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Mar 14 2009

The Digital Pack-Rat, Vol. 15

The objections to stem cell research are not all … rational. Everyone knows, we are working on the ultimate weapon—a gun, made of babies, that uses babies as ammo.

No ifs, no ands, no buts, no maybes,
Merely guns made out of babies–
We need good guns, to go to war;
That’s what we made eugenics for!

I was happy to hear, on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, about the problems the elves are causing these days. Or is that the fairies? Anyway, it’s somebody who likes to stay hidden.

A book lost somewhere on my shelves
Assures me that there are no elves
Nor fairies, banshees, gnomes, nor trolls
Not one of these, my text extols!
The certainty with which it speaks
Reflects its out-of-date techniques:
It’s mostly full of Bronze-Age tribal
Myths. It’s called… let’s see… The Bible.

(And that’s why I don’t find it odd
That fairies don’t believe in god.)

And the spate of recent news stories of the other apes (the non-human ones) gaining the upper hand prompts this reminder that 2/3 of the planet is still out of reach for them.

With coconuts, and rocks, and feces
Daring plots, and cunning plans,
The battle’s on! The warring species
Want the crown that once was man’s.

The apes will have the upper hand,
Unbound by superstitious gods,
And when it’s done, they’ll rule the land–
The seas belong to cephalopods.

Oh, yeah, it’s not just the apes you gotta watch out for:

When working with an angry horse,
(As well with donkeys, asses, mules)
You’ll find it is the prudent course
To armor-plate your family jewels.
Or else, bring gauze and lots of ice
For when your nuts head further south.
I know this must be good advice–
I got it from the horse’s mouth!

And, oddly enough, one from this strange blog called “The Digital Cuttlefish”. Not quite enough to merit its own post, but (yet) another antireductionist rant in the Dennett thread. Seriously, it reminds me of a line from a Barenaked Ladies song; the line goes “I’m not trying to sing a love song; I’m trying to sing in tune”. The finest description—even to the quantum level—of what an action is, does not explain why it is taking place. A description of my fingers on the keys—even to the quantum level—does not tell you whether I am writing The Great American Novel, or a dirty limerick! Assuming that you were to elaborate on the description at the quantum level such that you knew it was a dirty limerick, you would not know whether I was writing it as a joke, a submission for publication, a mistaken attempt at seduction, or any of dozens of other motivations. In other words, you would not know the cause.

The graphite’s slip is just the same,
With this view thrust upon it,
If I should merely sign my name
Or write a quantum sonnet!

Your answer serves to illustrate
My problem with your view:
I think that answers should relate
To questions—how ‘bout you?

To speak in terms of “gentle slip”
Describes the graphite’s flaking,
But not the path my pencil’s tip
Across the page is making.

Description of the finest kind
Is still not explanation;
Not pencil tips, and not the mind—
That’s misinterpretation!

You act as if reducing mind
To quantum-level laws
Allowed a person thus to find
A true internal cause!

But this, of course, is not the case—
One only finds description!
(A simple fact, which you must face
And not have a conniption.)

Our explanations, grounded in
The world that we can see,
Are where we fruitfully begin
To find what mind must be.

(I also see, parenthetically,
A view that you ascribe to me
That does not sound like mine at all
A strawman, rather, built to fall–
In searching my views for contradiction,
Please have a care not to tilt at a fiction!)

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