science

If only humans were as good-natured as animals..

..what a wonderful world would it be!

  • we would often be commiting infanticide for the sake of our lineage
  • we would be defining strict hierarchies where only two individuals are allowed to reproduce, or where the male has a harem of several females and fights hard any competitors
  • we would have males poisoning their female “soul mate”, but since she’d do the same with a stronger poison these males would inevitably die
  • we would have males beating their females and going with little armies to kill nearby groups of the same species or of other species, you know, the one that only thinks about sex
  • we would be committing suicide, either alone or “kamikaze style”

and plenty of other funny and lovely things!

On a more serious note

I know the common objection to this. “They cannot choose”, “It’s their nature” and so on. What really does bug me is that people aren’t able to see that we humans are actually an improvement, because we can choose and we can define our own “nature”, which becomes culture- and ratio-based instead of strictly genetic/impulsive.

Ethics can be defined, followed, enforced by law. All the bad things I listed, that indeed have been proudly performed by many humans and still cause suffering to a lot of people in the world, can be made forbidden or depicted as despicable, thus reducing them statistically.

In some of the cited articles, you may read explanations of why animals do such bad things. Sometimes had been indeed proved that those behaviours increase their probability, as a species, to survive.

I don’t know if you noticed, but the important thing seems to be the “species” when talking about animals. Not the “individual”.

Would you really like that? We have been constructing abstract wrappings around pain and suffering (as well as good feelings) for thousands of years, but you know: also animals suffers. When a male lion kills a pup, his mother (maybe, I don’t know) suffers but the pup suffers more, before dying. It’s physical suffering, which is really bad.

I guess it’s also worse when they starve to death or are plagued by different kind of damn diseases.

Would you like that to happen to you, your family, your friends? Don’t you see how humans, yet despicable on many areas, are actually an improvement for the individual, regardless of the species?

For me the individual is important, what I feel, what I want, and the same for the people near me: the more “far away” they are, the less I care. And that’s pretty normal: we’d die in a minute if we cared about all problems affecting people worldwide.

A lot still has to be done, on the ethical and technological side, to build a really safe and enjoyable world for us and our beloved.

For sure, the wrong way is that of be willing to go back to tribal societies, reviving our animal instincts, because animals are soooo cute and they are full of love while we are just reckless filthy humans.

Go down from the trees, ethical-driven humans! Your modern society needs you. Well educated, conscious and rational.

BS Science – Creationism (via Dr. Sci-Psy)

Basilosaurus cetoides, an archaeocete whale fr...

Image via Wikipedia

Links, bolds and underlines are mine. The tumblr of this guy is very funny, he’s smart. Follow it ;)

Here are some of the most common talking points creationists use.

1) No one has seen evolution in action. This theory is based on speculation.

As a microbiologist, I find this offensive. I witness evolution all the time when bacteria gain antibiotic resistance. This is small but very easy to see if you look at Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bug that arose due to evolution and the overuse of antibiotics selecting for specific traits.

2) There are no transitional fossils (intermedeary fossils that show evolutionary transition).

There are. A lot of them actually. My favorites are whales. The Fossils we have have put their evolution as so: the land mammal Indohyus, returns to the water and transitions into Ambulocetus, then after two more known transitions (Protocetid and Basilosaurus), finally ends as Cetaceans – modern whales. Besides, evolution itself is a fluid transitional process. All living species are currently in a state of “transition”.

3) Evolution can’t explain how life started.

Well, it’s not supposed to. The process in which life started that so many creationists talk about is something else all together called “abiogenesis.” This branch of science has many theories (I’m particular to the RNA world hypothesis) but has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution explains how species change over time through natural selection.

Having creationism (or its dressed-up inbred cousin, “intelligent design”) taught in any science class is detrimental to children’s cognitive development. If we teach kids that the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re teaching them that it’s okay to ignore empirical evidence. Being able to shape your beliefs on things that are testable and falsifiable is one of the most important skills anyone can learn.

via Dr. Sci-Psy.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (via Chemoton § Vitorino Ramos’ research notebook)

Awesome!!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Fig. – Christ having some problems on passing the right message. Comic strip from Zach Weiner (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal blog – smbc-comics.com ). Social psychologists, sociologists, and economists have all proposed theories of norm emergence. In general, they views norm emergence as depending on three factors: (i) actors’ preferences regarding their own behaviour (inclinations); (ii) actors’ preferences regarding the behaviour of others … Read More

via Chemoton § Vitorino Ramos’ research notebook

Why a Moral God is unlikely

Take it with a pinch of salt, I’m not a philosopher. Few ideas as well as confused, we jokingly say in Italy. Enjoy.

We are told by a lot of theologists that the concept of God has being strengthened in the last centuries, because the complexity of reality, step by step disclosed by the Science, seems to support the idea that the birth of this universe would have been impossible without a sort of “supernatural engineering”, made by a Very Intelligent Entity.

To play along with them, let’s assume such a God exists, as in the latest forms of Intelligent Design: God created a kind of experimental setup, made it implode, and since the Big Bang he’s been watching us for some reasons that we don’t know. Unfortunately for the strongest atheists of the world, this could be a possible scenario, from a theoretical point of view.

Here’s the rub! Do we really believe that we are God’s beloved? We could be some kind of God’s experiments, like these of the Artificial Life scientists that try to create little worlds, with autonomous agents controlled by a neural network and evolved with a genetic algorithm very similar to natural evolution! We could be some kind of art, for an higher dimensional world. We could be anything, but nothing seems to suggest that the extreme hugeness and complexity of the universe is made for us, for the good of us, and that he cares about how we live!

Think a bit about the soul. Some theologists are starting to agree with the brain-is-the-mind theory, suggesting that the soul can be “stored” in an higher (divine) dimension, and that we can see, in the brain, only the part that matters for our existence, like everything else. They can easily try to create a theoretical framework that include every scientific result without breaking their theology.

I don’t blame them for this, on the contrary I think it could be funny and challenging for our reasoning skills. But think for a bit about Moral God. An extremely intelligent entity (like scientists compared to simple simulated agents) did an hard work to set up an auto-assembling and auto-organizing universe, waiting for the creation of a living being similar (on a small scale) to him (because now we are very near to create complex artificial world, letting them auto-organizing to see the emergence of life and intelligence), only to see billions of billions of us living and almost dying, and then to do something like this:

  1. Saving, just before death, one’s genome and neurons activation states (and some other biological information, but only a bit more I suppose) to permit his regeneration in a kind of new afterdeath existence
  2. Analyzing the log of his life, judging if he was good or bad.
  3. Putting him forever into the right new world, one of pure pain and one of pure rapture
  4. Goto 1, infinite cycle

Well, why such an intelligent entity would have to waste so much time and memory of his “divine computer”? He could eliminate the universe and the natural death, simplify our bodies, put small fixed number groups of people, one after the other for a fixed time, into a simple world: he could let us interact, and then analyze our moral performance keeping for him the best ones (or using it like moulds for next trials).

It would be absolutely more efficient and less cruel, wouldn’t it?

that he cares about how we live!