Zombies get philosophical

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You may not think of our flesh-eating diseased brethren as being the thoughtful types. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.
As Sci mentioned, I’m gonna be holed up in the Costco for a while so I got time to think about it. They’re the slow-moving-undead zombies, not those ultra-quick “infected” (I hate those creepy bastards). I rolled down those big steel doors, barricaded them with anything heavy I could find here, gathered up all the lighting supplies for when the power goes out, bandaged up that bite on my arm, and I’ve taken to making jerky out of all this meat I’ve got laying around the store. I even got chainsaws in case they break in. Not my weapon of choice by a long shot since all it does is attract more zombies, but they’ll do. I should be able to last a while. Other survivors are knocking on the door. I can’t let them in, I might put myself at risk. Maybe I’ll toss them some supplies from the roof later. If they make it.
So while I slice up all this beef and prep it for low heat cookin’, I’m thinking about these buggers. Are they just driven by a bunch of chemical reactions in their diseased brains?They got a rudimentary consciousness in there someplace, right? Or do they? People normally think of consciousness as the ability to self-evaluate, to reflect on one’s own mental state. Consciousness is frequently referred to as an emergent phenomenon, or one that can’t readily be predicted by knowing all the properties of its constituents. For example, we can’t really predict “wetness” from knowing the properties of a water molecule.
Some philosophers suggest that mental processes supervene on physical processes. That is, you can’t reductively just break down all the physical processes of the brain and get a true understanding of mentation. That being said, though, you can’t have the mental process without the physical. At least that we know about or can explain.
Hmm I’m getting hungry and these granola bars aren’t cutting it. Guess I don’t have to wait for the meat to cook, I can just start eating it as I slice it. Hey, it ain’t that gross! Whole cultures make a dining habit of eating raw beef. Ever heard of carpaccio, huh? Steak tartare? Kitfo? Mmm. Funny thing is, the more raw meat I eat the less that bite on my arm itches.
Some philosophers would say that it is possible to imagine a universe just like ours in every way, with all the same physical laws, except that this property of supervenience doesn’t apply to mental phenomena. That is to say, there’s another universe out there with an identical “you”, down to every last molecule, doing exactly what you are doing right now. Like making jerky. Mmmm jerky.
God I wish those survivors would stop banging on the door. I can’t think with all that racket!
The difference between You and 2nd you (called Ewe) is that Ewe doesn’t have the ability to self-evaluate. Ewe is not aware, Ewe is just playing out the fucktillions of molecular interactions going on in Ewe’s body. And since all the same physical laws apply to You and Ewe, You and Ewe will continue to live out the exact same life. The only difference is, Ewe isn’t aware of any of it. Kind of like those ravenous, flesh-eating fuckers out there right now, hunting down the last of humanity and tearing us to pieces with their jagged little teeth.
I don’t really buy into this as an explanation for how consciousness works, because in this case consciousness really can’t impact thought processes at all. It is a passive, useless thing. Personally I prefer to think that evolution shaped our mental processes by shaping our physical processes, meaning that self-evaluation serves a useful role in our survival. If I get out of this mess, I’m gonna head to the library and read up some more……
Dammit, stop banging on the damn door!!!!!!! RRRRRRRRRRR.
So anyway… self-evaluation. Yeah. What was I saying? Shit. Can’t think. Hungry. Arm itches.
Tried raw beef, pork, chicken, turkey. I’m craving some long pig, and Costco doesn’t carry that. Really craving it.
Time to go let those other survivors in.

Book Review: Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion

First off, Sci should warn you. If you send me books (and some of you do, and for those of you who do, SCI LOVES YOU A LOT), keep in mind they may take a while. Sci IS in grad school after all, and while I’m a happy little book worm when surrounded by books, a lot of times, more than 10 pages a night just isn’t going to happen. After all, I’ve got this whole “science blogging” thing to keep up with as well, and that’s a time sink, lemme tell ya. So this means that if you send me a book, it may be a long time before it gets read and a review goes up about it. Sci just finished three books, and there is still a pile of 12 on her little bedside table. So be patient. And send me books anyway. 🙂
That said, the latest book sent to me that I managed to read was via friend of the blog JD, who sent me a book by his Psych prof: “Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion” by Lee Kirkpatrick, professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary.
And when I got the book, Dr. Kirkpatrick had signed it!!! Signed books are even better than unsigned, because they make Sci feel so famous. And I quote:

This is the best book you will ever read, on any topic. No, really. Seriously, not kidding. Enjoy!
-Lee Kirkpatrick

And he promised me my money back if not fully satisfied. 🙂
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A dose of woo: Martial Idiocy

Recently Orac took apart the findings of another acupuncture study. Those who administer acupuncture typically insinuate that a mysterious vital energy known as “chi” travels along meridians in the body, and that normal flow of chi is necessary for good health. Orac pointed out that this recent study effectively disproved the notion of meridians in traditional Chinese medicine.
Similar woo also permeates the martial arts. If one’s chi is properly aligned, supposedly the practitioner can make their body do amazing things such as selectively exploding an opponent’s internal organs when struck, or sometimes inducing a time-delayed killing sickness. My old kung fu instructor even tried to demonstrate that chi existed by having us hold our hands right up next to a mirror after a workout, supposedly when our chi is flowing maximally. He claimed you could see the visible effects of chi which manifested as a mist traveling up the mirror away from our hands. He was right: the mirror did fog over. I imagine it had more to do with the mirror being at a significantly lower temperature than our hands, which were sweaty and radiating heat, which caused condensation to appear on the mirror and radiate upward away from our hands with our body heat. Oh well.
So in the Philippines, which is home to one of the arts I currently train in, they don’t necessarily believe in the Chinese concept of Chi but they do subscribe to just as much martial woo. From oración to anting anting, by aligning one’s energy and going through ritualized moves, objects, chants, and breathing, one can prepare his or her mind and body to ward off blows. From swords. It works. Right.
Incidentally, if you don’t like blood, don’t watch. However, you’ll also get a brief dose of Filipino martial history and one of its main figures, Lapu Lapu.

I think we can consider Chi and the like one more debunked philosophical construct. Just because you believe something, that doesn’t make it so. Any nice sharp sword will demonstrate that concept. Interestingly, Tara at Aetiology finds that HIV denialists have the same mentality. Hopefully they’ll learn a thing or two from this video; HIV can be every bit as dangerous.

Science? Christianity? Excedrin Written All Over It? A Quasi-Buddhist’s Opinion

Yet again, another Jesus flare-up. Rob Knop posted his personal religious views and the prophetical shit hath hit the fan. I swear the science and spirituality debate is like a bad case of hemorrhoids.
Some of us just never had these problems that result from self-identification. I stress the self part because, as Chris Rowan points out, the whole discussion really is about how individuals reconcile their personal views with physical realities. We only run into problems when we start trying to pigeon-hole everybody else.
Which is why when it comes to my personal beliefs/lack thereof, I do an end run around the entire issue by avoiding labels as much as possible.

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And when you’re in your bigger room…

…you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started
sittin’ in your little room
–The White Stripes

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