Last night we had a bit of a treat. We located (I think on the science channel) a rerun of the old Cosmos series with Carl Sagan. Carl was one of those heroes of mine. It was weird and fun to see how much astronomy and astrophysics has progressed. Still, he had a wonderful way of explaining difficult subjects that was understandable.
This first piece is scary for sure. More and more people are starting to think that if the stars align correctly, Sarah Palin might be unstoppable. Shudder, and get your passport ready. One person argued, (it might have been Andrew Sullivan–the link is embedded in the link I’m giving you) that she can use the “that woman is an idiot” to her benefit. After all, she can say, look what the so-called intellectuals have done–two wars, a nearly destroyed economy. Maybe just plain old average people like me can do a better job. The National Interest gives a scenario. As I said, keep you passport close at hand.
If you are interested in wisdom as perhaps an abstract entity, then you might want to take a look at the review of Stephen S. Hall’s new book, Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience. Professor of philosophy, A. C. Grayling gives his opinion in an excellent review. More and more science claims to be on the verge of telling us why we are the way we are in every respect. More and more we are, it seems, at the mercy of much that we have little control over.
Along a similar vein, The Chronicle looks at the issue of whether there is a basic instinct for fairness in the human person. Reflecting on how anger seems often triggered by claims of unfairness, it is an interesting proposition. Are we fair minded from birth? Hint: the research involved capuchin monkeys and cucumbers! Now that ought to heighten the anticipation! And they did some tests on humans too!
The first official execution in this country was for an alleged traitor. The second and third were Quakers who had not left as banishing Massachusetts had ordered them to do. (We hadn’t yet got to “freedom of religion” of course). A morbid subject perhaps, but Last Words of the Executed by Robert K. Elder, documents something important that we might learn a great deal from. Read the review at the NYTimes Review of Books.
—“What time is it? I wish you’d hurry up, I want to get to hell in time for dinner.” (John Owens (AKA Bill Booth), executed for murder in Wyoming on March 5, 1886).
When asked where he wanted to be buried, Charles Birger, convicted murderer executed in Illinois on April 19, 1928, joked: “A Catholic cemetery because that’s the last place the devil would look for a Jew.”
Our country is at based in some part on the belief that an informed citizenry will ultimately make the best choice. Given that we have the ability to acquire knowledge better than ever before, many of us wonder why we seem determined to make the worst choices over and over again. The GOP has become expert at exploiting the “know-nothing” by design mentality of their followers. They are first to prove that lies do work. We might get some answers from political scientists who say recent studies show that people, even when exposed to truth, cling to the misinformation they want to believe in. This is so far the must read of the day.