Archive for February, 2012

February 22, 2012

The Neil deGrasse Tyson discussions

by Neil Rickert

There have been several recent posts at Jerry Coyne’s site, related to the views of Neil deGrasse Tyson.  They began with “Neil deGrasse Tyson goes all militant“, and there are followup posts here and here.

My personal take on the first of those posts was that I did not see Tyson as going all militant.  In fact, I did not see his comments on religion as much different from what I have seen in other video talks, though he does raise some interesting questions.

In any case, those posts and the featured videos are worth reading and watching.

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February 12, 2012

About measurement

by Neil Rickert

Having suggested that cognition is measurement, it is time to say a little about what measurement is.

The most common view seems to be that we passively receive data at sensory cells, and then use logic or computation as applied to that data.  When data is received from a sensory cell, I shall call that sensing (for want of a better term).  My aim will be to draw a distinction between measurement and sensing, though in ordinary language usage the two overlap somewhat.

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February 9, 2012

Yes, Newton was the greatest scientist ever

by Neil Rickert

According to Larry Moran, Darwin was the greatest scientist ever.

Most of us know that Charles Darwin was the greatest scientist who ever lived but one still finds the occasional misguided physicist/mathematician who thinks that the honor should go to an eighteenth century Englishman named Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

I agree that Darwin was a great scientist.  But I will stick with Newton as the greatest ever, even though Larry thinks that misguided.

Yes, Newton had some weird religious ideas.  And parts of Newton’s science have since been displaced by relativity and QM.  But it is not Newton’s laws themselves that make him great.  Rather, it is his involvement in the transformation of how we do science.

For sure, that transformation was the work of a number of people.  Copernicus was important, and Galileo was very important.  Others, such as Boyle and Hooke were important.  But the greatest credit must go to Newton, for why science today is so different from what it was at, say, the time of Aristotle.

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February 5, 2012

Cognition is measurement

by Neil Rickert

The conventional view appears to be that perception is passive.  Observations somehow pop into our heads, and we just have to apply logic to determine what it is that we are observing.  However, getting useful information about the world is more difficult than that, as I suggested in an earlier post.

We often hear variations of the slogan “cognition is computation” and sometimes people seem to be taking that as fact rather than as a slogan or a hypothesis.  It is a slogan that comes from the idea of perception as passive.  I am suggesting “cognition is measurement” as an alternative slogan and hypothesis.  I use the term “measurement” broadly, to describe activity undertaken get useful information about the world.  So I will take perception to involve measurement activity.

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February 4, 2012

An interesting take on biology

by Neil Rickert

Elizabeth Liddle recently posted an interesting video link in a comment at UD.  In that video, Denis Noble discusses his view of biology, which he refers to as “Systems Biology.”  It is far closer to my own view of biology than is the Dawkins “Selfish Gene” model.  Perhaps that’s why I liked that lecture.  It emphasizes the organism as a whole, rather than the genome.

I suppose it might be controversial, though I’m not sure why it would be.  I have always thought of biology that way, with the DNA as being only part of the story.  I am mentioning it here, because I thing it is something people should at least think about.

February 4, 2012

That hiatus

by Neil Rickert

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks.  I have been rethinking about how to best discuss my views on human cognition.  I will be resuming those posts in a few days.