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Wolfgang Alexander Moens
12,926 followers -
Science!
Science!

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"We all have had moments when we feel that those with whom we disagree not only reject the point we are focused on at the moment, but also reject our values, general beliefs, modes of reasoning, and even our hopes. In such circumstances, productive critical conversation seems impossible. For the most part, in order to be successful, argument must proceed against the background of common ground. Interlocutors must agree on some basic facts about the world, or they must share some source of reasons to with they can appeal, or they must value roughly the same sort of outcome. And so, if two parties disagree about who finished runners-up to Leister City in their historic BPL win last year, they may agree to consult the league website, and that will resolve the issue. Or if two travelers disagree about which route home is better, one may say, "Yes, your way is shorter, but it runs though the traffic bottleneck at the mall, and that adds at least ten minutes to the journey." And that may resolve the dispute, depending perhaps on whether time is what matters most.

But some disagreements invoke deeper disputes, disputes about what sources are authoritative, what counts as evidence, and what matters. Such disputes quickly become argumentatively strange. And so if someone does not recognize the authority of the soccer league's website about last year's standings, it is unclear how a dispute over last year's runners-up to Leister City could be resolved. What might one say to a disputant of this kind? Does he trust news sites, television reporting, or Wikipedia entries concerning the BPL? Does he regard the news sites and the league website as reliable sources of information concerning this year's standings or when the games are played? What if our interlocutor in the route-home case doesn't see why the quickest route is preferable to the shortest? Maybe our traveling companion regards our hurry-scurry as a part of a larger social problem, or maybe wants to enjoy the Zen of a traffic jam. Sometimes a disagreement about one thing lies at the tip of a very large iceberg of composed of many other, deeper, disagreements.

The puzzle about deep disagreement is whether or not reasoned argument works at all in them. There is a widely held view, perhaps at the core of deliberative views of democracy, and certainly central to educational programs that emphasizing critical thinking, that well-run argument is at least not pointless, and often even productive. And many hold that it's important to practice good argumentation, especially in cases of deep disagreement. Call this view argumentative optimism. The trouble for this optimism is that as disagreements run progressively deeper, it grows increasingly difficult to see how argument could have any point at all; this, in turn, encourages us to regard interlocutors as targets of incredulity, bemusement, and perhaps even contempt or hatred. There's little, many think, one can argue or say that is going to rationally resolve certain disagreements. In the end, it all may come down to who's got better propaganda, more money, or, perhaps, the better weapons. Call this view argumentative pessimism.

A famous argument for pessimism was given by Robert Fogelin in "The Logic of Deep Disagreements." The core of his case is as follows:

1. Successful argument is possible only if participants share a background of beliefs, values, and resolution procedures.

2. Deep disagreements are disagreements wherein participants have no such shared background.

3. Therefore: successful argument is not possible in deep disagreement cases.

4. In disagreements needing urgent resolutions that also do not admit of argumentative resolution, one should use non-argumentative means to resolve the dispute.

5. Therefore, in urgent deep disagreements, one should use non-argumentative means to resolve the dispute.

Fogelin did not identify his preferred non-argumentative means, nor did he clarify how one might determine that a disagreement is deep (as opposed to merely hard) or urgent. Regardless, it is clear that argumentative optimists face a challenge. How might they respond? [...]"

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Ruby Bridges: the first African-American child to attend an all-white public elementary school in the American South:

"On the morning of November 14, 1960, federal marshals drove Ruby and her mother five blocks to her new school. While in the car, one of the men explained that when they arrived at the school, two marshals would walk in front of Ruby and two would be behind her. The image of this small black girl being escorted to school by four large white men inspired Norman Rockwell to create the painting "The Problem We All Must Live With," which graced the cover of Look magazine in 1964. When Ruby and the federal marshals arrived at the school, large crowds of people were gathered in front yelling and throwing objects. There were barricades set up, and policemen were everywhere. Ruby, in her innocence, first believed it was like a Mardi Gras celebration. When she entered the school under the protection of the federal marshals, she was immediately escorted to the principal's office and spent the entire day there. The chaos outside, and the fact that nearly all the white parents at the school had kept their children home, meant classes weren't going to be held. On her second day, the circumstances were much the same as the first, and for a while it looked like Ruby Bridges wouldn't be able to attend class. Only one teacher, Barbara Henry, agreed to teach Ruby. She was from Boston and a new teacher to the school. "Mrs. Henry," as Ruby would call her even as an adult, greeted her with open arms. Ruby was the only student in Henry's class, because parents pulled or threatened to pull their children from Ruby's class and send them to other schools. For a full year, Henry and Ruby sat side by side at two desks, working on Ruby's lessons. Henry was very loving and supportive of Ruby, helping her not only with her studies but also with the difficult experience of being ostracized.

Ruby Bridges' first few weeks at Frantz School were not easy ones. Several times she was confronted with blatant racism in full view of her federal escorts. On her second day of school, a woman threatened to poison her. After this, the federal marshals allowed her to only eat food from home. On another day, she was "greeted" by a woman displaying a black doll in a wooden coffin. Ruby's mother kept encouraging her to be strong and pray while entering the school, which Ruby discovered reduced the vehemence of the insults yelled at her and gave her courage. She spent her entire day, every day, in Mrs. Henry's classroom, not allowed to go to the cafeteria or out to recess to be with other students in the school. When she had to go to the restroom, the federal marshals walked her down the hall. Several years later, federal marshal Charles Burks, one of her escorts, commented with some pride that Ruby showed a lot of courage. She never cried or whimpered, Burks said, "She just marched along like a little soldier." [...]"

"Racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it."

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“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” [...]

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Heaven on their minds:

Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1973 American musical drama based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera of the same name. The film, starring Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, and Barry Dennen, centers on the conflict between Judas and Jesus during the week before the crucifixion of Jesus.

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"[...] we have to be on our guard, constantly [...]"

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in camps in the interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens.

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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2013 by the Australian government to inquire into and report upon responses by institutions to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia. The establishment of the commission followed revelations of child abusers being moved from place to place instead of their abuse and crimes being reported. There were also revelations that adults failed to try to stop further acts of child abuse. The commission will examine the history of abuse in educational institutions, religious groups, sporting organisations, state institutions and youth organisations.

Here are some of the preliminary results regarding the widespread abuse in the Roman Catholic Church:

"The average age of alleged victims was 10.5 for girls and just over 11.5 for boys.

[...] Up to 15% of priests in some dioceses were alleged perpetrators between 1950 and 2015, with abusers most prevalent in the dioceses of Sale and Sandhurst in Victoria, Port Pirie in South Australia, and Lismore and Wollongong in New South Wales. The numbers were even worse in some national Catholic orders. By far the worst was the order of the St John of God Brothers, where a staggering 40% of religious brothers are believed to have abused children.

Twenty-two per cent of Christian Brothers and 20% of Marist Brothers, both orders that run schools, were alleged perpetrators. More than one in five priests in the Benedictine community of New Norcia were alleged perpetrators, while 17.2% of clergy were accused of crimes against children in the Salesians of Don Bosco order.

[...] The disturbing figures were revealed by senior counsel assisting, Gail Furness, SC. She also revealed that the Holy See had refused to hand over documents involving Australian priests accused of abuse.

“The royal commission hoped to gain an understanding of the action taken in each case,” Furness said. “The Holy See responded, on 1 July 2014, that it was ‘neither possible nor appropriate to provide the information requested’,” she said.

Furness said the responses of Catholic diocese and orders across the country were “depressingly similar”.

“Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [brothers] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past,” she said. “Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.” [...]"

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A cut-throat case of evolutionary backstabbing in the Peruvian rainforest

The Peruvian Amazon is teeming with life. For the flora and fauna that make it their home, this means that fierce competition is part of the bargain. This short from KQED’s science documentary series Deep Look investigates the remarkable measures species will take to get an edge in contested evolutionary battlegrounds, examining the curious case of big-headed ants, which have betrayed a longtime evolutionary ally, Inga trees, for a sweeter deal ...

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime.

What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts?

With Steve Jones (Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London); Wendy Gibson (Professor of Protozoology at the University of Bristol); and Kayla King (Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford).
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