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About Giles

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  1. Yes, but a "succession of processes" can exhibit properties which a single entity - or a collection of all entities involved in the proccess - cannot. A computer can execute a program, where a random arrangement of the same transistors cannot. A population of organisms in an environment can evolve, whereas a collection of the same organisms outside any spatial, temporal or material context cannot. This sentence can have a meaning which the individual words out of order do not.
  2. We could cover, say, Valle Marineris (sp?) and then build an ecosystem underneath. That ought to be big enough. I assume it is unfeasible to deflect the solar wind ourselves.
  3. The Mach principle is a rubbish explanation for inertia since (i) it wouldn't explain inertia and (ii) the idea of explaining fundamental concepts in natural laws is silly. The astronaut will not experience a force towards the walls perpendicular to the axis of rotation. If he is already in contact with the bucket, directly or indirectly, then he will experience the same acceleration towards the axis as anything else. If not, he feels no force. The idea of acceleration in a universe devoid of any source for the force producing the acceleration is pretty useless as a thought experiment.
  4. If, for some strange reason, it turned out that non-determinism was a requirement of conciousness (and I'll say right now that seems pretty unlikely to me, free will notwithstanding) it would follow that the brain made use of some ampliative system for a small-scale random (quantum) effect. (Would such a system count as chaotic?) Such systems are common in cells, although of course usually the cell wants to regulate them.
  5. This will get you started. This seems likely to be all you'll need, but since it's so pricey I guess you'd want to try a library.
  6. Conciousness is held to be a property of a material system, not its individual components. Juat like every single other macroscopic process. Even if the argument were valid (but as MrL has pointed out - it isn't), it is founded on a false premiss, and so fails.
  7. Mars is also no longer seismically active is it? A lot of ideas about early life revolve around sulphur metabolism (e.g. hydrothermal vents). If the useful stuff is lying around, bound up in rocks instead of in solution it makes life less likely. (NB I'm speculating wildly here)
  8. I have not argued that politics cannot be detrimental to scientific progress, I'm arguing that it is part of science. It cannot be exlcuded because science is a social activity with a social, political and intellectual context. Any definition of science that excludes that context's influence on the conclusions drawn excludes all scientific activity that has ever taken place. I can give you more book references if you like. You missed the point about Newton (and Brahe, Darwin et al). I'm asking what sensible conception of a scientist would exclude him? Yours does. I admit that in your second post you concede that " Does every one of the criteria I mentioned need to be met to make a scientist, no." [sic]. If that means you do agree with me then fair enough, but I think it's pretty clear from your subsequent remarks that you do not. So I'm pressing the point.
  9. You said "refusing bias or political influence", without restricting that to the data obtained, or the interpretation of that data. You're wrong in what you meant to say anyway. Tycho Brahe, for example, was one of the greatest astronomers of his time, but did not break with the geocentrist tradition. His data were what allowed Kepler and his succesors to do their work. Newton argued against cartesian physics because it leads to atheism. It is scarcely credible to claim that Darwin was not affected by politics. Science is a very highly social activity. Scientists cannot BUT be bound up in the social and political context of their time. It is the beauty of the enterprise of science that it makes definite progress in understanding the objective world even though it is produced by individuals who cannot fully escape their subjectivity or social context.
  10. It beggars belief that you can cite galileo as a 'pure' scientist and yet claim that science can be free of politics. I recommend Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, 2001 (palgrave).
  11. It is daft to assert that 'the theory of evolution' is right or wrong as a whole. Physical theories that get superceded tend to be single mathematical frameworks, so when part goes they collapse entirely, at least as a metaphysical system. Whereas evolutionary theory encompasses pretty much the whole of biology in one form or another, but the logical links are not as strong or rigid as in a physical theory. so if contemporary ideas of speciation turn out to be wrong the rest of the science will be basically ok. It should also be noted that much of evolution is somewhere between (the classic philosophical conception of) science and history, wherein reinterpretation is prevalent rather than outright refutation. Finally, dealing with a process that can be pinned down to a particular time and place helps to make our limited sample of the possible observations more persausive as representatives of the whole.
  12. Those criteria don't neccesarily make you a scientist - even assuming they can be fulfilled, they make you a rational enquirer. as far as fulfillment goes - I wouldn't describe scientific method as being proven in an unqualified sense; there are plenty of people carrying out research who may tire of it after a while; there are many doing it for reasons that are not purely altruistic; and it's difficult to show that the growth of scientific knowledge can be free of its social and political context.
  13. From the point of view of an historian of science, scientists are people involved in the research side of the social activity called science. Scientists in the modern sense occupy a particular social position which has only been around for a couple of centuries (starting with the French Revolution, more or less). Isaac Newton, for example, would be more accurately characterised as a natural philosopher. Someone dabbling with chemistry in his garden shed isn't a scientist in this sense.
  14. Principles of Development, by Wolpert et al, is an excellent book. Although it is a textbook, its not a gigantic one, and it is quite readable. I don't know of anything smaller which covers the ground. Unfortunately it's a UK publication, so i don't know if you will be able to get hold of it. I don't think there is a settled reason why mammals can't regenerate (except a few tissues - mainly liver and bone) - i would guess it may be because our initial developmental environment is highly unusual and controlled, whereas ampibia occupy the same enviroment from egg onwards. Our development is also more complex (hence it takes so much longer) and regeneration is expensive. Finally, the right mutations may have never come up (usually if you mutate cell differentiation/proliferation genes you just get cancer).
  15. Chardonnay is a grape. So, for example, are Merlot or Pinot Gris. Some wine names are regions - Alsace or Burgundy, for example. Burgundy wines are Pinot Noir iirc (although you can get some white Burgundy). Just to confuse matters further, a Bordeaux (red) is a Claret. Generally only famous wine regions will just use the region name. Bottles don't make this stuff clear on the front; you either have to look carefully, read the back (which sometimes tells you), or just know it. EDIT: I'd guess grape vines are angiosperms (flowering plants) i.e they will reproduce sexually by fertilisation via pollen, or asexually if no pollen is forthcoming, via seeds in the grapes. I suspect most vines are subject to human interference though. Because of this, most vinyards will be monocultures - or nearly - and most plants in them clones, so they are very vulnerable to disease.
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