Monday, November 07, 2005

Miscellaneous Brin-News

Eventually, we’ll get back to a serialized tome on Modernism. But first…

1. Some of you have gone ahead and visited Amazon.com/shorts. Great! I now have two essays posted with a third soon. "Beleaguered Professionals vs Disempowered Citizens" is about a looming 21st Century power struggle between average people and the sincere, skilled professionals who are paid to protect us.

Proxy-Activism-New"The Power of Proxy Activism" - is about the best way for busy people, who are distracted by jobs and daily life, to help make a better world. (I'm donating my proceeds to worthy causes.)

Soon to follow - in the "Science" category - will be one about how the Mississippi River may someday win its struggle to escape human control. Plus, possibly, a serialized novel!

(Yes, you bloggers have seen much of this stuff and helped refine it. So spread to word! Give them a ratings boost. ;-)

2. An interesting rant on Intelligent Design (ID).  Unfortunately (or not) it is so good that the fellow needs to choose whether to rant or write a scholarly tome. Both are enjoyable, but they get incompatible at longer lengths. In this case, the author needs to eschew the use of "IDiot" and other rant-y disparagements.

Far more useful would be to take the ID people as they see themselves... using their own nomenclature ... and showing where they fit in the grand human tradition of conservative-nostalgic-romantic mold that ran every other culture in history. Every urban culture other than those based on the enlightenment featured the same collusion of clergy and aristocracy vs any possible source of uncertainty, social mobility and change. The so called "culture war" is thus not so much about left vs. right as it is between the Enlightenment and a vastly more traditional way of viewing the world.

(My own riff on this is at: The Real Culture War: Defining the Background)

OtherTheoriesINtelligentDesignWhat is fascinating about ID is the way the ID-nostalgists have been forced to adopt the memes of the enlightenment in order to push their case. They strive relentlessly to portray THEIR position as the openminded and fair one, while stodgy-elitist scientists are suppressing competition and fair debate.

By trying to give themselves a patina as "science" and calling evolution "another religion" they aim to portray ID as a bold underdog. When, of course, science is still the rebel world view, even after 200 years.

(See my article about Other Theories of Intelligent Design in a coming issue of SKEPTIC Magazine )

3. Oh, to see the newfangled attitude of fear translated into both art and practical solutions (and some impractical) see the "Safe" gadgets exhibition at MOMA the Museum of Modern Art at http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2005/safe/

4. This from Saturday Night Live:

"If convicted Libby could face the following penalties: Obstruction of justice: 10 years in prison. Making false statements: 5 years. Perjury: 4 years. Going to jail with the name Scooter: Priceless."

5.  Some folks in Australia and Asia have trouble directly accessing davidbrin.com. Try instead typing http://www.davidbrin.NET for a selection of alternate access options. (Gary and Rob were both helpful setting up this alternative methodology.) Any of you can help by visiting davidbrin.NET at least once or twice!

6. We’re on our way to see King Tut’s exhibit in LA. But I can’t get Steve Martin’s song about Tut out of my head.

"…born in Arizonia, moved to Babylonia, (got a Condo made-a stone-a)…"

50 comments:

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, thanks for that earworm, David. Augh! ;)

HarCohen said...

Let's get serious after you get back from the exhibit. Paris is burning, in a sense. And a few other places as well.

Steve said...

@HarCohen

For my $0.02 if modernists can't find humor when they can, they turn into nihilists. Yes, let's get serious, but let's keep it fun for Dr. Brin and all of us too. Wouldn't do for a bastion of modernity to become too much of a downer.

As bad as things are, and as serious the issues we perceive, humor is both antidote and possibly a source of anti-memes.

(I still laugh when I think, "How many is a bazillion...")

Tony Fisk said...

I seem to be able to access your site (Did have problems with HC, but that seemed to go away)

Amazon shorts: Having grabbed one short, I'll wait and see what Mastercard decides to award itself in foreign exchange fees for converting $0.49 US (it may amount to less than a sandwich, but there's a principle here! :-(

On ID: I liked the argument suggested in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago which, I think, goes with your suggestion to try and get other religions in on the act in ways the 'wedgies' wouldn't like:

Point out the *Dumb* Design features that even a moderately attentive Architect could have corrected with little effort.
Bad backs, poorly draining sinuses and, oh yes, since the main ID examples tend to be at the biochemical level, mammalian susceptibility to sepsis.

@HarCohen and Steve: humour is a basic requirement when dealing with serious stuff. It does no harm to poke a bit of fun at one's own convictions and concerns, occasionally. Helps preserve perspective.

(Consider it as CITOKATE light ;-)

HarCohen said...

Folks don't know when I'm joking. Note to self: you're still not putting in enough winkies. ;)

gmknobl said...

Okay then, You're my favorite honky!

(Well, not really but it goes with the theme...)

Steve said...

Yeesh - maybe its me that is being too serious!

I run into too many people who are either dealing with "outrage overdose" of whatever stripe or people more concerned about getting some new consumer electronic than the world outside. "If you can't make fun of yourself, don't say anything at all."

;oP

David Brin said...

I do believe that the thing to do is to point out the obvious fact (supported by science) that indignation is a self-doped drug high.

Independent of whether science actually comes up with a palliative for this plague - through education methods or possibly voluntary pharmacological or behavior techniques, just the MEME that self-righteousness is an addictive high could do incredible good in society today.

I find that 10% get really mad, upon hearing this. Another 10% demand evidence that (alas) science is VERGING on providing - but has not yet made sufficiently explicit. (Hence my plea to the scientific community at http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html)

But most other people go "Huh! I never looked at it that way before."

In some cases it arms them to confront the indignation junkies around them even - especially! - the ones on their own side.

In others, it better equips them to fight the battle for maturity within. That we must all fight. Me, more than others, I admit....

Rob Perkins said...

Actually, most of the people I introduce that idea to respond with "OK" and proceed to enjoy the high. One even pointed out that she went to see Harlan Ellison in order to *get* "Angry Candy". If ever there was a man addicted to his own anger, I think he's it...

Have any stories submitted to that final Dangerous Visions anthology? ;)

Tony Fisk said...

I was reading the letters section in New Scientist and realised that a discussion on how people relate to 'chatbots' is a classic example of an indignation high.

Automated response systems and their irritatingly irrelevant responses really seem to bring out the worst in people.

And it's not just a case of 'oh! You *#@! *stupid* machine!' (slam!).

People actually seem to enjoy abusing the things (the study found one person spent seven hours talking to 'Jabberwacky')

Suddenly, Basil Fawlty doesn't seem so over the top!

@ David Brin: are you getting any responses to your addiction letter? Like I commented earlier, I think psychopathic behaviour is part of the equation, although such people appear to be very capable of controlling their urges: quietly removing the controls that restrict their behaviour before letting loose.

Anonymous said...

My experience with telling people about the addiction of self-rightousness is more, "Hunh. That's interesting. Not that it has anything to do with me, but it sure explains those damn {fill in the blanks}." Even (and especially) if they are the ones I am hoping will benefit from it.

I mean, these are people who believe the UN is scheming to take away Americans' guns and that Clinton had a number of people assassinated because they "knew too much." All the reasonable scientific evidence is as wet tissue paper to their indignation juggernaught.

Hopefully this is not representative of everyone else.

bigdreamlife said...

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Tony Fisk said...

^
:
:
*sigh*

Has anyone heard about 'Fuego', an attempt to model natural selection processes? It was found that adding parasitic behaviour to the mix was a significant evolutionary scourge: causing increased speciation etc.

Spam seems to be providing the same 'service'! to online messaging

David Brin said...

See http://www.exorarium.com/ for the evolution game - designed to be BOTH online and a vivid museum experience - designed by me and a brilliant tech artist, Sheldon Brown.

One more great idea without a patron. This one would be vastly more educational and (I believe) more fun than Will Wright's unrelated concept.

On a COMPLETELY SEPARATE topic. My 13 year old wantes/needs a "World War II related biography" for history class. Everyone is doing Anne Frank. I approve but he knows the story and refused Winston Churchill's war memoirs when I offered a copy. (Too long. NOT too hard since Ben did read Caesar's Gallic Wars.)

Anyone suggest a SHORT but excellent WWII biography or memoir available on Amazon?

HarCohen said...

I could substitute obsession for addiction in much of what was discussed above. Both are by definition harmful behaviors. And much relies on the introduction (or absence) of chemicals in the nervous system.

So here are a few thoughts.

When does my 'righteous indignation' require intervention? Simplistically and to paraphrase Heinlein(?), "When the end of my fist intends to intersect with the end of your nose". And from that general principle we've evolved legal debate into whether secondhand smoke can be tolerated in bars.

Obsession also implies self-harm. At the least, we are not doing what we should be doing at the time we should be doing it. (Yes. I've been obsessed with this blog lately. I promise to get over it.)

Is government compelled to save us from our mistakes and chemical imbalances? If it does, it may contribute to my health and well-being and save society from spending further money on me down the road. Whether to treat me or incarcerate me.

The last episode of 'Threshold' was fascinating in one respect. Can an individual protest government intervention when invaded by foreign memes of unknown origin and consequence? It is after all the function of government to protect us from invasion. The show 'Invasion' has a theme similar to 'Threshold' and both differ from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' in that the original sapience is altered but not destroyed.

Thank goodness we have 'Surface' for relief?

Suppose no one was harmed physically except prior relationships were broken ? Can the government inject me with anti-memes? Or require me to accept their own government approved memes. That would be one answer to the problem 'Brave New World' asked. And the question to the answer the 'Borg represented in STNG.

If the 'indignation is a self-indulgent high' meme truly took hold, will we then have difficulty raising enough indignation about anything important but not immediate? Doesn't the concern beyond the Southeast for Hurricane Katrina victims represent indignation over abhorrent natural conditions in part?

What do we substitute for what represents an evolutionary step from he 'fight or flight' adrenaline rush. What would Spock or Data say?

HarCohen said...

@ David Brin:

When it comes to book assignments, I find myself looking for those made into a movie (for enrichment and for procrastinators).

PT 109 came to mind. I forget if it was book or movie first.
Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.

John Hersey's Hiroshima would produce many dramatic contrasts to Anne Frank.

Check with the high school and see if Churchill memoirs work into the curriculum then. My daughter is a junior studying Truman for history, but I don't know if it's American or World or 20th Century.

I'm sure there's plenty of others. You just have to get in the flow.

HarCohen said...

Let us not forget 'Flight of the Enola Gay'.

Tony Fisk said...

Possible biography (how long is 'long'?):
'Reach For The Sky' - Paul Brickhill's biography of Douglas Bader

David Brin said...

WOuld anyone care to supply a plot/situation summary here for both Threshhold and Surface?

Anonymous said...

Ah, well:

"Kansas education board downplays evolution"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9967813/

I forget if I posted this here before:

Suggested Names for Intelligent Design Bills

* Trofim's Law

* Global Laughingstock Initiative

* No Child Left Secular

* Creation Myths Now!

* Equal Time for Bullshit Measure

* Last Nail in the Coffin for Public Education Act

* Irreducible Complexity Sophistry Initiative

* Evolution and Metric System Elimination Bill

* National Irrelevance Act

Anonymous said...

I've deliberately avoided watching the new batch of SF shows, in case they turned out to be TOO SMART!

I apologise if I've posted this rant before, but:

There's a subset of new TV shows that are written by smart, savvy, scenarists who really know how to use the medium of a network TV show. They've shed the medium's roots in vaudville and radio soap operas to create really gripping and thoughtful stuff.

Watching these shows requires "mind share." You need to keep up with things and think about them.

"Babylon 5" had a hint of this. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" had even more. From what I've read, "Lost" has it in spades.

I'm limiting myself to one gripping show, "Battlestar Galactica." The good thing about this show: The reruns are unwatchable! The first time through the episodes are utterly enthralling and wrenching. Once the suspense is delivered there's not much use watching. Or maybe reliving the pain and fear the characters go through is too much?

Stefan

brother doug said...

Brin asked:"Anyone suggest a SHORT but excellent WWII biography or memoir available on Amazon? "

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Gregory "Pappy" Boyington

The San Diego library has multiple copies and Amazon sells them for 8 bucks. Exciting unvarnished account of war on the front lines, and his life in a Japanese prison camp. One of the great war is hell books of all times. It is not at all like the TV series.
http://www.warbirdforum.com/gregboy.htm

Also Samurai by Sabaruo Saki and Stuka Pilot by Rudell, have merit. If you want to see the war from a different point of view.

David Brin said...

Stefan captured the awful thing about Battlestar Gallactica. I HATE the fact that it is so darn good.

I reeeelly wanted to snort in disdain at yeat another awful remake and turn my mind away. Instead I must watch every episode because it is totally well-written and gripping.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad there are such people in Hwood. And in TV such writers can rise in power, unlike the movie end of things (wherein writers are lower than slime molds.) But did they have to coalesce around such a dismal premise?

But then, we'll take what we can get. Last year, there were almost NO large-budget feature films based on original concepts. Only Scott's KINGDOM OF HEAVEN showed any daring or originality on the macro level (while lacking it at some levels of micro-craft.) Critics be damned.

Steve said...

"See http://www.exorarium.com/ for the evolution game"

A possibly very pretty and interesting site — if only it weren't for the atrocious usability. Taking the tour, for instance: it can only be done with active memory and precision mouse positioning by the user. Where are the nice big "next slide" and "previous slide" links? Even an indication of which slide you are currently on, or which slides have been visited, would help. As it is, navigation is dead reckoning at best.

As you are associated with it, I would like to pass on a recommendation of using something like Eric Meyer's “S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System” http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/tools/s5/. It does all that sort of heavy lifting for you.

Anonymous said...

For biographys, may I suggest Jimmy Doolittle's "I could never be so lucky again". The man did a lot more than lead a raid on Tokyo!

(On the subject of the Tokyo raid, Ted Lawson's "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" was written at the same time the movie was made, and it shows.)

"A Wing and a Prayer: The "Bloody 100th" Bomb Group of the U.S.Eighth Air Force in Action over Europe in World War II" by Harry H. Crosby tells the story of a bomber navigator

For silly, look for Spike Mulligan's books (Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall) covers a comedian's look at his own military service in the Royal Artillery.

Goodness, I know there is more... but top of my head and all that.

HawkerHurricane

HarCohen said...

@David
Per your request:

"Threshold", from producers David Heyman, David Goyer, and Brannon Braga, and written by Bragi Schut, revolves around a female government contingency analyst who leads a team of scientists and military personnel who get in contact with a mysterious alien lifeform. Blade writer/director Goyer is on board to direct the Paramount Network TV pilot. He also will exec produce with Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter movies. Schut is co-exec producing with Mark Rosen."

The alien lifeform appears to be an ubervirus that is xenoforming the planet, and giving infected humans dreams and a fanatical desire to spread the program. The virus is extremely mutagenic and seems to work with sound. Reminiscent of an Outer Limit episode where life is reprogramed by alien techniques to survive a neighboring nova.

http://www.tv.com/threshold/show/32983/summary.html&full_summary=1


“Surface” is an expansive drama and undersea adventure that centers on the appearance of mysterious sea creatures in the deep ocean -- and tracks the lives of four characters. They are: Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell, “Boston Legal”), the young oceanographer who discovers the secret; Dr. Aleksander Cirko (Rade Sherbedgia, “Snatch”), the government scientist who tries to keep things under wraps; Richard Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson, “Judging Amy”), the Louisiana insurance salesman who loses his brother in a suspicious diving accident; and Miles Bennett (Carter Jenkins, “CSI: New York”), the young boy who brings one of the creatures ashore.

The mystery ensnares a spectrum of people, including naval officers in the South Antarctic Sea, a family in North Carolina, scientists from the Oceanographic Institute in Monterey, and fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. The seemingly innocent creatures they find are beautiful, and kids may even want to play with them -- but is there something more to them? One thing’s for sure – they’re full of surprises as viewers embark on this journey to discover what might be lurking in the sea.

“‘Surface’ is entertainment for all ages in the tradition of ‘E.T.’ and ‘Close Encounters,’” said Josh and Jonas Pate, the series’ creators and executive producers. “It will have action, suspense, thrills and heart as we track the fantastic into the familiar.”

The Pates continued: “We’ll follow the teenager as he raises the sea monster in a suburban garage. We’ll admire the young dedicated oceanographer as she takes unbelievable risks to get to the bottom of the mystery. We’ll feel the grief and obsession of the every-man from Louisiana, and answer the questions surrounding the mysterious Dr. Cirko. This series will plumb the depths of suspense.”

“Something is down there.”

“Surface” is from NBC Universal Television Studio and was created by Josh and Jonas Pate (“Dragnet”), who also serve as executive producers.

NOTE: The original title of the series was Fathom but was changed after it came to light that the rights to the name were owned by another company.

http://www.tv.com/surface/show/32412/summary.html&full_summary=1

This show drags for me, but it gets all the attention. Cute little amphibians / reptiles that can generate enough EMF to fry household wiring grow into bigger amphibians / reptiles that generate enough EMF to fry transmission lines around a small town.

Government conspiracy to capture and discredit the discoverers. Did I mention these critters can withstand tremendous amounts of heat and rose out of an underseas vortex. I'm suspicious that all this is going to be tied into global warming and some catastrophic event (asteroid impact or an alien invasion?).

I remember 'Fathom' as a movie that Raquel Welch movie with Tony Franciosa. "B" movie means big bust, right? However, the site says 20th Century Fox was looking into creating a movie from a cartoon book title.

This has got to be more than you wanted to know.

David Brin said...

Thanks. Threshhold sounds like a mix of memes and pod people and David Gerrold's eco-war. Kind of cool and therefore I must... avoid...

But keep us posted if any way cool concepts or art emerges...

Anonymous said...

Another surprise:

The new "Dr. Who" series is . . . for grown ups.

It can be rather dark and tense and spooky.

Rob Perkins said...

@David

Regarding your son's assignment. I suggest Helmuth Huebener (google Hubener, or look him up on Wiki)

He was the youngest dissident executed by the Nazis. Kept them baffled for months or years (can't remember which). It's a good Anne Frank equivalent (well, sort of)

Nicq MacDonald said...

Okay, you got the satire the other day. I finally found the one blogger in the universe who understands SARCASM.

But here's another reaction to your most recent Star Wars rant- it's from my review of Episode III that I wrote several months back (and keep in mind, it is written with the "expanded universe" in mind- I've been running RPG games in the setting since I was 15, and know quite a bit of the history of the fictional universe)...

The Jedi Code—and a lesson in history

“There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity.
There is no death; there is the Force.”
-From the Jedi Code, the teachings of Master Odan-Urr

The four core teachings of Master Odan-Urr are at the core of what it is to be a Jedi. They are, in essence, identical to the teachings of Buddhist or Christian ascesis (which makes it unsuprising that two books have recently been released citing the paralells between Jedi teaching and these two traditions). At heart, however, these teachings are both the foundation of the Jedi Order’s stability- and it’s greatest weakness.

In the Star Wars universe, everyone is sensitive to the force to one degree or another (with the exception of droids, of course). Most people can hardly feel the force at all, let alone call upon it. Others, such as Han Solo, have an unconscious “attunement” with the force that manifests itself as inordinately good luck and a tendency to happen upon fortuitious synchronicities, yet lack an ability to call upon the force at will. Others- a highly evolved mystical elite present among all the races of the galaxy, are so sensitive to the force that they can learn how to use it- to Control (modify their bodily functions, ala advanced yogis and martial artists), Sense (learn the will of the force, so that they might become more in tune with their surroundings, and the whole universe), and Alter (modify the environment outside their body, most commonly through telekinesis). A handful of mystics on inhabited worlds throughout the galaxy called upon and developed these abilities for millenia, though it would not be until the discovery of hyperdrive and the founding of the Galactic Republic that these mystics would formally become the Jedi Order. Beginning as a wandering band of mystical seekers and heroic vigilantes, the order would, over the course of it’s 25,000 year existence, would transform into the judicial arm of the Republic and, through strict adherence to the Jedi code, safeguard democracy. An institution that started with wandering masters and small cadres of students would be formalized, with temples, training ships, strict dogmas, and massive screening programs for perspective candidates- by the time of the Clone Wars, most worlds in the Republic screened students for force sensitivity at a young age, though only a tiny fraction of training candidates would ever be accepted as Knights of the Jedi Order (most would never even begin training, being of no significant ability, or would be shunted into various non-millitant Jedi corps, such as ExplorCorps, MediCorps, and AgriCorps). Thus, the Jedi became ossified by bureaucracy and politics- and lost their way. Waiting in the shadows, their ancient enemy knew that the time had come to strike.

In the early days of the Jedi Order, a group of Jedi came to the conclusion that the Jedi Code was too restrictive- that by exploring their passions, Jedi could achieve even greater powers- including the power to create and destroy life at will. This lead to a schism in the Jedi Order- those who remained true to the Code drove the rebels into exile in the far regions of the Galaxy, where the schismatic Jedi encountered a race of primitive near-humans ruled by sorcerer-kings who explored the same powers they did. This race called themselves the Sith. Wielding superior technology and superior skill in the force, the schismatic Jedi conquered these people and set themselves up as godlike rulers. In the dark of the remote galaxy, the Sith Empire was forged. For twenty thousand years they prepared for their return- training ever more skilled warriors, probing the deepest secrets of the force for new sorceries, and constructing new weapons. Eventually, a few young Jedi explorers would stumble upon this terrible cancer growing on the edge of the galaxy- and plunge the Republic into chaos.

Four millenia of warfare, and the near destruction of the Jedi Order and the Republic itself, would follow the encounter with the Sith (for those who want to know the story, take a look at the Knights of the Old Republic series of videogames- they cover this period quite well). Eventually, however, the final clash between the Jedi and Sith at the battle of Ruusan annihilated the last of the Sith Lords, finally bringing the madness to an end. Little did the Jedi know, however, that one Sith Lord had escaped- Darth Bane. This master would go into hiding, and create the rule of two- from this point forward, only two Sith Lords would exist at one time- a master, and an apprentice. In darkness, they would plot their revenge. For 1,000 years, the Republic- and the Jedi- knew a golden age of power, wealth, scientific knowledge, and uncontested mastery over the galaxy.

Which brings us to the story that everyone knows- the Sith took control of the Republic, destroyed the Jedi Order, and crushed the galaxy beneath it’s iron fist, until a few bold rebels brought down the last of the Sith, freeing the galaxy from their tyranny forever. But is that all that is going on here?

Jedi, Sith, and Cosmic Evolution

“The Galaxy will live in tranquility if certain matters are a bit overlooked or left unheard.”
-Master Odan-Urr

One ongoing theme througout the Star Wars universe is the theme of bringing “balance to the force”- the task that Anakin Skywalker, the legendary “chosen one”, was supposed to accomplish- and did- in the only way possible. Painfully, bloodily, and destructively, he, like a manifestation of Yamantaka, cut through the order that was holding back cosmic evolution. He annihilated the Jedi and the Sith- which sadly enough, was the only way the galaxy could ever evolve and move past the dead end it had become locked in.

The Galactic Republic- and Empire- was a basket case. For hundreds of thousands of years, life had failed to evolve. Technological progress had slowed to a crawl (Coruscant was completely urbanized over one hundred millenia before the Clone Wars)- other than a few technological refinements here or there, there had been little advancement millenia. No serious genetic modification was brooked by a civilization caught up in stultifying regulations and taboos, all enforced by the Jedi, guardians of all that was “natural”. The most evolved creatures in the Galaxy- the Jedi Masters- had made themselves into guardians of tranquility, not the vanguard of evolution. Stopping change was their prerogative. No advancement- technological, genetic, or spiritual- was possible under the Jedi regime. The galaxy had ground to a halt- no transpersonal evolution could occur, as the Jedi had declared it their task to prevent the Galaxy itself from waking up and achieving self-consciousness. Not unlike modern Christianity, a promising spiritual system had become so stuck in mythic-rational dogmas and doctrines that it could not be the force it needed to be.

The Sith, on the other hand, represent a twisted form of evolutionary Ascent- a confused one, similiar to Nazism. Human racial superiority (alluded to in the books- and obviously in Episodes IV-VI- and notice how the Clone Wars gave the Sith a convenient way to destroy all the major infrastructure of non-human power, such as the Trade Federation?), a fixation on the advancement of new technologies of destruction (Death Stars, Star Destroyers, AT-AT Walkers), imperial power ideology, and Sith sorcery and alchemy all represent a twisted form of evolutionary Ascent, all informed by Ken Wilber’s “Pre/Trans Fallacy”- this “evolution” is headed straight into the ground, as it is focused on the aggrandizement of the ego and prerational passions. If the Jedi represent modern religion, the Sith represent secular and pseudo-mystical forms of totalitarianism- Nazism, Communism, Fascism, Asian Millitarism. Both are dead ends- one because it stops itself and the galaxy from evolving, and the other because it “evolves” itself into the grave.

By manifesting Anakin Skywalker, the force decided to destroy both dead ends- it would restore balance to the force by “rebooting” the Jedi Order and destroying the Sith. But while Anakin was to bring balance to the Force, another Jedi, one who had remained true to the spirit of the Jedi, would bring about the next stage of galactic evolution- Qui-Gon Jinn. At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda reveals that Qui-Gon has come back from the realm of the dead, and brought the secret of immortality. Could this be the beginning of something new- a way out of the contradictions the galaxy has caught itself in?

We can only speculate- the story ends with the restoration of the balance, and the novels set after Return of the Jedi were not informed by the events of the prequels, nor do they take the story in this interesting direction (they more or less just recapitulate the same story we’ve already seen, in different fashions- first with Grand Admiral Thrawn, then with a reborn Empire, then with the Yuzzhan Vong). But it leaves one wondering- how will balance come to our Force?

Vulgarius said...

On 3:

Forgive me if I do not get as wordy in my comment as the article was. The saddest thing is that the whole movement against ID in school is that it actually gives the appearance of being a theocratic movement. As in Galileo’s time we have an institution with authority putting a man (or group in this case) on trial. This must have happened countless times whenever a budding scientific idea found conflict with power. Likewise this was repeated for a frenzied media during the Scopes trial. And now we have litigation enshrouding any attempt to introduce a concept which has become as foreign to us as the idea that Jerusalem was not in fact the center of the universe. The question of whether or not you agree that ID is science or not is only part of the question. It seems like a healthy question to ask. But is this the right way to approach it? Will this do nothing but precipitate the deleterious scenarios that are so openly thrown around in the media?

HarCohen said...

@Nicq

Do I need to know all that to enjoy a movie? ;) Certainly the worst Star Wars movie is more entertaining than the best movie or mini-series of Dune.

These ancient and repressed civilizations of Asimov's Foundation, Herbert's Dune, and Lucas's Star Wars demand comparison. Do you have anything along those lines?

David Brin said...

Nicq, please be careful with the sarcasm. Sarcastic remarks are still OFFICIALLY the thing itself. The semantic content - even if said with a sneer and a wink - IS the thing you are saying. Watch out. It is not a grownup tool of discourse.

As for your appraisal of the Jedi/Sit... it does - in a way - say "a plague on both your houses" and I agree both cults are evil.

But that does not prove the Republic is evil. The whole ditzy rationale for the Trade Fed and Separatists is so dumb and ill-explained that there can't be any way to judge. But I do know this. It is no elite's business to tell the masses to "evolve!" A creative minority (Toynbee) can stimulate social movement in lots of better ways than by killing billions of people.

Like, maybe, with movies and books?

None of this lets Lucas off the hook for creative dismally insipid anti-enlightenment propaganda.

As for ID, it is a hilarious case of would be repressors screaming "Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

Anonymous said...

Vulgarius,

There are many problems with ID. ID is not on trial - that is falling into the trap that ID proponents want us to fall into. They want to "teach the debate." Problem is that there is no debate. Evolution is not a religion - there is no need for faith to understand that there is the fact of evolution (organisms have changed through time) and that there are some competing theories of evolution which try to explain how this fact happened. This is how science works.

The first problem is intellectual futility. "Gosh, life is just so darn complex, don't even try to explain how it could have arisen naturally." This is regardless of the examples that ID'ers bring up that in fact have been shown to have plausible evolutionary pathways. I think of this as the, "Don't worry your pretty little head" argument, and it is insulting and annoying.

The next problem is that by trying to hide IDs religious origins, they open themselves up to a critical attack. If life is so complex that it requires an unnamed external force to explain, then we have to accept all origin myths as equal, with no preference to the Genesis version. Thus, alien intervention, Australian Aboriginal, Inuit, animist, wiccan, druid, Roman, Greek, Taoist, Satanist, Mayan, Flying Spaghetti Monster, and other creation myths carry the exact same weight, and so logically must be taught as equally likely.

There are a lot more arguments about why ID is sloppy thinking and is in fact bad for religion, but I'll leave it for now.

There is no conflict between evolution and religion, as even the Vatican re-emphasized recently. And with respect, if one's religious beliefs require you to give up a basic understanding of how biology works that has been used to make concrete improvements, then that belief is on shaky grounds to start with.

There is just no reason to include ID in anything except a class studying the role of religion in modern politics - it is not intellectually honest.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of ID...

Intelligent Design can be described in three statements.

1. We can't explain *that*.
2. We'll never be able to explain *that*.
3. Therefore, God Did *That*.

Statement one may or may not be true.
Statement two is almost certainly untrue.
Statement three is bad logic and worse theology, a 'God of the Gaps' arguement that stifles discussion and experimentation. Why bother to research the answer when we know the answer is that God Made It That Way?

Anonymous said...

Intelligent Design is not a serious scientific theory; it was never intended to be.

It doesn't have to hold up to scientific scrutiny; it was never intended to.

ID is a weapon in a deliberate campaign by religious and social conservatives to warp American society more to their liking. This campaign is called the "wedge strategy."

Read about it: The Wedge Strategy.

Stefan

Nicq MacDonald said...

@HarCohen

True, you don't need that much explanation to enjoy it. (I'm simply such a Star Wars geek that it comes with the territory- and the verbiage was part of a review I wrote for www.generationsit.org)
As for Dune and Foundation, I've only read the first two books of the former; and I've never touched the latter (though an online acquaintance once referred to it as a "hymn to totalitarianism").

Dune is an interesting scenario, and one very similiar to Star Wars (I'd say the Star Wars universe is, contra Brin, much more of a progressive and egalitarian place than the Dune universe, which strikes me as interstellar feudal serfdom- citizens of the Star Wars universe, under either of the Republics or the Empire, at least get a patina of middle-class citizenship; the Empire of Star Wars is more of a fascist than a feudal place...)

@David Brin

Okay, sorry about the rant. I'm glad it was taken as satire; I was in the throws of a rage attack, and when I have one of those episodes, I pick the nearest online target and start shooting.

"But that does not prove the Republic is evil. The whole ditzy rationale for the Trade Fed and Separatists is so dumb and ill-explained that there can't be any way to judge. But I do know this. It is no elite's business to tell the masses to "evolve!" A creative minority (Toynbee) can stimulate social movement in lots of better ways than by killing billions of people."

Ah, but here's the thing; you're treating an evolutionary spirit, "the force", as if it's merely lies told by the given cults. It's not! The force is an objective reality (just as spirit-in-action/"kosmic karma" is in our own universe, but that's my stand and a debate for a different day)... there was no choice involved, Anakin was simply the tool of a force greater than himself. Killing billions of people wasn't some sort of rational choice- it was an emergent property exploding into being. Shifts of ages often involve violent revolutions- the rise of monotheism and democracy, for instance, both occured on the bloody battlefields of multiple continents- thousands, if not millions, perished. In a galaxy of trillions of inhabitants, the destruction of a planet, a few death stars and some clone armies looks positively civil compared to the Crusades, Jihads and Revolutions of our own last two millenia.

"None of this lets Lucas off the hook for creative dismally insipid anti-enlightenment propaganda."

Ah, but-here's something to consider- maybe there is a point at which anti-enlightenment propaganda is necessary in order to move on to the next stage of evolution, beyond the Rational and to the Transrational? (Not that Lucas doesn't get himself mired in the "Pre/Trans" fallacy; his Joseph Campbell fixation is proof enough) The rational, western "enlightenment" isn't all that there is; and many "romantic" critiques (see Huston Smith, Rene Guenon and Julius Evola) definitely have some weight to them. Maybe there's some way to integrate the good in the premodern, modern and postmodern?

Vulgarius said...

There is no conflict between evolution and religion, as even the Vatican re-emphasized recently. And with respect, if one's religious beliefs require you to give up a basic understanding of how biology works that has been used to make concrete improvements, then that belief is on shaky grounds to start with.


There should be no conflict. I wasn’t aware that my religious beliefs required me to give up any understandings. I think that this is often seen as an all or nothing argument that both sides seem to get stuck in. It seems more important to embrace both. I’m glad that you brought up the Vatican’s position. I have read Pope John Paul’s document which has been seriously misquoted lately. I rather enjoyed it. That’s why your first comment caught my eye. But I wasn’t exactly looking for an answer on why or why I should not believe one or the other.

I will add that the argument that the repressors are screaming about being repressed might only be applicable if one were trying to repress a medieval pope or inquisitor who was guilty of repressing science. Otherwise the comment seems to illustrate my original question as well as the problems that the Vatican document addressed.
I apologize for my late reply… Automation is not always what it is cracked up to be :(.


Thanks for your time!

HarCohen said...

@Nicq

You should definitely spend a little time with the original Foundation trilogy. You might think Lucas replaced Trantor with Coruscant and psycho-social history with the Force. The Foundation Empire is much more like the Republic and the Mule (in Second Foundation) could be Anakin.

I had to read the novels in published order and gave up after the fourth or fifth. You might want to try it in 'historical' order.

Vulgarius said...

"On a COMPLETELY SEPARATE topic. My 13 year old wantes/needs a "World War II related biography" for history class. Everyone is doing Anne Frank. I approve but he knows the story and refused Winston Churchill's war memoirs when I offered a copy. (Too long. NOT too hard since Ben did read Caesar's Gallic Wars.)

Anyone suggest a SHORT but excellent WWII biography or memoir available on Amazon?"



FYI "Flags of our Fathers". Might be a choice. The book itself is long but it contains shorter sections about each individual. It follows the flag bearers depicted in the Iwo Jima statue.

Unfortunately I have not finished the book so I cannot fully vouche for it. You might look into it. What I read was good.

HarCohen said...

@David

Any decision on the WWII biography? My kids recommend "The Endless Steppe" and they've also read Elie Wiesel's "Night".

"Don't bother me now, Dad. I haven't decided."

What is the size of Caesar's Gallic Wars in comparison to a Harry Potter novel, by the way? I had no one to point me to it as a thirteen year old or since.

Steve said...

@ Vulgarius

I wasn't talking about Pope John Paul's speech. I do encourage you to investigate the official Vatican translation along with supporting commentary. You will find that the Pope meant to convey that in fact evolution is not in fact contradictory to the Catholic faith, that it may in fact be true (he did not state his position one way or the other), and that Catholics can believe or disbelieve it. Recently ID'ers are claiming he was misquoted in the (official!) English translation, and then proceed to choose an unlikely translation from the original, which the Vatican does not endorse. The former Pope is not by far the only religious leader to see no contradiction here.

I was referring to the more recent comments stating uncategorically that there is no conflict.

I think what Dr. Brin was referring to was that no one is repressing the ID guys, yet they are complaining that they are being repressed. They are irrelevant to a discussion about the origin of life and have nothing to contribute, and that is why no one who works in biology publishes or discusses their proposal. Ask an IDer what value or new insights their proposal will lead to in developing new ways to fight disease or drug resistance or fetal development or any of the myriad other things real biologists are studying and learning about now using the concepts of evolution.

IDers are not repressed. They are trying to interject religious belief into a field dedicated to explaining things through evidence. This will ultimately be harmful to their own objectives. This is key: It is the IDers who have brought religion and science into conflict by trying to use (and abuse) the tools and terminology of science to "prove" their religious beliefs.

Evolution is a fact, as I said above. You can posit why that happens. If you agree that offspring share characteristics with their parents, and that the likelihood of their parents' procreation was influenced by the environment and their own characteristics, then you get the theory of evolution through natural selection. It is not a matter of belief or disbelief, it is a matter of thought, experimentation, and evidence. There are a number of modifications to this simple understanding, and it is the task of the science classroom to help students understand these theories, as they help them understand the theories of stellar evolution or particle physics or electromagnetism.

Of course, one is free to believe that God created everything as it was 5,000-odd years ago. One is also free to believe the universe was birthed by Gaia from Uranus. These are not positions arrived at by thought or evidence, though, they are arrived at by faith, and as such should not be part of the discussion when studying how to think or use evidence to explain things.

Again: evolution and religion are not necessarily in conflict - it is the IDers who have made it so, then they cry out about their repression.

Anonymous said...

The original "Foundation" books are a relatively fast and easy read. They hold up a lot better than other novels of the time. Just don't take them too seriously!

Asimov wound a tangled web when he tried to tie things all together.

The "Killer B's" own trilogy tried to make sense of it all!

Stefan

Vulgarius said...

FYI I have read the official document. http://www.stoqnet.org/gre_other.html .Unless you are talking about another document. The message I got from it was that religion and science should not antagonize each other. So I feel that the context has been shamed. I think both sides have made it a conflict and wrongfully so. To say that IDers are not being repressed is to ignore the existence of an annual barrage of lawsuits combined with the existence of the media which bottom feeds both ways. The blanket lawsuits give the appearance of repression whether they are or are not. Either way, it is fodder for a media frenzy that may eventually disgrace both sides. I personally do not see evolution as the threat that others wrongfully see. But I do see that both sides are sinking to new depths that in my opinion will serve neither science nor religion when put into the perspective of the document. Isn't there a third alternative? I really hate to see people arguing in "one way or the other" death matches. I was hoping for some creative insight into the issue.

One bit of constructive criticism on one comment that you made. I think that the problem has actually been that IDers have not been using the tools and terms of science to prove their beliefs. Thus I ask, is it proper for us to talk as if those tools and terminologies are off limits? Whether or not I interpreted your comment correctly (and I apologize if I have) is irrelevant because others have made that point in more unmistakable fashions. And the perception that this is occurring is wider spread than you might think. Remember. Public opinion wins wars. It also loses them. And currently both science and religion seem to be losing as both sides point fingers and lawyers and the press get richer.

Any how I apologize if I was a little coarse.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

Steve said...

@ Vulgarius

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

This isn't a public opinion war, that is what the IDers want you to think. This is a discussion about truth, which is not determined in the press or by opinion.

Truly I don't see a conflict between anything but the most literal interpretation of Genesis and evolution. I have to lay the blame at the IDers for sullying religion by trying to place their beliefs in the same discussion as science.

It is true the IDers are not using the tools of science; they are using the trappings of science if you will. This is because in the US the term "science" has a very positive reaction. They are trying to convince us that we need an "open mind" and that if we explore the topic scientifically we will come to their conclusions. I used to think that they may honestly not understand the methodology and terminology of science, but there is too much evidence that they are consciously taking quotes out of context and misrepresenting the current understanding of the way evolution works.

The tools of science are not off-limits to them. They are not off-limits to anybody since science is just what we call common sense (I think it was Mark Twain who said that there is nothing common about common sense). They just aren't using these tools, as you say. If they did, they would end up concluding that evolution does happen, that we have seen it, that it explains a lot of observations, and that it useful in solving problems we face today. None of this is true for ID.

Regarding lawsuits, this is a fact of life in the US, and not a bad one. If someone was requiring that my daughter's school district teach that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, I can either oppose by civil disobediance, home schooling, violence, or through the court of law. I would choose the latter first.

By the way, did you know that the Discovery Institute spent $4.1 million just in 2003? Compare this to how much the National Center for Science Education, which is less than $1 million, if I recall correctly (I think a lot less, but I can't find the numbers).

For a more full treatment, I recommend: the Wikipedia article which is honest to both sides.

Creation and Intelligent Design Watch" for a huge number of resources to understand the issues, including WHY DO SCIENTISTS GET SO ANGRY WHEN DEALING WITH ID PROPONENTS?
National Center for Science Education

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