Saturday, January 18, 2014

nytimes: all kind of obscure isht, but not a peep about getting rid of "race"...,

NYTimes |  Here are some concepts you might consider tossing out with the Christmas wrappings as you get started on the new year: human nature, cause and effect, the theory of everything, free will and evidence-based medicine.

Those are only a few of the shibboleths, pillars of modern thought or delusions — take your choice — that appear in a new compendium of essays by 166 (and counting) deep thinkers, scientists, writers, blowhards (again, take your choice) as answers to the question: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

The discussion is posted at edge.org. Take a look. No matter who you are, you are bound to find something that will drive you crazy. 

John Brockman, the literary agent and provocateur who presides over intellectual bar fights at Edge, his online salon, has been posing questions like this one since 1998. The questions have included what you believe but can’t prove, how the Internet is changing everything, and what you’ve changed your mind about.

“It’s really the same thing every time,” Mr. Brockman said over the phone, explaining that this year’s question had arisen at a conference on the social sciences last summer and immediately engendered a debate about whether it was suitable for the Edge forum.

Mr. Brockman’s contributors, many of whom are his clients, are a rambunctious lot who are unified by little more than a passion for ideas and the love of a good fight. (He represents several New York Times writers, although not this one.) 

Some are boldface names in the pop-science firmament, like Freeman Dyson, the mathematician and futurist at the Institute for Advanced Study; Steven Pinker, the best-selling linguist from Harvard; Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and best-selling atheist from Oxford University; and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who invented the notion of flow, or being completely lost in what you are doing, and who says scientists need to let go of the idea that the truths they find are good for all time and place.

“Some are indeed true,” Dr. Csikszentmihalyi says, “but others depend on so many initial conditions that they straddle the boundary between reality and fiction.”