Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Another entry in the Public Address Medical Journal

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    PS: and a tonic for the NZ film industry - The EczeMen franchise starts here - casting tips anyone?

    Hasn't Michael Gambon already definitively scratched all Dennis Potter's itches?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    So weird: I was just listening to the Singing Detective OST this morning. Yeah, as far as 'films about debilitating skin conditions' go, that's the last word. (The only word?)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    ‘Delta Dawnn, wots that flau-wa you have on…'

    Wow. My lifelong fondness for massive 70s country-pop hits is explained by this. I was brainwashed at a young age!

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But do you get my point about asexual vs sexual reproduction? I guess the point I'm making is that you seem to be arguing that asexual reproduction would avoid mutation and hence confer an advantage, but I think that one of the reasons that most species use sexual reproduction is because this isn't so.

    I agree, asexual replication doesn't mean there will be no copying errors. Perhaps it was Rich who was saying that?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    but I think that one of the reasons that most species use sexual reproduction is because this isn't so.

    I prefer to think it is because (a) its more fun and (b) the Cosmic Ironist in the Sky thought it would be a good way to both give us some light relief from existence and also to mess with our heads.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Tell that to this lonely dugong and 'fanstastic bloke'.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    But isn't metaphysics by definition not the concern of scientists? At least in the current setup, I mean.

    Yes, but it's a situation which begs for a 'why' question - why are they separate?

    Ask enough 'why' questions from either a scientific perspective or a metaphysical perspective (or religious), and you start getting convergence towards the vanishing point - 'why are we here?'

    How is the journey, why is the reason.

    Yes. Gio's question was entirely on point, though.

    There is considerable overlap between 'why?' and 'how?' when you are looking at what is directly in front of your face.

    But when you start looking beyond the immediate, the difference between 'why' and 'how' gets a bit more important. 'Why are we here?' is a completely different question from 'how are we here?'

    The best answer to 'why' that science can currently offer is, as Mr Jones pointed out:

    [shrug] That's how things came out in the Big Bang.

    But why did the big bang happen? In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God? A troubling thought if you're a filthy non-believer like me.

    Perhaps it was Rich who was saying that?

    Not me. Merely noting that there are built-in copying errors, but that we cannot adequately explain why that is the case.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Yes, but it's a situation which begs for a 'why' question - why are they separate?

    Isn't that what the enlightenment is based on? Science and technology shall henceforth be the means of describing and manipulating the material world; let religion and philosophy deal with the metaphysical stuff. You don't trust a scientist to tell you why, nor a priest or a philosopher to tell you how. It's where we're at.

    I'm not saying it's not open to critique, and we could always go back to the Aristotelean model, of course - will you join me in lobbying Jake?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Dawkins has a go at the non-overlapping magisterium thesis Giovanni's just expressed. Can't remember the details, but it made sense at the time (a brave atheist reads Dawkins on a plane).

    And I'm not a Mr, Rich. Most blokes don't get homeopathy foisted on them via pregnancy care books. Unless there's been a miracle of modern medicine, of course :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Isn't that what the enlightenment is based on? Science and technology shall henceforth be the means of describing and manipulating the material world; let religion and philosophy deal with the metaphysical stuff. You don't trust a scientist to tell you why, nor a priest or a philosopher to tell you how. It's where we're at.

    Civiliation has almost reached a stage where we're getting all tangled up in string theory, and searching for particles that may or may not even exist in theory. Most of the cutting edge stuff in physics these days doesn't really seem to have much to do with 'the material world'.

    Perhaps we need to start thinking about a bit of reconvergence?

    Just a thought.

    I'm also trying to think of a way to work in a good prog rock joke
    . Someone help me out?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    And I'm not a Mr, Rich.

    Many apologies.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Dawkins has a go at the non-overlapping magisterium thesis Giovanni's just expressed. Can't remember the details, but it made sense at the time (a brave atheist reads Dawkins on a plane).

    Can you remember the gist, or the book? Some evolutionary psychologists do claim to have worked out what conscience and sentience actually are, and to be able to "explain" the mind and hence our humanity. Is that what you mean?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    It was The God Delusion, and it was more about how religion makes claims about reality all the time, and we should call it on it. Not quite what you're after.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    I agree, asexual replication doesn't mean there will be no copying errors. Perhaps it was Rich who was saying that?

    No, you were very clear about this from the start - even in asexual reproduction there will be occasional mutations when the copying goes slightly wrong. But you seemed to be arguing that asexual reproduction would have an evolutionary advantage over sexual reproduction, as it wouldn't have the problem of mutations reducing the fitness of individuals. That's the position I was arguing against.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It was The God Delusion, and it was more about how religion makes claims about reality all the time, and we should call it on it. Not quite what you're after.

    As I recall, Dawkins did give non-overlapping magisteria as expressed by Levy a right old kicking in one chapter, so that'll be the one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    I agree Jack.

    Giovanni was arguing that :

    Since it's statistically better for the individual not to mutate (most mutations are bad for ya), it increases your chances of reproduction. Hence if it was somehow possible for a "stop mutating" mutation to develop, it would give an advantage to the carriers, and soon enough nobody would mutate anymore.

    But, as Kyle so succinctly put it :

    Until their failure to mutate led to them all dying out from their environment changing or something.

    So, the survival of species over long periods of time requires a diverse population, hence the prevalence of sexual reproduction. A "stop mutating" mutation may give a species an advantage for a time, but in the long haul they would die out when they failed to adapt to a changed environment, or competition. Hence, mutations do give advantages to species, albeit not to individuals. Although Natural Selection works on individuals, its success or failure is measured by the long term effect on the group as a whole (see Unit of Selection).

    There is no why to it. It just happens that way. Evolution is a lottery. Some species win, some do not - but buying lots of different tickets increases your chances.

    Cheers,
    Brent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    As Douglas Adams said :

    I can imagine Newton sitting down and working out his laws of motion and figuring out the way the Universe works and with him, a cat wandering around. The reason we had no idea how cats worked was because, since Newton, we had proceeded by the very simple principle that essentially, to see how things work, we took them apart. If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have in your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life', something that had a mysterious essence about it, was god given - and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made of anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well. But also, we have no opportunity to see this stuff at work. In a sense Darwin was like Newton, in that he was the first person to see underlying principles, that really were not at all obvious, from the everyday world in which he lived. We had to think very hard to understand the nature of what was happening around us and we had no clear, obvious everyday examples of evolution to point to. Even today that persists as a slightly tricky problem if you're trying to persuade somebody who doesn't believe in all this evolution stuff and wants you to show him an example - they are hard to find in terms of everyday observation.

    (I recommend reading the entire speech).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    The major section of the God Delusion dealing with non overlapping magesteria is titltled NOMA and starts halfway down page 54. If you're curious it's at google books.

    Basic idea is that the magesteria don't overlap cos theology doesn't cover anything at all.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I tend to view the whole why question under these circumstances as a human conceit .

    We have brains that tend to analyse, seek patterns and look for causality. It seems like a human-centric view of the universe/life/whatever to seek a reason for why we are here, or 'why does evolution occur' and that seems inappriopriate. Looking out to the stars at night I try to accept that we are here, & we are what we are, purely by chance. That of the gazillions of atoms swirling about, some of them have become arranged into us.

    And given the way that our species is treating the planet I see us as a temporary construct only.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Stewart - I'm quite well aware that in the greater scheme of things my existence is effectively meaningless. I came from nothing, and i will return to nothing, and the universe won't even notice.

    But I am human, and therefore find it difficult to look at the world in any other way than through the eyes of a human. Which means that I will take my small (and insignificant and meaningless) pleasures where I can get them. Like thinking about this stuff and asking questions.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Hey, Rich, my somewhat garbled little post was in no way directed at or against anyone else's post or, indeed, their philosophy.

    You seem to have taken offence, for which I apologise.

    I was just 'setting out my stall' and indicating where my own personal viewpoint sits. I tend to be somewhat saddened by the throngs who think that 'we' are the pinnacle and the objective of evolution and I was explaining that I view my/our existence as a 'happy chance' rather than something pre-ordained by any religious or evolutionary force.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    That's "happy chance" for us individually, but probably more irksome for the planet as a whole.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    And given the way that our species is treating the planet I see us as a temporary construct only.

    Even if we were the best planetary custodians in the universe, there's bugger all we could do if an asteroid hit us, or the sun burned off the atmosphere. Unless we find ourselves another planet to wreck/terraform, we're toast no matter what we do. Given a long enough timeframe, that is. It's like the ad for Survivor - all of the people on this episode will die....eventually.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    You seem to have taken offence, for which I apologise.

    And apologies in return if I came across as a little more testy and blunt than I intended. I took no offence, just clarifying my own position in response.

    I tend to be somewhat saddened by the throngs who think that 'we' are the pinnacle and the objective of evolution and I was explaining that I view my/our existence as a 'happy chance' rather than something pre-ordained by any religious or evolutionary force.

    And I pretty much entirely agree. We're here, and we are what we are. Don't get too hung up on the meaning of existence, just squeeze as much joy out of it while you can.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    That's "happy chance" for us individually, but probably more irksome for the planet as a whole.

    The planet will get on just fine, plus or minus (okay, minus) a few species. Then new life forms will emerge, and evolve, and maybe one of them will become as poisonous for themselves and the others as we are, but perhaps this time they'll manage to develop the Green Party in time.

    We should probably leave a monolith somewhere etched with the Greens charter.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

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