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View Diary: My first Eco-diary:  The earth is Alive? (49 comments)

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  •  Dawkins is an incurable reductionist/mechanist (1+ / 0-)
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    We seldom agree on anything new in science.  It is much more than a rhetorical device.  I have an extensive biblioography for you if you are truly interested in understanding these aspects of modern science.  You must realize that we have had institutions like the Santa Fe Institute and the New England Complex System Institute (which includes Harvard and MIT) for quite some time now.  I lectured for three hours at the first meeting of NECSI.  We are not talking about "iffy" stuff here.

    You are having a common problem with language here.  new ideas are difficult because we handicapped by language. We are forced to use words that have old meanings to get at ideas that they were never meant to describe.  That is why metaphor is so key a tool.  George Lakoff has a number of books on this.

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Fri May 09, 2008 at 07:51:12 PM PDT

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    •  I understand the power of metaphors... (0+ / 1-)
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      don mikulecky

      I can read.

      But are you actually suggesting that the Earth is alive? Because I've seen no evidence at all to support that idea.

      If you're saying that considering the behavior of the Earth system as if it were alive, in the hope that this will lead to some new knowledge about how it works, then we have no disagreement at all. But this would be true regardless of whether the underlying assumption was correct.

      Darwin got the underlying mechanism of change in organisms completely wrong. But upon that incorrect assumption was built one of the two or three most important ideas in human history, that of evolution by natural selection... the only way we've ever figured out to get complexity out of simplicity, and the idea that makes the idea of a "creator" unnecessary.

      And there's nothing at all wrong with reductionism. In fact, it's one of the most illuminating ideas we've ever come up with.


      •  The correct statement is that Earth has (1+ / 0-)
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        the same attributes that any organism has.  If you were up on complexity theory you would know that the question: "What is Life?" asked by Schroedinger is a poorly posed scientific question.  that is why Robert Rosen recast it in a well posed scientific form: "What is the difference between an organism and a machine?"  That led to a criterea that is well documented.  There is no ambiguity here.  it is one of the best pieces of scientific reasoning ever done.  Your carping about words misses the whole point.  I think that is your design.  You are behaving like a troll here and your attitude is akin to many republican know nothings.  Are you really here as a troll?

        An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Fri May 09, 2008 at 08:10:28 PM PDT

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      •  What is wrong with reductionism is when (1+ / 0-)
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        people move from using it as a methodology, where it works well in a limited context, to a philosophy where it fails very badly.

        The whole is indeed more than and different from a mere sum of its parts.  Thus something real about a system is destroyed by reducing it to parts.  That something has an ontology equal to that of parts.  This clearly shows that there is more to reality than what can be found when material things are broken down to their constituent atoms and molecules.

        An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Fri May 09, 2008 at 09:46:04 PM PDT

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        •  Given your (0+ / 0-)

          troll-rating fest of last night, and the fact that your diary has fallen off the list, I probably shouldn't bother, but since this is the most respectful answer you've yet made to me, I'll try to respond.

          Reductionism isn't a philosophy, any more than holism is. Both are simply ways of looking at systems. Each can be used where it is appropriate, and not used where it makes no sense.

          To apply a reductionist analysis to the beauty of Beethoven's 9th Symphony would be not only stupid, but totally unilluminating. The physics of vibrating objects  can completely describe everything that happens when an orchestra plays the music, but that has nothing to do with what happens inside the human mind after those vibrations strike our tympanic membranes. It's all true, but totally irrelevant to the question.

          Likewise, applying a holistic analysis to a bridge isn't useful. It stands or falls, with us on top, purely as a consequence of the properties of its parts, and the ways in which they interact.

          In a third case, like the problem of human consciousness, it's totally unclear which model to apply, in what proportions, and where they each fit. Clearly, the underlying "hardware" operates on the clearly defined, purely reductionist principles of chemistry and physics. It is just as obvious that the overall behavior of my mind/brain system is not deterministic, at least not in any way that we understand. Somewhere in the scaling up from neurons and ganglia to "I", a discontinuity is reached. Where and how that happens will be, in my view, the most significant discovery in the history of humankind.

          I think that it's a problem that can be solved. It seems that you do not. Both of us will be dead long before either of us is proved right.


          •  You keep missing the point (0+ / 0-)

            Reductionism isn't a philosophy, any more than holism is.

             I guess you never heard of Descartes?  His machine metaphor turned a method into a philosophy and we have been suffering for that all this time.  His dualism denies the embodiment of the human mind that George Lakoff establishes so well in The Embodied Mind  As a neurophysiologist I find the rest of your post naive and almost childish.  I suggest that you do some studying on subjects you hope to pontificate about.  You don't know philosophy when you parrot it blindly and your understanding of the workings of the human mind is clearly deficient.

            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

            by don mikulecky on Sat May 10, 2008 at 05:42:01 PM PDT

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