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Why do the dots disappear?

Why Evolution Is True

This is one of the most baffling illusions I’ve ever seen. Take a look at the gif below.  First, look at any yellow dot as the figure moves. The yellow dot remains present and stationary. If you concentrate on all three yellow dots, they remain there as well.
But now concentrate on the central green dot. You will see one or more of the yellow dots disappearing and then reappearing sporadically. They are not—this is an optical illusion. The dots remain and your brain simply doesn’t register their presence from time to time. Weird, eh?

anigif_enhanced-16656-1408614979-1

An article by John Whitfield in Nature News, “A brain in doubt leaves it out,” explains the phenomenon:

Yoram Bonneh, of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, and colleagues have been showing people a swirling pattern of blue dots superimposed on some stationary yellow dots1. [JAC: for some reason the…

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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Science: it works bitches!

 

I always wondered about this

Why Evolution Is True

by Matthew Cobb

I have a student who is writing a dissertation about the evolution of opsins – molecules that respond to light, which we use to see with. These molecules apparently have their origins deep in evolutionary time, long before there were animals, perhaps going back to 3.5 billion years, shortly after the appearance of life. While I was reading a draft, I wondered why organisms that use electromagnetic radiation for clocks and seeing (like us) and those that use it for getting energy (like plants, algae and cyanobacteria) all use pretty much the same part of the electromagnetic spectrum – the ‘visual’ spectrum. No organism can detect X-rays or radio waves (which are at opposite ends of the EM spectrum). Why not?

Unlike Jerry, I use Twitter, so I asked my tweeps why no organism can detect radio waves. Many of the answers fell into these three groups:

•…

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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Science: it works bitches!

 

The Scale of the Universe

This is pretty cool:

http://htwins.net/scale2/

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Science: it works bitches!

 

Are Science and Religion Compatible?

No.

On the face of it, most people assume the positive, since there are religious scientists. Or because there are many scientific discoveries that were uncovered by religious people. Et cetera. But this is a massively simplistic view of the problem.

First of all, this phenomenon of religious scientists is, in my opinion, adequately explained by thinking of science, or the scientific method, as a sort of social ritual. In this view, the scientific method is just another social forum, like playing football. You don’t use the rules of football for religion, duh! That would make no sense; you don’t bring footballs to church and you don’t bring Jesus to the football field (unless you’re Tim Tebow…). Just like football has a bunch of rules designed only for playing football, religious scientists also believe that there are social rules for doing science. And again, you don’t bring the social rules, the agreed upon social contract for “doing science”, to church anymore than you bring the social rules for churchgoing to the lab.

Play the rules of the game — whether the scientific method or football — according to the letter, and you will be successful in that arena. Falsifiability is restricted to the domain of science just like not going offsides before the snap is restricted to the football field. So in this sense, religion is compatible with science just like religion is compatible with football.

Secondly, this papers over the pretty uncontroversial human activity of rationalization. Much like a vegetarian who eats meat but uses some rationalization to explain away why their meat eating isn’t inconsistent with their vegetarianism.

If my reasoning above is true, then they both explain why science and religion are “compatible”. Of course, this means “compatible” in only the most superficially coincidental ways. Much like being a nice guy is compatible with being a rapist. Of course, if my reasoning above is true, then this in and of itself means that science and religion are not compatible. Why? Because when we talk about compatibility, we means occurring at the same time at the same place. Religious scientists do not practice both religious thought and scientific thought at the same time because they consider them to be two separate social contracts; they’re no more compatible than oil and water. Just because you can have both oil and water in the same glass this doesn’t mean they’re compatible.

The pithy saying (and equivocation fallacy) “science tells us how the heavens go, religion tells us how to go to heaven” is itself a ringing endorsement of the bullshit idea that science and religion are compatible. Not only that, but as an aside, “heaven” is the translation of the word οὐρανός (ouranos) which was transliterated into Latin as Uranus. Which is how I feel about the whole thing ;-).

So really, if you want to bypass all of this argumentation when we get to the question of whether science and religion are compatible, instead of asking that question one should ask whether religious claims are falsifiable. If you say yes, then that answers your question of whether science and religion are compatible. If you say no, then this is also the answer to whether science and religion are compatible.

But if we look at the fundamental premises behind the epistemology of religiosity and the epistemology of the scientific method, there is a massive, irreconcilable contradiction.

Science, more than just assuming the natural, assumes reductionism. Big things can be broken down into their constituent parts and analyzed bit by bit. And then those constituent parts themselves can be further broken down, and those parts can be analyzed. The budding engineer who takes apart a radio or computer is assuming the necessary precursor for scientific thinking. Religion, on the other hand, is vehemently not reductionist. The fundamental particle in religious thought is not the quark, gluon, or Higgs-Boson. It’s the mind. Of course, this doesn’t apply wholesale to modern religions like Christianity but for older religious thought like animism. But Christianity still has the mind as the fundamental particle for living things.

So not only are science and religion incompatible, they will never be compatible due to reductionism. Unless and of course the mind actually is a fundamental particle instead of being an emergent property of the reducible brain.

Of course, I don’t think that science is just some sort of social ritual. I think things like falsifiability follows necessarily from the laws of logic. So religion isn’t just incompatible with science. It is incompatible with logic.

 

The Templeton Foundation Asks Neil DeGrasse Tyson If The Universe Has a Purpose

These are all arguments I’ve made before and are scattered all throughout my blog. The one argument I wanted to expand on, which NDT skimmed over, is the idea that the existence of god must give your life meaning.

If god did exist, and did give you meaning, what’s god’s reason for existence? If god has no reason for his existence, then your reason – being tied to god’s – also has no reason.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in rationality, Science: it works bitches!

 

We Are The 1%

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Science: it works bitches!

 

An Analogy For the Progression of Science

A while back I was having a conversation with someone who professed to work with undead spirits and the supernatural. As you know, I don't think that appealing to the supernatural is a good explanation for whatever phenomenon we are attempting to describe. As a matter of fact, from a Bayesian point of view, it's much more likely that a naturalistic explanation that has an intrinsically higher prior probability, that can also explain the phenomena, is the better candidate for explanation.
 
I didn't actually get into a full-blown arguement with this person, I just sort of asked some Socratic-dialog like questions to see if she could quell my skepticism. One of the things I asked was how it was that these ghosts and other supernatural beings intake useful energy and release non-useful energy. She didn't seem to understand what I was asking, so I used a car and the human body as an example. Gasoline/food goes in, heat/methane/CO2 goes out. She simply asserted that supernatural beings consume "electromagnetic energy". This was an obvious attempt at using the literary genre of science to make it sound like she was doing actual science, but I obviously saw through that (i.e. I asked "what do you mean by that?" but she couldn't answer, since there are multiple types of E-M radiation).
 
What she then said was that science was wrong in the past, so it will probably be wrong in the future, and used the shift from a geocentric view of the universe to a heliocentric view of the universe as an example. "Laws of physics" she said, "were completely overwritten in the past, so they will be overwritten in the future". Therefore, she will be vindicated in some future physics that will show that her beliefs were always compatible with science. I actually do think that will happen, but not from the physical sciences. The part of science that will shed light on why she believes what she does will probably come up in neurology and psychology, or other areas of cognitive science, not from the physical sciences. Well, that part is already available, it's just that this scientific knowledge hasn't become common knowledge. Yet.
 
Anyway, if I had been thinking faster, I would have corrected her misrepresentation of the progression of science with the analogy I'm about to write. But all I could say was that previous theories were never really overturned, it was just that newer theories were less wrong than previous ones.
 
So yeah, here is the analogy: Imagine you live in an apartment building Harlem and you attempt to draw a map of all of New York City. Let's say you've never been outside of the block that your apartment building is on. This map might be accurate for say, your immediate neighborhood, but it won't be accurate for all of NYC. Let's say, then, that you decide to walk a 10 block radius around your apartment. Again, this map might be more accurate than your previous map; it will be accurate for the 10 block radius around your apartment and a bit beyond, but it still won't be accurate for all of NYC. Next, let's say that eventually, you decide to walk all around Manhattan island and then attempt another map of NYC. Again, this map will be more accurate than your previous maps, but it won't be accurate for the entirety of NYC.
 
Each update to this map, as you explore more and more of NYC with your own eyes, will be more accurate than your previous maps until you've been to all of NYC. Moreover, you will be able to see the logical evolution of these maps and why the previous maps got what they got right and got what they got wrong. No successive map will be completely unrelated to a previous map. Furthermore, each map follows a Bayesian updating scheme, where new information is included into previous information.
 
The scientific model of knowledge progression that the psi-ist person was promulgating was a wholly unBaeysian progression of science. As Isaac Azimov wrote, they think that one day science will say that the Earth is a sphere, and then the next day science will say that the Earth is a rectangle, the next day a trapezoid, the next day a donut, etc. None of those models has any logical progression between them, and none of those models follows any sort of Bayesian updating. They are just random.
 
So the next time I encounter someone who attempts to appeal to some future physics that will one day vindicate their psi beliefs, I'll have to remember to use that map analogy to set them on the correct path. Hopefully, any reader(s) of my blog will do the same 😉
 
 
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