Author: skeptic

Conservatives Say They Hate Moral Relativism. Why Do They Use It To Defend Statues?

Statues are once again in the news — which means, for those of us who work in philosophical ethics, fresh examples of conservative inconsistency on what morality is and how it’s supposed to work. Here’s the inconsistency: The same conservatives who decry moral relativism as a depraved form of ethical thinking are often the first to embrace relativism in defending historical figures and institutions they like. Let’s bring into closer focus the issue of statues. Conservatives view moral relativism — a contemporary position in modern philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and history — as morally and intellectually bankrupt. They think adopting this position leads to an unacceptably permissive public ethic, and to a degenerate society. Many of these same folks then turn around and apply the relativist framework in moral apologia for the actions of historical figures they like — e.g., Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, etc. (Or, if “like” is too strong, they are least figures whose monuments conservatives don’t want to see torn down.) How do they use it in defense of these figures? …

Galwan Valley confrontation between China and India could spiral out of control as India and China face-off

The forces of two nuclear weapons states have set about each other with clubs and rocks at one of the most forbidding flashpoints in the world, in a bloody incident that highlights the constant dangers posed by expansionist nationalism. India has confirmed that it lost at least 20 of its men in a clash with Chinese soldiers near the disputed mountain border running along the Ladakh area of Kashmir. It is the first fatal confrontation since 1975 and the most serious since 1967, and so can be expected to have a powerful galvanising effect on the populations of both countries, already primed by a constant stream of nationalist rhetoric. There is a long history of such encounters ever since the two nations fought a short war there in 1962. After that conflict a Line of Actual Control (LAC) was declared, but there is no agreed line and limited control, as the events of recent weeks have confirmed. Thus far at least, both Indian and Chinese forces have stuck to an agreement not to carry firearms …

India cautions China against ‘exaggerated and flawed claims’ in border standoff – June 2020

India on Thursday cautioned China against making “exaggerated and untenable claims” to the Galvan valley area even as both nations tried to end a standoff in the high Himalayan region after their armies engaged in a deadly clash. Twenty Indian troops were killed in the clash on Monday night that was the deadliest conflict between the sides in 45 years. China has not disclosed whether its forces suffered any casualties. Himalayan flashpoint could spiral out of control as India and China face off Read more Responding to China’s claim to the valley, India’s external affairs ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava, said both sides had agreed to handle the situation responsibly. “Making exaggerated and untenable claims is contrary to this understanding,” he said in a statement. Both sides have accused each other of instigating the clash between their forces in the valley, part of the disputed Ladakh region along the Himalayan frontier. Media reports said senior army officers of the two sides met on Wednesday to defuse the situation, but there was no confirmation from either side. …

How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

Ants, wasps, bees and other social insects live in highly organized “eusocial” colonies where throngs of females forgo reproduction — usually viewed as the cornerstone of evolutionary fitness — to serve the needs of a few egg-laying queens and their offspring. How they got that way has been hard to explaindespite more than 150 years of biologists’ efforts. Many researchers have thought the answer would come down to a complex suite of genetic changes that evolved in species-specific ways over a long time. But new results suggest that a surprisingly simple hormonal mechanism — one that can be found throughout the animal kingdom — may have been enough to set eusociality in motion. Last month, a team of researchers led by Daniel Kronauer, an evolutionary biologist at the Rockefeller University in New York, published a paper in Sciencethat many experts are saying provides one of the most detailed molecular stories to date in the study of eusocial behavior. The scientists found that division of reproductive labor in ants arose when an ancient insulin signaling pathway, typically involved in maintaining …

Trying to understand perception by understanding neurons

Trying to understand perception by understanding neurons

When he talks about where his fields of neuroscience and neuropsychology have taken a wrong turn, David Poeppel of New York University doesn’t mince words. “There’s an orgy of data but very little understanding,” he said to a packed room at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in February. He decried the “epistemological sterility” of experiments that do piecework measurements of the brain’s wiring in the laboratory but are divorced from any guiding theories about behaviors and psychological phenomena in the natural world. It’s delusional, he said, to think that simply adding up those pieces will eventually yield a meaningful picture of complex thought. He pointed to the example of Caenorhabditis elegans, the roundworm that is one of the most studied lab animals. “Here’s an organism that we literally know inside out,” he said, because science has worked out every one of its 302 neurons, all of their connections and the worm’s full genome. “But we have no satisfying model for the behavior of C. elegans,” he said. “We’re missing something.” …

Peru ends conversation of ‘roadless wilderness’ in its Amazon rainforests

Biodiversity reaches its zenith in south-east Peru. This vast wilderness of 2m square km of rainforests and savannahs is formed of the headwaters of three major river basins, the Juruá, Purús, and Madeira. Nowhere on Earth can you find more species of animals and plants than in this corner of the Amazon that rubs up against the feet of the towering Andean mountains. These forests are also home to a culturally diverse human population, many of whom still live in voluntary isolation from the rest of humanity. In 2012 I spent a hectic few days in the exhausting Madre de Dios region, literally Spanish for “Mother of God”. I was there at the invitation of the Peruvian tourist board, which wanted to raise awareness of the region’s potential. In the lush lowland rainforests our team of ornithologists recorded more than 240 bird species in a few hours. These included the Rufous-fronted Antthrush, a near-mythical sighting among birders and one of a number of vertebrate species discovered by scientists there in the second half of the …

Your body, when stressed

Your body, when stressed

Stress is great. It makes us faster, stronger, more agile and our brains have better recall and flexibility. That’s why people are willing to put themselves in stressful work situations or engage in extreme sports. The problem is that uncontrolled, stress can leave us frozen to the spot and unable to think – something all too familiar for people having to speak in public or students sitting in the exam hall. Stress developed because it gives an evolutionary advantage. For early man, and with predators everywhere, food could be scarce and diseases prevalent. By understanding what is happening inside our bodies and why, we can learn to control stress and use it our advantage. Your body, when stressed When you’re feeling stressed, it’s a sign that your body is going into emergency mode. The turbo button is pressed, the engine of your body has roared into overdrive and you become superhuman. This means becoming ultra vigilant, able to react quickly and increase memory recall, and to remember every aspect of what you are seeing, hearing …

Songs With Philosophical Themes

Most of the Beatles songs, like most pop songs, are about love.  But as the group’s music developed, so their subject matter moved beyond “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah,” and “I want to hold your hand.” Some of their finest songs express, illustrate, or connect up with more philosophical ideas 01 of 10Can’t Buy Me Love “Can’t Buy Me Love is a classic statement of the philosopher’s traditional indifference to material wealth compared to what is good for the soul. It is true that Socrates was more concerned with truth and virtue than “love” (which as conceived in the song is presumably not purely Platonic). And it’s only fair to note that Paul later said that they should have sung “money can buy me love” given his experience of fame and fortune. Still, the core sentiment, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love, would be endorsed by many philosophers from ancient times to the present day. 02 of 10A Hard Day’s Night Karl Marx would have liked “A Hard Day’s Night.”  Writing …