Monday, February 26, 2007

Amicus, Amicus, Amicus... (sigh)

Amicus wrote:
"If you *want* me to go away, just say so."

No, no, stick around if you want, I really don't care. I see you getting into debates with others here in the comments sections and you should feel free to continue them. But you're going to have to get use to me mocking you when you write things like:

"...perhaps their "religion" truly is to kneel at the alter of a rationality for which they presuppose too much (if it were so evident, why the stridency?)..."

I'm going to have to ask; just how many rationalities are there on your planet? Normally people on Earth talk about rationality as if there were only one, but you say "a rationality" like there is more than one rationality. How many are there and what do you call them?

I'm not going to bother debating that with you. I'll let others do that. I can't keep up with all the religious stupidity out there. Just today I found Deepak Chopra has his new blog post at the Huffington Post, Why Robots Love Music (Part 1), and I haven't even bothered to read it yet.

And conservative Christian Rev. Jerry Falwell is out there using his position as a religious authority to expose the nefarious secret agenda of the global climate changers; to economically destroy America, to distract attention from the fact that the whole world is morally bankrupt and from its core mission of hating gays.

And Guardian has that article on Faith. And the pope is bitching about genetic engineering.

It's all more than I can deal with.

I'm not sure my blog is going to do you much good. I'm going to continue to be as snarky, cynical and darkly humorous as I can manage in regards to religion. But if you want to hang around and write stuff like this:

"... so you say that 'love' is (not probably, but certainly) a chemical reaction, perhaps humility, too. On your rational accounting, love simply is, it exists (physiologically). But that doesn't answer the important question of whether it is valuable,..."

Be my guest. I might tell you a little, like how emotions are an important measure of most values because we value what makes us feel good. On the first foundational, selfish level value is all about feeling good. That is why drug addiction is such a hard problem -- the drugs make us feel good, so good they block out our ability to apply more rationally determined values. Feelings trump reason because reason is first and foremost a tool of our emotions and reason then gets used to find and sneak drugs into your rehab.

To apply rationally determined values you have to use reason to try to look ahead at where you are going to be in a year, a decade, and then at what you'll leave behind when your life is over.

And you ask:

"...what people should do about, particularly, if anything."

You should think about what makes you feel good and then look at what reason can tell you about where you'll be in the future and where the people and things you care about will be.

You say:
Hate has pysiological components, too.

And that's one of the reason's there are wars and crimes of aggression. Just look at many of the movies Hollywood produces, and at the violent video games. We like to hate, it's rewarding. We like the feel of using power. That too has evolutionary roots -- you tell me why it would have theological roots?

War and aggression have been fueling our societal evolution. A point made in a book called, "The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History." Why would a kind and lovoing Christian God give us such an emotion?

So, taking all that together, it wouldn't be so terribly odd to say that
'rationality' is silent on important questions.

Nope. You're wrong. It has a lot to say and I'm only scratching the surface. also write this: "Evolutionary psychology views the mind (and mind is what the brain does) as a collection of evolved, domain-specific programs arranged in a fairly chaotic cognitive architecture. Each is functionally specialized for solving a different adaptive problem that arose during hominid evolution."

To your way of thinking, how does one disprove this 'theory'?

You find an anomaly that the theory can not account for. That's what Deepak Chopra appears to be trying with his new post on music.

I'm not saying that cognative evolutionary theory is 'bunk', altogether.
The reason I'm asking is that such theories are not quite the same as determining the melting point of a metal, are they?

You don't seem to know the difference between theory and data.

Determining the melting point of metal hardly takes any more theory than you need to get a metal to melt in a furnace and a way to measure the temperature. That's not really an example of a "theory." People started doing that back when they thought heat and cold were two different fluid substances. Theories about melting metal don't start until after you get that data point and note that different metals (and alloys) melt at different temperatures then you can really start establishing theories about the melting of metal. And it's not just that metals melt, it is also how they melt, what viscosities they have when they melt under what atmospheric pressures, etc..

Real theories about melting metal are complex, taking into account the very atomic structure of the metal. They'll talk about "phase transitions" because when sufficiently heated, and a metal melts at a certain temperature that can be called a "phase transition."

The people who would know about theories of melting metal are manufacturers of things like electrical solder, welding equipment, and metal casting plants. Melting in general might bring in food manufacturers, for example, Mark Mostoller, Ted Kaplan, and Kun Chen used computer simulations to describe how chocolate melts in our mouths.

The people who would know about emotions are marketing and advertising people, maybe movie makers and computer game makers who employ psychologists and neurophysiologists. Maybe, today, economists too. In classic economic theory, (in this oversimplified argument of mine), it was all about rational self interest, but many choices people make are irrational and inconsistent. Classical economists struggled to explain our irrational economic behavior: Why don't people save enough for retirement? Why do people smoke cigarettes when we have evidence of the long-term negative effects? Why leave tips for some strangers, like waiters and waitresses, but not others, like the cashier at 7/11 who doesn't make much more? Emotions play a larger role in explaining human behavior than classic economics acknowledge. We tend to choose immediate gratification despite larger longer term costs or rewards if we delayed gratification.

Psychologists test this stuff, they do experiments; they come up with complex theories. We see that the emotional human brain has a hard time imagining the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions. Your emotional brain wants to max out the credit card and order a banana split with whipped cream. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a bike ride and quit eating so much ice cream.

Our behavior is not always motivated by reason; our emotions play a huge role in determining our behavior--that emotional drive to chose a banana split compels us to choose that over doing sit ups, despite being aware that sit ups provide a greater reward in the long term.

Marketing groups and advertisers know we want immediate rewards and they study which parts of the brain are activated when we do it. They also study decisions people make that are associated with abstract reasoning. Evolutionary psychology might help them get a grip on what's happening.

1 comment:

Amicus said...

Atheists talk about rationality, sometimes, as if it is going to "save" people (from Hell?), almost in a parallel fashion to how theists talk about God saving people.

They tend to want to find Truth only in scientific theories, some of which seem non-disprovable, and 'rationality' applied to ethics, which we've seen on the other pages isn't quite as conclusive as it is promised to be and has its own unique problems.

For myself, it seems that quite a few athiests have a false confidence in that Truth so conceived - or that they lie to themselves by overstating the case for it (one could speculate that this occurs when they are so "fed-up" with religion, because of some personal negative experience, that they "throw" themselves in another direction, almost blindly).

Accordingly, we might say there are features of their system of belief that look religious, and, as I did, one could apply the rhetorical flourish, "kneel at the altar of rationality" to cover it.

If none of that makes any sense, you could still answer the question about how one would disprove the Cognative Evolutionary Theory that you suggested applies.