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Thursday, June 26, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Do we have to trust theories?

Dear friends,


Given the good news from Vienna this evening we can safely assume that
this Sunday it is going to be very difficult to find a place to have the
meeting. It is not every day that Spain gets to play at the final for
the Euro Cup. Having said that, as I write in my essay, we should always
be prudent when applying theories. Hence we'll see what is going to
happen on the day. Which brings me to the topic of what this Sunday's
meeting might be about: Do we have to trust theories?


Olga tells me that for this meeting she wants to learn more than she can
possibly contribute to the subject. Like you I always look forward to
her insights on the topics we discuss; luckily Sunday is still a long
way away. So may I recommend that she gets that Google search engine
working. In the meantime Olga wants to share the following short article
she found with you:


In methods we trust?
Hohmann, L.
Computer
Volume 30, Issue 10, Oct 1997 Page(s):119 - 121
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/2.625340
Summary:The degree to which you trust your environment-including
co-workers, software tools and systems-has a dramatic impact on the
performance of your entire software development team. If you can't trust
someone during a code review, what are the chances the code review will
be any good? I've become increasingly aware of another aspect of trust:
the trust of a method. A method is a disciplined approach to problem
solving that produces one or more well-defined outcomes. There appear to
be two philosophies when it comes to trust and methods. One camp soundly
rejects methods as a basis for trust: the only valid approach to problem
solving is to identify specific problems systematically in their
environment and solve these problems, one by one. The other camp takes
the opposite approach, performing every process step by preparing all of
the models (and other outcomes) defined by their method. The question is
not whether you build software according to a process, but whether you
trust the process you use. Do you trust your development process to
generate accurate schedules? Do you trust it to generate high-quality,
easily maintainable source code? Do you trust that your process will
generate highly usable systems?

Talking about methods we trust, Edwin has sent me the link to the BBC
website where he wrote about his experiences in May 1968. At least his
public domain experiences are very fascinating; highly recommend his essay:

Lawrence

This is the link to the bit I put on the BBC Website for 1968.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/memoryshare/radio4_1968/A34724126

It was a good year, at least for me, there aren't that many in the
Tertulia who will have such strong memories of the year.

That year is part of the reason I'm here in Madrid now.

Edwin

Take care and see you Sunday

Lawrence

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

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Do we have to trust theories?


The epistemological status of theories is a central issue in the
philosophy of science. It is therefore not surprising that we find a
huge body of studies and research on the topic. The articles in
Wikipedia on Theory* and Scientific Method* are a good introduction to
our topic. So, I do not propose to give a historical account on the
philosophy of Theory.


An obvious answer to our question would be, it all depends on what
theories we are talking about. And if we decide not to trust theories,
we are still faced with what to do next. We can then be sceptical about
the replacement. But the obvious is not necessarily the best
philosophical investigation. One approach we can take is to analyse the
conceptual meaning of theory and then to see if this analysis is itself
sound and valid. The consequence of this analysis, I propose, would be
to consider the question, when does a belief become a theory?


The Wikipedia article on theory makes it clear that there is a big
difference between the common use of the term theory and the scientific
meaning of theory. I am particularly interested in the scientific
meaning of theory. We have more at stake in the context of science.


The question is then, what is science? Or what should we regard as
science? An other obvious answer would be to say what science
departments do in universities. A legitimate start, but a rather one
sided answer. Should we exclude politics, art history, ethics,
philosophy, business and industry? All these disciplines have their body
of theories, not to mention that every discipline has its own way of
research and investigating its subject matter.


Maybe we should broaden our definition of science, at the very least,
for our purposes. I would argue that a study of the nature and scope of
theory is to include any discipline that proposes to explain and
understand the world around us. For example, was Napoleon a
megalomaniac? Was he a short man? These are also facts about the world
not just topics in history. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn't
megalomaniac, but maybe no better or worse than those who came before
him. This is an empirical question which also depends on what we mean by
megalomaniac. As for being short, a Wikipedia article on Napoleon of
Popular Culture, suggests that this was just British propaganda at the
time and the fact is that he was of average height for the time.*


Going back to what we mean by theory, the Article on Theory suggest that
it is a formalised expression of our observation and which is also
predictive, testable and logical. One way we can understand logical here
is what the article on the Scientific Method points at: " any useful
hypothesis will enable prediction, by reasoning including deductive
reasoning." I do not propose to distinguish the difference between
theory and hypothesis, observation and experiment etc. What is relevant
for us is that logic can mean deductive logic (formal logic), inductive
reasoning based on statistical analysis, probabilistic reasoning and so on.


Ironically, the logic criteria for Theory is also the weakest criteria,
in my opinion. For example, deductive logic is silent about the veracity
of a proposition we put in an argument and deductive reasoning can be
abused by emphasising the importance of the methodology and not the
facts. Thus:


a) All martyrs go to heaven,
John is a martyr,
Therefore John has gone to heaven.
b) We should expect to see more miracles from a holy place with 67
recoded miracles over a period of 150 years.**


The problem here is that by talking about John and about holy places we
are really referring to facts about the world, but concepts such as
heaven and miracles are not facts about the world, but what we mean them
to be: your heaven is not as good as my heaven. That sort of problem.
However, both arguments meet the logic criteria. Of course, this does
not tell us much about heaven and miracles, but it does tell us a lot
about logic and its limitations.


I would say that predictability is the strongest feature of Theory
because of two basic reasons (there might be others of course). The
first is that theories can help us predict the future or describe how
past events were like in reality. The second is to answer one of the
most psychological preoccupation we have about life: planning for the
future.


By being able to predict the future or how events really were, we
explicitly imply that the theory can stand on its own merits without
manipulation or fixing things. The ultimate proof of objectivity is to
verify predictions or falsify them. I do not wish to start a debate on
whether Popper was right or wrong here; and I am assuming that any one
can test a theory, but more about this later.


We are all familiar with the use of Newtonian physics to put satellites
in space. But this week there was a report*** in the New York Times
suggesting that a passage that appears in Homer's Odyssey might have
been referring to an eclipse that took place on April 16, 1178 B.C.
Scientists from the Rockefeller University were able to work backwards
in time the eclipses and celestial positions at the time of Homer. What
might have been regarded as metaphor might have been a description of a
fact in Homer. Not only can a good theory work backwards and forwards in
time, but can in this case give meaning to mythology.


Knowing that a theory does in deed work should give us a great deal of
peace of mind. Being able to predict the future also means that we have
the survival edge over most other creatures. Predictability means that
we can plan for the future, for example, our investments, pensions,
bearing children and so on.


Maybe it is because predictability is such a desirable feature that it
can easily lead us to abuse or misuse it. One of these misuses is to
assume that a theory predicts more than it actually does. For example,
Newtonian physics was once thought to be the answer to all questions
about nature from the nature of the mind to all things celestial.
However, it eventually became evident that Newtonian physics could not
explain everything especially the atomic world. But limitations do not
necessarily mean that a theory is wrong. Today, for example, Newtonian
physics and quantum mechanics can easily be employed side by side on the
same project.


If predictability is the benefit of theory, testability is the
combustion engine of theory. No matter how attractive a theory is, if it
cannot be tested it is not worth the paper it is written on. However, we
should be careful what we mean by testability. It is one thing not to
have the means or the tools to test a theory and another to have
untestable concepts. I do not need to give examples to illustrate the
first category, there are many examples easily available after a quick
search of theories that were tested years after they were proposed.


The example of martyrs going to heaven, is conceptually untestable. What
is a martyr? What is heaven? What would we have to do to test whether
martyrs do go to heaven?


However, the example about miracles taking place in holy places can
after a fashion be tested. But first we will have to disentangle the
semantic confusion from, say, medical science. Hence, it is not that in
these places there is regular divine intervention, but maybe in these
places the placebo effect is much stronger. Maybe because people go to
places because they have exhausted conventional medical care and
therefore there is a more urgent need to be cured. Maybe what the
faithful call a miracle are exceptional instances of the human body
curing itself. Something which is well know to those in science. Not to
mention the fact that the tunnelling effect in quantum mechanics is an
instance of the impossible taking place. We are therefore already
familiar with the idea of the impossible taking place in nature. In any
case it is irrelevant whether today's medical knowledge can explain such
cures. Maybe future knowledge might.


Another aspect of testability is that it does not matter who does the
testing. Anyone could have dropped the two different weights from the
tower of Pisa; it would not have mattered whether it was Galileo or not,
both would have fallen at the same speed. If, therefore, the person who
does the testing is also a key feature of the testing most likely we are
not taking about a scientific theory. One point of clarification, I do
not mean here the influence of the observer on the observed as described
by Heisenberg uncertainty principle. I am thinking more on the lines,
for example, that acts of parliament can only become laws if the monarch
gives the royal assent in constitutional monarchies. This is a
convention and not a fact about the world that can be described as a
theory. We cannot test a convention, and being able to distinguish
between the two is very relevant for out debate.


However, a serious problem with testability is that some theories cannot
be tested not because we do not have the mean or tools, but because
morality and ethics prevents us from carrying out the test. For example,
Levitt and Dubner in their book Freakonomics give details of Levitt's
study that showed that the fall in crime rates in New York during the
1990's was more the result of introducing abortion than any other crime
measures. However, we are prevented from testing this theory by having
two cities, one offering abortion services and the other not. Levitt et
al had to use historical data and it is unlikely that this could be
repeated in the form of an experiment.


Once we start analysing the aspects of theory we can find a number of
problems that might stop us from trusting theories. Theories have
limitations either at the testing process or at the prediction process;
I am assuming our observations are not flawed. However, the question "Do
we have to trust theories?" does need some philosophical
disentanglement. For example, what do we mean by trust. Does it mean not
relying on them or does it mean being prudent when using theories. In
fact the scientific method requires us a priori to be prudent when using
or testing theories. And as I have already pointed out, not trusting
theories does not put us in a better position despite their failings.


The problem for us, therefore, is not whether we should or should not
trust something that purports to be a theory, but rather:


a) Is a given theory is a scientific theory?
b) Is a given proposition a theory and or a belief?
c)
d)
If, for example, medical science has an impressive collection of
testable and provable theories does that mean that was is practiced as
medicine is based on a valid scientific theory?


Today we have no problems accepting the claims that unsafe sex increases
the probability of transmitting AIDS to others. And the claim that
smoking can cause lung cancer. Few people would dispute these claims and
those who do might be mixing up emotion (religious beliefs, business
interest) with science (multiple studies and tests).


Dan Ariely's study.+ on pain will make the point about distinguishing
theory from belief clearer. He concludes that the commonly held belief
within the medical community that removing bandages from raw skin or
flesh is best done quickly is basically false. The patient is not better
off if the bandages are removed the traditional way. But if they are
removed slowly but steadily this limits the amount of pain felt.


Ariely argues that this is a belief and not some valid medical
hypothesis since it has never been scientifically tested. The reason why
bandages are removed quickly is because the medical staff are genuinely
concerned about the pain and discomfort felt by patients. The intentions
are beyond reproach, but according to Ariely, it is not really science.
(Ariely himself was a serious burns victim and his experiences in
hospital moved him to study the issue.)


I submit that this is the real philosophical and scientific challenge
about theories. Sorting out theories from beliefs and prejudices fro
facts. And that prudence should replace trust and open mindedness should
replace dogma.


I am therefore not about to stop believing in Newtonian physics and will
certainly keep on believing that the sun will rise tomorrow. What I am
not sure about is what to do next time I burn my hand on a hot stove
when I am preparing diner. My theory is to play safe and let others do
the cooking. Not only have my observations been that I never burn myself
when others do the cooking, but the bonus is that their cooking is
always much better than my efforts. A priori, I can therefore predict
with certainty that if I do not man handle hot pots and pans I reduce
the risk of burning myself in the kitchen. And in the spirit of the
scientific method I will let others test the theory that cooking can
cause burns to the skin.


Take care


Lawrence

*Wikipedia.com:
Theory,
Scientific Method,
Napoleon in popular culture

**Lourdes-France.Org
http://www.lourdes-france.org/index.php?goto_centre=ru&contexte=en&id=405#

***June 24, 2008
Homecoming of Odysseus May Have Been in Eclipse
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD,
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/science/24home.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin

+Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
By Dan Ariely
http://www.predictablyirrational.com/


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from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Do we have to trust
theories?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The Power of Sex

Dear friends,


This Sunday we are discussing: The Power of Sex.


As most of you would know we have discussed the subject of sex and
related themes many times. However, we have never discussed this angle.
I would interpret the question not so much as an investigation into the
sex drive, but more as the use of sex as a means to obtain some
advantage in our daily life. Olga might disagree or rather might find
the first interpretation as more compelling.


I'm sure we'll all come prepared with our well thought out opinions on
the topic. What remains to be solved is how we can make philosophy
sexier than football.


Take care and see you Sunday


Lawrence


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**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
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Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

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+++++++++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
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from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The Power of Sex

Thursday, June 12, 2008

from Lawrence, PhiloMadrid, Sunday meeting: Are equal opportunities achievable? + NEWS (Take 2)

Dear friends,

We'll try again this Sunday to have the meeting, I guess you all know
why we didn't have it last Sunday!!

The subject, therefore, is: Are equal opportunities achievable? I am
including the essay just in case you missed it last week. However, in
this morning's edition of the Times on Line there is an article on the
rich-poor divide in the UK which is very relevant for our discussion.
And although it is basically bad news there are some rays of hope thanks
to the initiative of some people. Ironically, it seems that I
anticipated the article by one week.

The article is called: Unequal Britain: The future has already been
decided for our children. And the link is:
For copyright reasons I am not including the article in this email but I
strongly recommend that you read it. If you have problems please let me
know.

In the meantime this is the news from last week and this week:

FRANCESCA IS LOOKING FOR SOME SHORT TERM ACCOMMODATION
Before I find a more permanent accommodation in Madrid I was wondering
if you could help me find what they call an aparthotel for July. I would
be arriving end of June and would stay until end of August let's say. To
start with, I would rather stay in the Salamanca district because that's
where I would be working. I can offer up to 1200 euros for a studio for
the month
Any suggestion? Francesca


+++++++++++++From Asun++++++++++++++
Lawrence this is a job position to cover urgently maybe you can resend
to your list to se if nybody is interested
asun
De: RELACIONES PRINCIPE I [mailto:rrpp.principe1@foxa.com]
Enviado el: jueves, 05 de junio de 2008 17:45
Para: arsobrino@tele2.es
Asunto: Fw: Enviando por correo electrónico: Formulario de requerimiento
de personal 3
Te reenvío documento sobre el puesto de Recepcionista a cubrir ( no se
trata de sustitución por vacaciones sino como puesto fijo ), en Príncipe
Sports II. Este Club está en la C / Serrano Galvache 20 y hay 2 medios
para ir allí aunque dado el horario de salida, lo ideal es que disponga
de coche; uno y como ya he dicho, en coche y otro, la Estación de
Chamartín y cuya distancia andando es de 20 minutos.
...., ¡ nunca se sabe si conocerás indirectamente a alguien que pueda
interesarle !.
En cualquier caso, agradezco tu esfuerzo y es urgentísima la necesidad a
cubrir.
Un abrazo !
Ana Martínez Leal
* Mi correo, que en este momento no puedo usar es
director.principe1@foxa.com.
+++++++++++++I have the application form on a word doc++++++++++++
Take care
Lawrence
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Are equal opportunities achievable?

Since we have discussed aspects of equal opportunities before I will  limit myself to two issues:  The first is: what is the nature of unequal opportunities (to  disadvantage others)? Do we disadvantage people or discriminate against  them because we act on social whims? Or is there a more fundamental  reason why we would disadvantage people? To put it more directly, is it  natural to disadvantage people?

The second issue is: what are the necessary and sufficient conditions  that will help us achieve equal opportunities? And by extension, can we  achieve universal equal opportunities or do we have to accept what we  can possibly achieve?

By establishing the nature of unequal opportunities (I am using this  term to mean disadvantage people and the opposite of equal  opportunities) we would be able to decide with more confidence the  complexity of our problem and the possible options open to us. If, for  example, this form of disadvantage is a social whim, we might have to  take measure that change behaviour. But if the problem is more natural  then we might have to educate and inform ourselves to achieve the  desires effects.

The importance of necessary and sufficient conditions is that they would  provide us with a predictive model of this form of human relationships.  Thus, we can say that the positive/positive instances of equal  opportunities we encounter the more our conditions might prove to be  causal rather than correlations. For example, we cannot tell whether the  results of affirmative actions are caused because of a reduction in  discrimination in the general population or because of a suppression of  discrimination in the general population. I would therefore say that  affirmative action might seem to bring about the "desired" results, but  in my opinion the most we can say is that this is a correlation and not  a causal effect. Forcing someone to behave in a good way is not the same  as someone behaving in a good way because of their good nature.  "Equal opportunities" is an intellectual concept and not very well  defined. We apply it to many situations such as employment, education,  medicine etc. But does it make sense to speak of equal opportunities in  our personal life? Are we obliged to have a good representation of  minorities in our group of friends?

For a very detailed article on equal opportunities in philosophy I  strongly recommend the article in The Stanford Encyclopedia of  Philosophy, Equality of Opportunity* (Encyclopaedia).Wikipedia has a  brief but equally good article on Economic discrimination** (Wikipedia).  I will therefore won't try to give a historical perspective of the issue.  For a working definition of what we mean by equal opportunities we can  start with the following definition from the Encyclopaedia article,  "..when equality of opportunity prevails, the assignment of individuals  to places in the social hierarchy is determined by some form of  competitive process, and all members of society are eligible to compete  on equal terms." And usually for job applications the criteria would  include something like, "...applications are judged on their merits, and  the most qualified according to criteria that are relevant to job  performance are offered positions."

The key terms must surely be to compete on equal terms and judged on  merits. The Wikipedia entry for Equal Opportunities (very short article  and mainly gives other links) defies it as people "not excluded" from  the activities of society. These social activities are mainly,  employment, education and health care. We strongly associate equal  opportunities with employment opportunities for women; or rather with  career development opportunities for women. But it is now accepted that  there are minority groups or disadvantaged people who also do not have  equal opportunities in society.

But before we can consider the necessary and sufficient conditions issue  we still have to consider the nature of equal opportunities. Therefore,  what test can we employ to find out whether disadvantaging people is  natural or rational (i.e. social based)?

To answer this question we have to look at the genetic and evolution  background of human beings. For example, one important feature of the  evolutionary and genetic process is that we naturally prefer to  cooperate with those who are in our genetic group than those who are  not. In evolutionary history it made sense to help a member of our tribe.  Moreover, it made sense to select mates who were healthy. This gave any  offspring not only better chances to have good genes but also to be  provided for during the formative years of their life. This is why it  makes more sense to have both parents provide for a child rather than  one parent: division of labour.

What else can we look at, as philosophers, to help us establish whether  a particular act is based on some natural criteria or social whim. I  propose that if we can conclusively exclude natural criteria we ought to  be left with social ones. And the most direct way to help us decide this  is to look at actions based on emotions.

Emotions have a direct causal link to our physical (genetic) make up.  Thus, an aversion to distrust strangers would be a natural thing to do,  but what is not natural is to exclude them from say, medical care,  simply because they were a stranger (or an immigrant). Or maybe offer a  job to someone from our race and exclude someone else purely on the  colour of their skin or social background.

A lot of discrimination is based on stereotyping: blacks are lazy, women  are not interested in careers. But stereotyping is probably a very bad  form of statistical discrimination (see the Encyclopaedia). However,  statistical discrimination is also very common in our society: single  men in their forties tend to have unhealthy lifestyle, so we exclude  single males in their forties from health care. Statistics will tell us  what the group dynamics is like, but not necessarily tell us what the  individual is like. Stereotyping, is statistics without the maths, in  other words prejudice based on hearsay or whims.

But why should we care whether discrimination is natural or not? Some  might even see this fact of discrimination as being natural as a  justification to discriminate. For example, in a programme on CBS  Radio*** it is shown that hierarchies are natural phenomena in groups.  And an experiment conducted on monkeys showed evidence that low status  monkeys had a natural tendency to be submissive to the dominant members  of the group. It might therefore be argued that some people might indeed  belong to a low status group precisely to be exploited: consider the  caste system in India and the status of the Dalit who are sometimes also  called untouchables, or outcasts. (Wikipedia relevant terms)  It might very well be the case that in the wild and with small tribes  discrimination was de jure, but today we have evolved into larger  communities were brute force has been supplanted, in whole or in big  part, by rational strategy. In other words: apply cooperation or win-win  strategies also with strangers.

Thus, although there is no natural reason to allow immigrations, should  this be adopted we ought to do so on the basis that these new comers  also participate in our win-win strategies. And if we don't we can  conclusively infer that the reason to open our borders for immigrants is  to exploit these new comers. In my opinion when Alpha members of a group  start advocating the need for more immigrants, it is time to polish our  conspiracy theories.

I would therefore argue that whilst discrimination is indeed a natural  phenomenon, social type of discrimination (employment, education etc) is  not nature based but social based. Employment, medical care etc are  win-win strategies for a group and therefore rational strategies.

We usually consider cases of equal opportunities at the demand-supply  end of social relationships. An employer is looking for someone to fill  a position: a woman wants to make a career move by joining the board of  directors. What sort of necessary and sufficient conditions ought to be  in place so that the applicant to a job gets a fair assessment or the  woman an equal chance to be promoted?

One of the solutions to this problem is to legislate against such  discrimination. For example, demanding that women form a proportion of  board members in a company or parliament. But as I have already pointed  out with affirmative action, legislation does not tell us whether the  discrimination behaviour is eliminated from society or simply  suppressed. Maybe to manifest itself in other ways, for example, moving  production to a country where they don't have ethical labour laws.  More importantly, this solution of legislating solutions does not tell  us whether the job applicant from the minority group or the career  minded woman were themselves members of an Alpha class in their group  who might have exploited subordinates in that group. Not only doesn't  legislation tell us anything about this background but it also does  nothing to solve this very possible discrimination.

Thus legislating is not sufficient for our purposes, and in any case  this type of legislation addresses the wrong issues any way. The problem  might be that we are trying to solve the problem at the demand and  supply end of social relations. When applying for a job or trying to be  promoted to the board. Maybe the solution lies with offering equal  opportunities throughout someone's life. It is not enough to offer  someone health care when they develop some fatal disease.

Consider what Clive Hertzman*** says on CBS programme about the  conclusions of a study aimed at find what happened to British children  born in March 1958. The conclusion of the study was that the health  status of a 40 year old depended on whether, when they were young (about  7 years old), they (1) were read to; (2) adjusted early at school; and  (3) achieved a certain height proportionate to adult height. And the  reason why this has a direct bearing on someone's health is because they  have a direct causal link to status and earning capacity at 40. In other  words, those who were read to when young, adjusted early at school and  had a good height ratio stood a better chance of earning a good salary  at forty years old. And studies have shown that there is a direct link  between income, status and health. The equal opportunities at the demand  end for a woman in the labour market might be too late for her career  prospects.

I propose that in order to achieve equal opportunities parents, for  example, need to be informed and guided on how to bring up their  children based on solid scientific evidence and not some woolly headed  mumbo jumbo educational policies. Hugging trees might not be the best  way to create geniuses in our society.

This study alone has already shown us what kind of necessary conditions  we are looking for so that we can achieve equal opportunities. By  setting up programmes that address these issues and were also  universally effective, in the same way VAT and Coca Cola are universally  effective, we would be addressing the natural (genetic) aspect of our  problem. Adopting rational solutions to genetic problems is something we  human beings are very good at; think sliced bread here. Taking this  approach might not even leave us time to contemplate what merit and  equal terms mean, because we'd be too busy solving real problems.  But we probably have to do more. There is a direct link running across  health, social status and income as I have already mentioned. Thus  universal health care is also, in my opinion, a necessary condition.  People get sick, they need health care. This is a fundamental fact of  life but political philosophers seem to have forgotten about this when  they wrote there red books, green books, blue books, capital books and  all the various shapes and colour books.

But having a health care system is not enough, there should also be a  healthy food policy as well. There is no point spending billions trying  to cure obesity if one cannot find healthy food in the shops.  Malnutrition is not just an emaciated baby in some African desert which  the media love to splash on their front pages or screens. Malnutrition  is also something that might happen to your neighbour.

Another set of necessary conditions might probably be the way we conduct  our work and educational routine.

Dr. John Medina in his book Brain Rules+ suggests twelve rules on how we  can improve the performance of our brain. For my purpose of establishing  the necessary and sufficient conditions for equal opportunities, I want  to refer to two of these rules.

Medina suggests that the present educational system disadvantages a  large number of students because it is based on the age of students for  progress and not their brain development. He suggests that our brains  are all wired differently and therefore the development of our brain is  not the same as everyone else at a given age. But the educational system  does not make allowances for this; they assume all brains are the same.  Imagine what humanity might be like, as Medina wants to persuade us, if  we received our education tailor made to our unique individual brain  development.

An important factor that determines our performance at work (and  education) is sleep or rather sleep deprivation. Not only do we need a  certain number of hours of sleep for the brain to function normally, but  that our waking-sleeping habits (chronotype: owls, larks and humming  birds) determine how we perform at school and at work. The 10 to 20% of  the population who perform best at night (owls) might have a serious  sleep deficit which affects their performance; because many social  activities start in the morning. But those in charge, think that owls  (I'm one of these) are lazy, unmotivated and not interested in the  activities at hand just because they look so groggy in the morning.  Medina suggests that having schools and places of work scheduled to take  into account these chronotypes would revolutionise our performance. Owl  doctors can do the night duties and larks can do the early morning  duties thus patients have, literally, the full attention of the doctor  and not of someone who should be in bed asleep.

Studies like those of Dr Medina can probably serve as blue prints to our  necessary and sufficient conditions. They show us how to solve genetic  problems by applying rational solutions. Thus, by creating a social  environment where everyone is performing, whether at school or at work,  at their maximum brain capacity we might be that close to achieving  universal equal opportunities. The woman who is prevented from reaching  the top of the company might have had a better historical performance in  her career if she were able to manage her sleep routine. But because  baby decided to cry at night and her company has a policy of stating at  9am sharp she probably went to work with a monster size sleep deficit.  It is not that women are less clever than men, or that woman prefer to  have babies instead of pursuing their career that stops them from  reaching the top. But maybe the fact that management consultants did not  discover during their MBA years that women are genetically made to have  babies and they these little mites tend to cry at night.

To conclude, introducing first impressions type of solutions (i.e.  cosmetic solutions) to solve problems concerning equal opportunities do  not necessarily help us achieve our objects. Not to mention that they  address the wrong issue and have nothing to do with what is really  required. Thus affirmation policies, calling someone chairperson, having  holidays for heroes of minority groups, genetically engineer babies or  pretending to learn the language of immigrants do not go to the core  issue of discrimination or unequal opportunities. Don't forget our genes  have survived more serious challenges than these cosmetic solutions.  Maybe Kant was right when he suggested that we ought to do unto others  what we want others do unto us. This might be right, logical and  rational but these criteria have not always been enough to move people  to do something. Everyone knows that driving on the left is much better  and more rational, for example because most people are right handed, but  the 66% of the world population who drive on the right are not about to  change their bad habits soon. (Wikipedia: Right- and left-hand traffic)  By the same token, it is probably just as hard to persuade seven billion  people to go forth and be good.

Take care 

Lawrence


Lawrence
*.Arneson, Richard, "Equality of Opportunity", The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy (Winter 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
** Economic discrimination. (2008, May 28). In Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:29, June 3, 2008, from
***CBS Radio
Tuesday, March 4
SICK PEOPLE OR SICK SOCIETIES?
+Dr. John Medina
----end
essay---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);
Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);
*************************************

from Lawrence, PhiloMadrid, Sunday meeting: Are equal opportunities
achievable? + NEWS (Take 2)

Monday, June 09, 2008

From Lawrence, PhiloMadrid: job vacancy for a receptionist + looking for accommodation etc

NEWS Job Vacancy + looking for accommodation etc

Dear Friends,
Asunción has sent me details of a job vacancy for a receptionist; you
can find the details at the end of this email. She has also included an
application form in a Word document. Please let me know if you want this
Word document although I am including the text in this email.
In the meantime:

=== message removed ===



MESSAGE FROM MERCEDES
Un amigo mío está llevando grupos musicales a Lux Cinema, te envío lo
que va a haber este fin de semana para que lo reenvíes a todos, creo que
es muy interesante¡¡¡
http://www.luxcinemas.com/
http://www.barrioartdeco.com/

MESSAGE FROM IAN
Hi All,
I found this interesting new news site, which is not part of the MSM
(Main Stream Media) that has video and transcript alongside.
www.therealnews.com
Chow!
This is a great site for stuff!
http://deputy-dog.com
Ian

Take care
Lawrence
PS: Adverts at the end of message

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++From Asun+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Lawrence this is a job position to cover urgently maybe you can resend
to your list to se if nybody is interested
asun
De: RELACIONES PRINCIPE I [mailto:rrpp.principe1@foxa.com]
Enviado el: jueves, 05 de junio de 2008 17:45
Para: arsobrino@tele2.es
Asunto: Fw: Enviando por correo electrónico: Formulario de requerimiento
de personal 3
Te reenvío documento sobre el puesto de Recepcionista a cubrir ( no se
trata de sustitución por vacaciones sino como puesto fijo ), en Príncipe
Sports II. Este Club está en la C / Serrano Galvache 20 y hay 2 medios
para ir allí aunque dado el horario de salida, lo ideal es que disponga
de coche; uno y como ya he dicho, en coche y otro, la Estación de
Chamartín y cuya distancia andando es de 20 minutos.
...., ¡ nunca se sabe si conocerás indirectamente a alguien que pueda
interesarle !.
En cualquier caso, agradezco tu esfuerzo y es urgentísima la necesidad a
cubrir.
Un abrazo !
Ana Martínez Leal
* Mi correo, que en este momento no puedo usar es
director.principe1@foxa.com.
---------------------------------------

REQUERIMIENTO DE PERSONAL
AL DEPARTAMENTO DE RECURSOS HUMANOS:
SOLICITANTE: Fecha solicitud: 3 de junio de 2008
NOMBRE PALOMA CORDERO
PUESTO DIRECCION ADJUNTA CENTRO _PRINCIPE SPORT'S II
PUESTO SOLICITADO:
POSICIÓN RECEPCIONISTA TARDES
CENTRO DESTINO CLUB DEPORTIVO
SALARIO PROPUESTO 12.600€
FECHA EFECTIVA 2 de julio de 2008
Sustitución X Nueva Posición 
SUSTITUYE A: ELISA GONZÁLEZ DE BENITO
MOTIVO DE LA PETICIÓN: (En caso de nueva posición) _______________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
FUNCIONES A DESARROLLAR: De lunes a viernes 15:30 h a 23:30 h
Atención telefónica
Información.
Organización de partidos de pádel
Cobros
PERFIL REQUERIDO: Educación. Don de gentes. Puntual. Informática: Nivel
usuario
Paloma Cordero Carlos Almazan
FIRMA SOLICITANTE VºBº DIRECCIÓN
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From Lawrence, PhiloMadrid: job vacancy for a receptionist + Francesca
looking for accommodation etc

Thursday, June 05, 2008

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Are equal opportunities achievable? + NEWS

Essay + Francesca requires accommodation + Exhibition Saturday + Message
from Ian and Mercedes
Dear friends,

This sun day we are discussing Are equal opportunities achievable?

In the meantime I have the following news items to share with you:
FRANCESCA IS LOOKING FOR SOME SHORT TERM ACCOMMODATION
Before I find a more permanent accommodation in Madrid I was wondering
if you could help me find what they call an aparthotel for July. I would
be arriving end of June and would stay until end of August let's say. To
start with, I would rather stay in the Salamanca district because that's
where I would be working. I can offer up to 1200 euros for a studio for
the month
Any suggestion? Francesca



EXHIBITION WITH KIM THIS SATURDAY
Kim, Isabel and I are going to see the Eugene Smith photography
exhibition at the Centro Cultural de la Villa, Plz Colon. Sometime
around 6pm. Send me a message to find out what the situation is.

MESSAGE FROM MERCEDES
Un amigo mío está llevando grupos musicales a Lux Cinema, te envío lo
que va a haber este fin de semana para que lo reenvíes a todos, creo que
es muy interesante¡¡¡
http://www.luxcinemas.com/
http://www.barrioartdeco.com/

MESSAGE FROM IAN
Hi All,
I found this interesting new news site, which is not part of the MSM
(Main Stream Media) that has video and transcript alongside.
www.therealnews.com
Chow!
This is a great site for stuff!
http://deputy-dog.com
Ian

Take care
Lawrence
PS: Adverts at the end of message

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

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

Are equal opportunities achievable?

Since we have discussed aspects of equal opportunities before I will
limit myself to two issues:
The first is: what is the nature of unequal opportunities (to
disadvantage others)? Do we disadvantage people or discriminate against
them because we act on social whims? Or is there a more fundamental
reason why we would disadvantage people? To put it more directly, is it
natural to disadvantage people?

The second issue is: what are the necessary and sufficient conditions
that will help us achieve equal opportunities? And by extension, can we
achieve universal equal opportunities or do we have to accept what we
can possibly achieve?

By establishing the nature of unequal opportunities (I am using this
term to mean disadvantage people and the opposite of equal
opportunities) we would be able to decide with more confidence the
complexity of our problem and the possible options open to us. If, for
example, this form of disadvantage is a social whim, we might have to
take measure that change behaviour. But if the problem is more natural
then we might have to educate and inform ourselves to achieve the
desires effects.

The importance of necessary and sufficient conditions is that they would
provide us with a predictive model of this form of human relationships.
Thus, we can say that the positive/positive instances of equal
opportunities we encounter the more our conditions might prove to be
causal rather than correlations. For example, we cannot tell whether the
results of affirmative actions are caused because of a reduction in
discrimination in the general population or because of a suppression of
discrimination in the general population. I would therefore say that
affirmative action might seem to bring about the "desired" results, but
in my opinion the most we can say is that this is a correlation and not
a causal effect. Forcing someone to behave in a good way is not the same
as someone behaving in a good way because of their good nature.
"Equal opportunities" is an intellectual concept and not very well
defined. We apply it to many situations such as employment, education,
medicine etc. But does it make sense to speak of equal opportunities in
our personal life? Are we obliged to have a good representation of
minorities in our group of friends?

For a very detailed article on equal opportunities in philosophy I
strongly recommend the article in The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy, Equality of Opportunity* (Encyclopaedia).Wikipedia has a
brief but equally good article on Economic discrimination** (Wikipedia).
I will therefore won't try to give a historical perspective of the issue.
For a working definition of what we mean by equal opportunities we can
start with the following definition from the Encyclopaedia article,
"..when equality of opportunity prevails, the assignment of individuals
to places in the social hierarchy is determined by some form of
competitive process, and all members of society are eligible to compete
on equal terms." And usually for job applications the criteria would
include something like, "...applications are judged on their merits, and
the most qualified according to criteria that are relevant to job
performance are offered positions."

The key terms must surely be to compete on equal terms and judged on
merits. The Wikipedia entry for Equal Opportunities (very short article
and mainly gives other links) defies it as people "not excluded" from
the activities of society. These social activities are mainly,
employment, education and health care. We strongly associate equal
opportunities with employment opportunities for women; or rather with
career development opportunities for women. But it is now accepted that
there are minority groups or disadvantaged people who also do not have
equal opportunities in society.

But before we can consider the necessary and sufficient conditions issue
we still have to consider the nature of equal opportunities. Therefore,
what test can we employ to find out whether disadvantaging people is
natural or rational (i.e. social based)?

To answer this question we have to look at the genetic and evolution
background of human beings. For example, one important feature of the
evolutionary and genetic process is that we naturally prefer to
cooperate with those who are in our genetic group than those who are
not. In evolutionary history it made sense to help a member of our tribe.
Moreover, it made sense to select mates who were healthy. This gave any
offspring not only better chances to have good genes but also to be
provided for during the formative years of their life. This is why it
makes more sense to have both parents provide for a child rather than
one parent: division of labour.

What else can we look at, as philosophers, to help us establish whether
a particular act is based on some natural criteria or social whim. I
propose that if we can conclusively exclude natural criteria we ought to
be left with social ones. And the most direct way to help us decide this
is to look at actions based on emotions.

Emotions have a direct causal link to our physical (genetic) make up.
Thus, an aversion to distrust strangers would be a natural thing to do,
but what is not natural is to exclude them from say, medical care,
simply because they were a stranger (or an immigrant). Or maybe offer a
job to someone from our race and exclude someone else purely on the
colour of their skin or social background.

A lot of discrimination is based on stereotyping: blacks are lazy, women
are not interested in careers. But stereotyping is probably a very bad
form of statistical discrimination (see the Encyclopaedia). However,
statistical discrimination is also very common in our society: single
men in their forties tend to have unhealthy lifestyle, so we exclude
single males in their forties from health care. Statistics will tell us
what the group dynamics is like, but not necessarily tell us what the
individual is like. Stereotyping, is statistics without the maths, in
other words prejudice based on hearsay or whims.
But why should we care whether discrimination is natural or not? Some
might even see this fact of discrimination as being natural as a
justification to discriminate. For example, in a programme on CBS
Radio*** it is shown that hierarchies are natural phenomena in groups.
And an experiment conducted on monkeys showed evidence that low status
monkeys had a natural tendency to be submissive to the dominant members
of the group. It might therefore be argued that some people might indeed
belong to a low status group precisely to be exploited: consider the
caste system in India and the status of the Dalit who are sometimes also
called untouchables, or outcasts. (Wikipedia relevant terms)
It might very well be the case that in the wild and with small tribes
discrimination was de jure, but today we have evolved into larger
communities were brute force has been supplanted, in whole or in big
part, by rational strategy. In other words: apply cooperation or win-win
strategies also with strangers.

Thus, although there is no natural reason to allow immigrations, should
this be adopted we ought to do so on the basis that these new comers
also participate in our win-win strategies. And if we don't we can
conclusively infer that the reason to open our borders for immigrants is
to exploit these new comers. In my opinion when Alpha members of a group
start advocating the need for more immigrants, it is time to polish our
conspiracy theories.

I would therefore argue that whilst discrimination is indeed a natural
phenomenon, social type of discrimination (employment, education etc) is
not nature based but social based. Employment, medical care etc are
win-win strategies for a group and therefore rational strategies.
We usually consider cases of equal opportunities at the demand-supply
end of social relationships. An employer is looking for someone to fill
a position: a woman wants to make a career move by joining the board of
directors. What sort of necessary and sufficient conditions ought to be
in place so that the applicant to a job gets a fair assessment or the
woman an equal chance to be promoted?

One of the solutions to this problem is to legislate against such
discrimination. For example, demanding that women form a proportion of
board members in a company or parliament. But as I have already pointed
out with affirmative action, legislation does not tell us whether the
discrimination behaviour is eliminated from society or simply
suppressed. Maybe to manifest itself in other ways, for example, moving
production to a country where they don't have ethical labour laws.
More importantly, this solution of legislating solutions does not tell
us whether the job applicant from the minority group or the career
minded woman were themselves members of an Alpha class in their group
who might have exploited subordinates in that group. Not only doesn't
legislation tell us anything about this background but it also does
nothing to solve this very possible discrimination.

Thus legislating is not sufficient for our purposes, and in any case
this type of legislation addresses the wrong issues any way. The problem
might be that we are trying to solve the problem at the demand and
supply end of social relations. When applying for a job or trying to be
promoted to the board. Maybe the solution lies with offering equal
opportunities throughout someone's life. It is not enough to offer
someone health care when they develop some fatal disease.
Consider what Clive Hertzman*** says on CBS programme about the
conclusions of a study aimed at find what happened to British children
born in March 1958. The conclusion of the study was that the health
status of a 40 year old depended on whether, when they were young (about
7 years old), they (1) were read to; (2) adjusted early at school; and
(3) achieved a certain height proportionate to adult height. And the
reason why this has a direct bearing on someone's health is because they
have a direct causal link to status and earning capacity at 40. In other
words, those who were read to when young, adjusted early at school and
had a good height ratio stood a better chance of earning a good salary
at forty years old. And studies have shown that there is a direct link
between income, status and health. The equal opportunities at the demand
end for a woman in the labour market might be too late for her career
prospects.

I propose that in order to achieve equal opportunities parents, for
example, need to be informed and guided on how to bring up their
children based on solid scientific evidence and not some woolly headed
mumbo jumbo educational policies. Hugging trees might not be the best
way to create geniuses in our society.

This study alone has already shown us what kind of necessary conditions
we are looking for so that we can achieve equal opportunities. By
setting up programmes that address these issues and were also
universally effective, in the same way VAT and Coca Cola are universally
effective, we would be addressing the natural (genetic) aspect of our
problem. Adopting rational solutions to genetic problems is something we
human beings are very good at; think sliced bread here. Taking this
approach might not even leave us time to contemplate what merit and
equal terms mean, because we'd be too busy solving real problems.
But we probably have to do more. There is a direct link running across
health, social status and income as I have already mentioned. Thus
universal health care is also, in my opinion, a necessary condition.
People get sick, they need health care. This is a fundamental fact of
life but political philosophers seem to have forgotten about this when
they wrote there red books, green books, blue books, capital books and
all the various shapes and colour books.

But having a health care system is not enough, there should also be a
healthy food policy as well. There is no point spending billions trying
to cure obesity if one cannot find healthy food in the shops.
Malnutrition is not just an emaciated baby in some African desert which
the media love to splash on their front pages or screens. Malnutrition
is also something that might happen to your neighbour.

Another set of necessary conditions might probably be the way we conduct
our work and educational routine.

Dr. John Medina in his book Brain Rules+ suggests twelve rules on how we
can improve the performance of our brain. For my purpose of establishing
the necessary and sufficient conditions for equal opportunities, I want
to refer to two of these rules.

Medina suggests that the present educational system disadvantages a
large number of students because it is based on the age of students for
progress and not their brain development. He suggests that our brains
are all wired differently and therefore the development of our brain is
not the same as everyone else at a given age. But the educational system
does not make allowances for this; they assume all brains are the same.
Imagine what humanity might be like, as Medina wants to persuade us, if
we received our education tailor made to our unique individual brain
development.

An important factor that determines our performance at work (and
education) is sleep or rather sleep deprivation. Not only do we need a
certain number of hours of sleep for the brain to function normally, but
that our waking-sleeping habits (chronotype: owls, larks and humming
birds) determine how we perform at school and at work. The 10 to 20% of
the population who perform best at night (owls) might have a serious
sleep deficit which affects their performance; because many social
activities start in the morning. But those in charge, think that owls
(I'm one of these) are lazy, unmotivated and not interested in the
activities at hand just because they look so groggy in the morning.
Medina suggests that having schools and places of work scheduled to take
into account these chronotypes would revolutionise our performance. Owl
doctors can do the night duties and larks can do the early morning
duties thus patients have, literally, the full attention of the doctor
and not of someone who should be in bed asleep.

Studies like those of Dr Medina can probably serve as blue prints to our
necessary and sufficient conditions. They show us how to solve genetic
problems by applying rational solutions. Thus, by creating a social
environment where everyone is performing, whether at school or at work,
at their maximum brain capacity we might be that close to achieving
universal equal opportunities. The woman who is prevented from reaching
the top of the company might have had a better historical performance in
her career if she were able to manage her sleep routine. But because
baby decided to cry at night and her company has a policy of stating at
9am sharp she probably went to work with a monster size sleep deficit.
It is not that women are less clever than men, or that woman prefer to
have babies instead of pursuing their career that stops them from
reaching the top. But maybe the fact that management consultants did not
discover during their MBA years that women are genetically made to have
babies and they these little mites tend to cry at night.

To conclude, introducing first impressions type of solutions (i.e.
cosmetic solutions) to solve problems concerning equal opportunities do
not necessarily help us achieve our objects. Not to mention that they
address the wrong issue and have nothing to do with what is really
required. Thus affirmation policies, calling someone chairperson, having
holidays for heroes of minority groups, genetically engineer babies or
pretending to learn the language of immigrants do not go to the core
issue of discrimination or unequal opportunities. Don't forget our genes
have survived more serious challenges than these cosmetic solutions.
Maybe Kant was right when he suggested that we ought to do unto others
what we want others do unto us. This might be right, logical and
rational but these criteria have not always been enough to move people
to do something. Everyone knows that driving on the left is much better
and more rational, for example because most people are right handed, but
the 66% of the world population who drive on the right are not about to
change their bad habits soon. (Wikipedia: Right- and left-hand traffic)
By the same token, it is probably just as hard to persuade seven billion
people to go forth and be good.

Take care
Lawrence

*.Arneson, Richard, "Equality of Opportunity", The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy (Winter 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
<http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2002/entries/equal-opportunity/>.
** Economic discrimination. (2008, May 28). In Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:29, June 3, 2008, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Economic_discrimination&oldid=215551489
***CBS Radio
Tuesday, March 4
SICK PEOPLE OR SICK SOCIETIES?
http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/calendar/2008/03_march.html
+Dr. John Medina
http://www.brainrules.net/about-the-author
----end
essay---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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
*************************************

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Are equal
opportunities achievable? + NEWS

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Philosophy, Social Issues, Classical Philosophy, Citizen Philosophy, Applied Philosophy, Non-Political Meeting, Non-Religious Meeting,