Thursday, 10 September 2020

DNA? Nurture? What makes us what we are?

Yesterday I read the following short article by Robert Plomin, an American psychologist and geneticist best known for his work in twin studies and behaviour genetics:

Parenting myths and the DNA revolution

I recommend people read this before proceeding further, it is only very short.

My own position is that the notion that we are born blank slates and it is purely the environment that makes everything we are, is preposterous.  I briefly touch on this issue here.  I should stress, though, that our environment does, of course, shape and mould our behaviour.  This is often a persona that one learns to put on in order to be accepted by others.  But also, as we grow older, most of us (but not everyone) can acquire genuine empathy and compassion as a result of their interactions with others.  However, the notion that everything we are -- all our interests, our treatment of others and so on -- is wholly due to our environment, I find extraordinarily implausible.   

The article states that:

 "children growing up in the same family with the same parents are no more similar than if the children were raised in different families".
So, in other words, regardless of whether 2 children are brought up in the same family or whether each of them are brought up in different families, the author is claiming that this will not affect their personalities.  This is compatible with my own position since, though I think we can change by acquiring empathy and so on, this is not something that can easily be taught.  Moreover, this is largely only applicable once one reaches adulthood in any case.

The author states that his fifty years of research shows that:
inherited DNA differences account for about 50% of the differences between children for all psychological traits.  
So what about the other 50% if it is not due to the environment?  This is the interesting part.  The author says:
Following years of research trying to identify the environmental factors that make children in the same family different from one another, I conclude that they are mostly idiosyncratic, random factors over which parents have little control—in a word, chance. 

Of course, saying that the other 50% of all psychological traits is due to "idiosyncratic, random factors" is to say precisely nothing.  He is effectively saying, I have no idea what accounts for the other 50%, it beats me.  In other words he's floundering, flummoxed, unable to come up with any conceivable mechanism for the other 50%.

What seems to me to be happening here is that the author presupposes that we are purely material beings and hence it can only be the environment or our genetic makeup or some combination thereof, that can possibly explain the entirety of our psychological traits.  It seems that virtually the entire academic community are in this straitjacket, confining their thoughts to only those possibilities consonant with a naturalistic metaphysic. Virtually all of them believe that our nature is fixed by something external to the self -- whether it be the environment, genetics, or some combination of both. They are implicitly assuming that everything we are is simply a result of impersonal material processes.

This contradicts our commonsensical conception of the self that I have articulated in many of my blog entries, two very recent ones being here and here.  I regard it as a mistake to suppose that anything material -- whether genes or environment -- has to make us what we are. What we are, our essence, is just a fundamental fact not capable of further analysis. At best we might say we self-actualise our own essence. We make ourselves what we are. That is, we self-cause our own nature.

For me, the fact that his research has been unable to account for 50% of all psychological traits is entirely unsurprising, and indeed, to be expected.  It's like being surprised that people who have imbibed the same amount of alcohol don't all act the same.  Yes, they might all become more gregarious, more impulsive, and so on.  But that's just an influence on their distinct essences.  I suspect the genetic component of us plays a similar role. 


Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Is your "self" just an illusion?

Just read this: Is Your 'Self' Just an Illusion?   I reject this idea that the self is an illusion.  I believe we are the very same selves throughout our lives, and perhaps before and after our lives too.  This can be accommodated if we regard ourselves as mental substances (read this recent blog post by me).

However, according to the article and contrary to my position, both John Searle, a philosopher of mind at the University of California, Berkeley, and Colin McGinn, a British philosopher of mind, although apparently sympathetic to the feeling we are persisting selves, both have difficulty in imagining how we could be.

Quoting from the article, John Searle said:
The problem with personal identity is, we feel there is a fact that 'I'm me'. But that's hard to pin down philosophically, because all of my experiences change, all of the parts of my body change, all of the molecules in my body change.

He further stated:

You have to postulate a self to make sense of rational behavior. We want to find a 'soul' that is at the bottom of all this … but, of course, there isn't any. 

Colin McGinn said:

The self is something real, but the self has got to be grounded in the brain — the self's unity over time must be a function of what's in the brain. We don't know how that works, but it must be so.

He also adds:

 All we've got is the idea that you, at a later time, are causally connected to you at an earlier time. That isn't the same thing as you persisting through time.

So they have a great deal of difficulty reconciling this idea that we are persisting selves with the idea that the brain produces consciousness.  I sympathise with this.  Our brains are in a constant state of change.  Thus, how could they produce an unchanging self?

Psychologist and skeptic Susan Blackmore outrightly rejects this concept of persisting selves.  She says:

This so-called 'me' is really just another reconstruction. There was an earlier one 30 minutes ago, and there will be others in the future. But they're really not the same person

She further goes on to say "so there's no self to die", because there is no self prior to death and "there's certainly no self to continue after death".

And she also said:

Death has no sting, because there never was a 'you' to die. Every moment is just a new story.

We regard death as the end of us and something to be feared.  But this presupposes we exist before death -- that we are conscious entities that persist from second to second, day to day, even from one year to the next. But, if there's no persisting self, then all this is an illusion.  We effectively are constantly dying every second, only to spring into being anew the next second.  But the new "you" that springs into being each and every second are always replicas (this can best be understood by a teleportation thought experiment.  See a relevant blog essay by me).    I agree with Blackmore that it's kind of liberating to feel that way.  However, that does nothing to make it true.

Finally, we have the famous Daniel Dennett, a philosopher, who, like Blackmore, outrightly rejects the concept of persisting selves.  He says:

The notion that the only thing that could persist is a little, special, unchangeable pearl of self-stuff seems like a fairly lame solution to the problem.

I agree with all four of the quoted philosophers/psychologist that it is extremely difficult to reconcile a persisting self with the notion that the brain produces such a self; indeed perhaps impossible.  But what if the brain doesn't produce consciousness?  In which case the commonsensical self -- what we might label an immaterial self or mental substance -- no longer encounters any such intractable difficulty.   It's of no avail simply stating it's a fairly lame solution.  I think this is simply a reflection of Dennett's view that science explains reality in its totality (i.e modern materialism) leaving no room for that which cannot be measured, a view which I emphatically reject.    

It seems that if we subscribe to materialism, or indeed any position that has the brain producing consciousness, we ought not just to reject an afterlife, but also the notion that we are selves that persist from one second to the next.  Very few people appear to understand how radical this brain produces consciousness thesis actually is. 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Is the fear of death rational?

I'm not as afraid of dying as I used to be. It's probably the realisation I have perhaps 30 years left and I've come to terms with that fact, or at least I have to a degree. If one thinks a lot of one's impending death, then I think maybe death loses its sting a bit.

(As an aside, I was vastly more afraid of dying in my 20's. Having said that, I had flu when I was about 18. I was bedbound and at one point thought I might possibly die. I felt so ill that my fear of death, to a large extent, dissipated, and I remember thinking it wouldn't be so bad if I died. Yeah, this was flu, or so the doctor said who came to visit me. Up until then I thought flu was like a bad cold!)

So, why are we afraid of dying? Many people think such fear is irrational and like to quote Epicurus who is alleged to have said:
Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.
Of course he's assuming that death is the end of our existence. Let's go with that. Does that make one's fear of death irrational as Epicurus maintains? I don't think so. Contra Epicurus, I would dispute that it is death per se that we fear. Imagine that we could die for an hour, then come back to life again (similar happens under general anaesthesia). There would be no sense of nothingness, rather we would appear to awaken with no sense of time having passed whatsoever. It would be like teleportation, except through time rather than space. If there's little to no fear dying for an hour, then the same surely applies if we were dead for a day, a year, or arguably even a 1000 years.

No, it seems to me that the fear is of eternal nothingness. It's the idea that it is the end of all things. All our wants, desires, loves, fears, hopes, plans, are suddenly all to no avail. Whatever we have achieved (or whether we have achieved nothing), whoever we have loved or hated, all our hopes, yearnings, fears -- all collapse into complete irrelevance. We are all equal at the end. Because nothing will ever happen to us again. Our lives, our existence, all ultimately meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. In a sense, when we die, the Universe might as well cease to be.

Let me hasten to add that this doesn't mean we can't obtain many satisfactions in life (see this blog post by me). But, at some point, it will all be over. And whatever experiences we've lived through, we're now all in the same boat facing eternal oblivion.

All this is antipathetic and repugnant to the yearning soul. We fear from the bottom of our souls this abyss of nothingness. It appears to rob life of all meaning. Very deep inside us we feel, perhaps know, that this cannot be so.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Checker-Shadow "illusion" Part 2.

Around 15-20 years ago I had this sudden insight, a sudden understanding. It was pertaining to so-called perceptual illusions.  I suddenly realised that many so-called perceptual illusions are not in fact illusions at all. Close to ten years ago I wrote a blog post regarding the checker-shadow illusion where I explained that, in my opinion, properly speaking, this is not in fact an illusion at all. Before reading further I recommend that people read that blog post. I would also recommend that people read another blog post by me on perceptual illusions here.   And, although not necessary to read, this blog post too might be of interest.  

On searching on the net I've only ever been able to find one person who holds the same opinion as I do that this shadow-checker "illusion" is not in fact an illusion at all.  And that was merely on a discussion forum.  Indeed, I have been vehemently attacked on this issue by many people (although it is clear to me they simply completely fail to understand my argument). Anyway, just a couple of days ago, I discovered a very interesting review of a book regarding colours and which talks about the checker-shadow illusion.  It says:
“Illusion” implies that our system is fooled, but as far as useful information goes, the checkerboard interpretation is probably better. Try as they might, mathematicians can’t make the computers see the checkerboard. Rather than a demonstration of how easily fooled we are, optical illusions like this one are examples of the brain’s mysterious and irreplicable abilities. It interprets its environment with a sophistication that exceeds our ability to measure and reconstruct physical phenomena. The usual framing has it wrong: Despite A and B having the same SSR, humans are still able to see the checkerboard.

First of all, it's gratifying to at last find someone else that agrees with me.  Two other people actually, both the author of the book and the reviewer.

But, anyway, this underscores the fact that in certain respects computers, at least if merely using visual information, cannot see as well as we do.  The fact that computers cannot see the checkerboard implies that they cannot see their environment very well at all.  This is why autonomous cars can't just rely on cameras but require other sensing methods such as LIDAR.  It also partially explains why fully autonomous cars might still be decades away.  Back in 2014 I predicted 2060, which at that time was vastly later than all the predictions of the various pundits.  Almost to the man they thought that fully autonomous cars would be widespread within 5-20 years.

So, despite using highly sophisticated algorithms, computers still cannot see as well as we do.  An interesting question is why can't they?  Why can't they see the checkerboard?  If it is merely the brain that enables us to see, then whatever physical processes are involved, they surely should be able to be matched by suitably sophisticated algorithms.  To me their failure in this regard suggests that something else is required, that consciousness in and of itself  is playing a pivotal role that is enabling us to see proficiently.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Comments on a guest essay about Materialism and Idealism

I've just read this guest essay by a certain Stephen Davies on Bernardo Kastrup's blog. I'm not particularly keen on his strategy of comparing the hard problem of consciousness with Zeno's paradoxes, but I'd like to comment and expand on some of his more direct points and arguments.

He says: 
[W]e need to briefly explore what the hard problem of consciousness is, and to do that we need to look at the metaphysical philosophy of materialism. Simply stated, this asserts that everything is made of matter, of physical stuff. You may wonder why such a seemingly obvious and self-explanatory statement requires the title of a metaphysical philosophy. The reason is that materialism isn’t just saying that there are physical things, it is saying everything is physical. Materialism is saying that the thoughts you are having now are physical; it is saying that the curious and unique mix of emotions you are subjectively experiencing at this very moment are purely and solely physical material things. And it is saying that the awareness that witnesses all these subjective feelings is physical. This no longer seems so obvious, does it?
I'm in agreement with all of this. They are saying the material stuff out there -- trees, rocks, stars etc -- is the same type of stuff as toothache, feeling angry, or indeed the experience of seeing said trees, rocks and stars. And the experiencer or self who undergoes all these experiences is also material! But what is the cash value of this, what does it actually mean? My experiences, emotions, thoughts etc don't have any attributes we conceive the material world as having -- so no shape, no size, no mass, no electric charge etc. Moreover, our consciousness appears to be invisible. I cannot see your consciousness, you cannot see mine. It can only be inferred from our behaviour, not directly detected.
Not only does it perhaps seem a little strange to assume that all our mental, emotional and spiritual experiences, and the subjective experiencer, are actually objective, external and physical, materialists have absolutely no idea, even in principle, how matter could possibly create our rich inner life of conscious awareness and experience. This is what is referred to as the hard problem of consciousness.
Their solution is often to identify consciousness with neural processes or, alternatively, what such processes do NB it is not being said here that neural processes cause or elicit conscious experiences, but rather our conscious experiences are nothing but such neural processes. If you think this is utterly nonsensical, then you get it, it is. A bit like saying ice cream is literally one and the same thing as sand, or identifying any 2 completely different objects as being one and the very same object.

So, even though it might be true that conscious experiences are inevitably correlated with neural processes, this doesn't justify materialism. At the very most, this might lead us to say the neural processes cause or elicit [non-material] conscious experiences. But then we get the problem that the author of this essay states; namely "how matter could possibly create our rich inner life of conscious awareness and experience". I myself try to explain this problem in my Brains affecting Minds do not rule out an Afterlife and I also explain there that even if there were no such problem, this still fails to show that such correlations compel the conclusion that the brain creates consciousness.
But what of science? Isn’t the indisputable and phenomenal success of science and technology proof that materialism is an extremely successful theory? No. Science is agnostic on metaphysical philosophy. The scientific method and all the advances and technological breakthroughs that follow, work perfectly well regardless of your philosophical beliefs. That is, in fact, its strength: it relies on empirical data, not belief.
Yes, material reality exhibits patterns, science describes such patterns using mathematics. How could that possibly connote that consciousness is material? It seems to me to be similar to someone exclaiming that given how successful metal detectors are at finding metal objects, anything that is not registered by the detector, such as plastic objects, must be really metal in disguise or else illusory. It's that silly.
The metaphysical theory that everything is matter is a philosophy, not a scientific fact. But we can go further and say that even the assumption that there is any matter at all, is equally a theory and a philosophical assumption, not a scientific fact. The idea that there is physical matter outside of our conscious experience is just that, an idea. We only know for sure that we have subjective experience; we cannot know for sure what constitutes that experience. The only thing we know for sure is our immediate experience of being subjectively aware. Everything we can ever possibly know can only be known by us within and via the medium of our subjective experience.
Yes, we cannot know that a material reality exists at all if what we mean by a material reality is material stuff having a full-blooded existence entirely independently of consciousness. One alternative is Berkeley's Idealism otherwise known as subjective idealism. I talk about Berkeley's subjective idealism here (this isn't quite the same as Kastrup's idealism).
In contrast to this idealist view of the world, a materialist philosophy posits an external and objective physical world that is not directly knowable. Our only experience of such a world, if it exists at all, is through our subjective experiences. The idea that there is such an objective external physical world is an abstraction thought up by consciousness. And it is an abstract theory that is becoming less and less supported by the results of our best scientific experiments in quantum mechanics.
Yes, for example, is this material external world coloured? Are there sounds and smells out there? In other words, is this material reality similar to our perceptions of it? Not according to the standard scientific story. To be honest, I do not think you have to be an idealist to emphatically reject this scientific story. I regard it as preposterous this notion that objects are not really coloured but are a creation of the mind.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The self or soul as a mental substance

Mental Substance

What is a mental substance? I think it can best be understood by contrasting mental substances with material substances. Think of material objects. They have properties such as their weight, whether they are dented, their colour and so on. These properties cannot exist by themselves, they are not freestanding, they belong to a material substance. Material substances, on the other hand, exist in and of themselves and are the bearer of such properties. Crucially, the properties can change but without changing the identity of the object or substance. So, for example, a table might acquire certain types of scratches, its colour might fade and so on as it grows older, but, despite these changes, it is still the very same table or the very same substance as it ages.

The concept of a substance and its properties also apply to the realm of the mental. There are experiences, for example, the experience of pain. But one can argue a pain doesn't exist all by itself, there has to be a self that undergoes the pain. Experiences, in other words, are seemingly always had by an experiencer, or self.

This self is called the mental substance. This self remains the same identical self throughout our lives. It is the I. It is that which makes me feel I am the very same person from one hour to the next, one day to the next, and one year to the next. My moods might change from one hour to the next, my interests and even intelligence might change from one year to the next, nevertheless, it is still me that undergoes all these changes. The I or me is the mental substance; contrariwise the moods, cognitive abilities, memories, interests and so on are the properties of the self/mental substance. These properties can change without me ceasing to exist and turning into another person. 

To try and illustrate my meaning here imagine someone throughout their lives wearing a pair of spectacles.  The lenses will age, acquire scratches and so on.  In addition, the lenses might be changed periodically.  As a result, even if that person's unaided vision remains the same, their bespectacled vision will change throughout their life.  And such changes need not be confined to the acuity of their vision.  They could have lenses that cast everything in a shade of colour or distort their vision in a particular manner.  They could even have lenses that render them unable to see at all.

Our unaided vision can analogically be compared to the mental substance/self. The bespectacled vision can analogically be compared to one's particular mental state at any time, or our minds.   Just as changes in the lenses influence our bespectacled vision but not our unaided vision, so too might changes in the brain influence our mental states (the properties of the self) but not our essence (the mental substance).

Notwithstanding the fact that throughout our lives our moods, cognitive abilities and so on continually change, we all still feel that we are nevertheless the very same self throughout our lives.  This is so even for those who reject an afterlife.  So the mental substance/self that I have described seems to align up to most peoples intuitions as to what they truly are.

Note that this self I have outlined is not the same as the sense of self just as a sense of a tree is not the same as the tree itself. Few of us would deny that we have at least a sense of self.  But most professional philosophers reject this notion of an actual self, they believe it is an illusion.

Should there be an afterlife it is my view that it is this self or mental substance that will survive.  In which case the self or mental substance can be referred to as one's soul.

Alleged problems with such a mental substance or soul

In The Soul Fallacy, the author Julien Musolino refers to the analogy of a radio. He says that this involves:
the idea that the brain does not cause the mind, but that it merely serves as a gateway for it, just like a radio set functions as a receiver and decoder of electromagnetic waves.
He goes on to say:
A radio set (or a TV, if you prefer) and the signal it receives are separate things, and so they can exist independently of each other ...  Destroy the receptor, and you still have the signal. Obliterate the brain and you still have the soul.
This then seems to be essentially the same type of analogy as my own analogy of spectacles.  So just as destroying a radio will have no effect on the signal, so too destroying one's spectacles clearly will have no effect on our unaided vision.

However, Julien Musolino is not impressed with such analogies.  He goes on to say:

a few moment's reflection reveal so many dead-ends, contradictions, and nonsensical implications that it will make your head spin.

For starters, the receptor view of the brain doesn't even begin to respond to the challenge posed for dualism by what we called the fragility of the mind. If damaging only parts of the brain can annihilate just about every aspect of our mind, then by what miracle would the complete destruction of our brain following death leave us with all our mental faculties intact so that we can recognize Uncle Fred in heaven? If the soul needs a functioning brain to be able to think, see, and feel, then how could it perform these functions without a brain at all?

But, of course, the whole purpose of the analogy is to convey the idea that the soul doesn't need a functioning brain to think, see, and feel.  If the lenses in my spectacles get dirtier and dirtier as time goes by, this can have no implications for my unaided vision when I take my spectacles off.   He needs to argue that this analogy is false or inappropriate.  Instead, he seems to have completely missed its point.

He also says:

Does the all-or-nothing radio-brain view entail that the soul signal gives rise to my entire mental life? Are the languages I speak, the memories I have, the skills I possess all the product of something beamed into my brain from above? My suspicion is that the reason I speak French and English is because I grew up in France and then moved to the United States. I am also convinced that my memories have to do with the people I've met and the places I've visited in this world. If certain aspects of my mind are the obvious consequence of my dealings with the denizens of the physical world, then what exactly is the soul signal supposed to do? Does it just make me conscious?
One's memories and acquired skills are clearly not part of the mental substance, they are, rather, acquired properties.  Also, it should be noted that the self or soul doesn't make one conscious any more than a table makes its colour or shape etc.  That is to say, a substance doesn't make its properties, a substance is the prerequisite requirement for the very existence of any properties. 

It seems to me that Julien Musolino doesn't appear to have any understanding of what he's attacking.  And he essentially says nothing else regarding the analogy.  So much for the aforementioned "dead-ends, contradictions, and nonsensical implications that it will make your head spin".

The only other person I've read that attacks this analogy, but equally misunderstands it, is Keith Augustine. He is one of the editors and is by far the most prolific contributor to The Myth of an Afterlife (I wrote a ~13,000 word assessment of the arguments contained in that volume here).  In that book Keith Augustine says:

It doesn’t take much reflection to see that a television receiver is a terrible analogy for making sense of known mind-brain correlations. For the analogues would have to be:
Broadcast station → Electromagnetic signal → TV receiver → TV program images 
External soul ↔ Interactive forces ↔ Brain ↔ Behavior
On this analogy, mental activity itself occurs in the external soul, just as the images of a television program originate from the broadcast station. But no damage to the local circuitry of your TV set can have any effect on the television program recording playing at the remote broadcast station, or on the signal that the station puts out.
But the fact that the TV set can have no effect on the TV signal is the very point. Or, to use the simpler analogy, the fact that the eyeglasses have no effect on our unaided vision is the very point.  For it is the TV signal/unaided vision that represents the mental substance/self.  He is conflating the mind, which is what results when the self operates through the brain, with the mental substance/self/soul.  In my many communications with Keith Augustine (e.g. in the comments under my amazon review of this book and elsewhere) I have pointed out his misunderstanding on this issue, but in his responses he has always ignored this particular point.  

What would destroy the analogy and the whole concept of mental substance would be if damage to the brain could alter the actual mental substance rather than merely affecting its properties.  However, this is a difficult task since there is not much we can say about this substance apart from it being responsible for the feeling that we are the very same self throughout the duration of our lives and serving as the bearer of properties. Moreover, that feeling need not be constantly present.



So long as we feel we are the same self as time passes the default assumption should surely be that this is correct unless compelling reasons are advanced to doubt this.  And they would need to be compelling indeed since I'm sure the vast majority of us are convinced of our persisting nature, at least from our births until our deaths.  

Finally, is such an enduring self/mental substance consistent with the notion that the brain somehow produces this self? Consider that my brain changes all the time. Could a constantly changing brain produce a self that is unchanging?  Arguably this is problematic.  Hence this notion that we are mental substances implies both an afterlife and indeed "beforelife". And this is before we consider any evidence for an afterlife.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

No, I don't Hate Science

Apples fall. That is to say, if we hold an apple, then release it, then it will fall to the ground.

Why does it? Why not just stay there in the air, or move upwards, or whatever?

Throughout history human beings have dreamt up explanations for this fact, not just for why apples fall, but why any unsupported object falls. Aristotle gave a teleological account; namely that objects have a goal-directed behaviour to move downwards to the ground. Isaac Newton dispensed with goal-directed behaviour and said that objects fall due to this thing called gravitational force, a thing only known via its effects. Albert Einstein then came along and said objects fall due to the warping of space-time, this warping again only known via its effects.

Throughout these differing explanations, apples still fall. The rate at which they fall i.e the acceleration, can be quantified. We can note that they fall at the same acceleration irrespective of their weight.

More generally the material world exhibits regularities and we can describe these regularities using mathematical equations. No matter what our explanations for these regularities, no more how regularly such explanations might change, reality still exhibits the same patterns.

Don't imagine I pooh pooh such scientific explanations though. They can be very useful! Look at the gif below:

How do we explain the movement of the black dots? We can hypothesis the existence of invisible triangles! Clearly, the apexes of these invisible triangles somehow give rise to the black dots. Such an explanation is useful, it allows us to confidently mathematically describe the path of the black dots. We have given a scientific explanation! All done and dusted. And anyone who denies the existence of these triangles is being unscientific and must hate science (I have often been accused of being anti-science and even hating science).

But hold on just a sec. We could equally hypothesize invisible squares too. Or invisible stars! Which is the real underlying explanation, the real mechanism? Perhaps, to be very radical, none of them are?

We don't know why reality behaves as it does. Yes, reality exhibits regular patterns that can be mathematically described. But we don't know why it exhibits those particular patterns, or why reality exhibits any patterns at all. Nor indeed do we know why the world/universe exists at all.

Science doesn't explain, it doesn't tell us why reality is as it is. It merely describes. Bear that in mind when someone next tells you that some phenomenon couldn't possibly be for real. They are assuming that our scientific explanations amount to more than mere descriptions. That their explanations depict how reality really is. That the triangles, or perhaps the squares, or perhaps the stars, have a literal existence.

DNA? Nurture? What makes us what we are?

Yesterday I read the following short article by Robert Plomin , an American psychologist and geneticist best known for his work in twin stud...