(A theoretical physicist explains why) Science Is Not About Certainty [more inside]
An insider’s guide by a former young-Earth creationist [more inside]
The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown
is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn
to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf)
by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog
. [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia
was written by Pliny the Elder
between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian
, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum
, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification. [more inside]
Has David Birnbaum solved the mystery of existence?
David Birnbaum made his fortune selling jewellery to movie stars. Now he has published a 'remarkable and profound' investigation into the origins of the universe. Is there any reason to take it seriously?
[Pinker] conflates scientific knowledge with knowledge as such. In his view, anybody who has studied any phenomena that are studied by science has been a scientist...If they were interested in the mind, then they were early versions of brain scientists. If they investigated human nature, then they were social psychologists or behavioral economists avant la lettre
. Leon Wieseltier pens a response
to Steven Pinker's essay
on scientism, both in the pages of the New Republic. Others
some prominent atheists
, have taken issue with Pinker as well.
"I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is 'purely descriptive.'" --Wittgenstein
. Apart from a small and ignored clique of hard-core supporters the usual view these days is that his writing is self-indulgently obscure and that behind the catchy slogans there is little of intellectual value. But this dismissal disguises what is pretty clearly the real cause of Wittgenstein’s unpopularity within departments of philosophy: namely, his thoroughgoing rejection of the subject as traditionally and currently practiced; his insistence that it can’t give us the kind of knowledge generally regarded as its raison d’être. [more inside]
Heaven is Real: A Doctor's Experience of the Afterlife. As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences...In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
"Parting with treasure easier said than done: Churchgoers give far less than they think"
is the latest feature article from the Association of Religion Data Archives
, which "strives to democratize access to the best data on religion." The site includes a browsable archive of religious survey data
, a quick statistical roundup
, international religious profiles
, feature articles on topics like the rise of Mormons, Muslims and nondenominational churches in the USA
("nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country...Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger"
), links to sources like the 2010 U.S. Religious Census
, a Religion Research Hub
and helpful advice on best practices when theorizing
religious behavior) and lots more.
Study shows those who think analytically are less likely to be religious
: Why are some people more religious than others? It may come down to whether they rely more heavily on an analytical or intuitive thinking process, at least according to a new study [abstract; supplementary materials] performed at the University of British Columbia and published in the journal “Science.” [more inside]
Stanley Fish takes on the similarities and differences
between scientific and religious evidence and gets a barrage of responses, to which he replies
. Michael K. declares that “the equivalence between the methodological premises of scientific inquiry and those of religious doctrine is simply false.” I agree, but I do not assert it. Neither do I assert that because there are no “impersonal standards and impartial procedures … all standards and procedures are equivalent” (E.). What I do assert is that with respect to a single demand — the demand that the methodological procedures of an enterprise be tethered to the world of fact in a manner unmediated by assumptions — science and religion are in the same condition of not being able to meet it (as are history, anthropology, political science, sociology, psychology and all the rest).
This weekend , Washington, D.C. will be invaded by the voice of reason
. A free rally featuring Tim Minchin
, Paul Provenza
, Richard Dawkins
, Eddie Izzard
, Adam Savage
, James Randi
, Bad Religion
, and many others, in what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of non-believers in America.
"If we don't organize, we will be the only ones not organized. Religion will be organized. We won't be organized. That means we lose... and they win."
Carl Jung: Taking inner life seriously.
An eight-part series on the thought of Carl Gustav Jung
from the Guardian's How to Believe
.) Jung's relationship with his patient, student, and rumored lover Sabina Spielrein
, and his mentor Sigmund Freud
is the subject of a new film, "A Dangerous Method." [Via] [more inside]
is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe
(later The Cartoon History of the Modern World
), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies
) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit
. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn
chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States
, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides
to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment
, and (yes!) Sex
. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention
, assorted math comics
), the Muse magazine
mainstay Kokopelli & Co.
(featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"
), and more
. See also these lengthy interview snippets
, linked previously
. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
The Burns Archive
is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing
subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery
this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through
with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
- written by Alan Moore in December 2002 to appear in KAOS #15, which never appeared. Published here for the first time.
The Dalai Lama on changing minds only through compassion and respect
. He spent several days at Stanford recently, and this session focuses on the neuroscience of compassion. Watch it in full here
With the passing of Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells
, in 2009 President Obama expanded federal funding and rescinded George W. Bush's policies
that eliminated most federal funding and restricted human embryonic stem cell
research to the use of existing, contaminated cell lines. On Monday, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth blocked this new order after protestations
from James L. Sherley, a former scientist with the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, who operates the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company
, which aims to do "pro-life" therapeutic research without the "taint of embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials". [more inside]
Science vs. Religion:
a new book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think
by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, discusses the results of her detailed study
of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities. Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed not only believe in God but also practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith. They worry about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views.
Interview with the author from the Center for Inquiry
's Point of Inquiry podcast
. Also, here's a webcast
from an author discussion forum held at Rice University on April 7th. [more inside]
A new study
suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics
. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion
in human history, as well as more complex economies
). [more inside]
scientifically summarises the scientific field of Creation Science (warning: science) [transcript]
Charles Pierce, author of the 2005 essay "Greetings from Idiot America"
decrying the rise of faith-based anti-intellectualism, has expanded his rant into a full length book: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
. (via) [more inside]
AronRa has done some really nice YouTube vids on science (previously)
In this latest vlog An Archaeological Moment in Time
, he take(s) a look at how different societies are advancing at different rates on the same date in the distant past.
collects and lets you watch all the best educational videos online from full length documentaries (such as the 50 minute long Is There Life on Mars
) to short video clips such as this one on glaciers and global warming
. There are hundreds of videos on topics including history
, and nature
Bracing for Islamic Creationism
(PDF). "To avoid a vast rejection of evolution in the Muslim world, scientists can present the theory
as the bedrock of biology
and can stress its practical applications
Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA.
"This four-part series details how the Bush administration weakened the EPA
. It installed a pliant agency chief, Stephen L. Johnson. Under him, the EPA created pro-industry regulations later thrown out by the courts. It promoted a flawed voluntary program to fight climate change. It bypassed air pollution recommendations from its own scientists to satisfy the White House." [Via Reality Base]
Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple?
by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe
upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization."
Flow of Time is a BBC documentary that "tries to explain time and covers the different ways we have used to understand Time, religion, mathematics, relativity, and quantum mechanics." Part 1
"Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.
" The comments are included on a Church of England website promoting the views of Charles Darwin to be launched on Monday.
16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years
. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. 12.5% teach it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species". 2% say they do not cover evolution at all. Teachers who have taken more science courses themselves devote more time to evolution - "This may be because better-prepared teachers are more confident in dealing with students' questions about a sensitive subject."
makes view of religion relatively clear.
Vatican's chief astronomer states that belief in alien life does not conradict faith in God. Fr. José Gabriel Funes
, a Jesuit preist and chief astronomer for the Vatican, stated in an interview in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, that, "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation." [more inside]
Well, it seems that some British scientists have succeeded in creating a human embryo from three parents
. Oh, let the games begin... [more inside]
Beyond Belief: Enlightment 2.0.
Video of the five sessions of the 2007 Beyond Belief conference on science and religion has been posted at The Science Network's website. Each Google Video runs about four hours. (This year's speakers; this year's agenda; previously.
Traveling a lot this weekend? Long drive, plane or train ride? You can use that transit time to listen to the Dalai Lama talk for more than four hours with neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars on the topic of craving, suffering and choice. Part one
. Part two
. [iTunes links]
If you're stuck at home, you can watch the video
. The video link has the full list of participants.
The Inner Life of an Intelligently Designed Cell?
Remember The Inner Life of a Cell
animation (discussed here
)? Apparently the Discovery Institute
(recently discussed here
) is showing it in presentations
with a new title and narration, and without attribution.