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I Dreamed An End To War

Posted: Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:41 pm
by jack stowaway
No religion and an end to war: how thinkers see the future

Alok Jha, science correspondent
Monday January 1, 2007
The Guardian

People's fascination for religion and superstition will disappear within a few decades as television and the internet make it easier to get information, and scientists get closer to discovering a final theory of everything, leading thinkers argue today.

The web magazine Edge (www.edge.org) asked more than 150 scientists and intellectuals: "What are you optimistic about?" Answers included hope for an extended human life span, a bright future for autistic children, and an end to violent conflicts around the world.

Philosopher Daniel Denett believes that within 25 years religion will command little of the awe it seems to instil today. The spread of information through the internet and mobile phones will "gently, irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance".

Biologist Richard Dawkins said that physicists would give religion another problem: a theory of everything that would complete Albert Einstein's dream of unifying the fundamental laws of physics. "This final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile superstitions."

Part of that final theory will be formulated by scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator at Cern in Geneva, which is to be switched on this year. It will smash protons together to help scientists understand what makes up the most fundamental bits of the universe.

Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University, highlighted the decline of violence: "Most people, sickened by the bloody history of the 20th century, find this claim incredible. Yet, as far as I know, every systematic attempt to document the prevalence of violence over centuries and millennia (and, for that matter, the past 50 years), particularly in the west, has shown the overall trend is downward."

John Horgan, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey, was optimistic "that one day war - large-scale, organised group violence - will end once and for all".

This will also be the year that we get to grips with our genomes. George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, believes we will learn "so much more about ourselves and how we interact with our environment and fellow humans".

Simon Baron-Cohen, a psychologist at Cambridge University, focused on autistic children, saying their outlook had never been better. "There is a remarkably good fit between the autistic mind and the digital age," he said. "Many develop an intuitive understanding of computers, in the same way other children develop an intuitive understanding of people."

Leo Chalupa, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Davis, predicted that, by the middle of this century, it would not be uncommon for people to lead active lives well beyond the age of 100. He added: "We will be able to regenerate parts of the brain that have been worn out. So better start thinking what you'll be doing with all those extra years."

Dreaming

Posted: Mon Jan 01, 2007 9:10 pm
by Agnes Selby
Well, I suppose it does not hurt to dream on and on....and on!

No religion, no wars, longer life, more people ... how on earth will we get rid of the extra population? Religion serves well for warring. It gives a valid reason why your neighbour should die. Just look at Iraq, Africa and Europe. And the peace loving Asians.

The human animal will find a reason to kill, never fear!

Regards,
Agnes.
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Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 12:08 am
by Werner
Right you are, Agnes (gee, I haven't heard from you all year!)

The arguments in this piece are not new and have been presented in some form or another before you or I ever saw the light of day (and that's a long time, at least in my case).

Our current miracle workers are no more effective in this regard than their preecessors of successors.

In spite of all that, here's wishing you and yours the best of New Years.

All the best,

Religion

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 1:21 am
by Agnes Selby
Werner wrote:Right you are, Agnes (gee, I haven't heard from you all year!)

The arguments in this piece are not new and have been presented in some form or another before you or I ever saw the light of day (and that's a long time, at least in my case).

Our current miracle workers are no more effective in this regard than their preecessors of successors.

In spite of all that, here's wishing you and yours the best of New Years.

All the best,
--------------
Dear Werner,

All the very best to you and yours.

As my year begins before yours, I have, in fact, already written to your
dear wife yesterday. So I am up one on you.

I think even the prehistoric man had hopes for peace eternal
once he rid himself of the last Neanderthal. While he was chewing
on the Neanderthal's bones, his neighbour from the next cave hit him on the head because he wanted to chew the Neanderthal's bones himself.

Somehow, I do not give credence to mankind ever finding peace.

Regards,
Agnes.

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 2:56 am
by Corlyss_D
I think this was a Lennon song . . .

Well, back to the real world and business as usual. The new UN SecGen is open for business. See "Boldly going where his predecessors have gone . . . "

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 4:56 am
by Sapphire
Benjamin Franklin: “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes”.

Forecasting the future is easy in principle. All you need to do is to understand the past, i.e. have a theory about it, and then use the same model to forecast the future. To do this you need (i) a good model of the past, (ii) a set of what are called "exogenous" variables; these are things that are truly independent of everything else that gets determined within the model. They include things like population growth, the weather, medical progress etc, although even these could be said ultimately to be dependent on other things (global warming etc).

Often you can't model certain aspects of the the past all that cleverly except by saying that they follow a time trend of some given mathematical shape. "Technical progress" is the big determining factor, and is sometimes treated in this way, i.e. exogenous, but in other models it's part of everything else that gets determined within the model: hence the term "endogenous technical progress".

John Maynard Keynes (English economist) said: "In the long run we're all dead". Just think, we'll all be dust, long gone, no-one will remember us. A lot of de-ceaseds! Grim isn't it?

As for the future in general, I'm wondering what the world might be like by, say, the year 2100. Regards religion, I'm not sure it will last another 100 years. I foresee some major religions continuing their steady decline, one or two others continuing to grow before peaking out in about 50 years or so. Then it will be downhill for all.

I'm optimistic about medical progress. There's so much research going on that they will likely stumble across a few more cures, if only for things that haven't even hit us yet.

The biggest question is will we ever get out of Iraq?

I am also quite bullish that Mozart, Beethoven and Bach will still be popular by 2100. I think that much of late 20th C classical music will be written off as a waste of time. I don't rate Schnittke's chances at all. As for the future of USA orchestras, well there's hope yet.

All this is pure waffle of course, but I hope it kept you slightly baffled at least for a minute or two.


Saphire

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:03 am
by Fugu
All the scientists in the world can "prove" that God does not exist with their emphasis on "facts", but they will never succeed in eliminating faith that God does exist and that there is a heaven. As for the world getting better, I think we are on the brink of total collapse.

Posted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:25 pm
by Werner
We've been there defore, too, Dan. And we're no more likely now than ever to see the ultimate catastrophe.

Of course, it's endlessly entertaining to list the possibilities - but for myself, I prefer to be optimistic.

But if we do survive the current list of threats, there will always be new ones.

So life goes on...........

Re: I Dreamed An End To War

Posted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:44 pm
by burnitdown
jack stowaway wrote:Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University, highlighted the decline of violence: "Most people, sickened by the bloody history of the 20th century, find this claim incredible. Yet, as far as I know, every systematic attempt to document the prevalence of violence over centuries and millennia (and, for that matter, the past 50 years), particularly in the west, has shown the overall trend is downward."
His book The Blank Slate is essential reading -- it will make you a genetic determinist. Not for the politically correct.

Re: I Dreamed An End To War

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:08 am
by Corlyss_D
burnitdown wrote:His book The Blank Slate is essential reading -- it will make you a genetic determinist. Not for the politically correct.
Many folks here would rather live in a comfortable world of compassionate guesses as to how to address social problems than look to statistics for evidence of what works and what doesn't.