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Skyhooks and Cranes

Hooking Up with Meaning

Dennet, via Lisa: "The most common fear about Darwin's idea is that it will explain away the Minds and Purposes and Meanings that we all hold dear.

A Primate Family Picnic It's Not

Other relevant reports from nearby:

*David Brooks on the role of policy intellectuals in the White House: First we had the Brain Trust, then the Whiz Kids, now the Propeller Heads....The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals...pointy heads who understood the limits of what pointy heads can know. The phrase for this outlook is epistemological modesty, which would make a fine vanity license plate. The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and therefore policies should be designed that take account of our ignorance.

*Last night's Cafe Scientifique:
on folks' desire for certainty (including stories that do not change)

*Back @ the Ranch....

Hilary and Kate supplied the images
for this week's forum, which puzzled over
cranes, skyhooks, t/Truth and algorithms....

Hilary: After departing from the classroom, I began to try to make as many analogies as possible....The more I tries to create analogies that stated this likeness, the more I realized that they weren't really all that far apart. Almost anything can be proven if it is proven in the right way.

how reliable are those analogies? ...I'm afraid that too much is being lost in the extra layer between the ideas themselves, Dennet's descriptions of them, and my own understanding of those descriptions.

Cynthia: In our discussion of "lucid metaphors and charming analogies..." I was lost...I never understood "skyhooks and cranes". I think there are too many "charming analogies" that distract my comprehension of the point being made.

(See George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By,
on thinking analogously)...

Adele: I have been a little bit confused this week with the reading...However, I was glad to learn about skyhooks and cranes. As I have understood, cranes are something that has a strong base, and skyhooks, on the contrary, come from nowhere, without anything to be based on.

Saloni: I am very confused about where this leading the big picture still reliant on fanstastical constructs such as Skyhook and God?

Jackie M: perhaps subjectivity is the crane, while objectivity is the skyhook....the anatomically modern human is more subjective than its predecessors (we can speak, we have developed political, social, economical, and societal realms which allow us to exercise further subjectivity every day).....Natural selection...favored subjectivity as a means of modifying life forms....objectivity in its purest unachievable by life forms on Earth.

Tim: Truth, Reality, and Objectivity are 'skyhooks' (transcendent ideas/ supernatural creations); our wish to achieve those ideals is the crane....factual an ideal that we created

Dan: I believe that Truth is the skyhook while truth is crane. Truth is based upon an entirely independent set of objective values and simply cannot be built from a foundation on our world, it requires anchoring in a whole other realm. Meanwhile, truth is absolutely anchored in our, built from our shared beliefs until it can truly stand. Yet there is a limit to how far simply extrapolating our beliefs can take us, there is a limit to how high the crane can be built. That final gap between the limit the of our subjective reasoning and and an unreachable objective goal is the difference between a skyhook and a crane.

Keely: How does capitalization change the meaning of the word truth? I don't think it does. I think the question is not about what type of truth exists, but about what truth is.

Aybala: I don't understand really the difference between Truth and truth? If we are thinking about truth as a conclusion to a question that will not change, then how can truth exist? If we keep observing to find new observations, then truth whether with a 'T' or 't' should not exist.

Hilary: I am still incredibly fuzzy on the entire issue of truth. The more I delve into the idea, the more I feel like I am balancing on a tipping rock on the top of a precipice. It's dangerous, frightening, and odd. I want to be able to point to something and know whether it is real or not, whether it is, in fact, the truth. Yet now I am just revolving now in a desperate circle to even find the right place to point. The more we question reality, the more questions are formed that simply can't be answered with a Universal answer.

Evelyn: At some point we all have un-stomp-able fantasies, which at a later point we recognize as stomp-able fantasies. If they change their value and place, why then can’t a skyhook become a crane and a crane become a skyhook?

Sarah: Dennett does stomp. His apparent idol, Darwin, may have started a movement of stompers like Dennett. I don't think that authors like him will ever help us progress or better understand the tensions between the stories of science and religion.

Elizabeth: I couldn’t help but think what if I raised my hand and said I don’t believe you, you don’t know that’s true. But if we all always did that then no one would ever learn anything. I think simply taking somethings to be true is necessary in order to accomplish anything. There needs to be a very careful balance between subjectivity and truth.

Morgan: I feel like this whole week I have just been confused....its just hearing that you can't rely on one idea because there could be a better one out there....but what about making your own goal in life....For myself... right now it's just to get through college and live my life, instead of being scared of death. I guess truths are not facts but a way to keep moving forward to explore. I hope we can explore this topic more so that I can put a stop to my confusion.

Another site for confusion was Dennett's description of evolution as an algorithm...

Anisha: there is a possibility that algorithms prevent free will. Since the process is so unyielding, there is no room for individuality

Tara: The idea that Anisha brings forth does not sit well with me. If an individual knows that there is a set pattern of actions, thinking, etc then he/she has the power to change it if they choose to....


Marina: Dennett urges readers to see evolution as an algorithmic process. This confuses me- Isn't an algorithm a specific set of steps that lead to one and only one answer? If this is true then this is in opposition to the belief that evolution is a completely random process. I don't see how these could logically come together.

Arielle: How is it possible that evolution, which certainly does not create the same result every time, is an algorithm? The steps are perhaps the same, but the results are so incredibly varied due to circumstances that I just don't get the connection. Some lovely individual above discussed how she/he had trouble with evolution as an algorithm because of all the possible outside forces(see, the Big Bang) that could be affecting it. That also factors into my confusion.

Tim: I wondered whether, in contrast to biological evolution, which has no goal/ is essentially random, cultural evolution is fundamentally different because active shapers/ participants in our cultural narratives and direction changes its evolutionary nature...

Julia put this in chemical terms: an acid requires a base with which to react. In the case of a universal acid, everything it comes in contact with would behave as a base: art, culture, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, religion, or any other human creation. When an acid and a base interact a chemical reaction occurs. So every time the theory of evolution interacts with another theory it is changed? No longer the same substance? The content of the theory of evolution is undergoing a sort of intellectual evolution?



"Skyhook" by Scott DesignWorks:
The archtypal failure of umbrellas inspires this transformation. In its former life the handle is the part that is held. Through the looking glass, this unmirror image of itself becomes something else entirely. It is now something that holds--maybe even a raincoat or another umbrella. Two wrongs sometimes make a right.

Or: Meaning, Culture and Aesthetics, Continued?