Monday, March 02, 2015

NatGeo offers "The War on Science"

Maybe NatGeo magazines aren’t “books”, but they usually cover important stuff.  Last week, at Harris Teeter, I picked up the March 2015 National Geographic issue called “The War on Science”, with mention of supposed doubters of Climate Change, Evolution (“Inherit the Wind” based on the Scopes trial), the Moon Landing (“Capricorn One”), Vaccinations, and genetically modified food.  (Ok, those organic eggs from Westover Market are really pretty good, thank you.)
The main story is by Joel Achenbach, with photos by Richard Barnes.  He opens his article by mentioning a scene from Stanley Kubrick's “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (which I finally saw in the West Village with a friend in 1978) where Jack D. Ripper says he drinks only distilled water or pure grain alcohol (pure wood alcohol would blind him). There’s a reproduction of an 1893 map of the “Square and Stationary Earth”.
I still encounter belligerent Facebook comments to the effect that God (or Allah) is all you need, and that even thinking about evolution is somehow sinful and transgressing the Creator.  (In “Inherit the Wind” – “that old time religion is good enough for me.”)

The article notes that climate change deniers tends to think in “individualistic” or “hierarchal” terms and tend to fear that government regulation will tread on their self-definition.  I fit that pattern, but I do accept the evidence that climate change is real, and we aren’t close to a solution yet.  And people of my generation will pass away without being held personally accountable for our own excessive consumption – that’s part of the sustainability moral view – but sustainability isn’t everything either.  The article notes that other people may be “egalitarian” and “communitarian” and accept that climate change is “dangerous” and calls for government regulation.  Hurricane Sandy from 2012 gets discussed.

Science doesn’t give us much that is reliable about the afterlife – that’s still a matter of faith – but that could change some day.  Likewise for extraterrestrial life.  I think that what the Monroe Institute puts out is interesting – it can’t be validated by “normal” science, but the CIA actually takes it (especially the “remote viewing”) seriously.  (On older site, I had reviewed Courtney Brown’s “Cosmic Voyage: A Scientific Discovery of Extraterrestrials Visiting Earth”, from 1996, mentioning Monroe.)  But one point is that we could be held responsible for what we consumed after all, if it compromises future generations.  That could become the next big ethical battle.

I don’t think there is a real contradiction between science and faith, just with literal scriptures.  It seems to make sense that cosmological constants for the Universe could be designed by a creator (“intelligent design”), although there is a multiverse argument that says that Universes hospitable for life appear randomly. Something exists because it does – the anthropic principle.  Absolute creationism seems to contradict free will.  Physics says that life, culminating in free choice (and a lot of exposure to pain), is nature’s answer to entropy.  But that means no creator can determine what beings will chose to do.

The article also discusses herd immunity and vaccine refusal, as part of the “free rider” problem (my main blog (Feb. 11, 2015).
I used the German word "Wissenschaft" for Science in my first book, and people asked what it was!
Another critical story in the Part 4 installment of “Out of Eden Walk” vy Paul Salopek, photos by John Stanmeyer, about the Syrian refugee crisis, as tens of thousands sill into Turkey.  There are pictures of life in the tents in the camps, some in the Anatolia area of the film “Winter Sleep”.  
Though crowded with large families, some refugees have some modern amenities like TV and wireless. In some towns, families have been encouraged to take them in, as part of a  “radical hospitality” idea. How would that play out in the US and western counties with the political asylum issue?

There is also an interesting piece on bioluminescence by Olivia Judson.

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