A little light relief...
The 100 most highly cited papers of all time: Tools, not ideas
17 hours ago in The Curious Wavefunction
At the beginning of an essay on void and infinite space, Koyré quotes a passage from Duhem that has become infamous: “If we were obliged to assign a date to the birth of modern science, we would undoubtedly choose 1277, when the Bishop of Paris solemnly proclaimed that a multiplicity of worlds could exist, and that the system of celestial spheres could, without contradiction, be endowed with straight line motion” (1906-13, II.411; see also 1913-59, VII. 4). Koyré calls the two theses from the condemnations of 1277 “absurdities,” noting that they arise in a theological context, and rejects Duhem's date for the birth of modern science; he remarks that Duhem gives another date elsewhere, corresponding to Buridan's impetus theory being extended to the heavens, but dismisses it also, saying that “it is as false as the first date” (1961, 37n). For Koyré, the introduction of Platonic metaphysics, the mathematization of nature, marks a break with the Aristotelian Middle Ages.The debate over when, exactly, the antecedents of modern science occurred is a fascinating topic, but it's bizarre that DeMarco should make it such a focal point of his argument. Whenever the modern scientific outlook took hold (and it's still far from being a majority opinion even today), it clearly did so against a background of Christianity. To argue that, therefore, science was born from Christianity is a classic case of attribution bias.
Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change--however great or small.However, The Weekly Standard reports that other prominent Southern Baptists have taken umbrage at this declaration, pointing out that their 2007 resolution cast doubt on the science behind climate change, said that climate mitigation would hurt low income nations, and what's more we should stop funding scientific research into the whole issue (presumably on the grounds that it would likely produce more results offensive to God). The Southern Baptist President, Frank Page, was forced into an apology:
"Seldom have I seen such a reaction," he complained. "I have been called names that I have not been called in my entire life." He apologized for creating an impression that the declaration officially represented the church.Then the moral majority struck back, with a letter to US Senators opposing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions:
Joining with other conservative groups such as the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist-backed letter complained that the bill's "underlying assumption" about human-induced climate change is "highly questionable."So there you have it. God is officially against climate change mitigation. Or maybe not. Strangely enough, in the UK God seems to be strongly in favour of mitigation.
Overly conscious of stereotypes about their "fundamentalist" controlled church, Page and many of the other Southern Baptist signers of the Global Warming declaration seem more determined to disprove that they are "uncaring" than substantively address climate change. Following groups like the National Association of Evangelicals, they seem to believe that favorable media attention will enhance their prestige and their evangelistic outreach. But most Southern Baptists probably think differently, intuiting that churches thrive more when they are culturally contrarian than when they succumb to convention.
Olson and Spelke ran three related studies in which the children were introduced to a “protagonist” doll which, at certain times, benefited from pro-social behavior from other dolls. The children were then given the opportunity to direct the protagonist doll either to share or not share a resource (for example, stickers, pennies) with other dolls.The results: the kids showed an innate predisposition to indirect reciprocity - "I help you, someone else helps me". This is a key feature of human society, since it allows the formation of co-operative groups large enough for individuals to be unknown to others that they might come across. It's key to the development of towns, for example. This new study shows that it is a product of our evolution. Olson and Spelke write:
Observations and experiments show that human adults preferentially share resources with close relations, with people who have shared with them (reciprocity), and with people who have shared with others (indirect reciprocity). These tendencies are consistent with evolutionary theory but could also reflect the shaping effects of experience or instruction in complex, cooperative, and competitive societies. Here, we report evidence for these three tendencies in 3.5-year-old children, despite their limited experience with complex cooperative networks. Three pillars of mature cooperative behavior therefore appear to have roots extending deep into human development.Indirect reciprocity works from an evolutionary perspective because it allows individuals to enhance their reputation - and those individuals with a high reputation are more likely to gain the trust and co-operation of others. The mathematician Karl Sigmund discusses his perspective on indirect reciprocity in an essay hosted on The Edge.
What I am speaking of is the process whereby scientists create an embryo containing a mixture of animal and human genetic material. If I were preaching this homily in France, Germany, Italy, Canada or Australia I would be commending the government for rightly banning such grotesque procedures.
However here in Great Britain I am forced to condemn our government for not only permitting but encouraging such hideous practices.
It is difficult to imagine a single piece of legislation which, more comprehensively, attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life than this particular Bill.So let's be clear here. What the bill will allow is the creation of an embryo using somatic cell nuclear transfer into an animal embryo. In other words, genes from an ordinary (non-embryo) human cell are transferred to an animal cell. The only animal genes remaining are in the mitochondria. No human embryo is destroyed. The Lancet explains (free registration required):
The Sept 6 ruling applies to a procedure in which the nucleus of a human somatic cell is introduced into an animal egg that has had its nucleus removed. The altered cell is then stimulated to begin embryonic development. Stem cells can be harvested from the embryo, a process that usually destroys it.In other words, this is a technique that offers the potential for unlimited supply of stem cells without destruction of human embryos that occurs using conventional techniques. Sure, potentially there are ethical concerns (if these embryos were implanted, say). But nobody's proposing to do that. So what's the problem again? Oh that's right , it's yucky! As The Lancet concludes:
The promise of this research is, indeed, great. Somatic- cell nuclear transfer will allow the production of stem cells that will enable us to develop new treatments for diseases that are today incurable. And it is possible—though far from certain—that these techniques might one day make it possible to create cells that can be used to replace damaged or lost tissue. This argument is not to say that there should be a Faustian bargain to obtain the benefits of stem-cell research regardless of ethical cost.
Jim Porter (not his real name), chief technical analyst for one of the largest banks in Britain ... uses heliocentric astrology to predict the direction of the international financial markets.It's hardly surprising that the world's markets are in turmoil, with chumps like this in charge! The problem is that markets are inherently unpredictable, and city analysts daily take high stakes gambles - with the success or failure largely outside of their control.
Millions of pounds' worth of commodities, shares and currencies are traded on his command. His decisions may affect the values of your pension and your home, and perhaps decide how long you hold on to your job.
Ask a psychologist, a sociologist or an anthropologist what makes us superstitious - why we queue in market towns for tarot readings, why we fill in our lottery tickets with the same lucky ballpoint every time, and risk back injury avoiding the cracks between paving stones - and they will tell you the same thing. When people feel that they have no control over events, they will suspend their belief in the rational and step into a world where the rules seem more flexible.
Actually we shouldn't be surprised by this. A fair amount of research has already been carried out into tackling misconceptions in science. It turns out that people are remarkably resistant to changing their beliefs. Immediately after being told the correct concept clearly enough they may get it right, but only for a short time. Soon after it will often spring right back to their original, incorrect belief.
The positivists believed that with the development of transport and communication - in their day, canals and the telegraph - irrational thinking would wither way, along with the religions of the past. Despite the history of the past century, Dennett believes much the same. In an interview that appears on the website of the Edge Foundation (edge.org) under the title "The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion", he predicts that "in about 25 years almost all religions will have evolved into very different phenomena, so much so that in most quarters religion will no longer command the awe that it does today". He is confident that this will come about, he tells us, mainly because of "the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television)". The philosopher has evidently not reflected on the ubiquity of mobile phones among the Taliban, or the emergence of a virtual al-Qaida on the web.
In the end his approach and the outcome mirror the research of scholars who over analyze and cherry pick the bible to find evidence of aliens in theophany. I certainly do not mean to say that there is no possibility that the Israelites used entheogens, but that there is at present no archaeological evidence and textual evidence is questionable at best.One of Shanon's hypotheses that is testable is his idea that acacia tree roots from the Sinai, when mixed with harmal (a shrub), produces a hallucinogenic brew. He doesn't seem to have tested this himself (although he has tested a similar concoction using a Brazilian acacia species.
In a telephone interview, Professor Heller explained his affinity for the two fields: “I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence.”
"Our results correlate with other survey data in particular measuresIn an accompanying commentary, Herbert Gintis, (professor
ofsocial norms ofcivic co-operation and rule oflaw in these same societies. The findings suggest that in societies where public co-operation is ingrained and people trust their law enforcement institutions, revenge is generally shunned. But in societies where the modern ethic ofco-operation with unrelated strangers is less familiar and the rule oflaw is weak, revenge is more common.
“The authors’ empirical results show that the advanced market societies with democratic institutions produce an ethicOne
ofspontaneous cooperation, with a strong altruistic dimension, that likely accounts at least in part for their material success and legitimacy, says Gintis. He adds that the results must be validated and extended before we firm conclusions can be drawn.
With regard to the value orientations investigated by Inglehart and co-workers we find that the dimension “traditional vs. secular-rational values” has no explanatory power (probably because in this dimension we do not have much variability across the societiesNow, there are a number
ofour subject pools)
We know from research that four placebo sugar pills a day are more effective than two for eradicating gastric ulcers (and that’s not subjective, you measure ulcers by putting a camera into your stomach); we know that salt water injections are a more effective treatment for pain than sugar pills, not because salt water injections are medically active, but because injections are a more dramatic intervention; we know that green sugar pills are a more effective anxiety treatment than red ones, not because of any biomechanical effect of the dyes, but because of the cultural meanings of the colours green and red. We even know that packaging can be beneficial.In the new study, the willing subjects were given mild electric shocks, and also what they were told was a pain killer (in reality a sugar pill, of course). But there was a twist:
Half the participants were given a brochure describing the pill as a newly-approved pain-killer which cost $2.50 per dose, and half were given a brochure describing it as marked down to 10 cents, without saying why.The result? 85% of those given the 'expensive' sugar pill got pain relief. Remarkably, so did 61% of those given the cheap pill!
Importantly, publication success directly influences both financial income and social status both of which are known to affect fitness (Hopcroft 2006, Hauber 2007). Thus, quantity and quality of publications may have far reaching consequences for social success of academic workers and, consequently, may affect their biological success as well.In other words, scientists who lay off the beer probably have more sex. The paper is Grim 2008 - a sure case of nominative determinism!
The paper is open access, and has a great, brief introduction to earlier theories of moral psychology and where they fall short.
The present theory goes beyond other current accounts of moral reasoning in that it aims to dissolve any appeal to a special mechanism for moral reasoning. When you think about moral issues, you rely on the same independent mechanisms that underlie emotions and cognitions in deontic domains that have nothing to do with morality, such as games and manners. Your evaluations of the morality or immorality of actions depend, in turn, on unconscious intuitions or on conscious reasoning, but your beliefs do not always enable you to reach a clear decision about what is right and what is wrong, or even about whether the matter in hand is a moral issue.