Monty_Vonn Cool! He's here!
System: You may wish to go thru the actual chat
page on BookTalk. You can float and dock this
Jeremy1952 Hi! Welcome
Nostradafemme hi Stephen
Melon it's Steven, not Stephen.
Peterdf hi mermaid
Chris_OConnor Hello Professor Pinker
Kostya Hi Stephen
Chris_OConnor Oh lovely
Chris_OConnor We scared him off that fast
Jeremy1952 Ok, what did he say that you booted
Pctacitus that's not good
Smiling cloud Was it something we said?
Tarav hello, prof. pinker!
Melon well, you spelled his name wrong!
Chris_OConnor Well, thats all folks. Goodnight.
Michaelangelo that was brief
Michaelangelo he seemed nice
Pctacitus welcome professor
people -- sorry for the delay -- I was following
the suggestion to use an alternative page
Peterdf Hi prof Pinker
Nostradafemme do we need to call him prof. since
we aren't certain how his first name in spelled?
Chris_OConnor Professor Pinker - it is helpful.
You can scroll down the page to get additional
info if you like
Chris_OConnor Lets ask him...
Michaelangelo should I make up a "we survived
a chat with Stephen Pinker" t-shirt?
Smiling cloud He Steve
Jeremy1952 I finished "Blank Slate"
right before I joined book talk, so I've just
read it for the second time, Steve
Monty_Vonn Mr. Pinker, are you presently working
on another book?
Chris_OConnor Blank Slate was excellent
Nostradafemme it certainly was.
Monty_Vonn Same, here, read it for a second time.
Chris_OConnor I believe he is in transition from
MIT to Harvard
Jeremy1952 I'd actually been planning to study
parts of it... very unusual for me, I generally
move on to the next book
Nostradafemme from one end of town to the other.
you. My next book project is editing "Best
Science & Nature Writing 2004", part
of a series. Then I will work on a book on language
and thought, to be completed in about three years
Peterdf Prof pinker thanks for writing the Blank
slate it is one of the best books of its kind
Chris_OConnor Steve - I have that book right
here! the 2001 edition
everyone; it's great to hear that you enjoyed
Chris_OConnor Steve - one of my favorite essays
was the one entitled "Abortion and Brain
Jeremy1952 I have "words and rules"
on my shelf, but I sadly admit that I didn't finish
Michaelangelo I liked how the mind works
Nostradafemme some of us might have a few questions.
Are we able to ask them?
Pctacitus I'm sure we could find someone to blast
it if you'd prefer
Smiling cloud Steve, you describe the current
climate as being highly centralist. Is that true
of the cognitive and neural sciences as well?
course; that's why I'm here.
Chris_OConnor Gerry - go for it
Nostradafemme In Language, Learn ability and
Nostradafemme you state that language begins
with the infant
William_of_Duluth Good Evening Steven. Daniel
Dennett admired you with a qualification. In his
book, Freedom Evolves, he writes on page 20, "A
Less radical, but more frustrating, defection
is Steven Pinker (1997), whose dalliance with
mysterian doctrines of consciousness
Nostradafemme and proceeds step by step
the cognitive and neural sciences are mixed. There
is still a nature-nurture debate. Neural network
modelers tend to believe that everything is a
result of training a generic network-- a modern
equivalent of the blank slate. (This is not true
of all of them, just some.) Many developmental
psychologists believe in the effects of parenting
and ignore heritability entirely. But there are
behavioral geneticists, cognitive development
researchers, evolutionary psychologists, and many
neurobiologists who are prepared to give nature
its due. OK, let me try to get to the other questions
if I can.
Chris_OConnor We will have to space the question
and comments out so Steve doesn't get buried
Michaelangelo you'd think that any "software"
pattern that is constant will become drilled into
"hardware" to save energy
Peterdf I saw you lecture in Oxford thoroughly
enjoyed it. You kindly signed my copy - I don't
suppose you'll remember - but I was the balding
bloke with the funny accent that asked you whether
man might be evolving to be less warlike
Monty_Vonn That may be true of Neanderthals,
but not Cro-Magnon.
System: You all can "Float" this window
and then maximize it to make the screen not scroll
Jeremy1952 What constant pattern did you have
in mind, Michaelangelo?
Michaelangelo genes load the gun; heavy metal
satanic music pulls the trigger
software turning into hardware: there is an effect
in evolutionary biology known as the Baldwin effect
by which that can happen. It looks Lamarckian
superficially, but is really 100% Darwinian. If
there is an advantage to learning something, there
will be an even greater advantage to having some
(but not all) of the skill built-in, and evolution
can push the organism in that direction. I discuss
this both in The language Instinct
and in How the Mind Works. Geoff Hinton
& Stephen Nowlan did a computer simulation
of evolution in neural networks, showing that
the Baldwin effect is really feasible.
Michaelangelo constant patterns like "reward
those who reward you"
Jeremy1952 Is Baldwin contemporary?
Baldwin was a late 19th-century psychologist.
Let me try to scroll up to the earlier questions....
Peterdf I think Dawkins talked about the Baldwin
effect in one of his books
Chris_OConnor Yes, he did.
Monty_Vonn Despite other scientist's disagreement
with you and Dawkins, all effects must go through
the bottleneck of sex, and it is the genes unchanged
since the last combination that get through. No
history of the individual gets encoded into those
Smiling cloud Steve, what is your opinion on
'plasticity'? What about studies that show that
long-term cortical changes occur after brief interactions
with the environment, e.g. viewing and naming
Monty's point is valid. The Baldwin effect is
driven by mutations that build in some of the
neural connections that otherwise would have to
Nostradafemme smiling, I hear what you're saying.
Yet I don't think Steve considers environment
that important. Or does he?
is just another word from "learning,"
but seen from the vantage point of neural tissue.
If you believe, as I do, that all mental life
depends on the physiology of the brain, then the
mere fact that we learn implies that there must
be plasticity in the brain.
Monty_Vonn Environment has the dominant role
AFTER conception, but none of the lessons of the
environment are encoded back into the genes.
Jeremy1952 And apologies unnecessary: you were
good enough to come to our venue
it's not true that I consider the environment
unimportant -- that is a misconception arising
from the tendency to treat innate structure and
learning as opposites. The environment obviously
has an effect -- only a madman could deny it.
The question is, what are the innate structures
that allow certain aspects of an environment to
affect organisms in certain ways, but not others?
e.g., human infants exposed to speech learn language;
kittens do not, with the same environment.
William_of_Duluth What is Dennett referring to
in his reference to your defection to mysterian
doctrines of consciousness?
Nostradafemme we await your word....
Chris_OConnor This chat is moving at a very comfortable
pace in my opinion. Things seemed chaotic with
Nostradafemme that's because kittens aren't "human".
is referring to the ending of How the Mind Works
in which I divide the problem of consciousness
into two problems (using terminology from David
Chalmers). The "easy" problem of consciousness
is what processes in the brain give rise to conscious
(as opposed to unconscious) processing. "Easy"
is a joke, because it's anything but easy, but
it's a tractable scientific problem, which I suspect
will be solved in this century. The "Hard"
problem refers to brainteasers such as whether
my red is the same as real conceptual problems,
but not ones that our brains are capable of understanding
the solutions to. An analogy would be the paradoxes
of quantum and relativistic physics, in which
our best science presents us with explanations
that intuitively are maddening, and the fact that
we don't understand them, deep down, is a consequence
of a human brain that did not evolve to grasp
such abstruse principles.
Jeremy1952 I think a bit that people miss, is
that the genes "expect" a certain environment.
What was damaging once becomes necessary
Chris_OConnor or is it because it is not a kittens
Nostradafemme kittens weren't raised by educated
Tarav I was an education and psych. major. All
emphasis was on environment.
Chris_OConnor Nostradafemme - but what if they
Michaelangelo behaviorists gone wild
Monty_Vonn that would be wise for education to
focus on environment. There's nothing that school
can do for genes.
Jeremy1952 It's been tried, nostradafemme; not
kittens, but various primates have been raised
by human parents many times.
Nostradafemme kitten parents need to have been
Smiling cloud sorry about the???? My Chinese
translator turned on
Tarav Steve- Your book made me modify my thinking
on environmental influences.
Chris_OConnor Welcome Rhino, Epicac, and WW
WW Steve, do you think Lamarckian objections
to acquired characteristics apply to those characteristics
acquired over many, many generations?
Michaelangelo is this the most people ever in
a booktalk chat?
Chris_OConnor Michael - Howard Bloom had 19
Jeremy1952 Hmm... And there is no survival value,
or not sufficient survival value in grasping them,
Michaelangelo just added a "caffeine is
my anti-drug" mug to my product list
Jeremy1952 there is no selective pressure ever
to understand them.
Smiling cloud Maybe not understanding itself
is an adaptive mechanism. If things were too clear...
what would we strive for?
Jeremy1952 Brian Greene approaches quantum "paradoxes"
the same way; if we lived in a world where those
effects were part of our milieu, then they would
"feel' normal and right to us
Jeremy: yes, quite right. Re WWW: yes, I think
that the objections to Lamarck apply to changes
over many generations. That is, Lamarck's mysterious
process of characteristics being passed on through
the germ line is false; the phenomenon, in which
useful traits become innate, has a sound basis
in the Baldwin effect, which is conventionally
Monty_Vonn Question. What will be the long term
of the human selection process going on in some
cultures and intelligent people practicing birth
control, and the less enlightened and religiously
programmed individual who have lots of children?
Michaelangelo humans evolved to memorize phone
numbers, thus proving God exists
Jeremy1952 but how would that benefit the individual,
smiling cloud? Remember, selection always comes
back to the individual
Tarav good question, Monty
Chris_OConnor Excellent question Monty
Peterdf In the book I am writing I argue that
there is a human universal for what I call the
"need for speed response" - the fact
that humans respond positively to the experience
of speed - but it is not included in Browns list...
Greene's conjecture could be tested (in principle,
not in fact) by bringing up babies in a Matrix-like
virtual environment in which 4-D effects, time
dilation, etc. were simulated. The question is
whether they would be intuitive or the baby would
Peterdf do you think this is an oversight
is conceptually confused.
Chris_OConnor Lucifer = Howard Bloom?
Mermaid Monty, thats why the Brights have
Jeremy1952 I don't think, Steven, he means on
an individual basis; he is talking about evolved
propensities, much as you do.
Michaelangelo we will need women. Let us raid
the fundamentalist camp and take their women.
Smiling cloud Steve, do you have any comment
on the recent (or seeming) proliferation of psychological
and neurological disorders?
Jeremy1952 I think there is a fallacy in your
Mermaid hello Lucifer, Rhino, WW
Chris_OConnor Question - Are you aware and in
support of the recent move to use the word "Bright"
to describe freethinkers, or people who subscribe
to a naturalistic worldview?
Jeremy1952 and I think it is the assumption that
the deluded are less intelligent
Pctacitus How did the concepts you talk about
in your book become so entrenched? Perhaps it
was in your book and I've just forgotten.
Jeremy1952 Among a mass of uneducated hillbillies,
there is still selective pressure for the most
intelligent to prosper
Michaelangelo And so they slew the Pentacostalites
and returned with wives, and the Brights became
as numerous as the stars in the sky. Humanists
see -- on smarter people having fewer babies ...
this has been discussed for much of this century
and was a prime motive for the eugenics movement
until it became tainted by Nazi genocides and
involuntary sterilization laws. Putting that aside,
the evolutionary question depends on how long
this pattern will last (it has only been true
for less than a century) and how widespread it
is. There are still billions of people (in Africa,
India, China, etc.) in which the negative correlation
between fecundity and intelligence does not hold.
Until the rest of the world makes the "demographic
transition" characteristic of Europe and
the Americas, it is not something that will play
a significant role in human biological evolution.
Chris_OConnor lol Michael
Smiling cloud Chris, What do you mean by naturalistic
Tarav Steve- you discuss euphemisms in your book.
Would you call Brights a euphemism?
Monty_Vonn A rapid selection process is going
on with Elephants. If you have nice tusks, you
will be dead before procreation. If you don't
you will survive. In 50 years, this has transformed
the elephant population.
Michaelangelo I don't know if Brights will work
as a marketing angle
William_of_Duluth Steven, what do you think about
the new meme/appellation, "Brights"?
Michaelangelo Brights Do It With The Lights On
Michaelangelo I think humanists is fine
Chris_OConnor Smiling - naturalistic, as opposed
to supernatural. "Brights" are atheists,
or people that don't have the belief in a deity
or intelligent designer.
Michaelangelo blessed are the humanists
Jeremy1952 I don't know if you saw Michael Shermers
comment, but his mail is running 25 to 1 against
the term. I vote for "Newtonian"
Michaelangelo it seems like the wrong word to
Chris_OConnor Jeremy - Good! I don't like the
Michaelangelo in fact, I don't think atheists
should separate themselves
Mermaid Mr. Pinker: will you support positive
Michaelangelo from moderate religious people
Zach Newton was a devout theist, Jeremy
Michaelangelo how about the Meekers
Michaelangelo or the Heretics
Chris_OConnor Steve - "demographic transition?"
Jeremy1952 Yup, I know that, Zach; but I refer
to his scientific contribution, not his personal
WW there is a selection pressure present nowadays
for the gene that causes ADD/ADHD. Any idea what
exaptatious dice-roll that clings to?
Monty_Vonn In Israel, the two family modernists
who were dominant in the past are loosing out
to the fundamentalist Jews who have 6 to 7 children
per family and they have gained enormous political
one at a time. "Demographic transition"
is the decline in birthrate among affluent populations.
I don't support positive eugenics; if that is
to mean government incentives for certain people
to reproduce, since I don't think that's a legitimate
function of government. Regarding "Brights"
-- I think it is wonderful. A euphemism, yes,
and one that will never catch on as "gay"
did (I suspect), but the fact that it has been
consciously been proposed (partly tongue-in-cheek)
as a euphemism will call attention to the phenomenon
that "atheist" has a negative connotation
among many. And of course the connection with
intelligence is a sly way of saying that it tends
to be educated people who decide to be atheists.
Monty_Vonn It appears in less than 12 years,
the Fundamentalist will control the Democracy
System: Lets try to space the questions out...
Nostradafemme Steve seems pretty sold on the
POXP2 gene. Could he offer more explanation?
Michaelangelo it is an issue, even if nurture
is dominant, the people producing the most kids
are more likely to abuse them and instill bad
Jeremy1952 But Monty, those fundamentalists are
no stupider than anyone else. Their culture is
different, not their biology. So hopefully some
of them will wake up....
nostradafemme whoops, it should read FOXP2.
Michaelangelo the only real solution is to find
some way to teach ways for "non-Brights"
to raise their children more humanely
System: ** Lets try to space the questions out
Mermaid definition: positive eugenics is a method
of increasing the frequency of desirable traits
by encouraging reproduction in individuals with
Jeremy1952 Unnecessary Mermaid, and the law of
unintended consequences will bite us verily in
the ass if we try
Chris_OConnor Steve - I agree that it will probably
not catch on, but anything that draws attention
to the fact that there are indeed people that
don't adhere to religious dogma is a good thing
Peterdf I have to say "humanist" fits
in better with the way I see things
Michaelangelo I like humanists, heretics or freethinkers
Tarav Steve, what do you think about the Deists?
selection for ADHD, fundamentalist beliefs, etc.....
biologically speaking, these are such local phenomena
(in time and space) that they won't change the
composition of the species in the way Darwinian
evolution does, most likely they could have an
effect on democratic election patterns, alas,
as the Israel example makes clear.
Jeremy1952 When I say I'm a Stochastic Newtonian
Godless Jew, I'm perfectly serious; but it's a
little long to be really catchy.
Ozod Disagree with Steve & Chris: the term
"Brights" will only serve to alienate
possible allies (like Dawkins' sarcasm).
Mermaid Jeremy: elaborate?
Chris_OConnor Steve - I think there is a direct
correlation between ones "science" education
and their lack of belief in a deity
Pctacitus heretic, originally an ancient Greek
word for a member of a faction
Monty_Vonn Steve, someone has your picture on
a "Deist" web site with your endorsement
of that movement. Is it true? Are you Deist or
Jeremy1952 Sorry Mermaid, on which?
Chris_OConnor Monty - good question.
Smiling cloud Evidence shows that religion is
a cross-cultural phenomenon dating far back. Is
there a gene for believing in the gods?
Mermaid Jeremy: never mind...sorry
Michaelangelo the only solution for Israel is
to install a dictator. Someone fatherly, who knows
best. He can't be an ordinary man, so he'll have
to come from some other dimension.
Chris_OConnor A study showing that 93% of NAS
scientists polled claim to not believe in a personal
deity, or label themselves as agnostics. www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm
Tarav yeah, Monty good question even if I asked
Chris_OConnor Hello Cheryl
Michaelangelo agnosticism is the logical position;
I wouldn't equate it with "mushy-headedness"
NaddiaAoC Hi folks! Sorry I'm late.
Michaelangelo hi naddia
I vaguely remember saying something encouraging
to someone who called himself a deist -- the referent
of "deism" (i.e., something that isn't
"theism") that it would be hard to object
to explicitly. But I certainly don't believe there
is some mysterious godlike presence everywhere,
if that is what "deism" is taken to
Monty_Vonn So Steve, what do you think is the
demise of Democracy, Theocracy, and the Human
Race passing through the environmental and energy
shortage crisis in this century?
Tarav Steve - you need to check out their site.
Your picture is there.
Chris_OConnor Steve - people are quick to claim
you endorse their ideas. Throughout history great
minds are misquoted and their words taken out
Jeremy1952 Lol, good point Chris...
Smiling cloud Nothing can be perfectly replicated.
Chris_OConnor Tara - can you provide the link?
Jeremy1952 How many years did Einstein spend
trying to convince people that his purported "belief
in god" was misquoted and misinterpreted?
Tarav is it udcdeists?
Or something like
do. Regarding the NAS statistic, I believe it
applies to biologists. Physicists on average tend
to be softer on this, and engineers are even more
likely to be believers. After all, they are the
most susceptible to the Argument from Design --
a watch implies a watchmaker (as engineers know
all too well), so an eye implies an eye maker.
The biologists, conversely, are the ones most
likely to see through this illusion, because they
know that Darwinian natural selection can mimic
design without a designer.
Tarav maybe Monty knows
Chris_OConnor I can email it to Professor Pinker
later so that he can decide if he is comfortable
with being called an endorser
William_of_Duluth Steven, How are you and your
views accepted on your campus?
Michaelangelo birth defects are too finely sculpted
and designed to be accidental
Chris_OConnor I have found it and will post a
Ozod Stephen Jay Gould is VERY often quoted in
support of anti-Evolution arguments.
Jeremy1952 The watchmaker is also a marvelous
argument against theism: where did the god thingy
Michaelangelo from his parents, duh
Peterdf good point Steve - I think Dawkins has
made an excellent contribution to popularizing
Chris_OConnor Steve - here it is www.deism.org/news.htm
W of Duluth: Well, I've just switched campuses,
from MIT to Harvard. Certainly I did not get any
flack at MIT -- the administration, and my department,
was highly supportive of my writing and speaking.
This is not to say that everyone agreed with everything,
just that I cannot complain of any kind of hassles,
and indeed got a lot of support. So far Harvard
has been just as receptive.
Jeremy1952 Poor Paley. He must be squirming in
heaven over it all....
Chris_OConnor "I endorse Deus Project ideals
fully, I encourage you in the Project and I wish
it great success."
NaddiaAoC LOL Jeremy
Smiling cloud Steve, religion is one of the core
cross-cultural themes as identified by archaeologist
Bruce Trigger in his cross-cultural study of early
civilizations? This trend continues today. Is
there a gene for believing in the gods?
Michaelangelo maybe there's a gene for projecting
human images onto anything unknown
Jeremy1952 Interestingly, smiling cloud, I learned
that fact from Steve's book...
Michaelangelo or uncontrollable
Chris_OConnor Smiling - ahhh...good question.
Monty_Vonn Question: What are your thoughts on
the bottleneck of environmental degradation, energy
shortage, and other disasters of "Tragedy
of the Commons" and the demise of Democracy
exposed to Theocracies and cultures that practice
Michaelangelo after all, using your body/mind
as a blueprint for anything unknown might offer
a good variety of adaptations
don't believe that there is a gene for religion
-- not just because there isn't a single gene
for complex faculties (i.e., there's no single
gene for language, or depth perception, or thirst),
but also because religion might well be a by-product
of a number of other faculties. It's only recently
that "religion" was even a separate
category, thanks to rivals such as science and
the state. In traditional societies, you can't
peel off religion from the rest of life. So it's
possible that what we call
WW birth defects are the "happiest"
accidents of all. Problem is they don't drive
evolution in Homo sapiens any longer as surgeons
hack 'em off or isolate them and their consequences
are never known
Chris_OConnor Maybe there is a gene that opens
up our minds to the possibility of the supernatural
Michaelangelo birth defects, their delicate beauty,
surely have a designer
Nostradafemme Or a gene that makes us not so
William_of_Duluth Many view religion as a now
toxic feature of culture. Is religion a meme gone
amok or a spandrel or something else?
Michaelangelo without religion you'd still have
belief" comes from a variety of traits that
serve people well in traditional societies: division
of labor and expertise; ability to conceptualize
minds as separate from bodies; sensitivity to
signs of design and an ability to see the work
of designers; desire to achieve goals by placating
the powerful, etc. I make this argument in the
last chapter of How the Mind works, based in large
part on the excellent work of Pascal Boyer, such
as his book "Religion explained," which
I recommend to you all.
Michaelangelo like soviet communism, it didn't
need a god
Pctacitus communism has been described as the
god that failed
Jeremy1952 I think the adaptive substrate of
religion is our "desire to know". Until
recently we didn't have the tools to find the
Chris_OConnor Julian Jaynes had a theory that
says belief in deities is biological in origin
and was a survival mechanism
Nostradafemme Communism in itself was the god.
Michaelangelo not the ONLY god that failed
Peterdf But surely Steve you could substitute
"spiritualism" for "religion"
and this would qualify for a human universal?
Jeremy1952 but a burning desire to know is adaptive:
thus, we (our forbears) made up answers
Smiling cloud thanks
Nostradafemme Julian Jaynes also claims that
mankind had a bicameral mind not that long ago.
William_of_Duluth Temporal lobe epilepsy gives
religious sensation so the genetic/evolutionary
structure exists in the brain, a spandrel?
Jeremy1952 I dunno, peterdf; how universal does
something need to be, to be a universal?
Michaelangelo religion could just be runaway
Tarav Steve- Thanks for the recommendation. Any
Jeremy1952 Because I know plenty of individuals
with no religion at all
Chris_OConnor Gerry - True, but I think Jaynes
failed to understand the immense time scale of
evolutionary change. To claim Homo sapiens lacked
consciousness only 3000 years ago...
Monty_Vonn Seeing the trends in history, what
do you venture civilization will look like at
the end of this century? Do you believe that humanity
will pass through a "bottleneck at mid century
with overpopulation, environmental degradation,
and energy shortage?
Smiling cloud Yes, I know an epileptic who occasionally
thought he was an apostle.
and a set of associated beliefs, are indeed universal,
or close to universal: the belief that one can
divine the future from physical signs; belief
in minds that can exist apart from bodies; the
tendency to strive to achieve important ends such
as health, and success in mating and the battlefield,
by placating invisible powerful entities, and
some others (again, see HTMW). But the fact that
these beliefs are universal does not prove that
they are biological adaptations. The by-products
of adaptive cognitive systems could be universal
Smiling cloud Until he started taking meds.
Michaelangelo is religion the entrainment of
limbic systems under a totem-organizing archetype?
Chris_OConnor Gerry - consciousness could not
evolve in 5000 years (I meant 5000 years in my
Nostradafemme don't forget Pharaoh and his group.
That fits into the timeline, Chris.
Peterdf To be a universal a trait does not have
to be possessed by every individual - but it does
have to find some expression in every society
William_of_Duluth Sorry to mention Gould's spandrel
term but it seems one of his better ideas.
Jeremy1952 Under that definition, peterdf, I'm
pretty sure religion is a universal.
Michaelangelo maybe placating invisible entities
is practice for placating visible ones
Jeremy1952 I'm trying to wrap my mind around
your last statement, Chris. If consciousness is
an on/off proposition, then it would evolve in
an instant. But Jayne's approach denies consciousness
to other animals... totally unwarranted, imho.
Monty: I hesitate to make predictions that far
out into the future. You may be right. On the
other hand, many disasters failed to happen because
of self-negating prophesies: people adjust to
the threat of them, and prevent them from happening.
Pctacitus sorry, it's been fun, but I have to
go, I have 4 classes tomorrow, bye all
Nostradafemme Isn't that what Pinker thinks?
Pctacitus Logout: _
Chris_OConnor Jeremy - all I mean is that Julian
Jaynes didn't have an appropriate time line. Of
course consciousness could have evolved...but
not in 5000 years. He claims Homers Iliad showed
lack of consciousness
no, I don't deny consciousness to animals, not
Chris_OConnor Steve - but would you say they
possess the degree of consciousness of a human?
Michaelangelo what does neuroscience say about
Nostradafemme Sure. In the Iliad, only gods spoke
Lucifer Are all animals conscious? If not, what
is the simplest conscious animal?
Chris_OConnor Lucifer - good question. Where
do we draw the line?
Chris: it depends on the animal. I think if you
step on a dog's paw, it feels something quite
similar to what we feel when someone steps on
our foot. On the other hand, I doubt a dog has
any experience like our enjoyment of music, and
conversely, I don't think we can truly experience
what a dog goes through when it smells the sidewalk,
or other dogs' nether parts. As the philosopher
Thomas Nagel famously noted, we can't really know
what it is like to be a bat.
Jeremy1952 Consciousness either did evolve, or
else it didn't. If it did, then there is no clear
line - which the bicameral line hypothesis implies
that there is
William_of_Duluth Specific religious thoughts
can't be genetic but the substrate responsive
to them must be. I feel that paranoia and jealousy
are strong genetic emplacements. Any comment?
Peterdf I think that this is a moot question
because there are probably degrees of consciousness
Chris_OConnor Steve - but a dog obviously feels
emotions such as love or affection...correct?
Smiling cloud My cat is stirred by music - but
not in the sense of beauty, but in the sense of
is quite heritable, though not, of course, the
content of any specific religion.
Chris_OConnor So true
Chris_OConnor What makes faith so irrational
for one person and such an easy choice for the
Jeremy1952 I'm going to have to go back and read
the explanation of heritability one more time.
Every time Steven or Matt Ridley explains it
Chris_OConnor This is what bothers me.
smiling cloud: Again, the claim is that our consciousness
*overlaps* that of other animals, not that it's
identical, nor completely different in every respect.
Just like other aspects of our biology.
Jeremy1952 I think I understand it.... and then
Susan_van I am an English teacher who is wondering
how much GOOD literature you think is scientifically
sound? I am having second thoughts about my "profession."
Lucifer Does that mean that religiosity conferred
an evolutionary advantage onto our ancestors?
Monty_Vonn I am struggling with the moral questions
of our environment and human desecration of our
natural world through human overpopulation and
exploitation. In your own life, how do you respond
to them, or do you choose to ignore them and live
on with life?
present a fairly explicit discussion of what heritability
is and is not in the chapter called "Children"
in The Blank Slate.
Michaelangelo by "religiosity" do we
mean the ability to fall into certain kinds of
trances, or a kind of aggressiveness in drawing
people into a central idea?
Jeremy1952 I know... I've read the book twice,
that chapter probably five times.
Smiling cloud Or the need to follow?
Chris_OConnor Jeremy is a reading fool. Reads
more than anyone I know.
own attitude toward the environment is that it
is a good -- one of many goods -- that humans
try to maximize. I like clean air, but not to
the point of giving up heat in the winter, or
for that matter my car. On the other hand, I belong
to a society that is wealthy enough that I (and
many others) are willing to pay for cleaner air,
lakes, open space, and so on. I think the critical
step in protecting the environment is making the
costs of pollution and naturalness more transparent.
If I'm causing global warming by turning up my
thermostat or driving to Cape Cod on weekends,
that should be reflected in the price I have to
pay, i.e., some kind of carbon tax. By putting
true environmental costs into prices (which now
don't reflect them enough -- we are polluting
too much for free -- people will be better able
to weigh the costs and benefits of alternative
measures. This is a different approach from that
of some environmentalists, who believe that the
earth is sacred and must be protected at any price,
but I think it is a more viable way of protecting
the environment in the long run.
Ozod Jeremy, you have company! Heritability,
esp. heredity-environment interactions, is tough
Michaelangelo I hate clean air.
Chris_OConnor Susan - your second thoughts stem
from the feeling that what kids are reading is
not scientifically sound? ..And you feel like
you are contributing to their lack of science
Jeremy1952 ty Ozod.
Peterdf Steve just to help me with a question
I have in relation to my book : do you think that
the propensity for people to enjoy speed could
be a human universal
Michaelangelo I think television is the problem.
People don't see things as real until they see
them on TV.
William_of_Duluth What is regarded, as good literature
and literary criticism are too often foolish representations
of human reality.
Michaelangelo the readers can't keep up with
the TV audience vote
Susan_van Yes, Chris, novelists pose fun ideas,
but usually the results are not true human nature,
but drama. Drama is fun, but not realistic.
Michaelangelo elections aren't decided by intellectuals,
the people who watch TV for all their info about
the world decide them
Monty_Vonn I agree with carbon tax (sin tax?)
or energy tax that will make other options more
affordable in comparison.
Mermaid Mr. pinker: pollution and environmental
disasters in third world country is a whole different
Michaelangelo Stephen, do you think we need a
rational way of valuing natural systems, instead
of just not putting a value on it in calculations
about risk and reward?
Mermaid countries even
William_of_Duluth Cute, Pinker switched to pink
type for a moment.
Zach not to mention the effects more extreme
environmental groups can have
Michaelangelo I think the anti-environmental
movement is more frightening
Zach such as the thousand-mink fiasco recently
Mermaid Michaelangelo: why? Because they are
passionate about something doesnt mean they
are nuts.. A few idiots burning down an SUV lot
doesn't scare me the way massive amounts of money
poured into keeping people from seeing the damage
they are doing collectively does. Passion isn't
the problem; it's when people do stupid things
just to be unlike some other people doing stupid
things. "Environmentalists are crazy, so
let's drive really fuel inefficient cars to get
back at them!"
speed (distance per time, not amphetamines): yes,
I think the enjoyment is innate, and adaptive.
The benefits are obvious: getting to prey, or
away from danger, in time. We see the inherent
pleasure in speed in virtually every sport and
Mermaid well...Ill take environmentalists
any day over an idiot who says 'you ride with
Osama if you use gas'
Jeremy1952 Well, the Bush administration offers
a tax break for businesses buying pickups and
SUVs OVER a certain size: is that nuts?
Monty_Vonn Steve, what great mystery do you wish
to solve by the end of your tenure?
Michaelangelo actually the oil-terrorism link
is more solid than the drugs-terrorism link
in which people pay large prices, and take enormous
risks, for nothing other than the pleasure of
Susan_van Everyone knows and admires Atticus
in To Kill A Mockingbird, but in real life Bob
Ewell would have killed the kids and Atticus would
not inspire people. I feel guilty teaching kids
to admire him.
Michaelangelo there is a childlike defiance that
says, "Environmentalists want to be my mommy,
so I will disobey my mommy and use all the gas
I want to!"
Mermaid Michaelangelo: I suspect that the automobile
industry is capable of making very fuel efficient
cars...I doubt if we'll see them so long as the
automobile lobby and the oil lobby go about doing
what they do best
Jeremy1952 So I guess the proposal that going
60 miles an hour will kill us turns out to be
Michaelangelo mermaid--I agree, but consumers
are part of that loop too
Smiling cloud Steve, I imagine moving fast originated
with the domestication of horses.
Michaelangelo we need to ASK for fuel-efficient
Mermaid well. Good luck
Mermaid when was the last time you asked something
and actually received it
William_of_Duluth Is the literature of the noble
savage is a good example of what Susan van is
Michaelangelo mermaid--if enough consumers are
willing to pay money for something, it WILL get
at least if the potential consumers
can communicate that to potential producers.
Nostradafemme Smiling, check out the cave art
from that period and you might see an indication
of fast movement.
Peterdf thanks Steve that is help - next question
is could there be selection against the speed
response this in the Western civilization given
the number of youngsters killed in car accidents?
the mystery I would like to see solved: one is
the basic question of how neural circuitry can
represent basic human thoughts, such as a subject-predicate
relationship (who did what to whom). Another would
be a good map of how the different aspects of
language are distributed across the brain. A third
would be a good characterization of "universal
grammar" -- what is truly universal across
the world's languages.
Jeremy1952 Unfortunately, Michaelangelo, that's
exactly why the world is filling up with SUVs
Smiling cloud With speed, the environment must
have looked different. More abstract.
Monty_Vonn I drive a Geo Metro that gets anywhere
dry and warm as any monster SUV will, get 40 mpg
in town and 50 on the highway.
William_of_Duluth Make that noble savage.
Michaelangelo We're still in an "anti-liberal"
mass mood swing, it will start swinging back as
soon as the anti-liberals are seen as less honest
Nostradafemme agreed about the abstraction to
Monty_Vonn And there hasn't been a snowstorm
or logging road I couldn't get up with that car.
I go up to mountains with my telescope.
Jeremy1952 The aliens help you, Monty, because
they want you to find them.
against speed -- once again, the key question
is how widespread and for how long that selection
pressure lasts. A phenomenon of the last 50 years
in a few industrialized countries will not affect
the species, especially if the total number killed
is relatively small -- e.g., 40,000 deaths a year
in the US, which has something like 300 million
Michaelangelo the guy who speeds might also take
out someone who is slower
Smiling cloud Look at the number of deaths in
Delhi related to the number of people.
Chris_OConnor Steve - does your fascination with
linguistics extend beyond our species? I know
of a primatologist that studies Bonobo linguistics
and recently she has discovered what might be
a new species of primate
Susan_van Steve, have you thought of donating
Mermaid Susan: amazing! I was thinking of asking
the same question!
believe that the new book on the love of speed
is called "Falling." On religion, see
also the book by Scott Atran called "In gods
Peterdf Susan that's a bit personal
Mermaid you must be a girl..:P
Monty_Vonn It does sound like you are continuing
the good work of Noam Chomsky.
Susan's question.. I think for once I am speechless.
Susan_van I thought I was being altruistic...
Chris_OConnor I am dying laughing
Michaelangelo if you take out a loan at a sperm
bank do you have to pay interest?
Chris_OConnor I can't believe she just asked
Michaelangelo did she mean to a sperm bank, or
to her personally?
Jeremy1952 Hmm that would make a difference...
Smiling cloud Or donating your brain??
Susan_van I am 43; it won't take. I meant bank.
Mermaid Id like a lock of that hair though
Smiling cloud I am fascinated by the differences
between English and Chinese. The differences in
language influence the way of thinking about things.
I find it much easier, for example, to read a
Chinese computer manual as translated into English.
It seems clearer..
Michaelangelo laughing all the way to the sperm
Michaelangelo I'd like to learn Chinese
I take that as the ultimate compliment. I would
consider donating by brain, except that it would
seem rather egotistical rather than altruistic,
which would be the real intent. In the 19th century
many scientists donated their brains, hoping to
outdo each other in volume.. Many would have been
Ozod Didnt Steve write about his childlessness,
that if his selfish genes don't like that, they
can go jump in a lake?
Smiling cloud hahaha
Mermaid Ozod: peter mentioned that in his post..
Zach who'd be the unlucky body donator?
Mermaid but seriously though, why do you choose
to be childfree?
Michaelangelo children take a lot of time
Mermaid children are a good investment
Susan_van It was altruistic of me to suggest
it, but--sure--egotistical of you to agree to
Chris_OConnor LanDroid - you're late
Mermaid the only way one can hope to be immortal
Nostradafemme yes, children certainly are.
Smiling cloud But you can contribute in other
Monty_Vonn I still think there is a serious consequence
to this birth control thing!
folks; my hour is up. I thank you for your questions,
and interest. Here's to the success of Freethinkers,
and of BookTalk.org. Thanks, Chris, for hosting
this, and for inviting me in. Good evening to
all of you. Best wishes,
Tarav Michaelangelo- That's the main reason I
chose to be childfree!
Peterdf There was a great quote - Dennet I think
- who said it is the only transplant where it
is better to be the donor than the recipient
Smiling cloud Many Thanks, Steve. And thanks
Jeremy1952 Thanks so much for your time, Steve!
It is re....
Zach Thank you for coming, Dr. Pinker
Jeremy1952 oh never mind
Monty_Vonn By the way, I stopped at two children.
Tried to stop at one, but my first wife said I
promised her two.
System: Thank you very much for coming everyone
Michaelangelo bye Stephen
Mermaid you made a promise?
Chris_OConnor He leaves almost as fast as Jeremy
Nostradafemme Thanks Chris for an enjoyable eve.
Jeremy1952 Lol Chris
Chris_OConnor Yes, it was fun.
Chris_OConnor I will post this transcript immediately
Jeremy1952 I can think of worse things than being
compared to Seven Pinker
Chris_OConnor And I had a statement
Smiling cloud That was a good chat.
Chris_OConnor Any of you that are not regulars
on the BookTalk forums I sure hope you consider
its totally free.
Chris_OConnor We will be asking Matt Ridley to
join us this week...for a chat in early November
Nostradafemme what's the next book for discussion,
Mermaid Chris: I signed up recently and I want
to complement you on this project of yours
Chris_OConnor Who knows
Jeremy1952 Ridley! Wow
Chris_OConnor Mermaid - I appreciate that
Smiling cloud That was much fun - I never thought
I would be involved in a virtual collective non-linear
conversation with Steven Pinker! Thanks.
Mermaid truly commendable...my most sincere appreciation
Chris_OConnor Yes, Matt Ridleys book is
hard to put down
Mermaid I cant get Matt Ridley's The
Red Queen at my library
Chris_OConnor If you like to chat, but don't
find writing on forums fun...still get involved.
William_of_Duluth Well, Susan V, are you now
satisfied and informed?
Chris_OConnor Mermaid - excellent
Nostradafemme Ridley is an astute thinker IMO.
Jeremy1952 I think she said, "Can't",
Chris_OConnor Susan - that was a good question
Peterdf Well it is 3.05 am here so I'm going
to bed - thanks for a great chat Chris
Smiling cloud Chris, will this be posted on the
Michaelangelo Thank you all for coming, I invite
you to visit my gift shop and buy a "Prevent
Holy War: Practice Safe Sects" t-shirt: www.cafeshops.com/soulaquarium
Ozod Mermaid: Try half.com & eBay.
Chris_OConnor Peter - Good night
Mermaid Ozod: ok
Tarav bye, peter
Smiling cloud ciao, all.
Chris_OConnor Smiling - it will be on the "Blank
Slate" forum, but very soon we will have
actual chat transcript pages
Jeremy1952 ciao cloud
Mermaid bye peter...you be well
Peterdf bye all
Nostradafemme ciao all.
Chris_OConnor If you are new and want me to send
you some info email me at email@example.com
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