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#31640 - 08/14/09 05:59 PM "Cognitive science"
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
The philosophical underpinnings of research in cognitive science have been criticized by philosophers and scientists alike. In a speech given shortly before his death, B.F. Skinner stated that "cognitive science is the creationism of psychology."

Any comments ?

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#31642 - 08/14/09 06:23 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
coberst Offline
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Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Skinner died in 1990. I suspect he was never familiar with SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science).


We have in our Western philosophy a traditional theory of faculty psychology wherein our reasoning is a faculty completely separate from the body. “Reason is seen as independent of perception and bodily movement.” It is this capacity of autonomous reason that makes us different in kind from all other animals. I suspect that many fundamental aspects of philosophy and psychology are focused upon declaring, whenever possible, the separateness of our species from all other animals.

This tradition of an autonomous reason began long before evolutionary theory and has held strongly since then without consideration, it seems to me, of the theories of Darwin and of biological science. Cognitive science has in the last three decades developed considerable empirical evidence supporting Darwin and not supporting the traditional theories of philosophy and psychology regarding the autonomy of reason. Cognitive science has focused a great deal of empirical science toward discovering the nature of the embodied mind.

The three major findings of cognitive science are:
The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

“These findings of cognitive science are profoundly disquieting [for traditional thinking] in two respects. First, they tell us that human reason is a form of animal reason, a reason inextricably tied to our bodies and the peculiarities of our brains. Second, these results tell us that our bodies, brains, and interactions with our environment provide the mostly unconscious basis for our everyday metaphysics, that is, our sense of what is real.”

All living creatures categorize. All creatures, as a minimum, separate eat from no eat and friend from foe. As neural creatures tadpole and wo/man categorize. There are trillions of synaptic connections taking place in the least sophisticated of creatures and this multiple synapses must be organized in some way to facilitate passage through a small number of interconnections and thus categorization takes place. Great numbers of different synapses take place in an experience and these are subsumed in some fashion to provide the category eat or foe perhaps.

Our categories are what we consider to be real in the world: tree, rock, animal…Our concepts are what we use to structure our reasoning about these categories. Concepts are neural structures that are the fundamental means by which we reason about categories.

Quotes from Philsophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson published 1999

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#31646 - 08/14/09 10:44 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: coberst]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
Skinner was no doubt nurturing the "sour grapes" residue from being attacked by Chomsky (Lakoff being eager to join the Chomsky bandwagon). However, what Skinner's behaviorism did attempt to do was to exorcise "the ghost in the machine" - the legacy of Descartes cogito. "Embodiment" merely resurrects that ghost whether or not it employs Darwin for the required "incantations". Reductionism of "mind" to "brain" does not lay the ghost because what "brain" is is defined by "mind" !

Alternative views, such as those of the phenomenologists take into account that "observation of observation" or "thinking about thinking" are subject to the same infinite regress as found in theological "creationism". This problem has been noted by biologists such as Maturana and before him Piaget, who predates Chomsky in his interest in "cognition". Piaget clearly pointed out that "logic" (as employed in empirical science) was a productof the development of human cognition and could not of itself be used in an explanation of cognition. In other words such "science" applied to "cognition" was equivalent to jello juggling with jello.

The situation was aptly summed up by Capra (in the Web of Life)when he describes "normal science" as an activity designed to "predict and control". The implication is that this is fine where "the observer" is "outside" the focus, but totally inappropriate where "the observer" becomes the object of focus. Capra reports that Maturana deflates "cognition" by moving it from its anthropocentric position concerning "language and thought" to being synonymous with "the general life process" for all life. But such a process cannot be described as proceeding in hypothetico-deductive terms like the "reasoning" of a mini-scientist. Such activity is reserved for the "observer realm" of humans chauvinistically attempting to control their world.

In short, what we call "science" is "anthropocentric reasoning" by another name.


Edited by eccles (08/14/09 11:39 PM)

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#31647 - 08/15/09 03:11 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Ellis Offline
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Regardless of the opposition to it, Skinner's basic work regarding behaviour modification techniques does unfortunately work.


Edited by Ellis (08/15/09 03:12 AM)
Edit Reason: grammar

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#31651 - 08/15/09 07:42 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Ellis]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
Ellis,

Yes, in limited situations concerning prediction and control, such as those where simple "rewards" and "punishments" can be manipulated. What behaviorism cannot explain is "pattern perception" i.e. the dynamic assignment of classification of "stimuli" to functional categories. This is why it doesn't work with language acquisition, because physically stimuli are never actually "repeated". Or to take the corollary of that, physically repeated stimuli can be assigned to different mental categories as in the graphemic..

T/-\E C/-\T (where /-\ represents a symbol between H and A)

... such physical "ambiguity" being resolved by "context".
But it is "context" itself which resists "scientific definition" for would be reductionists. The fact that massive computer power can perform fast autocorrelation manipulations of acoustic signals in order to have limited success at speech recognition in no way reflects on how the brain does it.

Despite claims to the contrary, nobody knows what neurons "do" because nobody can define "the doing". For some, "context" may even be indicatative of social functionality as in the organic holism of insect colonies. This is reflected by the fact that the differentiation of cells in biology cannot be adequately "physically described". Adequate (i.e. manipulative) descriptions require reference to the whole organism and beyond. "Categorization" (friend-foe, food-non-food) implies set-theoretic assignment in terms of "functionality", but for normal science that functionality is often as axiomatic as the "faith" of believers.


Edited by eccles (08/15/09 08:49 AM)

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#31667 - 08/17/09 03:31 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Ellis Offline
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eccles wrote:
"T/-\E C/-\T (where /-\ represents a symbol between H and A)"

I fail to understand your point here. Surely all the symbols have to be mutually agreed upon beforehand, and this little puzzle would have no validity in Chinese-- or, perhaps I have missed your point.

Also I disagree completely that behavioural techniques cannot work with language acquisition. They can and they do, though it is very intensive and specific work.

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#31672 - 08/17/09 11:42 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Revlgking Offline
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Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Originally Posted By: eccles
... before his death, B.F. Skinner stated that "cognitive science is the creationism of psychology."...

Creationism? Did he use this word? If, so, did he intend to avoid saying "creation"?

Ellis, you say, "...I disagree completely that behavioural techniques cannot work with language acquisition. They can and they do, though it is very intensive and specific work."

Question: Are you saying that people who are fully conscious can be brainwashed?
Like in the movie, The Manchurian Candidate?


Edited by Revlgking (08/17/09 11:55 AM)
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#31673 - 08/17/09 12:01 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Ellis]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
The point is that we automatically interpret physically ambiguous items by drawing on higher level context. This is even more the case in speech which due to speed of presentation often "misses" phonetic targets. (THE CAT is a well known example in writing)

Chomsky's attack on Skinner was based on the fact that behaviourism involved the concept of reinforcement of specific stimuli. A child in essence produces most of its language by mere immersion in in a whole plethora of linguistic variations mostly in "non-reinforcing" situations. A simple example is that pitch varies between speakers of the "same" word. The question that cannot be answered by behaviourists is how a child for example discounts pitch as being significant in English (and not say in Chinese). Furthermore behaviourists had no explanation for the child's ability to generalize grammatical rules, like the -ed suffix for past tense as in "I jump/I jumped" and the "wrong" "I run/ I runned". Chomsky's argument was that such generative competence was "wired in" and had nothing to do with reinforcement techniques.

Now it may be the case that "behaviour therapy" can be applied with limited success in cases of communication disorders such as those of autism, but whether such therapy has any "theoretical status" is an open question. It could merely be a matter of "attention giving". A parallel could be drawn with the theoretical basis for "psychoanalysis" given that there as as many "cures" by parish priests as there are by "analysts".


Edited by eccles (08/17/09 12:06 PM)

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#31675 - 08/17/09 12:15 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
Revigking,

The quote was from Wiki, but irrespective of its authenticity my posts above should clarify the problems of infinite regress in so-called "cognitive theories". Such a regress is of course the sticking point involved with "how the creator was created".

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#31676 - 08/17/09 01:04 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Revlgking Offline
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Eccles, what is your science?

"A parallel could be drawn with the theoretical basis for "psychoanalysis" given that there as as many "cures" by parish priests as there are by "analysts"." Interesting comment. I call what I do "pneuma-analysis". Using what I--probably acting as a kind of "witchdoctor"--call "pneumatherapy" did things for people which led them to wholeness of spirit and mind and often to wholeness of body. I am still involved doing pneumatherapy.

Have you read THE MIND GAME--Witchdoctors and psychiatrists (1972), by the psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey--National Institute of mental Health (USA). Based on personal research he and others have done, in parts of the world where there are very few western-trained psychiatrists--in some areas there are none--just witchdoctors or shamans, he concludes that they often get better results than we do in the west.

In the concluding pages of his book Torrey calls psychotherapy the "second oldest profession". An advocate of professional humility he calls on us to drop our western arrogance and open our minds to new ways of thinking and getting things done.

BTW, eccles, what is your theology?



Edited by Revlgking (08/17/09 02:54 PM)
Edit Reason: So as to communicate
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31677 - 08/17/09 03:56 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Revlgking]
eccles Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
I define myself as an atheist with holistic spiritual sympathies (like Richard Harris). Organized religions may be superficially beneficial at a psychological level, but pernicious at a social level. "Science" is basically "what scientists do" to predict and control their perceived "reality". This involves paradigmatic networks underpinned by mathematical models. Such models focus attention or define "valid data". From a holistic standpoint science as "control" is essentially limited because it is selective.


Edited by eccles (08/17/09 03:59 PM)

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#31683 - 08/18/09 06:20 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 1490
Loc: Australia
eccles- The employment of the behavioural techniques of Skinner is the only way that some people will learn anything- ever. In the case of autism especially the results, which can be stunning*, and to dismiss it as attention-seeking is really nonsense. For a person with autism the last thing in the whole universe that he/she wants is to have attention drawn to him/her. You would have more chance of success by building a promise to ignore into the programme.

It is true that while we initially learn a language as a baby we effortlessly can learn any language at all. I have a bi-lingual son-in-law who has also learned 3 other languages to fluency as an adult. We all know of people like that, obviously there is something about learning a language as a child that is very different from doing so as an adult, where unless we live in the country concerned, we will employ the techniques of Skinner rather than those of Chomsky.

This is an argument that continues, and the theory that language is learned by immersion in everyday life has been responsible for the perceived belief that children nowadays can't spell or write coherent prose. Certainly the behaviourists have not won the first round!

* OK I know that is unscientific!

Oh and welcome eccles- as a thinking atheist!


Edited by Ellis (08/18/09 06:22 AM)
Edit Reason: could not resist saying "Hello eccles!"

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#31685 - 08/18/09 07:20 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Ellis]
eccles Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
ellis,

Thanks for the welcome!

Just to clarify, I did not talk of attention seeking, only of attention giving.The point being that it may simply "social therapy" which is operating with autistics rather than the specifics of behaviourist theory...hence my parallel reference to priests versus psychoanalysts. Also Chomsky carefully avoided any involvement in language performance, and talked only of "competence". He was tying to encapsulate the universal structure common to all languages which might shed light on "common brain wiring". ( I seem to remember that original research was funded by AI/military sources)


Edited by eccles (08/18/09 07:35 AM)

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#31688 - 08/18/09 12:24 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Revlgking Offline
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Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 2311
Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Originally Posted By: eccles
I define myself as an atheist with holistic spiritual sympathies (like Richard Harris). Organized religions may be superficially beneficial at a psychological level, but pernicious at a social level....
Interesting comment. And to reiterate Ellis, "welcome eccles- as a thinking atheist!"

Which prompts me to ask, seriously: When atheists think about non-existing gods, or "God", what do they imagine them, him, her, or it, to look like?

I am always more than happy to share what I have in mind, my imaginings, with anyone.

BTW, eccles, I am still not sure what kind of science you do.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31693 - 08/18/09 05:13 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Revlgking]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
I used to "do" psycholinguistics.

My atheism has nothing to say about "the nature of a God". I can discuss "it" as a concept in which the self-integrity of others is involved, but it has no functional or ontological status with respect to my self-integrity.

And even if we attempt to take a transcendent step which dissipates "selves" (mine or others), the ensuing "holistic consciousness" has no properties such as "purpose", "goodness" or "creativity" which some might anthropomorphically ascribe to that entity.


Edited by eccles (08/18/09 05:46 PM)

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#31698 - 08/18/09 10:29 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Revlgking Offline
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Registered: 01/17/07
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Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Originally Posted By: eccles
I used to "do" psycholinguistics.
Which is? ...Are you now retired?

Quote:
My atheism has nothing to say about "the nature of a God".
But theism is about "the nature of God (theos)", isn't it? If it isn't, why do atheists even mention that they are atheists?

BTW, when a fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian talks to me about God, and asks me: "Do you believe in God?" and, "Have you asked Him to save you from your sins?" I have, in my mind, a pretty good idea of what he has in his mind.

He is out to convince me God is an objective and human-like person who lives in space and time as do we human beings.

Here is how I usually, with respect, respond to fundamentalists: "The next time you are talking to God, if you will arrange to have Him give me a call and come and see me, I will be glad to chat with Him. If He proves to be as real as you say that He is, I will be very pleased to accept all the salvation available."

At this point I usually offer fundamentalists the opportunity to dialogue, theologically.

Usually, that is the last time certain of God's messengers seek to save me.

Let's think of the following question as being part of a study in sociology:

Eccles, how do you respond when Christian fundamentalists try to save you?
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31699 - 08/18/09 11:54 PM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Revlgking]
eccles Offline
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Registered: 04/17/09
Posts: 149
I dropped experimental research in the 70's but tutored for the UK Open University for several years. I am now semi-retired but involved in school management part-time.

Fundamentalists don't often try to "save me" but when they do I put it to them that they are really only interested in self-reinforcement and their "celestial brownie point score". Also, if it makes them feel better they are welcome to classify their encounter with me as one with "Satan".

A line I might take in future encounters might be "How do you feel about being complicit in 9/11 ?" (the Richard Harris view of religious moderates who reify "an afterlife").

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#31702 - 08/19/09 01:35 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: eccles]
Revlgking Offline
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BTW, on topic: Since 'cognition' is about the act of knowing; perception and awareness, is there any such thing as a non-cognitive science? I can't imagine that there is.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31703 - 08/19/09 04:39 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Revlgking]
Ellis Offline
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Rev asks ......."why do atheists even mention that they are atheists?"

Usually because people who believe in god ask them!!

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#31706 - 08/19/09 06:20 AM Re: "Cognitive science" [Re: Ellis]
Revlgking Offline
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Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Originally Posted By: Ellis
Rev asks ......."why do atheists even mention that they are atheists?"

Usually because people who believe in god ask them!!

==================================================
Ellis, let's continue to have some fun and let's talk about pink elephants.

Ellis, I can imagine a pink elephant. Most people can. Can you?

As an artist, I can even draw and paint one for you. If I got drunk enough, I could probably see many pink elephants laugh

But would this make anyone "believe" and trust that pink elephants are real elephants? Not me! I am an apinkelephanist. And, I trust, so are you.

Michaelangelo imagined God, and he drew a picture of Him--the kind of god probably he and the majority of the people of his day believed in. I love his art, But again I say: This would not make me believe there is a real god-person behind the picture. I am an apicturist. Are you?

Total reality which I call G0D--note the acronym--is a far greater phenomenon than any human can capture with the puny human imagination. This is why I use the acronym.

So atheists: use your imaginations and draw and/or describe for for us the kind of image you "think" of when you hear the word gods, or God. I am almost certain that I will be happy to join you and put an 'a'--the Greek for not--in front of it.

What I will not do is join you if say 'a' to that which is total, universal and all-encompassing reality--for which I use the short form G0D.

I cannot accept that nature is nothing more than a total and meaningless illusion; that one day, we human beings--temporary accidental freaks of nature--along with the totality of nature, are headed for oblivion and the abyss of nothingness.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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