Sunday, June 24, 2018

How can the organs of an organism cooperate so well?

I had an interesting thought about living things. We tend to think of living things as a single entity composed of "parts", each with its own specialization.
A plant has roots, leaves, flowers etc', a human being has a liver, eyes, blood vessels etc'.
And it seems mysterious that all these specialized organs come about in perfect cooperation with one another.

But there is a different way to think about it.
We don't question why predators have the teeth and body that they do. We know that they developed the way they did because there was an abundance of prey around, and this was the best way, most suitable way to capture and digest it.

But we can think about the parts of a single entity in the same way.

The cells that compose the roots of a plant may have developed gradually in a specific micro-environment. What do I mean? Imagine for a moment that you have a plant-like organism, without roots, but that extracts its nutrients from above the surface of the water. However, some of the cells of that organism are attached at the bottom. Those cells are constantly surrounded by the chemicals secreted from the cells above, as well as the moisture and darkness in their current location. Over millions of years being in a similar environment and replicating, those cells will adjust to using the specific chemicals and degree of light and moisture in that part of the organism, eventually changing from the standard cells above it and specializing into a "root cell". A similar thing happens at the top of the plant, where some cells develop over time into leaves, or flowers. The final result is a conglomeration of cells, each with its own specialization, and we don't understand how something so complex came to be, and how the different parts developed such intricate cooperation.

But, if we think of how each of those parts individually adjusted to its own micro-environment, it is not surprising that it is so well suited to communicate with the rest of the plant, or to take advantage of the moisture in the ground.

Our limbs and eyes developed over time, based on their own micro-environment.
Think of a worm-like creature, swimming in water. Its head is at the end of the body that is first to move toward or away from things (the "steering wheel"). That is the single most sensitive part of the organism that will benefit most from sense perception (sight, smell) because it is the first to die if it runs into the wrong thing. So it is no surprise that eyes and mouth develop at that particular part of our worm. Just like root cells develop where it's dark and damp.

So my idea is that each one of those components develops the way it does to survive in its own micro-environment, given the by-products secreted into that environment by the rest of the organism. That's how complex systems get created with the ability to synchronize and communicate so perfectly.
It's not that the plant said to its cells: "you there, go to the soil and become a root, and you there, go up toward the sun and make a leaf", but rather, this mass of cells started specializing according to the micro-environment of each part. But the products of each of the other part became part of the constant micro-environment that that part needs to adjust to. Just like a predator evolves to be able to hunt. 
I hope this will be interesting for someone and worth reading. There is probably writing about this somewhere.. Maybe eventually I'll get to it. For now I just like thinking about this on my own and sharing these ideas.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

One of the interesting things he talks about (toward the end) are how we are similar to animals in having a biological basis for an "us vs. them" behavior. BUT, he says that in humans this behavior can be based off of ideas, rather than territory or blood relation.
So it made me think.. This ability to abstract patterns rather than just respond to them right away has proven to be very efficient for survival. You don't rely on stimuli alone to preserve yourself - you have the ability to predict the future.
So now at some point once this cognitive way of functioning developed, it endured. Now you have a whole bunch of these creatures walking around making decisions based on their IDEAS. So what it means for you as an individual animal, is that your life and survival now depends on other people's ideas more than the usual factors that existed for other species in the past (like blood relations and territory).
This creates an evolutionary pressure (I think that's the right term), to monitor and respond to other people's ideas, as a high priority - maybe even higher than factors like the tit-for-tat behavior he mentions or things like blood relations. That's why people can be so angry at someone's political views that they could end a friendship over it.
Ideas are THAT important to our species.
It is an inevitable behavior... and happened for the same reason why abstract thought came about in the evolution of brains. I think...
Turns out I am a big time biology nerd. This stuff is fascinating. Understanding who we are and why we are the way we are.
And isn't it cool that so many living things have existed not having a clue of their own complexity. Having self-awareness was not required to survive. You were an amazing feat of engineering crawling or running around the earth not having a clue that that is what you are.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Do trees know that they are in an urban area?

When I see trees decorating the streets and sides of the road I usually have this peculiar feeling or thought. I know that this tree I'm looking at, which I associate to an urban landscape, came from some part of the world where its kind grows wild.

And I have a strange feeling that is hard to put into words, of realizing how out of place the tree is, growing inside a designated square, surrounded by cars and pavement.

If you saw this tree in its natural habitat, you would be immersed in a certain feeling that is unique and typical of the growth place of that kind. If you stood there and absorbed that feeling, the cooler, damp air, the scent of the combined effect of the filtration of the leaves, the pace at which the tree moves to the wind, you would experience the essence of that tree fully.

But then we take that tree, and plant it in our street, and it makes the street so much nicer, but we are no longer able to sense its essence. We make it into our decor, we enjoy some aspects of it and become blind to others.
It is fine, there is no crime in that, but it is still something interesting to think about.

I guess maybe I feel a little sad for the tree who is so out of place in our urban environment, except I realize that a tree has no awareness of this kind.

But today as I was looking outside at a tree I realized something (I chose this picture from the world wide web to illustrate my thought):

Not only is the tree not aware that it should be sad, or that it is out of place; but to the tree, its own existence is not in question, but the existence of the pavement and everything around it. The tree gets what it can, and makes room for itself where it's possible. To the tree, only resources and the world exist. We think the tree is here to serve us, but, as evident in this picture, the tree thinks our environment is here to serve it. It grows, and we are the ones who are "out of place".

It doesn't care that it is not living in the forest. It is living somewhere in the world and that's enough.

I know that this is an allegory, since trees don't have such thoughts, but it is still a powerful allegory for me. When I feel out of place I can remember that somewhere in my nature is the same quality of the tree. I grow and enjoy the world, and the things that are not in synch with my nature are the ones I don't have to consider as prominent.

Like the tree, we belong to the world, even if we sometimes don't feel like it's our "natural habitat".

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bad design is a result of ego

It is when someone wants to have something implemented because it was "their idea" and not because it is a "good idea" (an idea that logically matches other human beings' experience and needs when using a product).
I think the measure of how much a company has a user-friendly interface can be sort of an indication to how much the company is run by ego, and an environment where employees walk on eggshells as to not threaten anyone's ego, rather than be free to express good ideas.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why living things came to be

One question I had for a long time that has seemed very bizarre to me, was about the relationship of the phenomenon of life, to existence (the existence of the universe, of everything in it).
On one hand it seems like Life (and specifically consciousness) is a fundamental "force" of nature, and yet the existence of life this evolved seems optional in a way, something that emerged completely randomly, that could either exist or not exist and the universe would continue as usual.
So I asked myself is there is a fundamental force or principle about existence that eventually forces life to be created, when given enough time. And actually I think that yes, there is such a principle.
See we think of the theory of evolution as something that explains why some life forms evolve from others, and why some perish and other persist, but actually I think it also explains why life exists to begin with and why it came into being.
So here are my thoughts..: The basic alternative in the universe is existence or no-existence. Things that exist have a certain identity. (So much I know from Objectivism). But then here is the kicker: Things that are able to keep their identity and keep their existence going will exist, and things that cannot do so will disintegrate (change identity) and cease to exist (their previous identity will cease to exist). LIFE is something that has the power to maintain its identity through time and in face of different forces through replication. Therefore, unlike many other things in the universe it has the capacity to continue to exist as a certain identity. In this way, it is no different than a mountain that continues to exist through various forces and weather conditions. Only the mountain has no internal mechanism to maintain its identity; genes DO.
And so... the existence of life is very much a fundamental force in existence, because it is the thing that *exists* more than anything else. It continues to exist as a specific identity more than anything else. And see, it is so incredibly elusive, why something like this should happen, but if you go back to the most fundamental duality of all - existence or lack of existence, you realize that under that fundamental alternative, the things that ultimately remain in existence are those who are best at surviving as a thing with a specific identity. And that provides the "force" for why life evolves and continues to evolve into something more and more efficient in terms of surviving.
Starting from just self replicating RNA strands into single cells into simple organisms, into animals with consciousness, into animals that have a self regulating consciousness (a distinction Harry Binswanger identifies). Our self regulating consciousness (human consciousness) is the most efficient so far at surviving (as humans).
So, in that way, we are perhaps the thing that exists "the most", we are the best thing in existence because creatures like us continue to exist while mountains and seas disintegrate.
Consciousness is then an inevitable creation, and not random at all. It is a logical consequence of existence, as a tool that serves the existence of a specific identity.
It's still very difficult for me to really comprehend this, and I'm still not sure this is not all a pile of baloney, but boy, what an interesting idea this is.

Added after discussion:

You gotta ask yourself what is the reason behind evolution. Why is there a very specific direction to evolution? It's not something to take for granted, that a chemical or a bunch of chemicals would form continually more and more complex structures. I think it's because, once something is formed with the ability to survive as a specific identity, as opposed to not surviving or losing its identity, then statistically, that is the thing that will exist over time.
And since the universe has infinite time, it's just a question of time until a cluster of molecules will form that has an internal mechanism for survival as a specific identity.
Because, everything else that is not capable of keeping its identity dissipates.
I think it's incredibly tricky. I've been thinking about it for a long time, and still can't get myself to feel that it is 100% correct. But I think logically, there is a valid point here that also explains WHY we have evolution.
Otherwise, why would something as crazy as evolution even happen, or why would it have such a specific direction?
Easier to think of life initially not as "life" but as just a cluster of molecules. Statistically speaking, if you put two types of molecules side by side, one with the ability to adapt survive and maintain its identity and the other without that ability (or that ability to a limited capacity, the way a rock keeps its structure by the atomic and molecular forces that keep it from falling apart, until lava erupts or an earthquake breaks the rock), well life is a type of molecule that can continue to exist in face of different forces.
Statistically, it will stick around while the rock loses its identity. And then lastly, what better way for something to survive than to have knowledge of its environment? That's why there is consciousness. Consciousness allows for better adaptation. A self regulating consciousness is even better. So really when you think of it, consciousness is something to be expected.
There is no ambition. That's the tricky thing that is so hard to grasp, in my opinion. The transition of thinking of the world as something that has values, a mind and a purpose, to somethign that simply IS. How can something that simply exists, without preference or purpose one way or the other come to be the home of such purposeful creatures such as ourselves?
Making the switch to thinking of life as something that happens simply because it is more probable to happen is difficult because our mind doesn't normally function this way. Now what do I mean? It really takes thinking about it in an entirely different way. Don't think of "life" as having the property of evolution. Like a weird type of material that has "ambition". No no.
This of it this way... If you have a bucket, and in the bucket you have lots of different materials/ molecules. You put this bucket in your lab and constantly apply different forces to it. Different materials in your bucket will be affected by those forces differently. When you open the bucket to look inside after a while, you see that some of the original materials changed form as a result of those forces, and some maintained their previous identity, because those forces did not influence them (they were "resistant" to those forces). You open the bucket later, and you notice another molecule that through a certain chain reaction replicates itself (causes other molecules in its vacinity to create an identical one). Now, every time you open your bucket to look, this molecule will be there and might even grow in numbers, because it creates more copies of itself. (To be continued in the next post)
Why is this thing likely to happen? Well, because, so long as your system goes through sufficient change (so long as there is energy input, and the same forces are acting on it through time), only those materials that can adapt, or withstand, or move out of the way, or not be taken apart/ changed by those forces will be in your bucket. It's not that the bucket wants these materials to be there; The bucket couldn't give a damn. It's just that, those molecules that change form as a result of the forces, well, they change form, meaning, they're no longer in your bucket. And those molecules that don't change form, OR replicate, or are somehow able to dodge those forces and maintain their identity, they will, well, maintain their identity.
And so what ends up happening, is that every time you open your bucket to look at what's there, those pesky persistent self replicating molecules will be there. Not because the bucket wants them to be there, but just because they "survive".
There is nothing that makes "survival" "good", except that, that which does not survive is no longer there. And that which DOES survive, is. And so over many many many years, the things that will remain in the bucket are simply those who "survive" with a certain identity.Nothing "wants" them to survive, they just do because they happen to be a stable "solution" to the challenge of those local forces in that system. In this way, mountains are also a stable "solution" to the local forces in our system. However life has the property of greater adaptability. In other words we have one hell of a strategy to "keep existing in the bucket".
If a system has no energy input or no internal forces, or in other words, if a system has no CHANGE, then life cannot form there. For the same reason that evolution would stop or slow down if the living conditions remained identical through time (I think! not 100% sure).
Species evolve when the conditions change. On islands where a species was isolated for a long time, you tend to not see much evolvement (if I'm not mistaken). Because that system becomes very stable and stagnant, until something else emerges that can survive better. Then that species has competition and they need to evolve in order to compete with the new "intruder".
But then we have to switch back to the realistic way of thinking about it, which is not through "someone needs to compete", but rather, those who can't maintain their identity in the new environment will cease to exist. To the "universe", that is a neutral occurrence. Things just are. But to sum it all up, my point is that, the emergence of life from inanimate matter is inevitable, because life is, I think, the ultimate solution to the challenge of "staying in the bucket". And if you have infinite time, eventually something with this "strategy" for "survival" will emerge, and once it does it will evolve. It will evolve for the same reason it was formed to begin with, because over time those things without an ability to maintain a "non-fragile" form disappear.
I think this guarantees, that if you have another planet with similar conditions to earth, that life with the same or a similar DNA mechanism will evolve. Possibly, in other systems, there will be a different solution for a self replicating material, or an adaptable material. But with infinite time and sufficient change, only the things with the best survivability will remain.
You could say the universe applies a constant "pressure" on things to survive. Except, there is no pressure. It's simpler than that - things just act and react and just are... either as molecules or photons or cats.
But we can see how different "survival solutions" form when we look at all the different life forms. Each one best suited to its local environment. Fish are awesome at surviving in water for example. In other parts of the universe you're going to have other conditions, but the same basic "pressure to survive".
Part 2, 5/2/2017
I was thinking of something interesting this morning and wrote it down. Very philosophical thoughts about life - why we exist, why we exist as we are, why do we have a lifespan? Why is that lifespan a certain number of years, as it is. Why not less or more?
So then, regarding why not *more* - That's like, one hell of an interesting question, but that's not what I thought of today. Today I thought of why not LESS. Why don't we just exist for 10 years, say, instead of 100? I think I got myself a partial answer to this question. And ACTUALLY, the reason why we have a long lifespan is the same reason why species become more complex. (Humans have a more sophisticated brain compared to all other animals)
In essence, since our environment is full of different forces and there is lots of change - A more complex structure has a better chance of being able to respond successfully to all these variations in the environment compared to something very simple. However, complexity takes TIME to build. Literally - it takes time to get created - ** that is why living organisms have a lifespan, and are more likely to exist than mere self replicating RNA strands.** The resulting complexity that gets created develops better resistance/adaptability than a mere molecule, which fragilely depends on its micro environment staying the same.
It is not complexity per-se, but rather the accumulation of survival techniques. a replicating RNA strand has an awesome way to make sure that this type of entity remains in existence. But what about a self replicating RNA molecule that also has the ability to move toward the materials that are required for replication? Even better. What about one that can move, replicate, and also detect the right temperature the replication requires? Even more likely to survive than the first. Complexity works because it is a result of accumulation of survival techniques. We have a lifespan because the thing that ends up being created is more suitable to staying in existence (or making more of its type).
The same applies to a single organism. A tree starts out fragile, but as it accumulates more materials from the environment, it develops a tougher bark and deeper roots that prevent it from toppling over when there's a storm.
Our lifespan is dictated on one hand by how much time it takes to build that complexity. Because that complexity has better chance to survive.

a continuation to all the posts I was making about life (living things) and why living things came to be and why we are the way we are... Another thought I had (or realization), is that living things are like inanimate objects in a fundamental sense. "what what what?" I'll explain. I'll start by shortly describing an article I read a couple of years ago. The article made the claim that living things are best at dispersing energy, and that we came to be as a result of our ability to interact with the energy input in the most efficient way. It was an attempt to explain how life came to be as a result of deterministic forces, similar to how a rock would fall down when it becomes sufficiently detached from a mountain.
I think that what the article described was true, but as part of a bigger picture. Also, another approach says that our existence is all about our genes - I don't think that's the whole picture either. We don't exist as proteins, we exist as full bodies.
When you examine our bodies, you discover that the development of our bodies (and other living things) depends heavily not on one force in our environment, but on nearly all the dominant forces in our environment. Our bodies, cells and our DNA is such that it is responsive to gravity, to sunlight, to the 24 hour light to dark cycle, to the amount of oxygen in the environment and other chemicals - to the presence of other living things, and so on.
Inanimate objects, their shape at any given moment, is ALSO a result of the various forces that acted on them and left their mark. Their shape is a record of the past. (of wind grinding down a layer, or a certain chemical deposit that was in the rain that year and so on). The same is true of living things, but in an additional way. In one way, the superficial one, our shape is also determined by the effect of past forces. If something heavy falls on you it damages the tissue. But also, our genes carry the summary of the accumulative effect of all those recurring forces over nearly 4 billions years. The thing that makes living things fundamentally different is that we replicate. The replication is key to everything.
See because, if you ask yourself what is likely to be in existence, something that automatically replicates itself, or something that doesn't, you find that, by simple logic, living things exist because they are more likely to exist than something that does not replicate. The universe doesn't "care" what exists in it; it is simply the case that some things are more likely to be here than others. Something that is capable of replication given a certain environment is likely to remain in existence. OK now, the more suitable something is to the environment, or the more it replicates (or any balance of both), assures that this type of thing will continue to exist.
Now if the thing that replicates also has the capacity to adapt to the environment better, it will be even more likely to exist than just a simple molecule that replicates. Now how these molecular reactions came to be is a result of having virtually endless time for this coincidence to come about - and since there is enough energy and change in the environment to continue to allow new chemical reactions to happen, eventually something was formed that was more likely to stay.
So you start with a self replicating molecule, but then the molecule that replicates, but also has a molecular configuration that is a little better at electrically attracting molecules from the environment that are required for the replication will be even more likely to remain in existence than the first one. And since there is endless time for this to develop - over time you get a set of molecules that is highly adaptive to the environment (that's what we essentially are, a complex set of molecules that is highly adaptive).
Living things are complex because the array of forces acting on us is complex - we are as complex as the sum of the existing forces, *just like the shape of a mountain is complex because its shape is determined by an accumulation of hundreds of thousands of years of being affected by the environment*.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My views on Objectivism, Socialization and Human nature

Sorry, no editing, just a straight out copy-paste from a discussion. Parts may seem to be somewhat missing context, but the main points are still all there, and this is such an important subject that I have to post about it.

I used to think a lot more "through Objectivism" rather than through my life experiences/ induction. That course by Peikoff changed a lot for me. While I was always striving toward independent thinking I didn't realize how much of the philosophy I was just adopting without real understanding.

It seemed very convincing, (and it is!) and so I decided it is the right thing to adopt and defend it. I refuse to hear from all the smartasses that they are doing it differently. I can recognize original thoughts when I read them.

But anyway.
The more interesting topic is why I think some aspects of socialization belong in philosophy and not just psychology.

Philosophy is about the most fundamental ideas relevant to human life.
So not every detail about relationships belongs in philosophy because a lot of it is detailed and involves more knowledge about how the subconscious works. (Psychology).
We can compare it to politics. Not every detailed information in the field of politics is part of philosophy. Only the most fundamental aspects and also only because living in a society is a fundamental aspect of human life. It underlies all our productive endeavor. Going to continue in a follow up comment so I don't lose what I typed so far)

Similarly, we are born and wired as social beings. Even more so, in some ways, than other animals that live in a pack.

Our species is the only one that has a very advanced network of facial muscles that are responsible for nothing more than creating facial expressions. Not for chewing meat or running faster but solely to be able to communicate emotions to other humans.

On top of that we have a built in need for love and we are born with the capacity and the mechanism to love and bond. That is also a fundamental aspect of our nature. Not all organisms are born with the ability to love or bond. The existence of this mechanism goes parallel to our rationality and is not born out of it. This is why babies can become attached before they have a single concept.

And this accompanies us our entire life and becomes more and more guided by our philosophy and psychology as we grow up and our brain matures as our thinking is more informed. But the fact that we are metaphysically built to live a social life is is fundamental and extremely central to our lives.

That makes relationships a lot more than just an optional value.

Yes, we have a self regulating consciousness (as Harry Binswanger brilliantly wrote) which gives us the option to choose even against our own nature. Our ability to reason and override immediate emotions is a very powerful one. We can even decide to stop eating and starve ourselves to death out of a strong belief in an ideology. That's freakin amazing.

However that is not a reason to ignore our other aspects.
Our species evolved to survive through cooperation and bonding. Babies can't survive without love care and guidance and as adults we become severely depressed as a result of isolation.

All these things make socialization a value in a similar way eating is. We can choose not to eat but we still need it.

And in actuality our life is social in almost every aspect. Our productivity is based on trade and on learning from past knowledge, our enjoyment comes from loving others and being loved and even our entertainment is all about human beings.

When people finally get home after a long day at work, they turn on the TV to look at more humans doing various things.
It's not a coincidence.

So my point is that it should be an integral part of ethics and not mentioned as a mere "optional value".

I love that you asked me how it fits in with everything else. See I've spent the last few years just coming up and putting into words all the stuff I wrote above.
And the social aspect of our existence seemed missing from Ayn Rand's philosophy. In politics we just say "the most efficient way to live is as a society of traders. Therefore (... +a few more reasons) -> Capitalism. But that is a superficial reason as to why we live as a society. We live in society because it is in our nature. Because we are social animals (who are also and primarily capable of functioning alone).
But that leap from ethics of individualism to politics based entirely on living in a society is not fully explained, I think. There's a missing link.

But that's not even where we should start exploring socialization as a value. It should start way before politics, in ethics. (Tbc in the next comment)

Ethics is what informs you of what kind of entity you are, it clarifies for you, what is your nature, because when you know it, you have conscious clarity about your desired course of action in life.

For example, we can still function OK if a philosopher never stresses the fact that we are rational beings. We will still be rational in some limited capacity because it is in our nature. But once they tell us "you are a rational being", well that opens up the way for us to pursue and preserve rationality in our life. We now understand that this is something good.

Similarly, we are social beings. As kids and as adult we continue to pursue connection with others as a value, even if no one tells us that it is in our nature.
However when such a thing IS clarified the same thing happens in this department as with rationality. You consciously pursue it as a value and you think of good and bad ways to do it and you have clarity that this is the right course of action for you in life as oppose to being more blindly lead by your nature.

Philosophy only discusses the fundamental aspects of our existence, not all aspects of our existence.
For example, we are creatures with thumbs, and that's certainly important for putting on socks in the morning, but it doesn't underlie everything else you do in life.

Being social does. It just about touches nearly every area of our lives.
Even the man who isolates themselves from human company and then writes books researching the origin of species is being social. The books are their way to connect to humanity.

So now ethics deals with forging our own soul or personality as well as the primary values we need to pursue as dictated by our nature and the nature of the world.

The fact that we have a self regulating consciousness is the reason we need ethics. In order to know it we have to reason and learn it.
I don't think socialization goes as deep as epistemology, except maybe to say that our consciousness develops through interaction with other human beings at our early stages and that this is what enables us to know.
I think it also gives a fuller picture to what it means to "know" as a human because we don't only discuss the mature adult but also address knowing at earlier stages of being human.

But anyway to go back to ethics.
So we need guidance as to what virtues are required in the context of our top values. Reason purpose and self esteem are the core values Ayn Rand identifies... I think relationships would be high up there as one of the core values.

I never really thought of this so everything i I say from this point on is more of a "rough draft" as far as I'm concerned and maybe I'll change my mind and realize part of it is wrong later on.

I think her emphasis on individualism was spot on. You have to become your own person and not part of a hive. And then pursue relationships as a fully formed individual.

I do think some of the traits we need to develop though have to do with creating connections with others and not just skills to survive on a desert island.

Monday, October 24, 2016


So. I decided to digitally draw this image that I see when I close my eyes and press on them. After a short research I discovered that it is a well known phenomenon called "phosphenes".

But an image search didn't yield a visual image of those things.

I was surprised to discover that I could create one that resembles the real thing. Initially, I thought those colors can't be replicated in real life because they don't really exist in the real world, but actually I think they do. It's a very bizarre color combination and certainly not one we normally see in the world with our eyes open.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Not even Wrong"

"Not even Wrong"; Believed to be first coined by physicist Wolfgang Pauli. It means that the premise fails at a fundamental level.

Isn't it interesting that not all statements are either right or wrong; a meaningless statement for example is neither true nor false. "Blue diamonds fall from Africa".

What else? The first thing that comes to mind are arbitrary statements. Like asserting that a god exists. Except lots of arbitrary statements can also be wrong and not merely arbitrary, right? (Please don't type undigested answers ok? It will drive me crazy and I will spend half an hour figuring out how to tell you it's awful without being too offensive. Too much hassle!).

"God created earth" is arbitrary, but isn't it also wrong? I think it's indeed just arbitrary and "not even wrong".

Ambiguous statements would also be "not even wrong"; if you are never clear about what you're saying then it can never be judged as correct or incorrect.

The statement "Art is everything" is "not even wrong" (but it can look good on a Tee shirt at a hippie concert). I guess ambiguous is just another form of "meaningless".

Lastly I plead you not to type stupid half digested comments. Because when you try to think of something seriously the last thing you want is to hear someone's attempt to feel smart without actually thinking.

I posted this online. One of my friends brought up a question: "My question is this. When someone who is indoctrinated into something like Christianity, they use what they have been taught as a filter through which to answer the question "Is there a god?" and respond "Yes God exists". Is that error in teaching/thought still "not even wrong"? Or is there some allowance for honest if incorrect thinking due to ones culture or upbringing or genuine ignorance?"

And I shall now just copy-paste my reply, because it contains some VERY interesting things about thinking (psycho-epistemology).

And actually, I feel that it should be the beginning of a philosophical research, on generalizing all the different ways in which thoughts can be "held". But anyway here is what I replied:

Hmm you know, your question brings up an interesting distinction. The distinction between the evaluation of truthfulness of a statement, and the evaluation of the mental process that lead someone to make a statement.

My point is that an idea may be evil, but still pronounced completely innocently. Right? I can easily imagine a little kid repeating something like: "sacrifice is great" (or whatever), if his parents taught him that.

But anyway to go back to what you brought up. I think we need different words/ concepts to identify someone's thought process. Something that corresponds to "arbitrary" (which describes a statement but not a thought process).

you know, it's actually VERY interesting to study the different ways in which someone can "hold" an idea. I don't think I ever read about that in depth/ detail.

For example, one way to "hold" an idea is by association. Like when people say "art is everything", and they feel that because many different things can be beautiful, and that art is vaguely about beauty, that the sentence makes perfect sense. There is no attempt to criticize or try to apply the idea to make sure it works as a general rule, and that's why people become convinced, or acquire the feeling of being convinced, that "art is everything" is perfectly logical.

What would you call that process? It's not logic, because logic involves applying a certain method of scrutiny to form conclusion, and here, it is based on partial logic only without the later, final parts of scrutinizing a generalization to make sure it is correct. But it is not entirely based on emotions either.
It is mostly based on loose association and much less based on logic. I think this is the most common method.

Another way in which someone can come to hold an idea is by being taught that idea from a young age... I'm not yet sure that this one is very different from the first, but let's entertain the option and see.
So say, at the beginning, you sort of repeat the word, and have something associated with them. It could even be a state of mind, an atmosphere, a mood or a personality trait.

Like say your mom always felt very calm and "clean" whenever she lit the candles on Saturday and said prayers. You then start associating certain sentences you hear (with religious meaning) with certain emotions.

So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?

So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?

Also, Roderick Fitts (one of my Facebook friends) wrote: "Ambiguous statements are arbitrary due to the fact that they aren't delimited to one specific meaning. They are closer to a meaning than meaningless statements; the meaning of a meaningless statement is infinite, but the meaning of an ambiguous statement is only several (perhaps more or less) meanings."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I don't have a good title for this post

Because I'm still organizing my thoughts as I'm writing this. But what started this was watching episode 14 of Season 1 ("Nightmare"). It's a cool episode, and when I first saw it, I didn't think much of it except that it is entertaining. But it has a deeper meaning; In this episode, there are two adult men who experienced the same key event in their infancy. Their moms were killed by a demon in a horrible way. After this event, the dads of the two kids coped with it in an entirely different way.

Both families were loving and normal prior to the event. But Sam's dad and the other kid's dad dealt with murder of their wives in two different ways.
Sam's dad remained loving of his kids, but he became militantly protective and started raising them in a strict but loving atmosphere, teaching them skills they need to survive and becoming a demon hunter in an attempt to get vengeance on the thing that killed his wife.
The other dad became bitter and blamed everything on his son. He physically abused his son throughout his childhood and adolescence.

The episode makes you look at people's life through a kind of a special prism, a prism that can reflect alternative lives had a critical event never took place.
Seeing how Sam's family was like before the murder, you get a clear sense that had the murder not happen, Sam would have grown up to be a completely normal kid, instead of the more soldier-like psychology he has grown into.
The kid from the other family could have also grown up to be normal, but instead he grew up to be a hateful, insecure and violent adult. The way the two dads coped with the situation made a huge difference in who their sons grew up to be.

But I guess what I found most interesting about it was how a seemingly completely normal person, faced with unusual circumstances, can change themselves to be a warrior, not just skill-wise but also psychologically; that they have it in them all the time, but that life often leaves some personality traits dormant. But a person with a seemingly normal life and sweet temper, can change to be tough, resilient, persistent, accustomed to dealing with difficulties and not letting those difficulties stop them.

And lastly, I realized, the character of the Winchester's dad in the show is a great man. A man that stayed loving in the face of a terrible event and at the same time became active about it rather than just accept it as a "weird accident".

The same episode shows another moment, where he talks to his son, Sam, and tells him that when Sam was born, one of the things he did was p[en a savings account for Sam's college, for when he grows up. And he said it with such joy and love. The ability to love someone else like that is one of the most important things in life. I don't know if that, by itself, is the deepest joy, but I think that someone who can get so much happiness from giving to someone else at least has the capacity to be very happy. When we lose the capacity to love we also lose the capacity to be happy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Just The Right Name

I'm (re-)reading Anne of Green Gables. It is such a unique, lovely book. One of the dialogs is about names and it has such a fresh perspective on it, suggesting that the right name for things is very important. Anne always goes around renaming things to reflect their inner qualities. It reminds me of the same idea from The Never Ending Story where a whole world would die unless someone will give the princess exactly the right name.
It's a lovely idea and I think it has a parallel in real life.. That identifying something truthfully, precisely and thoroughly gives it strength to survive and flourish (or in some other cases, the ability to destroy it, but good or bad idea, identifying it opens the door to action). If you can't identify something it may show up randomly and eventually shrivel away unnurtured.
Well here is the dialog from the book:
"My father's name was Walter Shirley, and he was a teacher in the Brolingbroke High School. My mother's name was Bertha Shirley. Aren't Walter and Bertha lovely names? I'm so glad my parents had nice names. It would be a real disgrace to have a father named - well, say Jedediah, wouldn't it?"
"I guess it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves himself," said Marilla, feeling herself called upon to inculcate a good and useful moral.
"Well, I don't know." Anne looked thoughtful. "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thristle or a skunk cabbage."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The physical appearance of evolved species

Watching some sci-fi movies got me thinking about the idea of humanoids and different evolved, intelligent, self-aware species having different appearances and originating from different species, such as a crocodile-resembling humanoid, an ape-resembling humanoid (us), and so on.
But here's what I'm thinking... Are all those options equally plausible? I think not. Human beings evolved to have diminished predatory characteristic as well no distinguishable characteristics of prey.
I mean, we have the right teeth to chew meet, but we don't have a vicious mouth designed to kill an animal by chewing on its neck, and we don't have long ears and super strong legs like rabbits do so they can escape a predator. In fact we developed in a rather new direction and in a leisurely way. We developed more and more toward the ability to self regulate (this is an observation made by Harry Binswanger).
But here is the main point: Because we're intelligent we don't have an evolutionary pressure to develop either in the direction of prey OR predator. And the same thing will be true of EVERY evolved species, by which I mean mentally evolved.
The only way that will change is if somehow, a lot of only evolved species would exist and would have to kill one another to survive. But then let me ask you this: Have they all forgotten how to raise chickens??
Conclusion, such conditions will never be met for evolved species and therefore all of them will have a peaceful appearance, and not like a T-Rex's.
Sure, you can have an intelligent predator, more intelligent than the others, but once they cross a threshold and become intelligent enough to farm, they no longer have an evolutionary pressure to maintain their predatory qualities and those traits will disappear over time.
Also one last observation: It seems like there is a certain path evolution takes when there is abundance and low pressure to survive in a certain area; seems like species start to develop more toward appearance and sexual selection becomes a more dominant factor. That's how you get the bright colors and patterns of fish and corals you see in exotic climates (like the red sea). Right?
So it seems like, unless some disease or natural disaster will create a specific evolutionary pressure (like resistance to a certain virus), the most dominant factors for our survival and reproduction become things like: Our ability to think, to self-regulate, ability to get along with others, physical beauty and emotional well being.
For example if I try to think of a mutation that leads to something new, like say a few people start getting purple eyes, they might be more sexually sought after (similar to a colorful fish).. So basically one possible form evolution will take for humans is some kind of prettier human XD
I personally hope it won't involve any neon colors though, because I think that's just too much. It's one thing to look at it in an aquarium and a whole different thing to stare at it across the desk in business meetings every day.

How can the organs of an organism cooperate so well?

I had an interesting thought about living things. We tend to think of living things as a single entity composed of "parts", each ...