eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Sunday, April 16

The Meaning of Pain

In trying to understand more about this in regard to animals, children, infants, and fetuses, I did some brief searching on the meaning of pain.

Definition and descriptions of pain from the The International Association of Pain

"An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience
associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or
described in terms of such damage."

Definition and descriptions of animal pain from The Animal Welfare Research Group

"Pain in animals is an aversive sensory experience
that elicits protective motor actions, results in
learned avoidance and may modify species specific
traits of behaviour, including social behaviour"

"Animal pain is an aversive, sensory experience
representing awareness by the animal of damage or
threat to the integrity of its tissues; (note that
there might not be any damage). It changes the
animal's physiology and behaviour to reduce or avoid
the damage, to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence
and to promote recovery. Non-functional (non-useful)
pain occurs when the intensity or duration of the
experience is not appropriate for damage sustained
(especially if none exists) and when physiological and
behavioural responses are unsuccessful in alleviating
it (Molony, 1997)"

Another useful term that I came across is Nociception:

"Nociception is detection of a noxious stimulus,
whereas Pain is an 'experience', which is the
product of the parts of the brain responsible for
mental processing of the noxious stimulus. "Pain
occurs in the brain"."

Friday, April 14

Queen of Chess - Susan Polgar

I'm not a great player, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the few tournaments I've played. Even if (more like when) I lose, I enjoy the attempt at solving the puzzle and seeing how my opponent will go about defeating me. I don't know much about the world of chess, but Polgar is one of the few names I recognize. It's enough to make me want a game.


Would it be irrational to have a mistaken view? For
that matter, what does irrational mean?

I'd think it would mean something like holding a
belief in spite of being presented with "better"
knowledge/arguments. By better, I mean the person
would themselves understand that the knowledge is
indeed better and actively choose not to accept it.
Even there, it might be "rational" to hold on to one's
previous belief and subject the new knowledge (and
one's old knowledge) to some examination before
adopting it since the new information may (will?) have
a lot of implications that one hasn't yet examined.

In the case where a person just refuses to accept a
"better" argument out of an un-examined fear it may be
the "best" response for that person, as the person may
not have the knowledge to fully benefit by taking on
that new information. Then again, maybe it's not
really "better" if the person isn't able to handle it

I think this is going around in circles.... *gets off
the merry-go-round*.

Irrational could mean refusing to accept a
better argument out of fear or for some reason other
than the merits of the argument.

Popper and Falsification

Popper recognized, but dismissed as unimportant,
that every falsification of a conjecture is
simultaneously a confirmation of an opposite
conjecture, and every conforming instance of a
conjecture is a falsification of an opposite

Is this true of Popper? What is the explanation for
this? How is the idea of falsification different from
a complicated version of inductivism? Why not just
call it inductivism with an extra emphasis or focus on
falsification? Or tentative falsification induction?

Wednesday, April 12

Truth and Knowledge

What is truth?
Is it the same as "what is"? Does that make it a tautology? Is it an aspect of reality?
Is it only meaningful to speak of truth in the context of knowledge?
Is truth "knowledge of reality"?
What is knowledge?
Knowledge is the possession of ideas that are true?? Knowledge consists of an idea or ideas that are true?

Sometimes I think of knowledge as a recreation of reality or a "virtual reality". I suppose it could be part of a recreation of reality. That's not exactly accurate as I don't think a physical model of reality would be considered knowledge - unless it's within a brain ... or a computer... or a book.

SOS (Save Our Springs) and Open Government

I started to write about this a while back but I haven't had time to really investigate it.

Council votes to revise amendment language
Representatives from the Save Our Springs Alliance verbally sparred with council members, who predicted that the two measures, if approved, would stymie economic development efforts, restrict the use of programs for affordable housing and solar power, and violate privacy. Supporters said the city's interpretation was inaccurate, dishonest and intended to scare voters.

So which is it?

Actual wording of the amendments:
Save our Springs Charter Amendment
Open Government Online Amendment

Open Government -- Worth our Privacy?

S.O.S. Alliance

Joyful Living and Unschooling

The unschooling philosophy is that people will learn what they need to learn by living life freely and joyfully in an environment that supports who they are and is rich enough for them to both explore their interests and stumble across new interests.

I'm not sure that I agree with this. Even if it were true, the problem then remains with providing an environment that fully supports and is rich enough for a child to really learn what he or she needs to know. In any case, I just wanted to put a link to the site because it does a pretty thorough job of presenting unschooling and how to go about it.

Saturday, April 8


Optimism or pessimism shouldn't properly be tied to specific views about economics or psychology. Some reasons for optimism are (1) fallibility - a person's understanding is likely extremely incomplete or wrong, so at any moment more information may help uncover a new good solution (2) creativity - this might be essentiall the same as coming up with new information or a more complete understanding, but I'm thinking of it as looking at the situation from a different perspective completely. One might be looking at the same information with a different hypothesis/theory (3) pessimism might keep one from trying to find or recognizing a solution.

I suppose the last might not be a reason for optimism so much as a reason to remain open to being wrong about pessimism if it were just a matter of recognizing a solution. It's been my experience, though, that my chances of finding a good solution is highly dependent on whether I really look for one. A weird other factor is that I tend to think of a good solution after I've finally fully accepted my bad solution and it worked "ok" but not as well as I would have liked. I suspect that I start out thinking a problem can't be solved and the immediacy of the problem is occupying my mind. Even a bad solution eases stress and frees up my mind enough to really explore those other possibilities, and I'm just stubborn enough to keep looking even after the problem is (badly) solved. It can be frustrating, but luckily the solutions often turn out to be reusable for other situations.

Wednesday, April 5

Questions about Development

What is it?

Positive change, Growth, improvement, the better use of resources, the acquisition of resources

I think it goes further than that. It includes sustained improvement and perhaps even structured improvement.

Economically, it would be about the improvement of production and general availability of goods and services. Socially, it might be about the improvement of relationships - people getting better at interacting well with each other. Political development might be something similar to social development. Is it structured social development? I suppose a society could have an unstructured system of interaction. Does that mean they don't have any political development?

Structure might be a misleading term to use here. When I think of politics, I think of a community coming together to make rules about how they will interact - something that includes enforcement. Social development might be improvement of relationships that are outside the scope of politics. For example, people might hold open a door for the next person or they might not. If there's no law regarding whether people have to do it or not, then it's a social issue. A more socially developed society might tend to hold the door open for the next person.

Then again, law and enforcement doesn't seem totally unrelated. Laws can be difficult to enforce if they are socially unacceptable to a large percentage of the population.

Tuesday, April 4

More about Professor Pianka

It was pointed out to me that there is some controversy as to whether Professor Pianka actually expressed joy, amusement or a wish for the deaths of billions of people by ebola.

I find it interesting also that Mr. Mims of the smiling electrons is an advocate of the creation science "theory" (I don't know if that's the proper scientific term for it). Anyhow, it would be a mild relief to find out that at least one less person (and possibly a whole roomful) don't actually wish for the deaths of 5 billion people - even theoretically.

I'll be curious to see what comes out of this.

The Doomsday Professor and There Are No Electrons

A University of Texas biology professor has been targeted by talk radio, bloggers and vitriolic e-mails — including a death threat — after a published report that he advocated death for most of the population as a means of saving the Earth.

This isn't new to me. I've been well aware of some of the more extreme views in the environmentalist movement. I was a little surprised to read that the professor received a standing ovation for his speech. Still, it didn't merit even an eyebrow raise from me. I guess I've seen too much.

A few others were able to muser a bit more outrage. It does concern me that this professor is speaking to impressionable young people. Most of them will hopefully come to have more empathy for the rest of the human race, but it does worry me that a random nutter might find this just the bit of encouragement and information that is needed.

I don't think one can really live life worrying all the time about the random fringe mass murderer. However, openly reveling in the idea of the deaths of billions of people dying just seems wrong. It's elevating "nature" to a moral ideal and then separating "nature" from "human" - as if humans were outside nature. If someone suggested that some (non-human) animal is overpopulating the world and ought to be wiped out be a disease, I don't think he'd find it quite so funny.

It's like what Shawn Carlson says in his article:
Pianka, however, is an evolutionist who believes that humanity is not part of the natural world. Somehow, the fact our evolution led us to a point whereby we can adapt our environment to our bodies, rather than wait for our bodies to adapt to our environment, puts us in an inferior position in nature.

It occurred to me that maybe he and his students should be made to go help out in places where people are dying of ebola. Then again, perhaps they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the stuff.

What this whole thing has made me aware of is how easy it is for me to become indifferent about things. I'm really not seriously bothered about what he said. Maybe I should be. I remember thinking such things in my more impressionable youth. I don't think I would have actually been happy about such a thing. Perhaps he and his students wouldn't really be either.

Some might suggest that only a young person could be "excused" for holding such a mixed up belief because as they learn they'll likely give it up and become more "reasonable". A man of the professor's years should know better. Really, though, there is no accounting for what any particular person might know. If the guy's spent most of the last 15 years with animals, he's going to have a different set of knowledge than a guy that's spent them with people. A young person who's been cared for and helped a lot by people, though, is going to be horrified at the idea of people like the ones who've been there for her might die.

Ah well, enough rambling. Just one last thing. If you recognize the name of Forrest Mims - it's because he's the guy that draws the smiling electrons. It's a decent introduction to electronics although I personally found There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings more amusing.

I'm told the latter doesn't really explain things properly. I wouldn't know as I still haven't got around to finishing either of them.