December 30, 2017

Addressing Climate Change – A Failing Attempt to Treat Symptoms of A Bigger, More Difficult Problem

This is a long but excellent article with lots of good info on climate change details and issues.

Question. Which is the greater problem, the Democrats not having a policy and plan for climate change, or the likelihood that climate change cannot be adequately addressed with any policy given how far downstream we are within the current worldview paradigm? That worldview being: a belief in the necessity of economic growth at almost any cost; a preference for nationalism vs globalism, and political complicity with business; religion-influenced human’s-over-Earth’s-needs thinking; and the coupling of the environmentalist movement’s notions of ‘sustainability’ with Western Enlightenment ideas of civilization and ‘progress’.

December 18, 2017

Quantum Biology

Let us take Deepak Chopra’s notion of “quantum healing” and set it aside as something that is so far unproven, unsubstantiated by evidence, and a theory and method that remains unconfirmed experimentally. Let’s simply consider the possible role of quantum physics in the processes of earthly life and evolution. Subatomic particles behave in different ways than does matter at the atomic, molecular, and higher levels of complexity. Despite not being well understand, it is well known that subatomic activity influences and is influenced by matter at higher levels.

If the details of quantum mechanics ever become known, that is, it becomes precisely known how subatomic particles relate to higher matter, then we shall have achieved the next major scientific breakthrough. Solutions to many if not all the physical and metaphysical questions will have become possible. Solving the hard problem of consciousness, developing a physics “theory of everything” that reconciles general relativity and quantum field theory, and high-probability prediction in the natural and social and behavioral sciences all might become possible.

The above linked essay discusses the quantum aspects of life processes in a very stunning way in terms of the early, still primitive understandings we have, yet entices us to imagine where the research might lead. 

“In 1944, a decade before James Watson and Francis Crick, the physical nature of genes was still mysterious. Even so, it was known that they must be passed down the generations with an extraordinary high degree of fidelity: less than one error in a billion. This was a puzzle, because one of the few other known facts about genes was that they were very small – far too small, [physicist Erwin] Schrödinger insisted, for the accuracy of their copying to depend on the order-from-disorder rules of the classical world. He proposed that they must instead involve a ‘more complicated organic molecule’, one in which ‘every atom, and every group of atoms, plays an individual role’.

“Schrödinger called these novel structures ‘aperiodic crystals’. He asserted that they must obey quantum rather than classical laws, and further suggested that gene mutations might be caused by quantum jumps within the crystals. He went on to propose that many of life’s characteristics might be based on a novel physical principle. In the inanimate world, as we have seen, macroscopic order commonly arises from molecular disorder: order from disorder. But perhaps, said Schrödinger, the macroscopic order we find in life reflects something else: the uncanny order of the quantum scale. He called this speculative new principle ‘order from order’.

“Was he right?

“A decade later, Watson and Crick unveiled the double helix. Genes turned out to be made from a single molecule of DNA, which is a kind of molecular string with nucleotide bases (the genetic letters) strung out like beads. That’s an aperiodic crystal in all but name. And, just as Schrödinger predicted, ‘every group of atoms’ does indeed play ‘an individual role’, with the position of even individual protons – a quantum property – determining each genetic letter. There can be few more prescient predictions in the entire history of science.”
"How, then, does life manage to maintain its molecular order for long enough to perform its quantum tricks in warm and wet cells? That remains a profound riddle. Recent research offers a tantalising hint that, instead of avoiding molecular storms, life embraces them, rather like the captain of a ship who harnesses turbulent gusts and squalls to maintain his ship upright and on-course. As Schrödinger predicted, life navigates a narrow stream between the classical and quantum worlds: the quantum edge."

Human Nature Is What We Make Of Our Selves And Communities

What language does is to enable speakers to differ about propositions. Propositions ground inferences, which can be persuasive without being logically compelling, and on which two people can differ. Thus the invention of language, like other major transitions of evolution, generated an explosion of possibilities. When we can talk about what we want, we can also discuss, generalise, refine, extrapolate, analogise, creating fresh propositions to endorse. Wants can be grounded in basic needs and desires but, from those raw materials, talking quickly leads us to a potentially unlimited variety of new propositions about artificial things to care about: cultural conventions, institutions, art, money. These constitute the values by which we govern our lives. Each variant of human desire is ‘natural’, not in the sense of being required, but only of being made possible by nature. And it is in what nature makes possible, not in what it necessitates, that we should look for the answer to the question about what we should be or do.

“These new possibilities and the choices we make among them define who we are. And that is the core idea of existentialism as articulated by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1946 – the doctrine that for humans alone, existence precedes essence: that who we are is determined by our choices, not the other way round. Because our values have arisen in a process of debate, inference and generalisation, they are no longer even distant consequences of our basic needs. Our nature arises from choices that were not determined by our biological make-up. It is enabled, but not determined, by biology.

“That holds for us both as a species and as individuals. As individuals, we each face, at every turn, the options we are afforded that result, in part, from previous choices, both our own and those of our predecessors in the human experiment. But there is no predicting where those choices might lead as we talk ourselves into them. As a species, we are part of a lineage in which a large number of crucial transitions, brought about by chance in this one lineage but not others, have enabled new possibilities. As individuals, many of those possibilities have been spurred by the urge both to imitate and to ‘reform and innovate’. And among those, it is up to each of us to make still new choices. If there is a human nature, it is created as much as it is found.
“The unpredictable character of human nature is all the more apparent when we confront what might in retrospect look like yet one more major transition: the advent of technology, and especially the creation of the world wide web. Given that unpredictability, we cannot be sure that the existence of the web will not end up limiting our choices rather than enhancing them in some ways that we can only begin to glimpse. But even if that happens, those choices will be ones that no pre-existing conception of human nature will have dictated.
“What biology teaches us about human nature is that, in a very real sense, there is no such thing as human nature. The only coherent attitude to that fact is that of the existentialist: if there is any guidance to be found in nature, it is that there is nothing there to follow. Instead, we should aspire to create it.“