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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helping Our Fragile Cousins - The Bonobos

I've been a loyal reader of Bonobo Handshake, Vanessa Wood's spectacular blog on her Bonobo research in Africa. Bonobo's are apes similar to Chimpanzee's in DNA but very different in behavior. Bonobos and Chimps were separated approximately 2 million years ago and have taken slightly different evolutionary paths. Bonobos, Chimps and Humans share a common ancestor and they are both the closest living relatives to Humans.

What makes Bonobos different from Chimps is that they are way less violent (they do not kill each other), they use sex as a form of communication, conflict resolution and for just plain old fun. They live in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and sadly there are only approximately 5000 of them left. Local Congolese hunt them for meat largely because of hunger. Due to war and chaos in the region there has been no local effort to protect the Bonobos. Protecting the Bonobos requires local support because of the Malaria infested areas of the remote jungle that they live in.

Claudine Andre founded Lola ya Bonobo, a forest sanctuary, to protect orphan Bonobos (orphaned when their parents are killed for meat). I have wanted to adopt a Bonobo for over a year now and a few days ago I adopted Kataco aka Kata. What the heck... let's make it in celebration of Darwin's birthday!!

Humane research is done on the Bonobo's at the sanctuary and they are working on a program to release them into the wild. As this will be needed in the future if their numbers dwindle.

For a breath-taking video on the abilities of Bonobo's check out this video on TED by Susan Savage.

Look how cute the baby Bonobos are... can you resist helping them?

By Peter

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Human Bias

People believe because they can think of the concept of an omniscient agent that we must only question whether an omniscient agent exists and not consider the more fundamental question of whether omniscience can exist.

As scientists, we know that omniscience cannot exist. This is because of the Uncertainty Principle. The Uncertainty Principle defines a boundary to the knowledge that we (or any agent) can posses. If we cannot know, simultaneously, the position and velocity of a particle then no agent can possess that knowledge and therefore there are no omniscient agents. Consider this proof of the negative assertion that there IS NO GOD.

Upon entering a period of deep philosophizing it is important to remember that all your intelligent rational cognition is biased by the simple fact that you are a human being. Hunger and beauty can distract your thinking, not to mention countless other innate mental processes.

Humans have five standard basic questions that they apply to any object of their consideration: who, what, why, where and when. Conveniently the five Ws in English. I have a feeling that the Universe is such a place that the 5Ws do not apply to ever situation.

I have been considering for a long time that it is distinctly possible that the question "Why did the Universe come into existence?" is an invalid question. There may not be a why! At the moment of the Big Bang there was not sufficient complexity in the universe to cognate the question why and therefore it may be invalid for us 14 billion years later to ask a question which could not be posed during the time span of the questions context.

Similarly, if the Big Bang is the correct theory (as opposed to the Big Bounce) then the question "What happened before the Big Bang" is invalid. The moment of the Big Bang was also the moment in which time was created. Therefore, there cannot be anything before the Big Bang.

Here is a down to earth example of an invalid question: "Why is the red crayon green?". Clearly, this is an invalid question or trick question that does not have a real answer it only has trivial answers like "The red crayon is not green" which really is not an answer to the posed question. There is no answer to the question.

Our Universe and its physical constants and equations may exist because there is a multitude of other possible universes in existence, that we cannot interact with, that have different Laws of Physics. This would explain why our Universe is tuned as it is but this does not explain why there is existence. A question for which I maintain an open mind. Also, consider that it may be impossible for there to be absolute non-existence which may explain why there IS existence.

By Peter