The quote is old, but I was only recently exposed to it. Steven Weinberg at a 1999 debate about science and religion said “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

Try, try really, really hard not do debate the substance of the quote. Instead, consider our validation (or perhaps reverence would be more accurate) for the expertise here. Why is someone who has absolutely not devoted his life to studying religion qualified to hold forth on it.

Perhaps my question could be framed thusly: what does Desmond Tutu have to say about the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, and how would it be received?

People with strong scientific credentials are allowed to dismiss religion glibly, but anyone without scientific credentials–no matter whether they are otherwise accorded or not–are not allowed to dismiss science. Leaving aside the disciplines themselves, there is an interesting question about how our society determines and values intelligence.

Science doesn’t always recognize good work when it sees it, after all. And religion is now fair game for economists?



Dulce et decorum est

24 March 2007

There are at least three reasons that, elaborate protestations by everyone from the director to reviewers to the contrary, 300 is a highly political movie. Furthermore, the kind of political ideals the movie espouses are exactly those that almost never declare themselves openly, because they don’t come across so well in open debate. The three things that I think demonstrate political intent are listed here as themes of the movie:

1. war is exciting and good, and death in war is glorious death

2. brutal military dictatorships are very concerned with freedom and justice

3. the small number of good guys defending civilization are anglo-european, while the barbarian hordes ravening to destroy motherhood and apple pie are brown or black

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I feel a prediction coming on: innumerable news stories tomorrow will lead with a discussion of how everywhere on Earth gets twelve hours of darkness and twelve hours of daylight.

To quote someone more prolific than I, sadly, no.

Well, okay, the Sun is was on the celestial equator at about 2p today, HST, and the Naval Observatory also says that Hilo gets twelve hours of daylight today, but there are any number of things that won’t happen today.

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Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.

Without delving too deeply into the application of Einstein’s critique of Heisenberg’s lecture on quantum mechanics, it seems relevant to the lede used by Arts & Letters Daily for Robert Lanza’s new article about biocentrism. USA Today, of all places, has a summary by Dan Vergano of some responses to Lanza.

Deploying quotes from rock star physicists, Lanza explicates a universe created by the sensory perceptions of living things within it. He links this to qualitative descriptions of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Zeno’s paradox of the Arrow.

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A very fun morning discovering many cartographic links and projects today.

Whether you are a book snob, an Australian firefighter, a map junkie, or a mushing groupie, there are web-based maps for you.

Coming soon is a post about the variety of ways (cartographic and otherwise) to represent the Sun and Moon.

Hōkūle‛a and Maisu are getting ready to depart Pohnpei for Chuuk today (or tomorrow, since I still have trouble with the dateline where today is 5 March on our side of the dateline, and 6 March on their side).

Gary Kubota of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is crewing for this leg of the voyage, and has an excellent brief article on the effects of current and projected sea level rise on Pacific Island nations, specifically the FSM.

If any kindly contributors can suggest a better way to correctly get the Hawaiian characters in to the Camino browser, I’d be grateful.

Continue below the fold for another update by Rod Floro, crew member on Maisu.

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