Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood Speak at Republican National Convention

Years from now when  election's usual trade crafts will be thing of the past, perhaps Clint Eastwood's speech at Republican National Convention will be remembered in fond recollection. He looked a bit disheveled, and it seemed his delivery was unscripted, but funny nonetheless. His empty chair talk is being mocked around the net, but his message I found to be neither democratic nor republican as he mentioned: "Politicians are employees of ours.. will beg for our votes every four years".

I've loved his movies for many years, including two of his last ones, Million Dollar Baby and "Grand Torino". At the end of another not so humoring workday, Clint Eastwood's humorous unscripted speech made my day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jim Holt's Book "Why Does the World Exist" - Initial Observations

The following are few extracts from Jim Holt's existential detective book Why Does the World Exist?
"The problem with the science option would seem to be this. The universe comprises everything that physically exists. A scientific explanation must involve some sort of physical cause. But any physical cause is by definition part of the universe to be explained. Thus any purely scientific explanation of the existence of the universe is doomed to be circular. Even if it starts from something very minimal— a cosmic egg, a tiny bit of quantum vacuum, a singularity— it still starts with something, not nothing. Science may be able to trace how the current universe evolved from an earlier state of physical reality, even following the process back as far as the Big Bang. But ultimately science hits a wall. It can’t account for the origin of the primal physical state out of nothing. That, at least, is what diehard defenders of the God hypothesis insist. (Page 5-6)"
My Comment: I don't agree with the observation that any purely scientific explanation of the existence of the universe is doomed to be circular. Why it needs be? As the writer explains in subsequent chapter, that the causation law gets unnerved by "events at the micro level" as it "happen in aleatory fashion", explained by quantum theory, and this "opened up up the conceptual possibility that the seed of the universe might itself have come into being without a cause, supernatural or otherwise. Perhaps the world arose spontaneously from sheer nothingness." - if that is so, one can argue that this "sheer nothingness" might be "nothingness" by the standard of our current scientific understanding, but who is to deny that this "sheer nothingness" might point to that very divinity that supposedly beyond any materialistic laws? I can see Professor Richard Dawkins started rolling his eyes from thousands miles away, as if the entire humanity is immersed in "God Delusion", and as if the absolutist atheists are not in their nihilistic delusion.
"a universe without an explanation? That seems an absurdity too far, at least to a reason-seeking species like ourselves." (Page 7)
 My comment: It indeed seems an utterly illogical place if it were true, but there is good possibility that an explanation does exist, perhaps not in the realm of humanity's current intellectual maturity.
"No one can confidently claim intellectual superiority in the face of the mystery of existence. For, as William James observed, “All of us are beggars here.”" (Page 12) -
 My Comment: All of us are beggars, and quoting the overused cliche, are in the same boat, same existential reality we are in with the most basic and fundamental questions not answered empirically: Why are we here in this not so significant corner of this vast and expanding universe? Anyone who claims to know the whole truth based on only blind belief, maybe can remain content and satisfied to be stagnated in constant stupor, but human beings' progress did not depend delusion, but accepting the reality, but keeping the mind open with endless curiosity.
"It might even be possible for someone in a civilization not much more advanced than ours to cook up a new universe in a laboratory. Which leads to an arresting thought: Could that be how our universe came into being?" (Page 14)
"Even if the cause of our universe is an intelligent being, it could well be a painfully incompetent and fallible one, the kind that might flub the cosmogenic task by producing a thoroughly mediocre creation."
 "What raises man above other creatures is that he is conscious of his finitude; the prospect of death brings with it the conceivability of nothingness, the shock of nonbeing. If my own self, the microcosm, is ontologically precarious, so perhaps is the macrocosm, the universe as a whole. Conceptually, the question Why does the world exist? rhymes with the question Why do I exist? These are, as John Updike observed, the two great existential mysteries. And if you happen to be a solipsist— that is, if you believe, as did the early Wittgenstein, “I am my world”— the two mysteries fuse into one." (Page 18)
"If you turn on your television and tune it between stations, about 10 percent of that black-and-white speckled static you see is caused by photons left over from the birth of the universe. What greater proof of the reality of the Big Bang— you can watch it on TV." (Page 26)
"The world, they proclaimed, was summoned into existence by God’s creative word alone, without any preexisting material to make it out of. This doctrine of creation ex nihilo later became part of Islamic theology, figuring in the kalām argument for the existence of God. It also entered medieval Jewish thought." (Page 19)
"There were, after all, two revolutionary developments in twentieth-century physics. One of them, Einstein’s relativity theory, led to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning in time. The other, quantum mechanics, had even more radical implications. It threw into doubt the very idea of cause and effect. According to quantum theory, events at the micro-level happen in aleatory fashion; they violate the classical principle of causation. This opened up the conceptual possibility that the seed of the universe might itself have come into being without a cause, supernatural or otherwise. Perhaps the world arose spontaneously from sheer nothingness. All existence might be chalked up to a random fluctuation in the void, a “quantum tunneling” from nothingness into being." (Page 27)
My comment: To me this argument of "nothing theorists" still not convincing.

After Bertrand Russell's phenomenal  book The History of Western Philosophy, though now seems dated, but still one of the best in the field, Jim Holt's book I find to be highly readable and crafted like a good story. I have lots of pages to read before reaching the very last page, but so far finding this book absorbing. If time permits by the unknowable "divinity", I would love to write a review.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Climate Change is Here - Is it Worse than We Thought?

James E. Hansen's article in The Washington Post is  a plea. A plea from the writer who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. His credentials seem impeccable. This coming week a study will be published by the article's author and his colleagues containing a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures revealing "a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for out present."

Of course there are doubters who may say that all these extreme weather events like severe droughts in some parts of our world, scorching heat waves in exceptionally hot summer in North America, are all part of the natural rhythm of our planet. James E. Hansen observes that the "odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills."

Agreed, some fools may take the lottery option to pay the bills, but in regards to climate change the stake is extremely high. This is the question of human beings' way of life, the current civilization, and billions of peoples' fates depend on so precariously while no practical and concerted effective efforts that all nations agreed upon and in desperate executions of these agreements are visible.

The following are the quotations of James E. Hansen's article that has more dire warnings:
"Our new peer-reviewed study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, makes clear that while average global temperature has been steadily rising due to a warming climate (up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century), the extremes are actually becoming much more frequent and more intense worldwide. 
When we plotted the world’s changing temperatures on a bell curve, the extremes of unusually cool and, even more, the extremes of unusually hot are being altered so they are becoming both more common and more severe."
 Mr. Hansen is not all about warnings, he also proposes a "simple, honest and effective solution":
"We can solve the challenge of climate change with a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs."
I do not believe that United States alone can solve the climate change problem. No nation can do it alone. Without China, India, Russia, European Union, Japan, Korea, Canada and other nations' collaborations, these studies and articles on climate change will remain only as pleas. These pleas are not coming only from a NASA scientist like James E. Hansen, but from countless many victims of climate change who have already started paying the price, in Bangladesh, Burma, Honduras, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Philippines, many parts of Africa, and even Europe and North America are not immune from climate change's painful reach.

This world is ours. So far, this is the only known planet that has the definitive proof of life and marvelous diversity abound. Maybe we will all come on to our senses and stop our and other species' gradual extinctions before it becomes too late.

 It's a plea. A hopeful plea.