Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Caused Me?

I thought history had long answered the below issue. 

While we may believe that our moral principles are rigid and based on rational motives, psychological and neuroscientific research is starting to demonstrate that this might not actually be the case.

The Science of Morality

John, now settled into his new locale, finds hope on the website. This series is about understanding human behavior. That is somewhat absurd because we can only understand human behaviors with respect to specific individuals in specific circumstances at specific times and even then we have to attach a margin error of unacceptably large proportions. It is intrinsically impossible to create global models of human behavior, too bloody NP hard by a galactic lifetime or two. So when you hear people talking about models of human behavior, whether it be astrology or psychology, tell said person to be wary of individuals falling from the sky who tried to fly to close to the sun.

One of the striking features of Milgram's research, tucked away into the data, was that of all the groups that were willing to administer lethal doses of electricity to actors feigning pain, Roman Catholics figured prominently in this regard. Now to a person who believes that their behavior is guided by their morality I would like to remind you that during the Japanese militarism of the 30's Zen masters were quite happy to offer their metaphysical support for unmitigated violence and hatred against the Other, once again demonstrating that morality in front of a gun, and behind it, can be remarkably flexible. The Roman Catholic predisposition is much better explained by the fact that Roman Catholics are taught to submit to authority from a very early age. Human beings are like cars: get ém when they are brand new, keep ém clean, service ém regularly, take them places to explore the world, give ém regular baths, take them to parks so they can mix with their own kind, avoid head-on collisions as these damage the steering, don't demand more than they can give but always be prepared to put the foot down when necessary, and you should get a long and reliable service out of car and human.

We think we are in control of our behavior but that is absurd. That is not possible. How can anything be in control of its behavior? Intentionality may be an emergent property but it has its antecedents from which it cannot be divorced. Socrates said: Know Thyself. Arrogant Twit. Camus wrote: Forever shall I be a stranger to myself. Bloody pessimist. It will take another 50 years for the full implications and value of this behavioral research to bear fruit in our public debates. That's good, we need to recognise the mythologies about ourselves. Away with Essentialism, get back in your kennel your naughty little genetic determinist puppy for tomorrow we put you down. 30 years I've waited! I'm going to watch you draw your last breath, hear your last heart beat as I pump in the KCL and no there won't be any anesthetic you sick little puppy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Immunological Turncoats Ward off Tumour Eradication

Confocal microscope image of a spontaneous breast cancer tumor in a mouse. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Francisco)

This news report from ScienceDaily highlights how much progress has been made in our understanding of cancer. The picture is beautiful because it presents an image of what has long been suspected. 

As the news article states ....

Instead, these immune cells are headed off at the pass. A completely separate set of healthy cells that are already in contact with the tumor effectively establish a defensive perimeter around it.
This is very important information, it provides insight into one of the fundamental mysteries of cancer: why the immune system can both recognise and mount a T cell attack that gets headed off at the pass. Cancer Immunotherapy began long ago with a chap named Steven Rosenberg ...