Monday, November 24, 2008

My space

Ive resolved early on to limit my internet space, that is, the space that I can call my own, to this blog. I used to have a Friendster account and a MySpace account but decided to delete them. They took too much to maintain, I felt, and besides, the posse I run with IRL are pretty much internet virgins, and with grifter and the other Traveling Toreros hightailing it out of the motherland, I didnt think the 'social networking' thing was worth my while, what with the existence of that old reliable, email. (The Traveling Toreros also have a group blog.)

Then I heard about this thing called Facebook and that most of the office colleagues had Facebook accounts and so out of curiosity, I asked one of them to show me her Facebook page. I wasnt impressed. If anything, it was just like Friendster, only Facebook was more, well, insistent. Im sure you guys with Facebook accounts know what I mean. Everything you do on Facebook gets reported to everybody else on your Friends list. I found that creepy. Add to that the whole fandango of adding friends to your list. Did I forget anybody? What if I forgot to add somebody and he or she found out that I had a Facebook account? Would that person feel bad? What if somebody asked to be my friend and I dont remember who that somebody is even though that somebody gave every indication that he or she knosw who I am? Too much trouble, I thought. You have to tend to your Facebook page like a garden. I have a real garden at home, but it has the advantage of not being insistent, and the added benefit of actually giving you vegetables. So no Facebook for me, thank you very much.

Until one day, while Heartbreaker was tinkering with her Facebook page, I asked her, as a joke, to make a Facebook account for me. And she did, wouldnt you know it. I now have a Facebook page, and the entire panoply of people Ive havent heard from in years are right there within easy reach. And Ive fallen into the old pattern of checking it first thing in the morning like checking my garden whether it had new flower buds. (Truth be told, lest you form images in your head about my garden, it's not anything elaborate. Mostly I check out the critters that crawl along in it. Right now we seem to have a snail population explosion.) I still have to figure out what this thing or that thing does, but I can tell that it'll eat up a whole chunk of time if Im not careful. We'll see how it goes. If it doesnt work out, there's always email. And this blog.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More found stuff on the internets

Typealyzer. It analyzes your blog. From the site's FAQ:
How does it work?

For a long period of time, we have been training our system to
recognize texts that characterize the different types. The system,
typealyzer, can now by itself find features that distinguishes one type
from another. When all features, words and sentences, are combined
typealyzer is able to guess which type its is most likely to be written
by using statistical analysis.
And yours truly's blog has been 'typalized'. The result:

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.
Ugh. That makes me sound so boring. And asshole-y.

I got the same results when I took a quiz thingie one of those websites.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No such thing as 'I'? Easy. Change pronouns.

This ties in with the previous post on that quiz thing where I wrote that discussions (and if I may add, the stuff Ive encountered over the internets) Ive had in the past three years reinforced my 'worldview'. Anyway, I was listening to a podcast this morning of The Forum from the BBC World Service with neuroscientist Susan Blackmore as one of the guests, and I swear it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud, which wouldve been embarrassing as I was on the shuttle with ten strangers who would think Ive gone mad had it not been for my self control. Susan Blackmore has an interesting theory: Free will is an illusion. The reason? She couldnt find it.

"If we look at the brain... there doesnt seem to be any room for a 'me' in there or for something called consciousness... There is no kind of central place where it all comes together and consciousness happens."

So she decides to live her life as if free will doesnt exist. How does she manage to do that? She substitutes pronouns, and sees herself in the third person. "Whenever a choice comes up, I dont think 'Oh I have to decide', but think, 'She will decide. A decision will be made.'" But, Susan, who is that doing the observing? Who is that going 'She will decide'? Isnt that a, holy crap, a 'me', an 'I', a self? Transferring pronouns aint gon' work.

The host, Bridget Kendall, presses her on her views. "How did you decide to be on this program?," she asked.

Apparently, she didnt. Her brain did. And she, whoever that is, who is an illusion and therefore doesnt exist, went, "That's interesting," she said, "let's see what she decides. And she decided... I just trust that there will be things that will make a decision... We are clever decision-making animals." We're choosing machines, she adds.

"We're natural dualists," she continues. "We imagine there are two kinds of stuff: mind and brain, and the mind influences the brain. Scientifically that can't be true."

But ma'am, I assume youve heard of the placebo effect? Or the nocebo effect? Mind-over-matter? Even Dr. Gregory House believes in that sort of thing. So Dr. House isnt real, but that's beside the point. The fact is, it's a two-way street. The brain does influence the mind, as any drunk would tell you, but in the same way, the mind does influence the brain. Obsessive compulsive disorders and phobias have been successfully treated by training patients to change their minds. Consciously.

To be fair, Ms. Blackmore doesnt claim to have all the answers. But her research I think has a fatal flaw in that it a priori eliminates the mind: The mind does not exist, therefore we can't admit any hypothesis that includes it. "The brain works this way, but I feel as though Im this way.... Obviously our ideas of self and consciousness and free will just dont fit with the science." I suppose it hasnt occurred to her that the science could be wrong.

So that's what Ive been getting from the science media: a sensationalist, materialist point of view. And it's rubbish. Is it any wonder then that from 31% materialist in 2005, Im now 0% materialist. It's the insufficiency, the poverty of the materialist explanation to explain experience that did it. And the paltriness of the other worldviews as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revisiting a quiz

Sparks points to a quiz I took in 2005 and on a lark, I thought I'd take it again to see if anything's changed. Apparently, I did. Im now hard-core: one hundred percent, as opposed to 94% in 2005. I suppose it's because of the discussions Ive had over the past three years. Nothing like dialogue to reinforce your positions or undermine them altogether, as the case may be.

You Scored as Cultural Creative

Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another one bites the dust

To be fair, my skepticism of major announcements in the science section of major dailies isnt a criticism of science; it's really a criticism of the way science is reported in the media, which is mostly sensationalist, and with a materialist bent. But what can we do? We rely mostly on media reports and have very little access to the actual findings. But what do I know, right? Maybe media is merely reporting what scientists are telling them, the way they want them told. Anyway...

When I first read in the pop science media that chimp DNA was 98% similar to human DNA, it raised red flags. How do they know?, I asked myself. At that time the human genome hasnt even been mapped yet, let alone the chimp genome so I thought the 98% figure was pulled out of someone's ass. When the human and chimp genomes were finally mapped in 2005, I thought that finally we would get to the bottom of this 98%. And the findings? According to this article:

To compare the two genomes, the first thing we must do is to line up
the parts of each genome that are similar. When we do this alignment,
we discover that only 2400 million of the human genome’s 3164.7 million
’letters’ align with the chimpanzee genome - that is, 76% of the human
genome. Some scientists have argued that the 24% of the human genome
that does not line up with the chimpanzee genome is useless ”junk DNA”.
However, it now seems that this DNA could contain over 600
protein-coding genes, and also code for functional RNA molecules.

Looking closely at the chimpanzee-like 76% of the human genome, we
find that to make an exact alignment, we often have to introduce
artificial gaps in either the human or the chimp genome. These gaps
give another 3% difference. So now we have a 73% similarity between the
two genomes.

In the neatly aligned sequences we now find another form of
difference, where a single ’letter’ is different between the human and
chimp genomes. These provide another 1.23% difference between the two
genomes. Thus, the percentage difference is now at around 72%.

We also find places where two pieces of human genome align with only
one piece of chimp genome, or two pieces of chimp genome align with one
piece of human genome. This ”copy number variation” causes another 2.7%
difference between the two species. Therefore the total similarity of
the genomes could be below 70%.

And, the article continues, the only reason they got that 70% was because they used the human genome as a template to assemble the chimp genome. Blek. I suppose it's also a testament to the bias towards mainstream science, the one that says we're but a species of chimp, that these findings arent widely reported, or at least discussed.

In other news, mainstream science finally comes out and says it:
On the other hand, if there is no multiverse, where does that leave
physicists? “If there is only one universe,” [cosmologist Bernard] Carr says, “you might have
to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a
Which got me to thinking: In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, in what he calls The Ultimate 747 Gambit, argues that the universe is so complex it's improbable, therefore if a God created the universe, he would have to be more complex than the universe, and would therefore be more improbable. He bats for the multiverse theory obviously. But then you have to ask yourself: Which is more complex? An intelligent entity, whatever that is, or an infinite number of universes? Which is more improbable? One has to choose because the fine-tuning of the universe points to one or the other. Russian scientist Andrei Linde, a proponent of the multiverse theory, hedges his bets and thinks that our universe might have been created by some geek in a basement in another universe. But this begs the question: Where did that geek in the other universe come from?
Linde's theory gives scientific muscle to the notion of a universe
created by an intelligent being. It might be congenial to Gnostics, who
believe that the material world was fashioned not by a benevolent
supreme being but by an evil demiurge. More orthodox believers, on the
other hand, will seek refuge in the question, "But who created the
physicist hacker?" Let's hope it's not hackers all the way up.
At present, the multiverse is so much speculative fiction with a lot of math, only we have respected scientists proclaiming its merits. That's enough for some people to proclaim that the matter is settled. To be fair, scientists are dreaming up actual experiments to test whether the multiverse theory is true, although I remain skeptical even of these. For example, let's say they find 'evidence' that points to another universe, how does that prove that there are 'billions and billions' of them? But be that as it may, Im still a fan of science. Science as a tool, that is. It is when science is elevated as a worldview that I have problems with it. Not with science, but with those who espouse the science-as-worldview philosophy. Richard Dawkins, for example, is setting his sights on children's books by writing one of his own.
In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4, Dr. Dawkins said he was
working on a book that would explore children’s relationships with
fairy tales and encourage them to think about the world scientifically
rather than mythologically. “I would like to know whether there’s any
evidence that bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards and
magic wands and things turning into other things — it is unscientific,
I think it’s antiscientific,” Dr. Dawkins, left, told More4 News.
“Whether that has a pernicious effect, I don’t know.”
Wadapak!? I grew up with fairy tales and science fiction stories and superheroes,as Im sure most of us who actually read did. Did that make me insane? Dont answer that.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The new capitalist pyramid

I saw this image on several sites on the internet and I dont know who made it but it's brilliant. The new Capitalist Pyramid. I got it from here.