Sunday, October 25, 2009

From the blogs

Michael Johnson of 'The Primate Diaries' in Science and the Worship of Truth ays that science is more like religion that worships doubt. I am not so sure about this but there are interesting passages along the way like "Having studied primates for many years (specifically bonobos) it's very easy to spot similarities between human societies. Primates, whether bonobos or humans, are fond of forming groups and developing social hierarchies. Individuals rise within those hierarchies based on ability and political patronage. This is so obvious that it's not often appreciated.

Scientists and Cardinals both rise to a given position in their field based on how their work is regarded by their peers and how well they play the game. If you identify someone as a potential ally or you want to curry favor with someone higher up than you are there are a few standard tactics. You help promote their work, praise them in public, invite them to conferences, and help them advance in their field. In bonobos this is called social grooming (though, admittedly, bonobo conferences are probably a lot more fun). This reflects a tit-for-tat political exchange that is universal to our species as well as many others.

Scientists also have a creed, or a set of beliefs that guide their action. This creed is that the natural world demonstrates predictable patterns that can be deciphered with careful analysis. Rather than study the Bible incessantly and debate what it can tell us about God's plan, scientists study nature. If you like, you can even go as far as Thomas Carlyle in his criticism of Charles Darwin and state that scientists are beholden to a "Gospel of Dirt." The method of science is to bounce ideas off of reality in order to separate the ones that work from the ones that don't. Christians and Muslims have their sacred text, scientists have theirs. However, this is where the comparison end."
Rajib Khan has several interest posts, some relating to evolution.
The arcs of evolutionary genetics always cross back follows up the discussion in "The Red Queen" with recent experimental evidence. Take away sentences: "To use an example with contemporary relevance, clonal lineages are undercapitalized when market conditions shift and overleveraged and stuck with only a few viable strategies. Sex may not offer up the same short term yields, but it is a diversified portfolio designed to weather, and even benefit from, downturns and market volatility. Until a great selective moderation, males are here to stay." See also The arc of evolutionary genetics is long and The arc of evolutionary genetics may be irreversible .
Rahul Siddharthan in Magnetic monopoles from classical physics
" The recent experiments have not discovered a new phenomenon of nature -- the laws of physics don't need to be rewritten. What they have found is something that would behave exactly as a collection of magnetic monopoles would behave, if observed at not too fine a scale."
Basheer Peer in Outline of the republic (via Amitava Kumar):
"In the end, military campaigns – no matter how sophisticated – will fail as long as the Pakistani state refuses to see Waziristan, Balochistan, and swathes of South Punjab as the brutally marginalised and chronically underdeveloped areas they are. For 60 years now, Pakistan has avoided the expense of infrastructure development, and controlled the frontier through financial assistance to tribal leaders – whose authority has now been usurped by militants. Among the four million people who live in tribal areas like Waziristan, the literacy rate remains a mere 17 per cent – the figure for women is only three per cent. To regain its legitimacy and authority in these places, Pakistan will have to deploy more than troops. Next door in Afghanistan, the United States is learning the hard way that an occupying army may not be the best tool with which to build a functioning state, and Pakistan may soon confront the same problem.

Before I left Pakistan, I met with Aitizaz Ahsan, the leader of the Lawyers’ Movement, whose mass protests restored Pakistan’s chief justice to his seat and united hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis across regional, political and class barriers in a non-violent, democratic exercise. When I asked Ahsan about Pakistan’s future, he did not mention military victories, in Waziristan or elsewhere. “When the dust of this conflict settles,” he said, “we have to rebuild a new country, move from being a national security state to being a welfare state. We have to rebuild our blighted public schools, we have to make the feudal lords give a little bit of Pakistan back to its poor farmers, we have to integrate the tribal areas as a part of the NWFP and build modern infrastructure and systems of governance there. We have to give people on the margins a stake in Pakistan.”"

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