Archive May 2012

Scientific knowledge — reliable but not certain Ken Perrott May 31


I find attempts to describe the scientific method in simple terms less and less convincing. And this goes for attempts by  both supporters of science, and those who oppose science. In reality science is a messy process and simple algorithmic flow diagrams can’t show that.

In the past I have mentioned Feynman’s  simple description of the scientific description of the scientific method as doing whatever it takes to avoid being fooled by reality.  Recently I came across another description – much longer – but it certainly gives the picture. It’s philosopher Susan Haack‘s crossword metaphor. She describes this in her book Defending Science-Within Reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism.

After concluding that science deserves its reputation for reliable knowledge, and describing how that knowledge is still provisional, open to change, and therefore not “certain,” she goes on to give this description of scientific method at the beginning of Chapter 4: The Long Arm of Common Sense: Instead of a Theory of Scientific Method “:

“Picture a scientist as working on part of an enormous crossword puzzle: making an informed guess about some entry, checking and doublechecking its fit with the clue and already-completed intersecting entries, of those with their clues and yet other entries, weighing the likelihood that some of them might be mistaken, trying new entries in the light of this one, and so on. Much of the crossword is blank, but many entries are already completed, some in almost-indelible ink, some in regular ink, some in pencil, some heavily, some faintly. Some are in English, some in Swahili, some in Flemish, some in Esperanto, etc. In some areas many long entries are firmly inked in, in others few or none. Some entries were completed hundreds of years ago by scientists long dead, some only last week. At some times and places, on pain of firing or worse, only words from the Newspeak dictionary may be used; at others there is pressure to fill in certain entries this way rather than that, or to get going on this completely blank part of the puzzle rather than working on easier, partially filled-in parts-or not to work on certain parts of the puzzle at all. Rival teams squabble over some entries, pencilled or even inked in and then rubbed out, perhaps in a dozen languages and a score of times. Other teams cooperate to devise a procedure to churn out all the anagrams of this chapter-long clue or a device to magnify that unreadably tiny one, or call to teams working on other parts of the puzzle to see if they already have something that could be adapted, or to ask how sure they are that it really must be an S here. Someone claims to notice a detail in this or that clue that no one else has seen; others devise tests to check whether he is an especially talented observer or is seeing things, and yet others work on instruments for looking more closely. From time to time accusations are heard of altered clues or blacked-out spaces. Sometimes there are complaints from those working on one part of the puzzle that their view of what’s going on in some other part is blocked. Now and then a long entry, intersecting with numerous others which intersect with numerous others, gets erased by a gang of young turks insisting that the whole of this area of the puzzle must be re-worked, this time, naturally, in Turkish-while others try, letter by letter, to see if most of the original Welsh couldn’t be kept …. I don’t mean to fob you off with a metaphor instead of an argument. But I do mean my word-picture to suggest, what I believe is true, that scientific inquiry is far messier, far less tidy, than the Old Deferentialists imagined; and yet far more constrained by the demands of evidence than the New Cynics dream.”

I like that metaphor. It’s certainly gives an idea of what scientific research feels like.

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Weather extremes and climate change Ken Perrott May 29

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That global warming could lead to extreme weather events seems reasonable to me. And such events can cause large losses of life and property – made worse by their unpredictable nature.

So there is scientific debate on whether the extreme events we have seen over recent years resulted from climate change or not. Some scientific work suggests “yes,” others “no.” (And you can guess which work the climate denial echo chamber amplifies).

Now, James Hansen and two co-authors are publishing work suggesting “yes” – we are already seeing extreme events resulting from the currently rather small amount of global warming – and we expect to see more extreme events in future. They base their conclusions on the statistical distribution of all weather events (measured by temperature) and the change in that distribution over recent years.

You can see the basic idea in the graph below taken from their paper (Climate variability and climate change: The new climate dice).

Credit: Climate variability and climate change: The new climate dice.

Here the frequency of the event (temperature anomaly  measured against the 1951-1980 average) is plotted (Y-axis) against the size of the anomaly (expressed as a ratio of the anomaly divided by the standard deviation of the distribution σ). The black curve shows the normal distribution expected from such data As the authors describe it:

“A normal distribution of variability has 68 percent of the anomalies falling within one standard deviation of the mean value. The tails of the normal distribution . . .  decrease quite rapidly so there is only a 2.3% chance of the temperature exceeding +2σ, where σ is the standard deviation, and a 2.3% chance of being colder than -2σ. The chance of exceeding +3σ is only 0.13% for a normal distribution of variability, with the same chance of a negative anomaly exceeding -3σ.”

As you can see the variability in anomalies for the periods 1951 – 1961 (red), 1961-1971 (yellow), and 1971-1981 (green) are very similar to the normal distribution for the whole period 1951-1981. But in the periods (1981 – 1991 (light blue), 1991 – 2001 (dark blue), and 2001 – 2011 (violet), the distribution has shifted to higher, more positive, values of the anomaly.

This means that those more extreme temperature events have become more common in the last 30 years. In the above figure the chance of temperature exceeding +2σ has moved from 2.3% to greater than 15%. And the chance of exceeding +3σ from only 0.13% to around 10%.

The paper presents the effects of the movement in climate of different regions and different seasons. Here are maps for June-July-August in the years 1965 and 2010. The colour code indicates the size of the temperature extremes in terms of σ.

Credit: Climate variability and climate change: The new climate dice.

Notice the larger regional occurrence, of more extreme events (brown=>+3σ and red=+2-+3σ) in 2005.

As they say in their abstract:

“These extremes were practically absent in the period of climatology, covering much less than 1% of Earth’s surface. Now summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (σ) warmer than climatology, typically cover about 10% of the land area. Thus there is no need to equivocate about the summer heat waves in Texas in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, which exceeded 3σ — it is nearly certain that they would not have occurred in the absence of global warming. If global warming is not slowed from its current pace, by mid-century 3σ events will be the new norm and 5σ events will be common.”

So, that’s another study to add to our assessment of the effects of climate change. Given the diversity of conclusions around it may not be the clincher. I guess we will have to wait for the next review from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). After all, that is the body that will thoroughly review all that has been published and draw conclusions. I think it is likely that the next review will conclude we are already seen the effects of global warming in these extreme weather events.

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’Web monkeys’ and science presentation Ken Perrott May 27

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Dr. Danah Boyd on stage at Web 2.0 Expo NY 2009. (Credit: Danah Boyd) – Be careful of presenting the tweets.*

Here’s an inspiring tale for young scientists. If you are working on presentations for a conference it’s always tempting to try something new which might create interest, wake up those who have fallen asleep or just to get your point across in a nice graphic.

Well what about using Twitter to convey the main points of your message – as you present?

Sounds impossible, but Amy O’Leary (@amyoleary ) did it.

Apparently it’s simply a matter of linking the presentation software to twitter so that as each new slide is projected, a tweet, which has been carefully crafted in advance by the speaker, is launched into cyberspace.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Sometimes I do follow a presentation on Twitter – but tweets are sent by members of the audience, they depend on their own understanding and they may not properly reflect what the presenter is actually saying. This way, the version that gets tweeted is the “official” one at least.

You can read more about her presentation, and watch a video of it, at How Amy O’Leary live-tweeted her own speech – and won the #backchannel

I don’t present much these days but must try this idea next time I do. A quick google search indicated two possible tools enabling one to do this:

For Apple users, Keynote Tweet allows you put your tweet wrapped in [twitter] tags in the presenter notes pane for that slide and when you click onto that slide, the tweet gets published.

For Windows users, AutoTweet is a new add-in for PowerPoint developed by Timo Elliot of SAPWeb2.0. It works in the same way as Keynote Tweet. For more information see PowerPoint Twitter Magic.

Here’s a short video describing How to Download, Install, and Use PowerPoint Twitter AutoTweet.

Anybody here tried this?

Perhaps I have just “discovered” something that everybody already uses.

Any readers here have experience with this sort of use of twitter during a presentation?

* See Beware the Backchannel: Dr Boyd incorporated Twitter into her presentation – “What happened? Briefly, the audience, using Twitter (the backchannel) made disparaging comments about the speaker, Dr. Boyd. What was most dreadful, and lamentable, is the fact that the Twitter comments were visually displayed behind her — while she was giving her presentation…”

Dementia — There’s an app for that! Ken Perrott May 24


Memory loss – it’s inevitable as you grow older. And as each individual experiences these day-to-day memory lapses one can’t help starting to wonder if it’s just normal ageing of the brain. Or is it more serious – the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimers.

Well apparently there is now an iPad app one can use to keep a running check. This video suggests it is very accurate – better and quicker than existing pen and paper tests. (Sorry, can’t embed the video – just follow the link. It’s only a few minutes long).

SciNewsBlog: Think you might have Dementia? There’s an app for that!.

Wonder if it’s the sort of test one can do at home – or if it requires supervision from a health professional?

Must hunt it down – I have been think of getting an iPad. This is another argument for the expense.

Not that I am worried at this stage!

Give them enough rope . . . Ken Perrott May 22

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The last few years the climate change denier organisations have fooled themselves into thinking they are on a roll. (I am talking about deniers – not contrarians or sceptics). What with the “climategate affair,” the resulting investigations (which didn’t go their way) and the legal attacks on prominent climate scientists like Michael Mann (These have also failed). But really what they have been doing is feeding out the rope which will eventually hang them.

This is obviously the case with the US “think tank” The Heartland Institute. This rabid free market organisation had been trying hard to present themselves as purveyors of the “true” science on the climate. In particular, they have being sponsoring, together with a number of other dogmatic free market organisations, a conference they claim as “scientific.” But, they are not interested in finding facts, rather fighting facts. And that is the true purpose of their conference.

The Heartland Institute feeds out the rope with this billboard advertising there conference.

The most recent conference kicked off the other day (see Heartland Institute’s Seventh International Conference on Climate Change – ICCC-7). But its come at a bad time for them. Back in February there was the scandal of their leaked emails and documents. These revealed some details of their financial backers – as well as plans to subvert the educations system with climate denial propaganda  (see Heartland Institute gets mail and Heartland’s climategate — and Mann’s book). Then earlier this month  they really dished out the rope with a electronic billboard advertising this conference (see Heartland ignorant of public relations — let alone science).*

$825,000 gone – $1,430,000 to go!

This caused such a negative reaction that they pulled it within hours. But instead of effectively “fighting the facts” of climate science they were sawing off the branch they were sitting on. Within days they faced withdrawal of speakers from the conference, departure of staff,  and, more importantly, withdrawal of finance from some of their sponsors. See Guardian report Heartland Institute facing uncertain future as staff depart and cash dries up).

Have a look at Forecast the Facts – a webs site charting the decline in Heartland’s financial support. As of today $US825,000 of their projected 2012 Corporate support of US$2,225,00 has been pulled.

Presenting the facts and not fighting them.

And the climate reality project has responded with a public donor financed billboard giving some of the facts. This will be displayed throughout their conference. (You can make donations at Climate Reality | Donate).

All this has forced The Heartland Institute to fall back on other sponsors, both for their conference and for their own finances. Sponsors more directly and publicly connected to the fossil fuel industry (see Heartland Institute Hemorrhages Donors And Cash For Extremist Agenda, As Coal And Oil Step In).

“a coal lobby group has stepped in as one of its ‘gold’ sponsors. The Illinois coal chief praises Heartland for its work and ‘so we thought we would finally make a contribution to the organisation.’ He added, ‘In general, the message of the Heartland Institute is something the Illinois Coal Association supports.

In addition to the Illinois Coal Association, ExxonMobil, other oil companies, as well as Heritage Foundation have joined to sponsor the conference.”

Some of the Australian organisations cosponsoring Heartland’s conference

Mind you, have a look at their co-sponsors for this conference. A whole host of political, extreme right-wing, organisations. You will recognise some of the names. The George C. Marshall Institute (who denied tobacco was harmful), Institute for Private Enterprise, Australian Taxpayers Alliance (“fighting tax, regulation and waste”), Heritage Foundation, Ayn Rand Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and so on.

By your friends we shall know you

Oh, by the way – the only New Zealand sponsor I could see was the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.


*Even the climate change denial internet echo chamber was largely critical of the Heartland billboard. (Although local denier blog Climate Conversations couldn’t quite make up its mind. Richard Treadgold, poor guy, thought it was “a stupid, brave, heart-warming experiment.” Couldn’t quite bring himself to be critical, although most of his commenters were – see … is sauce for the gander). And the Heartland Institute is such a sensitive topic at Watts Up With That you need a special password to join in any discussion of the conference – see Protected: At the conference.

Update: Seems Watts Up With That was so excited about attending the conference they cocked up that post. So it’s no longer “protected.”

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Why won’t Inland Revenue subsidise my life expenses? Ken Perrott May 20


Here is an interesting research report How Secular Humanists (and Everyone Else) Subsidize Religion in the United States. OK it looks at the United States and the data is not directly relevant here, in new Zealand. But the principles certainly are – the way we all subsidise supernatural religious beliefs and their propagation via exemption from taxation and local body rates.

Ryan T. Cragun, assistant professor of sociology, Stephanie Yeager, senior business management major, and Desmond Vega, senior psychology major, all at the University of Tampa, did the research.

Their Figure 1 summarises religious finances and subsidies in the US. Many of these are similar in this country. I know the theologically inclined try to argue that there is no subsidy because tax exemption does not involve providing direct revenue to religions. However, religions do not pay taxes that they would otherwise be required to pay, purely on grounds of supernatural beliefs and their promotion. But they get all the same advantages as the normal taxpayer gets from publicly funded benefits and necessities. This means that honest taxpayers are paying more than they should – they are subsidising religions.

More than $71 billion subsidies

The authors attempt to quantify these subsidies for the USA. This exercise is far from simple and clearly their final figures grossly underestimate the true subsidy. However, even that underestimate is an incredible US$71 Billion! Their Table  2 shows the breakdown. Have a look at the report for details of the different subsidies.

Alongside these privileges of subsidies, regulatory authorities treat religions with kid gloves. This means that while they are supposed to keep financial records they are not required to report the sources of donations, and may be exempted from actually reporting donation totals or proper auditing.

As the authors say “donations to religions are largely unregulated.” This lead them to the realisation that:

“religions would be an ideal way to launder money if you were engaged in an illegal enterprise. . . . Drug money could be laundered through the church’s bank accounts with little risk of being caught by authorities. If drug cartels and the Mafia aren’t already doing this, we’d be surprised.”

The report makes the case that while genuine charity involves “the giving of something,” and not providing a service for payment this is not so for “spiritual charity.” The later involves payment to a religious executive (their wages, accommodation, pensions, etc.) for the spiritual service they provide. “If someone is paid to address spiritual concerns, it is not charity when they do so.”

In fact, in their “spiritual” and “supernatural” roles “religions are more like for-profit corporations providing entertainment (such as movie theatres or  amusement parks) rather than charities. . . .religions largely provide entertainment for their ‘consumers.’”

I think that’s a useful way of looking at the situation. So I really like the cheeky conclusions this enables them to draw in their closing remarks:

“These subsidies should be phased out. But since that is unlikely to happen, we’d accept the following alternative: the ability to write off our annual entertainment expenses as ’donations’; the subsidizing of all of our housing expenses, including utilities and maintenance costs; being exempt from paying taxes on businesses we start related to our primary purpose in life (say, a micro-brewery); direct cash transfers to us from the government for trying to convert people to our worldviews while claiming to provide social services; and, most important, the right to host games of bingo without reporting our income as gambling revenue”

Incidentally, I think any similar subsidies to “spiritual charity” performed by atheist and non-theist organisations should be looked at in the same way.

Thanks to: Council for Secular Humanism.

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Human morality is evolving Ken Perrott May 17

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I want to give some of my final thoughts on   Jonathan Haidt‘s book — The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. In Morality and the ’worship’ of reason my interim judgement (after reading one third of the book) was favourable – but I had concerns. Now, having finished the book, my judgement overall is very critical. I don’t think it’s a book I can truly recommend (except for the first third).

Partly because I feel Haidt really uses the later parts of the book to promote his own hobby horses – prejudices about atheism (or the “New Atheists” – whoever they are), political ideology and the role of religion in morality and society. But also because his scientific analysis of human morality was too reductionist – in a bad way.

Why badly reductionist?

Throughout the book I was acutely aware Haidt’s analysis was of human morality – as it exists. To his credit, as it exists in several different societies. To me its important philosophically to study things in their environments.

But the big mistake was to study human morality as a static phenomenon – he didn’t investigate it in its development, as a constantly changing, evolving thing. (Again I think the investigation of things in their development is philosophically important).

The fact is human morality in most cultures is evolving. And there are huge factors in today’s world which make this inevitable, probably even escalate moral evolution.

A role for reason in moral evolution?

So yes it is useful for Haidt to draw out two principles in his book:

1: Morality is about emotions, not rationality. Our emotions enable us to react quickly in moral situations and our intelligence enables us to “explain” why after the fact. Haidt’s slogan is “Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.”

2: His second slogan is “There’s more to to morality than harm and fairness.” He describes six different foundations underlying human morality:

  • Care/Harm;
  • Liberty/oppression;
  • Fairness/cheating;
  • Loyalty/betrayal;
  • Authority/subversion;
  • Sanctity/degradation.

But he does little to elucidate the role of intelligence and reason in moral change and evolution. He limits this to only the possible education of one person by interacting with another (and hence inhibiting somewhat our inbuilt desire to rationalise rather than reason properly). But ignores the much wider role of society in general, especially in today’s world of modern communication and entertainment, mass entertainment, the internet, etc.

Also, in concentrating on the six different intuitive or instinctive foundations of human morality – as it exists - he does not investigate the relative roles of these intuitions, and their resultant human values, in the evolution of human morality and laws.

How do we change human morality?

Obviously this is not simple. Nor is it always, everywhere, and for everyone a rational process. A result of reasoning, discussion and democratic decision.

But, despite all these other factors we should recognise that reasoning, rational discussion and democratic decisions are involved. Look back over your own life time. In my case I have seen huge evolution in aspects of human morality like attitudes towards discrimination – racial, gender and even species. For the average person in the street these changes may have occurred subconsciously – because of changes in social acceptance of women and gays, of interracial marriage, etc., or because they were habituated to a new morality by what they saw on TV or read in books. But this was also accompanied by the intelligent debate that occurred, and is occurring in society. The challenging of old prejudices. The argument for recognition of human rights, etc. Even the passing of anti-discrimination laws – which of course require intelligent discussion and decision.

So while a static view of human morality must emphasise that emotion comes first, rationalisation after, when we look at the evolution of human morality in today’s society we must recognise an important role for reason, intelligent discussion and decisions.  So, I think there is a lot of value in Haidt’s metaphor comparing our subconscious feelings and emotions to an elephant -(which usually goes its own way) and our conscious and intelligent reasoning to its driver (who thinks he is in control). But using that metaphor there are times when those drivers can educate the elephant. Train it out of old habits and into new ones.

What role for Haidt’s moral foundation theory?

And what role do the six foundations of morality Haidt identifies play in the the evolution of human morality. Well of course they operate at the non-conscious, non-reasoning, emotional level – and continue to. But when it comes to intelligent collective discussion and deliberation of moral issues I don’t think they have the same importance.

Yes, citizens of a specific nation may argue for recognition of authority, loyalty and purity when it comes to discussing laws and acceptable behaviour regarding oaths, respect for the national flag, etc. But in a modern, pluralist society such foundations will not play the same role when consider laws and behaviour on blasphemy, defamation of religion, genital mutilation, freedom of speech, freedom of association, marriage equality, gender equality, discrimination, rights of individuals, etc. When we come to applying reasoning and rational discussion to human issues the values based on the foundation of harm and care will be dominant.

That’s not to say the values based on purity, authority, sacredness, etc., won’t be involved. Just that in a modern pluralist democratic society these cannot play a controlling role. Partly this is just a fact of the way democracy must work in a pluralist society. Minorities should not get the freedom to override and dominate majorities. But it is also based on the reality that there is actually a more objective basis for the foundations of harm and care than there is for the other foundations. That objective basis is fundamental to biological life (how could it be otherwise – life would not have survived and evolved without these objective biological values).

Looked at this way – seeing human morality in its development and not as a static phenomenon – leads, I think, to quite different conclusions to those drawn by Haidt. He sees liberals as being at a disadvantage because they give more relevance to the foundations of care/harm, Liberty/oppression and fairness/cheating than conservatives who actually include, and give similar emphasis to the other foundations (loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and sanctity/degradation). He argues that therefore conservative understand human morality better than liberals and politically they communicate better with others.

But I see conservatives as playing an undermining role in the development, evolution, of human morality because they are actually less concerned with the values based on care/harm liberty/oppression and fairness/cheating than on those values which are in fact secondary, do not have an objective basis, which are based on loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and sanctity/degradation.   And I suggest that if we look back over our own lifetimes we can see that in fact political conservative have generally not lead movements for moral progress. They have worked to undermine moral progress by appealing to those secondary, less basic, foundations.

Atheists who promote religion?

It turns out that Haidt is another one of these atheists who actually see a positive role for religion and therefore are hostile to the so-called “New Atheists’ and others critical of the role of relgion in today’s society. They wish these “strident,” and “militant” atheists would STFU – because they feel such criticism undermines the very foundation of social cohesiveness and human morality.

Haidt uses (opportunistically and unthinkingly I think) a model of group selection to justify a determining role for religion in preserving society. Let the evolutionary biologists take him to task over that one. But it enables him to advance the slogan “Morality binds and blinds,” to substitute religion for morality as a force which provides our social glue and leadership.

He expresses it this way:

“Religions are moral exoskeletons. If you live in a religious community, you are meshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarilty on the elephant to influence your behaviour. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider. …… When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide . …”

And he warns atheists:

“Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).”

Again, let those who are concerned about the populations explosion, limited resources and ecological damage to our environment deal with that last sentence. But, personally I think his approach is cowardly and unrealistic (as well as unjustifiable righteous).

Cowardly because it expresses fear about the changes in human morality and moral understanding already underway. And unrealistic because it appeals to old institutions and beliefs to solve new problems in new situations. Yes, this does mean that more people will be appealing to their own inner moral compass – but when has development of a sense of moral autonomy been a bad thing.  And yes there will be, already are, new institutions and new communities. That is inevitable in a modern society with modern forms of communication and creation of communities. And modern understandings where appeal to supernatural guidance is far less effective.

Yes that does mean the old religious moral exoskeletons may disappear. But I don’t think moral exoskeletons in general will. In fact I think we are creating new ones all the time. And perhaps the much hated “New Atheists” are encouraging formation of these new exoskeletons by their activity.

Human society and human morality is not static. They will inevitably evolve. And our investigations of morality this should recognise this evolution.

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So you’re considering switching to eBooks? Ken Perrott May 16

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Here’s a graphic I picked up from Online Universities (thanks to E-book Nation). The data is specific to the USA but I think it’s worth anyone considering possible purchase of an eBook Reader, or a tablet for reading purposes, reading through it.

For example, you might conclude from this that such a purchase will probably mean you read a lot more. That you are more likely to buy new books than just borrow them. That you will be able to get books more quickly and there will be more to select from.

However, you will be less likely to share your books with others. And you will prefer to use a printed book when reading with a child.

(Click twice on image to enlarge).

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Welcome to the Anthropocene Ken Perrott May 14

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Welcome to the Anthropocene

Here’s a brief video describing the impact our species has had on the planet.

Thanks to: Watch A Stunning Video Of Humanity’s Effect On Earth

Naturalism in science Ken Perrott May 13

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Have a look at the short (10 min) presentation. I think it explains the scientific approach (in contrast to the religious approach) very well. It’s Sean Carroll’s opening statement from the The Great Debate: Science vs. Religion. You don’t usually see such sensible contributions in  a debate.

Normally I don’t like to use words like materialism and naturalism – without careful definition they are too open to misinterpretation. I also think that science is concerned with understanding reality, the real world. Some people use “naturalism” to ring-fence a part of the world (they define as “supernatural”) as immune to investigation. They claim science is limited to the “natural” world.

However, I really like this presentation by Sean Carroll. He is not conceding a “supernatural” part of reality which science is excluded from. Reality itself is natural in his eyes – and that has been shown by all our scientific experiences. As he describes it he tries “to sum up the progress in human understanding that has led us to reject the supernatural and accept that the natural world is all there is.”

And he makes an intriguing reference to Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.

Professor Carroll invites comments on his presentation at his blog post The Case for Naturalism.

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