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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I read, liked, and agreed with most everything. There were a couple of points that still have me scratching my head:

    Why do humans have "self awareness"? Basically the same reason -- if can't communicate a concept of self and aggressively protect it, our real, actual physical self would easily be lost and we wouldn't have offspring.

    Are you saying that self-awareness is necessary for self-defense and generating offspring? If so, it is an interesting perspective not restricted to humans. It makes m

    • It’s really very simple. If you extrapolate “survival of the fittest” (which people always confuse with “survival of the best” or “survival of the most advanced”, but that is a rant for another day), the logical conclusion is that under the given conditions, having self-awareness and free will (if we do have free will, which personally I am not so convinced of) has allowed us to survive better than ancestors that did not, at least at one point in the past.

      There wa

      • I had the same confusion as Limbic Region on these points, though I'm not "Christian".

        You say it's very simple. But you make the qualification that you're not convinced we have "free will". If we do not -- that is if we have no control over our actions but are, rather, subject to deterministic laws of physics -- then it's nonsense to say that "free will" would have anything to do with "our survival", since "our survival" would be just part of a kind of inevitable unfolding of events. And if by "free will", you just mean "a sense of free will" -- that is, we feel free but in fact are not -- this argument also applies, though of course we would feel it does not.

        On the other hand, if we do in fact have "free will" -- that is, we have a non-physical power separate from our bodies which can nonetheless still manage to control our physical bodies -- then you have to defend mind-body duality, an argument that I don't think has fared well over the centuries of philosophical debate on it. But I think there would in this case be some sense in saying that this property of "free will" could help prolong "our survival".

        I put "our survival" in quotes, because I think this phrase is itself full of difficulties. How one defines a living being, a human being, the species of human beings, the survival of the human species - I don't think these are easy to pin down exactly. And why, for example, is the "survival" of the blobs of flesh that, taken as a whole, we identify with "the human species" more important than, say, the survival of "the mountain species" -- mountains, as a species, have clearly outlasted any of the "living beings" by far, even without any free will.

        Apparently ;)

        • I agree entirely. :-)

          Well, almost – I have to point out that our current understanding of physics is that there is no determinism at the quantum level. Determinism exists only at the macro scale as a probabilistic effect (essentially, there are so overwhelmingly many quantum systems interacting in any meso- or macroscopic system that all statistical deviations are wiped out in the aggregate). But since our brains are composed of parts that operate at small enough scales that quantum effects can con