My first guest post!

Mr. Subramaniam over at World Through Coloured Glasses invited me to write a guest post on his blog. His requested topic was “technology.” (No, not the Scientologist kind!) An interesting topic, not one I have written on before. I got to begin developing some of my ideas on, for example, the Internet and Wikipedia, and the implications they have for society, culture, and humans.

So you can read my guest post here. Any responses should probably be on his blog, not mine!

Advertisements

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

PZ Myers has alerted my attention to a wonderful article in Science. Basically, some researchers are challenged with expressing their scholarly work through the medium of interpretive dance. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

The winning video is at the bottom of the article, under “popular choice.” It is incidentally the most boring.

The best is – and here I am in rare agreement with Dr. Myers – the graduate student video, on the benefits of Vitamin D. I’ll post it here!

Two Cheers for Thanksgiving 2008

Everyone has to admit, Thanksgiving is a delicious holiday. Can anyone deny it? No one can deny it.

But what some people don’t know, and what some people do deny, is that Thanksgiving commemorates genocide against the native Indian population. The famous LaRouchian scholar Howard Zinn cites Christopher Colombus’s journals as follows:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts (pg 2).

With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want (pg. 1)

Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold (pg 4)

Does that make you thankful! No sir! But, there is a catch 22 about this. Consider the argument of Dinesh D’Souza, himself a decendant of Indians. He argues, in his scholarly tome Two Cheers for Colonialism, that indeed these British colonies had eventual good effects for civilization, and even on the Indians themselves. So, there’s always a bright side to things, even genocide.

So this Thanksgiving, be thankful for longterm good effects.

The Hardest to Kill is the First to Die: The Singularity of Paleontology

Have any of you ever noticed how absolutely implausible it is that the Dinsosaurs actually became extinct? Now, please note this: I am not saying that they did not become extinct. I cannot after all prove a negative – it would require searching all four corners of the Earth and below the Earth (we’ve already got above the Earth covered!). But consider the following:

Go outside. Find a bug and step on it. If you succeed, then you can be fairly certain that, barring extraordinary numbers, that particular species of bug could plausibly become extinct. Now go into a forest and find a large adult bear. Try and step on it.

If you succeed, you will have demonstrated at least the logical possibility of the C-T Extinction Event. However, you will likely fail. By the transitive property, if you can’t extinctify bears, and dinosaurs are harder to extinctify than bears, then you likewise can’t extinctify dinosaurs. QUED, my friends. … Or is it?

Clearly that conclusion is also hopelessly implausible! What, then, are we to do? According to influential logician L. Gamut, two implausible propositions, call them p and q, cannot stand each other for very long. Some kind of reflective equilibrium must be reached, al carte both R. Dahl and G. Habermas. Now I have no idea what to do about this. It could be that the implausible simply happened. But we are compounding implausibilities! The extinction of dinosaurs requires the negation of the force of all kinds of apriori evidence to the contrary.

Discussion: Which theory of Dinosaur Extinction do you favor? Post in the comments! If you’re not familiar with the subject, you can quickly explore the going theories here.

Where is your brain? Everywhere!

Alright, the Evolution post was fun. But now back to more serious stuff. This post has to do with neuroscience. Here I’m questioning a pretty mainstream view, and not a weird obscure view (like 0.999…=1 or Imaginary Numbers). I’m questioning the Theory of Pain Projection, which actually has surprisingly decent reasoning behind it. But – that can’t stop the truth from shining through. Enough ado for now, read on!
According to various forms of science, pain and other phantoms are always registered in a place called “the brain.” So, for example, when I stab my hand with a pencil, or stub my toe, the only place that “knows” I’ve been injured (so the story goes) is in my brain. Indeed, it happens in the part of the brain known to professional frauds as the “parietal lobe,” located in the “postcentral gyrus.” If this doesn’t remind you of Descartes’ error, it should. Now let’s imagine for a moment that all this isn’t damnable hogwash of the most devilish sort. It would mean that these parts of our brains are what allow us to register pain and pleasure… in our hands!

Refuting this is quite elementary, and indeed I think you will find it liberating, being suddenly able to abandon the counterintuitive notions with which you have been indoctrinated. Perform the following experiment:

Find a knife. Hold the knife in your left hand. Extend your right hand onto a flat service. Thrust the knife downward into your right hand, but not with enough force to puncture the epidermal tissue.

Where do you feel it? Do you feel it in your brain? Or do you feel it in your hand? My guess is that you feel it in your hand. Now these scientists, known in older and therefore wiser cultures as witches, will tell you that you only think you feel pain in your hand due to “projection.” Talk about colonialist condescension! In other words, the feelings supposedly “project” to an imaginary place called the “reticular formation,” which frankly sounds obscene and unbecoming (perhaps that’s supposed to prevent us from investigating it). And your emotions are caused by the “amygdala,” which because it violates phonetic rules ought not to be considered a real or meaningful word (Wittgenstein proved this). In any case, everyone knows that emotions happen in the heart, because as Wittgenstein explained, words are defined by their usage, not the consensus of the scientific community. And besides, emotions are literally felt in the chest area.

So what about this projection business? Occam’s Razor tells us that rather than suppose the highly complex and superstitious theory that the brain is magically transmitting messages and deceiving us as to the location of our feelings, we should instead suppose the extremely intuitive and ontologically parsimonious explanation, namely, that our brain is in fact located everywhere. Consequently it is actually a bigger organ than the epidermeous, a little known fact. Congratulations, brain. Now you’re the biggest and the heaviest!

To appreciate the significance of my findings, which surely represent the beginning of legitimate Brain Studies, take a glance at what an accurate diagram of the human body might look like (hopefully to be placed in anatomy textbooks someday, perhaps posthumously).

brain

Now before you say it: I know this diagram doesn’t include all the other parts of the body. But I am just making the point that our pain receptors, and tools of consciousness and cognition, are manifestly located wherever we can feel pain and pleasure. This view of the brain corresponds best with the theories of John Leslie in his work, as well as noted cognitive scientist Richard Swinburne’s in his pathbreaking study, The Evolution of the Soul, published by Oxford University Press. I definitely recommend reading that one.

Important note: I am not denying the existence of the physical organ called “the brain.” I am just limiting its traditional functions. There’s a key difference there.

Mutants Can’t Get Girlfriends: Darwin’s Real Black Box

Scientists have been pushing this one for about a century now. While Evolution is at points nearly too ridiculous to merit comment, I’ll humor you. And I really do mean humor. For this post I’ve decided to write on the lighter side, although at the core the idea is serious.

The entire foundation for evolution, according to Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins and Stephen Gould, is that creatures mutate into more and more advanced creatures, then get married and have new more advanced babies, with thumbs and wings and so on. Fair enough. But wait a minute, isn’t there something a little bit fishy about this?

Think back to middle school. None of the mutants could get girlfriends. If mutants cannot get girlfriends, then how can you expect them to get married? And if they can’t get married, then how can you expect them to ever have kids? Moreover, the mutants would never survive as the fittest in the first place, because all of the normal children, who are bullies, would beat them up. And in distant evolutionary times they would kill them, because as recently excavated cave paintings show us a la carte Marc Hauser, the more historic you get, the more barbaric you are. So just imagine what they did to mutants back then! So if you’re dead and you can’t get girlfriends, there is no way you’re going to pass on your mutant genes – even if they are selfish genes. And all this is a matter of a few years – nothing compared to geological time!

Sure, Middle School is not the Stone Age. But so what? The basic principles of life apply to all times and places.

Qued Errata Demonstrum!

The Three Thousand Year Reich of Negative Numbers (part one)

The curious reader might be interested to know that Diophantus and the Greek thinkers rejected the concept of negative numbers (and irrational numbers, of course) as “patently ridiculous” and “idiotic.” And we are a Greek-based society. So to borrow David Hume’s plaintive question – Then whence Negative Numbers? The answer to this question lies in the Orient. If there was ever a “yellow menace,” negative numbers are it. The Chinese, the Indians, and the Muslims gave us negative numbers. Not the superior Greeks. Is this a coincidence? I think not. These countries have had a vested interest in the concept from the very beginning.

Fortunately, however, negative numbers are behind a very thin conceptual veil. Once removed, it is easy to see the “Chinaman behind the curtain.” I’ll just say QUED ahead of time. Observe:

I can have three horses, but I cannot have negative three horses. Some people, suffering from Cognitive Dissonance (CD), suggest that “debt” is a manifestation of negative numbers. But that’s really just arguing semantics. Wittgenstein and Derrida disproved semantics back in the 20th century. In any case, what’s really going on in the situation is not that I have negative horses; rather, I owe some positive horses (Positive horses=horses that exist; countable horses. Who would want to be owed imaginary horses?). We can get by just fine without negative numbers. Besides, the Universe is full of stuff, not -stuff. If you would like to confirm this, here is the relevant empirical experiment:

Turn your head this way and that, and look at things. You may if you wish do this in a lab, for a more sciencey feel.

This conclusion, in conjunction with the abolition of infinity, has pathbreaking – nay, watershed – consequences for the number line, which now looks like this:

numberline2

I constantly get compliments for how incredibly parsimonious my arguments are – well, this one perhaps beats them all!

If the abolition of negative numbers in the conceptual schema catches on in the West, we can expect an end to the Three Thousand Year Reich of the Neo-Zoroastrians who think that the number line is an exact balance between negative and positive (seriously, what are the chances anyway that it would be an exact balance? It’s even worse than 1/Penultimate. It’s zero!). Now some might say that empirically the Universe is symmetrical, and they might cite anti-matter as confirmation of this. But there is not room here to discuss anti-matter; I’ll leave that for a future post!