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July 06, 2005

Whooshhh.. whooshhh..

... that's the sound of tumbleweeds blowing through the virtual wasteland that is TheGreatness.com. Okay, y'all, I'm going to try to do a better job with this blogging thing but it's tough. Getting married, transitioning to a new focus at work, and moving -- all at the same time -- doesn't leave much room for world-readable navel gazing.

But that doesn't mean I've stopped my musings; I just haven't been broadcasting them. Here's a short list of what's on my mind these days:

- Science as a political tool. I understand that academies of science, those government-chartered purveyors of advice and expertise to the political elite, have a role to play in getting our leaders streetwise to modern scientific issues. But does that mean they should be proactively stumping for specific treaties and legislation? Should they be soliciting fellow scientists to call their Congressmen? Key figures at the NAS apparently think so, as do many other academies, when it comes to climate change. I've even seen it said that "the science says we must act." Science says nothing of the sort. The science says "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." Even if it said "the balance of evidence suggests that an asteroid is on track to cause an extinction-level event next year," the onus is still on policymakers to ask the questions: What would be the consequences if it happened? Are those consequences unacceptable? What could we do ameliorate or, better, eliminate the problem? Do we have choices in what we do? What are the advantages and disadvantages of those options? Officially, NAS and the IPCC do not take an explicit policy position, but in practice it seems that Kyoto is the only game in town. Why that should be is a mystery, especially if they really believe the consequences are dire: Kyoto will never, ever, ever be ratified in the United States. Most of those 95 Senators who rebuffed it in 1997 are still in town, you know. (As for how individual scientists should interface with politics, this article does a good job of outlining the questions we should ask ourselves.)

- The philosophy of non-abeyant beliefs. I'm preparing a full-length entry on my thoughts on this issue. Simply put: it's often generally assumed that 1) in life, people act as "rational agents" in a kind of maximal payoff and that 2) nobody would remain in state of abeyance as to the truth of a proposition that presents itself urgently and importantly. But what if 1) overrides 2)? This is an issue, I believe, that has largely gone unnoticed in epistemology. I'll probably ask for expert advice on this one.

- Monist apologetics. The notion of soul-body dualism has been thoroughly discredited (most say) by modern science. So any attempt to find a synthesis between science and Christianity must take into account the overriding importance of the brain on mind functions. Up until yesterday I would have said that a concursus wouldn't have any resemblance to an orthodox view. But I've found a surprising ally in this goal: the resurrection of the body. I get the impression that the majority of Christians think of their resurrection as the body "giving up the ghost" and floating through the pearly gates. But that view is not entirely scriptural. Could it be that our new, imperishable bodies will be running old "soul" software? I'll continue to mull this over as it seems promising.

That's enough for now, I think. I'm going to make a goal of writing at least something every week starting in August.


Posted by The Greatness at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)