Tag Archives: science

Poetry and diversity

Usually, when the term, ‘diversity’ is mentioned anywhere in South Africa, it denotes racial and/or cultural diversity, and it carries strong overtones of obligatory political correctness. This is also true elsewhere, if ‘diversity’ is a reference to multiculturalism, one of the most powerful ideologies of the current era (as demonstrated and critiqued by Slavoj Žižek…

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The destructive approach to nature: ‘Geostorm’

We are in Porto, Portugal, for an interdisciplinary international conference, and already we are impressed by the beauty of this old city. As usual, because I find seats on a passenger jet too uncomfortable to sleep, I used the time to catch up on some movies, including I, Tonya, with Margot Robbie’s Oscar-quality performance in…

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The world has not learnt anything from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s ‘Gothic’ (proto-)science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which was published when the author was only 20 years old. It was the fruit of a contest among herself and two other literary figures — her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and another poet, Lord…

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Are you an agnostic?

What is agnosticism? Broadly speaking, it is the position that claims that human beings cannot ‘know’ whether God (or gods) exists or not. We simply do not have the means to have such knowledge. I put ‘know’ in scare quotes because that is where an agnostic puts the emphasis. The ancient Greek word, ‘gnosis’, means…

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Philosophy of provisionality

Everything we do as humans is provisional. Because of time’s eroding power, everything is revisable. There is a reason for the word “decision” being a part of our language. Not accidentally, the term derives from the Latin for “cut”; in other words, when we decide something, we make a volitional “cut” of sorts in the…

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Can fusion energy be achieved?

Lev Grossman (“Star Power”, in Time, November 2, p. 24-33) calls fusion the “holy grail” of “the quest for clean energy”, and with good reason — it is as elusive as the proverbial unicorn in your garden (with apologies to James Thurber). By this I mean that, although scientists and technologists know what has to…

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A world without compass

Compared to the Christian Middle Ages, our world is pretty much without compass. By this I do not mean that we should return to the beliefs held during that time – not only would this be anachronistic, but it would conflict fundamentally (and probably violently) with the techno-scientific tenor of the present era. I simply…

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Why people are such inherently conflicted beings

While preparing for a seminar on the roots of contemporary theory among the ancient Greeks, the Hellenistic Romans and early Christian thinkers, I was struck by the way that the different, and divergent, strands of the cultural legacy of the West (as well as of other cultures globally which share some of these roots) explain…

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Pistorius, and how evidence is in the eye of the believer

Here we go again. It’s the OJ Simpson trial all over. Oscar Pistorius, famous sportsman shoots his partner and faces trial for murder. The “facts” of both cases at first glance suggest that crimes were committed, but the next few weeks as Pistorius goes to trial will see heavily contrasting stories of events. Lawyers and…

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Gareth Cliff, religion and thinking things through

I caught sight of a celebrity tweet several days ago, carrying all the hallmarks of a Gareth Cliff tweet — inflammatory, incendiary and poking fun at someone. The stream of tweets in reply did not disappoint. Cliff of course knew exactly what he was doing, and that he would get a mixed response of supporters…

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