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Randal Auditor | joined 30 March 2005 | 140 posts

The Meaning of Life posted 27 January 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Whilst I agree with you in principle, I do think current astronomical observation indicates that the galaxies are drifting apart from eachother, not orbiting around something. view post

The Meaning of Life posted 28 January 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Bah. Pessimism.

Who'd have thought a thousand years ago we'd ever understand the workings of the climate, of diseases, of the sun?

We've only been working on this science stuff for a comparatively very short time. We only have a very limited quantity of data on the universe.

I say we're going to discover one hell of a lot more. Not everything, perhaps. But if humanity doesn't exterminate itself in the next couple of centuries, we'll get a decent way ahead.

And as for concepts like "infinity" arising in the human mind, I don't see how or why that would require anything "external." It's simple extrapolation. Things end. I don't want them to end. What would it be like if they didn't end? Bingo, infinity.

Whether the concept has any actual meaning, or whether or mind can truly grasp it if it does, remains a different question, of course. But I can conceive of all kinds of things, even illogical or impossible things. Nothing divine about it, just human reasoning and deduction turned the other way. view post

Life and Death posted 27 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Randal, Auditor


Evolution is a fact. It has been observed repeatedly, and also is evident from examining the fossil record.

There also is a theory of evolution. This seeks to explain how the observed phenomenon of evolution actually works. Why things mutate, how they mutate, when they mutate, etc.

This is a theory in the scientific sense of the word, like you described.

Compare, for example, gravity. Gravity is an observed fact. Stuff falls down. Newton came up with the theory of gravity seeking to explain how it works. He was fairly close, though later theories amended and improved his. view post

Life and Death posted 28 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionLife and Death by Randal, Auditor

Gaps in the fossil record have nothing to do with it. Of course there are gaps... how could there not be gaps? It's random stuff we found from thousands and millions and hundreds of millions of years ago.

The point is evolution exists. We can reproduce it in a laboratory with some sufficiently quickly reproducing species. We can show its existence in the fossil records whether or not there are gaps. We can show it by examining the genes and physical attributes of currently living species, showing they share some common ancestor.

Quote: "Stephen Jay Gould":3nrm1zd3
Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

There is also a theory of evolution. And some variations on that theory. And that theory has plenty of gaps in it and it's quite possible it will turn out to be wrong in how it explains some of the processes of evolution.

But evolution itself merely means, according to
Quote: "":3nrm1zd3
3. Biology. change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.[/quote:3nrm1zd3] These changes in the gene pool have been shown. They have been reproduced in laboratories. They are fact.

So evolution is both a fact and a theory, and neither of those statements contradicts the other.

Notes: my quote came from [url=]The Stephen Jay Gould archive[/url:3nrm1zd3] view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 28 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

True, we'd missed this one so far.

I take issue with the options, though. Evolution is not random. It's commonly held to work through natural selection. So whilst life may not be intelligently designed, it's not randomly put together either. It's the product of lots of trial and error. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 28 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Jamara: I disagree. Trial and error does not presuppose intelligent design. Quite simply, to me it means some species become extinct and others do not. Some mutations become dominant, others quickly disappear. Some species succeed, others fail.

You're right of course that the adaptation of species is a response to changes in environment and various other outside factors which they have no control over.

But even if it's random factors determining which environmental factors species have to handle, and which actual mutations and changes occur, it is not (usually) random which species survive and which do not. That depends on how successful their adaptations are.

So to me, trial and error presupposes a direction in evolution, which there is. Species progress towards more advanced forms, more specialised ones. But trial and error does not require agency. Merely something that decides what succeeds and what fails. And that something is the world. Some species survive in it, others do not. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 29 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Your points are quite right of course, Jamara, and do not contradict what I meant. I suppose I am merely not expressing myself clearly... I certainly did not mean to suggest anything guides evolution besides natural selection.

I do think it's quite obvious life has become much more advanced over the ages, though. A trilobyte isn't as advanced as a fish. An early mammal, like the Sabre Tooth tigre, isn't as advanced as our current tiger.

Not every new lifeform is automatically more advanced than the last, though, and primitive lifeforms do continue to enjoy success. Hmm. I suppose I should reformulate my statement. "Over time, more advanced species evolve."

Anyway, I think I can state my view simpler; In the past few billion years, an incredibly large amount of lifeforms have existed. Currently, only a percentage of those remain. The others are extinct, either because of changing circumstances or because of better adapted species that displaced them. Those species can be said to have failed at surviving, at procreating. The currently surviving species are the ones that succeeded. In general, they can be said to be better adapted to the environment and to competetion with eachother than the ones they displaced or replaced. (though probably some just got lucky, but that's not to the point)

I probably should use a different term, seeing as this one causes lots of confusion.

Edit: Warrior poet
Thanks for changing. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 29 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

I wasn't claiming the sabre tooth tigre is more advanced than the modern one. I was claiming the opposite.

But you quite probably know a lot more about this subject than I, my knowledge comes from a general interest book or two I've read on the subject a years ago. I am not altogether knowledgable, not even for an amateur. So if I say something you think is wrong, it's quite likely I misunderstood something.

For example, I was under the impression that the earlier mammal species that evolved soon after the death of the dinosaurs were fairly primitive and crude, being replaced in later generations with more advanced and modern species. (but looking on the internet, it seems the sabre-tooth tigre was a bad example as it isn't anywhere near as early as I thought, some indeed living tens of millions of years ago, but others surviving until quite recently.)

Similarly, I was under the impression that the dinosaurs were more advanced than earlier species of lizard, for example having more efficient legs directly under the body and possibly being warm-blooded. Does having more efficient legs count as being more advanced? view post

The Meaning of Life posted 30 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Much else, sure.

But the world? We couldn't destroy it if we tried. Something would survive. The world is a pretty big place, and life is pretty tough. view post

The Meaning of Life posted 30 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Slight problem with that line of reasoning.

For companies to invest in space travel, it has to be profitable. And it has to be profitable NOW, not in 50 years.

There's some tentative attempts with shooting people's ashes into space, plans for a moon hotel... but all in all, there is no sound commercial reason to go to space. view post

The Meaning of Life posted 31 March 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

True. Don't tell me dogs meeting aren't sizing eachother up and deciding which one is superior. Don't tell me my cat doesn't get in a bad mood occasionally and takes it out on whatever human is near her.

Most of the bad parts about humanity are also the most natural, the most instinctive. Many are also seen in the animal world. Some of the good parts also. view post

The Meaning of Life posted 02 April 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

Side note: even in antiquity and in primitive societies, people lived far beyond 30.

Average age a thousand years ago was about 60, iirc. With one very important caveat: average life expectancy was around 60 for children above the age of ten.

The very low actual average lifespan was because lots and lots of children died in infancy. Simple math. If one child dies at 3 months old, and the other lives to be 60... average life duration is 30 years. view post

The Meaning of Life posted 03 April 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Meaning of Life by Randal, Auditor

We would. For us, this is too horrible to contemplate. But many older cultures tried to get in the habit of not getting too attached to a child until it was a few years old and less likely to succumb to a disease. I think quite a few would not even name the child until it was one or two years old.

But yeah, this is one thing that we're well rid of this century. (on the other hand, reduction of child mortality is what's causing this overpopulation problem we have now.) view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 12 April 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Yes, that's how I read that passage too. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 01 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

I haven't read anything by Nietzsche except that quote, I admit. I do not see how sympathy has to be religious, though. I don't even see a connection with religion at all. Is that a meaning Nietzsche gives to the word? What is sympathy in the religious sense, and how does it differ from sympathy in the normal sense?

But this potential confusion aside, I simply do not see any lament on loneliness in what you cite. If the complaint here is about loneliness, surely he would WANT to be understood, so that others might share his bewilderment and desolation? Surely he would not fear others joining him in his state of enlightenment?

This is a lament, yes. A lost feeling, sure. But it is not being set alone without anyone to feel [for] you. It is not loneliness that is lamented, rather it is the loss of innocence, the loss of sheltering ignorance. Loneliness is perhaps a side-effect of this, but it is not the main problem or even mentioned at all in the text you cite. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 01 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

I don't think that I have to explain 'helping the fellow man' and such being a religious thing

Is that what Nietzsche says? I wouldn't agree. Helping the fellow man is a societal thing. Evolved because it makes the community stronger. Though I can see how Nietzsche would think otherwise given the knowledge of his times. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 02 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about the dawn of time when the proto-humans came out of Africa.

I believe helping the fellow man was a societal need that was later reinforced and enforced by means of religion, not the other way around.

See, religion does not create morality. Rather, it's used to enforce it. "If you steal, you'll go to hell." Or "If you attack a guest, you blaspheme against the sacred guest right and Apollo will strike you down."

Those laws against stealing and attacking guests very likely predate the religious taboos. They exist for a reason, namely to make a society work.
Society is not based on religious values... religious values are based on society. Mythical stories and legends and divine laws almost always work in the interest of the status quo. They describe why it is right and just that the world is as it is and that everybody should work to keep it so.

After all, some basic elements of charity have been observed even among colonies of apes... those hardly have any religious motives to help the weaker members of the colony.

(now, of course it's quite possible depending on your religion that you disagree with me. But equally, it should be obvious that "helping your fellow man" isn't universally seen as a religious thing.) view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 02 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

My view is purely naturalistic. The way I see it, morality is a social and biological construct. It is not based on any outside "truth" or objective standard. Rather, it is something that evolved in our species.

The biological part being empathy. People can to some extent feel or at least know what others feel. This makes morality possible, and this makes a society possible. I believe animals have this trait also, to different extends depending on species.

The social part builds on this. A social grouping, like a tribe of primitive humans, can only work if people mind each other's feelings and obey certain rules and don't just work for their own selfish ends but also for the common good of all. And don't bash each other's skulls in when drunk.
So rules are introduced. Taught from childhood on and reinforced by empathy, these become quite powerful a hold on people.

Then, as society advances morality is reflected on. That's where philosophy and religion comes in. People start dressing the "why" in terms of divine commands or nobility of character, etc. The rules are also refined at this stage and start being applied more widely than just to your own immediate social grouping. The rules themselves also evolve as the societies do. What is good in a tribe of hunters may not be quite as practical in a city-dwelling people.

I believe that this also explains why normal decent people can so very easily be made to hate and destroy those different from themselves, be it the neighbouring country or people worshipping a different god. Morality originally was something that applied to your own people only, everybody else was fair game. Empathy works on individuals, not crowds. It's very easy for humans to disregard the suffering of the many, suffering that is far away, or a combination thereof.

I'll add as a disclaimer that this is all based on a layman's understanding of sociology and biology and mostly is distilled from a variety of sources into something that makes sense to me. I haven't given this a lot of thought or done much research and there quite possibly are some glaring errors in here. It sounds right to me, though. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 03 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Well, empathy is natural. We know where in the brain it is. We can cut it out of people if we want. It's been researched. People with certain types of brain damage lose their sense of empathy. (and of course you have sociopaths who don't have it in the first place)

Empathy as a social construct doesn't work. Or at least it doesn't fit the evidence.

As for the rest of your post... as far as I can follow it, the Freud part sounds like bollocks to me. Where does he get his "prime father" and "pleasure instinct" from? Sounds like he made it up on the spot. (and isn't Freud considered obsolete anyway? His sex-obsession shows in everything he writes including this.) view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 03 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

It's not a "biological substance" as such. More of a way the brain's wired. Instinct, if you will.

Sociopaths don't have it for the same reason some people are born without arms or with three legs or with autism. They're birth defects.

As to how we got it in the brain... undoubtedly it evolved. I don't know which animals have it and how much. Fish have no empathy, apes do seem to have it. But it evolved somewhere along the road. It's a very useful talent. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 06 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

The nurture instinct, as you describe it so far, cannot be a biological trait for compassion..

It still can be.

Things just aren't simply as clear-cut as all that. Other instincts are at work too. And lions, as far as I know, are rather rare among mammals in killing the young of its own species and google suggests there are rather specific circumstances accounting for this, namely the lion's evolutionary desire to reproduce overriding a nurturing instinct.

Children being left behind if deemed too weak to survive is another very reasonable instinct that doesn't override the desire to nurture. It simply limits it, to prevent energy being wasted on those who would die anyway. (this is fairly common among animals. You can see it with litters of young cats sometimes, where mothers refuse to nurse the young)

Just because the nurturing instinct isn't always the sole or indeed most powerful motivator doesn't mean it isn't present and important and can lead to compassion. I don't know either whether it's stronger in women or not, but it's definitely present in men also.

The point is rather that without empathy and compassion, one cannot nurture effectively. How else to recognise the wants of one's ofspring? And how to make it sufficiently imperative to act upon them immediately? And once compassion exists, it's quite easy to extend it to a community and then wider still, and expand it into morality. After all, it has distinct benefits for society as a whole.

So far, it seems a necessity! (For what exactly?)

Of course it's a necessity. For the survival of the species, of course! Without nurture, the young do not live.

By the way, I should note that I agree wholeheartedly with Jamara's previous posts. (which leads to the situation of the two of us ganging up on you a bit, Sokar. Sorry about that) I should also note that I have the sneaking suspicion that he/she knows rather more about this subject than I do. For me, it's mostly common sense and observation talking.

And out of curiosity, Jamara, what are those three species of baby birds that are considered cute? Ducks and related waterfowl would be one, I can safely say. Baby ducks are always a big hit with children, and they do look very cute. (I can safely attest after spending half the week-end taking my niece to feed the ducks) Whaddayacallits, young chickens (chicks? chicklets?) would probably be another. As for other species... I just think we don't often see their young. Not sure a young dove or blackbird would be considered un-cute by humans. view post

Spoiler! Kellhus posted 08 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionSpoiler! Kellhus by Randal, Auditor

Curious. Must be a national thing... we don't have any baby turkeys around here, nor have I ever seen a baby pheasant. But tons and tons of baby ducks. (And baby moorhens. And the Eurasian Coot. Or so google tells me these birds are called in English.) Must be all the water around here.

But yes, these too are all fowl. Curious indeed. view post

Gollancz S.F. posted 10 May 2007 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Haven't read Abercromby yet, but I'm going to. I've heard lots of good things about him. Plus, he's part of the "mock Goodkind" secret society, which is a plus in any case.

Joe Abercromby wrote:
I cannot speak for Scott Lynch, but I can state CATEGORICALLY that my books have nothing to do with fantasy, but are, rather, high-brow literary novels with important socio-political points to make.

They merely happen to include magic, barbarians, mysterious wizards, mysterious journeys, lots of swords, and even the odd slinky sorceress, all happening in an imaginary place that I made up. Cliches? Archetypes? Stereotypes? No. These are the instruments I use to investigate the universality of the human condition.

(from the Westeros messageboard.) view post

Gollancz S.F. posted 11 May 2007 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Just bought it. It begins with the chapter titled "The End." I'll post my thoughts later. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 13 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Yes. I find it completely and utterly unbelievable how people can hold the view that animals have no feelings or emotions. Have these people ever had a pet? My grandmother is one such. She just can't get out of the mindset "animals are dirty and icky and inferior."

Just how is it that my cat can show jealousy, bear grudges, behave guiltily, or peevishly? Mimicking? Pah. I've known the beast for eight years now. view post

Is the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? posted 13 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

Isn't that a bit like the "god of the gaps", though? Science goes to more and more places all the time.

For me, I don't "get" spirituality. What the hell is it? Utterly alien to me. If it believes in souls and such, I don't see much of a difference with religion. Okay, I see a difference... but they both seem part of the same thing to me. Or perhaps you could say religion is one way to express spirituality, whatever it is.

As for the "unexplainable"... it is just that. Unexplainable. Inserting souls in there or whatever to me makes no sense whatsoever. What's wrong with things being unexplainable? We're just limited humans with a few centuries of collective experience behind us, after all. Let it be unexplainable. Some we'll explain anyway, later, when we know more. Some will never be explained. Cannot be explained.

Would I rather know? Would I rather have an explanation? Of course I would. But an explanation that has no evidence for me is no explanation at all.

Science and spirtuality need not be enemies per-se, but neither need they be neighbours. Or aquintances. Or living in the same country. They're unrelated, as far as I can see, save where sciences proves certain specific "spiritual" claims wrong.

To go slightly back on topic... I would think that if people are born with the idea of religion, it's not all of them. I probably wasn't born with any at all. view post

Gollancz S.F. posted 13 May 2007 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

Just finished "the blade itself."

Entertaining, well written, well characterised, interesting enough setting. Good? Definitely. Very good.

But not excellent.

Unlike Bakker, there's nothing particularly innovative in here. Nothing that makes you think. No really new concepts.

And taken as a story, it's not quite as good or quite as vividly painted as, say, George R.R. Martin's work. Nor is it as funny and fresh and witty as Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, to name another celebrated new writer.

Plus, it suffers a bit from "this is a fantasy series, and after 500 pages the plot is just about ready to get started." (though to be fair, the same could be said for The Darkness that Comes Before)

All in all, I do recommend it. It's fun, and I definitely don't consider my money wasted. In fact, I'll probably go buy the second book tomorrow. But it won't be making my top 100 list, I think. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 13 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

It's not about loving animals here. It's about depicting them as something they evidently are not.

As for logic... that wasn't being argued about. Nobody said animals apply logic. (though it has been shown in more advanced animals. If they use a stick to hit a tree so a piece of fruit drops... that shows they have some knowledge of causality) We were talking about emotions. Emotions do not require a human thinking process.

As for your main point... it's not one that lends itself to a response. I can but shrug.

Snapdragon: what options do you mean? Evolution and creation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can very well believe there's a god or flying spaghetti monster or alien prankster who created the universe in which life then evolved. (according to a divine plan, if you want.) There's plenty people who believe this, including many christians including the last pope. (not too sure about the current one)

That's why there's the "evolution + creation" option in the poll.

Or do you refer to other mutually exclusive options? Which? view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 14 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

A bit difficult to combine them all. If the bible is true, then "alternate intelligent design" isn't. If you interpret it literally, evolution and ID plus evolution are out.

Whether one of the other combinations is plausible... well, it depends what you consider plausible. I certainly see no reason to assume that some life evolved naturally, some of it was made by an alien with a hangover, and some of it was created by god as the bible states. (though the alien with the hangover would explain the platypus) view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 14 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

Jamara: maybe try to argue it in the new bible thread... let's keep this one about evolution.

Snapdragon: whilst it would be possible, I guess, that primitive lifeforms came into existence naturally at one point of the earth, and that a meteor with different bacteria crashed at another point of the earth, giving rise to types of life with different originins, it's not likely or logical to assume that.

When you see thousands of forms of life, and then examine their internal structure, their genes, and discover that they are all very, very similar to one another, to the point where we share a majority of our genes with many species, if we see that all life uses the same processes to replicate at a basic level, is made out of the same substances, etc, etc...
Then the logical conclusion is that life had one origin. One origin only. Assuming there are more than one is based on nothing and extremely unlikely.

Of course, I don't get why people would believe the earth is only 6000 years old either and there's no evolution. It's just as obviously wrong. But that one is better saved for the bible thread I believe. view post


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