Re: Nothing beats science (was: This war is not about terror...)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 08:38:39 MDT

On Tue, Oct 09, 2001 at 07:06:31AM -0700, J. R. Molloy wrote:
> From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> > Science is a formalized tool that reflects a greater whole - for example,
> > the experimental method reflects (among other things) the Bayesian
> > Probability Theorem. I don't need magic to know whether or not I'm
> > happy. There's a certain subjective sensation I call happiness, and it's
> > not exactly hard to tell whether it's present, and at what intensity, and
> > why.
> In addition, since happiness correlates to serotonin and other neuromodulator
> hormone levels, it can be measured scientifically. Other emotions correspond
> to brain activity in specific regions. For example, love is coincident with
> activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, middle insula, putamen, and caudate
> nucleus. Consequently science can determine if one is in love by measuring the
> intensity of activity in these regions.
> See:

This is a serious oversimplification. If I saw a brain with activity in
those regions, I would say "this is a strongly emotional brain state,
likely pleasurable and fairly complex" - but I am pretty sure there are
many other mental states like that that would produce the same
activation pattern. Functional neuroimaging is still struggling to
become more than neophrenology. If a brain area is activated, that
merely tells you that this functionality is involved, not which function
of that functionality is active. If I could stimulate the above areas, I
would most likely get something far different from love (most likely a
kind of nausea experience with tremor) - what is required is stimulating
certain neural networks embedded within these regions, which we at
present cannot distinguish from the other networks dealing with other
emotions and actions.

Correlation is not equivalence: even if I with a high probability can
guess the right emotion from the activation pattern, that does not mean
the pattern *is* or corresponds to the emotion. It could simply be due
to a more subtle change somewhere else, causing both the emotion and the

As an emotion-interested neuroscientist I think we will one day
understand emotions scientifically: how do they work, why do we have
them, how will they be affected by different interventions and maybe
how this ties in with the phenomenology of emotion. But today we
are far from being able to say things like "happiness is serotonin".

> In further support of your comments, I'd add that since intelligence impels
> scientific methodology, intelligence may also decide when such methodology is
> not necessary to solve lesser problems.

Science was "invented" roughly 400 years ago. But we have had largely
the same intelligence for several hundred thousand years before that. So
I would disagree that intelligence impels science - science-like
thinking is part of intelligence, but turning it into an effective
system of thought is something else.
> Nothing beats science...
> What a great slogan! Would make a nice bumper sticker.

As an empiricist and Popper fan, I would say: Nothing beats science yet.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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