Why IN DEFENSE OF FOOD author Michael Pollan recommends AN EPIDEMIC OF ABSENCE:
“What in the world does the ecosystem of microbes living in the gut have to do with the development of autism or heart disease or allergy? Quite possibly everything, according to this masterful work of science writing. This is one of the first comprehensive reports from the most exciting frontier in modern medicine: the microbiome, the genes of the microbes who share your body. It turns out their genes may matter more to your health than your own.”
The Monsanto Protection Act has galvanized the U.S. food justice movement, which is now preparing for its next fight when the provision expires in six months. Democracy Now lets two guests hash it out: Gregory Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the book, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.
‘What has gotten into Thomas Nagel?’: Leading atheist branded a ‘heretic’ for daring to question Darwinism
The philosopher Thomas Nagel is not taking phone calls. His secretary at New York University says there have been hundreds, all wanting to reach the modern “heretic,” as a current magazine cover labels him, but he is not taking the bait.
All he did was argue in a new book the evolutionary view of nature is “false,” and now grand forces have descended upon him. He does not want to talk about it.
The vicious reception handed Mind & Cosmos, which urges deep skepticism about evolution’s explanatory power, illustrates the perils of raising arguments against intellectual orthodoxy.
One critique said if there were a philosophical Vatican, Prof. Nagel’s work should be on the index of banned books for the comfort it will give creationists. Another headline proclaimed Prof. Nagel is “not crazy.”
The book has won a British booby prize for “Most Despised Science Book” and prompted sneering remarks the author is centuries behind the times, and somehow missed the Enlightenment. (Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images; Illustration Andrew Barr/National Post)
If you can’t quiet define something, if you can’t completely control it or place it in a box, if you can’t fully know the other (such as the bat for those who’d like to do a little reading) then how can you say something is, completely and surely, as science seeks to do?
Nagel argues for knowing, for touching what Deleuze and Guattari term the “intense stream of life,” for the value and reality of Bergson’s “intuition” and Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh of the world.” These are all forms of knowing radically different from those of science, empiricism, and reductionism but they don’t displace them, rather they compliment and balance them.
And this is the key, for if there were one “right” or “true” thing, a process such as evolution say, which once fully developed left no space for the unknown it too would cease to be and in fact never would have been—the manner of its death certain, life stripped of the element of choice and chance.
Nagel, rather than being behind the times or arguing against life is, I believe, pointing to something eternal and invigorating: the presence of a question—even the most certain of what we know carries a tinge of doubt, a space within that prompts wonder.
If I were to guess I’d say Nagel isn’t so concerned with evolution per se as with our tendency to believe we can know a thing with certainty, our tendency to lull ourselves into a kind of living that is a form of dying, a denial of life’s essential openness. I can understand how remaining open is difficult to many people—how, in the face of certain death, pain, and suffering, of broken heartedness, and all the hardship life places in our way we’re prone to hold fast to those few things that provide comfort. In the unsteady sea of life certainty is as illusory as it is powerful.
“Losing Humanity” is the first major publication about fully autonomous weapons by a nongovernmental organization and is based on extensive research into the law, technology, and ethics of these proposed weapons. It is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.
Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.
Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, and major powers, including the United States, have not made a decision to deploy them. But high-tech militaries are developing or have already deployed precursors that illustrate the push toward greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield. The United States is a leader in this technological development. Several other countries – including China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom – have also been involved. Many experts predict that full autonomy for weapons could be achieved in 20 to 30 years, and some think even sooner.
Read more after the jump.
How cool is this! And it’s threatened by Pebble Mine, a proposed gold and copper mine that would be the biggest in the world. The National Resources Defense Council is kicking their ass, but they need your help.
Add this to your list of cool things we didn’t previously know about nature: Scientists working in the Wood River watershed of Southwest Alaska found that salmon play an important role in pollinating a flowering plant. How? Kneeling angelica, a 3-6 foot streamside plant, has evolved to bloom about a week after salmon return to a stream to spawn, at which point many of the salmon die or are consumed by bears and other critters. Blowflies, who pollinate the flowers by swarming the blooms, then lay eggs in the decomposing carcasses of the salmon. Those larvae emerge as adults the following year just in time to pollinate the flowers again.
Read more in Sylvia Fallon’s blog: Watching the river flow - the complex effect of stream variability on Bristol Bay’s wildlife
Pebble Mine could potentially devastate the ecology of this region, and is simply not a risk worth taking. Learn more and take action at www.stoppebble.org.
Photo: Wood River, Alaska. USGS.
The scientists of Canada are revolting. They marched through Ottawa in their thousands on Tuesday, a sea of white coats making its way up Parliament Hill, carrying tombstones and a coffin to symbolise the “death of evidence”, chanting “What do we want? SCIENCE! When do we want it? After peer review!”
There have been mumbles that science in Canada was more than usually difficult for a while. In February, there were reports that scientists had won a historic battle when, in a private meeting on the impact of oil sands extraction in Alberta, they’d stood up for independent pollution monitoring.
BBC correspondent Pallab Ghosh, visiting Vancouver for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting, wrote of scientists being “muzzled” by the Stephen Harper government, especially when it came to climate change.
A great explanation of the Higgs Boson.
An article got tongues wagging a few months back arguing science has made philosophy obsolete; it’s interesting to note that more then two millennia ago Epicurus gave voice to a force essentially the same as the Higgs Boson.