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20, Well, Maybe 12 Visionaries for 2012 – #2 – Peter Ward

7:06 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Peter Ward

Peter Ward

Paleontologist Peter Douglas Ward first came to international scientific prominence through his research on the cephalopod, the Chambered Nautilus.  His 1987 book, Natural History of Nautilus, led to his well-received 1988 book, In Search of Nautilus.  The first book was mostly about the fascinating undersea creature, increasingly endangered.  The second is full of anecdotal material about scientists who have shown interest in the nautilus over the centuries.

Ward came to be viewed by some as a contrarian with the publication in 2000, along with co-author Donald E. Brownlee, of Rare Earth:  Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe.  Their hypothesis, simply put, is:

The emergence of complex life requires a host of fortuitous circumstances. A number of such circumstances are set out below under the following headings: galactic habitable zone, a central star and planetary system having the requisite character, the circumstellar habitable zone, the size of the planet, the advantage of a large satellite, conditions needed to assure the planet has a magnetosphere and plate tectonics, the chemistry of the lithosphere, atmosphere, and oceans, the role of “evolutionary pumps” such as massive glaciation and rare bolide impacts, and whatever led to the still mysterious Cambrian explosion of animal phyla. The emergence of intelligent life may have required yet other rare events.

In order for a small rocky planet to support complex life, Ward and Brownlee argue, the values of several variables must fall within narrow ranges. The universe is so vast that it could contain many Earth-like planets. But if such planets exist, they are likely to be separated from each other by many thousands of light years. Such distances may preclude communication among any intelligent species evolving on such planets, which would solve the Fermi paradox.

The Rare Earth Hypothesis, seen as being opposed to the Principle of Mediocrity, itself a development of the Copernican Principle, never had its fierce, media savvy PR man, as did the latter two, through the advocacy and popularity of Carl Sagan.

The work that has vaulted Ward to a more central place in visionary aspects of science is his development of the anti-Gaian Medea Hypothesis, detailed in his 2007 book, Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future.  Simply put, this idea stems from the proposition:

“. . . that multicellular life, understood as a superorganism, is suicidal; in this view microbial-triggered mass extinctions are attempts to return the Earth to the microbial dominated state it has been for most of its history.”

It is named after the mythological Medea, who killed her own children. Medea represents the Earth, and her children are multicellular life. Past “suicide attempts” include:

Methane poisoning, 3.5 billion years ago

The oxygen catastrophe, 2.7 billion years ago

Snowball earth twice, 2.3 billion years ago and 790–630 million years ago

At least five putative hydrogen sulfide-induced mass extinctions, such as the Great Dying, 251.4 million years ago – but does not include the K–T event, since this was, as least partially, externally induced by a meteor impact.

Understandably, Ward’s work on the Rare Earth Hypothesis and the Medea Hypothesis is less popular than ideas which point to larger chances of human life or habitability prospects for such life existing elsewhere, or for a more positive outcome for our extremely carbon-based civilization’s future evolution.

In the following video, Dr. Ward shows clearly why he’s not just the most important communicator on past mass extinctions.  He’s also remarkably optimistic in the face of enormous changes to our climate and environment cascading down, as our political, economic and military worlds mask us from reality or just plain fail.

Visionary #3 will be anti-deforestation pragmatist, Moses Sanga

The Series:

Visionary #1 – Paul Stamets

20, Well, Maybe 12 Visionaries for 2012 – #1 – Paul Stamets

10:11 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Paul Stamets with Fomitopsis officinalis

Groundbreaking mycologist, Paul Stamets, is one of the few mushroom experts in the world often called “visionary,” whose attachment to that term has nothing to do with the psychotropic properties of some fungi.  He’s one of the newest in a long line of thinkers who see far more benefits from understanding mushrooms than do most scientists, or the world at large.

He has his detractors and ardent supporters.  I’m more of an observer.  Longtime fdl readers know of my love of culinary mushrooms.

Stamets explains why mushrooms are so important in this talk, made available by TEDtalks:

The series – 20, Well, Maybe 12 Visionaries for 2012:

I’m going to profile some people whose ideas might help us unravel the Gordian Knot that societal progress has become, without having to slice that knot in the old way.

Visionary #2 will be paleontologist Peter Ward.

Jennifer Rubin Tries to Explain “Why Jews Hate Palin”

4:47 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I don’t think she does a very good job, though. Even worse, though, is David Frum’s counter-essay, titled "Do Jews Hate Palin?" Even worse – by a good Cheechako mile (that’s 150 yards) – is the coverage of both articles at Conservatives4Palin.

Jennifer Rubin is a contributing editor at Commentary Magazine, one of the pillars of both neo-con and neo-lib Jewish polemical writing. I used to be a big fan, subscribing to the magazine for a while in the 1970s, because of the high quality of writing there. I lapsed, when my support for militant Zionism lapsed, during the Lebanon invasion of 1982.

Here’s Rubin’s short, one-paragraph essay
in its entirety:

For more than a year, Sarah Palin has been a national Rorschach test. The views expressed about her reveal the distinctions and conflicting perceptions of often antagonistic groups of Americans—the religious and the secular, the conservative and the liberal, the urban and the small town, the elitist and the populist. And now, with the publication of her autobiography, Going Rogue, and Matthew Continetti’s The Persecution of Sarah Palin, the Rorschach tests are being administered anew, and with increasing fervor. For her conservative admirers, she continues to exemplify independence, moxie, common sense, the superiority of the common American over the nation’s elites, and the embodiment of modern womanhood and Christian faith. For her detractors, both conservative and liberal, she is uncouth, unschooled, a hick, anti-science and anti-intellectual, an upstart, and a religious fanatic. There is no group so firmly in the latter camp as American Jews. And there is much to learn in their reaction to Palin, both about her and about the sociological makeup of American Jewry today. While Palin enjoys support from some prominent Jewish conservatives, it is not an exaggeration to say that, more so than any other major political figure in recent memory (with the possible exception of Patrick J. Buchanan), she rubs Jews the wrong way. In a September 2008 poll by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Jews disapproved of Palin as the pick for McCain’s vice-presidential running mate by a 54 to 37 percent margin. (By contrast, 73 percent approved of the selection of Joseph Biden as Obama’s.) Ask an average American Jew about Palin and you are likely to get a nonverbal response—a shiver, a shudder, a roll of the eyes, or a guffaw. Naomi Wolf, the feminist writer, sputtered that Palin was the “FrankenBarbie of the Rove-Cheney cabal,” articulating the mixture of contempt and fear that seemed to grip many Jewish women. The disdain is palpable and largely emotional. While 78 percent of American Jews voted for the Obama-Biden ticket, it is fair to say that most did not harbor animosity toward or contempt for Senator John McCain; the same cannot be said of their view of Palin. Prominent Jews like Reagan-era arms-control official Kenneth Adelman, who expressed great admiration for McCain, proclaimed that the selection of Palin was beyond reason: “Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office, I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency.”

David Frum, in his reply, seems to misdirect some of the straightforward terminology used by Rubin. He never specifically addresses Rubin’s concerns about Palin’s "anti-science" record, nor some other important issues. Frum reformulates Rubin’s list into four categories:

First, says Rubin, Jews greatly value (and possibly over-value) formal credentials.

Second, Rubin continues, Jews under-value traditional American folkways: hunting, fishing, the frontier, military enlistment.

Third, Jews disdain working class occupations like those in which Palin labored.

Fourth and last, Jews hate Palin because Jews disapprove of large families – and especially because Jews quietly favor the abortion of disabled children.

That’s not quite what I got out of Ms. Rubin’s exposition of reasons. Apparently, David likes lists.

He does finish his essay on a strong point, though:

If American Jews have a problem with Palin, Rubin is right that problem 1 is that they – we – doubt her intellectual capacity for the job. But that’s only the start of the list of problems.

Ignorance is bad. But we all start ignorant. Jews – again like other people, only more so – expect their leaders to start early and to work hard to remedy their ignorance, by learning things. People who don’t, won’t or can’t learn – whose followers disparage the value or need to learn – are going to forfeit Jewish support, and not only Jewish support.

But even this is not the worst of it. Just guessing, but I think the real and most fundamental problem Jews have with Palin is not her gleeful ignorance, but her willful divisiveness. More than any politician in memory, Palin seems to divide her fellow-Americans into first class and second class citizens, real Americans and not-so-real Americans. To do her justice, she has never said anything to suggest that Jews as Jews fall into the second, less-real, class. But Jews do tend to have an intuition that when this sort of line-drawing is done, we are likely to find ourselves on the wrong side.

Over at the C4P, the commenters are glomping onto Frum as a traitor – he was a GWB speech writer (and perhaps Bush’s best, though that isn’t saying much). Here’s a taste of the C4P babble:

We adore Mark Steyn because he’s Reagan-like in his beliefs.


Frum is an idiot, he and Rubin got it all worng. Jews for the most "LIKE" Palin. She stands for everything they stand for. Sure some progressive jews don’t like her but in the same way any typical liberal progressive.


Frum and his wife Danille Crittenden can be counted among the liberal Jews who don’t like Palin. You can add to that Debbie whatshername, the woman who threatened to turn me into the FBI along with the Muslims who are harassing her if I continue to post on her website, David Axelrod, and David Brooks (who sleeps with 0bama’s pants under his pillow.)


Who’s David Frum…..or an even better question, why would any person with am IQ greater than their age ever consider listening to him?

Ah, the Sea of Peeeee………

Frum is getting some more prescient comments at his article, than you’ll find at C4P (though they’re just getting started at the sea). Here’s from Frum’s blog’s commenters:

Plus, Sarah Palin appears to be catering to the Religious Right part of the GOP. That’s the part that thinks that America is a “Christian nation.” Jews know that historically, they didn’t do well in nations whose governments considered themselves duty bound to enforce Christianity. Jews believe, with some justification, that they did well in America precisely because the Constitution does not enforce an official religion.


That whole rooting for the Rapture and the destruction of Israel by the Anti-Christ probably doesn’t endear her to them too much.


Truth is, Palin polls best in parts of the country with the worst school systems and the lowest numbers of residents with college degrees. Take that however you want it, but that’s the way it is.


Willful divisiveness is what turned me permanently 100% off. Engaging the willful divisiveness strategy was chilling and I’m not Jewish. Pitching patriotism with a wink and smile while stirring the vicious pot is a sales tactic the GOP should not revisit


In Alaska, I’ve had a lot of discussions with Jewish politicians, writers, bloggers and relatives about Sarah Palin. I can’t think of one who continues to trust her. It is interesting that neither Rubin nor Frum makes much of a strong suit over the plain fact that Palin is the most pathetically congenital liar of 21st century politics.

Among Alaska politicians, I can think of three prominent Jews who initially were warm about some of her governing policies, but eventually regarded her as the junk thinker she is:

Ethan Berkowitz enthusiastically worked with Wev Shea to create a Palin-directed "White Paper" on legislative ethics reform. He’s related to me, though, that he was shocked at the divisiveness Palin seemed to relish in the fall of 2008. Earlier in 2008, he was becoming disappointed, as were many of us, in the way the Palin administration was becoming secretive, especially regarding the case of Rick Steiner’s request for scientific correspondence on Polar bears from state agencies.

Les Gara, during Troopergate, went from having been a sometime Palin ally in the 2008 legislative session, to a fiercely articulate critic.

Both Ethan and Les are Democrats. Republican Jay Ramras (who, like Berkowitz and Gara, considers himself part of the Alaska "Yamacaucus," or "frozen chosen"), was lambasted by Palin during the food-and-fuel crisis on the lower Yukon last winter, in a totally foolish press release (that has since disappeared):

The governor also expressed concern about inaccurate comments made to the media by Representative Jay Ramras that the state has failed to make state assets available to deliver supplies to communities.

“We are working cooperatively with the communities, many legislators, Native corporations, and other entities to address the needs in these areas,” Governor Palin said. “I am disappointed that Representative Ramras failed to express his concerns to my office before issuing a press release with incomplete and misleading information. This is particularly concerning since he knew I would be attending a meeting with his entire caucus that evening. Representative Ramras did not mention the specific issue of using state assets to me personally at the meeting. Instead, I read about it later in the press release. Truly Alaskans deserve better than that kind of ‘politics as usual’ (God she loves this phrase!). It is unfortunate that the representative sees this as an opportunity to play politics rather than help in the response."

Jay shot right back:

"I am shocked and appalled that Governor Palin would stoop to making derogatory statements about me," Ramras said. "My question to her during our caucus last night was ‘where is the food?’ In my interactions with her own administration I have spoken with Lieutenant General Craig Campbell from the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs; Commissioner Joe Masters from the Department of Public Safety; Commissioner Emil Notti from the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; her Deputy Chief of Staff Randy Ruaro, and numerous others since we first learned of the hardships in Emmonak and Western Alaska. In my press release, I acknowledged that DPS, after much pleading, provided a small plane for transport from Bethel to Kotlik.

"That the governor would accuse me of politicizing the current economic situation in the Lower Yukon strikes me as fool-hardy and Clinton-esque," Ramras added. "I introduced House Bill 114 yesterday. That was the subject of the press release. And I am offended that the governor would call my service into question. I have been organizing food and supply drives for needy Alaska communities and groups for years, and spoke on the House Floor yesterday about the success we’ve seen thanks to the many groups that have come together over the last few weeks to help. I pointed to her lack of leadership on this issue; I didn’t do it politically, I did it because it’s true: she has been too silent and her administration has taken too long to help in relief efforts. We are already weeks late."

These legislators’ or former legislator’s reactions to Palin’s evolution into an intensely divisive figure, here and nationwide, were reactions to a wide array of shortcomings of this political hack. They had little to do with the issues brought forth either by Jennifer Rubin or David Frum. And they serve to illustrate that Palin had already lost the trust of politicians, Jews and Gentiles alike, from both sides of the aisle before she quit her sworn job, to pursue more selfish and lucrative interests.

The Palin Doctrine

1:08 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Last Thursday Sarah Palin was asked by an Anchorage right-wing AM radio host to define a "Palin Doctrine." Here’s my transcript:

Eddie Burke: The president never said "victory" in almost 31 minutes of language there in front of our men and women there at the academy. Is he wrong on this?

Sarah Palin: Well, it’s alarming that there isn’t a passion for victory – victory means essentially killing the terrorists, stopping the growing cells of terrorists over there, so they don’t come over here and destroy America, and try to destroy our allies too, so kind of shocking that we still don’t hear that "Hey – We Win, You Lose!" old Reaganesque type of thinking when we talk war strategy – but – THANK GOD – at least now Obama [note the lack of "President" there by the quitter who demands she be called "Governor"] listened to McCrystal – albeit months and months later, but listened to him – and is giving him at least partially the reinforcements that have been requested; we’ve gotta get over there, and we gotta have that surge strategy – those conditions are different than Iraq, but essentially the same surge strategy that worked in Iraq, let’s do it in Afghanistan and, uhm, let’s, you know, allow that country to start guarding its own self so that America can start shifting focus, but, for now, we’re on a mission over there and we’d better win.