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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Favorite TED talks: NOW with TED club and metaphysical discussion. Join today! (Page 3)

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Author Topic: Favorite TED talks: NOW with TED club and metaphysical discussion. Join today!
steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Zotto!:


... dude, I think I just morphed into Tresopax. *grin*

Are you proud of that?

And I have to say I think it's a little disingenuous to speak of gravity and Christian/Mormon religious beliefs as being somehow equivalent. Billions of people have lived their whole lives without ever hearing the Gospel. Not a single one has ever been unaffected by gravity, even for one microsecond. Even if there are people who can levitate, they are still indirectly affected by gravity, by virtue of the Earth's atmosphere continuing to stick around. But whatever. There's no talking logic to a believer.

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Zotto!
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Edit: this was to MightyCow & Mucus.

Ah, so now an unsubstantiated assertion that I'm not honest. Heh. Isn't there the tiniest lil' possibility that I'm honestly doing the best I can to communicate with y'all? I'm sorry I'm not better at it; I am but a young lad, unversed in the subtle arts of rhetoric! [Smile]

... and of course Nibley's arguments haven't gained much traction in non-Mormon circles. *laugh* A fair number of the people who actually possess the intellectual honesty to read his arguments before condemning them for a lack of popular acceptance are the same people who are open-minded enough to read the Book of Mormon, and we all know where that kind of nonsense leads. [Wink]

Disagree with him all you like, dude/tte. Heaven knows I disagree with the zany writers people shove on me all the time. [Smile] But do so with a knowledge of what he writes, y'know?

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Zotto!
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Steven: Well, I'm not ashamed of it. *laugh* But of course Tres is the dude people associate with that particular argument, so of course I am incapable of not bringing him up. [Wink]

Now, of course, I realize that your post contained the highest caliber of ratiocination - truly the epitome of the white-burning light of Wisdom, shining graciously upon our ignorance to guide our way through in these dark times - but I still disagree, in my ignorant country-boy manner.

I never said that the same number of people affected by gravity were affected by the Gospel. Your post is an argument in favor of missionary work, you realize. [Wink]

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Zotto!
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... and with that, I've been told by sources I trust that I really need to go to bed. 'Night, fair denizens of the 'rack.
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Zotto!:
Edit: this was to MightyCow & Mucus.

Ah, so now an unsubstantiated assertion that I'm not honest.

You misunderstand. If you want to insist that Atheism is a religion, then you have to treat it as one.

That means that I get to have unassailable articles of faith, which have been revealed to me by a perfect source of knowledge, and it is insensitive of you to attack my beliefs by expecting me to defend things that I hold on faith.

One of the things that I hold on faith is that I am always right. So it isn't that I making an unsubstantiated assertion that you are not honest, it is simply that my faith tells me that I am right, and so by default when you disagree with me you are wrong.

I'm simply using your own religious argument, but speaking plainly.

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Tatiana
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Zotto!, congratulations on your Baptism! I was scratching my head thinking "Zotto! is LDS? When did this happen?" and wondering if I could have somehow forgotten that you were. Anyway, Bravo! and Bravo again! You're giving excellent descriptions of my worldview, and great additions to the post.

"Of course some scientific stories are oftentimes more useful than some religious stories at performing certain tasks, like, say, electrical engineering. I don't want my mechanic believing that he can fix my internal combustion engine by drawing a pentagram on it."

I wanted to add an odd aside to this from my experience as both a mechanic and an electrical engineer, that the "aha" insights that often allow us to fix machines that are not working right in our daily interactions with them (designing, building, inspecting, and commissioning them, as well as repairing them) come from outside science.

The scientific method is extremely powerful as a means of understanding nature and fixing machines. However, smack in the middle of the hardest-core science there is (use of the scientific method) there is a step, let's call it step 2, which says "come up with various hypotheses about what's going on." It's interesting to observe that science itself, even Science itself, has nothing at all to say about where those hypotheses come from. There's no method for generating them except "play around with ideas that underlie the system", "try weird inputs and see if something unexpected happens that gives you a clue", "look at smaller subsystems and see if you can isolate them to be sure you understand how they're behaving" and so on.

The answer often (not always) comes in an "aha" moment, in which it just jumps out of your head fully formed. Science has absolutely nothing to say about how to come up with the right answer. The place from whence right answers arise is a total mystery. It's irrational. It has to do with dreams and sausages and lunch breaks, and snakes swallowing their tails. As a lifelong practicing scientist, engineer, programmer, designer, builder, etc. I can say that it's a great joy when the "aha" moment comes. The whole job is fun mainly because of those "aha" moments, which are delightful in direct proportion to how much time, energy, effort, confusion, and hair-pulling preceded them. [Big Grin] Anyway, Science and the Scientific Method have this mystery built into their very core which is by definition outside of Science.

So science doesn't work well as a complete explanation of all observable phenomena, since its own self depends for its very existence on a mechanism or process or function for which it has no explanation or instructions. Thought I'd toss that idea out for your delectation.

[ February 07, 2010, 03:28 AM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Tatiana
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The next one I watched was Strider's fabulous 14 year old piano player. She was amazing. The coolest part was when she improvised on a theme from five random notes picked out by Goldie Hawn. She came up in just a short minute or two with a piece I really liked. I thought her chord sequence was quite nice. The theme itself was lovely, as well.

Tonight I watched again the one about infecting kids with the "I can" bug. I love that idea, and wanted to understand more about how it works. The main idea seems to be blurring the lines between school and real life, and also letting the kids take charge themselves of what they want to do. Looking on the aProCh website I couldn't find much more in the way of instructions on how to carry it out. I'd like to see the contents of the workbook or packet they sent to other schools to try to infect those children as well. It was something like 1. pick one idea 2. take one week to work on it. And then a list of a bunch of stuff different kids did. I want to know more because I'd love to do something like that myself around here.

In fact, why couldn't we infect hatrackers with the "i can" bug and see what happens here? I think that could work. What should we try first?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
What experiment did Dawkins do to falsify the hypothesis that Adams brought some sort of nebulous "value" to his life? Can he transfer this understanding to me? You keep asserting you can form values without some form of unscientific belief in "goodness" as opposed to "badness".
Are you seriously questioning the rationality of the scientific method because it does not challenge the axiom "harm is undesirable/bad?" Yes, it is certainly true that even the most rationalistic philosophy accepts certain things as axiomatic; this does not, however, mean that all axioms are created equal, either, and thus that all philosophies which rely on axioms are equal. Most modern rationalistic philosophies rely on a handful of basic axioms: "things external to myself exist" (which, while unprovable and actually at odds with Buddhist philosophy, is generally accepted); "harm is bad;" and "that which happens is caused."

I would assert that these are pretty close to the bare minimum.

quote:
Heck, in what way is this dissimilar from a Creationist insisting that "Well, them folks at the Council of Nicea believed in an incorporeal God, and by golly that's good enough for me!"
I'll ask again: do you really not know? Look at what I said about axioms above, and see if you can answer this one for yourself. Because it is, as I've said, not only an answerable question but an answered one.

quote:
Look, I'm only here because Tom claimed that Tatiana was incorrect to state that she believes in a system in which she could include the findings revealed by the scientific method without basing every single tenet of that faith on such findings.
No, specifically, Tatiana said she believes in a religion which does not rely on the appeals to supernatural authority that Dawkins said were harmful. I pointed out that she is incorrect, and that the Mormon faith contains as many unscientific elements as justification for moral absolutes as, well, most other religions.

quote:
A fair number of the people who actually possess the intellectual honesty to read his arguments before condemning them for a lack of popular acceptance are the same people who are open-minded enough to read the Book of Mormon, and we all know where that kind of nonsense leads.
As someone who has actually read the Book of Mormon, and someone who doesn't think Nibley was much of a historian, I suspect what you really mean is close to a tautology: "people who read the Book of Mormon and fail to apply a rigorous approach to the examinination are also the sort of people who don't see flaws in Nibley's approach to history."

---------

quote:
The answer often (not always) comes in an "aha" moment, in which it just jumps out of your head fully formed. Science has absolutely nothing to say about how to come up with the right answer. The place from whence right answers arise is a total mystery. It's irrational.
Interestingly, Anne Kate, a lot of neuroscientists have been studying exactly this phenomenon over the last few years; it's called an "intuitive flash," and what they've found is that it is basically a case of parallel processing. Often any given decision tree might be too long and too complex for a purely linear approach to work; when it comes to catching a ball in flight or trying to anticipate a foe's movement in an airplane, experts often find that they react "without thinking" in ways that are considerably more accurate and timely than a strictly "try X, then Y" approach would be. What research has found is that the accuracy of these intuitive flashes is heavily dependent upon the expert's familiarity with the subject matter; a professional engineer, going with her gut when building a bridge, is more likely to be correct than not -- but a professional baseball player, going with his gut when building a bridge, is much more likely to be wrong. Brain scans at the time of the intuitive decision reveal massive amounts of parallel processing, suggesting that the brain is recalling, comparing, and applying huge chunks of previous experience in order to identify which of many potential inputs are likely to be relevant; it's basically a form of mental triage, and feels almost exactly like an "aha!" when it happens. In other words, the place where the answers come from is very likely to be your own brain, which remembers your past experiences with similar issues and is able to help you filter what initially appears to be a confounding number of variables into something more manageable; its accuracy when doing so is heavily dependent upon your history with similar issues.
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Lyrhawn
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Tom -

Do you by chance have any links to articles on intuitive flashes? It sounds really interesting.

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Strider
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Tom, just wanted say your previous post was excellent, and said a lot of what I was coming in here to say. And I just wanted to add a few things.

First off, even if the current research and theories surrounding the "aha moment" turns out to not be correct, I think the point is that there is nothing inherent in these flashes that makes them outside the realm of science. Yes, they are very perplexing and we haven't been able to explain them as of yet, but that shouldn't lead to an assumption that this somehow lies outside of nature. And if its part of nature, it can be studied by science.

As a related example, I want to respond to this:

quote:
I have no doubt that Dawkins misses his friend. I miss Adams too! I'd rather he was still with us. When Dawkins goes, I'll be sad he's gone as well, since some of his insights into evolution are fascinating.

But I don't claim, as he does, that this subjective experience of grief is somehow "provable" to someone outside my head, outside my heart.

Actually, I don't think you're on firm ground making that statement zotto. That subjective experience of grief has a neural correlate. There is a certain pattern of neuronal firing across some very specific brain systems that leads to and accompanies that subjective feeling. If we are able to look into someone's brain while they are experiencing those feelings, we could determine what parts of the brain are being activated. With our knowledge of what different brain systems do we could have a pretty good understanding of what that person is going through. Further, how far in the future do you think it will be before we have reverse engineered the brain to the point where we could stimulate that same experience in someone else? Maybe not perfectly, since someone else wont' have the exact same physiology or memories, but similar enough that we can stimulate the same systems and create a similar experience. We can take advantage of our ability to be empathetic and understand the mental states of others by using our own experiences and memories to find similar ground. And we don't even need science for this!
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Zotto!:
... and of course Nibley's arguments haven't gained much traction in non-Mormon circles.

Technically, I was referring to the actual word 'hierocentric.'
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Tatiana
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While the neural apparatus for "aha" insights is certainly interesting, the more important feature I'm referring to is "the place where true hypotheses come from".

If science understands that, and how to replicate it, then we would be able to solve immediately all the unsolved scientific puzzles by merely following the cookbook, the instructions, for obtaining true hypotheses. That cookbook is what I'm referring to that is totally outside science.

Strider, you're a fan of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, aren't you? Do you remember when the protagonist realized that about science and it sent him into a sort of metaphysical tailspin?

[ February 07, 2010, 08:52 PM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Tatiana
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Continuing on through Strider's list, I just watched the talk on endangered cultures. It sure is sad. That's how I always feel about the loss of species, too, and why I've mostly sort of avoided thinking about it too much. It's too big a problem for me, and I have too little hope that we can really slow down or reverse the process. You know? I know that's not a reason not to care. And it's not a reason not to at least try to make a beginning at fixing things. But so far I've felt called to other endeavors.

I find it interesting to try to think how people must have thought in our own culture before Newtonian physics was known, for instance. How could they have thought heavy things fall faster? Why didn't they realize it was worth checking to see if things like that were true?

I remember when I was little, probably around 4, I was jumping on my mom's bed and at the height of each jump I would release my stuffed dog Poocheepoo, and then I'd watch him fall at the same rate as me. At the bottom of the jump I'd catch him again and release him at the top. After doing this over and over for 10 minutes or so, I understood intuitively that it was really true that everything falls at the same rate (neglecting air resistance).

My mom was pretty progressive, I guess, in allowing us to jump on beds and play with water in the sink and do all that experimentation. But when I got to first quarter physics in college and my fellow students were objecting to the idea, I was thinking "didn't you guys jump on the bed when you were little?" I guess many moms don't allow that sort of thing, or maybe I'm just specially geeky and thought all that stuff was fascinating from as early as I can remember. Our family also must have been talking about it, because I was like "yeah, that IS right", so I had heard of the concept.

Anyway, how could people ever have thought those pre-Newtonian things about how nature works? To me it seems inconceivable, and that's in our own culture, just an earlier time.

I think it's incredibly important that we preserve all these different worldviews of the various human cultures for the exact reason this guy says, that we will likely need diverse concepts in our ideasphere in order to solve the problems of the future. Also, it's just fascinating and endlessly fruitful to study other cultures. We can't really understand our own until we can see it from the outside looking in.

Great talk! I love TED!

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Zotto!
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My, my, Tom, you get impatiently testy when someone questions your faith. I guess some things are too sacred to joke about, huh? Next time someone recommends that you pray about something to "answer this one for yourself" because you asked "not only an answerable question but an answered one", don't come crying to me about how unreasonable religious people are.

Yeah, I take your premises as minimal too. I don't distrust the scientific method. I agree that some axioms are better than others. I have made this abundantly clear.

Apparently I'm to be thought of as heretical if I refuse to acknowledge your implied (but ostensibly and incoherently disavowed) fiction that any of these axioms have been scientifically proven to be any "better" than the other.

You are positing a value even though the concept of "value" has never been "proven" by science. I don't see any benefit in doing this. I don't see the harm in taking the basic propositions necessary for reproducible experimentation to function on faith.

You are the one having comprehension difficulties, brother, not me.

Strider: I was aware of all the information you included in your post, and took it into account when making my earlier statements.

My point is not the physical causes of the feeling of grief. Of course every feeling and thought has a neural correlate. How else could we feel or think them? *laugh*

The ability to comprehend the complex network of causal interactions between different elements which forms reality in no way implies that there is some form of "value" attached to that reality. We need stories to impose such things as "killing bad", "sex good". We obviously do these things without language, but the ability to assign a judgement of their morality to them is only possible through stories.

Regardless of whether or not we will ever be able to simulate identical subjective responses in the brains of people who did not live through the event which produced such experience, why does Dawkins think that the experience and emotion he feels - which he labels "grief" - are "bad", "unpleasant", "wrong", or whatever synonym you can come up with?

Because he believes in a scientifically unproven and unprovable story in which the death of a friend is "bad".

This, however, was a beautiful gem of an admission: "We can take advantage of our ability to be empathetic and understand the mental states of others by using our own experiences and memories to find similar ground. And we don't even need science for this!"

... since that's what I've been saying this entire time. [Smile]

Also, at this point, I officially give up my part in this conversation, since I have a terrible week of school ahead of me. Yeek.

On to the next TEDTalk!

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TomDavidson
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quote:
My, my, Tom, you get impatiently testy when someone questions your faith. I guess some things are too sacred to joke about, huh?
No, I don't, actually. I think you believe I am actually more irritated than I am. I'm actually a little disappointed, because you appear to have abandoned any pretense of intellectual rigor. This makes me a bit sad, but not exactly testy per se. I'm also frustrated that you have continued to rely on custom (and uncommon) definitions of common words apparently just so you can apply what passes for your own "logic" to them; it's like trying to explain to someone that apples are not fish when they have defined "fish" as "all things which grow on trees."

quote:
Apparently I'm to be thought of as heretical if I refuse to acknowledge your implied (but ostensibly and incoherently disavowed) fiction that any of these axioms have been scientifically proven to be any "better" than the other.
This is not actually a premise of mine. Why do you think it is?

quote:
You are the one having comprehension difficulties, brother, not me.
Don't call me "brother" when you're being passive-aggressive, Zotto.

quote:
We need stories to impose such things as "killing bad", "sex good".
Unless you're defining "stories" as loosely as you're defining "religion," I disagree with this completely.

quote:
why does Dawkins think that the experience and emotion he feels - which he labels "grief" - are "bad", "unpleasant", "wrong", or whatever synonym you can come up with?

Because he believes in a scientifically unproven and unprovable story in which the death of a friend is "bad".

Wrong. As I explained before, Dawkins is deprived of contact with and benefit from that friend now that he is dead. This deprivation is loss, and loss is harm. It is axiomatic that harm is bad. If this means that is is scientifically unproven that harm is bad, so be it -- but, again, I submit that this sort of basic axiom is an order of magnitude different from the sort of dogmas attached to a typical religion.

As far as I can tell, you're operating from a ridiculously narrow definition of "science" and a ridiculously broad definition of "religion," and have repeatedly refused to explain why you are choosing to define both words in that way (and, moreoever, are refusing to budge from your custom definitions). Again, what do you gain by defining them as such?

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Tatiana
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Wow, is it surprising to anyone that God is drawing more comments that Sex so far? I love hatrack!

It might be that my brief comments on the talks I'm watching are serving to derail this thread and undermining the very good system Mike and Strider proposed for splitting the threads into discussions of individual talks. I'm sorry about that! The problem I have is that I can't remember anymore very long the ideas that come into my head in response to all these intriguing things I'm watching, so I have to put them down in some offline form of storage right away. Would it be better if I

1) Spawned the new threads immediately, leaving others time to catch up? I rejected that idea because it might look like too many threads on the first page with my name on them.

2) Withhold my comments, writing them down in some Word document or somewhere until that particular talk comes up in rotation?

I fear that the very intriguing talk we're discussing now about human sexuality, love, and pair bonding may be getting short shrift.

Members, what do you think? I'm willing to follow whatever consensus arises.

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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
While the neural apparatus for "aha" insights is certainly interesting, the more important feature I'm referring to is "the place where true hypotheses come from".

If science understands that, and how to replicate it, then we would be able to solve immediately all the unsolved scientific puzzles by merely following the cookbook, the instructions, for obtaining true hypotheses.

That "cookbook" is the brains of people who understand the problems they are trying to solve.

You are begging the question to assume that there exists some supernatural "place" from which these answers arrive fully formed. People are solving the problems, using the scientific method.

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Tatiana
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Well, my problem is that I have a lot of unsolved puzzles I'm turning over in my brain all the time. For some of them, correct hypotheses spring out eventually. For others, though, I continue to flounder. What I think would be good is if science could tell me step-by-step how to come up with correct hypotheses. That way, it would be nice, like cranking out calculations or whatever. It would be all understood and pat. We could find the answer to any scientific question.

But in fact, science has no such step-by-step rulebook. There are a few vague directions such as "try guessing the equation" or "work really hard on the problem, then fall asleep and see if you dream the answer" or "during lunch break sit and look at nothing for a while and see if the correct hypothesis pops into your head." Each of these has worked on different notable occasions. (The last one is how the answer came to what "circular" encoding means in the proprietary scheme of General Electric MRI machines, a cryptography problem I solved once in exactly the way described.)

What I'm saying is that this process is not at all scientific. It's much more like voodoo. It's extremely irrational, as are all creative impulses. So I'm not hypothesizing at all where these correct ideas come from. You're mistaken there. All I'm saying is that however it works, it's OUTSIDE of the scientific method. It's by definition not a part of science. Science has almost nothing to say about how to go about coming up with correct hypotheses to test.

So here, in the very heart and soul of the citadel of rationality, the scientific method, is this process which is fundamentally irrational. It's unanswerable. Not only do we suppose we know little or nothing about how to systematically generate correct hypotheses, but we also suppose that it's fundamentally unknowable. Otherwise we could figure it out and zip zap zop suddenly know all the answers to every conceivable question that could arise. I think we all know intuitively that such a thing isn't possible even in theory.

That's a central metaphysical conundrum of science, and I'm simply pointing it out as a scientist and practical scientist, to those who haven't practiced science every day of their career, and thought about it a lot, or at least to those who haven't read and understood the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig, a work of metaphysics which I highly recommend to everyone interested in such questions. =)

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Tatiana
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I could go on about the nature of truth and Godel's incompleteness theorem, but I sense a certain audience saturation. =)
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MightyCow
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I believe that it's a mistake to say that because it feels like voodoo that it is irrational or non-scientific. You insist that it is unanswerable, or is working outside the scientific method, but my point is that it only feels like that, when it actually is quite scientific.

Getting drunk feels mystical and wacky, but it occurs because of very repeatable, well-understood, completely scientific biological processes. The internal experience of being drunk may seem irrational or metaphysical, but it is all biology and chemistry.

At the same time, when you feel that your problem solving is somehow irrational or non-scientific, it only feels that way because you are not consciously aware of the process.

When I push a key on the computer, a letter or number pops up on the screen. I am not drawing these words on the computer, I am pushing buttons, and I don't see the processing that makes a button push turn into a "b", but that process is entirely scientific, even though its method is obscured from me.

In the same way, your problem solving relies entirely on the scientific method, even though you are unaware of the problem solving going on in your brain behind the scenes. I will demonstrate this with the following observation:

You can answer these questions because you have the knowledge and understanding necessary to do so, you just haven't figured out how to put the pieces together consciously, and need to let your mind work at it behind the scenes for a while.

When you come up with a solution, you have that "ah ha!" moment precisely because you completely understand how the solution applies to the problem. If you didn't already have the pieces to the puzzle, you wouldn't realize that you have the answer, and you wouldn't get that feeling of "ah ha!"

The feeling of satisfaction is precisely because you came up with the solution using the scientific process. You used the information you already have and your experience to solve the problem by reasoning out how it would work - you simply did it without being aware of every step of the process.

I know this because someone who does not have all the puzzle pieces will never come up with the solution. They can't get the information from some metaphysical, non-scientific zen meditation no matter how long they think about it.

I also disagree with your claim that if we understood the process, "zip zap zop" we'd have all the answers. There are all sorts of mathematical problems that are being solved for the first time, and it isn't because we don't understand all the rules of math.

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Tatiana
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Mighty Cow, this is a famous question of metaphysics. I think I must not have communicated it to you very well because you seem to be missing the point.
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Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
It might be that my brief comments on the talks I'm watching are serving to derail this thread and undermining the very good system Mike and Strider proposed for splitting the threads into discussions of individual talks. I'm sorry about that!

Don't apologize! As far as I'm concerned I'm glad to hear your comments on the talks, in this thread or another. As far as what seems like the main topic of this thread, I fear it's a matter of the Rule of Controversy, if I may coin a phrase (though on googling it appears to refer to something else). That is, that which is most controversial dominates the discussion.

quote:
I fear that the very intriguing talk we're discussing now about human sexuality, love, and pair bonding may be getting short shrift.
Perhaps we've said all that needs to be said on that topic. Again, it's not controversial enough. Maybe interesting lively discussion of TED talks is impossible, since the most common reactions are "that's interesting / amazing / though-provoking" and "I totally agree!" Which leaves the discussion open to anyone willing to post a ridiculous unrelated claim and those who are willing to indulge such claims (cheap shots, sorry (sort of), but I think justified in this case).

Anyway, if you think a particular topic is interesting enough that it can stand on its own, I'd say go ahead and start a new thread on it.

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Tatiana
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Thanks! I appreciate that. I think you're right about the RoC. Still, I'm kind of sad that nobody wants to talk more about sex robots and society. [Frown] Maybe I should try to spawn a thread about that talk, because it's got some pretty controversial implications.

I'm coming close to the end of the posted favorites, so I guess when I'm done I'll just wander off on topics like "the creative spark" which is a good one, and see what else I find.

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The Rabbit
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I'd love to have a meaty discussion on most of these TED talks but I think that we will need to start a new thread for each topic to make it work.

Otherwise, the discussion is going to devolve into an argument between theists and atheists everytime and I'm just not interested in having that discussion yet again. Its a horse that's been beaten to death.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Science has almost nothing to say about how to go about coming up with correct hypotheses to test.
Well, actually, what we know so far strongly suggests that the best way to do it (as far as we know) is to manage to be an expert on the subject at hand, then think about it for a while. Seriously.

quote:
Still, I'm kind of sad that nobody wants to talk more about sex robots and society.
I don't think they'll have a major effect, to be honest. Even if the technology somehow gets past the "Uncanny Valley" effect within our lifetimes, stigma against sex robots is likely to be as strong as the stigma against porn. You'll see college kids and libertines openly owning their robots, and everybody else owning one that they keep in a box downstairs.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Science has almost nothing to say about how to go about coming up with correct hypotheses to test.
This doesn't really make sense if you understand the scientific method. The process goes something like this.

1. Make a bunch of observations.
2. Develop a hypothesis that explains the observations.
3. Check to see if hypothesis is consistent with existing observations.
4. If hypothesis is not consistent with existing observations, return to 2, else proceed to five.
5. Design experiments that could disprove hypothesis.
6. If experiments disprove hypothesis return to step 2, else repeat step 5.

How you come up with a correct hypothesis is implicit in that method. You do it by making observations, proposing an explanation, challenging that explanation, and then revising the explanation until no one can come up with a challenge it does not explain.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
Still, I'm kind of sad that nobody wants to talk more about sex robots and society. [Frown] Maybe I should try to spawn a thread about that talk, because it's got some pretty controversial implications.

There is a series of good documentaries over at Vanguard at Current TV, but this one is especially relevant, Robot Nation. it basically covers the development of robots which are a bit more practical and a bit more advanced than over here.

Edit: Oops, the "there" implied is Japan

[ February 08, 2010, 11:18 AM: Message edited by: Mucus ]

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Strider
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
Mighty Cow, this is a famous question of metaphysics. I think I must not have communicated it to you very well because you seem to be missing the point.

Tatiana, I read a fair bit of philosophy, and I'm well aware of the nature of the question and how large a problem it is in philosophy.

But even knowing that, just because we currently have no way of explaining this by scientific means, doesn't mean that it is forever out of the realm of science. Almost everything we understand today through science, whether it be the true nature of light, or what stars are made of, was at some point considered outside the realm of science.

In regards to the future of our TED discussions, I think it might be best if you just took notes on whatever you were watching. I do agree that we should be discussing all these talks in a new thread, but I also think we should stick to our 1 talk every 3 days plan, which will give people time to watch and discuss and not overload them. You're up next anyway, so pick what talk you want us to discuss and lets do it!

Should we have whoever is up on a talk start the thread, or should we have one of us manage all the thread creation?

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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
Mighty Cow, this is a famous question of metaphysics. I think I must not have communicated it to you very well because you seem to be missing the point.

The "point" is that you don't understand how something works, so rather than consider that it may be something that you just don't happen to know, you have decided that it must be "voodoo" and completely outside the realm of science.

Your desire to put it in the box of the supernatural is the only thing unscientific about it.

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Tatiana
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Tell me the scientific method for coming up with correct hypotheses, then, please. And why haven't we been using that all these years instead of relying on quirky irrational things like dreams of snakes swallowing their tails, and so on? Also I have a couple of dozen quandaries in cosmology and basic physics I need some true hypotheses on right now! Thanks!
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MightyCow
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You didn't actually read anything I wrote.

What you are doing IS the scientific method. Just because it doesn't happen the way you think it should happen doesn't make it "voodoo." You are taking the observations, knowledge, experience, and thinking about the problem until you get an answer.

Have you ever thought about a snake swallowing it's tail and come up with an answer to a serious question from a field you are not familiar with? If it were voodoo, you wouldn't need to be an expert to come up with the answer, you'd be just as likely to dream of a snake swallowing its tail and find the cure to cancer, or discover where extraterrestrial intelligence lives, or invent a cheap and safe space elevator.

What makes you think that if the process were more transparent, it would allow you to solve any and every problem?

If you know how to solve a Rubic's Cube, and the cube you're handed is missing 3 pieces, no amount of knowledge will let you solve it. If I have an intact cube, but don't know how to move the pieces, I can't solve it either.

Some problems are just hard, or require pieces of the puzzle that we don't currently have, or are unintuitive based on our past experiences, and so require someone to come along and thing about things differently.

I WILL tell you the scientific method for coming up with correct hypotheses :

Step 1. Learn everything about the problem that is required to develop the answer.
Step 2. Think about the problem and possible ways to answer it, and throw out any that don't work.
Step 3. Once you find a solution that seems to work, test it and see if it does.
Step 4. Try to find ways that your possible solution doen't work, and continue to build evidence that it is indeed the correct solution to your problem.

If you look back at your past answers, you'll see that this is exactly what you've done. The problem is that Step 2 doesn't ONLY happen when you're consciously considering the problem, it also happens when your mind is working on the problem as you're thinking about other things.

Do you have to plug your ears when you type, so that the noises don't prevent you from writing down the words in your head? Do you have to stop walking to talk to someone, so you don't forget how to walk and fall on your face?

Of course not, the mind can do multiple things at once. So while you're dreaming about snakes eating their tails, another part of your mind is testing hypotheses and eventually it wakes you up when it finds one that might work.

Where's the voodoo? It's all in your brain. It only works if you have the potential to solve the problem. It doesn't work if you don't have all the pieces.

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The Rabbit
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MightyCow, You are missing something very fundamental. In this context, non-scientific does not mean irrational, supernatural or subjective. It simply means that it is not part of the scientific method. The scientific method doesn't say anything about how hypotheses are generated. The scientific method does not even have any tools for demonstrating that any hypothesis is correct. The scientific method is a set of tools for rejecting false hypotheses. It has several limitations that are widely recognized.

1. It can not address any hypothesis that is not potentially falsifiable. In practice that means that it can only be used to explore hypotheses that predict that outcome of experiments. Whether or not we can perform those experiments with currently available technology is a side issue. If the hypothesis isn't predictive, it can not be tested with the scientific method.

2. The scientific method does not provide a rigorous approach for generating hypotheses. Tatiana's question is too narrow. The scientific method doesn't say anything about how to generate good or bad hypotheses. It doesn't say anything about generating hypotheses at all. That isn't part of the method.

3. The scientific method does not provide a rigorous method for designing experiments that could falsify a hypothesis. It says only that we should try to do so.

The questions of how people generate good hypotheses and how they devise experiments to test them are not fundamentally outside the realm of science. If you can come up with an idea about how it works and an experiment that could falsify that hypothesis, you can explore the questions scientifically. But even if we are successful at understanding how this process works and are able to perfect rigorous methods for doing it in the future, those rigorous methods are not the scientific method. They may be rational, logical, reproducible methods, but they won't be "THE scientific method" and they don't exist as part of the scientific process now.

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MightyCow
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They certainly aren't voodoo.
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Juxtapose
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Why couldn't those things become part of the scientific method?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
Why couldn't those things become part of the scientific method?

Well first of, I suppose they could. We could change the scientific method so it includes anything we want from crystal gazing to foofoo dust, but it would be something fundamentally different from what it is now.

But second, and much more fundamentally, the scientific method requires objectivity. Coming up with hypotheses and ways to test them are creative processes that are fundamentally subjective. The process is no different than writing poetry or composing music. The difference comes in after the creative process where we try objectively to determine the validity of a scientific idea. Coming up with the idea in the first place is not something that can be objectified.

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Raymond Arnold
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I think I largely agree with rabbit here, but I'm trying to remember what the original point about hypothesis was. They don't necessarily require the scientific method. So what?
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MightyCow
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My arguement is that these "creative" methods are entirely scientific, just behind the scenes. Ones mind makes the various guesses and checks and tests, without us consciously observing the process.

Where would any sort of supernatural or mystical methodology come into the picture?

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
My arguement is that these "creative" methods are entirely scientific, just behind the scenes. Ones mind makes the various guesses and checks and tests, without us consciously observing the process.

Where would any sort of supernatural or mystical methodology come into the picture?

Please define scientific. I have no idea what you mean.
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Raymond Arnold
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Yeah, there was a good point earlier that "rational" does not equal scientific. Scientific specifically refers to having multiple trials, testing results and formulating new hypotheses. Making logical deductions based on past experiences and knowledge does not equal science, whether it happens consciously or unconsciously.

If earlier someone had made a point about hypotheses (and/or all creative actions) having a "mystical" quality because it happened to be difficult to explain, well that's still silly.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
My arguement is that these "creative" methods are entirely scientific, just behind the scenes. Ones mind makes the various guesses and checks and tests, without us consciously observing the process.

Where would any sort of supernatural or mystical methodology come into the picture?

MightyCow, Here is one more way to look at. The scientific method require objectivity, that is that the results of any experiment must be independent of whose doing them. A scientific procedure is one that turns out the same, no matter who does it. Anyone who follows the same steps precisely will get the same answer. That's the heart of what it means to be scientific.

But development of a hypothesis and a way to challenge it are absolutely not independent of who does them. Given the same set of observations, different people will come up with different ideas to explain them,. The outcome depends on the individual doing it. And while its common that many people can come up with very similar hypotheses given the same data, If you look at the really important revolutions in science, they were made by people who had an idea that no one else had ever had, who saw something that no one else saw. That is exactly the opposite of scientific objectivity. For something to be scientific -- everyone who goes through the same procedure has to see exactly the same thing. That piece of the puzzle is fundamentally subjective, any way you slice it.

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The Rabbit
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Tatiana, Have you read "Science and Poetry" by Mary Midgely? If not, you really should.
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Strider
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I think it's important to make the distinction between something being part of the scientific method and something that is able to be studied by science.

Like Raymond, I agree with a lot of what Rabbit said above, but nothing in there makes that aha moment, or the process of coming up with hypotheses, something that is outside of the realm of science to study.

Remember that this conversation right now is an offshoot of the one that was started by zotto and Tom, where zotto claimed that atheism and even science are religions, as much as Mormonism is a religion. Tatiana was bringing up the aha moment in reference to that, presumbably to back up zotto's statements(correct me if i've misinterpreted this).

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Tatiana
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My aside (and it was just an aside) was to point out to anyone foolish enough to think that science provides any sort of complete system of understanding of the nature of reality, that the scientific method itself, the very bastion of rationality, depends for its functioning on this fundamentally irrational, non-reproducible, and quirky process of inventing new correct hypotheses. Science doesn't understand how to generate new correct hypotheses, and the problem "how to generate new correct hypotheses" isn't the sort of problem science can solve.

There are many, many aspects of existence, of reality, that are outside science. Science is a way of choosing a subset of reality to pay attention to and find out more about, namely, those experiences that are shared, reproducible, objectively measurable, etc. It's extremely powerful in its realm. It's just important to realize that its realm is a subset of the realm of everything-there-is. One particularly interesting "place" outside its realm is that "place" where new correct hypotheses are generated. That's one example.

Please don't think I'm denigrating science. I adore science!

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Tatiana
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Rabbit, I haven't read that book, but it sounds like something I'd love! I'm adding to my Amazon wish list.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
the scientific method itself, the very bastion of rationality, depends for its functioning on this fundamentally irrational, non-reproducible, and quirky process of inventing new correct hypotheses.
I'm not sure why you consider it irrational or non-reproducible...?
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MightyCow
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Call me foolish if you will, but you KNOW how to generate correct hypotheses. You can't do it every time, but knowing how to hit a baseball doesn't let someone hit a home run every time either.

I don't see what is so hard to understand about that. Can you or can you not make correct hypotheses?

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swbarnes2
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A robot scientist named Adam was able to generate correct hypotheses about gene functions in yeast, and experimentally confirmed many of them. Another computer was able to work out Newton's laws of motion by observing the motions of systems like double pendulums. When NASA wanted a new antenna design, they had an evolutionary algorithm design it. Its design was better than any "a-ha" moment thought up by a person. Does that make the behavior of the algorithm, or the computer running it beyond science?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
Call me foolish if you will, but you KNOW how to generate correct hypotheses. You can't do it every time, but knowing how to hit a baseball doesn't let someone hit a home run every time either.

I don't see what is so hard to understand about that. Can you or can you not make correct hypotheses?

If you understand the Scientific method, you know that the correct answer to that question is that you can not tell if you have generated a correct hypothesis. There are circumstance in which you can know you generated an incorrect hypothesis, but not visa versa.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by swbarnes2:
A robot scientist named Adam was able to generate correct hypotheses about gene functions in yeast, and experimentally confirmed many of them. Another computer was able to work out Newton's laws of motion by observing the motions of systems like double pendulums. When NASA wanted a new antenna design, they had an evolutionary algorithm design it. Its design was better than any "a-ha" moment thought up by a person. Does that make the behavior of the algorithm, or the computer running it beyond science?

Give me a reference please. To what extent this is even interesting depends a great deal on what information these robots were given and how they made their deductions.

High school students can come up with Newton's Laws of motion given properly designed experiments and proper guidance. But without those, no human being came up with them in 300,000 and it took a genius to see it.

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Raymond Arnold
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The "antenna" thing is referenced in this article:

http://www.damninteresting.com/on-the-origin-of-circuits

It wasn't a matter of forming hypothesis, just a lot of brute force trials and errors. It's not quite relevant to the discussion but was interesting insofar as a guided natural selection produced something more efficient that intelligent design did.

Information on Adam is here:

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Welsh_University_announces_intelligent_robot_conducting_biology_experiments

I'm less familiar with this one so I have no comment right now, although I definitely consider it interesting.

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