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One of the foundational aspects of science is sharing.  Along with a rigorous peer review process studies and findings are published so that wider scientific community can test, assess and prove the quality of research findings.  Steven Harper is not really a big fan of science, or other disciplines that base their results in reality (please see Stockwell Day’s imaginary offenders, for which we need to build more prisons).  The CBC takes a run at the issue:

“Recent access-to-information documents obtained by PostMedia News reveal that all media inquiries to scientists

Canadian Science: Safe Sane and Censored!

working for Natural Resources Canada must now pass through a Byzantine thicket of “subject matter experts” and the minister’s director of communications — “no exceptions.”

As one bureaucrat warned in an internal email: “What may appear to be a simple request for facts may actually relate to policy or high-profile issues.”

The email simply puts in print what journalists covering the Harper government deal with on a daily basis.”

Thank you Mr. Harper I would tick off the boxes on the promises of an open, transparent, accountable government but I seem to have lost my pen.  Or perhaps Mr.Harper has constructed a closed,tightly buttoned, top-down regime that seeks to control all messages put out by the government, to make sure the correct spin is in place. From the Montreal Gazette

“University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler states: “Muzzling under the Harper government is the worst it’s ever been.”

The Vancouver Sun quoted University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver: “The concept of free speech is non-existent at Environment Canada.” Weaver is close to the epicentre. As one who regularly co-authors studies with EC colleagues, he understands the impacts on federal scientists. He calls it “Orwellian,” and says that as a result, “morale is at an all-time low.”

Yep, protecting our rights to free speech, always  priority with Harper and his reality challenged band of anti-intellectual populists.  Another example:

NRCan scientist Scott Dallimore co-authored the study, published in the journal Nature on April 1, about a colossal flood that swept across northern Canada 13,000 years ago, when massive ice dams gave way at the end of the last ice age.

The study was considered so newsworthy that two British universities issued releases to alert the international media. It was, however, deemed so sensitive in Ottawa that Dallimore, who works at NRCan’s laboratories outside Victoria, was told he had to wait for clearance from the minister’s office.

Dallimore tried to tell the department’s communications managers the flood study was anything but politically sensitive. “This is a blue sky science paper,” he said, noting: “There are no anticipated links to minerals, energy or anthropogenic climate change.”

But the bureaucrats in Ottawa insisted. “We will have to get the minister’s office approval before going ahead with this interview,” Patti Robson, the department’s media relations manager, wrote after a reporter from Postmedia News approached Dallimore.”

I guess we will just have to be happy with ‘Conservative Approved’ Science.

Not a single mention of the US or the west in this article.  Perhaps a testament to Washington’s waning influence on global affairs?

“Japan has refused to apologise to Beijing for detaining a Chinese boat captain in disputed waters after Tokyo gave ground and released him.

China’s foreign ministry said it was angry at the detention of the captain, arrested by Japan over two weeks ago after his trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats in waters near islands that both sides claim.

The ministry demanded an apology and compensation and said China’s claim to the islands, which it calls the Diaoyu and Japan calls the Senkaku, was “indisputable”.

These are the words of countries that are not really in the mood for compromise.  This small conflict is a microcosm of the generally unsettled relations between Japan and China.

“Everybody knows that China is not a democratic country, but [the latest demand] will make that explicit,” Okada, who is now secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted as saying.

Zhan Qixiong, a fishing trawler captain, flew out of Japan to the coastal Chinese city of Fuzhou on Saturday after being set free on Friday.

The release follows the detention of four Japanese nationals on suspicion of violating Chinese law regarding the protection of military facilities earlier this week.”

The tensions in the region are growing and we in the West, crippled by our imperial wars have lost much of the ability to influence other nations in the world.   This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a new development that must be rather troublesome and unsettling for Western leaders.

“The dispute has underscored the brittleness of ties long troubled by Chinese memories of Japanese wartime occupation and territorial disputes over parts of the East China Sea that could hold rich reserves of gas.”

Once energy resources are involved, it is a guaranteed game changer.  I’m very curious to see how this plays out as potential conflict involving the major powers of the region could ensue.

Perhaps the deadline was not mentioned clearly enough in New Delhi.  Work is behind schedule, athletes are beginning to pull out of this years games.  The situation is becoming a bit of embarrassment for India.

“The head of the Commonwealth Games says India still has extensive work to do before it is fully ready to stage its showcase event amid concerns about security and safety conditions.

Mike Fennell, the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, acknowledged on Saturday that New Delhi has made progress in addressing the multiple problems surrounding the event, due to begin on October 3, adding that the Games would go ahead.

But he said accommodations for participants of the Games are still unsuitable for teams to use, citing problems with transport, security arrangements and medical services.

Teams coming to the games are not staying in the Athlete’s village, they are going to hotels and motels as the conditions are not quite up to snuff yet.  Not up to snuff being the presence of building materials, tools and human feces in many of the rooms.

Whoops.

“A portion of false ceiling in the weightlifting venue caved in on Wednesday, a day after the collapse of a footbridge at the main stadium, injuring 27 workers. In another incident, armed men shot and wounded two foreign visitors near a historic mosque in Delhi on Sunday in a suspected terrorist attack.”

Not exactly the most people friendly way to welcome athletes from across the former British Empire.  October 3rd is quickly approaching let us hope they can get their act together and pull these games off.

This could be a small win for corporate greed, but somehow I think the internet is a little to big for their money grubbing to contain.

“The men linked to the Pirate Bay file-sharing site were defiant on Friday after a Swedish court found them guilty of breaking the country’s copyright law.

The Stockholm district court sentenced Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom to one year each in prison for “assisting making available copyrighted content.”

They were also ordered to pay damages of 30 million kronor ($4.3 million Cdn) to a number of entertainment companies, including Warner Bros., Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.”

An appeal is already in the works so the founders are not currently in jail or responsible for paying some silly amount of money.

But the group said any verdict would be appealed, and the website home page carried a message equally defiant:

“As in all good movies, the heroes lose in the beginning but have an epic victory in the end anyhow,” said a message posted to the site. “That’s the only thing Hollywood ever taught us.”

Peter Sunde, one of the four founders of the site, said in a video posted Friday the court’s ruling was “bizarre.”  “It’s so bizarre we just have to laugh about it, it’s unreal,” he said.  As for the damages awarded, Sunde said the number was meaningless.  “They could have gotten one billion,” he said. “We can’t pay and we won’t pay.”

Predictably, hollywood is crowing about their victory.

“This is an important decision for rights-holders, underlining their right to have their creative works protected against illegal exploitation and to be fairly rewarded for their endeavours,” Glickman said in a statement.”
Creative protection.  What a load of hoo-haa.   They really mean is that they want access to an unending stream of royalties from these so called protected works.  See Lawrence Lessig’s work on how they have gamed the copyright system to work for them in their favour.
Stay tuned, this case is far from over.

I am going to use the discussion points found on RichardDawkins.net as the basis of this feature.

Calilasseia is the author of the post and deserves many rich accolades for assembling so much useful information in one spot. This constitutes an open thread of sorts, please leave your opinions and observations in the comment section.

Enjoy!
[20] Teleology/ethics redux.

First, in response to recent posting activity, I’d like to cover the matter of teleology. Which is defined as ‘the doctrine of final purpose’. Basically, teleology erects the assertion (hand in hand with supernaturalism) that the universe and its contents are subject to an externally applied overarching ‘purpose’. This is merely another example of the pervasiveness of the human tendency to project our own intentionality upon our surroundings, a process that our species applied from prehistoric times onwards. The operation thereof is very simple. Humans are beings who think about their actions (well, at least some of us are), and who frequently engage in activities with a specific end goal in mind. As a consequence, when our prehistoric ancestors saw natural forces at work, and saw that those natural forces shaped the landscape (and their own populations), they considered it entirely natural to conclude that this was the work of some entity similar to themselves, namely an entity with internally generated thoughts and goals, acting to achieve those goals. Basically, our prehistoric ancestors fabricated invisible magic men of various species because they didn’t know any better, and in the absence of substantive scientific knowledge, doing so was the only way that they could make sense of a complex, dynamic world. It would take our species a good 200,000 years to reach the point where we could make sense of the world in a proper, rigorous, quantitative manner without erecting such fabrications, and thus, said mythological fabrications have enjoyed far more persistence and persuasiveness than their complete absence of genuine explanatory power warrants.

Teleology is merely an extension of this. Because we have end goals and act to achieve those end goals in the real world, our ancestors assumed that the events around them arising from natural forces had a like origin, and that some sentient intent and planning lay behind them. However, this is merely another of those presuppositions that, in the fullness of time, was found severely wanting when subject to proper, intense critical scientific test. NO evidence has EVER arisen supporting the idea of an externally applied teleology governing the universe and its contents, indeed, with several physical systems, the idea that this is even possible looks decidedly nonsensical, in the light of the fact that those systems are best represented by systems of equations that are highly nonlinear, exhibit extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, and wildly bifurcating behaviour. There is an entire branch of mathematics devoted to the study of such systems, namely the mathematics of chaotic dynamical systems, and even relatively simple, supposedly deterministic systems of equations have been demonstrated to exhibit wide variance in behaviour with only tiny changes in initial conditions. The Verhulst Equation that is used to model population dynamics is a prime example – even small changes in the fecundity parameter in this equation will lead, once the equation enters the bifurcating régime, in wildly different outcomes even if one starts with the same initial conditions. Indeed, once that equation enters the chaotic régime, our ability to predict future behaviour of the system is severely truncated.

Now, if a simple ordinary differential equation can manifest this diversity of behaviour, it doesn’t take much imagining, at least amongst those who paid attention in the requisite classes, to realise that a physical system such as the weather, which is best modelled using the Navier-Stokes Equations among others, is not going to be in any sense ‘directable’, no matter what delusions of grandeur any sentient entity has with respect to this. The Navier-Stokes Equations are not only highly nonlinear interlinked partial differential equations (and in the most general case, tensor differential equations to boot, involving at least one second order tensor quantity), but have proven to be so intractable to attack by mathematicians, that the very existence of a general analytical solution to them remains unknown, despite a century or more of intense labour by the world’s best mathematicians to answer this question. Indeed, anyone who succeeds in this endeavour will win themselves a $1 million prize courtesy of the Clay Mathematical Institute, and immediately find themselves receiving lucrative job offers from aerospace companies such as Boeing to come and help them streamline their supercomputer models of fluid flow. At the moment, Navier-Stokes turbulent flow modelling requires expensive teams of top-class mathematicians, computer scientists, and a $50 million supercomputer as baseline pre-requisites, and those operating in this field will readily tell you that there are limits to how far in future time one can push the models, particularly those using these tools for weather modelling. The idea that the behaviour of a physical system, governed by equations of this sort, is ‘directable’ by any sentience will result in considerable mirth amongst those who know. So if you think your magic man is capable of imposing an overarching teleology upon the universe and its contents, and micro-managing the entire show, those two gentlemen called Navier and Stokes flushed that presupposition down the toilet over 100 years ago.

As a corollary, if there is hard evidence from 300 years of continued scientific endeavour, that an externally applied overarching teleology is not only conspicuous by its absence, but wholly absurd in the light of the divergent behaviour of key physical systems (and that’s before we enter the world of quantum indeterminacy), then likewise, the idea that there exists one, single, overarching set of ethical precepts applied externally to the universe from the same source, a set of precepts that remains unconditionally valid for all time, is similarly ludicrous. Nietzsche castigated philosophers who erected grand, assertion-laden metaphysical systems for the purpose of imposing their pet ethics upon the universe even without the benefit of the latest scientific knowledge, and recognised the basic fallacy underlying this exercise. Modern physics simply propels the fallacy into the realms of Pythonesque absurdity. Apart from the cosmic level of anthropocentric conceit required to erect the notion, that the affairs of one small collection of primates on one small planet, orbiting an average star situated in a nondescript galaxy, are the central reason for the universe being here, there is the central absurdity involved in imposing an overarching set of ethical precepts upon a universe in which the supposedly central characters don’t put in an appearance for over 13 billion years. The monumental metaphysical profligacy this assumes would make William of Ockham barf.

This brings us on to the corollary canard …

Public spending is an easy partisan issue, witness the Liberals going to town on the recent G8 summit.

“The Opposition Liberals have stepped up their offensive on the federal government over newly released expenditure reports for this summer’s G8 and G20 summits, labelling its spending on the events an “orgy of excess.”

One could cookie cutter the parties names around and the above statement could be just as easily coming out of a conservative opposition versus a Liberal government (although probably with more wailing about taxing and spending etc).

The reports include details of $80 million spent on food and accommodation, more than $34 million on telecommunications and electronics and almost $17 million for vehicle rentals and transportation.

During Friday’s question period in the House of Commons, Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale said Canadians are appalled that the government “squandered” their tax dollars on dozens of summit contracts, including $85,000 for snacks and $14,000 for glow sticks.

Costs add up when you are protecting the elite consensus makers from the rabble and democratic input.   Tax dollars would have been “squandered” by any government hosting the G8.  What is important in this story is the accountability to the people who are paying the bills.  If this event was run privately we would have no access to the balance sheet and therefore no say on whether what we did was justified or not.

Public spending is held to a higher standard of accountability than private spending and that is a good feature of purportedly democratic society.  Another feature is that we, the public, can have a say on the spending that is taking place.  Admittedly, one voice cannot change the will of government, but with organizing and planning the voices of the people can be heard.

Contrast this with private spending in the public sphere which often comes with little accountability or responsibility.

“No final price tag has been given yet for the dual summits in Muskoka and downtown Toronto, but the overall cost has been estimated to be about $1.24 billion, including at least $930 million for security.

The auditor general’s office says a report on the security costs of the G8/G20 summits is scheduled for spring 2011.”

Was spending 1.24 billion worth it?  Given the poor economic timing of such a large expenditure probably not, especially not the fake lake.

Richard Dawkins has been someone I’ve respected and looked up to for a long time. He is a champion of truth, science, and education. This, of course, has made him an enemy of religion. The small jump from role-model of the highest order to hero took the rallying up of  people in an effort to bring down the king-pin of the religious world: the pope.

There are many who are involved in the ‘arrest the pope’ campaign and they all deserve our respect and support. Dawkins, with his succinct and eloquent charisma, is a perfect addition to this cause. Hope springs anew!

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