Tag Archive: science


Since I was traveling at the time, I failed to note an interesting story that got covered in the science press about the organizational support and funding behind the climate denial movement.

As reported in articles in Scientific American, The Guardian, and elsewhere, a recent peer-reviewed study published in Climatic Science by sociologist Robert Brulle supports many claims that have been made by environmental scientists and activists documenting the organizational support and funding behind the climate denial movement — a close to $1 billion a year machine of nearly 100 organizations.

Most revealingly (or rather, obscuringly), denialism has been able to cloak its funding sources behind what have effectively become “money laundering” operations like View full article »

Objectivity 2.0?

Continuing on the “sciencey” thread from this post… (I’ll come back to the “14 billion years” issue, since it’s been pointed out to me that my criticism of the concept of measuring time would only apply — if the scientists are correct — to the first few seconds or so of the universe.)




Here’s a question for all of you:

What does the universe look like to an objective observer?

Let’s unpack some of the assumptions and traps hidden inside this question.

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I received my copies in the mail this week of the book that arose out of the School of Advanced Research seminar on “Nature, Science, and Religion: Intersections Shaping Society and the Environment.”

It’s a handsome volume, whose contents provide a level of cross-cutting conversation that, I think, is rare among edited collections. Catherine Tucker did a fabulous job editing it.

She and I co-wrote the introductory chapter, which can be read here.

I don’t yet have an electronic version of my closing chapter, “Religious (Re)Turns in the Wake of Global Nature,” but I’d be happy to share a pre-publication version of it upon request. An excerpt of it can be found here.

spiritualizing science

or, Carl Sagan rides again, and again…

Prometheus Unbound raises questions about the atheist spirituality of Symphony of Science‘s star-scientist-studded videos (pun only slightly intended — they are mostly men, yes, but drumming on djembes (!), and it’s well worth waiting to see Jane Goodall tell us about the “wuzzy” line between humans and the rest of nature in the video below, starting at about the 2’30″ point).

Spirituality is, of course, in the eye, ear, and body of its beholder. What makes this spiritual is the way it mobilizes music, movement, and poetry in the service of spreading a message, in this case the gospel of science. The use of pitch-shifting and pitch-correction software to “musicalize” the spoken voices of scientists is analogous to the intended poeticization and spiritualization of science. Science in practice is, of course, dry, slow, laborious, and boring. But the results of science can be exciting. This parallels the natural process science itself describes: from the painstakingly slow and boring life of atoms, molecules, things responding to other things, what has built up over time is the world we know. Or, as Darwin famously put it:

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Complexity theorist Stuart Kaufmann recently gave a talk here from his book Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion, which is getting more press these days than most books with a Spinozian/Whiteheadian take on the emergent nature of intelligence, complexity, spirituality, and all that. Talking to him afterwards, I was a bit disappointed to find out that he had never heard of Deleuze, had only just heard of Whitehead as someone he should look into, and knew probably a modicum about Spinoza (he cites him a few times in the book). Not that I should expect that kind of intellectual cross-fertilization to be the norm — it’s not, especially across the Continental-analytical divide (though Kauffman does have a background in philosophy; and it’s also possible that he was being humble). But there’s an obvious resonance and potential alliance to be built here. I’m starting to read Kauffman’s book to confirm or disconfirm Steven Shaviro’s critiques of it. Shaviro is a Deleuzian-Whiteheadian (post)poststructuralist whose excellent forthcoming book on Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze can be previewed in snippets on his web site.

More “out there” among leading biologists who lean this way (toward emergence, immanence, self-organization, mind-body non-dualism, etc.) is Brian Goodwin, whose book Nature’s Due: Healing Our Fragmented Culture, is being touted as his “biological testament.” It seems unfortunate that he chose such a relatively unknown, or at least non-academic, press to publish it with (Floris Books in England; it’s distributed here by the Rudolf Steiner folks). I haven’t seen it yet, but Arturo Escobar’s review is enough to make me order and eagerly await its arrival. Escobar’s own Territories of Difference is, incidentally, one of those landmark books (a long time in the making) that I expect will redefine environmental scholarship in important ways. I’ll post more about it at some point.

Both Kauffman and Goodwin are profiled in John Brockman’s 1994 book The Third Culture, which can be read on-line. The book also includes chapters on Francesco Varela and Lynn Margulis, alongside the usual Darwinist and computationalist-cognitivist heavies like Dawkins, Pinker, Dennett, Minsky, et al., and the more likeable Gould and Eldridge types — the whole left, right, and center, if you will, of the then-current (circa early-1990s) scientific star circuit. Brockman’s profiles/interviews are a great way of getting some familiarity with these folks; they include them commenting on each other’s work and ideas, so you get a kind of three-dimensional mapping of who’s who in relation to who else. It could use some updating, though, which Brockman’s Edge.org does, in a dizzy, all-over-the-place kind of way…