Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 3rd, 2013

TED revokes license for TEDx West Hollywood event!

This is a Repost with minor editing and my comments.

Why this explosion of wrath from Sheldrake-ians, woomeisters, and other pseudoscience boosters who are ready at a moment’s notice to cry “censorship.”

Alert reader Jay stated that TED has revoked the license for the entire upcoming TEDx West Hollywood event, the parade of self-help and numinosity? called “Brother can you spare a paradigm?” (See my posts on it herehere, and here.)

The official notice is on this site, and is announced as follows (note the new name and plea for dosh):

ExTED 

An angry pro-PSI blog Craig in The Weiler Psi has published excerpts of an email from a representative of TED to organizer Suzanne Taylor, explaining their decision (Taylor’s credentials included making a video about how aliens produce crop circles):

…) And when we look at your speaker line-up, we see several people who promote — as fact — theories that are well outside what most scientists would accept as credible.

We’re not saying all the speakers are off-base. Perhaps you could make a case for each of them individually.

But when we look at the program as a whole, it’s clear that it doesn’t meet our guidelines.

The problem is not the challenging of orthodox views. We believe in that. We’ve had numerous talks which do that.

But we have rules about the presentation of science on the TEDx stage. We disallow speakers who use the language of science to claim they have proven the truth of ideas that are speculative and which have failed to gain significant scientific acceptance.

More than 2000 TEDx events will take place in the year ahead.  If your program is allowed to proceed, it will truly damage other TEDx organizers’ ability to recruit scientists and other speakers.

(Indeed many in the TED and TEDx communities have already reached out to us to express their concern.)

We have reluctantly concluded that your program is not appropriate for TEDx, and we have to therefore terminate your license. You are of course welcome to still hold an event with these speakers.

You just can’t associate it with TEDx. We are happy to work with you to figure out how to smoothly transition it into an event under a different name.  I’ll be happy to speak with you directly to facilitate this.

This is a nice victory for rationalism, and big plaudits go to TED and TEDx for making this decision. They’re gonna catch a lot of flak for this, and many accusations of “censorship”, but what they did was to stand up for science. And keep really wonky, pseudoscience or anti-science at bay.

And don’t forget to keep an eye open for TEDx events in your area.

Note 1: The trouble is that very few graduate students are taught how scientific experiments are conducted and how to judge whether a research paper is valid and within the normal process of designing and running experiments. Basically, the judges are necessarily from this elite class who were lucky enough to attend courses in “experimental research” and “design of experiment”, courses that have nothing to do with courses in logic.

Note 2: If you search the key words “Design of experiment” you will find 50 articles that I wrote about comprehending research articles. For example https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/whats-that-concept-of-human-factors-in-design-continue-3/

State running on Square Wheels: Lebanon?

Is it true that Lebanon’s political system has a lot that’s worthy of praise but it doesn’t run so well?

If no agreement is reached on a new election law, will parliament be crushed?

Robert Fisk published in The Independent on March 24, 2013: Lebanon is like a Rolls Royce with square wheels…

The prime minister has resigned, there’s no government to speak of, there are further street battles in Tripoli, the threat of more kidnappings.

Lebanon, as we used to say in the civil war, returns to normal. And in some ways, it’s true. Lebanon is always living through the greatest crisis since the last greatest crisis. But the current drama is a little more serious.

Najib Mikati PM – one of the world’s richest politicians as well as prime minister of one of the world’s smallest countries – resigned because his government had become unworkable and the country’s MPs had failed to draw up a new election law. Trade unions had been striking across Lebanon – even closing the international airport for several hours – to demand higher salaries. Mikati gave way on this, one of his very final acts, but he cannot have been a happy man.

After all, living next door to a civil war is not an easy task, not least when Syrian jets bomb two houses inside Lebanese territory.

The Israelis invade Lebanon’s airspace every day without a whimper from Washington, but the Syrian aggression had the United States thundering its fury at Damascus. Lebanon is not bound by sanctions against Syria so its government had adopted a policy of ‘dissociation’, a snob title for the necessary neutrality which the country must adopt to prevent its own Sunnis and Shias and Christians being drawn into the battles over the border.

The Sunni-Alawite conflict in Tripoli – in which 6 people died, including a Lebanese soldier, and over 40 injured – cannot be allowed to spread to other parts of the country. Tripoli is Mikati’s home town.

The ‘dissociation’ hasn’t worked very well. For a start, Lebanon pro-Syrian foreign minister infuriated the Gulf Arabs by demanding that the Arab League restore Syria’s seat in the chamber. The same minister, needless to say, wasn’t too quick to condemn Syria’s air raid.

A Sunni sheikh in Sidon – along with Sunnis living nearer the border – has prevented gasoline trucks from driving to Syria where some of their fuel is probably used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army. We don’t know this, of course, but it’s a fair bet. Now the government has used oil tankers to take the fuel up the coast to the port of Latakia, which is comparatively free of the civil war consuming the rest of Syria.

A nation in which the president must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of parliament a Shia, cannot work. (The key problem resides in the  term “Always”)

Mikati’s decision to go was therefore intended to frighten the political parties in Lebanon, especially the Shia Hezbollah and the Sunnis clustered round the absent Saad Hariri – hiding in Saudi Arabia these past two years because of his claim that there is a plot to kill him – into creating a workable government that can frame an election law and take responsibility for the wreckage of the past few weeks.

The catch, as always, is long term and incurable.

For, to be a modern state, Lebanon must de-confessionalise itself.

A nation in which the president must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of parliament a Shia, cannot work. But if you take sectarianism out of Lebanon, it will cease to exist – because confessionalism is the identity of Lebanon.

It may have beautiful mountains, fine food, an extraordinarily well-educated population, but it is sectarian. It’s a bit like owning a Rolls Royce complete with fresh leather seats, a flat screen television and a cocktail bar – but with square wheels. It doesn’t work.

Hence being prime minister of Lebanon is not a barrel of laughs. You can push the car along with heaps of ministers and MPs all straining in the same direction. But it will only move a few yards. And then the ministers and MPs will start arguing again.

The current government, which includes the Hezbollah – which President Obama wants the EU to condemn as a ‘terrorist organisation’ – clearly did not represent the Sunnis whose brothers in Syria make up most of the armed opposition to Assad – one of whose allies is, of course, the same Hezbollah movement.

Hariri will have rejoiced at Mikati’s departure because the removal of his cabinet was a condition of Hariri’s 14 March alliance to return to politics. All Lebanese politicians, however corrupted by money, guns or sectarian bias, are now supposed to troop up to the palace at Baabda for a ‘National Dialogue’ with President Michel Sleiman, the ex-general who has been spending the last few precious days swanning around on official visits to west African countries. He’s probably the only man who could keep his visitors in the same room for more than a few minutes – but can he persuade them to agree on an election law in time for the June poll?

For without an election, parliament’s own authority is as crushed as it was during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. No parliament, no government, no prime minister. No real ceasefire in Tripoli.

Only the army can control the streets – a bit like Egypt, one might add – and the Syrian war grows more frantic by the day. Lebanon deserves better than this.

It means that everyone is going to have to give that Rolls Royce another shove.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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