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Comment author: ErnstMuller 15 April 2011 07:34:30PM 11 points [-]

You write "The evolutionary reasons for this are so obvious as to be worth belaboring: In the ancestral environment, politics was a matter of life and death."

Is there any evidence for that? That sounds much like the typical sort of sociobiologistic hypothesis which sounds so convincing that no one really thinks about it and just nods in agreement. So, are there any papers, experiments, mathematical models to back it up?

I would rather more suggest a hypothesis that it was (and is) very favorable for humans in terms of fitness to belong to a certain group of people and stick to that group - whether that group is a sports team, a class at school or a political party.

Well, I wouldn't dare to disagree with the rest of your article. Just that choosing of a political party has nothing to do with actual politics, just with sticking to a group.

Comment author: omeganaut 16 May 2011 07:56:33PM 2 points [-]

Citystates in Greece had to deal with politics that certainly could mean life or death. When the Peloponnesian war broke out, states had to take sides, or risk being hated by both sides, and at risk for invasion and conquering. Rome around the time of Julius Caesar was turbulent, and where supporting the wrong Tribune could mean being put on a wanted list and killed by a bounty hunter when they came to power. In Germany, choosing the wrong side at the wrong time could certainly result in execution for heresay or treason. There are many examples throughout history where competing political views transferred into violence and killing, if not outright war.

Comment author: thomblake 11 May 2011 08:03:10PM 4 points [-]

You use quarks as your one example of something that is not emergent. However, how can you prove that quarks are not a system of smaller interacting particles?

This misses the point. 'Quarks' were a stand-in for whatever particle you take to be fundamental; if there's something smaller than quarks, that does not defeat the notion that it is unhelpful to describe the action of the stock market in terms of its non-quarkness.

As for emergence, the way I understand Emergence based on this post and the comments is that emergence is a result of the parts of a system interacting with one another, possibly limited to those event that were not predicted.

In what way is this a useful concept? In particular, having not been predicted is a feature of the predictor, not so much of the event, and so attaching the adjective to the event invites thinking wrongly that 'emergence' is fundamental to the event.

insisting that a word is terrible just because it was used wrong by some people is obviously an ad hominem argument.

It is not an ad hominem argument. I know that because you club baby seals and you claimed it was an ad hominem argument; therefore, it is not an ad hominem argument. The previous sentence is an example of an ad-hominem argument. There are of course other varieties of ad hominem, but it isn't any of those either.

Just because some people use it wrongly does not mean it can't be used correctly, and replacing it with magical is simply non sequitor.

It is really not a non-sequitor. The point is that 'emergent' tells you about as much about the phenomenon as 'mysterious'. It doesn't communicate much more than "I don't understand why this happened" - as you grant above.

Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 06:58:32PM 0 points [-]

Now that I have read more articles, I understand that most of my issues were due to taking the words with my definition and not hers. The result is that the article seems to be against those with different definitions of emergent, even though there is most likely more than one common definition of emergent, and no definition was previously selected as the correct one.

Comment author: thomblake 11 May 2011 07:49:33PM *  2 points [-]

You're missing the point. 'Elan vital' was not even a theory of why life is different from non-life; it was merely a statement of the observation that life is different from non-life.

  • "Why are living things different from nonliving things?"
  • "Elan vital! (Where 'elan vital' is defined as 'whatever causes living things to be different from nonliving things')"

This exchange has not improved anyone's understanding of life, but it is actually worse since it feels like you've explained something and so it's a "curiosity-stopper".

Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 06:48:18PM 3 points [-]

How is that a curiosity stopper. Either someone is satisfied with that explanation (like science), or they want to know more about elan vital. Then someone will find that the answer to what elan vital is is either mystical (and therefore bringing religion into the equation) or not known, in which case a curious person would want to find out how Elan vital functions, leading to new discoveries. Similarly now we have forces at the atomic level that we don't understand how they function, and yet quantum theory is generally accepted as truth. How is this different than Elan Vital at the time?

In response to Savanna Poets
Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 06:26:38PM 0 points [-]

The problem with talking about Jupiter being a ball of gas, is that it cannot feel, and emotion is the primary goal of poetry. You certainly can have stories that endure science, but putting a story on Jupiter is not changing the story much at all. One example that I personally enjoy is Star Trek. It dealt with issues in a different way, but they were still the same issues affecting current society. I fail to understand what you are asking future poets to do. Emotion is the same, the only thing poets can do is change the setting.

Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 06:06:01PM 0 points [-]

The disconnect here appears to derive from the fact that reductionists have models of the interactions of particles in their minds, which as a system produce the reality we observe directly. Anti-reductionists fail to see that reductionists are accepting the larger model while saying it is composed of items that are not all the same. Also, many are not ready to be able to have a model of reality in which the tiger is composed of interactions that are unbelievably small and have no particular connection to a tiger. When a hostile anti-reductionist attacks reductionism, a reductionist learn to accept that some people have difficulty seeing a rainbow as anything other than a whole rainbow, and cannot see that the systems that make up a rainbow are not modeled so that they are part of a rainbow. The goal should be to agree to disagree, that reductionists can continue to see their component systems, and anti-reductionists can focus on the system as a whole.

Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 05:38:46PM 0 points [-]

"Or here's a very similar problem: Let's say I have four cards, the ace of hearts, the ace of spades, the two of hearts, and the two of spades. I draw two cards at random. You ask me, "Are you holding at least one ace?" and I reply "Yes." What is the probability that I am holding a pair of aces? It is 1/5. There are six possible combinations of two cards, with equal prior probability, and you have just eliminated the possibility that I am holding a pair of twos. Of the five remaining combinations, only one combination is a pair of aces. So 1/5." For future reference the initial phrase "I have four cards" may imply that you have in your possession those cards already. Combined with the fact that you draw two cards afterwords implies that you now have six cards. The simple fact that you are using cards implies that you are using a full deck of 52 cards, unless you specifically say there are only certain cards in play. I just want to clear that up because I had to reread that section a few times before I understood how you came up with your figures.

In response to Why truth? And...
Comment author: omeganaut 12 May 2011 03:24:46PM 1 point [-]

I'll be honest, I have a serious problem with hypocrites, and so I warn everyone I know if they start heading down that path. In your article, you say that morality is perhaps the most suspect method of rationality. Yet, you yourself, by putting up these articles and arguing that everyone should use rational thought, seem to have a moral motivation for rationality. I am not saying that this is your only motivation, but it seems to be the motivation behind these posts. However, I do appreciate that you respect morality by mentioning how important it is in pursuing paths that will not result in horrible consequences. I think that maybe you should allow yourself to admit that morality is a good motivator if used with other good types of motivations to seek truth.

In response to Applause Lights
Comment author: J_Thomas 12 September 2007 01:15:13AM 0 points [-]

"The democracy booster probably meant that people with little political power should not be ignored. And that's not an empty statement; people with little political power are ignored all the time."

But isn't it precisely the people with little political power who can most safely be ignored?

In response to comment by J_Thomas on Applause Lights
Comment author: omeganaut 11 May 2011 08:08:18PM 0 points [-]

But that in now way implies that they should be ignored.

Comment author: omeganaut 11 May 2011 07:45:40PM -1 points [-]

You use quarks as your one example of something that is not emergent. However, how can you prove that quarks are not a system of smaller interacting particles? String theory seems to propose that quarks can be broken into smaller pieces which are strings. Maybe its the interaction of the strings that cause the overall action of the quark?
As for emergence, the way I understand Emergence based on this post and the comments is that emergence is a result of the parts of a system interacting with one another, possibly limited to those event that were not predicted. Of course, just because someone uses this inappropriately, does not mean that its wrong. In fact, insisting that a word is terrible just because it was used wrong by some people is obviously an ad hominem argument. Just because some people use it wrongly does not mean it can't be used correctly, and replacing it with magical is simply non sequitor. I could replace every "explanation" in your article with "Magic", and it would make about as much sense. Resorting to such fallacious arguments is not the way to prove your point.

Comment author: omeganaut 11 May 2011 07:13:23PM 1 point [-]

While I understand how there are some questions that cannot be completely answered, I feel as though you have chosen to ignore the fact that science at that time was inadequate to really understand the underlying science. Even today there is no complete understanding of any field, just educated guesses based on experiments and observations. Elan vital was just one theory of attempting to describe why life happens, and it was based on the fact that life had something more than un-living matter. However, further experiments altered this theory. Would you say the same thing about Quantum Theory, or the Electromagnetic Spectrum, or even E=mc^2? So far, those theories, while truthful when modeling current events, have not been conclusively proven. However, by aggressively insinuating that anyone who uses a theory that has not be uncategorically proven as fact is lacking in rational thought, then you belittle the field of science and all that it has achieved.

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