February 18, 2012

America in Decline?

How Bad Is It? by George Scialabba, a review of books by Morris Berman, The New Inquiry, May 26, 2012
The Rise Or Fall Of The American Empire, Foreign Policy, February 14, 2012
Political Columnists Think America Is In Decline.  Big Surprise.

February 16, 2012

Does Quantum Mechanics Support Supernaturalism And Postmodernism?

Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? by Stephen M. Barr, BQO Big Questions Online, July 10, 2012

Deepak's Dangerous Dogmas by Phil Mole, eSkeptic, June 6, 2012 (originally published in Skeptic magazine volume 6, number 2 (1998).  Chopra's conflation of quantum mechanics and human spirituality is an unsupported leap of logic.

From Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2007):

Debate on the issues discussed in this chapter will no doubt continue as we grope to understand what space, time, and spacetime actually are. With the development of quantum mechanics, the plot only thickens. The concepts of empty space and of nothingness take on a whole new meaning when quantum uncertainty takes the stage. Indeed, since 1905, when Einstein did away with the luminiferous aether, the idea that space is filled with invisible substances has waged a vigorous comeback. As we will see in later chapters, key developments in modern physics have reinstituted various forms of an aetherlike entity, none of which set an absolute standard for motion like the original luminiferous aether, but all of which thoroughly challenge the naïve conception of what it means for spacetime to be empty.
There is no single, preferred, universal clock; there is no consensus on what constitutes a moment, what constitutes a now.  Even so, you can still tell a clockworklike story about the evolving universe. The clock is your clock. The story is your story. But the universe unfolds with the same regularity and predictability as in the Newtonian framework. If by some means you know the state of the universe right now—if you know where every particle is and how fast and in what direction each is moving—then, Newton and Einstein agree, you can, in principle, use the laws of physics to predict everything about the universe arbitrarily far into the future or to figure out what it was like arbitrarily far into the past.

Quantum mechanics breaks with this tradition. We can’t ever know the exact location and exact velocity of even a single particle. We can’t predict with total certainty the outcome of even the simplest of experiments, let alone the evolution of the entire cosmos. Quantum mechanics shows that the best we can ever do is predict the probability that an experiment will turn out this way or that. And as quantum mechanics has been verified through decades of fantastically accurate experiments, the Newtonian cosmic clock, even with its Einsteinian updating, is an untenable metaphor; it is demonstrably not how the world works.

Intervening space, regardless of how much there is, does not ensure that two objects are separate, since quantum mechanics allows an entanglement, a kind of connection, to exist between them.  ...  the quantum connection between two particles can persist even if they are on opposite sides of the universe.  ...  Our universe is not local.  ...  Irish physicist John Bell showed that the issue could be settled experimentally, and by the 1980s it was. The most straightforward reading of the data is that Einstein was wrong and there can be strange, weird, and “spooky” quantum connections between things over here and things over there.

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Having just completed reading Lawrence Krauss' A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing (2012) and now halfway through Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2007), I fantasized running outside, throwing myself face down, spread eagle on the ground and clinging as best I could with my arms and legs to the surface of our planet; and pleading both in gratitude and fear that I would not be cast into the oblivion of the cosmos, either forward or backward in spacetime.

After returning from this imaginary fit, I now ponder what quantum mechanics and our species' most recent discoveries in physics and cosmology may mean for other less secular-scientific understandings of Humankind's state, past and present, in the cosmos.  Spiritualists, pantheists, supernaturalists, paranormalists, religionists, and postmodernists come to mind.

The ideas in physics and cosmology that there is in fact a "substance" to spacetime, some kind of "aether," where a particle in one section of spacetime can directly influence another particle on the opposite side of the universe of spacetime, without having any physical connection with that second particle, that is, no "locality," is astonishing.  If these are the most current and accurate inklings scientific secularism has as to the natural laws of the cosmos, have we not, in fact, taken a step back in our efforts to understand these laws?  Are not our understandings such as atomic theory as well as the evolution of the cosmos in need of such drastic revision that we must begin to ask if the accidents and contingencies that have occurred at both the sub-atomic and cosmological levels, and the subsequent agencies and emergencies that have taken place, require more of our attention than we have relegated them in the past?

Surely, this is being taken as proof-positive evidence by many non-secular supernaturalists and postmodern relativists that a cosmic power does, in fact, exist - a supernatural power and reality they have been trying to convince ancient thinkers, natural philosophers, and modern scientists of for thousands of years.  Their argument might be couched in the following terms:  If space has substance and we can predict its actions, past and present, with only a degree of probability rather than certainty, then is it not game up, all understandings of the cosmos, those scientific and those supernatural, are equally valid?  That science will either never reach a "certain" understading of the laws of nature, or, if it does, it will be forced to admit the existence of a supernatural power and reality behind the laws that will remain forever beyond science's reach.

Where Do New Biological Species Come From?

An interesting refresher on speciation in eSkeptic:  Darwin's Legacy by Donald R. Prothero, eSkeptic, February 15, 2012

The False Allure of Group Selection by Steven Pinker, Edge, June 18, 2012

The American Religious Fundamentalist and Political Conservative Assault on Science, Reason and Democracy


In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins by Frank Newport, Gallup.com, June 1, 2012
The Right-Wing Media's Discipline Machine by Ben Adler, The Columbia Journalism Review, February 15, 2012
White House's Budget Gets Down To Earth by Allen Boyle, Cosmic Log on MSNBC, February 13, 2012
The Legacy of 9/11 and the War on Intellectuals by Stephen Zunes, truthout, September 10, 2011
The Years of Shame by Paul Krugman, CommonDreams.org, September 11, 2011
It's Long Past Time to Get Over 9-11 by Mark Karlin, Buzzflash, September 11, 2011
War: The Fiscal Stimulus of Last Resort by Ellen Brown, truthout, Sepember 12, 2011
Disbelief Is Not A Choice by Dave Niose, Psychology Today, September 12, 2011
The Terrorism Issue That Wasn't Discussed by Gareth Porter, Commondreams.org, September 12, 2011
Why The Anti-Science Creationist Movement Is So Dangerous by Adam Lee, AlterNet, September 8, 2011
A Fundamental Republican Problem by Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, August 22, 2011
A Teacher on the Frontline as Faith and Science Clash by Amy Harmon, The New York Times, Education, August 23, 2008
The Fall of the United States by John Atcheson, Commondreams.org, September 15, 2011
The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal by Dave Johnson, truthout, September 15, 2011
Between Race and Reason: Anti-Intellectualism in Americam Life by Susan Searls Giroux, from her book of the same name, September 16, 2011
What If The Tea Party Wins? by Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress, September 16, 2011
A Point of View: The Revolution of Capitalism by John Gray, BBC News Magazine, September 3, 2011
The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux by Noam Chomsky, Boston Review, September/October 2011
Free to Die by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, September 15, 2011
The Unseen Influence of the Religious Right by Dave Niose, Psychology Today, July 11, 2011
As Religion Fades, Will Atheism Be Enough? by Dave Niose, Psychology Today, July 21, 2011
Concerns About the Religious Right Are Not Overblown by Dave Niose, Psychology Today, August 23, 2011
The Truth About Class Warfare in America by Richard Wolff, Commondreams.org, September 20, 2011
Let's Explore the History of "Class Warfare" by Myles Spicer, The Minneapolis StarTribune, September 24, 2011
Notes on Class Warfare by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion, September 20, 2011
9 Policies Conservatives Were For Before They Were Against Them by Joshua Holland, Alternet, September 21, 2011
Conservatives Say It Out Loud: They Hate Democracy by Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future, September 23, 2011
The Social Contract by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, September 20, 2011
Denialist Demogogues and the Threat to Science by Donald R. Prothero, a review of The Inquisition of Climate Science by James L. Powell, eSkeptic, September 28, 2011
Government Neutrality is Not "Anti-Religion" by Dave Niose, Psychology Today, October 3, 2011
How the Oligarchs Took America
We Live in Perilous Times for Science by Elizabeth Loftus, The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, May/June 2011
Conservatism: Screwing the Poor, Elderly, Sick and Disabled by Al Stefanelli, examiner, October 7, 2011
The Myth of American Exceptionalism by Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, November 2011
Punching a Hole in Bubbles of Denial and Addiction: Late Capitalism and Its Discontents of the American Autumn by Phil Rockstoth, Common Dreams, October 13, 2011
Religion in the Affairs of Man: Mixing Theology and Politics by Jeff Schweitzer, Huffington Post, January 22, 2010
Seven Republican Economic Lies
Twilight of the GOP Foreign Policy Wise Man by Jacob Heilbrunn, Foreign Policy Magazine, October 12, 2011
Science by Think Tank: The Rise of Think Tanks and Decline of Public Intellectuals by Massimo Pigliucci, eSkeptic, October 19, 2011
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci, 2010
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci, 2010, an excerpt on eSkeptic, October 19, 2011
The Evangelical Rejection of Reason by Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens, The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, October 17, 2011
Can Science and Faith Exist Together?, Letters, The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, October 24, 2011
The Un-American War On Science by Shawn Lawrence Otto, Huffington Post, October 28, 2011