Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Obama Open to Geoengineering as a Solution to Climate Change

The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

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April 8, 2009 Posted by | Global Warming, Science | Leave a comment

How to Depoliticize Science in One Easy Step

Via Disputations:

There is only one way to separate politics from science

And that is to separate politicians from scientists.

What connects them is money. If you’re not for government defunding all its scientific programs, then you aren’t for separating politics from science.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Science | Leave a comment

A Cleaned Conscience

And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Look you to it. – Matthew 27:24

PUBLIC displays of untidiness, such as graffiti, may promote bad behaviour (see article), but when it comes to personal cleanliness the opposite appears to be true. A study just published in Psychological Science by Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth and her colleagues shows that washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves. Continue reading

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Morality, Science | 1 Comment

Betting on God

Since opening its book just two months ago, punters hoping to have their faith rewarded have placed £5,000 with Paddy Power.

It began taking bets on the question that has plagued thinkers for centuries in September, to coincide with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider that physicists hope may lead to the discovery of an elusive sub-atomic object called the “God particle”.

Initially the odds that proof would be found of God’s existence were 20-1, and they lengthened to 33-1 when the multi-billion pound atom smasher was shut down temporarily because of a magnetic failure.

But interest in the wager has increased greatly following the recent launch of a campaign to have atheist adverts placed on London buses declaring that “there’s probably no God”.

As a result of a flurry of small bets Paddy Power, which also runs books on who will be the next Pope and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has cut the odds on proof being found of God’s existence to just 4-1.

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November 7, 2008 Posted by | Science, Theology, Weirdness | Leave a comment

What is Intelligent Design Theory?

It seems to me that there are at least four different ways we might characterize Intelligent Design theory.

1. As an alternative to Evolution. On this view ID folks would bear more or less the same relationship to Evolutionary biologists as Copernicans did to Aristotelian astronomers in the Sixteenth century.

The problem with this characterization is that Intelligent Design theory of itself seems too vague and minimalistic to constitute a real alternative to evolution. All ID folks will say is that life on this planet is a result (at least in part) of some intelligent force or being(s). They deliberately will not say what the nature of this force is (God? aliens? time-travelers?), nor do they have much as a group to say about how this force accomplished its task (was it done ex nihilo? did it happen instantaneously or over time, and if so how much time? was it done directly or via some mechanism, and if the latter, what is the mechanism?) Some ID advocates are willing to accept large swaths of evolutionary theory (Michael Behe, for example, is willing to accept the common ancestry of all living things) others aren’t. Without saying more, it’s hard to see why ID theory couldn’t even be compatible with Evolution. Continue reading

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Education, Evolution, Philosophy, Science | 3 Comments

The APA and Homosexuality

Via Kathy Shaidle, Sally Satel’s review of The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder contains an interesting tidbit about the APA’s decision to eliminate homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders:

In the early 1970s, annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) were home to angry showdowns between the gay rights lobby and organized psychiatry. Activists picketed convention sites, shouted down speakers, and waged ad hominem attacks on psychiatrists who sincerely believed that homosexuality was a sickness. The goal of their flamboyant campaign against the APA — an impressive display of “guerrilla theater,” as one psychiatrist put it — was to force the association to take homosexuality out of its official handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, second edition, popularly known as the DSM-II.

In December 1973, they won. A decisive majority of the APA board of trustees voted to remove homosexuality from the professional nomenclature.”Doctors Rule Homosexuals Not Abnormal,” read the headline in the next day’s Washington Post. It was a major victory both for gay people and for the enlightened wing of the psychiatric establishment. But rather than calm the critics of psychiatry, the APA’s acknowledgment that homosexuality was not a mental illness only inflamed them. They took this as further evidence that the profession was a sham, and asked in outrage how psychiatry could claim to be a legitimate, scientific branch of medicine if its members determined the very existence of an illness by vote.

More. The APA changes its position on homosexuality after protest and harassment and people lose faith in the authority of its pronouncements? Go figure. Continue reading

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Homosexuality, Science | 2 Comments