Posted by: graemebird | July 10, 2006

Good And Bad Uses Of Personification In Science

I’ll go through three examples of the good the bad and the ugly of personification in science.

I think its a good thing this personification. Since it represents a simplified model. I think we ought to use personification a lot more. And be a lot more explicit about it. Because when we are not explicit about it she creeps into our thinking unawares.

The “bad” example here is with socio-biology. Now here personification has thrown an enourmous light on human psycology. Before I was looking into this side of things I was a pretty big fan of Camile Paglia. But nothing she says about pagans and stuff cannot be more easily explained by your selfish gene theory.

But the selfish gene way of looking at things ought to be considered as evidence for the great power of personification as a way of building simple rule of thumb models for what the world is like.

Because there is no selfish gene. No gene has its own brain. The gene wants nothing. And we ought not forget that. Its a molecule. Tiny. Big as molecules go but a tiny inanimate thing nonetheless, with no aspirations of its own.

So all this meme and gene talk is smoke and mirrors if its not personification. The selfish gene theory has gotten enough attention. But the power of simplified models using personification has been dudded. Since the theorists never let on and may not know that they are using personification.

But my goodness what impressive light these ideas throw on things.

We should ascribe this light to the power of personification in science. Because there is not nor ever was, nor will there ever be a selfish gene.

My second example is the ugly example. James Lovelock. My God what a nutball.

((((((((NOTE: SINCE WRITING THIS I HAVE TAKEN A FAR MORE POSITIVE VIEW OF JAMES LOVELOCK AND HIS GAIA HYPOTHESIS.

SO THIS AMOUNTS TO A RETRACTION. SOME PEOPLE HOWEVER MISUSE HIS HYPOTHESIS AND THIS IS WHERE I CAME OF THE BEAM….. GMB 12/2/2007)))))))

This dumb bastard really thinks the planet is concious. There isn’t the slightest evidence for it. But like some sort of Egyptian high-priest he thinks he knows his God and knows her personality like he talks to her everyday. His view of her personality and capriciousness bears no relation to the “personality” of the real thing and in fact the personality of his imaginery friend is pretty easy to spot.

Not so much a feminised Yaweh but Yaweh in drag. Coming back from the old testament and leaving the saviour behind. Coming back to avenge us unto the 7(hundred)th generation for our transgressions against his order. This Gaia bullshit could not be more idiotic. And it doesn’t throw any light on anything.

So the earth has certain feedback systems-Got it/I’m gone. The earth has various feedbacks and so does an ageing near clapped-out thermostat and so what?

Mother nature is no biblical avenger. She is a nazi bitch-goddess who might just fuck us up not matter WHAT we do. She is a sadist. Not a harsh but fair avenger.

Now onto the good. That is of course Hunter Thompsons personification of ELECTRICITY in songs of the doomed.

He breaks down the behaviour of electricity into two characteristics.

Electricity is:

1. Homesick

2. Lazy.

Now I cannot do it justice. But if you go back to the farm with your rubber gloves,gumboots and wire and start mucking about with the electric fence you will be able to predict in advance the result of all your various experiments by reading this one Hunter Thompson essay and applying this very powerful technique of personification.

Electricity is lazy and homesick. Great Stuff.

But what is all this in aid of? This discussion is a pre-requisite to the investigation of these climate science hucksters and their hangers on. We can use personification to set our default positions and our burdens of proof. Of course we might turn out to be horribly wrong in our initial tentative conclusions. But we can set a default position and fold our arms and then try and get these charlatans to justify their extraordinary claims with our starting position already set.

These dumb bastards are in any case not even where economics was in the 1870′s. They don’t even seem to have discovered marginal analysis.

So let us take this powerful tool of personification and apply it to the mystery of hurricanes and cyclones.


Responses

  1. I’m curious to read this one. Come on, get to it slacker!

  2. Bird, since you’re notw writing on science, do you think that Godel’s theorem imposes a limit on further developments in Artificial Intelligence? But if so, what accounts for human consciousness which is also consistent with a mechanistic explanation? Or isn’t there one?

  3. I’m also interested Bird into your views on wave-particle duality in quantum physics. Is there a better approach? If so, what is it?

  4. “Bird, since you’re now writing on science, do you think that Godel’s theorem imposes a limit on further developments in Artificial Intelligence?”

    No but I think it implies that they are going down the wrong track if they are using digital processors without funnelling it through fuzzy logic algorithms. Godels theorem strikes me as parallel to what I’ve been saying about the limits of bivalent deductive logic.

    “But if so, what accounts for human consciousness which is also consistent with a mechanistic explanation? Or isn’t there one?”

    I think its probably to do with all these parallel processes happening and the results being fed through a linear processor. The linear processor having partial but not very good control and or insight into what is happening with all the parallel processes. And not strickly parallel either. More networking. All this happening along with the constant sense experience incoming.

    “I’m also interested Bird into your views on wave-particle duality in quantum physics. Is there a better approach? If so, what is it?”

    Yes there is. You cannot be both a wave and a particle. You can be a particle that moves in waves but that would imply an aether or some alternate explanation.

    The first step is to realise that there is a problem and to doubt everything ala Rene Descartes. Then I would look to taking the data we already have and to working through building many alternative models.

    Now the first thing if I was directing the process is to try and develop a lot of simplified models. Not be going after this grand unifying theory bollocks. If there is a grand unifying theory it will come over and hit you on the head soon enough. So on one level it was fine to have these two contradictory small models of light. That is to say light as particles and light as waves.

    So we get these alternative models up consistent with all the free data that must be out there (this is cheap work the way I would do it).

    And one thing they would have to try is get rid of this idea of attraction at a distance. I mean any distance.

    So they are working on simplified models where there is no attraction at a distance even at the atomic level. But instead something is pushing or banging into these things to make them move the way they do.

    Then once you establish this process of model-building you might come across the solution to this duality indirectly as it were.

  5. By the way. If photons move in waves. And those waves move at light speed. Then the photons are ducking and weaving at faster then light speed so there goes one arbitrary idea out the window right there. Something has to give. Modern physicists are just bizzare. They have learnt to love their contradictions. The same contradictions that the orginaters of the very good working models were totally uncomfortable with. This is why physics has largely ground to a halt and gotten diverted into make-believe. They cannot find any grand unifying theory the way they are going. They are wasting their time.

  6. [...] Graeme Bird discusses the uses and abuses of personification in science. [...]

  7. graeme, if you actually read Lovelock’s work you would know that he doesn’t think that the earth is conscious – it’s a label for the Earth system. You should actually read stuff before talking about it.

  8. The “selfish gene” is really a stripped down phrase to communicate an idea for public consumption – of course the gene doesn’t have a mind of its own – this personification is in reaction to the habit that people have of personifying things – not because scientists think it’s a great thing!

  9. Right. Look I do read Lovelocks stuff. And he is in fact a nutball. And he doesn’t often make clear that he’s using personification. He talks on an on as if the earth is a concious being I shit you not. Samewise with the gene stuff. They may sometimes admit that its just personification but if they do I haven’t caught them out at it. And they seem to (if this is the case) forget that its only personification.

    My point isn’t that personification is BAD. Only that it should be explicit. And then it can be appreciated as a powerful tool.

    “personification is in reaction to the habit that people have of personifying things – not because scientists think it’s a great thing!”

    I’m not buying either of these propositions. I’m not buying the proposition that these scientists are looking down at the flotsam and jetsam personifying things and saying “Oh well. May as well go with the flow.”

    And I’m not buying it either that it isn’t a great thing. I think it IS a great thing as the incredible amount of light thrown on puny humans by the selfish gene small model would seem to demonstrate.

    This is all extremely good science. Not going after a grand model. But here we have instead a simple model. Simple and easy to understand using personification.

    Just terrific.

    • Interesting as I began listening to Lovelock some more I had to back down from the above comment and recognise Lovelock as a serious scientist.

  10. “graeme, if you actually read Lovelock’s work you would know that he doesn’t think that the earth is conscious – it’s a label for the Earth system. You should actually read stuff before talking about it.”

    Yes Sacha.

    My full retraction is above.

    As I looked into it more I came to see the great value of his simplified model.

    However I do think he takes it a little far.

    And some of the people who follow him….. Well my criticisms still hold for some of them.

    But he’s been kicking winners for decades so I fully retract my criticism of him.

    Because after all I have been using his model to some extent.

  11. Graeme. Apropos of light waves and photons.

    What you describe is a wave moving through a sea of photons. In which case you could maybe argue that the photons themselves were moving faster back and forth than the wave itself (although I don’t think this is necessarily so).

    However, the theory goes that light behaves as either a wave OR as particles, in other words the photons themselves are either waves or particles and display characteristics of both depending on circumstances. Not that light is a wave of photons. So there is no contradiction there.

    Anyway, I think this page describes it better than I could.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave-particle_duality

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon

  12. No way

    You are describing things as if the photons WERE the ether.

    And as if light was just a shock-wave moving through that ether.

    Dude…

    … If you can make your radical new theory fly go to it.

    But thats not the standard stuff.

    Something can act like a particle or a wave. But it cannot both BE a particle and a wave simultaneously.

    That the scientists have gotten stuck on this point is evidence that we need a re-think.

    Hey thanks for hanging out man.

    Good work.

    You are a good man and bring all speculations my way.

    But beware.

    I may steal them and run like a thief in the night.

  13. But the selfish gene way of looking at things ought to be considered as evidence for the great power of personification as a way of building simple rule of thumb models for what the world is like.

    Not a hope, the selfish gene perspective gives you nothing. One of the most misleading books on science. If you want to understand genetics then consider how is it that the same gene located on different places in the genome will give rise to different proteins, or epigenetics, or selection pressure on networks of genes. And all that before we get really serious with the molecular stuff.

    • Right. I was looking at it more from the point of view of explaining the “Valentino Effect” for example. Where women feed on eachother to establish a sex symbol. Here I would use the selfish gene idea as an analogy to why this could have occurred in evolution. But yeah if the idea is taken literally, its not a particularly good idea.

  14. If people stopped think about wave particle dynamics are being confined to sub atomic particles they might realise there isn’t much a problem at all. All things potentially have a wave function, we just haven’t done the experiments.

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2952

    http://medlibrary.org/medwiki/De_Broglie_wavelength

  15. Look Homer. Attempt to read what I said.
    You are just restating Keynesian error.
    I’m fine about your understanding of erroneous
    Keynesian doctrine. You know nothing about economics.

    Authentic economics tells us this
    about the stimulus:

    1. It increased short-run GDP
    2. It reduced Growth.
    3. It threw people out of work, as proven by the fact that people were thrown out of work.
    4. It increased average profits.
    5. It reduced long-run GDP, but thats not important since GDP is a lame metric.

    Your ignorance of economics ought not be used as cover for the loony-toons and traitors white-anting our prospects of survival, and the good life.


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