Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Te Qaeda and the God Squad

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  • stephen clover,

    Speaking of dodges, nobody has addressed my point that other species (primates, beavers) use technology extensively yet have no artistic expression.

    Doesn't that rather undermine your whole argument?

    wgtn • Since Sep 2007 • 355 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I said:

    Winston Churchill did NOT say that democracy was the worst form of government.

    Here's what he actually said:

    ... with a link to the (ahem) right quote.

    And Jeremy Andrew said:

    Yup, that's what I linked to as well.

    So I'm saying, SORRY.

    Actually I was going to call him on it as well, but you beat me to it. His use of the quote, missing the end of it, totally changed what Churchill was saying. Talk about taking a quote out of context.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    If Danyl and a bunch of other people were in a forest next to a fallen down tree arguing about whether art or technology...

    I took David's original claim about 'art' to mean actual art, ie painting, sculpture etc, given that his next post on the topic claimed:

    Art history is the physical record of the communication of ideas between people. Even a cursory look should tell you how powerful it is. Art has formed our world.

    So those of you who started on about books, I think you left David's track a while back. Points to Danyl.

    I'm sure actual art has played a role in communication of ideas, but so have, y'know, books. Letters. Plays. Movies. Newspapers. etc etc. Darwin wrote this wee tome which apparently got some people thinking, and at some stage some guys wrote this thing called 'The Bible' which some people apparently find influential. Martin Luther King. Shakespeare. The New York Times apparently has some impact in the world.

    I'm going to put the written word higher on the list for communication of ideas and affecting society for evermore than art. Spoken word has done fairly well too. TV's up there. Art, down the list.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    I'm not sure why we're positing any necessary causal link from some possibly mythical single "invention of art", to evolution of cognitive skills, to "science".

    Firstly, this presupposes a dichotomy between "art" and "science/ technology" that many of the more famous practitioners (da Vinci, Newton, Einstein) managed to do without. These areas may not consist of entirely separate skill sets; rather, they may employ them for different purposes. (For that reason, I don't think we can get away with simply redefining "art" as "imagination" [as Stephen Clover seems to do above]; imagination has many uses.)

    Secondly, this separate or sequenced development isn't a pattern we generally see re-enacted in child learning (as we might expect if this were the result of some hierarchy of complexity). Children are naturally curious about the world, in terms of understanding it (which presumably is the main scientific drive), at the same time if not earlier than making pictorial or verbal representations of it (which presumably is the main artistic drive). Artistic and scientific skills seem to develop together, with both being informed by cognitive skills.

    Thirdly, if you're making this an evolutionary argument: science and art -- and, indeed, language (though I'm not going to make any claims about the relative chronology of the development of language vs other transmitted cultural phenomena) -- are primarily cultural phenomena, not biological phenomena. The human brain hasn't changed structurally to any great extent in the past hundred thousand years. So it seems most likely that the brain first reached a level of complexity sufficient to allow abstract thought about entities removed in space and/or time from the thinker, thus enabling representations of real and unreal situations -- whether these ended up being used for pictorial representations on walls, or improved stone tool designs. (That is, art and science are ... almost certainly ... both symptoms of a pre-existing cognitive potential, rather than the cause of any development.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    __And Jeremy Andrew said:

    Yup, that's what I linked to as well.

    So I'm saying, SORRY.__

    Actually I was going to call him on it as well, but you beat me to it. His use of the quote, missing the end of it, totally changed what Churchill was saying. Talk about taking a quote out of context.

    No apologies necessary, It was deliberate (of course) I figured a fair ichunk of the readership here would recognise the quote immediately, and anyone who didn't, and thought it might bolster their argument would either follow the linky and feel silly, or recycle my abridgement and look silly.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    The art is in the idea, not the medium of execution.

    I have the idea that families are a mixed blessing but I doubt my ability to write King Lear. There is no artist who does not use skills and techniques to express ideas although that has sadly become the ruling dogma in many art schools.

    science and art -- and, indeed, language (though I'm not going to make any claims about the relative chronology of the development of language vs. other transmitted cultural phenomena) -- are primarily cultural phenomena, not biological phenomena.

    Language, as in the language ability, is most certainly biological. You would need to be more precise about how science is cultural. It is not cultural in the sense that different cultures have different science - that is not true. But whether or not science is an expression of the human mind (and hence of a broader "human culture"), as distinct from Platonism, the jury is still out. I'm inclined to think that science is to an extent a projection of the human mind -the mind being a tool build to survive in this world it must have a reasonable understanding of the world. Ian Stewart's next book looks at this.

    The invention of art was what drove the development of the cognitive and physical skill base on which all subsequent technological progress is based.
    Being able to physically materialize abstract thought in symbolic form enabled writing and maths, without which science is impossible. That doesn't make all subsequent symbolic representations -

    All you have done is re-define Art as abstract thought. There are other possible definitions and many people would argue that abstract thought is not equivalent to Art but that Art was an expression of forms of abstract thought. In terms of evolution, abstract thought evolved, in conjunction with language, in response to the needs of existing in social groups. Art came later.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    "Language, as in the language ability, is most certainly biological"

    Neil: yes. I phrased that badly. To clarify the distinction: the cognitive ability to process language is biological (and, I strongly suspect, based on the same mental building blocks we use for processing other kinds of information, such as the basic concepts of adjacency, inclusion, sequence, and causation). However, the form of the language is (mostly, though not entirely) culturally transmitted.

    Similarly, details of scientific knowledge are culturally transmitted in the sense that people have to learn them from others. (More generally, it has been proposed that certain kinds of idea travel better in certain kinds of culture: e.g. that monotheism supported models that presupposed single, simple causes for events, speeding the development of scientific theory in European and Arabic civilisations. But I digress.)

    Now to explain that qualification "mostly" (also present ["primarily"] in the post you're quoting).

    It is interesting (though probably also futile!) to speculate about the roles of biology and culture in how language originally developed and evolved. The end point isn't in doubt: there are many ways in which current human languages seem extraordinarily well matched to human perceptual and cognitive abilities (e.g., across all languages, the most commonly used speech sounds are also those most easily perceived as distinct). That's probably not due to chance. But there are at least three distinct possible evolutionary mechanisms by which such a match may have been achieved.

    (i) biological evolution in the classical sense of selective reproductive advantage within a tribe to those individuals best able to learn the language of that tribe (selecting for those individuals with cognitive skills best fitted to the language). Especially if language identified group members, this could well have conferred a significant advantage. However, if this mechanism were all that effective, then there soon would not be much biological variation left for it to work on; any further change by this mechanism would have to be, at best, very slow and incremental.

    (ii) cultural evolution by selective competition between tribes and/or tribal languages, favouring those with more efficiently learned and communicatively effective languages (all else being equal; with the caveat that this competitive advantage would easily be outweighed by other physical, social or technological advantages. Witness the fact that today, if one language has a significant social advantage, then minority languages tend to be lost within 3 generations without constant effort to support maintenance. This doesn't imply that those languages are any less fit for communicative purposes!)

    (iii) cultural evolution (influenced indirectly by biology) through intergenerational transfer. The basic idea here is that the process of children learning the grammar of a language will tend, over successive generations, to change it in the direction of being more easily learned, by creating a stronger match between (developing) linguistic and cognitive structures. A stronger (but, in its details, more controversial) version of this idea underlies Bickerton's "bioprogram hypothesis" (PDF file), which attempts to explain grammatical similarities between geographically and linguistically separate creole languages (i.e., newly developing languages that are being learned by children for the first time, in the absence of a single societally imposed 'standard' language), by inferring a special language processing centre common to all humans. The version I have described here is weaker (but more robust) because it does not assume that language processing is necessarily independent of other information processing.

    All three mechanisms may have had some part to play at various points in human evolution, though my money would be on (iii) as the major contribution.

    Anyway, that's why I said that the form of a language only "mostly" derives from cultural transfer; there is also a biological pressure exerted by the nature of that transfer to the next generation.



    ...gods, what a long post. and worse, I had to re-type it after getting that interesting error message about the Muse Lounge and Chant being relocated to a higher plane...

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    __ Speaking of dodges, nobody has addressed my point that other species (primates, beavers) use technology extensively yet have no artistic expression.__

    Doesn't that rather undermine your whole argument?

    No.

    Or - to make an effort to be less 'snide and willingly obtuse' - how so?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Big ups to the capitalist pigs

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4253381a13.html

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Big ups to the capitalist pigs

    The article sez: "Once they have chosen, all their future transactions will automatically be conducted in the selected language."

    For me, this conjures up a nightmare situation: Pissed, out on the town, needing to get some money out, and a BNZ ATM appears. "Choice," I slur. "I'm gonna do this in te reo Maori!!!!111tahi" So I press the Maori button and manage to drunkenly withdraw kotahi rau tara.

    But then, maybe a week later, in the cold light of day, I find myself needing to get some cash out and am faced with a menu that I'm only slightly familiar with.

    Yay.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Robyn think of the added security if you lose your card on a bender.

    And increasingly off topic
    Police Terror Boss Has Activist Harassment History
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0710/S00402.htm

    We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the recent actions of the Labour Minority Government against the Tuhoe Nation and the Ruatoki community in particular and against tangata whenua in general
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0710/S00530.htm

    Discussions of positive activisim like clean up rivers/ beaches etc in the name of support for the 17 & a letter writing campaign to lift their spirits were also put forward at yesties rally.

    Why was soap the first battle for aromatic anarchists?
    I'm not sure nigga, ho, crack, rap music is appropriate when pumped out by white anachists in competition with Tuhoe haka. I resorted tired to humming kum ba yah to myself & rocking gently.

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I just couldn't resist....

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7060486.stm

    y qaedda am byth

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the recent actions of the Labour Minority Government against the Tuhoe Nation and the Ruatoki community in particular and against tangata whenua in general.

    Oh for fuck's sake ... does the Maori Party really believe this is a plot against all Maori on the part of the "Labour Minority Government", or is this just cynical political opportunism?

    I'm not impressed by the police handling of this, but I'm sure as hell not impressed by that tract either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Russell "Labour Minority Government" is strictly correct & Labour have established FSSB as precidence for racial laws/action.

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Russell "Labour Minority Government" is strictly correct & Labour have established FSSB as precidence for racial laws/action.

    They're alleging that the police action is an actual plot on behalf of the Labour government to attack all Maori. That's either hysteria or cynical politicking.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    That's either hysteria or cynical politicking.
    Agreed - but I'ld call in balancing the ledger.

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    It's a lazy sunday afternoon for even my grammer.

    Hope it doesn't spread to the actual work I'm doing.

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I tend to think the entire debate that rages about the place of art in science and vice versa is one that boils down to using imprecise language. You use a sweeping word like Art, which carries totally different connotations to different people, different cultures etc. Similarly with Science, which is less culturally different, more of a word that scientists compete over to claim legitimacy for their research.

    In the end you obviously get a lot of crossover, because they are both 'humans making stuff' and they're both dealing extensively in the world of ideas.

    So you get poetic utterances like 'without Art Science is impossible' and so on. Such utterances might help you think about both art and science. Or they might delude you into thinking you know something, when really you're just a fan of dogma.

    If I had to try to debate such a moot honestly, I'd say it is entirely conceivable that you could make a computer program to churn out science. Would that be art? Would the computer give a shit? It is also possible, and has been done many times, to use a computer to also churn out art. How many people think it's great art, when a computer composes Haikus, some of which, quite randomly, are really deep? Or produces a beautiful graphic in time to music? I'm not talking about the programming itself, I'm talking about the part that the computer is doing, rendering some freaky looking ever changing image in realtime, or parsing out strings of words.

    The answer to such a question tells you a lot about what you think Art is. I think the word is so vague that it's only useful as a metaphor, something to get you to think. In itself it carries such imprecise meaning that debates about it can never end conclusively.

    Because it is so vague I tend to think of everyone as Artists, and everything they do as Art. Some of it I like and some I don't, but it's all art, from a Big Mac (which I used to make in a very artistic way, I'll have you know) to giving change (ever paid attention to the incredible variance in people's ability to perform this task? Some people give change like it's a beautiful dance, others fumble around and fuck it up in an excruciating way all the time), to painting a masterpiece (ever noticed just how boring walking around an art gallery can get?) or discovering an incredible truth (ever discovered one? Ain't it da bomb?). I think any sentient creature can engage in it, and the more sentient, the more they seem to. How is a cat learning to walk along a fence any less artistic than a ballerina doing the same thing? Why is the way a builder drives in a nail any less deep and meaningful than the way an artist strokes his canvas?

    I'm not saying all Art is equally good. I've had shocking Big Macs, real sloppy workmanship, cold, sauce everywhere, box closed cutting the edge of it, old yucky lettuce. To tell the truth, that's most Big Macs. But some are done well, within the bounds of being a Big Mac, a fairly limited scope. Most change is thrown at you, after looking at the readout, with no checking done at all. But a few cashiers will only glance at the readout to confirm the change they have already whipped out has been rung up correctly, and place it in your hand in a way where it just seems to fall into your wallet, simultaneously performing a number of other fairly minor tasks that all add up to moment of living Art. A lot of masterpieces are only notable for the amount of time it must have taken. Many people never discover a truth, because they never try. Cats and ballerinas fall, and builders hit their fingers or the wall.

    It's just my opinion, no more valid than anyone else's and really only expressed for the abovesaid purpose of maybe getting people to think about what they do more, or in a different way. My art, such as it is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    That's either hysteria or cynical politicking.

    On the one hand, it's exaggerated. On the other, it seems a bit odd to criticise a political party for politicking... more a venal sin given their purpose, isn't it?

    These are weird times. Chris Trotter is seeing anarchists under the bed, and Ross Meurant thinks the police need to be reined in.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    link

    Thanks, steven. That www cyber 'web' page helped me determine if I had a drinking problem. I will now go and talk to my youth pastor about my issues. But first I must get pissed.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Figures ranged from 100-300 at the Chch ralley.

    I've got a theory people act like gas & try to fill a space - therefore looks smaller in the Square as a few are under the trees or watching the cops & once the march started the numbers seemed to grow.

    The juggling dude was back again - he serves a purpose to defuse tensions as he did at the sit in & along the march when busy people were being very busy & he's good for a smile for the kiddies there as well. But please save me from street theatre.

    After a bit of searching I found myself in the second photo here - too hard to point out though.

    http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/update/index.php

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And now Winston wades in, with reference to dangerous separatists ...

    New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has questioned the very existence of the Maori Party saying a party based solely on race is tantamount to apartheid.

    It's going to be a long 12 months or so, isn't it?

    Can't moan about the page impressions though ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    It's going to be a long 12 months or so, isn't it?

    When you're attempting to define anarchy, 12 months is nothing.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    steven, I'm glad you clarified. Adult Happy Meals brings to mind a milkshake, spit roast & Dirty Sanchez combo.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

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