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Randal Auditor | joined 30 March 2005 | 140 posts

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

We're talking about the origin and development of species here, not about what happens in a person's life.

When talking about how life forms developed, we're talking about genetics and genetics only. The development of the genes (which survice and reproduce, which don't) is indeed impacted by climactic changes and external factors including luck, but that is not the point.

The point is that there is no reason to assume different forms of life on earth had different origins, seeing as how their basic structure is nigh identical. view post

Gollancz S.F. posted 14 May 2007 in Literature DiscussionGollancz S.F. by Randal, Auditor

It's a real quote, but it's a joke... like I said in my post, it's a mockery of certain other writers who take themselves too seriously.

No sane writer would claim his work is important in this way. Seriously. Would he use the term "high brow" if he meant it?

As for the books, like I said in my reviewish post above, "it has nothing to really make you think." Fun, well done, but no, he does not make important socio-political points or attempts to.

The best description would be from one of the reviews I read: an 80s style traditional fantasy story, only told through cynical postmodern eyes. (To which I would add: with better characters.) view post

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

This is a well-known and common misconception. Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, because the earth is not a closed system.

[url=]Read here.[/url:2aa7jjwm]

[url=]Or here, for the short version.[/url:2aa7jjwm]

Edit: The "just a theory" argument is another old and tired misconception. Evolution is a theory like gravity is a theory. In science, a theory is as good as it gets. Evolution as a phenomenon has been observed repeatedly. The theory seeks to explain how it actually works.

My second link explains that particular misconception also.

Enthropic existence: Cheers for that post!

on the development of about deforestation? or an aerobic environment becoming anaerobic? this is more than genetics.

Snapdragon: I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you're getting at. Sorry. I just don't get the meaning. What are you arguing? What does deforestation have to do with genetics or evolution or intelligent design?

Do you mean that species can become extinct because of outside factors? That's obvious, but doesn't mean much in this discussion. Luck does play a role, a disaster can destroy an otherwise viable species. I just don't see the relevancy. view post

Is the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? posted 15 May 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

Science does make the assumption that our perception of the world is valid. If you believe we live in the matrix, science loses its value.

Still, I think it's a reasonable assumption. If you assume your senses and measurements are all conspiring to deceive you, there's precious little you can achieve anyway. And science works. The predictions it makes, the medicines and machines based on it, they all appear to work to those same senses. Of course, you could say that they really don't work and that our senses are deceiving us again into thinking they do... but that's a rather futile exercise.

Our perceptions are all we have to go on, so accepting them is the most sensible course of action in my opinion. view post

the bible is the solution posted 16 May 2007 in Philosophy Discussionthe bible is the solution by Randal, Auditor

That's what I thought as well. The first five books. view post

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

Well, aren't we still apes? As far as I know, humans are classified in the same family as Gorillas and Orang Utangs and Chimpanzees. We're all great apes. view post

The idea of global beauty posted 01 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionThe idea of global beauty by Randal, Auditor

I don't think it exists. The majority of the world's populace has despicably poor taste. (where 'taste' is defined as 'likes the things I like and/or think admirable', though naturally the things I like are superior to the things others like.)

Seriously. I think cultures and classes are too different for anything to achieve 'universal' appreciation. How large a percentage of the world's population would have to deem something aestethically pleasing for it to be deemed "globally beautiful"?

And can you name some examples? What kind of thing would be enjoyed by all kinds of people? Definitely not music. Paintings? Not a chance. Statues? I doubt it. Human beauty? Absolutely not. Natural vistas? Perhaps your best bet. Maybe there are landscapes that would impress people regardless of culture or class. Still, there's plenty of people who don't care for that thing at all. And quite possibly some cultures in which the entire concept is seen as daft.

I don't see it. view post

Evolution vs Creation posted 08 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionEvolution vs Creation by Randal, Auditor

No. The Neanderthals came long after the Homo Habilis. They're much more closely related to us and much more advanced.

My knowledge of this is pretty fuzzy. I seem to recall some theories saying modern homo sapiens replaced them after the ice ages, and other theories saying they interbred until the Neanderthal disappeared. But that may very well be outdated. view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 12 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Germany and France were against the war. Iraq was not their enemy, they said. (and rightly so. Saddam was a despicable dictator, but not intent on world conquest.) They didn't fight because they had no business attacking Iraq. Plus, it would have been political suicide for them to try and attack Iraq, their populace was dead set against. It's called democracy.

Also, Germany or France or both couldn't have conquered Iraq on their own anyway. At least, not without a lengthy and difficult war. They don't have the resources and their armies are mostly designed to fight together with the rest of NATO or to defend their own soil. They don't have fleets of super aircraft carriers, they don't have military bases all over the world, and they have a fraction of the US's military budget.

As for why Bush attacked... I never did understand. At the time, I believed they had WMDs, but I thought that wasn't a sensible reason to attack either. Of course, I never bought the Al-Queda connection, and neither did anybody else in Europe that I know. Now, I just don't know. Pride? A belief they could easily reform the Middle East and avert a long-term threat to the US? Those seem most likely to me.

Oh, and regarding US debt: don't Bush's tax-cuts have something to do with that too? Increase spending whilst decreasing revenue has always sounded like bad economics to me, unless it's done for very specific reasons. (Keynes isn't all that hot anymore) view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 13 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

France is plenty powerful, sure. Many times more powerful than the Iraqi army at its heighday, certainly much stronger than the one Bush Junior fought. But does France have the logistical capability of actually getting hundreds of thousands of men to Iraq with sufficient supplies, lodging, etc?

Britain found it almost impossible to retake the Falklands. Now, those of course were much farther away, but they also were very small and had a non-hostile population.

If France couldn't use all the American airbases around, and wasn't given passage through Turkey or other surrounding countries, how the hell would they get their superior army to Iraq? view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 13 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

"America should really stop declaring war on verbs." I forget who said it, but I do agree with this quote. It's so much more sensible to wage wars on tangible things. view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 25 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Enkidu: if you're suggesting the Crusades caused the decline of the various Muslim states, I would have to disagree. They were a disruption, but a fairly minor one at that. They didn't fail because Europe lost interest, but because everything they gained was reconquered and it simply proved unfeasable to campaign so far away from home. (The first crusade was the least organised and probably military least impressive crusade, but had by far the greatest success. Later crusades, including actual royal armies, frequently returned without accomplishing much.)

I'm not an expert on history of the area, but I always thought the Mongol invasions were rather more damaging than the crusades ever were. (the crusaders at their height held... what. A dozen cities? They never came even near threatening Egypt or Baghdad.) view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 26 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

I'd argue with placing the Reconquista as part of the Crusades. I mean, sure, the label was used, but it was a very different beast. The crusades to the holy land were fought for mainly religious reasons and were strategically and tactically rather unsound due to the vast distances involved and lack of long-term commitment. (from a western p.o.v.)

The reconquista was very simply a part of the ongoing struggle between the Muslim invaders and the remnants of the prior visigothic occupiers. It was a plain old normal war, where religion was used by the christian kingdoms to give their troops' morale a good boost.

(far more relevant than the reconquest itself, in my opinion, was the later religiously inspired intolerance shown... spanish inquisition, anyone? Still, I don't think that can be blamed on the crusades either. There were plenty of christian crackdowns.) view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 27 June 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Modern historians no longer regard economical reasons as driving the crusades. This was popular in the Seventies when they wanted to explain everything from large socio-economical movements and disregard emotional and political reasons, but in the case of the crusades it is no longer tenable.

Current consensus is that whilst the Crusades had their fair share of adventurers, the vast majority were pious men who wanted to do good for their soul and religion and then return home.

Remember, most crusaders did return home. They didn't go to conquer tracts of land for themselves... they travelled thousands of miles through extreme hazards, fought against terrible unknown foes in unfamiliar terrain with unfamiliar weapons, then perhaps stayed at a holy place for a while, and then returned home. Perhaps they brought some souvenirs, looted a few coins, yes. But do you really think that was motivation enough to brave all that hazard and accept casual ratings which must have been immense through attrition alone?

If it had been money they wanted, they could have become a mercenary in the war next door. No, the motivation was mostly religious. view post

What is going on in Iraq? posted 03 July 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionWhat is going on in Iraq? by Randal, Auditor

Secure trade routes? That's the first I've heard of that.

How does invading Jerusalem and trying to hold onto it despite it being thousands of miles away from your heartland and nobody being willing to put enough resources into defending it improve trade? Especially as the trade is going through Constantinople or the Italian cities anyway?

How exactly is being the middleman here worth sending tens of thousands of soldiers and fighting endless wars of attrition when there's no real realistic prospect of holding the land for long?

Who exactly wants this? The pope? He calls the crusades. But if so, why are all kinds of minor nobles answering? How the hell do they benefit?

How does trade with the east help the King of England if securing it means he has to leave his kingdom for years on end and causes no end of trouble at home? Same for all other kings?

If it's about trade, why all the effort to take Jeruzalem which isn't even a port? Why not focus on Antioch?

Why can't you just trade with the muslims?

I'm sorry. But as a motivation, that makes no sense whatsoever to me. Who says it was about the silk route? view post

Is the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? posted 05 July 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionIs the idea of a "god" inherent in our minds? by Randal, Auditor

(an idea that's been growing since the early 1900's)

Actually, this idea was already getting rather popular with various ancient greek philosophers. Plato probably thought something of the kind.

Of course, then the Christians came along and claimed their god was this one god... still. view post

OK Creation - but why? posted 19 July 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionOK Creation - but why? by Randal, Auditor

Odds are just as good we're a game-show. view post

Free Will posted 17 November 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

I think this is all a bit vague. "Free will reduced to something less than is commonly understood." Well, what is commonly understood?

I believe free will of a sort exists in that people make choices all the time... but also that they're determined, in that given the same arguments they would make the same decision in every parallel universe. After all, your decisions aren't made by random chance, are they? They have reasons. If those reasons don't change, the decisions do not change either.

"I would not have done that in his place" still applies, because you -would not- have done so in 'his' place. After all, you have access to different information, have a different brain with which to process the information, different experiences, different desires, priorities and ideals to motivate your decision... you would make a different decision because of that. Quite possibly in fact a better one.

I think that is plenty free enough. We do the best we can according to our abilities and desires. But there's nothing magical about it, nothing that stands above the laws of nature, nothing that escapes the principles of causality. The causes just very often are found in your character, rather than in external circumstances.

I don't see how that conflicts with concept of humanity at all. view post

Free Will posted 19 November 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

The problem is, I fail to see the distinction. The causes do not shackle us to a certain path?

What -then- are your choices based on? If you choose to execute the murderer in your example, why? And if next you do not, why not?

Do you really think that given the exact same data and reasons, the exact same time to deliberate, you would make a different choice in a paralel universe? A choice not based on what you believe right, not on the reasons given, not on anything visible or measurable? You would 'just' come to a different conclusion?

Why would you choose differently if the circumstances are the same? I honestly see no reason why anybody ever would. Or should. What meaning do our choices have, after all, if they can change... for no discernable reason?

I do not see how that is any better than random chance.

Note that I am not arguing against your example at all. Of -course- deliberation plays an important role. -Of course- you make every effort to choose what you think is best. Deliberation is an important factor in deciding what is best, in analysing the data you have. Your mind and thought processes are one of the most important causes that determine the eventual outcome.

However, I also think that your deliberations would bring you to the same result in the end in any and all possible paralel universes provided the circumstances remain the same. You would think the same thoughts and arrive at the same conclusions. Why? Simply, because you are doing the best you can given your capacities. So you always choose what you think best or most pleasant, etc.

I suppose I am not very much hung up on the question of whether the choice is "free" or not. I don't care, as long as I am still exercising judgement, still trying to find the best path. That to me is a lot more relevant than any ephermeal concept of "free will."

So in short, what I am saying is you could choose differently, if you were a different person. But you will not choose differently as long as the circumstances remain the same, because your deliberations will eventually lead you to accept one choice as the right or most favourable one. And you will go with that.

PS: Quantum theory is a nice one, often pushed forward by people advocating free will. Unfortunately, quantum universe does not support a truly free will either, as all it allows for in the way of undetermined events is random chance. view post

Free Will posted 21 November 2007 in Philosophy DiscussionFree Will by Randal, Auditor

I apologise for not replying to your post point by point. I had started to, but felt it reduced the clarity of my post and risked getting side-tracked into endless rambling. I will shortly note that my opinion of human nature is not all that optimistic. I just do not feel there is much of a difference between rational and irrational reasons where this discussion is concerned, and threw them all under one header. Maybe I should have been clearer.

Now, your main objection seems to be the lack of meaning in a deterministic universe, so I will try to clarify my position on that.

My point, and it may seem like sophistry though I do not intend it that way, is that even though you will always make the same choice no matter how many exactly parallel universes there are, it still -is- a choice. It -is- based on all those deliberations, on what goes on in your mind, on rational reasons and irrational ones like that sudden surge of anger when the defendant smiles smugly.

Just because it is predictable, does not to me make it any less valid. Another person would have made a different choice, a better one or a worse one. You yourself in a bad mood might have made a worse one. You yourself but with less self discipline might have made a worse one. So why not praise a person who makes good choices? Why not condemn one who makes bad ones? It still is your personal achievement as much as anything you do is.

When deconstructed far enough, your ability to make those choices is not really the result of personal merit, yes. It is determined by your inborn intelligence or lack thereof, by the experiences you have had, by whether or not you are easily swayed by emotions or not and then whether your toast burned in the morning... you make good choices, but someone who makes bad ones through hot-temperedness could not suddenly to decide not to be hot-tempered and start making good ones.

But all that would -also- go if through some unknown measure the choice was -not- predictable. Just like a top athlete isn't really that good by his own merit, it is largely inborn talent. A genius is praised for his work, but he was born a genius. An altruist is praised for his good deeds, but derives pleasure and statisfaction from helping others. Self-control can be learned to an extent, but is much easier for some than for others.

Maybe that too makes you think the world is devoid of meaning. However, I think the evidence is incontrovertible even leaving aside the issue of free will that much of who and what we are is decided by nature and nurture, and that any praise (or blame) given is given to those people who were lucky enough, talented enough and ambitious enough (or the reverse) to achieve greatness. (or be failures)

I confess I do not find that greatly troublesome. I mean, it would be nice if the world was truly fair, but obviously it is not. If someone achieves great things, I am impressed even if his talent was inborn. If someone makes good choices, I will praise them even if he made those choices because he was born with a sound sense of judgement. And if someone lets his judgement be swayed because he broke his shoelaces in the morning and is in a bad mood, I'll kick him out of the court if at all possible because he will achieve bad results, even if he cannot really help his temper.

That also applies to choices made. Even if they are as free as you believe I think you would agree that that freedom only goes so far, that not everybody has it in him to make good choices no matter how hard he tries, and that not everybody has it in him to even try hard. Some people would just not care.

So my bottom line would be that finding out free will does not exist would not make the world any more devoid of 'meaning' than it is already, and does not make people more or less accountable than they with free(er) will.

I'm sure you've noted I have made no effort here to defend my position that there is no true free will. We can get back to that later, if you wish. I found this more interesting to talk about. view post


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