Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dr. Marjorie Grene: Philosopher of Biology (1910-2009)

marjorie grene philosopher

A philosopher of biology who once spent time as a farmer’s wife writing scholarly works before doing chores, Dr. Grene was one of the first philosophers to raise questions about the synthetic theory of evolution, which combines Darwin’s theory of evolution, Mendel’s understanding of genetic inheritance and more recent discoveries by molecular biologists.

Dr. Grene — who died on March 16 in Blacksburg, Va., at the age of 98, her daughter, Ruth, said — studied with Heidegger, Jaspers, Alfred North Whitehead and other 20th-century philosophers. And she drew on their insights into perception and communication in her own vast studies into the history of philosophy. Several of her 13 books were among the first to bring the thinking of Sartre and other existentialists to the American public.

Her sense of humor sparkled when she was asked about being the first woman to have an edition of the Library of Living Philosophers devoted to her — Volume 29 in 2002. Previous honorees included Bertrand Russell and Einstein. “I thought they must be looking desperately for a woman,” Dr. Grene said.

Douglas Martin, NY Times, March 29

You can’t Fix Stupid


Michele Marie Bachmann Representative of Minnesota's 6th congressional district.

Having never been disappointed in underestimating the intelligence of many of our professional politicians, Rep. Bachmann now ranks supreme among those cerebrally-challenged politicos for whom the aphorism, “If you don’t think well, don’t think often,” so clearly applies.

A few examples of Rep. Bachmann’s outlandish public statements will illustrate  an almost total lack of coordination between her overused mouth and her underutilized brain.

This past Wednesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show, and sharply reiterated her calls for revolution in America, warning against the imminent dangers of tyranny under Barack Obama: "We are headed down the lane of economic Marxism," said Bachmann. "More quickly, Sean, than anyone could have possibly imagined. It's difficult for us to even keep up with it day to day."  TPM

In an interview with a conservative talk show host, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has once again embarrassed herself. Posted by the blog Dump Bachmann and picked up by the MN Progressive Project, the clip has the Minnesota Republican telling KLTK's Chris Baker that she opposes she stimulus because we're "running out of rich people in this country." Huffington Post

When discussing Barack Obama’s relationship with Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers, Hardball host Chris Matthews asked Bachmann, “You believe Barack Obama may - because of this relationship - have anti-American views?”

“Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she replied.
The Christian Science Monitor

Matthews: How many Congresspeople, members of Congress are in that anti-American crowd you describe?

Bachmann: I would say, what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look -- I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think the people would love to see an expose like that. Crooks and Liars

Many of her wacky comments and political stunts can easily be dismissed.  For instance, she has contended that the arctic wildlife really like the Alaskan pipeline and she's said  that Democrats want high gas prices so as to force people to move into "inner cities" and "the urban core."   She also introduced the Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act, a bill to repeal the nationwide phase-out of conventional light bulbs in favor of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights. The government has no business telling consumers what kind of light bulbs they can buy, Bachmann contends. The Progressive Puppy

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Downside of Consumerism?


The Guardian, London

The Great Recession began in 2008 when Americans abruptly realised that their wealth had vanished. The purchase of billions of massage cushions and ceramic frogs no longer seemed prudent, so everyone decided to try saving and producing instead. But this didn't work very well, since without consumers there could be no producers. So Washington stepped in to fill the void. Since America had no money saved anymore, it borrowed from China, which was eager to sell off a growing backlog of massage cushions and ceramic frogs. Everyone hoped this might restart the old party.


The Telegraph, London

It is unfortunate that the worst elements of American culture are also the most exportable. It would be lovely, for instance, if the British suddenly became hospitable to strangers, or started addressing each other as "sir" and "ma'am". Instead, we have imported junk food, gansta glamour, fake breasts and – perhaps the most revolting of the lot – school proms

Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, especially if they are worthless. Sinclair Lewis

[A]nybody who values certain aspects of culture above others can be accused of elitism. The outcome of this populist turn is the celebration of the ordinary and the banal. Frank Furedi, Dumbing Down? Don’t Blame the Media

Intellectuals in the twentieth century thus have found themselves engaged in incompatible efforts: they have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces.  Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life

Monday, March 09, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy and its Enemies


Dr. Irv Weissman of Stanford University provides a detailed history of stem cell research from the early 1950’s through Duyba’s ban on the use of new human stem cell lines. Dr. Weissman speaks with knowledge and a refreshing optimism on the promise of human stem cell therapy in the treatment of various cancers, auto-immune, and genetically inherited diseases.

This important research should not fall victim to those like Senator Brownback who would have Americans suffer an untimely death as God’s will. If Brownback and his supporters have moral objections to human stem cell research, let them stand aside and vow to take no benefits from its rewards. Were a child or grandchild of Sen. Brownback suffering a fatal disease for which stem cell therapy held promise, the hypocrisy of Brownback’s moral stand against this research would stand in sharp contrast to his demagoguery.

He [Brownback] received more money funneled through Jack Abramoff, the GOP lobbyist under investigation for bilking Indian tribes of more than $80 million, than all but four other senators -- and he blocked a casino that Abramoff's clients viewed as a competitor.

[Brownback] believes that secularists and Muslims are fighting a worldwide war against Christians -- sometimes in concert. "Religious freedom" is one of his top priorities, and securing it may require force.

Brownback seeks something far more radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years -- schools, Social Security, welfare -- will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.

Jeff Sharlet, God’s Senator. Rolling Stone Magazine

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Devolution of the Christian Right

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.
D. H. Lawrence