Aeon: C-F
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
Text Colour-ConventionsBooks / Papers Citing this BookNotes Citing this Book

BOOK ABSTRACT:

Website “About”1

  1. Since 2012, Aeon has established itself as a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. We ask the big questions and find the freshest, most original answers, provided by leading thinkers on science, philosophy, society and the arts.
  2. Aeon has three channels, and all are completely free to enjoy:
    1. Essays – Longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers
    2. Ideas – Short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high editorial standards but in a more nimble and immediate form. Our Ideas are published under a Creative Commons licence, making them available for republication.
    3. Video – A mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon productions
  3. Through our Partnership program, we publish pieces from university research groups, university presses and other selected cultural organisations.
  4. Aeon was founded in London by Paul and Brigid Hains. It now has offices in London, Melbourne and New York. We are a not-for-profit, registered charity, operated by Aeon Media Group Ltd.
  5. We are committed to big ideas, serious enquiry and a humane worldview. That’s it.



In-Page Footnotes ("Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: C-F")

Footnote 1:
BOOK COMMENT:



"Camporesi (Silvia) - Who is a sportswoman?"

Source: Aeon, 27 February, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Elite female athletes are subjected to invasive gender tests, and hormone treatments if they fail. This is deeply unfair."
  • See Web Link



"Camporesi (Silvia) & Knuckles (James) - The solution to doping is to extend the blame beyond athletes"

Source: Aeon, 22 July, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Case (Holly) - The new authoritarians"

Source: Aeon, 07 March, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Last century’s dictators wanted to reinvent their subjects as ‘new men’. This century’s strongmen just don’t care. Why?"
  • See Web Link



"Cave (Stephen) - Frozen dead guys"

Source: Aeon, 08 May, 2013

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Cave (Stephen) - Intelligence: a history"

Source: Aeon, 21 February, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Intelligence has always been used as fig-leaf to justify domination and destruction. No wonder we fear super-smart robots".
  • See Web Link



"Celermajer (Danielle) - A nation apologises for wrongdoing: is that a category mistake?"

Source: Aeon, 03 April, 2017

COMMENT:



"Chabal (Emile) - Les anglo-saxons"

Source: Aeon, 18 September, 2017

COMMENT:
  • "Not just American or British, the Anglo-Saxon is a mirror to Frenchness: the country’s alter-ego and most feared enemy."
  • See Web Link



"Charlton (Anna E.) & Francione (Gary) - A humanely killed animal is still killed – and that’s wrong"

Source: Aeon, 08 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Chatfield (Tom) - Automated ethics"

Source: Aeon, 31 March, 2014

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "When is it ethical to hand our decisions over to machines? And when is external automation a step too far?"
  • See Web Link



"Choi-Fitzpatrick (Austin) - What do slaveholders think?"

Source: Aeon, 23 March, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "It is everywhere illegal yet slavery persists in many corners of the global economy. How do its beneficiaries justify it?"
  • See Web Link



"Christie (Thony) - Galileo’s reputation is more hyperbole than truth"

Source: Aeon, 31 March, 2016


Response from Chip Bock
  1. I have read (Thony Christie’s) Renaissance Mathematics for years and enjoy him, and indeed learned from him. But I’ve always been troubled by his need to disparage Galileo. I understand that rowing upstream is fun and provocative, but I think he is too hard on this guy. I’ll confess that I’m a professional particle physicist for 40 years. I work at CERN and Fermilab and indeed teach also. I know that’s supposed to dull me to the fine points of professional history and philosophy.
  2. For the record, I have always appreciated the role of history of science and also that of philosophy of science and even have two masters degrees as I struggled to decide whether to go into science or philosophy of science. So I’m at least sympathetic.
  3. And in this particular context, it’s a mistake ever to discount or downplay the intellectual courage of Johannes Kepler, especially given his crummy life. Nobody before him had ever imagined planetary motion that was not circular. The third law was indeed a prime motivation for Newton’s gravitational theory - an important part of the key that unlocked that secret.
  4. So with that, I’m going to say why I revere Galileo. There are four reasons:
    1. Mechanics. Yes, that idea of inertia was a little mixed up, I think. I believe that Galileo would have had objects moving on forever, absent a diversion, but not in a straight line. I think he would have expected them to follow the curvature of the earth. So not quite Newton’s 1st. But it’s how he got there that I think was important, and was symptomatic of many of the experiments he did. The pendulum fascinated him (I think he first enunciated its isochronism, but I could be wrong) and the return to the original spot seemed to inspire him in part to imagine rolling balls down and up inclines…then making the rolling-up incline more and more shallow in his mind, he could extrapolate to flat. A thought experiment, right? That’s damn clever and in league with his dilution of gravity to determined that the distance increases as the square of the time, and so from the Schoolmen, to the conclusion that speed increased as the time and not the distance. He was careful and persistent in identification of experimental systematic errors. HIs explanation of projectiles is brilliant. That there might be two motions centered somehow on a single object that between them govern the two dimensional path is really clever. Of course, it followed upon careful measurement - cleverly rolling balls off table-edges at repeatable speeds by using…an inclined plane was smart, as was the rolling of balls on a large wood panel a few degrees off the ground. Stevin…sure he was smart, but pretty much only in statics. There’s other stuff in Galileo’s mechanics. He messed up the tides terribly. He came close to momentum, but not as close as even Descartes until it was solved by Huygens and Newton.
    2. That leads me to my second reason. I believe that Galileo was the first to attack an understanding of nature by assuming that there were regularities that are…beneath the surface… and unavailable to direct observation. The goal of terrestrial science is to reach for those uniformities and then explain actual behavior by adding a layer of deviation from the perfect situation…friction, air resistance, and so on. He never observed what he claimed was the physics…but that’s the point and that’s critical. It’s why physicists are all Platonists. I’ve never understood the problem with Koyre on this, but I know that I function as a Platonist searching for the underlying, common rules and explain deviation from those rules as imperfection - perturbations if you will. It’s the deep-down rules that matter and without that commitment, physics is impossible. I think that’s Galileo.
    3. The Letter to Christina. The demand that in order to dispute science that additional experiment was required and that authority is explicitly unwelcome and not appropriate is perhaps not entirely novel, but his enunciation of it and the vessel in which he inches toward the very public polishing of his originally semi-private letter I think drew the line in the sand better and more definitively than before. We owe him, in my opinion.
    4. His astronomy. Last, maybe in my mind, least. The most important thing he did in my opinion was make better telescopes. The hearing of it and then the subsequent, better and better construction is experimental science at its best. The priority issues are of less interest to me. Of course Harriot did similar things, but did he figure out a way to determine the heights of mountains on the moon? Of course Marius did some of the same things. Galileo, in his typically acidic way, he went after Marius on priority. But that doesn’t take away from the brilliance and the recognizably persistent search to understand something odd. That there were satellites orbiting another center of rotation was stunning. There were also Venus’ phases, the “ears” of Saturn, and of course the clever way to look at the sun (his student invented that), and the observation of the multitude of non-naked eye stars.
  5. The subsequent myths were always unfortunate. His ignoring of Kepler, except when he needed him, was inexcusable. This guy was problematic in many ways. Notice I never said he was the inventor of experiment or making quantitative measurements. He just did more of it and did it better and communicated it better than anyone else. Thompson was a terrible experimenter…Kaufmann was much better and got better results. But Thompson interpreted his data with inspiration of a corpuscle which is why most people don’t even know of Kaufmann. How you do things and the conclusions you draw matters.
  6. But the four areas above are to me recognizably scientific in a nearly modern sense and I think he uniquely put them all together in one turbulent life. So I’m impressed.
  7. As I started this, I have read Christie for a long time and have been meaning to ask him about Galileo and what I’ve felt is his overly tepid opinion of his influence and work and I guess seeing this article pushed me over the edge, so I guess this constitutes that communication!


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Christie (Thony) - How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?"

Source: Aeon, 28 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Claxton (Guy) - Get your kicks"

Source: Aeon, 08 November, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "No wonder adolescents jump off cliffs and fall in crazy love – they are constantly stifled by school and society alike."
  • See Web Link



"Cline (Eric H.) - The Masada mystery"

Source: Aeon, 20 February, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Have archaeologists proven the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert or twisted science for political end?"
  • See Web Link



"Colebrook (Claire) - End-times for humanity"

Source: Aeon, 01 June, 2017


Extract1
  1. What contemporary post-apocalyptic culture fears isn’t the end of ‘the world’ so much as the end of ‘a world’ – the rich, white, leisured, affluent one. Western lifestyles are reliant on what the French philosopher Bruno Latour has referred to as a ‘slowly built set of irreversibilities’, requiring the rest of the world to live in conditions that ‘humanity’ regards as unliveable.
  2. And nothing could be more precarious than a species that contracts itself to a small portion of the Earth, draws its resources from elsewhere, transfers its waste and violence, and then declares that its mode of existence is humanity as such.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Humanity is more technologically powerful than ever before, and yet we feel ourselves to be increasingly fragile. Why?"
  • See Web Link




In-Page Footnotes ("Colebrook (Claire) - End-times for humanity")

Footnote 1:
  • This appears on the penultimate page and reflects the author’s views well.
  • I agree that the worry about “existential risk” often refers to the collapse of civilisation as we know it in the affluent west (or, basically, everywhere apart from sub-Saharan Africa and sundry pockets elsewhere).
  • Some worries are wider and might affect the human species or higher forms of life in toto – asteroid impact, genetic takeover, AI takeover, and the like.
  • All civilisations are inherently unstable and are subject to collapse.
  • All civilisations have arisen by exploiting whatever they could in order to obtain the leisure to invent new things rather than just subsisting. This exploitation wasn’t invented by 19th century colonialism. Dominant societies everywhere have done it.
  • The author claims that the engine of the rise of the West was the rapacious exploitation of the third world, and slavery in particular. This isn’t at all right, in my view. The industrial revolution used our own resources (coal) and our own workers – exploited, admittedly.
  • Any excessive stress on the world economy will impact the third world as much as the “West”; without the technological support from the West, the third world would swiftly succumb to disease and starvation, as was the general lot of mankind throughout history.
  • We are fortunate that for most – though sadly not all – life is no longer nasty, brutish and short, and we should be thankful for this and do what we can to prevent a return to that sorry state.
  • There’s a lot more that could be said about this annoying article …



"Colquhoun (David) - The problem with p-values"

Source: Aeon, 11 October, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Academic psychology and medical testing are both dogged by unreliability. The reason is clear: we got probability wrong."
  • See Web Link



"Colwell (Chip) - The scalp from Sand Creek"

Source: Aeon, 08 June, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Even after museums return human remains pillaged from a massacre in 1864, can repatriation heal the wounds of history?"
  • See Web Link



"Comfort (Nathaniel) - Why the hype around medical genetics is a public enemy"

Source: Aeon, 12 December, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Cope (Suzanne) - Cognitive dissonance helps old dogs with their new tricks"

Source: Aeon, 21 June, 2017

COMMENT:
  • See Web Link.
  • "Cognitive dissonance" = "the state of mental discomfort one feels when holding two or more conflicting beliefs or worldviews at the same time".
  • Nothing about dogs!



"Craiutu (Aurelian) - Moderation may be the most challenging and rewarding virtue"

Source: Aeon, 17 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Crumey (Andrew) - The sun does not rise"

Source: Aeon, 23 June, 2014

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "How magical thinking haunts our everyday language, and fossilised ideas live on in even the most sophisticated science"
  • See Web Link



"Currie (Adrian) & Turner (Derek) - The missing fossils matter as much as the ones we have found"

Source: Aeon, 19 January, 2017


Authors’ Introduction
  1. The coelacanths are an ancient group of lobe-finned fishes, with weird appendages that take the form of bony, fleshy, muscular stalks. They’re well-represented in the fossil record all the way back to the Devonian period, some 390 million years ago. However, about 66 million years ago – the time of the dinosaurs’ demise – coelacanths disappear completely. It looked like they went extinct. Then, in 1938, someone caught a coelacanth in a fishing net off the coast of South Africa.
  2. The lesson here is that the absence of evidence – in this case, the lack of coelacanth fossils – is not the same as evidence of an absence. Take a kookier example. There’s a subculture of ‘cryptozoologists’ who believe that populations of pterodactyls are hiding out in remote parts of the globe, such as Papua New Guinea or the Brazilian rainforest. Pterosaurs, too, disappeared from the fossil record around 66 million years ago, and there is no proof that any of them exist today. Should we apply the same test as for the coelacanths? Or in this case, for some reason, does the absence of evidence amount to the same thing as the evidence of an absence?

Authors’ Conclusion
  1. The case of the coelacanth and the pterodactyl are similar in one respect. Both fossils have been missing for the past 66 million years. But for pterosaurs, the best explanation is just that the animals went extinct. For the coelacanth, the message is more complex. Accounting for the gap might invoke the small population size, when and how fossilisation occurs in marine environments, and the fact that much of the rock on the ocean floor is quite young. For both creatures, at least one thing is clear: what doesn’t fossilise is often as revealing as what does.


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Dalton (Clayton M.) - Lifestyle changes, not a magic pill, can reverse Alzheimer’s"

Source: Aeon, 03 May, 2017


Excerpts
  1. Last summer, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) quietly published the results of a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. What they found was striking. Although the size of the study was small, every participant demonstrated such marked improvement that almost all were found to be in the normal range on testing for memory and cognition by the study’s end. Functionally, this amounts to a cure.
  2. The results from UCLA aren’t due to an incredible new drug or medical breakthrough, though. Rather, the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.
  3. We know that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases, in some cases as well as medication. It deserves more than passing mention at the end of an annual check-up – it’s time to make it a cornerstone in the treatment not only of Alzheimer’s disease, but of all chronic disease.


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Dalton (Clayton M.) - There is nothing inevitable or natural about chronic disease"

Source: Aeon, 18 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Damore (James) - Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber"

Source: Google, 8 August, 2017

COMMENT:



"Dartnell (Lewis) - Out of the ashes"

Source: Aeon, 13 April, 2015


Author’s Introduction
  1. Imagine that the world as we know it ends tomorrow. There’s a global catastrophe: a pandemic virus, an asteroid strike, or perhaps a nuclear holocaust. e vast majority of the human race perishes. Our civilisation collapses. The post-apocalyptic survivors find themselves in a devastated world of decaying, deserted cities and roving gangs of bandits looting and taking by force.
  2. Bad as things sound, that’s not the end for humanity. We bounce back. Sooner or later, peace and order emerge again, just as they have time and again through history. Stable communities take shape. They begin the agonising process of rebuilding their technological base from scratch. But here’s the question: how far could such a society rebuild? Is there any chance, for instance, that a post-apocalyptic society could reboot a technological civilisation?
  3. Let’s make the basis of this thought experiment a little more specific. Today, we have already consumed the most easily drainable crude oil and, particularly in Britain, much of the shallowest, most readily mined deposits of coal. Fossil fuels are central to the organisation of modern industrial society, just as they were central to its development. Those, by the way, are distinct roles: even if we could somehow do without fossil fuels now (which we can’t, quite), it’s a different question whether we could have got to where we are without ever having had them.
  4. So, would a society starting over on a planet stripped of its fossil fuel deposits have the chance to progress through its own Industrial Revolution? Or to phrase it another way, what might have happened if, for whatever reason, the Earth had never acquired its extensive underground deposits of coal and oil in the first place? Would our progress necessarily have halted in the 18th century, in a pre-industrial state?

Author’s Conclusion
  1. It took a lot of energy to develop our technologies to their present heights, and presumably it would take a lot of energy to do it again. Fossil fuels are out. That means our future society will need an awful lot of timber.
  2. In a temperate climate such as the UK’s, an acre of broadleaf trees produces about four to five tonnes of biomass fuel every year. If you cultivated fast-growing kinds such as willow or miscanthus grass, you could quadruple that. The trick to maximising timber production is to employ coppicing – cultivating trees such as ash or willow that re-sprout from their own stump, becoming ready for harvest again in five to 15 years. This way you can ensure a sustained supply of timber and not face an energy crisis once you’ve deforested your surroundings.
  3. But here’s the thing: coppicing was already a well-developed technique in pre-industrial Britain. It couldn’t meet all of the energy requirements of the burgeoning society. The central problem is that woodland, even when it is well-managed, competes with other land uses, principally agriculture. The double-whammy of development is that, as a society’s population grows, it requires more farmland to provide enough food and also greater timber production for energy. The two needs compete for largely the same land areas.
  4. We know how this played out in our own past. From the mid-16th century, Britain responded to these factors by increasing the exploitation of its coal fields – essentially harvesting the energy of ancient forests beneath the ground without compromising its agricultural output. e same energy provided by one hectare of coppice for a year is provided by about five to 10 tonnes of coal, and it can be dug out of the ground an awful lot quicker than waiting for the woodland to regrow.
  5. It is this limitation in the supply of thermal energy that would pose the biggest problem to a society trying to industrialise without easy access to fossil fuels. This is true in our post-apocalyptic scenario, and it would be equally true in any counterfactual world that never developed fossil fuels for whatever reason. For a society to stand any chance of industrialising under such conditions, it would have to focus its efforts in certain, very favourable natural environments: not the coal-island of 18th-century Britain, but perhaps areas of Scandinavia or Canada that combine fast-flowing streams for hydroelectric power and large areas of forest that can be harvested sustainably for thermal energy.
  6. Even so, an industrial revolution without coal would be, at a minimum, very difficult. Today, use of fossil fuels is actually growing, which is worrying for a number of reasons too familiar to rehearse here. Steps towards a low-carbon economy are vital. But we should also recognise how pivotal those accumulated reservoirs of thermal energy were in getting us to where we are. Maybe we could have made it the hard way. A slow-burn progression through the stages of mechanisation, supported by a combination of renewable electricity and sustainably grown biomass, might be possible after all. Then again, it might not. We’d better hope we can secure the future of our own civilisation, because we might have scuppered the chances of any society to follow in our wake.
  7. For more information on this thought experiment on the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our world works and how you could reboot civilisation from scratch visit Web Link.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they're almost gone. Could we do it again without them?"
  • See Web Link



"Davis (Heath Fogg) - Let’s delete sex-identity from birth certificates"

Source: Aeon, 31 May, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Del Mar (Maksymilian) - The legal imagination"

Source: Aeon, 28 March, 2017


Author’s Conclusion
  1. Overall, imagining is a mode of enquiry into what might matter – a collective, interactive investigation of what might be at stake in some dispute or issue. Fictions, metaphors, hypothetical narratives and multiple perspectives are hugely helpful because they each generate a different set of possibilities. These devices are what make legal reasoning so resourceful and ingenious, because they are inherently tentative and experimental. Sometimes, this form of communication involves pretence and make-believe; at other times, quirky juxtapositions – of trees and constitutions, or of customs and crystals.
  2. The faculty of imagination, then, is not just about engaging in flights of fancy. It can prompt and move us, but it’s also vital as a tool that allows us to slow down, to distance ourselves from our own habits and conventions, and to let others into the conversation. Imagination as enquiry might be our best bet against the dangers of thoughtlessness, present now more than ever.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Hypotheticals, fantastical beings, and a fictional omnibus: legal reasoning is made supple by its use of the imagination."
  • See Web Link



"Delistraty (Cody) - The coming-of-age con"

Source: Aeon, 08 September, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "How can you go about finding ‘who you really are’ if the whole idea of the one true self is a big fabrication?"
  • See Web Link



"Delistraty (Cody) - When it’s good to be bad"

Source: Aeon, 10 March, 2016


Extracts
  1. It is a common belief that to achieve a goal one must work at it constantly – not taking a circuitous path towards it when a straight one is available. … In order to achieve a goal, the thinking goes, one must not deviate from the straightest course; to allow for mistakes or failures is to torpedo your chances of attaining your goal.
  2. And yet a new school of thinking is challenging these received ways and arguing that straying from the path, even engaging in hedonistic behaviour, might be the surest way to success.
  3. Rita Coelho do Vale is an assistant professor at the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics, where she researches the human decision-making process with respect to self-regulation. She says that we not only can but should engage in behaviour antithetical to our ultimate goals.
  4. In experiments conducted with Rik Pieters and Marcel Zeelenberg, and published in January 2016 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, do Vale surveyed the way people go about achieving their goals. She concluded that it is better to make plans to fail intermittently – to splurge on occasional luxuries when saving for a house; to have a slice of chocolate cake when trying to shed a few pounds – than to end up failing anyway and getting so demoralised you give up your goal altogether.
  5. In June 2007, Angela Duckworth published a revolutionary study, where she found that the personal quality of ‘grit’ was the single most important factor in success – more important even than socioeconomic background. The world of pop psychology was set ablaze.
  6. Duckworth’s findings are relentless. To a certain extent she’s right: people who are able to persevere despite repeated failure do tend eventually to find success. Yet this approach to goal-completion and this negative view of setbacks (they are to be overcome, not planned or revelled in) puts this version of success out of most people’s reach.
  7. The truth is, most people aren’t extremely gritty; they won’t be able to study for 15 hours a day for a spelling bee, or complete punishing military training courses in the summer heat. And not even the grittiest are guaranteed success. In fact, the mindset needed to maintain persistent forward motion can be its own setback. People who are obsessive and who want the very best for themselves tend to be the grittiest; they also tend, as University of Texas psychiatrist Monica Ramirez Basco writes in her book Never Good Enough (2000), to be ‘more vulnerable to depression when stressful events occur’.
  8. Plus, much as we may want to achieve our goals – and be willing to work for them – there are limits to our capacity for work and will. That’s because willpower is a finite resource, according to Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, who coined the term ‘ego depletion’. Ego depletion (or a dwindling reserve of willpower) is the reason that you may feel less keen to exercise after a hard day at the office; it’s the reason poorer people, after expending energy on finding the best price on basic goods at the grocery store, may then buy bags of Skittles and lowbrow magazines at the checkout counter. You only have so much willpower to use before you need to take a break from decision-making and let it replenish.
  9. ‘Slack’, which allows a person to use more of their cognitive and emotional resources, comes from having a cushier social and financial safety net, …
  10. You soon see how privilege can exert influence in goal-driven behaviours. In this light, the notion that hard work and passion are all that is necessary for success begins to seem woefully naïve. In almost every case, but particularly where slack is in short supply, it’s advisable to plan for a setback. ‘It’s important to plan in advance to fail,’ do Vale told me. ‘Perhaps we should call failure something different – a moment of indulgence, a moment of rest, a saving of willpower.’


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: The relentless pursuit of success is valorised in our culture, but taking the long way around is often the best
  • See Web Link



"Deutsch (David) - Creative blocks"

Source: Aeon, 03 October, 2012

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The very laws of physics imply that artificial intelligence must be possible. What’s holding us up?"
  • See Web Link.
  • This is an important paper for my research, and deserves a detailed analysis.



"Devji (Faisal) - Age of sincerity"

Source: Aeon, 17 April, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "In politics, as in militant religion, the performance of sincerity is everything, no matter whether right or wrong ."
  • See Web Link



"Dickey (Colin) - A fault in our design"

Source: Aeon, 23 January, 2015


Important Snippet
  1. … should a solar flare happen on the scale of the 1859 Carrington Event now (and there’s a 12 per cent chance of one hitting the Earth before 2022), the effects might have a radically different impact on our advanced civilisation. If a CME with the same intensity were to hit the Earth head-on, it could cause catastrophic damage.
  2. A National Research Council report in 2008 estimated that another Carrington Event could lead to a disruption of US infrastructure that could take between four and 10 years – and trillions of dollars – to recover from. Particularly vulnerable are the massive transformers on which our entire power system relies. Massive fluxes in magnetic energy can easily overload a transformer’s magnetic core, leading to overheating and melting of their copper cores. In the worst-case scenario, a repeat of the Carrington Event would cripple our infrastructure so severely it could lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of society, a threat utterly unknown to our ‘less civilised’ ancestors.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. … the technology that surrounds us is bound to fail, if only because of the fact that it’s made by humans. As Petroski writes: ‘All things, and especially systems in which people interact with things, fail because they are the products of human endeavour, which means that they are naturally, necessarily, and sometimes notoriously flawed.’
  2. Robots and autopilots might correct for human error, but they cannot compensate for their own designers. Perhaps a brighter technological future lies less in the latest gadgets, and rather in learning to understand ourselves better, particularly our capacity to forget what we’ve already learned. The future of technology is nothing without a long view of the past, and a means to embody history’s mistakes and lessons, as we plough forever forward.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable."
  • See Web Link



"Dixon (Thomas) - The waterworks"

Source: Aeon, 22 February, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of incontinence or of ecstasy. Crying must mean something – but what?"
  • See Web Link



"Dorren (Gaston) - Talking gibberish"

Source: Aeon, 14 September, 2017

COMMENT:
  • "The study of languages has long been prone to nonsense. Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots?"
  • See Web Link



"Douglas (Tom) - Should a rapist get Viagra or a robber get a cataracts op?"

Source: Aeon, 07 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Dreger (Alice) - Intersex rights"

Source: Aeon, 06 April, 2017


Author’s Introduction
  1. People tend to assume that everyone is born simply male or female. But nature shows us otherwise. About one in 2,000 babies is born with genitals roughly halfway between male and female types. Their genitals might include what looks rather like a penis along with what appears to be a vaginal opening. More subtle forms of in-between sex development are much more common than that. In fact, with modern science, we find (Web Link) that as many as one in 100 of us might have some sex-development type other than the standard male or female, although some will never have occasion to find out.
  2. Nevertheless, cultural attachment to the idea of a clear, simple division between (only) two sexes runs deep. Many physicians believe that there’s nothing we can do about that cultural anchor – You can’t change society, they say. So they think that, for the children’s sake, it’s sometimes necessary to do ‘corrective’ surgeries to make children who are born intersex look more typically female or male. Although statistics can be hard to pin down, it appears that in the United States today, at least one in 300 children is born with a difference of sex development (DSD) evident enough to the naked eye that a paediatrician might recommend an expert consultation.
  3. Variations on typical sex development occur most commonly in boys (Web Link), and most commonly in the form of hypospadias. Hypospadias is a condition in which the urinary opening is not on the very tip of the penis but lower down the head, or on the shaft of the penis, or, more rarely, at its base. Girls can be born with atypical sex development, too. For example, during foetal development, the clitoris might grow larger than average and can sometimes look like a small penis.
  4. Quite simply, these sex variations occur because the typical male and the typical female represent two ends of a developmental continuum. e clitoris and the penis grow from the same proto-organ in development. In the same way, the labia majora and the scrotum grow from the same tissue. Most newborns have developed genitalia at one end of the developmental spectrum or the other. But not everyone.
  5. And genitals are by no means the only component of sex biology that can vary. What we call simply ‘biological sex’ is in fact a many-factored trait involving various hormones, hormone receptors, external genitals, internal reproductive organs, and much more. Consequently, there are dozens of different ways for what we could call ‘intersex’ development to occur.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Paediatric specialists in this area have historically misrepresented the history of intersex, saying that parents cannot raise a child as a boy or a girl unless the child’s genitals look ‘gender-typical’. In fact, until the recent era, children with intersex genitals were raised as boys and girls with their genitals left intact. Children were, and can again be, preliminarily assigned genders as boys or girls based on best guesses. That’s actually what happened to all of us, whether we were born typically male, typically female, or intersex.
  2. In terms of recognising the sexual rights of children and youth, including the rights not to be subject to FGM or to sexual assault, and the right to be gay or lesbian, the world has come a long way. From this perspective, it feels like intersex rights will come next. Yet the tension between those who see intersex variation as a human-rights issue and those who see this as a ‘problem’ for medicine to ‘repair’ appears only to be rising, not resolving.
  3. The clinicians who are fighting the activists are not bad people; they are aware of sexual stigma and want to prevent it (Web Link). There’s no doubt that stigma can accrue to those with intersex bodies. But stigma can and should be managed at the social and psychological levels – with professional help as necessary. A more medically conservative approach would be to take seriously the idea of ‘first, do no harm’.
  4. Rather than expecting these children to be changed to fit our social bodily norms, we can change what we expect of each other as parents in terms of behaviour. Parents used to be allowed to do whatever they thought right for their children. But when it comes to issues such as child labour and child abuse, the world shifted its views on ‘parental rights’. We can progress here, too, and recognise that the best approach for these children is to minimise harm and maximise acceptance of natural sex development variation. It’s high time for paediatricians to understand intersex as an issue of human rights, and to help parents to understand it, too.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Children born with in-between sex development are subject to surgeries that many believe violate their human rights."
  • See Web Link



"Dreger (Alice) - You might be in a medical experiment and not even know it"

Source: Aeon, 30 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Dresser (Sam) - How Camus and Sartre split up over the question of how to be free"

Source: Aeon, 27 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Dueholm (Benjamin) - Why pray?"

Source: Aeon, 12 January, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Prayer occurs in many faiths. It stays recognisable despite its varied forms. It must be good for something – but what? "
  • See Web Link



"Dunsworth (Holly) & Buchanan (Anne) - Sex makes babies"

Source: Aeon, 09 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "As far as we can tell, no other animal knows this. Did our understanding of baby-making change the course of human history?"
  • See Web Link



"Dweck (Carol S.) - The Secret to Raising Smart Kids"

Source: Scientific American, 1st January 2015


Author’s Conclusion
  1. People may well differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute more to school achievement than IQ does.
  2. Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become productive workers and citizens.


COMMENT:



"Edwards (Stassa) - From Aesop to doge"

Source: Aeon, 29 January, 2015

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The animal who speaks in a human voice is a figure of the most enduring imaginative power. What do we hope to hear?"
  • See Web Link



"Ekroll (Vebjorn) - Now you see it, now you…"

Source: Aeon, 25 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Seeing things that are hidden; failing to see things in plain sight. How magic exploits the everyday weirdness of perception."
  • See Web Link



"Epstein (Robert) - The empty brain"

Source: Aeon, 18 May, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer. "
  • See Web Link



"Evans (Jules) - Dissolving the ego"

Source: Aeon, 26 June, 2017
  • Vaguely interesting. He makes lots of points about why “ego dissolution” is a good thing.
  • Evans mentions the Alpha course, which he attended during a year investigating charismatic Christianity, admits to having “succumbed to the ecstasy” in a church full of charismatic pensioners. When the preacher asked if anyone wanted to commit their life to Jesus, he raised his hand, announced his conversion on his newsletter and 1/3 of his subscribers immediately unsubscribed!
  • Later, the high passed and doubts came back – there were basic Christian tenets he couldn’t accept, “particularly the idea that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus”.
  • He put it all down to the “ritual and the crowd emotion” – or even being hypnotised by the preacher, but denied that this made it unhealthy or unspiritual.
  • For his Amazon page, see Web Link


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "You don’t need drugs or a church for an ecstatic experience that helps transcend the self and connect to something bigger."
  • See Web Link



"Everett (Daniel) - Chomsky, Wolfe and me"

Source: Aeon, 10 January, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "I took on Noam Chomsky’s ideas about language and unleashed a decade of debate and ridicule. But is my argument wrong? ."
  • See Web Link



"Farrier (David) - Sands of time"

Source: Aeon, 17 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It's also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene."
  • See Web Link



"Fehlhaber (Kate) - What know-it-alls don’t know, or the illusion of competence"

Source: Aeon, 17 May, 2017

COMMENT:



"Finn (Suki) - Bun or bump?"

Source: Aeon, 27 July, 2017
  • This is an important paper from the perspective of personal identity, and is something I intend to write on extensively.
  • For now, I note that "Kingma (Elselijn) - Were You Part of Your Mother?" is “forthcoming” in Mind, so I won’t see it for years. It will be worth viewing the YouTube lecture, however, which presumably covers the same ground.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Does the mother contain the foetus or is it a part of her? On the metaphysics of pregnancy, and its ethical implications."
  • See Web Link



"Fleming (Peter) - What is human capital?"

Source: Aeon, 10 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Human capital theory was invented as an ideological weapon in the Cold War. Now it is helping to Uberise the world of work."
  • See Web Link



"Flora (Carlin) - Indescribable you"

Source: Aeon, 03 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Can novelists or psychologists better capture the strange multitude of realities in every human self?"
  • See Web Link



"Floridi (Luciano) - Should we be afraid of AI?"

Source: Aeon, 09 May, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Machines seem to be getting smarter and smarter and much better at human jobs, yet true AI is utterly implausible. Why? "
  • See Web Link



"Fox (Douglas) - Aliens in our midst"

Source: Aeon, 01 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The ctenophore’s brain suggests that, if evolution began again, intelligence would re-emerge because nature repeats itself."
  • See Web Link



"Frampton (Saul) - Agony in the agora"

Source: Aeon, 07 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Democracy, by nature, is a contest between clashing political desires. That is why the public square matters so much. "
  • See Web Link



"Francis (Matthew) - Cognitive celebrity"

Source: Aeon, 22 July, 2014

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman?"
  • See Web Link



"Frank (Adam) - Minding matter"

Source: Aeon, 13 March, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground."
  • See Web Link



"Frankish (Keith) - Why panpsychism fails to solve the mystery of consciousness"

Source: Aeon, 20 September, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Franklin (James) - The mathematical world"

Source: Aeon, 07 April, 2014

COMMENT:
  • "Some philosophers think maths exists in a mysterious other realm. They’re wrong. Look around: you can see it."
  • See Web Link



"Freiman (Christopher) - The desire to fit in is the root of almost all wrongdoing"

Source: Aeon, 30 September, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Freud (Sigmund), Lunbeck (Elizabeth) - The herd instinct"

Source: Aeon, 31 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Freud's classic paper, with a new introduction and commentary by Elizabeth Lunbeck.
  • Sub-title: "How cultivated individuals can become barbarians in a crowd."
  • See Web Link



"Frisby (Dominic) - Voluntary taxation: a lesson from the Ancient Greeks"

Source: Aeon, 02 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Friston (Karl) - The mathematics of mind-time"

Source: Aeon, 18 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The special trick of consciousness is being able to project action and time into a range of possible futures."
  • See Web Link



"Frohlich (Joel) - Why we can stop worrying and love the particle accelerator"

Source: Aeon, 12 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Fry (Alexander B.) - In the dark"

Source: Aeon, 23 April, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Dark matter is the commonest, most elusive stuff there is. Can we grasp this great unsolved problem in physics?"
  • See Web Link



"Furedi (Frank) - Bookish fools"

Source: Aeon, 20 October, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The book has always been a sign of status and refinement; a declaration of self-worth – even for those who hate to read"
  • See Web Link



"Furedi (Frank) - The ages of distraction"

Source: Aeon, 01 April, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Busy, distracted, inattentive? Everybody has been since at least 1710 and here are the philosophers to prove it. "
  • See Web Link



"Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: C-F"

Source: Various - Aeon: E-H



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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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