Saturday, March 06, 2004

Once again Signal + Noise produces something that makes me feel ashamed of what I normally write here[1]. In this post he examines the suggestion that the processes behind sexual selection explain strict religious adherence. Which sounds vaguely convincing until he starts pointing out the importance of Occam and Pangloss[2].

In general one of those posts that make me wonder if I should (or could) get back into biology, or related subjects.

[1] Don't worry, I'm sure it won't last long.
[2] Occam, as in Occam's Razor, which, when very badly paraphrased, comes out as "keep it simple [stupid]" [but you knew that, right?]. Pangloss, after the character in Candide by Voltaire, for whom everything is always for the best (including being in an auto de fe). So Panglossian thought, when applied to biology, is arguing that something has happened because that is what is for the best, that is what increases reproductive success (or any other indicator of success). The response to which is to question whether the feature, effect or process is just an artefact or merely arbitrary [cue: examples based on the appendix in humans, or human iris colour, but I won't as I'm sure there's much research out there to instantly contradict me. 3].
[3] Could it be that this not bothering to look to relevant research up is why my posts are never as good as S+N? That and my shocking grammar.

I also recommend checking out his next post on coin flipping. And here I was thinking that a friend of mine's unerring ability to get heads is simply a suggestion of my paranoia. Though I figured out that it usually comes up the pre-toss upside up [4] a long time ago - but I assumed I was doing it wrong.

[4] So it's actually the base face when you do the catch and flip it onto the back of the other hand thing. Which in itself I always thought was pretty suspect. Though I've never figured out how someone can tell so quickly which way up it is, in order to change their behaviour, and so produce the desired result. But I've known for a long time some people can do it, as sometimes they'll flip it at the end, and sometimes they won't, and both invariably lead to them winning. But I guess it's just practice (and a willingness to cheat).

Well that better be it for now, as I'll only start talking about random things like dreams (which strangely involved a barn owl-peacock mix, Frontier Psychiatry by The Avalanches[5], and some Bjork song. That's when I wasn't being eaten by wasps and the horns of a stag beetle [with no sign of the rest of it. 6]). Are dreams supposed to come with soundtracks?

[5] Now there's a good song to have in one's head, and worse still in one's dreams - Lie down on the couch...But what does that mean?...It is the opinion of the entire Baltimore county school board that Dexter is criminally insane. Thank god I'm not called Dexter.

[6] Guess that's my own silly fault for reading books (admittedly very bad books, see the 29th Feb posting) on nanotech swarms and microassemblers attacking skin. So now I'm reading books about people called Honeychile. Yes it's Bond, the book (all 3 and 6 worth, and claiming to be "now excitingly filmed"). Strangely I don't think the description of Mr Suave vomiting reached the film version, and Ursula Andress is obviously not a method actor, due to having a nose that looks distinctly unbroken. I guess you'll just have to read the book to figure out what I'm talking about.

It was either that or discussing me forgetting how to drive (which I'm not owning up to), or possibly swimming along the bottom of a swimming pool, that's sloping downwards, and so when I want to come up for air being quite a long way from the surface. This time I hit the 15m mark on the bottom of the pool (that's along not down), before I realised what I was doing. Swimming underwater whilst half expecting to have Scuba kit can be slightly dangerous, though fortunately I remembered I didn't before I tried breathing too deeply (very viscous air today).

And that's about it.

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