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What if we discover the biological location of qualia?

by Crowhill on 10 February 2016

I think most of you know the basics about qualia. It’s the subjective part of a perception. It’s the “what does it feel like” of seeing red, or riding a horse, or any other experience.

Some people say that qualia is an inherently non-physical thing, because our notion of physicality seems to preclude the idea of subjectivity.

But let’s say — for the sake of argument — that a brain scientist isolates where qualia are controlled.

Here’s what I mean. We’ve all had that experience where we’ve been driving for ten minutes, and we suddenly realize that we were mentally elsewhere the entire time. We don’t remember turning, or braking, or stopping at lights, or any of that stuff. We did it all, apparently, but we did it all in some weird state.

So it seems that we are able to recognize — at least after the fact — when we are not experiencing that internal “what it feels like” quality.

Imagine that a guy is conscious on the operating table during brain surgery, and the surgeon has been poking around here and there and asking the guy questions, and suddenly the guy says, “Wow, what’s been going on for the last ten minutes? I have no recollection of it?”

IOW, he was still carrying on a conversation with the surgeon, but without any self-awareness of the experience.

The surgeon is able to duplicate it with other people. He presses the right button in the brain, and the person continues to carry on as a normal human being, but when the button is pressed again, the person has the experience of having not been consciously aware.

I’m not exactly sure how you could prove that the person wasn’t consciously aware during that time. Pressing the button might be doing something entirely different. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that after lots of investigation we have good enough proof that we are able to create philosophical zombies by pressing this button.

Now, assume that with this knowledge it’s possible to genetically engineer people with that button automatically pressed, so that they actually are philosophical zombies.

In one sense, they would be un-people. Some would believe that it would be okay to enslave them, or use them for soldiers, or experiment on them, or whatever.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-10  ::  Crowhill

Yes, Trump is scary, but hardly terrifying

by Crowhill on 10 February 2016

I didn’t expect to like this article, but I read it out of a sense of duty. I need to hear what the other side is saying. Not that I’m a Trump supporter! But I do want to know what the hysterical left is hysterical about.

The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics, by Ezra Klein.

It scans with the standard nonsense from the left, e.g.,

  • building a wall = racism
  • limiting immigration = racism
  • limiting Muslim immigration = unconstitutional religious discrimination
  • refusing to be PC = whatever -ism you have handy

Etc. It’s very tiresome in that regard. But it does make some good points.

He says Trump shows “the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.” Thrown in among the nonsense accusations, he correctly calls Trump a bully and a dilettante.

“He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.”

Honestly, a lot of these criticisms remind me of Obama, who is a bully in a different way, but he tends towards snark rather than bombasity.

Anyway, I agree that Trump is scary in many of the ways Klein says. What I’m not sure of is whether those are the things we should be particularly scared about.

We have a commander in chief who wants the Armed Forces to pick their sidearm based on gun control priorities (rather than, say, it being a lethal and effective sidearm). He considers global warming to be our chief threat, and he shoveled a path for Iran to get a nuke.

We have a Congress that is unable or unwilling to stand up to Obama’s unconstitutional power grabs. Our debt is out of control, and our economic engine — despite lots of “stimulus” — is tepid at best. Our Supreme Court has several justices who believe in creating law out of whole cloth.

In short, there are lots and lots of things to be worried about. Trump’s temper and temperament is worrisome, but … I wouldn’t put it at the top of the list. As Trump rightly said in the first debate, “we don’t have time for tone.”

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-10  ::  Crowhill

What I’d like to happen in NH

by Crowhill on 9 February 2016

Here’s what I would like to happen in the Republican primaries, starting today.

  1. The establishment repudiated and embarrassed so badly it creates a reform movement in the Republican party.
  2. Someone nominated who can get elected.
  3. Preferably a governor, or at least someone who has “made consequential decisions,” as Christie so aptly put it.
  4. Someone nominated who is committed to rolling back federal power.

So … who is that?

1. Trump and Carson are the biggest pokes in the eye to the establishment, but they are my last choices among all the Republican candidates. Next in line as pokes in the establishment’s eye would be Cruz and Fiorina, I guess. I’m not excited about either of them.

2. The only truly unelectable candidate running is Carson, IMO, because he’s so clearly in over his head. I’m worried about Cruz’s electability because he’s such an odd fellow and rubs people the wrong way. Even me, and I mostly agree with him on policy issues. The rest of them have various pluses and minuses.

3. Bush, Kasich and Christie are the remaining governors in the race. I don’t want another Bush and I don’t like Kasich, so of the three I would lean towards Christie, but … I really don’t want him either. Fiorina has been responsible for big decisions, but I’m not sure that’s going to be a plus for her.

4. The only two candidates who seem truly committed to rolling back federal power are Cruz and Fiorina. The rest pay it lip service, but I don’t think it drives them.

I’m not sure where that leaves me. With Fiorina? She’s incredibly sharp and articulate, but for some reason I’m not thrilled with her candidacy.

How would you parse this?

Oh … and on the Democratic side I hope Clinton does better than expected. I want her inevitable fall to be an absolute catastrophe for the Democratic Party, so the better she does, the more consequential that will be.

9 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-09  ::  Crowhill

What “get some perspective” means

by Crowhill on 8 February 2016

Every once in a while I see some exhortation to rise above — to see that we’re all in this together, or we only have one planet, or we need to solve this for the children, or … whatever. The point is to make all our partisan bickering seem small and inconsequential.

Okay, that’s usually true, and that sort of attitude adjustment can help in some cases. It’s easy to descend into pettiness.

But once the attitude is adjusted, you still have to do something, and then you’re back in the weeds, and all the differences of opinion about how to do that thing come flooding back into the discussion.

I suspect that most people think it’s only the other guy who needs to get some perspective.

“He’s only being difficult because he’s not thinking of the children” (or whatever), and once he gets his head adjusted he’ll come over to my, sensible point of view.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-08  ::  Crowhill

Thoughts on tonight’s debate

by Crowhill on 6 February 2016

I think I may be done with Rubio. His answer on drafting women was horrendous and it disturbed me.

I’m also pretty disgusted with Christie, for two reasons.

First, in previous debates he pretended that he was taking the high road and wouldn’t attack other Republicans, but tonight he showed that was just a tactical decision that he would abandon as necessary.

Second, his answer about abortion — that a mother is “defending herself” by having an abortion in a case of rape or incest — was ridiculous and awful.

So … who’s left? I’m not excited about anybody. I say this very reluctantly, but … Bush is looking better. I don’t want Bush, but … who?

2 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-06  ::  Crowhill

“If not Sanders then Trump”

by Crowhill on 6 February 2016

Generally speaking, the people who call in to CSPAN radio are required to sniff glue for 12 years before they call, but from time to time you get some interesting calls, and it is an interesting peek into how people think.

I just heard a black woman say that she’s going to vote for Sanders, but if he doesn’t get the nomination then she’ll vote for Trump.

That sounds like a strange choice from the perspective of the liberal-conservative divide, but her main concern was about immigration and that the system is rigged.

The next caller claimed to be an Evangelical Christian who believes in small government, and she wants to vote for Hillary.

People are weird, and they’re motivated by strange things.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-06  ::  Crowhill

“But I’m a woman!!!”

by Crowhill on 5 February 2016

Hillary Clinton must be very frustrated.

She thought she was the best candidate back in 2008. Then this freshman Senator comes out of nowhere and gets everybody excited about hope and change, and she — the inevitable one — the one who was going to make history — fades.

“It’s because he’s black,” she must have thought. “We’re tearing down the barriers and overcoming our prejudices, and maybe people were more comfortable crossing that one first. Okay, I can live with that (grrrrr). But my time will come.”

So here we are at her time, and she’s still struggling. She’s not getting the coronation she thought she was due. And it’s not like the guy who’s beating her represents some oppressed minority. He’s an old white guy.

(Okay, he’s not beating her yet, but polls say they’re essentially tied.)

In her heart of hearts I can hear her screaming: “I’m a woman! You should be excited about that, you ignorant Neanderthals!”

8 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-05  ::  Crowhill

Can Angela Merkel turn Afghans into Germans?

by Crowhill on 4 February 2016

This is definitely worth your time.

3 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-04  ::  Crowhill

Is an attack on one religion an attack on all religions?

by Crowhill on 4 February 2016

That’s what our genius president said yesterday.

If we’re serious about freedom of religion, we have to understand that an attack on one faith is an attack on all of our faiths

That is manifestly ridiculous. Why does he get away with saying such complete rubbish?

Is an attack on Scientology an attack on all faiths? Is an attack on Jedi-ism an attack on all faiths? What about that stupid flying spaghetti monster thing?

The idea that we have to respect all religions equally is vapid nonsense.

4 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-04  ::  Crowhill

Will American fathers allow their daughters to be forced to register for the draft?

by Crowhill on 3 February 2016

Yesterday I mentioned how it seems that if you push something far enough, it gets so silly that it turns on itself. I read something along those lines today on this page.

At the far right side is anarchy, which means there is no government at all, although the resulting chaos usually means that people have no control either. (Ironically, anarchy usually ends when a strong man takes over and creates a totalitarian regime.)

Feminism seems to be doing this now. It’s gone so far, and is so stupid, that its stupidity is becoming too obvious to ignore.

Army, Marine Corps Generals Say Women Should Have To Register For The Draft

It follows from feminist reasoning. If we’re all equal, why shouldn’t women have to register?

But it may be the poison pill that turns the tide on feminism. It may be that this will be a step too far, and fathers will rise up against it. And then, maybe, people will have the sense to question the stupid ideas that got us to this point.

5 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-02-03  ::  Crowhill

2016-02-02 :: Crowhill // General
And the Big Story is …
2016-02-02 :: Crowhill // General
“Allowing parents”
2016-02-01 :: Crowhill // General
If I hosted the debate …