Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

December 25, 2017

Happy holidays

by Neil Rickert

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Or happy holidays, or whatever.

I haven’t been posting much lately.  But I’m still here.

Best wishes to all.

December 29, 2014

2014 in review

by Neil Rickert

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

May 12, 2014

Jonny S. on Atheism

by Neil Rickert

Jonny Scaramanga has a wonderful new post:

I guess that I like it, because it is very similar to my own view.  So I suggest that you read it.  And maybe browse through some of Jonny’s other posts while you are there.


March 27, 2014

Contrasting direct and representationalist (indirect) perception

by Neil Rickert

In a discussion at another site, I am noticing some misunderstanding of what is meant by direct perception.  I’m seeing comments similar to “vision uses photons, so is indirect.”  Those who favor direct perception have never denied that vision uses photons, retinal receptors and neurons.  The usually prefer saying that visual perception is mediated by photons, neurons, etc.  What they disagree with, is the idea that first a representation is formed inside the head, and then we perceive that representation.

Apparently this distinction is confusing.  So I plan a short series of posts where I contrast direct perception and representationalist perception.  This post is the introduction to that series.  The subsequent posts in this series are:

Illustrating with science

It is sometimes said that scientific discovery is learning written big, and scientific data acquisition is perception written big.  The problems that science must solve to acquire useful data are similar to the problems that a perceptual system must solve to gather information about the world.  I shall use that analogy between perception and science, to illustrate what is meant by direct perception.

My next post in this series will give a representationalist account of getting temperature data.  I’ll follow that with a post on a direct way of getting temperature data.  And then, in one more post, I will attempt to point out the important distinctions.


February 19, 2014

On Jerry Coyne on free will

by Neil Rickert

Jerry Coyne has yet another post on the topic of free will, which he thinks we do not have.

There are some points in that post that warrant a reply, so this will be my response.

Am I banned?

Normally, I would respond by posting a comment at Coyne’s site.  However, my last few attempts to comment there have failed.  It sure looks as if Coyne has banned me from commenting, though I have no idea why.  Yes, I have disagreed with Coyne in the past, but I have never been belligerent or excessively argumentative in that disagreement.  It is Coyne’s site, so within his rights to ban me.  But it seems surprising.

read more »

December 31, 2013

2013 in review

by Neil Rickert

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

July 20, 2013

“What They Really Need. . .”

by Neil Rickert

I’m reblogging this, because it is so eloquent. I’ll add a comment shortly.

Itinerant Lurker

I heard something in church the other day that’s been bothering me ever since.  That’s not exactly right actually, it’s something that’s always bothered me – even when I was a Christian – but this brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Yes, I’m an atheist who goes to church.  I’m even on a first name basis with my pastor.  I even call him “my pastor”.  It’s weird, but I have a family who are all of them Christians, so compromise is kind of the order of the day.  Typically I don’t mind – but this service was different.


There was a team talking about a missions trip they’d recently returned from (a “missions trip” is when a small group of people raise money from a church to go do some sort of mission work in another country for a few weeks) to South America.  They’d worked with families…

View original post 468 more words

May 26, 2013

Consciousness 3: Qualia

by Neil Rickert

I don’t much like the word “qualia”.  I don’t find it useful.  People who use that word (and its singular form “quale”) hope to be able to discuss questions about conscious experience.  In this post, I’ll try to address those topics without the assumptions that seem to be built into use of “qualia.”

I’ll start with a review of earlier posts in this series.

  • Experience: I have identified this with internal activity of homeostatic processes, such as are commonly found in biological systems.  In particular, I have identified “experience” (with the scare quotes) with internal event to which the system reacts, so can be said to be reactively aware.  How we become conscious, and not merely reactively aware, I take to be related to our ability to have thoughts.  I expect to discuss thought in a future post.
  • Information: I have suggested that an organism acquires information about the world, and represents this information as internal events of which the organism is reactively aware.  This reactive awareness of represented information mediates the organisms awareness or consciousness of the external world.  Perhaps one could think of information as being represented by biochemical events or by neural events.  I prefer to not be that specific, because I am discussing principles rather than implementation details.  AI proponents will want to consider whether computational events could be used instead of neural events.
    read more »

February 15, 2013

Consciousness is unexplained; therefore Intelligent Design

by Neil Rickert

Of course I completely disagree with the claim that is suggested by my title line.  However, people are making that argument, so I want to comment.

Apparently, Thomas Nagel makes that kind of argument in his book “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False“, or at least that is what I have gleaned from a recent review.  I have not read Nagel’s book myself — I don’t think I have the patience.  His reasoning in “What is it like to be a bat?” was already hard to take.

read more »

December 30, 2012

by Neil Rickert

I have not yet posted anything on Sandy Hook. This poem says it all, better than I could.

Rebecca Rose Poetry

The world was saddened and horrified by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The NRA’s response? Put more guns in schools.


The Price of Safety

The NRA says lots of guns will help to keep us safe!
Fill our homes and church and school, and arm the office place!
To protect his family, fathers stockpile guns of every size,
And women fill their purses up with pistols, as is wise.
There are crazy people out there. You never know just who.
So all the neighbors hurry out, and they buy weapons, too.

And teachers carry rifles to defend the school hall;
And shoppers strap their pistols on ‘fore heading to the mall;
And waitresses wear handguns as they work at the café;
And parents pack revolvers to the soccer field each day;
Ministers give sermons proudly sporting guns on hips,
And rejoice to see…

View original post 285 more words