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  #21  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 01:33 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Good to hear from you, Fred.


Quote:
Fred: I rarely, if ever, truly make “personal attacks,” but rather I expose (perhaps with too much relish/disdain?) the lack of consistency, rigor, or honesty in their own arguments/ideologies.
I agree with this, although I can see why other members take offense at your rhetorical aggression. But, as they say, if you can't take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen.

...

My social life is a bit dry at the moment, as I'm heavily pre-occupied with the final 5 weeks of my undergraduate degree. This reminds me: I happened upon this forum when I was a junior in high school . . . time sure flies.

Last edited by Carey N; April 14th, 2006 at 02:02 PM.
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  #22  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 02:49 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
Margaret: why did neither of them simply give me a one paragraph synopsis of Pinker's thesis in their own words - as I had asked?
I'm not sure: my guess would be that both individuals feel Pinker's thesis is self-evident. I haven't read that book in a long time, and so cannot comment further.

Another reason you're not receiving responses, particularly from JimB, is that your posts are too long: write succinctly and you'll have a much better chance of drawing JimB out of his shell.


Quote:
Margaret: Toward the end of Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens he offers his Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Here he establishes that mental images are tagged with emotional markers - and describes the implications of that. Based on the story of Phinneas Gage I extended the Somatic Marker Hypothesis to what I call the Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis.
First: labeling your idea a theory and giving it a name long enough to warrant an acronym is practically an open invitation for a beat-down from Fred.

Second: using terms like "mental image" and "emotional marker", for which no physical basis has been empirically described, [edit] makes me wary. I could well be mistaken here, but this problem seems to be characteristic of all psychology.

I don't believe your commuincation skills are poor; I think psychology is a messy science, and no one can satisfactorily explain the truly proximate causes of behavior (yet). The draw of evolutionary psychology is its focus upon ultimate causes and its tolerance of black boxes around the vast tangle of neural mechanisms that have been moulded by millions of years of natural selection. It's great that you're interested in those black boxes, but in my opinion you're never going to get anywhere with verbal models and frontal lobotomy case-studies.

Best,
Carey

Last edited by Carey N; May 14th, 2006 at 12:58 PM.
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  #23  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 04:24 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Darn, I did it again. I always give people far too much credit for intelligence and good intentions. I should have known from your past fawning posts to JimB that your previous post would be a thinly veiled insult.

This particular post is even more laughable. Reading back through the archives it seems that there were were some interesting discussions at first. That's what sucked me in. It now seems that JimB's main or only interest in moderating this forum is in spreading his ideology. Unless someone supports those views or otherwise praises him he only responds with insults.

The rest of your post is about what one can expect from an undergrad psych student - self-important and largely ignorant of the real world.

This is a forum about evolutionary psychology. It's a place where people should be able to politely discuss complicated ideas in a free-form way - and maybe learn something. All that should be required is a sincere interest, a willingness learn and the ability to be respectful. I think I have proven myself in that respect (so far anyway) far more than any of you (not including Tom and Todd whose posts have been both intelligent and respectful).

I happen to know some real scientists. None of them have an interest in spreading some ideology. In fact, they avoid that crap like the plague. None of them respond to sincere questions or observations of non-scientists by calling them nonsense or bullshit. Those are the terms used by various flavors of true-believers when they run into heretics - and wanna-be scientists trying to impress others.

You say my use of terms like "mental image" and "emotional marker", for which no physical basis has been empirically described, smacks of nonsense. Your classless insult is belied by the fact that those terms come from the writings of the foremost neuroscientists in their field - which I have carefully read and re-read. Your (and JimB's) inability to discuss those concepts intelligently is a matter of your own blindness - to borrow a phrase.

It's interesting that you think those terms are nonsense - while just-so stories about the superior fitness for white males to oversee democracy in the world and occupy the highest positions in academic research are examples of good scientific discourse.

Neither Fred nor JimB has responded once to any of my posts with other than ideology and insults. The fact is I don't share their worldview and for ideologues that's all that counts. Fred is here to insult atheists and JimB wants to express his anti-PC venom and his apparent love for eugenics.

That's it. Neither of them have any sincere interest in evolutionary psychology that I can see - and looking at your posts I see that you don't either. In the future if you want to say something to me then start by being honest about your motivations because my bullshit detector is now set to ten.

Margaret
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  #24  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 04:46 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Pinker & BS-o-meters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
FWIW, Margaret and I were having a reasonably civil dialogue until she was the first to “raise the stakes,” as it were, with me in her hissy-fit here, http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/sh...7&postcount=49
Again, I have to remind you that Margaret's feelings were hurt for valid reasons, as I did earlier here,http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/sh...=3225#post3225, which says:
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
Au contraire Tom—I did “clarify,” what didn’t really need to be clarified, in my subsequent post,
What you wrote is not a clarification that would retract any insult:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
It’s what the movie seemed to convey.

If indeed free will is an illusion, as you believe, then obviously so is morality, and moral blindness would be inevitable.
In fact it just grinds the insult in further. There's nothing 'obvious' about your beliefs, which happen to be wrong.

Humans without free will still have a social instinct and their remorse module activates and makes them feel regret when they do something against those instincts; that's the only basis for your 'morality' no matter how much folklore you want to place around it. At least, those humans with a functional remorse module.

I don't 'decide' with 'free will' to feel uncomfortable when I run over even part of a dead dog on the freeway, much less a dead person; much, much less a live person. It's instinctive.
You're at least not fooling me.
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  #25  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 06:33 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Well . . . I'm going to try my hardest not to become part of this feud and reply without reciprocating the tone in your most recent post.


Quote:
Margaret: The rest of your post is about what one can expect from an undergrad psych student - self-important and largely ignorant of the real world.
Way to take the high road. By the way, I'm not a psych student.


Quote:
Margaret: I happen to know some real scientists. None of them have an interest in spreading some ideology. In fact, they avoid that crap like the plague. None of them respond to sincere questions or observations of non-scientists by calling them nonsense or bullshit. Those are the terms used by various flavors of true-believers when they run into heretics - and wanna-be scientists trying to impress others.
Okay, but how do you justify calling other people self-important, wanna-be scientists when you are willing to invent the "Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis" on the basis of a couple of books and one case study? Can't you perceive how haughty that is?

I'm spreading ideology? I criticized the terms you are using for their lack of empirical clarity, and then you call me an ignorant, wanna-be, fawning idiot . . . why be so defensive unless you yourself are defending an ideology?

Also: the terms you use seem nonsensical to me, yes, but my comment was not designed as a personal insult. Fred has made the same point: by criticizing your ideas, I'm not trying to belittle you. In fact, the only phrase that could be perceived as insulting in my previous post is "smacks of nonsense", but immediately thereafter I made sure to clarify that this was a general problem in the field of psychology, not your problem in particular.


Quote:
Margaret: You say my use of terms like "mental image" and "emotional marker", for which no physical basis has been empirically described, smacks of nonsense. Your classless insult is belied by the fact that those terms come from the writings of the foremost neuroscientists in their field - which I have carefully read and re-read. Your (and JimB's) inability to discuss those concepts intelligently is a matter of your own blindness - to borrow a phrase.
I have not seen JimB address the concepts of which you speak, though it doesn't surprise me that he finds them unappealing. I challenged you to explain the meaning of the terms you are using, but you effectively responded with: "other important people are using those phrases, too" . . . I'm sorry, but that just isn't satisfying. Have you considered that the foremost neuroscientists of which you made mention may be promoting an ideology of their own? Have they defined the operational meaning of "mental image" and "emotional marker"? If so, how have they done it? If you can answer these questions, that's great . . . if not, then there's a problem, which you need to address, rather than defending the orthodoxy unquestioningly.


Quote:
Margaret: It's interesting that you think those terms are nonsense - while just-so stories about the superior fitness for white males to oversee democracy in the world and occupy the highest positions in academic research are examples of good scientific discourse.
Okay: a group of current researchers is using those terms, but that doesn't change the fact that their empirical meaning is vague, at best. If I'm incorrect on this point, please do explain further.
I have never once commented positively (or at all, that I know of) on the superior white male fitness idea - I don't know if someone else has used that phrase, or if you're making an inference from JimB's discussion of heritable variation in mathematical aptitude. It seems as though you're taking pot shots at a straw man.


Quote:
Margaret: Fred is here to insult atheists and JimB wants to express his anti-PC venom and his apparent love for eugenics.
Yes, Fred does insult atheists all the time, but I find it funny more often than I find it offensive (I'm an atheist). Please point me to the post in which JimB condones eugenics . . . I've seen him write about innate differences in mathematical ability between sexes, which are a cold, hard fact, but that's about it. To say that genetic differences between sexes or ethnic groups justify eugenics would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy.


Lastly, you did not address my point about neural networks - it seems to me that any mechanistic theory of behavior that isn't completely rooted in networks cannot be very rigorous. This is NOT to say that environment has nothing to do with behavior: one of the most interesting features of neural networks is their plasticity, contingent on environmental influence. In this sense, your "slate with a grid pattern on it" metaphor is suitable, but I don't think verbal models can go much further than that. If you believe strongly otherwise, please explain your stance.


Quote:
You must admit though, that discussing difficult concepts is easier when you're not defending yourself from personal attacks.
Certainly, and I'm asking you to discuss a difficult concept, not attacking you personally.

Last edited by Carey N; April 15th, 2006 at 12:42 AM.
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  #26  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 08:30 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
Margaret to Carey: This particular post is even more laughable…. The rest of your post is about what one can expect from an undergrad psych student - self-important and largely ignorant of the real world.
Wow Carey, seems you really pissed Margaret off—imagine how vicious she’d have been if you actually intended to insult her. Margaret seems to have other issues . . . anyway, you know how vindictive those damn atheists can be.

Your post to her obviously was reasonable & discerning, but of course you already know that. OTH, perhaps TomJ (also an atheist who insists that mass murderers are somehow not “morally responsible” for their behavior and that they are “just following their social instincts”), who currently seems to be something of a self-appointed advocate for her, can explain how “Margaret's feelings were hurt for valid reasons,” this time by your comments (rather than mine).

Sorry to hear your social life is a bit dry, but you should have plenty of time for all that social stuff after you kick-ass in these final 5 weeks of school—plus you may even be a bit more marketable with your shiny new degree—all the best.
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  #27  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 08:32 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Carey said,
Quote:
Well . . . I'm going to try my hardest not to become part of this feud and reply without reciprocating the tone in your most recent post.
I'm pleased with the thought - even though you took it down. You may find Fred's insults funny but I also notice that none of them were directed at you. As anyone can see once the insults start flying no reasonable discussion can take place - on either side.

Your final paragraph was interesting.
Quote:
Lastly, you did not address my point about the true proximate causes of behavior, which lie in neural networks - they are one of the last great mysteries of biology, and it only through them that we may fully understand the issues about which you are concerned. I don't see how this point can be argued agaist: our brains are neural networks, therefore we must understand neural networks to understand our brains. Verbal models are not sufficient.
That's the first post I've seen from you that indicates an interest in discussing evolutionary biology. Based on your past statements I'm still not sure that you are sincere but for now, let's leave our differences behind. I'm already feeling guilty about my post - especially that part where I was taking the high road. You should have seen it before I took out the bad parts.

You seem to be saying in your post that unless I have a formal theory to present then there's nothing worth discussing. I disagree. It seems to me that the purpose of an online forum is to trade ideas and learn. No-one is being forced to agree or accept anything here. It's not a peer reviewed journal. It's just exposing others to what you're thinking about - and being exposed to their ideas. That's a very personal and vulnerable thing to do. That's why people generally go out of their way in these situations to be polite and disagree without insulting the other person.

OK, here's a question. If neural networks are one of the last great mysteries of biology how can you be so sure that the true proximate causes of behavior lie within them? That's a rhetorical question. I asked it to suggest that this is all a mysterious area and that any models, verbal or mathematical, could help us (me anyway) understand what's going on in there. I would completely agree with your underlying assertion that behavior in vertebrates is the result of what goes on in neural networks. Also, that we need to understand neural networks to understand brains. Bill Calvin has written some interesting things about neural networks- as has LeDoux in Synaptic Self.

My Somatic Behavior Choice Theory should be called The Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis. That's not even right though because people might think that somatic describes behavior and not behavior choice. Oh well. I'll use hypothesis anyway so as not to be haughty.

But, why would you assume that it is based on a single book and a single case study. I did not list all the books and papers that I've read. I did not describe the theory except in the most general way and I offered little or no support for it. But that does not mean that I did not do that reading or that I don't have support for it. I think a better response would have been, "OK, it sounds pretty far-fetched but let's see what you've got" or something like that. Skepticism is different from derision.

I'd enjoy explaining my reasoning if anyone here was actually interested. I'd also like to hear your specific ideas on how neural networks affect behavior. In either case though we should first agree on what we each mean by proximate cause and behavior. Why don't you go first and we'll see if we can carry on a conversation without others wrecking it with insults.

Margaret
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  #28  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Carey, In my last post I said,
Quote:
It's just exposing others to what you're thinking about - and being exposed to their ideas. That's a very personal and vulnerable thing to do. That's why people generally go out of their way in these situations to be polite and disagree without insulting the other person.
I suspect that most people feel vulnerable when exposing their ideas to an anonymous bunch of names in a forum - some of whom seem pretty angry. I think we all feel defensive. I think some people (like you maybe) come across as aggressive in their posts maybe to warn others to tread lightly. I think I tend to write too carefully and in an overly articulate way. That probably comes off as haughty or like I think I'm really smart or something.

If I write posts more as a stream of consciousness they get misunderstood in worse ways so over the years I've evolved this style.

I just love thinking about these things and none of my close friends would even understand what we're talking about here. I'm sure others here know a lot more about this stuff than I do (like you maybe) and I'm afraid perhaps of letting that be too obvious in my posts. So I'm really careful about what I say.

Even if my rhetorical style is irritating I can say that I am being as honest as I can.

Margaret
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  #29  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 09:40 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
I'm pleased with the thought - even though you took it down. You may find Fred's insults funny but I also notice that none of them were directed at you.
I put back up that line so as to avoid confusion for anyone looking into this thread. True - Fred's recent insults have not been directed at me, but he's done it in the past. He and I had a running thread about morality and atheism that must have lasted 2 years and never moved more than a few yards . . . it was just like World War I, except the casualties were my brain cells. The best way to handle it, in my experience, is to realize that the insults are a form of genuine criticism. Fred has a rare "yo momma" critiquing style, but hey, diversity is a good thing.


Quote:
It seems to me that the purpose of an online forum is to trade ideas and learn. No-one is being forced to agree or accept anything here. It's not a peer reviewed journal.
Agreed - I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I have a decent grasp of learning, behavior, and neural networks, and it just strikes me that verbal mechanistic models in this area cannot be expressed unequivocally, because they become so easily separated from the actual mechanisms responsible for behavior itself.


Quote:
OK, here's a question. If neural networks are one of the last great mysteries of biology how can you be so sure that the true proximate causes of behavior lie within them?
Understanding that your question is rhetorical: we know that networks are the root of behavior because all stimulus processing occurs within them, and all behavioral output originates from them. So . . . information goes in, and behavior comes out. The great mystery is: what happens within those networks to produce the kind of behavioral complexity that we take for granted every day?

Here's a pretty close analogy: ant colonies exhibit a staggering array of collective behaviors, including complex navigation, hunting, and decision-making. We often speak of the colony as a super-organism with intentions and needs to satisfay, which is fine for evolutionary explanations because the colony, in many ways, is a unit of selection. When we wish to know how such collective behavior is executed, however, it's no use to think of the "wants" of the colony. All that matters is the ant-to-ant and ant-to-environment interactions - ant networks, so to say - which together produce behavior at the colony level.

Human brains exhibit arguably more complex behavior than ant colonies, but the principle is the same. It's perfectly suitable to speak of a person having desires, emotions, etc. at the individual level when thinking about the evolutionary explanations of behavior. But if we want to know how exactly a behavior is produced, what matters are sensory systems (receive stimuli), network interactions (process stimuli), and neural output (leading to behavior).


On the other hand, if one asks "why did Bob hit Brad in the face", it's not necessarily constructive to answer "well, the visual stimulus of Brad was received by Bob's retinas, translated into a pattern of neural input that triggered a memory, linked in the CA3 region of his hippocampus, of Brad trripping him yesterday. This in turn initiated a cascade of interactions in Bob's brain, leading to sensations of anger, the will the retaliate, etc., and finally to muscular coordination that resulted in Bob's fist connecting with brad's jaw." One would normally just say "Well, Brad tripped Bob yesterday, so Bob got him back by hitting him in the face." My point is that some kind of balance should be struck between the terminology used to represent emotions, etc. and the neural mechanisms responsible for them, so that we don't go off telling just-so stories.


So: proximate cause, in my understanding, refers to the cascade of mechanical and chemical interactions within (or between, in the case of collective behavior) organisms that result in a behavior, and they are investigated with physics, chemistry, and sometimes simulation modeling (e.g., for ant swarms or fish schools*). This is why I don't like "mental image" and "emotional tag" . . . what quantitative meaning do these terms really have?

Ultimate questions, in contrast, refer to evolutionary explanations that discuss why a behavior was selected for in a particular environment, and can be addressed with verbal, mathematical (e.g. populations and quantitative genetics, game theory, etc.), and simulation models.


Quote:
why would you assume that it is based on a single book and a single case study.
because you only mentioned one book and one case study in association with your hypothesis! See:
Quote:
Toward the end of Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens he offers his Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Here he establishes that mental images are tagged with emotional markers - and describes the implications of that. Based on the story of Phinneas Gage I extended the Somatic Marker Hypothesis to what I call the Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis.
-Carey

* Good Example: Couzin, I.D., Krause, J., Franks, N.R., and Levin, S.A. (2005). “Effective leadership and decision-making in animal groups on the move.” Nature 433: 513-516

Last edited by Carey N; May 14th, 2006 at 01:00 PM.
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  #30  
Unread April 14th, 2006, 10:03 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Quote:
I'd also like to hear your specific ideas on how neural networks affect behavior.
I'd rather you read about this, and see how little we really know, from the experts. If you give me your e-mail address, I'll send you pdf files of the articles I have on hand. Neural networks have been used to understand very simple behavior in model species, but some theoretical models have been developed to explore hippocampal function and learning in humans. We've only scratched the surface . . . it's a very exciting, though humbling, area.


Also - by all means, explain your hypothesis in detail. I appreciate the risk you take in expressing your ideas, and you won't receive any ridicule from me.

Last edited by Carey N; April 15th, 2006 at 12:52 AM.
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