News from Ma3Ke4Li3

  1. It sounds like Gregory Berns doesn’t really understand Nagel. Showing that dogs feel affection for their owners is in no way a counterexample to his argument. Nagel thinks that no matter how many FMRI’s you have about some state x, you still won’t come to know what it’s like to be in that state x. That’s entirely compatible with Bern’s claim about learning that dogs feel affection through fMRI. No idea why Berns thinks he’s shown anything to discount Nagel shrug

  2. Personally, I agree. A similar criticism is raised in the episode.

  3. I don't agree with Nagel, but I think Berns is missing his point. Nagel argues that experience itself its a different and independent form of knowledge only acquirable by the subject experiencing it. Experience manages to escape from the cold data scientific knowledge provides because of that point. Imagine if we could describe every aspect of a new discovered color (amount of nanometers present in its wavelenghts, how it affects the different photoreceptors of each animal that encounters it, which part of electromagnetic waves it absorbs and which ones it reflects, etc.) then we would theoretically know this color, every component that shapes it, but we still wouldn't get the effect, this new and different type of knowledge that Nagel was refering to, that we'd get if we saw the color, if we experience it. So if neuroscience can tell us how is like to be an animal, Nagel would just respond that that knowledge only describes what it is to be an animal but we could only get how it is to be an animal if we were that animal in question, which is a new form of knowledge itself that science cannot essentially reach.

  4. Agreed! A similar point is raised in the episode.

  5. Hey! I thought people might find this interview with economic historian Oded Galor interesting. Galor recently released a book on economic history called Journey of Humanity: Origins of Wealth and Inequality. The conversation goes through the basic idea of the book, focusing on the demographic transition, and the way this allowed (some) countries to grow their GDP without also growing their population - hence allowing, for the first time ever, sustainable growth in GDP per capita.

  6. Religion is harmful in that using faith in order to believe anything can lead to disastrous consequences. Secular humanism bases morals upon reason rather than faith, which makes it radically different from basing morals upon the commands or whims of a supernatural being, which are interpreted by human followers in all sorts of often contradictory manners.

  7. I'm not sure if most secular humanists would agree that they are basing a community on reason alone. This sounds like a bygone dream. That is not to deny that there is a difference between religious and secular projects, but it takes a bit more work to explain what it is.

  8. I think this line of reasoning ignores the actual harm caused by the religious people and religions themselves. Religious people vote and they vote in ways that directly hurt other people particularly gays, trans people, women etc. Also religious people are overwhelmingly conservatives so their votes also end up supporting things like tax cuts for the rich, cuts in welfare programs, increased military spending, anti immigration policies, undermining of public education and anti democratic movements.

  9. A respectable concern. But what about the many gay and trans people who are religious? My first trans friend ended up becoming a priest. What would you tell him? Also, many would counter this line of argument by recounting the essential role that (certain sects of) organised religion have played in many social justice movements. MLK was a priest after all. And abolitionism was largely driven by Christian communities (especially Quakers).

  10. This is somewhat of a technicality, but do you happen to know how large was the sample size of the examined skeletons that Fry is referring to?

  11. You cant know how large the sample is because you have to know all the unkwon human fossile remains and then calculate the per cent of violent deaths. Until you have the full sample you cant calculate the percent, but it is impossible to get all the samples now hidden, so all this cannot be but speculations

  12. Not really, that's what all human scientists do: they study an available "sample" and draw conclusions about an ill-defined "population". But you are right that you do need to make assumptions about the relationship between the sample and the population. And these might turn out to be wrong.

  13. Abstract: Philosophers customarily claim that moral questions are out of the reach of science. Michael Shermer argues that this is not the case. Moral claims are intimately related to two facts: what humans want and don’t want (e.g. avoiding slavery), and methods by which to satisfy these values (e.g. by institutions aimed at securing human rights). Both of these aspects have factual claims baked into them, and so, can be studied empirically. For example, social sciences have (or at least could) established that democracies are better than autocracies in protecting people against various forms of harm. To the extent that our fundamental values are out of reach from science, we can treat morality as a set of hypothetical imperatives (i.e. a set of if-then statements).

  14. Well, don't worry to much, the claim is not quite as radical as it sounds like. Berns believes that there is individual agency. But he argues that the idea that we are the sma person yesterday, today, and tomorrow is misleading. Of course, there is a sense in which we are part of the same personal continuity. But the links are weaker and more porous than we might think.

  15. doesn't everyone have personal historical self though?

  16. Good question! Let me try to guess what Berns would answer:

  17. I find it interesting that we disagree so fundamentally. I would be happy to organise a casual chat about this. We might both learn from each other. If yo are interested then PM me!

  18. That is a very fair question. I can't pretend to know what she would say to that. But when I said that the interview won't focus on eliminating materialism etc. she laughed and said "thank God".

  19. Yea agreed, thanks for reacting! I really hope Feldman or someone will end up writing a book about it. It would increase the public's exposure to it, even amongst non-book-readers.

  20. Great links, thank you! But I think there is something more literal about the brain-to-brain synchrony I mentioned. For example, I absolutely agree that literature and art allow us to "synch" with past humans.

  21. Do dogs have moral intuitions? I'd say yes based on how they respond to failing to reward tricks, giving more treats to dog2, dogs' capacity for self sacrifice, etc.

  22. I will reply later with more thoughts, but I think two folks who are best at making this distinction (why humans can be moral agents, but lions cannot) are Michael Tomasello and Stephen Darwall. If you are interested.

  23. Sounds like an interesting showerthought without any way to see if its actually real, much like most of attempts to shoehorn darwinism into social sciences/philisophy

  24. Well, I would disagree. I agree that there is a lot of crap evolutionary shoehorning. (You might resonate with this essay I published in the Skeptic, see below). But it doesn't mean that any attempt to think about human natural history is wasted.

  25. Is there any chance he is on SSRI antidepressants? These can have a flattening effect on romantic drive. It isn't 100% clear how this works, but basically, he might feel difficulty getting that same level of arousal that he used to. It doesn't mean that it was not real. And it might have come back every once in a while. But he might just feel like he has suddenly forgotten.

  26. This is a very interesting topic! Recently, I was thinking about the actions of people who are extremely confident, but have no conscience weighing down on them. They don't feel guilt, or they'll try to suppress it if they do. Morality seemed to me costly, and these people seemed to do well without it, getting ahead at the expense of others (planning skills, deception, future visualization... high-level cortex skills). I wondered if morality was a symbol of weakness, making us soft. But then I noticed that their lifestyle was unsustainable, which caused me to believe that the skills enabled by the cortex is imperfect without morality.

  27. That's quite much in line with some of my own reflections, I appreciate you sharing! From a more evolutionary perspective, there is a great book called Survival of the Friendliest. Not about morality per see, but about reduced impulsive aggression and elevated curiosity to others. So well, friendliness. And the way it became evolutionarily selected for in some species (including dogs, bonobos, and humans).

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