Monday, May 31, 2010

Soviet "Godfather of Star Wars"

The director of the 1958 film“Road to the Stars” and 1962’s “Planet of Storms” prompted Stanley Kubrick to shoot “2001: Space Odyssey”, which subsequently inspired Georges Lucas to create his famous fantasy space opera.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Relational Spirituality

Relational spirituality defines itself in contrast to the vertical spirituality that focuses on inner transformation alone, in abstraction from the relational basis of human life; and in contrast to the authoritarian aspects of many traditional and contemporary spiritual paths.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eat less, live longer?

Dreams of eternal youth feature in many cultures throughout history, but it was only in the 20th century that research into longevity really began. Much about ageing is still mysterious - we don't even know the underlying reasons why we journey into old age. There are many lines of enquiry into how to live longer, though, with one of the most intriguing being calorie restriction: in effect, going on a lifelong diet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Existentialism Today: Terror Management Theory

This is the original introduction for a Letter, tentatively titled, "Can unconscious motivation explain the Climate Crisis."


The purpose of this note is to alert researchers and activists to a recent development in social psychology which offers a scientifically validated way to understand the unconscious motivations of activists and others involved in social movements. Over the last 25 years, terror management theory (TMT) (Pyszczynski et al., 1999; 2004) has demonstrated its validity through hundreds of controlled experiments. This new approach has proved theoretically sound, as well as applicable in a wide range of practical situations. It has been applied in marketing, management, psychotherapy, politics, economics, and other areas. Terror management theory is based upon the work of a cultural anthropologist (Becker, 1973) (A Foundation has been established to disseminate the results of research in this area to both academics and the public at large. URL:

Terror management theory

The theory attempts to explain the foundations of culture and of personal identity. It is a subset of a framework that is known as generative death anxiety. The underlying idea of this framework is that many creative acts can be explained by the desire for immortality in some form, for example, through monuments, buildings, or other lasting objects or symbols. TMT considers culture to be a societal level reflection of individual identity processes. It defines culture as a system of meanings that supersedes the natural world and elevates humans to a higher plane of existence. It defines social identity as our membership in groups.

Terror management theory assumes that at a certain point in human evolution cognitive complexity reached a level which enabled self-awareness. This capacity for self-awareness and the corresponding awareness that the self will cease to exist in the future is the foundation for terror management theory. That is, the awareness of the inevitability of death in an animal programmed for self-preservation by evolution leads to the potential for paralyzing terror. The human species created culture to control this terror. Cultural worldviews ameliorate anxiety by:

:conceiving a universe with meaning

:providing standards of value

:promising death transcendence to those who meet those standards.

That is, terror management theory assumes that a successful society must create a cultural anxiety buffer that shields the individual from the awareness of death. When a death reminder is encountered, it is expected that one of two types of psychological reactions take place. One is worldview defense, that is, responses reinforcing the cultural belief system. The other is a striving to increase status, as defined by the cultural belief system, and thereby self-esteem, since increases in self-esteem have been shown to reduce anxiety. In the well adjusted individual, these responses occur unconsciously, so the individual need never become aware of the death reminder or the processes that suppress awareness of it.

Psychological Emergence of the Self and Modern Socio-Cultural Dilemmas

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Biases and Flaws of the IPCC

Presented in November 2007 at the AIER Global Climate Change conference in Great Barrington, MA, David Henderson discusses the role of governments in the debate over climate change. He also explores the flaws and biases found within the IPCC. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

IPCC is a policy making body

The IPCC is a policy making body, since its Terms of Reference limit it to investigation of only human-induced climate change and its Summary for Policymakers defines what can be included in the 'science' parts of its reports. The NIPCC report cites many instances of scientists objecting to these limitations.

The role of the IPCC “is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation” (emphasis added) [IPCC 2008].

Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.

The Synthesis Report is composed of two sections as follows: (a) a Summary for Policymakers and (b) a longer report. The IPCC Chair will lead a writing team whose composition is agreed by the Bureau, noting the need to aim for a range of views, expertise and geographical representation. An approval and adoption procedure will allow Sessions of the Panel to approve the SPM line by line and to ensure that the SPM and the longer report of the Synthesis Report are consistent, and the Synthesis Report is consistent with the underlying Assessment Reports and Special Reports from which the information has been synthesised and integrated. This approach will take 5-7 working days of a Session of the Panel.

The Session of the Panel will review and adopt the longer report of the Synthesis Report, section by section, i.e. roughly one page or less at a time. The review and adoption process for the longer report of the Synthesis Report should be accomplished in the following manner:

- When changes in the longer report of the Synthesis Report are required either to conform it to the SPM or to ensure consistency with the underlying Assessment Reports, the Panel and authors will note where changes are required in the longer report of the Synthesis Report to ensure consistency in tone and content. The authors of the longer report of the Synthesis Report will then make changes in the longer report of the Synthesis Report. Those Bureau members who are not authors will act as Review Editors to ensure that these documents are consistent and follow the directions of the Session of the Panel.

- The longer report of the Synthesis Report is then brought back to the Session of the Panel for the review and adoption of the revised sections, section by section. If inconsistencies are still identified by the Panel, the longer report of the Synthesis Report is further refined by the Authors with the Assistance of the Review Editors for review and adoption by the Panel. This process is conducted section by section, not line by line.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gabriel Almond

Almond completed his PhD degree in 1938, but his doctoral dissertation, Plutocracy and Politics in New York City, was not published until 1998, because it included unflattering references to John D. Rockefeller, a benefactor of Chicago.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The New War Between Science and Religion

There is a new war between science and religion, rising from the ashes of the old one, which ended with the defeat of the anti-evolution forces in the 2005 "intelligent design" trial. The new war concerns questions that are more profound than whether or not to teach evolution. Unlike the old science-religion war, this battle is going to be fought not in the courts but in the arena of public opinion. The new war pits those who argue that science and "moderate" forms of religion are compatible worldviews against those who think they are not.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate

This is the Policymakers Summary of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international coalition of scientists convened to provide an independent examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of climate change in the published, peer-reviewed literature – examined without bias and selectivity. It includes many research papers ignored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), plus additional scientific results that became available after the IPCC deadline of May 2006.

The IPCC is pre-programmed to produce reports to support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming and the control of greenhouse gases, as envisioned in the Global Climate Treaty. The 1990 IPCC Summary completely ignored satellite data, since they showed no warming. The 1995 IPCC report was notorious for the significant alterations made to the text after it was approved by the scientists – in order to convey the impression of a human influence. The 2001 IPCC report claimed the twentieth century showed ‘unusual warming’ based on the now-discredited hockey-stick graph. The latest IPCC report, published in 2007, completely devaluates the climate contributions from changes in solar activity, which are likely to dominate any human influence.

Cultural Attitudes and Rumors Are Lasting Obstacles to Safe Sex

Because a man buys a wife from her father for cows or cash, he “owns” her. If she refuses sex or insists on a condom, he may beat her or throw her out of the house.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walter Cronkite on Earth Day 1970

less cars, less children....

Original broadcast of CBS News Special Report with Walter Cronkite about the first Earth Day, 1970. Also known as Earth Week 1970.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Darwin dynasty's ill health blamed on inbreeding

Darwin was so concerned about inbreeding that he lobbied unsuccessfully in 1870 for questions about first-cousin marriages to be added to the following year's national census form.

At the time, "blood marriages" were common, unions with first or second cousins accounting for 10 per cent of all marriages, often to keep money or influence in the family. Today, around a fifth of all marriages in the world are consanguineous

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Mythology of Prostitution

Knowledge regarding sex work is increasingly being distorted by a group of influential activists, organizations, and some academics who regard the sex industry as a universally harmful institution.

The result is that prostitution policies are becoming increasingly divorced from sound research based on standard canons of scientific research. Prostitution policy is by no means unique in this regard; morality and dogma have also trumped science in recent policies on stem cells, HIV prevention, and needle-exchange programs

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Torture Can't Provide Good Information

based on the idea that repeatedly inducing shock, stress, anxiety, disorientation and lack of control is more effective than standard interrogatory techniques in making suspects reveal information. Information retrieved from memory in this way is assumed to be reliable and veridical, as suspects will be motivated to end the interrogation by revealing this information. No supporting data for this model are provided; in fact, the model is utterly unsupported by scientific evidence.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

End the Church of Scientology's Tax-Exempt Status

Hubbard has been gone for nearly a quarter century, but the questionable practices of extracting huge fees from members, paying lip service to informed consent and employing violence, threats and unfair labor tactics to protect its interests continue today under Scientology leader David Miscavige.

On a recent CNN program, former high-ranking Scientologists Marty Rathbun and Amy Scobee detailed how Miscavige used beatings and other acts of violence to intimidate subordinates. In her recent memoir, My Billion Year Contract, Nancy Many recounts how she became near-psychotic during her 27 years as a high-level Scientologist.

"Scientology is nothing in reality but a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo scientific theories ... and to exercise a kind of blackmail against persons who do not wish to continue with their sect," wrote California Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge, Jr.

"In addition to violating and abusing its own members' civil rights, the organization over the years ... has harassed and abused those persons not in [Scientology] whom it perceives as enemies. The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder."

Cross “not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs”

A badly divided Supreme Court has overturned a good ruling against a cross that sits on federal land. The opinions did not provide much guidance but, over all, are likely to encourage those who want to entangle government and religion.