for getting results. This information becomes relevant if you refine your scale enough or if you expand your view enough.

If we can say anything about the world it's this; We create a gestalt hallucination based on faulty sense data and feedback mechanisms, this is guided by events beyond our control, and thrown together in brains evolved not to grasp the universe in her majesty, but to grasp a stone to kill a rival or a lion. Still, we have developed a system of charting beyond our own individual failings. We can turn this tool upon anything and have used it to rid the world of horrific diseases and shorten the distance around the world to a days travel. We have used it to probe the very stuff of reality and find it stranger than words can describe. That our view is narrow and our comprehension limited is of no doubt, but it grows. There are many things beyond our purview, and many more that we may never come to know that we don't know.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How we support ideas

Richard Feynman explains some of the key points to scientific reasoning.  This is the best way that we have for evaluation of claims.  If you notice it is somewhere between induction and abduction, but the key point is the testing against experiment.  This testing is how we form impressions of the world, that we can say are correct (for a given value of correct).

He also demolishes the appeal to authority, citing the test against evidence as the only arbiter of fact vs fiction.

He then goes on to discuss the idea of proving or disproving something.  And states the pragmatic idea: "We must always try to guess the most likely explanation keeping in the back of the mind that if it doesn't work, we must discuss the other possibilities."

The importance here is that we can think of this process as an effort to define and eliminate types of ignorance.  We can attempt to explain the world, but our statements of absolute certainty must be reserved for what has been repeatedly shown to be false. Other ideas must be discussed in a manner of what the limits to the information we have are, and what test would prove our idea conclusively wrong.

This is not to discount positive evidence or say that we can know nothing, it is only to temper our claims of certainty with doubt.  And while there may be some indication that we humans favor the certain over the uncertain and flock then to demagogues, we can train ourselves through understanding and vigilance to resist this baser impulse.

This link contains some great quotes from scientists as they struggle to define the term science. Which is the process that I attempting to describe here. An idea that is so simple that it almost refuses clear definition. But following through on defining terms so that we may be understood is a goal of those that wish to discuss things clearly, without retreating to fallacies or vague assertions.