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waffle
28-10-2008, 09:35 PM
Dear Friends,

We are pleased to announce that Collapse Volume V, entitled The Copernican Imperative, will be published on 15 December 2008. The volume will be available to order in advance from www.urbanomic.com from mid-November. As usual, the volume will be printed in a limited numbered edition of 1000.

The volume will include contributions from: Julian Barbour, Nick Bostrom, Gabriel Catren, Milan Cirkovic, Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, Nigel Cooke, Alberto Gualandi, Iain Hamilton Grant, Paul Humphreys, Immanuel Kant, James Ladyman, Thomas Metzinger, Carlo Rovelli, Martin Schönfeld, Conrad Shawcross, Keith Tyson and Damian Veal.

Copernicanism tore asunder the fit between the world and man's organs: the congruence between reality and visibility.
- Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the Copernican World

In his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo proclaimed, through his mouthpiece Salviati, that he could 'never sufficiently admire the outstanding acumen' of those early advocates of Copernicanism who, 'through sheer force of intellect' - that is, without even the benefit of a telescope to confirm the theory observationally - 'had done such violence to their own senses as to prefer what reason told them over that which sensible experience plainly showed them to the contrary'.

Since Galileo published his work in 1632, recognition of the deeply counterintuitive nature of scientific findings has become virtually commonplace, and the 'explanatory gap' between the 'manifest' and 'scientific' images of reality has long been a central concern for philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists alike. In this volume of Collapse, we bring together samples of the most intellectually challenging contemporary work devoted to exploring the philosophical implications of 'Copernicanism' from a variety of overlapping and complementary standpoints.

As in previous volumes, the involvement in Collapse V of several major contemporary artists alongside groundbreaking philosophers and prominent scientists is designed to open up new perspectives and new directions for thinking outside disciplinary constraints. From multiple philosophical and artistic perspectives, and from scientific fields as diverse as theoretical physics and cosmology, biology, mathematics, cognitive neuroscience, and astrobiology, the volume addresses the issues of the 'deanthropomorphisation' of reality initiated by the Copernican Revolution, the relation between scientific and philosophical (Kantian) 'Copernicanism', and the enduring gulf between the spontaneous image of the world bequeathed to us by evolution and that revealed by the physical sciences in the wake of Copernicus.

With several of the contributions in interview form, Collapse V: The Copernican Imperative will be an accessible and thought-provoking volume exemplifying that characteristic blend of speculative audacity and scientifically informed insight which has always been the hallmark of 'Copernicanism'.

Contents of Volume V will be as follows (some details subject to alteration):

In 'Anaximander's Legacy', theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli (co-founder of Loop Quantum Gravity and author of Quantum Gravity) charts the historical dynamics of science's ever more radical overturning of the commonsense image of the world from Anaximander through Copernicus to the 'unfinished revolution' of twentieth-century physics - a revolution which, suggests Rovelli, challenges us to find a way of understanding the world in the absence of the familiar stage of space and time.

Rovelli's question 'Can we think the world without time?' is one which has preoccupied renegade theoretical physicist and historian of science Julian Barbour (author of Absolute or Relative Motion? and The End of Time) for the best part of five decades. In our interview 'The View From Nowhen' we discuss the nature of his radical rethinking of the foundations of physics, his arguments for the non-existence of time and change, and the influence his ideas have exerted on contemporary quantum gravity research from outside the halls of academe.

In his contribution to the volume, Turner Prize winning artist Keith Tyson - well known for his intricate and provocative artistic displacements and extrapolations of scientific ideas - presents his own unique take on the enigma of Copernicanism.

In our interview with Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart (authors of dozens of ground-breaking popular science books, including their co-authored works The Collapse of Chaos, Figments of Reality, and What Does A Martian look Like?), we discuss with them the continuing collaboration between mathematician and biologist; the key conceptual innovations of their co-authored works; their trenchant criticisms of what they see as the overly conservative and unimaginative nature of contemporary astrobiology; and their positive programme for a new science of alien life, beyond astrobiology, which they call 'xenoscience'.

In 'Sailing the Archipelago of Habitability', cosmologist and astrobiologist Milan Cirkovic provides a sophisticated defence of anthropic reasoning (understood in terms of 'observation selection effects') against the charges brought against it by the likes of Cohen and Stewart as part of an ambitious project of laying the 'philosophical groundworks' of the nascent science of astrobiology.

In 'Where Are They?', philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom (Director of Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, author of Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy) revisits Fermi's Paradox, employing probabilistic 'anthropic' reasoning to motivate the conclusion that, far from being a cause for celebration, the discovery of extra-terrestrial life would in fact augur very badly for the future of the human race.

In his (2006) motion-sculpture Binary Star artist Conrad Shawcross gestured 'Beyond Copernicanism', simulating the experience of life in a solar system where there is 'no such thing as one'. In his contribution to the volume Shawcross investigates the relationship between his work and the philosophical trope of Copernicanism.

In an interview charting the journey 'From Copernicanism to Nemocentrism', Thomas Metzinger (philosopher of neuroscience, author of Being No One) discusses his 'self-model theory of subjectivity', the potential social and cultural ramifications of the findings of contemporary neuroscience, and responds to criticisms of his radical eliminativist position with regard to the existence of 'selves'.

In his 'Thinking Outside the Brain', philosopher Paul Humphreys (author of Extending Ourselves: Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific Method) proposes that computational science is fast displacing humans from the centre of the epistemological universe, speculates on the possibility of a 'science without humans', and presents his proposals for a radically non-anthropocentric empiricism.

The paintings of Nigel Cooke present a philosophically-informed meditation on the continual displacement of the author-subject in the history of thought and artistic representation. His contribution in the form of a series of drawings, 'Thinker Dejecta', contributes to a thinking-through of the consequences of Copernicanism from this perspective.

In our fourth and final interview, 'Who's Afraid of Scientism?', James Ladyman (philosopher of science, co-author of Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalised) discusses the forlornness of contemporary analytic metaphysics and the prospects for a radically naturalised metaphysics which would fully take on board the most counterintuitive findings of contemporary physics, finally dispensing with the habitual ontology of 'little things and microbangings' which continues to hold sway in contemporary 'pseudo-naturalist philosophy'.

In his 'The Phoenix of Nature' Martin Schönfeld (artist and philosopher of nature, author of The Philosophy of the Young Kant) presents us with a vivid picture of Immanuel Kant profoundly at odds with the recent popular characterisation of him as a conservative, anti-Copernican thinker, via a stimulating exploration of his early cosmology. Here we are presented a radically anti-anthropocentric, anti-Christian, naturalist, speculatively audacious Kant who pushes 'Copernicanism' to its limits; who abolishes the hand of God from, and introduces a history and evolution into, the Newtonian cosmos; and who as early as 1755 strongly anticipates the fundaments of what became the Standard Model of modern cosmology only in the 1930s.

[Continued below]

waffle
28-10-2008, 09:36 PM
[Continued]

To accompany his piece Schönfeld also contributes a new translation of Immanuel Kant's 'Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity in Both Space and Time', an extended excerpt from his 1755 Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens in which this astonishingly prescient cosmology of 'island universes' and the birth and death of 'worlds' is most magnificently and perfervidly portrayed.

Tackling the great philosophical 'Copernican Revolution' head-on, Iain Hamilton Grant (philosopher, author of Philosophies of Nature after Schelling) examines the 'Prospects for Dogmatism after Kant'.

In 'Copernicanism, Correlationism, Critique' Damian Veal (philosopher, editor of the volume) critically re-examines the question of the meaning of 'Copernicanism' for philosophy, providing reasons for rejecting the idea popular amongst recent 'speculative realists' that a proper philosophical assimilation of the findings of the modern sciences demands a thoroughgoing break with the Kantian critical legacy.

In 'A Throw of the Quantum Dice Will Never Overturn the Copernican Revolution' Gabriel Catren (Director of the project 'Savoir et Système' at the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris) presents what he calls a 'speculative overcoming' of recent influential quasi-Kantian interpretations of quantum mechanics. Rather than being limited to a mathematical account of the correlations between 'observed' systems and their 'observers', or pointing to the inherent 'transcendental' limits of physical knowledge, Catren argues that quantum mechanics furnishes a complete and realistic description of the intrinsic properties of physical systems, an ontology which exemplifies the Copernican deanthropomorphisation of nature.

In 'Errancies of the Human: French Philosophies of Nature and the Overturning of the Copernican Revolution', Alberto Gualandi (philosopher, author of Deleuze and Le problème de la vérité scientifique dans la philosophie française contemporain) indicates the features common to certain speculative philosophies of nature in 1960s France and problems facing contemporary evolutionary biologists.

Collapse V: The Copernican Imperative
December 2008
Eds D. Veal, R. Mackay
450+pp tbc
Limited Edition 1000 Numbered Copies
ISBN 978-0-9553087-4-1
£9.99

Mr. Tea
29-10-2008, 12:50 AM
Catren argues that quantum mechanics furnishes a complete and realistic description of the intrinsic properties of physical systems

Ah, Dirac's approach to QM: "Shut up and calculate". An underrated interpretation, I think! :) There's certainly no reason to assume a priori that the physical world ought to function, at its most fundamental level, in ways that can be understood or described by human beings in a verbal way - if we have equations that work, it may be that we have to be satisfied with having achieved this much and leave it at that.

3 Body No Problem
29-10-2008, 09:36 AM
Ah, Dirac's approach to QM: "Shut up and calculate".

The originator seems to be David Mermin (http://scitation.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_57/iss_5/10_1.shtml) rather than Dirac.

Mr. Tea
29-10-2008, 10:59 AM
The originator seems to be David Mermin (http://scitation.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_57/iss_5/10_1.shtml) rather than Dirac.

I was looking that quote up last night - it's been attributed to Dick Feynman too! I decided to go with Dirac because it seemed to fit his personality somehow, and because I hadn't heard of the Mermin guy before.

More generally, the point about de-anthropomorphising our view of the world is a necessary and interesting one. I'm especially struck by how often people come out with seemingly anti-anthropocentric statements, especially to do with the environment and evolution, about how humans are somehow an 'aberration', that evolution has 'gone wrong', that we are changing the 'course' of natural history in unnatural ways - all of which implies some sort of divine Plan which us naughty, disobedient humans are contravening. Which sounds pretty anthropocentric (to say nothing of theistic) to me.

3 Body No Problem
29-10-2008, 11:20 AM
I'm especially struck by how often people come out with seemingly anti-anthropocentric statements, especially to do with the environment and evolution, about how humans are somehow an 'aberration', that evolution has 'gone wrong', that we are changing the 'course' of natural history in unnatural ways - all of which implies some sort of divine Plan which us naughty, disobedient humans are contravening. Which sounds pretty anthropocentric (to say nothing of theistic) to me.

What strikes me is how a human could not want to be anthropocentric.

Well, maybe the evolution of humans has been extremely unlikely, and not advantageous for other species, but as a human, I have to say I care more about my perspective on evolution of species than an amoeba's.

Mr. Tea
29-10-2008, 11:40 AM
I think it's important to be as objective as possible when trying to formulate theories of the natural world, but (see the extinction thread) I think it's disingenuous to try not to be anthropocentric when talking about what we are doing, or could do, in relation to the earth at large, since we're the ones who are going to do, or not do, whatever it is we're doing. If you get me. One approach is scientific, the other is pragmatic, political and self-interested.

josef k.
29-10-2008, 04:39 PM
There's certainly no reason to assume a priori that the physical world ought to function, at its most fundamental level, in ways that can be understood or described by human beings in a verbal way...

Agreed. But there is another question here, which is: Is trying to understand how the world functions - in itself - really what science is doing?

Or does the presence of human beings in the world picture not suggest that what science is primarily concerned with is not the world as such, but the human world, such as it manifests itself to us?

Is there in fact even "a world" apart from humans? The world is a phenomenological category, it comes from German philosophy.

Do humans and termites, say, really occupy the same world?

Mr. Tea
30-10-2008, 12:55 AM
Agreed. But there is another question here, which is: Is trying to understand how the world functions - in itself - really what science is doing?

Or does the presence of human beings in the world picture not suggest that what science is primarily concerned with is not the world as such, but the human world, such as it manifests itself to us?

Is there in fact even "a world" apart from humans? The world is a phenomenological category, it comes from German philosophy.

Do humans and termites, say, really occupy the same world?

Weeeell, it depends on what one means by 'world', doesn't it? Discussions of this type are at great risk of disappearing into realms of great metaphysical waffle (Edit: unintentional waffle-rofl! :)) about whether anything can ever be said to be objectively 'true' and stuff of that nature. I think I'd summarise my position by saying that I'm pretty sure - in fact I'd put money on it - that atoms in the Andromeda galaxy work in just the same way as atoms here on earth, and that atoms a billion years ago worked in just the same way that they do now. Human scientists have a better understanding of how atoms work than they did fifty years ago, and undoubtedly will have a better understanding still in fifty years' time. So yes, termites (and quarks, amino acids and supernovae) occupy the same world that humans do.

Of course, it's only fair to acknowledge that scientists and mathematicians are also human beings, and that the sense-data they receive about the world has to be processed and modulated by human brains (even though it may have been vastly extended by microscopes, telescopes and so on) and that processes of rationalisation and calculation have been performed by neural circuits operating within human brains (again, taking into account the huge increase in computing power enabled by, well, computers). But at the same time, the very fact that the "rationalist programme", if you will (by which I mean mathematics, science, engineering, medicine and so on), has got as far as it has, is proof that whatever physico-chemical processes that occur in the lumps of warm offal we all carry around in our skulls must, at some level, be adequate to understanding the phenomena of the natural world that would quite happily carry on functioning whether we're here or not.

josef k.
30-10-2008, 05:42 PM
A fine defense. But let me note the following:

The categories - the ideal objects - of science are historically generated. The concept of the atom, for example, arises from a particular set of social and historical circumstances. This doesn't mean that everything is totally relative, but it does serve to question what exactly such concepts mean.

That is, they seem to me Janus-faced: on the one hand referring to the physical world, on the other referring to something else - that is, I think, our human perception of the world, which is socially and historically generated...

There is a great science fiction story by John Varley, called "The Opiuchi Hotline." The plot goes a little like this: in the future, humans have been exiled from Earth by beings from Jupiter, so utterly alien to us as to be beyond our understanding entirely. The book has an ecological subtext - the Jovians intervened in order to stave off a galactic threat which had something to do with the whales.

The strong, scientific idea here though is as follows: it is possible that our human understanding of the world - including the laws of hard science, theoretical physics and the claims of mathematics - is ultimately a partial, or superficial understanding, and that there are dimensions in play here of which we understand nothing...

Mr. Tea
30-10-2008, 06:22 PM
The strong, scientific idea here though is as follows: it is possible that our human understanding of the world - including the laws of hard science, theoretical physics and the claims of mathematics - is ultimately a partial, or superficial understanding, and that there are dimensions in play here of which we understand nothing...

Agreed, as far as that goes - but is there any reason, in principle, why we shouldn't understand them to at least some degree at some time in the future, as we accumulate more knowledge about reality and develop more powerful tools, both technological and intellectual, with which to analyse it?

Is the vast inequality between the humans' conception of the universe and that of the Jovian superbeings in the story necessarily qualitatively different from the 'understanding gap' between humans today and humans a thousand years ago?

josef k.
31-10-2008, 08:55 PM
With regards to the first point- I think it is undecidable. As I see it, the issue is this: We don't really know what science is; that is, the status of the objective world which science deals with is ambiguous. The method which science invokes in order to conduct its inquiries is, in the end, founded on assumptions that fall outside its scope.

I'm not saying that this implies, that, say, voodoo and the theory of gravity are on the same epistemological level; science possesses a formal rigor that distinguishes it from pseudo-science. The problem which I'm posing, though, is: what epistemological price is paid, by this formal rigor.

I think it is both necessary, and high. I also think that the term you invoke - power, and powerful tools - puts the finger on the problem. The problem of power is clearly a large one, and science is clearly conditioned by it. Could it be that human science is finally a science of power - with this term understood in its widest possible sense? And also its narrowest possible sense? There remains the possibility that the human understanding of power is ultimately a limited understanding, seen in the light of the forces that govern the universe as a whole.

In the Opiuchi Hotline, Varley suggests that the vast inequality between the Jovians and humans is analogous, not to the inequality between Man of the Dark Ages and Man of today, but rather between Man and termites. Termites, like humans, are biological creatures, possessed of a practical and technological understanding of their own environment, constituted on the basis of their own capacities. The ultimate limit, in this sense, may well be a biological one.

That said, today, biology has ceased to be destiny - and so it is indeed possible that a genetic construction of a post-human feature could yield progressively deeper understandings of the universe as we know it. But we will cease to be "us" before that happens.

Mr. Tea
02-11-2008, 12:39 AM
Hmm, I'd certainly take issue with the assertion that termites "understand" anything at all - unless, maybe, we're prepared to go into extremely hypothetical realms about the possibility of consciousness of a 'hive mind' constituted of components acting in some sense as cellular automata. Not a subject I know the first thing about, but it's undeniably a tantalising possibility. :) In fact, this whole related set of ideas such as implicate order, emergent phenomena and gestalt systems is diametrically opposed to the 'reductive scientific viewpoint' that jambo talks about in the Dawkins thread, without necessarily being any less scientific, I think. The field or meta-field of intelligence, consciousness, complex systems, emergence and cybernetics could well turn out to be the great science of this century, don't you think?

Sorry, bit of a tangent there, but it's fascinating stuff...

waffle
02-11-2008, 04:03 AM
[Edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited for expletives]

Teamite: Ah, Dirac's approach to QM: "Shut up and calculate".

You should take his advice. (Because all you're doing here is exposing yourself as an idiot scientific [not to mention metaphysical] fraudster; the average high-schooler knows more about this subject than you can muster). But we all knew that long ago).

Teamite: Weeeell, it depends on what one means by 'world', doesn't it? Discussions of this type are at great risk of disappearing into realms of great metaphysical waffle (Edit: unintentional waffle-rofl! ) about whether anything can ever be said to be objectively 'true' and stuff of that nature.

The typical pomo relativist dismissal: "Weeeell, your conception of 'world' conflicts with mine, and as mine is the one and only true for all time one, any questioning of it is all just metaphysical waffle." Teamite, child, this thread, and Josef k's contributions to it, are dealing with metaphysical concerns ('waffle', in your teamite pea-brain), whereas your contributions are childish egocentric babbling.

Teamite: that atoms in the Andromeda galaxy work in just the same way as atoms here on earth

Oh no! Oh (un)God! There's another Teamite in the Andromeda galaxy! The horror!

Teamite: atoms a billion years ago worked in just the same way that they do now.

They're everywhere, these Teamites, even in the distance past, but chemists and biologists are working all out on a new super insecticide. The Fools!

Teamite: Not a subject I know the first thing about.

Those are the only subjects you ever WAFFLE about here.

Josef K: Do humans and termites, say, really occupy the same world?

Do humans and Teamites occupy the same world? Do we even need to ask?

Mr. Tea
02-11-2008, 04:25 AM
The typical pomo relativist dismissal: "Weeeell, your conception of 'world' conflicts with mine, and as mine is the one and only true for all time one, any questioning of it is all just metaphysical waffle."

Let me get this straight: I'm a "pomo relativist" because I believe my viewpoint is the only correct and valid one? Do you even know what the word means? Do you know anything at all?

I'm reminded of the time you claimed some researchers fixed their findings on race and intelligence because they were a) Jewish and b) influenced by Nazi race doctrine. :rolleyes:

nomadthethird
02-11-2008, 04:48 AM
Mr. Tea, if you're talking about the Bell Curve [again guh], I suggest you get a copy and actually look through the data and "research." I'm sure anyone who is getting a PhD in physics will be able to spot the gigantic holes in their controls...

nomadthethird
02-11-2008, 05:02 AM
Could it be that human science is finally a science of power -

or maybe "energy"? I like this idea, either way. maybe energies are square pegs that science has squeezed into the round hole of power. Aristotle was at least honest about heirarchies and their centrality to the practice of science.

My problem with the idea that science, because it may be limited in scope by its own preconditions is therefore useless or inadequate, is that abstractions like science are never useless. Ok maybe they come running out of the same source (the unconscious) that everything else does, but so what?

I'd rather get that new liver future scientists could've made for me with stem cells from my own cord blood (or wherever, there are all these exciting new ways to get stem cells, the Japanese are doing great with this) than have to die slowly and in pain.

The only really rational act, if you ask me, is the attempt to limit the pain people feel for as long as they're forced to be alive. I think this is what science should be about.

I'd also rather believe my own eyes than someone else's absolutism. Call me crazy.

nomadthethird
02-11-2008, 05:13 AM
the very fact that the "rationalist programme", if you will (by which I mean mathematics, science, engineering, medicine and so on), has got as far as it has, is proof that whatever physico-chemical processes that occur in the lumps of warm offal we all carry around in our skulls must, at some level, be adequate to understanding the phenomena of the natural world that would quite happily carry on functioning whether we're here or not.

Interesting, this is the exact same justification/defense I use for psychoanalysis when people question its relevance/adequacy/importance/tenets/methods. If it didn't "work", if psychoanalysis weren't "on to something", the FBI wouldn't be using it (successfully) every day in criminal investigations and especially for profiling purposes.

waffle
02-11-2008, 05:29 AM
Let me get this straight: I'm a "pomo relativist" because I believe my viewpoint is the only correct and valid one?

Indeed. A pomo relativist, Mr Teamite smug solipsist.

waffle
02-11-2008, 05:33 AM
Mr. Tea, if you're talking about the Bell Curve [again guh], I suggest you get a copy and actually look through the data and "research." I'm sure anyone who is getting a PhD in physics will be able to spot the gigantic holes in their controls...

Ha! Didn't Dr Strangelove have a PhD in physics? And the Dr Strangelove of Economics, Milton Friedman, ditto in, oh I've forgotten.

nomadthethird
02-11-2008, 05:36 AM
Heh I'm sure.

I don't get why anyone would try to defend the Bell Curve with a straight face, even on the internet.

Maybe Brits didn't get the memo but the BC and all the "researchers" associated with it are a complete joke in the U.S., have been completely discredited, and we've all moved on to arguing with newer, more subtly ridiculous claims about "race"-based genetic predispositions toward intelligence...

Mr. Tea
02-11-2008, 02:41 PM
Mr. Tea, if you're talking about the Bell Curve [again guh], I suggest you get a copy and actually look through the data and "research." I'm sure anyone who is getting a PhD in physics will be able to spot the gigantic holes in their controls...

I'm not saying their research wasn't flawed - in fact if you look back at that thread you'll see me saying I think the conclusions were spurious for several reasons - I was just pointing out the idiocy in one of HMLT's/waffle's arguments as to why it was flawed.

Mr. Tea
02-11-2008, 02:54 PM
I don't get why anyone would try to defend the Bell Curve with a straight face, even on the internet.


Also, would you care to point out exactly where I did this? Look, just because something is factually or even morally wrong that doesn't give you carte blanche to make whatever statements about it you like. Am I "supporting" George Bush when I say that, as far I'm aware, he isn't a child molester?

I mentioned it because I was struck, for the umpteenth time, by our resident schizo-troll's ability to state both P and not-P in the same sentence in the apparent belief that this constitutes making a point.

waffle
02-11-2008, 04:51 PM
I'm not saying their research wasn't flawed - in fact if you look back at that thread you'll see me saying I think the conclusions were spurious for several reasons - I was just pointing out the idiocy in one of HMLT's/waffle's arguments as to why it was flawed.

Reviewing that thread, we see that you ACTIVELY defended such racist dementia, and now you're doing it yet again ("their findings on race and intelligence" as if such pseudo-science is legitimate), while disingenuously insinuating that those who exposed the basis of their lunacy are anti-semitic. Those conducting such 'tests' are predominantly Zionists while their 'science' is historically derived from 19th century racist eugenics. But strawmen are ten a bent penny in your psychic lavatory.

"I'd certainly take issue with the assertion that termites "understand" anything at all"

Bell Curve-supporting Teamites, however, Understand All.

Mr. Tea
02-11-2008, 05:14 PM
Reviewing that thread, we see that you ACTIVELY defended such racist dementia, and now you're doing it yet again

No, you just decided I was defending the study because I wasn't prepared to swallow your fundamentalist dogma that "race doesn't exist".

waffle
02-11-2008, 06:07 PM
No, you just decided I was defending the study because I wasn't prepared to swallow your fundamentalist dogma that "race doesn't exist".

Is this like defending The Rapture because "God doesn't exist" is hard to swallow while "God is dead" is funnymentalist godma?

nomadthethird
03-11-2008, 01:32 AM
Race exists--as a social construct.

As a biological fact it's non-existent, except in the minds of racists, who believe that there's some kind of "species within a species" heirarchy of human genetics.

Racism is always racism, no matter how good a racist's intentions may be.

nomadthethird
03-11-2008, 01:35 AM
Can't wait till the Bell Curve "researchers" come up with a new batch of data that proves the inherent inferiority of women, based on biologically-based propositions such as "women are more emotional by nature, therefore they are not as logical" type of scientificalist thinking.

Mr. Tea
03-11-2008, 02:14 AM
None of this does anything to elucidate the fascinating phenomena of Ziono-Nazi propagandists or my allegedly relativist-absolutist personality...

nomadthethird
03-11-2008, 02:46 AM
Let me get this straight: I'm a "pomo relativist" because I believe my viewpoint is the only correct and valid one? Do you even know what the word means? Do you know anything at all?

I'm reminded of the time you claimed some researchers fixed their findings on race and intelligence because they were a) Jewish and b) influenced by Nazi race doctrine. :rolleyes:

Since when is Zionist automatically = Jewish? The illogic employed by Bell Curve researchers (races have inherent [highly abstract] traits) is exactly the same sort used by Nazis like Mengele.

josef k.
03-11-2008, 09:32 PM
Race exists--as a social construct.

As a biological fact it's non-existent, except in the minds of racists, who believe that there's some kind of "species within a species" heirarchy of human genetics.

Racism is always racism, no matter how good a racist's intentions may be.

This is my position as well. That said, there is one potential blindspot here - namely, the varying genetic susceptibility of different "races" to diseases, which is a biological fact.

I'm not entirely sure what consequences could be drawn from this, but it strikes me that - potentially - some troubling ones could be, if someone wished to invoke some further metaphysical supports to their cause - such as a pseudo-Darwinian "survival of the fittest" device. So I wonder what the defense would be, mainly because I think this question might take us into some interesting waters.

josef k.
03-11-2008, 10:56 PM
Hmm, I'd certainly take issue with the assertion that termites "understand" anything at all - unless, maybe, we're prepared to go into extremely hypothetical realms about the possibility of consciousness of a 'hive mind' constituted of components acting in some sense as cellular automata. Not a subject I know the first thing about, but it's undeniably a tantalising possibility. :) In fact, this whole related set of ideas such as implicate order, emergent phenomena and gestalt systems is diametrically opposed to the 'reductive scientific viewpoint' that jambo talks about in the Dawkins thread, without necessarily being any less scientific, I think. The field or meta-field of intelligence, consciousness, complex systems, emergence and cybernetics could well turn out to be the great science of this century, don't you think?

Sorry, bit of a tangent there, but it's fascinating stuff...

It took me a while to digest this comment, but I think it does impact on the question of the status of science, for the reason that science itself can be understood in such terms = that is, as a kind of theoretical excrescence of an assemblage of processes.

Consider the recent development of the CERN particular accelerator. It is obvious that such a machine could only developed in a particular social epoch - our own - possessed as it is of certain structures, agents, projects, aims. What I am interested in, is the extent to which the model of the physical universe which lies at the heart of CERN might also be read as a model of the socio-economic universe which it produced it.

Further - and even stronger - with a little translation, could it read as the best socio-economic model we possess?

waffle
03-11-2008, 11:00 PM
This is my position as well. That said, there is one potential blindspot here - namely, the varying genetic susceptibility of different "races" to diseases, which is a biological fact.

I'm not entirely sure what consequences could be drawn from this, but it strikes me that - potentially - some troubling ones could be, if someone wished to invoke some further metaphysical supports to their cause - such as a pseudo-Darwinian "survival of the fittest" device. So I wonder what the defense would be, mainly because I think this question might take us into some interesting waters.

The varying genetic susceptibility of humans to diseases. Defence? That 'disease' itself can be scrambled, can in fact itself transpire to be a 'survival of the fittest' outcome. Take, for instance, Sickle-cell disease: in primarily Sub-Saharan Africa, where the incidence of another disease, Malaria, is common, those with alleles of sickle-cell disease are completely resistant to malaria (because sickle red-blood cells are immune to the malaria parasites), with the result that populations in those areas over time become Sickle-cell dominant, that is to say, in those countries where malaria is common, there is a clear survival value in carrying a single sickle-cell gene. Whereas in the West, where malaria is not a threat, those with Sickle-cells are subject to derogatory labelling, etc, on racist grounds, as with 'disease' generally.

Mr. Tea
03-11-2008, 11:14 PM
It took me a while to digest this comment,


I can't blame you, considering how rambling it was. ;)


but I think it does impact on the question of the status of science, for the reason that science itself can be understood in such terms = that is, as a kind of theoretical excrescence of an assemblage of processes.

Consider the recent development of the CERN particular accelerator. It is obvious that such a machine could only developed in a particular social epoch - our own - possessed as it is of certain structures, agents, projects, aims. What I am interested in, is the extent to which the model of the physical universe which lies at the heart of CERN might also be read as a model of the socio-economic universe which it produced it.

Further - and even stronger - with a little translation, could it read as the best socio-economic model we possess?

Yes, the idea that theories (and even entire worldviews or 'paradigms') in science compete with each other while constantly undergoing mutation and even interbreeding, just like biological organisms, is an idea I've come across before, and I think it's fascinating and potentially illuminating. It goes back all the way to Popper or Kuhn, doesn't it?

I'm not sure I quite understand your last sentence, could you clarify it a bit for me? Do you mean the CERN or the LHC (a very particular accelerator indeed :cool:) is a sort of microcosm of the whole of the global capitalist system? Not sure I see it myself, but I'd love to hear more.

josef k.
03-11-2008, 11:35 PM
Do you mean the CERN or the LHC (a very particular accelerator indeed :cool:) is a sort of microcosm of the whole of the global capitalist system?

Yes, precisely - this is my conjecture. I offer it as a conjecture, and am not sure I can convincingly stand it up, though, as I lack fluent knowledge of the discourse of particle physics, and thus lack the ability to translate from that discourse in any adequate way.

But I would call attention in the meantime to the following point: the LHC is both a complex machine itself, and the product of a complex machinery. A huge number of different factors were involved in its construction - economic, political, discursive, techno-scientific. How do all of these factors interrelate? This question is clearly quite significant, across a huge number of spheres, for the reason that these factors are the crucial components of social life as such. If this question could be satisfactorily answered, it would help to reveal how society itself functions. So, if one wished to construct a model, how would one go about it?

I propose that the empirical reality of the LHC - the simple fact that the project has been realized - suggests that there is already a model - and that the LHC is the instantiation of it. I further propose that the LHC inscribes this model into the purposive scientific rationality that it hosts. Clearly, this is not a closed model - the LHC has an formal agency of its own, insofar as it is itself attempting to find something out. What is ultimately attempting to find out? The cornerstone of the next model...

Mr. Tea
04-11-2008, 12:15 AM
Hmm, well for my part I'm not really too hot on global economics, but we may be able to get somewhere all the same.

Something that's just struck me is the possibility that the huge amounts of cash* that have been lavished on the LHC by many countries around the world have been forthcoming because of a feeling that, despite the project's long time scale and unimaginable complexity, and the fact that the phenomena it's going to be used to search for are incredibly subtle and described by arcane theories that only a tiny proportion of the population understands, it nonetheless represents 'progress' and a large, identifiable human achievement in the face of economic stagnation (or collapse), social fragmentation, climate change, international terrorism and burgeoning fundamentalism, political corruption and all the other things which governments seem to have no control over (or actively collude in) and which defy the best efforts of brilliant, serious people to overcome.



(*still a pittance compared to military budgets or bank bailouts - or even a modern Olympiad)

nomadthethird
04-11-2008, 02:55 AM
This is my position as well. That said, there is one potential blindspot here - namely, the varying genetic susceptibility of different "races" to diseases, which is a biological fact.

I'm not entirely sure what consequences could be drawn from this, but it strikes me that - potentially - some troubling ones could be, if someone wished to invoke some further metaphysical supports to their cause - such as a pseudo-Darwinian "survival of the fittest" device. So I wonder what the defense would be, mainly because I think this question might take us into some interesting waters.

But actually, the differences in susceptibility to diseases has more to do with catastrophe and other environmental factors and their effects on populations (and the offspring of these populations) evolutionarily.

For example, African-Americans tend to have higher cholesterol and higher incidence of heart disease than do some other groups of Americans. But the same is not true of all black people in the world, but specifically of African-Americans. There are many theories about why, one being the conditions slaves had to endure on the Middle Passage. Only slaves who could use sodium less efficienty were likely to survive months and months on a slaveship.

Also, when people talk about (eg) "Jewish" genetic diseases, what they're talking about are almost never diseases found in people of actually "semitic" origin--they're people from Eastern Europe whose ancestors converted to Judaism. Many of these diseases are also observed in other populations, just not as often.

It's not only imprecise to talk about race general, it's damaging to science, especially medicine. At a certain level, I'm sure the same genetic problems that cause, say, Bloom's disease can be found in all kinds of Eastern Europeans who don't have Jewish last names--they're just not as common because when communities don't intermarry for several generations their genetic predispositions tend to get less similar rather than more.

nomadthethird
04-11-2008, 02:59 AM
The varying genetic susceptibility of humans to diseases. Defence? That 'disease' itself can be scrambled, can in fact itself transpire to be a 'survival of the fittest' outcome. Take, for instance, Sickle-cell disease: in primarily Sub-Saharan Africa, where the incidence of another disease, Malaria, is common, those with alleles of sickle-cell disease are completely resistant to malaria (because sickle red-blood cells are immune to the malaria parasites), with the result that populations in those areas over time become Sickle-cell dominant, that is to say, in those countries where malaria is common, there is a clear survival value in carrying a single sickle-cell gene. Whereas in the West, where malaria is not a threat, those with Sickle-cells are subject to derogatory labelling, etc, on racist grounds, as with 'disease' generally.

Yup, exactly. x-post.

josef k.
04-11-2008, 03:34 PM
Yup, exactly. x-post.

Again, this makes a lot of sense to me.

But the only thing I would note is that although this fact, in the grand scheme of things, is plainly contingent and metaphysically meaningless, it does provide fodder for a racialist taxonomy. In modern and post-modern times, such taxonomies have, at their intellectual bedrocks, always tended to return to Darwin.

To continue playing the Devil's Advocate, you can easily see the culturally-relativist racialist (he need not, I guess, be an actual racist) saying: "I know perfectly well that the global distribution of genetic traits is completely environmental, based on rational evolutionary algorithms, and so on... but this contingency has nonetheless delivered a world of genetically-distinct races."

In order to be truly successful, the racialist needs to solder biology (and especially, the biology of a racial taxonomy) and culture together somehow. This is not impossible, since there is no hard and fast separation between culture and biology to begin with - culture too deals in biological matter - adrenaline, serotonin, and so on.

Clearly, we are quite a long way here from simplistic ideas about Blacks & Jews and Arabs. On the other hand. we are not too far from colonialism. More philosophically, the vital question here seems to be: How do you handle difference? What abstractions is it appropriate to make from difference? And this is of course a very old question.

nomadthethird
04-11-2008, 06:10 PM
I don't think it's so difficult to parse the difference between populations scientifically and the cultural differences that have been constructed over time socially. Is it? Maybe it is for some people.

nomadthethird
04-11-2008, 06:20 PM
Again, this makes a lot of sense to me.

But the only thing I would note is that although this fact, in the grand scheme of things, is plainly contingent and metaphysically meaningless, it does provide fodder for a racialist taxonomy. In modern and post-modern times, such taxonomies have, at their intellectual bedrocks, always tended to return to Darwin.

To continue playing the Devil's Advocate, you can easily see the culturally-relativist racialist (he need not, I guess, be an actual racist) saying: "I know perfectly well that the global distribution of genetic traits is completely environmental, based on rational evolutionary algorithms, and so on... but this contingency has nonetheless delivered a world of genetically-distinct races."

In order to be truly successful, the racialist needs to solder biology (and especially, the biology of a racial taxonomy) and culture together somehow. This is not impossible, since there is no hard and fast separation between culture and biology to begin with - culture too deals in biological matter - adrenaline, serotonin, and so on.

Clearly, we are quite a long way here from simplistic ideas about Blacks & Jews and Arabs. On the other hand. we are not too far from colonialism. More philosophically, the vital question here seems to be: How do you handle difference? What abstractions is it appropriate to make from difference? And this is of course a very old question.

What do you think of Derrida on difference and differance and all of that? I'd think you'd like Margins of Philosophy...

waffle
05-11-2008, 07:20 PM
Again, this makes a lot of sense to me.

But the only thing I would note is that although this fact, in the grand scheme of things, is plainly contingent and metaphysically meaningless, it does provide fodder for a racialist taxonomy.

It was the very framing of your question, it's racializing presuppositions, viz "the varying genetic susceptibility of different "races" to diseases, which is a biological fact" which provides such further fodder. I provided a simple example to demonstrate how 'race' and the susceptibility of such imaginary constructions to disease, is not a biological 'fact'. Racism and race are, of course, a pathological displacement of class antagonism ...


To continue playing the Devil's Advocate, you can easily see the culturally-relativist racialist (he need not, I guess, be an actual racist) saying: "I know perfectly well that the global distribution of genetic traits is completely environmental, based on rational evolutionary algorithms, and so on... but this contingency has nonetheless delivered a world of genetically-distinct races."

Why the need to construct, if not perpetuate, such a fantasy racist?

Yes, difference is a very old problem, but I remain doubtful that the many problems associated with it can be dealt with via a reactionary bio-cultural identity politics, much less by a demented racializing metaphysic.