Darwin and animal cognition

As dogs, cats, horses, and probably all the higher animals, even birds, as is stated on good authority, have vivid dreams, and this is shewn by their movements and voice, we must admit that they possess some power of imagination. … Few persons any longer dispute that animals possess some power of reasoning. Animals may constantly be seen to pause, deliberate, and resolve. It is a significant fact, that the more the habits of any particular animal are studied by a naturalist, the more he attributes to reason and the less to unlearnt instincts.

– Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

He’s not wrong, even bees are now known to dream, and the higher animals have shown much inventiveness that we, in our arrogant and anthropocentric view of nature, have denied to them. What is clear now that intelligence has existed on this planet for a long time, and the wonders of man are the result of inheritance of the intelligence and cleverness of our distant, primeval ancestors.

My cats recognize that door knobs open doors, for example, and puffins have recently been seen to use tools:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/12/watch-puffin-use-tool-scratch-itch

The difference between humans and other animals is one of degree, not of kind, and to downplay or dispute that fact is to not only deny animals of what is rightfully theirs, but to deny humanity of our own dignity as well.

Sulfur played vital role in the development of life on earth

https://www.astrobio.net/origins/how-sulfur-helped-make-earth-habitable-before-the-rise-of-oxygen/

Sulfur played a vital role in the history of life on earth a new study says, and the fact that sulfur was abundant in the early earth, meaning plenty of material for microbes to metabolize to serve as fuel for photosynthesis, means that the abundance of sulfur in the early earth played a vital role in the oxygenation of the earth’s atmosphere.

However, because sulfur quickly degrades in an oxidized environment, the sulfur chemistry of early life on earth was “quickly lost to time,” as the article says.

Because sulfur is quickly oxidized in an oxygen-rich environment, and then removed from the atmosphere by precipitation and run-off into the ocean, the sulfur chemistry of early Archean life was phased out and lost to time. However, by understanding the mass independent fractionation process, it should be possible to learn more about the atmosphere of the pre-oxygenated Earth and the conditions in which the first life on Earth lived.

The process behind the mass independent fractionation of sulfur remains uncertain, but the two most popular hypotheses are either photolysis (the breaking apart of molecules) by ultraviolet light from the Sun, or reactions between elemental sulfur. “However, the actual phenomenon, reaction or mechanism is still to be identified,” says Dmitri Babikov, a Professor of Physical Chemistry and Molecular Physics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The article says that sulfur isotopes could serve as potential indicators of environments similar to that of the early earth’s, but that today’s technology is too limited to be of any help in identifying such indicators in potential exoplanets. Let’s hope the Jim Webb telescope is launched soon, for much is yet to be learned about the universe at large.

A summary course in logic

I’ve decided to take it upon myself to correct a few basic misconceptions about the nature of logical fallacies.

First thing’s first is what is called the “fallacy fallacy” (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fallacy_fallacy) wherein a fallacious argument is taken to be incorrect ”because” it is fallacious, rather than merely being an example of faulty reasoning.

Take the following statement:

Bears have fins, only mammals have fins, therefore bears are mammals.

The conclusion is correct, while the reasoning is demonstrably false. An argument can still be correct even if it is fallacious.

Let us examine another statement:

Bears have fur, only mammals have fur, therefore bears are mammals.

The conclusion is the same as the above statement, but unlike the previous statement, the reasoning here is not demonstrably false, meaning that the reasoning here is sound.

So, to reiterate, an argument doesn’t have to be incorrect because it is fallacious, for logical fallacies have nothing to do with matters of “correctness,” it only has to do with flaws in reasoning.

On natural hierarchies and material conditions

I was disputing whether or not right wing “anarchism” is legitimately anarchism or not. The devil’s advocate in the discussion told me that right wing “anarchists” reject “constructed hierarchy,” while still believing in so-called “natural hierarchies,” I rejected that therefore right wing individualism is true anarchism, because anarchists reject all hierarchies.

The discussion eventually lead to one about solipsism, natural law, the great man theory of history, so on and so forth, and it lead me to write this little entry about that conversation and where it lead me. So, here we are.

Right wingers believe in natural hierarchy, it’s an essentialist viewpoint, but as we shall see there all natural hierarchies are spooks, there’s no such thing as a “natural order of things,” as per Hume’s guillotine, “an ought cannot be derived from an is.” The world isn’t static and immutable, it is constantly changing. My opponent brought up the right wing belief of the “cycle of history,” summed up like this: “Strong men create good times, good times create weak men, weak men create hard times, hard times create strong men ad nauseam.

This is way too much of an overgeneralizing statement, and ignores material conditions. I pointed out the exact conditions of the Cold War couldn’t have occurred without the invention of nukes, even if there are rough analogues to Cold War esque situations in the past (which there are, but that’s a discussion for another time). My point being that the invention of nukes is what lead to the Cold War, and the Cold War wouldn’t have occurred without them.

Material conditions are important, natural orders don’t exist, the world is not static, and tomorrow will be different from today, as the actors of history are always changing, as is the setting itself.

Patriotism

People here will often shout that we should be “proud of our democracy and freedoms,” but as Westerners we should know that our democracy comes at the expense of other people’s democracy as we plunder their resources and hold them in economic vassalage. You tell me I should be proud to be an American, or a member of the EU, but why? The fact I was born a marginalized, working class American is completely out of my control, I could’ve been born an orphan in Syria for example, all of us could have. Not to mention that these countries were built off the back of slavery and genocide, which still happens to this day, there’s a reason indigenous peoples protest Australia Day, Canada Day, Columbus Day, so on and so forth, because our prosperity is at their expense.

So, tell me, why should I be patriotic? There’s a difference between gratitude and pride after all, I am grateful I was born in the US versus, say, Somalia, but I have no reason to be proud of that. And even so, being born here, I still am a marginalized person living a precarious existence, I have more in common with the people of the global south than I do the capitalist class here.