- The ones that got away: science through cross-disciplinary eyes – The difference between what we consider "normal", and what was once the norm can be large. In this case, our societal amnesia is revealed in historical (and pre-historical) records of fish: we were already influencing their populations more than 30,000 years ago. (tagged: history sustainability society fish science )
- Supreme Court Says Child’s Rights Violated by Strip Search – OMG, the SCOTUS has ruled that children at school have *rights*. The end of civilization as we know it must be at hand. (tagged: law privacy scotus school authority police )
- Fixing Airport Security – Alas, if only the TSA *had* interviewed Schneier for the top job. On the other hand, maybe the police-state like experience we all have at airports is a great way to de-emphasize flying? Could be good for high speed rail… (tagged: security police transparency law privacy )
- Washington Village Boulder – There are plans to re-develop the Washington Elementary School in (old) N. Boulder (near Cedar and Broadway) as a dense mixed-use co-housing community. It sounds like exactly the kind of place I want to live! Unfortunately, the neighborhood NIMBYs are opposed to almost everything I like about it: the density, the mixed use, the restricted parking supply. They've managed to get the density and mixed use scaled back, and are working on the parking, making all the units more expensive, and precluding any small (less than 1000 sf) market rate (as opposed to artificially "affordable housing") units. Makes me sad. (tagged: urban design cohousing boulder colorado architecture )
- Brooklyn Cohousing – A single-building co-housing development in Brooklyn NY, to be built to the European Passive House standard. Yet another reason to visit NYC. (tagged: green design nyc housing cohousing architecture )
- Passive House USA – Who knew, there's a Passive House institute affiliate in the US. (tagged: sustainability green design efficiency architecture energy solar passivhaus )
- Tinkering School – An awesome experiential school, at which kids are allowed to do dangerous things with power tools, in the name of learning to create things that work, and how to deal with frustration and failure. (tagged: education design ted school tinker )
- Interactive Atlas of the World's Endangered Languages – Most of the world's surviving human languages (of which there are currently about 6000) will go extinct in my lifetime. Here's a map of where they are, who speaks them, and what they're called. (tagged: language extinct culture human atlas maps )
- Mo(NU)mentum: a future urban drill core – A hypothetical drill core from the future, showing urban sediment through the ages: stone, to brick, to concrete, to asphalt, and finally plastic. Ever more refined and energy intensive materials, in thinner and thinner layers, until the present, at which… we note… sedimentation stopped. (tagged: art green construction urban )
- Final CA Budget Cuts Gas Tax Increase, Still Nothing for Transit – Happy St. Fuckers day: the republican senator from Orange County finds sales and income taxes more acceptable than gas taxes. All state funding for public transit nixed. Gas to remain cheap. What a crock. (tagged: streetsblog california politics energy transportation taxes )
- Los Angeles Bike Summit March 7th, 2009 – Los Angeles Bike Summit! Networking cyclists and bike advocacy organizations. Being put on by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. (tagged: bicycle advocacy los angeles bike transportation )
Baylor University, a private Baptist school in Texas, has just published the results of a survey of American religious belief. One of the findings, which was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, is that
…conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.
This comes right after the paragraph in which it is revealed that 55% of Americans believe they have a guardian angel watching over them, and preventing harm from coming to them, and that 45% of Americans have had at least 2 “religious encounters”, such as:
…hearing the voice of God, feeling called by God to do something, being protected by a guardian angel, witnessing and/or receiving a miraculous physical healing, and speaking or praying in tongues.
Unsurprisingly, the presumably Baptist researchers concluded that such experiences are central to American religion, and that adhering to a conservative brand of Christianity conveys resistance to belief in “the occult and paranormal”, ignoring the fact that the “religious encounters” are in fact instances of the paranormal. They may be Christian paranormal, but they’re still paranormal: “denoting events or phenomena that are beyond the scope or understanding of normal scientific understanding” or if you prefer, Christian occult: “supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena”.
I’m sure there’s a wealth of information in the survey results regarding the supernaturalist beliefs of Americans, but from this non-theist, naturalist’s point of view, the main result is that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not engage in skeptical inquiry. Their domains of credulity may be distinct (guardian angels vs. bigfoot) but on the whole, they are happy to accept extraordinary claims without any evidence backing them up.
I’m potentially open to an argument that rationality and skepticism are not neccesarily always favorable. The second life lesson Robert McNamara put forward in The Fog of War was: “Rationality will not save us.” He was speaking in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which several nominally rational people almost brought about a thermonuclear holocaust, and the firebombings of Dresden, Tokyo, and countless other cities in WWII. The Tradgedy of the Commons is a failure based entirely on rational individual behavior, as was the tulipomania from which our financial system is currently suffering a serious hangover. But on average, I’d say rationality and skeptical inquiry are things we (humanity) could do with a bit more of.
Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet came to Caltech and gave SASS talk on Monday night, and ran a science media messaging workshop entitled Speaking Science Bootcamp all day Tuesday. It was great. Anybody who’s getting a PhD in science should go through at least that much communication training, and if they’re in an area that has policy implications, or they have any interest whatsoever in doing outreach or communication of science, they should have a week long course on the same material.
Continue reading Science Framed at Caltech