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I get email

I’ve always wondered when the silly season was. I guess it’s April. I’m getting so much loony email lately that I have to marvel at my inbox — no longer merely a stack of obligations and nagging, it also contains imbedded within it little gems of high weirdness.

For instance, “Tom Hyndman” doesn’t like me. Little clues tell me that this is the same person I recently banned under the pseudonym “Nathan Hull”, who I suspect also went under the name “John Dolan” in an earlier life, and also reminds me of a few other names that have drifted through here, transiently.

Let’s take a look at it. He’s peeved because he was banned, which turns out to be a sign that I’m becoming a dictatorial cult leader. Ho hum.

Let’s get serious. You are no longer a secular liberal humanist (you may have been once), but the leader of a weird online cult that is convinced it is fighting a Holy War against other cults, and thus cannot tolerate any dissension from the Party line. I find your mental disintegration very sad, as the forces of darkness are ever with us, and we should have as many soldiers as we can. The inability of your followers to grasp the concepts of Buddhism is not a convincing reason to ban somebody from a comments section, but seeing that you have embraced guruism I am not surprised at this turn of events.

Wait…he thinks he was banned because we don’t understand Buddhism? I don’t recall Buddhism ever being a major topic of conversation, even.

Imagine you are confronted with all the animals that were tortured and killed just to perpetuate your miserable, pointless existence. Was their suffering worth it? You know the answer, and so do your hangers-on — but you do not have the courage to look those sheep, cows etc. in the eye. You shuffle your way to college, surrounded by the barbarous degenerates of America’s mid-West, teaching witless students to measure and categorize, thinking this is all that men can achieve (measure and categorize measure and categorize…)

It’s true, I’ve killed animals in research. But I’m a vegetarian now!

I also like my students. They’re a bright bunch, and I’ve never thought of the midwest as a hotbed of barbarous degenerates (cautious conservatives would be more accurate).

How many times have I read Darwin’s quote on ‘the grandeur of this view of life’? Darwin didn’t believe there was “grandeur” in our biological predicament, you can read between the lines. A femtosecond after his daughter died he knew that life was shit, and it would have been better if no sentient creature had ever existed.

Really? We actually have the record of Charles Darwin’s feelings on the death of his daughter — he wrote a memorial in the week after her death. This doesn’t sound like the words of someone who had decided “life was shit”.

Her health failed in a slight degree for about nine months before her last illness; but it only occasionally gave her a day of discomfort: at such times, she was never in the least degree8 cross, peevish or impatient; & it was wonderful to see, as the discomfort passed, how quickly her elastic spirits brought back her joyousness & happiness. In the last short illness, her conduct in simple truth was angelic; she never once complained; never became fretful; was ever considerate of others; & was thankful in the most gentle, pathetic manner for everything done for her. When so exhausted that she could hardly speak, she praised everything that was given her, & said some tea “was beautifully good.” When I gave her some water, she said “I quite thank you”; & these, I believe were the last precious words ever addressed by her dear lips to me.

But looking back, always the spirit of joyousness rises before me as her emblem and characteristic: she seemed formed to live a life of happiness: her spirits were always held in check by her sensitiveness lest she should displease those she loved, & her tender love was never weary of displaying itself by fondling & all the other little acts of affection.—

We have lost the joy of the Household, and the solace of our old age:— she must have known how we loved her; oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & shall ever love her dear joyous face. Blessings on her.

We have established that Tom/Nathan/John likes to make stuff up, at least.

And now for his Buddhist solution to all the problems of the world:

But we could fix this. Detonating every nuclear device we have (plus a few extra we could build) would permanently irradiate this planet and ending all suffering here instantly. This would be our gift to the Universe, and an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs — the bipedal humanoid would finally be on the side of right.

That really sounds so peace-loving and respectful of all life.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    I may not have the greatest understanding of Buddhism, but I’m pretty sure that advocating mass murder / suicide on a global scale is not exactly a mainstream Buddhist position.

  2. blf says

    Is the same eejit who was blathering on about nihilism a few times? I don’t recall her\his name(s?) or arguments (not sure she\he had any coherent arguments), but that last paragraph — very “Nathan Hull”-ish — I can envision as the “conclusion” of a nihilistic fruitcake: There’s nothing for me or thee, so it’s a good idea if there is nothing. Or something like that, and probably just about as equally inane and self-loathing.

  3. killyosaur says

    So this is the same guy who liked to use big words to obfuscate the fact that he could not conjure up a coherent sentence to save his life? Then threw out Schopenhauer to justify his genocidal ravings? If so, fuck that guy.

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing, PZ. It’s rare that we get to see a specimen with such a comically monstrous ego.

    it would have been better if no sentient creature ever existed.

    we could fix this

    an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs

    Behold: the judge, jury and executioner of all life on earth.

    What a shithead.

  5. consciousness razor says

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, detonate every nuclear device we have.

  6. says

    @dunc:
    -
    well, depends on your framing I suppose:

    If you meet the buddah on the road, kill him. + we are all the buddah, so…kill everyone I suppose. Hmmm i guess that’s solid.

  7. raven says

    Detonating every nuclear device we have (plus a few extra we could build) would permanently irradiate this planet and ending all suffering here instantly.

    This is the philosophical position known as Incoherency.

    If we nuked the earth well enough to wipe out humans,we would also wipe out most large metazoans. They claim to care about animal suffering but this would cause biosphere suffering on a massive scale for a long time, maybe millions of years.

    This would be our gift to the Universe, and an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs — the bipedal humanoid would finally be on the side of right.

    There is another alternative. The galaxy appears empty of intelligent life. If we could get interstellar travel to work, we could spread out and own it all. 200 billion star systems, most of which we know have planets.

    This is within our capabilities, not now but someday. We’ve only been doing modern science for 200 years. Think of what we will know in 1,000 years.

    A nanotech terraforming package only weights 20 kilograms.

  8. blf says

    Belittling? Nah, have you seen the statues of Mr Budda? He’s a big guy… Rotund. Could have been a wiz(z)ard at Unseen U., if only he had the beard…

  9. ekwhite says

    That’s funny, I don’t remember reading anything in the Dhammapada about destroying all life on Earth.

  10. Snoof says

    This guy wants to wipe out all human life… and PZ is the cult leader?
    Maybe he’s just jealous that nobody wants to put on a jumpsuit and come and live in his volcano island hideout.

  11. Dunc says

    If we nuked the earth well enough to wipe out humans,we would also wipe out most large metazoans. They claim to care about animal suffering but this would cause biosphere suffering on a massive scale for a long time, maybe millions of years.

    I think he’s going for the “end suffering by killing everything” approach. He wants to completely sterilise the planet, not just eliminate humans.

  12. says

    Ah, yes, the Noble Eightfold Way: correct view, correct intention, correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct mindfulness and correct megatonnage.

  13. ekwhite says

    blf@10:

    That’s Hotei, the bodhisattva of happiness. His statues are supposed to bring luck. Mr. Buddha was quite slim.

  14. blf says

    Maybe he’s just jealous that nobody wants to put on a jumpsuit and come and live in his volcano island hideout.

    I’m sure that if he has a retractable fake lake as a roof and some nuke-tipped missiles, he’d be getting lots of visitors. Well-armed visitors, with the nearest Fleet providing support.

  15. Sven says

    But we could fix this. Detonating every nuclear device we have (plus a few extra we could build) would permanently irradiate this planet and ending all suffering here instantly. This would be our gift to the Universe, and an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs

    This is comic book villainy. And not even well-written comic book villainy!

  16. anteprepro says

    This guy really thinks that his nihilism and a desire for complete destruction of the human race by nuclear holocaust is equivalent to Buddhist nirvana? What a dumbfuck. Bonus points for dismissiveness towards scientific endeavors and for declaring that we are a “cult” that is part of a “holy war”because we didn’t tolerate his pining for human extinction.

  17. Sastra says

    But we could fix this. Detonating every nuclear device we have (plus a few extra we could build) would permanently irradiate this planet and ending all suffering here instantly. This would be our gift to the Universe, and an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs

    How God-like.

  18. twas brillig (stevem) says

    ARE YOU PEOPLE BELITTLING BUDDHISM AGAIN?

    NO, NO, they are NOT!!! They are belittling people’s half-assed understanding of Buddhism, and people’s fetishization of some of the slogans from Buddhists. (“If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him”) Zelazny presented Buddhism better than anyone, in his tome, Lord of Light. Read it!
    Buddhism is a Philosophy, NOT a religione! Go Zen now.

    A femtosecond after his daughter died he knew that life was shit, and it would have been better if no sentient creature had ever existed.

    a “femtosecond”? Sorry, neurons don’t fire THAT fast, even with Meth acceleration.
    And you know what Darwin was thinking at that “femtosecond”, how? {answer: Projection}
    Exactly _What_ would have been better if “no sentient creature had EVER existed”? Without sentience how would they even know? And if it NEVER existed, how could they say it was better? “Better” requires at least two things to compare, if there is only one: “better” cannot be utilized. Fractally wrong, so many errors, at every scale. Alas; Not even wrong.

  19. blf says

    (After spending a few minutes the at U. of Generalissimo Google™…) ekwhite@15, Thanks for the correction !

    I obviously know as much about the various characters in buddhism as I do about xian “saints” or kumquats.

  20. Louis says

    I meditated once and sparked a genocide in some far off land. What do I win?

    Louis

  21. consciousness razor says

    Buddhism is a Philosophy, NOT a religione! Go Zen now.

    This is false. It is a religion for the vast majority of Buddhists. And if you do take the religious bits out, the philosophy that’s left is still a lot of bullshit.

  22. anteprepro says

    Strangelove Lama or: How I Learned To Stop Suffering and Love The Bomb

    Some quotes from Nuclear Buddha:

    ““No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. Except for the guy with all the nukes. We ourselves must walk the path. Or just all die from radiation poisoning. Whatever is easiest” ”

    ““A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving, wants to die, and wants everyone to die with him, then he is in truth called wise.” ”

    ““It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. But the truly wise man will use the torch to burn down the entire fucking village. This is the bliss of the Way”

    ““Purity or impurity depends on oneself,
    No one can purify another.
    Save with radioactive fallout.
    That shit is purifying as fuck.” “

  23. Kevin Kehres says

    How shitty does your life have to be in order to come up with this as a plan for the planet?

    I feel sorry for zir. That is some seriously fucked-up mentation.

  24. blf says

    I meditated once and sparked a genocide in some far off land. What do I win?

    Two brightly-painted anteaters which smell like the sound of an infrared strawberry’s egg.

  25. anteprepro says

    Buddhism is a Philosophy, NOT a religione!

    Only to Westerners who cling onto Buddhism as some hip, vague, New Agey bullcrap.
    Buddhism involves a lot of supernatural elements. It often has a cosmology that would make the Abrahamic religions look paltry by comparison. It is, in fact, a religion. Your attempt at pedantry only displays that YOU are the one who is ignorant about the subject.

  26. Nick Gotts says

    I’ve a hunch Nathan Hull/Tom Hyndman’s understanding of Buddhism comes via Schopenhauer (whom he mentioned shortly before being banned), and who was, in the words of Bertie Wooster “A grouch of the most pronounced description”.

  27. twas brillig (stevem) says

    It is, in fact, a religion. …

    Sorry, forgot to include the /Bill_O tag to show that I was just channeling Bill O’s statement about Xianity being a philosophy not a religion.

    …Your attempt at pedantry only displays that YOU are the one who is ignorant about the subject.”

    which was exactly the point I was attempting to convey!

  28. numerobis says

    If you kill all large metazoa, we still come back as cockroaches. And the cockroaches will have a great time of it for a few million years!

  29. blf says

    twas brillig@30, Thanks for clarifying !

    I thought that statement sounded like a parody of something / somebody’s (“zen”?) mumblings — and also couldn’t square it with buddhist monks and temples and so on — but as previously demonstrated in this very thread, I am not qualified to distinguish much of anything in the various immediately-related subject areas.

  30. vaiyt says

    I’ll repeat: this shit never amuses me. It sounds just like the life phylosophy of Dark Bishop Heath, one of my favorite video game villains. Who happens to be an undead rogue priest and lead a cult that wants to turn everyone into zombies at the behest of a thousand-year-old lich. The fun part is that he still can summon gods and use the same holy spells as your party cleric. The not so funny part is that a bug in the game gives him over double the HP of the final bosses.

  31. Lars says

    Imagine you are confronted with all the animals that were tortured and killed just to perpetuate your miserable, pointless existence.

    For a femtosecond there I thought he was talking about that Buddhist “animal release” practice.

  32. consciousness razor says

    I’ve a hunch Nathan Hull/Tom Hyndman’s understanding of Buddhism comes via Schopenhauer (whom he mentioned shortly before being banned), and who was, in the words of Bertie Wooster “A grouch of the most pronounced description”.

    That seems fairly accurate, but he didn’t say we should kill someone, much less kill everyone.

    And of course, there is plenty to be grouchy about, so that shouldn’t by itself count as a point against him.

  33. says

    Real buddhists feed themselves to pigs.

    Why nuke ourselves? If all humans agreed with him we could just stop breeding and the problem would be solved in, um, a generation.

  34. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    On the matter of strangeness, exo-planets, and humanity’s minute endeavor toward interstellar travel, does finding another planet to go to mean we can leave these fuckbrained asstalkers behind? I mean, in order to remain logically consistent, Lord High Executioner would remain behind because there is a chance that his cells might lead to a mutation on the exo-planet which could not be eradicated yet lead to more sentient suffering. Or maybe he’d just try to wreck the ship.

    Now as for Christians and specifically pro-life Christians, wouldn’t they have to stay behind so as not to pollute or prevent the potential life which could arise naturally (or by God’s hand *snort*)? If you look at planets as ovum and our spaceship full of reproducting organisms, wouldn’t that be considered an interstellar sperm, thus any attempt to colonize other worlds would be some type of ‘fornication’. Granted, the planet as ovum is just an analogy, but at least it’s something to think about for future generations so we can just jet away from the evil nihilistic shitheads.

  35. says

    I wonder if he has the courage to look all those vegetables that were slaughtered to keep him alive in the eyes? …Oh. Right.

    I guess I’m going a bit off topic here, but that hints at the problem I have with a lot of vegetarians and their “arguments.” They have to kill things to eat, too. When they go about looking over this fact, it does nothing to convince me to be a vegetarian.

  36. emc2 says

    I have it on good authority that the central message of Buddhism is ‘Every man for himself.’

  37. consciousness razor says

    I wonder if he has the courage to look all those vegetables that were slaughtered to keep him alive in the eyes? …Oh. Right.

    I guess I’m going a bit off topic here, but that hints at the problem I have with a lot of vegetarians and their “arguments.” They have to kill things to eat, too. When they go about looking over this fact, it does nothing to convince me to be a vegetarian.

    For fuck’s sake, have you ever considered the fact that vegetables don’t feel anything? Do you believe vegetarians must have overlooked that fact too, or is it only bullshitters like you who need to do that?

  38. Louis says

    Nick Gotts, #29,

    One disagrees with Bertram Wilberforce Wooster at one’s peril.

    Louis

  39. saganite says

    I don’t understand such notions. Obviously he’s making a value statement, that humans being dead would be “better”. For whom, exactly? Who would be making value judgements? Especially considering that this “idea” would kill off most higher lifeforms? Is this some notion about the “order of the universe” or something, where the universe itself has plans and desires and humans and other higher animals are interfering in that? Why would anybody serve those desires, even if they existed? I don’t see any benefit to any of that. It’s just vague anti-human and anti-life rambling.

  40. says

    For fuck’s sake, have you ever considered the fact that vegetables don’t feel anything?

    It’s transparently convenient that “don’t feel” equates to “OK to eat” isn’t it? Many plants have evolved defenses to make them less attractive food; that’s a hint right there. Sure, the berries have evolved as part of a reproductive strategy so it’s probably fair to eat them, but whether a plant can feel it or not, you’re taking its life and – in many cases – cutting off its reproductive future – how’s that moral?

  41. pentatomid says

    Leo Buzalsky

    I wonder if he has the courage to look all those vegetables that were slaughtered to keep him alive in the eyes? …Oh. Right.

    I guess I’m going a bit off topic here, but that hints at the problem I have with a lot of vegetarians and their “arguments.” They have to kill things to eat, too. When they go about looking over this fact, it does nothing to convince me to be a vegetarian.

    Do you actually think you’ve made any sort of good point now? Some sort of gotcha? Because seriously, that was stupid as hell. Vegetables don’t feel pain. Vegetables and fruit don’t exactly have a nervous system, now do they.

  42. Great American Satan says

    Weirdly, I have made a similar statement myself, in response tot he cruelty of the world, within the last week over at Almost Diamonds. It was an expression of rage, not an earnest call for human extinction, as I imagine it might be here.

    Also, while the “cult” thing is Eyeroll City, you can’t argue with the idea that the end of sentience on earth would also be the end of suffering. And if you’ve been around enough human suffering, or fought against the utterly unceasing flow of cruelty from the assholes of the world, there can at least be a perverse appeal in the notion.

    My partner always says that giving birth is an act of selfish cruelty. There’s no guarantee that the child will have any joy in life, but you can be 100% assured at some point they will suffer. There are a limited number of ways for things to go right and a nigh infinite number of ways for things to go wrong.

    But, y’know, it’s pretty damn funny to have that particular ragey whine associated with buddhism. There are a few snarky gems in the comments here. -:)

  43. consciousness razor says

    I don’t understand such notions. Obviously he’s making a value statement, that humans being dead would be “better”. For whom, exactly?

    For anybody who’s alive, if being alive is worse than not being alive. You don’t suffer if you’re not alive, and there is some amount of suffering if you are alive. If that outweighs whatever good things there are about being alive, then being alive is worse.

    Think of it the other way around: would you say being alive is in itself a good thing? Is it better than not being alive? For whom, exactly? Perhaps you’re more of an optimist than somebody like Schopenhauer, or perhaps you think your life has turned out better than he thought his life did. (But as I said before, Schopenhauer wasn’t saying people should die, just that we shouldn’t make more people, who he thought would also experience more bad than good.)

    Who would be making value judgements?

    Nobody, if they don’t exist. If they do exist, they would judge that overall their lives tend toward the bad side of the spectrum, or they’d think it’s more toward the good side. Or maybe they’d think it’s somehow perfectly balanced, so that the result is neutral. There’s nothing inconsistent about that, and you don’t have to assume living is necessarily good, nor do you have to assume there’s some other thing (or the universe itself) doing the judging from the outside.

  44. consciousness razor says

    It’s transparently convenient that “don’t feel” equates to “OK to eat” isn’t it? Many plants have evolved defenses to make them less attractive food; that’s a hint right there.

    I don’t see a hint of anything. Who the fuck cares what they evolved to do?

    Sure, the berries have evolved as part of a reproductive strategy so it’s probably fair to eat them, but whether a plant can feel it or not, you’re taking its life and – in many cases – cutting off its reproductive future – how’s that moral?

    It’s moral because plants don’t experience anything. Talking about what’s “fair” to something that isn’t even a moral agent is not talking about anything. So how’s that not moral?

  45. David Marjanović says

    How God-like.

    …Unsurprisingly, Sastra wins this thread. *tosses Internet in general direction*

    Why nuke ourselves? If all humans agreed with him we could just stop breeding and the problem would be solved in, um, a generation.

    You misunderstand. He doesn’t merely want to Kill All Humans. He wants to end all suffering. All of it.

    I have it on good authority that the central message of Buddhism is ‘Every man for himself.’

    Day saved.

  46. says

    It’s moral because plants don’t experience anything.

    Neither does someone who is in a coma, or adequately anaesthetized.
    You’re just promoting the “no pain” angle because it’s convenient to you.

    (I’m not being serious, doofus.)

  47. Nick Gotts says

    I guess I’m going a bit off topic here, but that hints at the problem I have with a lot of vegetarians and their “arguments.” – Leo Buzalsky

    The problem, clearly, being that you can’t – or prefer not to – understand those arguments.

  48. says

    You misunderstand. He doesn’t merely want to Kill All Humans. He wants to end all suffering. All of it.

    Oh, eek! Well, um, that’s .. um…

    I suppose one could argue that future lives (including those of plants and animals) will experience suffering, and therefore it’s best to prevent future lives from happening at all. That’s sort of like Bentham gone horribly wrong, by weighing suffering as vastly more important than pleasure, and being willing to discard all the potential pleasure of the future in favor of avoiding all the potential pain. Um… um… Well, all I can say is I’m not a fan of utilitarianism for that sort of reason.

    Wait, I see his mistake: he thinks being nuked is painless or maybe even outright fun.

  49. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I guess I’m going a bit off topic here, but that hints at the problem I have with a lot of vegetarians and their “arguments.” They have to kill things to eat, too. When they go about looking over this fact, it does nothing to convince me to be a vegetarian.

    For fuck’s sake, have you ever considered the fact that vegetables don’t feel anything? Do you believe vegetarians must have overlooked that fact too, or is it only bullshitters like you who need to do that?

    I don’t know, I can understand why flesh eaters who feel the need to bash non-flesh-eaters sympathize with vegetables. They’re on the same cognitive level.

    It’s transparently convenient that “don’t feel” equates to “OK to eat” isn’t it? Many plants have evolved defenses to make them less attractive food; that’s a hint right there. Sure, the berries have evolved as part of a reproductive strategy so it’s probably fair to eat them, but whether a plant can feel it or not, you’re taking its life and – in many cases – cutting off its reproductive future – how’s that moral?

    How isn’t it?

    But remember, it’s VEGETARIANS who are judgy and pushy and obnoxious.

    Fucking hell.

  50. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Sure, the berries have evolved as part of a reproductive strategy so it’s probably fair to eat them, but whether a plant can feel it or not, you’re taking its life and – in many cases – cutting off its reproductive future – how’s that moral?

    I’m pretty sure that as far as reproductive success is concerned, domesticated plants run circles around wild ones, so to speak.

  51. Nick Gotts says

    Wait, I see his mistake: he thinks being nuked is painless or maybe even outright fun.

    I don’t think this is the key point. Suppose we could (as we might be able to in a century or two) vapourise the planet fast enough to prevent any suffering as a result. Would he then be right? He would still be imposing his own beliefs about how to balance enjoyment and suffering on billions of sentient beings. IOW, consent, as so often, is the crucial issue.

  52. consciousness razor says

    Neither does someone who is in a coma, or adequately anaesthetized.

    And that’s exactly why I said we should eat comatose patients. Because it’s impossible for them to ever experience anything.

    Oh wait…

    You’re just promoting the “no pain” angle because it’s convenient to you.

    I’m not promoting an angle. Plants cannot experience anything. That’s a fact. Morality doesn’t involve things that we are certain cannot ever, at all, in any way, under any circumstances, experience stuff. That’s also a fact. Not just pain, but any experience at all. Also a fact.

    On the other hand, your sophistry about comatose patients looks awfully “convenient.”

    (I’m not being serious, doofus.)

    Yet people like Leo up there will repeat your inane bullshit. I don’t know, maybe you’re satisfied with that.

  53. Athywren says

    I hate to suggest that someone should kill themselves, but why does this kind of person feel the need to tell everyone else that we should all do so? I have no interest in procreation, but I’m actually enjoying my life and have no particular desire to die in a nuclear fire. I can only imagine that they don’t really believe what they’re saying, and just want to annoy and/or depress other people.

    On the matter of strangeness, exo-planets, and humanity’s minute endeavor toward interstellar travel, does finding another planet to go to mean we can leave these fuckbrained asstalkers behind?

    Vaguely related, why not send Libertarians to the Moon, but enact a law requiring that people wear their helmets whenever they’re exposed to vacuum?

    For fuck’s sake, have you ever considered the fact that vegetables don’t feel anything?

    Are we sure about that? They don’t have a nervous system, so they almost certainly don’t feel the way that we do, but does that mean they’re incapable of sensing damage and reacting negatively to that? Do they actually not feel, or do they feel in ways that we just fail to recognise?
    I think most arguments against vegetarianism are ridiculous, but this one… do we really know that they don’t feel? Not that it’s incredibly important, since we need to eat something or we’ll starve, and that would suck, but it kinda seems like an argument from ignorance to me.

  54. Scientismist says

    A fiery end-of-the-world conflagration inspired by Buddhism? Has the true meaning at last been found to Ogden Nash’s “Ode to The Lama”?:

    The one-L lama, he’s a priest
    The two-L llama, he’s a beast
    And I would bet a silk pyjama
    There isn’t any three-L lllama
    (The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.)

    Obviously, the meaning to existence is to be found in puns.

  55. consciousness razor says

    Are we sure about that?

    Yes. I am. I’m not completely sure that you’re sure. But I’m pretty sure that you are too.

    Not that it’s incredibly important, since we need to eat something or we’ll starve, and that would suck, but it kinda seems like an argument from ignorance to me.

    Yours seems like an argument from ignorance. What evidence am I supposed to have which suggests plants do have experiences? People have been studying plants for a very long time, and they haven’t found any such thing. So there’s lots of evidence supporting my conclusion, which is not ignorance. What’s supporting your conclusion?

  56. Athywren says

    What’s supporting your conclusion?

    My conclusion that I’m not sure? That’s supported by the fact that I’m not sure.
    Are you simply overstating having no reason to accept that plants feel, or are you actually asserting that they don’t because we haven’t found any evidence of it?

  57. Nick Gotts says

    I think most arguments against vegetarianism are ridiculous, but this one… do we really know that they don’t feel? – Athywren

    Yes, we do. They don’t have a central nervous system (yes, yes, I know they have ways of reacting to their environment, and a few can even do so relatively quickly, a bit like reflexes, which also do not require awareness); and magic – which would be required for them to feel without a CNS – doesn’t exist.

  58. carlie says

    The problem with the argument “I don’t want any animals to die so that I can live” for vegetarianism is that there is no way to eat without other animals dying, either directly or indirectly. Farmland displaces animal habitat. Combines don’t stop when a rabbit can’t get out of the way in time. Pesticides kill insects. But that doesn’t only go for vegetarianism, it goes for everything – there is simply not a way to exist in which you don’t use resources that something else could use to live. The point that vegetarianism saves results in fewer animal deaths, however, is a true one. The point that it is less taxing on the environment is a true one. There are very good arguments for vegetarianism, and claiming that they all boil down to “I don’t want things to die” is an incorrect and misleading one.

  59. consciousness razor says

    My conclusion that I’m not sure?

    No, the conclusion that plants do have experiences. That is the only other logical possibility to them not having experiences. Your mental state (being sure or not sure) has no bearing on the question you brought up (about plant consciousness), so I don’t really care about that at the moment.

    Are you simply overstating having no reason to accept that plants feel, or are you actually asserting that they don’t because we haven’t found any evidence of it?

    I’m asserting that they don’t, because they don’t in reality. We know they don’t because we’ve looked and found what plants actually are. The evidence we don’t find (which would have shown they’re conscious) isn’t directly relevant. We’ve found plants, and we’ve found that plants are a particular kind of thing. That kind of thing isn’t a conscious, or even sentient, organism. It’s a non-sentient organism. That’s one of the many things we’ve found out about plants. That’s real evidence, not a lack of evidence.

    I guess we could go deeper into a discussion about what “knowledge” is, and how “sure” we ought to be of any of our experiences, but that’s leading us a long way from the original point. And in any case, I’m every bit as sure that plants aren’t conscious as I’m sure that you are conscious. That’s good enough for me.

    and magic – which would be required for them to feel without a CNS – doesn’t exist.

    They could also be made of tiny robots, I guess. We haven’t found that either. Although that’s only relevant if you mean something very specific with the phrase “nervous system.”

  60. Athywren says

    They don’t have a central nervous system (yes, yes, I know they have ways of reacting to their environment, and a few can even do so relatively quickly, a bit like reflexes, which also do not require awareness); and magic – which would be required for them to feel without a CNS – doesn’t exist.

    Is a central nervous system of the type found in animals the only naturalistic way for sensory messages to be transmitted?
    And can I just clarify that I’m not asserting that plants do feel, only that I’m not convinced that it is definitely true that they don’t, and that asserting it as a fact because we haven’t seen it despite looking is a really good way to discredit ourselves on the off chance that we eventually discover some other form of nerve-like system in plants?

  61. says

    Detonating every nuclear device we have (plus a few extra we could build) would permanently irradiate this planet and ending all suffering here instantly.

    Keep talking like that, and Hollywood will turn Buddhists into the next Muslims.

  62. Athywren says

    No, the conclusion that plants do have experiences. That is the only other logical possibility to them not having experiences. Your mental state (being sure or not sure) has no bearing on the question you brought up (about plant consciousness), so I don’t really care about that at the moment.

    That’s not my conclusion.

    I’m asserting that they don’t, because they don’t in reality. We know they don’t because we’ve looked and found what plants actually are. The evidence we don’t find (which would have shown they’re conscious) isn’t directly relevant. We’ve found plants, and we’ve found that plants are a particular kind of thing. That kind of thing isn’t a conscious, or even sentient, organism. It’s a non-sentient organism. That’s one of the many things we’ve found out about plants. That’s real evidence, not a lack of evidence.

    Are we sure that ours is the way to be conscious? No, I’m not talking about ‘higher forms’ of consciousness or spirits or anything like that, just other ways to be conscious. Is there only one way to make it or anything like it? Is our evidence demonstrating a total lack of any form of cognition, or is it demonstrating a total lack of animal cognition?
    And no, I am not asserting that plants are conscious, but if they were, would the evidence show it? If it did, would we recognise it?

  63. says

    @Athywren 69

    Ya, maybe the entire universe is a conscious god. We just can’t really make any reasonable conclusion about such matters.

  64. says

    bacteria might have cognition too. maybe even the particular form that my shirt on the floor is in. But not if I fold the shirt and put it away, it will then lose it’s cognition.

    Well, there wouldn’t be evidence demonstrating a total lack of any form of cognition, just demonstrating a total lack of crumpled-on-the-floor cognition.

  65. azhael says

    Plants not only don´t have nervous systems, they don´t have anything that even resembles the functions of nervous systems. We can be extremely confident that no plant that has ever been discovered is capable of conscious experience of any kind. They of course can sense and react to stimuli (so can bacteria), but there is no know botanical structure that could even possibilitate conscious sensation.
    I´m perfectly ok with asserting that plants aren´t conscious until someone provides any evidence whatsoever that points to it being remotely possible.

  66. carlie says

    Are we seriously having a conversation about whether plants feel things and/or have a consciousness?!

  67. unclefrogy says

    I remember this “dude” or should I say dud. I have said similar things in the past but I did not make the mistake of stopping thinking and in the end came to a very different conclusion and tried to work on my own problem with suffering. I would like to be able to help him but he will have to let go of his own problems himself.
    He sure thinks he is something.

    uncle frogy

  68. Athywren says

    I´m perfectly ok with asserting that plants aren´t conscious until someone provides any evidence whatsoever that points to it being remotely possible.

    What’s wrong with just being clear that there’s no reason to believe it until it’s demonstrated?

  69. says

    Carlie:

    Are we seriously having a conversation about whether plants feel things and/or have a consciousness?!

    It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened here.

  70. consciousness razor says

    Are we sure that ours is the way to be conscious? No, I’m not talking about ‘higher forms’ of consciousness or spirits or anything like that, just other ways to be conscious. Is there only one way to make it or anything like it? Is our evidence demonstrating a total lack of any form of cognition, or is it demonstrating a total lack of animal cognition?

    As I mentioned to Nick, this doesn’t imply anything about artificial intelligence, for example. We could have conscious or sentient computers. Neurons specifically are just the way animals have evolved to do that trick. A computer chip, or any physical system whatsoever, could do it, as long as it’s capable of representing information and using it appropriately. So, yeah, there are lots of other ways to do that (and they don’t need to be “like” each other in every respect). Why not? Get a bunch of stuff in the proper configuration, no matter what that stuff is, and it will do whatever that configuration does. You could make a brain out of folding chairs and ping-pong balls, if you felt like making an absolutely enormous “brain” that would take astronomical lengths of time to calculate anything all.

    But the important point here is that there is some physical mechanism that would need to be involved, and we’ve looked at plants, finding no such mechanism. Lots of other mechanisms doing lots of other things, but not that. So yes, plants have a total lack of sentience. “Cognition” would presumably be an even higher bar to meet, and they also don’t do that.

    And no, I am not asserting that plants are conscious, but if they were, would the evidence show it?

    Depending on what the evidence is, yes it would. If consciousness has no effect whatsoever (it’s unobservable in principle), then no evidence could show that. But that isn’t the case. You can use behavior as a rough guide on the macroscopic level, but we can also look at things like brains and neurons and so forth on the microscopic level. And beyond that, there aren’t any other levels worth talking about. There’s nothing in any plant which does that sort of thing. This isn’t exactly surprising. Being an animal obviously offers a lot of advantages, but at the same time, there are lots of costs. Plants (and fungi and bacteria, etc.) didn’t evolve those traits. They get by just fine without them. That’s just how it is, and nothing else needs to be explained.

    If it did, would we recognise it?

    We can recognize it in each other and in other animals, and there’s no reason to think we couldn’t recognize it in a computer or an alien species. Is there some reason why plants would be especially challenging, compared to non-human animals?

  71. blf says

    It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened here.

    Yeah, just wait until the peas and celery join the discussion.

  72. says

    blf:

    Yeah, just wait until the peas and celery join the discussion.

    It will be war, and who knows what side the bloody carrots will fall on.

  73. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Farmland displaces animal habitat. Combines don’t stop when a rabbit can’t get out of the way in time. Pesticides kill insects. But that doesn’t only go for vegetarianism, it goes for everything

    Hell, thermodynamics alone implies that vegetarianism comes out ahead, since not only will 10x as many animals be killed growing food to feed the animals that need ten times as much food as they produce in usable meat calories, but those animals themselves are killed. Unless the troll in question is shit-stupid enough to imagine modern industrial flesh farming involves any significant amount of animals eating grass on non-farmable land, in which case, pull my finger.

    There are very good arguments for vegetarianism, and claiming that they all boil down to “I don’t want things to die” is an incorrect and misleading one.

    For instance, I wouldn’t mind barbecuing a few of the “HURR HURR RABBIT FOOD” assholes.

  74. blf says

    If you cook [the carrots] though, there shall be the deepest of rifts.

    Schism! Schism! In one corner, we have the raw carrot eaters. In that corner over there we have the cooked carrot eaters. And in that corner, we have the “I hate carrots”, um, non-eaters. And in the last corner, we have the heretics who will eat carrots both raw and cooked. Let the cage fight begin……!

  75. says

    blf:

    And in that corner, we have the “I hate carrots”, um, non-eaters.

    You can count the killer rats in that corner. They all act as if carrots were poison.

  76. consciousness razor says

    Raw and cooked carrots are both pretty tasty. Sometimes the cooked ones are too mushy, but that’s clearly the cook’s fault. Don’t blame it on the poor, innocent, sweet, delicious carrot.

  77. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    I had no idea that Kevin Kline’s character in “A Fish Called Wanda” was based on an actual person.

  78. Athywren says

    But the important point here is that there is some physical mechanism that would need to be involved, and we’ve looked at plants, finding no such mechanism. Lots of other mechanisms doing lots of other things, but not that. So yes, plants have a total lack of sentience. “Cognition” would presumably be an even higher bar to meet, and they also don’t do that.

    Of course some mechanism would need to be involved. Of course we haven’t found such a mechanism yet. But have we found every mechanism or every found mechanism’s function? If not, is it reasonable to assert that not one of them does this, rather than simply, honestly stating that we have not yet found such a mechanism?

    Depending on what the evidence is, yes it would. If consciousness has no effect whatsoever (it’s unobservable in principle), then no evidence could show that. But that isn’t the case.

    What if it does have an effect and is observable in principle, but requires that you look at a very specific aspect in a very specific way over a very long period of time? Could evidence show that if you’re not looking in the right place in the right way for long enough?

    You can use behavior as a rough guide on the macroscopic level,

    How could we use behaviour as a guide without having an understanding of plant behaviour if such a thing existed?

    but we can also look at things like brains and neurons and so forth on the microscopic level.

    Plants don’t have neurons. If they have anything that performs a similar task, why should we expect it to do it in such a way that it would behave like neurons do?

    We can recognize it in each other and in other animals, and there’s no reason to think we couldn’t recognize it in a computer or an alien species. Is there some reason why plants would be especially challenging, compared to non-human animals?

    Animals, like us, have a nervous system, which gives us some degree of commonality. A conscious computer, if it was programmed by humans, would likely model human consciousness, which would give us some degree of commonality. We may have no reason to think we couldn’t recognise it in an alien species, but we also have no reason to think that we could unless we’ve met any aliens.
    Is there a reason why recognising consciousness in plants might be especially challenging? Yes, because they don’t have anything recognisable as a central nervous system. If they have an analogue of that system, then it is fundamentally different from our own and evolved after our kingdoms diverged – maybe that means nothing, but maybe it means everything. We would have a commonality in having evolved on the same planet, but with vastly different needs and modes of living, that would probably be the extent of it.

    Why assert that plants do not feel and are not conscious when it is more than sufficient to simply state that there is no proof that they do?

  79. unclefrogy says

    well if we are going to talk about eating vegetables and carrots in particular I think I would be hard pressed to find anything more delicious than carrots when they are slow cooked in beef pot-roast when they take on a wonderful dark color and impart some of their sweetness to the beef.
    uncle frogy

  80. Athywren says

    The ones who cook spinach are infinitely worse than the carrot cookers, though.
    “Ooh, delicious, supple, sweet spinach! Let’s make a slimy, green rag out of it! :D”

  81. blf says

    Yay! We have a religion! Our first schism has already schismed. Just wait until the tomato herders join the fray!

  82. consciousness razor says

    If not, is it reasonable to assert that not one of them does this, rather than simply, honestly stating that we have not yet found such a mechanism?

    Yes, it’s reasonable. The reason is right here: we don’t observe that kind of behavior.

    Did we have to go digging through a dog’s nervous system (or somewhere else in its body) just to figure out that it’s capable of experiencing things? No, we did not. You can very reasonably infer that from its behavior. Likewise, you can very reasonably infer that plants don’t, because they don’t exhibit behavior like that. Again, that inference isn’t based on ignorance; it’s based on empirical evidence. You get more evidence to support that by looking even deeper to make sure it’s all working as it appears to on the surface. But it was reasonable for people who lived a long time before biology or chemistry to reach the same conclusion.

    So it’s not unreasonable or dishonest or whatever else. This is also why we can say gods don’t exist. There’s plenty of good reason to believe that. It’s being honest. It is not saying there’s some kind of conclusive logical “proof” that they don’t exist or must not exist, because no fact about the real world ever works like that. If you’re prepared to make no claims whatsoever about the world, then you could consistently hold that sort of position. But I don’t think you actually do that, and even if you did, that isn’t a useful epistemology. You don’t get anywhere thinking that way, and you’re confusing what scientists do with what mathematicians do. They don’t do “proofs,” and they don’t need to.

    Plants don’t have neurons. If they have anything that performs a similar task, why should we expect it to do it in such a way that it would behave like neurons do?

    And I already pointed out that neurons specifically aren’t important, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to matter. Look, the claim is this: “plants are sentient.” We know already what sentience is like, because we have it and so do other animals. If something else shares that property, it shares that property. Period. That’s what we would be looking for, if we’re looking for it in plants or in anything else, so that isn’t going to change from one thing to the next. If it turns out plants do something that isn’t functioning that way (it’s not the case that it “performs a similar task”), then you shouldn’t insist on calling it “sentience” anyway, because you could then apply that term to any arbitrary property you want. At some point, you need to settle on what the hell you’re talking about, at which time you’ve decided that it isn’t different from itself. You’re saying it’s this thing, whatever it is, that humans do and some animals do and some plants also do. There’s no point in saying that it’s the same only up until you get to plants, then it suddenly has a different meaning. That’s incoherent at best, and dishonest at worst.

  83. carlie says

    If you cook them though, there shall be the deepest of rifts.

    Have you ever roasted them in an oven after coating in a little honey and apple cider vinegar? Mmmmmm. Have to go until the have a little char on them and about 1/2 of their original size.

  84. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @consciousness razor:

    some physical mechanism that would need to be involved, and we’ve looked at plants, finding no such mechanism. Lots of other mechanisms doing lots of other things, but not that. So yes, plants have a total lack of sentience.

    Well, that’s just assuming that the only sentience type is our sentience type and the only sentience mechanism is our sentience mechanism. Just Saturday I was making pancakes for my kids and the batter – on touching the hot pan – let out a painful hiss and began stiffening. Sure the process was slower, but when you are subjected to a painful or frightening stimulus, don’t you stiffen up?

    Pancake batter suffers.

    ….and since the last time on this topic with cr went so badly, I’ll just add a bolded and capped /SNARK

  85. says

    Athywren:

    The ones who cook spinach are infinitely worse than the carrot cookers, though.
    “Ooh, delicious, supple, sweet spinach! Let’s make a slimy, green rag out of it! :D”

    Seconded.
    Thirded.
    Fourthed.
    hell, tenthed!

  86. says

    carlie:

    Have you ever roasted them in an oven after coating in a little honey and apple cider vinegar? Mmmmmm. Have to go until the have a little char on them and about 1/2 of their original size.

    ::sniff, sniff::
    The Dark Side of the Force has overcome carlie

  87. consciousness razor says

    Pancake batter suffers.

    Sure. People, animals, computers, aliens … why not pancake batter too? Can we honestly say that we really know one way or the other?

    And why not molecules, or even electrons or quarks or photons? We just need a panpsychist to give us some evidence, and we’d be all set.

    But definitely not plants. Anything but plants.

  88. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    But definitely not plants. Anything but plants.

    “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”

    —half-remembered comedian. Steven Wright, maybe?

    Looked it up. It’s A. Whitney Brown.

  89. consciousness razor says

    “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”

    That quote was in the back of my mind, actually. I’m glad I managed to convey the right tone. :)

  90. anuran says

    Well, he did say one true thing. You really don’t know dick about Buddhism. Seriously, you don’t. You’ve made that abundantly clear every time you’ve opened your mouth about it.

  91. Athywren says

    Did we have to go digging through a dog’s nervous system (or somewhere else in its body) just to figure out that it’s capable of experiencing things? No, we did not. You can very reasonably infer that from its behavior.

    Is a dog’s life so utterly divorced from our own that we cannot even imagine what their experience might be? Dogs, like us, behave like animals. Why would plants behave like animals? Plants are not animals. Why is it necessary to behave like an animal in order to be conscious?

    Likewise, you can very reasonably infer that plants don’t, because they don’t exhibit behavior like that. Again, that inference isn’t based on ignorance; it’s based on empirical evidence.

    If it’s necessary to behave like animals in order to be conscious then, yes, you’re right, it is definitively proven that plants are not conscious.
    But why is that necessary?
    You’re not showing that they’re not conscious, you’re showing that they’re not conscious like us and asserting that this is unconsciousness. Bees don’t converse in English, nor do they speak or use writing in any language as far as we can tell, do they therefore not communicate at all? Is that significantly different from imperialist Europeans asserting that the indigenous people in the lands they claimed were uncultured savages because their culture didn’t match up with the European cultures? Maybe plants are not conscious, I certainly don’t believe that they are and won’t unless it’s demonstrated to be true, but saying that they’re not like us, so they’re not is not justified. They’re not like us, so if they are they’re not like us. Going beyond that is an argument from ignorance unless you define consciousness as specifically that which is experienced by animal life on earth, in which case it’s just animalian chauvinism.
    If we maintain that certain behaviours are required in order to demonstrate consciousness, and limit those behaviours to those performed by animals, then we will only ever find animal consciousness, no matter what other types might possibly exist, since no other types do exist because we say so.
    I understand that consciousness is a human label which we define ourselves, and so it can mean whatever we want it to mean, but that doesn’t mean that plants are incapable of the experiencing things within a framework of awareness.

    This is also why we can say gods don’t exist. There’s plenty of good reason to believe that. It’s being honest.

    Bullshit. There’s plenty of reasons to believe that a large number of specific gods do not exist, and I’ll happily proclaim that the god of the bible, as described in the bible, does not exist, but gods in general? I don’t even know how all the gods that humans have believed in are defined, and I strongly doubt that you do either. Without that basis, we can’t even discount our own gods. The existence of the sun, though I would deny its divinity, also puts a damper on that claim. If we can’t discount our own gods, and if the sun exists, how can we extend our claim to whatever gods that any other beings that might exist might believe in?

    You don’t get anywhere thinking that way, and you’re confusing what scientists do with what mathematicians do. They don’t do “proofs,” and they don’t need to.

    I’m not confusing the work of scientists and mathematicians, I’m saying that claiming to know what you do not know is not reasonable.
    We have no reason to believe that plants are conscious: reasonable.
    Plants are not conscious: unreasonable, based on a single branch of life on a single planet. Insufficient data to justify, unless you just define it into being so which is fair enough but definitions don’t define reality.

    And I already pointed out that neurons specifically aren’t important, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to matter.

    I was responding to your statement that we can look at neurons on the microscopic level. If we’re looking at neurons to make judgements about consciousness, how is it unimportant that other conscious entities might not be using neurons?
    Anyway, how do you know that neurons aren’t important? Have you encountered other consciousness beings which didn’t use neurons? Is a consciousness arising from arrangements of chairs the same as a consciousness arising from neurons? If not, how can we make claims as to the importance of neurons in determining the nature of that consciousness?

    Look, the claim is this: “plants are sentient.” We know already what sentience is like, because we have it and so do other animals.

    We already know what culture is like, because we have it and so do other Europeans.

    At some point, you need to settle on what the hell you’re talking about, at which time you’ve decided that it isn’t different from itself. You’re saying it’s this thing, whatever it is, that humans do and some animals do and some plants also do. There’s no point in saying that it’s the same only up until you get to plants, then it suddenly has a different meaning.

    The ability to experience an awareness of the state of being alive and sense your surroundings and interactions with those surroundings to some degree. At least, that’s how I understand consciousness. I don’t see why that necessitates an animalistic nervous system or animalistic behaviours if the entity experiencing them is not an animal, and if we’re looking for only animalistic qualities, then I don’t see why we should be surprised if we fail to find them in a non-animal.
    If consciousness is defined such that it only applies to animals, then fine, consciousness is the wrong word to use and I retract my objection to your claim that plants do not have it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t experience an awareness of the state of being alive and sense their surroundings and interactions with those surroundings.

    Hurhg. This is getting long and I am getting tired, going to have to sleep soonish.
    Basic point:
    If any plants are sentient, then no matter how justified we are in not believing that they are, asserting that they are not is wrong.
    Either way, pointing out that we have no reason to believe so, and dismissing baseless claims that they are, will always be right. Even if we eventually discover a reason to believe it, it will continue to have been right… as long as we don’t continue to say it after finding that reason, because that would then be wrong.
    We don’t need to make claims that we cannot support when there’s a perfectly good statement that we can support.

  92. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    If it’s necessary to behave like animals in order to be conscious then, yes, you’re right, it is definitively proven that plants are not conscious.
    But why is that necessary?

    Because of Skinner’s “Black Box”. There’s a reason that Skinner’s reductionism is rejected, but if the thoughts of others can never be known with certainty, the thoughts of a sword fern can, nonetheless, be rightly portrayed as less accessible. This makes Skinner’s argument that behavior is the unit of psychological analysis much more convincing…at least when applied to gymnospermia.

    Provide a definition of consciousness that doesn’t rely on language, communication, or behavior, or analogy to human (thus animal) language, communication, or behavior, and I will happily dispose of the use of behavioral comparisons in analyzing plant consciousness.

  93. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Why assert that plants do not feel and are not conscious when it is more than sufficient to simply state that there is no proof that they do?

    Because propositions default to false?

  94. says

    carlie @ 73:

    Are we seriously having a conversation about whether plants feel things and/or have a consciousness?!

    I know, right? It feels like tenth grade in here :)

  95. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Athywren:

    Bees don’t converse in English, nor do they speak or use writing in any language as far as we can tell, do they therefore not communicate at all? Is that significantly different from imperialist Europeans asserting that the indigenous people in the lands they claimed were uncultured savages because their culture didn’t match up with the European cultures?

    Yes. It’s really fucking different.

    You might want to take a cool-off period now.

  96. Sastra says

    Inaji #80 wrote:

    “Yeah, just wait until the peas and celery join the discussion.”

    It will be war, and who knows what side the bloody carrots will fall on.

    There will be no war if we just promote peas.

    Athywren #108 wrote:

    The ability to experience an awareness of the state of being alive and sense your surroundings and interactions with those surroundings to some degree. At least, that’s how I understand consciousness. I don’t see why that necessitates an animalistic nervous system or animalistic behaviours if the entity experiencing them is not an animal, and if we’re looking for only animalistic qualities, then I don’t see why we should be surprised if we fail to find them in a non-animal.

    Without a central nervous system or brain there would be no place to experience awareness. I don’t see any significant difference between saying ‘there’s no reason to think plants are sentient” and saying “plants are not sentient.”

    Of course, pseudoscience and spirituality argue otherwise.

  97. consciousness razor says

    Why is it necessary to behave like an animal in order to be conscious?

    It isn’t. Why do you ask this question?

    Is that significantly different from imperialist Europeans asserting that the indigenous people in the lands they claimed were uncultured savages because their culture didn’t match up with the European cultures?

    Are you fucking kidding me? That’s not anything like what I’ve said.

    But I guess I’m like some bigoted imperialist, because I take it as very straightforwardly true that plants don’t have experiences. I’ve tried to indicate to you what I think justifies that belief. You put the claim in my own mouth that all experiences must “match up” in some way, despite the fact that I had already tried to explain why I don’t think that’s needed either. I don’t expect that non-human animals must have experiences like yours or mine, and the same goes for computers or aliens or anything else. They could have very different kinds of experiences. So what? They just need to have experiences, which are accompanied by some observable effect, if we’re going to say those exist.

    Maybe plants are not conscious, I certainly don’t believe that they are and won’t unless it’s demonstrated to be true, but saying that they’re not like us, so they’re not is not justified.

    Which I haven’t fucking said. You distilled my other comments all down to that simplistic strawman for no reason. That’s what being unreasonable looks like.

    Bullshit. There’s plenty of reasons to believe that a large number of specific gods do not exist, and I’ll happily proclaim that the god of the bible, as described in the bible, does not exist, but gods in general? I don’t even know how all the gods that humans have believed in are defined, and I strongly doubt that you do either.

    I don’t need specific information about every religion’s gods. They’re all supernatural agents, or else what they claim to believe in is not by definition a “god.” Those don’t exist, just like ghosts and wizards don’t exist.

    The existence of the sun, though I would deny its divinity, also puts a damper on that claim. If we can’t discount our own gods, and if the sun exists, how can we extend our claim to whatever gods that any other beings that might exist might believe in?

    What the fuck do you want me to say here? The sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma. Not a god. No, I don’t give a fuck about Helios or Ra or whoever. Doesn’t change a fucking thing.

    I’m not confusing the work of scientists and mathematicians, I’m saying that claiming to know what you do not know is not reasonable.

    I do know that. By any reasonable definition of “know,” that is what I know.

    Plants are not conscious: unreasonable, based on a single branch of life on a single planet. Insufficient data to justify, unless you just define it into being so which is fair enough but definitions don’t define reality.

    On some other planet, there won’t be “plants.” There’d be some other organism, which might be plant-like. Maybe those will be sentient. Only way to know for sure is to find out. But I’m not talking about hypothetical organisms on some other planet. I think I do know what a plant is, because I’m around them every day of my fucking life, and I’m pretty sure you do too, if you’re arguing about this honestly.

    I was responding to your statement that we can look at neurons on the microscopic level. If we’re looking at neurons to make judgements about consciousness, how is it unimportant that other conscious entities might not be using neurons?

    We’d look at them for the same reason we’d look at circuits inside a computer: so we can see what all of the parts are and what they’re doing. What I definitely have not been saying, from the very beginning, is that because we’re looking at circuits (instead of neurons) it won’t be sentient. That doesn’t follow: we might well have a sentient computer some day. But any object will be made of some microscopic components, and that is one of the things we’d have to look at, if we really want to understand it, especially if it’s such a complicated thing that it’s sentient. If the components were so big that they’re not microscopic, we’re talking about an extremely large object, which is many orders of magnitude larger than any plant. Nobody in their right mind would ever engineer something that big, and no natural object is likely to be organized like that on such an enormous scale. But I have no general objection against it — it’s just a generalization that most likely we’d be looking at stuff that’s microscopic.

    The ability to experience an awareness of the state of being alive and sense your surroundings and interactions with those surroundings to some degree. At least, that’s how I understand consciousness.

    You repeated it a few times. Consciousness = awareness = experience. Basically just different words for the same thing.

  98. atheistblog says

    Buddhism, a philosophy turned religion. Still it is pluralistic unlike abrahamic singular craps. If I am forced to choose a religion (I won’t but) I would rather choose buddhism over any other abrahamic craps.
    A religion which teaches ultimate reality “Emptiness”. From quantum particle to biomolecules to humans to consciousness to universe, everything at last just leads to “Emptiness”. After another 5 billions years solar system gonna be a cold graveyard of matters, and I don’t believe any human life or intelligence life would travel to another planetary system and survive. “Emptiness” at last. Like it or not.

  99. saganite says

    @47
    For anybody who’s alive, if being alive is worse than not being alive. You don’t suffer if you’re not alive, and there is some amount of suffering if you are alive. If that outweighs whatever good things there are about being alive, then being alive is worse.

    Perhaps, but it’s incredibly arrogant to make that assumption for every human being and indeed all other life on Earth. I’m actually in favour of legalizing some limited forms of euthanasia (say, terminal cancer), but obviously that’d be a decision up to the patient in question. Arguing for the good of humanity as a whole in that fashion, as though all humankind only had that way out, is outlandish.

    Also, I generally cannot take the Judge Death approach to life seriously: No life, no crime. No life, no suffering. Guilty! Guilty of living! The punishment is death!

    Think of it the other way around: would you say being alive is in itself a good thing? Is it better than not being alive? For whom, exactly?

    One of the main issues is that life is the only way for something to turn out good by my standards. Death is non-existence. I can’t speak for him – nor can he speak for humanity – but I value that potential for improvement. Where that potential no longer exists? Alright, perhaps then non-existence is preferable on an individual by individual basis. But I wouldn’t consider non-existence an improvement in itself, only an escape clause, a way out.

    There’s nothing inconsistent about that, and you don’t have to assume living is necessarily good, nor do you have to assume there’s some other thing (or the universe itself) doing the judging from the outside.

    It sounded to me from the letter like he was attributing it to the universe’s plan or some such:
    “This would be our gift to the Universe, and an atonement of sorts for all our wrongs — the bipedal humanoid would finally be on the side of right.”
    The “side of right”. That seems to imply some objective, outside measure of good that we would be consistent with if we all died.

  100. Nick Gotts says

    *sigh*
    It’s always somewhat disillusioning when someone you assumed to be fairly rational insists on maintaining some fuckwitted nonsense such as “Well, we don’t know plants aren’t conscious”, and defends it by distorting what others say in response. In the ordinary, everyday sense of the word yes, we do know plants are not conscious, because they do not have any sensory organs or internal structures that could support it (no, of course it wouldn’t have to involve neurons but it would have to be something that was able to process information about the world in complex and self-referential ways). Nor could they derive any advantage from consciousness because their possibilities for acting on the world are very limited, so the structures necessary to support it could not evolve.

  101. azhael says

    @108

    The ability to experience an awareness of the state of being alive and sense your surroundings and interactions with those surroundings to some degree. At least, that’s how I understand consciousness. I don’t see why that necessitates an animalistic nervous system or animalistic behaviours

    It doesn´t necessitate and “animalistic” nervous system…it necessitates a system, and plants just don´t have it. Consciousness is a complex phenomenon, it requires sophisticated perception and a system that allows for the processing of that perception and the generation of an experience of that perception. Since this is a difficult thing to achieve, it requires a complex structure. In short, it requires something, whatever it is, capable of many of the same properties as a brain. No such thing in plants…at all….not even remotely….

  102. Anri says

    Athywren @ various:

    Ok, if you actually want anyone to entertain the notion that plants have awareness or sensation, than git ‘er done! Go prove it. Create a hypothesis, conduct experiments, collect evidence. Otherwise, you’re just engaging in pseudo-philosophical wankery, and not everyone here is a fan of bukkake.

    (And if you protest that you are not qualified or skilled sufficiently to craft and do such experiments, you could cite the literature where people who are sufficiently skilled have found evidence to support your conjecture. Oh, there is no such literature? Hmm, I wonder if there’s a reason for that?)

  103. says

    blf, there was a chap a month or so ago calling himself ‘varady72’ who was pushing a nihilistic essay, but he said he was essentially a first-time poster here. If true, then he would probably not be the guy you and PZ are thinking of. Of course if he had been lying, then it might have been one of his more recent manifestations. He popped up as the first poster on Lounge 454. What do ye think?

  104. Ichthyic says

    funny, I thought Athywren’s whole point was that it is fun to troll vegetarians.

    hir seems to have done an admirable job of it from what I can see.

  105. Nick Gotts says

    Ichthyic@123,

    Yeah, yeah, we all agree here that trolling is a thoroughly clever and admirable activity, don’t we?

    Not that I think you’re right – I think Athywren’s just being rather stupid and obstinate. They began this topic with:

    I think most arguments against vegetarianism are ridiculous, but this one… do we really know that they don’t feel?

  106. Owlmirror says

    For instance, “Tom Hyndman” doesn’t like me. Little clues tell me that this is the same person I recently banned under the pseudonym “Nathan Hull”, who I suspect also went under the name “John Dolan” in an earlier life, and also reminds me of a few other names that have drifted through here, transiently.

    I don’t remember any of those names, but I haven’t been keeping up much.

    However, the species-level self-loathing and genocidal nihilism reminds me of David Mathews. Also, the phrase the bipedal humanoid reminds me of Mathews’ obsession with primates

    Choice quotes from 2009:

    My religion isn’t available to primates, especially not to self-exterminating planet-destroying primates who are perpetually violent and happily so.

    Humankind hasn’t lived well on the Earth. Humankind will go extinct.
     
    Don’t worry, though, the Earth and Nature and the Universe don’t need humankind.
     
    The loss of humankind is no great loss.

    A self-exterminating primate species doesn’t merit any religion, especially not my religion.
     
    For such an animal to believe in God is an insult to God.

    Nature isn’t merciful enough to bring a swift end to the self-exterminating planet-destroying primate.

    And so on.

  107. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    animalian chauvinism

    *Rolls on floor laughing*

  108. Crimson Clupeidae says

    If we weren’t meant to eat animals, god wouldn’t have made them outta meat!

  109. David Marjanović says

    Well, he did say one true thing. You really don’t know dick about Buddhism. Seriously, you don’t. You’ve made that abundantly clear every time you’ve opened your mouth about it.

    For example?

  110. zenlike says

    Anuran now siding with the genocidal maniac, even on that one point, reminds me of Anuran siding with those moral relativistic apologists from a couple of weeks ago whining that the inquisition wasn’t so bad.

    Hey Anuran, good job trying to defend religion. You are doing great!