Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS
ANOTHER IMMORTAL IN MOUNT OLYMPUS
The community of Logicians and Philosophers and Linguists will remember Strawson for many years. A man makes himself eternal when his works pervade History.
Over the past several decades, the vast majority of both the academic and governmental science community has come to regard the "big bang" theory of the universe's creation as irrefutable fact. The scientific community has been extremely effective in disseminating this particular theory throughout the world. Until recently, this dissemination has occurred with virtually no dissent. Without such dissent, the major medias of the United States have reported this theory as scientific truth, influencing not only the taxpaying public, but also legislators in Congress who use this information as the basis for funding an increasing number of astrophysical projects. The federal and state governments have invested mammoth sums of money in such programs in the hope that the mysteries of the "big bang" theory will ultimately be revealed.
Recently a small, but growing number of scientists, have advanced theories and offered evidence suggesting that the universe was indeed created in conformity with the literal text of the Bible. This "creationist" theory postulates that science and the Bible are not in conflict, and that indeed science supports the theory of a Biblical creation by God. These creationist theories have met with considerable skepticism, derision and open scorn by the mainstream scientific community. Many in this community see the creationist theory as not merely a philosophical threat to the "big bang" theory, but also a scientific threat, which if successfully validated would undermine the evolutionary science foundation, which has been considered the starting point for all astro-physical and cosmologist studies. Decades of "established" evolutionary theory would be subject to scientific refutation, potentially creating a scientific reawakening among the public and media. Consequently, there has been a concerted effort by academic and governmental theorists and researchers, as well as certain government officials, to suppress the creationist idea.
(...)Les signes g?om?triques formant l'alphabet latin et entrant dans l'alphabet ph?nicien n'appara?tront en Orient - domin? alors par l'?criture cun?iforme akkadienne - qu'? la suite d'invasions massives d?ferlant de l'Ouest m?diterran?en. Et c'est ? la suite de cette submersion que se cr?eront les alphabets phon?tiques en Ph?nicie, l'un cun?iforme et l'autre lin?aire.
Peut-on consid?rer alors les signes comme U V C X N W I E Z L M S T des poteries berb?res les plus anciennes, des gravures et peintures rupestres de l'Atlas, du Tassili, des m?galithes africains et europ?ens comme de simples graffiti sans importance ou formaient-ils d?j? des lignes d'?criture d?daign?es car ignor?es? Les th?ories sur l'?volution de l'?criture ?vacuent un peu trop rapidement le Libyque - ?criture nord-africaine antique, disparue de nos jours -, et le font d?river du ph?nicien. (...)
Language program faces possible cuts
By Charles Nguyen
Source: The UCSD Guardian online
The UCSD Heritage Language Program is in financial danger because of university budgetary issues and could be cut midway through the year, according to Robert Kluender, chair of the linguistics department.
"At this point, we don't have enough money to get through the year," he said. "Every year we have a bit of trouble, but this one is especially hard." Continue
The Correspondence Theory and Its Critics
By Gerald Vision
In Veritas, Gerald Vision defends the correspondence theory of truth -- the theory that truth has a direct relationship to reality -- against recent attacks, and critically examines its most influential alternatives. The correspondence theory, if successful, explains one way in which we are cognitively connected to the world; thus, it is claimed, truth -- while relevant to semantics, epistemology, and other studies -- also has significant metaphysical consequences. Although the correspondence theory is widely held today, Vision points to an emerging orthodoxy in philosophy that claims that truth as such carries no significant weight in philosophical explanations.
He devotes much of the book to a criticism of that outlook and to a less vulnerable formulation of the correspondence theory. Vision defends the correspondence theory by both presenting evidence for correspondence and examining the claims made by such alternative theories as deflationism, minimalism, and pluralism. The techniques of the argument are thoroughly analytic, but the problem confronted is broadly humanistic. The question examined -- how we, as thinking beings, are connected to and manage to cope in a world that was not designed for our comfort or convenience -- is more likely to be raised by continentalists, but is approached here with the tools of clarity and precision more highly prized in analytic philosophy. The book seeks to avoid both the obscurantism that infects much continental thought and the overly technical concerns and methodology that limit the interest of much work in analytic philosophy. It thus provides a rigorous but largely nontechnical treatment of the topic that will be of interest not only to readers familiar with philosophy but also to those with a background in literary theory and linguistics.
The summer is nearing its end. I just finished the first draft syllabus for my pragmatics course this fall. I hope to condense some of the introduction to basic concepts, primarily by reigning in my tendency to get caught up in digressions. This will give me time to cover some interesting topics under current investigation, which I am quite excited about. We'll see how it goes.
This is a dress rehearsal of sorts for the 6 week pragmatics course that I will be teaching during the LSA Summer Linguistics Institute 2005 next summer. I will only have twelve 90 minute sessions, so that version will have to be even more concentrated.
Be warned, this could be the matrix
Source: The Sidney Morning Herald, July 22, 2004
The multiverse theory has spawned another - that our universe is a simulation, writes Paul Davies.
If you've ever thought life was actually a dream, take comfort. Some pretty distinguished scientists may agree with you. Philosophers have long questioned whether there is in fact a real world out there, or whether "reality" is just a figment of our imagination.
Then along came the quantum physicists, who unveiled an Alice-in-Wonderland realm of atomic uncertainty, where particles can be waves and solid objects dissolve away into ghostly patterns of quantum energy.
Now cosmologists have got in on the act, suggesting that what we perceive as the universe might in fact be nothing more than a gigantic simulation.
The story behind this bizarre suggestion began with a vexatious question: why is the universe so bio-friendly? Cosmologists have long been perplexed by the fact that the laws of nature seem to be cunningly concocted to enable life to emerge. Take the element carbon, the vital stuff that is the basis of all life. It wasn't made in the big bang that gave birth to the universe. Instead, carbon has been cooked in the innards of giant stars, which then exploded and spewed soot around the universe.
The process that generates carbon is a delicate nuclear reaction. It turns out that the whole chain of events is a damned close run thing, to paraphrase Lord Wellington. If the force that holds atomic nuclei together were just a tiny bit stronger or a tiny bit weaker, the reaction wouldn't work properly and life may never have happened.
The late British astronomer Fred Hoyle was so struck by the coincidence that the nuclear force possessed just the right strength to make beings like Fred Hoyle, he proclaimed the universe to be "a put-up job". Since this sounds a bit too much like divine providence, cosmologists have been scrambling to find a scientific answer to the conundrum of cosmic bio-friendliness.
The one they have come up with is multiple universes, or "the multiverse". This theory says that what we have been calling "the universe" is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is an infinitesimal fragment of a much grander and more elaborate system in which our cosmic region, vast though it is, represents but a single bubble of space amid a countless number of other bubbles, or pocket universes.
Things get interesting when the multiverse theory is combined with ideas from sub-atomic particle physics. Evidence is mounting that what physicists took to be God-given unshakeable laws may be more like local by-laws, valid in our particular cosmic patch, but different in other pocket universes. Travel a trillion light years beyond the Andromeda galaxy, and you might find yourself in a universe where gravity is a bit stronger or electrons a bit heavier.
The vast majority of these other universes will not have the necessary fine-tuned coincidences needed for life to emerge; they are sterile and so go unseen. Only in Goldilocks universes like ours where things have fallen out just right, purely by accident, will sentient beings arise to be amazed at how ingeniously bio-friendly their universe is.
It's a pretty neat idea, and very popular with scientists. But it carries a bizarre implication. Because the total number of pocket universes is unlimited, there are bound to be at least some that are not only inhabited, but populated by advanced civilisations - technological communities with enough computer power to create artificial consciousness. Indeed, some computer scientists think our technology may be on the verge of achieving thinking machines.
It is but a small step from creating artificial minds in a machine, to simulating entire virtual worlds for the simulated beings to inhabit. This scenario has become familiar since it was popularised in The Matrix movies.
Now some scientists are suggesting it should be taken seriously. "We may be a simulation ... creations of some supreme, or super-being," muses Britain's astronomer royal, Sir Martin Rees, a staunch advocate of the multiverse theory. He wonders whether the entire physical universe might be an exercise in virtual reality, so that "we're in the matrix rather than the physics itself".
Is there any justification for believing this wacky idea? You bet, says Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, who even has a website devoted to the topic ( http://www.simulation-argument.com ). "Because their computers are so powerful, they could run a great many simulations," he writes in The Philosophical Quarterly .
So if there exist civilisations with cosmic simulating ability, then the fake universes they create would rapidly proliferate to outnumber the real ones. After all, virtual reality is a lot cheaper than the real thing. So by simple statistics, a random observer like you or me is most probably a simulated being in a fake world. And viewed from inside the matrix, we could never tell the difference.
Or could we? John Barrow, a colleague of Martin Rees at Cambridge University, wonders whether the simulators would go to the trouble and expense of making the virtual reality foolproof. Perhaps if we look closely enough we might catch the scenery wobbling.
He even suggests that a glitch in our simulated cosmic history may have already been discovered, by John Webb at the University of NSW. Webb has analysed the light from distant quasars, and found that something funny happened about 6 billion years ago - a minute shift in the speed of light. Could this be the simulators taking their eye off the ball?
I have to confess to being partly responsible for this mischief. Last year I wrote an item for The New York Times , saying that once the multiverse genie was let out of the bottle, Matrix -like scenarios inexorably follow. My conclusion was that perhaps we should retain a healthy scepticism for the multiverse concept until this was sorted out. But far from being a dampener on the theory, it only served to boost enthusiasm for it.
Where will it all end? Badly, perhaps. Now the simulators know we are on to them, and the game is up, they may lose interest and decide to hit the delete button. For your own sake, don't believe a word that I have written.
Paul Davies is professor of natural philosophy at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Astrobiology. His latest book is How to Build a Time Machine.
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