This won't hurt a bit: the cultural history of pain ☀
Speculation about the degree to which human beings and animals experienced pain has a long history, but “An Earnest Englishwoman” was writing at a very important time in these debates. Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man had been published the year before her letter, and his Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals appeared in 1872. Both Darwin and “An Earnest Englishwoman” were addressing a central question that had intrigued theologians, scientists, philosophers, psychologists and other social commentators for centuries: how can we know how other people feel?
The reason this question was so important was that many people didn’t believe that all human beings (let alone non-human animals) were equally capable of suffering. Scientists and philosophers pointed to the existence of a hierarchy of sentience. Belief in a great “Chain of Being”, according to which everything in the universe was ranked from the highest to the lowest, is a fundamental tenet of western philosophy. One aspect of this Chain of Being involved the perception of sensation. There was a parallel great Chain of Feeling, which placed male Europeans at one end and slaves and animals at the other.
“Now” is not only a cognitive illusion but also a mathematical trick, related to how we define space and time quantitatively. One way of seeing this is to recognize that the notion of “present,” as sandwiched between past and future, is simply a useful hoax. After all, if the present is a moment in time without duration, it can’t exist. What does exist is the recent memory of the immediate past and the expectation of the near future. We link past and future through the conceptual notion of a present, of “now.” But all that we have is the accumulated memory of the past—stored in biological or various recording devices—and the expectation of the future.
There Is No Now (via Alan Bevere) ☀
Saint Darwin ☀
In short, the motivations behind The Origin of Species were moral. The Origin was published during a time when scientific racism was on the rise and Origin was the work that decisively demolished polygenist thinking in favor of “common descent.” All through Darwin’s Notebooks, where he hatched the basic ideas in the Origin, his guiding idea was the genealogical tree, where all of humanity was seen as one, big branching family.
When it comes to the churches attitude and beliefs about Homosexuality I can’t help but wonder if we are in another Copernicus moment.
When Science Changes… ☀
Honeybees abandoning hives and dying due to insecticide use, research finds ☀
The mysterious vanishing of honeybees from hives can be directly linked to insectcide use, according to new research from Harvard University. The scientists showed that exposure to two neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used class of insecticide, lead to half the colonies studied dying, while none of the untreated colonies saw their bees disappear.
Ignorance and anti-intellectualism when it comes out of the mouth of a popular scientist is still ignorance and anti-intellectualism. If Sarah Palin had advised young people to ignore the humanities because they’re a waste of time, she would have been pilloried, and rightly so. Tyson epitomizes the glib, and dangerous, arrogance of scientism: science as an ideology, science as a privileged and only valid way of knowing. Tyson, like Stephen Hawking, doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know — and doesn’t care. Because, you know, scientists are the high priests of our age, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is the most successful televangelist of our time.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Scientism’s Televangelist ☀
In the 1970s, Scientists Discovered a 2 Billion-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor in West Africa ☀
On 25 September 1972, they announced that the depleted uranium had come from Gabon where nuclear scientists had discovered a 2 billion year-old nuclear reactor at the site of the Oklo uranium mines near a town called Franceville. This was a naturally occurring deposit of uranium where the concentration of uranium-235 had been high enough to trigger a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
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