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The Coming Age of Illiteracy: What Future for Science?

The Coming Age of Illiteracy: What Future for Science?

One of the 16th century reliefs still existing at the monastery of San Vivaldo,” in Tuscany. It is an early example of a purely image-based communication: an attempt to tell complex concepts, the stories of the gospels, to people who couldn’t read conventional text. It was a failure, but it was a remarkably innovative approach. The time for image-based communication may return with the rapid loss of literacy affecting our times. The problem with this evolution is huge in science, with fewer and fewer people able to read the scientific literature. We are now depending on professional interpreters to tell us what “Science” is, just like long ago illiterate Christians were forced to rely on professional interpreters (“priests”) to tell them what the scriptures said. The result is that Science is becoming whatever these professional interpreters say that Science is. And this is bad, although perhaps not beyond redemption. 

Let me start this post by citing a fascinating article written by “Marty Mac’s and Cheese” I don’t know who Mr. Marty Mac is, but he is clearly someone who has a remarkable cultural vision. He notes how Catholicism and Protestantism evolved along separate lines of thought. Protestantism was born as a literature-based religion: Protestants were “people of the book.” Conversely, Catholicism catered more to the illiterate. 

You can see the difference in the respective churches: Protestant churches are normally austere, while Catholic churches are highly decorated and full of images. The image below is from Marty Mac’s post.

The idea of using a visual language was exploited in full by the Catholic Church. The multi-colored reliefs of the San Vivaldo monastery, in Italy, are one of the few remaining examples of the attempt to create a completely new visual language that would bypass the Babel of spoken languages that Europe was at that time…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The War on Science and the 20th Century Descent of Man

Huxley makes it crystal clear that he considers the world to be overpopulated, and that science and progress cannot be free to advance without limits.

In Part 1 the question was discussed what was Aldous’ real intention in writing the Brave New World; was it meant as an exhortation, an inevitable prophecy or as an Open Conspiracy? An Open Conspiracy closely linked to not only H.G. Wells, who clearly laid out such a vision in his book by the same title, published in 1928, but a vision also in the vein of Aldous’ famous grandfather Thomas Huxley “Darwin’s bulldog” and mentor to Wells.

It is from here that we will continue to discuss what exactly were Aldous’ views on such matters, did he in fact believe in the need for a scientific dictatorship? A scientific caste system? Was he actually warning the people that such a dystopia would occur if we did not correct our course or was it all part of a mass psychological conditioning for what was regarded as inevitable, and that Aldous’ role was rather to “soften the transition” as much as possible towards a “dictatorship without tears”?

The War on Science

“ ‘A New Theory of Biology’ was the title of the paper which Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. He sat for some time, meditatively frowning, then picked up his pen and wrote across the title-page: ‘The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.’ … A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose – well, you didn’t know what the result might be…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Corruption of Science | An International Issue

The Corruption of Science | An International Issue

Censorship of scientists and the manipulation, distortion, and suppression of scientific information are a threat to science.
Editor’s note: Last week, Mexico’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for 31 scientists, researchers and academics formerly employed by Conacyt on corruption charges — or, as Dr. Toledo might say, diversion of public funds that did not benefit the country. The scientific community has responded with outrage in this developing story that exemplifies Dr. Toledo’s thesis, published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada on Aug. 24.

We are living at the pinnacle or crest of corruption in the world — the use and abuse of political and economic power, knowledge or hierarchical position. The list includes businessmen, tycoons, bankers, public employees, presidents and prime ministers, kings, princes and princesses, priests, bishops and archbishops, diplomats, rectors, sports people, art and science and a long et cetera. This phenomenon coincides with the highest concentration of wealth in history represented by the profits of automobile, oil, coal, nuclear, mining, food, pharmaceutical, chemical, agrochemical, biotechnological, cement, tourism, metallurgical and telecommunications corporations, arms and weapons manufacturers, and all the rest.

To achieve this, corporate power put the scientific and technical knowledge of each branch at its service. This meant the creation of an army of specialized researchers capable of efficiently addressing segments of knowledge without questioning either the ethical implications or risks for humanity or the planetary environment. This technoscience with obedient researchers was achieved by the imposition of a dogma:

all scientific and technical knowledge is morally good, since there is only one Science, immaculate and at the service of development, peace and humanity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

WEIRD – Thinking Beyond Technology: Issue no.5, “Research for the End of Your ‘Normal’ Everyday Existence” Mabon 2021

WEIRD – Thinking Beyond Technology:

Issue no.5, “Research for the End of Your ‘Normal’ Everyday Existence”
Mabon 2021

Go to ‘WEIRD’: Thinking Beyond Technology – Main Index

Click here for a brief explanation about the ‘WEIRD’ newsletter.

issue-004

Download this edition

  • A4 format PDF – for printing at A4, single- or double-sided, stapled in the top-left corner; or
  • A3 brochure format PDF – for printing as an A3 double-sided, folded and stapled brochure, or (with very small text) scaling-down for double-sided A4.

Contents

Note: Breaking with our usual ‘no linking’ convention,
this edition of WEIRD, each of the article headings contains a list of the academic studies referenced in it
for you to download & read.

☮ ‘Introduction’
Introducing the science for the end of your ‘normal’ everyday existence.
☮ History file: Bill Devall – ‘The Deep Ecology Movement’
Published in 1980, this tract was the first to outline the split between ‘eco-reformers’ & ‘deep ecologists’.
References:

☮ “It’s the economy, stoooopid!”
Environmentalism uses tech. as a sticking plaster; research says it’s affluence.
References:

☮ ‘Are humans a virus?’
In these times of disruptive pandemic, it might be interesting to figure how all other life on Earth looks at us.
References:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Collapse of Scientism and the Rebirth of Science

The Collapse of Scientism and the Rebirth of Science

The oldest image (1228-1229) we have of Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226). Not a portrait, but probably not far from the real aspect of Francis. He engaged in a bold attempt to reform the corrupt Catholic Church in Europe. He failed, but he left a trace in history from which we can still learn much. In our times, the corrupt organization that we need to reform is Science, turned now into a state ideology to oppress people and destroy nature. Maybe we need a new St. Francis to reform it, or maybe it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch in a new structure. Here, I discuss this story and I also reproduce a post by Luisella Chiavenuto (a little long, but worth reading) who has perfectly understood the situation and proposes that what we call “science of complexity” is a completely new kind of science, different from the old Galilean version.

With the turn of the 2nd millennium in Europe, the Catholic Church had gone through the involution that’s typical of all large organizations. It had become huge, bureaucratic, corrupt, and inefficient. A once idealistic and pure organization had been defeated by the arch-corrupter of everything human: money.

Earlier on, Europe had emerged out of the collapse of the Roman Empire as a lean, non-monetized society that had no impulse to grow and conquer outside lands. But the re-monetization of Europe started when rich silver mines were found in Eastern Europe with the turn of the millennium.

At that time, Europe was bubbling with a new wealth, a new assertiveness, a new way of seeing the world. Once you have money, you can have an army. Once you have an army, you can search for enemies…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tyranny

Tyranny

I’d like to stop writing about COVID, but I can’t because it has such strong economic implications, which can’t be separated. And I’m afraid policies will be enacted that will only make things worse.

We all know the Delta variant of the COVID virus (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading rapidly in the U.S. and Australia. Major outbreaks have also hit India and Brazil.

What has received less attention is the fact that the Delta variant is now also spreading in China. That’s ironic because the virus started in China at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

While the virus spread around the world, China quickly eliminated the spread inside China itself. Now, the virus has come full circle and is back in China in a new, more virulent form.

There’s a huge difference in how China approaches the virus from a public health perspective compared to the U.S., Japan or Europe. China’s lockdowns are far more extreme.

Why China Enforces Extreme Lockdowns

China will quickly identify an outbreak and cut off all car, train and air services to the affected area. China will also quickly shut down major ports and distribution centers if even a single case appears.

China knows that the spread of the virus is a threat to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. China cares more about Party loyalty and Party survival than it does about economic growth.

China is now imposing extreme measures, including canceling many domestic flights, closing ports and restricting vacation travel. China’s economy was already slowing before this new wave of the virus. Given China’s more extreme forms of COVID control, their economy will slow even further.

That’s bad news for China – and bad news for the world. Global growth will slow noticeably in the months ahead, partly because of the extreme nature of China’s lockdown approach.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIX

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Today’s contemplation was prompted by an email my mum sent me. As she closes in on 80, I find that she’s becoming a bit more open-minded about things but remains somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to global warming/anthropogenic climate change. We periodically share thoughts on the state of the world, especially politics, and I think I’ve almost got her convinced to abandon her faith/trust in government…

Anyways, here is the comment about global warming she forwarded to me and my relatively quick response (typed up while I was engaged in replacing a floor/foundation for one of our greenhouses — I never considered a decade ago when I installed the first greenhouse, of three, that the mini-garden ties I was using to terrace our backyard would decay/rot so quickly so I am replacing them with concrete blocks and putting in a patio stone floor so that my eldest daughter who has taken over the greenhouse can have many years of use with it, hopefully). I have added some minor supplemental thoughts (in italics) and supporting links to a few sources (see endnotes).

Comment:

With global warming having become as much a political issue as a scientific inquiry, I went from wondering whether mankind might really be influencing the climate to someone questioning a science I do not understand. I am now worried we are being duped by people with an agenda, like keep the money gravy train running. No one has yet explained to my satisfaction the big ice age followed by warming then a mini-ice age, followed by warming, all before mankind was a significant presence on earth and did nothing but have a few campfires.

Response:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Consensus Building: an art that we are losing. The Case of Climate Science

Consensus Building: an art that we are losing. The Case of Climate Science

In 1956, Arthur C. Clarke wrote “The Forgotten Enemy,” a science fiction story that dealt with the return of the ice age (image source). Surely it was not Clarke’s best story, but it may have been the first written on that subject by a well-known author. Several other sci-fi authors examined the same theme, but that does not mean that, at that time, there was a scientific consensus on global cooling. It just means that a consensus on global warming was obtained only later, in the 1980s. But which mechanisms were used to obtain this consensus? And why is it that, nowadays, it seems to be impossible to attain consensus on anything? This post is a discussion on this subject that uses climate science as an example.

You may remember how, in 2017, during the Trump presidency, there briefly floated in the media the idea to stage a debate on climate change in the form of a “red team vs. blue team” encounter between orthodox climate scientists and their opponents. Climate scientists were horrified at the idea. They were especially appalled at the military implications of the “red vs. blue” idea that hinted at how the debate could have been organized. From the government side, then, it was quickly realized that in a fair scientific debate their side had no chances. So, the debate never took place and it is good that it didn’t. Maybe those who proposed it were well intentioned (or maybe not), but in any case it would have degenerated into a fight and just created confusion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Truth About Décolletages: an Epistemic Analysis

The Truth About Décolletages: an Epistemic Analysis

This image represents the rape of Cassandra, the Trojan prophetess. It was 
probably made during the 5th century BCE (Presently at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Napoli, 2422). Note the partial nakedness of the figure of Cassandra: for the ancient female breasts did not have the erotic meaning that they have nowadays for us. Instead, it was a typical convention that when a woman was shown with fully or partly bare breasts, it was to be understood that she was in distress. Cassandra’s rape scene was almost always represented in this way, but it is not the only example. It is not easy for us to understand why our perception of this anatomic feature of human females has changed so much, but is not impossible to propose reasonable hypotheses. In this post, you’ll read about one of these hypotheses from the book “The Empty Sea” (Springer 2020) by Ugo Bardi and Ilaria Perissi. But I’ll start with some epistemological considerations.

Science is supposed to tell us what things really are. But is it true? In recent times, the prestige of science seems to be declining for various good reasons. An example: in his “Red Earth, White Lies,” Vine Deloria, Jr. starts with a citation from the 1973 series by Jacob Bronowski, “The Ascent of Man.

“Why are the Lapps white? Man began with a dark skin; the sunlight makes vitamin D . . . in the North, man needs to let in all the sunlight there is to make enough vitamin D and natural selection therefore favoured those with whiter skins.”

Deloria notes that “Lapps may have whiter skins than Africans, but they do not run around naked to absorb the sunlight’s vitamin D.” From this, he says that “my faith in science decreased geometrically over the years.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Collapse of Science: We Need a new Paradigm for the Third Millennium

The Collapse of Science: We Need a new Paradigm for the Third Millennium

I am not saying that all science is corrupt, but if images like the one above exist, it means that there is a serious problem of corruption in science. And note that it comes from “Scientific American” — not exactly your average tabloid! It may well be that Science is going the way many historical belief systems went: abandoned because they were not consistent with the needs of their times. And, as in ancient times, the decline of a system of beliefs starts with the corruption of its clerics — in this case, scientists.

If you read the “Decameron,” written by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1370, you will notice the slandering of the Christian Church as a pervasive thread. At that time, it seems that it was an obvious fact that priests, monks, and the like were corrupt people who had abandoned their ideals to fall into various sins, including avarice, gluttony, blasphemy, and carnal lust.

Boccaccio’s book would not have been possible a few centuries before, when the Christian Church still enjoyed enormous prestige. But something had changed in the European society that was gradually making the Church obsolete. It was unavoidable: ideas, just like empires, are cyclical, they grow, peak, and then decline.

Christianity had been born during the late Roman Empire when the European society had no use for the warlike ideals of ancient paganism. Christianity took over and created a system of beliefs that was compatible with a society that had no imperial ambitions. But, with the waning of the Middle Ages, Europe became rich again and the Church started to be seen as an obstacle to economic and military expansion. It would take more than a century after Boccaccio before things came to a head when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Introduction to The Web of Meaning

Web of meaning coverEd. note: This excerpt from the Web of Meaning is published with the permission of the author.

As our civilization careens toward a precipice of climate breakdown, ecological destruction, and gaping inequality, people are losing their existential moorings. Our dominant worldview has passed its expiration date: it’s based on a series of flawed assumptions that have been superseded by modern scientific findings.

The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe (published this week in the UKnext month in the US), offers a coherent and intellectually solid foundation for an alternative worldview based on deep interconnectedness, showing how modern scientific knowledge echoes the ancient wisdom of earlier cultures.

Here is the Introduction.

Tea with Uncle Bob

We could call it The Speech. You’ve probably heard it many times. Maybe you’ve even given it. Every day around the world, innumerable versions of it are delivered by Someone Who Seems to Know what they’re talking about.

It doesn’t seem like much. Just another part of life’s daily conversations. But every Speech, linked together, helps to lock our entire society up in a mental cage. It might occur anywhere in the world, from a construction site in Kansas to a market stall in Delhi. It can be given by anyone old enough to have learned a thing or two about how it all works. But it’s usually delivered by someone who feels they’ve been around the block a few times and they want to give you the benefit of their wisdom.

Because I grew up in London, I’ll zoom in there to a particular version of The Speech that reverberates with me. It’s an occasional family gathering—one of those events where toddlers take center stage and aunties serve second helpings of cake…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales, Part Two

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales, Part Two

 This facade of the main street in Thurmond, West Virginia, looks impressive but hides the fact
that this is a ghost town. No businesses actually exist in these buildings today and the entire town only has 4 or 5 residents today. More info can be obtained here and here.
*     *     *

One of the pernicious effects of the mainstream media regarding climate change and indeed, all the other predicaments under the banner of ecological overshoot, is the sheer level of denial presented. This can easily be detected in many articles about different predicaments such as climate change and I found one in particular (out of thousands; this is just one of the most recent ones) that brings this phenomenon into focus, quote:

Climate experts warn that, without urgent action, climate change will continue to cause an increase in the intensity of extreme rainfall that can lead to severe flooding.

An international research team have concluded that increases in  and associated flooding are projected to continue as  continue to rise. Efforts to limit warming to +1.5C will help limit changes in extreme rainfall, though some societal adaptations will still be required.

This is laughable to say the least. +1.5C will be reached most likely within the next five years regardless of what actions are taken at this point outside of a nuclear winter (a distinct possibility, as horrid as it is). Some experts have claimed that limiting climate change to +1.5C is now impossible and I agree. While there are some who still think it is possible to limit global temperatures to +1.5C, these appear to discount the reality of how society works, oceanic thermal inertia, and civilizational inertia. This civilizational inertia is extremely important to understand, as this prevents most attempts at reducing emissions from succeeding at accomplishing much if anything

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fact Checking Patrick Moore, Climate Skeptic

Fact Checking Patrick Moore, Climate Skeptic

The ex-Greenpeacer claims his new book is science-based. It’s gaining traction. But when contacted, researchers he cites said he got their work wrong.

Five years ago, the Great Barrier Reef was hit by its worst recorded bleaching to date, with media outlets around the world rushing to tell the public why that was putting the World Heritage site at risk.

Their stories were accompanied by headlines such as “Bleaching hits 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef,” “93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is suffering” and the hyperbolic “93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is practically dead.”

This bleaching happens when corals are put under stress and expel the colourful algae that are their primary food source. It’s considered a consequence of climate change because that stress can be caused by rising water temperatures, with the Great Barrier Reef’s 2016 bleaching the result of a record-breaking marine heatwave.

But former Canadian Greenpeace leader turned prominent climate science skeptic Patrick Moore was suspicious about reports of that bleaching. In his new Amazon-bestselling book Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom, Moore wrote “the careful reader would be hard pressed to find the origin of the 93 per cent as there is no record of it other than in headlines.”

There’s just one problem: such a record does exist. At least some articles referenced the work of Terry Hughes and the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Stop Trusting the Experts!

Stop Trusting the Experts!

Every now and then, I’m lucky enough to meet someone who “follows the science.” I count on such folks to teach me some science that I do not yet know. Being scientifically literate, I like to start by asking them some basic questions:

How are key data terms defined? How are data collected and reported? What theories guided the design of the models that process the raw data? What studies validated the models? How sensitive are the models to variations in inputs? How well do the models perform using historical data? Do the models have a track record at prediction — and if so, how well have they done? What alternative hypotheses were considered? How were the hypotheses tested?

Anyone surprised by such questions can’t plausibly claim to understand the science, much less to follow it. Most likely, they’ve confused “the science” with a selected scientist, a claimed scientific consensus, or the scientific establishment. Or, worse, partisan politics masquerading as science.

The confusion stems from a common misconception — an improper line many people draw between scientists working for corporations and scientists working for universities or government agencies. While most people understand that corporate scientists tend to support positions that serve corporate interests, many have been fooled into believing that academic and government scientists serve objective scientific truth.

Employment incentives are important to all scientists. The only difference is that it’s easier for outsiders to guess what a corporation wants its scientists to say than it is to understand what drives career advancement in academia or government.

With the absence of a bottom line or market feedback, success in academic or government science often flows to those most adept at flattering their more senior colleagues…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Seeing through the seductions of science and technology

Seeing through the seductions of science and technology

The history books in our schools tell us that scientific and technological advancement have freed us from boredom, ignorance and oppression; from drudgery and repetition; from dirt, disease and malnutrition.

Let’s briefly examine these assumptions about what “progress” has achieved, and consider where we go from here.

Freedom from boredom, ignorance, and oppression

To be free from boredom, ignorance and oppression, first we condemn our children to approximately two decades of mind-numbing “education” during what should be the free-est years of their lives. (Education, depending on how it’s conducted, can either be liberating or it can restrict children’s thinking and experimentation to such an extent that most of them forget how to think for themselvesi.)

“So long as our kids get the 3R’s and plenty of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) drummed into them,” we might think, “they won’t be disadvantaged.”

Next, we enshrine a screen in every home; even in every room of every home; even in the car! (Because, now that we have all this leisure time thanks to technology, we need something to fill it with.)

Numbed by popular media, programmed for consumption to support a never-ending-growth economy, we adults send our kids to good schools and exhort them to work hard and earn good grades so they’ll get good jobs, while we keep our own noses to the grindstone and our feet on the treadmill.

We’re sure that once the mortgage is paid off and the cars and screens are upgraded, THEN we can start having fun.

Freedom from drudgery and repetition

School prepares children for their working lives.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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