Delight Springs

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rough road ahead

"Blackberry winter," my wife calls this late (for these parts) cold snap and deluge. But it's just weather, towards which (as Mr. Twain said) we're characteristically all talk and no action. These days, though, we have to wonder if weather is also climate change, and whether other things must now change as well. James Lovelock, the Gaia guru, has said we'll have to migrate northward before long to cope with it all. Hope he's wrong.

Human Migration (the course) concludes tomorrow evening, with an interdisciplinary roundtable featuring all of us content-providers: the philosopher, the political scientist, the sociologist, the dance instructor... As cosmopolitan a tableau as you'll ever see in the modern classroom, and an appropriate final punctuation mark for my block contribution,  "The Human Journey to Cosmopolitanism." My message has been simple: science supports our better ethical instincts, those that trust rather than fear the "stranger" among us. We are the stranger. We are stronger together.

That's what the Marchers for Science were saying too, on Earth Day Saturday. They had some great signs, including this one:
The Vulcans were always on board with cosmopolitanism, with their ethos of IDIC - infinite diversity from infinite combinations. Will humans join them? Will we become a Federation? Or will we devolve?

A recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education worries that Colleges Are Rejecting Our Common Humanity and the Science That Reveals It. That trend, if continued, would be devolution.

Anthony Appiah's latest moralizing in The Ethicist urges instead the moral high ground. To the woman whose husband criticizes her "moral superiority" for refraining from saying demeaning things about people in private she wouldn't say in public he observes: "We let ourselves off the hook when we reflexively use “morally superior” as disparagement, as a synonym for toxic condescension. News flash: It’s morally superior to be morally superior." We can do better.

We clearly have a long journey ahead of us. Cassini is a good role model, already imposing the Prime Directive. "One reason scientists want to make sure Cassini is incinerated at the end of its journey is to ensure that any of its earthborn microbes do not contaminate the biotic or prebiotic worlds out there. Just in case..."

Its grand finale began yesterday, while only last week it discovered "possible life-supporting hydrothermal vents" on the moon Enceladus." Will we discover unexpected sources of life-support, before we begin our descent? Per ardua ad astra, a rough road leads to the stars.
Happy birthday Anthony Trollope. "He would write 1,000 words an hour before breakfast; he said, 'A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.'”

6 am/6:03, 55/68/52, 7:26

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