Monday, April 30, 2012

Paul Hawken's Long Now

Long-term environmentalism from the author of Blessed Unrest.

Taking the long view on the environmental movement, Paul Hawken discovered that something very large and transformative is going on. For four decades Paul Hawken has created organizations and books that advance the environmental agenda. The books include the now-classic NATURAL CAPITALISM (1999, with Amory Lovins), THE ECOLOGY OF COMMERCE (1993), GROWING A BUSINESS (1987), and THE NEXT ECONOMY (1983). Currently Paul is founding the Natural Capital Institute and several companies for Pax Scientific. He chaired the US introduction of The Natural Step and co-founded the great gardening mail order catalog, Smith & Hawken. His 1966 company Erewhon helped create the natural foods movement.

This is one of a series of Seminar About Long Term Thinking by The Long Now Foundation

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Simple decency & unrelenting reason

The perennial existential questions persist, says E.O. Wilson in The Social Conquest of Earth: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
...out of an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are, our dreams will finally come home to stay.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I'm always astounded whenever a fellow academic admits to not knowing TED. Maybe TED-Ed will get their attention.
It allows any teacher to take a video of their choice (yes, any video on YouTube, not just ours) and make it the heart of a "lesson" that can easily be assigned in class or as homework, complete with context, follow-up questions and further resources.
Teaching and learning are not what they used to be. That's good, right?

Evolution in 3 minutes & 5 fingers from  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A higher plane of humility and humanity

Science tells us is that we are but one among hundreds of millions of species that evolved over the course of three and a half billion years on one tiny planet among many orbiting an ordinary star, itself one of possibly billions of solar systems in a commonplace galaxy that contains hundreds of billions of stars, itself located in a cluster of galaxies not so different from millions of other galaxy clusters, themselves whirling away from one another in an accelerating expanding cosmic bubble universe that very possibly is only one among a near infinite number of bubble universes. Is it really possible that this entire cosmological multiverse was designed and exists for one tiny subgroup of a single species on one planet in a lone galaxy in that solitary bubble universe? It seems unlikely.
Through a natural process of evolution, and an artificial course of culture, we have inherited the mantle of life’s caretaker on Earth, the only home we have ever known. The realization that we exist together for a narrow slice of time and a limited parsec of space, potentially elevates us all to a higher plane of humility and humanity, a provisional proscenium in the drama of the cosmos.
Michael Shermer, Skepticblog » Shermer in Seminary School: 'via Blog this'

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Flight From Conversation -

Why I've been trying to foster a greater spirit of collaboration and conversation in my classes:
A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
The Flight From Conversation - 'via Blog this'

Garry Trudeau's concerned about this too.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Walking is better for thinking than thinking

Great news! There is an
easy-to-achieve, scientifically proven way to make yourself smarter. Go for a walk or a swim. For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is the relationship. Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does. NYT, continues
So, that urge I almost always feel while sitting in a stuffy lecture room on a nice day (on  just about any kind of day, in fact)  to get up, walk out, and lay tracks on the other side of the glass? That's healthy, instinctive, and nothing to feel too guilty about.

Glad I stayed for Lysaker's talk yesterday, though.

And if you're reading this, students: it doesn't apply to you, when I'm the lecturer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lysaker speaks

Today's Lyceum Lecturer, John Lysaker ("Coming to Terms With the Self", James Union Building 304, 4 pm)-

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Office hours on Saturn

It's 73 and sunny in Murfreesboro, TN this afternoon, so today's 4 pm office hours will be here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Zeus is found

Our vet called yesterday to report on our old Lab Lilli's bloodwork, after her annual checkup on Saturday. She's in good health, for a dog of roughly my age in dog years. So am I, come to think of it.

Our other  pooch, Angel, had already passed her physical with flying colors too. Then, Dr. B asked about Zeus, her other gravy train patient.

Zeus is our very domestic and defenseless feline, who'd never spent a moment outdoors before slipping out behind our backs some time Friday night. He still hadn't turned up as of yesterday morning despite flyers, a Craig's List ad, and an autodialed plea to 250 of our nearest neighbors.

But at the end of our morning walk, Angel spotted something in the culvert under our driveway. I got down flat on the ground and finally spotted two beady eyes deep in the narrow blackness, out of reach but within pleading range. An hour and a half of coaxing later, through intermittent rain, with the tireless assistance of neighbors and solicitous strangers, and just before the firetruck arrived, Zeus rejoined us.

Dr. B, the alt-med vet, took un-billable credit: "I've been praying for him."

I'm giving Angel the real credit. She was just doing what dogs do, in the presence of cats. Perfectly natural. But we're all grateful, all the same.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A professor of sustainability

I mostly agree with my MTSU colleague, Professor Smith_Walters:
“My goal is to get people to think. If they’re thinking, they’re asking questions,” Smith-Walters said. “They don’t have to agree with me.  I want them to be able to defend their answer. It’s when we’re using emotions and anger rather than logic that we get into problems with each other in making decisions.”
But emotion and anger have their place. Our Fall environmental ethics course will wonder about that, and about the activist impulse that motivates some to action more effectively than incremental change (like recycling) at the level of consumer behavior.

As I've always wanted to ask a Vulcan, or a Stoic:

If all we had was logic, why would we care about Mother Earth (or anything else) at all?

A professor of sustainability: 'via Blog this'

Friday, April 13, 2012

Emory Prof coming to terms with self

Applied Philosophy Lyceum: John Lysaker


On Friday April 20 Professor John Lysaker will give a lecture entitled, "Coming to Terms with Selfhood."

Professor Lysaker is currently Professor of Philosophy at Emory University. From 1996 to 2009 he taught Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. Raised in NJ, he attended Kenyon College and did his graduate work at Vanderbilt University. His work concerns the nature of the self, with a particular eye on the conditions under which humans do and do not flourish. This has led him to consider the importance of poetry for life, the nature of mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, the importance of friendship for human growth and happiness, and the ways in which various institutions (e.g. government, markets, professions) enable or undermine human well-being.

He is the author of Emerson and Self Culture (Indiana University Press), You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense (Pennsylvania University Press), and co-author (with his brother Paul) of Schizophrenia and the Fate of the Self (Oxford University Press). He has also co-edited Emerson and Thoreau: Figures of Freindship (Indiana University Press).

The purpose of the Applied PhilosophyLyceum is to provoke philosophical reflection by bringing distinguished scholars to the MTSU campus to address crucial contemporary issues.

The lecture will be held April 20, 2012 at 4:00 in James Union Building, Room 304 on the Middle Tennessee State University Campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. A discussion period and an informal reception will follow.

For more information, contact the MTSU Philosophy Department at 898-2907.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Science of Good & Evil

We're discussing Sam Harris's chapter on Good & Evil today in A&P. Might be useful to glance back at Michael Shermer's Science of Good & Evil, too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More monkey-shines in Tennessee

Just when you thought your state legislature couldn't possibly get any more ridiculous...

It’s been a great couple weeks in Tennessee – unless you happen to be a public school student, gay, or not a fundamentalist Christian, or the time horizon in which you think about the future of humanity and the environment extends beyond the next decade or two. On March 26, the state legislature passed a bill that will have the intended effect of inserting creationism and climate science denial into public school classrooms. Just a week earlier, on March 19th, the House passed a bill to permit the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658). And Tennessee is currently debating a bill that is intended to give schoolyard bullies an exemption from the law if their bullying happens to be motivated by “sincerely held” religious bigotry. (Conitinues)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coming to MTSU, Fall 2012

Mondays & Wednesdays, 2:20 – 3:45
James Union Building, Room 202
The focus this semester is on environmental activism: can there be an effective and responsible Green Movement, given the political climate, the media machinery of partisan disinformation, and the strong current of denialism being encouraged and subsidized by private interests and ideologically biased individuals and groups?
 The long-term health of the planet, and our status as the thinking/planning/deciding & plundering part of nature, is the practical point of so many fundamental philosophical questions. As Carl Sagan said, there's no sign of help coming to save us from ourselves. The vital question thus becomes: can we save ourselves?
Every day, for we who now inhabit the earth and for our successors, is  Earth Day.

For details contact Dr. Oliver:

Environmental Ethics

A note to those still making course decisions for Fall: 

I'm doing environmental ethics again, with a focus on activism: can there be an effective and responsible Green Movement, given the political climate, the machinery of media disinformation, etc.? To my mind, thinking about things like the long-term health of the planet and our status as the thinking/planning/deciding part of nature is the practical point of making such a big deal of atheism & philosophy. As Carl Sagan said, there's no sign of help coming to save us from ourselves. The question is, can we save ourselves?

Every day is Earth Day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baseball in Nashville

Opening Day is coming!

One of the best sessions at Friday's baseball conference was Skip Nipper's presentation of his research into the old Nashville Vols, who played in the quirky Sulphur Dell ballpark (with its 22-foot sloping right field) near Capitol Hill and the present day Farmer's Market. He played a vintage color film from 1942, when the Yankees visited town for an exhibition as the new season commenced, and showed us many of the illustrations from his book. Baseball isn't just a game, it's a time machine. Accelerating Intelligence News