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Tuesday, April 14
by Rich on April 14, 2009 09:07AM (PDT)
Gould & Dennett
Reference: 100 years of Sri Aurobindo on evolution.
Stephen Jay Gould's retort to Dan Dennett Darwin's Dangerous Idea called The Pleasures of Pluralism:
Daniel Dennett devotes the longest chapter in Darwin's Dangerous Idea to an excoriating caricature of my ideas, all in order to bolster his defense of Darwinian fundamentalism. If an argued case can be discerned at all amid the slurs and sneers, it would have to be described as an effort to claim that I have, thanks to some literary skill, tried to raise a few piddling, insignificant, and basically conventional ideas to "revolutionary" status, challenging what he takes to be the true Darwinian scripture. Dennett claims that I have promulgated three "false alarms" as supposed revolutions against the version of Darwinism that he and his fellow defenders of evolutionary orthodoxy continue to espouse....... more »
Thursday, June 19
Tuesday, April 29
by Ron on April 29, 2008 04:00PM (PDT)
...This has been a pretty remarkable month, actually, with all the problems of "The Long Emergency" accelerating impressively. Oil is now testing the $120 mark, the airline industry is imploding (largely over fuel costs), the housing scene has reached a degree of collapse unseen since the 1930s, food shortages have strayed out of the Third World and begun to affect Japan and the USA, bats are dying of a mysterious disease in the Northeast, and the Arctic sea ice is shrinking away to nothing.
We're in a strange collective psychic bubble. We'd like to forget about all these troubling rumors of hardship and bad weather and just get on with the daily task of making a living and paying for stuff and enjoying our customary entertainments. The comforting ceremonies of everyday life seem to continue. The freeways are still full of cars. Nancy Grace comes on TV dependably at 8 p.m. and is there deploring the latest pervert arrest. The baseball season has ramped up and the teams are criss-crossing the nation in their chartered airplanes. The stock market is actually going up -- what's wrong with that?
But there's an equally eerie vibe out there that things are seriously out-of-whack. We're on the edge of something. We're at the entrance of a dark passage where some of the ceremonies of daily life meet resistance. You go to the WalMart and five of your six credit cards are refused. Uh oh. It begins to dawn on you that you're spending a quarter of your take-home pay filling up the gas-tank every week. There's no dial tone when you pick up the telephone. How could all the supermarkets in town be out of rice? The local hospital just declared bankruptcy. The neighbors down the street auctioned off all their furniture in the driveway last week. Why does the cat pick up so many ticks these days? ... more »
Friday, April 18
• "The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future," by SCIY Editor Wm. H. Kotke
by Ron on April 18, 2008 01:51PM (PDT)
I just received an email from SCIY Editor Wm. H. Kotke announcing the publication of the first reprint of his underground classic: "The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future," first published in 1993. I just downloaded the E-book version (for just $6.95) and after a quick scan through its 600+ pages, I'm convinced this is a significant read for those SCIY readers concerned about Earth's sustainability crisis. As an Amazon reviewer said:
"This is an incredibly well documented and prophetic book. Prophetic in the sense that when I first read it over ten years ago, I was skeptical of many predictions. They have all turned out to come true. This book is indigenous and inspiring in the sense that it offers practical earth friendly strategies that affirm the possibility that man is part OF nature, not apart FROM it. Well written! Real history and facts, vitally relevant, and hence empowering! Good medicine for all earthlings. A powerful gift! Thanks Bill!" ... more »
Saturday, March 22
100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: Darwinian Fundamentalism, reductionism, pluralism, play (part 2 of 6)
by Rich on March 22, 2008 10:46AM (PDT)
The ideology of intelligent design as well as some of the theories associated with Neo-Darwinian biology can not be falsified so it is hard to make the claim that they are scientific in the strict sense. While intelligent design can not be falsified because we have no instruments to detect a designer who stands outside the material world he/she designed, one of the central tenets of Darwinian fundamentalism that only natural selection and genetic variation can explain all evolutionary descent can not be falsified in the same way.
For instance, it can not be demonstrated that all life descended from a single, primordial cell solely by the process of natural selection and genetic variation. One can dispute the falsifiability of the proposition, by asking, "What experiment can be conducted to show this did not happen?" The problem is similar to the problem of "last night I dreamed of electric sheep." There are no other witnesses to my dream but me, just as there are no witnesses left from the Precambrian era to account for everything that might have gone on then. If there are no witnesses, one can argue, that there is no way to test the claim and the assertion is therefore not falsifiable.
Worse are the falsifiability claims of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary psychologist who claim to explain the origins of consciousness. The tales told by them of our psychological origins can never be falsified and so are similar to the just-so stories of Rudyard Kipling that, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us, maybe useful as a quick way to solve a child's curiosity can not be verified.
For Kipling, the elephant got its trunk because a crocodile pulled on it. Does this mean that elephant trunks occurred as an adaptation due to hungry crocodiles? Maybe, maybe not because it is a hypothesis that cant be proven. It is “just so”. more »
Friday, March 21
by Ron on March 21, 2008 01:48PM (PDT)
...the emergence of a new demographic trend has largely been ignored. Today, worldwide fertility rates are at an all time low, and in the decades following 2050 the global population is actually expected to stabilize and possibly decrease. The two factors driving this new pattern are the emergence of women’s rights on a global scale and the expectation among parents that all their children will survive to maturity.
Fertility rates, the best indicators of long term population changes, refer to the average number of children a woman will have. In order for a given population to replace itself, its fertility rate must be at 2.1 or higher. Graph 1 illustrates the decline of fertility rates that has occurred in the last fifty years, and shows projections for the next fifty years. ... more »
Thursday, January 3
by Ron on January 3, 2008 02:28PM (PST)
This recent report, from the session on 'Tipping Points' at the important Dec.07 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, illustrates the complexity of current technical discussions about the validity of the increasingly disruptive climate change scenarios being projected by various Climate Change computer models. The bottom line is that our models may be seriously underestimating the rapidly of the coming changes, as indicated in the previously posted article re the melting of arctic sea ice. ~rj
...In Hansen's talk, he did try to clarify what he meant by a tipping point. His notion of this has less to do with what mathematicians understand as "bifurcations," and more to do with a kind of inertia in the climate system. He means things like having passed a threshold of CO2 which, given warming in the pipeline and the lifetime of CO2, commits a certain discrete event — e.g. loss of perennial sea ice or the Amazon rainforest– to occurring even if we were to later reduce emissions to zero. He tried to distinguish between reversible and irreversible tipping points...
...where things get interesting is where you try to explain a magnitude of signal this big in terms of basic physics. This is important because there is a perception that GCM's vastly underestimate the amplitude of the response to total solar luminosity, leading to a perception that there is some "missing physics" (whether it be exotic amplification of a stratospheric response, or something like clouds and cosmic rays)...
But — the take-home point is that at this point the study of solar cycle response very strongly supports the notion that there is no need to invoke any mysterious or exotic missing physics (like cosmic ray modulation of clouds) in order to represent the response of climate to solar variability. If some models underestimate the response, this is likely to have more to do with errors in the vertical mixing of heat than any missing fundamental physics. ... more »
Tuesday, December 18
by Ron on December 18, 2007 03:55PM (PST)
A jet of highly charged radiation from a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy is blasting another galaxy nearby -- an act of galactic violence that astronomers said yesterday they have never seen before.
Using images from the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory and other sources, scientists said the extremely intense jet from the larger galaxy can be seen shooting across 20,000 light-years of space and plowing into the outer gas and dust of the smaller one. ...
"What we've identified is an act of violence by a black hole, with an unfortunate nearby galaxy in the line of fire," said Dan Evans, the study leader at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. He said any planets orbiting the stars of the smaller galaxy would be dramatically affected, and any life forms would likely die as the jet's radiation transformed the planets' atmosphere. ... more »
Friday, October 12
by Ron on October 12, 2007 12:18PM (PDT)
Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to publicize and understand human-caused global warming. -- The Norwegian Nobel Committee this morning announced that the former U.S. vice president and the United Nations' climate panel will equally share the prestigious award for "their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
Gore and the IPCC were chosen from a list of 181 candidates to split the prize, worth 10 million Swedish kronors (about 1.5 million U.S. dollars). -- The award committee, based in Oslo, Norway, said their decision was intended to bring into sharper focus the actions "necessary to protect the world's future climate and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind.
"Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control," the committee added. ... more »
Friday, August 17
by Ron on August 17, 2007 06:23PM (PDT)
A new ultraviolet mosaic from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer shows a speeding star that is leaving an enormous trail of "seeds" for new solar systems. The star, named Mira (pronounced my-rah) after the latin word for "wonderful," is shedding material that will be recycled into new stars, planets and possibly even life as it hurls through our galaxy.
Mira appears as a small white dot in the bulb-shaped structure at right, and is moving from left to right in this view. The shed material can be seen in light blue. The dots in the picture are stars and distant galaxies. The large blue dot at left is a star that is closer to us than Mira.
The Galaxy Evolution Explorer discovered Mira's strange comet-like tail during part of its routine survey of the entire sky at ultraviolet wavelengths. When astronomers first saw the picture, they were shocked because Mira has been studied for over 400 years yet nothing like this has ever been documented before. ... more »
Tuesday, July 31
by Ron on July 31, 2007 11:00AM (PDT)
Scientists have been arguing for years about what caused the die-off of both North American culture and many large animals near the end of the last ice age, about 13,000 years ago. Did hunters wipe out the mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and giant sloths? Or did a huge drop in temperature freeze out both the animals and their hunters?
Neither, says Luann Becker, a geochemist at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Becker, along with two dozen–odd scientists, is studying a thin 12,900-year-old geologic layer across North America that she believes holds the legacy of a major extraterrestrial impact roughly half the size of the one that killed the dinosaurs. -- After reviewing evidence of the blast—magnetic dust, trapped extraterrestrial gas, glasslike carbon full of tiny diamonds from the heat, and a layer of iridium from outer space—the geologists concluded that the North American fireball was a whopper. Specifically, they suggest that a three-mile-wide comet moving at 135,000 miles an hour blew up over Canada with the force of a million nuclear bombs.
Mammoths didn’t stand a chance, says Northern Arizona University space scientist Ted Bunch: “If the fires and the shock wave didn’t get them, there was a nuclear winter that blocked out the sun and made eating difficult.” The heat may have also melted vast stretches of retreating glaciers, kicking off a cold spell by slowing ocean currents. ... more »
Friday, June 29
by Ron on June 29, 2007 03:23PM (PDT)
... Modern cosmology has revealed a universe teeming with dark matter and unseen energy, entering a new stage of inflation. ...
According to a paper that will appear in October, we're lucky to be able to reach this understanding—literally. The authors of the paper run the clock forward 100 billion years and reveal that it's going back to the future, a conclusion clear in the paper's title: 'The Return of a Static universe and the End of Cosmology'. ...
The authors go on to ponder what this means in terms of the anthropic principle: the idea that we exist in a universe that's got conditions favorable to life largely because anything else would preclude any life arising that could ponder the universe. They suggest that there's another layer of complexity on top of that, namely that we only recognize that there is an anthropic principle because we came along at the right time. Too much earlier, and we wouldn't be able to detect that the universe is in a new inflationary era, which tells us that it's dominated by dark energy. Too much later, and we wouldn't be able to know that there's a universe at all. As the authors put it, "we live in a very special time in the evolution of the universe: the time at which we can observationally verify that we live in a very special time in the evolution of the universe!" ... more »
Friday, June 22
by Ron on June 22, 2007 03:51PM (PDT)
Eta Carinae is a mysterious, extremely bright and unstable star located a mere stone's throw - astronomically speaking - from Earth at a distance of only about 7,500 light years. The star is thought to be consuming its nuclear fuel at an incredible rate, while quickly drawing closer to its ultimate explosive demise.
When Eta Carinae does explode, it will be a spectacular fireworks display seen from Earth, perhaps rivaling the moon in brilliance. Its fate has been foreshadowed by the recent discovery of SN2006gy, a supernova in a nearby galaxy that was the brightest stellar explosion ever seen. The erratic behavior of the star that later exploded as SN2006gy suggests that Eta Carinae may explode at any time. ... more »
Monday, June 18
by Ron on June 18, 2007 11:57PM (PDT)
Even weirder than dark matter—the invisible stuff constituting most of the mass of the universe—is dark energy, a mysterious force pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate. Weirder still is a recent discovery that dark energy has been around for most of the history of the cosmos. “Nine billion years ago, dark energy was already wielding its repulsive influence on the universe,” explains Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist Adam Riess. But the repulsion didn’t win out against the force of gravity until 5 billion years ago, when cosmic expansion kicked into high gear and began accelerating. ... more »
Friday, June 15
by Ron on June 15, 2007 02:00PM (PDT)
...A new analysis by the National Audubon Society reveals that populations of some of America’s most familiar and beloved birds have taken a nosedive over the past forty years, with some down as much as 80 percent. The dramatic declines are attributed to the loss of grasslands, healthy forests and wetlands, and other critical habitats from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture.
The study notes that these threats are now compounded by new and broader problems including the escalating effects of global warming. In concert, they paint a challenging picture for the future of many common species and send a serious warning about our increasing toll on local habitats and the environment itself.
“These are not rare or exotic birds we’re talking about—these are the birds that visit our feeders and congregate at nearby lakes and seashores and yet they are disappearing day by day,” said Audubon Chairperson and former EPA Administrator, Carol Browner. “Their decline tells us we have serious work to do, from protecting local habitats to addressing the huge threats from global warming.” ... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler