All in the mind? The argument for idealism in Biocentrism

I reviewed the book Biocentrism: How life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding theBiocentrism Idealism True nature of the Universe By Robert Lanza and Bob Berman earlier, and I was rather critical about it. I also promised to look more closely at the argument of the book that “external” reality depends on the mind to exist. Here I will do that, focusing mainly the “philosophical” beginning of the argument and much less on the quantum mechanical part.

The argument is began in chapter 3, “The Sound of a Falling Tree”. Readers familiar with such things may already see where this is going.

“If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Lanza (he’s the main author and I take the voice of the book to be his) comments that most people will automatically think that of course it does make a sound, but he contends that this is not what science says about the matter. He goes through what he thinks science does say. There’s nothing particularly new here, at least to me. When the tree falls down, it creates disturbances in the air, and these cause our experience of sound if we’re around to hear it. If we’re not, there’s just the disturbances in the air. Continue reading

Wealthy Affiliate – A thinking person’s scam?

wealthy-affiliateI’ve been planning to start a more popular blog and see if I could get more readership — maybe even revenue from advertising. (I don’t like that it’s advertisements, but that seems to be the way to get money from views, and earning money from writing would be a dream come true.) Recently, I came across a website called Wealthy Affiliate that’s supposed to help with that kind of thing. There’s a free membership, but I was never so naïve as to think you’re not supposed to upgrade to the paid version. Still, you can at least try it for free.

At first, it seemed that reviews of the website were all positive — and credible. But now I’ve looked into it more and don’t think I will want to try it. So I can’t do a proper review as someone who’s tried out the site. You’ll find a million reviews like that online if you look, like I did. I also don’t have a definite opinion as to whether it’s a “scam” or legit or something in between. What I want to tell you is to point out some… rather interesting things I noticed about those reviews.

After all, if it’s a website about marketing your website, it ought to be pretty good at marketing itself, right? So how much can you trust what you read about it?

If you’re here to read the kind of stuff I usually write, you can read this as an exercise in critical thinking.

Continue reading

Review: Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

christmas-carol-2009

Wild and wacky action starring Ebenezer Scrooge. Because that makes sense.

I happened to watch the 3D animated adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol by Disney, so here are a few observations about that.

This story is so well known it’s been adapted even by Disney multiple times. But if someone doesn’t know: it’s about the miserly and misanthropic old man Ebenezer Scrooge and how he’s transformed after being visited by four ghosts on the night before Christmas. In this case, Scrooge among others is played by Jim Carrey. It sounds like an odd choice, but whatever works is all right, and it does work. The voice acting is good. The animation is, too. The film was nice to look at, although I wasn’t wowed enough to buy all the showy antics.

The story and scenes follow the original very closely — and the dialogue even more so, almost word for word much of the time. It’s an interesting choice, and it’s fun to hear good actors make that kind of dialogue with the long sentences sound almost natural. There are some subtle changes to the dialogue to make it more understandable, but even after that, some of it can sound a little cryptic, as in the case of the Ghost of Christmas Present. In any case, a lot of the small adjustments to the original dialogue and scenes are actually an improvement over the Dickens story, condensing it and making it run more smoothly. But then there are the other kind of adjustments…

The biggest problem with the movie is that it tries to be funny. This starts right off with the “Marley’s ghost” scene, which I found to be awkward and unenjoyable — too oppressive to be funny but with too much fooling around to be anything else, either. Looking back, this was probably the worst scene, so it does get better. The rest of the time, it just feels like there are pointless little additions. Goofing around in a modern manner doesn’t seem to fit the story, perhaps because the rest of it is so close to the original. (It’s not like Mickey’s Christmas Carol where the ghost of Marley was funny — because he was Goofy.) Overlapping the attempted humour, there’s gratuitous “action” that seems inappropriate or pointless, like mostly realistic looking people suddenly making unrealistic acrobatic moves, and Scrooge’s visions having added high-speed flying or chases. The latter aren’t entirely out of place because the visions are supposed to be harrowing, but they don’t add anything either and aren’t particularly funny. In fact, I suspect they’re in no small part filler to stretch the story to movie length. About the only really funny part was in the end when Scrooge was high on Christmas, and one can see why — that part was supposed to go like that.

In the end, I did enjoy the movie, but not as a comedy. I watched it as a close, well animated, well acted adaptation of the original with some pointless and mildly irritating additions. I have to give it a low score for being an unfunny comedy, but I wouldn’t recommend against watching it if you’re interested. Everything else besides the few glaring bad things is good.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review: What Does a Martian Look Like? by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart

what-does-a-martian-look-likeCreatures… that are born pregnant; with twenty different sexes; that eat their own children; that can survive without water for a quarter of a billion years. Absurd? not at all?

These are creatures alive on planet Earth. And they show us just how different alien life could be from anything we know.

What does a Martian Look Like? The Science of Extraterrestrial Life (also known in other editions as Evolving the Alien) sets out to do something seemingly impossible: to scientifically describe something we have never seen. The question it asks is what we can know about extraterrestrial life. Of course, we have never found any of that. And yet, Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart also argue against imagining it will be just like life on Earth. Continue reading

Three philosophies: Knowledge, wisdom and… money?

money-or-somethingI’ve talked before about Nicholas Maxwell’s criticism of current practice and philosophy of science. I’ve written about it in Finnish here and here; here is the website of the group dedicated to this idea.

To put it shortly, Maxwell’s idea is this: Science commonly takes the idea of objectivity too far and in the wrong direction. Its underlying philosophy is what he calls the philosophy of knowledge. This emphasizes that only empirically testable claims have a place in science, as opposed to metaphysics or values.

This may sound like a good idea, and it would be, given the right interpretation. But it’s being given the wrong interpretation. Values or ideologies must not affect the results obtained from science, but they should guide what resources are spent on. When you are not allowed to consider values even at this point, you often end up spending resources on something useless or harmful. So developing countries may have much more need for new technologies or researched solutions, but there’s more money in solving first-world problems. Similarly, metaphysics must not be more important than empirical results, but every theory has background metaphysics anyway, so acknowledging those would allow scientists to understand better what they’re doing. Continue reading

Basic actions?

actionWe do many things by doing something else. You might move across the room by walking and walk by moving your legs. But do you move your legs by doing something else? You might think, yes: by sending nerve impulses from your brain. And maybe you do that by sending around other such things in your brain? But are “you” really doing those things that happen in parts of you?

The priest and philosopher Nicolas Malebranche argued that no-one can really do anything themselves because in order to do something, you need to know how to do it — and we don’t know how to cause all that neural stuff that needs to happen for our bodies to do anything. (He thought God is really the one who does everything.) This isn’t a good argument. To know how to do something must mean knowing how to do that something by doing other things (eg. how to move your hands and fingers while playing the piano). So if you must always know how to do everything, then you must know how to do the things by which you do that other thing: how to make your fingers move, and then probably how to send those neural signals, and then how to do whatever you do to do that; it’s an infinite regression. To make the regression stop, there must be some things we just can do, so that we can do more complex things by doing those things. Continue reading

World of Warcraft notes: Pira- er, Combat Rogue changes in Legion

WoW Combat to Pirate 4

Image source: Me.

Today, we’ll take a look at the revamped Combat Rogue, now being changed to Outlaw. Combat Rogues didn’t really have a clear theme before, so we took the opportunity to give them a much clearer one. Which is, uh, some kind of swordmaster or brawler we guess. We definitely weren’t thinking of some other cliché when we made this.

  • Outlaw rogues are the unscrupulous scoundrels of Azeroth. Operating outside the law, they bend the rules and distort the truth to get what they need, and also they like to sail the seven seas with their outlaw maties plundering treasure and going “arrr” a lot, but don’t read too much into that. The archetype has been inspired by such classic works as the outlaw-themed book Treasure Island and the more recent Outlaws of the Caribbean movies.
  • To further emphasize the “swordmaster” theme we’re going for here, we’re giving Outlaws the ability Pistol Shot. They still don’t use guns as weapons, mind you, but every swordmaster has to be ready to pull out a hidden blunderbuss, right?
  • One of the new talents is Cannonball Barrage, which causes an invisible ghost ship crewed by invisible ghost outlaws to fire cannonballs at your enemies. This also totally goes with the swordmaster… um… yeah, anyways.
  • We looked for more p- outlaw related concepts and found “parley“, so that’s an ability now too.
  • The ability Blade Flurry is renamed “Dead Man’s Chest” for no particular reason. Its function remains the same, though its icon is changed to a Jolly Roger.
  • Outlaw Rogues get a permanent buff that affects their speech in a way similar to drunkenness, except that instead of going “hic” occasionally, they randomly spout “ARRRRR”. The buff cannot be dispelled, ever.
  • After the pre-patch launches, every Outlaw Rogue will immediately begin a new obligatory questline where they have been shanghaied by the outlaws of Booty Bay and wake up on an outlaw ship. Your organs have also been harvested, so you get a permanent appearance change as you now have a peg leg, an eye patch, and a hook in place of a hand (you get a choice of left or right). During the questline, you’ll also gain a cool and unique new pet: a talkative parrot that follows you constantly and cannot be dismissed.

…Well, maybe not quite all of that, but that’s about how it feels.

(See here for more accurate information about the Outlaw Rogue if you like.)