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dissabte, 21 de maig de 2016

La ciencia necesita más escepticismo crítico


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.- Just to be clear: Dawkins is comparing Lawrence Krauss to Charles Darwin. Why would Dawkins say something so foolish? Because he hates religion so much that it impairs his scientific judgment. He succumbs to what you might call “The Science Delusion.”

“The Science Delusion” is common among Capital-S Skeptics. You don’t apply your skepticism equally. You are extremely critical of belief in God, ghosts, heaven, ESP, astrology, homeopathy and Bigfoot. You also attack disbelief in global warming, vaccines and genetically modified food.

These beliefs and disbeliefs deserve criticism, but they are what I call “soft targets.” That’s because, for the most part, you’re bashing people outside your tribe, who ignore you. You end up preaching to the converted. Meanwhile, you neglect what I call hard targets. These are dubious and even harmful claims promoted by major scientists and institutions. In the rest of this talk, I’ll give you examples of hard targets from physics, medicine and biology. I’ll wrap up with a rant about war, the hardest target of all.

First, physics. For decades, physicists like Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene and Leonard Susskind have touted string and multiverse theories as our deepest descriptions of reality. Here’s the problem: strings and multiverses can’t be experimentally detected. The theories aren’t falsifiable, which makes them pseudo-scientific, like astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis. Some string and multiverse true believers, like Sean Carroll, have argued that falsifiability should be discarded as a method for distinguishing science from pseudo-science. You’re losing the game, so you try to change the rules.

Physicists are even promoting the idea that our universe is a simulation created by super-intelligent aliens. Last month, Neil de Grasse Tyson said “the likelihood may be very high” that we’re living in a simulation. Again, this isn’t science, it’s a stoner thought experiment pretending to be science.| John Horgan
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Las personas inducidas a no creer en el libre albedrío son más propensas a comportarse de manera inmoral

THE ATLANTIC.- In 2002, two psychologists had a simple but brilliant idea: Instead of speculating about what might happen if people lost belief in their capacity to choose, they could run an experiment to find out. Kathleen Vohs, then at the University of Utah, and Jonathan Schooler, of the University of Pittsburgh, asked one group of participants to read a passage arguing that free will was an illusion, and another group to read a passage that was neutral on the topic. Then they subjected the members of each group to a variety of temptations and observed their behavior. Would differences in abstract philosophical beliefs influence people’s decisions?

Yes, indeed. When asked to take a math test, with cheating made easy, the group primed to see free will as illusory proved more likely to take an illicit peek at the answers. When given an opportunity to steal—to take more money than they were due from an envelope of $1 coins—those whose belief in free will had been undermined pilfered more. On a range of measures, Vohs told me, she and Schooler found that “people who are induced to believe less in free will are more likely to behave immorally.”

It seems that when people stop believing they are free agents, they stop seeing themselves as blameworthy for their actions. Consequently, they act less responsibly and give in to their baser instincts. Vohs emphasized that this result is not limited to the contrived conditions of a lab experiment. “You see the same effects with people who naturally believe more or less in free will,” she said. | STEPHEN CAVE

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8 horas de poemas de Dylan Thomas


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Dando a los genes lo que es suyo, pero no más


QUILLETTE.- Is human behavior genetically determined? Different from what a sweeping genetic reductionist would hope, we have seen that the answer is plainly no. But nor is human behavior not determined. On the contrary, Schaffner thinks that human behavior is determined — and that it admits of reductionist explanations. Does this mean freedom is an illusion? No, it doesn’t, even if it does mean that we have to give up conceptions of freedom of the sort that best-selling authors like Sam Harris like to set up in order to knock down. Yes, we have to give up the idea of freedom as an extra-natural capacity or force that is somehow insulated from the impact of the natural and social forces at work in the world. But accepting that our behaviors are determined by natural and social forces that, at least in principle, admit of explanation does not mean that we have to give up the conception of freedom that mature adults should want, or that, as Daniel Dennett puts it, “is worth having.”

To get at what such a conception of freedom is, Schaffner introduces philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s influential distinction between first- and second-order desires. Consider, for example, an alcoholic with insight into her alcoholism. She might have a second-order desire not to drink, while also having a first-order desire to drink. The person who cannot bring her first-and second-order desires into alignment lacks what warrants being called free will. If, on the other hand, she can get those first- and second-order desires into alignment, and if she can, as it were, desire what she wants to desire, we can say that she is free.

Erik Parens reseña 'Behaving: What’s Genetic, What’s Not, and Why Should We Care?' de Kenneth B. Schaffner. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2016)



Así es como el fascismo llega a América


A great number will simply kid themselves, refusing to admit that something very different from the usual politics is afoot. Let the storm pass, they insist, and then we can pick up the pieces, rebuild and get back to normal. Meanwhile, don’t alienate the leader’s mass following. After all, they are voters and will need to be brought back into the fold. As for Trump himself, let’s shape him, advise him, steer him in the right direction and, not incidentally, save our political skins.

What these people do not or will not see is that, once in power, Trump will owe them and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that lay down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him. | ROBERT KAGAN
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¿Qué diferencias ve entre Cataluña y España?