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Old 12th December 2012, 08:52 AM   #41
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I come from the Alan Watts generation.

Hard science has its place, obviously.

Yet, ultimately, it will kill us all,
And we won't even get to philosophize about why.

The curse of arrogance.
I could remember wrongly, but so far as I understand Nature killed us all nearly a few time , see long bottleneck theory and the toba theory.

So cry me a river on our supposed "arrogance", compared to the cruelty of mother nature.
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Old 12th December 2012, 08:53 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by joesixpack View Post
Yes, this.

I think the only question/critique I would put to science (as if it could answer) would be this; Is the universe ultimately understandable?

In other words, we (as a species) pursue scientific inquiry with the assumption that the answer will be understandable. Human rationality is bounded. I believe that there is a limit to human understanding. At some point will we ask questions who's answers will be completely unintelligible to human beings?
It's not an assumption, really, and it's not a valid criticism. The reason being, science can be viewed as a meta-experiment testing this exact thing. We operate under the assumption that the universe is understandable, ad arguendum, and see where it breaks down.

The reason it's not a valid criticism is that we're not done with the test yet. We've found a few things that don't make sense (the Uncertainty Principle, for example, and a few things that seem to be the way they are because that's the way they are), but as long as science is moving forward we're still in the experimental phase. You're essentially criticizing an experiment for not yielding results before it's completed.

I want to point out that I intend none of that to be insulting, angry, annoyed, or even mildly peeved. Honestly, this is an idea I toy with once every couple of months and I enjoy seeing people criticize it. If it's not clear, the tone is that of a Victorian English gentleman sitting in a leather chair in front of a fire in a library, smoking a pipe and drinking brandy, idly speculating.
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Old 12th December 2012, 08:55 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
I could remember wrongly, but so far as I understand Nature killed us all nearly a few time , see long bottleneck theory and the toba theory.

So cry me a river on our supposed "arrogance", compared to the cruelty of mother nature.
My view is that anyone who considers science arrogant should be forced to live without it. Yeah, science gave us weapons of unimaginable power--but it also is the only thing that allows us to live without literally being EATEN ALIVE. And what is the arrogance of science? It's learning the natural laws we all necessarily live by anyway. The arrogance is knowledge. I have nothing but contempt for someone who holds such a position.
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Old 12th December 2012, 08:58 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by Barber Shop View Post
The 'laws' of science have been demonstrated, repeatedly. Also, an intrepid young scientist who wants to overturn old laws is encouraged to do so and will be allowed to do so, as long as he or she can provide adequate evidence.

The 'laws' of the Abrahamic religion were crafted by Bronze Age goat-herders fighting for control over the next little hillock against other Bronze Age goat-herders from neighboring tribes.

But, other than that I really can't tell them apart.
This. Science would still work in a universe created by a god. They are independent issues.

The only way science wouldn't work is if the universe were unstable and the same experiment might turn out differently because reality was shifting in its nature. I'm not talking the occasional miracle, but of a pervasive instability in the structure of reality itself.

And even then science could gain "characteristics" on how the shifting worked, determining how reliable the unreliability was. A god would have to actively work against science to completely thwart it.

And that would make God into the Great Deceiver, which theologins have long had problems with. See also creatng the universe 6000 years ago with light from distant stars almost here, brand new trees with many rings in them, and belly buttons on Adam and Eve, all suggesting a history that never actually happened.
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Old 12th December 2012, 09:00 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
I could remember wrongly, but so far as I understand Nature killed us all nearly a few time , see long bottleneck theory and the toba theory.

So cry me a river on our supposed "arrogance", compared to the cruelty of mother nature.
I don't disagree with you. I don't want to be mis-interrupted in this.
"mother nature' is a bitch, for sure. This is the world of volcanoes and ice-ages.

In that regard, we are a decent reflection of that. Humans have the personality of mother nature. It (and we) are a rather harsh mistress.

I'm no Luddite, btw.
I'm excited to see how science may help us out of the ecological cliff we stand on.
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Old 12th December 2012, 10:14 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I come from the Alan Watts generation.

Hard science has its place, obviously.

Yet, ultimately, it will kill us all,
And we won't even get to philosophize about why.

The curse of arrogance.
Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I should clarify.
The scientific method, as the way to get at the truth, is the best.
However, the by-products of it may destroy us.
Without inorganic nitrogen, for instance, we never could have so many people.
Is that good or bad? Climate change? Millions of cars. Advanced weapons. Pollution of all manner. Without science, we wouldn't have this. Quality of life would suck, but we would be less of a threat to ourselves.

The arrogance is simply that we assume that science has brought us a better world. I doubt that the world, at large, thinks so.

You are conflating science with the uses to which its results are put. Science itself cannot kill us any more than literature can.
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Old 12th December 2012, 12:39 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
It's not an assumption, really, and it's not a valid criticism. The reason being, science can be viewed as a meta-experiment testing this exact thing. We operate under the assumption that the universe is understandable, ad arguendum, and see where it breaks down.

The reason it's not a valid criticism is that we're not done with the test yet. We've found a few things that don't make sense (the Uncertainty Principle, for example, and a few things that seem to be the way they are because that's the way they are), but as long as science is moving forward we're still in the experimental phase. You're essentially criticizing an experiment for not yielding results before it's completed.

I want to point out that I intend none of that to be insulting, angry, annoyed, or even mildly peeved. Honestly, this is an idea I toy with once every couple of months and I enjoy seeing people criticize it. If it's not clear, the tone is that of a Victorian English gentleman sitting in a leather chair in front of a fire in a library, smoking a pipe and drinking brandy, idly speculating.
LOL, yes, I'm not suggesting it's a valid criticism, I'm just curious. Like I said, human rationality is finite and there is no conceivable reason to believe that answers would have to be comprehensible.

I'm not suggesting that this renders "science" invalid. It is demonstrably the best and only tool we have to understand the universe. I'm just proposing that humans may not be smart enough to use all of its features. The answer we get may be as cryptic as "42".

I was explaining the concept of the Trinity to my sons, trying to remember my parochial school days. The "Mystery of Faith"TM concept that God has no obligation to be comprehensible to man, therefore the Three are One, and that's that. I was waxing Spinozic there, musing that the universe actually has no such obligation either.
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Old 12th December 2012, 01:10 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by joesixpack
The answer we get may be as cryptic as "42".
Some already are. The Cosmological Constants, that number that shows up in every nonlinear system, the Fibinachi Sequence, etc.

Quote:
I was waxing Spinozic there, musing that the universe actually has no such obligation either.
A perfectly valid thing to speculate about. I've known a handful of scientists who got into it, not because they wanted to know all they could, but because they wanted to know what the limits of knowledge were (theoretical physicists can be extremely weird). We assume, as a working hypothesis, that the universe makes sense, and for the most part it does, but it'll be interesting to see where it doesn't.
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Old 12th December 2012, 02:04 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by joesixpack View Post
The answer we get may be as cryptic as "42".
Yeah cryptic, not ununderstandable. I found that interesting quote from JBS Haldane through the astrotometry thread:
Quote:
I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
It is indeed impossible to us to imagine non understandable concepts, but I am firmly convinced that all queer and cryptic answers we'll find shall be explained some day. Life before germ theory was more than cryptic but we're here, still with some cryptic knowledge but free of the primal fear of a god killing at will. The only problem I see is the time it will take us to understand "42".
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Old 12th December 2012, 02:24 PM   #50
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The nice thing about science is that it seems to be able to slowly creep up on things that we previously would have been unable to even imagine (or at the very least would have imagined incorrectly). Just because the ancient Greeks used the words "atom" and "element" doesn't mean they even imagined the wonders we have discovered today. When those who sneer at "materialists" can provide even a fraction of the wonders science has shown us, then I will listen to them. For now I simply look at such people with a combination of frustration and sadness.

(By the way, love your name and avatar Akuma. I'm quite fond of that series.)
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:46 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by pandamonium View Post
Bet you still can't explain the tides.
Tides goes in, tide goes out.

And, done! I win somehow. [/O'Reilly]
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Old 13th December 2012, 08:21 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by joesixpack View Post
I think the only question/critique I would put to science (as if it could answer) would be this; Is the universe ultimately understandable?

In other words, we (as a species) pursue scientific inquiry with the assumption that the answer will be understandable. Human rationality is bounded. I believe that there is a limit to human understanding. At some point will we ask questions who's answers will be completely unintelligible to human beings?
No, I don't think that can ever be the case. We don't simply shout questions into the void and listen for answer which we may or may not understand. We ask questions by doing experiments and the answer will always be easily understandable in terms of the experiment. We may reach a point where we can't come up with useful experiments to probe any further, but it simply doesn't make sense to imagine we'll start doing experiments without being able to understand what the result is. For example, we might try to learn about gravity by dropping a ball and timing how quickly it falls. It could be that we reach a point where we can't learn any more by dropping balls, but it can never be the case that we don't understand what "the ball took 3 seconds to fall" means.

Secondly, it's far more than just an assumption that the universe is understandable. Just look at all the things that we do, in fact, understand. Even if we never manage to tie off all the loose ends, we already understand the majority of things we see around us. For the most part, it's only things that are too big, too small, or too far away that we're struggling with now. That still leaves plenty for us to learn, but it also means that assuming things are understandable isn't just an assumption, it's an assumption that's been repeatedly tested over and over again and found to be true in every single case.

Originally Posted by pandamonium View Post
Bet you still can't explain the tides.
Or magnets.
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Old 13th December 2012, 08:32 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Cuddles
We ask questions by doing experiments and the answer will always be easily understandable in terms of the experiment.
Most of the time, yeah. However, the whole reason we do experiments is that frankly reality is weird, and sometimes what you get simply doesn't make any sense. There's truth to the old joke that the greatest moment for a scientist isn't when he says "Eurika!" but rather when he says "Wait, what?"

Quote:
For the most part, it's only things that are too big, too small, or too far away that we're struggling with now.
If you limit your definition of "science" to "physics" I'll agree with you. If you include biology and geology, however, this is easily demonstrated to be untrue. Taphonomy is extremely young, and we really don't know a whole lot about it. Same with alluvial fans--we've been working on those for decades and they still give stratigraphers headaches, despite being extremely common. The evolutionary pathways that life took are constantly being updated--and I'm not talking minor tweeks here. Yesterday I got ahold of an abstract arguing that the Ediacaran fauna was actually terrestrial in at least some places. That means that until extremely recently we totally missed land-based life that's between 630 and 542 million years old! It also means that the Ediacaran fauna isn't the earliest ancestors to modern life--which basically means that the stem of the tree of life that about a third of paleontologists have been playing with just got chopped off. The implications are staggering. Then there are the issues with birds and dinosaurs, crinoid taxonomy, ammonite taxonomy, and the like.

You want to make a major contribution to science? Do 1:24,000 maps everywhere Dibblee didn't in California. I'll pay you $100/map in addition to what the California Geological Survey pays you, and I'm extremely confident that you can drum up more if you talk to geologists in the region. This is science that can be done with a map and some colored pencils.

Sorry for going off on a rant like that, but the simple fact is that we DON'T know about the world around us yet. There's a lot to be learned from even deceptively simply tasks, things that anyone with an interest in science can easily do--once you get past thinking that all of science is physics.
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Old 13th December 2012, 09:39 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by Cuddles View Post


Secondly, it's far more than just an assumption that the universe is understandable. Just look at all the things that we do, in fact, understand. Even if we never manage to tie off all the loose ends, we already understand the majority of things we see around us. For the most part, it's only things that are too big, too small, or too far away that we're struggling with now. That still leaves plenty for us to learn, but it also means that assuming things are understandable isn't just an assumption, it's an assumption that's been repeatedly tested over and over again and found to be true in every single case.



Or magnets.
Well, there's a bit more nuance to my question that that, though I don't take issue with your first paragraph. I do take issue with bolded part. What your asserting here is nothing more than "We clearly understand all of the things we currently understand", which isn't really saying much. And it's also predicated on the idea that we actually understand what we think we understand. It's pretty common for some inquiry to be put to bed by confident scientists only to have it re-examined a generation later in light of new discoveries. Of course, you might counter that all I assert is that "we don't understand the things we don't understand, or the things we erroneously believe that we understand". I'm having a hard time articulating why that isn't my position.

Like I said above, there's some nuance to my question. Try to conceive something that's inconceivable, try to imagine something that's un-understandable (would that make it 'derstandable' or 'overstandable'?). We certainly understand many things enough to create technology which capitalizes on the understanding that we have, and that's pretty compelling evidence, but we've had technology in the past that worked wonderfully with a much more limited understanding of the universe (i.e., steam engines worked wonderfully before anyone ever thought of a Higgs Boson). I know "Science" isn't the oracle at Delphi, we don't shout questions at it and wait for an answer. We are only able to formulate questions in ways that preclude meaningless (to us, at least) answers.
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Old 13th December 2012, 10:04 AM   #55
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Originally Posted by Akuma Tennou View Post
Yeah cryptic, not ununderstandable. I found that interesting quote from JBS Haldane through the astrotometry thread:

It is indeed impossible to us to imagine non understandable concepts, but I am firmly convinced that all queer and cryptic answers we'll find shall be explained some day. Life before germ theory was more than cryptic but we're here, still with some cryptic knowledge but free of the primal fear of a god killing at will. The only problem I see is the time it will take us to understand "42".
I see the advancement of science as being highly dialectic. Like looking at a single puzzle piece and wondering "WTF is this?", then as more pieces get put together you say "A-HA!". The cryptic answers of today become the obvious fit tomorrow. I assume that pieces will all fit in the end, but it's only an assumption on my part. I'm uncomfortable with assumptions. I think of them as an uneasy truce with the unknown.
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Old 13th December 2012, 11:04 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
However, the by-products of it may destroy us.
Without inorganic nitrogen, for instance, we never could have so many people.
Is that good or bad? Climate change? Millions of cars. Advanced weapons. Pollution of all manner. Without science, we wouldn't have this.
I believe you are confusing "science" with "technology".

Originally Posted by quarky View Post
The arrogance is simply that we assume that science has brought us a better world. I doubt that the world, at large, thinks so.
What do you believe the "world, at large" actually thinks?
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Old 13th December 2012, 09:42 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by crhkrebs View Post
I believe you are confusing "science" with "technology".



What do you believe the "world, at large" actually thinks?
That our technological know-how has put the bio-sphere in jeopardy?
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Old 13th December 2012, 09:58 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
That our technological know-how has put the bio-sphere in jeopardy?
The "bio-sphere's" value does not extend beyond it's usefulness to those with the intelligence to understand and use it. It has no consciousness of its own and there is no "objective good" about it. "Nature's" worth is a product of our subjective thought.
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Old 13th December 2012, 10:42 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
That our technological know-how has put the bio-sphere in jeopardy?
What jeopardy? Diversity may dip a bit, but it'll come back. Nothing we can do short of all-out nuclear war can rival the Oxygen Revolution, and I doubt we'll reach Permo-Triassic proportions, or even Daanian/Masstrictian. And it's far from certain that we'll cause destruction. A good argument could be made that some areas are entering into a recovery phase after the die-off of the Pleistocene megafauna.

We can't kill the biosphere. It's not possible with current technology or anything on the drawing boards. We can't really damage it too much outside of specific events which we've gone to great pains to avoid. At best we can make it a bit uncomfortable for ourselves.
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Old 14th December 2012, 08:20 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
What jeopardy? Diversity may dip a bit, but it'll come back. Nothing we can do short of all-out nuclear war can rival the Oxygen Revolution, and I doubt we'll reach Permo-Triassic proportions, or even Daanian/Masstrictian. And it's far from certain that we'll cause destruction. A good argument could be made that some areas are entering into a recovery phase after the die-off of the Pleistocene megafauna.

We can't kill the biosphere. It's not possible with current technology or anything on the drawing boards. We can't really damage it too much outside of specific events which we've gone to great pains to avoid. At best we can make it a bit uncomfortable for ourselves.
Seems a bit harsh. Are you ok with mass extinctions caused by us?
It has already begun, and could have been prevented.
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Old 14th December 2012, 08:53 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
Seems a bit harsh. Are you ok with mass extinctions caused by us?
I believe Dinwar's point was that virtually nothing we can do to Mother Nature would be worse than what has already happened naturally in the past. Nature is kind of a bitch like that, but life can recover and blame the bruises on a fall.

That said, though I can't speak for Dinwar, I am okay with humanity's myriad extinctions. It's brought us to the point where we're actively trying to prevent more for its own sake. If things had been different, it might not have gone so well. Than again, in that world I might be sitting down to a manatee burger with ocelot chips for lunch, so really, who can judge?

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Old 14th December 2012, 09:08 AM   #62
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Quote:
Seems a bit harsh. Are you ok with mass extinctions caused by us?
Those goal posts are supposed to stay put. You're not supposed to move them around.

Before it was the biosphere. Now it's me personally. Seems a bit of a switch.

My point is that the BIOSPHERE is okay with mass extinctions. Worse have happened in the past (and don't quote me extinction rates until you can list the species of annalid worms in the Permian--taphonomy makes it extremly difficult to compare the two). But you want to know my opinion? Fair enough. Yes, I am fine with a human-caused mass extinction, provided it's the right type.

People have the wrong view of mass extinctions. They seem to think they're all like the K/Pg event: a sudden thing that wipes out a huge number of species and the world basically shuts down for a millenium or so. That's not true. There are actually two types of mass extinctions: mass die-offs, like I just described, and mass turn-overs, where extinction rates AND ORIGINATION RATES are elevated. That means that yeah, a lot of stuff is dying out--but about the same number of species are coming into existence. THAT kind of mass extinction wouldnt' really be that bad to live through. There'd be no piles of bodies, no burned, barren lands, not even any more starving critters than there are in a healthy ecosystem. During a mass turn-over, if you were to take a walk in a woods or grasslands, you'd see a remarkable diversity and beauty. There'd be nothing obvious to tell you there was anything going on--the only way you'd notice it is that insteady of camels you see bison, or similar.

If humans turn this into a mass turn-over type of mass extinction then yeah, I'm all in favor of it. Our ecology is screwed no matte what, and it was screwed well before industrialization (I'm more than half convinced that it started before humans could impact ecology to a significant degree, but ultimate causes aren't our concern here). Our options aren't to go back to a healthy ecosystem or die--our options are to CREATE a healthy ecosystem or die. There's no going back. Period. And there's no sense in pretending that what we see today, or in the past several hundred years at minimum, is healthy; there's too much evidence against it. The ONLY option for making a healthy ecology is to build one.

And that's a good thing for us, because we can make sure that the ecology benefits us. We can make it so that what's good for the planet is good for humans. And when the requirements of ecology and the requirements of the greatest driving force the world has ever seen coincide, it's unlikely that we'll destroy each other.

As for this mass extinction, once we lost the Pleistocene megafauna we crossed the Rubicon. The last stable ecosystem humans saw included things like mammoths, sloths, dire wolves, lions, etc. Once those were gone, the ecosystem inevitably began to change. Humans may not be helping things, but if humans had never developed modern industry we'd still have inevitably faced a mass extinction. You simply cannot remove most of the large herbivores without having some impact; the notion is ecologically nonsensical. And it's not just me saying this, either--studies of dental wear show that every ecosystem we've studied--ALL of them, with no exceptions--are depauperate in preditors. Then there's the fact that many ecosystems include plants that have defenses against things that don't exist anymore, and other bits of data.

How can humans make this a mass turn-over? Simple: replace the herbivores with those of our own choosing. Cows, pigs, goats, horses, and the like are experiencing quite a radiation right now. Many people refuse to recognize it because they're domesticated, but it's a simple fact: we've created new morphospecies (the only real way to compare modern ecology with ancient ecology, since we generally don't have DNA from back then). We need to figure out how to make agriculture a sustainable aspect of the new ecology that's going to develop. If we do, the new plants and animals will be those that benefit us, which means that we'll have turned the entire ecosystem into a tool for supporting humanity.
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Old 14th December 2012, 09:10 AM   #63
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Funny you mention manatee burgers. Turns out, manatee meat is the finest of the fine, and if we were into eating them, they'd be in no danger of extinction.
A single spring basin in Florida, Crystal River, could support 50,000 manatees; just eating invasive weeds. Because they float, they convert feed to meat at a high rate. They are the 'schmoo' that Al Capp tried to describe in "Lil Abner' comics.
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Old 14th December 2012, 09:14 AM   #64
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Oops. Dinwar replied before I sent the above.

At any rate, for now, I'll just disagree with Dinwar, because I have to go somewhere.
I find his attitude provocatively heartless. And disingenuous.
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Old 14th December 2012, 09:28 AM   #65
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I find his attitude provocatively heartless. And disingenuous.
Why? His answer was the same as yours: the best thing we can do is domesticate the manatee. And the plants they graze on. And the sharks that hunt them. We can build a stable and rich ecosystem from scratch, every rung of which serves humanity in some fashion or other.

Though upon reflection, if we're going to start turning predators loose, we really want smaller herd animals, such that humans are too large to be considered easy prey. Anything large enough to threaten a manatee can threaten swimmers.
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Old 14th December 2012, 10:12 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
At any rate, for now, I'll just disagree with Dinwar, because I have to go somewhere.
I find his attitude provocatively heartless. And disingenuous.
My conclusion is not disingenuous. It's the product of actually spending a few years studying mass extinctions. I've done the research, and have a good sense of what a mass extinction looks like, so I have a sense of where we are in regards to this one. We can relatively easy start pulling into the recovery phase at this point, if we actually put the effort in.

As for heartless, maybe it is. Get over it. A lot of people have this view that Nature is loving and caring and peacefull and it's all LIES. It's what the Walt Disney Corporation and their ilk want children to believe. The fact of the matter is that Nature is brutal and uncaring. It doesn't give a rat's behind if we live or die. Period. Nature may contain soaring, magestic trees and sleek, powerful wolves, but it also includes brain-eating fungus and birds that start their life by murdering every young thing in site. Ecosystems are built on a foundation of blood and pain and suffering. They cannot be otherwise--except for primary producers the only way for anything to tranfer between trophic levels is to kill it and eat it.

You think that's provocatively heartless? So what? So is reality.

Bear in mind that I'm saying this as a person who's put his life on the line more than once to study the ecosystems of the past and present. I am genuinely in love with the biosphere. What I'm not is delusional. I refuse to pretend that nature is other than it is.

Also, how is my view any more heartless than the alternative? My view is that we should construct an ecosystem in which humans are an integral part of the system--because if we don't, we have no idea if the new stable ecology will include us or not. I'm not even advocating slaughtering species--that work's already been done for the most part, to be honest. And it's nonsensical to say it's heartless to rebuild a house that's already burned to the ground such that it doesn't light on fire again. Humans will always impact ecosystems. It's inevitable--ALL organisms impact them. We know how humans impact ecosystems. We also know that soon, geologically speaking, there will be a new ecosystem. What's heartless about wanting to build one that takes advantage of the peculiarities of humans? If anything, I'd say it's far less heartless than the alternative--which is to leave human survival in the hands of random chance.
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Old 14th December 2012, 11:39 AM   #67
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
My conclusion is not disingenuous. It's the product of actually spending a few years studying mass extinctions. I've done the research, and have a good sense of what a mass extinction looks like, so I have a sense of where we are in regards to this one. We can relatively easy start pulling into the recovery phase at this point, if we actually put the effort in.

As for heartless, maybe it is. Get over it. A lot of people have this view that Nature is loving and caring and peacefull and it's all LIES. It's what the Walt Disney Corporation and their ilk want children to believe. The fact of the matter is that Nature is brutal and uncaring. It doesn't give a rat's behind if we live or die. Period. Nature may contain soaring, magestic trees and sleek, powerful wolves, but it also includes brain-eating fungus and birds that start their life by murdering every young thing in site. Ecosystems are built on a foundation of blood and pain and suffering. They cannot be otherwise--except for primary producers the only way for anything to tranfer between trophic levels is to kill it and eat it.

You think that's provocatively heartless? So what? So is reality.

Bear in mind that I'm saying this as a person who's put his life on the line more than once to study the ecosystems of the past and present. I am genuinely in love with the biosphere. What I'm not is delusional. I refuse to pretend that nature is other than it is.

Also, how is my view any more heartless than the alternative? My view is that we should construct an ecosystem in which humans are an integral part of the system--because if we don't, we have no idea if the new stable ecology will include us or not. I'm not even advocating slaughtering species--that work's already been done for the most part, to be honest. And it's nonsensical to say it's heartless to rebuild a house that's already burned to the ground such that it doesn't light on fire again. Humans will always impact ecosystems. It's inevitable--ALL organisms impact them. We know how humans impact ecosystems. We also know that soon, geologically speaking, there will be a new ecosystem. What's heartless about wanting to build one that takes advantage of the peculiarities of humans? If anything, I'd say it's far less heartless than the alternative--which is to leave human survival in the hands of random chance.
Once again, I find myself defending something that is not me.
I suffer no Disney-like delusions about nature. If you check my posts above, you may notice. I mentioned this palnet being the ruthless home to volcanoes and ice-ages. I wrote that they way to save manatees from extinction, is to start eating them. They will be recognized as the ultimate domestic meat mammal; far more efficient than cows...with myriad useful by-products. Their hide was once used for fan belts in factories. Their bones are so dense, they often pass as ivory.

What seems stupid and heartless, to me, is simply running them over with motorboats; Because we can; because we rule; because 'to hell with that'; we're the crown of creation; if rednecks need to water-ski in manatee habitat, tough ****, manatees. Should have learned to swim faster.

Btw, I've canoed and swam in many spring branches in Florida, with manatees. Once, in the Homassasa spring branch; below the state park, I encountered 300 plus manatees; many with babies; in clear water of 3' depth.
I couldn't find a single adult manatee that didn't have propeller scars on its back. Not one.

What an idiotic thing this is. A godamned shame, really.
So, I'm a tree-hugger. Whatever.

What I really object to is 6the notion that this planet is all about us, and how things can benefit our agenda. As it is today, I find our 'agenda' fatally flawed.

Is there no way we can share this planet with other large mammals, and small amphibians?
Do weed need all of it, just so we can see how it will be with 10-20 billion of us?
For this dubious honor, it's righteous to remove all the great apes; elephants; rhinos; big cats; etc.?

Because we don't know how to eat, or reproduce..in spite of our smarts, and our foolish manifest destiny, we are ok with destroying ocean ecologies? The same ones that have fed us so willingly in the past?

How were we able to put enough mercury into the system, that pregnant women are advised not to eat certain fish, high on that food chain...because they have become toxic to us?

We need wilderness for our own mental health and survival.
A totally domesticated Earth; completely redesigned for our optimal benefit, is not one I'd much like to live on.

Dinwar, I realize, that because of your field of expertize,you take a necessarily long view of biology and geology.
Sure, the planet will go on, with or without us.

But to trash it; to live in our own waste, just for the hell of it...I don't understand that.
Should we remove all the redwoods, so more rich people can have bigger decks on their McMansions? Or, can we keep any tiny remnant of their habitat, just because, for some of us, it's really cool to see them. Cooler than the stupid deck at that idiots vacation home.

We're wrecking the place for the most petty of reasons. That's what bothers me.
In the Vietnam war, besides killing a few million people, we destroyed a huge swath of virgin tropical forest, and left enough toxic crap behind to haunt the locals for decades.
Why?
Gulf of Tonkin?
wtf?

We really need to get our 'stuff' together.

Why has the climate changed?
Because we were stupid.
It was ever about survival, or intelligence.
We changed the climate so that people could drive 3 ton cars and be stuck in traffic in Los Angeles.
We spewed mega loads of CO2 into the atmosphere so that people who were too stupid or lazy to cover a window with a drape, during a heat wave, could run their a.c. units night and day.

Gorillas are in peril.
Fine. Who gives a crap, right? What have they ever done for us?
Yet, if you dig in a bit, and realize the political/economic reasons for the peril...it's kind of disgusting and disgraceful.
It serves us not. In the long or short run.

To smarten-up in these matters will serve us well.
Your version of the 'smartening-up' is a bit too "crown of creation" for my blood.

I'm not ok thinking that my grandkids may never see a whale...especially if the reason why is just some stupid war game technology, in a fight that was invented, for the sake of selling military hardware.
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Old 14th December 2012, 12:04 PM   #68
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Nothing to see here, just the philosophical version of the Watchmaker fallacy.Both dumb, both wrong.
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Old 14th December 2012, 12:11 PM   #69
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Betrand Russell wrote on this a bit, and Rudolph Carnap (the Logical Positivist) went into it in quite a bit of detail.

Carnap said it was unfortunate that we chose the word "law" to describe our observations about the natural world. It suggests that nature must cohere to some fiat from above, or beyond. I think it was Russell who made an analogy by saying that scientific laws were our description of the natural world in much the same way as a cartographer constructs a map as a description of a particular geographic region. If we discover a discrepancy, we say that the map is wrong, not that the geography has failed to conform to the map.
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Old 14th December 2012, 12:16 PM   #70
Dinwar
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Originally Posted by quarky
What seems stupid and heartless, to me, is simply running them over with motorboats;
Point to where I advocated such stupidity. If either of us is guilty of misrepresenting the argument of the other, you're just as guilty as you think I am. Your entire post is arguing against a position I DO NOT HOLD. I DO NOT, IN ANY WAY think that continuing to do what we're doing now is going to be a good thing for ecology. Is that clear enough? I think that what we need to do is gain an understanding of ecology and work with it. Yet you are basically accusing me of mutlitating manitees. Yeah, THAT makes sense.

Quote:
What I really object to is 6the notion that this planet is all about us, and how things can benefit our agenda.
You need to go back through my post and re-read it. I NEVER said "the planet is all about us". I said that the planet is in a period of transition, and that it'd be a really, really good idea to make sure that when the transition is done what's good for us is going to be good for the planet. When you can explain how a system can work where what's good for humanity is BAD for the planet, I'll listen. Until then, it's a pipe dream.

Quote:
But to trash it; to live in our own waste, just for the hell of it...I don't understand that.
Point out where I said I do. Because I never did, nor did anything I say imply such a moronic notion.

Quote:
Why has the climate changed?
Because we were stupid.
Horse apples. The climate is changing because the climate ALWAYS CHANGES. We may be influencing it, but to pretend that the climate was ever stable to begin with is to live in a fantasy world. Change is inevitable. We adapt to it, or die, just like any other species. To whine and moan about what caused it is beyond stupid, it's suicidal. The issue is how to address it. I propose taking a rational, considered view, taking into account both human nature and ecology. You're screaming that I'm saying "Throw your trash everywhere! It doesn't matter!"

Quote:
Your version of the 'smartening-up' is a bit too "crown of creation" for my blood.
How is "Make sure the ecosystem that comes out of this transition won't get absolutely destroyed by humanity" too "crown of creation" for your blood? The other option is for the stable ecosystem to collaps as soon as humans touch it. Those really are your options: Either we stop and think about how to ensure that human interestes are in line with ecological stability, understanding that our ecosystem is currently in transition, or we leave it up to chance whether that will be the case or not, in which case the two values will almost certainly be in conflict.

Look, I don't care how similar what I'm saying sounds to what other people you've talked to say. I'm saying something radically different, and if you read the details of my posts you'll see that. The world IS changing. Humans WILL be in it when all is said and done. Humans WILL NOT fundamentally change. The only rational option is to change the ecosystem. This doesn't mean dumping carcinogens wherever they fall, or slaughtering every animal that's not a farm animal--that's a caricature of my argument, a straw man to avoid the facts I've presented. What I'm advocating is learning ecology, something we still haven't really done, and applying that knowledge.
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Old 14th December 2012, 12:43 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The assumption, "the world is a material machine run by law" seems to have remarkable and consistent predictive power.

When Alan Watts can explain more things, better, without it, he has my permission to make a valid critique of science.
Thankfully, noone needs to secure your permission.
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Old 14th December 2012, 02:35 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Point to where I advocated such stupidity. If either of us is guilty of misrepresenting the argument of the other, you're just as guilty as you think I am. Your entire post is arguing against a position I DO NOT HOLD. I DO NOT, IN ANY WAY think that continuing to do what we're doing now is going to be a good thing for ecology. Is that clear enough? I think that what we need to do is gain an understanding of ecology and work with it. Yet you are basically accusing me of mutlitating manitees. Yeah, THAT makes sense.

You need to go back through my post and re-read it. I NEVER said "the planet is all about us". I said that the planet is in a period of transition, and that it'd be a really, really good idea to make sure that when the transition is done what's good for us is going to be good for the planet. When you can explain how a system can work where what's good for humanity is BAD for the planet, I'll listen. Until then, it's a pipe dream.

Point out where I said I do. Because I never did, nor did anything I say imply such a moronic notion.

Horse apples. The climate is changing because the climate ALWAYS CHANGES. We may be influencing it, but to pretend that the climate was ever stable to begin with is to live in a fantasy world. Change is inevitable. We adapt to it, or die, just like any other species. To whine and moan about what caused it is beyond stupid, it's suicidal. The issue is how to address it. I propose taking a rational, considered view, taking into account both human nature and ecology. You're screaming that I'm saying "Throw your trash everywhere! It doesn't matter!"

How is "Make sure the ecosystem that comes out of this transition won't get absolutely destroyed by humanity" too "crown of creation" for your blood? The other option is for the stable ecosystem to collaps as soon as humans touch it. Those really are your options: Either we stop and think about how to ensure that human interestes are in line with ecological stability, understanding that our ecosystem is currently in transition, or we leave it up to chance whether that will be the case or not, in which case the two values will almost certainly be in conflict.

Look, I don't care how similar what I'm saying sounds to what other people you've talked to say. I'm saying something radically different, and if you read the details of my posts you'll see that. The world IS changing. Humans WILL be in it when all is said and done. Humans WILL NOT fundamentally change. The only rational option is to change the ecosystem. This doesn't mean dumping carcinogens wherever they fall, or slaughtering every animal that's not a farm animal--that's a caricature of my argument, a straw man to avoid the facts I've presented. What I'm advocating is learning ecology, something we still haven't really done, and applying that knowledge.
We seem unable to read the intent of the other's posts.
You ask me to re-read you.
Better re-read me, while you're at it.

That we can't be friends, or colleagues here, is disturbing.
Our various fights usually end politely, and with me learning something.
I don't expect you to learn anything from me.

This phenomena , which I see so often here, reminds me of republicans and democrats, in the U.S.

It's fun to choose sides, I guess...and to pigeon-hole people into the corner of one's expertise.

Maybe you should re-read some of your own vitriol.

To tell me about this Disney-like fixation I may have is a discredit to these forums. It's not the first time.
What is making you so hostile?

Is this because what you choose to study is dead, and stuff?
Maybe you'd be happier and friendlier if you began to study the living.
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Old 14th December 2012, 02:51 PM   #73
Dinwar
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Originally Posted by quarky
That we can't be friends, or colleagues here, is disturbing.
You have repeatedly accused me of saying something exactly opposite of what I've said. You have attempted to equate an attempt to understand ecology and work within the confines of natural laws with mutliation of wildlife and wonton destruction of life for the mere sake of wonton destruction of life. I'm sorry, but I'm not the one preventing us from being colleagues.

Quote:
To tell me about this Disney-like fixation I may have is a discredit to these forums. It's not the first time.
What is making you so hostile?
Simple: I get annoyed when people make up nonsense and claim that I said it. I never said that anything should be mutilated, nor that chemical waste shouldn't be disposed of properly. In fact, if anything I said the opposite. Yet you felt perfectly justified in making statments such as:

Quote:
Is there no way we can share this planet with other large mammals, and small amphibians?
Quote:
What an idiotic thing this is. A godamned shame, really.
Quote:
Because we don't know how to eat, or reproduce..in spite of our smarts, and our foolish manifest destiny, we are ok with destroying ocean ecologies?
Quote:
But to trash it; to live in our own waste, just for the hell of it...I don't understand that.
Quote:
Should we remove all the redwoods, so more rich people can have bigger decks on their McMansions?
Quote:
Gorillas are in peril.
Fine. Who gives a crap, right? What have they ever done for us?
Quote:
Your version of the 'smartening-up' is a bit too "crown of creation" for my blood.
Quote:
I'm not ok thinking that my grandkids may never see a whale...especially if the reason why is just some stupid war game technology,
NOT ONE of these accurately portrays a single thing I said. Not one. All of them only make sense if you think that I said "We should keep doing things as we do them now". No, scratch that--I actually know environmental regulations (I work in an environmental consulting firm, quarky--unless you're an environmental lawyer I probably know more about how the environment is actually protected than you do). What you're arguing against is the fantasy that I've said we should go back to 1950s levels of environmental awareness. How in Hell does that make sense given that I'm calling for gaining an understanding of ecology?

Quote:
Is this because what you choose to study is dead, and stuff?
Maybe you'd be happier and friendlier if you began to study the living.
This makes no sense. The fact that I study paleontology has no bearing whatever on my personality. I've met real jerks in paleontology (and if you think I'm one, you should me these guys), and I've met some of the sweetest people I've had the pleasure of knowing in the field. What annoys me is that you've dishonestly represented what I've said, to the point where you're arguing against the opposite of what I actually support--and you somehow think you have the moral and intellectual high ground here.

Okay, maybe you don't have a Dinsey view of the environment. Most people do. Most people don't understand what ecology IS, how an ecosystem runs. Most people have never seen wild canines kill an elk, or been stalked by a mountain lion. My aunt's classroom was horrified to find that bald eagles teach their young how to hunt by giving them live prey. That's the level of ecological knowledge of most people. I apologize for the erronious assumption, and won't continue to make it. But it's not unwarranted to assume that someone with an unknown level of knowledge about biology holds the standard view of the field.

There simply is no justification for assuming that someone who says "We need to learn more, than work with that knowledge" is actually saying "Forget what we know; turn the Earth into Giedi Prime."
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Old 14th December 2012, 03:06 PM   #74
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Well, Dinwar...

Either you have no sense of some of the stuff you write, or I don't.

I'm educated in biology and chemistry, and as implied, math and physics, to some extent.
Let's see how we do if you leave out the arrogant Disney crap?
You have a penchant for it.

I really hate to be talked down to. I'm not stupid.
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Old 14th December 2012, 03:38 PM   #75
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Quote:
I really hate to be talked down to. I'm not stupid.
I never said you were. I said you lied. There's a difference.

Quote:
Let's see how we do if you leave out the arrogant Disney crap?
Fine. I'll re-state my argument, trying to avoid anything inflamitory.

The biosphere is changing. There is no doubt about that. It's been changing for 10,000 years--there's really no doubt about that (that's when we lost the Pleistocene megafauna). There is no question about going back--the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna makes such an idea impossible. Without mammoths, sloths, etc., there cannot be stable ecosystems throughout much of the world. The only question humanity needs to answer is what the ecosystem will look like once this transition is done.

There really are two options here: we leave the results to random chance, or we take a hand in it. Human nature isn't going to change. It hasn't radically changed in 10,000 years, and it won't change in the next 10,000 years. Since humans are pretty much never going to go extinct (not my conclusion; please refer all questions in that regard to Peter Ward), that's a major factor we have to deal with. If we leave ecology to chance, odds are pretty good that human drives and ecological drives will be in opposition--they have been for the past 10,000 years, after all. The alternative is to figure out what the rules of ecology are, and develop an ecology that humans are an integral part of, such that what benefits the one benefits the other.

My position is that humanity needs to learn ecology. We do not currently understand it--recent studies of dental wear in Pleistocene faunas compared with modern faunas demonstrate that we've never actually studied an untouched ecology. We've thus far just dipped our toes into that pool, and it's time to jump in. Once we learn those laws, we can apply them. The ecosystem is changing, but there's no pre-determined end state. Evolution doesn't work that way. There's no reason to assume that humans are evil; we really don't do anything other animals don't (look at ants if you don't believe me). It makes just as much sense, from the perspective of a mass turn-over, for the biosphere to come out the other side of this event in a way that favors humans as it does for it to come out the other side in a way that favors, say, cephalopods.

In order to do this we need to understand human motivations and ecology. Human motivations are easy: we're motivated by greed. This means that if we find a way to make industrial byproducts marketable, factory owners and fatcats will be our greatest allies. This is not idle speculation--I actually saw this in action in a PVC plant down in Mississippi. The owner figured out that he could sell some waste product, and suddenly there were no more spills (not fewer, not almost none, NONE). Ecology is harder, but not impossible.

Does this mean I advocate stripping all forests? No, of course not. First and foremost it's unnecessary. There's more forests in the USA today than there was before the Europeans got here and we're growing more food per acre. In fact, it's generally low-tech methods that result in deforestation (slash-and-burn farming being the most infamous). Does this mean I advocate dumping chemicals wherever they fall? No, of course not. I'm advocating finding uses for waste products. What it means is that we need to figure out what to do--because right now we don't know. We're stumbling in the dark at the edge of a fairly serious cliff.

It also means that we can't ignore human nature. Humans are a part of the ecosystem, and we need to recognize that in our studies of ecology. We're probably the single greatest forcing mechanism right now--and not in terms of the atmosphere. I'm talking habitat fragmentation, species distribution, etc. We're the only new reef builders (though barnicles are what I'm rooting for, personally, as the next serious biological reef builders).

The Earth is going to look different after this mass turn-over. We don't know what that will be like, and right now there's no way TO know what it'll look like. I see no reason why that new ecology can't be something in which humans play an integral roll. It's going to be SOMETHING different; that's inevitable. It may as well be something that plays off our species' own nature.

Does this mean that some species will go extinct? Sadly, probably yes. Some will be mistakes, some we won't realize until it's too late, and some simply won't survive the new ecology. It's sad, but it's all happened before. The trick is to make sure that the new ecology comes into place such that the transition is relatively smooth. In that regard, we've got time. We're only now getting into the start of the recovery phase of the extinction (in some places the extinction isn't done yet), so we can at least start at the beginning.
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Old 14th December 2012, 03:46 PM   #76
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Well, in spite of being called a 'liar'. I certainty appreciate the tone of your post above.

Maybe there is hope for us.
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Old 15th December 2012, 05:21 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by joesixpack View Post
LOL, yes, I'm not suggesting it's a valid criticism, I'm just curious. Like I said, human rationality is finite and there is no conceivable reason to believe that answers would have to be comprehensible.

I'm not suggesting that this renders "science" invalid. It is demonstrably the best and only tool we have to understand the universe. I'm just proposing that humans may not be smart enough to use all of its features. The answer we get may be as cryptic as "42".

I was explaining the concept of the Trinity to my sons, trying to remember my parochial school days. The "Mystery of Faith"TM concept that God has no obligation to be comprehensible to man, therefore the Three are One, and that's that. I was waxing Spinozic there, musing that the universe actually has no such obligation either.
And yet we study quantum mechanics and use it.
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Old 15th December 2012, 05:25 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by joesixpack View Post
I see the advancement of science as being highly dialectic. Like looking at a single puzzle piece and wondering "WTF is this?", then as more pieces get put together you say "A-HA!". The cryptic answers of today become the obvious fit tomorrow. I assume that pieces will all fit in the end, but it's only an assumption on my part. I'm uncomfortable with assumptions. I think of them as an uneasy truce with the unknown.
Actually science has a great deal to do with something else entirely. Technology, the dialectic not so much.

What dialectic was involved in Democritus pouring oil on water? None, but he did something physical, the theory of the four elements continued for quite a while and generated great debates as did the nature of god.

It was not a dialectic that changed Rutherford's atom, it was alpha particle scattering.

It is technology and physical events that drive science.

IMNSHO
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Old 15th December 2012, 05:28 AM   #79
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
Seems a bit harsh. Are you ok with mass extinctions caused by us?
It has already begun, and could have been prevented.
And basically was driven by what?

Burning fossil fuels, something humans have done for a long time. Not really science at work there.

I do not support the destruction of eco systems BTW.
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Old 15th December 2012, 05:36 AM   #80
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
Oops. Dinwar replied before I sent the above.

At any rate, for now, I'll just disagree with Dinwar, because I have to go somewhere.
I find his attitude provocatively heartless. And disingenuous.
You think that lions are heartless?

Or starvation, the eco system itself has no morals. Lets see, when all the deeers and predators starve because of a drought that is what, nature being heartless?
When a tsunami over whelms every thing on the coastline, that is what? nature being heartless.

I will give you a hint the phrase below is for your consideration and probably one most would agree with

"I enjoy the diversity and availability of semi natural areas and the world as I am acquainted with it, the loss of natural areas and beauty and the loss of the beauty I am accustomed to would be a personal loss for me and I believe for all humanity"

Disingenuous seems to involve you wanting to force others to march step with you.

Mass extinctions are not fun for those living through them but your moral values are just that, your moral values.

I imagine that some may value the eco system as highly or more highly than you and still disagree with your statements as they are posted.
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