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Comment: Re:Lamarck Vindicated? (Score 1) 160

by m.shenhav (#46285327) Attached to: Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?

It depends what you mean by Lamarckian evolution.

Lamarck's theory of evolution was teleological and argued that evolution tended towards complexity in a deterministic way. His inclusion of Soft Inheritance - inheritance of characteristics acquired during the lifetime of the organism - was peripheral and placed in order to explain adaptation of organisms to the environment. What was later called (perhaps misleadingly) (Neo)-Lamarckianism argued that most of the evolutionary phenomenology is best explained by a process where soft inheritance is predominant in frequency or even exclusive.

Now - the discovery of epigenetic mechanisms of soft inheritance has demonstrated a mechanism by which soft inheritance occurs but does not vindicate the theory that soft inheritance is significant in the evolutionary process. But I would not dismiss this type of inheritance as insignificant just because it is not altering the genetic sequence inside the chromosome; cultural inheritance of language is not genetic but is significant in humans.

Note the mistake Impy the Impiuos Imp made in assigning a specific genetic mechanism to Lamarckianism; the mechanisms of inheritance were not known when Lamarckianism was formulated, and when in the first half of the 20th century Mendel's work was rediscovered and genetic theory began to develop support for Lamarckian theories dropped. Few if any would support a contention that Lamarckian forces dominate evolution, but now we have mechanistic support for the idea that soft inheritance does play some role in evolution along with other forces.

Comment: the abstract doesn't mention finance at all (Score 1) 91

by m.shenhav (#44532549) Attached to: Bacteria Behaviour Can Shed Light On How Financial Markets Work
the Abstract:

"Understanding how populations and communities respond to competition is a central concern of ecology. A seminal theoretical solution first formalised by Levins (and re-derived in multiple fields) showed that, in theory, the form of a trade-off should determine the outcome of competition. While this has become a central postulate in ecology it has evaded experimental verification, not least because of substantial technical obstacles. We here solve the experimental problems by employing synthetic ecology. We engineer strains of Escherichia coli with fixed resource allocations enabling accurate measurement of trade-off shapes between bacterial survival and multiplication in multiple environments. A mathematical chemostat model predicts different, and experimentally verified, trajectories of gene frequency changes as a function of condition-specific trade-offs. The results support Levins' postulate and demonstrates that otherwise paradoxical alternative outcomes witnessed in subtly different conditions are predictable."

YES both biological and financial systems involve trade-off and evolutionary dynamics. NO those are still not necessarily good analogues for one another......

Comment: The Biological Perspective..... (Score 1) 161

by m.shenhav (#44083421) Attached to: The Men Trying To Save Us From the Machines
..... might be beneficial here - we can see technological evolution as something related to sociocultural evolution (the evolution of socially transmittable behaviors). The industrial revolution creating machines which produce copies of another artifact or even tool. Ours is a Technological and SocioCultural as well as Genetic Ecosystem with interdependency, and slowly we approach the point where some machines reproduce themselves - indeed if you see software as a virtual machine and GMOs as biotechnology than this is already happening.

Now all Ecosystems tend to have fragility; organic networks can also have fractal degree distributions with massive hub points which introduce the possibility of catastrophic tail events. Man made networks have had a tendency to be even more skewed distributions than other organic systems. So for me the intelligence of the technology is less relevant to its Virulence and its Evolutionary and Ecological impact on the Biosphere, Technosphere and Nusphere.

Comment: other tech can't replicate yet (Score 1) 95

by m.shenhav (#43652223) Attached to: Device Can Extract DNA With Full Genetic Data In Minutes
The main problem with your argument is - the only technology that can replicate itself these days is biotech. This and the incredibly low (and exponentially dropping) prices of this technology are the real reasons we must be far more cautious with biotechnology than other technologies. Sooner will a nutjob create a superbug in a garage lab than he would create skynet.

Comment: Re:Start working on your dissertation (Score 1) 228

by m.shenhav (#43129789) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Summer Before Ph.D. Program?
Sorry but that is some grade A B#!!$#!%. Some of the best ideas come in down time - procrastination is in fact a virtue. Giving yourself the space and time to read something outside your field, to do some sports, to dance and read poetry, have fun in whatever way you want - these are things that make you a better scholar. Being stressed 24/7 does not. I will avoid the rant about how a post like yours represents some of the things that are so screwed up about the current academic system.

Comment: Re:80% vs 20% (Score 1) 301

by m.shenhav (#43061079) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Software To Help Stay On Task?
Actually the 20-80 rule is much more widely applicable than sales alone. It reflects a certain fractal geometry in the distribution of many kinds of events. The name is a bit of a simplification - obviously often the distribution may be less or more extreme (like when 99.9% of all movement in a particular stock price occurs in 0.1% of the time it is traded).

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

Now - I can't cite a paper but a buddy of mine is an evolutionary psychologist who told me they estimate that in the ancestral environment, humans worked 3-4 hours a day. Max. The rest of the time was spent hanging around, eating or having sex. Such power law behavior seem to me to be present in several forms of human behavior - although to be fair this is pure speculation on my part.

Comment: Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (Score 1) 528

by m.shenhav (#42807345) Attached to: Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion
I have read the God Delusion. He does indeed say he is not attacking Spinoza's Pantheistic view, and that he can't refute the Deist god. But again he has a chiefly western and modern bias with regards to this stuff - so he exclude two or three western conception of god which really aren't much different than the Cartesian Mechanistic worldview, and than assumes all other gods are conceived as omniscient omnipotent and real (as opposed to metaphoric) beings. But this is not what I am talking about. On the outside many religions have a seemingly supernatural god, which upon further study is revealed to be a subjective experience of the ineffable. This is more like philosophy than religion (to those who have not studied religion much).

Religion is also able to discard old ideas - it is true that most don't do so nearly as quickly as science does, but again this probably serves and evolutionary function (in the Sociocultural Dual Inheritance sense). If you don't believe that statement you should have a look at the history of religion (not that I contend it always evolved in the right direction). I don't support the (organized, centralized) Church, not do I support the Academic system as it stands now. Both are full of Agency Problems and Dogmas; in science the dogma is methodological largely. Religion and Science are both like any other body of knowledge and skill, they can be used or abused.

Comment: Re:Science is the antithesis of religion... (Score 1) 528

by m.shenhav (#42799759) Attached to: Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion
People have already covered the Pragmatic sides to this, and the issues of not taking religion too seriously and using it as a metaphor.

I would add that while it may seem from the Exoteric doctrines (i.e. what most people consider religion) that religion is about believing particular statements, it has been my experience that the Esoteric doctrine (i.e. what you learn when you study the subject a bit more deeply) are actually advocating extreme skepticism of human capacity to describe and understand reality in the rational sense. Indeed many of the Philosophical Skeptics have been religious.

In any case if you are Skeptic you would not take beliefs - Scientific, Religious or otherwise - too seriously. Its amusing because you see Atheists like Dawkins argue against a position of believing such a narrow conception of what god is that he misses the point. What if the Divine is simply a term used to describe the Ineffable - the Immeasurable - the Indescribable in the universe?

After all - the idea that reality has Immutable Laws that we can discover which govern its function is completely speculative and unfalsifiable. Not to say we should not try and find them, but this search has a subjective and objective part. Take a guess which discipline deals with which part.....

Comment: Skepticism, Science and Religion (Score 0) 528

by m.shenhav (#42799485) Attached to: Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion
Having been an Atheist and a Naive Rationalist in the past, it appears to me differences in the use of language obscures religion to modern Rationalists and Realists. I have come to see the essence of religion as a pure skepticism of human ability to describe and understand reality beyond experiencing it directly.

It seems that many in both Science and Religion tend to take their beliefs too seriously - resulting in fundamentalism. Do you think Skepticism, Humor and a Common Language based on it could help bridge the gap between positions? If so, how?

Comment: Re:Cities being more Green? (Score 1) 263

by m.shenhav (#42718235) Attached to: Cities' Heat Can Affect Temperatures 1000+ Miles Away
Yes, I got that we are talking about per capita. And yes I can imagine that per capita greenhouse emissions are lower in cities, my problem is with the assertion that this is so for ALL kinds of pollution. The arguments in the replies seem to make sense, just as the arguments in the article seem to make sense. I completely agree that if I live in the country side and get the same goods delivered as a city person I would pollute more - in greenhouse emissions. But I am talking about a situation where most of the things I consume on a regular basis are available locally. I am not talking about people living in a house and commuting one or two hours to do the shopping or work, I mean more those living off the land (admittedly a naive assumption but valid for some people). That said I have little to no idea about the relative impact of particular types of good on this, so I can't measure the impact well.

I just have my doubts because I have the feeling high concentrations of human population might have some unforeseen consequences. In any with regards to tmosley's post I must reply that I don't try to explain the growth in population by Malthusian terms - I am saying that the more strain we put on ecosystems to feed us, the most likely we are to suffer from random fluctuations (kind of like the Irish potato famine).

I just have a hard time believing such simplified black-and-white explanations which don't seem to account for the nuances in complex systems.

You can not get anything worthwhile done without raising a sweat. -- The First Law Of Thermodynamics

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