Perception, Psychology, & Evolution


Perception flows from interior to exterior regions of the brain, from evolutionarily oldest to newest.

An unidentifiable perception flows first through the startle reaction of fear and flight, then the emotive, superstitious and paranormal explanation before finally, when enough data has been collected, to fit to our rational understanding of nature.

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Argument from ignorance? – Berlinski on the Question: How in the world could these complex machines and systems have come about without intelligence? – A first look at the question


Warning 64pxAttention:  This is not necessarily an article about Intelligent Design; this is an article about how we think, how we think about scientific propositions, how we think about our own and other people’s thinking and more particularly how the logical fallacy of the Argument from Ignorance can be part of the dynamic.

All of what follows was wrapped around a conversation that was organized around a discussion of Intelligent Design hosted by the Watermark Community Church in Dallas on April 19, 2009 at a forum called The Creation Conversation.  Ok, the building, the host, and the audience were some brand of evangelical Christian, and their ulterior motives were whatever they were, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing for the rest of us to learn from what transpired there, that is if you can be open minded enough to set aside for the moment the place and intentions of that particular conference and learn something from what was said there.

Therefore, we will all be expected to proceed, for the sake of the discussion, as of the subject matter is worth of being treated as a legitimate hypothesis, to be falsified or passed forward to the next round of discussion because it attempts, in good faith, to answer a question that other hypotheses have failed so far to answer:  How in the world could these complex machines and systems have come about without intelligence?

Fair enough?

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Macaulay’s Idea of Progress – the bifurcation of material and social progress – Some thoughts on David Berlinski


Thomas Babington Macaulay, National Portrait Gallery, London [John Partridge d.1872]

Thomas Babington Macaulay,  National Portrait Gallery, London            [John Partridge d.1872]

David Berlinski begins his, still unacountably unfinished, book The Best of Times with this quote from 19th century British philosopher and Whig politician Thomas Babington Macaulay:

“We rely on the natural tendency of the human intellect to truth, and of the natural tendency of society to improvement.”

The 20th and 21st centuries speak otherwise according to Berlinski.

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PAGES2K Non-Corrigendum, Which Way is Up? – Disingenuousness or Defective Thinking in Climate Science?


Don't fall behind the power curve    [atani studios ccsa 3.0]

Don’t fall behind the power curve                                                                [atani studios ccsa 3.0]

This is yet another blog article that fell by the wayside as other projects took over, but I had put too much effort into it already to abandon it completely.  So, here it is even if it may no longer be quite as interesting as it might have been a couple of weeks ago – but hopefully still somewhat relevant – or maybe its the other way around.

Over at Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit, the topic of discussion has moved away from the parsing of the Michael Mann defamation suite and the shenanigans of blog commenter Nick Stokes towards a multi-part discussion of the publication of the recent “non-corrigendum” by the  PAGES2K Arctic Workingroup of a significant revisions to their  PAGES2K Arctic database of paleoclimate data.  The series started with McIntyre’s Revisions to Pages2K Arctic back on October 1st.

The original version of this particular product of the PAGES Consortium had garnered strong criticism at Climate Audit in the past particularly in regards to the inclusion of several contaminated lake sediment proxy series, the use [or misuse] of several series in an orientation that is either ambiguous or inverted to that used by specialists in the field, and a small laundry list of other complaints since it was first published in 2010.  McIntyre said of the publication:

Kaufman and the PAGES2K Arctic2K group recently published a series of major corrections to their database, some of which directly respond to Climate Audit criticism. The resulting reconstruction has been substantially revised with substantially increased medieval warmth. His correction of the contaminated Igaliku series is unfortunately incomplete and other defects remain.

McIntyre goes on in his ensuing series of articles to dissect in great statistical detail precisely what the remaining defects are in the PAGES2k Arctic database, why he thinks it is important that they be corrected as well, and why he thinks a formal corrigendum at the original publishing journal, Nature.com, is warranted – so those errors do not remain “in play” for other scientist to use [or misuse] by continuing to cite them in future research.

All of McIntyre’s reasoning seems reasonable and correct to me – the last and least among the readers who are non-experts at CA.

 

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Heyerdahl and Parallel Evolution at the Talkshop


Going with the flow, Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki

Going with the flow, Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki

There is a recent post up over at Tallbloke’s Talkshop: Thor Heyerdal: Retrospective on an Adventurous Anthropologist, which charts the man’s life and career on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth: October, 6th 1914.

The article at the Talkshop commented at some length on Heyerdal’s various ocean voyages to support his ideas about trans-cultural diffusion over very long ocean distances.

Heyerdahl in particular inspired by his experiences in the south pacific in French Polynesia was possessed by the idea that the similarities between the famous moai figures of Easter Island and certain sculptures of pre-Columbian Peru indicated the possibility that vayagers from Peru encountered the native inhabitants and this was attested to in the oral legends of the islands inhabitants the Rapa Nui.  Examining the possibility of a voyage by ancient Peruvians to Easter Island lead to the famous Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947.

Another, similar, idea that possessed Heyerdahl was that the similarity between the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians and the Mayans indicated a possibility of a previously unrecognized trans-oceanic connection there as well.  This lead to the various Ra expeditions between 1969 and 1970.

I had a comment started which rapidly became too large to post there without blushing, so I posted a much abbreviated version there and the full length analysis below.

Heyerdahl was a hugely determined and brave adventurer, a great man and a great inspiration, but not much of a scientist in my opinion.  Heyerdahl certainly did prove that it was possible for a Norske to build a raft and to drift across two different oceans following the trade winds  – knowing there is someplace to wind up and the possibility of a safe return via boat or aircraft – but not much else in my opinion.

As for embarking on his later quest to effect the transformation the chief of the pantheon of your own culture’s archaic religion to a historical ruler/king somewhere in central Asia, a lot of other people besides Heyerdahl have fallen into that particular folly.

The problem with Heyerdahl’s thinking, and which is pretty common even in academic anthropology and archeology is to mistake a morphological similarity due to parallel evolution with a line of decent – an easy mistake to make.

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In Moderation Limbo – Michael Mann’s legal fictions


 The treason trial of Aaron Burr

The treason trial of Aaron Burr, legal pleadings or legal fictions?

A Comment Lost in Limbo

Steve McIntyre. announced a change in moderation policy a few days ago at his blog Climate Audit in response to the recent Fokker Scourge of blog spam that has been sweeping the blogosphere.  Somehow I seem to have fallen afoul of the new anti-spam procedures, which is ok, but my most recent comment, presently in moderation limbo, awaits the Descensus Christi ad Inferos promised to posts that despite their possible sins, died in friendship with the moderator and await their present resurrection.

Hopefully Steve M. or some kind moderator will notice before the comment becomes completely irreverent – things move quickly in the blogosphere.

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Science Eats Her Young – Consensus vs Correctness, the Scientific vs the Political and the happy news of the unkown unknown


Karl Popper, the godfather of falsifiability [Φ phi studios 2014]

Karl Popper, the godfather of falsifiability                                                           [© phi studios 2014]

There is a new guest article up at Judy Curry’s blog, Climate Etc. by Will Howard titled Appeals to the Climate Consensus Can Give the Wrong Impression that is of particular interest to Meme Merchants because it is both relevant in scientific current affairs and is also relevant generally in the discussion of scientific epistemology in regards to how people generally are supposed to know what the state of the science is at any given moment.

The article was originally posted at The Conversation.  Will Howard is a Research Scientist at University of Melbourne  School of Earth Sciences and is also the Deputy Chair of the Australian National Committee for Antarctic Research.

On the current events front of science, there is a bitter and on-going debate about the supposed scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming due the volume of CO2 emitted by human activity.  The debate rages far and wide about this supposed consensus: what is this consensus actually? how many scientists hold this ‘consensus view’? which scientists [or who’s] really count in the matter?  who should do the counting? who owns the ‘consensus’, and what does all of this mean for the rest of us anyway?

No Meme Merchant is going to settle the debate about the specifics of the consensus about the catastrophic global warming debate – there are lots of places trying to do that – but we would like to take up a very confined look at the “what does all of this mean anyway?” specifically in regards to Mr. Howard’s article – before I launch into a rave about what’s so great about science as a way of knowing.

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The Conspiracy of the Like Minded-truth in data as big lie


The latest hack  [©METoffice 2014]  The official caption: Figure 3: Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960, 1965,... 2005 are shown in red, and 22 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) model simulations that have not been initialised with observations are shown in green. In all cases, the shading represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (blue) starts from November 2013. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black curves and blue shading arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2012 to October 2013 whereas the first forecast period is November 2013 to October 2014.

Fig 1 – The latest hack from the Hadley Centre                                                        [©METoffice 2014]    The official caption:  “Figure 3: Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960, 1965,… 2005 are shown in red, and 22 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) model simulations that have not been initialised with observations are shown in green. In all cases, the shading represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (blue) starts from November 2013. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black curves and blue shading arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2012 to October 2013 whereas the first forecast period is November 2013 to October 2014.”

Update – I’ve added a new figure Fig. 4a below, a version of the AR5 SOD Fig. 1.4 with the “grey swoosh” redacted.

Today, after giving my opinion on the subject of Syria, my sister told me I was being, “Negative, pessimistic, and paranoid” – all possibly true – but being a scientist I am driven to that position by the apprehension of the evidence.

Later in the day I came across the above graphic from the UK MetOffice’s 2014 Decadal Forecast over at Tallbloke’s Talkshop in an article entitled MET- Office: New four year ‘decadal’ forecast spaghetti.  This is what fellow WordPressian Tallbloke had to say:

Ed Hawkins tweeted up  the latest offering from the MET-Office this morning. It’s a “Decadal forecast”, which runs from now to the beginning (not the end, Ed) of 2018. Stop tittering at the back there! But compounding matters, the ‘forecast’ is a spaghetti of similarly coloured lines. I said STOP LAUGHING!

I thought the MET-Office was getting out of doing these longer range forecasts they’ve had so much trouble with them the last many years, not that I pay any attention to them since it seems that Met Office Global Forecasts Too Warm In 13 Of Last 14 Years.  And, if that’s not enough just scratch the surface of this iceberg.

Actually, that wasn’t the very first thing I noticed, what I noticed immediately was the curious way that the graph was constructed, namely that visually the tag end of the graph from 2010 on functions as graph within a graph. Its actually a little like a fractal – self-similarity at different scales  Maybe you noticed that too.

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Comment on Kloor – Trusted Influentials – Rising in the reasonableness ranking


Science journalist Keith Kloor, has an article up at his blog Collide-a-Scape at the Discover.com website titled: Trusted communicators who shape the GMO Discourse.  Kloor seems to be a fairly sensible fellow, and is a journalist who is generally rising in the Meme Merchant’s quality blogger index.

Lately, KK has been on a sort of anti anti-GMO tear, that is trying to roll back some of the fear, hysteria and disinformation that is surrounding the entire anti-gmo movement.  In today’s case he talks about the role of people he terms “influentials” in shaping the debate within the anti-GMO movement:

Influentials are the information brokers that have major media platforms and big receptive audiences. For example, on the GMO issue, top influentials include Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Dr. Oz, and Vandana Shiva. Each of these influentials have been responsible for spreading or endorsing nonsense about GMOs via social media and other highly trafficked venues.

Its not the point of this blog post to take on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms in general, or even the anti-GMO movement in particular.  I am much more interested in the notion of “Trusted Communicators”, why do we trust them?  And why do we continue to trust them even if they have been demonstrated to be wrong on many occasions about what they are saying?

Trusted is not the same as trustworthy, as I’m sure we can all agree – at least in principle.  But when it come to your own cherished beliefs however…

Kloor quotes Princeton social scientist Linda Fiske:

People trust people they think are like themselves. This is human nature. They trust people who they think share their values and goals.

I would paraphrase Ms Fiske slightly, ‘People trust people who think like themselves’. People like having their world view reinforced, its very natural.  People don’t like cognitive dissonance, they don’t like doubt or uncertainty.  An excess of doubt or uncertainty can make decision making difficult, or even day to day functioning.  People walk out the door every day with the expectation that they will not be run over by the bus or a planetesimals will fall out of the sky and wipe out civilization.  We tend to reserve doubt for critical situations, and ones where we expect to need it.

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First thoughts on Henry C.K. Liu – The Race Towards Barbarism – Jewel in the Crown


Barbarian at the gate  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

The slope-browed-retro-troglodyte                  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

Tolling through the AsiaTimesOnLine archives I came across a highly provocative item by Henry C. K. Liu, a writer the Meme Merchants have followed for a number of years. What came up today was the first installment of a series he wrote back in July 2003: The Abduction of Modernity, The Race towards Barbarism.  I say provocative in two senses:  being thought-provoking in Lui’s inimitable way, and also provoking some very strong disagreement.

Before I was halfway through the article I found myself doing a kind of point by point rebuttal, the genesis of this piece, which I had to eventually push mentally aside in order to finish the article.  The article was so thought-provoking that I feel I have to give myself a kind of ‘intellectual time out’, before I  proceed with a more serious analysis or criticism of the article.  Mr. Liu is a very smart and thoughtful writer, one has to at least try to meet him at his own level.

This morning in way of introducing the topic I will anticipate that much of the further discussion on the subject will revolve around two rather different world views, one the so-called ‘modern’ Western world view and the other the traditional Eastern Confucian world view.  To be fair to Mr. Liu, the point of at least the first article of this series is precisely the nature of that ‘modernity’ and its relationship to Western civilization.

A strong dichotomy it appears.

Of the many possible dichotomies of civilizations you can draw, one is the dichotomy of a civilization that sees what is noble and valuable in the individual as what is in conformance with the cultural model, and another civilization who’s culture sees what is rare and valuable in the individual as everything that is different from the cultural model.

One of those world views, I propose, is ‘modern’, the other is not.

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A Quick Sylogism on Rothchild – sorting the conspiratorial from the evolutionary


People send me things.

People send me things.                               Original attribution unknown

This came across the electronic desktop this morning, sent to me by a friend.

Here’s a quick syllogism on the subject. Rothschild is a bank, banks enable modernity and development therefore banks are found where ever you find development and or modernity.

To a certain extent Rothschild in particular may also be self-serving to the point of being evil – much like any trans-national corporation whose corporate controllers no longer have any ties of either: friendship, kinship, nationality, culture, or interests with the vast majority of the people they serve and the only people they have any genuine ties with are their fellow controllers of trans-national institutions in government, business, and academia.

The real problem seems to be much more that “the global village” is still very much a zero-sum tribal affair where trans-national quasi-individuals are either in naked collusion with one another or are involved in the kind of cattle rustling operations favored by the archaic warrior prince.

The only real antidote to the problem is societal evolution.  We need better people, fortunately evolution is hard at work on the problem.

~ Unraed