Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Monday, May 10, 2004day link 

 Natural Selection?
picture From FutureHi, abstract of paper, "What is Natural Selection? A Plea for Clarification", by Neil Broom:
I argue in this paper that any evolutionary theory of life that excludes from the living world a primary non-material or transcendent dimension or guiding presence, is no theory at all. The materialist's claim that natural selection supplies this evolutionary 'arrow' but is entirely material in its action, is a fundamentally dishonest claim. If there is no real purposive agenda that natural selection is pursuing then the expression "natural selection" is blatantly misleading and should be deleted from the evolutionary vocabulary.
The paper is very readable and absolutely brilliantly argued, I think. He's right. Materialist neo-darwinism is a bunch of superstituous crap. Well, those are my words. It mostly consists of skipping over the evidence and bending over backwards to try to prove with mere words that life is based on a completely blind and unconscious and random process, and there's no purpose to anything. But that gets a little silly when you try to explain how things that do have a purpose come about. There are no half-eyes or half-flying animals or birds that are half laying eggs that sort of half have unborn chicks inside. Explaining how amazingly complex organs like eyes come about, or how animals end up flying through the air, all by miniscule and completely random accidents, requires arguing in circles for quite a while, until the reader sort or gives up, or decides he agrees with you. It is pretty much the same approach as in Creationism, just with the use of a sort of Anti-God, called Unconscious Randomness. Becomes just as silly as trying to explain that a God decided to create humans out of mud. Or that it is turtles all the way down. Anyway, I'm ranting. Neil Broom argues much more soberly and provides plenty of reference material.

And here, via Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Blog, is a quote from Agent(s) Smith in Matrix Reloaded:
"Without purpose, we would not exist. It is purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides, that drives us. It is purpose that defines us, purpose that binds us."

[ | 2004-05-10 15:56 | 20 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Geography of Thought
From Adina Levin:
I've wondered idly whether the naming game between adults and infants was universal, or culturally-specific. It turns out that Western children learn nouns faster than verbs "that's a ball. see, ball" and East Asian children learn verbs just as fast.

Richard Nisbett's "The Geography of Thought" includes a variety of experimental evidence showing how East Asians and Westerners think differently.

When shown pictures of a cow, a chicken, and some grass westerners are more likely to group the cow and the chicken, while East Asians are more likely to group the cow and the grass. Westerners are more likely to organize things in categories, while Asians are more likely to organize by relationship (the cow eats grass).

Westerners perceive things as objects (a bowl), easterners as substances (wood). Westerners will group a wooden bowl and a silver bowl; easterners will group a wooden bowl and a wooden spoon. Westerners more likely to group items by rule, Easterners by similarity. Westerners are more likely to attribute human behavior to essential traits, Easterners to social context.

Some of the differences covered in the book are well-known -- the individualism of the west, compared to eastern group identity. Western culture -- particularly US culture -- thrives on debate, while East Asian cultures value harmony.

The book seems naive at times -- ancient Chinese images of bucolic scenes are taken as typical of Chinese life, rather than as conventional subjects of art, produced (I don't know, but guessing) for the wealthy. The book makes broad-brush assumptions about how East Asians are content with the hierarchical structures of their societies, an assumption that's falsifiable with the barest minimal familiarity with literature.

The most compelling evidence in the book was about low-level thought constructs that one might think are universal but aren't.
I've myself noticed many differences in how people focus on different things depending on what culture they come from. Like how one makes "mistakes" in other languages than one's own. The Korean yoga teacher who'll say "Touch your left shoulders". Maybe because he sees a whole bunch of shoulders in the room, whereas a westerner might expect that he'll talk to me personally. Or my Chinese co-worker who said he'd bring "noodle" to the company potluck. More than one noodle, I'm sure, but he focuses on the substance, I suppose, rather than the separate items.
[ | 2004-05-10 16:01 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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