Author: A Ambrossini

Fahrenheit 451 an evergreen dystopian science fiction

There’s a reason dystopian science fiction is evergreen—no matter how much time goes by, people will always regard the future with suspicion. The common wisdom is that the past was pretty good, the present is barely tolerable, but the future will be all Terminator-style robots and Idiocracy slides into chaos.

Every few years political cycles cause an uptick in attention being paid to classic dystopias; the 2016 Presidential election pushed George Orwell’s classic 1984 back onto the bestseller lists, and made Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale a depressingly appropriate viewing event.

Sea-level rise isn’t just happening; it’s accelerating

Sea-level rise isn’t just happening; it’s accelerating. And some areas of the United States—like Florida—are seeing “hot spots” where the ocean can creep up six times faster than average. Those are the findings of two new studies published yesterday, which have potentially troubling implications for urban planners trying to address sea-level rise. They also help explain why residents of Florida and North Carolina have seen sharp increases in coastal flooding in recent years. Sea levels in the Southeast—between Cape Hatteras, N.C., and Miami—rose dramatically between 2011 and 2015, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. The spike in sea levels is driven by a combination of natural factors that is exacerbated by human-caused sea-level rise. The “hot spot” of sea-level rise is similar to others observed on the East Coast over the last century, said Andrea Dutton, a geological science professor at the University of Florida and a co-author of the study. It also shows there is more vulnerability on the Atlantic coast, home to many of America’s major cities, than is typically recognized, she …

Why is China always downplays India’s Contribution?

Between September 14–27, the United States and India conducted a joint military training exercise in Uttarakhand, an area less than 100 km from the Chinese border (Global Times, September 12). This combined exercise, known as Yudh Abhyas, or “training for war,” started as an army training cooperation event in 2004 and has since evolved to include the air force as well (U.S. Army Pacific, March 12, 2012). Until 2008, the main focus had been sharing logistics and tactics. Between 2009 and 2012, the exercise focused on the UN-style peacekeeping missions (U.S. Army Pacific, March 12, 2012). Since then, the main theme has shifted to counter-insurgency and more recently, counter-terrorism (U.S. Army, September 12, 2015; The Diplomat, September 16). Each year, the United States and India takes turn in hosting the exercise. China tends to be strident in its criticism of U.S. military operations and presence in the Asia-Pacific, to include U.S. increased cooperation with allies and partners as a result of the rebalancing (State Council Information Office, May 2015). The Chinese government and media repeatedly …

India-China border standoff

It was the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that sounded the alarm — Chinese soldiers had arrived with bulldozers and excavators, and were building a high-mountain road near India’s border in an area the two nuclear-armed giants have disputed over for decades. India responded to the call by sending troops last month to evict the Chinese army construction party from the Doklam Plateau. Within a few days, Indian media were running leaked video footage of soldiers from both sides shoving one another atop a grassy flatland. Two weeks ago the Chinese sent an unusual number of military patrols into the mountains of Ladakh, a remote high-altitude desert at the northern tip of India. Two Chinese patrols came on foot, two more arrived in military vehicles and a Chinese helicopter flew overhead. With all the activity, the Indian authorities failed to notice until the next morning that about 30 Chinese soldiers had pitched three tents in an area both countries claim. The tense standoff has only escalated, raising concerns in both capitals of an all-out military …

The conflict between religion and science 3

Santa Claus and the Origin of Belief  Religious persons will also engage in unscientific thinking in defense of their belief. Consider a child confronting the evidence presented by their older sibling about the non-existence of Santa Claus: the fact that Santa can’t do it all in one night, the fact that there is no workshop at the North Pole, etc. The child is not convinced; why would his parents’ tell an untrue story? The older sibling explains exactly why by retelling the story of how the myth of Santa Claus originated from a pagan god and a (supposedly) historical Christian bishop named Nicholas, and then morphed into a story that became popular for parents to trick their children into believing in the early 1800’s. By showing that the origin of the story, and the reason his parents tell it, does not trace back to an actual being named Santa Claus, the older sibling would seemed to have put the final nail in the coffin. But the younger child has taken a logic class, and argues …

The conflict between religion and science 2

Many scientists used to think that heat was the product of a material called phlogiston. It flowed into objects to make them hot and out to make them cold. But when they tested for this material, they could find nothing — objects weighed the same both hot and cold. Defenders of the theory insisted that phlogiston must be made of a material that, unlike all others, had no mass. Finding that heat is actually a result of the movement of molecules, phlogiston defenders suggested that making molecules move is just how phlogiston makes objects hotter. But they were only making ad hoc excuses to save their theory; there was no need to introduce phlogiston — it didn’t explain anything. Heat could be accounted for solely by the movement of molecules and atoms; no extra substance was needed. All the work that phlogiston was supposed to have done was now accounted for by other means. Of course, one can never disprove the existence of phlogiston — one can always make excuses. But, as we know, that …

Myth of Britain’s gifts to India

Many modern apologists for British colonial rule in India no longer contest the basic facts of imperial exploitation and plunder, rapacity and loot, which are too deeply documented to be challengeable. Instead they offer a counter-argument: granted, the British took what they could for 200 years, but didn’t they also leave behind a great deal of lasting benefit? In particular, political unity and democracy, the rule of law, railways, English education, even tea and cricket? Indeed, the British like to point out that the very idea of “India” as one entity (now three, but one during the British Raj), instead of multiple warring principalities and statelets, is the incontestable contribution of British imperial rule. Unfortunately for this argument, throughout the history of the subcontinent, there has existed an impulsion for unity. The idea of India is as old as the Vedas, the earliest Hindu scriptures, which describe “Bharatvarsha” as the land between the Himalayas and the seas. If this “sacred geography” is essentially a Hindu idea, Maulana Azad has written of how Indian Muslims, whether …

Skepticsociety Magazine Blog

The conflict between religion and science 1

Many, both theists and atheists, acknowledge the conflict between religion and science. This includes New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and also academic philosophers such as John Worall, who argue that one cannot be both purely scientifically minded and religious. Others disagree. Stephen Jay Gould, an agnostic, famously defended the NOMA thesis — that science and religion cannot be in conflict because they are about non-overlapping magesteria. His sentiments have been echoed by some academic philosophers, such as Del Ratzsch, who argues that the conflict between science and religion is greatly exaggerated. Most recently this thesis was reiterated by Alvin Plantinga in Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism. If there is a conflict, it is supposedly only about minor ideas that are usually found in small movements — like creationism, which is (they say) only popular in certain Christian fundamentalist segments of America. I disagree. Contrary to Gould, Ratzsch and Plantinga’s arguments, religion conflicts with science, especially regarding religious issues, doctrines, beliefs and thought processes of major significance. I will demonstrate why. For brevity, …