Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Inefficacy of the word Conscious

The work Conscious arises from the Latin "con + scius: to know". I would like to examine the word in reference to its efficacy in addressing a moral paradigm.  The word conscious, is vague to the point of obscurity with-in  the neurological spectrum. The word can be used to describe a persons state relative to sleep (conscious vs. unconscious), or it can be use to describe an animals capacity for self-perception (self-conscious of the existence of one as a self), the word is also used to describe an awareness of the external environment through sensor input.  Due to the rudimentary stages of our neuroscience we do not yet have a solid scientific definition of the word with respect to neurobiology or it is to say that we do not yet understand what consciousness is at the level of the brain.

My point here is not to harp on the progress of neuroscience, but to suggest that the word, conscious, be omitted from the discourse on morality. The word becomes a hamper to the conversation when it is being ill-defined and miss-used on both sides of a debate.  To say that "a specific animal should not be used as a food source because it is a conscious-being" is guilty of two fallacies.  Firstly, as I have been describing, the word conscious could mean many things ranging from a self-aware being that is able to critically analyze its environment and deduce consequences from actions and perceive pain that reflects emotion, to a being that is merely not asleep. This leads to the second fallacy: Consciousness has not been demonstrated as a sound criteria for making moral determinations on the value of life.  The lack of demonstration is precisely because of the vast spectrum of circumstance that it could apply to.

My position is to avoid this word in moral debate unless a specific definition can be agreed upon in advance.  I will not here speculate on a more appropriate choice in determining the value of life criteria, but I do suggest that in-order to avoid the charge of relativism, the criteria chosen should be based in the biological and evolutionary sciences.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To the Matrix

I would like to respond to the question "How do you know that you are not in the Matrix?", that was raised to Michal Shermer during the Q&A at a lecture that I attended.  My response is simply that "I do not know".  Further from that it is worth pointing out that it is not something that I should need to know in order to live my life with the assumption that I do not live in the matrix, or rather that I exist in an objective reality along with the questioner and everything else that exists in this universe.  Something that I do know is that I do not have a red pill and I would be willing to wager that neither does the questioner.

With out the red pill I am forced to assume that the world I live in is reality and my sensory perception of it is a strong enough approximation of reality as to allow me consistent navigation of life.  As for anyone who happens to have a "the red pill" I would congratulate them on their very personal and non-demonstrable quest for knowledge and then ask how they are to know, upon taking the pill, weather or not they have found an objective reality or simply a regress to a second simulation.

Ultimately the question holds no weight because we can not escape our reality even if it is the creation of an evil demon or a computer simulation.  Our experience of reality is objective with-in the reference frame of human experience until proven otherwise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Beer to a Spectral Objectivity

In my examination of objectivity I would like to first focus on the subject of taste. Taste is an evolutionary selected mechanism that enables us to detect possible harms and notable pleasures at the front end of the energy and nutrient intake process.  The Gustatory process involves converting the molecular patterns of food(or what ever else you might find stuffed in your face) into action potentials that can be interpreted by our brains via the sensory receptors on the tung and olfactory.

To better get a grasp on the idea of Spectral Objectivity I would like to examine the seemingly subjective experience of drinking Beer. When one enjoys the complex pleasures of an IPA, one might notice that those pleasures are not shared by all.  It can be recognized that many people truly enjoy the bitter citrus aromatics of a well crafted IPA while many others are quite put off by the shear intensity of the flavors. This subjectivity of interpretation is a form of Relativism. I would like to ask, is the experience of something such as beer, truly relative? It follows from the physical foundation of the gustatory process that it is not. When to people of equal standing drink from the same glass and have two completely different experiences, I submit that it is not the experience that is different but the neurological interpretation that is different.  The underlying truth of this instance, that being the molecular structure of the beer, is not changed by the interpretation of the truth. Interpretation can be altered by many compounding factors, from the number and density of sensory receptors on one persons tong, to the previous experience with intense beers and thus less defined neural networks with which to interpret the experience.  One person could be overpowered by the bittering agents of the hops while the other might be able to pick out the various citrus and caramel notes that bring out the brilliance of the craft.  The point here being that truth is independent of interpretation and that experience lies on a spectrum between extremes.

It would be useful to point out that the spectrum of interpretation is often much narrower than the relativist would allow, that is to say that your "truth" and my "truth" are not that far apart. There is a bell shaped curve for the way in which people experience everything from the color red to the taste of Phenylthiocarbamide. This is where relativism hides in ambiguity claiming that the bell shaped curve of experience looks more of a flat line.  Spectral Objectivity operates with the understanding that while personal experience lies on a spectrum, that spectrum for any given experience will lie under a curve where the majority of people will relate the experience in a very similar manner. Further more any experience will follow from the objectively defined physical construct of the experience and the personal expression of the experience will follow from with-in the range of possible neural interpretations of the experience.  Essentially, Experience is the neurological interpretation of sensory receptors physically interacting with reality.  Reality is objective and independent of knowledge.  There is a great number of near-random variables both in the interaction and interpretation phase of this process leading to a Spectrum of expressions of personal experience with reality.  The majority of People will express their experience of the IPA in a similar fashion and as the expression of the experience diverges the number of people who express it will drop rapidly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Indefensibility of Positive Agnosticism

Gnosticism is a claim to knowledge. I will define here "Positive Agnosticism" as the claim of "knowledge that the existence of a god can not be known" as apposed to weak or "Negative Agnosticism" which is the claim of "knowledge that the existence of a god is not known but not necessarily unknowable". The Position of negative agnosticism is defensible but not mutually incompatible with Atheism. The term "Agnostic Atheist" can be loosely translated as "I do not know if any gods exists but I do not believe that one does". Positive Agnosticism is internally inconsistent or contradictory because the claim that "the existence of a god can not be known" is a claim to knowledge about the inability to know anything of a gods existence. Positive Agnosticism could be re-phrased as Gnostic Agnosticism. It is a position of knowledge about the unknowability of a proposition. I would postulate that the unknowability of a proposition can not be known by definition. You can not get from "the existence of god is unknown" to "the existence of god is unknowable" with out defining god as unknowable at which point no valid reason can be given to believe that such a god exists.
Although it is possible to have knowledge of the existence of an entity given sufficient evidence for its existence, it is not possible to have knowledge of the non-existence of an entity. Positive Agnosticism is untenable because it is internally contradictory at the point where it makes a claim to knowledge about knowledge that is impossible, the non-existence of a god, to have.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Efficacy of Democracy

The Efficacy of Democracy rests on the ability of individuals to think independently, thus any individual who seeks the prosperity of our country through the democratic system, but has not sufficiently demonstrated any capacity for critical thinking, should willfully withhold their participation of Democracy. Unfortunately, In practice this principle would result in a vast demonstration of the Dunning–Kruger effect and would incur the opposite consequence of its intentions.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Like a Virgin

This is my first entry into the world of blog. Robots are neat! Test. Test. To start things off we can examine the "The Science of Good & Evil" by Michael Shermer. An excellent book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a preliminary study of morality through the guise of Evolutionary theory. I take a profound influence from the thesis of an objective morality with out supernatural intervention. Evolutionary theory has the power to explain both the similarities and differences in moral paradigms that we see across cultures and species. Group selection is a powerful window through which to examine what society deems moral or immoral.

Group selection essentially states that- What is good for the individual within a group is good for the group and what is good for the group is good for the individual within the group. With finite resources natural selection occurs between groups and the groups with the best chance for survival are the groups with the highest levels of altruism. This occurs because the individual altruists will work for the group while individualists within a group will only work for them selves. At the level of individuals within a group individualists who do not share resources will be more successful but at the level of inter group selection groups with higher levels of altruism will be more successful because the sharing of resources within a group will produce fitter groups. This theory accounts for the existence of altruism in the face of those who use the phrase "survival of the fittest" to defile Darwinism in favor of creationism.

The book also examines the paradigm of fuzzy logic. If you want to have a generally representative understanding of "Life, the Universe, and Everything", it is important to understand fuzzy logic. It is rare to come across a perfect dichotomy where two sides of an issue are split into exactly two sides. Gradient's, Spectrum's, and "Shades of Gray", this is how the world is. Use of this paradigm is helpful in eliminating errors such as thinking of people, things, events, or actions as either Good or Evil. In detailed examination we find that these things are better understood as a gradient. A person can both commit murder and be a loving husband. To almost any problem with sufficient complexity there is more than one solution and of often many solutions. This is how the world is.

The book covers much more than these subjects. Due to the fact that I have not finished it I will probably find more to think about at a later date.

also PNS(Peripheral Nervous System) is often pronounced penis and that makes neuroscience students giggle.

I think that my blog cherry is sufficiently ruptured and thus I will end this post.