Communion Of Dreams

Better to just get it over with.
July 8, 2010, 11:26 am
Filed under: Carl Zimmer, Failure, Pharyngula, PZ Myers, Science

I noted yesterday the decision from SEED Magazine/Science blogs to sell their credibility to Pepsi.

Well, word this morning that they have reconsidered, via Carl Zimmer and PZ Myers. From Pharyngula, here’s part of the statement from Adam Bly of SEED/Sb:

We have removed Food Frontiers from SB.

We apologize for what some of you viewed as a violation of your immense trust in ScienceBlogs. Although we (and many of you) believe strongly in the need to engage industry in pursuit of science-driven social change, this was clearly not the right way.

Good move. When you’ve screwed up that badly, and are taking damage for it from all sides, best to just reverse the decision and get it over with.

Jim Downey


Astonishingly poor judgment.

Part & parcel of being a science fiction author (at least from my perspective) is trying to keep up with recent scientific discoveries. One good way for me to do this has been to surf Science blogs regularly. This has mostly shown up here in linking to PZ Myers, but he is hardly the only one of the many Sb bloggers that I read.

Well, yesterday something happened which threatens that source – SEED Magazine/Science blogs decided to sell their credibility to Pepsi.

The world has not been kind in return.

This shows astonishingly poor judgment on the part of the management team at Science blogs/ SEED Magazine. As Carl Zimmer said:

Here’s the quick story: the powers that be at Scienceblogs thought it would be a good idea to sell Pepsi a blog of its own on the site, where its corporate scientists could tell the world about all the great nutrition science Pepsico is doing.

Yes. Really. I’m totally sober as I type this.

Good lord. What were these people thinking?

Money is tight, and every business has a hard time paying bills. Advertisement is a necessary evil (remember, I worked in advertising for about four years between college and grad school). But really – trading your credibility on independent science writing for some coin from PepsiCo? Really?


Jim Downey

Where the danger lies.

Last week I mentioned the genetic breakthrough accomplished by J Craig Venter and his team: the creation of functional man-made DNA. Since then, lots of very smart people have been trying to sort through the implications of this development. One of the better collections of such discussion I have seen can be found at Edge.

Here’s a bit from PZ Myers (also on his blog) that I find particularly insightful:

Nature’s constant attempts to kill us are often neglected in these kinds of discussions as a kind of omnipresent background noise. Technology sometimes seems more dangerous because it moves fast and creates novelty at an amazing pace, but again, Venter’s technology isn’t the big worry. It’s much easier and much cheaper to take an existing, ecologically successful bug and splice in a few new genes than to create a whole new creature from scratch…and unlike the de novo synthesis of life, that’s a technology that’s almost within the reach of garage-bound bio-hackers, and is definitely within the capacity of many foreign and domestic institutions. Frankenstein bacteria are harmless compared to the possibilities of hijacking E. coli or a flu virus to nefarious ends.

Let me repeat that last sentence: Frankenstein bacteria are harmless compared to the possibilities of hijacking E. coli or a flu virus to nefarious ends.

It’s almost like he’s read Communion of Dreams, eh?

Jim Downey

March 4, 2010, 9:26 am
Filed under: Art, Health, Humor, Music, Pharyngula, PZ Myers, Rube Goldberg, YouTube

Sorry, been sick with the latest viral lung thing going around *and* trying to get a lot of spring cleaning and minor home repair stuff in prep for this Open House tomorrow night, so I haven’t had much in the way of energy to do any writing. But just found this over on PZ’s site, and for the two or three people who check out my blog and haven’t seen it, had to share:

Inspired madness. Discussion of it, how many takes it took, et cetera to be found here (and probably elsewhere).

Jim Downey

Tell me about this.
April 28, 2009, 7:12 am
Filed under: Amazon, Emergency, Flu, Government, Health, Pharyngula, Predictions, Preparedness, PZ Myers

I need to run out foraging this morning, now that the WHO has gone to DefCon 4 but I have a question that I hope someone can help me with.

I was doing my usual poking around online this morning, hitting my usual haunts, and saw a comment over at PZ’s that caught my attention. It referenced the “Black Swan Theory” of Nassim Taleb.

Hmm. That rang a bell somewhere deep in my memory. I did some poking around, and found that it was from a book that came out in 2007. Well, I think I heard about it, but I never did get around to reading much of Taleb’s work. What I found looks intriguing – but is it worth my time to get a copy and actually read it?

Jim Downey

Various and sundry.

Bits and pieces this morning.

Phil Plait has Ten things you don’t know about the Earth.  A couple in there I didn’t know, or only knew incompletely.

The LHC goes online tomorrow.  You can play with a cool simulation here.  This is actually a very big deal, something on the order of the Apollo program in terms of size, complexity, and being a threshold event.

Play with your brain: Mighty Optical Illusions.

Be afraid, courtesy of Pharyngula.

Perhaps more later.

Jim Downey

Just down the road.

[This post contains mild spoilers about Communion of Dreams.]

I’ve had some people say that the Edenists I created for Communion of Dreams are just absurdly overblown – that I have unfairly mischaracterized both fundamentalist religion and radical environmentalists.  I don’t usually argue with people who say things like this – my goal is not to convince everyone that my book of speculative fiction is right in all of its particulars.  I just hope that they will continue to pay attention to the world around them, and see what is happening.

Like this item, via PZ Myers:

Should Evolutionists Be Allowed to Roam Free in the Land?

* * *

Clearly then, “evolutionists should not be allowed to roam free in the land.” All that remains for us to discuss is “What should be done with evolutionists?” For the purposes of this essay, I will ignore the minor issue of Western-style jurisprudence and merely mention possible solutions to the “evolutionism problem,” leaving the legal details to others:

  • Labor camps. Their fellow believers were high on these.  But, my position would be that most of them have lived their lives at, or near the public trough. So, after their own beliefs, their life should continue only as long as they can support themselves in the camps.
  • Require them to wear placards around their neck, or perhaps large medallions which prominently announce “Warning:Evolutionist! Mentally Incompetent – Potentially Dangerous.” I consider this option too dangerous.
  • Since evolutionists are liars and most do not really believe evolution we could employ truth serum or water-boarding to obtain confessions of evolution rejection. But, thisshould, at most, result in parole, because, like Muslims, evolutionist religion permits them to lie if there is any benefit to them.
  • An Evolutionist Colony in Antarctica could be a promising option. Of course inspections would be required to prevent too much progress. They might invent gunpowder.
  • A colony on Mars would prevent gunpowder from harming anyone but their own kind, in the unlikely event they turned out to be intelligent enough to invent it.

That’s an excerpt from the close of the piece, after the author has gone through some effort to define who ‘evolutionists’ are (he seems to mix up socialism, communism, Nazism, and support for slavery.  No, really, he says that ‘evolutionists’ are all of these things.)  Feel free to read the entire piece.

Now, as one commentor over at Pharyngula said, “that’s some weapons-grade crazy.”

My intent here isn’t to get into a discussion on this particular fellow’s pathology.  It is simply to point out that this stuff is out there, and in my experience is fairly widespread.  He’s just down the road from me about 100 miles, and growing up and living in the Midwest I have met plenty of his type.  There are a lot of people who would take such an eliminationist approach to all their perceived enemies.  Unfortunately, as we have also seen with the Earth Liberation Movement, there are also those who claim to be radical environmentalists who are willing to take violent action.  Melding two such groups was an easy step in my mind.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am not claiming that all religious adherents are violent extremists.  Nor are all environmentalists.  Hardly.  But these groups are out there.  They are not a figment of my imagination.  And if we forget that, or ignore them, we may find ourselves in a world akin to Communion of Dreams (or someplace worse.)

Jim Downey