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Big bang explosion in space

Round 3: Egnor vs Papineau: The Big Bang Has No Natural Beginning

In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself

Michael Egnor begins this portion of the discussion by asking What caused the Big Bang? What causes the singularities at the core of black holes? (Yesterday, we published materialist philosopher David Papineau’s reply to neurosurgeon Michael Egnor. For Egnor’s opening statement, go here. Starts, roughly, at 21:30 min: David Papineau: I don’t think it’s a coherent question. It’s like asking what causes the number five. I mean, you’re misapplying the notion of cause to the beginning of the material universe. … I’m not following. I said all physical effects have a physical cause, and you’re going to give me a counterexample of a physical effect that doesn’t have a physical cause, so what would that be? Note: The Big Bang,…

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Seniorenpaar mit Rollator unterwegs mit Tochter

Computer Program Predicts When Seniors Have 6 Months to Live

Developed in Canada, the program is further evidence that medicine is growing increasingly impersonal

As if we needed further evidence that medicine is growing increasingly impersonal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal has published a study that claims a computer program can predict when seniors have six months to live. From the Global News story: Amid a lack of proper support for Canadians receiving home-based support towards the end of their lives, a new risk calculator is helping predict how long seniors have left to live. The Risk Evaluation for Support: Predictions for Elder-Life in the Community Tool — dubbed ‘RESPECT’ for short — can predict death within six months, and was developed using data from more than 491,000 community-dwelling adults aged at least 50 years who used home care between 2007 and 2013. Always with the acronyms to hide…

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question mark letters

The Most “Woke” Company Could Contribute Most to Online Bias

Google has got to be one of the "Wokest" companies but there is a lesson in how Timnit Gebru got fired

Here’s a paper worth revisiting, “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” (March 3, 2021), if only for the principal author’s trouble associated with publishing it. Although Google had hired Timnit Gebru to do ethics consultation, an executive, Megan Kacholia demanded that she remove all suggestion of her affiliation. In the ensuing uproar, Gebru ended up no longer employed there. The paper in question was, in Gebru’s mind, pretty unobjectionable. It surveyed the known pitfalls of so-called large language models, a type of AI software — most famously exemplified by a system called GPT-3 — that was stoking excitement in the tech industry. Google’s own version of the technology was now helping to power the…

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Microfono tenuto in mano conferenza

Round 2: Philosopher Papineau Replies to Neurosurgeon Egnor

Dr. Papineau is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.”

Yesterday, we published a portion of the transcript of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau amd neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, in which Egnor explains how, despite early atheism, the practice of medicine led him to believe that there is a God and that the mind is not simply what the brain does. He offered three reasons. Today, here’s a transcript of David Papineau’s reply. Starts, roughly, at 9:00 min: Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist,” a form of materialism according to which “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all…

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Mind Atoms

Neurosurgeon Egnor Takes on Philosopher Papineau Round 1

In the debate, Egnor begins by offering three fundamental reasons why the mind is not the brain

Recently, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor debated philosopher David Papineau at Theology Unleashed. Papineau is considered “one of the best defenders of naturalism” (actually, as he admits, physicalism). Egnor talks about how science and the practice of medicine persuaded him that there is a God and that the mind is real. The host is Arjuna and the show is billed as “Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” What follows is a partial transcript of the first portion, with notes: Michael Egnor: Just as a little background about where I’m coming from, I was raised as a functional atheist, and I was educated as a scientific atheist, so I was an atheist for most of my life. I was a biochemistry major in college,…

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Black Hole in space

What Happens If Earth Passes Through a Black Hole—Sci-fi Saturday

This story isn’t exactly about passage through a black hole: It is a meditation on nothingness that crashes headfirst into nihilism

“Until There Was Nothing” at DUST by Paul Trillo (August 25, 2020, 5:36 min) “A philosophical video and art exploration of the Earth’s passage through a black hole.” Review: This film is actually a philosophical meditation on nothingness — the concept of non-entity, as every concept of mathematics, physics, natural law, and order vanishes. Gravity reverses itself at odd moments for no particular reason. Terrifying. Whether the filmmakers intended this or not, it is really a meditation on the way the fundamental constants of the universe work. And what would happen if they didn’t. For more, see the Kalam Constant, a philosophical proof of the existence of God. — A note re our new feature below: We sort reviewed films…

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Exoplanet

Researchers: Maybe Half of Earth-Sized Planets Missed by Studies

It’s not clear how many planets are in Earth’s size range but that is important for physics reasons for habitability as we know it

A recent study suggests that Earth-sized planets may be missed if they are orbiting one of two binary stars: Earth-sized planets may be much more common than previously realized. Astronomers working at NASA Ames Research Center have used the twin telescopes of the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, to determine that many planet-hosting stars identified by NASA’s TESS exoplanet-hunting mission are actually pairs of stars—known as binary stars—where the planets orbit one of the stars in the pair. After examining these binary stars, the team has concluded that Earth-sized planets in many two-star systems might be going unnoticed by transit searches like TESS’s, which look for changes in the light from a star when a planet passes…

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Black hole somewere in space. Science fiction. Dramatic space background. Elements of this image were furnished by NASA

A Choice Between Saving One’s Child and Oneself — Sci-fi Saturday

Is life always so simple? Well, we shall see

“Zoe” at DUST by Derek Abel, 2019 and uploaded to DUST, June 21, 2021, 4:58 min) ZOE and her FATHER have lived in space all their lives. The space station they call home is about to explode. Their only chance of survival is an old escape pod but there’s only room for one. Review: The film is very well done technically and the actors are veterans. Zoe is played by Zahlee Moore and her dad by Luke Reeves. That said, the ending seemed too saccharine, too soft. No real sacrifice was required. Not like “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) which gives a much better sense of what would probably really happen. In “The Wreck… “:…

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Left-handed woman writing in notebook at wooden table, closeup

Aliens Who Landed Here Would Just Starve, Science Writer Predicts

We tend to assume that any life form could live with our complicated chemistry but what if — fundamentally — not?

NASA has — quite recently — stopped being snarky about aliens. That does not make them true. It just means we don’t have to live with the snark now. Which makes it easier to think. Will Lockett makes the point at Medium that if extraterrestrials did land on Earth, they would probablystarve to death: The way life forms work (at least, the only ones we know) involves chirality: All living organisms are based upon certain ‘mirror’ isomers of amino acids. Although normal chemical reactions produce right and left mirrors in equal amounts, often called a ‘racemic mixture’, the proteins which constitute the organelles in living cells are composed entirely of right handed forms of sugars and left handed forms of…

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Frightened guilty dog pug looking sad at camera.

Is Fear the Same Thing for a Human Being as for an Animal?

Psychiatrist Joseph Ledoux has thought about that; it’s a complex problem

Recently, we looked at consciousness from the perspective of Joseph LeDoux’s recent book, A Deep History of Ourselves (1919). Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett situates his work at Nature, offering an interesting qualification: LeDoux, an academic at New York University in New York City, is best known for his research on fear, and for carefully mapping the brain circuit centred on the amygdala — a knot of neurons in the medial temporal lobe. The amygdala, he showed, has a crucial role in non-conscious, defensive behaviour responses such as freezing or fleeing. His conclusion, based on the assumption that all mammalian amygdala circuits are structurally similar, was that all mammals (including humans) share these responses. He described this work in The Emotional…

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Laptop computer displaying 'we control' sign

Is Facebook Anti-Science or Was That Just a Bad Mood It Was In?

The curious case of the scientist who spoke up about possible misrepresentations of research points up the problem with Big Tech social media today

University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta recently learned the hard way about the imbalancesof Facebook censorship. On June 19, the company flagged a 2015 post written by University of Florida geneticist Kevin Folta. What was his offense? Folta took two anti-pesticide activists to task for making misleading statements about the weed killer glyphosate. They falsely claimed the herbicide causes cancer and alleged that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) acknowledged the causal link between the two. Cameron English, “Social Media Censorship: Scientist Corrects Anti-GMO Silliness, Facebook Threatens To Ban Him” at American Council on Science and Health (June 22, 2021) Folta, Cameron tells us, was informed that “his post violated Facebook’s ‘community standards’ and warned that his account may…

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concept of Different emotions drawn on colorfull cubes, wooden background.

Emotion Recognition Software Use Spreads While Science Is Doubted

Emotional recognition software has been coming under fire for misuse and racial bias for some time

An editor at AI Trends notes The global emotion detection and recognition market is projected to grow to $37.1 billion by 2026, up from an estimated $19.5 billion in 2020, according to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets. North America is home to the largest market. John P. Desmond, “Market for Emotion Recognition Projected to Grow as Some Question Science” at AI Trends (June 24, 2021) But the software has been coming under fire for misuse and racial bias for some time: “How people communicate anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise varies substantially across cultures, situations, and even across people within a single situation,” stated the report, from a team of researchers led by Lisa Feldman Barrett, of Northeastern University,…

Coronavirus 2019-nCov novel coronavirus concept resposible for asian flu outbreak and coronaviruses influenza as dangerous flu strain cases as a pandemic. Microscope virus close up. 3d rendering.

COVID-19’s Origins: Uses and Misuses of the Explanatory Filter

How a critic of intelligent design theory misunderstands the application of design inference

Last year in July a prominent critic of intelligent design theory, Dr. Adam Shapiro, took the Discovery Institute to task for not debunking the lab origin theory. He says, Behe seems to miss an opportunity to demonstrate that intelligent design theory shows how those pathways are not irreducible complex. Adam Shapiro, “Did Intelligent Design Just Miss Its Corona Moment?” at American Scientist and, How better to demonstrate its own apolitical nature than to apply its scientific process to debunk the Chinese lab myth? Adam Shapiro, “Did Intelligent Design Just Miss Its Corona Moment?” at American Scientist First of all, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of ID. ID theory is only resilient against false positives, not false negatives, as Dr. Ewert…

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Monument Of Chinese Communist Party At Tiananmen Square

Chinese Communist Party: 100 Years of Erasing, Rewriting History

Tiananmen Square: Anyone born after 1980 has no idea that the People’s Liberation Army turned against the demonstrators in front of a gate whose name is “Heavenly Peace.”

“The regime wants us to forget. I hope to use my camera to remember…We are resisting in our memories. We are resisting forgetfulness.” – Kiwi Chow, documentary filmmaker in Hong Kong, referring to the events in Hong Kong in 2019, “In a Scarred Hong Kong, ‘Beautiful Things Are Gone’” Reuters, June 29, 2021 The centenary commemoration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Mao Zedong in 1921 commemorates a myth. The party was founded on July 23, but this year’s celebrations commenced July 1, which coincides with the date of the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997. According to China Digital Times, July 1 has a nice symmetry to the dates of the founding of the…

Robotic Hand Assisting Person For Signing Document

Can a Robot Hold a Patent?

The boring answer is no, but the question raises intriguing thoughts about AI and intellectual property law

Since the late 1800s, people have been intrigued by robots. There’s something strange, wonderful, but sometimes scary about walking, talking, thinking machines, especially when in human form. Talking about “whether a robot can hold a patent” is bound to intrigue humanoids.  Mute the Robot Sound Bite In June 2021, we started considering the provocatively titled podcast transcript, “Can a Robot Be Arrested? Hold a Patent? Pay Income Taxes?”, posted on the IEEE Spectrum site. Steven Cherry interviewed Ryan Abbott, physician, lawyer, and professor, about these topics and referencing his 2019 book, The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law. Our previous discussion, “Can a Robot be Arrested and Prosecuted?”, addressed criminal liability for crimes committed by artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Now we consider: “Can a…

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Charting Consciousness.

Consciousness Is Mainly a Problem for Materialists

If you are not a materialist, there is no problem with understanding consciousness

Psychiatrist Joseph LeDoux, author of The Deep History of Ourselves (2019), offers an extract at Aeon, musing on the mystery of consciousness. In a way, his approach typifies the problem with the wholly materialist approach to the mind and the brain: Like all living things, humans are organisms, biological entities that function as physiological aggregates whose constituent parts operate with a high degree of cooperation and a low degree of conflict. But unlike other organisms, humans possess a rogue component – a brain network that can, at will, choose to defect and undermine the survival mission and purpose of the rest of the body. This is the network that underlies human consciousness, and especially our capacity for autonoetic, or reflective,…

Robot prints on a typewriter

The Great American Novel Will Not be Written by a Computer

It takes more than statistical genius to understand words and create works of art

I’ve written before about how computer algorithms are like Nigel Richards, the New Zealander who has won multiple French-language Scrabble tournaments even though he does not understand the words he is spelling. Computers can similarly manipulate words in many useful ways — e.g., spellchecking, searching, alphabetizing — without any understanding of the words they are manipulating. To know what words mean, they would have to understand the world we live in. They don’t. One example is their struggles with the Winograd schema challenge — recognizing what it refers to in a sentence. Another example is the inability to answer simple questions like, “Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards if I close my eyes?” A third type of example is the brittleness of language translation programs. Yet another…

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Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

What We Lose When We Stop Losing Things

What do we lose when we stop losing things? Amidst all this finding, do we risk losing part of ourselves?

To live is to lose. We’ve all felt the anguish of losing something important — keys, wallet, phone, bags, money, opportunities, loved ones. Loss is part of the human condition. Some things we find again, some we don’t. It has been this way throughout history. But the development of Bluetooth technology in the 1990s forever changed the way we interacted with our possessions. The wireless standard — developed by a consortium of early tech companies — uses low-power short-range radio waves to connect our gear to personal-area networks known as piconets. It got its name rather serendipitously from the medieval Scandinavian king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. And just as his rule united Scandinavia, so Bluetooth networking has united our favorite tech…

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Space and Galaxy light speed travel. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

No Free Lunches: Bernoulli is Right, Keynes is Wrong

What the Big Bang teaches us about nothing

Jacob Bernoulli made a now obvious observation about probability over three-and-a-half centuries ago: If nothing is known about the outcome of a random event, all outcomes can be assumed to be equally probable. Bernoulli’s Principle of Insufficient Reason (PrOIR) is commonly used. Throw a fair die. There are six outcomes, one for each face of the cube. The chance of getting five pips showing on the roll of a die is therefore one sixth. If a million lottery tickets are sold and you buy one ticket, the chances of winning are one in a million. This reasoning is intuitively obvious.  The assumption about the die is wrong if the die is loaded. But you don’t know that. You know nothing. So Bernoulli’s PrIOR…

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June Crypto Mayhem: A Tough Month for Cryptocurrencies

What has caused the dramatic drops in Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Etherium, and NFT values?

The month of June has been tough on the world of cryptocurrencies, with the past week being especially harsh. It is difficult to pin down a single, specific cause behind the pullback, as a variety of new and nagging concerns about the viability of cryptocurrencies continue to mount. As for the price action, Bitcoin dropped like a rock down below $30k this past week, less than half of what its high in the last year has been. The meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin lost over 60% of its value, down to $0.24 from a high of $0.72 earlier this year. Etherium has been cut in half, as have many other cryptocurrencies. The NFT market, whose enthusiasm has ridden on the back of…