stuff seen in Science

There's been a few items in Science the last two weeks that are potentially philosophically interesting:

[This week]
1. Rats can learn rules and then generalize them to new, different situations to a degree that people previously thought was confined to humans or at least primates.

2. Two smells that are initially indiscriminable to a human can, with painful conditioning, be made discriminable. (The initial indiscriminability was not just in terms of verbal reports of conscious states; the scientists did fMRIs on the patients too.)

[Last week]
3. After your basic needs are met, having more money does not make you much happier (that's been known for a while); however, giving that money away instead of spending it on yourself does have a significant effect on your (self-reported) happiness.

4. One of my favorite biologists, G√ľnter Wagner, argues that pleiotropy (one gene having several effects) is actually not as significant as once thought (philosophers of biology have used pleiotropy to argue for various points).

Of course, this is just the bumper-sticker version of each of these claims; the actual positions will be more sophisticated, and require various caveats. Nonetheless, it seems like each of these studies could merit philosophical attention.


At 12/4/08, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why bother with scientific claims? its inability to justify itself will leave any philosophical conclusion based on it unjustified. so, why bother?


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