According to a recent story in GQ, Katy Perry (American pop star extraordinaire) believes in aliens. It would appear that her song “ET” for “extraterrestrial” speaks to a genuine article belief in foreign life forms. In our culture, belief in intelligent alien life is often treated like belief in religion–you either have it or you do not, and in either case there isn’t much evidence one can muster for either side. But I’d like to have a little fun and ponder this question. What is the most reasonable position for a person to have on the existence of aliens giving existent non-conspiratorial evidence?
As regular readers may know, I am a determinist. I believe that individual agents have no power or ability to self-determine their behavior, and that their behavior is caused by forces over which they have no power. It has been pointed out to me, however, that quantum mechanics calls into question the traditional scientific basis for determinism by arguing that the old classical laws of physics are limited in their power of prediction. Laplace’s demon, the imaginary being that uses infinite information and infinite computing capacity to calculate everything that has ever happened or will ever happen using the physical laws, is not considered viable under modern science. Does this mean anything for my determinism? That’s today’s topic.
A new study reveals that babies can be scumbags. This may seem like an interesting bit of popular psychology, but if the study’s results are true, it contributes to one of the central debates of political theory and philosophy, one which is too often considered in isolation–nature versus nurture, the question of the malleability of man’s nature, if he has a nature at all. This nature versus nurture question is as pivotal in our political discourse as liberal versus conservative, capitalist versus socialist, any of the various supposed dichotomies in our theory. But first, let me explain this study, because it’s really cool.
There’s a fellow named Rob Rhinehart who has a fascinating idea–he wants to eliminate food. Rhinehart takes our modern nutritional knowledge and puts it to work, synthesising a cocktail of nutrients he calls “Soylent” that he eats in place of his daily meals (for those readers who count themselves among the foodies, he does still eat and drink socially at say, restaurants, or for special occasions–it’s having to do the cooking himself on a day to day basis that irks Rhinehart). Assuming that this, or something like it, one day proves safe, I would like to speculate as to the potential social changes and ethical obligations brought on by this kind of scientific food minimalism.
An interesting new report is out from the US state department about the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil pipeline running from Canada’s tar sands to the United States. Key to the report is this line in particular:
Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development of the tar sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.
This may have some interesting implications for the question of whether or not the pipeline ought to be built. Let’s discuss them.