This talk by David Chalmers on the relationship between consciousness and moral status is pretty interesting. You don't have to watch the video to follow this post, but it's in response to arguments he makes in the talk. The video is 75 minutes but the talk only lasts about 50 minutes with a Q&A afterward. … Continue reading Consciousness and moral status
A crucial point about science I couldn’t have put any better. Science is an ongoing conversation, not a series of absolute determinations. Anytime a radical result is announced, we should really think about its implications in terms of if the results are replicated or hold up under further analysis. Every paper is only part of that conversation.
So there’s this notion in the popular press that when a new scientific paper comes out, that paper should be taken as the final definitive word on an issue. Science has spoken. This is a scientific fact now. But that is not how science works.
When new research is published, you should expect there will be followup research, and then that followup research will be followed up by even more research. A new scientific paper really shouldn’t be seen as a proclamation of fact but rather as the beginning of a dialogue among scientists, or perhaps as the continuation of a dialogue that’s already in progress.
The recent detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus has turned out to be a fantastic example of this ongoing dialogue in action. The initial research was published in two separate papers (click here or here). Basically, astronomers found the…
View original post 409 more words
Philip Ball has an article up at Aeon: Life with purpose, which resonates in theme with the one a few weeks ago by Michael Levin and Dan Dennett on purpose in nature. Like Levin and Dennett, Ball argues that we shouldn't be shy about discussing purpose in biology, or feel obliged to put quotes around … Continue reading Agency, consciousness, and purpose
The black hole information paradox has been receiving some attention lately. This is the fact that information, that is any pattern of matter, that falls into a black hole is completely crushed as it approaches the singularity, losing whatever differentiation it might have had before. This has long been recognized as a problem, because in … Continue reading A basic question on the black hole information paradox
Well, that's a relief. Even though there were warnings for weeks and months before the election about a "red mirage" that might happen election night, a result of Trump supporters voting on election day and Biden supporters voting heavily by mail, and the order in which the ballots would be counted, even though many of … Continue reading An election fit for 2020
Somewhat related to the previous post, I just saw this video from Matt O'Dowd discussing why the block universe is such a compelling concept. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EagNUvNfsUI&t=12s The second video in the series discusses the effect quantum mechanics might have on this concept. It reminds me why cosmologists seem to be more comfortable with the Many Worlds … Continue reading A PBS Space Time series on time and the block universe
Click through for source and bonus red button caption at smbc-comics.com. This SMBC gets at something that's often bothered me about the way many people talk about the block universe concept. The block universe is the idea that if the universe is fully deterministic, then its entire history from beginning to end exists in an … Continue reading The block universe is interesting, but not comforting
I voted. I did early voting, although I would have preferred to have voted by mail. However, my state's Republican dominated legislature did everything they could to prevent that. The state only offered mail-in voting after they lost a lawsuit, and then only for relatively narrow cases. To do it, I would have had to … Continue reading Voting in the general election, 2020 edition
Michael Levin and Daniel Dennett have an interesting article up at Aeon, on the right way to talk about purpose and cognition in biology, particularly in simple organisms and lower level mechanisms. The core thesis is that an organism, at any level, all the way down to a single cell, is an agent, with its … Continue reading The beginnings of purpose
Anyone who's ever interacted with a wild animal knows how skittish they are compared to any domestic animal. I think of the squirrels on my university's campus. In general, people leave the squirrel population alone there, so they tend not to be afraid of humans. Although there are still occasional predators, such as cats, dogs, … Continue reading The centrality of fear in nature