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The Compassion Project, Only Compassion Defeats Dehumanization

Compassion doesn't have to be a "deep sorrow", just the willingness to be moved to ease the pain of another, the w...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Science Helps Study Reality, It Isn't Reality

You can't see the entire mountain of truth from one point of view, particularly if it's the one that your feet are planted upon.

Perception isn't reality, it helps shape it. Science is the measuring of perception. Blind faith in science is a religion.

Science is a method of skeptical investigation, experimentation, and repeated verification of observable evidence applied to applied to philosophical questions, theories, and principles regarding the nature of our reality. It uses the language of mathematics when words fail in accurate description. It never produces 100% certainty, just probability of prediction nearing 99.9%. Accurate measure is the key.

The scientific faith that the Rationalist Religion is based upon contends that all rel things are fundamentally measurable. The fundamentalists even believe that our current ability to observe, measure, and be objective, is perfect.

Science is never beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury is always being reconvened. That is the one thing that it has proved with absolute certainty.

There is always far more beyond than with our present awareness. Beyond perception but not imagination, comprehension, or reality. These are infinite in potential.

Certainty and blind faith are sins against the method and its purpose.

The method recently revealed that we have no idea what the universe's dominant force and matter actually are. We call them Dark to emphasize our ignorance.

The first act of wisdom is recognition of one's own ignorance. Science isn't wisdom but a philosophical tool for its development and application. Philosophy is the search for wisdom. Experience is our teacher.

Certainty chains curious questions, precisely what the scientific method was invented to help explore. Certainty is unscientific and guaranteeing it is blind faith. Its dogma is the foundation of the Religion of Rationalism, a mechanistic view also known as Determinism.

Fate. Destiny. Preordination.

An ongoing, complex, rich, improvised book series following an arc, written randomly by untrained monkeys of different species working and playing separately without purpose in greatly varying locations without any communication. Tick. Tick. Gears spin and hands move.

The scientific method doesn't determine the nature of reality, it looks for measurable ways to define and discuss it. Anything more than that is rooted in Fantasy, imagination and belief, trying to achieve magic with technology. Saving the world with scientific miracles.

Just another story.

All stories have value and some truth or they are nonsensical, but suspension of disbelief doesn't mean gullibility. Religion isn't supposed to be blind faith, but a conscious decision and way of life. Without reason it is meaningless. Just conditioning for the pack. Same as science.

Measurements point toward the truth, but truth isn't measurable.

"Scientism" (as mention in the program below) took hold of a claim to the one and only truth. This is inherent to most if not all religions. Evidence-based natural philosophy turned on the broader field and depth of wisdom and knowledge to focus narrow lines of physical specialization limited by the reach of observation, limiting thinking and sight further with dense levels of jargon and a culture rooted in male European class privilege, two problems not uncommon to the rest of philosophy. Then it claimed that there is nothing beyond that reach. Mathematics is a fundamental language available to describe reality, it does not define or create reality. When  a method of philosophical investigation based on reason and rationality rejects the rest of philosophy, the search for wisdom, and depends solely on instrumentation for calculation and measurement as prophetic idols, it is a religion. Facts cease to be relevant because scientists become just another type of preacher. Priests of Materialism. There are no atheists. "We all gotta serve somebody." They believe in the spirit of reason and rationality that animates matter as expressed in the sacred language of math. Then emotion, dogma, and group-think take over.

That's when truthiness, post-fact, and post-truth, drive the world, granting knowledge false equivalence with opinion and feelings with reasons.

Friday November 25, 2016

Is That All There Is? Exploring the meaning & future of science

Giant, active galaxy NGC 1275. Photographed using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006
Giant, active galaxy NGC 1275. Photographed using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006 (NASA/Getty Images)

Science helps us understand ourselves and our own place in the cosmos. But how far does the math take us?  And what do science and the humanities tell us when we look at the same questions from different points of view? From the Stratford Festival, a discussion between physicist Neil Turok, science writer Margaret Wertheim and philosopher Mark Kingwell. (And don't worry: they all agree - the world really does exist and so do you.)
The astronomer Carl Sagan liked to say that science isn't so much a body of knowledge, but more a way of thinking, a way of "interrogating the universe" as he put it. And maybe that's our most pronounced human quality -- we ask questions, we want to know what's out there, what's in there, and also -- what's the meaning of things?

All that human curiosity has delivered great gifts, and our lives have improved beyond measure. We live longer and better, and we know more about ourselves, our world and the cosmos. But the deeper we go, the more puzzles we find. The physical laws at the level of little things, subatomic particles, and the laws at the level of really big things, the universe itself -- these laws are confusing and contradictory. They don't seem to fit with the laws of regular experience.

"We've seen these incredible advances in our basic knowledge of the universe, at the same time the discipline itself is in a crisis. So what's the crisis? Essentially nothing new has been predicted in fundamental physics for three decades"  -- Neil Turok

The deeper our understanding of the physical world goes, the deeper the big questions about the meaning of things goes too. Science, it seems, needs new ways of thinking.

Guests in this episode:
  • Margaret Wertheim, science writer and author of Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything (Walker Books, 2013); Pearly Gates Of Cyberspace, (W.W Norton, 2000); Pythagoras' Trousers (W.W.Norton,1997)
  • Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario
  • Mark Kingwell, professor of philosophy in the University of Toronto

** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded at the Stratford Festival by Melissa Renaud. Thanks also to Keira Loughran, Dian Marie Bridge,  David Campbell, Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.

Economics is Not a Science

Economics is more akin to history than science. Like history, it makes use of science, but both are based on a large degree of interpretation beyond the objective facts, and few of the facts are completely objective. When it turns to prognostication both can make educated guesses based on perceived patterns in the available data of the past and present, but cannot predict with anything close to 99% certainty like true science.  If it is a science, like meteorology and climatology, it is in its infancy, starved for the moment of the technology that would make its data sets more complete and reliable. It's only true law is that of supply and demand, which really comes down to basic physics.

On a simpler level, if it were a science, economists would be called scientists.

Much too much of economics is expectation arising from theory based on speculation about assumptions. It's less accurate, on more than a simple level, than meteorology. Like history, it is always playing catch-up. At this stage, it’s like alchemy to chemistry or astrology to astronomy. Economics tries to be the study of everything, reducing everything to economic pressures and mechanics. One day, we may have such a universal science, but it isn't today.

Meteorology doesn't claim to be a perfect forecaster, so we don't base long-term behaviour solely on it. But we base national policy solely on economics. We don't do that with history, assuming that just because that's the way it was, it can't be done differently. We don't base a nation's future solely on its past. But we do it with economics.

We shouldn't be taking educated guesses as gospel truth and we shouldn't be treating it like physics. Even physics got it wrong a bunch of times before it became a true science, and it's still not perfect.

Economics certainly isn't.

Do we want let the phrenologists continue to guide us by the lumps they inflict on us?

Monday November 28, 2016

It's The Economists, Stupid

(Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Interest rates.  Unemployment. GDP.  Markets. Austerity measures.  Economists tell us what we, as societies, can and can't afford.  But how do they decide? What values are at play? IDEAS producer Mary O'Connell speaks with two economists about how modern mantras on the economy limit our choices and shut down civic debate. **This episode first aired September 9, 2015.

Participants in this episode: 
  • Dr. Julie Nelson, Department Chair and Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  • Dr. Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, The Australia Institute, Canberra City, Australia.

As a group, economists don't have a great track record: they largely failed to predict the oil crisis of the 1970's, the dot-com bubble, the U.S. housing collapse.  Even the O.E.C.D. -- the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development -- admits its forecasts have been way off.  One of its staffers even conceded: "maybe we suffer from group think".  Little wonder that economics has been known as "the dismal science" since the 19th century.

John Kenneth Galbraith once explained that, "Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment… for economists".  However, there are deeper, more serious fissures.  Economists explain how the turbulence of housing markets, mortgage rates, inflation and income inequality affect us all.  But who are they speaking to and whom do they represent?

Economist Julie Nelson
Julie Nelson

Feminist economist Julie Nelson believes most economists no longer represent the public good because they're operating out of self-importance and greed.  "You can find economists shilling for all kinds of groups.  If they're not consciously shilling, they're incredibly careerist."  The University of Massachusetts Department Chair and Economics professor thinks the media obsession with the state of financial markets doesn't tell us how we're doing as a society.  "Maybe we should be asking, who's eating and who's not."   Richard Denniss concurs.  He's Chief Economist for the independent think tank, The Australia Institute, and calls himself a "whistle-blower economist". He believes we've come to view markets as gods.  "The market does this, the market does that… as if it's something magical. It's really just a small group of people with a lot of money who are gambling on making more."   
Economist, Richard Denniss
Richard Denniss

Richard Denniss and Julie Nelson believe current economic group think produces a mantra that supports cutting taxes, reducing deficits, massive down-sizing, bloated CEO salaries, and "shrinking social programs till they scream".   Julie Nelson concludes these trends not only generate more poverty; they hollow out the middle-class, and that's bad for capitalism.  She says: "this was figured out a long time ago.  Henry Ford wanted to pay a wage to his workers that would allow them to buy the kinds of cars they were making.  And that makes a whole lot of sense.  If you want a market for your product, you have to have people who can afford to buy that product.  But that basic logic is drowned out by all the austerity rhetoric that we're hearing from industry and government these days".  
Reading List:
  • Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, by Richard Denniss and Clive Hamilton, Allen & Unwin, 2006. 
  •  Economics for Humans, by Julie Nelson, University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • The Skeptical Economist: Revealing the Ethics Inside Economics, by Jonathan Aldred, Routledge, 2010.

Related Websites:
**This episode was produced by Mary O'Connell

"Knowledge isn't created by single scientist or research group coming up with hypothesis. Knowledge comes up through interaction among the scientific community, and with public."
-- Helen Longino, Stanford University

Thursday October 06, 2016

Ideas from the Trenches - The Post-Modern Chimpanzee's Guide to Parenting

The following is from CBC Radio's Spark:

Reality isn't real, Utopia is creepy and more
Reality isn't real, Utopia is creepy and more (Michelle Parise)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59 How our minds construct reality for us. Why our techno-utopia is actually dystopian. The trouble with that workplace dictator, email.  And, diving into internet chum.

Sunday October 09, 2016

Utopia is Creepy

In his latest book, Nicholas Carr challenges our tech-besotted culture.
In his latest book, Nicholas Carr challenges our tech-besotted culture.
Listen 13:08
When it comes to our digital devices, we're a lot like 1960s teenagers crowded around the new hi-fi. Just besotted. Completely obsessed. Unable to put them down when we're called for dinner.
Okay, maybe not everyone is that tethered to, or in love with, their tech gadgets. But still, in the last ten years or so, we've seen a huge shift in how--and how often--people are online.
"People obviously are carrying around this very powerful media computer in their pocket," says technology and culture writer Nicholas Carr. "And they're pulling it out and interacting with it, a hundred, two hundred times a day which is every few minutes of their waking life."
Nick is known for his critical look at our love affair with digital life. He wrote about our short attention span in the article "Is Google Making Us Stupid", and his book, The Shallows.

330 Nick Carr
Nicholas Carr (photo by Scott Keneally)
His latest book is called Utopia is Creepy. It's a collection of blog posts and articles written over the past decade and is like a series of snapshots of how digital culture has changed since 2005. A lot of it is about Web 2.0, the shift over the past 12 years to a more user-friendly, participatory web, propelled by user-generated content.
As our online life evolves into apps and chatbots and the internet of things, it's worth looking at where we've been, so we can plan for where we're going. Taking the long view of the past decade, how would Nick characterize what we've gone through?
"Most of the time that people are online, they're dealing with Facebook or Google or Amazon. The big hopes that everything would be decentralized, and power would be decentralized in the media, and all of us would gain more power and responsibility as individuals or as small groups -- that really hasn't panned out. So one of the major trends is this huge consolidation of power and money in a handful of companies."
It can be hard to remember what digital life was like 10 years ago, when YouTube was new, Facebook was just opening up to the general public, and people used cell phones for, you know, making phone calls. But it was such an exciting time to be online. Suddenly, regular people were making podcasts. They were writing blogs that could go toe-to-toe with newspaper columnists.

330 Wikipedia entry on itself
The utopian promise of Web 2.0 was user-generated content and collaboration.
  There was this incredible experiment called Wikipedia! An encyclopedia that was written and edited by volunteers! That actually worked! The old gatekeepers were crumbling, and it seemed like anything was possible.
If you don't remember that heyday of the internet, you may be wondering what the big deal is. Maybe it all even sounds a little anti-populist to you. What's so wrong with the way it is now?
"Rather than the dream of liberation and emancipation and decentralization, what's really been created online is a culture of dependency and distraction." Nick says "And I hope people will demand more of this new medium than they are right now." He adds that the for the last decade he believes the web has been going in the wrong direction.

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How smartphones have changed our behaviour1:11
Nick doesn't shy away from pointing out the limits to the creativity and self-expression that we find in today's digital life. And yet, the evolution of the web has in many ways lowered the barrier to entry, hasn't it? You don't need to know how to code, for example, in order to participate online.
"There is this tension between the democratizing effects of the web, and the consolidation of power and consolidation of traffic," he says. "But even just looking narrowly at the history of the web, we've seen a retreat from that democratization and a retreat from the anything-goes, the personal will be the centre of expression, to this much more formal, much more controlled system."