Saturday, October 24, 2009

American religious allegiances diversify, jumble

Among the new findings of the National Opinion Research Center, Americans are in an illogical jumble:
Nonetheless, belief in God has slipped a little, and more Americans, though still believing, acknowledge some uncertainty about God’s existence. A growing number of Americans no longer identify themselves with any particular religious group. Those who do belong are less likely to say they are strong members. Regular attendance at religious services has declined, and the numbers never worshiping have increased.

Yet more Americans believe in a life after death and pray daily than in the 1970s. And to complicate things, most of these trends have had their ups and downs, leaving open the possibility of future spurts or reversals.

The NORC also claims there's only a weak correlation between science knowledge/study and irreligion:
“In sum,” the report says, “the proposition that science leads people in general and scientists in particular away from religion is only weakly supported by the available evidence.”

Problem here, though. It appears the study did NOT differentiate between Ph.D. scientists and those at a lower level. Many, many other studies have indicated Ph.D. achievement DOES correlate pretty strongly with lessened religious belief.

In other interesting findings, in post-Communist Eastern Europe, belief levels are dramatically different from country to country.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

AI, computers, minds, algorithms, evolution, Dennett

If even artificial intelligence advocates have largely abandoned the idea that AI is ultimately algorithmic, it’s time to question a lot of related assumptions, some of which I already have.

First, the human mind, then, is clearly not algorithmic. And, it’s likely even less algorithmic than a computer.

Second, being “kludged” together by evolution, it’s most surely not a black box, like a modern software program, routine, or subroutine.

Third, running off that point, contra Dan Dennett, evolution is most assuredly not algorithmic, either, as I’ve said before.

Fourth, the Turing test, as stipulated by Alan Turing himself, was NOT about whether a machine could think, but about whether a machine could simulate thinking. In other words, in modern philosophy terminology, Turing was a functionalist, as is Dennett (on this issue, at least), even as he continues to deny it.

Anyway, read the full story linked above.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A serious look at anxiety

The NYTimes mag has a long story, focused on the work of Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan, of much of our current knowledge about anxiety.