Monday, September 20, 2010

Brin-terviewed on "Virtually Speaking" Thurs 6pm... plus SciFi'ists "come out!"

Come online to participate or listen to Jay Ackroyd interview me in his VIRTUALLY SPEAKING webcast... plus avataring the event on Second Life... This Thursday 9/23 at 6pm Pacific time... 9pm Eastern. The blogtalkradio simulcast  will also be archived at iTunes.

=== A Famous Columnist "Comes Out" as a Sci Fi Fan! ===

SFGenreRenowned Columnist Walter Russel Read has “confessed a guilty pleasure” -- a lifetime love of science fiction literature.  In a column fo the American Interest, he comes-out and proclaims that Science Fiction is a Genre That Everyone Should Read.

”Taken as a whole, the field of science fiction today is where most of the most interesting thought about human society can be found.  At a time when many academics have become almost willfully obscure, political science is increasingly dominated by arcane and uninspiring theories and in which a fog of political correctness makes some forms of (badly needed) debate and exploration off limits, science fiction has stepped forward to fill the gap.”

I confess to especially approving of this line: ”In the work of writers like David Brin and Neal Stephenson there is more interesting reflection on America’s place in the world than you will find, I fear, in a whole year’s worth of reading in foreign policy magazines.”

GreatestSFReadingLIstMead also recommends Vernor Vinge, C.J. Cherryh, Benford, Willis, Niven and so on. (See my own list of favorites at Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales). And he concludes:

”The biggest single task facing the United States today is the unleashing of our social imagination.  We are locked into twentieth century institutions and twentieth century habits of mind.  Science fiction is the literary genre (OK, true, sometimes a subliterary genre) where the social imagination is being cultivated and developed.  Young people should read this genre to help open their minds to the extraordinary possibilities that lie before us; we geezers should read it for the same reason.  The job of our times is to build a radically new world; speculative fiction helps point the way.”

Now to find out if he likes autographed books...  (I tried sending my Asimov book to Paul Krugman, but could not get through the shell of his assistants/handlers.)

Alas, not all famous, professed sci fi fans are on the side of the modernist enlightenment.  Fresh off his latest Hugo win, Frederik Pohl blogs this:
 
" . . .there was a time when I really thought that if politicians would get in the habit of reading science fiction for fun instead of sticking to, say, the shoot-’em-up Westerns preferred by Dwight Eisenhower, we’d have better government. But then along came Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and shot that speculation down in flames."


(Oh, am I nostalgic for Eisenhower!  Heck, even Tricky Dick would compromise with reality, now and then. Whatever his faults, he at least believed in negotiating, even with his enemies.)

=== And finally... ===

Author Mark A. Raynor runs a contest to create vintage ads based around fictional works of the future. Take a look at his United Postal Service ad for stamps based upon my post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. The other ad pictured is a vintage baby food ad for “The Road” – Now with more baby….ugh

And a bit of fear mongering: This list of 15 ways science will kill us all includes the Large Hadron Collider, a time machine, self-replicating printers, the singularity, grey goo (nanorobots), cyborg robots, genetically-engineered life, dark matter…
 

100 comments:

Tim H. said...

http://brainz.org/15-ways-science-will-kill-us-all/
The above link should work.

Robert said...

One of my biggest regrets is that Fantasy has taken such a large chunk out of the SciFi genre. Lumping the two diminishes the SciFi genre... though considering that some works of Science Fiction are so soft you can use them for pillows (the Warhammer 40K literary works, for instance) it can be difficult differentiating where SciFi ends... and where Fantasy begins.

I've been working on a story myself (rewriting an old story from a decade past) which focuses on what would happen if psychics were discovered to be real, and I'm realizing it's not easy writing something that is genuinely "hard" science fiction (my friend Brian Lacki has managed this, but he's not writing all that much these days, unfortunately - seems that astrophysics is more interesting than writing fiction). Of course, psychic phenomena is on the softer side of SciFi in any event... ah well. Once I start posting chapters online I'll give you all a holler.

Fortunately, I suspect the Web is the new home of Science Fiction writing. There's something deliciously right about that... for SciFi to take refuge in a bastion of technology and information.

Rob H.

Stefan Jones said...

In the same vein as Read's comment: Charlie Stross wonders if the increase in fundamentalism and intolerance seen in the last decade is a manifestation of "Future Shock:"

A Working Hypothesis


'Ackma': Cheap knock-off of Acme, marketed in Africa by Chinese exporters.

rewinn said...

Future Shock is an interesting working hypothesis for an apparent increase in religion-based reactionarism. Let me wonder another shock (for which I lack an appropriate catchy phrase) is a huge increase in the volume of bad news we are able to, and do, take in each day.

I don't want to over-romanticize the small tribal village for which my brain seems to have been designed, but it might typically present my lobes with maybe one death a week to mourn. In contrast, it is a rare day goes by that some new mass dying appears in my browset, complete with video and music to alert me to this important breaking development on the other side of the planet. Similar effects might be expected with other technology, e.g. networks of people with cellphones. I don't mean to be callous, but perhaps there is a limit to how much awfulness the average person can absorb before fleeing to Daddy Protector (Government/Corporation/Religion).

I like to think that there might be some counterbalance. Perhaps each report of death, dismemberment and/or despair should come wrapped in a prophylactic dose of lolCats.

Robert said...

Then what does this make us Contrarians, who have looked into the Void and decided rather than flee to the protective arms of a God-figure (whether divine or political), walk into that Darkness and accept what is out there?

Are we the next generation of humanity, able to move beyond our fears? Or are we a throwback to the early days of humanity, those hunters and scouts who would leave the tribe and search the Unknown so that our species as a whole could survive?

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tony Fisk said...

To follow the analogy, I suppose we walk out into the darkness and *become* what is out there.

... hmmm! that would explain a few things about the 'War on Science'

outfa: this would probably explain a few things as well.

Tim H. said...

At the conclusion of this life, if I experience anything except oblivion, I don't think it will be enjoyable.

rewinn said...

Our choices seem to be ....

"Ab Luce ad Tenebras" ("Away from Light into the Darkness" - motto of Lovecraft's Miskatonic University, based on the conceit that the Reality Behind the Universe is so Aweful that were we to understand it, we must go mad or flee into the comfort of ignorance)

... or ...


"To Boldly Go Where No-One Has Go Before".

Perhaps if we frame this in terms of courage, it may en-courage the wavering?

David Brin said...

Stross is completely right on.

Back in the 1990s I predicted that Robert Heinlein's "crazy years" would actually occur when those creepy double zeroes crept into the date.

Far worse than the "Y2K effect on computers" would be the underlying (but seldom expressed at the surface) anomie of millions of people toward a world undergoing change.

The simplest litmus? The decline in popularity of science fiction literature! The "War on Science" would be weaker if sci fi were stronger.

David Brin said...

Go to
http://books.google.com/books?id=u1UEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=life+magazine+archives+Clean+Air+Car+Race+1970&source=bl&ots=Gy0wJqnxYo&sig=fBjmEAGQLMK0GEecIEcyHpwMqgk&hl=en&ei=PvKWTILlGIOesQOs9-HACg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Again, that's me in the plaid shirt, front row, left.

The 2nd page right side of the picture shows the truck with a lear jet engine in the back, that left a trail of seared underpasses and shattered toll booths across the land. They got a zero in the noise pollution category! Then it parked outside my dorm room at Caltech and revved for hours!

The incredible one, behind my left on p1, was the UToronto hybrid car. The world's first. Totally groundbreaking. It might not have gone anywhere without the CACR race.

Forty years ago. And that's me up front. (Deservedly or not!;-) We changed the world more than many of the protesters on the streets, that summer. Nerds rocked. Then & now.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi David
I didn't realize you were as old as all that!

http://www.ehow.com/facts_5644931_created-first-hybrid-car_.html

In 1899, according to the Hybrid Vehicle Timeline, Ferdinand Porsche created a hybrid electric vehicle called the Mixte for the Lohner-Porsche Corp. He presented it at the Paris exhibition of 1900.

Catfish N. Cod said...

(I tried sending my Asimov book to Paul Krugman, but could not get through the shell of his assistants/handlers.)

The word you seek, sir, is "flapper". 'Twas coined by that well known sci-fi author, Jonathan Swift.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, I have to thank you. My twin sister was recently engaged and is getting married in the spring. With her engagement party this weekend, I have been feeling rather old the past week or so. I don't anymore.
} ; = 8 P


Back to science fiction, would a story with a fantasy setting (magic, demons, etc.) that was written like science fiction (examining the various 'what-ifs' and providing commentary on society and the issues of today) be considered science fiction or fantasy? Or would that be a gray cross-over area like Star Wars?

Tony Fisk said...

'Flapper' was the guy whose job it was to flick a (lead?) balloon at the ear of some Laputan* notary to rouse him and get his head out the clouds (an ongoing problem on a floating island) Krugman's coterie sound like the opposite.

Fantasy that provides what-ifs and commentary on issues of today? Sounds like Discworld! Actually, a bigger umbrella might be called 'satire'.

Anyway, that's my lot for a few days. Heading north to warmer climes.

* the pre-Gibli version

Catfish N. Cod said...

'Flapper' was the guy whose job it was to flick a (lead?) balloon at the ear of some Laputan* notary to rouse him and get his head out the clouds (an ongoing problem on a floating island) Krugman's coterie sound like the opposite.

You've missed the key function of a flapper. It's not the distinction between allowing or preventing attention span that is critical, but that it is in the sole control of the servant whether or not communication takes place. The political implications are pointed out both by Swift himself and by Heinlein in one of the more expository chunks of Stranger in a Strange Land (when Jubal is trying to contact the Secretary-General).

One of Friedman's flappers decrees that Dr. Brin is not worth the Great One's attention, and behold, it is made so.

Tim H. said...

The boundaries between fantasy and science fiction aren't well defined, something like Heinlein's here, and Tolkien's there, except when Heinlein wanted a change, like with Glory Road, or Waldo. Mixing aspects of these related genres has been done before, and I've enjoyed the results. Sounds like fun.
"cluctint" another name for Aracauna chickens.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I've been working on a story myself (rewriting an old story from a decade past) which focuses on what would happen if psychics were discovered to be real, and I'm realizing it's not easy writing something that is genuinely "hard" science fiction


One of my all-time favorite sci-fi short stories...and darned if I'm blanking on both the author AND title. All I can remember is that I read it in a 1970s collection called "Orbit 4" (fourth collection in the series). I'll have to see if I can come up with the author or title so I can recommend the story to you.

It's about the Supreme Court ruling on a case involving psychic phenomena, and goes into great detail about how the question "Does clairvoyance exist?" is relevant to the case. If the cops use a psychic to locate the murder weapon in a suspect's mind, is that an unreasonable search and seizure (like unauthorized wiretapping)? If clairvoyance does NOT exist, then is the warrant based upon the psychic knowledge invalid? That sort of thing.

It also goes into fascinating detail about the workings of the Supreme Court and (of all things) the history of the Lincoln assassination. And it all blends together much better than I'm describing it here. Really, it's something like 60 pages, and you can't put it down once you start.

I'll see if I can locate better information tonight.

Anonymous said...

One of the progressions that has saddened me is to see the shrinking of the SciFi section in university book shelves. Ten/Fifteen years ago at the Stanford University bookstore, the SciFi section would be fill nearly the entire length of a wall of the Bookstore. Now it's just two 4' sections, on one side, of a 6' tall bookcase. This, in what was the heart pumping innovation in Silicon Valley.

Stuart said...

Larry, that psychic powers case reminds me of a story about someone trying to sell his soul on eBay, and eBay removing the listing*.

eBay removed themselves from a potentially sticky situation by saying: Either the soul exists, or it doesn't. If it doesn't exist, your listing violates the TOS by selling a non-existent item. If it does, it violates the TOS by selling a body part.

* It has the smell of an urban legend, but I can't find it on Snopes.

LarryHart said...

I said to Robert:

One of my all-time favorite sci-fi short stories...and darned if I'm blanking on both the author AND title. All I can remember is that I read it in a 1970s collection called "Orbit 4" (fourth collection in the series). I'll have to see if I can come up with the author or title so I can recommend the story to you.


Found it. The story about the Supreme Court, the Lincoln assassination, and psychic phenomena is "Probable Cause" by Charles L Harness. I recommend it to this group in the strongest possible terms.

Orbit 4 ed. Damon Knight (G.P. Putnam’s, 1968, $4.95, 254pp, hc)
· Windsong · Kate Wilhelm · nv *
· Probable Cause · Charles L. Harness · na *
· Shattered Like a Glass Goblin · Harlan Ellison · ss *
· This Corruptible · Jacob Transue · nv *
· Animal · Carol Emshwiller · ss *
· One at a Time · R. A. Lafferty · ss *
· Passengers · Robert Silverberg · ss *
· Grimm’s Story [Tatja] · Vernor Vinge · na *
· A Few Last Words · James Sallis · ss *

Robert said...

While I've grown away from the majority of Anne McCaffrey's works, one thing that has helped inspire the e-novel I'm working on is McCaffrey's "Pegasus" series of novels. I just go with a darker take on things; if psychic phenomena is verified, then the Federal government will work to regulate it and ensure that psychics and paranormals are trained and employed. Preferably by the government.

(In many ways, these stories are in the "superhero" genre if you use psychic abilities such as telekinesis to explain the manifestation of such abilities and keep their abilities on a somewhat realistic level - no Superman or the like. I came up with the idea ten years ago, though I'm sure people will say I'm ripping off the TV series "Heroes" (which I've not seen).)

I look forward to you finding information on this Supreme Court story on clairvoyants used in police cases, seeing that I actually have the use of clairvoyants and telepaths by the police force. (Telepathy being not nearly as useful as you'd think; you have to direct someone's thought processes to find the information you need, and it's entirely too easy to get confused readings.)

The story focuses on Unregistered Paranormal vigilantes and a psychic serial killer, but I've been fleshing out the world for a bit (including the ramifications of a plague in 1996 that wiped out 25% of the U.S. population; I suspect that there'd be a significant economic downturn even with allowing for increased immigration, the Caucasian race becoming a minority, and even with government efforts to spin Paranormals in a good light for hate groups who consider Paranormals to be an abomination).

Heh. Probably one of the biggest issues I've found is what NOT to include in the story. It's entirely too enticing to indulge in information dumps to show off the sociopolitical background and the setting. But there's ways to add snippets here and there. And I suppose I can always write up the background information in a separate document for people to view if they're interested in being bored with specifics. ;)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

That location on second life Thursday night:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Virtually%20Speaking/165/147/25

Ilithi Dragon said...

Wait, Thursday? I could have sworn it said Wednesday... Wasn't there any that... No, they're all Thursdays... Grgh... I'm going senile. #_#;

Fracure: A procurement method involving large quantities of frappucino

ell said...

Rewinn: How about Bad News Recoil Syndrome?

We shouldn't get used to bad news. If we don't suffer, we won't act.

Robert said...

Considering some of the Tea Party candidates, what are the odds that if the Republicans do take the House and Senate that we'll see Impeachment efforts (or at the very least some form of vote of Nonconfidence) against Obama? The impeachment naturally would be claims that Obama isn't an American citizen and thus should not be President.

Hell, if they were able to pull that off (through crook, naturally) then I suspect they'd claim that all legislation signed by Obama is null-and-void as he was not a legitimate Presidential candidate. Easiest way to eliminate Health Care Reform - say that an illegal president signed it into law and call it null-and-void.

And when the Supreme Court steps in to try and rein in the Tea Drinker silliness, we'll see efforts to legislate the Supreme Court into having no power.

Just random speculations here. ^^;;

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Assuming the GOP falls into lockstep alignment with the Tea Party. I suspect, given that the GOP got rather vicious in its attacks against the TP candidates running in its own primaries, that if the TP candidates do manage to squeak by in any notable number, or at all, they won't get much buddy-buddy treatment from the establishment GOPpers. If they don't fall into the highly-trained precision lockstep with the rest of the party, I wouldn't be surprised if we even see a break-up of the GOP ranks.

David Brin said...

The "civil war" inside the GOP is extremely over-rated.

The plan was always to sacrifice a few token goats on the alter of populist rage, but to use the tea parties for one purpose above all... as an excuse-offering mechanism to maintain GOP loyalty.

"We're mad as HELL... and we want STANDARD REPUBLICAN DOCTRINE!

"It never ever worked and we never saw the GOP lift a finger to reduce deficits, ban homosexuality and abortion or mingle church and state. But if we yell REAL hard when and where we are TOLD to... then maybe THIS time the oligarchs will toss us a bone!

"And we'll send a nut job or two to Congress, this time, to yell for us!

"Above all, keep telling us stories about Obama and the democrats, because our whole and entire edifice falls apart, if we remember that the GOP drove America stright into the ditch. The only way to forget that, and cling to our loyalty, is to convince ourselves that LIBERALS ARE EVEN WORSE!

"And, since we admit the gopper leaders are all AWFUL, we can only cling to that loyalty by letting Beck and co. tell us that all democrats -- 100 million of our neighbors -- are satanic and evil!"

Sorry, that is what it boils down to. In order for it to stick, there has to have been a full-frontal assault on the intellectual authority of every American demographic with post-graduate degrees. The scientists, doctors, civil servants, teachers, officers... ALL of them are impugned and derided and dismissed...

...in order to prevent any such group from saying "Hey! That's not true and I can prove it!"

Proof is the enemy.

Stefan Jones said...

I got an email yesterday, apparently meant for someone else. A chain letter "joke" about an American fallen on hard times because everything in his life is an import, and ends with "and he expects help from the president, who is from Kenya."

It ended with a plea to pass it on.

This is reality for the idiot base of the Republican party.

I could have written back, with refutations, but it wouldn't matter. It would likely have just made her more confirmed in her beliefs.

As DB notes, proof is the enemy.

Truthiness is what you feel in your chest.

Facts are stupid things.

Ignorance is Strength.

Stefan Jones said...

Because we need some levity:

Tea Party flag commemorating Christine O'Donnell's nomination.

Heavy, but fascinating:

Politics of storytelling, an interview with China Mieville:

"You can't escape narrative, and as a culture we need to think so much harder about how stories are deployed politically," he explains. "Narratives can be very powerful without convincing anybody.

"For example - very few serious thinkers believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Very few people on the street thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But that's the story that made the running, and homogenised that whole area of discourse. So those of us who are opposed were running around shouting: 'No, there aren't any weapons of mass destruction' - but maybe we should have been saying something more like, 'fuck this absurd agenda! I'm not going to argue on this ludicrous axis, this isn't what war is about!'

"There's a real political importance to questioning the power of stories, and it's something that, as radicals, we definitely shouldn't trivialise."

rewinn said...

@Stefan - Perhaps the very act of saying "Obama is not a Marxist" validates the looney claim that Obama *is* a Marxist?

That makes a sort of sense. And it suggests that the way to disarm the crazies is not to respond to their verbal content, but merely to mock their looniness. It's not as if you'll persuade any of them with facts.

@Dr. Brin - As for a GOP Civil War, I have every confidence that a GOP leadership that scarcely blinked at torture and launching a war based on transparent lies will find a way to accommodate even the craziest member of Congress. They might have preferred someone who provides less material for comics, but power soothes all wounds.

@Robert - rather than asking whether a GOP House would impeach Obama on trumped-up charges, the question is: why would they NOT?

* Aside: I predict it's 50/50 that filibuster will soon die. If the GOP gets the Senate, they surely will kill it if the Dems try to use it. If the Dems retain the Senate, they should kill it in order to get anything done; however, the Senate under Reid has shown a remarkable tolerance for GOP obstruction.

* More levity (... I think...)

Political Speech Disclaimer

Ian said...

"One of Friedman's flappers decrees that Dr. Brin is not worth the Great One's attention, and behold, it is made so."

At one point while employed by the Queensland EPA part of my job required making contact with the CEO's of major mining corporations.

I simply rang their personal offices and asked that they call Ian Gould and left my number.

I never SAID said I was Dr. Ian Gould Ph.D, former CEO of MIM and head of the Minerals council of Australia.

If they assumed that I was that Ian Gould, it wasn't my fault.

Ian said...

Re. politicians and SF.

Supposedly Babylon 5 was one of Bush the Lesser's favorite TV shows.

I guess no-one explained to him that President Clarke wasn't the protagonist.

LarryHart said...


@Robert - rather than asking whether a GOP House would impeach Obama on trumped-up charges, the question is: why would they NOT?


I can only think of one reason, and I'm not sure it will hold, but perhaps self-interested reason will prevail:

Because they already tried that once before, and it backfired miserably on them?

Gingrich thought the American people were going to send him more Republicans in 1998 because of the Clinton impeachment. Instead, the Dems gained seats mid-term (which we all know ad nauseum almost never happens to the President's party in a mid-term). The voters were sick of impeachment, and sent a clear message. Incidentally, that was the election that turned me from "Personally liberal, but I vote for the individual, not the party" to "No more Republicans!"

Now, there are reasons to suspect that that lesson will be totally forgotten, so you may in fact be correct. But you asked for a reason why they wouldn't impeach, and there you have it.

LarryHart said...

Ian:

Supposedly Babylon 5 was one of Bush the Lesser's favorite TV shows.


Was his favorite episode the episode where Sheridan was tortured?


I guess no-one explained to him that President Clarke wasn't the protagonist.


Maybe he thought the Shadows were the protagonists.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

"We're mad as HELL... and we want STANDARD REPUBLICAN DOCTRINE!

"It never ever worked and we never saw the GOP lift a finger to reduce deficits, ban homosexuality and abortion or mingle church and state. But if we yell REAL hard when and where we are TOLD to... then maybe THIS time the oligarchs will toss us a bone!


The part I don't understand is how their evil plot keeps WORKING so darned well.

I UNDERSTAND that people are scared and angry at the powers that be. But it is so freakin' obvious to me that Republicans are the handmaidens of the very things people are so upset ABOUT. The failing of Democrats is that they didn't act enough to counter the bad stuff--in essence, that they were too much like Republicans. But you don't un-do the problems caused by Dems who are too much like Republicans by...electing Republicans.

I honestly don't get it. People who are livid with anger over outsourcing, health-insurance costs, and Wall Street bailouts are going to put REPUBLICANS back in charge? To do what, excactly? The metaphor of "voting for Sideshow Bob" doesn't even do it justice any more. It's more like Eddie Murphy's speculation on why someone would shoot the Pope. "He must figure 'I'm going to go to Hell, and I don't want to wait in LINE with all those people. I want to take the Hell Express!'"

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones:

I got an email yesterday, apparently meant for someone else. A chain letter "joke" about an American fallen on hard times because everything in his life is an import, and ends with "and he expects help from the president, who is from Kenya."


In a rational world, the punch line would have been "and he expects help from a REPUBLICAN?"

Maybe it's the gloomy weather in Chicago today, but I'm feeling particularly disspirited about the upcoming election. My current working theory is that the (Diebold machine) fix is already in, and all that's happening now is that the corporate media are preparing us with a narrative that makes a GOP sweep plausible enough when it is made to happen.

I'm hoping that this despair is merely the result of The Mule using his mutant powers to control my emotions. :)

On the other hand, I'm honestly wondering if a GOP takeover of one or both houses of congress in 2010 isn't a blessing in disguise. If the Dems hang on, they're going to continue to be blamed for all the problems caused by GOP obstructionism and the US Supreme Corporate. After two more years of outsourcing and foreclosures, the GOP would be able to use the same tactics they're using this year to run the board...both houses of congress AND President Palin.

With Republicans running things THEIR way in congress, it's going to be harder for angry voters in 2012 to blame the Dems for their troubles. The fact that the Republicans work tirelessly to ADVANCE those troubles will be too obvious. In the meantime, there's still the veto to stop them from doing really harmful stuff--something that would not be the case if Palin wins in 2012.

So perhaps, 2010 might be overplaying their hand.

As Alan Moore's "Watchmen" had it, "It never ends."

Ilithi Dragon said...

Larry,

It works so well because the people it works on (~20% - 40% of the nation's population) have been indoctrinated with submission to their authority, either directly, or indirectly through the direction of their direct authority figures (parents, religious leaders, prominent family members, radio and TV hosts, etc.). They don't see the contradictions because their mental processes are heavily compartmentalized, allowing them to hold contradictory, mutually-exclusive beliefs simultaneously, and because they rely heavily on their in-circles for information, discounting or disregarding information received from outside of their in-circles (if they don't outright avoid it all together), especially if they are identified as Other/Enemy sources. They take the word of their authority figures and other members of their in-circle at face-value, trusting that it is true and accurate without questioning it because they have been trained not to question it.


In short, it's Authoritarianism.

LarryHart said...

So Lawrence Summers is apparently stepping down?

http://tinyurl.com/28e256p

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/21/AR2010092106077.html

Here's the part I'm reeling at, though:


As Obama gears up for the 2012 reelection campaign, administration officials need both a fresh face on the economy and someone who can craft a credible vision for creating jobs and restoring the nation's economic vitality. Sources said the White House is considering whether to choose a candidate who could blunt criticism that the administration has been anti-business, such as a corporate chieftain or prominent investor.


I don't know what is more improbable--that the administration's financial policy can get any more corporatist than it has already been, or that doing so might in any way risk "blunting" criticism from the right.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Oh, Dr. Brin, I think you might get a kick out of this one: http://punditkitchen.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/4c8e4ad1-fc13-48a7-826c-de84e9995975.jpg

Robert said...

About the only thing that Obama could do that would have minimal GOP criticism is if he were to resign immediately along with every single Democrat in the way of Republican rule of the White House. And even then I suspect some Republicans would claim he's "running away from his responsibilities" or somesuch. And then spend the next however-many-years destroying the economy and blaming Democrats every step of the way. And Obama.

Rob H.

Rob said...

Maybe he thought the Shadows were the protagonists.

Certainly the mainstream NeoCons would have thought so...

Personally I think GWB would have related better to Emperor Cartagia. Commodus in "Gladiator" would have been a good fit too.

Rob said...

And then spend the next however-many-years destroying the economy and blaming Democrats every step of the way. And Obama.

In the end, they would/will wind up blaming the American people (just as some Liberals do today). We simply weren't worthy of their ideas, or it would have worked.

(cf. Hitler blaming the German people for the collapse of Germany.)

Ian said...

"The part I don't understand is how their evil plot keeps WORKING so darned well."

By scapegoating ethnic minorities and convincing the white middlw class they're an oppressed minority and that the Republicans are going to protect them from The Bad People.

Ian said...

"About the only thing that Obama could do that would have minimal GOP criticism is if he were to resign immediately along with every single Democrat in the way of Republican rule of the White House."

Well first he'd have to pass a Constitutional amendment stripping all registered Democrats of their right to vote.
Then he'd have to issue an executive order declaring every single elected Democrat an enemy combatant.

Ian said...

A great idea for New Scientist.

There are close to 600,000 off-grid cell-phone towers around the world.

Most of them, obviously are in areas without mains power.

These towers use diesel generators or renewable energy to supply power. Because their power supplies are designed for maximum demand, most of the time they have spare capacity.

That means the excess power can be used for other purposes where the exact timing of supply isn't important and the power demand is relatively low.

A group called community power is proposing to use that power for water purification and for refrigerating vaccines and other medications.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727786.200-offgrid-cellphone-towers-could-save-lives.html

Tim H. said...

An important part of their evil plot is to convince apolitical types that electoral politics is the realm of bat-shagging madness, raising the bar for participation in the process, and minimizing the undecideds that make it out to vote. Thus, making their job of prediction much easier. Ya' think tall rubber boots might be a better election day protest wear than my "Selected, not Elected" button?

Jacob said...

When you go too far, you turn off moderates. You are obviously straw manning Republicans here. At best, these comments were only apply to media talking heads. Why not just try to accomplish accomplish conservative (small c) goals with pro-government practices. Focus on transparency while soliciting feedback from the public would absolute decimate the Republican leaders. Imagine setting up a program which allows people to 'Make Government Work'. Anyone who can find a way to accomplish the same task at quality with less can keep 10% of the difference for 1 year. Say you find a way to make a 10 Million dollar program operate at 9 Million dollars without lose of quality. You'd get 100,000 for your input. It would be a way to harvest Amateur talent while informing people about some of the tasks that government actually does.

Democrats could use Science to solve abortion by researching ways to transfer an unwanted fetus from one woman to another. Or (less popular) develop an artificial womb.

Lastly, Democrats could develop a bloody messaging program. Imagine it! Sometime which talks about how good they are the economy and how bad they are the deficit (as only they shrink it).

But please, don't go too far when criticizingly the talking heads. You end up hurting rather than helping our ability to talk to confused Americans.

Robert said...

On the abortion issue, I have a simple solution. But I've only found a couple anti-abortionists willing to take me up on it.

In short: if you are against abortion then you have to be willing to pay for the expectant mother's medical bills and then pay for the delivery and pay for several years of health insurance for the child... and to assist in clothing and feeding the child. IF you are willing to do all that and IF you put your money where your mouth is, THEN you have the right to protest abortion.

If not? Shut the frak up.

Personally? I feel abortion is wrong. But I have NO right telling a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. And if I got a woman pregnant and she wanted an abortion? I'd go in there and support her wishes, even though I'd be willing to take custody of the baby. Because I don't have the right to tell her what to do.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

guys while I agree with nearly all of your imprecations about the GOP, I have to ask that you keep it to original thoughts and/or great links.

Just agreeing with each other makes this place seem like a DP pep rally and seem hostile to guys like Tacitus.

Worst of all, it starts my contrarian juices flowing! It gets me muttering and poking around for scenarios by which the republicans might ACTUALLY redeem themselves! The imagination that it takes stretches even my sci fi brain... but I do catch glimmers... sparkles...

Non, no... you do not want to corner me into going there!

David Brin said...

It's simpler than that Robert. ANY person who has adopted a child has a right to engage me in earnest conversation about the borderlines of - and sanctity of - human life.

I will listen humbly and respond with respect and zero heat.

The best answer I have heard, that applies to such people is that life ITSELF is telling a sermon.

God did not make digital (on-off) laws in a natural world that is clearly analog. The world that He made is murky, even along the boundaries of life and non-life.

Meanwhile, give some cred to the side that has a track record reducing the NUMBER and frequency of abortions. If you are not satisfied with a steady and pragmatic reduction in the frequency of the sin... and must insist instead upon a purist denunciation that villifies all who do the sin, but have no success at reducing its frequency...

...well, then the real conflict is between the pragmatic incrementalist mind-set and that of the purist-idealist. I contend, the latter type ran 98% of human civilizations, and helped them fail.

Our experiment in pragmatic incrementalist progress has worked well, so far. Indeed, there is strong evidence that purist sanctimony is a serious mental disease.

David Brin said...

But then... "evidence" is something we incrementalist progressives like. Purists don't.

LarryHart said...

Ian:

"The part I don't understand is how their evil plot keeps WORKING so darned well."

By scapegoating ethnic minorities and convincing the white middlw class they're an oppressed minority and that the Republicans are going to protect them from The Bad People.


I get that that IS working. What I don't get is how it KEEPS working after the Republicans' own track record. Life always gets worse (in terms of making enemies who want to hurt us AND in terms of the economy tanking) whenever we let them have power, and yet somehow they always manage to campaign as if life will get better the next time they're elected.

Even for their fellow-believers, I fail to see how the same old song keeps paying off.

Tim H. said...

Methinks it's a madness that must run it's course, much like the spasm of un-electability that democrats experienced in the 60s and 70s when ideological hurdles were set up for national candidates that were a step or three ahead of the electorate's comfort zone. Not that I'm free of ideological blinders, I tend to see blue collar folks as very important, enough so to be worth some compromise on trade and environment, might that make me comparable to the prop 13ers? Consensus is the way forwards.

Jacob said...

To Robert: You're absolutely right if a little hostile. Try to approach it from a more friendly angle. If society organized to take donations and volunteers, we could use Pro-Life (and Pro-Choice) money to ask expecting mothers to choose assistance rather than abortion. If we take away the Economic and Raising burden off women, I expect that many would choose not to end the life of the child. Personally, I'd even been willing to accept an outlaw of abortion if a woman could choose not to suffer most of the consequences of having a child. Some exceptions should be made such as Rape which would be ongoing trauma and the health of the child such as a woman who continued to abuse drugs. Now thats just a personal belief, and I'd accept the majority opinion if it was against me.

The problem with Pro-Life position is that it doesn't do enough to address the consequences of forcing a certain type of behavior. It is certainly anti-Freedom, but in a way outlawing murder is too. Show me that you will mitigate the life changing event and I'll support you. Until then, I'm going to support the Democrats on the Life/Choice issue.

And again, research to make the whole question null and void!

Rob Perkins said...

David raises a good point. The talk here is getting as absurd and off-putting as anything coming out of Sarah Palin's mouth.

With respect to abortion, a rightist-conservative will counter Rob H.'s challenge with the assertion that whatever else is true, the U.S. welfare system, through Food Stamps, WIC, SCHIP, and AFDC, and, if he's feeling stoked by his TEA Party beverages, might continue and insist that since the funds for such are already extorted from him in the form of too-oppressive income, payroll, excise, property, and sales taxes, he has already met your challenge and his money is precisely where his mouth is.

Pregnancy, he'll assert further, is a completely recoverable medical condition with a virtual 100% survival rate. He might even cite the example Kate Gosselin as someone who completely recovered from it to the point that you can't tell she's ever been pregnant.

Then, he may continue by pointing out the irony that anyone healthy enough can become pregnant without so much as a by-your-leave from society at large, and have a baby, but that adoption of unwanted babies is hemmed about with a nightmarish level of legal controls, and a waiting list that consigns the couple to years of uncertainty and emotional risk.

He might wax prosaic on the subject for hours, without once invoking a religious incantation.

Not that I'd agree, necessarily; I'm a Democrat who abhors careless sexual behavior and convenience abortion, with a mixed pro-choice-life-sanity viewpoint, and I have the opinion that statutes and common law might comfortably be "pro-choice", with cautionary policies in place to advise women, all as a matter of law, and let folkways and mores pull us into something which almost always resembles Christian charity.

Which, if you think about it, is about where we are in the U.S. today.

It's an opinion which I hold with manifest and overt discomfort, since I'd really rather there wasn't ever a need for a single abortion, ever.

Jacob said...

Hi Rob Perkins,

Would making the program donation rather than tax based counter the retort in your mind?

Can't we agree to make an effort to streamline the adoption process to make it both safe and secure?

Tacitus2 said...

You certainly need pull no punches on my account.

To some extent the conversation, while overheated, is a healthy venting of understandable frustrations.

I will just sit back and enjoy my after shift beverage unless;

A: the political lamp is offically lit
B: I have something original to contribute, or
C: someone asks me a direct question in civil tones.

Tacitus2

Rob Perkins said...

Jacob, I don't believe the adoption process can be streamlined or adapted to a general consensus that just plain doesn't exist.

As to changing a tax regime into something voluntary, that's where Rob H. has a really salient point: At the scale of the whole of a society as diverse and diffuse as Americans have, human charity is itself diverse and diffuse, and can solve no macro-level social problem.

And any organization which established a fundraising regime organized enough to do so through volunteerism would rightly be called at least a quasi-government. 19th Century Mormonism comes to mind (though the caricatures about Brigham Young's leadership are just that, even caricature has a basis in *some* fact), as do Western American school districts, to another extent, since they all have massive volunteer and donation driven regimes. (Associated Student Body orgs, for example.)

David Brin said...

Tacitus...


Or D. grab a bus to DC o October 30 and sample OUR koolaid!!!!

;-)

Rob Perkins said...

You know, I'd totally go to that, but as Jon Stewart rightly said, I've got (ahem) stuff to do that day.

David Brin said...

Jumping jiminy!

COmpare these creatures to certain inhabitants of the Book of Revelations!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100923/ap_on_sc/us_dinosaur_discovery

One of you bible scholars, give us the passages....

David Brin said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100923/

then

ap_on_sc/us_dinosaur_discovery

Anonymous said...

Provocative and probably accurate:
http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/09/22/csa-csa-csa-csa/#more-48714

Bizarrely science fictional:
http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/205827/was_stuxnet_built_to_attack_irans_nuclear_program.html

Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network -- put plastique in these things and give 'em to
criminal gangs or terrorists, and you've got "interesting times," as the Chinese put it:
http://lis.epfl.ch/?content=research/projects/SwarmingMAVs/

As expected, the non-reform HCR bill has done nothing to slow the skyrocketing cost of health care:
http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16120503#ixzz10B7IleL8

Excellent overview of America's disintegrating medical-industrial complex in the New York Times Review of Books:

"...The current rate of inflation in health costs—between 4 and 6 percent per year—obviously cannot be sustained.
"Why is this the case? First, the present trajectory of federal health expenditures predicts continued rapid growth of Medicare expenses and the exhaustion of the Medicare Part A fund—which partly covers hospital costs—within a decade or so. Second, most economists agree that the states will not be able to pay the rising costs of Medicaid in future years, when millions of beneficiaries will be added to the rolls. And looking at the private sector, there is increasing evidence that the inflation in the cost of health insurance cannot be supported by employers and employees much longer. In sum, the whole health system, if not radically transformed, seems headed toward bankruptcy."
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/sep/30/health-care-disquieting-truth/

There's a perverse fascination in watching America's broken health care system collapse. It's like watching a slow-motion multicar freeway crash. Horrible, but you can't *not* watch.

Also fascinating to observe the complete disconnect between the public's mass hysteria and the real problems today. Anti-muslim frenzy, anti-tax agitation, paranoia about a nuclear-armed Iran on the right, financial reform and anti-corporate frenzy and crazed jeremiads about Don't Ask Don't Tell on the left -- meanwhile, global warming and peak oil and global population growth represent the real threats, yet they're totally ignored in the public policy arena.

Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say.

Ian said...

Genetically engineered yeast convert carbon dioxide into solid carbonates.

http://www.physorg.com/news204365658.html

Tacitus2 said...

David

Although it will likely be a good party I will be elsewhere on 30Oct. At a tropical medicine conference in fact. If strength and partner approval hold up I expect to be doing the service overseas thing in a few years.

btw, in your current video I note some imposing books as a backdrop. Congressional TV studios formerly used bound volumes of the New England Journal of Medicine (strictly for aesthetics, apparently none of our non MD solons ever touched it!).

You appear to have a set of the Brittanica Great Books series? Not familiar with that binding color in a set....

If so, I have no doubt that the bookmark faintly visible is placed in volume 15 (Tacitus).

His lesser and later disciple.

T2

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin says:

Just agreeing with each other makes this place seem like a DP pep rally and seem hostile to guys like Tacitus.


Understood. And this is your "home" and I'm not going to argue about the rules with you.

But by Tacitus's own words, he seems less turned off by political opposition than by the fact of political discussion with out the "lamp" having been lit. Not sure what to do about that when politics comes up in the comments section.

Maybe the host should clarify what's appropriate or not here. I get that gratuitious swipes at the Republican Party (and I'm guilty as anyone of that) might be off-putting to others. But do statements of fears or warnings about the harm caused by apparent corporatist excesses fit the same category? If someone points out that good science is being ignored in setting policy, is that "political"?

I'm asking a legitimate question--one I don't presume to already have an answer for.


Worst of all, it starts my contrarian juices flowing! It gets me muttering and poking around for scenarios by which the republicans might ACTUALLY redeem themselves! The imagination that it takes stretches even my sci fi brain... but I do catch glimmers... sparkles...

Non, no... you do not want to corner me into going there!


I don't especially want to "corner" you into something against your will or better judgement, but I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts should you decide to go there. If only because the GOP seems to be WINNING the media wars, so any glimmer of hope that it doesn't necessarily lead to 30,000 years of barbarism* is welcome.

* Re-reading the original three "Foundation" novels gives me an example to use against the blind defenders of the "free-market" against regulation. It's as if they see that the Seldon Plan successfully kept the galaxy from falling to barbarism, and concluded that the galaxy just NATURALLY resists degenerating into barbarism, and that the worst thing you could do is to interfere with the galaxy's natural tendencies by introducing deliberate machinations such as the Seldon Plan.

Ok, it only speaks to a very select audience, but still...

Robert said...

You know, it just dawned on me that we Contrarians are rather feline in our online habits. We are finicky, each of us has five separate opinions on any one topic and it is rare for any of these opinions to actually mesh with that of other Contarians, and we tend to take casual swipes at things that annoy us, much like a cat will sit quietly and then reach out and smack a dog with its paws.

Oh, and we've also a strong tendency toward individuality. Thus we look at the lockstep march of the Ostriches and their more radical right brethren and wonder "why the heck don't they think for themselves?"

Rob H., who tends to have felines on the mind....

Tacitus2 said...

Humans look at dogs and see a species they have partially Uplifted, at least to the point where they offer up to their Masters both mindless affection and tireless service.

Cats look at Humans in much the same fashion.

Tacitus2

LarryHart said...

Yep.

You "own" a dog. You "feed" a cat.

David Brin said...

Har! re cats/dogs. The key element is neoteny. Dogs are infinitely malleable by neotenizing (keeping puppylike) this or that trait. Cats remain playful as a basic characteristic. In fact, kittens are already small, adult cats. There is nothing to neotenize.

Tacitus, yes, that is a clump taken out of the Great Books set my mother bought for us around 1960... (so it is an old set!) ... and plopped next to me for decorative effect.

LarryHart, I am pleased with the mature and collegial tone of most discussion, here. So there are no "rules." I just suggested that endless rehashing of the same GOP sins wasn't getting anywhere. And, if Tacitus puts up with it, some other tentatively interested "ostriches" may not.

I rail at the madness, as you know. But let's also keep this place ostrich-freindly. Or it becomes just a circle jerk.

If you are re-reading about Hari Seldon, I hope Foundation's Triumph is in the queue!

Robert said...

I've not been able to find it in bookstores, unfortunately. I'll probably end up buying it online sometime. Still, it's irksome that I couldn't find it.

Another reason to dislike the large chain bookstores....

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

David Brin:

I rail at the madness, as you know. But let's also keep this place ostrich-freindly. Or it becomes just a circle jerk.


Agreed.

Don't know why I felt such a need to vent yesterday in particular. I swear it was as if the Mule was working on me. :)


If you are re-reading about Hari Seldon, I hope Foundation's Triumph is in the queue!


It's "the reason for the season", you might say. A few months back, you mentioned tying up loose ends from all of Asimov's novels in "Foundation's Triumph". I decided to see how well it works for me. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), this "required" a re-read of the Asimov novels first. I'm currently on "Second Foundataion".

Jonathan S. said...

Re: the dinosaur discovery:

Yes, but did it arise from the sea, and speak as a dragon? ;-)

weepl: similar in derivation to "sheeple", describes a large group of people all crying in unison.

rewinn said...

In the spirit of non-partisanship, I think most of us can endorse the GOP's call to post bills online 3 days before voting. I have no doubt that this is merely a political ploy, but "Inter urinas et faeces homo nascitur" (very loosely: beginnings are always messy). Conventional wisdom is that this will make negotiations and compromises more difficult, but that strikes me as an acceptable cost. It's not as if the system is working well as is.

I would go a step further and required change tracking on all legislation. Let the public know who inserted what text which a link to the reasoning. Even as simple a system as wikipedia uses would be a boon.

The Dems would be utterly mad not to implement this tomorrow, at one stroke removing a powerful (because valid) talking point of their rivals AND empowering their constituents; I therefore predict they won't.

John Kurman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Kurman said...

Guess who gets mention for accuracy of science in SF? Oh, come on, guess!

Accurate Science Fiction

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, I do believe that Mr. Kurman has just given you a fancy feather to put in your spiffy cap. Cool!

David Brin said...

Jonathan's right. I recommend that all writing students create a murder mystery, to learn plotting. But maintaining the status quo is a vile obsession, most manically pursued by Michael Crichton, proving him NOT to have been an sf writer. At the end of each MC book, everything is always put back as it was... except the dead... and sometimes even them.

Thomas, see Fred Pohl's AGE OF THE PUSSYFOOT for the one novel that predicted the cell phone filled with an array of every AI ap.


LH: I tie in also the plots of FOUNDATION'S EDGE and the tales of the robot Giskard... also tiny bits from CURRENTS OF SPACE, THE STARS LIKE DUST, PEBBLE IN THE SKY and THE CAVES OF STEEL!

Rewinn, don't be shy about the Latin. If my guess is right....

Rewinn re the GOP's call to post bills online 3 days before voting." I have no doubt that this is merely a political ploy, but so what? Using the politics of jiu jitsu, hurriedly get together Democratic votes and vote this reform in!

The political opportunity is golden. It lets you proclaim: "See? Whenever the GOP proposes something sensible, we rush to meet them, more than halfway!" By doing this, it give credibility to your basic point - that they seldom make any sense. (Indeed, most of the "reforms" in Gingrich's Contract With America were betrayed by the GOP.

Robert said...

There's nothing wrong with using the status quo in writing. To be honest, I've used this with fanfiction I've done in the past, primarily because I like to try and tie those stories into continuity so that it could be envisioned as actually happening. Of course, for my own unique writing, I tend to avoid status quo and instead work toward character growth and plot advancement (and consequences - damn but I hate stories without consequences, which status quo stories often tend to lack). But I can understand why some writers tend toward this.

Status quo can also be used as a visual aspect - for instance, political thrillers where the political power outwardly appears the same, but strings behind the scenes have shifted so that subtle changes have occurred. In this situation you have the change as something internal or behind-the scenes. Status quo remains outwardly viable, but it is in fact an illusion.

Not everything is change, after all. ;)

Rob H.

Jacob said...

In 'A Pledge to America' Republicans have the following Economic plan.

1) Stop Tax Breaks from going away.
2) Create Tax Breaks
3) Deregulate (Red Tape Removal)
4) Repeal Healthcare mandates on Small Business.

They also intend to stop deficit spending. Someone should tell them that Tax Breaks are counter productive to that end.

David Brin said...

1&2 they are good at... for the rich. They do nothing else and never have.

The 94-2006 Congress was the laziest in history.

With all three branches in their hands, did they reduce one abortion? eliminate one agency?

De regulate anything other than accountability?

Tim H. said...

#3 would be good, if they'd do it for everyone.
But there was something more interesting in Pournelle's mail, a 1.4 million year old fossil bed in southern California.
http://www.physorg.com/news204262507.html

Robert said...

I think my point stands. Given the state of the Internet these days along with revelations that the stuxnet worm that has been ravaging Iran is likely the first salvo of deliberate Internet Warfare, should we be viewing anonymous links from anonymous people? Especially considering virus prevention software has been proving less and less effective in stopping attacks and infestations?

I mean, there's paranoid, and there's playing it safe.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

I recommend that all writing students create a murder mystery, to learn plotting.


And to learn how NOT to be George Lucas! In other words, if the big reveal in Chapter 20 is that the killer is Colonel Mustard, but in Chapter 3, the evidence shows it couldn't have been him, the writer does NOT have the option of re-writing Chapter 3 in future editions of the book.


But maintaining the status quo is a vile obsession, most manically pursued by Michael Crichton, proving him NOT to have been an sf writer. At the end of each MC book, everything is always put back as it was... except the dead... and sometimes even them.


That's the writing style of most superhero comic books, and in fact of most serial newspaper comic strips.

Such writing has its place, but a novel isn't that place.

Stuart said...

I can't figure out Michael Crichton. I thought The Andromeda Strain was an excellent piece of hard sci-fi, but I've noticed mistakes in other books that would be hard for a scientifically-minded person to miss.

For instance, in the second Jurassic Park book, he describes a poisonous dart gun whose neurotoxin works so fast that the dinosaur dies before its nerves can signal to its brain that it has been hit.

It jolted me right out of the book. A neurotoxin that works faster than nerve impulses is an obvious contradiction in terms. A medical doctor should have known that in his gut. Nothing to do with MC's status-quo themes. It's just my independent gripe.

The worst insult to the scientific reader I've ever read comes from (wait for it!) Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind." I worked at a bookstore when that came out, and we sold about twenty per day, so I decided to see what it was all about. The tone was smug, as I'd expected, but what finally made me close the book in the middle was when "scientists" explained away the disappearances by saying they were because of gamma radiation from outer space that only destroyed the tissue of certain kinds of people. Oh, and every kind of fetus.

His scientists never asked:

1. What was different about the people who were dissolved by gamma radiation?

2. Why people and not animals?

3. Why all fetuses, but not all people?

4. Where did the matter go that all these people were composed of?

You don't have to be a scientist to ask those questions. The explanation exposed the author's view of scientists as people who come up with BS hypotheses and then never test them, or indeed, ever think about the subject again. It was an interesting and insulting look into the mind of a fundamentalist.

Stuart said...

never go anywhere you haven't gone before, never take the chance of encountering new information.

I might think that way if my brain were vulnerable to javascript exploits.

Robert said...

Is it paranoid and ignorant and stupid to lock the doors of your car or your house to prevent their theft? Is it paranoid and ignorant and stupid to put trigger locks on guns (or at the very least put them in a gun safe and keeping the safe closed) to prevent your children from possibly hurting themselves with the firearms? Is it paranoid and ignorant and stupid to research the political candidates that are out there and determine which one is best suited for your beliefs and ideals?

Then call me ignorant, stupid, and paranoid. Especially seeing that I keep getting e-mails from a friend's dead e-mail address that was hacked and which keeps sending me links. Fortunately, I DO keep Javascript disabled on my primary computer at home, so I likely avoided being infected (at least, nothing was detected) when I first did click a link thinking it safe.

And that's a link from a friend's e-mail address. Why the hell should I trust a link that has no identifying features from someone who posts through anonymity and doesn't even mention what the site is about? Oh wait, I'm being paranoid, stupid, and ignorant here.

Rob H., who finds it amusing that possessing the capability to think and be careful is now attributed to ignorance, paranoia, and stupidity... unlike voting the Republican Party Line and blindly accepting everything they state as fact even when they lie through their teeth consistently.

David Brin said...

If there were a smidgen of a chance that the anonymous indignation junkie were capable of self-critique, I'd point to:

http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.htm

The aim of the neocon madness is to make 30% of the country hate and fear all intelligent and educated people... with the excuse that "being smart doesn't make you wise."

Well, our anonymous friend proves THAT truism!

Problem is, the neocons then co on to imply that "smart people are automatically unwise."

Sorry, our anon brother may be a nasty and confused smart person. But some of us are smart AND grownups.

Ilithi Dragon said...

And now, for something completely unrelated: Bras are now gasmasks.

rewinn said...

@Illithi - The bra-gasmask concept could be extended to other wearable items. The thong-gasmask will probably never catch on, but ... Ruff collars anyone?

@Robert - it's not paranoia if there really are people out to infect your system.

@ Dr Brin - your Latin suspicious are most likely correct. I can't find the origin of the proverb but it applies in so many areas.

===

When I get too worried about the seemingly-inevitable triumph of post Citizens United corporate persons over humanity (their current championing of the near-insane to public office gets big press, but more important in the long term is the normalization of corporate domination of our political process), I comfort myself with the thought that demographics may yet be on the side of humanity. While hatred and madness (...and global warming denial may now be classed with evolution denial as being just nutty...) are noisy and get most of the publicity, they don't seem very popular among our increasingly diverse and tolerant younger generation; and several of the emerging power centers of our planet seem to be relatively resistant to the worst excesses of organizational lifeforms. Perhaps our great nation is doomed to be consumed by this new form of life we spawned and let slip the leash, but our earlier children (e.g. concepts of liberty and democracy) are flourishing in Europe and South America, and may yet save us in our dotage. It's nearly mythic.

David Brin said...

Look at the LAPELS of a modern man's suit jacket. You can see the vestigial traces of total pragmatism. The collar lifts UP to envelope the neck, except in front where the tie or cravate provides coverage, then the lapels fold overlap on each other and there is even a FAKE button hole, where a functional one used to be... to firmly cover the chest, up to the neck. In fact, this can still happen with some jackets, though never efficiently or well.

This is a case where style and fashion DO have an objective grounding. Those versions of the man's jacket that veer closer to this functionality are "right" and those that drift away are "wrong."

Now we know what lapels are for.

Catfish N. Cod said...

The explanation exposed the author's view of scientists as people who come up with BS hypotheses and then never test them, or indeed, ever think about the subject again. It was an interesting and insulting look into the mind of a fundamentalist.

This may merely be making an implicit point of yours explicit, but...

The Disastrous Duo of LaHaye and Jenkins don't just think of scientists this way because they despise scientists. They portray them this way (perhaps subconsciously) because that's what they would do in the scientists' shoes. It's the way they think, the way they were trained to think, as many theologians have been trained for millennia. They don't criticize science for what it is because they think of it as a competing religion. (Being dispensationalist Christianists, this automatically means that they-- we-- are servants, witting or unwitting, of the Evil One; but the point is independent of their Manicheanism and is common to all fundamentalists of all religions.)

But to truly understand the underpinnings of their mistake, one must recognize that this exact same nodus operandi was formulated, used, and promulgated by another famous fundamentalist. One whom you all know well.

His name was Plato.

Robert said...

It's always amusing at how much acclaim is given to these ancient philosophers. The thing is... they were working off of a foundation of sand. How much of what they've said has been proven flawed? Thus why are they still held to such high esteem to the point of excluding others who are more correct in their reasoning and philosophies?

I understand honoring someone for being the first we know of. But that doesn't mean we should consider flawed knowledge to be the end-all and be-all of philosophic thought.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Took my son and his pals to this Padres game today!

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=sh-redspadres092410

David Brin said...

Fastest fastball ever hurled!

LarryHart said...


It's always amusing at how much acclaim is given to these ancient philosophers. The thing is... they were working off of a foundation of sand. How much of what they've said has been proven flawed?


Some famous ancient mathematician...I'm thinking it was Pythagoras but I might be mistaken about that...just did not BELIEVE in irrational numbers. For hundreds of years, it was assumed that numbers such as the square root of 2 could all be expressed as the ratio of integers.

I remember when we were both in college, my brother showed me a fairly easy proof that square-root-2 could NOT be a ratio of integers. The proof required very little actual math, and certainly nothing more advanced than things we now learn by fourth grade. Basically, if the square root of two is a ratio of integers, then those integers can't be even and also can't be odd.

I remember being astounded that a refusal to "believe" in irrational numbers had stood for hundreds or thousands of years when such a simple proof existed.

Tim H. said...

An interesting bit, someone imaged a rat, inside a python. Like swimming, don't look at this too soon after eating...
http://www.asylum.com/2010/07/07/new-imaging-technology-shows-animal-insides-python-digesting-ra/

Tacitus2 said...

Finally a topic on which I might speak with a modicum of authority. After all, has any other poster here ever been invited to speak at the Baseball Hall of Fame? (True story).

There is much dispute on the fastest ever question. Traditionalists would hold out for Walter "Big Train" Johnson, but he pitched before radar guns so this is unprovable.

"Bullet" Bob Feller was reputedly clocked at 107 using early radar technology.

Various minor leaguers including the model for "Nuke" Laloosh (sorry for the oblique Costnerism) have had extravagant claims.

So this recent guy at 105 might have a case..

But I have had the honor of shaking Mr. Feller's hand, and he gets my vote.

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Tacitus2 is our Mr. Baseball?

zowee!

Do you recommend Ken Burns's latest sequel to "Baseball"?

As a kid I saw Koufax pitch. Saw Drysdale pitch and hit.

I have an unusual reason to call it the "best game." Because it is the most uniquely human! Elephants or dogs could be trained to play soccer. Even rugby. Even most american gridiron, except the spectacular forward passes. Heck a commodore 64 can play Pong.

Only Man can throw. And hitting things with clubs is what we do best!

...onward...

Tony Fisk said...

And hitting things with clubs is what we do best!

A jocular parry, courtesy of Neil Gaiman:

"And so the crutch came before the club every time"

Anansi speaking on how his winning ownership of stories from Tiger got man to thinking about how to think his way through problems.

dogonsi: another trickster, responsible for shaggy dog tales.