Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mon Dieu! Postscript on the social contract, and bagels ...

In my posting on why America is not an empire, I inexplicably forgot a fourth critical theorist of the social contract, Spinoza. How could I? He came after Hobbes and Descartes, and his influence on Locke's political and metaphysical theory is obvious. And from Locke to the American founders is but a short step ....

On a totally unrelated note, Trader Joe's carries my favorite brand of bagels, the Bagel Spinoza: It Bagels the Mind. I hope our blog here is exactly what the Bagel Spinoza is: chewy, filling - and really delicious toasted with peanut butter. I wonder what Spinoza himself would have thought.

POSTSCRIPT to postscript: Friday's Wall Street Journal has a nice column by science columnist Sharon Begley on the dubious nature of the anthropic principle. Nice to see outsiders noticing and joining in the fray - on the side of science and reason.

Unfortunately, it requires a subscription. But here are two key grafs:
For years, many scientists viewed anthropic reasoning as "the last refuge of scoundrels," says cosmologist Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University. "It was what you resorted to when you couldn't think of other explanations. But science has always tried to explain why the universe is the way it is. With the anthropic principle you're saying you can't explain why the fundamental constants have the values they do. It's giving up before you really get started."
Exactly. (Krauss has a new book out, Hiding in the Mirror, that discusses the anthropic controversy in his larger exposition of the higher-dimension concept.) And a recent "what-if?" thought-experiment paper provides a striking counterexample to anthropic reasoning and shines light on why life might happen under a range of conditions:
The anthropic principle was further undermined when scientists calculated what would happen if the universe lost one of its forces. There are four: gravity and electromagnetism, plus the strong force and weak force that act only at the subatomic level. The physicists erased the weak force and adjusted other physical parameters (all done mathematically), they reported in August in Physical Review D. Their calculations showed that the resulting pseudouniverse still made atoms, galaxies and stars that burned and cooked up elements like those in living beings, says Graham Kribs of the University of Oregon, Eugene.
Here are the preprint and published versions of that paper.



At 11:54 AM, Blogger IchBinEinBrookliner said...

Feh, if a bagel needs to be toasted, it isn't a bagel! And let's face it, Sepharadim like Spinoza didn't know from bagels.


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