The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Current Affairs ... Politics ... Society ...

Philip Tetlock is a professor and researcher at the at the University of Pennsylvania, and his specialty is a combination of psychology and political science. One of Tetlock’s noted concepts is called “integrative complexity“, which is the degree to which a person’s thinking and reasoning integrates and acknowledges a wide variety of perspectives and possibilities regarding an important issue. Tetlock’s research shows that American politicians whose positions and speeches demonstrate a LOW level of integrative complexity tend to be more successful. I doubt if Donald Trump is included in the research behind Tetlock’s conclusion, but Trump sure does nail the point home!! The fine art of looking for the complex truth and the middle ground in an increasingly complex world is increasingly being disregarded in the way that we now choose our leaders and make our societal decisions.

With that in mind, I would like to take a look at the recent controversy about tran-gender rights especially with regard to use of public rest facilities. I’m going to assume that the reader is familiar with the current situation whereby certain local governments have triggered a political dust-up by responding to demands from LGBT activists that public bathrooms which are designated by sex (i.e., the great majority of restrooms, given that unisex restrooms are a fairly recent social development) be available for use on the basis of psychological identification of sex, and not exclusively upon the user’s biological sex. The recent case in point was in Charlotte NC, which enacted ordinances saying that all sexually-designated restrooms in town that are available to the public (whether in a government facility or in a private establishment like a store or restaurant) can be used based on “identity” and not on the biological sex at birth. This would assure that a trans-gendered person would not get into trouble by using the rest room of the sex that they identify with, as opposed to the sex of their birth (and usually the sex of their bodies, barring a sex-reassignment operation, which around 25 to 30 percent of transgendered people obtain).

That move triggered the State of North Carolina to enact a law blocking such local actions, and specifying that all sexually assigned public facilities will be used based on sex of birth. Other states and towns are now  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:13 pm       Read Comments (6) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Politics ...

We have another round of GOP primaries today — Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware, the so-called “Acela Corridor” (Acela being the Amtrak high-speed train that runs through those states). Donald Trump is expected to do very well in all of them. There is still talk about Trump being denied a first round victory at the July 18 GOP Convention in Cleveland; but in order to do that, it appears that Senator Cruz would have to win both Indiana (May 3) and California (June 6). Otherwise, Trump will come within 50 votes of the 1237 delegate threshold; he could then reasonably be expected to pick-off enough of the 130 or so uncommitted delegates so as to seat him at the top of the GOP line this November. It would simply be a question of making deals with those floating delegates, and of course, Trump is the self-proclaimed master of the deal.

Unfortunately for those of us political junkies who would enjoy the spectacle of a contested GOP convention, several recent polls indicate that Trump is in the lead in both states. The Predictwise web site is today giving Trump 65% odds in Indiana (but no call yet in California). The 538 site is going the other way in Indiana despite the polls, giving Cruz a 54 to 45 advantage over Trump (perhaps on the weekend news that Governor Kasich agreed to suspend his ads and campaigning in Indiana so as to give Cruz a better shot against Trump). However, in California, Mr. Silver’s 538 now has Trump over Cruz by 74/22, despite a Cruz edge of 60/37 only two weeks ago.

So, it’s actually starting to look as if the GOP may actually go over the waterfalls and make Trump its candidate. There are a variety of opinions about what this will mean for the Grand Old Party in the long-run, but for now a Trump candidacy will probably  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:38 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Religion ... Society ... Spirituality ... Technology ...

I recently posted a blog about an article that I came across via Real Clear Science regarding whether the human race could become extinct in the foreseeable future. Now I want to ponder another recent article from Real Clear Science regarding extinction. This time the question is whether religion is on the way to becoming extinct, courtesy of the wonders of modern science. The article was written by RCS editor Ross Pomeroy, a zoologist and biologist. OK, with those credentials, you can assume that Pomeroy knows a thing or two about extinction, and about the wonders of science. But is he right that science will inevitably become humankind’s new religion? To me, this smacks of “scientism“, which I have already expressed my reservations about.

Pomeroy claims that science will become the new “faith of humankind”. He notes the writings of Sir James George Frazer, who said that religion, science, and magic are similar conceptions, providing a framework for how the world works and guiding our actions. Frazer said that humanity moved through an Age of Magic before entering an Age of Religion. So, Pomeroy asks, “is an Age of Science finally taking hold?” At the end of his article, he concludes that

One of science’s primary aims is to seek out knowledge that will hopefully better our world and the lives of all who live on it . . . so not only does science dispel religious belief, it also serves as an effective substitute for it.

Given that Pomeroy is a scientist himself, we expect that he will provide empirical evidence to support his claim. And indeed, he does offer some interesting statistics  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:44 am       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Current Affairs ... Science ... Technology ...

I regularly peruse the Real Clear Science web site and usually open up two or three articles from their latest daily list of interesting science articles. A frequent theme of the articles that the RCS editors select for their list regards “how the world could/might/will end”. If you are in a gloomy mood, then you can find examples of such articles here and here and here and here and here.

A few days ago, the RCS daily list included an article from the Science20 web site entitled “Could Anything Make Humans Extinct In the Near Future?” The author (Robert Walker, an inventor and computer geek) reviews more than fifteen possible candidates, including climate change, a comet or asteroid strike, pandemics, overpopulation, runaway nanotechnology, nuclear war, etc. According to Walker, the human race is pretty hard to kill. Many of the candidate “extinction events” could severely reduce our numbers and would probably end civilization as we now know it; but somewhere on the planet, a band of humans would mostly likely live on despite all the calamity.

(FOOTNOTE, strangely enough, Walker did not consider an H-Bomb “Doomsday Machine” like the one in the movie Doctor Strangelove. But then again, in that movie, the good Doctor himself came up with a way to save humankind with a scheme to send small groups to live in caves for the next 25 years. So perhaps Dr. Strangelove was just another example of how hard it is to totally eradicate the human species.)

Overall, Walker seems pretty optimistic that the homo sapiens species is quite robust and thus is not headed for extinction in the foreseeable future. However, there is one thing that does seem to scare him. And if  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:30 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, April 8, 2016
Art & Entertainment ... Spirituality ...

I’ve been a reader of The Atlantic Magazine for many years now. The Atlantic provides a nice overview of current social and political trends, and offers a lot of interesting “backgrounder” articles on a wide variety of people, places and happenings. But it’s also a “culture” magazine. As such, it has a required amount of material regarding literature and the fine arts. I am not at all a literature and arts aficionado, so I often skip or just skim through the material on fiction, poetry, performing art, etc. (Although, the Atlantic also keeps up on popular culture, which I sometimes find useful given that in my old age I don’t stay up with every hot new actress or hip new singer breaking onto the scene).

Despite my disinterest in fine culture, the past two issues of the Atlantic have had book reviews regarding two modern American writers (one an author of prose, the other a poet) who captured my interest after a quick perusal. One is Annie Dillard, a writer of prose, who was featured in the March 2016 issue. The other is the poet Wallace Stevens, subject of a book review in the April issue.

What interested me about both artists was their attitude about God. Let’s start with Stevens first. Wallace Stevens was born in 1879, and did most of his writing work between 1923 and his death in 1955. His poetry is considered “modernist”, rather cutting-edge and avant garde for the time. Not being much of a poetry reader, I can’t say much about it, other than  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:33 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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