PHILOMADRID

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The importance of understanding consciousness

Two essays


Dear friends,


This week we are lucky because we also have an essay by Mark, who as you
know also proposed the subject of this Sunday's discussion. That means
you have two essay to read which is quite opportune given the bad
weather we are having in Madrid and did not know what to do Friday and
Saturday evening.


So without further ado, happy reading.


Take care

Lawrence


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(MARK) The Importance of Understanding Consciousness


The study of consciousness has been increasing over the last 10 – 15
years, and some consider it to be – along with the quest for the Theory
of Everything – to be one of the last Holy Grails of modern science.


A discussion of consciousness need to consider the subject of the 'mind
/ body' problem. This is sometimes referred to as dualism or 'Cartesian
Dualism', an idea strongly associated with the 17th Century French
Philosopher Renée Descartes (although dualistic concepts date back to
Plato and Aristotle). He postulated that the mind is a thing that thinks
and does not occupy space, whereas the body does not think and occupies
space. He argued that a body is 'divisible', that is, you can divide it
into smaller and smaller parts; whereas the mind cannot be divided
(physically); and therefore they are completely separate ontologically.


Dualism is no longer considered a valid platform by the majority of
scientists when addressing the question of consciousness, although a
dualistic logic often intrudes into discussions of consciousness. Mental
states and processes are viewed as biological states and processes, and
the Study of Consciousness needs to be based on 'hard' science, or a
materialistic approach.


OK. What is Consciousness? This is a million dollar question. The best
way define it for our purposes is to consider its high-level
characteristics. That is, consciousness is the feeling of awareness or
sentience that we have when we are awake (or dreaming). It corresponds
heavily to a feeling of 'self' or identity as an individual existing
within an environment, the ability to think and consider, and make
choices within that environment.


What are some of the characteristics of consciousness? - It is a
first-person phenomenon, and can only be 'felt' by the individual who is
conscious. Third person entities – such as cleverly programmed computers
or robots - can appear conscious, as they appear to 'think' and interact
with their environment in a rational way, however we cannot know if they
are conscious. We can only know that we are conscious. - Consciousness
states are qualitative. That is they have a certain feeling: happiness,
anger, boredom etc - Consciousness is 'cumulative', in that for each
conscious entity at any time there exists only one 'conscious feel'that
sums all its inputs, memories, feelings into one conscious state or
conscious feel.


An understanding of necessary preconditions for consciousness in the
human brain may allow humanity to address important ethical questions.


What level of consciousness is required to feel human, or conversely,
what level of consciousness is required for society to consider an
entity 'human' or at least having a level of consciousness that would
indicate special treatment. Most of us have few qualms over stepping on
a cockroach; however stomping on a kitten is less automatic


What is the level of consciousness in animals? Or severely ill or
disabled humans? At what point between a zygote and an adult human does
consciousness materialise? The ability to be meta-cognitive?


Another question: is consciousness a purely human trait? Most pet-owners
would argue that dogs and cats would have some degree of consciousness.
That is, they (the pet owners) can perceive when their pets are happy or
sad; and that they are clearly interacting with their world with
apparent purpose. Due to the first-person nature of consciousness, we
can never know the full extent of a dog's or cat's consciousness; but it
is probably safe to say they have some 'level' of consciousness. It is
an interesting thought experiment to sequentially consider other
organisms and wonder where consciousness switches off … or is it an
infinite sliding scale. For example:


- Humans - clearly conscious and self aware
- Chimpanzees – almost certainly conscious and have been shown to be
self-aware. That is, they are one of the few animals that recognise
themselves in a mirror.
- Dogs – probably some consciousness, but not self-aware
- Mice – Feel pain, nurture their young, can 'learn' … but are they
conscious?
- Cockroach – ??
- Virus – Viruses are considered 'alive' but exist at the molecular
scale. Clearly not conscious.


This also raises the question of whether consciousness needs a 'critical
mass' in order to exist. In the physical world, there are many examples
where an object will suddenly change state. For example, when a piece of
combustible material is heated above its flash point it will
spontaneously combust. Other changes of state display a more gradual
characteristic. Perhaps consciousness requires a sufficiently complex
neural network (with the requisite energy input) to spontaneously appear.


Let's take another thought experiment. It is a reasonable assumption
(when dualism is rejected) that consciousness is a higher-level brain
function, or that it is 'happening' in the brain / nervous system. The
brain is a complex neural network containing functional areas that
neuroscience is still trying to figure out. Its ability to re-wire
itself as a result of learning (or re-learning after trauma) is still
not understood. As to its complexity, it is sobering to learn that there
are more combinations and permutations of neural pathways in each of our
brains than there are atoms in the universe. Be that as it may …
functionally each neurone can be modelled electronically, so imagine
sequentially replacing each neurone in the brain with an electronic
model. You would get to a point where you would end up with an
electronic neural network as complex as the human brain. If so, could it
be conscious?


Consider also the internet. It is a giant network that is growing in
complexity and speed every year. It also has substantial 'persistence'
and memory, and there are many nodes that already have the ability to
learn. It is doubtful if it is conscious, but could it get to a
sufficiently complex state that it would become conscious of its own
existence. If it did, would we, as humans, be morally obligated to
afford it certain rights. Many philosophers think that if we (mankind)
ever made a conscious machine, we would first not know that it was
conscious and secondly subject it to continuous torments and experiments.


OK … now to the question of the importance of consciousness. Should the
belief – and more importantly the evidence – that a person is conscious
have any bearing on how that person is treated? As an example, take the
case of Terri Shiavo in Florida, a woman who was accepted by the medical
staff as being 'brain dead' and in a persistent vegetative state, be
afforded the rights of clearly conscious humans? Clearly she would have
died but for the existence of a feeding tube; however some brain
activity was present. Similar questions are raised when considering the
right to life of an embryo. Many philosophers and scientists consider
memory as a vital component in forming the 'self' and perhaps
consciousness. Clearly foetuses have no memory: what does this indicate
about their rights?


How do we recognise consciousness for the purposes of making ethical
judgements. One test – not really useful – is the Turing test. From Wiki:


The Turing test (named after computer scientist Alan Turing, who first
proposed it) is actually a test to determine whether or not a computer
satisfied his operational definition of "intelligent" (which is actually
quite different from a test for consciousness or self-awareness). This
test is commonly cited in discussion of artificial intelligence. The
essence of the test is based on "the Imitation Game", in which a human
experimenter attempts to converse, via computer keyboards, with two
others. One of the others is a human (who, it is assumed, is conscious)
while the other is a computer. Because all of the conversation is via
keyboards (teletypes, in Turing's original conception) no cues such as
voice, prosody, or appearance will be available to indicate which is the
human and which is the computer. If the human is unable to determine
which of the conversants is human, and which is a computer, the computer
is said to have "passed" the Turing test (satisfied Turing's operational
definition of "intelligent").


As no-one has yet invented a 'consciousness meter, such theoretical
tests as the Turing Test, the Mirror Test or the Delay test are really
only indicators. Modern medical imaging techniques are useful diagnostic
tools, however the 'seat' of consciousness in an organism (sometimes
referred to as the Neuronal Correlate of Consciousness – NCC) is still
unclear. So the existence and extent of consciousness – as a higher
order brain function – is still not able to be determined with real
accuracy.


…running out of steam here …


Mark


-----------------------------------

(LAWRENCE) The importance of understanding consciousness


Consciousness is a very big subject and a cursory check in a search
engine would leave you in no doubt about the veracity of this statement.
It is important for philosophers, scientists, neurologists,
psychologists and psychiatrists, and every one else who is interested in
human existence. This should spell bad news for us since a lot of things
have already been written about consciousness and maybe nothing new can
be said. It is probable good news, since we might not have heard all the
arguments. And therefore more to gain as individuals.


The question itself is very important for us since it is a genuine
philosophical question and not a neurological or biological question
masquerading as a philosophical question. In a way, our subject is not
about consciousness, but about two very relevant philosophical concepts:
value judgments (the importance of) and epistemology (understanding).
The fact that what is at issue is consciousness makes this question that
more relevant.


A classical philosophical question would be: what is consciousness? At
face value this might look like a legitimate question for us to ask and
I would have no objection to give a working definition for our purposes.
John R Searle (1) gives the following definition which, although it
might serve our purposes, it might not solve any problems. "What we need
at this point in our work is a common-sense definition of consciousness
and such a definition is not hard to give: `consciousness' refers to
those states of sentience or awareness that typically begin when we wake
from a dreamless sleep and continue through the day until we fall asleep
again, die, go into a coma or otherwise become `unconscious'." (2)


However, is the question "what is consciousness?" a useful philosophical
question? I do not mean to deny over two thousand years of philosophy
and philosophers who have thought that consciousness is a legitimate
subject for philosophy. But rather is it the type of question best
answered by philosophy? Look at it this way, what is the heart? Or what
is blood? I am sure that over those two thousand years or so someone
might have asked the last two questions. However, it was only when
medical scientists started studying the heart and blood that "what is
the heart?" and "what is blood?", found their natural habitat. This is
not to say that the heart and blood are not also the legitimate subjects
of philosophy. I would suggest that they are in medical ethics, genetic
discrimination, health policies and so on. Moreover, a cardiologist or a
haematologist are no more qualified to tell us than a philosopher can
whether people susceptible to heart disease ought or ought not to be
given medical coverage or whether it is acceptable to discriminate
against such a person.


I suspect that consciousness is a similar case. Are we justified in not
starting with a traditional philosophical question? Practically everyone
agrees that consciousness is a legitimate domain of neurology,
psychology, biology and so on. Maybe, but it does not follow that just
because something does not fall fair and square as a philosophical
matter than it ought to fall fair and square to neurology or psychology
or whatever. Indeed, scientific methodology is a legitimate concern of
philosophy of science. So we might still have a say in the matter
without reverting to tradition. I propose, therefore, that we start with
the understanding issue and not the what is? question.


This leads us to the next important question about consciousness: what
is the purpose and function of consciousness? This questions looks less
philosophical and maybe more physiological or even neurological. Having
assumed that consciousness belongs to the domain of biology then surely
it should be up to those who study biology to tell us what the function
of consciousness is. We might agree with this proposition but there is
always the problem of methodology.


Indeed I would argue that a problem for certain biological
investigations, especially those disciplines that are geared at fixing
the human body rather than making scientific discoveries, is that
consciousness does not seem to be something that needs fixing. Of
course, there are some unfortunate people who are in a coma, but even in
these cases I would argue that they are not in a coma because their
consciousness needs fixing, but because some parts of their body have
gone awry and shut down that part of the nervous system that is
responsible for human consciousness.


And this is what is at issue when we use science to consider
consciousness: it is not clear that there is an organ or part of an
organ, maybe the brain, that is responsible for consciousness. Maybe
responsible in the same way that the heart is responsible for blood
circulation in the body. At this point some would give up on the grounds
that there is nothing ontologically objective to investigate. On the
other hand, the nature of consciousness is, as Searle claims,
ontologically subjective; it exists but only in our private domain.
Ironically, this sounds very similar to Wittgenstein's private language
problem. Although we might have problems establishing a functional
private language (how do we know we are following the rules?) there is
no doubt that when we are conscious we are indeed perceiving external
experiences. I am assuming that no manipulation of the brain is taking
place here. Even though scientists do try to study consciousness,
consciousness is not itself something like an organ or a force.


The fact that a scientist cannot have access to our subjective
experiences makes it difficult to investigate objectively. Sure we can
map an image of the brain when it is doing something and tentatively say
that when this part of the brain is imaged in this way it is doing this
activity. In Wikipedia(3) there is a reference to Operational
Architectonics which is based on the theory that "whenever any pattern
of phenomenality (including reflective thought) is instantiated, there
is neuro-physiological pattern (revealed directly by EEG) of appropriate
kind that corresponds to it." This approach might look interesting
except that it is not clear that every brain pattern also causes a body
event. If I lift my right arm and an at the same time there is a certain
pattern in my brain, but would inducing that brain pattern by
manipulating my brain also result into a) my right arm rising, b) will
be a conscious act of raising my right arm? I doubt that b) is the case.
An image of my brain, when I raise my right arm is evidence of a
conscious act, but an image of my brain by itself it not sufficient
evidence of a conscious act, even if it is similar to the image taken
during the conscious act. And this is the problem with imaging the
brain, we might have similar images of two acts, but they might not be
logically identical; for that we need the conscious element in our case.
I am assuming that raising my right arm now and my arm some time later
are the same, logically the same, identical acts. I agree I am taking
liberties with the meaning of logically identical.


These practical and real issues that involve the study of consciousness
directly affect our capacity to understand consciousness. It is not as
if we are dealing with something that might turn out to be a fictitious
idea, we all agree that consciousness is real and affects us all. And
for this reason understanding consciousness is a primary objective if we
want to understand human beings and if we want to make value judgments
about human beings.


I still think, however, that answering the question of functionality of
consciousness will give us the answer, or least enlighten us, on the
question of what is consciousness? And while I do not have any answers
to what consciousness is, I do have some personal ideas on the
methodology of investigating the issue of functionality. And I think
philosophy has a legitimate interest to look at the scientific
methodology because it is this very methodology that will lead us to
understand philosophical questions such as, what is consciousness? You
will recall that I do not think that philosophy can answer the what is?
question directly, but understanding the functionality question, will at
the very least, shed some light on the what is? question.


The issue of ontological-subjectivity:ontological-objectivity nature of
consciousness is not that problematic as some people think. Certainly
not that important to the issue of functionality. We can still
distinguish conscious experiences, whether we know what it is or not. I
would postulate that consciousness has to be ontologically subjective
because ontologically, consciousness is the product of our genes and
evolutionary process. Consciousness is not something that we pick up
from the environment nor something we have to be trained for. And
nothing is more subjective than our genes. So if we accept that
consciousness is something that comes with the genetic package we
possess, I am prepared to bet one of my genes that consciousness has
something to do with our personal survival strategy. And it does not get
more subjective than that.


There is also reference in Wikipedia to Dawkins's (3) interactive view
of experience: "In a way, what sense organs do is assist our brains to
construct a useful model and it is this model that we move around in. It
is a kind of virtual reality simulation of the world."" I submit that
any scientific study of consciousness must include the study of a) the
whole nervous system and not just the brain part of it and b) the
function of the human body (as a model of a conscious living system ).
Although I have not had the opportunity to read all the material on
consciousness that is available on the internet, I have only come across
Dawkins's description that also refers to our sense organs apart from
the brain.


If we are to understand consciousness, and certainly the functions of
consciousness, we have to start by looking at the genetic and
evolutionary functions of consciousness followed by the function of
consciousness in the context of how our body functions. After all, our
body is our main vehicle to implement any survival strategy. Personally,
I would try to understand consciousness not as a subjective experience
function but rather as an information and communication function of
certain living systems. I know I keep repeating this theme in my essays,
but consciousness is a genetic and evolutionary process because
information and communication are the key factors in a survival strategy.


When I tap at my keyboard writing an essay and you reading my words on
your screen or printout we do not do this just for the fun of it or as a
random event. No, we go thought these elaborate physical and epistemic
programmes to consolidate our human relationships and consolidate our
sense of cooperation which is so real and necessary for human survival.
I am not going to go through the whole causal chain of why cooperation
and collaboration are useful to us partly because you already know why
and I have discussed this many times already.


The main argument about information and communication is as follows. In
order to survive, not only physically but also genetically, we need to
interact with our environment. Information gathering and communication,
sometimes in the form of actions, are things our nervous system is very
good at. However, both activities have to be synchronised in real time
including information and communication activities we are aware of and
those that happen automatically. I submit that consciousness takes care
of those information and communication activities that have not been
evolved into an automatic process. How this synchronisation is done is
something that ought to concern scientists. In the meantime, our body
has no problem converting stored energy into leg and muscle movement
automatically, but only through conscious application can we seek and
obtain food; a very good example of interacting with the environment (or
the waiter).


There are other things we can do to help us understand consciousness.
Unfortunately, ethical constraints would probably limit us from
performing certain types of experiments either on human beings and even
animals. For example, tampering with the nervous system of healthy human
subjects to see what effects this would have on their consciousness. Nor
can we genetically engineer subjects to show the role genes play on
consciousness. And animals experiments have their limits because they
are not really able to communicate to us their ontologically subjective
experiences.


Another way we can try to understand consciousness is to explore the
idea of modelling consciousness. And I only mention this in passing.
Earlier I said that the human body is a practical model of a living
system with consciousness. But given the constraints and limitations we
have with experimentation on human beings we have no choice but to widen
our methodology. Personally I am inclined to look at mathematical
modelling as a reliable methodology not only because there is already a
lot of data available on how the human body and nervous systems function
and can be used in a mathematical model but also because it can handle
dimensions much better than physical objects. This is not to say that it
is an easy job nor something we can do now, it is just faith on my part
in the methodology. Some might even advocate using, for example,
computers either as a possible alternative consciousness system or to
model consciousness.


As far as machines having consciousness are concerned I am not totally
convinced about this. It is true that machines, even biological
machines, may replicate or mimic human consciousness they, nevertheless,
fail at least on one test. The ethical relationship between human and
human which cannot be the same as between human and machine. For
example, we just cannot eliminate another human unless it is self
defence beyond reasonable doubt. However, we can pull the proverbial
plug from any machine without any compunction. But more seriously, human
relationships are about personal survival and more importantly genetic
survival, and we just cannot mate with a machine which puts them at a
real disadvantage. But these issues are more likely to be a distraction
in my opinion.


Still addressing the understanding part of our question, there is an
other factor that might affect our understanding of consciousness. I
have already mentioned language as an analogy and in the context of
animals not being able to communicate their ontological subjective
experiences to us. But language also affects our understanding of
consciousness by the very limits of language itself. My first
observation is to ask whether our everyday language is able to provide
us with the means to explain and understand consciousness. Maybe in the
same way that our everyday language is very inadequate at explaining
quantum mechanical events. A cursory look at a text book on quantum
mechanics would illustrate what I mean. Hence, why I proposed earlier
that a more vigorous use of mathematical modelling might take us quite a
fair bit in understanding consciousness.


A less serious problem with language is that our ontological subjective
experiences have to be communicated not only in a public (ontological)
language but then it has to converted again into ontological subjective
experiences in the person we are communicating with. Thus when someone
says to us, I am feeling hot, do we also feel hot (not really I would
say) or do we activate in our brain a pattern of linguistic hot or
physical hot? In which case, do we understand other people's
ontological-subjective experiences by deduction, association or simply
refer to our own ontological-subjective personal experiences, or simply
make things up as we go along? And all of this not withstanding the fact
that we all have different language skills not to mention that we have
different worldly experiences which might influence how we describe
personal experiences.


The "importance" part of our subject is less of a technical or
scientific issue and more of a philosophical, social and political
issue. I would go so far as to say that consciousness is the one feature
that helps us to socialise with other people and interact with our
environment. This is what makes consciousness a really important subject
and not just a laboratory or hospital ward curiosity.


In the Wikipedia entry there is mention of some issues that directly
depend on our understanding of consciousness. The most important of
which in my opinion are those relating to severely ill or disabled
people, foetal development and research on humans. I have already
discussed the context of consciousness and machines. Another area of
interest is that of learning and education (I did not see any references
to this in the articles I read).


If consciousness is ontological subjective experiences and as Dawkins
indicates, it is to assist the brain to construct a model in which we
operate in, then what we learn and how we learn about our environment is
very important. Thus manipulating conscious experiences is like
manipulating our database of experiences for later actions. Remember the
model I am using for consciousness: information input (experiences) ->
conscious synchronisation (evaluation) -> communication (action). Thus
tampering with the input would inevitable affect what we consciously
synchronise.


To illustrate my point I'll give some examples. The first and obvious
example would be the use of drugs which not only affect the experiences
of those that use them but also their voluntary and involuntary actions;
behaving criminally, lack of responsibility or lack of personal care and
so on. Manipulated information that would give the impression that we
are acting voluntary and reaching decisions that seem rational. For
example, how many, in the present property crises, were persuaded to
over stretch their finances on the belief that they were making a wise
investment for their future?


And in the sphere of personal and academic learning we may ask: what is
the optimal state of consciousness that will help us maximise our
learning experience? I am inclined to believe that the way we answer
this question will somehow affect the methodology of teaching. To begin
with we will have to consider individual needs and not some bell curve
representation of humanity. In a competitive environment having better
learning skills would be an advantage. But to optimise everyone's
learning experience would neutralise this advantage someone might now
have over others. That is not an issue that concerns our understanding
or the importance of consciousness but a consequence of having
understood consciousness and its importance.


In one of his podcasts I heard Luciano Floridi (4) says that philosophy
subcontracted certain problems which today we call medicine, psychology,
physics and so on. But given the importance of consciousness for
philosophy, maybe it oughtn't be subcontracted, but certainly sent away
for re-processing and Beta testing.


Take care


Lawrence

(1) There are many works available on the internet about consciousness
which makes it impractical for me and most people to read them all.
However, the articles I read include:


- The Problem of Consciousness
John R. Searle
http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/harnad/Papers/Py104/searle.prob.html

- ABC radio: Natasha Mitchell
Part 1 of 2 - The Nature of Consciousness debate
Saturday 28 August 2004
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/stories/s1183559.htm


(1.0) And if this is not enough you can always have a look at the 4624
free online papers which have been compiled by David Chalmers and David
Bourget at the following link: http://consc.net/online


(2) How to study consciousness scientifically.
J R Searle
Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley 94720-2390,
USA.
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1998 November 29; 353(1377): 1935–1942.
PMCID: PMC1692422


(3) Consciousness. (2008, March 26). In Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:28, March 26, 2008, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Consciousness&oldid=201100678


(4) Luciano Floridi:

http://academicfeeds.friwebteknologi.org/?cat=Philosophyofinformation


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The importance of
understanding consciousness

Thursday, March 20, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Synchronicity

Dear friends,


I apologise to those who are reading this on Monday after the holidays.
I was not able to finish the essay by yesterday morning.


This Sunday we are discussing Synchronicity. And if you do not know what
this is all about you are not the only one. A non technical description
is an event we think of being a coincidence but is related to some
personal experience. For example, dreaming of pumpkins during the night
only to read in the morning newspaper how pumpkins can change your life;
that sort of thing. I tried very hard to discuss this subject in the
essay, but to be honest with you I am not totally convinced I did a good
job of it.


For those reading this email during the week I hope you have a good
holiday and see you Sunday.


Take care

Lawrence


IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TINA Flat http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/photosphilo/TINAFLAT

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Synchronicity


In the past, life was much simpler, things which were or looked strange
were quickly explained by magic, spirituality or some other form of
mysticism and that was that. Today we are cursed by such things as
logic, science and rational argument. Synchronicity is a phenomenon that
cries out for this painful transition.


I am using Dr Roth's introduction to Synchronicity as the starting point
for this essay: Jung cites in his letters [vol. 1, 1973, p. 395] an
occurrence that is an impressive example of synchronicity: "For
instance, I walk with a woman patient in a wood. She tells me about the
first dream in her life that had made an everlasting impression upon
her. She had seen a spectral fox coming down the stairs in her parental
home. At this moment a real fox comes out of the trees not 40 yards away
and walks quietly on the path ahead of us for several minutes. The
animal behaves as if it were a partner in the human situation."(1)


Another type of phenomenon is also bundled with synchronicity; these are
more a series of events that seem to have a meaning or significance to
the observer. In Wikipedia there is the passage from Jung's collected
work on Synchronicity, which describes the second type of phenomenon:
Jung claims that in 1805, the French writer Émile Deschamps was treated
to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Forgebeau. Ten
years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris
restaurant, and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him the last
dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be
de Forgebeau. Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner,
and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier
incident and told his friends that only de Forgebeau was missing to make
the setting complete — and in the same instant, the now senile de
Forgebeau entered the room. (2)


A note of caution on this series of events is that there is a
significant difference between the two synchronicities. In the first
case, the genuine synchronicity, the internal event or experience
happens first and the external event happens after the internal event.
Hence, the patient dreams of the fox first and then the fox appears at a
later time. In the second series of events things just happen externally
and then the observer puts a meaning to the whole process. However, in
both cases the meaning is derived post-event and maybe only to the observer.


Both phenomena are interesting especially when we would have experienced
both types of events in our life. Jung's original phenomenon (the fox
story) is more intriguing and interesting given the synchronicity of the
internal event with the external event. However, we would all agree to
ask the same question: what is going on here?


Jung, and maybe even ourselves, was not happy with ascribing
Synchronicity to simple coincidence (2). At the very least Jung would
describe these events as "meaningful coincidences", but his more serious
definition would be "acausal connecting principle" something linked to
what he calls the collective unconsciousness. A compete investigation of
the phenomenon is, of course, beyond the scope of this essay. For our
purposes I will endeavour to suggest some philosophical ideas that can
help us clear some of the fog involved with the subject.


Jung himself believed that synchronicity is more common than would be
expected randomly, but meaningful synchronicity tend to stand out more
than meaningless synchronicity. Or simply put, because the idea of
synchronicity and the term itself are not that diffused in the public
domain we might describe these events as a "stroke of luck," things that
happen just in the "nick of time" or "out of the blue" (3).


A more serious challenge to synchronicity is Littlewood's Law, which in
turn is a version of the Law of Truly Large Numbers (see Wikipedia for
both). Littlewood's Law basically states that given the number of events
that take place in our daily waking life, we expect to see a miracle
every month. The Law of Truly Large Numbers, not to be confused with the
Law of Large Numbers, says something similar: with a sample size large
enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen. (Wikipedia). Thus,
whether it is miracles or winning at gambling, we still end up
remembering and putting a meaning to events we consider significant than
other events. Can we interpret these objections as, given enough time
and enough tries, everything is possible?


This ability to filter out irrelevancies in our life is something we
have to do if we do not want our life to grind to a halt. For example,
we expect the buses and metro to run to a given schedule, we expect our
food not to poison us, we expect people we agreed to meet to turn up.
Thus, when rare events happen in our life we notice them.


In a way the Law of Large Numbers, "Given a sample of independent and
identically distributed random variables with a finite expected value,
the average of these observations will eventually approach and stay
close to the expected value," (Wikipedia) is the opposite to what the
Law of Truly Large Numbers postulates. The Law of Large Numbers seems to
imply that the more we live our life the more we expect our life to
follow a regular pattern. Thus, when something really different happens,
and I do not see this to be incompatible with the Law of Large Numbers
since it is a probability law, we tend notice it. As adults we might
notice certain events in our life because they are outside our normal
experience. Consider how older people tend to be hesitant with new
technologies. On the other hand younger people are more receptive to new
things and ideas because, on the model of the Law of Large Numbers,
turbulence is the norm for them. (see the graph in the Wikipedia entry,
but basically the Law of Large Numbers has a graph line that is jagged
and rises steeply and then settles into a plateau.)


As I see it, the position of those who advocate synchronicity consider
it as some sort of special phenomenon. They accept that there is no
causal link between the inner event and the outer event, but still see
or look for a link somewhere else. The collective unconscious is
supposed to be a dynamic underlying the whole of human experience and
history. (2) To describe this non causal relationship Jung uses the
term, acausal; things that are linked but not in the usual causal way.
When the woman patient saw the fax, there was no suggestion of her dream
causing the fox to appear, but that her dream and the appearance of the
fox became significantly linked in her interpretation of her world.
Something links these events, but not in a causal way we usually think
of events being linked together.


Presumably in more serious events, for example, those reports when a
parent has a premonition that a son or daughter is injured in a traffic
accident, only to receive a call from the police that such an event took
place; this is when synchronicity becomes more serious Even in this
example, no one would ever suggest that the parent's worrying about
their child caused the child to have the accident. Hence the use of such
words as premonition. The question we have to ask ourselves is, what do
we mean by "cause"? Before we have a closer look at this question, we
must remember that most people have a natural distaste for such ideas as
determinism, randomness and fatalism. We might, however, accept
causality but we tend to accept it at arms length.


The problem with trying to explain these events by appealing to some
underlying dynamic is that we have to explain that dynamic as well. For
example, consider what happened when scientist tried to describe the
physical world in terms of atoms! We cannot appeal to some spiritual,
collective conscious or some other term without explaining these ideas
as well. Thus, when we say that the woman's dream did not cause the fox
to come out of the wood, what do we mean? I am quite attracted to Robert
Todd Carroll's answer to this issue of causality, "The coincidences are
predictable but we are the ones who give them meaning." (4)


There are three ways we can interpret causality (although not
necessarily the only ones). 1) I can cause someone to wait, by being
late for a meeting. 2) I can cause a window to break by throwing a brick
at it. 3) But there is a third type of cause which we do not usually
consider in our life. If I walk in an average garden, maybe 60 years
ago, or today, in the middle of Switzerland, the chances are very high
that there would be a fox in the bushes. And those who are familiar with
city/urban foxes know that these animals are not usually bothered by
humans. However, being bitten or attacked by a fox sixty years ago would
have been a serious event in one's life, (even today) considering that
health services were not as developed as they are today and vaccines for
rabies were still not fully developed , etc., etc., etc. (5) Given all
these conventional causal factors, it makes sense to look at the
subconscious of a patient to see a link, but not some kind of mystical
link, of course.


By the same token, a parent with grown up children, trying to get on
with their young lives and maybe even use the roads, the chances of
being involved in a road accident are very real. For example, a quick
look at the traffic Accident Statistics by the Sweeny Police Department
(Texas), (it was the first site I saw in Google that gave these
statistics) show that the majority of road accidents happen between noon
and midnight and the worst day is Friday, although Monday and Wednesday
are quite bad as well. (6) So if your child is between eighteen and
thirty, is travelling by car Friday evening in Sweeny you have good
cause to worry about your child being involved in an accident. Sometime
ago I looked at similar figures in different countries and the trends
were more or less the same. I digress here, but I was trying to find out
when was the best time to travel very long distances by car. My
conclusion was that assuming one is not tired or sleepy and want to
reduce the chances of being involved in an accident the best time would
be between midnight and six am. Presumably at this time most people are
either asleep or would have already had their accident.


In my case I can confirm that the statistics and the reasoning caused me
to do the long journey between midnight and six am etc., etc. Causality
need not have a one-to-one space-time relationship. At the macro and
Newtonian world causality works in many different ways, maybe more ways
than we can comprehend and articulate. But our inability to explain
something, either practically or theoretically, does not justify us
inventing an explanation as an alternative.


I purposely used the terms macro and Newtonian worlds because as you
know, gravity works in a causal way which is usually describe as action
at a distance. And now that we have reached so far we can make the jump
and refer to action at a distance in quantum mechanics and refer to
quantum entanglement. For example, two particles are prepared in a
single quantum state, one particle will still react immediately to any
changes done to the other particle irrespective of the distance they are
at. For more details google the relevant terms.


I do not use these last examples as an explanation of synchronicity, but
rather to show that synchronicity is not some special or extraordinary
phenomenon. Maybe something that bewilders us and maybe even something
that fills us with apprehension. But something that can in principle be
explained without having to leave the shores of the universe we live in.
Thus spirituality, ESP and the rest of these terms are not the answer to
this curious phenomenon. We can now conclude here, and call it a day.


Except for one minor problem. You will recall that one of the
explanations given to synchronicity is that this phenomenon is more
common than we care to admit or even notice. I would certainly agree
with this belief, however, I also believe that synchronicity can
seriously become a moral factor in our lives.


Think of the parent in Sweeny who is afraid of their child being
involved in a serious traffic accident. If the parent had a good look at
the Police department's website they would have good cause to worry. But
parents being parents they would worry anyway without having to look at
the website. The question we have to ask ourselves is this, what is to
stop such a parent from believe that their worry was a premonition
brought about in them by some spirit or some magical being? What's to
stop such a parent from believing that the great pumpkin made them
believe that their child was in trouble. Of course, there is nothing
wrong in believing in the great pumpkin but the statistics from the
police department also have something to say to us.


Synchronicity is supposed to work by first having the inner event which
is then followed by the outer event. It is however, when the outer event
takes place that we link back to the inner event and give meaning to the
whole phenomenon. Meaning, therefore, depends on some future event that
is independent from us. Now, what is to stop us from thinking in the
manner: we have the inner event, and from experience, or otherwise, we
know we can come across some outer event that really gives meaning to
our inner event. Doesn't this mean that we can have an inner event, then
assume that it is meaningful and all we have to do then is to wait for
the outer event take place. As if this outer event is some sort of
bureaucratic procedure to take care of the paper work.


The thinking here is that given that both the inner event and the outer
event seem to be random and arbitrary events, then any inner event can
be linked to any outer event. In Jung's example, he came across a fox,
but surely coming across a flight of stairs at the end of the garden
could equally have created the synchronicity.


To illustrate my point, why not pollute our environment with all sorts
of loft causes (our inner event), this will improve our life today (or
profits) (our meaningful interpretation), and then all we have to do is
wait for future scientists to invent the technology to deal with our
pollution (the outer event). In fact we can even apply some Darwinian
thinking here and postulate that future scientists would, by definition,
be cleverer than our scientists today. This giving us even better reason
to pollute today and wait for the synchronicity event to happen in the
future; a group of scientists in white coats would do fine, thank you
very much.


We can use the same thinking for all sorts of situations, from social
conditions, health policies, law and order, religious beliefs, road
safety regulations, personal responsibility and so on. But to argue that
some future event might justify our subjective beliefs today does not
make our subjective beliefs justifiable. Maybe, the puzzle is not
synchronicity itself, but what it brings out in us during these
unguarded psychological moments.


Take care


Lawrence


1 Introduction to Carl G. Jung's Principle of Synchronicity
by Remo F. Roth, PhD, CH-8810 Horgen-Zuerich, Switzerland
http://www.psychovision.ch/synw/synchronicity_jung.htm


2 Synchronicity. (2008, March 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 09:58, March 18, 2008, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Synchronicity&oldid=197683113


3 The Power of Flow:
Practical Ways to Transform Your Life With Meaningful Coincidence
by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom, Chapter 2
http://www.flowpower.com/understanding_synchronicity.htm


4 The Skeptic's dictionary,
http://www.skepdic.com/contents.html
Synchronicity: http://www.skepdic.com/jung.html


5 See for example the following site which I picked up at random from
Google:
Rabies vaccines
Chiron Corporation
http://www.rabies.net/cont_19.rabies_vaccines.php


6 Sweeny Police Department (Texas)
http://www.sweenypolice.org/accident_statistics.htm

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Synchronicity

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Synchronicity

Dear friends,


I apologise to those who are reading this on Monday after the holidays.
I was not able to finish the essay by yesterday morning.


This Sunday we are discussing Synchronicity. And if you do not know what
this is all about you are not the only one. A non technical description
is an event we think of being a coincidence but is related to some
personal experience. For example, dreaming of pumpkins during the night
only to read in the morning newspaper how pumpkins can change your life;
that sort of thing. I tried very hard to discuss this subject in the
essay, but to be honest with you I am not totally convinced I did a good
job of it.


For those reading this email during the week I hope you have a good
holiday and see you Sunday.


Take care

Lawrence


IF YOU DON'T GET AN EMAIL BY FRIDAY PLEASE LET ME KNOW

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Synchronicity


In the past, life was much simpler, things which were or looked strange
were quickly explained by magic, spirituality or some other form of
mysticism and that was that. Today we are cursed by such things as
logic, science and rational argument. Synchronicity is a phenomenon that
cries out for this painful transition.


I am using Dr Roth's introduction to Synchronicity as the starting point
for this essay: Jung cites in his letters [vol. 1, 1973, p. 395] an
occurrence that is an impressive example of synchronicity: "For
instance, I walk with a woman patient in a wood. She tells me about the
first dream in her life that had made an everlasting impression upon
her. She had seen a spectral fox coming down the stairs in her parental
home. At this moment a real fox comes out of the trees not 40 yards away
and walks quietly on the path ahead of us for several minutes. The
animal behaves as if it were a partner in the human situation."(1)


Another type of phenomenon is also bundled with synchronicity; these are
more a series of events that seem to have a meaning or significance to
the observer. In Wikipedia there is the passage from Jung's collected
work on Synchronicity, which describes the second type of phenomenon:
Jung claims that in 1805, the French writer Émile Deschamps was treated
to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Forgebeau. Ten
years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris
restaurant, and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him the last
dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be
de Forgebeau. Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner,
and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier
incident and told his friends that only de Forgebeau was missing to make
the setting complete — and in the same instant, the now senile de
Forgebeau entered the room. (2)


A note of caution on this series of events is that there is a
significant difference between the two synchronicities. In the first
case, the genuine synchronicity, the internal event or experience
happens first and the external event happens after the internal event.
Hence, the patient dreams of the fox first and then the fox appears at a
later time. In the second series of events things just happen externally
and then the observer puts a meaning to the whole process. However, in
both cases the meaning is derived post-event and maybe only to the observer.


Both phenomena are interesting especially when we would have experienced
both types of events in our life. Jung's original phenomenon (the fox
story) is more intriguing and interesting given the synchronicity of the
internal event with the external event. However, we would all agree to
ask the same question: what is going on here?


Jung, and maybe even ourselves, was not happy with ascribing
Synchronicity to simple coincidence (2). At the very least Jung would
describe these events as "meaningful coincidences", but his more serious
definition would be "acausal connecting principle" something linked to
what he calls the collective unconsciousness. A compete investigation of
the phenomenon is, of course, beyond the scope of this essay. For our
purposes I will endeavour to suggest some philosophical ideas that can
help us clear some of the fog involved with the subject.


Jung himself believed that synchronicity is more common than would be
expected randomly, but meaningful synchronicity tend to stand out more
than meaningless synchronicity. Or simply put, because the idea of
synchronicity and the term itself are not that diffused in the public
domain we might describe these events as a "stroke of luck," things that
happen just in the "nick of time" or "out of the blue" (3).


A more serious challenge to synchronicity is Littlewood's Law, which in
turn is a version of the Law of Truly Large Numbers (see Wikipedia for
both). Littlewood's Law basically states that given the number of events
that take place in our daily waking life, we expect to see a miracle
every month. The Law of Truly Large Numbers, not to be confused with the
Law of Large Numbers, says something similar: with a sample size large
enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen. (Wikipedia). Thus,
whether it is miracles or winning at gambling, we still end up
remembering and putting a meaning to events we consider significant than
other events. Can we interpret these objections as, given enough time
and enough tries, everything is possible?


This ability to filter out irrelevancies in our life is something we
have to do if we do not want our life to grind to a halt. For example,
we expect the buses and metro to run to a given schedule, we expect our
food not to poison us, we expect people we agreed to meet to turn up.
Thus, when rare events happen in our life we notice them.


In a way the Law of Large Numbers, "Given a sample of independent and
identically distributed random variables with a finite expected value,
the average of these observations will eventually approach and stay
close to the expected value," (Wikipedia) is the opposite to what the
Law of Truly Large Numbers postulates. The Law of Large Numbers seems to
imply that the more we live our life the more we expect our life to
follow a regular pattern. Thus, when something really different happens,
and I do not see this to be incompatible with the Law of Large Numbers
since it is a probability law, we tend notice it. As adults we might
notice certain events in our life because they are outside our normal
experience. Consider how older people tend to be hesitant with new
technologies. On the other hand younger people are more receptive to new
things and ideas because, on the model of the Law of Large Numbers,
turbulence is the norm for them. (see the graph in the Wikipedia entry,
but basically the Law of Large Numbers has a graph line that is jagged
and rises steeply and then settles into a plateau.)


As I see it, the position of those who advocate synchronicity consider
it as some sort of special phenomenon. They accept that there is no
causal link between the inner event and the outer event, but still see
or look for a link somewhere else. The collective unconscious is
supposed to be a dynamic underlying the whole of human experience and
history. (2) To describe this non causal relationship Jung uses the
term, acausal; things that are linked but not in the usual causal way.
When the woman patient saw the fax, there was no suggestion of her dream
causing the fox to appear, but that her dream and the appearance of the
fox became significantly linked in her interpretation of her world.
Something links these events, but not in a causal way we usually think
of events being linked together.


Presumably in more serious events, for example, those reports when a
parent has a premonition that a son or daughter is injured in a traffic
accident, only to receive a call from the police that such an event took
place; this is when synchronicity becomes more serious Even in this
example, no one would ever suggest that the parent's worrying about
their child caused the child to have the accident. Hence the use of such
words as premonition. The question we have to ask ourselves is, what do
we mean by "cause"? Before we have a closer look at this question, we
must remember that most people have a natural distaste for such ideas as
determinism, randomness and fatalism. We might, however, accept
causality but we tend to accept it at arms length.


The problem with trying to explain these events by appealing to some
underlying dynamic is that we have to explain that dynamic as well. For
example, consider what happened when scientist tried to describe the
physical world in terms of atoms! We cannot appeal to some spiritual,
collective conscious or some other term without explaining these ideas
as well. Thus, when we say that the woman's dream did not cause the fox
to come out of the wood, what do we mean? I am quite attracted to Robert
Todd Carroll's answer to this issue of causality, "The coincidences are
predictable but we are the ones who give them meaning." (4)


There are three ways we can interpret causality (although not
necessarily the only ones). 1) I can cause someone to wait, by being
late for a meeting. 2) I can cause a window to break by throwing a brick
at it. 3) But there is a third type of cause which we do not usually
consider in our life. If I walk in an average garden, maybe 60 years
ago, or today, in the middle of Switzerland, the chances are very high
that there would be a fox in the bushes. And those who are familiar with
city/urban foxes know that these animals are not usually bothered by
humans. However, being bitten or attacked by a fox sixty years ago would
have been a serious event in one's life, (even today) considering that
health services were not as developed as they are today and vaccines for
rabies were still not fully developed , etc., etc., etc. (5) Given all
these conventional causal factors, it makes sense to look at the
subconscious of a patient to see a link, but not some kind of mystical
link, of course.


By the same token, a parent with grown up children, trying to get on
with their young lives and maybe even use the roads, the chances of
being involved in a road accident are very real. For example, a quick
look at the traffic Accident Statistics by the Sweeny Police Department
(Texas), (it was the first site I saw in Google that gave these
statistics) show that the majority of road accidents happen between noon
and midnight and the worst day is Friday, although Monday and Wednesday
are quite bad as well. (6) So if your child is between eighteen and
thirty, is travelling by car Friday evening in Sweeny you have good
cause to worry about your child being involved in an accident. Sometime
ago I looked at similar figures in different countries and the trends
were more or less the same. I digress here, but I was trying to find out
when was the best time to travel very long distances by car. My
conclusion was that assuming one is not tired or sleepy and want to
reduce the chances of being involved in an accident the best time would
be between midnight and six am. Presumably at this time most people are
either asleep or would have already had their accident.


In my case I can confirm that the statistics and the reasoning caused me
to do the long journey between midnight and six am etc., etc. Causality
need not have a one-to-one space-time relationship. At the macro and
Newtonian world causality works in many different ways, maybe more ways
than we can comprehend and articulate. But our inability to explain
something, either practically or theoretically, does not justify us
inventing an explanation as an alternative.


I purposely used the terms macro and Newtonian worlds because as you
know, gravity works in a causal way which is usually describe as action
at a distance. And now that we have reached so far we can make the jump
and refer to action at a distance in quantum mechanics and refer to
quantum entanglement. For example, two particles are prepared in a
single quantum state, one particle will still react immediately to any
changes done to the other particle irrespective of the distance they are
at. For more details google the relevant terms.


I do not use these last examples as an explanation of synchronicity, but
rather to show that synchronicity is not some special or extraordinary
phenomenon. Maybe something that bewilders us and maybe even something
that fills us with apprehension. But something that can in principle be
explained without having to leave the shores of the universe we live in.
Thus spirituality, ESP and the rest of these terms are not the answer to
this curious phenomenon. We can now conclude here, and call it a day.


Except for one minor problem. You will recall that one of the
explanations given to synchronicity is that this phenomenon is more
common than we care to admit or even notice. I would certainly agree
with this belief, however, I also believe that synchronicity can
seriously become a moral factor in our lives.


Think of the parent in Sweeny who is afraid of their child being
involved in a serious traffic accident. If the parent had a good look at
the Police department's website they would have good cause to worry. But
parents being parents they would worry anyway without having to look at
the website. The question we have to ask ourselves is this, what is to
stop such a parent from believe that their worry was a premonition
brought about in them by some spirit or some magical being? What's to
stop such a parent from believing that the great pumpkin made them
believe that their child was in trouble. Of course, there is nothing
wrong in believing in the great pumpkin but the statistics from the
police department also have something to say to us.


Synchronicity is supposed to work by first having the inner event which
is then followed by the outer event. It is however, when the outer event
takes place that we link back to the inner event and give meaning to the
whole phenomenon. Meaning, therefore, depends on some future event that
is independent from us. Now, what is to stop us from thinking in the
manner: we have the inner event, and from experience, or otherwise, we
know we can come across some outer event that really gives meaning to
our inner event. Doesn't this mean that we can have an inner event, then
assume that it is meaningful and all we have to do then is to wait for
the outer event take place. As if this outer event is some sort of
bureaucratic procedure to take care of the paper work.


The thinking here is that given that both the inner event and the outer
event seem to be random and arbitrary events, then any inner event can
be linked to any outer event. In Jung's example, he came across a fox,
but surely coming across a flight of stairs at the end of the garden
could equally have created the synchronicity.


To illustrate my point, why not pollute our environment with all sorts
of loft causes (our inner event), this will improve our life today (or
profits) (our meaningful interpretation), and then all we have to do is
wait for future scientists to invent the technology to deal with our
pollution (the outer event). In fact we can even apply some Darwinian
thinking here and postulate that future scientists would, by definition,
be cleverer than our scientists today. This giving us even better reason
to pollute today and wait for the synchronicity event to happen in the
future; a group of scientists in white coats would do fine, thank you
very much.


We can use the same thinking for all sorts of situations, from social
conditions, health policies, law and order, religious beliefs, road
safety regulations, personal responsibility and so on. But to argue that
some future event might justify our subjective beliefs today does not
make our subjective beliefs justifiable. Maybe, the puzzle is not
synchronicity itself, but what it brings out in us during these
unguarded psychological moments.


Take care


Lawrence


1 Introduction to Carl G. Jung's Principle of Synchronicity
by Remo F. Roth, PhD, CH-8810 Horgen-Zuerich, Switzerland
http://www.psychovision.ch/synw/synchronicity_jung.htm


2 Synchronicity. (2008, March 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 09:58, March 18, 2008, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Synchronicity&oldid=197683113


3 The Power of Flow:
Practical Ways to Transform Your Life With Meaningful Coincidence
by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom, Chapter 2
http://www.flowpower.com/understanding_synchronicity.htm


4 The Skeptic's dictionary,
http://www.skepdic.com/contents.html
Synchronicity: http://www.skepdic.com/jung.html


5 See for example the following site which I picked up at random from
Google:
Rabies vaccines
Chiron Corporation
http://www.rabies.net/cont_19.rabies_vaccines.php


6 Sweeny Police Department (Texas)
http://www.sweenypolice.org/accident_statistics.htm

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Synchronicity

Thursday, March 13, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Are we doomed to repeat our personal patterns?

NOTE: this Sunday we HAVE TO FINISH BY 8.45pm (yes, it is football!)


This Sunday we are discussing "Are we doomed to repeat our personal
patterns?" We have already discussed a similar topic last November, so I
have not written an other essay. I am including that essay with this email


I also suggest you listen to these two podcasts from the CBS (Canadian
Radio) which will certainly put our topic in perspective. And although
the podcasts are about health, they are also very powerful political and
philosophical analysis of human beings.
http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/podcast.html


SICK PEOPLE OR SICK SOCIETIES?
We are healthier than ever before, and we live longer, but improvements
in health are not distributed evenly. The rich outlive the middle
classes, who outlive the poor. Swedes and Japanese live longer than
Canadians, and Canadians, longer than Americans. Freelance journalist
Jill Eisen discovers that the reasons have little to do with our health
care systems.


Sick People or Sick Societies? - Part One
http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/ideas_20080303_4892.mp3


Sick People or Sick Societies? - Part Two
http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/ideas_20080310_4869.mp3

take care and see you Sunday

lawrence

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Is humanity doomed to repeat its mistakes?


How should we understand the idea of humanity repeating its mistakes?
And what do we mean by humanity? Who are we talking about?


Are we talking about humans as a collective, maybe identified as a
generation? Are we talking about individuals, for example, you and me?


And of course there is always the question: what mistakes are we
concerned with? It is evident that not all mistakes are repeated, and if
they are they are not repeated ad infinitum. Furthermore, the learning
process involves repeating some mistakes over and over again. But not
repeating the same mistakes, does not exclude that in reality we do
learn from repeating mistakes. There is nothing incongruous about this
idea; learning a new language sometimes involves this process.


I want to consider this topic by considering two issues: 1) who or what
should we understand by humanity? 2) what are the epistemological and
empirical conditions that will lead to humanity repeating its mistakes?


Concepts such as humanity, generations, society, and peoples give us the
impression that these are somehow independent ontological entities.
Ontological in the sense that they exist independent of us, and can be
show to exist through reason and a priori argument. Not necessarily
objective in the sense that my PC is an objective entity, but certainly
objective in the sense that it exists and what is required is to have faith.


How we get this idea of objectivity is central to our discussion, what
matters is that we have it. I would, however, speculate, that we get
this idea from our brain needing to extrapolate patterns from data and
information (sense perception) and giving them a name or a tag for
future use. Maybe a tag in the same way that photos on the internet are
tagged to make them easier to find. Thus 'humanity' would be a mental
extrapolation of all the beings that belong to the same group as.
Actually, what I think is happening is that we have experience of the
group of people around us and then extrapolate mentally that experience
to include those people we do not have experience of. (I am sure that
someone has already put forward this idea in a more intelligent way, I
just don't have the time to research it.) thus the idea of humanity is
an extrapolation from another extrapolation, our immediate group of
people we know (society).


Furthermore, today we reinforce this idea of ontological extrapolation
by being exposed to scientific thinking which depends on statistical
analysis and sample sets. Consider this quote from a document from the
United Nations Population Division: "Roughly one fifth of the world
population currently lives in the more developed regions…….."
(http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/charting/3.pdf) Who or
what is this population these documents refer to? In reality concepts
such as humanity and population are epistemological extrapolation which
our brain needs to function in our day-to-day affairs. Actually, that
one "fifth of the population" means Lawrence, John, Jane, Maria, Juan,
Sophie and the rest of us who live in said regions.


In the empirical world we live in, there are only individuals. We can
already see Plato's theory of forms playing a part here. Our concept
'humanity' is a very flawed representation of what is real: individuals.
This is not to say that these ideas are not useful, but rather that we
should proceed with caution when we use them in a philosophical context.
Thus we may speak of humanity as a functional linguistic tool, but in
reality we are talking about individuals with real blood and real bodies.


Of course, by suggesting that there are only individuals I am not
suggesting that we dealing with selfish and egotistic beings. Some might
reach this conclusions; individualism does not exclude obligations and
duties towards others. Nor am I suggesting that talk of humanity and
society is irrelevant. What I am suggesting is that, if humanity it to
repeat its mistakes what this means is that individuals repeat their
mistakes or repeat mistakes. Maybe their own mistakes or mistakes that
have already been made by others.


Hence, what are the epistemological and empirical conditions that would
lead humanity to repeat the same mistakes? By humanity I now mean
individuals, but we still need to qualify this. Since we also understand
by humanity the group of people that lives in this planet we can mean
mistakes made by certain individuals but the effects are felt by the
group rather than the individual.


There are many classes and types of mistakes, however, I will only limit
myself to three types of mistakes. 1) honest mistakes, 2) mistakes that
couldn't have been avoided by the individual, but are, nevertheless,
avoidable, 3) mistakes that the individual should have known better, and
ought to have known better. I am, for example, excluding mistakes such
as faulty sense perception, or straight forward deception. Although not
all deceptions are the same; I think we have an obligation to be careful
with people whom we know to be unreliable and liable to deceive others.


Whether we like it or not, epistemology cannot survive on its own in the
ether of metaphysics; it has to be an integral part of the molecules and
atoms of the material world. How this is done is not really relevant
now. What matters, though, are three things: 1) our knowledge leads us
to hold certain beliefs; and that what we think is knowledge is in fact
false information which leads us to have false belief. 2) our beliefs
motivate us into action. 3) an act (including inaction) becomes a
mistake after the act has been done.


Our state of knowledge at a given moment determines our honestly held
beliefs. For example, for many centuries people did not realise that
using lead for cooking utensils and water piping, amongst many uses, was
rather toxic (lead poisoning also known as also known as saturnism,
plumbism or painter's colic: Wikipedia). But actions live in the
physical world and have effects in the same physical world. This is the
link between the subjectivity of epistemology and the objectivity of our
actions. We also know that in the physical world causal actions tend to
lead to a chain reaction which we may or may not be able to control.
Thus mistakes are really linguistic or epistemological classifications
of actions that have evolved contrary to our intentions. In our case,
the individual acted in such a way that harmed others, or at the very
least, the effects of their actions and their intention did not coincide.


There is also another aspect of mistakes that is relevant for us. I want
to distinguish between mistakes post-act and acts that we believe are
going to be mistakes. That an act might be a mistake in the future has a
probability value, a post-act mistake has a truth value. It is therefore
not easy to establish whether an act will be a mistake or not. This
might be interpreted to mean that in reality we are unable to establish
what will happen in the future and therefore there is nothing immoral or
unethical involved in repeating mistakes. But because something is
probable it does not mean that it is not going to happen. What this
means is that given certain condition we expect certain things to happen
and we should therefore act in such a way that will take into account
both possible outcome: in street language always prepare a Plan B.


What is an honest mistake? Is it an action that an individual couldn't
foresee, or is it an inability to anticipate the way the world will
evolve? Let's take two natural disasters. The devastation of New Orleans
by Katrina and the Tsunami that hit parts of SE Asia in 2004. Needless
to say that many mistakes were done by the relevant authorities and
those in charge, the question is which of these mistakes can be
tentatively be described as honest mistakes. Consider what the editors
of Scientific American wrote in the November 2005 issue:


"Hindsight is very often 20-20, but sometimes foresight is, too. Mark
Fischetti's article "Drowning New Orleans" in the October 2001
Scientific American all too accurately depicted the devastation that an
inevitable strong hurricane would bring to that city, as have articles
in many other publications since that time. Those predictions sprang
from years of published scientific analyses. Any official who claims to
have been surprised by the tragic events that unfolded in New Orleans
after Katrina simply wasn't paying attention." Preparing for the Worst,
By The Editors:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000BDA49-FC8D-1354-BC8D83414B7F0000&sc=I100322.


Although the 2004 Tsunami took people by surprise, we can safely assume
that all things being equal, those in charge might have made an honest
mistake by not preparing for such an event. According to the Wikipedia
the Pacific region has been equipped with a warning system for a long
time since Tsunamis are more common there. The warning system that has
been installed in SE Asia is of course an attempt to prevent the second
type of mistake; the individual could not do anything about the mistake,
but is was avoidable.


This leaves us with mistakes that should have been avoided and ought to
have been avoided. This suggests that these mistakes have more to do
with intention rather than knowledge. We might be tempted to deduce that
if intention is involved then surely morality and ethical issues are
involved. Aren't the editors of SA suggesting that by not "paying
attention" those officials in charge in New Orleans were morally
responsible, at least for part of the disaster if not all the disaster?


And doesn't our question point at a moral interpretation by using the
words "to repeat its mistakes"? except that we have to explain the word
"doomed" before we can consider the moral issue. Unfortunately, the word
"doomed" is more of an emotional word rather than a philosophical term.
Should we understand doomed to mean determined? I personally do not read
full determinism in this word. At best there might be a soft determinism
implied in this word, in the sense that our physical make up determines
what we can do. We do not have wings so we cannot fly.


I would read doomed to mean failure in the character of humanity or
rather the individual. There is something about us that leads us to make
the same mistakes. In our discussion and my limitations on the meaning
of humanity I would interpret doomed to mean a sort of character flaw in
those who have authority or power to influence other human beings.


Is this character flaw compatible with the idea of intention I mentioned
earlier? How can we recognise a determined state of affairs and yet
still hold people accountable? Holding people accountable after the fact
might not do much to solve the effects of mistakes. I wonder how many
people in New Orleans feel good knowing that some officials made
mistakes, we found them morally accountable and judged them to me
morally wrong. I doubt if there are many who happy with just this
observation.


Knowing that officials did not live up to acceptable moral standards is
not as interesting or as important as know what the editors meant by
"not paying attention." I will endeavour not only to interpret the words
of the editor but also to identify the precise character flaw that leads
to humanity repeating its mistakes. For want of a better name I would
call this as: the does-not-apply-to-designer character flaw (DNAD). Let
me explain.


How many times have you been on a bus or a train or a plane and had to
use one of the features on these modes of transport and said to
yourself: if I had to design this feature I wouldn't design it like
that? Or in the street, a wrongly placed zebra crossing? For what it is
worth, I have a theory and an explanation for these things. The people
who design these things or responsible for these things do not have to
use these features. The designer of the handrails on the bus probably
travels by car to work; the designer of the economy seats on a plane
probably travels business class and the street designer surely takes a
taxi anyway.


The same is true for those members of humanity who keep making the same
mistakes. Those who are responsible for certain social policies which
turn out to be mistakes are not necessarily affected by those mistakes.
The officials in New Orleans probably lived in safe areas, anyway. The
same can be said about many historical and present characters who have
or are repeating mistakes: I'll leave it to you to find examples.
However, some of these people lack so much foresight that the could not
even imagine that their actions might bring about their demise, (Hitler,
Napoleon, Sadam Hussein.....)


Could it be that we are doomed because those that make the mistakes do
not see that what they are doing could very well be a mistake that they
will be equally affected as everyone else? Because they believe that
their policies do not apply to the designer, i.e. themselves. The
question we then have to ask is this:


If those in control of humanity do not have a shareholding or a
stake-holding in the enterprise of their intentions, what business do
they have being at the helm of their actions?


Take care


Lawrence

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Are we doomed to
repeat our personal patterns?

Friday, March 07, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Control and manipulation in our life

Dear friends,


This Sunday we are discussing, Control and manipulation in our life.


A very apt subject given that this Sunday we'll also be having the
national elections. Maybe for once we won't be under threat of a
football match, but one never knows.


For details of other tertulias (and French classes) please see recent
emails or get in touch with me.

See you Sunday

Take care

Lawrence

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Control and manipulation in our life


Until well into the 20th century no philosophy could have been done
without mentioning Kant. Even until recently we find such claims as:
"Philosophy without Kant would be astronomy without a moon – missing a
fundamental piece."1


For a good part of the second half of the 20th century Wittgenstein
occupied such a pivotal role in philosophy. The question today is
whether we can do any philosophy about human beings without considering
genetics and evolution?


I doubt that we can, surely philosophy today without genetics would be
like literature without words. Of course, some would say that such a
position was blatant reductionism and go on to justify themselves by
uttering such ambiguous statements as 'the whole is greater than the sum
of the parts.'


Maybe there is an innate understanding why we should, as individuals,
fear any claims to reductionism. Maybe claims such as identifying and
reducing humans directly to inanimate things such as genes might be
interpreted as saying: you are nothing better than a bunch of genes, but
me, who knows better because I understand these things, I am an
intelligent and free human being. To put it in more graphical terms, we
just do not like a smart alec.


If there are people who think this then of course they are wrong. On the
other hand, if there are people who think that they are made of magic
dust and not star dust then surely they are deluding them selves.


But what has this got to do with control and manipulation? Our
day-to-day meaning of manipulation (I will assume that control is just
part of manipulation) is a negative one. This idea implies such things
as slavery, loss of free will, either due to the actions or intentions
of others; maybe having to do things which are not compatible with our
moral or physical well being. In other words, manipulation is not
something we want to be victims of. As Churchill said in his first
broadcast as prime minister, "for it is better for us to perish in
battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar..."2
Neither Churchill nor us would want to be manipulated.


The bad news is that, of course, is there are only control and
manipulation at the level of genes, and at any other level we can think
of. Genes and their environment are in a constant struggle to control or
not to be controlled. The environment, also sometimes referred to as
nurture, is as important for any manipulation as the genes themselves
are. So in reality we might be reducible to genes but they do not
operate independent of or outside the environment we find ourselves in.


The good news is that our genes, yours and mine, are equally good as any
other to control and manipulate other genes. And by implication, we are
as good at manipulating others as any others are good at manipulating
us. If you have read so far of this essay then that is evidence that
genes are (or I am) capable of controlling you. This is what Dawkins
might call "acting at a distance." 3 Of course, by volunteering to
receive this essay (or find a way to read it) you have manipulated me to
writing the essay in the first place. And if I do not write the essay I
feel as guilt as you might feel disappointed when you do not receive the
essay. But there is one thing which you and I have in common: we are
both free either to write or to read the essay, despite the fact that we
are manipulating each other.


Hence the real meaning of manipulation ought to be, and in real life we
behave as if it does, that manipulation can be both negative or
positive. At the micro level genes manipulate other genes or the
environment and vice versa. At the macro level the struggle is no
different in form but the content has to be commensurate with the
relevant environment. Of course, words such as genes and environment
have different meaning in their natural habitat of natural science from
our context of philosophy and every day meaning. We use these words in
the same way we see lions and tigers in zoo cages; yes, they are lions,
but surely not the lions of the savannah.


Armed with this caution, we can proceed and say that some people with
genes for strong and aggressive characteristics would probably in a
better position to manipulate and control someone who is weak and maybe
also short. On the other hand a weak person might have a more agile
brain and can therefore avoid most forms of manipulation. This does not
mean that strong people will always have to be aggressive nor that weak
people always have to be smart. Some are aggressive some of the time and
some are smart some of the time. There are of course many genes involved
in a person and many features involved in an environment to make the
whole issue complex and any determinism diluted.


But an anti reductionist might still not be satisfied or convinced. They
might say, for example: yes, if we dig hard enough we do find genes. But
finding inanimate genes is not necessarily a desirable discovery. It is
too gloomy, too impersonal, too unromantic. They might even go so far as
to suggest, that magic dust will give you fairy land, what has star dust
ever given us? Apart from bad movies from Hollywood. Churchill had no
intention of giving up to the Nazis and before that, Patrick Henry, in
Virginia, 1775, echoed the same sentiments, "Give me liberty or give me
death." Why should an anti reductionist give up life as we know it?


Of course, Churchill won the war and Henry got his liberty. But the
lesson an anti reductionist should draw from this is not that genes
ought not to be the centre point of our philosophy, but rather, negative
manipulation can and sometimes is defeated or turned around.
Irrespective, that is, of whether genes are at the bottom of the pit.
This does not mean that negative manipulation and control by others have
now ceased to exist, but that in many cases there is something we can
actually do about it. We can go on and point out some evidence for such
statements as slavery, although it still exists amongst some groups and
in disguised way, but not within other groups; labour conditions, human
rights, fatal diseases some of which are controlled better now and so on.


The anti reductionist should therefore not be too concerned about genes
but more about mustering those genes to thwart any negative manipulation
or control. Of course, anti reductionists already do this anyway, they
still go to the doctor when that have a headache, or eloquently insist
on their rights when given bad service by a business and so one. QED


Mustering our genes to thwart negative manipulation is not easy, and as
Churchill might have said on the matter, "I have nothing to offer but,
blood, toil, tears and sweat." Which is quite encouraging know that
these tools work much better than magic dust.


I started by addressing the question of; what is manipulation? And how
should we interpret manipulation to make it more manageable and
accessible? The next two questions I now want to address are these: How
can we muster our genes or ourselves, as a logical implication, to
counter act negative manipulation by others? And how do we know that a
manipulation is positive?


I shall assume that we are really interested in counter acting negative
manipulation and not manipulation in general. In a way, genes and the
environment do not function in terms of positive or negative
manipulation or whatever. These are value judgements, genes and the
environment just follow the nature of causality. But, nevertheless, they
are still useful for us and such terminology is not necessarily
incompatible with reality. This language, is after all, our way of
manipulating the knowledge base of each and every one of us. Thus, we
might be restricting the beast with this language, we are certainly not
emasculating it.


As Dawkins makes it clear in the interview one of the most effective way
to manipulate others is to teach them or train them how to do what we
want them to do for us. He uses the example of training horses. These
animals can easily challenge any type of coercion we care to try on
them, but they usually don't. And the reason why is that we train them
to do what we want from them. The idea of questioning our desires does
not usually arise for horses. The same applies for human beings.


Training can take all sorts of forms, threatening physical force, is
quite effective in the short term. But as we know, maybe even from
experience, this is not very efficient, especially in the long term.


Communication, in the form of oratory, as Dawkins points out, is equally
efficient and effective. He gives Hitler's oratory as an example of
negative manipulation through verbal/language communication. By the same
token, Churchill was equally as good at using communication to
manipulate the English speaking world and allies to rally and fight
against Hitler. We might even go so far and say that until Hitler
invaded Russia, his oratory and aggression seemed to win the day. But
the escalation of physical aggression lost him both the war and the
ideology. Could this be evidence for the belief that physical aggression
is counter productive?


On balance, I would say that communication is more efficient and
economic way of manipulating (positive or negative) others. A good sound
bite, like Churchill's call to arms, "we shall fight on the beaches, we
shall.....,"is more powerful, in the medium and long term, than a shell
from an 88mm field gun. A gun shell can only be used once. A good meme
can reproduce and do its worst (best) without any human limit or
constraint.


But communication is not enough, it must include the right sort of
information to bring about the right sort of behaviour. Both Hitler and
Churchill used emotive type of information in the context of their
historical situation, which I would also call environment. Hitler, in
the context of the humiliation of Germany after the first world war, and
Churchill in the context of the evacuation of Dunkirk (Fr. Dunkerque).
Notice how I use humiliation instead of the consequences of defeat which
sounds rather tame, especially for Hitler's oratory. And also notice how
I use evacuation instead of rout which is very dispiriting for
Churchill's needs. Not only do we use information to manipulate people,
but we also use language to perform surgical strikes on the people we
want to manipulate, as I have just demonstrated.


Of course, if manipulation is in the form of physical manipulation we
might have no immediate choice but to counter act with physical
aggression. Our reaction when someone jumps the queue is to try and
regain our rightful position or maybe be angry with them. In a way,
countering aggression with aggression is also a from of communication.
After all, communication is to get others to do what we want them to do.
Bombing a gun emplacement can some times be effective communication. I
see no logical imperative that communication should always be linguistic
or verbal, although it is probably the best form when rational agents
are concerned.


Moving on, it is even harder to establish what is positive manipulation.
Of course, positive manipulation can be to counter act negative
manipulation or as a strategy for our life in the future. For example
training to be a better doctor, a better philosopher, or whatever.


Looking back at WWII the manipulation of the allies was superior than
that of the Axis. However, we are usually more concerned in our life
about future events rather than explaining history. What will the future
be like? What might be the consequences of our manipulation? However,
the problem with positive manipulation is that we are constrained by the
context or environment we find ourselves in. Furthermore, moral
judgements and value judgments also depend on the scope of their
epistemological systems. Thus, what is positive manipulation for a Nazi
party member is not necessarily the same for a member of the British war
time cabinet.


The way past this problem has always been to find some objective and
independent system that guarantees our values are not tainted by
subjectivism. Some have advocated we search for a priori knowledge while
others have pursued the scientific method. However, the anti
reductionist who rejects such things as genes in favour of some romantic
view of life won't be much help when it comes to cures, fighting
diseases and improving the quality of life. In many cases, and despite
the short comings, the scientific method has been more successful in
providing us with some sort of objective information.


This does not mean that scientific knowledge is the answer for
everything, it might be, but it is not yet. Nor need it be incompatible
with our personal view of the world. My argument is that by using the
right sort of information, it is more likely to give us realistic and
objective answers to the question: what is positive manipulation?


Thus, what is the answer to the practical question we ask ourselves:
what makes a good person? If I were to answer this question I would
start by trying to understand objective and realistic information about
human beings, instead of following dogma or ideology. We might not
always succeed but when we do, we know we are right.


Of all the questions manipulation elicits, there is still THE pivotal
question we have to deal with, and one I have asked many times before:
what incentive does someone have not to negatively manipulate us when
they are already winning? What incentive does a company have to give us
a good deal, when they are already making bumper profits? What
incentives did the North Vietnamese have to go to the negotiating table
when they were already winning the ground war and the propaganda war?


This question, in my opinion, is the Achilles heel of most ideologies
and doctrines who profess themselves as the key holders of justice and
fairness. Of course, we know maybe in advance if not a priori that
negative manipulation sooner or later comes to an end. Oppressive
dictators might be replaced by evil empires, but sometimes they are also
replaced by functioning democracies. This is the history of modern
Europe and a good example of evolutionary struggle and process.


It is beyond my scope to find an answer to this question, but if I had
to consider the issue I would probably start by having another look at
the terminology.


In the animal kingdom, competing animals in the same group do behave
aggressively, but they rarely set out to kill outright their adversary.
In mortal combat both parties know that either one of them can get
killed, hence their cautious aggression. (see Dawkins for the
arguments). Going back to our pivotal question: who is the competition
that deserves our negative manipulation? As Dawkins points out in the
interview, we might not necessarily have a one-to-one relationship with
the competition. Nor might it be the obvious one.


If we are looking for a partner we usually assume that our competition is
someone who is also interested in the man or woman we are interested in.
And if we are selling PC's then our competition is someone else selling
PC's. But the real evolutionary struggle is not between males fighting
over a female, but rather females against males (in that order). Don't
forget that in the evolutionary struggle, the female has, generally
speaking, more to lose than the male and certainly more that two males
fighting each other. To put it in a different way, males do not usually
die at childbirth nor do they lose their looks after years of child rearing.


In business, and politics, therefore, the competition is not necessarily
an other business nor another political party. The competition is
really, under this new point of view, between business and customer and
voter and party. The bargaining power of the customer is usually much
weaker than the business. In business-to-business transactions, however,
a small business, supplying a big businesses assumes the role of
customer rather than supplier; check out the literature on the
relationship between giant supermarkets and small farmers. The same goes
for voters and parties, a voter, like a female giving birth, has more to
lose if they choose the wrong party than the party itself.


Could it be that the objective of a business is not to exploit or
manipulate customers or defeat other businesses, but rather to win over
the loyalty and enthusiasm of their customers. An example of this
strategy is the Apple Corp. who for many years tried every commercial
misjudgement that should have destroyed them many times over, however,
they never did anything to destroy the loyalty and enthusiasm of their
customers. Nor did they ever try to destroy their rivals and competitors
in the PC market. Maybe this is evidence for politicians, to forget
trying to defeat competing parties or ideologies and try and win over
the loyalty and enthusiasm of the people. It can be done because
manipulation is not always negative.


Take care


Lawrence

1 Kant, Herder and the Birth of Anthropology by John Zammito
Ivan Brady
Philosophy Now
http://www.philosophynow.org/issue49/49brady.htm.


2 The Churchill Center
http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=388#Captain


3 Genes and Determinism: An Interview With Richard Dawkins
Jeremy Stangroom interviewed Professor Richard Dawkins at his home in
Oxford on the 13th October 1998.
http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Interviews/genes_and_determinsm.shtml
[see also The Extended Phenotype and The Selfish Gene]


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Control and
manipulation in our life

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