I was watching squirrels this morning and enjoying their peanut-driven antics when my mind went on one of those tangents far afield, this time pursuing the question of emotions in animals. The squirrels appear to have them, but are they anything like ours? If animals didn’t have emotions, would anything ever happen? Then it hit me — emotions are the spur that keep us going.
The snow and ice falling from the roof got me thinking about change.
Desensitization occurs when someone is overexposed to scenes of violence, cruelty or suffering. Those scenes then become less likely to cause feelings of shock or distress.
There have been many attempts to re-write the Commandments. Many have been intended to improve them with varying degrees of success. Some have been idealistic. Some have been humorous. And some have been cynical.
While the exact origin of consciousness is debatable, and polarized on a mammalian time-chart, the fact that all mammalian creatures acquired consciousness as a datum, that is, as a fixed starting point in our brains, is not.The history of these living, yet mortal, creatures is documented by their fossils that are preserved in sedimentary layers over geologic time, where we can see (read) the small patterns to help understand the big picture, and that, is the progression of evolution. Yet, there are at least two types of mammalian evolution.
The first and most obvious is the aforesaid fossil record. That record, despite gaps, is of such an exacting nature that it is no longer considered a theory of evolution, but the established fact of evolution.
Would it be better to have a supercomputer loaded with all the world’s knowledge, or just the “good” knowledge?
An immensely powerful AI engine could be loaded with everything we know, good or bad. It can know about love, puppies, and flowers. It can be told about torture and abuse. Those programming it can set a direction.
Would it be better to go forth relying on something that knows evil, or should evil be programmed out of the AI system?
At the far end of our limbs we have the necessary appendages to propel our bodies through the water. We begin our lives floating in an oceanic body of fluids called the amniotic universe in a symbiotic unity with mother and child where we experience a “lack of boundaries and obstructions” akin to how we feel immersed in open waters.
The origin of our aquatic nature is suggested by Charles Darwin when he asked, “What can be more curious than that the hand of a man?” Our fingers typing on a keyboard began their journey over 350 million years ago when some tetrapod held its head high enough above the waterline to catch its prey. That’s when its evolutionary “modification of gene expression” realized there was another world.
How do we develop mindfulness and a compassionate optimism about a highly imperfect world? Author Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath discusses the Buddhist model for remaining fully engaged in the ups and downs of everyday life in her talk “What the Buddhists Teach: Finding Clarity in Everyday Life,” May 4th at 7pm in the library’s main room. Sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council. Location Brooks Memorial Library Main Room. Contact Reference Desk (802) 254-5290 x109. For more information about Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath, go to
One of the most disgusting postulates that unifies the otherwise deadly divided “Jukrislim” religions is the accusation that humans are born with and live in sin. The original finger-pointing, found in the shared book of Genesis, lays the blame of sin squarely on the backs of women. Women have never been the same since then, especially after the Jewish sects calling themselves Christianity and Islam took root.
What is the idea behind having a voting age? Why can’t anyone who can read or write, vote in elections? Shouldn’t the young also have a say on who is to make the rules they are to live by and their families are to live by? The rules that will affect their lives later on. Some people will think it ridiculous that a six year old should be able to vote, but why? Because they are too young? By who’s designation? Shouldn’t we be teaching children how to become independent adults? Being young and part of the system allows them to practice. And why should they not have a say in the political system anyway?
Over the years, I’ve often posed this question to many people, “If I could somehow give you an eternal afterlife, but with the caveat that you cannot take God with you, would you still take the afterlife?
Because the question is unprecedented, it at first takes the person by surprise. After all, most Western people still connect an afterlife with the God they were raised to believe in. It would not normally occur to them to have one without the other.
So, there is often hesitation, but not for long.
Imagine a voter that generally wants to vote for their party. In an election cycle, this voter likes one of the party candidates and supports them actively throughout the primary and caucus season, but their candidate falls short and another candidate becomes the nominee.
The voter wants to vote for their party candidate, because the other party is, of course, y’know… the other party. However, the voter finds their official party candidate to be repulsive, dangerous, icky, and generally bad for the future of the country.
How should the voter vote?
I’ve been reading about the early days of computers ((‘Turing’s Cathedral,’ by George Dyson) and one thing has struck methat I hadn’t considered before: we’re creating the digital DNA and artificial intelligence of future digital entities. Everything we have done with computers since their inception adds to the collective “being” of the next generation, allowing an evolving and increasingly complex core to develop over time.
An example: The very first instructions in code were for simple tasks, such as adding or subtracting. Those tiny sequences continue to be preserved today in every digital device made.
When I wrote the poem “Whatever Happens to a Leaf” in 1999 there lay within it the core of my philosophy of life and death. If the context of the scientific notion that we are but born of dead stars from the ashes and dust of an extreme unbridled supernova, my leaf analogy of what happens to humans when they die simplifies the question so often asked of me, “What happens to us when we die.” My answer, troubling to many, accepting by some, is “What ever happens to a leaf when it falls from the tree is the same thing that happens to you and me.”Our existence is coexistent with the leaves on the trees, as we are with all living things. The evolutionary trek that brought us to the very day you read these words is the same chain from the branches of evolutionary life we clung to from our earliest days and which we cling to still.
Why do we have to love Texas? Because they teach us so much about our species. Here’s a brief synopsis of an article from Governing Magazine.
The Texas Department of Agriculture just approved a new policy re-allowing soda and fried foods in public schools. “Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on Thursday restored the option for public schools to serve certain fried foods and soda by lifting a decade-old statewide ban on deep fryers and soda machines.”
“We are working to put an end to a one-size-fits-all approach mandated from Austin,” Miller said in a press release. “We want families, teachers and school districts to know the Texas Department of Agriculture supports their decisions and efforts to teach Texas students about making healthy choices.”
The author (John Burke) of the following quote, from an essay entitled Technology and Values, was educated at Boston Latin, MIT and Stanford and was, in order, a metallurgist, B-17 bomber pilot and prisoner of war, executive for Cummins Diesel, establisher and owner of an engineering firm, grad student and recipient of a doctorate at Stanford and assistant professor of the history of science and the history of technology at UCLA.
The essay was included in a volume called The Great Ideas Today – 1969 published in 1969 by Britannica Great Books.
The two scarcest commodities on this planet are money and time. We never seem to have enough of either one. But this isn’t true of everyone. Some people have lots of one, some of the other, and some lucky people have both. How can this be? I have a socioeconomic theory that the time/money ratio is in fact an indicator of economic class. Here’s how it works:
If you have both time and money, you’re probably affluent. You simply have the money and don’t need to work that hard for it, if at all. Consequently, you have lots of time too. The world is your oyster. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Several times a year the Vatican has children release and let fly white doves over the crowds in St. Peter’s Square as signs of peace. During one such release the horrified crowds witnessed a mid-air attack by a hungry crow and seagull when they killed the pope’s blessed doves.
To prevent this brutal contraindication of papal peace, the Swiss Guard acquired a female Harris Hawk with a four-foot wingspan. Like Michael armed with a sword in his hand, the hawkeyed bird of prey perches at the ready to slay these winged dragons who dare to publicly eat the holy symbols of peace.
Recently the Jewish Community of Amsterdam took up the question of repealing Spinoza’s excommunication. The banishment, effected in 1656, has never been formally challenged despite many promptings over the years from within the congregation of those whose ancestors ordered Spinoza’s expulsion.
The present congregation convened its own review board, as well as comissioned an advisory board of scholars and philosophers to consider the question. Several precedents related to revoking such a harsh sentence. (Indeed Spinoza was the only one of Amsterdam’s exiled Portuguese Jews to be so disgraced.) It was established the person in question need be alive, and show some measure of recognition, as well as contrition for their transgressions.
Last night, I dreamed I had to run around and update everyone’s config files. Their settings were out of date. I knew they would run better with new settings, and so I updated those files, one after another. When I woke up, I realized that the dream wasn’t talking about literal config files — it was talking about something deeper, the underlying principles and rules by which most of us operate. Something in our basic configuration as a society isn’t working anymore.
Before I lose you, a config file is really just an old school word for settings. It’s the file where certain software stores the basic settings it needs to operate. But there’s a subtle difference. I work with web sites and I update settings all the time — but I don’t often update the config files which tend to stay the same except under unusual circumstances. These are very basic settings that underlie everything the software does. In a sense, they’re almost unconscious, which is what our own “configuration settings” tend to be.