Bloggingheads Community

Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/index.php)
-   Diavlog comments (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=9)
-   -   Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6213)

db63 10-31-2010 06:28 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
This post was excellent. Two thumbs way up.

whburgess 10-31-2010 06:55 PM

Re: Would rather listen to discussion of the evolution of intelligence
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by DenvilleSteve (Post 185609)
I assume humans are getting smarter because of the disparity in intelligence levels of the population. But yeah, there appear to be a lot of unanswered questions regarding the evolution of intelligence of animals and humans.

Why are you assuming that disparity in intelligence levels in the human population hasn't always been there in human populations from the very beginning? And why would such disparity indicate that we are, on average, getting smarter rather then dumber?

badhatharry 10-31-2010 10:02 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin (Post 185615)
Hi badhat (or do you prefer "harry"?),
Yes, Nagel did write The View from Nowhere and for a two-sentence summary, you are close. It's been a while since I read the book myself, but I would say that you are probably getting one thing a little backwards. You say "it's only right to give importance to everyone else" -- this seems to employ a moral explanation (fairness), where Nagel is trying to explain why we should be fair.

Hey, thanks. I have one question about what you wrote. Any agent is going to have to treat his own ends as important just because they are his (or hers, or its). Is this an example of an a priori position which requires no evidence or argument proving its validity?

AemJeff 10-31-2010 10:04 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 185687)
Hey, thanks. I have one question about what you wrote. Any agent is going to have to treat his own ends as important just because they are his (or hers, or its). Is this an example of an a priori position which requires no evidence or argument proving its validity?

That's a pretty good question, harry.

badhatharry 10-31-2010 10:56 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 185689)
That's a pretty good question, harry.

only pretty good?

AemJeff 10-31-2010 10:58 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 185696)
only pretty good?

:)

Florian 11-01-2010 11:40 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 185644)
I'm reminded of the quote (mis?) attributed to Wittgenstein "Philosophy is a disease for which only philosophy is the cure".

It would be easy to use this quote to dismiss philosophy---unless philosophy necessarily infects every attempt to understand the world.
Then the choice is stay a bad philosopher and deny it, or embrace the disease (and the cure) with gusto.

It is a misquotation. It was Karl Kraus, Wittgenstein's contemporary and compatriot, who said that psychoanalysis, not philosophy, is "the disease whose cure it purports to be." But Wittgenstein, in his first stage (that of the Tractatus) had a similar view of philosophy as a futile attempt to say the impossible.

I think that this discussion of "altruism" could have profited from a little philosophical logic-chopping, but it is a waste of time to apply logic to Darwinian accounts of morality.

bjkeefe 11-01-2010 04:13 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 185761)
I think that this discussion of "altruism" could have profited from a little philosophical logic-chopping, but it is a waste of time to apply logic to Darwinian accounts of morality.

I quite disagree, especially with the latter half. Please give us some plc, if you're in the mood.

Florian 11-02-2010 05:27 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 185818)
I quite disagree, especially with the latter half. Please give us some plc, if you're in the mood.

PLC?

In a nutshell: The problem of altruism as understood by evolutionary biology (kin selection theory etc.) and the problem of altruism as understood by moral philosophy are unrelated. Evolutionary biology purports to give a causal explanation of the origin of altruism in all social species---an unscientific or pseudo-scientific* explanation in my opinion--whereas moral philosophy, my moral philosophy in any case, starts from the presupposition---it may be wrong---that human beings are self-conscious, rational and free.


*To show why it is unscientific or pseudo-scientific would take a long time. It would also no doubt provoke your usual retort: that I am anti-science. So why should I bother?

DenvilleSteve 11-02-2010 09:47 AM

Re: Would rather listen to discussion of the evolution of intelligence
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whburgess (Post 185657)
Why are you assuming that disparity in intelligence levels in the human population hasn't always been there in human populations from the very beginning? And why would such disparity indicate that we are, on average, getting smarter rather then dumber?

I dont know the answer to your questions. TOE believers are not very good at explaining the theory to others. I don't understand why animals don't increase their intelligence over evolutionary time.

bjkeefe 11-02-2010 11:39 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 185943)
PLC?

From ...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 185761)
philosophical logic-chopping

... and a play on TLC.

Quote:

In a nutshell: The problem of altruism as understood by evolutionary biology (kin selection theory etc.) and the problem of altruism as understood by moral philosophy are unrelated.
Seems to me that Oren and Mark were at some pains to explain that they see a difference between biological altruism and what they called psychological altruism. As I understood it, they meant by the latter the choices humans make, due to their intellectual capacity, as distinct from other animals.

I think there are some quite different aspects to the two, and Oren and Mark gave some examples that indicated that they could be seen as provoking almost opposite behaviors in certain situations. However, I don't think they're completely unrelated -- humans are a species that evolved, the human brain is an organ that evolved, and even if we're just beginning to talk about group selection, it seems at least intuitively correct that there could be something to the idea that in some circumstances, individuals will behave in ways that end up benefiting the group, even at their own expense, and that this behavior is also something that has evolved; i.e., been selected for as being advantageous to the propagation of the species.

Quote:

Evolutionary biology purports to give a causal explanation ...
Probably some biologists are more assertive than others, but my sense is that it would be more accurate to say "evolutionary biologists are working on developing a causal explanation."

Quote:

... of the origin of altruism in all social species---an unscientific or pseudo-scientific* explanation in my opinion--whereas moral philosophy, my moral philosophy in any case, starts from the presupposition---it may be wrong---that human beings are self-conscious, rational and free.
Since I view the area of research as just getting started, I think it's unfair to call it "unscientific or pseudo-scientific." I don't deny some people may get ahead of themselves on what can be confidently stated, and I also grant that when discussions are presented to a lay audience, or continued by interested laypersons, it can sometimes sound like a Just So story.

We share the presupposition that is at the base of your moral philosophy, and I am not saying what has been derived from that, on altruism or many other topics, is not without worth. I do think, however, that there may be more to the story, and in any case, it seems to me a reasonable question to ask, "Where did this tendency to act against individual self-interest come from?" and "Is it connected to behaviors we see in other species where we see actions against individual self-interest?"

Quote:

*To show why it is unscientific or pseudo-scientific would take a long time. It would also no doubt provoke your usual retort: that I am anti-science. So why should I bother?
If you're not up for the effort, no problem.

I would say two things to this, though. First, I am not going to respond in a kneejerk manner to a solid logical argument, even if I don't agree with it. Second, I do not call you "anti-science" as a matter of course. I do think that from time to time, as when you dismiss even the possibility that we will ever be able to understand something in scientific terms, this appellation is deserved.

Florian 11-04-2010 07:37 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
I have been too busy to reply to your thoughtful post. So better late than never:


Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 185981)
Seems to me that Oren and Mark were at some pains to explain that they see a difference between biological altruism and what they called psychological altruism. As I understood it, they meant by the latter the choices humans make, due to their intellectual capacity, as distinct from other animals.

Yes, but the existence of rationality and freedom changes everything. Are self-sacrificial acts always rational? Some Americans no doubt thought that in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and establishing democracy in Iraq their government was acting altruistically---for the benefit of Iraq. Was it acting rationally or justly? Was it even acting in the American national interest? Are altruistic acts necessarily good for the beneficiary? A mother's love for her children is proverbially blind. Is it always good for her children? Self-sacrificial subordination to the group, which biologists confuse with acting for the good of another or for the good of the group, is not necessarily a virtue. It is not even clear to me that there is such a thing as self-sacrificial subordination to the group in the case of human beings---whatever may be true of the hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps etc).

The term "altruism," invented by the French positivist Auguste Comte, was intended as kind of secular replacement for Christian "charity," the love of others (autrui) taking the place of the "love of one's neighbor." But Christians have always thought that acts of charity are rare, indeed impossible without the love of God. I tend to agree, but since I am not a Christian I have no answer to the question of why such acts are so rare. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that Christian charity is a misnomer in the first place.


Quote:

I think there are some quite different aspects to the two, and Oren and Mark gave some examples that indicated that they could be seen as provoking almost opposite behaviors in certain situations. However, I don't think they're completely unrelated -- humans are a species that evolved, the human brain is an organ that evolved, and even if we're just beginning to talk about group selection, it seems at least intuitively correct that there could be something to the idea that in some circumstances, individuals will behave in ways that end up benefiting the group, even at their own expense, and that this behavior is also something that has evolved; i.e., been selected for as being advantageous to the propagation of the species.
Yes, obviously. But the question, as I said above, is whether human beings are a social species in the same way that ants, bees and wasps are social species.

Quote:

Probably some biologists are more assertive than others, but my sense is that it would be more accurate to say "evolutionary biologists are working on developing a causal explanation."
There is a huge literature on this, and the causal explanation seems to be widely accepted by most biologists I have read, including the best known popularizer of inclusive fitness, Dawkins. Stringing together some sentences gleaned from my reading I come up with this:

An organism acts in such a way as to maximize, not its individual fitness or chances of surviving and reproducing, but its "inclusive fitness," that is the fitness of a group of conspecifics which includes, first, the organism itself, then those with which it shares the highest proportion of it genes, then those with whom it shares the next highest proportion of genes etc.

In other words, the proportion of genes which we share with our parents or siblings, or relatives, is the cause of altruism. We love our children because they share half of our genes; and this is also the reason why altruism developed in our species: our ancestors acted in such a way as to favor the reproduction of their genes in offspring, siblings and relatives, even if they perished in so doing.

There is one obvious objection to this: all sexually reproducing species share half of their genes with their offspring, but there are only a few species that display the trait of altruism. Why, if selection for this trait depends on shared genes, are there so few species that behave altruistically? Why are there no altruistic carp? There are other logical objections, including the usual objection to natural selection (that it is tautological), but this one has always stumped me.


Quote:

I would say two things to this, though. First, I am not going to respond in a kneejerk manner to a solid logical argument, even if I don't agree with it. Second, I do not call you "anti-science" as a matter of course. I do think that from time to time, as when you dismiss even the possibility that we will ever be able to understand something in scientific terms, this appellation is deserved.
There is no reason to think that science is capable of answering all the questions it asks or that it is capable of progressing indefinitely, but I agree that it is impossible to rule out the possibility.

bjkeefe 11-05-2010 01:36 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 186570)
I have been too busy to reply to your thoughtful post. So better late than never: [...]

Thanks. And sorry: just noticed. Have read, but will have to postpone reply.

Ocean 11-21-2010 09:34 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
I read this article today which may be of interest to those who were following this thread.

Wonderment 11-21-2010 11:13 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Yes, I read that too. What's your take on autismo?

I loved the Wittgenstein quote about the lion:

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him."

Ocean 11-22-2010 09:08 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 189376)
Yes, I read that too. What's your take on autismo?

I loved the Wittgenstein quote about the lion:

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him."

Yes, I liked that quote too. It's a nice way of putting language in context.

I don't know what "autismo" is (besides being the Spanish word for autism). Autism isn't an area in Psychiatry that I'm very informed about. It's mostly addressed by Child Psychiatrists. However, it seems to be a continuum from what we would consider "normal", through traits, milder forms of autism to the more severe well known forms that have been shown in movies. This article seems to refer to the group that goes from normal personality traits to mild forms of autism.

I object to using the label of autism for mild cases. It should be reserved to those situations when there's clinical pathology. It's the common problem of labeling. According to the article it seems that one could legitimately argue that we all have a degree of autism or at least autistic moments. When you use the term in that way it loses meaning.

Wonderment 11-22-2010 09:38 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

I don't know what "autismo" is (besides being the Spanish word for autism).
I think the author was suggesting that "autismo" had parallels to "machismo," -- in other words, that men in general were prone toward "autistic" thinking. He was using autism as a kind of metaphor for maleness, which I can see might be insulting to the families of autistic (disabled) persons.

Quote:

I object to using the label of autism for mild cases.
I haven't really thought about it much, but I might object to the general idea of "spectrum" disorders. Too vague and all-encompassing.

Quote:

When you use the term in that way it loses meaning.
Exactamente.

Ocean 11-22-2010 09:54 PM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 189466)
I think the author was suggesting that "autismo" had parallels to "machismo," -- in other words, that men in general were prone toward "autistic" thinking. He was using autism as a kind of metaphor for maleness, which I can see might be insulting to the families of autistic (disabled) persons.

Okay, thanks.

Yes, it seems that they were talking of an stereotypically masculine cognitive style.

Quote:

I haven't really thought about it much, but I might object to the general idea of "spectrum" disorders. Too vague and all-encompassing.
It shouldn't be about objecting. Often that's the way it is. Think of height, blood pressure, etc, there's a continuum between what's considered normal and what's a problem.

bjkeefe 11-23-2010 01:40 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 189369)
I read this article today which may be of interest to those who were following this thread.

That was an interesting read. Thanks.

Ocean 11-23-2010 08:55 AM

Re: Science Saturday: A History of the Science of Altruism (Oren Harman & Mark Borrello)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 189485)
That was an interesting read. Thanks.

You're welcome.


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 06:21 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.