Moulton Lava

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

The HOLE Story

"Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance." —Albert Einstein.

The Four Keystone Kops of the Apocalypse are seen here chasing the bullet-ridden Fearless Fosdisk, the intrepid detective of a bygone comic book era.

Fearless Fosdick, with legendary epic failure, is thwarted at every turn, as he struggles in vain to tell The HOLE Story.

The HOLE Story is the story about this or that HOLE in our culture — a gap (or lacuna) that blocks progress in the Advance of Science and Civilization.

There is one HOLE in particular that is especially insidious. It's the one I call Humankind's Original Logic Error.

It's should come as no surprise that humans have a poor track record when it comes to mathematical reasoning and precision thinking. Even the best minds of mathematics have struggled to discover and correctly prove Mathematical Theorems (and to convincingly disprove False Conjectures).

There are a number of interesting mathematical notions that appear in the history of humankind's attempt to sort fact from fiction. Many of them have origins in Theology — a branch of study that predates the age of Scientific Theory and Mathematical Theorem.

"Theory" comes from the Greek, theoria, meaning, "I behold."

So what was the First HOLEHumankind's Original Logic Error?

Augustine of Hippo called it by a different name. He called it Original Sin (from the Latin, sin, meaning a mistake, or "missing the mark."). If you blithely and foolishly adopt this classic misconception, suggests Augustine, you must have a HOLE in your head.

But what, precisely, (and in modern mathematical language) was the actual error here?

Taboo or Not Taboo? That Is the Question.

In Genesis, the mistake was referred to metaphorically, as "eating the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." The warning (in Genesis 2:17) was that it's a deadly mistake to partake of the "Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."

The mistake arises because of mankind's predilection to dichotomize notions like Good and Evil into two binary categories (like Right and Wrong, OK and Not OK, Lawful and Unlawful). Such binary categories require Judgment as to which side of some presumptive bright line to classify some situation or event.

Error Function (in Blue) vs. 
Heaviside Switch Function
Dividing things into two binary categories is a tragic mathematical blunder, because there is a continuum between Saintly Good and Demonic Evil. Whenever there is a continuum, there needs to be a smooth and graceful continuous response, rather than a sudden switch from acceptance to rejection, or from tolerance to intolerance.

And so it's a subtle math error, to impose a binary function over the spectrum rather than to devise a graceful and continuous response function.

According to Simon Baron-Cohen (cousin of the comedian Sascha Baron Cohen), the function we are most in need of is the Empathy Function.

As to Humankind's Original Logic Error, I'll take "Or Else" for Twenty Quatloos, Alex.


Punishment and Violence: Is the Criminal Law Based on One Huge Mistake? by James Gilligan, Harvard University; published in the Journal of Social Research, Fall 2000.


Amazing Gradient

Amazing Gradient, such graceful curves,
That smoothed a wretched step.
It once was ragged but now it's smooth,
Was flat, but now, it glides.

T'was Gradients that taught...
My heart to soar.
And Gradients, my fears relieved.
How precious Gradients did appear...
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
We have already come.
T'was Gradients that brought us safe thus far...
And Gradients will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
As long as life endures.

When we've been here ten thousand years...
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
Than when we've first begun.

Amazing Gradients, such graceful curves,
That smoothed a wretched step....
It once was ragged but now it's smooth,
Was flat, but now, it glides.

CopyClef 2007 John Newton, Isaac Newton, and Barsoom Tork Associates.


Blogger Ringling said...

being shaped somewhat like a schmoo in my seniority, I resemble that remark... Fearless Fosdick was a great detective and would be a great Democratic senator

9:55 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

I suppose so. Al Capp did draw him with a HOLE in his head. :)

10:31 AM  
Blogger Nick K. said...

From Brain science's perspective, this HOLE is a result of the Left Linear Brain dominating the Right Parallel Brain. Why does it Dominate? For one thing - the effects of the Cultural Environment - ie - meta-programming of the human computer to Function in a way that utilizes Left Brain more often than Right. Some suggest that it also has biological origins, such as the food we eat. When we started domesticating animals and developed agriculture this had a huge effect on the type of food we ate, and as a result on our Brains.

7:41 PM  
Blogger themusicgod1 said...

Re: your empathy link

"This content has been removed as our copyright has expired."


10:35 AM  
Blogger themusicgod1 said...

also relevant:
the Cliff effect

10:36 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The term [cliff effect] is also used in economics for an unrelated phenomenon.

Yes, that's the context which applies here.

Note that Professor Gilligan's article is now available on JSTOR:

"Punishment and Violence: Is the Criminal Law Based on One Huge Mistake?" by James Gilligan, Harvard University; published in the Journal of Social Research, Fall 2000.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The Guardian article on the "Empathy Link" that had expired is still available from the Internet Archives of the Wayback Machine.

The Science of Empathy | Simon Baron-Cohen | The Observer

3:01 PM  

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