Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Consciousness: A Very Brief Intro by Susan Blackmore- Chapter 2 thoughts

     In chapter two of Consciousness by Susan Blackmore, the brain is covered. I know what you are thinking because I thought it too. This very textbook-ish chapter had my eyes crossed and having flashbacks to junior year sitting in Ms. Curran’s AP bio class thinking, I’m never going to remember all of this. But to my surprise, I did manage to obtain a few take away thoughts to add to my quest in understanding the theories behind consciousness and what it IS exactly.

     Basically, the brain is an incredibly complex system of… things and stuff. We, meaning humans, have yet to fully understand most of these ‘things and stuff’. However, we have been able to identify certain parts of the brain and some of its basic functions. For example, the cerebellum, or little brain, is primarily concerned with fine movement control. The somatosensory cortex deals with touch, the motor cortex with movement of body parts, the occipital lobe processes visual information, and so on. But what does this have to do with consciousness? Well, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out where consciousness lives or resides in the brain (or does it? I mean, it has to right?). “We cannot deny the brain is intimately involved in consciousness because drugs that affect brain function affect subjective experience;…” but “…(t)he brain does no seem designed to produce the kind of consciousness we have. Most characteristically the brain is a massively parallel and distributed system with no central organization, no inner sanctum where the really important bits happen.” (p. 18-19). 

     So, how do we unify the two?

    The unity of consciousness, according to Bayne and Chlamers from the University of Arizona, asks, “What does it mean to say that different states of consciousness are unified with each other, or that they are part of a single encompassing state? The idea of unity is multifaceted, and has been understood in many different ways by different thinkers. In some senses of "unity", the claim that consciousness is unified may be obvious or trivial; in other senses, the claim may be obviously false. So the first project in this area is to distinguish between varieties of unity, and to isolate those varieties that pose the most important questions.” (http://consc.net/papers/unity.html) . I will admit I honesty had never thought about this nor which case made more sense to me in order to pick a ‘side’. Since my studies have taken me into a deep curiosity for Descartes (hence the pursuit of this degree), I almost expected I would side with his beliefs, that consciousness is a given, an absolute. However, there are those theorists out there who contest unified consciousness is an illusion and give a valid point of view that made me initially pause and hesitate when deciding where I stood.

     After struggling with each side, and getting frustrated for not being able to find a firm stance on either, I read this line in Bayne and Chalmers paper, “If consciousness really is unified, and especially if it is necessarily unified, then it is natural to look for an explanation of this fact.” What is it? What is the explanation to back up this belief? In order to prove consciousness is in fact unified and necessarily so, there must being something to solidify this claim. And this is what I am setting out to discover. By taking Descartes “I think therefore I am” theory as an absolute truth, this would also imply that consciousness is unified, necessarily so. Which then poses the question, why? The late Carl Sagan once posed, “We are a way for the universe to know itself”. Could this be the answer to the conscious question. If everything that exist is made of the same building blocks at the tiniest levels possible, then everything is connected. Everything is the same. So it would only makes sense that consciousness is unified out of necessity, would it not? Is this the catapult to launch us into understanding the unity of universal consciousness? I sincerely hope so.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Democracy in Chains

The book I mentioned in class, in connection with MTSU's new Koch-funded "Poltical Economy Research Institute": Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, by Nancy MacLean. Professor Daniel Smith, its George Mason University-educated Director, is a very nice man who says the Institute's main mission will be to facilitate constructive interdisciplinary dialogue and debate on our campus. I hope so.

The Koch Foundation Gifts Another Grant In Exchange For … Nothing?

Middle Tennessee State University is the latest recipient of a grant from the foundation, which has a history of using such agreements to advance their political agenda.

In the midst of the Charles Koch Foundation financing a new institute at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), discussions over the controversial funding and its affect on the future of the school have arisen.

The Charles Koch Foundation recently gifted a $3.5 million startup grant to MTSU in order to help launch the new Political Economy Research Institute. The project was first announced by the university’s president, Sidney McPhee, in January 2017. The goal for the institute is to conduct research in order to better understand business and economic principles and how they impact regional, national and international public-policy issues.

In addition to encouraging undergraduate and graduate students to engage with faculty members, the foundation hopes to provide funding for permanent professional staff, research stipends, marketing and promotional resources and other necessary expenses to operate the foundation on an ongoing basis.

Over the last several decades, the Koch Foundation has made donations to approximately 350 colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. Polluterwatch, a database that lists every school that has received funding from the Koch Foundation, also includes the location of the school and the total contributions received.

The reason Polluterwatch tracks Koch donations, and the reason why controversy has arisen at MTSU following the announcement of the grant, is that critics of the Koch Foundation have accused the institution of trying to exert political influence through their donations. In fact, Polluterwatch offers a bevy of articles discussing the stipulations that come with receiving grant money from the institute.

Historically, Charles Koch and his brother, David, tend to find and fund conservative and libertarian organizations. As a result, students, faculty and local union members from MTSU have banded together to launch a campaign against the grant because they believe that the funding may be misleading and dangerous to the university... (continues)
Some quotes from  Democracy in Chains:

“Public interest has been subordinated to private interest, and when there is no clear distinction between them, it opens the door to endless opportunities for corruption.”

“Instead, he was mapping a social contract based on “unremitting coercive bargaining” in which individuals treated one another as instruments toward their own ends, not fellow beings of intrinsic value.”

“Those who subscribe to the libertarian philosophy believe that the only legitimate role of government is to ensure the rule of law, guarantee social order, and provide for the national defense. That is why they have long been fervent opponents of Medicare, Medicaid for the poor, and, most recently, Obamacare. The House budget chairman, Paul Ryan, has explained that such public provision for popular needs not only violates the liberty of the taxpayers whose earnings are transferred to others, but also violates the recipients’ spiritual need to earn their own sustenance.”

“Democracy,” the towering African American historian John Hope Franklin observed in the midst of World War II, “is essentially an act of faith.” When that faith is willfully exterminated, we should not be surprised that we reap the whirlwind. The public choice way of thinking, one sage critic warned at the time James Buchanan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is not simply “descriptively inaccurate”—indeed, “a terrible caricature” of how the political process works.

[James M. Buchanan] directed hostility toward college students, public employees, recipients of any kind of government assistance, and liberal intellectuals. His intellectual lineage went back to such bitter establishment opponents of Populism as the social Darwinists Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. The battle between "the oppressed and their oppressors," as one People's Party publication had termed it in 1892, was redefined in his milieu: "the working masses who produce" became businessmen, and "the favored parasites who prey and fatten on the toil of others" became those who gained anything from government without paying proportional income taxes. "The mighty struggle" became one to hamstring the people who refused to stop making claims on government.”

“Koch believed that what the famed economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction" was so critical to the health of the capitalist system that empathy was an obstacle to acceptance of the world that must be brought into being.”

“The anti-government rhetoric that continues to saturate our political life is rooted in [support for] slavery rather than liberty. The paralyzing suspicion of government so much on display today, that is to say, came originally not from average people but from elite extremists such as [John C.] Calhoun who saw federal power as a menace to their system of racial slavery.”

“Today the big lie of the Koch-sponsored radical right is that society can be split between makers and takers, justifying on the part of the makers a Manichaean struggle to disarm and defeat those who would take from them.”

“The same cannot be said of James Buchanan. His impact is still being felt today. For it was Buchanan who guided Pinochet’s team in how to arrange things so that even when the country finally returned to representative institutions, its capitalist class would be all but permanently entrenched in power.”

“Many liberals then and since have tended to miss this strategic use of privatization to enchain democracy, at worst seeing the proposals as coming simply from dogma that preferred the private sector to the public.”

Buchanan's scholarship, DS...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

6040 quiz Q&A June 20th

SG 3-4:
  1. “Prior to the Scopes trial, the ACLU did not display any particular interest in challenging government efforts to protect or promote religious beliefs.” After the new Tennessee statute, the ACLU began to question whether is violated freedoms and individual liberties in ‘the broader American society.” (p.60)
  2. 1917- to ‘defend conscientious objector and antiwar protesters.
  3. 12 different antiwar pamphlets
  4. To combat revolutionary radicalism
  5. ?
  6. “…a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evil that Congress has a right to prevent.” (p.66)
  7. “By demonstrations, publicity, pamphlets, legal aid, bail, test cases in court, financial appeals- by all these methods of daily service the friends of progress to a new social order make common cause.” (p.67)
  8. my question- see below
  9. The ACLU’s commitment to to defend the rights of organized labor
  10. The famed alleged religious censorship case Vanderbilt University v. Alexander Winchell
  11. Dayton’s promotional book responded with “Why not Dayton?” pointing out major events happen in obscure places, for example Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary.
  12. The majority, acting through the legislature, cannot define the tenets of science or religion for individual public school teachers or students
  13. “…we would still be hanging and burning witches and punishing persons who thought the earth was round.” (p. 103)

Pete’s questions:
1. Darrow regarded Christianity as a 'slave religion' p. 71
2. To serve as a national guild for university professors
3. “Whenever any such issue arises in any school or college described in this memorandum, those interested should write or wire the American Civil Liberties Union” “Aid will be furnished at once wither through local correspondents, consulting attorneys or direct from the New York headquarters. In important cases a representative will be sent to the scene of trouble.”
4. Psychological determinism

Don’s questions:
  1. Massachusetts Puritans
  2. To defend the right of public school teachers to free speech both inside and outside the classroom, and explicitly adopted AAPU’s conception of academic freedom.

My questions:

  1. Arthur G. Hays become the most influential lawyer on the ACLU executive committee. What was his mission? (p. 68)
  2. What did Cornell University president have to say about the Vanderbilt University v/ Winchell case? (p.77)
  3. What did George W. Rappleyea write to the Chattanooga Times in reference to Tennessee’s antievolution law? (p. 88)
  4. Name a couple ways Dayton prepared to house the influx of visitors to the city for the trial. (p.96)
  5. What was the projected estimated number of visitors to Dayton for the trial? (p. 105)

discussion question: What are you thoughts to Bryan’s stance that the taxpayers, being the majority rule, should in control of what is taught in schools? “The absurdity of this suggestion becomes apparent when the liberty is employed to teach anything that the taxpayers really object to.” (P. 104)

TM 7-11:
  1. A deep and real battle with authority
  2. Nathan Leopold was one of two people who kidnapped and murdered a boy jus to see if they could get away with it. He believed himself to be a Nietzschean superman, a man so superior to others that moral codes did not apply to him.
  3. Happiness
  4. A compound sense of failure

Don’ questions:
  1. Our Penal Machinery and Its Victims
  2. One day in her store she spotted some chewing gum on the floor. When she bent over to clean it up, a bunch of toys fell on her back, injuring her.
  3. Kicking the soccer ball with his father and feeling the intense joy of being done with his father, entirely in his focus.
  4. With all is allure, including speaking with an upper-class accent and voted Conservative, yet was a man who didn’t seem to quite fit in anywhere.

My Questions:
  1. How does Chapman describe his mother on page 101?
  2. According to the preacher Leland Frazier, what was the ‘jail preacher’ doing at his church? (p.111)
  3. In what way was Chapman describing the ‘violent criminals’ he came into contact with at St. Ann’s? (p. 118)
  4. Who where Chapman’s only friends in school? (p. 122)
  5. What did Chapman hit another student with that ultimately led to his leave from St. Ann’s? (P. 132)

Quiz June 27

We've not all been posting weekly essays and contributing to the quizzes. Do we need to take a bit more class time for that at the beginning, when we're not all tired and in a hurry to leave?

Skipping every 10 pages or so... but if you have a good question from elsewhere, post it.
SG 5-6
1. What "anti-democratic notion" did Nicholas Murray Butler accuse Tennesseans of perpetrating? (111) [jpo]

2. What did the president of Princeton "resent"? (121)

3. What became the prosecution's single-minded objective by the time of the trial? (131)

4. What pre-trial courtroom renovation was symbolic of the trial itself? (140)

5. With what kind of prayer did Scopes say the court opened? (150)

6. What local practice governed jury selection? (151)

7. To what main point did Prosecutor Stewart repeatedly return? (161)

8. [Sarah]



... (post more in comments)

TM 12-16
1. What was John Whitehead's millennial warning? (134) [jpo]

2. Why does Jim McKenzie think he survived being shot? (144) 

3. What daily courtroom routine did Darrow object to as "clearly prejudicial"? (154)

4. What kind of evil haunted Kurt Wise? (164)

5. Why did "no serious trouble" come of Chapman's truancy at boarding school? (174)

6. Chapman lost his faith in God at what age? (183)

7. What's Chapman's description of the Mountain Morning News? (193)

8. [Sarah]



...  (post more in comments)

  • Can a democracy balance majority sentiment with minority rights? Is a republican form of government capable of that result?
  • Any comment on the Vanderbilt scientist who was confident that Lamarck's theory was probably correct?
  • Will older people always and inevitably criticize the values (or lack therof) of younger people? Do you worry about becoming an "old fogey"?
  • Are you a fatalist? (Do you believe there's a proverbial "bullet" with your name on it?) Or do you think survivors are just lucky? Is there an evolutionary implication in your response?
  • Do we have to choose between science and religion, in order to maintain intellectual integrity and consistency? If not, are there still reasons why we should?
  • Should scientific witnesses like Winterton Curtis have been allowed to testify?
  • Was it good for America that the Scopes Trial received the huge worldwide publicity that it did? 
  • Why do you think the court was so blatant in endorsing Christianity (opening with a pointed prayer) and the prosecutor so peremptory ("We are not a heathen nation")? Could a Tennessee courtroom get away with that behavior today? 
  • Are you more disturbed by one or another form of "evil"? Are are they all equally problematic and challenging?
  • Philip Roth, the famed novelist who first gained attention with the onanistic "Portnoy's Complaint," died recently (I'm reminded by reading Chapman's account of his own such youthful obsessions). Why is this subject considered appropriately literary?

Congratulations! By being here, alive, you are one of history's winners -- the culmination of a success story four billion years in the making. The other 99 percent of species who have ever lived on earth are dead -- killed by fire, flood, asteroids, ice, heat and the cold math of natural selection. How did we get so lucky, and will we continue to win? In this short, funny talk, paleobiologist and TED Fellow Lauren Sallan shares insights on how your ancestors' survival through mass extinction made you who you are today... (transcript)
The questions of "heyall" and Satan came up in discussion last time. The religious scholar Elaine Pagels addresses the question of The Origins of Satan...

...and here's one teacher's interesting experience of encountering heated resistance when proposing the thought that Satan is metaphorical and mythical.

The more interesting issue to me, still, is Bertrand Russell's insistence (quoted last week) that it's immoral to believe in such a malevolent being and destiny for any of our fellow humans. We speak casually of going to hell, and frighten the daylights out of children in the process. To me, that's the ultimate sin.
Bart Ehrman on heaven & hell... "eternal life, for Jesus, Paul, and the earliest Christians, was a life lived in the body, not above in heaven, but down here, where we are now..."
Also mentioned again last time, "the missing link"-really a red herring, I think.

The concept of a "missing link" between humans and apes arose in the 19th century, when the fossil record was largely incomplete. Large gaps separated species, casting doubt on the theory of evolution. But in the last 130 years, a plethora of fossils have been discovered, greatly narrowing the gaps between species. The Australopithecus afarensis fossil known as "Lucy" is considered to be a key fossil bridging the gap between humans and primitive hominids.

  1. “What convinces masses are not facts, not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably a part.”
  2. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is...that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world — and the category of truth vs. falsehood is among the mental means to this end — is being destroyed.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Essay Jun 20

What are your thoughts on Bryan’s stance that the taxpayers, being the majority rule, should control what is taught in schools?

Who is most qualified to determine the curriculum that should be taught in public high schools. It is only because the question related to religious teaching that the Butler Act was passed. There was no objection to how Euclidean geometry, or Home Economics was taught. The decision on how to teach those was left to the teacher.

If a teacher is properly trained and certified to teach a course and has a prescribed textbook from which to teach, then the discretion should be entrusted to the teacher. The grey area presents itself when material is introduced which could be considered a violation of the U.S. Constitution and this would most likely be an issue with religious instruction. Imagine if a teacher in teaching religious studies instructed her students that the only correct religious book to consult was the Koran. That would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution and I have little doubt that that teacher would be challenged by Christian parents.

As for the majority to determine what should be covered in the class, the majority generally would not be well-informed enough to make a decision that would prepare the students for the next grade level or college. How many adults today would be knowledgeable enough about Physics or Chemistry to be able to determine what should be taught? A teacher who has trained in those disciplines would certainly be more qualified to teach the materials to the benefit of students.

Unfortunately, controversial issues will always be subjected to the reasoning that the majority because they pay taxes should be able to decide what and how a subject should be taught even as we noticed in Dayton, TN a percentage of the citizens were illiterate.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Too good not to share

The voice translator on my office phone converted a clear and simple query from Steve into this email:
Yes Dr. Oliver this is depressed gather me evolution clients listen I have a form that I need to get time from you just fine and form says that I registered late.
I don't think we need to fear AI subduing humanity anytime soon!



Wonderful essay by Nashvillian Margaret Renkl in this morning's New York Times:
There’s a story my husband has been telling for nearly 15 years, since not long after United States forces invaded Iraq. In a news report, American soldiers were going door to door with bomb-sniffing dogs, trying to persuade the citizens of Baghdad to adopt a well-trained pet.
Many Iraqis regard dogs as unclean, and American soldiers were making the case for rethinking that policy: Baghdad would be safer if dogs were housed throughout the city, sounding the alarm whenever an enemy tried to plant a roadside bomb in the night. Also, a dog will love you unconditionally.
The Iraqi homeowner in the story looked at the G.I. and shrugged. “Then you would be loved by a dog.”
My husband thinks this story is hilarious because it reminds him of the small-town Southerners and country people he grew up among — and also because it is so deeply at odds with the attitudes of suburban America, with its pet strollers and doggy day cares and canine pulmonologists. Iraqi soldiers would have no better luck persuading suburban Nashvillians to banish their dogs to the yard than American soldiers had in persuading Iraqis to invite a dog into the house... (continues)

Pita & Nell

Darwin understood Renkl's & my obsession. Those who errantly attribute to him a reductive view of animal nature as strictly cutthroat, "survival of the fittest, red in tooth and claw" etc., need to look more closely at his canine affections - as Emma Townshend does here:
When we become angry, we can see the same behaviour in a dog. When we love, said Darwin, we can see the same behaviour in a dog. When we dream, we can look at a dog twitching and yapping whilst it sleeps, and know that they are dreaming too...

Writing Center, fyi

The Writing Center is pleased to announce that we will have two groups meeting regularly over the summer. All meetings will take place in the Writing Center (James Walker Library 362)...

Our Creative Writing ​group will meet on Tuesdays at 2:00. This is a great opportunity for writers to receive feedback on all types of writing: poetry, fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, creative nonfiction, and whatever else they want to bring in.

If you know any students who would be interested in participating in these groups, please encourage them to attend. We will also have these same groups in the fall semester, so be on the lookout for the email announcing these groups again.

-The Writing Center.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Happy Fathers Day

Image result for its genetic i'm a dog cartoon new yorker

An interesting Fathers Day essay from John Kaag, in The Stone:
"...Parents are flawed or triumphant, but never exactly in the ways our children sometimes imagine. I wish, very much, that my father had been there to set the record straight, or at least to tame my fantasies and fears. I don’t want the whole truth (that, I am sure, is too much to ask), but a story that everyone can live with. This is what I want, at least for Becca..."
And see The Dreadful Dads of Existentialism...*

Me, then... and now.
Image result for the walking dadImage result for the walking dad

  1. “The most necessary thing in life is the tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbour, of which everyone stands in need, and which, therefore, every man owes to his fellow’”-thus spake dour Schopenhauer, who shoved his elderly neighbor down the stairs. “Dreadful” indeed.

  2.  with Clancy Martin in lead up to HIKING WITH NIETZSCHE (Sept. FSG)