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Old 13th October 2010, 03:02 PM  
Earthborn
Terrestrial Intelligence
 
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Join Date: Aug 2001
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Let's look at an analogy. Can one use the scientific process to determine intelligence?
No, one cannot. "Intelligence" is not a scientifically meaningful term, but a subjective value judgement on how clever you think a person is.

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Someone who does not have an IQ allowing the ability to read is clearly not as intelligent as the computer genius who developed Facebook.
Most IQ tests require reading ability, so it is not that a person can't read because s/he has a low IQ, rather has a low IQ because s/he can't read the questions in the test. For IQ tests that don't require literacy, there is still the issue that they test only a limited number of a person's mental capacities. A person might be highly gifted in capacities that the test designers subjectively chose not to include in the test. And the test designers have also subjectively chosen which sort of answers score as "gifted".

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Can one make a value judgement who is more intelligent here based on observed evidence?
Only subjectively.

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Can we make a value judgement who is happier here (provided we analyze sufficient data previously established as a measure of happiness)?
Subjectively, because we decided subjectively which properties are a measure of "happiness".

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Can we study features of perceived beauty, determine which are consistent across cultures, not determined by cultural influence and make a value judgement on what humans naturally perceive as beautiful?
No, we cannot. There is no such thing as "human nature" that can be distinguished from cultural influence, as everything humans do is influenced by culture. As cultural anthropologists have always said "human culture" = "human nature". You might as well put a fish on the moon to test how it "swims naturally" without the "influence of water".

When it comes to appreciating beauty, there are certainly ideas about beauty that are widely shared among different cultures, but this does not prove they are not determined by cultural influence. It might just as easily mean that some cultural memes have a lot of staying power and originate in the culture that our common ancestors in Africa had. Or they might have spread through cultural exchange.

Let's also not forget that while different cultures may have -- on average -- ideas about beauty in common, they also have many individuals all having their own ideas of what is beautiful.

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What people don't always recognize is that morality, love, beauty and so on are just as naturalistic as anything else which is a function of the human brain.
In other words, just as naturalistic as God, the Tooth Fairy and pixiedust, which are functions of the human brain.

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But would you make the claim determining 'hot' is outside the realm of science?
Yes, I would make that claim. Science can tell me the temperature, but it cannot tell me whether I should consider it hot or not. That would be a subjective value judgement.

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It may be that you end up with a range of "ought" rather than clear black and white "oughts". But there is a range of 'hot' as well.
A range that can shift very dramatically with the circumstances. 26 degrees Celsius is pretty hot for the Artic winter, but downright chilly for the equator. 3000 degrees Celsius isn't hot for the surface of a star, but it is too hot for an oven. If the ranges of moral behaviour are similarly flexible, morality is useless.

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My point is, if you are going to make the claim something is outside the realm of science, then tell us what that outside is. Is it some function that is not within the biological processes of the brain? Pixie dust? Invisible sky daddies? Magic?
That "outside" is pretty much the same place "Pixie dust", "Invisible Sky Daddies" and "Magic" inhabit. It is a place intimately familiar to everyone of us, a place everyone of us knows better than what is inside the realm of science. You might call it "memespace" or "culture", it consists of the narratives we tell each other. And it is not really a place.
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