Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cognitive Materialism: Gedanken Experiments

While the existence of a soul is intuitively very unlikely considering modern psychology and neuroscience, there are several theoretical experiments that could be utilized to further disprove the existence of a soul:

  1. Using incredibly advanced biotechnology, amputate parts of a subject gradually and replace them with synthetic organs. Allow the patient to remain conscious and communicating (obviously under heavy anesthesia). As sections of the brain are removed, locations of personality, decision making, and consciousness will be pinpointed (along with various other regions; a rigorous protocol would glean much from this experiment).
  2. Clone a human being using conventional cloning techniques. Rear that human being in precisely the same environment as its twin. Similarity between the two will correlate very highly with similarity in environment and nurture, in every aspect (personality, decision making, behavior, etc.). Nature (genetic makeup) is kept constant while nurture is varied. If nature and nurture are identical and an identical person is produced, whence the soul?
  3. Perform a brain transplant, and question the subjects on self-identity. Admittedly, this could be interpreted merely as the brain being the vessel for the soul.
  4. Simply imagine that humans are material objects. In the future, it is conceivable that we will have the power to expertly craft identical material objects. We already understand the flow of chemical, electrical, and mechanical energy throughout the body, so we could effectively engineer an android that is indistinguishable from a natural human being. If this works, it will be evident that a soul is a superfluous notion. This is similar to item #1.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is human suicide a legitimate analog for cell apoptosis?

Throughout human evolution, individuals have subsisted in a variety of ways. These ranged from hunting and gathering, to forming nomadic tribes, to settling as a result of the agricultural revolution, and eventually to creating civilization once surplus resources were reliably established. It is undeniable that this progression resembles the evolution of a macro organism (such as a bee or ant colony) from single cells, through tissues, organs, and penultimately social organisms. In today’s world, most individuals (depending on location) are unlikely to possess the skills of hunting, gathering, or self-subsistence. We truly rely on one another in order to survive.

Using the evolutionary argument, the claim that this communal organization is a result of our genome is justified. So, it could be argued that human civilization is our genome’s most effective and successful method for ensuring its self-proliferation and survival.

Those who feel dissociated from society or are pathologically depressed for other reasons are more likely to commit suicide than others. Suicide is a valuable paradigm because it is so extreme; there is truly no evolutionary advantage for the individual’s genome. Obviously, suicide prevents this negative genomic impact from proliferating (e.g. genetically transmitted clinical depression from being passed to offspring). It also removes genes that may be deleterious to society (the human macro organism). Are suicides examples of detrimental genomic information culling itself from the gene pool? If individual humans are analogs for cells in the organism of humanity, is suicide programmed cell death? Does war follow the same logic?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Does natural selection improve itself?

We select mates based on perceived evolutionary fitness. However, appealing traits (such as large breasts or muscles) may not truly correlate with evolutionary fitness. Although large breasts certainly imply a superior child-rearing ability, physical traits rarely convey other flaws such as stupidity, infertility, or the presence of genetic diseases.

On the other hand, as humanity approaches an era of unprecedented biological manipulation capability, it could be argued that since it is now possible to sequence and analyze another individual’s genome before mating with him, we have improved upon evolution and natural selection.

This raises the recursive question: is our knowledge, the result of several thousand years’ exploration and research, which allows for innovation and raised awareness and in turn genetic analysis, also a product of natural selection? Have we evolved to improve upon evolution?

Heroes Of Newerth 1

Eventually I will talk about strategy and debate HoN versus DotA, but today, I complain about Chronos:

The creators of HoN had the GOLDEN opportunity to filter which heroes would transition from DotA to HoN. They took on the responsibility of further balancing one of the most change-sensitive games in history. And they decided to include Faceless Void. WHY!?

This hero virtually guarantees that his team will win if the game proceeds long enough. Here are the reasons:

1) His first ability, TIME LEAP, is broken. This is because it takes BLINK (arguably the best all-around ability in the game, and the reason why Portal Key should be removed or limited to certain heroes), and adds DAMAGE and SLOW. So he has improved BLINK.

2) His second ability, BACKTRACK, is broken. This is because it takes EVASION (one of the better defensive abilities in the game) and allows it to work for spell damage. So, he has improved EVASION.

3) His third ability, TIME FREEZE, is broken. This is because it takes BASH (arguably the best attack modifier in the game) and puts it on a 5-hit timer which allows you to set up first-hit guaranteed bashes. So, he has improved BASH. At least they nerfed the 20/40/60/80 Magic Damage to 15/30/45/60 Physical Damage in Patch 1.0.9 and removed the 1/2/3/4 Agility Steal in Patch 1.0.11.

4) His ultimate ability, CHRONOFIELD, is a global STUN. It effectively allows him to take out the opposing hero of his choice at the beginning of team fights. It has limitless utility and infuriating power. It is broken.

With these abilities, he has no need to worry about specific items, so he can focus entirely on survivability and increased attack speed. If he is played in an EASY MODE game, he can farm neutral creeps at his leisure, enter fights at 20 minutes, and end the game in 10. In addition, he is so easy to use that anyone can pick him up and instantly break the game. You simply right click on people!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Response to Rorschach Redemption

I don't consider Nihilism and Absurdism to be mutually exclusive:

My Existential Crisis is Nihilistic in nature; specifically, I am alarmed and devastated by the fact that my life and existence have no objective purpose, meaning, or intrinsic value.

In the face of such an Existential Crisis, there are three classical coping methods:

1) Suicide - While it is appealing to end the despair immediately, I do not choose this option because I understand that I have the capacity for pleasure, so I might as well experience as much as I can before I die.

2) Religion - While it is appealing to have all the "truths" of the universe told to you, plus a higher purpose for your actions and an eternally blissful afterlife to boot, I do not choose this option because I am rational, so I only accept logical evidence as valid, and I see faith-based evidence as invalid. Basically, I would love to be religious but Scientific Positivism makes too much sense.

3) Absurdism - The final method is to BE A BADASS and laugh in the face of the existential crisis: if there is no greater purpose or meaning, then I am bound by nothing, so I can do whatever I want! I can rejoice in doing absurd things, and sometimes even successfully delude myself into thinking I have Free Will! Some people say that there is no real distinction between Religion and Absurdism.

However, Nietzsche understood these options and coined the terms "Passive Nihilism" and "Active Nihilism". An example Passive Nihilist is someone who gives up in the face of an existential crisis; the term has wimpy connotations. Nietzsche writes that Christianity is an example of Passive Nihilism (Christians accept the meek, and have a generally self-deprecating and inferiority-ridden mentality.). An Active Nihilist is someone who strives to be an √úbermensch (super-man; badass) in the face of existential crisis. I see Active Nihilism and Absurdism as the same thing.

So, to clarify, I am an Absurdist because it is the most fun of the three aforementioned coping methods.

Today's Criticism:

Lots of people say "Everything happens for a reason" to imply that every event serves a greater purpose in the future. However, the phrase literally means "Everything that happens is caused by things that happened before it", implying Determinism, which, by philosophical extension to Nihilism, is the direct opposite of their intended meaning. The result is one of the most heinously ambiguous sayings in the English language.

Assigned reading: The Myth Of Sisyphus by Albert Camus;

Assigned watching: Harold and Maude by Hal Ashby;


I am starting this blog mostly because I HAVE A TON TO SAY ABOUT EVERYTHING, and I rarely have a large audience. Also, I've been meaning to start a journal of thoughts for some time, so this blog has a self-serving purpose as well.

This is a test post so I can learn how to configure and properly write posts, and so I can see what they look like on the blog page. My content will improve as I get comfortable with the format and process of posting, but to whet your appetite, here is a concise autobiography:

I am an antitheist/hedonist/absurdist as a means to cope with an existential crisis resulting from my realization that determinism/probabilism are the most likely models for reality after accepting scientific positivism as the best method for obtaining truth because of my studies in physics and chemistry. I am also prone to grandiosity because of hyper-intelligence (is this recursive?).

Here are some links to clarify the above sentences; it is probably only necessary to read the first paragraph of each page:

Wikipedia is an exceptional site...

This blog will also contain commentary on the following topics when I feel like it:

  • Heroes Of Newerth!
  • Outdoor sports such as hiking, climbing, kayaking, surfing, and snowboarding!
  • Ultimate Frisbee!
  • Science fiction/fantasy (especially literature by Iain M. Banks)!
  • Philosophy!
  • Science!
  • Pretentiously refined and sophisticated opinions on music!
  • Politics (if I get angry enough to care)!
  • True urban adventure stories starring your hero, me!
  • Random thoughts for public evaluation!

Please comment; I will almost certainly respond if you provoke me intelligently!