Just in time for the year that Robert Zemeckis — in BACK TO THE FUTURE – said we would have hoverboards… suddenly, it looks like a crude version of Marty MacFly’s little floating plank may be on the way!
== The World of Ruperts ==
Rupert Sheldrake is back, this time roiling waters on a TedX talk that TED then (controversially) banned. You can see the smooth-talking savanarola here: The Science Delusion – Banned TED Talk.
Now please understand I am not bemoaning RS standing on a stage proclaiming “there’s tentative evidence that there may be more to our universe than meets the eye.” In fact, I have been known to use similar concepts in my novels! My main characters in the Uplift Books have some basic psi powers, for example, enhanced by future tech.
On the other hand, I have to be deeply loyal to the date who brought me to this party — a party that gave me – and most of you – the first freedom from fear, want, oppression and grinding ignorance in the history of this (and possibly any) species. I deeply resent bombasts who milk and stir NOT skeptical inquiry but reflexive suspicion and hostility toward a “scientific establishment”… which, to the small extent that any such “establishment” even exists, is past-all-doubt and by orders of magnitude the wisest collection of genuine sages our world has ever seen.
The ultimate irony? Were we forced to choose topmost elites to rule us, the 1930s technocrats were right and scientists would be by far best. (See the 1930s film Things To Come.) But scientists would refuse! They are the ones who understand the need for reciprocal accountability and the dangers of hypnotic delusion that corrupt the minds of anyone who is not subjected to relentless scrutiny and lateral criticism… the sort of lateral accountability that oligarchs suppressed in 99% of past cultures and that would-be lords like the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch and his Saudi partners seek to impose, today.
Is Sheldrake applying lateral criticism? Or just more hypnotic delusions? Any scientifically trained person who watches him or reads his screeds can tell.
If he were to say, “here are TEN EXPERIMENTS that I now challenge the world to perform. I do not proclaim any conspiracies to evade them. Moreover, I will modify them if scientific critics suggest ways for them to be better targeted and less vague or tendentious, and above-all well-falsifiable. Moreover, if these experiments are null-result, then verified, I will back off in that category and admit that science is not blind to alternative possibilities.”
He won’t do that. He is part of the pan spectrum attempt to undermine science. And that I won’t abide. See my essay about psi that ran in SKEPTIC: Parapsychology and the Need to Believe.
== The Weather – or more from Ruperts (this one a Murdoch) ==
Prepare for another major IQ test for cable news watchers to utterly fail. Can warming of the Arctic cause major cold waves to devastate Eurasia (and sometimes North America)? The answer is way-yes. Warming has caused the sea ice pack in the Arctic to decline so steeply that the Russians are opening twelve new ports — and military bases, which the US and Canadian navies take very seriously. (There are no denialist-cultists in the senior naval officer corps.) But what about those frigid winters?
It’s called… science. See this article: “When they ran the computer models under low sea ice scenarios and compared them to simulations using high sea ice cover, they found that low sea ice, which closely matches recent conditions, made the occurrence of an unusually cold winter over Eurasia twice as likely to occur.” Because the weakened jet stream is more liable to twist and dip the Arctic’s winter-chilled air further south.
But the Koch machine will talk millions into muttering “if winter is cold, there can’t be this global warming scam!”
== Speaking of Ruperts ==
An important article about one of the great cop-outs of our time. “When politicians say – “I’m not a scientist,” it is an exasperating evasion. It’s a cowardly way to avoid answering basic and important policy questions. This response raises lots of other important questions about their decision-making processes. Do they have opinions on how to best maintain our nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels—or do they not because they’re not civil engineers? Do they refuse to talk about agriculture policy on the grounds that they’re not farmers? How do they think we should be addressing the threat of ISIS? They wouldn’t know, of course; they’re not military generals,” writes David Shiffman on Slate.
To be clear, no one is asking them to stop taking advice from generals regarding war or engineers regarding infrastructure. (In fact, both are dissed and ignored almost as much as scientists are.) Rather, it is the Mockery and abuse of science, followed by this cop-out whenever the dolts on the US House Science, Technology and Space Committee are cornered with specific questions.
These are cowardly loonies, who continue in office only because of cable news moguls. Thanks Rupert. But this will not wind up going well for you.
== At the edge of Human ==
Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human by David Roden argues that the debate over human enhancement “projects a human face onto an empty screen.” This includes both optimists and pessimists like Francis Fukayama (author of “Our Posthuman Future.”) Says Roden — we actually do not know what will happen and, not being posthuman, cannot anticipate how posthumans will assess the world.
As reviewed by Kurzweil News, Roden’s book posits “speculative posthumanism” as distinguished from both “Critical Posthumanism” – a philosophical look at humanity in relation to epistemology, ethics and politics; and “Transhumanism” – which looks to enhancing the technical advancement of humans and their capacities. Roden’s book discusses how post humanism can fully integrate with the future transformations of technology.
== Re-evaluating our origins ==
This is amazing! Recent genetic appraisal of native inhabitants of Easter Island – or Rapa Nui -suggests that their Polynesian ancestors interbred with South American tribes between 1300 and 1500 CE, just before the Spanish conquest. If verified, it would resurrect the theories of Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian explorer and author of Kon-Tiki, a book that enthralled my generation, back in the 1960s, proposing that Easter Island had been settled by raft-voyagers setting out from the region of Peru.
Heyerdahl “proved” his case by constructing a raft in the fashion of pre-Incan Peruvians and arriving successfully at Rapa Nui. Only subsequent scholars determined for a fact that Rapa Nuians were descended (mostly) from Polynesians and had thoroughly Polynesian culture. Whereupon Heyerdahl — whose feat set off the “recreation of ancient arts” trend that is so cool in our culture — fell into obscurity. Now though? How cool to explore, recreate… and eventually be proven (partly) right.
Of course there was some implicit racism in Heyerdahl’s thesis… and it seems more likely that the far-voyaging Polynesians were the ones doing the traveling. Still… This article continues on to reveal some even bigger mysteries!
== Science Snippets ==
Elon Musk worries that Sci Fi scenarios about Artificial Intelligence could really happen.
Scientists experiment with robotic bacteria.
Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime!
Kewl! A basket-star!
3D gun makes – and shoots(!) paper planes. Okay, now I am just proud to be human.
A eukaryote cell’s mitochondria were once energy parasites?
Fascinating look at medicine: The NNT index measures how many people need to take a drug for one person to benefit. This one could be important to you!
And finally… Australian researchers are attempting to use the highly sensitive antennae sensors of the common fruit fly (drosophila melanogaster) to detect illegal drugs and explosives.If this works, you’ll have a chemical sniffer on your phone, in some years.
Don’t just stand there. Vote. For the Enlightenment Experiment.