Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

August 16, 2011

Platonism is useful only when it’s useful

Below John Farrell posted an amusing comment:

Razib, are you implying there was no clearly defined ‘ontological leap’ from the animal to the human??? I’m going to have to clear this with the CDF in Rome.

The figure to left illustrates the simultaneous encephalization of diverse hominin lineages over the past few million years. When I first saw this result it kind of blew me away. I had known that Neandertals had the largest cranial capacities of any hominins to walk the earth, but to see how many diverse groups exhibited a secular increase in volume over time is still something to behold. It also reminds us that our own conception of “us” vs. “them” in a deep and substantive manner may be somewhat illusory. This element of fiction doesn’t negate the utility of the concepts. There are constructs and ideas which are highly valuable in generating inferences and scaffolding models, which nevertheless collapse under closer scrutiny. But we shouldn’t forget that our concepts are only approximations on the real order of things.

This is important when we consider ideas such as “species.” Species is the taxonomic level which has ...

April 1, 2010

It’s complicated

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy of Science — Razib @ 12:36 am

Human genome at ten: Life is complicated (H/T Dr. Daniel MacArthur). This is one reason that economists are in more demand than historians in public life. Economics is reducible in a way that history is usually not, or at least historians tend not to be interested in doing. Also, the average economist is much smarter than the average historian, so they’re quicker on their feet with dense brevity (though subject matter does matter, the average physicist is much smarter than the average biologist, but physics is too abstruse and without the prominence of nuclear weapons/energy of less importance to the public).

Note: Before people yell at me about generalizations about intelligence, if you read this blog you do know that I really like history and biology. Just google GRE scores.


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