X-Men: Days of Future Past, and multiple instances of a mind

This weekend, I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I enjoyed.  This post discusses some aspects of that movie, most notably the ending, so if you haven't seen it yet and don't want to be spoiled, you might consider skipping it until later. In the movie, mankind is in a devastating war with the mutants, … Continue reading X-Men: Days of Future Past, and multiple instances of a mind

Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence

Kurt Anderson has an interesting article at Vanity Fair that looks at the debate among technologists about the singularity: Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence | Vanity Fair. Machines performing unimaginably complicated calculations unimaginably fast—that’s what computers have always done. Computers were called “electronic brains” from the beginning. But the great open question is whether a … Continue reading Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence

Evolutionary psychology, sexual dimorphism, and ideology

Why Evolution Is True

(Note to non-biologists: “sexual dimorphsim” refers to any trait or behavior that differs between the sexes, like the ornamented tail of the male peacock, the brighter color of the male painted bunting—and of many birds—and the bower-building behavior of male but not female bowerbirds.)

There are some science-friendly folk (including atheists) who simply dismiss the entire field of evolutionary psychology in humans, saying that its theoretical foundations are weak or nonexistent. I’ve always replied that that claim is bunk, for its “theoretical foundations” are simply the claim that our brains and behaviors, like our bodies, show features reflecting evolution in our ancestors. While some evolutionary psychology studies are weak, and I’ve been a critic of them, the discipline as a whole is growing in rigor and should certainly not be dismissed in toto.

Those who still do, though, should answer this question:

Why are human males, on average, bigger and stronger than females?


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Straw Vulcans, Logic and Game Theory

Blogging to Share Knowledge


One of Star Trek’s most popular aliens are the Vulcans — a “purely logical” species that eschewed emotion. While Vulcans were an interesting species, they were unfortunately often used as  straw men used to attack the logic vs. emotion dichotomy.  In fact, this attack has become so cliched, that it earned a name: Straw Vulcan, and there’s even a video on the subject here.

Star Trek’s treatment of Vulcans is so simplistic, it fails in its very premise — the false dichotomy between logic and emotion.  See, rather than being opposing forces, logic SERVES emotion by charting an efficient course to emotional satisfaction. AS such, agents are logical to the extent that they efficiently satisfy their emotional goals — whatever they may be.  In fact, without emotion, there would be no goal for logic; no reason for anyone to explore, play 3D chess or even get…

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Complex life in the universe may be much rarer than previously thought

At least, according to a couple of astrophysicists: Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies | Science/AAAS | News. The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a … Continue reading Complex life in the universe may be much rarer than previously thought