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This is the archive for May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

  • The mind is not the brain. Confusing the two, as much neuro-social-science does, leads to a dehumanised world and a controlling politics

    tags: neuroethics, grue

  • Allman was searching for a peculiar kind of brain cell that he suspects is a key to how the African elephant?like a human being?manages to stay attuned to the ever-shifting nuances of social interplay. These spindle-shaped brain cells, called von Economo neurons?named for the man who first described them?are found only in human beings, great apes and a handful of other notably gregarious creatures. Allman, 66, compares the brains of people and other animals to gain insight into the evolution of human behavior.

    tags: brains, social-neuroscience, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009



  • Home > Books & Culture > Jul/Aug

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    Evolution vs. Naturalism
    Why they are like oil and water.
    by Alvin Plantinga | posted 7/01/2008

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    As everyone knows, there has been a recent spate of books attacking Christian belief and religion in general. Some of these books are little more than screeds, long on vituperation but short on reasoning, long on name-calling but short on competence, long on righteous indignation but short on good sense; for the most part they are driven by hatred rather than logic. Of course there are others that are intellectually more respectable?for example Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's contribution to God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist[1] and Michael Tooley's contribution to Knowledge of God.[2] Nearly all of these books have been written by philosophical naturalists. I believe it's extremely important to see that naturalism itself, despite the smug and arrogant tone of the so-called New Atheists, is in very serious philosophical hot water: one can't sensibly believe it.

    tags: naturalism, evolution, Plantinga, grue


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

  • The findings concluded that the repeats affect the activity of neighboring genes by way of how tightly the downstream DNA is wrapped around a complex of proteins collectively called a nucleosomes. A nucleosome is one of the half dozen packaging features of the eukaryote genome which allows a genome that is 3 billion base pairs long or 6 feet in length to be squeezed into a tiny little nucleus. About 167 basepairs wrap around one nucelosome. DNA that is more wrapped around a nucleosome is harder to be activated, and thus otherwise non-coding/junk tandem repeats of sequences determine how tightly the local DNA is wrapped around these protein complexes.

    tags: evolution, genetics, grue

  • Apparently, because Plantinga cannot imagine a source of information to imperfect minds other than the Christian deities, we're supposed to conclude that microwave ovens cannot be the product of ape brains shaped by evolution, with new and deeper understanding of the physical world derived by trial and error.

    I really cannot take Alvin Plantinga seriously, ever. (Pharyngula)

    tags: evolution, intelligent-design, Plantinga, grue

  • D?j? vu is that creepy feeling that you're living through a moment for the second time, as if retreading the path of an earlier existence. Now Alan Brown and Elizabeth Marsh believe they've found a way to simulate the d?j? vu sensation in the laboratory - a finding that could help us understand why the phenomenon occurs.

    tags: d?j?, bain, grue

  • Ray Kurzweil can't wait to be a Cyborg?a human mind inside an everlasting machine. But is this the next great leap in human evolution, or just one man's midlife crisis writ large?

    tags: cyborg, Kurzweil, CDC, AZB, grue, robots


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

  • As someone who studies the brain and also tries to disseminate information about the brain in a user-friendly, but scientifically accurate, way, I cringe when I read some pop accounts of brain research. For example, I recently saw this CNN headline: "Will right-brainers rule this century?" Clicking on the link took me to OPRAH.com, which promised, less hesitantly, to explain "Why right-brainers will rule this century." At least CNN considered the possibility that there was some question about the veracity of the statement. Oprah's headline implied it's a done deal.

    tags: brain, ledoux, cogsci, grue

  • Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now genetically engineered a strain of mice whose FOXP2 gene has been swapped out for the human version. Svante Paabo, in whose laboratory the mouse was engineered, promised several years ago that when the project was completed, ?We will speak to the mouse.?

    tags: language, FOXP2, genetics, grue

  • Some evolutionary psychologists believe that disgust emerged as a protective mechanism against health risks, like feces, spoiled food or corpses. Later, many societies came to apply the same emotion to social ?threats.? Humans appear to be the only species that registers disgust, which is why a dog will wag its tail in puzzlement when its horrified owner yanks it back from eating excrement.

    tags: disgust, morality, neuroethics, grue, cogsci

  • Animals possess a sense of morality that allows them to tell the difference between right and wrong, according to a controversial new book.

    tags: morality, evolution, brains, neuroethics, 150, grue


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

  • Darwin would be amazed and delighted by the scope and details of our current understanding of life. In Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution I take life?s most celebrated ?inventions?, each one of which transfigured our planet, and trace what we know of how they came to be.

    tags: darwin, evolution, grue


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

  • I think the Chinese Room is worth a second look not for the force of its argument but for what it reveals about contemporary ideas on what constitutes the essence of the human, especially intelligence, consciousness, and meaning. Excavating these and juxtaposing them with current controversies over the boundaries of the human will enable us to see what has changed, why it has changed, and what the change signifies in the decade and a half that has passed since Searle delivered the coup de grace that failed to deliver.

    tags: Searle, chinese-room, AI, 150, AZB, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

  • The origins of life on earth remains a daunting scientific challenge. The difficulty is in trying to find evidence to infer what chemical reactions took place billions of years ago. There may ultimately be no way to settle the issue, but that does not mean the question cannot be addressed scientifically. (NeuroLogica Blog)

    tags: RNA, biology, grue, prebiotic


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

  • To explain the origin of life, scientists seek to explain the origin of its components. The three most important of these are RNA, DNA, and proteins. (The Loom | Discover Magazine)

    tags: RNA, biology, prebiotic, DNA, life, grue

  • Because I?m sure some readers of this blog like to keep reflecting about neuroscience and psychology even when they?re too tired to keep reading books, articles, and blog posts, I thought I?d offer a list of some relaxing (and in some cases, not so relaxing) music that touches on this theme, so that those who are interested can tide themselves over until the caffeine kicks in. Since most of the songs in the list are from my own music library, it has a strong eighties college radio bias.

    tags: music, mind, brain, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

  • This post will look more closely at casino?s techniques to draw gamblers back to the slot chairs and the tables, focusing on both physiological aspects and engaged decision making. Ultimately, these observations will demonstrate that casinos create more than entertainment; they develop an entire compulsive experience.

    tags: addiction, grue, cogsci

  • In this article we present a view gaining attention in the origin-of-life community that takes the question out of the hatchery and places it squarely in the realm of accessible, plausible chemistry. As we see it, the early steps on the way to life are an inevitable, incremental result of the operation of the laws of chemistry and physics operating under the conditions that existed on the early Earth, a result that can be understood in terms of known (or at least knowable) laws of nature. As such, the early stages in the emergence of life are no more surprising, no more accidental, than water flowing downhill.

    tags: life, biology, origins, grue


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

  • I argue for the superiority of non-gappy physicalism over gappy physicalism. While physicalists are united in denying an ontological gap between the phenomenal and the physical, the gappy affirm and the non-gappy deny a relevant epistemological gap. Central to my arguments will be contemplation of Swamp Mary, a being physically intrinsically similar to post-release Mary (a physically omniscient being who has experienced red) but has not herself (the Swamp being) experienced red. Swamp Mary has phenomenal knowledge of a phenomenal character not instantiated by any of her past or current mental states. I issue a challenge to gappy physicalists to account for how it is that Swamp Mary can satisfy the psychosemantic requirements on phenomenal knowledge while non-Swamp pre-release Mary cannot. I argue that gappy physicalists cannot meet this psychosemantic challenge. (Brain Hammer)

    tags: mind, mary, swamp-mary, phenomenal-knowledge, grue

  • The study has important implications for the field of cognitive psychology. Historically, the field has viewed concepts, the basic elements of thought, as abstract representations that do not rely on the physicality of the body. This notion, called Cartesian Dualism, is now being challenged by another school of thought, called Embodied Cognition. Embodied Cognition views concepts as bodily representations with bases in perception, action and emotion. There is much evidence supporting the Embodied Cognition view. However, until now there has never been a detailed, experimentally supported account of how embodiment through gesture plays a role in learning new concepts. (Scientific American)

    tags: cognitive-science, embodiment, grue, cogsci

  • The study has important implications for the field of cognitive psychology. Historically, the field has viewed concepts, the basic elements of thought, as abstract representations that do not rely on the physicality of the body. This notion, called Cartesian Dualism, is now being challenged by another school of thought, called Embodied Cognition. Embodied Cognition views concepts as bodily representations with bases in perception, action and emotion. There is much evidence supporting the Embodied Cognition view. However, until now there has never been a detailed, experimentally supported account of how embodiment through gesture plays a role in learning new concepts. (Scientific American)

    tags: cognitive-science, embodiment, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A man noticed a farmer walking with three-legged pig on a leash. It looked very odd. He said, "Farmer, why are you walking a three-legged pig?"

"Why, stranger, this is no ordinary pig," the farmer replied. "One night our barn caught on fire, and before my wife and I even woke up, the pig had called the fire department, and herded all the other animals out of the barn. The next week, a burglar got into the house, and the pig had him tied up and the police were on their way before I even realized what had happened. Then just last week, I fell into the duck pond and was like to drown, except this pig jumped in and pulled me out. Like I say, this is no ordinary pig."

"Well, that truly is a remarkable pig. But tell me, how did he come to have only three legs?" "Are you kidding? A pig this good, you don't eat all at once."

http://www.compassrosemusic.com/jokes.html


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

  • I was agreeably surprised by Andy Clark?s ?Supersizing the Mind?. I had assumed it would be a fuller treatment of the themes set out in ?The Extended Mind?, the paper he wrote with David Chalmers, and which is included in the book as an Appendix. In fact, it ranges more widely and has a number of interesting points to make on the general significance of embodiment and mind extension. Various flavours of externalism, the doctrine that the mind ain?t in the head, seem to be popular at the moment, but Clark?s philosophical views are clearly just part of a coherent general outlook on cognition. (Conscious Entities)

    tags: Clark, mind, extended-mind, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

  • That morality evolved is a commonplace among evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists. In this talk, I will however argue that biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists have failed to pay enough attention to the differences between three distinct interpretations of the hypothesis that morality evolved: (1) some components of moral cognition (e.g., some particular emotions, concepts, or norms) evolved, (2) a capacity to grasp and be motivated by norms in general evolved, and (3) a capacity to grasp and be motivated by a distinctive type of norms evolved. Under the first two interpretations, it is fairly uncontroversial that morality evolved, while under the third and most interesting interpretation, the hypothesis that morality evolved is empirically unsupported. Edouard Machery (1), 4/20/09

    tags: morality, evolution, grue, AZB


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, May 15, 2009


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


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Monday, May 11, 2009

  • Most of the children were like Craig. They struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. ?A few kids ate the marshmallow right away,? Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, remembers. ?They didn?t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later.? About thirty per cent of the children, however, were like Carolyn. They successfully delayed gratification until the researcher returned, some fifteen minutes later. These kids wrestled with temptation but found a way to resist. (New Yorker)

    tags: self-control, mind, psychology, neuroethics, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


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Friday, May 08, 2009

  • Dr. Dennett is a philosopher first although his ideas are strongly influenced by and develop on scientific ideas. His books have a way of cutting through the philosophical jargon, to present clear ways of thinking about fascinating subjects. He offers examples and analogies that help to make these areas of thought, ranging from consciousness to religion, accessible to all. I recently had the chance to ask him some questions for Nirmukta. Here is that interview:

    tags: Dennett, freewill, consciousness, grue

  • Whaley offers a summary of papers by Martino et al. (open access) and Sharot et al. in a recent issue of J. Neurosci and a more recent paper by Croxson et al. notes correlates of cost-benefits valuation. (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)

    tags: decision-making, value, brain, grue, cogsci, neuroeconomics

  • Instead of having our narrative understanding slowly build, these directors dole out comprehension in sudden spurts, when a crucial twist is suddenly revealed. The end result is that disbelief can't be suspended because we're too busy trying to figure out what the hell is going on. (The Frontal Cortex)

    tags: movies, cognition, 150, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

  • Studying how people form a conscious intention to move is troublesome for at least two reasons. First, as soon as you instruct a participant that now is the time for them to move freely, of their own volition, you've already undermined the idea that they're making up their own minds. Second, there's no room in materialist science for a conscious will, separate from the electro-chemical workings of brain. (BPS RESEARCH DIGEST)

    tags: volition, freewill, brain, grue, cogsci, AZB, neuroethics


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

  • Comparisons of the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are revealing those rare stretches of DNA that are ours alone.

    tags: human-evolution, genetics, grue, AZB, 150

  • Tim Minchin's brilliant & witty demolition of irrationality in all its many guises - with rolling text from me -all in the medium of a 9-minute beat poem.

    tags: reason, science, grue, aapt

  • Naturally, it is reasonable to consider the role of emotions in moral decision making. Obviously, most people feel bad about murder and this no doubt plays a role in their view of the second case. However, to simply assume that the distinction is exhausted by the emotional explanation is clearly a mistake. After all, a person can clearly regard murdering one person to save five as immoral without relying on a gut reaction. It could, in fact, be a rational assessment of the situation.

    tags: morality, emotion, neuroethics, grue, cogsci


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


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Monday, May 04, 2009


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Sunday, May 03, 2009


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Saturday, May 02, 2009


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Friday, May 01, 2009

  • How the brain interprets complex visual scenes is an enduring mystery for researchers. This process occurs extremely rapidly - the "meaning" of a scene is interpreted within 1/20th of a second, and, even though the information processed by the brain may be incomplete, the interpretation is usually correct.

    Occasionally, however, visual stimuli are open to interpretation. This is the case with ambiguous figures - images which can be interpreted in more than one way. When an ambiguous image is viewed, a single image impinges upon the retina, but higher order processing in the visual cortex leads to a number of different interpretations of that image. (Neurophilosophy)

    tags: vision, brain, grue, hybrid-images, cogsci

    • the importance of scale information in perception
    • t seems that the brain is adept at selecting the frequncy band containing the most information relevant to a particular task.
    • the brain extracts large-scale features slightly earlier than fine-grained features

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.