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  Topic: On the evolution of altruism and empathy:, Why Francis Collins is wrong.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 31 2006,18:42   

Francis Collins thinks that morality and empathy, including altruism, are traits that distinguish humans from other animals.

I wonder what Collins thinks of the results of this kind of work:

http://www.sci-tech-today.com/story.xhtml?story_…

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According to Reiss, the research, published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that elephants share high-order behaviors with humans, even though we’ve evolved along different paths.

Among those traits is empathy, or the capacity to distinguish others’ emotions, which in turn is tied to the capacity to distinguish oneself from others.

“This is true for great apes, dolphins, and elephants,” said Reiss. “They have large, complex brains, complex social organization, and they show these social traits of altruism and empathy, which really involve care-giving and helping behavior.”


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Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 31 2006,19:43   

I take it this has something to do with this article?

Pretty interesting stuff. But not really that surprising to me. I recal a BBC nature programme from some years back. They had followed a small herd for over a year. Their (the elephants) actions on the death of a herd member was moving.

  
Louis



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(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 31 2006,20:45   

I've always found this an interesting topic: what makes humans different fromother animals.

The answer as far as I can tell is not much. I can't think of one attribute that humans have that is QUALITATIVELY different from an identical or analogous trait found in animals. Obviously many of our attributes are QUANTITATIVELY different.

There are several problems that this topic always brings up. Firstly, I'm not expecting animals to demonstrate "humanlike" traits, they are different species. If, for example, jokes are different between different cultures, shouldn't we expect that chimp humour is different from human humour. Maybe we're telling chimps the wrong jokes!

Secondly, it seems that people are desperate to draw arbitrary lines (analogous to racism, sexism etc) to maintain some falsely dichotomous group identity. A "them and us" mentality. Obviously such groupings and dichotomies have uses, but we often forget how arbitrary they are. A great example of this behaviour is the abortion debate: a human foetus becomes human on this date etc.

Another problem is the whole issue of stigmatisation. Someone who behaves like an animal is lesser, worse than human. Obviously this plays into the drawing of arbitrary lines, but it also clouds the issue in other ways. Despots the world over have tried to define their enemies as sub-human, as if this very animality permits the atrocities that follow.

I am not a biologist, nor do I play one on television, but I do have a biological slant to my work and interests. I'd love to hear from more experienced biological scientists on this. To the best of my knowledge no QUALITATIVE difference has been found between humans and other animals. Skinner box experiments show animals can be superstitious. Research on apes have shown that they can recognise themselves (as can elephants. Woooohooo), use tools and language, etc etc etc.

Cheers

Louis

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mcc



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(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 31 2006,21:07   

Quote (Louis @ Nov. 01 2006,02:45)
I can't think of one attribute that humans have that is QUALITATIVELY different from an identical or analogous trait found in animals.

Pizza delivery.

You're not going to find that in nature, I tell you what.

  
Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,01:14   

Quote
...it seems that people are desperate to draw arbitrary lines (analogous to racism, sexism etc) to maintain some falsely dichotomous group identity. A "them and us" mentality. Obviously such groupings and dichotomies have uses, but we often forget how arbitrary they are. A great example of this behaviour is the abortion debate: a human foetus becomes human on this date etc.
I see it exactly the same way. We humans are so much better at cultural transmission of information (the whole talking/reading/writing/telecomputing thing) that this quantitative distinction has become essentially qualitative. And, whatever your position on abortion, for purely practical reasons society has to draw some artificial line somewhere such that on the early side it's no one's business but the parents', but on the later side it's a matter of public concern (whether it's gametes, zygotes, feti(?) or toddlers).   I suspect a need to feel such artificial lines are not artificial is at the bottom of fundamentalism, broadly defined.

Same deal with respect to human rights/animal rights. It's interesting to imagine how fundies would accommodate the discovery somewhere of an extant population of Neanderthals, or Homo erectus.

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Louis



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,02:38   

Russell,

Oh yes I agree that arbitrary lines have to be drawn somewhere. The difference is not in where one draws the line, but how one draws the line.

These arbitrary lines should be pencilled in, pending further data (on pretty much any subject) rather than concreted in and surrounded by guards, dogs, gun turrets and barbed wire.

Like the abortion example, yes there has to be a line for legal purposes, and yes that line should be open to revision on the basis of the data. It may be there is a hard developmental line beyond which abortion is the only option as the foetus won't survive no matter what we do, but I doubt it. What amuses me about the abortion issue is that it's "debated" on entirely the wrong facet. Abortions happen. End of story. They happened when they were illegal, they happen now they are legal. The only issue is whether you want them happening in as safe and controlled a manner as possible, or in a back street "clinic" where no government control is possible. The rights of the woman vs the rights of the foetus is specious bullshit argued over by the religious wing. They've shifted the debate into an obscure area to try to cloud the issue and acheive their results by the back door.

This ties into the same thing we are talking about on the ID is dead thread. PZ is right when he idenitifies the megachurch phenomenon and surrounding social aspects as the underlying mycelium of the fungus that is antiscience. The toadstools that pop up: ID, "scientific creationism", the abortion issue, even party politics are easily picked, but it's going to take one #### of a fungicide to  hit the thing from whence these toadstools spring.

Obviously this is the same thing that infects the comparison of humans and other animals. Some people wish to draw hard lines, not pencil lines, for whatever reason. Perhaps you're right, perhaps we've moved so far along the information transfer route that it's like a "speciation" event, but I honestly doubt it. Granted we are apparently at one end of a broad spectrum, but it's still a spectrum. We don't have many near neighbours in terms of the volume of data transferred, but are we really so different in out individual ability to transfer information? After all, we do stand on the shoulders of giants to see as far as we currently do, individual humans can't transfer vastly more information than individual chimps, what we HAVE evolved is systems that remain longer than one human life. These systems survive and are tools adopted and adapted by other humans.

Anyway, just a thought.

Louis

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Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,03:25   

Quote
Perhaps you're right, perhaps we've moved so far along the information transfer route that it's like a "speciation" event, but I honestly doubt it. Granted we are apparently at one end of a broad spectrum, but it's still a spectrum.
Just in case I wasn't clear, I see it exactly the same way.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,05:02   

Try appling imagination or abstract thought to animal behavior.  There's no way to measure or observe it and I believe that therein rests the single greatest, maybe the only, different trait between man and animal.  Now whether or not you think that animals display this trait or it is a purely human characteristic depends upon your prior bias concerning the uniqueness of mankind.  We always end up at this same point, it seems, but regardless it seems unfounded to say that Collins is wrong.  We arrive again at a question with no answer.

  
Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,06:41   

Quote
We always end up at this same point, it seems, but regardless it seems unfounded to say that Collins is wrong.  We arrive again at a question with no answer.
Especially if we're really vague about what question we're asking.

Let's try that again: "it seems unfounded to say that Collins is wrong when he writes..."

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,06:50   

The tag line on the thread "Why Francis Collins is wrong"

  
Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,08:46   

Still not very helpful. You might have taken one small step toward defining the question by quoting Ichthyic's opening remark:
Quote
Francis Collins thinks that morality and empathy, including altruism, are traits that distinguish humans from other animals.
but until we define, say, "empathy" in a way that excludes elephants, or - remember the gorilla that rescued the human child that fell into its enclosure in a zoo? - and, of course, "altruism" is discussed frequently these days in connection with ants and bees... we're not going to get very far, are we?

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Try appling imagination or abstract thought to animal behavior.  There's no way to measure or observe it and I believe that therein rests the single greatest, maybe the only, different trait between man and animal.
I don't know about "measuring it" - either in cats or humans - but I contend that a cat has to use imagination in plotting any course of action, which they clearly do. I believe there's plenty of evidence of "abstract thought", too, if nowhere else then among cetaceans and among nonhuman primates.

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Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,09:23   

Anyone in the UK reading this, there is a very good programme on BBC2 right now about elephants.

Can't stay as I want to watch the rest of it, it is very good so far though.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,09:56   

Quote
Obviously such groupings and dichotomies have uses, but we often forget how arbitrary they are.


I think many people forget this is also true when we discuss taxonomy.

it's not like "species" or "family" were defined in nature beforehand.

we constructed useful dichotomies to aid in studying nature.

it sounds simplistic, but many times the whole creationist notion of micro vs macro evolution (which has nothing to do with the actual definitions, of course), seems to hinge on a misunderstanding of the role of classification systems to begin with.

kind of a tangent to the topic of discussion here, but it struck me nonetheless.

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Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:00   

Well this programme turned out to be amazing.

Fifteen years to make it, viewing like this makes me happy to pay the licence fee. Some of the scenes were gobsmacking.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:07   

maybe it would help skeptic to have read Collins' latest book, which contains all of his proclamations?

or, you could check here for another analysis of Collins' concepts of altruism and morality:

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Theistic.cfm

I merely assumed most here knew what I was referring to, since Collins hasn't exactly been thrifty wrt to espousing his views on the subject of late.

otherwise, i would have assumed that skeptic merely read the opening tagline and then proceeded posting nonsense for no reason.

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There's no way to measure or observe it and I believe that therein rests the single greatest, maybe the only, different trait between man and animal.


huh?  if there is no way to measure or observe it (how would you know?), then how do you conclude that this signifies the difference between humans and animals?

ye gods, yo do say the most outlandish crap.

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You're not going to find that in nature, I tell you what.


that's why i so rarely go camping anymore.  

I tried to train a bear to fetch pizza from the nearest town for me once.  Bastard always thought the pizza was the reward.

treasure your pizza delivery folk, for they are precious and rare.

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Henry J



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:32   

Maybe it was smarter than the average bear? :p

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:38   

well, when i first found him, he and a smaller bear were raiding picnic areas for food...

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Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:41   

Quote (Stephen Elliott @ Nov. 01 2006,16:00)
Well this programme turned out to be amazing.

Fifteen years to make it, viewing like this makes me happy to pay the licence fee. Some of the scenes were gobsmacking.

sounds interesting.

i tried to watch it, but the feed was less than ideal.  probably try again in a couple of days to see if the traffic dies down a bit.

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Henry J



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:43   

Hmm. Sounds like ya might've made a Boo-Boo in trying to recruit that thar Bear... :p

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,10:46   

yeah, i should have thought twice about it when i noticed he was wearing a tie.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,11:48   

I haven't read Collins' book and I'm not sure that I will but I believe that my point has been made.  As I said, I believe that imagination and abstract thought separate man and beast; that's my personal bias.  Many here take the stance that there is no difference and offer evidence to explain away the differences; that's their personal bias.  You can not measure or observe imagination at work in the mind of a cat as it makes a jump or follows a path.  In fact, I can instruct a computer to find and analyze multiple paths and select the most appropriate.  I would assume no one here is ready to confer imagination upon a computer.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,12:56   

Quote
Many here take the stance that there is no difference and offer evidence to explain away the differences; that's their personal bias.


if we offer direct evidence, it ain't personal bias now, is it?

talk about not grasping the concept.

there is literally NOTHING you have ever posted in ATBC that hasn't been based on personal bias, with essentially no, or complete misunderstanding of, the actual data and evidence involved in the topics you post on.

it's quite remarkable.

Quote
In fact, I can instruct a computer to find and analyze multiple paths and select the most appropriate.  I would assume no one here is ready to confer imagination upon a computer.


you've never even considered the converse, have you?  that your conceptualization of "imagination" might actually boil down to something as simple as probabilistic algorithms?

again, you are missing the point.  you say imagination is something we can't measure, then proceed to use it as a distinguishing characteristic.

can't you see how ridiculous that is?

guess not.

maybe someone else can give you an analogy that will help you see your error in logic.

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Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,13:20   

The gorilla incident I referred to earlier. A challenge, I daresay, for those who think that humans are somehow qualitatively different from our relatives in compassion/empathy/altruism/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,13:42   

If the "evidence" is nothing more than a humanistic interpretation of behavior then it is still nothing more than bias.  It amazes me, Ichy, how poor your comprehension skills are as you completely misunderstood nearly all of what I said.  Either that or you're just in too big a hurry to refute and insult that you don't actually bother to read.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,13:52   

Quote
If the "evidence" is nothing more than a humanistic interpretation of behavior


right, so you use a subjective perception to argue against subjective perception.

why don't you go on and show us how the ape and elephant studies are using entirely subjective and unclear methods for their study, eh?

my (lack of) god, but you are a complete obliviot (oblivious idiot).

i compelety understood everything you posted.  If what you wanted to say isn't what you actually said, it ain't my fault.

why don't you just give up already?

or did you want to repeat yourself again?

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Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,14:02   

oh, and obliviot, would you care to take up the other side of the behavior/morality issue?

that of studies indicating biological/biochemical abnormalities that cause individuals to "lose" aspects of specific behaviors associated with "morality"?

like those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder who lose all sense of empathy.

there are literally hundreds of case examples in the literature.

the idea that morality and ethics are somehow not naturalistic is fast fading away under the mountains of evidence against it.

oh, but that's right, you're the one who came here convinced the ToE was all wrong.

LOL

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,14:07   

Russell, I watched the film when it occurred and I was struck by how "natural" the behavior was not human.  It could explained in the same way as a product of instinct.  Are you trying to equate the behavior that we judge to be "good" was actually done with the goal of being "good"?  No matter how much we want to confer value upon these actions they are still our values that we use as the measuring stick.  

and Ichy, I'll try this real slow for you, it is all subjective and that was my point.  We see what we want to see based upon our initial bias.  Until animals start speaking there is no evidence that bridges that gap.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,14:19   

Quote
and Ichy, I'll try this real slow for you, it is all subjective and that was my point.


where in my responses did you come to the conclusion that i didn't grasp you thought it was all subjective?

in fact, that was the very thing i pointed out to you as being ridiculous.

i'll put this in all caps for your poor, addled little brain:

IT ISN'T ALL SUBJECTIVE.

in fact you merely use a subjective argument to argue what you perceive as subjective.

gees, i don't think I've ever seen someone quite as dense as yourself.

you are presenting a subjective argument to argue in favor of the subjectivity of the research in general.

you need to provide direct evidence that the experimental methods used were subjective, just saying it's subjective over and over again doesn't make it so.

you do the exact same thing in your thread on the ToE; you present entirely subjective arguments to support your contentions, and entirely ignore the reality of the data and research that is already out there.

hence, I hereby forever term you "Obliviot".

now take your subjective perceptions and beat it, or come up with a logical argument that shows us how all of the studies on animal behavior testing cognition and awareness are all "subjective".

really, you actually have YET to make a point.

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Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,15:21   

Quote
I watched the film when it occurred and I was struck by how "natural" the behavior was not human. It could explained in the same way as a product of instinct.
? not sure what this means. Is there a typo in there, the correction of which would render that sensible?

Quote
Are you trying to equate the behavior that we judge to be "good" was actually done with the goal of being "good"?  
Good grief, no! Did I somehow give that impression?

I don't pretend to know what was going through Binti Jua's mind at the time, but my first guess is that it's something like the feeling that I experience when I see an animal in distress: empathy, I guess.

What's your guess?

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J. G. Cox



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,16:50   

Let me begin with a caveat: I have not read Francis Collins' book. What other people have written seems to indicate that his thesis rests on the point that morality cannot be produced via evolution. This would merely reveal that Collins is ignorant of an active portion of the ecology and evolution literature. We are actually starting to get a decent idea about what conditions are required for the evolution of altruism or reciprocity, and the general assumptions of the models tend to match pretty well with the ecological realities of species that exhibit such behaviors. Most behaviorists who work with species with stable social groups can describe learned rules of behavior idiosyncratic to their study species (or population).
 I certainly wouldn't condemn such ignorance, considering that such subjects are not Collins' field. However, he shouldn't be writing a book about it. I'm guessing, however, that Collins is not a dog owner. Anyone who has had a pet dog can tell you that animals can feel guilt.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 01 2006,17:54   

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I certainly wouldn't condemn such ignorance, considering that such subjects are not Collins' field. However, he shouldn't be writing a book about it.


well, considering he headed the human genome project, and is very well versed on just about every other aspect of evolutionary biology, I can't accept that he is ignorant of the entire field of animal behavior.

yet, he does seem to conveniently leave out every bit of research that would counter his morality arguments.

it's very strange.  the only question is, is it an intentional oversight, or not?

Of all the things I've seen Collins expound on in the last year or so, I can't recall anywhere where he has specified his knowledge of the field of animal behavior, the work supporting the theory of evolution, or why it doesn't counter directly his arguments about human morality as making us "separate".

for that matter, he also has not addressed directly any of the psychological studies that deal with abberations and their effects on behavior.

He makes excellent arguments as to why ID creationism is bunk, and presents good evidence in support of general evolutionary theory, but seems to get a mental block when it comes to the behavior category.

Well, if anybody runs across something more definitive that explains if he discounts all this research and/or why, please post it here.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,02:59   

Quote (Russell @ Nov. 01 2006,21:21)
I don't pretend to know what was going through Binti Jua's mind at the time, but my first guess is that it's something like the feeling that I experience when I see an animal in distress: empathy, I guess.

What's your guess?

I can not make a guess and that is my point even though some people just can not grasp that concept.  You equate what you would feel to what you assume the animal feels.  While this may be correct there is absolutely no way to measure this in order to prove whether or not it is correct.  This is where we tend to apply human traits and emotions to animal behavior and in reality animal behavior may as well be alien given our inability to accurately assess the motivations behind these behaviors.  To take this one step further and attempt to present evolutionary origins for these perceived motivations is pure imagination.  I would look more towards human psycology for the reasons why we feel we must assign these motivations without direct evidence of their existence.

A perfect example is the statement about a pet.  If I think my dog is feeling guilt that is only because in the same situation I would feel guilt and I would like to think that my dog cares enough about me to return the feeling.  To turn the analogy on it's head, think of how often you observe you dog's behavior and think "what in the world is he doing?"  I think you'll see that it works both ways.

  
Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,03:17   

Quote
I can not make a guess and that is my point even though some people just can not grasp that concept
To say you can't be certain, i.e. to admit that it is a "guess", is different from saying you can't even make a guess.

Hey, I can only guess that, when other humans' behavior is similar to mine, that their motives and feelings are similar to mine. Same with gorillas. Which makes me wonder why Collins thinks that humans are profoundly different from all their relatives with regard to empathy, imagination, etc. Similarly, I wonder what religious people are talking about when they talk about "souls".

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Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,10:33   

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I can not make a guess and that is my point even though some people just can not grasp that concept.  You equate what you would feel to what you assume the animal feels.


talk about projection!

again, and for the last time, obliviot, the study I cited in this post, as well as all the other related studies of animal behavior and cognition, DO NOT USE SUBJECTIVE MEASURES OF BEHAVIOR.

read the goddamn studies or STFU!


your uneducated "guesses" as to how research on cognition and behavior are conducted are no better than your ignorant "guesses" on the ToE in general.

admit you haven't a clue what you are talking about, and move on already.  You really aren't contributing anything intelligent to this thread.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,11:00   

Actually, Russell, you can do more than guess when it comes to another human's behavior because you can ask them about their motivation and they can tell you.  This can not be done with an animal.  That only leaves a determination of whether or not they are lying or are not conscious of their own motivations but either way it gets you much closer than a guess.  Now, Ichy, if you read this real slow and you sound out each word then you might begin to understand why it makes no difference what methods are used in those studies.  Although, if you happen to come across a study written by dogs let me know because that would be interesting and relevant.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,11:29   

you sir, are a complete idiot.

I hereby request Steve to toss your further proclamations to the BW, as you are not contributing anything intelligent to this discussion.

if you want to contribute something intelligent, suggest you start educating yourself beginning with basic ethological concepts.

here, this book is over 50 years old, but it's at just the right level for you to begin learning how the field of animal behavior, beginning with ethology, was formed.

It's an entertaining bit of prose which i highly recommend for anyone, actually, but most specifically for you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Solomon%27s_Ring_%28nonfiction%29

Lorenz was my major prof's major prof, and in this book does a great job of showing the thinking involved in the formulation of some of the better early ethological experiements.

plus, it's just some great storytelling.

once you finish that, you could continue your education with Alcocks "Animal Behavior" text.

and, if you get that far, you could delve into some graduate level texts like Krebs and Davies "Behavioral Ecology, an Evolutionary Approach", which does a great job of covering relevant literature in the field.

however, nothing we have ever suggested gets you to try and actually learn something, so nuts to you is probably the best response.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,11:42   

I'm not sure if that's the most immature statement you've made to date but it's sure close.  That is, of course, if I assume that you are an adult, which given the nature of the internet, I shouldn't take that for granted.  In spite of that mystery, if you feel that you have something useful to contribute regarding the question of mankind's uniqueness, please offer it because you endless insults are just tiring.

  
Russell



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,12:10   

Quote
Actually, Russell, you can do more than guess when it comes to another human's behavior because you can ask them about their motivation and they can tell you.  This can not be done with an animal.  That only leaves a determination of whether or not they are lying or are not conscious of their own motivations but either way it gets you much closer than a guess.
I am, if you'll pardon the expression, "skeptical".

In any case, my point is that it is not so difficult to make a guess about (human or nonhuman) animal thoughts and motivations, and I suggest that an introspective glance at one's own thoughts and motivations in corresponding circumstances is not a bad guide.

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,12:34   

Skepticism is always a good thing.  Look at it this way.  Your motivations are a result of your experiences.  Even more they are dependant upon your senses and the data that you have collected about your environment.  So the manner in which you collect that data can have a profound impact on the way that data is processed.  The assumption would then be that animals with very similar sensory perception would process data similarly and that extrapolation could be made.  The difficulty then comes from actually measuring this similarity and then beyond that factoring in the inequality of human vs animal experience.  I've seen this in action while working with primates.  Watching them watch Sesame Street is nothing short of eerie.  They react out of context and you really wish you could read their thoughts and figure out what they see when they see the same Sesame Street that you are watching.  An even more brutal example are animal attacks by supposedly tame animals with no warning or provocation.  I'll wait for direct communication before I'm really convinced.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,13:00   

Quote
In spite of that mystery, if you feel that you have something useful to contribute regarding the question of mankind's uniqueness, please offer it because you endless insults are just tiring.


it's your endless ignorance that is tiring, and do reread the topic of the thread, eh?

I've already done so (made the original post about both my and collins' position on uniqueness, and actually posted data to support my position), you however, have not.

see, the difference between you and i, obliviot, is that I actually have studied this stuff for years, taught it for years and the undergraduate level, and even published on it in the literature.  bottom line, I actually do know what I'm talking about.  You, obviously, don't.

Now, stop trolling my thread, asswipe.

stop egging on his ignorance, please, russel.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,14:06   

Quote
I actually have studied this stuff for years, taught it for years and the undergraduate level, and even published on it in the literature.  bottom line, I actually do know what I'm talking about.


I sincerely doubt every bit of that.  I could be wrong but as I've said before you seem to lack the temperment to be very effective at any level of education.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,14:32   

you have a very short memory, to go along with your level of intelligence.

I even posted a reprint of the article I published on ontogenetic color change on this very site, and IIRC, mentioned it in your ToE thread (as this isn't the first time you challenged my credentials for no reason).

as well, I have a graduate degree from the zoology/integrative biology dept. at UC berkeley, which you can easily look up.  Or did you forget the discussion we already had about this when you claimed to be a teacher yourself?  remember the posts on CA teaching credentials?

what part of anything i have posted to your continuing drivel makes you possibly think I'm not on the level?

you, OTOH, who claim to be a biochemist....?

you are such a waste of time.

you might have noticed that my ire in this thread is entirely directed at yourself.

you're lucky steve is moderating instead of I, as i would have booted all of your drivel to the BW already.

now, stop trolling my thread, obliviot.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,16:31   

That's right, this is your world and I'm just living in it.  I would say get over yourself but I believe it goes deeper than that, pathologic maybe.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,16:34   

stop trolling my thread, obliviot.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,17:46   

It must be bad because now you're just repeating yourself but if you'd ever like to break this mold try some independent thought.  Assess an idea by first thinking for yourself, reject conventional wisdom, ignore the source, use logic and rationale rather than dogma and see if you come to the same conclusion.  Stretch your mind, exercise it rather than regurgitating the thoughts of others.  You know what they say "Use It or Lose It."  You might even find it liberating...

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,18:06   

Stop trolling my thread, ignoramus.

there, that's different.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,18:44   

way to spice it up, but on a more relevant note how is ontogenetic color change related to altruism?

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,19:07   

stop. troll. slackjaw.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,19:22   

Why wouldn't other animals have altruism and empathy?

Surely this is an advantage for any creature that lives in a stable ordered group?

Skeptic: Why do you consider language a better guide to behaviour than actions? Or am I missing something?

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,19:28   

Quote
Why wouldn't other animals have altruism and empathy?

Surely this is an advantage for any creature that lives in a stable ordered group?



that is the prevailing theory.  I think we have referenced in ATBC several studies dealing with reciprocal altruism, for example.

vampire bats always being the one that jumps to my mind first, but there are lots of others.

In this case, with the elephants (and apes, among others), we are specifically looking at issues of self-recognition and empathy, which is a bit different that strict reciprocal altruism.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,19:42   

I wouldn't deny the existence of altruism nor the benefit in a highly social organization but actually measuring that existence is where it gets tricky.  What we perceive to be "good" is a value statement.  This action is "good" because it shows caring for other lifeforms or preserves life when in fact it may just be an instinctual reaction to maintain a larger breeding stock or some other such reason.  In any event we don't really know because we can not actually communicate with the animal we can only observe it actions and attempt to infer the meaning behind them.  To move to the opposite end of the spectrum, let's look at lions.  Lions have a tendency to kill newborn cubs.  Is this an "evil" act?  We don't think so.  We think the purpose is to force the female back into heat sooner so the male may breed again.  How would we characterize this in relation to human behavior?  Is morality merely the composite of behaviors that work best for us on the survival scale?  Is there actually no intrinsic "good", if so then we are no different than animals just more complex.  I think that's were the two opinions diverge.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,19:46   

the two opinons diverge on the fact, that we have evidence to indicate these things ARE in fact natural, evolved traits.

and you, do not have evidence other than subjective, anectodal storytelling, to support otherwise.

Quote
Is there actually no intrinsic "good", if so then we are no different than animals just more complex.


not even that, for many cases, as was the specific reason i posted the link to the article at the start.

It would be nice, that if you were going to argue against it, you would actually attempt to at least reach the level Collins has in his presentation.

again, the reason i even posted a nice little analysis of the relevant tracts from his book.

but, of course, you couldn't even be bothered.

In the meantime, before you repeat your unfounded drivel, do try re-reading the relevant section of the article on the paper:

Quote
According to Reiss, the research, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that elephants share high-order behaviors with humans, even though we've evolved along different paths.

Among those traits is empathy, or the capacity to distinguish others' emotions, which in turn is tied to the capacity to distinguish oneself from others.



troll.


BTW, was the initial link broken for anybody?

if so, try it again.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

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skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,20:02   

I have only observation and rational thought.  Look at the statement again:

Quote
Among those traits is empathy, or the capacity to distinguish others' emotions, which in turn is tied to the capacity to distinguish oneself from others.


How do you know that the animal is responding to emotion, how about pheromone release?  Are you saying that because the animal can recognize itself then it can show empathy?  Just how do you objectively measure empathy?

I'm walking down the street an I see an old woman step in front of a bus.  I grab her and pull her out of the street.  Why?  Because I wanted to save her life because all life is sacred?  So you ask me and I tell you that I saw that she was wearing an expensive coat and I thought I might get a reward for saving her life.  Is that still a "good" act and how would you have known the difference if you hadn't asked me?  How are you going to ask the elephant?

  
Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 02 2006,20:13   

Quote (Ichthyic @ Nov. 03 2006,01:46)
BTW, was the initial link broken for anybody?

if so, try it again.

It was broken for me but working now. Didn't make much difference as it is essentialy saying the same as the article I linked to. Same story. Pretty much same quotes.

  
deadman_932



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 03 2006,07:29   

Quote
"Human beings are not always aware of what they are feeling. Like animals, they may not be able to put their feelings into words. This does not mean they have no feelings...Psychiatric lexicons contain the term alexithymia  for the condition of certain people who cannot describe or recognize emotions, who are able to define them 'only in terms of somatic sensations or of behavioral reaction rather than relating them to accompanying thoughts.' Such people are handicapped by their inability to understand what feelings are. It is curious that the study of animal behavior should demand that its practitioners turn themselves into alexithymics."
... Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Susan McCarthy: When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

I was going to comment extensively on this, citing ethology, evolutionary and cognitive psych studies, studies of brain-damaged humans, feral children, animal play and sharing and altruism in vampire bats, kittens raised by dogs, leopards sparing baby baboons, etc., but I don't think I'll bother now, for one reason:

When I was about 24, I had a friend who became an Ayn Randian "randroid" and ascribed ALL human altruism and empathy and ethics to selfishness and a LACK of the very "behaviors' mentioned. This was prior to brain-scan studies, etc, and she was able to confound me for weeks...basically, she relied on the fact that we are all locked in the "black box" of our own brains and cannot *know* with certainty what others were thinking and whether their self-described reports were "true."

When assertions about the opacity of emotions, empathy, altruism, ethics, etc. reach that level of perverseness, it is silly to keep going.

If the subject were " do animals feel fear?"...there are examples of animals going into full-out screaming cardiac arrest and dying, just from "fear" of a FAKE SNAKE. If that's not fear, I don't know what is. Is that the only "emotion" that counts, though?
Few people would regard the screeching of a vervet faced with a  snake in its cage, flailing at the cage, loosing it's bowels and bladder, finally shaking and freezing up as the snake approaches......as other than fear....it's only when humans try to deal with "love" or "guilt" or "sadness" or "empathy" that skeptics become oddly perverse, demanding that researchers provide dogs -- for instance -- with the same vocal apparatus that humans possess and language, and then to speak and tell us what they, the dogs, think and feel, before the skeptic will accept the large amount of data on the topic.

And even then, they could say the dogs are lying to US, or to THEMSELVES.

Shee-it, if a perverse person could say that you cannot properly ascribe altruism or ethics or empathy to HUMANS, what hope does a reasonable human have of convincing the same erroneously-self-described (like my friend)  "skeptic" of those characteristics in non-humans?

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AtBC Award for Thoroughness in the Face of Creationism

  
Stephen Elliott



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 03 2006,09:16   

Sometimes we react to situations. Fast. Then later try to justify our actions. I believe that when we try to intelectualise (our reactions) we may be decieving ourselves. We sometimes atribute more thought into actions that were just instinct.

OTOH. I do think that some reactions are maybe deeper than that.

Damned if I know.

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 04 2006,07:56   

I've been trying to find time to post to this thread for a couple of weeks now. I enjoyed the subjective/objective diversion that skeptic provided though.

Great topic. Interesting that someone would choose to call altruism a "human" trait. And also interesting that folks would get up some passion over whether it matters that our definitions include our experience. At some point, all experience is subjective. Several years ago I read a book called
Godel, Escher, Bach. An eternal golden braid which poses an interesting hypothesis on the platforms we use to construct our truths. Altruism, defined as  
Quote
1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
2 : behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species
by websters, would seem to be a definition of a kind of behavior rather than the emotional context of that behavior. Under that definition, altruism is quite specifically not unique to humans. But If the platform that you construct your truths upon includes an idea of humanity as somehow not on the same experiential continuum as that of all other life, then you might arrive at any number of ideas that wouldn't work for someone who constructs their reality on different platforms.

It is equally as true for me to say that I have no idea what your experiences feel like  as it is for me to say that I have no idea of what a dog's experiences feel like. Your explanation of your feelings  notwithstanding. However, if I define guilt or happiness as a behavior, then I can say also true for me that I know exactly what it feels like to be a dog or you. I have the same requirements for life as all other living things. I have a reptilian part of my brain and, thanks to modern science, I roughly know which part of my experiences and behaviors to attribute to this part of my brain. When reptiles' behavior doesn't correspond to what we know of "reptillian mind", then we will have to rewrite some grants I suppose but it doesn't seem likely to happen. When an elephant mourns her lost child, we can either say that we don't know what it feels like to be anything other than ourselves or we can say that the word we use for that behavior is "Mourn". The third way is just splitting hairs. If we se behavior that occurs after certain events or situations, it is either right and proper to give it the same name or we are islands and "I think, therefore I am" is an incorrect answer to the question.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
qetzal



Posts: 311
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 04 2006,13:24   

Quote (Ichthyic @ Nov. 01 2006,00:42)
Francis Collins thinks that morality and empathy, including altruism, are traits that distinguish humans from other animals.

I agree that based on behavioral evidence, it seems very likely that some animals have empathy. Similarly, I think there are plenty of animal species whose behavior is at least as "moral" as our own. (Or, perhaps more accurately, their behavior is no more immoral than humans.)

I tried to think of any traits that really are qualitatively unique to humans. At first I thought our use of symbolic written language might be one. But, IIRC, wasn't there a chimp that learned to communicate through abstract symbols? Of course, the chimp didn't invent the language, but it did (apparently) have the capacity to learn a symbolic language with syntax.

As far as I can tell, that only leaves one significant qualititative difference between us and all other animals - religion.

Not sure what that really means, but it strikes me as interesting.

  
BWE



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 04 2006,21:31   

Quote
Religious explanations all do something peculiar. They elevate “Man” to an honorary title. They separate us from the rest of the creatures as somehow different. “Tool Using”, “Speech”, ability to “Reason” or “Love”, ability to “Farm””. It turns out that we have no such monopoly. Our presumed distinctions turn out to be just that-presumed. Our distinction turns out to be the ability to plan . We have the ability to employ past observation in the present for a future intent. Not simply storing nuts for the winter but setting aside a weapon near a tree where I will eventually provoke an argument with my rival- that kind of intent. Man employs the dimension of time . We can sense the present as space to be aware of time past and time to come. The employment of time as a dimension is what opened up all that we are today-including religion.

Although memory and planning certainly exist in other species besides man, man’s memory of his past can be evaluated, now for future ends such as whacking his rival with a club unexpectedly. There is the element of surprise, the element of planning the place and the element of being prepared. Different.

But using time as a dimension differs from using space. We do not occupy the dimension of time with our physical bodies.  We need to imagine it. We occupy the space with our minds. We make images of past events, use reason to evaluate them and try to construct images of future space. This talent feeds itself by including the ability to store information for [i]evaluation[\i] purposes. Leads to skins for clothes then houses then better materials then better objects from those materials then better materials and etc. Technology.

The downside is that we become aware that we will die. At first, it is terrifying. But, after consideration, we realize that we can see beyond death in our time dimension we occupy so we conclude that that part of us that can employ that dimension will not die. Then we further conclude that the same is true for our friends and loved ones and because we all share sort of the same world in that time dimension we will probably occupy it together when our bodies die. Voila!
Religion. Nothing wrong with the hypothesis, it is just hard to test. So all we have are guesses. And if the nature of those guesses force us to ignore evidence for how the world really works, we are all the poorer for it. Any religion which seeks the disproval of information had better use honest tactics in its effort or risk looking like you. And fundies of all religions.


I wrote this in response to an AFDave question and then posted it to it's own thread. I wasn't really sure why at the time. It seems appropriate here though.
Here is the link

DM, I missed your post before posting my last one but that seems like the crux of the matter. My dog rolls over and shakes when I come home if she gets in the garbage when I am gone. I don't beat her or anything but she exibits behavior that is situationally consistent. Many dog owners can corroberate this kind of behavior and a laboratory would likely not have trouble identifying and distinguishing the behavior. So what reason do we have to say something as assinine as "it's not the same thing as us" simply because we are aware of our own baggage. It is supreme arrogance. WIlliam Blake said "The most sublime act is to set another before you." Talking about our baggage with judgement.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,02:20   

A few years ago this guy made millions by stating the obvious, as often happens, that men and women think differently, ala Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.  It has always been known that Men really have know idea what is going on in the minds of women and women have always said that men have no concept about how it feels to be a women.

How much of this is truth and how much is the ongoing interplay between man and woman?  Even though the brains are structurally similar the chemistry is somewhat different.  How significant is this difference in light of all the similarity?  When a man says "love" he means such as opposed to when a woman says "love" she means this.  So then man and woman try to reconcile this difference of opinion, definition, feeling thru communication.  As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"  It's safe to say that results vary.

So why is this relevant?  It's an example within our own species of how difficult it can be to share ideas and define concepts.  Obviously, we want to work beyond our own species but we have to be aware of the complications that arise.  This really goes back to the bias of the observer.  If I see similarity in the animal I observe then I make generalizations based upon my own definitions and project them out to the animal.  If I view the animal as distinct from me than I am less likely describe the animal according to my experiences and more likely to describe it as alien.  I add the qualifier here because it is impossible to fully remove ourselves from the observation as we must record the observation in human language using human concepts.

In the currrent discussion, on one side it is assumed that altruism being exhibited by both animals and man has an evolutionary origin.  Therefore, man and animal are not different because they have both developed corresponding behaviors.  In a sense, the underlying bias of sameness leads to conclusions that reinforce the initial position.  On the other hand, a belief that mankind is different or unique from animals will emphasize differences rather than similarities and further reinforce that initial position.  It once again becomes a philosophical question that defines the outcome.  

I am not sure that animals experience altruism even though we describe the behaviors that we see according to our concepts and label it as altruism.  It is convenient to do so because the generalization allows us to confer understanding to other humans as we go about conceptualizing the world we live in.  Certainly, the animal is not going to speak up and point out that we got it wrong on this or that point so the generalization stands.  That leave me observing the animal behavior as just that, animal behavior.  Attempting to track the evolution of behavior seems tenuous without even contemplating the underlying motivation or emotion.  I prefer to view the behavior as unique to each animal in an attempt to appreciate it more and remove as much human bias as possible.

On a side note, which is more arrogant: the belief that the world and everything in it can be described using human language and concepts or that there is much out there we do not know nor understand and to presume too much places us on the thin ice of assumption.  Again, it comes down to a philosophical question.

  
k.e



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,04:24   

Skeptic call me cynical but have you ever experienced anything, besides sitting in front of a TV?
You seem to have no idea what Ichthyic and BWE are talking about, either that .....or some missing kangaroos in your top paddock.

You said:
Quote
On a side note, which is more arrogant: the belief that the world and everything in it can be described using human language and concepts or that there is much out there we do not know nor understand and to presume too much places us on the thin ice of assumption.  Again, it comes down to a philosophical question.


Ah yes..... begging the question, the great unknown ....to which some sort of  anthropomorphic g$d can be ascribed as having the 'intelligence' to know. (something I have always found to be highly amusing if you must know, it's just a seed planted in young minds, which gets mindlessly repeated)

Why is  your statement 'there is much out there we do not know nor understand and to presume too much places us on the thin ice of assumption' a self referential form of question begging i.e. circular reasoning?

Well..... instead of giving a direct answer, consider what knowledge is.

It is the product of human reason and ultimately will, in the future answer questions you could never dream of  and currently provides light on subjects our dead ancestors would have been incapable of imagining.

You appear to be making the assumption that because we don't know 'some unknown unknown' we can rightly conclude that human language  correctly conveys concepts which arrogantly firmly assert  the existence  of deities as though they are fact.

Well that particular  all powerful deity has already revealed the great unknown is unknowable (snicker) to his believers through the Mythologies in the Bible.

And of course ' being revealed to' is a purely human function, propaganda is almost second nature for skin collectors, no outside assistance needed.

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The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions.These are the wreckers of outworn empires and civilisations, doubters, disintegrators, deicides.Haldane

   
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,05:19   

As so often happens with your posts, I really not sure I have a clue what you're trying to say.  For instance:

Quote
You appear to be making the assumption that because we don't know 'some unknown unknown' we can rightly conclude that human language  correctly conveys concepts which arrogantly firmly assert  the existence  of deities as though they are fact.


If I'm understanding you correctly then I'm asserting quite the opposite.  Taking your example, let's examine the nature of knowledge with is based upon human reason and accept that it is purely human knowledge.  Beyond that constraint it may have no real explanatory power which is something we may never know unless we were to encounter other beings with comparable levels of communication.

To extend my statement to apply to God, as you seem compelled to do, then the analogy would be towards those that profess to know the mind or motivations of God or use these assumptions in their arguments.  I would say that they make the same assumptions by extending human knowledge to explain phenomena that would be, by definition, outside of the existance of human knowledge.

I understand what both Ichy and BWE are trying to say but that doesn't change the fact that the question remains and will continue because it is the philosophical one.

  
qetzal



Posts: 311
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,08:07   

Quote (skeptic @ Nov. 05 2006,11:19)
Taking your example, let's examine the nature of knowledge with is based upon human reason and accept that it is purely human knowledge.  Beyond that constraint it may have no real explanatory power which is something we may never know unless we were to encounter other beings with comparable levels of communication.

That's wrong. Our "human" scientific knowledge allows us to accurately predict future events and observations. That's what explanatory power really boils down to.

If non-human intelligences exist, their non-human knowledge is going to make the same predictions as ours would. Assuming the starting conditions are equivalent, human knowledge is not going to accurately predict one outcome at the same time that non-human knowledge accurately predicts another. (Not unless you reject the concept of objective reality.)
 
Quote
I am not sure that animals experience altruism even though we describe the behaviors that we see according to our concepts and label it as altruism.

You're still missing the point. Animals behave altruistically. How can you argue that humans are uniquely altruistic, when certain animals behave in ways that clearly meet the observational definition of altruism?

If your claim is that only humans "experience" altruism, because only humans have the capacity to articulate altruism as a motive, then it isn't the altruism that sets us apart. It's our cognitive and communicative abilities. In that regard, we differ only quantitatively from animals, not qualitatively.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,09:32   

Quote
That's wrong. Our "human" scientific knowledge allows us to accurately predict future events and observations. That's what explanatory power really boils down to.

If non-human intelligences exist, their non-human knowledge is going to make the same predictions as ours would. Assuming the starting conditions are equivalent, human knowledge is not going to accurately predict one outcome at the same time that non-human knowledge accurately predicts another. (Not unless you reject the concept of objective reality.)


I would disagree on these grounds, the two sets of predictions may agree if both we and the other beings described the world in the same way and if we both were correct.  Otherwise, you run into a problem where the other being doesn't even agree on the premise of the predictions or our theory is more correct and we arrive at correct predictions and they do not or vise versa.  Now given an accurate translation or convertion we may both arrive at the same prediction but I'm not going to take that for granted.  By the way, I do accept objective reality;although many do not, but I can not assume that we can come close to describing that reality.

Quote
You're still missing the point. Animals behave altruistically. How can you argue that humans are uniquely altruistic, when certain animals behave in ways that clearly meet the observational definition of altruism?


It may be more accurate to say that we describe animals' behavior as altruistic.  Which is to say that animals appear to act in an altruistic way, as we define altruism, but their actual motivations are unclear to us.  We can only guess at what the animal is thinking or reacting to.

The more I think about it Collins may have set up a completely circular case.  By identifing the existence of empathy or altruism as the difference between man and animal and these behaviors being defined by man and only "proven" to exist in man, maybe he hopes his arguement is persuasive by default.  Kind of like saying, "Get back to me when you've found a caring dog that you can talk to, until then I'll stick to my theory."

  
qetzal



Posts: 311
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,10:54   

Quote (skeptic @ Nov. 05 2006,15:32)
I would disagree on these grounds, the two sets of predictions may agree if both we and the other beings described the world in the same way and if we both were correct.  Otherwise, you run into a problem where the other being doesn't even agree on the premise of the predictions or our theory is more correct and we arrive at correct predictions and they do not or vise versa.

???

Your claim was that knowledge based on human reason was purely human knowledge, and may have no explanatory power beyond that.

Sure, our "knowledge" may have no explanatory power if we're wrong. But that's because the "knowledge" is wrong, not because it's human.

If the other being doesn't agree on the premise of our predictions, then either one of us is wrong, or we're talking about two different things. Once again, any limitation in that case has nothing to do with our knowledge being human.

 
Quote
It may be more accurate to say that we describe animals' behavior as altruistic.  Which is to say that animals appear to act in an altruistic way, as we define altruism, but their actual motivations are unclear to us.

So in other words, it's only "true" altruism if we know the actor's motivations? Are you familiar with the "no true Scotsman" fallacy?

Still, you admit that some animals appear to behave altruistically. Which means that it's wrong to claim that altruism is unique to humans. The available evidence at least shows that animals may experience altruism, even if you insist that more information is needed to be sure.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,11:35   

Imagine a being that receives input from the environment in a completely different way than we, i.e. different sensory mechanisms, different evaluation processes and so forth and their model of the universe is, pardon the pun, alien.  Our view may be correct for us and their's correct for them and still both be correct.  To use the analogy, we may be two different blind men feeling up the same elephant.

As far as the Scotsman, I'm not familiar with that fallacy, but I would agree that it is only the motivation that defines an action as altruistic.  Remember the story earlier this year about the teen hero who ran into a burning building to save some children.  That would certainly seem altruistic until you learned that the man had set the fire himself.  But go on and tell me about the Scotsman...

  
k.e



Posts: 1948
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,15:26   

Skeptic looks at himself in a mirror ....but just to make sure looks behind it.

Quote
Taking your example, let's examine the nature of knowledge with is based upon human reason and accept that it is purely human knowledge.  Beyond that constraint it may have no real explanatory power which is something we I may never know unless we were I was to encounter other beings with comparable levels of communication.


Obviously.

When you encounter your 'other beings with comparable levels of communication' don't be too surprised if they seem a little dull

I hope that does not need further explanation.

Let me know when anything other than human knowledge is considered 'human knowledge', I always thought it was the opposite to (human) ignorance.

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The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions.These are the wreckers of outworn empires and civilisations, doubters, disintegrators, deicides.Haldane

   
jupiter



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,16:02   

Quote
Imagine a being that receives input from the environment in a completely different way than we, i.e. different sensory mechanisms, different evaluation processes and so forth and their model of the universe is, pardon the pun, alien.  Our view may be correct for us and their's correct for them and still both be correct.  To use the analogy, we may be two different blind men feeling up the same elephant.

Unless this other being shares none of our sensory mechanisms, its universe will simply be different, not alien. Compared to us, dogs experience the world less through vision and far more through smell; my dog can smell a chicken bone or a pizza crust half a block away. The fact that I can't smell the thing, or see it, doesn't mean it's not there. If we walk close enough, I will see it; in fact, her behavior will cue me to look for it so I can keep her from snarfing it up. Yes, she and I inhabit different worlds but those worlds aren't disconnected. We're both exploring the same elephant. (Neither of us is all that interested in "feeling it up.")

For the purposes of science or any other form of communication, it's the overlap that's meaningful, not the divergence. The former is accessible; the latter is forever beyond our reach.

skeptic, your objections in this thread are the very same objections you began with, in your criticism of the ToE. What is it that you find useful in such a limited and ingrown schema? By its nature, it leads nowhere except into its own navel -- is that what's so compelling?

When I was a wee girl, I used to wonder if "purple" was the same color for everybody and if it wasn't, how we'd know. But then I discovered other, more interesting forms of masturbation, mental and otherwise.

  
Ichthyic



Posts: 3325
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2006,23:19   

Quote
Attempting to track the evolution of behavior seems tenuous without even contemplating the underlying motivation or emotion.


and of course, you are wrong, but you don't know why.

there is absolutely no need to define motivations (other than physical, objective ones), in order to study behavior.

I tried to explain this to you over and over again, going so far as to see your incalcitrance to grasping this concept likely being related to you never having ever read a basic treatise on the study of animal behavior.  I even gave you an excellent set of fun to read treatises of increasing complexity.

maybe a more detailed approach is needed:

we have absolutely no need to study subjective motivations when we analyze why parental care works for a particular species of fish, and not for another closely related one.

we have no need to "know" the motivations of an elephant to quantify its reactions to stimuli, and make predictions about what those responses will be.

As an example of "learning from exception", we even have no need to understand the motivations of a human with schizophrenia in order to make correct predictions about behavioral patterns and the "ethics" choices these individuals are likely to make, simply based on knowledge of the physicality of the disease itself.

...and we even can communicate directly with these individuals; there is simply no need to in order to quantify and study their behavior.  In fact, direct communication can actually complicate the study of behavior, if you think about it for a second.

but no, you're absolutely sure that your jack-ass ignorant observations qualify you to pronounce your authority on the field of animal behavior, just like you did with the ToE.

...and you seem completely unable to see the pattern you repeat, over and over and over again.  In fact, I'm sure a pychologist would be able to recognize the pattern you present, and put a name to it other than just "willfull ignorance".

I do hope others, at least the ones who saw your previous attempts in your other threads, can clearly see why you are not only wrong, but completely thickheaded.

You think, apparently, that you are being reasonable, but in reality, just like with the ToE, you are just being ignorant, and trying to pass off your ignorance as reasonableness.

it's this single, repeated, characteristic of yours that irks me to no end.

now enough of the troll.

Is there somebody that understands, specifically, where Collins gets his argument from?

I note that there is a new thread related to this on PT discussing a debate Dawkins and Collins had recently.

perfect fodder for this thread.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,02:43   

As usual you failed to grasp what I was saying.  So, give me an example of how we have studied the evolution of a behavior, please.

Also, I'm waiting for the interview to be released.  It was a 90 minute session with Dawkins and Collins and the portions of it are in this month's Time.  In fact, the cover story for this month's Time is God vs. Science.  That alone ought to keep us going for a month.

  
Ichthyic



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Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,03:11   

Quote
As usual you failed to grasp what I was saying.


as usual, you haven't actually said anything.

your ideas are obviously based on personal "intuition", which is of course, complete bupkuss when we look at reality.  go figure, since that's how you approached the ToE as well.

there are literally thousands of examples that study the evolution of specific behaviors to choose from, be they mostly innate or learned.  pick any of the books i recommended, and select one from those sources, or google for articles on any aspect of animal behavior you wish to be schooled on.

if you are interested in specific studies, rather than general information on the study of behavior itself, I would recommend the Krebs and Davies book.

as i said though, you can just google on any specific aspect of animal behavior you wish, from parental care to sexual selection to territoriality to altruism, and I'm sure you will be able to find something for you to use that "inuitive" wit of yours on.

this specific thread is devoted to the study of behavior related to altruism and empathy, though, so if you wish to continue in this thread, suggest you try to locate the article referenced specifically, or the earlier work done on ape behavior that has been mentioned, or other studies involving the range of altruistic behaviors that have been studied in various species.  I also would suggest you try to locate a few of the many studies done on physical causes of abnormal behavior in humans, as that relates to Collins' argument as well.

If you want to start a new thread discussing some other aspect of animal behavior, feel free to do so.

the purpose of THIS thread is specifically to debate Collins' perception of behavior, and why his perceptions do not indicate a "special" nature wrt to humans when he argues that only humans exhibit empathy and altruism.

so, again, if you want to continue here, you either need to read ANY of the references, either to Collins book, or the analysis on Talk Origins of his argument, and at least try to grasp something about how the study of animal behavior works.

right now, you aren't saying anything that contributes to furthering the topic of this thread, and seriously, I'm going to ask Steve to boot your further "contributions" to the BW unless you get a clue right quick.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,11:03   

if I wish to continue on this thread...

I read this earlier today and I really wanted to digest it fully before I responded because I was somewhat surprised by my initial response.  It was one of pity.  

So, to use your words, if I don't get a clue you're going to take your toys and go home like some child.  Are you interested in discussing ideas or just hearing your own repeated back to you?

Jupiter had asked a very interesting question which I was going to respond to and now it seems even more relevant:

Quote
skeptic, your objections in this thread are the very same objections you began with, in your criticism of the ToE. What is it that you find useful in such a limited and ingrown schema?


What value do I gain?  I view all of knowledge in flux and not as a closed book.  What we know or think we know is in constant revision and I love that because I marvel at discovery.  Learning something new, seeing a pattern, fitting another piece of the puzzle and even realizing that a mistake has been made and it's back to the drawing board.  I question everything and I accept the current models as just that, current models.  They are likely to change, be updated or cast away completely.  With this outlook, I am positioned not only to accept change but to embrace and anticipate it.  I have no world view house built on a foundation of sand that will crumble beneath me leaving me without a home.

I am liberated from narrow-mindedness and I do not require an echo chamber to feel safe.  I welcome new ideas to be looked at and examined on all sides but I am not threatened by them.  And most of all, I don't mind being wrong because that is one of the best ways to learn.  I am convinced that I do not already know it all and I don't feel the need to prove to everyone that I'm the smartest guy in the room.  I'm content.

So, Jupiter, that's what I get out of it.  No anger or anxiety or frustration with the ideas of others just discovery and the joy that comes with it.

And, Ichy, if you feel that's it's time for you to pick up your toys and move on in order to preserve your integrity or your ego, then you do what you gotta do.  I was not aware it was possible to be banned for voicing opposing opinions but I'm not completely familiar with the working of this site.  So we'll see...

  
"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



Posts: 2560
Joined: Feb. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,13:44   

Quote (Ichthyic @ Nov. 01 2006,16:07)
treasure your pizza delivery folk, for they are precious and rare.

Mine is infallible, ya know.

:)

--------------
Editor, Red and Black Publishers
www.RedandBlackPublishers.com

  
Ichthyic



Posts: 3325
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,13:57   

Quote
Are you interested in discussing ideas or just hearing your own repeated back to you?


yes, intelligent ideas.

the problem is, you haven't yet presented anything but your own personal intuition, so you aren't contributing anything intelligent.

do you actually understand Collins' argument, for example?

you could do something intelligent and argue for Collins position, given you understood it.

or, you could actually directly counter some of the studies on altruism and higher order behaviors in animals, by actually analyzing the methods used in the papers, and showing me what is specifically incorrect about the methods used, or conclusions reached based on the results obtained.

instead, with a great wave of your unwashed hand, you dismiss it all as entirely irrelevant, just because your personal perception is that all animal behavior studies are subjective, with absolutely no data to back your contention whatsoever.

so yeah, you obviously can't see it, but you aren't adding anything intelligent to the discussion, for or against Collins position, or about the research that counters his argument.

IOW, you are wasting space in my thread, that would be far better suited for someone who actually has an argument based on evidence to present.

yes, you're an obliviot, and your continued presence here clearly represents an attempt at trolling.

PM to steve sent.

now go away.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 06 2006,17:27   

Since I'm still here I'll address something quickly

Quote
you could do something intelligent and argue for Collins position, given you understood it.


I've already stated that I believe Collins' premise to be false based upon circular reasoning.  If only humans exhibit altruistic behavior because they are the only beings that can be defined to exhibit such behavior then this can not be a point of differentiation.  If animals are capable of exhibiting altruistic behavior this must be proven by observation which would invalidate the original premise.

I for one can not be convinced of either empathy or altruism in animals so I would focus upon some other method of differentiation in order to attempt to prove the separation of man and animal.

And with that I will await the boot...

  
Louis



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 07 2006,02:10   

Skeptic,

This:

Quote
I for one can not be convinced of either empathy or altruism in animals so.....


Is why discussion with you is pointless, at least on this issue. As Icthyic has pointed out, when presented with a wide range of evidence (or at least the means to access the evidence) you airily hand wave it away.

As I said right at the start, herein lies a problem. You are merely one victim of a common disease. People want to seperate humans out of the animal kingdom. Just like in centuries gone past everything we English hated/thought deviant was almost always ascribed as a habit of the French. We more modern humans wish to ascribe all the ills of our nature to animals. The bad are animal traits, the good are human traits.

I could go on and explain how and what we know about empathy and altruism in animals, but let's  both be honest Skeptic, you're not interested and I'd be wasting what little spare time I have.

Louis

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Bye.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 07 2006,07:57   

No, actually I am interested or I wouldn't waste my time as I don't in Dave's threads and others that seem pointless.  What I also find interesting is how easily you can justify your intractable opinion while discounting mine.

On the other hand, I will make a correction after rereading my post,

To say that I can not be convinced is incorrect, I misspoke.  My current state is that I am not convinced and that is subject to change since it is only valid in the present.

  
Stephen Elliott



Posts: 1754
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 07 2006,13:15   

Quote (Louis @ Nov. 07 2006,02:10)
...People want to seperate humans out of the animal kingdom. ...
Louis

I don't think that is particularly a bad thing. Animal testing would be problematic if we didn't do this. So would eating a healthy diet.

I am not claiming that humans are not animals in a biological sense. But we have to be different in a legal way.

  
jupiter



Posts: 97
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 07 2006,22:07   

skeptic, I read your response and it's clear that you're not paying attention.

Please read the following quote carefully, more than once. Sound out the words.

 
Quote
For the purposes of science or any other form of communication, it's the overlap that's meaningful, not the divergence. The former is accessible; the latter is forever beyond our reach.


This is a basic and uncontroversial statement. Do you understand it? Sadly, I suspect not. All your lyrical wankerage in praise of intellectual discovery is negated by this:

 
Quote
I for one can not be convinced of either empathy or altruism in animals so I would focus upon some other method of differentiation in order to attempt to prove the separation of man and animal.


Which makes the following quote a real laff riot:

 
Quote
I don't mind being wrong because that is one of the best ways to learn.

  
skeptic



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Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 07 2006,23:22   

Quote (jupiter @ Nov. 07 2006,22:07)
Quote
For the purposes of science or any other form of communication, it's the overlap that's meaningful, not the divergence. The former is accessible; the latter is forever beyond our reach.

In my opinion, this is over-simplification.  Both the overlap and the divergence are meaningful in order to develop robust theory.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,07:07   

Two points to consider:

Are animals good or evil?

Does it change the premise to state that man's distinction from the animal kingdon is evidenced by his capacity for good and/or evil?

  
Occam's Toothbrush



Posts: 555
Joined: April 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,09:15   

Quote
Are animals good or evil?

No.  We aren't.

--------------
"Molecular stuff seems to me not to be biology as much as it is a more atomic element of life" --Creo nut Robert Byers
------
"You need your arrogant ass kicked, and I would LOVE to be the guy who does it. Where do you live?" --Anger Management Problem Concern Troll "Kris"

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,12:03   

Quote (skeptic @ Nov. 08 2006,07:07)
Two points to consider:

Are animals good or evil?

Does it change the premise to state that man's distinction from the animal kingdon is evidenced by his capacity for good and/or evil?

Oh boy. Skeptic. Hmmm.

The reason science uses evidence rather than pure abductive and/or inductive reasoning (premise of science) is to keep the observer's ego from imposing on the universe a view of reality that finds no support from the universe itself.

The "paradigm" view, grossly misinterpreted from Thomas Kuhn's book "The structure of scientific revolutions" to mean roughly "you make your own reality" (Yes, I know that is the exact opposite from his premise) is kind of where you are coming from if I read you right. If this is true, then you could do with a little brush up on the contradictory nature of the concept: All interpretations are not equal. That is the point of what Icthy and I are saying. What is your evidence?

A few years ago (maybe 20?) I read a book called Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid which delved into the idea of the platforms on which we build our realities. I highly recommend it. The idea is that our concepts are built off of ideas that we can not deconstruct. 1+1=2 for example. It is a construct we use to build our reality. Or, "Humans are not on the same continuum that other animals are on". Although evidence may show that we have no reason to believe this and in fact we have every reason to believe it is a false assumption, if our construct of reality includes this, our reality flows from the idea. The aim of science is to try to get to the most basic platform possible. 1+1=2 for example. Evidence shows this to be a good premise from which to construct a world view.

So, let's play a little game. Lets say a rock is made up of matter. Maybe several elements. Can we agree there?

Now let's say that a lizard is also made of matter. Let's also say that a lizard is alive and uses it's brain to help it react to outside conditions and hopefully saty alive. The lizard and the rock share a quality, made of matter, but the lizards adds another quality: the ability to regulate it's body and react to outside conditions.

Now under a worldview that says humans are not on the same continuum as lizards, that is where we stop. Humans are not lizards nor are they like lizards. However, if, as evidence suggests, humans are on the same continuum as lizards, then we share both the first quality of the rock and the second quality of the lizard. As we go into other types of animals, we might find other qualities we share. Like, fear, nurturing of our young, using tools, agriculture, social organization, and a set of behavioral responses to stimuli that don't necessarily interest the lizard. Do you see where I am going with this? If our worldview is based on the notion that humans are different, we will give different names to the exact same behaviors. Should we say that animals aren't hungry when they haven't eaten because humans get hungry? Should we call homosexuality bad because it is strictly human?

This is what you get with that last idea:


Quote
   Some scientists have interpreted same-sex pairing as anything but sex. In a study of giraffes in Africa a researcher registered all cases where a male sniffed a female as "sexual interest" – while anal intercourse with ejaculation between males was registered as a form of ritualised fighting ("sparring"), despite the fact that 94% of all registered sexual activity in one area took place between males.
link


Anyway, I think you might need to examine your platform a bit. Good and evil are pretty loaded words.

This is all just opinion and not scientific.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
skeptic



Posts: 1163
Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,16:20   

BWE, not quite.  We, as individuals, do not define our own reality no matter how hard we may try.  On the other hand, collectively we describe reality in human terms.  This is not something that we can avoid as ours is the only perspective that we have to choose from.  Awareness of this bias may give us greater understanding but we have no comparison we can make to correct inaccuracies.  In short, we're stuck with it so we can only make the best of it.

This addresses knowledge in a general sense.  In your example comparisons are made between man and lizard in quantitative ways.  Perfectly reasonable but the trouble lies in assumptions made that we can not quantify.  We have trouble reconsiling the mind-body relationship in humans so it only stands to reason that we would have more problems extending those assumptions to animals.  Now you say, but we are animals and I would revise my statement to include not just animals but any other beings other than ourselves.  We are animals in the sense that we share similar biology and if the mind can be proven to be only a product of biology then the inclusion of man and animal in a single group stands.  Since the essence of the mind has not been established I prefer to hold off on the merging of man and animal at this time.

You are right, good and evil are loaded terms but so are love, hate, sadness, empathy, altruism and I purposely used them to illustrate that point.  We can certainly observe and describe behavior that we deem to be evil but what does it mean to be evil?  Just that we behave in an evil way?  There is a philosophical debate here which can be shown in the difference between these two statements:

Elephants exhibit altruistic behavior.
Elephants are altruistic.

I do not believe these statements to be equivilent and I think only one of them is subject scientific inquiry.  Do you disagree?

OT, I take the opposite view.  I believe man is both good and evil but I can not confidently make the same claim about animals (those of the non-human sort).

  
Russell



Posts: 1082
Joined: April 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,17:11   

Quote
We have trouble reconsiling [sic] the mind-body relationship in humans so it only stands to reason that we would have more problems extending those assumptions to animals.
Oh? What's to be reconciled? Personally, I don't have a problem with it, and I think the fact that some people do is the source of a lot of their other problems.

--------------
Must... not... scratch... mosquito bite.

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 08 2006,18:21   

Quote (skeptic @ Nov. 08 2006,16:20)
BWE, not quite.  We, as individuals, do not define our own reality no matter how hard we may try.  On the other hand, collectively we describe reality in human terms.  This is not something that we can avoid as ours is the only perspective that we have to choose from.  Awareness of this bias may give us greater understanding but we have no comparison we can make to correct inaccuracies.  In short, we're stuck with it so we can only make the best of it.

And thus, the scientific method.

Quote
This addresses knowledge in a general sense.  In your example comparisons are made between man and lizard in quantitative ways.  Perfectly reasonable but the trouble lies in assumptions made that we can not quantify.  We have trouble reconsiling the mind-body relationship in humans so it only stands to reason that we would have more problems extending those assumptions to animals.
 see your next sentence?-->

Quote
Now you say, but we are animals and I would revise my statement to include not just animals but any other beings other than ourselves.  We are animals in the sense that we share similar biology and if the mind can be proven to be only a product of biology then the inclusion of man and animal in a single group stands.  Since the essence of the mind has not been established I prefer to hold off on the merging of man and animal at this time.
And your point is that, since this “essence of mind” has not been established, that we can not use the notion of a continuum to use words to define similar behavior?

Quote
You are right, good and evil are loaded terms but so are love, hate, sadness, empathy, altruism and I purposely used them to illustrate that point.  
What about hunger?
Quote
We can certainly observe and describe behavior that we deem to be evil but what does it mean to be evil?  Just that we behave in an evil way?  
I agree with you here. Evil is purely subjective and therefore not a good word to use in most scientific inquiry.
Quote
There is a philosophical debate here which can be shown in the difference between these two statements:
Elephants exhibit altruistic behavior.
Elephants are altruistic.
I do not believe these statements to be equivilent and I think only one of them is subject scientific inquiry.  Do you disagree?
 I disagree. Define altruistic and you’ll see why.

Quote
OT, I take the opposite view.  I believe man is both good and evil but I can not confidently make the same claim about animals (those of the non-human sort).
And, although there is likely overlap between our subjective views of evil, I doubt they are the same. That aside however, you are using your reality to ascribe things to animals. You are claiming an existential difference without any evidence. Mind/body is the simple part. How about fact/meaning, truth/wisdom, science/philosophy (contemplation)?

I do have more patience than Icthy but I like the idea in this thread so I'd like to get into the meat of it some more.

For example, what Collins reference are we talking about?

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Ichthyic



Posts: 3325
Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,03:04   

Quote
For example, what Collins reference are we talking about?


assuming that might actually be directed at me instead of the obliviot, you can get a good overview and quick analysis of Collins position on morality and special creation here:

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Theistic.cfm

If you want to go back to the roots of how the models for the evolution of social behavior were developed, I would suggest reading WD Hamilton's "Narrow Roads of Gene Land - Evolution of Social Behavior", as most of the modern definitions and models of altruism as a testable behavior are presented in excellent detail.

Yes, I have no patience for those who think that to "open one's mind" means to fill it full of shit (skeptic whose handle is pure hypocrisy).  I'm also beginning to have less and less patience for places that put up with it as well.

he would have been disemvoweled at pharyngula ages ago, I think.

--------------
"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,11:57   

Icthyic,

I do appologize for feeding the troll. I missed a few of the more moronic posts (a very short y-axis) early on so I didn't get the level of obliviocy being demonstrated.

**following edited because something happened in the course of c&P from MSword**
No doubt this kind of testing will slowly close the door on the idea of the unique "Moral Law" as propounded by Collins.
Here is an article about an actual scientist figuring out what "Moral Law" might actually be.
 
Quote
Widely known for his studies of animal cognition (see "What Do Animals Think About Numbers?" in the March-April 2000 American Scientist), Hauser has long been intrigued by the nature of human moral judgment (interested readers can take his Web-based Moral Sense Test). He says the human sense of right and wrong, which evolved over millions of years, precedes our conscious judgments and emotions, providing a hidden engine of moral intuition that's shared by people around the world. "Our moral instincts are immune to the explicitly articulated commandments handed down by religions and governments," he writes. "Sometimes our moral intuitions will converge with those that culture spells out, and sometimes they will diverge." In Moral Minds (Ecco) Hauser draws ideas from the social and natural sciences, philosophy and the law to support his own findings for an unconscious moral instinct...

You've studied the differences between human and animal minds. Do you believe that other species have moral instincts? What I believe we can say at present is that animals have some of the key components that enter into our moral faculty. That is, they have some of the building blocks that make moral judgments possible in humans. What is missing, with the strong caveat that no one has really looked, is evidence that animals make moral judgments of others, assigning functional labels such as "right," "wrong," "good," "bad" and so on to either actions or individuals.

In many ways, our understanding of animals is not even ripe for the picking, because almost all of the work that is relevant to morality entails studies of what animals do as opposed to how they judge what others do. Thus, we have beautiful accounts of how animals behave during cooperation and competition, including observations of how individuals respond to personal transgression, such as taking food in the presence of a more dominant animal. But what is missing are observations and experiments that systematically address what counts as a transgression or expectation for helping or harming, when the observer is not directly involved. In the same way that we can judge an act as gratuitously violent even when it doesn't concern us directly, we want to understand how animals perceive violations of social norms, including what they expect and what they consider anomalous.
These caveats aside, we are beginning to understand some of the relevant building blocks that are not specific to morality but play a key role. For example, in work on tamarin monkeys and chimpanzees, there is evidence that individuals distinguish between intentional and accidental actions. This is important because it shows, contrary to many prior claims, that animals are attending to more than the consequences. If animals lacked this capacity, then they wouldn't even be in the running for consideration as moral agents. Further, animals seem to distinguish between animate and inanimate objects, which, again, is not a specifically moral distinction but is critically involved in moral judgments. Gratuitously smacking a candy machine may be perceived as odd but has no moral weight; gratuitously smacking a baby is not only odd but morally wrong!
http://article at americanscientist.org Very interesting.
Moral sense test Kinda fun if your interested. I'd read the article first though.

   (from the talkreason page)
Quote
If altruism is an inborn impulse, the Moral Law is apparently weak and easily overruled by selfish instincts...  The Moral Law as quoted by Collins is a highly selective list of injunctions and denunciations. For example, on one page of the Old Testament high moral principles of peace, justice, and respect for people and property are promulgated, and on the next page raping, killing, and pillaging people who are not one's "neighbors" are endorsed ... So Collins fails where it should be most easy to prove the Moral Law: religious texts.
The second problem is that actual behaviour in humans never counts against the existence of the Moral Law, which makes the Moral Law practically irrefutable.


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skeptic



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Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,19:14   

two quick comments while I have a second:

1) Francis Collins is not an actual scientist?

2) someone is looking for a scientific evaluation of Moral Law?

I think I'll be laughing about this for hours; if anything, you guys sure are amusing.

  
qetzal



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,20:15   

Quote (skeptic @ Nov. 09 2006,19:14)
2) someone is looking for a scientific evaluation of Moral Law?

I think I'll be laughing about this for hours; if anything, you guys sure are amusing.

Further proof that you are not the open minded skeptic you think you are, but a closed-minded person who's unwilling to question your preconceived assumptions.

Consider. If it's true that some higher supernatural being or consciousness (e.g. God) exists, it's easy to him/her/it as the source of morality. Fair enough.

But what if there is no such being or consciousness? Where does morality come from then? Suppose philosophical materialism is right? Then morality can only be a result of some naturalistic process. In that case, evolution seems the logical candidate, no?

This is not meant to argue that philosophical materialism is, in fact, correct, or that morality must be the result of evolutionary processes. It's merely to show that it's a logical and reasonable possibility. And, if it's correct, then morality is most certainly subject to scientific evaluation, however laughable that seems to you.

But I have no doubt you'll come up with some convoluted defense of your statement, so you can hold on to your cherished self-image of open-mindedness. Mean time, I see no further point in engaging your comments.

  
BWE



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,20:16   

Who said he isn't a scientist? You, however...

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

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Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,20:28   

BWE:

funny you should mention Hauser.

check out the thead on "moral grammar" posted by PvM on PT.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

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Jay Ray



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,21:18   

I think the whole premise of Collin's book is moot from the get go.  Animals (and I include humans within that group) can perform acts that we can define as altruistic, but ultimately the distinction between altruisic or selfishness is impossible to draw clearly.  Altruism and selfishness are  convenient names we give to certain behaviors in order that we may speak about those behaviors in a way that we can approach some consensus on the topic.  In the end I think its near impossible to puzzle out all of the complicated processes that lead up to any altruistic decision or activity.   Its too hard to tell.  So I just watch the behavior.  It seems like a good enough guide.


Next, I'll be so bold as to say that empathy doesn't exist at all. Its a chimera, its a fantasy, it is magic.  

We may witness something emotionally powerful--perhaps a wailing mother cradling her dead child in her arms, say, or two people deeply love with each other interacting in that unique way lovers do.  Of course we are going to react to these scenes, and its seems likely that often our own feelings will tend to move toward the tenor of the scene we witness.  But isn't it also true that at other times our own feelings will seem very much out of step?  

I will grant that some people are more likely to have an emotional instrument that more easily aligns with whatever music the orchestra of the external world plays.  But what none of us do can do is to magically lock on and replicate the emotions of those around us.  At best we can be guided toward an emotional state.

Collins appears to be going off the deep end.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,22:26   

Quote (qetzal @ Nov. 09 2006,20:15)
Consider. If it's true that some higher supernatural being or consciousness (e.g. God) exists, it's easy to him/her/it as the source of morality. Fair enough.

But what if there is no such being or consciousness? Where does morality come from then? Suppose philosophical materialism is right? Then morality can only be a result of some naturalistic process. In that case, evolution seems the logical candidate, no?

This is not meant to argue that philosophical materialism is, in fact, correct, or that morality must be the result of evolutionary processes. It's merely to show that it's a logical and reasonable possibility. And, if it's correct, then morality is most certainly subject to scientific evaluation, however laughable that seems to you.

But I have no doubt you'll come up with some convoluted defense of your statement, so you can hold on to your cherished self-image of open-mindedness. Mean time, I see no further point in engaging your comments.

Very true, this is actually a very serious question and I will treat it as such.  There are a number of scenarios that could be considered and I've heard or read many of them but all at the philosophical level of inquiry.

A problem you run into when you remove a higher authority as origin is the question of absolute morality.  Who then defines what is moral and at what time in human existence.  You naturally resolve into realitivism.  If you then want to apply scientific investigation at this point it gets murky and completely subjective.

I think it might be more accurate to define the scenarios thus:

A) If God exists then God could be the origin of moral law (I say could because this makes an assumption upon the nature of God).

B) If God doesn't exist then absolute moral law is nonexistent.

either way we are stuck because the primary premise, the existence of God, can not be proven.  So where do we go from here...

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 09 2006,22:30   

Jay Ray, I'd be careful using anecdotal evidence and plain old common sense around here.  You may not make any friends.  But I, for one, accept your ideas as valid possibilities.

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,00:00   

Quote
either way we are stuck because the primary premise, the existence of God, can not be proven.  So where do we go from here...
To the bar.

Icthyic, Thanks for the heads up on PT. I hardly ever read it anymore.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

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Jay Ray



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,00:01   

Skep,

I love this board because I'm so outclassed.  Most of the people who post regularly here are knowledgable and marshall wide ranging facts to construct what appear to me to be well reasoned arguments.  It's why I rarely post--I have so little to contribute.  I hope that when I do post, if I post gibberish, someone will call me on it.

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,06:49   

No, no, no, Jay Ray don't hold back.  Ideas come from all quarters and often truely original ideas come from where you least expect them.  You post to your heart's content and anyone who has a problem with that will just have to remember that this is a public board.

  
Ichthyic



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(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 10 2006,13:37   

IOW, skeptic wants you to troll like he does in order to derail and irritate with ignorance.

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"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."

-CC

  
Jay Ray



Posts: 92
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 11 2006,19:09   

Skep,

I found myself wondering something.  I appreciate the fact that you find my ideas as valid possibilities.  But after some reflection I wondered how that was possible.  In significant ways, I don't seem to be saying anything different from the folks here with whom you appear to disagree.  Either my reading comprehension sucks lately--which is a distinct possibility.  Or my post up there conveyed some message which I hadn't intended.  Or.. what?

Let me elaborate, please.

I am making a claim that altruism doesn't really exist. My claim is that it is an ideal unreachable or at least unprovable.  However, when we observe animal behavior (and remember, I count humans as animal) we may see what at first blush appears to be altruistic. I'm saying that at least in cases of apparent altruism, a behavioristic approach is sufficient to name an act thus.  This works only so long as we recognize that "altruism" is an ideal--much the same way as when Galileo realized some basic laws of motion by idealizing them--and that reality is much more complicated and gritty.  

We don't have to always know precisely why a sacrifice was made, just that it was made.

I want to stress that I'm not making the claim that behavorism is the only proper way to observe the richness of animal life.  To the contrary, I think to strip any sense of a shared emotional life between humans and non-humans for fear of anthromorphism would be a mistake, because what we lose is a more complete explanation when a similarity actually exists.

I haven't read Collin's book (  bad Jay bad!  ), but I'm gathering from this thread that Collins is equating altruism-the-ideal with altruism-the-reality.  Similarly with empathy.  That's a mistake at the foundational level of his book, and it renders the rest of his arguments moot.

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 17 2006,13:05   

This just occurred to me. An interesting experiment would be a test for ego. Awareness of self filtered through social norms. I've always considered ego a sort of a product of our being able to inhabit the dimension of time- to imagine points and occupy them in a world that isn't material. I wonder if that too isn't uncommon in at least other mammals. Obviously wouldn't work in non social creatures but I bet you could do it with elephants.

I was reading this article on the topic With chimps named Ego and Other:
Quote
Dominance (and/or prestige) is always relative: a solitary individual is in principle neither dominant nor respected. One assesses one's status relative to another by the other's behavior and physical characteristics; this assessment may or may not be conscious (Parker 1974). One's drive for dominance or prestige is then a motivation to perform those behaviors which result in submissive behavior by Other(s) toward oneself (see discussion in Hinde and Stevenson-Hinde 1976). Ego, having possession of a scarce, defendable resource, will find Other's begging rewarding; if Ego can learn, and the rewards are sufficient, she or he should learn to search/hunt for the resource and to share it with Other(s) who beg (see also Chisholm 1976). Teleki has observed that:

When I started thinking about it. It all sort of boils down to ego. When we finally get to the end of the long chain of "nope that doesn't work either" looking for the differences between the "ANIMANLS" and "HUMANS" what we have is this vague sense of "other". Obviously we can do a lot more with logic and we can execute complex plans that require a thorough grasping of the nature of time as a dimension.

Observe family units and see if you can determine corrective behavior toward children that is also "corrected" for in adults through social behavior.

Observe self-regulation and the behaviors associated with it.

Add stimuli that would trigger the "id" kind of response inappropriately and  observe if different individuals have different ways to handle it.

More later I ran outta time. :)

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
skeptic griggsy



Posts: 5
Joined: Nov. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 27 2006,07:28   

On arguments for God, Collins, Alister McGrath, Francisco Ayala and Kenneth Miller show incompetence ; on evolution they show competence . Faith leads them astray. :)    :angry:

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism. Logic is the bane of theists.

  
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