Move and Merge

{ will, { you, { will, { will, { like, { like, it } } } } } }

James Bogen and James Woodward, “Saving the Phenomena”

James Bogen and James Woodward, “Saving the Phenomena”

[T]here’s a more insidious form of human-centric ontology, as found in many version of scientism. On the one hand, scientism insists that human consciousness is nothing special, and should be naturalized just like everything else. On the other hand, it also wants to preserve knowledge as a special kind of relation to the world quite different from the relations that raindrops and lizards have to the world. Another of putting it… for all their gloating over the fact that people are pieces of matter just like everything else, they also want to claim that the very status of that utterance is somehow special. For them, raindrops know nothing and lizards know very little, and some humans are more knowledgeable than others. This is only possible because thought is given a unique ability to negate and transcend immediate experience, which inanimate matter is never allowed to do in such theories, of course. In short, for all its noir claims that the human doesn’t exist, it elevates the structure of human thought to the ontological pinnacle.
I remember a few years ago trying to discuss, with Sahlins and his students, the precautions we always have to take when we speak of ‘cosmologies’ in the plural, and of the obligation that one would then have to cross the courtyard of the University of Chicago in order to find out what the physicists might think of this plural if it were applied to their cosmology. Sahlins had no trouble admitting that his colleagues in physics would surely scream at the mere mention of a plurality of cosmologies, but, to my great surprise, he added that we didn’t have to take much notice of these screams. I am sure of the opposite, not because I am frightened of scientists screaming, but simply because they offer a unique chance to listen to the power of the screams of the Others, the former ‘others’, at the idea that their cosmology might only be, in the end, an example ‘among others’ in a multiplicity, without any privileged contact with reality. There is so much violence in this assertion.
— Bruno Latour, “The Recall of Modernity”
…Boyle defines an even stranger artifact. He invents the laboratory within which artificial machines create phenomena out of whole cloth. Even though they are artificial, costly and hard to reproduce, and despite the small number of trained and reliable witnesses, these facts indeed represent nature as it is. The facts are produced and represented in the laboratory, in scientific writings; they are recognized and vouched for by the nascent community of witnesses. Scientists are scrupulous representatives of the facts. Who is speaking when they speak? The facts themselves, beyond all question, but also their authorized spokespersons. Who is speaking, then, nature or human beings? This is another insoluble question with which the modern philosophy of science will wrestle over the course of three centuries. In themselves, facts are mute; natural forces are brute mechanisms. Yet the scientists declare that they themselves are not speaking; rather, facts speak for themselves. These mute entities are thus capable of speaking, writing, signifying within the artificial chamber of the laboratory or inside the even more rarefied chamber of the vacuum pump.
— Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (p.28-9)
Instructed to examine electrical or chemical phenomena, the man who is ignorant of these fields but who knows what it is to be scientific may legitimately reach any one of a number of incompatible conclusions. Among those legitimate possibilities, the particular conclusions he does arrive at are probably determined by his prior experience in other fields, by the accidents of his investigation, and by his own individual makeup. What beliefs about the stars, for example, does he bring to the study of chemistry or electricity? Which of the many conceivable experiments relevant to the new field does he elect to perform first? And what aspects of the complex phenomenon that then results strike him as particularly relevant to an elucidation of the nature of chemical change or of electrical affinity?
— Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
sciencecenter:

Near perfect camouflage
This is an amazing example of evolution; look at how perfectly the caterpillar for the Common Baron butterfly blends into the leaf.  View high resolution

sciencecenter:

Near perfect camouflage

This is an amazing example of evolution; look at how perfectly the caterpillar for the Common Baron butterfly blends into the leaf. 

I had an extremely slow-dawning insight about creation. That insight is that context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually the opposite of conventional wisdom, which maintains that creation emerges out of some interior emotion, from an upwelling of passion or feeling, and that the creative urge will brook no accommodation, that it simply must find an outlet to be heard, read, or seen. The accepted narrative suggests that a classical composer gets a strange look in his or her eye and begins furiously scribbling a fully realized composition that couldn’t exist in any other form. Or that the rock-and-roll singer is driven by desire and demons, and out bursts this amazing, perfectly shaped song that had to be three minutes and twelve seconds — nothing more, nothing less. This is the romantic notion of how creative work comes to be, but I think the path of creation is almost 180 degrees from this model. I believe that we unconsciously and instinctively make work to fit preexisting formats.

David Byrne, over at Salon, has a super cool article about the evolution of music. He puts together the pretty convincing argument that the form of music that was contemporary in the past was largely confined by the types of venues and media through which it was played. He goes on to say that you can’t truly appreciate a piece of music from a different culture or time once it’s been transposed to a different space - in other words, you can’t properly appreciate medieval chants unless you’re in a cathedral, or you’re missing something if your rap music isn’t blaring from your car. It’s a neat article, and it’s also a very relevant way to think about biological evolution; as PZ Myers writes, 

That’s what eco devo is all about. Development and environment are all intertwined, with one feeding back on the other — species are products of the spaces they evolved and developed in, and cannot be comprehended in isolation. It’s one of the weird things about modern developmental biology, that we preferentially study model systems, organisms that have been able to thrive when ripped out of their native environments and cultured in the simplified sterility of the lab. My zebrafish live now in small uncluttered tanks with heavily filtered water; their environment is like iPods, simple, streamlined, focused with relatively little resonance. The zebrafish evolved in mountain streams feeding into the Ganges, in lands seasonally flooded by great monsoons, a vast and complicated opera hall of an environment. A wild zebrafish and a lab zebrafish are two completely different animals.

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(via sciencecenter)

(Source: salon.com, via sciencecenter)

horseecomics:

“It would separate real science from hype and snake”
The SciGuys are always up for scientific exploration. Especially if it means debunking outlandish theories. Like the claim that there was a wormhole in some guy’s backyard. View high resolution

horseecomics:

“It would separate real science from hype and snake”

The SciGuys are always up for scientific exploration. Especially if it means debunking outlandish theories. Like the claim that there was a wormhole in some guy’s backyard.

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