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Evolution Machine Accelerates Genetic Engineering

sammysheep Not without cost (161 comments)

When you select for resistant bacteria growing in the presence of antibiotics, there is usually a fitness tradeoff for that resistance. Suppose now instead that we have some virus-resistant organism we've engineered. This means all the virus receptors on the surface of the cell no longer bind virus particles, and if you've done this for *many* virus receptors, then you've mutated a lot of cell-surface proteins. I can't imagine this would go without fitness cost.

On the other hand, from studying influenza I can say that viruses evolve much faster than we do and if a variant (maybe adapted to another host) or subtype emerges that can bind your receptor anyway, then in effect you've selected out variants but not stopped the virus. Getting regular vaccines are still the way to go on this, IMO.

about 3 years ago

Bombay High Court Rules Astrology To Be a Science

sammysheep Mod parent down. (478 comments)

Since when did article postings come with gratuitous flamebait in addition to the link/info? Oh wait, this is slashdot..

more than 3 years ago

1948 Mayor To MIT: Use Flamethrowers To Melt Snow?

sammysheep Unreasonable Use of Force (203 comments)

That's like trying to use a frickin' flamethrower to melt snow....oh wait. :D

more than 3 years ago

Percentage of New Years resolutions I have kept:

sammysheep My New Year's Resolution Paradox. (177 comments)

My resolution is: "Successfully help prevent *someone* from accomplishing their New Year's Resolution."

I refuse to help prevent *anyone else* from accomplishing their New Year's resolution.

Hence I am helping prevent someone (myself) from accomplishing their own New Year's resolution.

But if I successfully help prevent myself from accomplishing my New Year's resolution, then I have accomplished my New Year's resolution (I am someone).

But if I have accomplished my New Year's resolution, then I wasn't actually successful in helping prevent someone's (me or anyone else) New Year's resolution.

Thus, I have successfully helped prevent my New Year's resolution...and recurse!

Embrace the paradox. Happy 2011!

more than 3 years ago

Google Patents Browser Highlight All Button

sammysheep In particular, (150 comments)

it is high-lighting all terms in all documents received from an internet search. How is that the same as a "highlight all button?" Whatever the case, highlighted searches have existed for a while, so why should this be patentable just because they batch the highlighting to all search results in a "network search"?

more than 3 years ago

Kentucky Announces Creationism Theme Park

sammysheep I didn't know that... (648 comments)

Kentucky had tourism. :-) I do however like their scenery as I have driven from Ohio to Florida or Atlanta.

more than 3 years ago

'Officer Bubbles' Sues YouTube Commenters Over Mockery

sammysheep Consequences of the Internet (594 comments)

Many will agree that this lawsuit was a poor response. However, it does prompt in my mind the power of the internet to hold in eternity the funniest, nastiest, and unluckiest moments of our lives. Many will say, "Good, he deserves it." But think about what this means generally: your mistakes can be immortalized in such a way that you may pay for them even after a long time has passed and even if you've apologized or repented of your actions. You can even be threatened and abused via e-mail. (Notwithstanding, it looks doubtful this fellow has done the former and purportedly he has received the latter.)

In brief, the internet + video can make the consequences of our actions much larger than they would otherwise be, and perhaps, disproportionately so.

more than 3 years ago

Micro-Transactions Coming To Team Fortress 2 Via Steam Wallet

sammysheep Quick Question (161 comments)

Are these items merely cosmetic (a la some blizzard promos) or do they actually confer advantage? If the latter, I could see this going in the direction of games like Magic the Gathering, where having more money IRL means you have a better chance of buying better cards and therefore winning. I'd hate to see an FPS video game go in that direction, since it's a very different genre than a collector's trading card game..

more than 3 years ago

Media Loves Apple and Its Army of Fans

sammysheep Now remember kids! (356 comments)

Negative attention is better than no attention!
-Apple (remembering Antenna-gate)

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

I really don't understand the relevance. This doesn't seem to have anything to do with the discussion about absolute morality.

We are starting to go in circles so I will try to stop after this. I have not been trying to prove God or absolute morality to be true but only that the original "God is unjust to judge people" argument was a non-credible one.

My appeal to objectivity was a part of my aforementioned two-part argument. Similar to mathematical proof, if we suppose proposition Y given X, and X may assume two mutually exclusive states (say X1, X2), we have to prove Y given X1 or Y given X2 is true. If I want to show Y is not true, I have to show Y given X1 and Y given X2 are both faulty. Y was the original argument. X is morality. X1 is subjective/non-absolute morality. X2 is absolute morality. I have assumed both states of X for the sake of argument.

That is just a belief. There is no evidence that absolute morality exists. And isn't it a bit odd for someone who claims to publish in scientific journals to not hold all his thought to the same standards? You accept that evidence is required in one case, but not the other?

First, I think it is a misconception that belief comes without evidence or reason. To the contrary, people believe in what makes sense to them, although one's reasoning or evidence may be faulty. If I am convinced by the evidence for God--and to be sure it is reason not credulity that frames my beliefs--then absolute morality is just a logical conclusion based upon my God hypothesis.

As for empirical evidence, it is admittedly only suggestive that people ubiquitously try to define a morality of some kind for themselves since I can come up with other reasons for this phenomena, such as a "group survival mechanism." However, this does not preclude God from setting morality in place for our survival as well. So yes, people want to be "moral," whatever reason you ascribe to it.

Thank you for the discussion. I think I've learned better about atheist thought than before.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

So? We can try to make the judgment objective (does the person violate the rules), but the rules/morals are entirly subective. For example, if the rule is "it is wrong to kill", that rule is subjective. But the judging will be objective: Did he kill? If yes, then he is guilty of violating the subjective rule.

Great point. I agree completely in that sense. But it doesn't change the fact even if I have a subjective rule set, if I am the one being judged, I do not get to make objective statements about myself even if I had potential to be objective. This is about what is considered to be credible, not merely possible. People are not good at being objective when it comes to themselves or people they like, even if the rules happen to be arbitrary.

For example, why are slashdot moderators biased in this very thread? More importantly, why did the creators of slashdot come up with an intricate system in the first place to limit moderator abuse? People are self-interested and are not credible when judging themselves or even judging people they like or agree with, myself definitely included, so we keep looking for something more objective than ourselves.

Exactly! Times change, and morals with them. My point exactly. They are subjective. No such thing as objective morals.

If we are the only measuring stick out there, and there is no God, I fully accept your premise.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

there is not a single shred of evidence for the existence of god, but in fact there is a whole lot of evidence against the monotheistic god(s).

We disagree.

Richard Dawkins has said that he is open to actual evidence of God's existence, so he places himself on a 6

I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are open-minded, so that is helpful to know.

People can't even agree on how to interpret the bible (the claimed word of God). So even if he did exist, we wouldn't be even close to absolute morality on earth. Everyone would be fighting over what God tells them to do. And in fact, lots of people are already doing that, and blowing each other up in the name of their version of the deity.

One premise is that truth exists regardless of whether people agree on it. If God does exist and His will is the definition for absolute morality, then it doesn't matter if people agree on what He said, the truth is still out there and may one day become more clear.

I can tell you whenever I am being peer-reviewed in a scientific journal, the interpretation of each reviewer on my findings are often at odds with me or with each other. It's actually expected and helpful, because it refines things. Given enough evidence, the hope is that the truth will become self-evident to everyone, and so will vindicate those who held on to it at first.

Morality isn't that different, if such a thing as absolute morality is out there, which I believe it is. The fact that we disagree in this area as well as others is to me just a part of what makes us human: we're finite, we make mistakes, we have to analyze and revise things, we like our own way, and learning is a process. I believe that truth, even if our perceptions of it change, does not change. The fun of life is searching for it, in whatever area you love.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

What difference does it make? You can judge yourself all you want, but people with power will also judge you. No god needed

My proposition was focussed on the observation that we seek objectivity in judgement. In particular, when it matters, we avoid self-judgement and use impartial third-parties--juries and/or judges--within our legal system to get this kind of objectivity.

If we suppose God does exist (I know you do not, but you do for the sake of argument) and we want to tell Him His judgements on us are wrong and unfair, we would require His kind of objectivity to be able to say so with certainty that He was wrong.

Why is it easier for us to look back in history and see that what people were doing seemed wrong and dastardly? We judge them by our moral values--rightly or wrongly but perhaps more quickly than with ourselves. Why? Because in ourselves we have to compete with our desires, our interests, and our justifications. Even if our moral values are subjective, others things frankly do get in the way and make us do less than what we ourselves believe in. That's being human I suppose. But if there were a perfect judge for humanity, it wouldn't be us, it would be Someone who has the purity and omniscience and objectivity to do so. Those who believe call Him God, those who don't call it wishful thinking.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

For what statement to have absolute meaning? Why do we need an absolute definition of "badness"?

That's an excellent question, why do we *need* absolute morality? I don't claim great wisdom, but one use for absolute morality might be to avoid confusion as well as mediate between self-interested parties with competing definitions of morality. As you touched on, perhaps this helps lead people to a higher degree of "good" that wouldn't have been obvious to all parties.

Within argument, I think we need absolute definitions inasmuch as we want to make absolute statements such as: X is always true. I assume atheists are making absolute statements when they make arguments against God, but perhaps all they really mean is, "For all I can see, there is no God." If that is the case, I would be interested to know, because making such a definitive statement would require a certain amount of omniscience attributed only to you-know-who (not Lord Voldemort).

Even people within the same culture won't agree on what's good and bad.

I was merely assuming a definition of "meaningful." In truth I fully agree with you that people disagree all over the place and am not trying to demonstrate God exists by saying "everyone agrees on morality." They don't. They do tend to agree there is such a thing as morality, just not what it is in particular.

My definition of absolute morality; however, is based on what God considers "good" or "evil", not as we prefer it. I readily admit though that understanding what God precisely means by righteousness takes up the better half of religious study, and failure to understand Him (or listen) has resulted in people doing dastardly things in His name.


Sorry I don't write more clearly. I just mean it can't be used as a proof. In any case, thank you for the thoughtful response.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

No, I don't assume "bad" to be meaningless. I am pointing out that it is subjective. And if an imaginary being does something in a fairy tale I think is bad, I can point out how I think it is bad. And that means that if you do indeed believe that the fairy tale is true, then the imaginary being you blindly believe in has committed acts I find to be bad.

This seems to be an important part of your argument, so I won't ignore it. I see your point and it is well-taken.

The difficulty I face is this: if you see something as bad, morally speaking, but I can define bad myself subjectively, then the bad that is meaningful to you won't necessarily be so to me. If we agree on some definition of badness, it will have some meaning to both of us but perhaps not a third person. For your statement to have cultural meaning we need a cultural definition of badness (for our people). For it to have universal meaning we need to have a universal definition of badness (for all peoples). For your statement to have absolute meaning, we need an absolute definition of badness (for all times).

Which kind of badness are you appealing to? If I adopt your definition of morality, your calling God bad may indeed be meaningful to me; but for logical proof, it is "meaningless" because of it's subjectivity. I don't deny the rhetorical value of your statement if we happen to share our definitions of badness, but the argument doesn't escape its own subjectivity.

In brief: if morality is subjective then moral objections against a story of God are subjectively meaningful.

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

"Self-judgement" means to evaluate oneself critically. In other words, to be both judge and defendant. Depending on the thing being judged, this process may or may not be appropriate.

The comments appeared to be railing at God, and that was what didn't make sense to me, but since you say this is not the case, I must work harder to understand your perspective next time before answering. Apologies.

A final note: I was not trying to prove God exists by assuming He created morality and then showing that our having morals must mean that God exists. I made a vague reference to this argument as cliche in my first comment. Instead, I was trying to show that arguments against God on the basis of calling Him immoral are fundamentally flawed, as they collapse under the weight of either starting assumption for a moral system. I don't think I can prove God to anyone; however, I can show that certain arguments are not as helpful as they appear.

Kinds regards. - S^3

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

Forgive me for the false dichotomy, allow me rephrase: to what degree is the universe and life is formed by stochastic mechanistic processes and/or by organized intelligence?

more than 3 years ago

Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

sammysheep Re:But what created the law of gravity? (1328 comments)

The idea of appealing to transcendence is not unique to Christian thought.

Scientists have hypothesized multiverse models to explain the formation of the known universe. The multiverse, except for our part of it, is beyond the scope of our ability to test directly. A multiverse can be considered "transcendent" because it is beyond our universe and may not be governed by the same physical laws in every respect.

As a side note, the transcendence and *imminence* (being near) of God are both present throughout the Bible and well-understood by theologians.

In any case, I find the" who created God versus what created the multiverse/universe" question to be too rhetorical. A more concrete question is: when we observe what is not transcendent, does it seem that the universe and life is formed by stochastic mechanistic processes or by organized intelligence?

Kind regards.

more than 3 years ago


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