More Blackmore

Here a few more bits of the Susan Blackmore interview which I had to cut so the piece would fit into the magazine. A bit of a miscellany, but worth sweeping off the cuttings floor.

First up, this is what she said about the positive role of intuitions in scientific discovery and advancement. Note the need for the intuitions to be tested and borne out:

“There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show this. There can be problems that are too complex to be solved by rational means, and yet we can solve them intuitively, presumably with some kind of neural map or whatever, and we do that all the time. Now what’s wrong with that is if you just rely on it. It doesn’t really matter where you get the hypothesis from, but you then have to find out whether they’re confirmable and, and test them. I’m not a full-on Popperian but I think that general model is right from that point of view.”

Then there is this, which is a good example of the virtues of valuing elements of religious practice while not buying into the out-moded metaphysics. Blackmore has practised Zen meditation for over twenty years:

“I never studied it technically. Zen is really just sit down, shut up and get on with it yourself. In other areas of Buddhism there are twenty-seven types of this, loops of that, and eternal cycle of the eight wotsits, and I just think, why eight?”

Finally, for those interested in memetics (the study of hos units of culture are transmitted and replicated I asked, “Isn’t one problem that memetics is not a strictly natural science, so could you ever have a study of memetics which was purely using natural science methods?”

“Yeah, why not, you’ve used epidemiological techniques. I mean you can borrow techniques from all over the place. If a meme is any information that is copied by a person in imitation, or indeed through a book or a machine or anything, it’s just information, we’ve got plenty of paradigms and methods for studying information flow and copying and so on.”

But it’s going to be a bit messy isn’t it?

“Oh horribly messy. That’s probably a major reason why people don’t want to do it. But that’s totally different from saying in principle it will be something outside of natural science.”

Can memetics be part of natural science? Can you be religious without buying into the metaphysics? Is intuition invaluable to natural science? Yes, yes, yes says Blackmore.

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