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Emptying Darwin’s waste basket: Brain errors

(Apologies for light news posting. Staff moonlighting. Back this evening.)

In an otherwise workmanlike story on false memories, we encounter the following passage:

According to another researcher, the errors the human brain makes can sometimes serve a useful purpose.

Sergio Della Sala, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, says it can be thought of in the following way. Imagine you are in the jungle and you see some grass moving. Humans are likely to panic and run away, with the belief that there could be a tiger lurking.

A computer, however, might deduce that 99% of the time, it is simply the wind. If we behaved like the computer, we would be eaten the one time a tiger was present.

This of course has nothing to do with false memory, nor is the caution most people display under the circumstances described in the story an example of error. Nor would it be seen to be such if we didn’t somehow have to drag “evolution” into the story, whether it makes any sense or not.

Maybe we should start calling that “emptying Darwin’s wastebasket.”

Embedded in this recent story is a vid of what happened when a guy tried getting really close to grizzly bears (hey, no one gets hurt, but you see why great caution around large wild animals is not an example of error and never ill-advised).

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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7 Responses to Emptying Darwin’s waste basket: Brain errors

  1. I agree that the inclusion of an example of false pattern recognition does seem a bit . . . odd. I suspect the reported was merely reporting what their source said.

    Anyway, including the next two paragraphs does help . . . a bit. But not that much:

    “The brain is prepared to make 99 errors to save us from the tiger. That’s because the brain is not a computer. It works with irrational assumptions. It’s prone to errors and it needs shortcuts,” says Prof Della Sala.

    False memories are the sign of a healthy brain, he adds. “They are a by-product of a memory system that works well. You can make inferences very fast.”

    But, I have to say, no where in the full article is evolution mentioned so I’m not sure why you brought it up.

  2. Of related note:

    Jerry Coyne Endorses Free Will (Inadvertently as You Might Expect) – Michael Egnor – September 29, 2013
    Excerpt: But still more remarkable is Dawkins’s next proposal — one that would have shocked Hobbes profoundly. Dawkins writes (In ‘The Selfish Gene’),
    “We can even discuss ways of cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism, something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world…. We have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”
    Hobbes would have pointed out pretty sharply that this is a metaphysical claim to a very strong form of free-will — a mental ability to resist physical causes. Moreover, he would have asked what could possibly be the motivation for trying to transform one’s own basic wishes so completely?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....77221.html

  3. H’mm:

    Lessee, 1 in 100 chance, tiger.

    Every day you cross that grass patch to water.

    Try this for a month.

    Odds of being safe all 30 times:

    (1 – 0.01)^30 = 0.74

    Odds of surviving a year 2.7%

    97% chance of being tiger breakfast, across a year.

    Not good.

    So, better safe than sorry looks like a rational response with odds and exposure like that.

    KF

  4. OT: 4 Year Old Boy Plays Piano Beautifully – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wW7cy4dVzA

    OK Darwinists this video has given me a new idea for a test for you guys! I’ll accept as proof for Darwinian evolution, instead of just showing me a single molecular machine being generated by Darwinian processes, I will now also accept, as proof for evolution, you guys showing me a monkey that can play music anything close to how the little boy plays music in the video.

  5. Well, monkeys banging on typewritiers can reproduce the works of Shakespeare, so Beethoven should be no problem either.

  6. OK Darwinists this video has given me a new idea for a test for you guys! I’ll accept as proof for Darwinian evolution, instead of just showing me a single molecular machine being generated by Darwinian processes, I will now also accept, as proof for evolution, you guys showing me a monkey that can play music anything close to how the little boy plays music in the video.

    What? Are you serious?

    How would that . .. oh never mind. It’s just too weird. But, it brings up a point.

    Since there is no main ID hypothesis then which viewpoints from the ID community should I take seriously?

  7. A thing to note is the importance of the memory and how it is the origin for error. Not mere thinking.
    I say the memory is the origin for all problems in human thinking because we have a soul which can not be affected by the material world. so we can’t get smarter or dumber based on our body’s impact on our thinking.
    I find myself often mis seeing things in the bush because of poor eyesight but really its quickly giving false patterns . A real pattern however for a few seconds..
    Eyesight possibly being just being processed by us in our memory.
    Thats why seldom or never is eyesight lost from problems inside the skull.

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