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Author Topic: Oh, the Humanity!
canadian
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So I was noting in another thread that what makes us human is our ability to feel. Quite rightly, FireDrakeRage stated that, no, it was our ability to reason that makes us human.

To me, reasoning and feeling are pretty much the same thing on a general, aggregate human experience type scale. I understand that as individual words, these are two very different things, but that's not what I'm talking about.

After all, dogs show what we might consider to be emotions, and they also demonstrate a certain level of reasoning power (ie. a plus b = c result).

Same with elephants, monkeys, etc.

We normally don't associate emotion or learning power with things like lice or bacteria. (Again, please try to avoid the semantic itch, here).

The reason we call highly intelligent and well-rounded people "rennaissance men and women" is because the old Masters of the Rennaissance were engaged in many pursuits both artistic and scientific. To me, this says that some of the most shining examples of human development are of people who allowed a free interplay between deep thought and deep feeling.

People who are interested only in emotion, or only in logic always seem to be somewhat lacking in relation to the majority of people in the world and don't seem to fit in.

My point is that without an interplay of emotion and reasoning we are not exactly balanced human beings (read: sociopath).

And so, to understand the enormity of a catastrophe like Hurricane Katarina, we have to be able, of course, to logically look at the events and the myriad screw-ups that ocurred, but to truly understand and comprhehend the whole and what it means, we also have to allow ourselves to feel some empathy for the victims. Without that part of our humanity in gear, we can never truly appreciate why we are doing anything at all.

Thoughts?

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canadian
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quote:
The ability to reason does not exclude emotion, Canadian. Reason does, in fact, expect that BOTH logic and emotion be balanced. Broussards emotions were clearly not.

Ed.

This may be true.

There's that great old Kipling poem:

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!


--Rudyard Kipling


------------------------------

My father gave this to me when I turned twelve, and it has really helped throughout my life. Are there not times when the scale of a tragedy is so close, or so enormous, that the most help a person can do for themselves is to break down and allow the build-up of emotion to wash away the stress and the pain?

Is that not preferable to bottling it up? Because it has to come out in some form at one time or another.

Afterwards, it seems to me that emotion and reason can be used in concert to make the right decisions, make them quickly and have those decisions followed through. I watched with interest as General Honore used this skill to great effect while being followed by news cameras in New Orleans.

In a moment of great tragedy, where an entire nation is involved, it would seem to me that many people are helped by the knowledge that it's okay to let it go for a moment and come back to the table with a clear head, rejuvenated and ready for work.

No one tut-tutted emotion after 9/11.

[ September 04, 2005, 08:34 PM: Message edited by: canadian ]

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Loki
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An interesting topic, I wish I had something to input at the moment. I think you've made a clear and understandable statement, that rings true across the board.
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Everard
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Re: your first post.

Perhaps what makes us unique is our ability to seperate emotion, and logic, and recognize the differences, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and when we should experience emotion, and when we should use logic.

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Richard Dey
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Very good, Everard, should we ever put your maxim into practice ....

Reason = thoughts. Thinking people get the government they want or they move to the government they can stand.

Emotions = unthoughts. Unthinking people would never think of getting rid of the government they don't like. They sit on a curb and cry, It's not working for me! It's not working for me!

The whole premise of western civilization is that we control our emotions by reason, and only temper our reason with emotion when the truth might hurt.

There's a recent book out categorizing instant decision-making; I saw an interview with the author on Emily Rooney's show; I found him unreasonable, and wearing a preposterous Afro -- which, he whined, had caused him to be discriminated against.

Unfortunately for our New Orleans scenario, after all the emotional breakdowns the media has given us, I should think that now we want cold, hard, facts. It's like the two different doctors we want: we want the doctor to tell the truth, but not unless he fix what's wrong. We want a doctor who's finding a cure in the lab -- but we want him to hold our hands.

I think in New Orleans it's time for some show and tell. I've definitely heard enough unthoughts about it.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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quote:

Emotions = unthoughts. Unthinking people would never think of getting rid of the government they don't like. They sit on a curb and cry, It's not working for me! It's not working for me!

Or they they get angry, and they remove the bad to replace it with the good.

Emotion isn't always bad, as long as it is (as you said) tempered by logic.

--Firedrake

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canadian
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Personally, I think it's ridiculous to imagine that any good comes from separating ourselves from either feeling or reason.

The book is called "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell and his previous work is entitled , "The Tipping Point".

Cold, hard facts are always in demand by people who want to get things done, but man cannot live by cold, hard facts alone. Nor should he make decisions based solely on such. The inverse happens to also ring true.

As for the breakdowns...the media is the message these days.

I'm all for the competent doctor who can do two things. Think and feel.

The premise of Western Civilization may be that we control our emotions by reason, and only temper our reason with emotion when the truth might get hurt, but the reality is that elections don't get won on truth, but on propaganda.

Last time I looked, propaganda wasn't a tool that appealed to our analytical, dispassionate side.

Two dudes kissin' can win or lose a country.

I agree, it will be nice to have some solidity and responsibility come out of our media sources in regard to action, thoughts and looking forward, but right now, I think there is an orgy going on. This is my point: gorging on emotions is just as bad as gorging on cold logic.

One thing I am not connecting with and maybe someone can help me:

Why was it okay to mourn after 9/11 so intensely and for so long, but with this tragedy, people want it to halt post haste? Those that are detailed to do the work to begin mitigating the problem are finally doing the work. Let those who mourn, mourn.

Perhaps it is because there is no Big Enemy, no foe to stare down. There was no show of unity on the steps of Congress, no Speech to a nation in shock. There was only fear and chaos, and I guess that explains it for me right there.

Nothing to strike back at. Nothing to focus on. Only confusion and helplessness.

What is needed right now is a leader who can honestly convey a sense of compassion and assure and inspire the nation to action and resolution.

I wonder if this helps to answer those who have wondered why anyone should care if Condi was shoe shopping or Bush was chilling out in Crawford as it all hit the fan. People need strong, responsive, and immediate signs of leadership in times like these. Who cares what they could have done on a practical level, what was needed was emotional assurity.

Lacking that, we want it to start making sense.

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cperry
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Canadian wrote:
"Why was it okay to mourn after 9/11 so intensely and for so long, but with this tragedy, people want it to halt post haste? Those that are detailed to do the work to begin mitigating the problem are finally doing the work. Let those who mourn, mourn."

Perhaps it is because the emergency is really not yet over in NO. The situation in NYC really was over in a day. Yes, there was searching going on, but there wasn't anything large groups of people still had to do to mitigate the crisis. Here, we have a situation that's going to last for ... months? I think people want leaders and folks involved to finished managing this crisis before the mourning begins.

Having written all this, I must say I've not read all the threads that are discussing this issue.

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EDanaII
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@ Canadian:
quote:
Personally, I think it's ridiculous to imagine that any good comes from separating ourselves from either feeling or reason.
Nobody is talking about separating your feelings, Canadian. We're talking about _channeling_ them.

The disaster in New Orleans is a terrible thing. I, personally, feel a great sadness over this tragedy, but I blame Katrina for it and a large portion of my feelings are directed towards the storm.

Our Nation's failure to respond effectively to the disaster (a separate issue) also generates terrible feelings within me, but before I blame anyone, I await further facts. In the mean time, I channel what feelings I can towards helping, discussing and learning more. I'd rather "light a candle than curse the darkness."

Emotions move us to action. They are, in fact, an important part of logic, because without them, people would do nothing. Logically, you can conclude that those people in New Orleans need help, but if you don't care, you ain't gonna help. But emotions can be misdirected, by bad logic, by the agendas of others, or, simply by the magnitude of one's own feelings.

That was where Broussard was wrong. His pain was so great that he was immediately blaming others without applying any real rational thought; his emotions called for us to blame the Government when it was not yet obvious. From my point of view, he "protested too much" and made me suspicious of his intentions. I began to wonder if he had a hidden agenda intended to cover up his own failures during this event.

In other words, he failed to channel his feelings in a more productive and helpful way. He was cursing his darkness rather than lighting a candle. Since candles can help lead one through the darkness, as the leader of his community, he failed in his duties, and, instead, "sat on his hands" and cried like a baby.

This is not leadership and he is no leader.

Ed.

Edited to fix attribution.

[ September 05, 2005, 03:16 PM: Message edited by: EDanaII ]

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simplybiological
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Biologically, one of the major things that separates humans is the capacity for recursive thought... e.g., counting. Other primates typically can learn to recognize 1, 2, 3, 4 but would only associate 4 with say, 4 bananas and would not be able to say, "1, 2, 3, 4... 4 bananas." The linguisitic correllary of this is that we can link multiple sentences with "and" and form an infinitely long sentence.

The other thing, less biologically proven, that I would guess is unique to humans is an awareness of the self, and of the self as different and separate from other selfs. The sort of ability to go meta and analyze what you're doing and why you're doing it, and to realize that other individuals are different from yourself. I'd be surprised if we saw self-analysis in any animals.

Other than that, I suppose how you define logic and emotion, but I'd certainly say there are examples of both in animals. If anyone saw March of the Penguins, watching the mother after the death of her chick certainly looked like emotion.

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EDanaII
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SB! You're back!!! Welcome! [Smile]


@ Canadian

P.S. While I'm thinking about it... Have you ever read or seen the The Ox-Bow Incident?

It's a perfect example of how one can let their emotions rush them to judgement and how others can use those emotions to their own agenda.

Ed.

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canadian
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But who on earth is talking about allowing emotions to run amok? Certainly not me, and that is more than clear in my posts.

Saying,

"Damned darkness! Now where's my candle?"

seems a little more realistic as to how human beings function.

I went and digested that Broussard interview. The man broke down and you're saying he cried like a baby? That he didn't know WHY he was crying? Maybe he shat his pants and didn't like the feeling?

Get real. You know full well that he was not making political hay. He was overwhelmed by the tragedy and was able to be empathetic enough to understand the horror and sorrow of a woman waiting for help that never came.

But I don't really want to talk about Broussard. It must have been hard enough to deal with the aftermath of his breakdown in front of an International audience without us making political hay of it.

[ September 05, 2005, 03:46 PM: Message edited by: canadian ]

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Funean
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Ditto on the WB, SB!! [Smile]

I agree with canadian wrt Broussard. What was so obviously a sincere and unintended emotional reaction has its own untouchable dignity. Let's please not touch it, then.

[ September 05, 2005, 04:05 PM: Message edited by: Funean ]

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simplybiological
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I might be back. I haven't decided. I just had a spare couple of minutes, but I really don't have time to get sucked in again.
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EDanaII
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@ Canadian:
quote:
"Damned darkness! Now where's my candle?" seems a little more realistic as to how human beings function.
And nobody's saying otherwise, hence the point:
quote:
Emotions move us to action. They are, in fact, an important part of logic, because without them, people would do nothing.
The rest of your points I'm directing back to the Broussard thread, they are more relevant there.


@ Funean

As I pointed out to Canadian, any points specifically about Broussards behavior, I'm referring back to the other thread.


@ SimplyBiological

We'll still welcome ya back, anyway. [Wink]

I barely have time too, but... I guess I'm just too ornery to go away completely.

Ed.

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LetterRip
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SB,

quote:
Biologically, one of the major things that separates humans is the capacity for recursive thought... e.g., counting. Other primates typically can learn to recognize 1, 2, 3, 4 but would only associate 4 with say, 4 bananas and would not be able to say, "1, 2, 3, 4... 4 bananas." The linguisitic correllary of this is that we can link multiple sentences with "and" and form an infinitely long sentence.
Did you mean abstractly instead of recursively?
Also what do you mean by 'infinitely long sentences' - only a portion of any sentence is going to be available for access with a buffer of about 7 to 11 items. Of course we can abstract items together into larger 'chunks' via pattern recognition, also we can have extremely rich interconnects between items.

LetterRip

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TS Elliot
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Preview:I'm grinning because LetterRips post is so .... LetterRip. And simplybio, I just learned yesterday that you were gone. While I don't know you, I hope you stay a bit longer.

on topic:
in the earlier posts on this thread, the thesis is postulated (?) that WestCiv is more 'reason' than 'emotion'

quote:
The whole premise of western civilization is that we control our emotions by reason, and only temper our reason with emotion when the truth might hurt.
??? The 2nd part don't make hay. Okay, whatever.
I just wanna make the point that instinctively I think that reason in WestCiv is unjustly thought to be superior to emotion (pun not intended - yeah, yeah I see the irony). Case in point has already been made: american elections are largely decided on emotion, not reason.

[ September 06, 2005, 01:10 AM: Message edited by: TS Elliot ]

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Lady Starkiller
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Just playing devil's advocate here:

Does it occur to anyone else that emotion might be its own reason?

It also occurs to me that we talk (rightly) of tempering emotion with logic - but we must, perhaps, also temper our logic with emotion.

(I get the distinct impression I'm making no sense. Not even to me...)

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canadian
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Lady Starkiller, that makes perfect sense to me. Succinct and well put.
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Lady Starkiller
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quote:
Lady Starkiller, that makes perfect sense to me. Succinct and well put.
I make sense!

My day is complete. [Big Grin]

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The Drake
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Emotion is like fire. It can be our greatest tool, if controlled, but also has the ability to destroy us.
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EDanaII
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@ Lady Starkiller

That is exactly why some of us are speaking in terms of "balance and channelling." [Smile] There is a time for anger, and there is a time for thought, but the wise man thinks first and gets angery afterwards.

Ed.

Edited for clarity.

[ September 06, 2005, 02:35 PM: Message edited by: EDanaII ]

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Godot
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What good a man without empathy?

I don't know what Broussard's situation was when he gave that interview, but in the midst of that horror enveloping him, his friends and his community, I will forgive the man almost anything.

(Even the unmitigated sin of railing against a federal agency that seemed woefully unprepared and disasterously incompetent.)

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The Drake
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I'm reminded of a scene from the movie, Seven.

Morgan Friedman tells Brad Pitt to get a hold of himself, and Brad responds "I feed off of my emotions." Shortly afterward, Pitt gets in a fight with a cameraman and shoves him down the stairs. Friedman comments, "It's impressive to see a man feeding off his emotions."

Wrath was considered one of the seven deadly sins for a reason.

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canadian
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Some people like to feed off their disdain.

Are we so poor in spirit that we forget that we are all someone's baby? That we all grew in tears and hopefully love?

What happens from birth to adulthood that bereaves us of common decency?

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TS Elliot
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Friedman? Did he fry?
and drake, you totally wrote your post for that last sentence, didn't ya? Wherever did ya stole it? [Wink]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Canadian said:
quote:
What happens from birth to adulthood that bereaves us of common decency?
I think that most people are decent for their entire lives. Most people are decent to others regardless of reward or enforcement. Most people are also honestly empathetic. Despite being separated from New Orleans by circumstance, miles and sometimes nationality, there has been a vast outpouring of support (and sometimes cash) towards the people of the gulf-coast area.

There are a few bad apples. We should realize that, and attempt to mitigate the damage they may cause, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that the bad apples are representative of the entire bushel.

--Firedrake

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Lady Starkiller
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quote:
There are a few bad apples
Unfortunately, it's those bad apples that get attention; for some reason, we're incredibly fascinated with them...
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Kent
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I think it is our ability to be trite that makes us human; no other species has shown that ability.
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Adjudicator
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I think that there is only one trait which is uniquely human. That is the ability to choose to believe things which are untrue, or at least for which there is no supporting evidence. All sorts of other animals can learn, think, communicate etc. There are other animals which engage in agriculture, use tools, have opposable thumbs etc.

But I don't think that any other animal can make up fake stories and convince themselves they are true, or believe that they are true on some deeper level. Many atheists no doubt think themselves immune to such tendencies, but they are not. As a simple example- Nova showed a program on string theory yesterday. They talked about the difficulties with the big bang theory and they presented string theory. The only problem with string theory is that there is nothing objective supporting it. It is all a mere mathematical construct, yet many very intelligent people believe in it fervently. Whether it turns out to be accurate or not is independent of the fact that many people believe it with no evidence whatever.

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javelin
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Interesting. My dog has fervently believed that I threw the ball that I hid behind my back the other day - does that make her human?

As for string theory - it makes predictions that are in line with all current knowledge of physics, plus a few that about things that all evidence points to being correct, but we still need more powerful tools to test for. I hardly think it has "no evidence" supporting it.

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Adjudicator
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Jav- but you tricked your dog, she didn't trick herself.

As far as string theory- is there any real-world evidence? A sparticle that has been measured? A graviton that floated off to another brane?

There is only theory supporting string theory, not evidence.

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DonaldD
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Kent - megalomania is what makes me human.
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javelin
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Yes, there is real world evidence - the math behind the theory clearly delinates all known physical phenomenom. That doesn't make it CORRECT, but it does means it's not WRONG yet. And yes, this is evidence - it's just not conclusive. It hasn't been proven (as I noted in the first post), but it has made some predictions that can be tested, once some equipment is constructed.

As for the story thing - it's hard to read anyone's mind, much less a dog's. How many people make up a story for themselves and then really truly believe it? If that's what you meant, then I'd have to respond by saying that this isn't something a normal human being can do - if I remember correctly, the ability to do so is considered a clinical disorder by psychologists, and is known to most as being a "pathological liar".

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Kent
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DonaldD - you and everybody else I know.
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The Drake
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I think that what makes humans different, is that we can make abstract representations of our thoughts and anticipate future events - which is a more refined form of reason. The power of symbols in speech, art, and writing is what sets us apart.

Your dog probably never drew a picture of the day you threw the ball and he couldn't find it. I'm also fairly certain he can't warn other dogs about the 'pretend to throw the ball' trick.

There have been studies that demonstrate that other primates will remember past patterns - like being hosed down every time they go for the banannas. But the only way they have to inform a newcomer not to go for the banannas is to attack him when he tries it. They have no way to let him know that there is a hose that shows up, and the tasty treat is a trap.

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javelin
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quote:
Your dog probably never drew a picture of the day you threw the ball and he couldn't find it. I'm also fairly certain he can't warn other dogs about the 'pretend to throw the ball' trick.
Cori is a she, damn it! [Smile] [Wink]
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Adjudicator
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Jav- I think that I must be expressing myself badly here. Drake touched a bit on what I am after here.

Let me try illustration with another example. Most people think that there are a number of things which it is wrong to do. These things are not directly related to biological imperatives etc. as they are in other species. These are ideas like "It is wrong to take things which belong to someone else" or "sex outside of marriage is bad". These positions we take generally have no outside reason applied to them. They are the result of stories that we tell ourselves about how life should be lived, but there is no reason to believe any of these stories, yet we hold to them more tenaciously than to anything else.

On string theory- math isn't proof. It isn't evidence. It suggests a possibility, but it doesn't mean that anything real is reflected by the math.

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by javelin:
quote:
Your dog probably never drew a picture of the day you threw the ball and he couldn't find it. I'm also fairly certain he can't warn other dogs about the 'pretend to throw the ball' trick.
Cori is a she, damn it! [Smile] [Wink]
Easy, girl! That's a good dog.
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The Drake
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Another point on abstraction. Human beings look for patterns in everything, even when there's nothing really there. Biggest example - constellations. Dipper or great bear? Or gazing up at the clouds and deciding what they resemble.String theory is an example of that search for order.
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