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About CirclesAndDots

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  • Birthday 05/06/87

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    Sociology, Linguistics, Ecology
  1. A game by any other name

    As the title might imply, what's a game? That is, what allows us to unify seemingly disparate things like hopscotch and first-person shooters? Surely, seeking a universal definition to absolve us of our curiosity is a misguided endeavor. Creative society permits words the power to describe and denote experiences. It's not necessary that they seize them. So, in short, what's a satisfying working definition of 'game'? Or rather, what constitutes a game and what makes a game distinct from other artistic/entertainment media? My bloated attempt at setting even the most basic of boundaries for what makes a game quickly descended into what must be gibberish. Regardless, I propose that a game is separate from other media because it actively resists its audience (the player or players). A game is at once suppressed (in terms of actions/development) but is ultimately only realized through player(s) activity. Reaction, as it exists from a consumer of music or film, is inert. Mozart's fifth symphony exists totally independent of consumer input, as does Scorsese's Goodfellas. Even if both were stuck on pause indefinitely and required input on a machine to continue, it would not be the kind of vital user input that a game prioritizes and is actualized through. (Interfacing with an object that delivers content to the consumer does not constitute interactivity with that content). Reaction in a game's space is a constructive process within it rather than a byproduct of its mere consumption. Perhaps the differences between the various artistic media are obvious and I've only muddied the water. At any rate, as games, particularly video games, continue to diversify in form and function and gain commercial and cultural relevance, initiating a dialogue about them was in order.
  2. It is important to note that small and big are relative and relational terms. They're more social construction than natural fact. They're useful descriptions to organize reality, but I'm not so sure that "big" exists anymore than the number 2 does. (Platonists will take issue with this claim). At any rate, we recognize variations of a phenotypic trait.( 'Tall' men, 'short' men, big cats, and small cats.) Variations of a trait can impact fitness. Bigness or smallness exists evolutionarily as a result of some selection/fitness differential. The breeding population of bobcats may consist of more small individuals than large ones. (Again, relative to the total population). If there is selection (a reproductive differential) for a trait at one end of a distribution of values, i.e. small bobcats produce comparatively more offspring than large bobcats then the population may evolve in that direction. Selection is but one mechanism of evolution. It is not synonymous with evolution. There can be selection in a population and no evolution. Over time populations can become distinct/genetically divergent through geographic/reproductive isolation. Some critters may look similar, but can't interbreed, some may look quite different but can still interbreed. Where does one start drawing the line between them? What is a species? Do we define a species as individuals with shared, observable, characteristics or a group that can breed only among themselves? Hopefully even this crude framework will help illuminate relevant evolutionary mechanisms that account for phenotypic distributions and highlight the conceptual difficulty of defining species.
  3. Are Fruits & Vegetables Genderless?

    "Majority" I will concede is a slippery term to use in biology. My original aim was to draw attention to sexual macro-structures. There's a tradition of laymen bias (I lump myself into that category) to assign gender according to gross human characteristics. We scan an organism looking for something penis-like or vagina-esque to determine if said thing is conventionally male or female. Of course sexuality isn't always that familiar, especially in plants and it isn't always fixed, as you mentioned with non-mammalian vertebrates. Indeed, Hermaphrodites are quite common in nature.
  4. Let's make citing a source more easy..

    Quote: " Many teachers and professors want the list of cited sources perfect according to the citing rules. If you mess this up too much the paper will not even be graded." Elkitch, you are heard. In an effort to standardize much of the creative process is bastardized. Privileging form over content seems a general social trend (Perhaps informed by market values and practices.) What your professor is essentially asking for is a template, an image; something that is a social product first and an individual creation second.This kind of cultural collectivism is killing individual voice; and to what end? The war on piracy and plagiarism, like the War on drugs, has had Orwellian consequences. While my aim here is not to derail your post, I couldn't resist commenting on a symptom of a grave social sickness. Re-orienting the responsibility of standardizing a citation to the author seems a reasonable move. If being credited is such a concern of the author than they should bear the burden of creating the means to credit them.
  5. The 21st Century School

    No takers? Perhaps I should clarify the situation or reorient the argument. Is education "reform" being led by educators or by big business speculators? And to what end? Is market pressure dictating a new kind of literacy; specifically one that diminishes critical thinking in favor of rote vocational training,(education for technology)? It's a shame my first topic is a dud!
  6. Are Fruits & Vegetables Genderless?

    A fruit, botanically defined, is a matured ovary. So, in this sense, a fruit ( a structure unique to the flowering plants), can be said to be "female". Flowers consist of sterile (vegetative) and fertile parts. The reproductive assets are male and female, respectively the stamens and the carpels. The stamens---the pollen-bearing parts, collectively called the androecium. (A telling word, translating roughly to "House of Man") . Reciprocally, the carpels---the ovule bearing parts of the flower are collectively referred to as the gynoecium or "house of woman". Of course, there are variations in flower structure, not all are bi-sexual. As the previous comments suggested, plants can be bi or uni-sexual. The difficulty in assigning gender arises out of the complexity of plant life cycles. Cycas revoluta, a species of gymnosperm, and a common decorative plant in the States (often called Sago Palms), is dioecious. In other words, There are male sago palms and female sago palms. This is true also of the genus Zamia. Sexual morphologies aren't as neatly organized in plants as they are in the majority of animal species.
  7. The Strength of Faith

    Faith is a fine invention but it's old technology. (Platonic Idealism is the motor of modern and antique Christianity.) Christian metaphysics posits that there is "something" essentially not understandable (An Ideal, call that God) yet "it" can be understood by not trying to understand "it". Faith is empowered only by its own presuppositions. It makes a positive claim that the sensory experience of reality is limited. It insists on an "otherness" to truth. Indeed, the very notion of truth with a capital T is necessitated by metaphysics. There "must" be an ideal form and by extension there must be an ideal representation of that form, it says. Man is the representation of that form and faith is the apparatus by which it is "understood" or made known. Representations exist then in a gradient. Man is the ideal representation of the Ideal, privileged over the animal. Faith, because it (somehow) is independent of the body and the senses, is more representative of the ideal than reason (and science by association). So science can thread electrons, grow organs, and map planetary orbits but cannot make authoritative commentary on reality, or the "reality" as defined by a metaphysics. This "reality" is privileged over the reality rational creatures inhabit and poke at to understand. Faith then is the solution to the problem it created. The God concept that Nietzsche pronounced dead and modernity tried to bury has a tendency to re-animate; I think faith endures because it is perceived to grant full access to the universe and with little effort. Even fraudulent "knowledge" is power. While science can be said to "democratize" truth, religion stows it up so only their own can make use of it. It's interesting to note that some users insist on an authoritative definition of "faith". If anything, this shows metaphysical thinking hard at work. That there is an ideal representation of faith, articulated by language, is just patently absurd. This highlights what I hope will develop into a discussion on God and language. God is advertised as some "transcendental signified" or concept; existing outside of reality. In what way is this concept appropriated by verbal signs? In what way is it meaningful through language and specifically how is it designated absolutely?
  8. The 21st Century School

    This topic probably frequents these boards but perhaps a new emphasis can reinvigorate discussion. Digital and social media technologies are integrating into what seems to be every conceivable arena of human endeavor. As public opinion of education withers talk of reform is inevitable. The sweeping trend is to apply these "messianic" technologies to all that is old or to all that is broken in society. "Technologizing" has become a kind of social duct tape. It is an increasingly attractive tool for reform in any public institution; but why? There seems to be little justification for this frenzied social movement when no clear and substantial evidence of students increasing their academic achievement as a result of using these technologies exists. Is the educational system seeking relevancy under the name of reform? Or is a new literacy, a media literacy, displacing the old? There seems to be very little critical output on this social movement in general. Thoughts and opinions are welcome.
  9. Questioning Abortion as an advance towards freedom

    This argument persists because there is no satisfying, colloquial definition of life or rather there is no satisfying fact of modern science that declares the threshold of human identity. It is a dangerous intersection between ancient philosophies and modern medical practices. It is a debate however that rejuvenates my perspective of conservative ideology, not because I agree with them but because there are flashes, here and there, of sanity and better than sanity--compassion. After their busied attempts to demonize the poor, their perverted and inverted romanticism with the rich, after their eager defenses of war, war with man of a different color, war with man of a different God, war with the world and its resources, it is refreshing to see a strain of fight for equality. (or the idea of equality) That is essentially the form that can be drawn from the combat. Those left of center evoke the rights of the woman, the obligate biological vessel, something demonstrably human. The right evokes, I think, not so much a product or a physicality but a process, the integrity of creation. Their policies are indicative of their disregard for the product. To quote the late George Carlin: "Conservatives will do anything for the unborn, but once you're born, you're on your own"--I don't intend for this quote to substitute a substantive social diagnosis but it grabs at a discrepancy in conservative idealism and conservative policy. This year the debate coincides with some peculiar imagery. Aluminum 'hands' on mars frisk the planet for signs of life. A splash of methane and a clump of cellular material would excite the imagination of science for a long time. Meanwhile a hose in a New Jersey clinic slithers into a woman and sucks up a clump of cellular material a billion years in the making. Doc will do this three times before lunch. My aim here is not to flare up emotion because a similarly bleak description could be equally produced had the woman chose "life"; rather it is to bring into viewing a callous, distracting and flawed argument employed here by some users (though I identify with them consistently) and it is this: At what point are rights "activated"? This angle should be abandoned entirely. Where it isn't chauvinistic, it is hypocritical, where it isn't boldly philosophical it is scientifically unjustified. It's also out of character for a liberal. It seems part of the rhetorical arsenal of the conservative justifying the rape of the natural world in the name of human progress. Rights trumping rights is historically stained. It is a more sincere and effective route to appeal to the problem (s) than appeal to a sense of hierarchy. (Both sides do this). Many social ills are tangled up in unwanted pregnancy. Many 'unwanted pregnancies' are tangled up in corporatist values; fears of resigning from the rat race, and pressure for bearing children when it is commercially, traditionally viable. (Where do these values come from?) On a polarized issue I have probably managed to offend both sides. If that is the case I apologize. Somewhere in my response is an honest attempt to evaluate the merit of both sides, though, ultimately, as a male, this is out of my territory.
  10. Religious scientists/doctors

    It is evident there's a guided, fevered attempt to preserve the mysticism of your faith rather than promote any real talking points. This is a common tactic among apologists. There is a grave disconnect (and a potential epistemological hurdle) between your idyllic vision of God and the socially functional construct of God, the God that exerts his will through the medium of the church, the church that tinkers with relationships between mankind. THIS is the faith people recognize and rally to. Your God seems restricted to the minds of certain ingenutive philosophies and this is what I hope to address. Apologists continually redefine God so God can still fit comfortably within the always revealing scientific drama. ( God of the Gaps) God is mystified to a point of being indefinable but yet is defined every Sunday; is stowed up in human passions and human interests. What God do you believe in ewmon? Is it this personal savior? Is it the God of discredited natural phenomenon? Or is it this convenient, yet to be disclosed, and uniformly unfalsifiable entity that may or may not have any semblance to the consciousness purported by bronze age philosophy? There seems to be lurking within your response blatant appeals to "authority" (And I don't mean just the cloud surfer). You provided as sterling, sturdy, evidence an illustrious man of science who is also a man of religion. I replied with an examination of the religious and professional "roles", citing the "perceived" antagonisms and expectations between the two. Is there a palatable suspicion from the scientific community regarding Collins? There was some schoolboy concern over whether he would 'flex' religious "motives" within an influential position. And this is justified. One look at the religious establishment's (I talk specifically here of the religious right) history with scientific knowledge would raise even the heaviest eyebrow. There is a continued assault by the religious (and certain corporate interests) to exploit scientific doubt. Evidence here is plentiful. [The persistence of creationism in our education system as a "science". The denial of climate change. The outrageous claims made about sex education and contraceptive usage]. Science does not make guarantees, it quantifies likelihoods. The religious take this lack of total conviction and use it to prop up vague biblical language because 'knowing' is better than not knowing. Certainty trumps doubt. This is antithetical to the scientific experience. Religion (and I will further reinforce this concept) will always say God. Collins accepts evolution but it is an evolution with an unscientific attachment. He calls it "Biologos", rational people might call it "theistic evolution". Evolution in this perspective is just a mechanism by which the supernatural creates the natural. The unreal birthing the real. Grab at that word there, you know what that word says to scientists? It says "Can't Touch This". You interpret supernatural as a process by which the ignorant become a little less so and God must always just be a bit beyond the grip of explanation. What is deeply troubling about this notion is somehow, by some contortion of logic, people are ignorant enough to never know the natural impetus for God (that is the world that scientists study and seek to explain) but not quite ignorant enough to not realize that God created because he could or because he wanted a stage for his favorite creation to run around and experiment with life. In other words, we are too ignorant to prove God exists but not too ignorant to understand his motives for existence (?) While I hate to entertain your hasty appeals to authority, What scientist thinks the universe as 'intentional'? There is chaos and there is intention. I don't mean chaos in any mathematical sense and I am not denying the 'intricate' configurations of the real; I ask but where you make the jump, the proverbial leap, from revealing the world by experiment and partitioning doubt to knowing the world by prophecy? At what point is the world science illuminates not an addendum to your faith? Finally, whether something is appealing to the emotional epicenters is independent of truth. You may find the universe more habitable with the construct of God, but that says nothing about the evidence for the existence of God, it says rather more about the character of man than the character of God. Alas, there is much to be said and my participation in this discussion rests now on some clarification of your position. The commentary seems to have shifted to a broader evaluation of some of the fundamental idiosyncrasies of science and religion, faith and doubt. It is a tired argument but one worth resurrecting. This last link should provide the insight into Collins' version of evolution. You don't have to take my claim on faith bud. Please tell me how theistic evolution doesn't ultimately translate into creationism? I'm sure many users of this forum would gladly discuss the validity of creationism (of any it intelligent design or this needless marriage of science and religion) as something functionally scientific. Visit the website. Explore. Ponder. Report back here.
  11. Religious scientists/doctors

    Francis Collins occupies a busy place in the imagination of the religious. At once he has this grandfather appeal, possessing a gentle wisdom and an ancient memory, he has too a desperate relevancy in an age driven by the scientific enterprise where biblical explanations of the natural world are increasingly challenged and outright falsified. He inherits an odd role by being both 'religious' and 'scientific'; often contending with suspicion from the scientific community (NAS) who may interpret him as a kind of 'double agent' and regulating the expectations from the church who may interpret him as a kind of saboteur. The church entertains the idea that 'one of their own' will turn scientific realism on its head making God obvious and unavoidable, restoring confidence in the gospels and giving the doomsday prophecies a perceptible, deafening clock. A capable anecdote expressed here: When confronted with the 'exhaustion' of reason, when probability is bent up like a contortionist, religion will always say God. There is no chaos, there is code. In this sense, religion has already answered its most crucial question, Who and/or Why? , any science it does is more admiration than exploration. Collins hijacked evolution and is steering it to support dogma. This is the threshold. This is the point when science and religion collide. This is Collins abandoning his objectivity and muscling in the will to express conviction over the ability to express rational conclusion. Imagine playing a rousing game of Clue (if a game of Clue could ever be called rousing) with someone like Collins. I say "Miss White with the candle stick in the kitchen"; Collins mumbles "Because God willed it". We agree that there's a body, some suspects, a murder weapon and a search for truth. We diverge on the addition of the God card, the motive. Collins agrees with evolution, he might dabble with accepting the Big Bang. He diverges from being scientific when he posits an unscientific impetus and decorates the thing with an emotional, human appeal to 'motivation' or purpose. Science and religion function best when they are asking the right questions. Science isn't concerned with the trajectories of prayer and religion shouldn't be concerned with propping up dogma with scientific discovery or worse constructing biblical certainty out of scientific doubt.
  12. Thanks Moon. I usually float around the forums here soaking up commentary. There's a good, informed, fair community here and I'm looking forward to becoming more active in it when time permits.

  13. Good response in the three christian reaction thread...

  14. Christian reaction to three scenarios

    This challenge, while sincere, makes the naive assumption that Christians ought to be Christ-like, this denies the pulse of American faith and protestant theology. These scenarios provide the Christian with a view of moral relativity but presents no conundrum as Christian morality is as good as relative and as good as irrelevant because Christianity comes equipped with a nifty fail-safe they call 'grace'. Grace is a clever invention, not exactly unique, but relentlessly clever. Clever here meaning insidious, deceitful, anything but legit. Some armchair apologists make the ludicrous notion that agnostics are agnostic because they refuse to subject themselves to the scrutiny and prescription of "higher authority", they are fond of the word "cop-out" yet grace is exactly this; a celestial pardon for all manner of wrong doing. Functionally, "follower of Christ" is just an admission of your forgiveness and enlists you into believing that you are not good enough for heaven but good enough to convince others how to get into it. This is one biblical charge most Christians pursue----evangelism. Evangelism lures with promises of high sea adventures, dangerous conversions in exotic lands replete with cannibals, smuggled in bibles, and photogenic skinny Hispanic children. That is the perception of Christ-like. That is the work of the Christian. Feeding the poor and healing the sick is peripheral to endorsing and advancing the Christian worldview. The strategy is not entirely unlike a celebrity athlete who after winning a game of some favorable repute gives thanks to his corporate sponsor for making him the athlete capable of such feats. There exists a, not always vocal but always discernible, channel of this in evangelical philantrophy; a "My generosity brought to you by God". It is a tacky and needless ornament of an act. Effective arguments against faith rarely come from estranging the Bible from its base (its readers) as the Bible is already quite strange and foreign to its followers. It isn't this cohesive force, unified in mind. It is fractured and every Sunday wild interpretations flail about, bursts of deranged energy from foamy preacher mouths. Among the pews people grab at words like "damnation" and "eternal life" riding on waves of spittle and wait to nibble on some macaroni and cheese to complete their religious experience. (I'm from the south and macaroni and cheese prepared by the shaky hands of God-fearing women is the closest encounter I've had with the divine). Effective arguments against religion rarely come from crude parody and I apologize for the rant. In sum, the bible for its users is not a source of self-help, it is a choose your own adventure, it is the queen's mirror. Mocking the reflection is a tired tradition and if any real progress is made to "decongest" the religious it will come not from active offensives but from patient, innocuous protests. (Religion flourishes in an environment of enemies). Whether the lot of christian belief will become a kind of mental vestige or internalize itself like a case of the hiccups, or eat up the world is up for debate. One thing is clear, religion is evolving and the social engineering historically accompanied with it is growing tiresome to emergent American generations.
  15. Straw poll

    The spread of this poll contrasts starkly with those of a broader reach. Professionally, ideologically, the candidate of choice for scientists or students of science or even, I suspect, the candidate of choice for skeptics, followers of fringe philosophies, and the non-religious is decidedly Obama. There's a few ways to craft a response to this rather characteristic "phenomenon"; this historical division between pedestrian politics and the politics that attract the 'learned.' ( I quote not to question the validity or viability of the knowledge but to give attention to the social distinction often made). Obama, (this is purely a matter now of speculative discourse) or rather, the general political character of Obama during this campaign is popularly interpreted in the mind of social media as a sort of socio-political anchor. Yes, an anchor, a charged literary emblem. Gone are the days where Obama equates in public consciousness (especially the youth) to an exalted, almost mythological revolutionary. He is now mere safeguard or firewall from a totally realized neo-conservative re-working of America. This is what people fear and it is a fear legitimized by the governmental power of a ruling elite and a church-state that perpetuates a value system in tune with them: unfettered consumption, disregard for the disempowered (after all, God intends it), a disconnect and superiority over the natural world that justifies the misuse of our resources. (Consider puddle-thinking). This is the Obama people will be voting for. This 'moderation', this restraint, might very well lose. The most dangerous thing the neo-conservative movement has given people is the idea of an enemy to rally and fight against. Be it drugs and the distorted imagery of drug users, specifically users of marijuana. Terrorism and the disfiguring narratives told to squish even the smallest rebellions and now Unemployment. Unemployment (alongside Energy of which the two have been carefully entangled) has been the defining issue of this year's election. It is the most visible piece of 'politics' for Joe Average. It requires no rustling through empirical evidence to feel for the jobless. Escalating gas prices is a sigh easy to participate in. It is the paranoia, the mysticism of capitalism the Republican party wrangles and it seems terribly convenient for the plot of bloated American romanticism to have a "hero" ( a successful businessman, mind you) at the ready--to pick up where the failed "prophet" left off. The fact that the GOP has created a "real page turner" is terrifying not because it doesn't include Obama on the next page but because it doesn't include a country of me and you. The people seem eager to swallow the blue pill and it isn't birth control folks. The rhetoric of crisis is not usually something I partake in but when confidence in democracy is this endangered, when it is enough to live in the revolt of rock n roll, when hope is an artifact and liberty is commodified, when that is a summary of a reality that would lead to yawning or a response defending the apathy of civil action, words like doomed start to look appealing and appropriate. This economy of panic has sequestered the essence of change.