Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 101

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Half the universe’s missing baryonic matter has just been found.

The difference between good vegans and bad vegans: honesty about science.

When did language evolve, exactly?

Archeologists decipher tablet that helps to unravel the mystery of civilization’s collapse at the end of the Bronze Age.

E.O. Wilson gets it wrong again. Because of scientism, of course.

More fundamental disagreements among fundamental physicists

Research on the genetics of skin color differences deals yet another blow to the idea that races are real.

A new way to look at emotions, and why Darwin was wrong about them.

_____

Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

78 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 101

  1. brodix

    Here is an argument I found interesting. The loading theory. That quantization is more an interaction and measurement effect, than a fundamental property. It would go a ways toward explaining some of the field and wave aspects;

    Click to access Reiter_challenge2.pdf


    The desire to make quantization foundational that has led to string theory.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bradley Sherman

    Lisa Feldman Barrett was coming down with the flu but thought she was in love. After many years of research, she now hosts parties where baby food is smeared on diapers and served to the guests. Food for thought.

    Like

  3. synred

    A random curiosity

    The name [‘worf’ in Startrek] is borrowed from, or homage to pioneer cultural-linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf (April 24, 1897 – July 26, 1941), famous for the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.[citation needed]

    Like

  4. brodix

    A more than adequate response to Wilson:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/11/09/what-are-we-doing-here/

    “If the rise of humanism was a sunrise, then in this present time we are seeing an eclipse. I take it to be a merely transient gloom, because the work of those old scholars and translators and printers, the poets and philosophers they recovered and the poets and philosophers who came after them, the habit of literacy and the profound interest in the actual world and the present time, have all taken hold, more profoundly than we know. We have not lost them. We have only forgotten what they mean. We have forgotten to understand them for what they are, a spectacular demonstration of the capacities of the human mind, always renewed in our own experience, igniting possibilities no one could have foreseen. Tocqueville may be no more than conventional in speaking of them as “gifts which heaven shares out by chance.””

    Like

  5. Schlafly

    The genetics article is only a blow to the straw man idea that race is synonymous with skin color. The prevailing view for centuries has been that skin color is just one of many racial differences, and that view is not at all threatened by the new research. On the contrary, the research helps explain how skin color got coupled to race.

    The pilot wave theory is an amusing idea on the fringes of physics. It is not true that it “avoids the most baffling features of the subatomic universe.” It is much more baffling than quantum mechanics, which is why the great majority of physicists have rejected it for the last 50 years.

    Like

  6. Massimo Post author

    Schlafly,

    What would be the “prevailing view for centuries” of the biology of race? Because my understanding as a biologist is that the prevailing view is that races do not exist. They are, literally, skin deep.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Robin Herbert

    I have never understood what happens in Bohnian mechanics in the case of the double slit experiment where the electrons are detected on the other side of the slit. Does the light mess up the neat little interference pattern?

    Like

  8. Robin Herbert

    Synred

    “It’s not clear to me if it’s even a countable (alheph0) infinity. ”

    And remarkably difficult to get an answer about that even if you have the attention of a many worlds enthusiast. I had understood then every point on the wave packet is a world which would suggest there are uncountably many in the Everettian model.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SocraticGadfly

    The prevailing view for centuries was that we needed to force women to wear women’s clothes, stay away from certain occupations, etc., because of their inherent mental and physical frailty.

    Only skin deep, right, Schlafly?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Coel

    Schlafly is right, of course races exist. The amount of ideological posturing and virtue signalling here is amazing: “Look at me, I’m so anti-racist that I’ll deny that races even exist!”.

    But they do. Races — obviously — are shared-ancestry clusterings, and such shared-ancestry clustering is well documented by genetic analysis, which matches fairly well with people’s own accounts of their ancestry (and also to a fair extent with language families). Studying this is genuine science, and is interesting to anyone interested in the history of humans and how waves of migration spread across the world from the origin in Africa.

    Massimo here has just said:

    “Because my understanding as a biologist is that the prevailing view is that races do not exist. They are, literally, skin deep.”

    But here is a biologist and philosopher (in a more sensible moment) saying:

    “… recently philosophers and biologists have gone through great pains to essentially deny the existence of biological human races. We argue that human races, in the biological sense of local populations adapted to particular environments, do in fact exist; such races are best understood through the common ecological concept of ecotypes”

    “Ecotype” (wiki: “a genetically distinct geographic variety, population or race within a species, which is adapted to specific environmental conditions”) is pretty much the biological term for the common-language word “race”.

    So the virtue-posturing ideologues have to strawman. They invent the strawman of someone who thinks that Australian Aborigines and typical modern Kenyans are both “black” and thus grouped into the same race. And sure, that is completely wrong (wrong in terms of shared-ancestry clusterings). Aboriginal Australians descended from Asian peoples, who migrated gradually southward to Australia, and their dark skins are indeed local adaptations.

    Anyone denying that races exist would have to deny that such sentences have meaningful content, which is a rejection of science in favour of ideology. This history-of-humans is interesting stuff and one can’t even discuss it if one is going to deny the existence of shared-ancestry clusterings (or races or ecotypes or whatever term one wants to use).

    But really, does anyone these days try to maintain a “folk” notion of race in which Kenyans and Australian Aborigines are the same race purely because of skin pigment? Isn’t that a strawman constructed in order to virtue signal by rejecting it? Virtually no-one has ever maintained a single-marker, single-characteristic notion of race. If there are indeed people holding to such a notion then sure one can educate them, which would be better done in terms of correct ideas of shared-ancestry clustering and human migration, than by denying that races exist at all.

    Like

  11. Bunsen Burner

    The number of worlds in the Many Worlds is view is related to the amount of branching brought on by decoherence events. This is bounded. Every point or line in Hilbert space does not correspond to a world.

    Read chapter 3.11 in Wallace’s The Emergent Multiverse, titled ‘How many worlds?’ The branching structure exists at multiple scales, and at the finest scale interference between the branches ceases to be negligible. This makes thinking in terms of a naturally discrete branching process problematical.

    Like

  12. davidlduffy

    Joseph Carroll [author of Literary Darwinism: Evolution, human nature, and literature] and Brian Boyd [who wrote a chapter in Darwins’ Bridge: Uniting the Humanities and Sciences, as did Massimo] are two people who have explicitly taken up Wilson’s ideas about literature:

    Click to access Three_Scenarios_NLH.pdf

    In a critique of Hamlet, I elaborate ideas of tragedy by incorporating recent research on the neurobiology of depression, consider the kinds of emotional responses Hamlet has elicited in readers, and compare reader responses to Hamlet in various literary periods…

    [T]here is a vulgar form of literary Darwinism. In its most naive form, literary Darwinism consists in merely pointing to the existence of Darwinian themes in various works of literature. Madame Bovary wants a mate with more status than her husband. Anna Karenina is bored with her respectable husband and gets charmed into an illicit relation with a Byronic type better suited for short-term mating. No wonder she ends up throwing herself beneath a train.

    I always feel like a bore saying this, but what does pigmentation gene variation have to do with scientific utility or dysutility of the term race or ancestry as shorthand for genetic differences between populations? If I read that “people of recent African ancestry develop kidney disease at rates 4-5 times higher than most other groups” and this is due to mutations at APOL1 common in Africans, it’s a simple statement of fact. It is disingenuous to say that the concept has some limited utility in medicine, but not in any other area of human biology, a claim I have now seen several times.

    Regarding emotional constructivism, it seems to me that the underdetermination of behaviour by emotional states isn’t unique to humans. Panksepp is one author who defends the Darwinian basic emotions.

    And the Bronze Age Collapse – Mopsus did it.

    Like

  13. brodix

    Some interesting finds on genetic diversity;

    https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2017/10/prehistoric-humans-are-likely-to-have.html#OTdYGt662rWZ6U4c.97

    https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2017/10/dna-analysis-of-40000-year-old-man-in.html#GiRF3k2i7xgf52Lp.97

    The fact is that people compete and all they really need are different colored shirts to distinguish sides. There are plenty of more politically oriented and emotionally fraught sites on the internet where race is a primary factor. It would be nice to have a few where it didn’t overwhelm further considerations.

    Like

  14. Massimo Post author

    Coel,

    It is really sad, I must say, to see a smart person like you getting the biology so utterly wrong. And on top of that resorting to the rhetorical move of citing me in what appears to be support for your position, even though anything but an effective xtremely superficial reading clearly shows the opposite. My position on race has not changed since the paper with Jonathan, and the consensus within population biology is very clear. And it has absolutely nothing to do with ideological signaling.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. brodix

    Bunsen,

    Just speaking from the perspective of a naive intuitionist, it seems in the classical, or macrocosmic world, there is equivalent destruction of information, as creation, yet physics seems to think these worlds and the resulting information, are only created, not destroyed. Could something be lost in the mathematical modeling?

    What is the definition of race? It’s not anything near speciation, but seems slightly greater than cultural. We are at a point in time where there is massive migrations of populations and ignoring the resulting conflicts seems as myopic as emphasizing them is divisive.
    Are these social divisions racial, in the sense of ranges of physical(and cultural) attributes creating social chasms, or are the real conflicts more economic and race is used as a distraction? History tends to show race and culture are often used as a tool of divide and conquer, by those with economic motives. Currently identity politics seems to be a distraction from examining economic issues.

    Like

  16. Bunsen Burner

    Coel:

    ‘But really, does anyone these days try to maintain a “folk” notion of race in which Kenyans and Australian Aborigines are the same race purely because of skin pigment?’

    I certainly see many people who believe in an African race because of skin pigment. However, one thing I am interested in that race realists have never managed to provide is an enumeration of current, extant races. Do you think you could provide one please?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bunsen Burner

    brodix:

    ‘… it seems in the classical, or macrocosmic world, there is equivalent destruction of information, as creation, yet physics seems to think these worlds and the resulting information, are only created, not destroyed.

    In physics the information discussed is the technical term that comes from Information Theory. It’s not really created nor destroyed, merely transmitted. In some ways the language used is similar to that of energy; which it is fashionable to relate information to in quantum information theory, or black hole physics.

    However, the loss (or destruction) of information was considered a crucial issue in the so called Black Hole Wars – the debate between Susskind and Hawking on exactly this point. There the loss occurred because it was swallowed up by the black hole.

    Like

  18. SocraticGadfly

    Coel, what Massimo said. You know, it’s interesting that Coel has been gone for a week and here’s Schlafly. Maybe they’re they’re two photons that got separated through a diffraction, but were originally one? Hmmmmmm.

    Since another link here this week was about the evolution of language, I know both of you know that “race” is just a human-evolved word of language, despite your refusal to admit that.

    Doubling down on this would seem to indicate that you’re both, to use the word for the scientific pretentiousness … racialists.

    Like

  19. synred

    The paper I found does not exactly address the interference at small scales issue. I tried something like this but could not figure out how to make it work to give the Born rule.

    If I fire a photon off and it some times hits a phototube and sometimes misses, the misses would seem to create only one world, while the hits converting at varies levels in the phototube would seem to make a lot. How one would make the hit probability be the integral of the wave function absolute value squared across the of how the tube was constructed is not apparent.d

    The book cost 37 bucks even on Kindle, so I’m probably not going to get it.

    Like

  20. Coel

    Massimo,

    It is really sad, I must say, to see a smart person like you getting the biology so utterly wrong.

    I note, however, that your reply doesn’t say what is wrong with my stance on this. That stance is compatible with your paper that I cited, and also with similar accounts from several other credentialed biologists (just for example, here are one and two by Jerry Coyne, both defending the reality of human races (= ecotypes)).

    Hi Bunsen,

    However, one thing I am interested in that race realists have never managed to provide is an enumeration of current, extant races. Do you think you could provide one please?

    To ask that question implies that you’re thinking about human races the wrong way. All extant humans are one species, which means we interbreed, which means that all genetic clustering is fuzzy edged. And that means one cannot sensibly ask how many divisions there are, as one could if there were discrete, sharp-edged categories.

    But that does mean the shared-ancestry clusterings are not real or not significant. It is a fallacy to think that a classification scheme must either have discrete, sharp-edged definitions or be invalid and improper. Its like asking how many stages a child goes through in becoming an adult. There is no sensible way of counting them (that notion is misconceived) yet there are very real, biological differences between a 5-yr-old and a 15-yr-old.

    Like

  21. Robin Herbert

    Bunsen Burner,

    The number of worlds in the Many Worlds is view is related to the amount of branching brought on by decoherence events.

    But doesn’t it also depend upon what constitutes a decoherence event?

    Sean Carroll, in his course notes, says that there is only one wave function, the wave function of the Universe. Which seems to suggest that, in EQM, there is a superposition of every possible Universe.

    Elsewhere he says that anything, every molecule of air for example, can be an “observer” for the purposes of decoherence.

    But how is there such a thing as an individual molecule of air without decoherence having happened?

    So you can see how this sounds a bit “chicken and egg” to a layman llke me. If the number of worlds is limited by the bounds of the branching that can occur from a decoherence event, what is limiting the number of things that can cause a decoherence event?

    It seems to me that what Carroll is describing is that every possible combination of matter (however unlikely) exists as a Universe.

    Like

  22. Massimo Post author

    Coel,

    I don’t bother anymore. It’s simply not worth it. Nothing, ever, I wrote here changed your mind. About anything. Not even a tiny bit. So let people read what I actually wrote and decide whether I believe in the reality of human races as typically understood in popular discussions. As for Cogne, it has been a long time since I’ve bothered reading him. I guess I just can’t be bothered too much these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. brodix

    Bunsen,

    “In physics the information discussed is the technical term that comes from Information Theory. It’s not really created nor destroyed, merely transmitted. In some ways the language used is similar to that of energy; which it is fashionable to relate information to in quantum information theory, or black hole physics.”

    Information might be substrate independent, but can it exist without a substrate?

    What is this quality of “transmission,” if it isn’t “energy?”

    Like

  24. Robin Herbert

    Chapter 3.11 of “The Emergent Multiverse” sounds like a bit of an evasion “asking how many worlds there are is like asking how many experiences you had yesterday”.

    Well, no. It seems to be a reasonably well formed question with only three answers of interest, ie “a finite number of worlds”, “a countable infinity of worlds” and “an uncountable infinity of worlds”.

    I assume that it is not the first although I am not entirely clear on that.

    The related question that often goes by the by is whether every single physically possible thing happens. That is to say, is it true of EQM that if X is physically possible then the probability that there is at least one universe in which X happens is exactly 1?

    Like

  25. synred

    So you can see how this sounds a bit “chicken and egg” to a layman llke me. If the number of worlds is limited by the bounds of the branching that can occur from a decoherence event, what is limiting the number of things that can cause a decoherence event?

    Sounds like that to me too. I would find many worlds(while still ugly) more convincing if there was a clear cut rule for counting worlds that gave the Born rule.

    The idea that it’s ‘just the Schrodinger equation’ seems false, something more is still needed to explain measurement.

    Like

Comments are closed.