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All posts for the month March, 2012

Just capturing a link to “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald” – the PBS Frontline documentary from 1993. This is the full 3 hour version – different edits have slightly different introductory sequences, and there are shorter versions shown at various times on other international networks. It’s the best version I know of – gives time to all the conspiracy theories and questions but remains pretty factual, objective and open. (Norman Mailer’s “Oswald’s Tale” is the best written biography I’ve read. Now Ruby, now there’s some debatable motives.)

Great story full of potential and, like any potential, synthetic biology will have its risks of misuse too.

My point is not to confuse this with science – it really is engineering technology based-on science.

As well as being up-front on decisions of risk and morality, I particularly like the reference to encoded information being the real deal here – the work is mainly computational and the business an on-line mail-order affair – a distributed federation of designers and manufacturers linked by ICT (and delivery vans). Funny old world – information really is the foundation science, before logic, maths, physics, chemistry and biology.

Less can be more when it comes to public communication, yet again:

Some will assume that the only reason [not to] publish a full list …. is because they have something to hide …. There is, though, one other reason – a worry about where transparency will stop.

When the public loses trust in institutions they tend to demand a revelation of all the facts.

Restoration of trust should be the focus.

Interesting piece “What is Science? What is Language?” from Ted Lumley.

Must read the Whorf and Mach references. Here is Ted’s summary:

There is a problem here in that the scientific way of understanding that has been the very foundation of Western civilization is a rising source of incoherence.  So long as we stick with the scientific method in our attempts at resolving the dissonances of this incoherence, we shall only exacerbate the problem.  Miring us further in this incoherence is the  powerful matrix of living ‘icons’ of Western civilization whose high and richly rewarded and privileged status would be radically altered by a collapse of belief in the scientific tenets of Western civilization.  Yet we are at a point of ‘revision’ of our understanding wherein, as Dan “Moonhawk” Alford observes:

“…  the entire Western worldview — logic, reason, science, philosophy, categories — the entire ‘civilization’ enterprise of which academia is a part, in fact, is at stake.”

Western civilization is running on the flywheel effect of ‘pride’ as Alford suggests, and on the flywheel effect of the matrix of power constituted by the differentially respected, rewarded, privileged and empowered icons of this civilization.

A long piece, worth a read in full.

A couple of weeks since I blogged – just too busy with work and travel – but as usual that combination gave me reading time on west-bound Atlantic flights. Two recent reads of note:

The (reverendSam Norton’sLet Us Be Human, Christianity for a Collapsing Culture” and (atheist) Philip Pullman’sThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ“.

Sam’s is an easy read. Sadly, the scientific evidence of global crises, is so simplistic and superficial that it’s hard to imagine many scientific atheists taking the trouble to read on – it smacks of  jumping on (and thence reinforcing) that particular meme in order to get published. If culture is collapsing, it is simply happening at the prevailing rate of idolatrous (*) human communication, as it always has been. I say sadly however, because scientific minded atheists are precisely the people who should read this book. I’m no bible-scholar, but the truths that transcend history in the words of the prophets are something science (and scientism in wider life and governance) tends to ignore in its own search for transcendental objective truth. The irony for me is that Sam (in his blog) is not practicing what he preaches (in his book):

Let us get on with the task of building our cathedrals of justice, forgiveness and kindness in our communities, and [allow ourselves to be taught] what it means to be human.

Pullman, is equally easy to read – in fact a very engaging and creative read told by a recognized story-teller, about story-telling. Ironically his setting proves my point about Sam’s book. The impending Judeo-Roman “crisis” around the time of Jesus Christ. Life has always been about dealing with the next crisis – nothing new under the sun since 4000BC in that respect. The book is a creative “how it might have happened” re-telling of the gospels in matter of fact language around the “reporting” of the life and times of Jesus and the parables of what it means to be (a good) human. Good news of the truths recorded beyond actual historical fact; mythical and mystical naturally, but quite independent of any need to believe in earthly powers ascribed to any omniscient or omnipotent god. Excellent stuff – and, without any Greek philosophical content, it manages to weave in a starring role for a (presumed) Greek philosopher, just enough to tantalise that each school of thought fed off the other.

Any more would be a spoiler.
Go read …. both of them.

[(*) Idolatrous in the sense that we “worship” established meaning in words as somehow high-quality, objective reality – after Owen Barfield – whereas Dr. Johnson reminds us “Words are the daughters of  Earth” – created by humans.]