LIFE

This Is My Vision Of "Life"

Topic: 

  • LIFE
https://vimeo.com/126035884

My vision of life is that everything extends from replicators, which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes into the future. That's not true of the cuckoo/reed warbler case, but it is true of ordinary animal bodies. So the organism,

This Is My Vision Of "Life"

[4.30.15]

My vision of life is that everything extends from replicators, which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes into the future. That's not true of the cuckoo/reed warbler case, but it is true of ordinary animal bodies. So the organism, the individual organism, is a deeply salient unit. It's a unit of selection in the sense that I call a "vehicle".  

There are two kinds of unit of selection. The difference is a semantic one. They're both units of selection, but one is the replicator, and what it does is get itself copied. So more and more copies of itself go into the world. The other kind of unit is the vehicle. It doesn't get itself copied. What it does is work to copy the replicators which have come down to it through the generations, and which it's going to pass on to future generations. So we have this individual replicator dichotomy. They're both units of selection, but in different senses. It's important to understand that they are different senses.   

RICHARD DAWKINS is an evolutionary biologist; Emeritus Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford; Author, The Selfish Gene; The Extended Phenotype; Climbing Mount Improbable; The God Delusion; An Appetite For Wonder; and (forthcoming) A Brief Candle In The Dark. Richard Dawkins's Edge Bio Page

Popper Versus Bacon

[5.7.15]

People have to go around measuring things. There's no escape from that for most of that type of work. There's a deep relationship between the two. No one's going to come up with a model that works without going and comparing with experiment. But it is the intelligent use of experimental measurements that we're after there because that goes to this concept of Bayesian methods. I will perform the right number of experiments to make measurements of, say, the time series evolution of a given set of proteins. From those data, when things are varying in time, I can map that on to my deterministic Popperian model and infer what's the most likely value of all the parameters that would be Popperian ones that would fit into the model. It's an intelligent interaction between them that's necessary in many complicated situations.

INTRODUCTION
by John Brockman

There’s a massive clash of philosophies at the heart of modern science.  One philosophy, called  Baconianism after Sir Francis Bacon, neglects theoretical underpinning and says just make observations, collect data, and interrogate them. This approach is widespread in modern biology and medicine, where it’s often called informatics.  But there’s a quite different philosophy, traditionally used in physics, formulated by another British Knight, Sir Karl Popper. In this approach, we make predictions from models and we test them, then iterate our theories.

 In modern medicine you might find it strange that many people don’t think in theoretical terms. It's a shock to many physical scientists when they encounter this attitude, particularly when it is accompanied by a conflation of correlation with causation. Meanwhile, in physics, it is extremely hard to go from modeling simple situations consisting of a handful of particles to the complexity of the real world, and to combine theories that work at different levels, such as macroscopic theories (where there is an arrow of time) and microscopic ones (where theories are indifferent to the direction of time).

At University College London, physical chemist Peter Coveney, is using theory, modeling and supercomputing to predict material properties from basic chemical information, and to mash up biological knowledge at a range of levels, from biomolecules to organs, into timely and predictive clinical information to help doctors. In doing this, he is testing a novel way to blend the Baconian and Popperian approaches and have already had some success when it comes to personalized medicine and predicting the properties of next generation composites.

—JB

PETER COVENEY holds a chair in Physical Chemistry, and is director of the Centre for Computational Science at University College London and co-author, with Roger Highfield, of The Arrow of Time and Frontiers of Complexity. Peter Coveney's Edge Bio Page.


Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://vimeo.com/108134304

What can we tell from the face? There're mixed data, but some show a pretty strong coherence between what is felt and what’s expressed on the face. Happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt, fear, anger, all have prototypic or characteristic facial expressions. In addition to that, you can tell whether two emotions are blended together. You can tell the difference between surprise and happiness, and surprise and anger, or surprise and sadness. You can also tell the strength of an emotion.

Edgies on Extinction

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://www.vimeo.com/110920324

"EDGIES ON EXTINCTION": 10 Minute talks by Helena Cronin, Jennifer Jacquet, Steve Jones, and Chiara Marletto, and an EDGE discussion joined by Molly Crockett, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and John Brockman.

Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

What can we tell from the face? There're mixed data, but some show a pretty strong coherence between what is felt and what’s expressed on the face. Happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt, fear, anger, all have prototypic or characteristic facial expressions. In addition to that, you can tell whether two emotions are blended together. You can tell the difference between surprise and happiness, and surprise and anger, or surprise and sadness. You can also tell the strength of an emotion. There seems to be a relationship between the strength of the emotion and the strength of the contraction of the associated facial muscles. 


[26.27 minutes]

LAWRENCE IAN REED is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, Skidmore College. Lawrence Ian Reed's Edge Bio page


THE FACE OF EMOTION

My name is Lawrence Ian Reed. I’m a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist over at Skidmore College. Today I want to talk about facial expression of emotion, and a question that’s been gnawing at me for probably six or seven years. We've got some answers, and I’m excited to talk to you guys about what they are.

The first questions that I asked about facial expression were "how" questions: How do our facial expressions change when we’re feeling depressed or when we’ve got bipolar disorder, or when we’re being deceptive? I don’t ask those questions any more for a couple reasons. One is that the questions I’m asking now are much more interesting. The other reason is that I felt satisfied with a lot of the answers. I’m going to review some of those questions and talk about how they led up to the questions that I’m asking now, and we’ll see what you guys think about what I have to say.
 

Michael McCullough: "Two Cheers For Falsification"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

What I want to do today is raise one cheer for falsification, maybe two cheers for falsification. Maybe it’s not philosophical falsificationism I’m calling for, but maybe something more like methodological falsificationism. It has an important role to play in theory development that maybe we have turned our backs on in some areas of this racket we’re in, particularly the part of it that I do—Ev Psych—more than we should have.


[43:37 minutes]

MICHAEL MCCULLOUGH is Director, Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory, Professor of Psychology, Cooper Fellow, University of Miami; Author, Beyond Revenge. Michael McCullough's Edge Bio page


TWO CHEERS FOR FALSIFICATION

I’m Mike McCullough. I’m a psychologist at the University of Miami. I want to talk a little bit about some thoughts I’ve been entertaining about falsification, and particularly its place in my bailiwick, which is Ev Psych.

Most of you, when you think about falsification, think about Karl Popper, who had this idea that is pretty compelling, which is that we can never have positive evidence for a hypothesis. Hypotheses give us predictions about how the world should be ordered. What we like to do is take the data from the world and then make inferences about whether the hypothesis is true. This is a problematic kind of reasoning. It’s not valid reasoning. As I'm sure many of you know, he suggested that there is a valid reasoning we can use for making inferences about the truth value of hypotheses from observations, but the way to do that is to look for predictions that are falsified in the world.

Duck Sex, Aesthetic Evolution, and the Origin of Beauty

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://vimeo.com/102665504

The way nature is—the nature of flowers, the nature of birdsong and bird plumages—implies that subjective experiences are fundamentally important in biology. That the world looks the way it does and is the way it is because of their vital importance as sources of selection in organic diversity, and as a result we need to structure evolutionary biology to recognize the aesthetic, recognize the subjective experience. 

Duck Sex, Aesthetic Evolution, and the Origin of Beauty

[9.3.14]

The way nature is—the nature of flowers, the nature of birdsong and bird plumages—implies that subjective experiences are fundamentally important in biology. That the world looks the way it does and is the way it is because of their vital importance as sources of selection in organic diversity, and as a result we need to structure evolutionary biology to recognize the aesthetic, recognize the subjective experience. 

~~

...ducks are one of the few birds that still have a penis. It's a very weird structure. It has an explosive erection, its erection mechanisms are lymphatic instead of vascular, it's stored outside-in inside the cloaca and comes flying out, and they can get very lengthy—up to 40 centimeters, which is over a foot long on a duck that is itself not even a foot long. It's an extraordinary piece of biology. What's going on in these ducks?

In lots of ducks there's forced copulation. It's the equivalent of rape in ducks. In species where there is a lot of forced copulation, females have evolved or co-evolved complex vaginal morphologies that frustrate the intromission or frustrate entry of the penis during forced copulation. For example, the penis of ducks is counter-clockwise coiled and often has ridges or even teeth-like structures on the outside. In this case, in these species, the female has evolved a vagina that has dead end cul-de-sacs, so that if the penis goes down the wrong direction it’ll get bottled up and doesn’t perceive to be closer to the oviduct, or further up the oviduct and closer to ova. And then above the cul-de-sacs, the duck vagina has clockwise coils, so there's literally anti-screw devices that prevent intromission during forced copulation.


(1 hour)

RICHARD PRUM is an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University, where he is the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Richard Prum's Edge Bio Page


DUCK SEX, AESTHETIC EVOLUTION, AND THE ORIGIN OF BEAUTY

Over the last few years I've realized that a large portion of the work that I've been doing on bird color, on birdsong, on the evolution of display behavior, is really about one fundamental and important topic, and that's beauty—the role of beauty in nature and how it evolves. The question I'm asking myself a lot now is: what is beauty and how does it evolve? What are the consequences of beauty and its existence in nature?

There's a long history of people thinking about ornament in nature—those aspects of the body or the behavior of organisms that are attractive, which function in perception of other organisms. Usually we think about this in terms of sexual selection or mate choice, but there's a bunch of other contexts in which it can occur, like flowers attracting pollinators and fruits attracting frugivores, or even the opposite—a rattlesnake or a poisonous butterfly scaring away predators. These are all aspects of the body that function not in the regular way but in perception. 

WHAT DO ANIMALS WANT?

[10.31.12]

Whatever anybody says, I feel that the hard problem of consciousness is still very hard, and to try and rest your ethical case on proving something that has baffled people for years seems to me to be not good for animals. Much, much better to say let's go for something tangible, something we can measure. Are the animals healthy, do they have what they want? Then if you can show that, then that's a much, much better basis for making your decisions.

MARIAN STAMP DAWKINS is professor of animal behaviour at the University of Oxford, where she heads the Animal Behaviour Research Group. She is the author of Why Animals Matter.

Marian Stamp Dawkin's Edge Bio Page


[35 minutes]

The Reality Club: Nicholas Humphrey


WHAT DO ANIMALS WANT?

The questions I'm asking myself are really about how much we really know about animal consciousness. A lot of people think we do, or think that we don't need scientific evidence. It really began to worry me that people were basing their arguments on something that we really can't know about at all. One of the questions I asked myself was: how much do we really know? And is what we know the best basis for arguing for animal welfare? I've been thinking hard about that, and I came to the conclusion that the hard problem of consciousness is actually very hard. It's still there, and we kid ourselves if we think we've solved it.

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