But when Stanford University geneticist Jin Billy Li heard about Joshua Rosenthal’s work on RNA editing in squid, his jaw dropped. That’s because the work, published today in the journal Cell, revealed that many cephalopods present a monumental exception to how living things use the information in DNA to make proteins. In nearly every other animal, RNA—the middleman in that process—faithfully transmits the message in the genes. But octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish (but not their dumber relatives, the nautiluses) edit their RNA, changing the message that gets read out to make proteins.
In exchange for this remarkable adaptation, it appears these squishy, mysterious, and possibly conscious creatures might have given up the ability to evolve relatively quickly. Or, as the researchers put it, “positive selection of editing events slows down genome evolution.” More simply, these cephalopods don’t evolve quite like other animals. And that could one day lead to useful tools for humans.
In my final months at work, I had many conversations about retirement with friends and colleagues who asked about my plans and preparations and shared their own. I was struck by the wide range of attitudes they expressed. For some, retirement was a concrete reality, something they had visualized and thought about in detail. For others it was more abstract, as if it were going to happen to someone else entirely. You might expect this to correlate straightforwardly with age: the closer to retirement, the more concrete the thinking about it. That didn’t seem to be the case for many people.
Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.
Since objective morality is The Topic That Won’t Die here at TSZ, I think we need Yet Another Thread to Discuss It.
A Sam Harris quote to get things rolling (h/t walto):
There are two mistakes I see moral subjectivists making. The first mistake is believing in the fact-value dichotomy. The second mistake is conflating moral philosophy and psychology, suggesting that our psychology ought to be the sole determinant of our beliefs.
Folks here would rather persist in their confusion over basic issues than risk the realization that they don’t really understand what they assume they understand.
If you haven’t figured out that there’s a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias to TSZ and there’s really nothing you can do to change it, you’re going to have nothing but frustration in your interactions here.
That is an absurdly sweeping statement. Do some people here persist in their confusions, ignoring opposing arguments? Sure. Do some people express anti-intellectual opinions here? Sure, including KN himself on occasion, amusingly enough. Does this mean that TSZ suffers from “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” and that those seeking intelligent discussions are doomed to experience “nothing but frustration” here?
The ‘problem of evil’ is a perpetual thorn in the side of the omnitheist — that is, someone who believes in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. For if God is perfectly good and all-powerful, why does he allow so much evil in the world? He’s powerful enough to eradicate it; and if he’s perfectly good, he should want to eradicate it. So why doesn’t he?
One response, known as the ‘Free Will Defense’, comes from Alvin Plantinga:
Dr. Joshua Swamidass, a theistic evolutionist, joined us recently at TSZ. I think the following comment of his will lead to some interesting and contentious discussion and is worthy of its own thread:
Third, if we drop “Darwinian” to just refer to the current modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, you are right that the scientific account does not find any evidence of direction or planning. I agree with you here and do not dispute this.
So the question becomes, really, is it possible that God could have created a process (like evolution) with a purposeful intent that science could not detect? I think the answer here is obvious. Of course He could. In fact, I would say, unless He wanted us to discern His purpose, we could not.
In my view, then, evolution has a purpose in creating us. Science itself cannot uncover its purpose. I find that out by other means.
Cartesian skepticism has been a hot topic lately at TSZ. I’ve been defending a version of it that I’ve summarized as follows:
Any knowledge claim based on the veridicality of our senses is illegitimate, because we can’t know that our senses are veridical.
This means that even things that seem obvious — that there is a computer monitor in front of me as I write this, for instance — aren’t certain. Besides not being certain, we can’t even claim to know them, and that remains true even when we use a standard of knowledge that allows for some uncertainty. (There’s more — a lot more — on this in earlier threads.)
What do you get when you stick some of the conspiracy world’s biggest celebrities and their die-hard fans on a cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a week? Some fascinating insight into our strange times. And one near fistfight.
To err is human. Mistakes are as inevitable as death and taxes, so why do many people find it so hard to admit them? Why will they go to great lengths to avoid doing so? What predisposes them to what I’ll call “mistake denial”?
An obvious first guess is that it relates to social status. We humans are a social species, and our standing in the eyes of others depends largely on our perceived competence. Mistakes whittle away at that perceived competence, and so a person who successfully avoids admitting a mistake has avoided a real social cost. There is a flip side, however. While successful mistake denial benefits the denier, unsuccessful denial exacts an even heavier social cost than admitting the mistake in the first place. The denier is seen not only as having made the mistake, but also of dishonestly and childishly trying to cover it up. Under this social cost model, then, we would expect people to deny their mistakes only when there was a reasonable likelihood of “getting away with it” — of successfully deceiving the audience.
“Intentionality” is a philosophical term for “aboutness”. A movie review is about a movie, and the sentence “Trump is a narcissist” is about Trump. Your thoughts concerning today’s breakfast are about today’s breakfast. Each of these is about something else, so each exhibits intentionality.
How do these things acquire their aboutness? “Trump is a narcissist” isn’t inherently about the man who bears the name “Donald Trump”. Had Trump’s family retained their Germanic surname, Drumpf, then “Trump is a narcissist” would no longer be about the man we call “the Donald”. The intentionality of the sentence is derivative; that is, it derives from the pre-existing convention of referring to a particular man as “Donald Trump”.
GAs are often used to demonstrate “the power of cumulative selection.” Given small population sizes drift ought to dominate yet in GAs drift does not dominate.
That is clearly false, but for the benefit of Mung (and his cousin Elmer) I have modified my Weasel program to incorporate both drift and selection. They can now see for themselves that small population sizes are insufficient to guarantee that drift dominates selection.
The code is here. Compile it under Linux using “gcc -std=gnu99 -lm weasel.c -o weasel”.
Among Christianity’s many odd doctrines is the notion of original sin. The details vary from denomination to denomination, but a common view is that all humans are born into a state of sin because Adam succumbed to temptation in the Garden of Eden, and that this state of sin makes us worthy of God’s eternal condemnation. Only Christ’s sacrifice can redeem us.
Vincent is commenting here at TSZ, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to engage him in a discussion of top-down causation, with Ellis’s essay as a starting point. Here’s a key quote from Ellis’s essay to stimulate discussion:
However hardware is only causally effective because of the software which animates it: by itself hardware can do nothing. Both hardware and software are hierarchically structured, with the higher level logic driving the lower level events.
I think that’s wrong, but I’ll save my argument for the comment thread.
And I’ve become increasingly disgusted by the Islamophobia of “the New Atheists” — especially the odious Bill Maher, who has become their spokesperson in the US media. I think that people who rightly reject the fascist tendencies of contemporary Abrahamic religiosity (whether in the guise of Marco Rubio, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) are rarely aware of how fascistic their own atheism sounds.