WikiCFP : Call For Papers of Conferences, Workshops and Journals http://ff.im/ceHQU

EvoMRI: WikiCFP : Call For Papers of Conferences, Workshops and Journals http://ff.im/ceHQU

See original: Twitter WikiCFP : Call For Papers of Conferences, Workshops and Journals http://ff.im/ceHQU

Fashionable Nonsense: Reconciling science with Genesis [Laelaps]




Eden, from The World Before the Deluge.


At least I know that, if I fail at everything else in life, I could write a book claiming to reconcile science and Christianity. People love them. No matter how many times the same old talking points are trotted out there always seems to be room for one more volume on the subject. And even if readers do not entirely agree with the content of such books many are still comforted by their existence. Among the "Things Christians Like" is to see scientists saying that hard evidence from nature supports Christian beliefs.

I do not say this to belittle the scientific expertise of authors of these books, such as Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Paul Davies, Dale Russell, Simon Conway Morris, and (as I will get to shortly) Andrew Parker. They are certainly experts in their respective fields. What I am continually frustrated by, however, is their insistence that nature documents the influence of supernatural power.

Lately it has become fashionable to find some refuge for God in the natural world, some signal that tells us there is a cosmic someone who planned for our existence. This trend is not concerned with recognizing nature as it exists and modifying theology to match it, but with impressing particular religious views on nature. Sometimes such attempts are well-received, other times not, but many people are generally happy to see such efforts. It is more important for science and religion to "play nice" than for us to recognize that nature cannot provide the direct evidence for divine intervention in the universe that many people desperately want to exist.

The latest entry into this subgenre of evolutionary apologetics is The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate by biologist Andrew Parker. In this new book Parker claims that the creation narrative of Genesis 1 presents an accurate prognostication of our current understanding of the evolution of life on earth.

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Fashionable Nonsense: Reconciling science with Genesis [Laelaps]

Formal Thinking and Musical Meaning: Gilles-Gaston Granger's Work in Perspective, Univ Paris 8, Dec 2d, 12h, MSH Paris Nord

02/12/2009 12:00
Europe/Paris

Conference: MSH Paris nord, 4 rue de la Croix-Faron ou 3 rue de la Procession
Philippe Lacour (Marie Curie Fellow, Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Pensée formelle et signification musicale
Réflexions intersémiotiques à partir de l’œuvre de Gilles-Gaston Granger

La question de la pertinence de la pensée formelle pour la compréhension de la signification musicale est un cas particulier de l’enjeu général d’intersémioticité, caractéristique, à bien des égards, de la métaphysique contemporaine : agencements, dispositifs, phénoménologie des mondes possibles, vie des formes symboliques... On trouve un problème analogue, sinon équivalent, dans la question rémanente de l’usage de la formalisation en sciences humaines : comment constituer les modèles et quelles sont les significations que leurs applications circonstanciées laissent en reste ?

Location: 
MSH Paris Nord
4 rue de la Croix-Faron
Paris

The World Trade Organization Battle in Seattle - 10 Years On [The Primate Diaries]

This week, ten years ago, between 50,000 and 100,000 protesters from a wide variety of labor, environmental and global justice organizations descended on the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference being held in Seattle and prevented delegates from reaching the convention hall. This effectively shut down the talks and focused public attention on an undemocratic institution that had previously been little understood. Delegates from more than forty poor African, Caribbean and Latin American nations were united in opposition to their treatment by the wealthy countries and the public outcry allowed them to renegotiate the terms of trade that were being imposed.

On the ten year anniversary, former BBC correspondent Greg Palast sits down with the "Generalissimo of Globalization," the Director General of the WTO Pascal Lamay, to find out if the institution has learned it's lessons from this public outcry during the last decade:


To watch a discussion about the actions in Seattle ten years ago from those who were involved see today's edition of Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Applied Statistics

See original: ScienceBlogs Select The World Trade Organization Battle in Seattle - 10 Years On [The Primate Diaries]

Domesticated Humans and Their Social Objects

On a recent episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert explore the domestication of gray foxes by Dmitri Belyaev and proceed to talk about what observable features of domestication exist in the foxes and what of these features are observable in human beings. According to Tecumseh Fitch and Richard Wrangham many of these features are indeed [...]

See original: SciLogue Domesticated Humans and Their Social Objects

Kiwi Rocket Scares Sheep, Reaches Space

A small, private company launched New Zealand’s first rocket into space to cheers from about 50 people gathered on a small island off the country’s coast.
As the noise of the blastoff sent sheep running, the 18-foot rocket raced into the sky, reaching beyond the Kármán line, 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface, which [...]

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See original: Science News Kiwi Rocket Scares Sheep, Reaches Space

Creating God in one's own image [Not Exactly Rocket Science]

For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

God.jpgPsychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people's mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God.  Their opinions on God's attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God's will and their own opinions.

Religion provides a moral compass for many people around the world, colouring their views on everything from martyrdom to abortion to homosexuality.  But Epley's research calls the worth of this counsel into question, for it suggests that inferring the will of God sets the moral compass to whatever direction we ourselves are facing. He says, "Intuiting God's beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify one's own beliefs."

Epley asked different groups of volunteers to rate their own beliefs about important issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, the death penalty, the Iraq War, and the legalisation of marijuana. The volunteers also had to speculate about God's take on these issues, as well as the stances of an "average American", Bill Gates (a celebrity with relatively unknown beliefs) and George Bush (a celebrity whose positions are well-known).

Epley surveyed commuters at a Boston train station, university undergraduates, and 1,000 adults from a nationally representative database. In every case, he found that people's own attitudes and beliefs matched those they suggested for God more precisely than those they suggested for the other humans.

Of course, correlation doesn't imply causation - rather than people imprinting their beliefs onto God, it could be that people were using God's beliefs as a guide to their own. Epley tried to control for that by asking his recruits to talk about their own beliefs first, and then presenting God and the others in a random order. And as better evidence of causality, Epley showed that he could change people's views on God's will by manipulating their own beliefs.

He showed some 145 volunteers a strong argument in favour of affirmative action (it counters workplace biases) and a weak argument opposing it (it raises uncomfortable issues). Others heard a strong argument against (reverse discrimination) and a weak argument for (Britney and Paris agree!). The recruits did concur that the allegedly stronger argument was indeed stronger. Those who read the overall positive propaganda were not only more supportive of affirmative action but more likely to think that God would be in the pro-camp too.

In another study, Epley got people to manipulate themselves. He asked 59 people to write and perform a speech about the death penalty, which either matched their own beliefs or argued against them. The task shifted people's attitudes towards the position in their speech, either strengthening or moderating their original views. And as in the other experiments, their shifting attitudes coincided with altered estimates of God's attitudes (but not those of other people).

For his final trick, Epley looked at the brains of recruits as they in turn attempted to peer into the mind of God. While sitting in an fMRI scanner, 17 people had to state how they, God or an average American would feel on a list of social issues, including universal health care, stem cell research, euthanasia, abortion, sex education and more. As before, their answers revealed a closer match between their beliefs and those they ascribed to God, than those they credited to the average Joe or Jill.

The brain scans found the same thing, particularly in a region called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) that's been linked to self-referential thinking. The mPFC is more active when we think about our own mindsets than those of others. Epley found that it was similarly abuzz when the recruits thought about their own attitude or God's, but lower when they considered the average American. The three images below show the differences in brain activity between the three tasks and you can see that the 'God' and 'self' scans had little to distinguish them.

Self_God_American.jpg

The results suggest that similar parts of the brain are involved when we consider our own beliefs and those of God - Epley thinks this is why we end up inferring a deity's attitudes based on those we hold ourselves.

Epley notes that his volunteers were almost entirely American Christians, and it's not clear whether the results can be generalised to people of other faiths. But he suspects that the underlying processed would be similar. When it comes to predicting what someone else would do, we have a bevy of available information, including stereotypes, the person's deeds and words, and the opinions of others. It stands to reason that Barack Obama has liberal beliefs because he is a Democrat, because he expresses liberal beliefs and because his colleagues say he's liberal. We could even confirm this by asking the man himself.

Things are altogether harder when it comes to predicting the will of a deity. Religious people could try to consult with their deity through prayer, interpret sacred texts like the Bible or Koran, or consult with experts like priests of imams. But the fact that different denominations have such diverse views of God's attitudes shows that these sources of information are inconsistent at best. As Epley says, "Religious agents don't lend themselves to public polling".

He thinks that these uncertainties make it more likely that people will increasingly look to their own beliefs when inferring those of their God. That's made easier by the fact that we often think of deities in very human terms, despite their omnipotence and abstract nature.

Of course, many philosophers got there first. The very word "anthropomorphism", now mainly used in the context of animals, was coined by Xenophenes in the sixth century BC to describe the fact that the pantheons of different cultures tended to share their physical characteristics. And many people, from Rousseau to Twain to Voltaire, are credited with the line: "God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favour."

Epley's results are sure to spark controversy, but their most important lesson is that relying on a deity to guide one's decisions and judgments is little more than spiritual sockpuppetry. To quote Epley himself:

"People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."

Reference: PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.0908374106

More on religion:

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Creating God in one's own image [Not Exactly Rocket Science]

Store Window Optical Illusion

As he said in his own words, Emil is a great admirer of our posts. Passing by a store nearby where he lives, Emil noticed an interesting illusion and decided to take a picture of it, so he can share it with us. It took some time before I understood where the illusion hides, but I confirm it’s a good one. How many shelves do you see in this presentation rack? Would you consider both of us crazy, if we stated there are only 3 shelves present in this photo below? Yeah, that’s right! Before you read Emil’s explanation, try and spot the illusion yourselves. There are few more additional shots after the break.

The secret is that the end of the presentation rack has 2 mirrors, both placed at 45 degrees towards the street. These mirrors give the impression that the rack continues sideways. In reality, there is only one rack and two mirrors” – Emil

Store Window with Mirrors Optical Illusion

Seen from different angle:

Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion



See original: Mighty Optical Illusions Store Window Optical Illusion

Store Window Optical Illusion

As he said in his own words, Emil is a great admirer of our posts. Passing by a store nearby where he lives, Emil noticed an interesting illusion and decided to take a picture of it, so he can share it with us. It took some time before I understood where the illusion hides, but I confirm it’s a good one. How many shelves do you see in this presentation rack? Would you consider both of us crazy, if we stated there are only 3 shelves present in this photo below? Yeah, that’s right! Before you read Emil’s explanation, try and spot the illusion yourselves. There are few more additional shots after the break.

The secret is that the end of the presentation rack has 2 mirrors, both placed at 45 degrees towards the street. These mirrors give the impression that the rack continues sideways. In reality, there is only one rack and two mirrors” – Emil

Store Window with Mirrors Optical Illusion

Seen from different angle:

Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion
Store Window Optical Illusion

See original: Mighty Optical Illusions Store Window Optical Illusion

@Comprendia Nice, but what's with the -gate suffix on these things?

mrgunn: @Comprendia Nice, but what's with the -gate suffix on these things?

See original: Twitter @Comprendia Nice, but what's with the -gate suffix on these things?

The UNESCO Courier 2009

The 2009 Archives of the UNESCO Courier provides links to all the monthly issues of UNESCO's principle online magazine as well as to three special issues.

See original: UNESCO in the Spotlight: Science and Communications The UNESCO Courier 2009