RE: [psychiatry-research] News: Brains of fetuses 'build a bridge' between regions, images show
As a native English speaker I find it ungrammatical. This expression simply can’t be created in native English as far as I know. First of all ‘science’ is not used in this sense in English (the opposition is between hard science and humanities), and second in a phrase like this the first word would be ‘literary’. This collocation simply doesn’t exist in any dialect of English I know except some varieties of South African academic English which have borrowed it (peculiarly) from Afrikaans. So there is a double problem: ‘literature’ can’t be used as the first item in a phrase of this kind, and second ‘science’ can only occur either to mean natural science, or with certain adjectives like ‘social science’, ‘human sciences’. But not ‘literature’. I think the rule is that a noun used as an adjective can’t occur before ‘science’. This is a purely arbitrary fact about English, like most facts about languages. And I’d bet that there’s a similar arbitrariness in German too, only the other way round (any native speakers please help): my guess is that you could say ‘Literaturwissenschaft’ but not ‘literarische Wissenschaft’. I could of course be wrong but whatever intuitions I have about German suggest this. I think the second form would mean (if it existed) ‘science conducted in a literary way’. I’m perfectly prepared to be wrong.
What is odd about Literature Science?
2013/2/26 Roger Lass <lass@...>
German makes the distinction nicely. ‘Wissenschaft’ just means scholarly/academic discipline, and there is a division between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften (what some varieties of English would call natural sciences and human sciences). It sounds very odd in South Africa, where English has borrowed the Afrikaans usage, which is the same as German (well the related word, ‘wetenskap’),so some universities teach courses in Literature Science. Sounded really odd to me but you can get used to anything.
"The point is that one can define science in such a way as to exclude about everything except physics, chemistry, and modern experimental biology. "
GS: I could live with that! After all, as far as I can see, behavior analysis fits right in with experimental biology.
--- On Sun, 2/24/13, David Schneider <sch@...> wrote:
From: David Schneider <sch@...>
Subject: RE: [psychiatry-research] News: Brains of fetuses 'build a bridge' between regions, images show
Date: Sunday, February 24, 2013, 9:50 PM
What I meant so say was "I can narrow that definition sufficiently. The point is that one can define science in such a way as to exclude about everything except physics, chemistry, and modern experimental biology. The larger point is that Glen tends to want to define everything that isn't behaviorism as non-science. That seems to me to be rather silly at this baby stage of the science of psychology. I'll take whatever I can get (even from behaviorists) provided it fits some reasonable definition of science. No point in excluding areas we don't feel comfortable with.
Sorry about the imprecision. I was too hurried in responding.
..sorry Dave, your sentence structure has bemused me, what exactly are you saying about behaviourism in the sentence beginning "And trust me..."?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] on behalf of David Schneider [sch@...]
Sent: Monday, 25 February 2013 1:17 p.m.
Subject: RE: [psychiatry-research] News: Brains of fetuses 'build a bridge' between regions, images show
Every science uses place-holder metaphors. For example, one can't see reinforcement. You can see the results and you can see the reinforcer (usually), but never the ding an sich. So a lot depends on what metaphors you're likely to accept. Glen doesn't like any reference to cognitive events which is his right. Some of us find them useful and are not bad scientists because of it -- unless of course you have a very narrow version of what science. And trust me when I say that I can narrow that sufficiently to rule out behaviorism as well. I think in the case of psychology we can't afford to rule much out of court. Some explanations will make more sense to more people than will others. Big deal.
A lot of the same kind of thinking that goes on with respect to brains also applies to genetics. In fact, I think there are probably real links between the kind of metaphors and circumlocutions that were (and to some extent still are) applied to genes and those that are now used to speak of brains. In both cases, one is trying to ground non-mechanical properties (I am temped to say metaphysical properties but that may imply more than I want to commit to) in a mechanical system. The idea of information, and the view of genes as purveyors of information, made its way into genetics primarily through Claude Shannon's work on information Theory in the 1950s. Shannon's idea of information was a narrow and limited one, and had nothing to do with what may be called 'meaning,' but it was adopted by geneticists, who used the term to convey the ability of genes to produce meaningful characteristics in the organism. I think a similar thing happens in cognitive neuroscience. The phrase 'information processing' is an example of a phrase which sounds like it is saying something but is, at best a placeholder term, describing a problem that a certain kind of discourse leads you to, but but cannot be solved in terms of that discourse. I think you are picking up on that problem. I am not sure you and I would agree on the solution (for my part, I look more to developmental systems theorists like Susan Oyama, and some of the more recent writers in neuro-philosophy, like Alvin Noe, who do not localize thinking or perceiving inside the brain) but I think we agree on the problem.
On 22/02/2013 12:26 PM, Glen Sizemore wrote:
Thanks for this, Roger - I know I have a history of being picky with you - but I'm pedantic...what can I say? Anyway, naive localization (8/10 of neuro"science"?) as well as the "information processing" nonsense leads directly to the widespread mereological fallacy ("homunculism") that makes much of neuroscience literal nonsense. Think about this: What uses the "information" (or, synonomously, "instructions"). It must (allegedly) be other brain parts, no? But wait...how's that work? Let's say there are three or four "processing stages" before "it" (the "information") gets to the relevant "information-using" brain part. So...after "initiation" (and "where's" that?) the information hits Step 1 and is "processed." But what is actually going on? Put simply, nerves fire and they make other nerves fire. And the last nerves firing "send the [partially-processed] information along" to Step 2. But this is just more nerves making other nerves fire. So...nerves firing and making other nerves fire is what constitutes "information processing, no? I mean...tell me if I'm wrong. So, eventually we get to the brain part that "uses the information." Now, "using information" must be different than merely "passing it along" (with condensation and alteration etc.). But wait! When we get to the brain part that "uses the information" what do we find? Well...more neurons that fire because their input neurons fired. No? So this is just more "information processing," right? Or is there a way to tell that critical phase from the earlier phases that were "information-processing" but not "information-using"? Think about this a bit.
--- On Fri, 2/22/13, Roger Lass <lass@iafrica..com> wrote:
From: Roger Lass <lass@...>
Subject: RE: [psychiatry-research] News: Brains of fetuses 'build a bridge' between regions, images show
Date: Friday, February 22, 2013, 2:37 AM
David’s made a very good point here about the way the brain works, and the emptiness of neo-phrenological naïve localisation. Just to add another supporting example, the textbook account of ‘localisation of language’ is that it’s in the left hemisphere, in so-called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. But in fact ‘it’ is in neither. As lesion studies and imaging have shown, and this has been known for yonks, different aspects of language-function are mediated by different parts of the cortex, and normal language requires information to cross the corpus callosum.
Yes, damage to the dominant frontotemporal cortex can produce problems with linear aspects of language, like syntax, (as well as recovery of verbs), whereas damage to the posterior ‘language areas’ produces semantic problems – lack of understanding of words, loss of lexicon, loss of understanding of language. But damage to apparently homologous areas in the nondominant hemisphere can leave a patient with apparently normal comprehension and production of language, but abnormal management of pitch, e.g. loss of intonation, speaking in a kind of monotone. Or the inability to process the emotional aspects of others’ speech (volume changes,, pitch movements, ‘tones of voice’)..
Further, dominant language areas, which mediate most of syntax, control where pitch-movements are placed (say a sentence-final pitch-fall in declarative sentences in most dialects of English, or a final rise in yes/no questions like ‘do you speak French?’ and a final fall in wh-questions like ‘where are you going?). But it’s regions in the nondominant hemisphere that give the instructions for what pitch to make. In addition damage to the nondominant hemisphere can cause very specific deficits: patients with perfectly normal speech who lose the ability to process figurative language, patients who can’t understand proverbs.
There is also language function mediated by the cerebellum (particularly the fine movements required for speech) and basal ganglia, and as with most learned skills, there is probably more cortical representation in the learning stage, and more subcortical representation as it becomes routinized.
In other words language, taking one ‘functional module’, is cross-hemispheric and distributed.
Unfortunately this is off base in a number of ways. In the first place some percentage (I recall that it's around 10%) of normal people have either right brain dominance or equi-dominance. More common in women.
Second, I'm not sure I would quote Jaynes for much of anything. His original ideas were interesting but high speculative and most cognitive and neuro scientists have suggested that he is fundamentally wrong. Furthermore I can't see what using metaphors such as the two parts being at peace or at war buys us, It's a terrible way to think about human cognition. To be sure one can oppose faith and logic, reason and intuition although these dichotomies also make little sense to me, perhaps also not to others. Even if these are good ways to think about cognitive processes it is certain that it has little to do with hemispheric dominance. It's not a bit clear that faith and logic, for example are even localized in different hemispheres. Most of the stuff we do requires lots of information to travel back and forth across the corpus callosum and isn't easily assigned to right or left. And in response to your earlier comment the corpus is hardly a barrier, now or then.
All this reminds me of the books and workshops that were promoted as something like, "get in touch with your right brain" or "use your right brain more effectively to create art". Most of the promoted exercise surely did little or nothing for the person, but if they were effective in making people clearer thinkers or better artists or whatever, it had nothing to do with strengthening one hemisphere over the other. They work because exercises can sometimes affect cognition, not because of any brain specialization. Besides the brain is not a muscle.
So, why did Romulus kill Remus?
Fact is that in modern people the left hemisphere is more dominant than the right one. Mostly only very creative or schizophrenic people have brain hemisphere more dominant. . While seemingly both hemispheres are nicely co-operating and at peace, there is also a hidden struggle which unusually manifests as logic against faith or belief; reason against intuition and similar. Jayne's theory tells us that at one time in the ancient past humans had bicameral mind with the left hemisphere more dominant and instructing the right one.
Well argued. I think I loathe religion more than you, and think there are no real issues to discuss if one even takes theism seriously as a position. That’s why I invoked the Easter Bunny. I’m afraid I’m more of a rationalist puritan than you, and maybe since I’ve never had any such discussions I don’t have any positive experience. It seems to me that religion is a part of human culture and history and should indeed be taught that way, from an external perspective only, and that theology in the sense I was talking about it (e.g. as taught in Cape Town, which means religious doctrine) is not an academic subject, but belongs in seminaries. I don’t think there are serious arguments that would make theism a fit standpoint for academic discourse now (earlier times were different: St Thomas and St Ambrose were serious scholars before true Enlightenment rationalism had developed, now their work is to be considered in a different way, as part of the history of philosophy I suppose, on a par with Plato and Schopenhauer). To put it I hope more clearly, religion is something to be known about as part of our culture; we live in an intellectual and artistic culture that is Judaeo-Christian in origin, and the works of philosophy and art created by that culture are of course of enormous greatness. It may have been religion that prompted the creation of the B-minor mass and Messiah and Haydn’s Creation and the great Gothic cathedrals and the art of Jan van Eyck, but that was then. Now they’re as secular as anything else, and to be appreciated aesthetically. (As I’m sure the creators did, whatever their beliefs: regardless of content they are masterful works of artistic technique and meaning, and worth study (and of course appreciation) from that point of view. Only.
I suppose I must have missed something; I never had a religious argument of any substance with a theist; we always ended up saying there was nowhere to go. The closest I’ve ever got in talking to an intelligent theist (which I thought was an oxymoron but apparently rarely isn’t) is that faith is epistemologically bad, but religion as a praxis is a form of metaphor and social action, with maybe a bit extra. But the person I was discussing these issues with, who is a deacon of a British Church said that of course she was not a supernaturalist, and nobody intelligent could seriously believe in the fairy tales in the bible and the tradition.
I just can’t see any possible substance in religious discourse in this era, or anything really worth discussing, except historically. As far as content I think (however badly and sloppily and nastily) Dawkins and Hitchens, and I n a civilised way Dennett, have made it unnecessary for these issues to be part of academic discourse.
I would also say that any attempt by an academic to convert students to anything but rationalism from an ideological point of view is unprofessional. I must say that in 30 years of teaching I never (I hope) let any of my beliefs out, except a belief in what I considered my profession was about, which was rational scrutiny of objects of study, rational argument, the elements of falsificationism, and my subject and its epistemological underpinnings. If people are yelling at each other you do not have an atmosphere appropriate to the university, which is ideally a cool and passionless place. One of the things I did when I was a junior assistant professor teaching Freshman English (horrid memory) is ask students what they believed most deeply and then made them write essays attempting to destroy those beliefs. They hated it (most of them) but the smart ones saw what I was trying to do, to teach them the technique of academic argument regardless of one’s beliefs.
We have very different ideas of what’s good in education I suspect.
I'm afraid that I have to vigorously disagree. Obviously if the purpose of a class in religion or theology is to convert people, I agree that it's on thin ice. Although in fairness, lots of other ideologies (Marxism, Freudianism, behaviorism, conservatism, environmentalism) are also taught, truth be known by professors trying to convert rather than engage in meaningful dialogue. And religion classes can be taught by ideological black boxes, by professors who do not reveal their own biases. I have taught classes like that and successfully (at least by my standards). But there's also a place for those who are upfront in whatever biases they bring to the classroom so long as these biases are open to debate and dialogue. I was a philosophy major in college, and perhaps the best philosophy class I took was philosophy of religion taught by an ordained Anglian priest (well Episcopalian in the US although he was from England) to a class of 5 of us, including one conservative and devout Jew, a bible thumping Christian conservative, and 3 disbelievers. The only religion we considered was Christianity. We argued and debated, and since the class was at 11 just before noon, our discussions often went through the lunch hour and on more than one occasion until 2 (when the professor had another class). We certainly didn't change the professor's mind -- he left with his religious commitments intact, and except possibly for the conservative Christian kid (who was frankly in a bit over his head in terms of intellectual sophistication) none of the rest of us changed either. It wouldn't have made any difference if he was trying to convert us (which I doubt that he was) so long as the debate was open and respectful, which it was. There's something to be said for honing your views against strong opposition. I was also was taught economics by University of Chicago trained economists (e.g., Milton Friedman) and by conservative political science professors who most certainly were trying to convert me and the other students, and I gained immensely by considering their arguments and trying to defeat them -- it was a losing cause on my part at the time, but I'd love to engage them now. I really don't see any difference between religious views and other ideologies in terms of the issues at hand, as I said earlier.
And I don't see how you could teach a course on religion without presupposing the existence of a deity, at least as a starting hypothesis -- well maybe Confucism or weak kneed Buddhism.
And just for the record, I write this as an atheist who finds the inroads of Christianity in American life appalling. Actually I rarely think anything about religion or god. Now that I'm getting closer to meeting my cremation perhaps I might think about it a bit more. But I promise not to get all wiggly and religious just before I die.
As denominational theology, yes. As a form of philosophical argument and speculation not tied to a religion, and not presupposing the existence of a deity it seems to me be as reasonable a subject as the study of comparative mythology or any other cultural or philosophical studies. But not as a form of religious discourse, which presupposes faith, and that is the antithesis of rationality. I see no place for that kind of study in a university. It belongs in theological seminaries and the like, not universities.
Do you want theology removed from the universities?
2013/3/1 Roger Lass <lass@...>
Even more so. There’s no usable term in English involving ‘science’ for theology, and probably a good thing t oo. We don’t have Easter Bunny science, which appears pretty similar as far as the existence of its subject matter is concerned. External study of religion (as in comparative religion, history of theological traditions, psychology or neurology of religious experience etc.) are fine, as there is an empirical subject. To teach a subject that presupposes the existence of deities (rather than studying them and their treatment in various human cultures) looks to me like a form of proselytising, not an academic subject. Universities in this century are or ought to be secular.
What about the university disciplne pf theology?
2013/2/28 Roger Lass <lass@...>
Yes, but formally the structure is just not English, that’s all I meant. It’s not a problem of meaning entir ely. Though the scientific study of literature is a fairly bizarre locution in English too (as well as not having any meaning I can detect, using the Engish sense of ‘science’).
I read "Litterature science" as "The scientific study if litterature".
2013/2/27 Roger Lass <lass@...>
As a native English speaker I find it ungrammatical. This expression simply can’t be created in native English as far as I know. First of all ‘science’ is not used in this sense in English (the opposition is between hard science and humanities), and second in a phrase like this the first word would be ‘literary’. This collocation simply doesn’t exist in any dialect of English I know except some varieties of South African academic Englis h which have borrowed it (peculiarly) from Afrikaans. So there is a double problem: ‘literature’ can’t be used as the first item in a phrase of this kind, and second ‘science’ can only occur either to mean natural science, or with certain adjectives like ‘social science’, ‘human sciences’. But not ‘literature’. I think the rule is that a noun used as an adjective can’t occur before ‘science’. This is a purely arbitrary fact about English, like most facts about languages. And I’d bet that there’s a similar arbitrariness in German too, only the other way round (any native speakers please help): my guess is that you could say ‘Literaturwissenschaft’ but not ‘literarische Wissenschaft’. I could of course be wrong but whatever intuitions I have about German suggest this. I think the second form would mean (if it existed) ‘science conducted in a liter ary way’. I’m perfectly prepared to be wrong.