Earlier this year, Encyclopedia Britannica announced that it was shedding the fear of paper cuts and turning itself over solely to anxiety over internet access cuts. The now online-only encyclopedia of record further noted recently that they were looking to adapt a communal, almost wiki form of a community for it’s publication.
For those who grew up with one of their multi-volume sets, it marks an extraordinary end of an era. Despite the wonderment of Encarta95 and wikipedia, itself, the Encyclopedia Britannica was, at worst, one heck of a beauty on your bookshelf. My family still has our circa 1985 set at my parents home.
Nostalgia also struck one of my favorite TED speakers, the poet Rives. Below is his reaction to EB 2.0.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I figured I would feature the most recent lecture I’ve watched. Supported fully by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Big History Project aims to promote a passion for learning, as well as a more comprehensive, big picture look at the history of how we got here and where we are. Bill Gates talks a bit about it here.
One of their big moments was the spectacular below lecture by Gates’ co-founder David Christian. Along with Carolyn Porco’s Saturn talk, this is one of the more visually stunning lectures you’ll see. Definitely worth the next 20 minutes.
A constant reader of this blog or anyone who has spent time discussing the subject with me will probably be able to tell that I’ve gone through a religious journey of sorts in the past few years. More accurately, I’ve delved into the topic, weighing philosophical, historical and scientific texts to determine that I am perfectly capable of being good without god and that, as a non-believer, I am proud to call myself an atheist.
While at times there are elements of religion I cannot accept or respect, I generally consider myself (or at least would like to consider myself) to be happily respectful of others’ rights to practice their religions and hold their own beliefs. I only ask that those individuals do not attempt to establish theocracies or impose their religious mandates on others.
My coming out as an atheist has also accompanied a continuing desire to learn more about various other religions. This edition of TED Tuesday includes three religious figures presenting at various TED conferences. They include a journalist experimenting with living an orthodox Christian life, a pop-culture pastor talking about how each of us should live uniquely, and an imam who just happens to be that guy building the mis-labeled “ground zero” mosque.
Happy Winter Solstice everyone and a premature Saturnium (Christmas, for you non-pagan believers).
So I haven’t posted an online lecture in a while. I was very tempted to simply post the excellent Munk Debate on the place of religion in modern society that was hosted in Canada a few weeks ago and featured Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair, but I figured that the copyright status of those files are a little less than, well, certain.
Instead, I’ve decided to post a couple of recent TED lectures that struck me as truly enthralling. The first is Denis Dutton’s Darwinian Theory of Beauty. This lecture not only passes science muster… it’s also one of the most truly beautiful presentations I can recall, incorporating animation into its powerpoint.
A while back when I was a little more gung ho about updating, I posted Michael Shermer’s last TED lecture on strange beliefs. This time, we’ve got a bit more from the editor of Skeptic Magazine as he discusses the patterns behind self deception. Filmed at TED2010 in February 2010, Long Beach, CA.
Shermer’s works irks some new atheists in that he accepts the reality of and makes an effort to understand of religious beliefs (being squarely in the skeptic/agnostic column). I’m not sure I jive with the criticisms, as I feel Shermer’s supposed ambivalence as permitting him the characteristic of empathy. He tries to not only learn, but also understand why people believe what they experience.
I’ve found that it’s easy to get a new feature on the site working and going when it involves just linking a couple of lectures from TED that I find worthwhile and commenting on them. After a one week turn to entertainment, I return to the bread and butter of my interest in TED, science. I kicked off and was inspired to start this feature by a few pieces on Science, Free-thinking and Religion. This week I turn the post over to one repeat TED lecturer: David Deutsch.
Professor Deutsch is a mainstay in the physics department of Oxford University and at Clarendon Laboratories. His book The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes and Its Implications just got added to my Kindle wish list for rocking (potentially). Anyone who’s read my blog knows I’m a fan of the multiverse theory and a person fascinated by things I don’t understand. Nothing is more so than quantum mechanics, which is a key portion of the Theory of Everything that scientists like Deutsch seek out.
Anyway, at TEDGlobal2009, Deutsch went into how and why scientific discovery revolutionized and continues to revolutionize explanation and transforms the world. His discussion of what truly is knowledge and scientific understanding is actually quite graspable, even for the layman.
There is something about those that arise from Oxford and their ability to reach out to the public. Here is Deutsch doing just that. July 2009, Oxford, England.
Another Deutsch lecture, after the jump. Read more…
We lead it off with a brilliant nine-minute romp by poet John G. Rives, of Def Poetry Jam fame. His TED2007 lecture, named 4 a.m., is a genius, witty and play-along journey through references to and the interconnectedness of that early morning hour. March 2007, Monterey, CA.
More entertaining talks, after the jump. Read more…
A new feature I’m going to hopefully get going on the site is linking a couple of lectures from TED that I find worthwhile watching. First up is going to be a few pieces on Science, Free-thinking and Religion.
The subject was sparked for me by tuning in to a TED talk by Sam Harris two weeks ago on morality and religion, or rather taking morality from our understanding of science, instead of religion. Filmed at TED2010 in February 2010, Long Beach, CA.
I will admit that I’m not 100 percent on board with Harris’s talk. I think that the idea of scientific forces driving moral behavior has some validity, but it’s far from a universal truth. On the converse side, one can also equally argue that religion has been at the forefront of both acts of kindness and true villainy. Where Harris does hit home, however, is in the idea that science can guide what is good — or rather the affirmative answer to the question posed by Harris: can a fact about how reality is provide an idea of how something should be. Harris will lose some fans in that he is elitist and somewhat dismissive of the more religious of the red states.
In any respect, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Julia Sweeney, after the jump. Read more…