Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Darwin

Still Talking about Darwin?

I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning.

Now that title, that phrase, comes from a critic, an early critic, and this is a passage that I just love, and would like to read for you.

Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet?

Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn’t expect, as he shares evolution’s counter-intuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).

0:28 “In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it. This proposition will be found on careful examination to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in the achievements of creative skill.”

1:09 Exactly. Exactly. And it is a strange inversion. A creationist pamphlet has this wonderful page in it: “Test Two: Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? Yes/No. Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? Yes/No. Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? Yes/No. If you answered ‘Yes’ for any of the above, give details.”

1:38 A-ha! I mean, it really is a strange inversion of reasoning. You would have thought it stands to reason that design requires an intelligent designer. But Darwin shows that it’s just false.

1:54 Today, though, I’m going to talk about Darwin’s other strange inversion, which is equally puzzling at first, but in some ways just as important.

It stands to reason that we love chocolate cake because it is sweet. Guys go for girls like this because they are sexy. We adore babies because they’re so cute. And, of course, we are amused by jokes because they are funny.

2:31 This is all backwards. It is.

And Darwin shows us why. Let’s start with sweet. Our sweet tooth is basically an evolved sugar detector, because sugar is high energy, and it’s just been wired up to the preferer, to put it very crudely, and that’s why we like sugar.

Honey is sweet because we like it, not “we like it because honey is sweet.” There’s nothing intrinsically sweet about honey. If you looked at glucose molecules till you were blind, you wouldn’t see why they tasted sweet.

You have to look in our brains to understand why they’re sweet.

So if you think first there was sweetness, and then we evolved to like sweetness, you’ve got it backwards; that’s just wrong. It’s the other way round. Sweetness was born with the wiring which evolved.

3:32 And there’s nothing intrinsically sexy about these young ladies.

And it’s a good thing that there isn’t, because if there were, then Mother Nature would have a problem: How on earth do you get chimps to mate? Now you might think, ah, there’s a solution: hallucinations.

That would be one way of doing it, but there’s a quicker way. Just wire the chimps up to love that look, and apparently they do. That’s all there is to it. Over six million years, we and the chimps evolved our different ways. We became bald-bodied, oddly enough; for one reason or another, they didn’t. If we hadn’t, then probably this would be the height of sexiness.

4:38 Our sweet tooth is an evolved and instinctual preference for high-energy food. It wasn’t designed for chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a super-normal stimulus.

The term is owed to Niko Tinbergen, who did his famous experiments with gulls, where he found that that orange spot on the gull’s beak — if he made a bigger, orange spot the gull chicks would peck at it even harder. It was a hyper-stimulus for them, and they loved it.

What we see with, say, chocolate cake is it’s a supernormal stimulus to tweak our design wiring. And there are lots of supernormal stimuli; chocolate cake is one. There’s lots of supernormal stimuli for sexiness.

5:19 And there’s even supernormal stimuli for cuteness. Here’ s a pretty good example. It’s important that we love babies, and that we not be put off by, say, messy diapers. So babies have to attract our affection and our nurturing, and they do. And, by the way, a recent study shows that mothers prefer the smell of the dirty diapers of their own baby.

So nature works on many levels here. But now, if babies didn’t look the way they do — if babies looked like this, that’s what we would find adorable, that’s what we would find — we would think, oh my goodness, do I ever want to hug that. This is the strange inversion.

6:03 Well now, finally what about funny. My answer is, it’s the same story, the same story. This is the hard one, the one that isn’t obvious. That’s why I leave it to the end. And I won’t be able to say too much about it. But you have to think evolutionarily, you have to think, what hard job that has to be done — it’s dirty work, somebody’s got to do it — is so important to give us such a powerful, inbuilt reward for it when we succeed.

Now, I think we’ve found the answer — I and a few of my colleagues. It’s a neural system that’s wired up to reward the brain for doing a grubby clerical job. Our bumper sticker for this view is that this is the joy of debugging.

Now I’m not going to have time to spell it all out, but I’ll just say that only some kinds of debugging get the reward. And what we’re doing is we’re using humor as a sort of neuroscientific probe by switching humor on and off, by turning the knob on a joke — now it’s not funny … oh, now it’s funnier … now we’ll turn a little bit more … now it’s not funny — in this way, we can actually learn something about the architecture of the brain, the functional architecture of the brain.

7:24 Matthew Hurley is the first author of this. We call it the Hurley Model. He’s a computer scientist, Reginald Adams a psychologist, and there I am, and we’re putting this together into a book. Thank you very much.

Philosopher, cognitive scientist
Dan Dennett argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes. His latest book is “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” Full bio
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

Related talks

Manu Manjunath

The fact that we find puppies cute may be an artifact of wiring that has other purposes. We certainly don’t depend on chocolate cake for survival either. We are mistaken to think that all thought, feeling or action is *directly* related to survival. I’m not saying the following example is the explanation, but it illustrates the concept.

The video explains that babies are cute because we’re wired to find them cute, and offers a rationale. Perhaps as a result of this, we react to faces in the animal kingdom that resemble baby faces – round face, large eyes for example.

Even physiological mutation is not always subject to natural selection.

For example, fibrinopeptides are the fastest-evolving molecules – they evolve at the baseline mutation rate. Natural selection appears more tolerant of their variation – perhaps because the body has other ways of compensating. (note – other molecules may mutate at similar accelerated rates, but natural selection weeds the variations out so we do not see the variation in the gene pool: natural selection is not tolerant of their variation).

Big brains brought self-awareness and the ability for abstract thought; this opened the door to all kinds of complexities that may not be *directly* tied to survival.

I might appreciate a painting that you find hideous. I doubt that fact will determine which of us survives, but perhaps creativity will survive better in certain cultures, or perhaps some cultures will survive better with a certain mix of literal and creative minds. Natural selection has produced this mix.

I recommend Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. Fascinating and eminently readable – even for dummies like me.

Certain traits of babies, especially of mammals, repeat themselves: a big head, delicate body, big eyes etc. If you stop to think about it, kittens, puppies, human babies, and of primates in general, share these traits, which is why we find them cute.

This also explains, for example, why we don’t find bird babies or fish babies cute: they do not follow these standards. It’s not a question of evolving to find them cute, but evolving to find certain traits our own babies have cute, and extrapolating this response to other animals that have them too.

Víctor Chagas

I agree, there are similarities in features among ‘all’ kinds of infant mammals that would have evolved long before our species did. So what we find cute includes non-human mammals too, because we have evolved from previous ancestor species whose ‘cute babies survived better’. We (and dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, etc…) have all evolved from very cute rat-like things that outlived the last dinosaurs of the Jurassic.

Also, we’ve been domesticating dogs and cats for perhaps 10,000 years and there are many times throughout our species’ history where at least having close relationships with dogs may have been important for survival, so maybe we do a better job of finding puppies cute than say, baby rats.

 

Talking about Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning

Dan Dennett. Philosopher, cognitive scientist
Dennett argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes. His latest book is “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” Full bio
I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning. Now that title, that phrase, comes from a critic, an early critic, and this is a passage that I just love, and would like to read for you.

0:28 “In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it. This proposition will be found on careful examination to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in the achievements of creative skill.”

Exactly. And it is a strange inversion. A creationist pamphlet has this wonderful page in it: “Test Two: Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? Yes/No. Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? Yes/No. Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? Yes/No. If you answered ‘Yes’ for any of the above, give details.”

I mean, it really is a strange inversion of reasoning. You would have thought it stands to reason that design requires an intelligent designer. But Darwin shows that it’s just false.

Today, though, I’m going to talk about Darwin’s other strange inversion, which is equally puzzling at first, but in some ways just as important.

It stands to reason that we love chocolate cake because it is sweet. Guys go for girls like this because they are sexy. We adore babies because they’re so cute. And, of course, we are amused by jokes because they are funny.

This is all backwards. It is.

And Darwin shows us why. Let’s start with sweet. Our sweet tooth is basically an evolved sugar detector, because sugar is high energy, and it’s just been

It wasn’t designed for chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a supernormal stimulus. The term is owed to Niko Tinbergen, who did his famous experiments with gulls, where he found that that orange spot on the gull’s beak — if he made a bigger, oranger spot the gull chicks would peck at it even harder.

It was a hyperstimulus for them, and they loved it. What we see with, say, chocolate cake is it’s a supernormal stimulus to tweak our design wiring. And there are lots of supernormal stimuli; chocolate cake is one. There’s lots of supernormal stimuli for sexiness.

And there’s even supernormal stimuli for cuteness.

Here’s a pretty good example. It’s important that we love babies, and that we not be put off by, say, messy diapers. So babies have to attract our affection and our nurturing, and they do.

And, by the way, a recent study shows that mothers prefer the smell of the dirty diapers of their own baby. So nature works on many levels here. But now, if babies didn’t look the way they do — if babies looked like this, that’s what we would find adorable, that’s what we would find — we would think, oh my goodness, do I ever want to hug that. This is the strange inversion.

Finally what about funny.

My answer is, it’s the same story.  This is the hard one, the one that isn’t obvious. That’s why I leave it to the end. And I won’t be able to say too much about it. But you have to think evolutionary, you have to think, what hard job that has to be done — it’s dirty work, somebody’s got to do it — is so important to give us such a powerful, inbuilt reward for it when we succeed.

Now, I think we’ve found the answer — I and a few of my colleagues. It’s a neural system that’s wired up to reward the brain for doing a grubby clerical job.

Our bumper sticker for this view is that this is the joy of debugging.

Now I’m not going to have time to spell it all out, but I’ll just say that only some kinds of debugging get the reward.

And what we’re doing is we’re using humor as a sort of neuroscientific probe by switching humor on and off, by turning the knob on a joke — now it’s not funny … oh, now it’s funnier … now we’ll turn a little bit more … now it’s not funny — in this way, we can actually learn something about the architecture of the brain, the functional architecture of the brain.

Matthew Hurley is the first author of this. We call it the Hurley Model. He’s a computer scientist, Reginald Adams a psychologist, and there I am, and we’re putting this together into a book.

Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet? Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn’t expect, as he shares evolution’s counterintuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).

Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning

Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet? Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn’t expect, as he shares evolution’s counterintuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).

Dan Dennett. Philosopher, cognitive scientist argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes. His latest book is “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” Full bio

I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning. Now that title, that phrase, comes from an early critic, and this is a passage that I just love, and would like to read for you.

0:28 “In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it.

This proposition will be found on careful examination to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in the achievements of creative skill.”

 Exactly. And it is a strange inversion.

A creationist pamphlet has this wonderful page in it: “Test Two: Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? Yes/No. Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? Yes/No. Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? Yes/No. If you answered ‘Yes’ for any of the above, give details.”  (Yes/No, The pitfall of all referendums that are plaguing the people)

This is all backwards. It is. And Darwin shows us why.

Let’s start with sweet. Our sweet tooth is basically an evolved sugar detector, because sugar is high energy, and it’s just been wired up to the preferer, to put it very crudely, and that’s why we like sugar. Honey is sweet because we like it, not “we like it because honey is sweet.”

There’s nothing intrinsically sweet about honey. If you looked at glucose molecules till you were blind, you wouldn’t see why they tasted sweet. You have to look in our brains to understand why they’re sweet. So if you think first there was sweetness, and then we evolved to like sweetness, you’ve got it backwards; that’s just wrong. It’s the other way round. Sweetness was born with the wiring which evolved.

And there’s nothing intrinsically sexy about these young ladies. And it’s a good thing that there isn’t, because if there were, then Mother Nature would have a problem: How on earth do you get chimps to mate?

Now you might think, ah, there’s a solution: hallucinations. That would be one way of doing it, but there’s a quicker way. Just wire the chimps up to love that look, and apparently they do. That’s all there is to it.

Over six million years, we and the chimps evolved our different ways. We became bald-bodied, oddly enough; for one reason or another, they didn’t. If we hadn’t, then probably this would be the height of sexiness.

Our sweet tooth is an evolved and instinctual preference for high-energy food. It wasn’t designed for chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a supernormal stimulus. The term is owed to Niko Tinbergen, who did his famous experiments with gulls, where he found that orange spot on the gull’s beak — if he made a bigger, oranger spot the gull chicks would peck at it even harder.

It was a hyperstimulus for them, and they loved it. What we see with, say, chocolate cake is it’s a supernormal stimulus to tweak our design wiring. And there are lots of supernormal stimuli; chocolate cake is one. There’s lots of supernormal stimuli for sexiness.

And there’s even supernormal stimuli for cuteness. Here’s a pretty good example.

It’s important that we love babies, and that we not be put off by, say, messy diapers. So babies have to attract our affection and our nurturing, and they do.

And, by the way, a recent study shows that mothers prefer the smell of the dirty diapers of their own baby. So nature works on many levels here.

But now, if babies didn’t look the way they do — if babies looked like this, that’s what we would find adorable, that’s what we would find — we would think, oh my goodness, do I ever want to hug that. This is the strange inversion.

finally what about funny.

My answer is, it’s the same story. This is the hard one, the one that isn’t obvious. That’s why I leave it to the end.

And I won’t be able to say too much about it. But you have to think evolutionarily, you have to think, what hard job that has to be done — it’s dirty work, somebody’s got to do it — is so important to give us such a powerful, inbuilt reward for it when we succeed.

Now, I think we’ve found the answer — I and a few of my colleagues. It’s a neural system that’s wired up to reward the brain for doing a grubby clerical job.

Our bumper sticker for this view is that this is the joy of debugging. Now I’m not going to have time to spell it all out, but I’ll just say that only some kinds of debugging get the reward. And what we’re doing is we’re using humor as a sort of neuroscientific probe by switching humor on and off, by turning the knob on a joke — now it’s not funny … oh, now it’s funnier … now we’ll turn a little bit more … now it’s not funny — in this way, we can actually learn something about the architecture of the brain, the functional architecture of the brain.

7:24 Matthew Hurley is the first author of this. We call it the Hurley Model. He’s a computer scientist, Reginald Adams a psychologist, and there I am, and we’re putting this together into a book.

Theory of evolution: 600 years older than Darwin

Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī was a Persian polymath and prolific writer: An architect, astronomer, biologist, chemist, mathematician, philosopher, physician, physicist, scientist, theologian and Marja Taqleed.

He was of the Ismaili, and subsequently Twelver Shī‘ah, Islamic belief. The Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian scholars

Tusi has about 150 works, of which 25 are in Persian and the remaining are in Arabic, and there is one treatise in Persian, Arabic and Turkish. (Most scientific works were written in Arabic, the scientific language of the period)

During his stay in Nishapur, Tusi established a reputation as an exceptional scholar. Tusi’s prose writings represent one of the largest collections by a single Islamic author.

Writing in both Arabic and Persian, Nasir al-Din Tusi dealt with both religious (“Islamic”) topics and non-religious or secular subjects (“the ancient sciences”). His works include the definitive Arabic versions of the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Ptolemy, Autolycus, and Theodosius of Bithynia

In his Akhlaq-i-Nasri, Tusi put forward a basic theory of the evolution of species almost 600 years before Charles Darwin was born.

He begins his theory of evolution with the universe once consisting of equal and similar elements. According to Tusi, internal contradictions began appearing, and as a result, some substances began developing faster and differently from other substances.

He explains how the elements evolved into minerals, then plants, then animals, and then humans. Tusi then goes on to explain how hereditary variability was an important factor for biological evolution of living things:

“The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.”

Tusi discusses how organisms are able to adapt to their environments:

“Look at the world of animals and birds. They have all that is necessary for defense, protection and daily life, including strengths, courage and appropriate tools [organs] […]

Some of these organs are real weapons, […] For example, horns-spear, teeth and claws-knife and needle, feet and hoofs-cudgel. The thorns and needles of some animals are similar to arrows. […]

Animals that have no other means of defense (as the gazelle and fox) protect themselves with the help of flight and cunning. […] Some of them, for example, bees, ants and some bird species, have united in communities in order to protect themselves and help each other.”

thevintagenews.com

Tusi recognized three types of living things: plants, animals, and humans. He wrote:

“Animals are higher than plants, because they are able to move consciously, go after food, find and eat useful things. […] There are many differences between the animal and plant species, […]

First of all, the animal kingdom is more complicated. Besides, reason is the most beneficial feature of animals. Owing to reason, they can learn new things and adopt new, non-inherent abilities.

For example, the trained horse or hunting falcon is at a higher point of development in the animal world. The first steps of human perfection begin from here.”

Tusi explains how humans evolved from advanced animals:

“Such humans [probably anthropoid apes] live in the Western Sudan and other distant corners of the world. They are close to animals by their habits, deeds and behavior. […]

The human has features that distinguish him from other creatures, but he has other features that unite him with the animal world, vegetable kingdom or even with the inanimate bodies. […]

Before [the creation of humans], all differences between organisms were of the natural origin. The next step will be associated with spiritual perfection, will, observation and knowledge. […] All these facts prove that the human being is placed on the middle step of the evolutionary stairway.

According to his inherent nature, the human is related to the lower beings, and only with the help of his will can he reach the higher development level.”

Have you lately used Darwin’s name in Vain?

It is survival of the Gene stupid, not your own life…

There are growing number of research pointing to the qualitative altering of genes as people change their daily behaviors.  Sort of nurturing changes the default genes of acquired habits and customs.

These results bring to the forefront deductive ideas:

1. Genes are but structured system of acquired customs and habits that we use in our daily transactions and behaviors, acquired over generations…

2. If a group of people assemble and get organized to change their habits and customs, this gathering of people will basically tend to alter their genes, creating a new species of mankind

3. The species of mankind that is resuming the current consumption civilization, which defies the sustainability of earth and nature, is ultimately doomed, and replaced by

4. The new breed who takes the attitude of never challenging nature, of consuming what nature is able to produce, of maintaining a healthy environment… this new species of mankind could survive…

These ideas and deductions were inspired by this short post in Reine Organized Chaos.

 posted this July 24, 2013:

“When you ask some people why they act in ‘selfish’ ways, why they are out to fulfill their own self-interest, many might attribute it to a ‘survival of the fittest’ strategy.

I’ve been reading a book on evolutionary biology, an extension of Darwin’s theories, and the biggest insight so far is the following:

It isn’t about the survival of the fittest individual but survival of the fittest GENE.

What does this imply?

That maybe a few selfless acts on the individual level might be just what you need for that particular gene to survive!

Selfless animals that act upon the gene causing them to scream out might suffer on an individual level when a predator finds them, but that gene called out a warning to other animals in the vicinity, inevitably creating a proliferation of that particular gene through saving all those lives.

We, the human species should start wondering whether the way we’ve misunderstood ‘survival of the fittest’ might be causing us to act in contrast to actual evolutionary biology.

And whether we’re slowly decreasing the number of genes that can allow us to actually survive”.

Note 1: Low and high altitude mankind species https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/two-species-of-mankind-sorted-out-not-long-ago/

Note2:  Reine Azzi is an instructor who teaches at a Lebanese university! Best way to remain passionately challenged!  She has the licensee, curator, and host of TEDxLAU which adds so much excitement to my life!

Maimonides (1138-1204) resurrects Ibn Rushd (Averroes) rational works

Maimonides (Mussa ibn Maimun) was 12 years younger than Ibn Rush (Averroes); they both were born in the same cultured city of Cordoba (southern Spain).

Cordoba was for over a century the center of intellect and civilization around the Mediterranean Sea basin.  In 1149, the family of Maimonides were given the option of leaving the city or convert to Islam:  A new Islamic tribe from Morocco (Almohades or the Al Muwahhidun) imposed a conservative climate in that free-spirited city where Moslems, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony.

The fathers of Maimonides and Ibn Rush are friends:  Ibn Rushd’s father is a Moslem judge while Maimonides’ father is a Rabbi of the Jewish community. Maimonides’ father encouraged the Jews who could not afford to leave to convert to Islam:  Islam is one of the purest monolithic religion and the mosques have no idols, icons, or pictures, on the basis that in due time, converted Jews can leave in order to resume their traditional ceremonies and way of life.

The family of Maimonides opted to leave:  It stays in Toledo (a city under King Alphonse VII of Castile), then move on to southern France to join a large Jewish community.  In 1160, the family is in Fez  (Morocco) and stayed there for 5 years; the family transfer to Tanger where Ibn Rushd is judge there.

In 1165, the family immigrated to Palestine. The father dies in Akka.  Maimonides is head of the family and they move to Alexandria (Egypt) and then to Fostat, 5 miles away from the Capital Cairo.  Maimonides will remain there and become the Ayubid Sultan’s physician.

Maimonides relied on Ibn Rushd’s works to perpetuate the rational and scientific trend.  He wrote:

“We may dispense of Platon’s works:  Aristotle’s works suffice, since they are the foundations and roots of scientific rational methods.  Aristotle’s works are difficult and many propositions cannot be comprehended without the commentaries and interpretations of Ibn Rushd.”

When Ibn Rushd was banned from publishing books or communicating what he wrote  in the last six years of his life, the increased pressures on Ibn Rushd’s freedom of expression resulted in regular events of  public burning of the scholars’ manuscripts.  Luckily, copies reached Cairo, northern Spain, and southern France (Languedoc province) where they were read and translated in Hebrew, Latin, and local languages.

As Ibn Rushd, Maimonides believes that “It is proven that all actions done by man emanate from his own volition.  No external forces oblige him to tend to virtue or evil doing.  Every man can become just or guilty, good or bad; it is his own will that select the way of what he desires.  If we suffer, it is by what we inflict upon ourselves; we tend to attribute our pains as originating from God. Mankind is but another species and element in this cosmos and the universe does not revolve around man.  God is but an abstract concept, even if the Books refer to hands and fingers of God just to accommodating the limited abstraction power of common people.  God should not be described as good, benevolent, compassionate, jealous or any other character attributes since they will break the unity of God.”

In 1199, Judah bin Tibon, who had been translating Maimonides works from Arabic to Hebrew in southern France, expressed the desire to visit him in Cairo. Maimonides discouraged Tibon to undergo this perilous voyage since he won’t have time to meet with him because of his tight schedule.

Maimonides wrote:  “Early every day I have to ride 5 miles to check on the health of the Sultan, his extended family, and the officials in the castle.  I rarely returns home before late in the afternoon.  When I arrive I am met by many visitors, judges, notable people, and mostly patients waiting for health check up.  I barely have time to have my only meal of the day.  By the time the patients are gone it is late at night, frequently until 2am.

On the Sabbath, the Jewish community pay me visit after morning prayer and we study till noon and give them instructions for the week. Frequently, they return after the afternoon prayer and we study some more til evening prayer.  Thus, I never have time for any private meeting.”

Maimonides spread the advice of Ibn Rushd:  “Have no fear searching for truth in sciences.  Truth cannot contradict truth; sciences is in accord with God’s revelations. God has nothing to fear when you use your rational intelligence to discovering the universe and the causes of phenomenon.  Dialectical and rhetorical reasoning cannot compensate for demonstrative reasoning.

Generally, common people confuse inferences with conclusions that are drawn from several premises. For example:  common people say “this person is a thief because he was seen wandering at night” and do not evaluate all the other factors that determine a thieving behavior.  Common people conclude that they will see God as we see the sun when they are told that God is light.

Learned people comprehend that beatitude and grace increase knowledge.  Truth is not intuitive but the accumulation of knowledge; we cannot become astronomer without learning and assimilating geometry and mathematics. Forbidding people from applying scientific methods on the ground that they lead to errors, abuse, and blasphemy is like forbidding someone from drinking lest he dies of thirst on the excuse that some people die from drowning.

Scientific methods of reasoning is not meant to defining God or the operations that lead to the creation of the universe:  It attests to its existence.  We cannot apply to God the categories and human concepts””

In 1180, Maimonides wrote to a Jewish community in Yemen asking for a second opinion:  A Jew proclaimed to be the Messiah

“It is not rare that such type of persons appears in history.  The Messiah cannot keep the promises that this person is spreading of happy eternal life:  The Messiah is not to change the laws of nature; pain, suffering, and injustice will not disappear; deserts will not become green and mountains will not be leveled out. The Messiah is not supposed to be a supernatural entity but someone to put an end to violence.  Those proclaiming to be messiah are but charlatans and mentally sick.”

One of the most known manuscripts of Maimonides is “Guide to the perplexed” or those who cannot help it but constantly raise questions relevant to the meaning of life, the universe, the identity of God… He suggested that the perplexed person gets on with the effort of studying philosophy and apply reason and scientific methods to resolving their uneasy conditions.

In Central Europe of the 18th century, the Hasidic Jewish sect would proclaim Maimonides and all the followers who consider him as their spiritual leader as “heretics”.  Nevertheless, Maimonides works influence Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, Darwin, Freud, Lancan, and Leo Strauss.

Ibn Rushd dared reflect on every single question exposed by the civilization of the period concerning the coherence among religious dogmas and scientific verities; he dared to write his answers.  Maimonides reflected too on the corny questions but refrained from writing them down; you could know his positions by inference to his answers.

A brief background:  In Maimonides life, Europe is still battling among its various Christian schisms of monophysite, Niceans  (Catholics), Nestorians, Arianus followers (predominant among the Germanic and Slavic people).  The Calif of Baghdad is reduced to a figure-head while the Turkish princes are the main power (the Mogul hordes will soon sack and destroy (in 1250) this famous city of Baghdad that concentrated 3 million urban citizens back then).

The Western Roman Empire had vanished, and the Byzantium Empire was weakening (soon will be reduced to a vassal condition to the Ottoman expanding power in Turkey).  Papal Rome is being selected by the Germanic monarchs as well as the bishops, and in many occasions, two popes are elected and backed by various monarchs. The political and military confrontations among the many Christian religious schisms on the nature of Jesus have taken their toll on Europe.

The crusaders are loosing their grips in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and Saladin recaptured Jerusalem.  The Catholic monarchs of Castile and Aragon (Spain) had started the “reconquista” and Andalusia was wracked by wars among the multiple small kingdoms of Islamic monarchs; these internal wars were called “wars of Tawaif”.  In

In 1112, Ibn Tumar, a literate Berber from Algeria who spent ten years in Iran, returned to proclaim that he is the awaited “hidden” Mahdi (since 874) of the Islam sect the Shias and formed the Almohades (Al Muwayidun) or united Islam.

The Spanish Catholic monarch Alphonse 7th put siege to Cordoba in 1148.  The  Caliph of Cordona Abd Mu2min calls on the Almohades for rescue and outset the Almoravids dynasty (Al murabitun) or the ones in vigilance.  The Almoravids originated from Mauritania and were a powerful tribe of traders in the western Sahara that captured Morocco.

In 1497, Papal Rome encouraged the institution of a university in Padua (Italy) to teaching Aristotle’s works and be translated directly from ancient Greek.  It was a strategy of ignoring the influence of Islamic culture that was spreading in Catholic Europe.  The Renaissance scholars dared not communicate the sources of their knowledge and learning.

Since then, European scholars have continued this custom of deliberately ignoring seven centuries of Islamic civilizations when accounting for western Europe civilization.

Note 1:  I refrained to approach the theological questions and their corresponding responses because I am not interested in abstract concepts that lack demonstrative methods for confirming or denying veracity. Mind you that current borders among the Maghreb States were delimited by the mandated powers of France and Spain. Unless we know exactly the name of the towns and regions, it is difficult to confirm from which current State the persons were from…

Note 2: Ahmed sent me an interesting comment stating that Maimoune had racist attitudes, pretty normal during the Middle Age and and still going strong even today.

“I copied and pasted the translation you mention from the following website:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2011/01/judaism-or-racism-the-rambams-view-of-black-people-456/comments/page/2/

This website gives the source as the following: Maimonides, Guide To The Perplexed, Translation from the Hebrew Version.

The popular Jewish Israeli thinker Israel Shahak confirms that Maimonides did indeed express anti-black racist views, also confirming that Kushite means Black people in his book called, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years,” which was first published in 1994 by Pluto Press. It can be found online here:

http://www.iamthewitness.com/books/Israel.Shahak/Jewish.History.Jewish%20Religion-The.Weight.of.Three.Thousand.Years.pdf

Understandably translations vary from author to author and an example of this can be downloaded from the University of California internet archive:

http://archive.org/details/guideforperplexe00maim

Download the PDF book. On page 384 you will see the racist quote and the context.

The version of the book I have at home is translated by Michael Friedlaender. You can find it Online here:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1256&Itemid=27

Go to Part Iii, Chapter Li. The second paragraph is the following:

“I will begin the subject of this chapter with a simile.

A king is in his palace, and all his subjects are partly in the country, and partly abroad. Of the former, some have their backs turned towards the king’s palace, and their faces in another direction; and some are desirous and zealous to go to the palace, seeking “to inquire in his temple,” and to minister before him, but have not yet seen even the face of the wall of the house. Of those that desire to go to the palace, some reach it, and go round about in search of the entrance gate.

Others have passed through the gate, and walk about in the ante-chamber; and others have succeeded in entering into the inner part of the palace, and being in the same room with the king in the royal palace. But even the latter do not immediately on entering the palace see the king, or speak to him; for, after having entered the inner part of the palace, another effort is required before they can stand before the king—at a distance, or close by—hear his words, or speak to him.

I will now explain the simile which I have made. The people who are abroad are all those that have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition. Such are the extreme Turks that wander about in the north, the Kushites who live in the south, and those in our country who are like these. I consider these as irrational beings, and not as human beings; they are below mankind, but above monkeys, since they have the form and shape of man, and a mental faculty above that of the monkey.”

Am I biased? What are your cognitive models?

There is an interesting story behind these questions; the effort of answering as many as you can will generate satisfaction.

We function and decide along cognitive models of what we think we know of facts and reality.

1) You had an excellent grade on one of the courses.  What is the main reason?

You are very intelligent; you studied hard; the course was pretty easy; the teacher was good in explaining the subject matter; the school environment is conducive to learning; the teaching method was appropriate to your temperament; your close community is supportive to learning.

2) You believe that your girl friend’s mental capabilities are below your mental potential.  Is it because:

She asks many detailed questions that you consider should be taken for granted; she has this habit of going frequently on tangents instead of focusing on the main subject of the conversation; she is convinced that girls’ trump card is elegance and style; she is never satisfied how she looks;  she is always one hour late for the date;  she just starts dressing up and bathing on the date schedule and thus unable to plan ahead;  she is not logical or rational in her thinking…

I don’t believe my girlfriend is less smarter than me but I don’t know why;

I have facts that my girlfriend is smarter than me.

3) You are convinced of the “evolution” theory of mankind.  Why? Because:

I read the original book of Darwin and he convinced me; I read commentaries of scientists that I value their judgement and I got convinced; I observed mechanism of evolution; I read scientific peer-reviewed studies on that topic; I am a scientist working in that field; I don’t believe in The BOOK or religious Books describing creation of mankind and species; I don’t see any other alternatives but evolution;

I don’t believe in evolution but I don’t know why;

I believe in evolution but I am not convinced.

4)  Small commercial airplanes are far more dangerous for traveling short distances (300 miles) than cars. I agree because:

the only consequences in crashes is certain death; I have no control over planes; weather conditions affect the maneuvering of airplanes far more than cars; there is a heavy density of birds at low altitudes; there is no co-pilots in small commercial planes;

I disagree.

5)  Your schoolmate closest friend had a much better grade than you on one of the courses.  What is the main reason?

Is he more intelligent than you?  He studied harder; the teacher is biased to him and favor your friend;  your friend’s parents have strong connection with the administration; he is more relaxed in the school environment; his close community is more supportive to learning.

6)  People of developing countries are evidently less smart and not endowed with mental capabilities as people in developed nations.  Because:

their brain size is smaller; they failed so far to reaching a social stage of development that is compatible with modern social standards; they are still in the tribal stage; they allow foreigners to exploit their resources; their leaders are willing to sell anything for bribes; civil wars are rampant in developing countries; political structures are unstable; democracy is lacking; Christianity is not predominant;

I disagree based on the above premises or observations but I believe the initial statesman;

The statesman is wrongly formulated and biased but it cannot be disproved;

The statement is not “politically correct” and thus it is wrong;

I have no opinion and care less;

I have facts to the contrary to the statesman.

7)  In general, women are less capable of running big businesses or holding important political positions.  The reasons are:

Women are rarely found in high positions; physical handicaps during pregnancy are not conducive to persistent work in becoming expert; women are emotionally less strong than men in critical events;  women get bogged down in details; the temperament of women is less focused on business targets;

This is wrong statement;

The question is biased in its formulation;

Women are more capable than men in running big businesses and controlling personnel.

8)  You have got a pretty lousy grade.  The main reason is:

You have no inclination for the subject matter; you had urgent problems to taking care of; the teacher lacked the vocation; the classroom is crowded; the schedule for the course didn’t match the top performance period in your circadian body cycle.

A few subjective cognitive models we use to deciding without enough facts are the following:

One:  We rely on simple heuristic strategies to avoiding complex computational judgement.  This model is called “Attribute substitution

Two:  We tend not to acknowledge our biases in judgement and think that we are better than average in feeling the correct attitude; thus, we have “Bias blind spots“.

Three:  We tend to attribute to our strong imaginative power pieces of memory that we have registered and had forgotten.  The phenomena of False memory syndrome, Recovery memory therapies through hypnosis…and plagiarism are within the category of Cryptomnesia models.

Four: We tend to extend positive outcomes as relevant to our internal capabilities and potentials while negative outcomes are attributed to external factors.  This “self-serving bias” is reversed when judging another person’s outcomes (grade results for example).

Five:  We tend to ask more money for items we own than we are willing to pay for as market value.  This “endowment effect” is related to our aversion to loss and sticking to the status quo biases.

Six: We search for bad actions and behavior of the victims based on our model of “Just-World phenomenon“.  Somehow, the victim must have been bad to get this outcome.

Seven:  “I can quit addiction at any time I decide to” is within the “Restraint bias” model and illusion of control when we will anything.

Eight:  We tend to under-estimate task duration that is unknown to us.  We use the “planning fallacy” model.

Nine: We estimate based on our most vivid memories.  This is the “Availability heuristic” cognitive model.

Ten:  We search for facts that support our hypothesis instead of the way around.  We use the “Confirmation bias” model.

Send me more questions and option answers that generate examples of our subjective cognitive models


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

June 2020
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