Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Throw them all down the well

I finally got around to viewing the Macacagate clip. One thing that immediately struck me was the similarity with this faux music video. Anyone else catch the resemblance? The crowds just loved them both, didn't they? All that hootin' and hollerin' and singin' and dancin'. They just lapped it up.

And whatever you might think of the outcome of the elections, mandate, landslide, whatever, the fact remains that the sumbitch senator was playing to his gallery. He really almost didn't get it in the backside at all. The margin was non-existent. Now maybe that's just a case of incompetent hacking, who knows. After all, the coding coolies were mostly blue, right? The numbers and the pictures both tell us there's a whole bunch of macacalovers out there.

And in their country there is problem.


On a less intemperate note, here's something that I came across at 3 in the morning last night. In sharp contrast to the above, it kind of restores my belief that if there's life out there, they shouldn't cut funds to their Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence programs just yet.

What I believe but cannot prove is that no part of my consciousness will survive my death. I exclude the fact that I will linger, fadingly, in the thoughts of others, or that aspects of my consciousness will survive in writing, or in the positioning of a planted tree or a dent in my old car. I suspect that many contributors to Edge will take this premise as a given—true but not significant. However, it divides the world crucially, and much damage has been done to thought as well as to persons, by those who are certain that there is a life, a better, more important life, elsewhere. That this span is brief, that consciousness is an accidental gift of blind processes, makes our existence all the more precious and our responsibilities for it all the more profound.

- Ian McEwan

Think about it.


Anonymous Abi said...

Sidarth, [THE] Macaca himself, has spoken. Graciously.

I just read Sidarth's piece a couple of minutes ago, and fired up my Bloglines to see your post.

11/12/2006 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was fun to watch Allen's slide, monitored by The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert (and others...)

Why don't our politicians get covered on video like this?

11/12/2006 7:03 PM  
Blogger wildflower seed said...

That quote from McEwan is thought provoking, true, but after a bit of thinking, I realize that what he is really doing is making a value judgement, and appealing to his reader's sensibility to accept it. This is par for the course, I guess, because after all, he starts with the all-important disclaimer.

I think McEwan's understanding of the word "consciousness" is seriously flawed. "Life" and "Consciousness" are not interchangeable concepts in my opinion. I believe but cannot prove that inanimate objects have consciousness. I also believe but cannot prove that consciousness must obey some kind of law of mechanics. As "evidence", plants (you know what I have in mind here) have consciousness, and at least some of that consciousness is transferred to humans when they eat the plant. The physical dissolution of the plant when one eats it, can be likened to death. The transfer of consciousness
occurs across the *continuity* of life and death.

The real trouble with making any pronouncements about "consciousness" is that the one who is making them is speaking from within the finite boundaries of his/her own consciousness. There is, however, if you choose to believe it, an overarching pure infinite consciousness (the Purushottam of the Bhagvad Gita, the Sat-Chit-Ananda of Hindu philosophy, the Shunyata of Buddhist philosophy), out of which all finite consciousness evolves and into which it all dissolves. I would rather believe someone who can lay (prominent finger quotes begin) reasonable (end) claim to having touched that infinite consciousness, than someone like McEwan.

:) (Jammin')

11/12/2006 10:44 PM  
Blogger km said...

There *is* intelligence out there. Alas, no intelligence in here. Macacagate is a prime example.

11/12/2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

For the first part of your post, there's a reson they call it fly-over country, but the Virginia race may have turned into a nail biter because Webb, the Democratic contender, wrote this article about women in the navy, that included the gems "And I have never met a woman... whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership" and "The Hall, which houses 4,000 males and 300 females, is a horny woman's dream".
Now regarding the continuing stream of consciousness, I sort of agree with WS. I think that what we call consciousness is probably just our physical memory, and our memory is made up of perceptions of reality that are probably a handicapped interpretation of a miniscule proportion of what is actually out there. If string theory is to be believed then everything in the universe is made up of clumps of vibrating energy particles, all of which are interconnected and constantly flowing. There are no individuals, forget individual streams of consciousness, but that universal energy will probably keep flowing long after our sun novas and it is probably way out of the realm of human understanding.

11/13/2006 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm we don't even know why we have consciousness is it not?

11/13/2006 3:00 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

nice coincidence and thanks for the link. i liked the guy's response - mature fellow. i especially liked the way he slipped in that his happiest moment was seeing that allen lost in that particular county. good show, but still a matter of proportions, not absolutes.

fun, exactly. i think our politicians don't get this because any attempt and there would be large scale rioting by their offended followers and devotees. as sting sang: there is no monopoly of common sense / on either side of the political fence. or pond.

heh, i realised i'd get a rise out of you on this one :-D nice jam. my responses: 1. i don't think mcewan uses life and consciousness interchangeably (although the brevity of the statement, in part its wit and punch, allows for this interpretation). 2. his argument is essentially a "constrained optimization" (inserting the finger quotes :-) in line with what you point out, and if one buys that all humans are so constrained, it's hard to see how *anyone* could have claimed to have "touched" anything beyond it. (i note that you used the word "reasonable :-D). 3. most important, for you and i to be talking about this for any purpose other than jamming is a little bit like our dancing about architecture, right? (fun.) after all, that's the whole point of this exercise -- believe but can not prove.

dilbert's principle. we are like this only.

i was going to go into the webb side of it as well, but that would just have degenerated into a politicians are idiots post, rather than the more general dilbertian thrust that represented the way i was feeling at that point. regarding the string theory part of it, in the same collection there are people coming out against this very "conclusion" of string theory -- calling it a unscientific and a cop-out.

and that's the second level of complication. heck, we don't even know why we are idiots. [topical word verification section: "sjerks".]

11/13/2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger wildflower seed said...

Heh heh - bustin' fancy moves. :)

It's interesting to see how much bad press string theory gets among scientists. But its not surprising to me, since any "theory of infinity" must, it seems self-evident, offer up as its first victim the Popperian notion of falsifiability. There is a parallel in economics too - namely, the possibility in a certain class of forward-looking models, that *independent* beliefs about the future can be self-fulfilling. Its called multiple equilibria, and economists are in denial about it, because if they were to entertain this possibility, all of the economist's pretensions about doing science (in the Popperian sense) would have to be flung out the backdoor. Sometimes, I have to think to myself - if I were Wittgenstein, I would be brandishing that poker at Popper too. I believe, but cannot prove ;);), that the man set back human development with his ramblings about scientific theory.

11/13/2006 11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gah!! another econs phyics parallel!!...
Technically, isnt Poppers theory of falsifiability unfasfiable? And really econs is hardly scientific in Popperian sense...I mean if you look at all the models and then apply them to the real world they either fail or give wrong results.

WS, agree with you about String Theory....if I am not wrong they have had to invent a lot of new mathematics to make progress, no? It comes back to the idea of what reality is when you are limited in means to even try and fathom it. But it is a scary thought that they might have been barking up the wrong tree all this while....

11/14/2006 1:19 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

no no, tell us how you *really* feel! :-D

i'm not sure i'd go all that far against popper. after all, the tenet of falsifiability is the crux of the experimental method, which is the basis of modern science. you and i couldn't have had this exchange over the www, thereby developing ourselves as humans, without that. humans can develop along many dimensions (not that they usually do, cf. macacagate).

i think it's okay if models fail -- that's the point of falsifiability, after all. they fail, you kick them out, you make better ones. without falsifiability you'd never know if they'd failed or not, which wouldn't be of much help when it came to making the next decision.

11/14/2006 1:32 AM  
Blogger wildflower seed said...

Heh. I might have overplayed my hand there a little. :D

Thanks for the space.

11/14/2006 3:24 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

oops... never mind, next time. this was getting interesting (last night i almost went and pulled out the actual string theory related passages.)

11/14/2006 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if you kick them out. The works of this years Nobel laureate dont even give proper estimations of NAIRU....oh sigh never just venting.

11/14/2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Ki bheeshon kothin tattwik alochona!

Gets nowhere near the question of WHY all this brouhaha, does it? Methinks Martin wossisname from Jack Higgins was right after all.


11/14/2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger wildflower seed said...

I feel your pain. But that's the nature of the scientific paradigm - one makes progress by eliminating alternatives. By the way, there are lots of great blogs which apply all the economics you are studying in the classroom, to real world situations. Blogs like New Economist, Marginal Revolution, Macroblog, Greg Mankiw's blog (and you'll find countless others when you land up at any one of these). These blogs have very meaningful discussions and reading them will give you an appreciation of where the knowledge we have gained from theoretical modeling in economics works, and where it doesnt. There's a lot of good stuff out there.

11/14/2006 10:19 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

ws says it better than i ever could.

ei ektu adda, arki :-)
missed the jack higgins ref -- been a long time.

attaboy. the shoe fits.

11/15/2006 12:19 AM  

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