All the Wrong “Reasons”

The stream of articles that chip away at the classical view of reason continues. Cordelia Fine, writing in today’s NYTimes Sunday Review suggests that scientific “truth” is established by being pigheaded. In the article, [Biased but Brilliant](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/biased-but-brilliant-science-embraces-pigheadedness.html?_r=1&ref=opinion),” she writes > HOW’S this for a cynical view of science? “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” > > Scientific truth, according to this view, is established less by the noble use of reason than by the stubborn exertion of will. One hopes that… Read More

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Island Hopping

I am off for a few days, taking a trip with friends to Monhegan Island, a small place off the coast of Maine. I will be completely off the Internet until Thursday. This will give you a chance to re-read some of the latest, but “complex” posts. Yesterday I heard a few loons sounding off with their unmistakable calls. While scanning the horizon, I captured a large bird in the binoculars. It was a bald eagle swooping over the seabirds lolling on the water surface and, apparently, frightening them. Their calls, as I have learned over the years, serve as warnings that dangerous conditions have appeared. I saw and heard… Read More

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“Want of Care Does Us More Damage than Want of Knowledge” (B. Franklin)

I warn you from the start that this blog is going to get pretty academic, but it’s necessary. I have been writing about care as a fundamental human characteristic, so fundamental that our being rests on it. One path to this assertion comes from philosophy; the other from biology. Both come together along the way. I will start with the philosophical and the ontological propositions of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger claims that humans construct a meaningful world by interacting routinely with the primal, meaningless world. Natural objects and the artifacts we make become distinct through these interactions. They become named and settle into our vocabularies to be called upon whenever we… Read More

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The Costs of Rigidity

One of my favorite quotes comes from Gregory Bateson, who upon reflecting on the state of our contemporary world said, “The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks.” It is perhaps even more true today than when he wrote the book that is its source, *Steps to an Ecology of the Mind*, in 1972. The state of our current political system suffers from the same shortcomings. Two items related to this showed up in the Opinions section of the NYTimes today. David Brooks, in his regular op-ed column, [commented](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/opinion/19brooks.html?hp) on the current stalemate on the debt… Read More

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Not So Fast: Consumption Still Threatens Sustainability

My colleagues in the sustainable consumption world picked up an [article](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/sunday-review/17economic.htm?_r=1&pagewanted=all), “We’re Spent” from the 7/17/11 Sunday NYTimes that argues that the great consumer bubble has finally burst. Focusing on the persistence of unemployment and the slow recovery from the Great Recession, David Leonhart picks the sharp reduction in consumer spending as the primary cause. > But the real culprit — or at least the main one — has been hiding in plain sight. We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making. . . If you’re looking for one overarching explanation… Read More

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Science Has Caught Up with Nick Carr

An [interesting article](http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/07/15/internet_changing_how_people_recall_facts_study_suggests/?page=full) in today’s Boston Globe about how the Internet is changing the way our brains work further supports two ideas that keep showing up in this blog. The first is that we learn by doing and what we learn depends on what we do routinely. The second is that the technology we employ habitually changes what we “know,” but in the sense that what we “know” is reflected in what we do. “Knowing” here refers to cognitive structures that we embody through practices that, in turn produce our routine behaviors. As I have noted before, the idea of “doing is knowing and knowing is doing” is one of… Read More

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Back to Basics: Care

I try to keep the posts in this blog connected to sustainability, although the ties may be and are quite tenuous sometimes. In the previous post, I made the assertion that flourishing was an observation or assessment by someone that all of their cares were being handled. This is not the same as saying that all their needs had been fulfilled. To say something like, “I don’t need anything else,” runs against the sense that our needs are insatiable. Some little voice will forever be whispering in our inner ear that we could really use a little of this or that. Can we ever have enough love if we think… Read More

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Caves Paintings and Caring

I just got back from seeing *The Cave of Forgotten Dreams*, Werner Herzog’s documentary about the [Chauvet caves](http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/chauvet/en/), the site of the oldest known cave paintings, including the beautiful bison shown to the left. It is a rare trip into the past, the long, long ago past. The cave was discovered in 1994 by a small group of explorers who noticed a stream of cool gas emanating from a small fissure. After finding a way to access the cave, they entered to discover a trove of prehistoric art amidst a glittering background of crystalline deposits. The paintings have been dated, using radiocarbon techniques, to between 30-33,000 years BCE. All are… Read More

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Who We Really Are

Since publishing his recent book, [The Social Animal](http://www.amazon.com/Social-Animal-Sources-Character-Achievement/dp/140006760X), David Brooks has been sticking with his new-found sociologist self more frequntly than than his older politically conservative one. His op-ed piece today in the NYTimes follows that trend. He argues against cutting the budget for a key section of the National Science Foundation, the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. He points to much recent research in the social sciences that revels the flaws in the classical model of human rationality and cognition. > Yet in the middle of this golden age of behavioral research, there is a bill working through Congress that would eliminate the National Science Foundation’s Directorate… Read More

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Violent Video Games–Only a Game?

Now that the current session of the US Supreme Court is over, the blogosphere is full of stories and analyses. Most of the decisions were not aligned with sustainability, creating greater inequalities and tipping the balance of “rights” further toward the corporate construct of a person. Kind of insidious silliness. Only people can speak. But one recent case, *Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association*, bears on what I have been writing about. The summary follows: > Respondents, representing the video-game and software industries, filed a preenforcement challenge to a California law that restricts the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The Federal District Court concluded that the Act… Read More

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