Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Apr 17, 2014 - 01:05pm PT
Norton-

Look up the history of the Quakers, they're the best example.

Randisi-

I don't see a lot of really happy atheists on this thread either.


Of course that brings up the question of what is happiness anyway and then you're right back in a philosophical discussion.
jstan

climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 01:26pm PT
This seems different in that the driving mechanisms of cell chemistry were identified and then circumstances in which those processes might exist naturally were sought. What with the almost daily announcements of fundamental scientific advances, in a few years we may know more on even this question. Life's "beginning" only a half billion years after material forming the earth gathered together from a dust cloud, suggests to me there may have been more than one scenario giving rise to life. It had to have been an environment rich in energy.



http://www.astronomy.com/news/2014/04/new-study-outlines-water-world-theory-of-lifes-origins


A new study describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life.
By Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California | Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Life took root more than 4 billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans, and the rest of our planet’s living kingdoms. How did it all begin?

A new study from researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the Icy Worlds team at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While scientists had already proposed this hypothesis — called “submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life” — the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory, and theoretical research into a grand unified picture.

According to the findings, which also can be thought of as the “water world” theory, life may have begun inside warm gentle springs on the sea floor, at a time long ago when Earth’s oceans churned across the entire planet. This idea of hydrothermal vents as possible places for life’s origins was first proposed in 1980 by other researchers who found them on the sea floor near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Called “black smokers,” those vents bubble with scalding hot acidic fluids. In contrast, the vents in the new study — first hypothesized by scientist Michael Russell of JPL in 1989 — are gentler, cooler, and percolate with alkaline fluids. One such towering complex of these alkaline vents was found serendipitously in the North Atlantic Ocean in 2000 and dubbed the Lost City.

“Life takes advantage of unbalanced states on the planet, which may have been the case billions of years ago at the alkaline hydrothermal vents,” said Russell. “Life is the process that resolves these disequilibria.”

Other theories of life’s origins describe ponds — or “soups” — of chemicals, pockmarking Earth’s battered rocky surface. In some of those chemical soup models, lightning or ultraviolet light is thought to have fueled life in the ponds.

The water world theory from Russell and his team says that the warm alkaline hydrothermal vents maintained an unbalanced state with respect to the surrounding ancient acidic ocean — one that could have provided so-called free energy to drive the emergence of life. In fact, the vents could have created two chemical imbalances. The first was a proton gradient where protons, which are hydrogen ions, were concentrated more on the outside of the vent’s chimneys, also called mineral membranes. The proton gradient could have been tapped for energy — something our own bodies do all the time in cellular structures called mitochondria.

The second imbalance could have involved an electrical gradient between the hydrothermal fluids and the ocean. Billions of years ago when Earth was young, its oceans were rich with carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide from the ocean and fuels from the vent — hydrogen and methane — met across the chimney wall, electrons may have been transferred. These reactions could have produced more complex carbon-containing or organic compounds — essential ingredients of life as we know it. Like proton gradients, electron transfer processes occur regularly in mitochondria.

“Within these vents, we have a geological system that already does one aspect of what life does,” said Laurie Barge from JPL. “Life lives off proton gradients and the transfer of electrons.”

As is the case with all advanced life-forms, enzymes are the key to making chemical reactions happen. In our ancient oceans, minerals may have acted like enzymes, interacting with chemicals swimming around and driving reactions. In the water world theory, two different types of mineral “engines” might have lined the walls of the chimney structures.

“These mineral engines may be compared to what’s in modern cars,” said Russell. “They make life ‘go’ like the car engines by consuming fuel and expelling exhaust. DNA and RNA, on the other hand, are more like the car’s computers because they guide processes rather than make them happen.”

One of the tiny engines is thought to have used a mineral known as green rust, allowing it to take advantage of the proton gradient to produce a phosphate-containing molecule that stores energy. The other engine is thought to have depended on a rare metal called molybdenum. This metal also is at work in our bodies in a variety of enzymes. It assists with the transfer of two electrons at a time rather than the usual one, which is useful in driving certain key chemical reactions.

“We call molybdenum the Douglas Adams element,” said Russell, explaining that the atomic number of molybdenum is 42, which also happens to be the answer to the “ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything” in Adams’ popular book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Forty-two may in fact be one answer to the ultimate question of life,” Russell joked.

The team’s origins of life theory applies not just to Earth, but also to other wet rocky worlds.

“Michael Russell’s theory originated 25 years ago, and in that time, JPL space missions have found strong evidence for liquid water oceans and rocky sea floors on Europa and Enceladus,” said Barge. “We have learned much about the history of water on Mars, and soon we may find Earth-like planets around faraway stars. By testing this origin-of-life hypothesis in the lab at JPL, we may explain how life might have arisen on these other places in our solar system or beyond and also get an idea of how to look for it.”

For now, the ultimate question of whether the alkaline hydrothermal vents are the hatcheries of life remains unanswered. Russell says the necessary experiments are jaw-droppingly difficult to design and carry out, but decades later, these are problems he and his team are still happy to tackle.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Apr 17, 2014 - 02:27pm PT
So substitute climber for meditator in the above statement and you get a classic view of what a substantial amount of people think of climbing (PSP)

I would never expound, nor would I think the general public assume, that a climber creates a vacuum in their mind and entirely abandons reason. But it is true that climbing is a narcissistic pursuit and rarely if ever contributes to society, an exception being its therapeutic value on occasion. But if you are a climber aiming at first ascents or pushing standards that's an entirely personal agenda - you're "pursuing your dream" and you're on your own in my opinion.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 17, 2014 - 03:43pm PT
Because most western meditation traditions are heavily influenced by psychology and the recovery movement, with its emphasis on service, virtually all recognized meditation groups and sanghas have community outreach programs at the core of their activities, most often working with the homeless, with addicts, and with people in institutions. This is all volunteer work and people are dedicated to it. I have never once seen this work used as a rercuitment device or as a vehicle to "preach," as Dingus loves to rant about. What would they preach - sit down and be quite?

As I said all along, meditation is a group activity, and here in the west, service is at the core of the practice. I haven't mentioned that here because I considerd this more of a forum for ideas. But the idea that meditation has contributed NOTHING to the betterment of society is yet another guess from the short side of the line, and not a accurate one in my experience.

Some of you might find the following 2006 article by neuroscientist Sam Harris instructive - it deals with a bunch of scientists who went on a week long mindfuilness retreat, one of the "softer" retreat formats out there.
http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/a-contemplative-science

Below, a meditation outreach program in San Fran.

Credit: Largo
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 04:00pm PT
meditation is a group activity

So is this...



and this...



Whatever rings your amygdala, I guess.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 04:04pm PT
What would they preach - sit down and be quite?

This is good to know that these meditating groups are not like our own resident meditators who consistently preach the unwarranted claim that the "experiential sciences" have the inside track , the tuba skinny, on what science cannot verify with measurements alone.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Apr 17, 2014 - 04:06pm PT
Some BIG footprints on the rice paper, for sure.

They said Hey Zeus walked on the water
I doubt that its true
but sometimes I think that preacherman
would like to do a little walking too....

DMT

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 04:25pm PT
Largo,

Did humans and chimps evolve from a common ancestor?

Yes or no, please.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 17, 2014 - 05:08pm PT
This is good to know that these meditating groups are not like our own resident meditators who consistently preach the unwarranted notion that the "experiential sciences" have the inside track on what science cannot verify with measurements alone.


Ward, I have provided several incontrovertible examples of an "inside track" divulging facets of reality that are totally beyond the ability of us to EVER discover through measuring alone. Have you net seen those? They are easy to understand and are not opinions or beliefs or woo.

I can understand your desire for measuring to be the new God, and to provide an ominscient POV of EVERYTHING, but as I tried to show in my last bit on Defining Sentience, measuring and objectifying is a perspective, and no perspective gives us a total picture because it cannot provide a total (omniscient) picture. This is simply expecting too much from measuring.

No matter how we look at it, human reality is one coin with two sides: objective/material/external, and subjective/experiential/internal. It is a known and easily verifiable fact of life that our subjective lives are directly accessible only to ourselves, that our experience itself is known to the host and no amount of exterior measuring of brain function can "read our minds." It is strictly Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Woo who believes that one day, calipers in hand, crimped onto some poor sap's brain pan, the Ward's or the world will be able to divine the subjective content of said brain.

In my many years of working with neurofeedback and all manner of EEGs and qEEGs, I never once was foolish enough to believe we could do anything more than see certain patterns arise indicating active brain states associated with cognitive/emotional/instinctive patterns and functions. No one in any aspect of brain mapping believes that external measuring (be it an EEG, an MRI, CT scan or whatever) will divulge the content of subjective experience itself. This is also true of the various structures that drive and underscore our subjective lives.

I used the example of Sigmond Freud and the unconscious to illustrate this point in a manner beyond any possible counterargument. That is, no amount of external measuring would ever have disclosed the unconscious, arguably the principal driver in human behavior. Only through an "inside track" (internal adventures, and exploring the subjective terrain itself) did Freud ever discover the unconscious.

Electro and biochemical examinations of the brain cannot even account for sentience, since electro and biochemical activities are see throughout Nature with no evidence of sentience therein. The examinations of these processes might someday help explain the objective functioning of the unconscious, but the discovery itself was only possible via the inside track. Sam Harris has done some interesting work on this account, and you might find it instructive. But the necessity for an subjective POV to disclose what is going on in our subjective worlds has long been know to those studying the subject. Denying such a facile fact is the stylistic equal of wearing high-water pants - not something I would necessarily put past you, Ward, but an embarrassment to you and yours none the less.

JL
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Apr 17, 2014 - 05:16pm PT
Sam Harris:

if we ever develop a scientific account of the contemplative path, speaking of “Buddhist” meditation will be synonymous with a failure to assimilate the changes that will have occurred in our understanding of the human mind.

It seems to me the Dalai Lama is saying the same thing.

And it's why I keep looking for the similarities of experiences and symbols among serious contemplatives from very different traditions. It's no coincidence that they share similarities.

I appreciate that Largo has dedicated himself so thoroughly to understanding a single path but that's not my particular path.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 05:46pm PT
I can understand your desire for measuring to be the new God, and to provide an ominscient POV of EVERYTHING,

I don't believe anything of the sort. I do believe that measuring is , and has been, one of the human races foremost tools in the long struggle for survival. The epic story of how the mind balanced various options in the natural world, weighted risks, and calculated various outcomes to insure species survival---all examples of measuring---and how that natural instrumental proclivity developed into what we now know as the investigation of the natural world , namely science, is a fascinating story---not often appreciated as such, and often intentionally ignored.
Science has this high pedigree connection with the functioning story of survival in a very direct way that other human pursuits just don't have---as laudable as they are.

To set the record straight I believe there are sources of truth and understanding in things outside of the immediate purview of science: a line of Shakespeare or Byron, or perhaps the beauty of a deep forest in the twilight before sunset, Beethoven, an impressionist painting.
I have even involved myself with a few ---and the one thing I have discovered is that merely because they are not usually the subject of scientific inquiry does not make them ipso facto therefore the hoarded expropriated domain of those that would elevate their own private ideology to the position of arbiters of what may or may not be the limits of knowledge.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 17, 2014 - 05:50pm PT
Hey Jan, I actually go to a bunch of different Sanghas just to stay sharp. Vapassana on Monday nights and Soto on Wednesdays. Ultimately, all meditation leads back to the same common source.

And Fruity, is you're playing the reductionistic game on how far back we can trace our lineage, why stop at a common ancestor/cell (Like I don't keep up on this stuff: http://news.discovery.com/animals/dinosaurs/life-single-common-ancestor.htm);. Why not ask, where did the cell come from? That's the important question, and the answer can only be three things: Either it came from nothing at all, or life and life cycles are inherent qualities in Nature, which is unborn and simply contracts and expands in an infinite cycle - or, both are true.

Ward said:

I do believe that measuring is , and has been, one of the human races foremost tools in the long struggle for survival. The epic story of how the mind balanced various options in the natural world, weighted risks, and calculated various outcomes to insure species survival---all examples of measuring---and how that natural instrumental proclivity developed into what we now know as the investigation of the natural world , namely science, is a fascinating story---not often appreciated as such, and often intentionally ignored. Science has this high pedigree connection with the functioning story of survival in a very direct way that other human pursuits just don't have---as laudable as they are.

I agree with this entirely.

JL
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 06:12pm PT
Let me take an abrupt turn , sort of off topic, and ask some questions probably having no right or wrong answer:

If a very advanced human-like android robot were to be developed (perhaps sooner than you think) that amounted to a nearly dead-on-ringer simulacrum of a human being. In other words, this android was totally indistinguishable from a real biologic human in every way, being able to show emotion and thought in facial expression, language inflection, and body language:

1) If you had a casual discussion with this android, and you knew it was a robot, how would you know it did not experience a subjective, internal life?

2) If you did not know it was a robot ---how would you know it did not experience a subjective , internal life?

Remember this is a casual conversation---like the sort you might engage in with a random stranger in the grocery line.
WBraun

climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 06:31pm PT
If you can't even answer a simple thing like this then you are just a simple mundane robot also .....
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 06:34pm PT
you are just simple mundane robot also ..

Okay.
Do you think I experience an internal , subjective life?

There is no right or wrong answer.

If I were you I would take my question seriously , because
What are you gonna do when this guy needs rescuing one day?

Credit: Ward Trotter

He's even got some quick draws hanging there, on his right side---a sure sign of sentience, or not.
WBraun

climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 06:52pm PT
You ARE controlled by your mind and senses.

The liberated souls are in full control of their mind and senses.

Big huge difference.

This why we know you and jgill are wrong about meditation
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 17, 2014 - 07:00pm PT
Before answering Ward's question, let me say that I think machine sentience, if it is ever accomplished, will be quite different than human sentience in terms of what qualia it can produce and process. I think it is much more realistic to hope that a machine might have some approximate sentience per cognitive stuff, but even if you could chart out what sentience is in far greater and more accurate detail than what I have done, you still have the very challenging issue of ratios, which are always at work, and the fact that with us humans, when we slip out of narrow focused tasking, we start having conversations with ourselves in a way that is largely autonomous to any task or external goings on. That is, the machine would have to be able to totally detach from crunching numbers et al and have the capacity to ruminate about it all and about itself and so on in a totally unprogrammed kind of way. If we were to try and factor in limbic responses (feelings), and sensatioins (brain stem), and integrate all of these and also have the ratios working in real time, the task simply seems massive.

But to answer Ward's question: This is exactly what we saw in the start of Blade Runner when an interviewer would hold focus on a suspected replicant's eye and would ask a bunch of questions till some physical response betrayed a non-human response. But so far as I know there is no way to physically prove the existence of someone else's subjective experience, or the fact that they are sentient. It does raise an interesting question and that is: what kind or manner of human behavior is beyond the reach of a programmer? Put differently, what might Ward ask his super android that would require a response not covered by his programming? Could we ever reach a degree of specificity that would surpass the ability to ever program a response? If the andriod was to ever respond in a way NOT beholden to chance, randomness, or direct programming, from whence would said response arise? Could an android actually respond in a way NOT beholden to antecednet causes or factors, where it's response was a kind of singularity, a one-off response from nowhere?

JL
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 07:01pm PT
A close-up of carabiners robots use:

Credit: Ward Trotter
go-B

climber
Cling to what is good!
Apr 17, 2014 - 07:07pm PT
Baby elephant! lol

http://www.youtube.com/embed/bu_E2f0mQmI?rel=0
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2014 - 07:10pm PT
Could an android actually respond in a way NOT beholden to antecednet causes or factors, where it's response was a kind of singularity, a one-off response from nowhere?

That is a question that partially dove-tails into the much broader and much-considered discussion of "free will" , as far as humans are concerned ,that is---or androids for that matter.

Present day computers ( such as music programs ,for instance) have a "randomness factor" that might fully , in highly augmented form ,qualify as a series of both heuristic and mysterious behavior responses in an up-scaled android. Perhaps.

If you did not know the response was in fact random how would you know that it was or was not a one-off response from nowhere?

I also agree that AI will develop along non-human models of intelligence. The computation rates will be through the stratosphere in a few years due to Moores Law. New materials and methods yet discovered will exponentially extend this whole process.

When ultra "big data" is being crunched the results will be unpredictable.

I say this as a disinterested observer.

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