Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Chinese State Circus - Swan Lake

INCREDIBLE!! As a ballerina myself I can almost comprehend that ;) The strength and balance for both people, and trust is amazing, and they make it look so effertless.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Memes, selfish genes and Darwinian paranoia

I’m reviewing a book by philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith entitled “Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.” (This is not the book review, forthcoming.) Godfrey-Smith makes an excellent argument at some point in the book (chapter 7, on the gene’s eye view) that genes are not at all the sort of things Richard Dawkins and some other biologists think they are. For instance, contrary to the standard view, genes are not “unities of heredity” (and therefore do not last as “individuals”) for the simple reason that crossing-overs (the molecular processes that shuffle bits and pieces of genetic material, the real reason for sex) do not respect gene’s boundaries, but rather cut genes into pieces and shuffle them. Indeed, as Godfrey-Smith points out, for this and other reasons sophisticated theoretical biologists are abandoning talk of “genes” altogether, referring instead to the more diffuse concept of “genetic material.” As PGS puts it, this is “a stuff, not a discrete unit.”
The interested reader will have to read PGS’s book or wait for my review (forthcoming in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews) to learn more about the issue of the nature of genes. But what struck me toward the end of that chapter is Godfrey-Smith’s unusual (and, I think, rather compelling) argument that talk of selfish genes (and memes) is one example of a broader “agent-positing” discourse that is shared, of all people, by some evolutionary biologists (though by all means not all, yours truly being one of many exceptions) and theologians!
Here is how PGS himself has characterizes the phenomenon: “Two explanatory schemata can be distinguished within the general agent-positing category ... The first is a paternalist schema. Here we posit a large, benevolent agent, who intends that all is ultimately for the best. This category includes various gods, the Hegelian ‘World Spirit’ in philosophy, and stronger forms of the ‘Gaia’ hypothesis according to which the whole earth is a living system. The second schema is a paranoid one. Now we posit a hidden collection of agents pursuing agendas that cross-cut or oppose our interests. Examples include demonic possessions narratives, the sub-personal creatures of Freud’s psychology (superego, ego, id), and selfish genes and memes.”
I must say that I am rarely struck by a novel enough idea that my first reaction is “wow.” This is one of those instances. There is something profoundly intellectually satisfactory in suddenly seeing disparate phenomena like Augustine’s god and Dawkins’ memes as different aspects of an all-too human tendency to project agency where there is none. Not to mention, of course, the admittedly wicked pleasure I’m getting from imagining Dawkins cringing at the comparison.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Here is another piece of propaganda from the New Age Global Warming religionists.
There are many dimensions of human development for which the impact of climate change has not been projected in a way that can be applied to a global model. These include factors such as a community’s access to education, water, sanitation, energy, and clean cooking environments.
While they say they will not include clean cooking environments in their estimates, they still throw in:
1. Indoor smoke from solid fuels, urban air pollution and airborne particulates as risk factors for mortality accounted for approximately 2.7 million deaths worldwide in 2000. Source: WHO (2002)

Perhaps the reason they don't include this factor in the quantitative estimates is because it would clearly show that the increase in energy prices caused by carbon taxes advocated lead to increased deaths due to indoor smoke from solid fuels. Typically, poor persons must resort to these fuels, when prices rise due to carbon taxes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A profound hatred for democracy

Commenting on the revelations that several Arab leaders are urging the United States to attack Iran, Chomsky says the latest polls show "Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel, that’s 80 percent; the second threat is the United States, that’s 77 percent. Iran is listed as a threat by 10 percent... This may not be reported in the newspapers, ... but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and the U.S. governments and to the ambassadors... What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Climate Change Authority Admits Mistake

The scientist from whom this claim originated, Dr Syed Hasnain, has for the past two years been working as a senior employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based company of which [IPCC chairman] Dr. Pachauri is director-general. Furthermore, the claim … has helped TERI to win a substantial share of a $500,000 grant from one of America’s leading charities, along with a share in a three million euro research study funded by the EU.