Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What is your Law? (Part II)

Once again, these are taken from the Edge site:
On any important topic, we tend to have a dim idea of what we hope to be true, and when an author writes the words we want to read, we tend to fall for it, no matter how shoddy the arguments. Needy readers have an asymptote at illiteracy; if a text doesn't say the one thing they need to read, it might as well be in a foreign language. To be open-minded, you have to recognize, and counteract, your own doxastic hungers. – Dan Dennett

Science is the discovery of ignorance. It is not a catalog of facts.
Experience affects an organism largely by switching genes on and off. (Nurture works through nature.) – Matt Ridley

Frames trump facts. - George Lakoff

Moderation in levels of partnered sex activity is the mode for the bulk of humankind and is consistent with high levels of subjective well-being. - Edward O. Laumann

Be wary of scientific dualisms. - Nancy Etcoff

In every period and every community there is something that everybody believes, but cannot justify. If you want to understand anything, you have to start by ignoring what everyone believes, and thinking for yourself. - Lee Smolin
Time does exist. – Lee Smolin

The anthropic principle in cosmology is just a (silly) corollary of the anthropic principle in religion: We are, therefore god is.
We are not the source of the laws of nature. Nature is, whether we are or not. - Maria Spiropulu

The change of a physical field at a given point is not measured by time but by the changes of all the other physical fields at the same point. To determine a rate of change, one does not divide an infinitesimal change by an infinitesimal time interval but by the weighted average of all the other changes at the same point. This ensures that an invisible time can play no role in the dynamics of the universe.[time does not exist] - Julian Barbour

If you find that most other people, upon closer inspection, seem to be somewhat comical or ludicrous, it is highly probable that most other people find that you are in fact comical or ludicrous. So you don't have to hide it, they already know. - Tor Nørretranders
The difficulty in understanding new ideas originating from science or art is not intellectual, but emotional; good ideas are simple and clear, but if they are truly new, they will be hard to swallow. It is not difficult to understand that the Earth is not at the center of the Universe, but it is hard to believe it. Science is simple, simply strange. - Tor Nørretranders

In everyday life, one's anticipated emotions regarding a decision is a better guide than rational deliberation. Brain science is increasingly appreciating the centrality of emotions as guides to life, and emotions are typically more in line with one's wishes than rational deliberation, which can be easily disconnected from one's desires and goals. The upshot: deliberation is cheap, emotions are honest. - Steve Quartz

We have the tools for the first time in the history of humanity to answer virtually any question about biology and our own evolution. - J. Craig Venter

God cannot lose.
Lemma 1
When comprehension expands, gods contract—but then redefine themselves to restore the status quo.
Lemma 2
When things go right, God will be thanked. When things go wrong, he will be thanked that they are not worse.
Lemma 3
Belief in the afterlife can only be proved right, never wrong.
Lemma 4
The fury with which untenable beliefs are defended is inversely proportional to their defensibility
– Richard Dawkins

Everything is relative.
Everything (which is relative). - David Finkelstein

Time does not pass. – Paul Davies

Nature and nurture are not in opposition; nature is what makes nurture possible. - Gary Marcus

Life's unfolding is a tapestry in which every new thread is contingent upon the nature, timing, and interweaving of virtually all previous threads. - Scott Sampson
Any sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. - Michael Shermer

We take life 3 seconds at a time. Human experience and behaviour is characterized by temporal segmentation. Successive segments or "time windows" have a duration of approx. 3 seconds. - Ernst Pöppel

Human life is unique in being the result of three coevolving information inheritance systems: genes, minds and technology. - Robert Aunger

The universe is a quantum computer: life, sex, the brain, and human society all arise out of the ability of the universe to process information at the level of atoms, photons and elementary particles. - Seth Lloyd

Even though human nature is dynamic, you must find a way to think of it as being distinct from the rest of nature. - Jaron Lanier
You can't have a categorical imperative without categories. Or, You can't have a golden rule without gold. You have to draw a Circle of Empathy around yourself and others in order to be moral. If you include too much in the circle, you become incompetent, while if you include too little you become cruel. This is the "Normal form" of the eternal liberal/conservative dichotomy. - Jaron Lanier
You can't rely completely on the level of rationality humans are able to achieve to decide what to put inside the circle. People are demonstrably insane when it comes to attributing nonhuman sentience, as can be seen at any dog show. - Jaron Lanier

Everything leaks.
There are no clear-cut level distinctions in nature. Neural software bleeds into neural firmware, neural firmware bleeds into neural hardware, psychology bleeds into biology and biology bleeds into physics. Body bleeds into mind and mind bleeds into world. Philosophy bleeds into science and science bleeds back. The idea of levels is a useful fiction, great for hygienic text-book writing and quick answers that defend our local turf but seldom advance scientific understanding. - Andy Clark

Humans are engineered to seek for laws, whether or not they're actually there. - Chris Anderson

No language spoken by fewer than 100,000 people survives contact with the outside world, while no language spoken by more than one million people can be eliminated by such contact. - Stuart Pimm

The future is over-forecasted and underpredicted. - Art De Vany

The ability to learn is inversely proportional to years of school, adjusted for hormones. - Alison Gopnik

Try to know where and how your thoughts arise and always give credit to your teachers. - Raphael Kasper

People's desire to believe in the paranormal is stronger than all the evidence that it does not exist. – Susan Blackmore
Humans are not in control of the web; the memes are. - Susan Blackmore

We don't learn that we don't learn. - Nassim Taleb

To understand any apparently baffling behavior by another human, ask: what status game is this individual playing, to show off which heritable traits, in which mating market? – Geoffrey Miller
People who don't understand genetics attribute their personal failings to the inane role models offered by their parents.
People who do understand genetics attribute their personal failings to the inane mate-choice decisions made by their parents. - Geoffrey Miller

The past can only be known, not changed. The future can only be changed, not known. - Stewart Brand

The individual and the group are not as separate as they appear to be. A part of each mind spills over into the minds of other people, who help us think and regulate our emotions. - Steven Kosslyn

For religion (i.e., for most humans in all human societies), the more costly one's commitment to some factually absurd but barely counterintuitive world (e.g., afterlife), the more others believe that person to be sincere and trustworthy. - Scott Atran

A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like a form of propaganda — often persuasive, almost always wrong. - Pamela McCorduck

Buyer beware: in the hands of a charlatan, mathematics can be used to make a vacuous argument look impressive. (So can PowerPoint.) - Keith Devlin

For any experience, thought, question, or solution there is a corresponding analog in the biophysical state of the brain. - Arnold Trehub

The Universe includes no contrary laws. - Michael Nesmith

The surest truth is that some of our beliefs err. - David G. Myers
Most people see themselves as better than average. - David G. Myers

The brain is what the brain creates. Its workings reflect the workings of everything it creates. - Todd Siler

Words should be your servants, not your masters. - Marvin Minsky
Don't just do something. Stand there. - Marvin Minsky

Any Universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind able to understand it. - John Barrow

Power, understanding, control. Pick any two. - Kevin Kelly
Nobody is as smart as everybody. - Kevin Kelly

People often note some unlikely conjunction of events and marvel at the coincidence. Could anything be more wonderfully improbable, they wonder. The answer is Yes. The most amazing coincidence of all would be the complete absence of coincidence. - John Allen Paulos

Time Does Not Exist
Contrary to what generally assumed, the physical world does not exist "in time". At the basic microscopic level, the world is better described in terms of a a-temporal theory, where physical laws do not express time evolution of physical variables, but just relations between variables. Time emerges only thermodynamically when describing macroscopic variables. Therefore time is only a side effect of our ignorance of the microscopic state of the world. "Time is a side effect of ignorance."
Space Does Not Exist
The physical world does not exist "in space". The physical world is made by an ensemble of particles and fields, which do not live in an external space, but rather live "on each other", and which can be in a relation of contiguity with respect to one another. "Space" is the order implied by this relation. These two principles are implied by what we have learned about the physical world with general relativity and with quantum mechanics. The second principle is largely a return to the Pre-Newtonian relational understanding of space, while the first has few antecendents in our culture. - Carlo Rovelli

The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. - Alan Mulally

Because people understand by finding in their memories the closest possible match to what they are hearing and use that match as the basis of comprehension, any new idea will be treated as a variant of something the listener has already thought of or heard. Agreement with a new idea means a listener has already had a similar thought and well appreciates that the speaker has recognized his idea. Disagreement means the opposite. Really new ideas are incomprehensible. The good news is that for some people, failure to comprehend is the beginning of understanding. For most, of course, it is the beginning of dismissal. - Roger Schank

Happy people are those who do not pass up an opportunity to laugh at themselves or to make love with someone else. Unhappy people are those who get this backwards. - Daniel Gilbert

The mind consists of genetically-determined hardware and experientially-determined software. The hardware components are not constructed by genes working either individually or additively but, rather, by groups of genes working sequentially and configurally. Each human mating produces at least some gene configurations that are unique, having never occurred previously. This is why, among other things, human genius often occurs uniquely in an otherwise undistinguished family line. - David Lykken

There are no true stories. - James J. O'Donnell
Pecca fortiter.
Literally, "Sin bravely." [Luther’s] idea was that you're going to make a mess of things anyway, so you might as well do so boldly, confidently, with a little energy and imagination, rather than timidly, fearfully, half-heartedly. - James J. O'Donnell

When things "all hang together," you have either gotten the joke, solved the puzzle, argued in a circle, focused your chain of logic so narrowly that you will be blindsided—or discovered a hidden pattern in nature. Science, in large part, consists of imagining coherent solutions and then making sure that you weren't fooled by a false coherence as in astrology. - William H. Calvin


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