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Old 08-06-2013, 11:10 PM   #91
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I look forward to it - because we are probably only a few decades away from having to make this choice...
But if we're talking about quantum states, it could very well be impossible to map at a sufficient resolution
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:12 PM   #92
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There's a thought experiment about this that I will find for you
Parfit's teletransporter to Mars?
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:16 PM   #93
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Parfit's teletransporter to Mars?
yes! I was going to say if I couldn't find it in time, you might chime in
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:17 PM   #94
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I think it was Dennett's version of the Teleclone Mk VI I read though

Here's a bit of it. not from the text I originally got it, but it's all I could find

Daniel Dennett’s Intro to ‘The Mind’s I’ | Dontdontoperate's Blog
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:19 PM   #95
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Parfit's teletransporter to Mars?
Thoughts?
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:36 PM   #96
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Thoughts?
I might have to digest it later tonight or tomorrow. I'm having a few beers and watching shark week with my son
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Old 08-06-2013, 11:46 PM   #97
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oooh! Have fun!

Beware the fake C. Megalodon documentary
Discovery Channel
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Old 08-07-2013, 06:34 AM   #98
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This is the last week of my internship and I've been staying late at work to add features to and remove bugs from my project before I leave New York, so my ability to write good posts is diminished. I'll try to write some thoughts on stuff soon.
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Old 08-07-2013, 09:09 AM   #99
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Beware the fake C. Megalodon documentary
Discovery Channel

Fake?

I suppose this means mermaids aren't real either.
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Old 08-07-2013, 09:19 AM   #100
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I didn't watch it, so I don't know how apparent it was that it wasn't real. People are very unhappy though
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Old 08-07-2013, 11:46 PM   #101
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Thoughts?
I've read through it a few times now. I thought it was wonderfully thought provoking (if a bit meandering and often the ideas seem scattered).

I don't quite see how it supports your position JT. Perhaps I missed his overall point (again to my point he really meanders after a strong start). He seems to be saying there is no possible objective view of consciousness.
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Old 08-08-2013, 01:09 AM   #102
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It perhaps meanders a bit because it's meant as a forward to one of his books. He's kinda touching on all the bases they'll cover later on, so I can see how it might seem a bit scatter brained and incomplete. Dennett is undoubtedly a materialist. I might be stretching that particular thought experiment a bit far (digitize? You've clearly got more experience in this field than me... I'm still a bit of a noob), but in arguing against the existence of an independent consciousness, this shows that it is an illusion linked to physical states in the brain. Dennett describes the idea of the 'self' as more of an abstraction (I think he likens it to a centre of gravity at some point; it's something apparent and something we can talk about, but not something that is physically made up of anything. It doesn't exist in any real sense). So when we talk about downloading a consciousness, there isn't anything there to download. You're downloading a physical state of matter, but the you having the apparent experience of self is not going to suddenly find himself occupying some other synthetic body.

It's late, so I hope I got that across alright.
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Old 08-08-2013, 11:40 AM   #103
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i haven't paid close attention to this thread, but i came across this long article and thought it relevant at least to the original title of the thread (science and religion), and apologies if it's already been posted:


Quote:
The term “scientism” is anything but clear, more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine. Sometimes it is equated with lunatic positions, such as that “science is all that matters” or that “scientists should be entrusted to solve all problems.” Sometimes it is clarified with adjectives like “simplistic,” “naïve,” and “vulgar.” The definitional vacuum allows me to replicate gay activists’ flaunting of “queer” and appropriate the pejorative for a position I am prepared to defend.

Scientism, in this good sense, is not the belief that members of the occupational guild called “science” are particularly wise or noble. On the contrary, the defining practices of science, including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods, are explicitly designed to circumvent the errors and sins to which scientists, being human, are vulnerable. Scientism does not mean that all current scientific hypotheses are true; most new ones are not, since the cycle of conjecture and refutation is the lifeblood of science. It is not an imperialistic drive to occupy the humanities; the promise of science is to enrich and diversify the intellectual tools of humanistic scholarship, not to obliterate them. And it is not the dogma that physical stuff is the only thing that exists. Scientists themselves are immersed in the ethereal medium of information, including the truths of mathematics, the logic of their theories, and the values that guide their enterprise. In this conception, science is of a piece with philosophy, reason, and Enlightenment humanism. It is distinguished by an explicit commitment to two ideals, and it is these that scientism seeks to export to the rest of intellectual life.

The first is that the world is intelligible. The phenomena we experience may be explained by principles that are more general than the phenomena themselves. These principles may in turn be explained by more fundamental principles, and so on. In making sense of our world, there should be few occasions in which we are forced to concede “It just is” or “It’s magic” or “Because I said so.” The commitment to intelligibility is not a matter of brute faith, but gradually validates itself as more and more of the world becomes explicable in scientific terms. The processes of life, for example, used to be attributed to a mysterious élan vital; now we know they are powered by chemical and physical reactions among complex molecules.

Demonizers of scientism often confuse intelligibility with a sin called reductionism. But to explain a complex happening in terms of deeper principles is not to discard its richness. No sane thinker would try to explain World War I in the language of physics, chemistry, and biology as opposed to the more perspicuous language of the perceptions and goals of leaders in 1914 Europe. At the same time, a curious person can legitimately ask why human minds are apt to have such perceptions and goals, including the tribalism, overconfidence, and sense of honor that fell into a deadly combination at that historical moment.

The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and superstitions. Most of the traditional causes of belief—faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, the invigorating glow of subjective certainty—are generators of error and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge. To understand the world, we must cultivate work-arounds for our cognitive limitations, including skepticism, open debate, formal precision, and empirical tests, often requiring feats of ingenuity. Any movement that calls itself “scientific” but fails to nurture opportunities for the falsification of its own beliefs (most obviously when it murders or imprisons the people who disagree with it) is not a scientific movement.

In which ways, then, does science illuminate human affairs? Let me start with the most ambitious: the deepest questions about who we are, where we came from, and how we define the meaning and purpose of our lives. This is the traditional territory of religion, and its defenders tend to be the most excitable critics of scientism. They are apt to endorse the partition plan proposed by Stephen Jay Gould in his worst book, Rocks of Ages, according to which the proper concerns of science and religion belong to “non-overlapping magisteria.” Science gets the empirical universe; religion gets the questions of moral meaning and value.

Unfortunately, this entente unravels as soon as you begin to examine it. The moral worldview of any scientifically literate person—one who is not blinkered by fundamentalism—requires a radical break from religious conceptions of meaning and value.

To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. The scientific refutation of the theory of vengeful gods and occult forces undermines practices such as human sacrifice, witch hunts, faith healing, trial by ordeal, and the persecution of heretics. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles, or messianic ages. And in combination with a few unexceptionable convictions— that all of us value our own welfare and that we are social beings who impinge on each other and can negotiate codes of conduct—the scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today.

Moreover, science has contributed—directly and enormously—to the fulfillment of these values. If one were to list the proudest accomplishments of our species (setting aside the removal of obstacles we set in our own path, such as the abolition of slavery and the defeat of fascism), many would be gifts bestowed by science.

The most obvious is the exhilarating achievement of scientific knowledge itself. We can say much about the history of the universe, the forces that make it tick, the stuff we’re made of, the origin of living things, and the machinery of life, including our own mental life. Better still, this understanding consists not in a mere listing of facts, but in deep and elegant principles, like the insight that life depends on a molecule that carries information, directs metabolism, and replicates itself.

Science has also provided the world with images of sublime beauty: stroboscopically frozen motion, exotic organisms, distant galaxies and outer planets, fluorescing neural circuitry, and a luminous planet Earth rising above the moon’s horizon into the blackness of space. Like great works of art, these are not just pretty pictures but prods to contemplation, which deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and of our place in nature.

And contrary to the widespread canard that technology has created a dystopia of deprivation and violence, every global measure of human flourishing is on the rise. The numbers show that after millennia of near-universal poverty, a steadily growing proportion of humanity is surviving the first year of life, going to school, voting in democracies, living in peace, communicating on cell phones, enjoying small luxuries, and surviving to old age. The Green Revolution in agronomy alone saved a billion people from starvation. And if you want examples of true moral greatness, go to Wikipedia and look up the entries for “smallpox” and “rinderpest” (cattle plague). The definitions are in the past tense, indicating that human ingenuity has eradicated two of the cruelest causes of suffering in the history of our kind.

Science is not the Enemy of the Humanities | New Republic


and here's an NYT column that engages the (much longer) article:

Quote:
The Scientism of Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker has an interesting and revealing essay in The New Republic dismissing the charges of “scientism” that are often leveled by the philosophically, artistically and religiously-minded against certain authors, polemicists and science popularizers. “The term,” he writes, “is anything but clear, more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine,” which inspires him to try to reappropriate “scientism” as a positive descriptor — denoting, he suggests, a belief in the intelligibility of the world and a commitment to the difficult-but-necessary quest for real objectivity about its workings, both of which which should inform our understanding of non-scientific spheres as well.

If this is scientism then obviously no sensible person should have a problem with it. But the “boo-word” version of the phenomenon — the scientism that makes entirely unwarranted claims about what the scientific method can tell us, wraps “is” in the mantle of “ought” and vice versa, and reduces culture to biology at every opportunity — is much easier to pin down than Pinker suggests. Indeed, he helpfully supplies a perfect example of in his own essay, in his discussion of what modern science has allegedly meant for our understanding of personal and political morality:

Quote:
… the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree … We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.
So here we have a defensible-if-tendentious account of how the progress of science has undercut the world-pictures bequeathed to us by tradition, intuition and religion. Now an innocent reader might assume that the crack-up of these world pictures, with their tight link between cosmic design and human purposes, might make moral consensus more difficult to realistically achieve. After all, if our universe’s testable laws and empirical realities have no experimentally-verifiable connection to human ends and values, then one would expect rival ideas of the good to have difficulty engaging with one another fruitfully, escaping from the pull of relativism or nihilism, and/or grounding their appeals in anything stronger than aesthetic preference.

But obviously that isn’t where Pinker is going:

Quote:
In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. The scientific refutation of the theory of vengeful gods and occult forces undermines practices such as human sacrifice, witch hunts, faith healing, trial by ordeal, and the persecution of heretics. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles, or messianic ages. And in combination with a few unexceptionable convictions— that all of us value our own welfare and that we are social beings who impinge on each other and can negotiate codes of conduct—the scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today.
This is an impressively swift march from allowing, grudgingly, that scientific discoveries do not “dictate” values to asserting that they “militate” very strongly in favor of … why, of Steven Pinker’s very own moral worldview! You see, because we do not try witches, we must be utilitarians! Because we know the universe has no purpose, we must imbue it with the purposes of a (non-species-ist) liberal cosmopolitanism! Because of science, we know that modern civilization has no dialectic or destiny … so we must pursue its “unfulfilled promises” and accept its “moral imperatives” instead!

Since Pinker’s last book was an extended rehabilitation of the Whig interpretation of history, it’s not surprising to see him make this kind of case. But it’s intellectually parochial and logically slipshod, and it’s also depends on a kind of present-ist chauvinism: His argument seems vaguely plausible only if you regard the paradigmatic shaped-by-science era as the post-Cold War Pax Americana rather than, say, the chaos of 1914-45, when instead of a humanist consensus the scientifically-advanced West featured radically-incommensurate moral worldviews basically settling their differences by force of arms.

Like Sam Harris, who wrote an entire book claiming that “science” somehow vindicates his preferred form of philosophical utilitarianism (when what he really meant was that if you assume utilitarian goals, science can help you pursue them), Pinker seems to have trouble imagining any reasoning person disagreeing about either the moral necessity of “maximizing human flourishing” or the content of what “flourishing” actually means — even though recent history furnishes plenty of examples and a decent imagination can furnish many more. Like his whiggish antecedents, he mistakes a real-but-complicated historical relationship between science and humanism for a necessary intellectual line in which the latter vindicates the former, or at least militates strongly in its favor. And his invocation of “the scientific facts” to justify what is, at bottom, a philosophical preference for Mill over Nietzsche is the pretty much the essence of what critics mean by scientism: Empirically overconfident, intellectually unsubtle, and deeply incurious about the ways in which human beings can rationally disagree.

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/201...n-pinker/?_r=0
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Old 08-08-2013, 02:54 PM   #104
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TL;DR


Based on my skim, I'll have to come back to that when I have the time to properly read it. Interesting stuff.
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Old 08-08-2013, 04:20 PM   #105
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This is a great find, Irvine - thanks for posting these.

When I was reading the first article - I was thinking the same thing the NYT writer states here:
Quote:
from the NYT article
...This is an impressively swift march from allowing, grudgingly, that scientific discoveries do not “dictate” values to asserting that they “militate” very strongly in favor of … why, of Steven Pinker’s very own moral worldview! You see, because we do not try witches, we must be utilitarians! Because we know the universe has no purpose, we must imbue it with the purposes of a (non-species-ist) liberal cosmopolitanism! Because of science, we know that modern civilization has no dialectic or destiny … so we must pursue its “unfulfilled promises” and accept its “moral imperatives” instead!
As I stated earlier - I think science is a great tool for everything in the universe that can be observed, tested, and verified. However, as we see in Quantum Physics - there is much of the universe that can't be observed, tested, and verified - and may never do so. This is where Philosophy and Theology (and art perhaps) enter the picture - and rightfully so. We've evolved or were created (or perhaps a bit of both) to not let "I guess we'll never know" be the final answer. So we keep tackling the Big Questions.
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