Is there a science of the soul? Does how we think about the brain define how we think about ourselves?
Patricia Churchland, B. Phil., LLD (hon), Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy at UC San Diego, joins William Mobley, MD, PhD for a deeper look at the connections between neuroscience and philosophy.
The word “pseudoscience” is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria. This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which…
The first and highest level at which science can be distinguished from pseudoscience involves how an area of study grows in knowledge and utility.
The philosopher John Dewey in his Theory of Inquiry said that we understand knowledge as that which is “so settled that it is available as a resource in further inquiry”.
This is an excellent description of how we come to “know” something in science. It shows how existing knowledge can be used to form new hypotheses, develop new theories and hence create new knowledge.
It is characteristic of science that our knowledge, so expressed, has grown enormously over the last few centuries, guided by the reality check of experimentation.
In short, the new knowledge works and is useful in finding more knowledge that also works.
Gay marriage is rapidly becoming less and less controversial, at least in the Western world.
Gay marriage is rapidly becoming less and less controversial, at least in the Western world. Yes, the battle hasn’t been won just yet, both in Europe and in the US, but we are getting there at a pace that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The next frontier, it seems, is adoptions by gay parents. When I talk to even some of my somewhat progressive friends and relatives, including those in the Old Country, they seem to resist the idea of gay couples adopting children much more than they resisted (if they ever did) the idea of gay marriage. Why?
Time to deploy some good SciPhi, as I termed a hybrid of science and philosophy to be used to address practical personal or societal questions (rather than relying, say, on “common wisdom” or, worse, religious authority). For more on the sciphi approach, how it works, and a number of examples and applications, you may of course take a look at Answers for Aristotle.
SciPhi is relevant because opponents and proponents of these types of societal changes rely on a mix of (hopefully) logical arguments and (sometimes alleged) empirical evidence to make their respective cases. And as is well known to readers of this blog, I think the best way to build (or debunk) logical arguments is via philosophical analysis, while the best way to assess factual evidence is through the methods of the natural and social sciences. So let’s proceed and see where SciPhi gets us in the specific case of gay adoptions.
To begin with, let’s agree that the issue of gay adoptions is, in fact, intrinsically more complex than that of gay marriage. This is simply because the latter involves only consenting adults, while the former affects the (physical and psychological) welfare of children. Which is, of course, precisely why the notion is more controversial to begin with.
How can philosophies from the past be used for humanity’s future?
During the Renaissance Era in Europe, Greco-Roman philosophy became the backbone for the emergence of what we now call Renaissance humanism. This philosophy was initially created by Italian scholars and writers during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in response for a need of scholastic education. This spreading philosophy sought to create a citizenry of individuals able to engage the civic life with their knowledge of the Humanities. The main motive for this movement was for the legacy revival that originated from classical antiquity, and the universal acceptance of all individuals. One basic concept from Renaissance humanism was that humans are empowered and limitless in their capacity for development, which led people to embrace all aspects of knowledge and develop their capabilities as much as possible. One humanist, Leon Battista Alberti, said that “A man can do all things if he will”. This led to the emergence of many known polymaths, including Leonardo da Vinci, who is referred to as a “Renaissance man” or a Homo Universalis. In fact, this phrase is frequently been used by futurists and transhumanists to reflect the idea of the technologically enhanced human being.
Two and a half millenniums ago, a prince named Siddhartha Gautama traveled to Bodh Gaya, India, and began to meditate beneath a tree. Forty-nine days of continuous meditation later, tradition tells us, he became the Buddha — the enlightened one.
More recently, a psychologist named Amishi Jha traveled to Hawaii to train United States Marines to use the same technique for shorter sessions to achieve a much different purpose: mental resilience in a war zone.
“We found that getting as little as 12 minutes of meditation practice a day helped the Marines to keep their attention and working memory — that is, the added ability to pay attention over time — stable,” said Jha, director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. “If they practiced less than 12 minutes or not at all, they degraded in their functioning.”
In exploring contemporary digital dancing, she doesn’t deny the difference that the digital makes, in opposition to the organic experience of dance; the problem for her is not this difference itself. Rather, at issue with the digital is a tendency to hide its differential: its ability to make difference. The differential gets overlooked, for instance, when the difference that codification makes is reduced to convertibility: how does one thing retain its significance across different media? Portanova’s key insight is that a digital logic is fundamentally one of the cut: not as a means to an end, but as a “mathematical or numerical idea, in itself”.
This disjunctive potential, often considered a problem or a loss when it comes to the preservative or creative work of digi-dance, is here re-imagined for the positive creativity that a cut into the continuity that characterizes organic experience can allow. This is the work of imagination. While it may seem counterintuitive to revalorize ideas such as disembodiment and desubjectification, given how these are bound to the fear of digital technology, Portanova claims we need to ask new questions about the “status of the captured objects”, such as the data from Motion capture technologies, and on the relation between technological preservation and transcendental memory, or “pure memory” as a source not of preservation, but of change and creation. These are ethico-aesthetical questions. They are questions fundamentally about relation itself, seeing technology not simply as a tool or interface for relations between bodies and subjects, but as already participating in a relational ecology.
Writing about love made students rank candy and water as sweeter-tasting than writing about jealousy or other topics
Even water tastes sweeter when you're in love, new research finds.
But not every emotion heightens the senses. Jealousy fails to bring out bitter or sour tastes, despite metaphors that suggest it might, researchers report in the December 2013 issue of the journal Emotion.
That love alters one's sensory perceptions and jealousy does not is important to psychologists who study what are called "embodied" metaphors, or linguistic flourishes people quite literally feel in their bones. For example, studies have shown that people induced to feel lonely rate the temperature of the room as colder than do their unprimed counterparts. And the idea that important things have heft plays out physically, too: When someone believes a book is important, it feels heavier.
But "just because there is a metaphor does not necessarily imply that we will get these kind of sensations and perception effects," said study researcher Kai Qin Chan, a doctoral candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
I Origins, which just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, is out to make skeptics rethink spirituality.
The words “molecular biology thriller” don’t come up a lot when describing movies, but director Mike Cahill’s I Origins aims to be different. The film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival this week, revolves around around the concept of ”irreducible complexity,” the argument put forth by proponents of intelligent design who believe some biological systems are too intricate to have evolved naturally. It’s not an easy concept to cram into a suspense thriller, but Cahill had a guiding principle: Make a movie compelling enough that even an evolutionary biologist or staunch atheist might stop and ponder.
In the film, a young molecular biology Ph.D. student named Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is researching the development of the eyes — organs often cited by intelligent design proponents as examples of “irreducible complexity” – in an attempt to put the argument to rest forever. In the process, he discovers that eyes may not be the unique fingerprints we think they are, and may even have deeper and more ethereal purposes. The story is told from the perspective of Ian, a scientist and skeptic who was partly inspired by one of the most noted evolutionary biologists and staunch atheists in popular culture, The God Delusion author Richard Dawkins.
“I really got into Richard Dawkins [while making this movie] and kind of based the character off of him,” said Pitt. “If you could you convince Dawkins, then you will convince everybody. So we were setting up a really big challenge.”
Could quantum mechanics save the soul? In the light of 20th century physics, is free will plausible? Such as been the hope of some philosophers, scientists
Could quantum mechanics save the soul? In the light of 20th century physics, is free will plausible?
Such as been the hope of some philosophers, scientists (and pretenders to those titles) – but neuroscientist Peter Clarke argues that it’s just not happening, in an interesting new paper: Neuroscience, quantum indeterminism and the Cartesian soul
Clarke first outlines the dualism of Rene Descartes, who famously believed in an immaterial human soul separate from the brain, and responsible for rational thought. But this implied that an immaterial soul could break the laws of physics, and affect some physical processes in the brain, in order to control our actions. Even in the 17th century, this was regarded as a bit much:
Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia (oldest daughter of King James VI), wrote: “…it would be easier for me to concede matter and extension to the soul, than to concede the capacity to move a body and to be moved by it to an immaterial thing.”
But the 20th century gave new life to dualism. Quantum theory taught that physics is non-deterministic on the smallest scales; most famously, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that we can’t know the exact properties of any particle for sure – only the probability of finding a certain kind of particle in a certain place.
Staff are flouting official guidelines and depriving confused residents of their basic human rights in the belief that it is in their best interests (#LEGAL #NEWS: Dementia patients deprived of legal rights when staff lock them up or sedate them -...
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