Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dennett on babies, chocolate cake, girls, and jokes

Here is a TED talk by Daniel Dennett (tip from Pharyngula). Its actually quite funny (though the theory of "funny" is not clear here - I guess we'll have to wait for the book). Enjoy!

2 comments:

ungtss said...

"Honey is sweet because we like it, not we like it because it is sweet." This is just equivocation -- a play on words. What does he mean by sweet? He doesn't define his terms.

But this play on words is no different from the question "if a tree falls in the woods with no one around, does it make a sound?" Per Dennett's reasoning, "the tree makes a sound because we hear it, not we hear it because it makes a sound."

Silly, of course. The tree causes the air to vibrate whether or not we're there to hear it. And glucose is chemically the same whether or not we're there to taste it.

In fact, if you tell me what ingredients go into a cake, I can tell you whether it's sweet or not without tasting it -- and test my prediction by tasting it. And be right.

Now he gets even more absurd when he tries to compare "sexy and funny" with design arguments, because they are fundamentally different. Funny and sexy are mere personal preferences, while design arguments rest on probabilistic interpretations.

In other words, he equates "I like hot dogs" to "I believe the accused killed the victim because X, Y, and Z evidence supports that conclusion." The first is based on personal feelings detached from evidence; the second (while fallible) is based on an interpretation of the evidence at least.

In the end, this video doesn't impress anyone who hasn't already drunk the kool aid. Sorry man.

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