Something, and so can you!

Stephen Colbert stole the show in CoPhi yesterday. Brad, Ben, and Mitch highlighted “his” (that is, his ultra-con alter-ego’s) anti-philosophical preference for mindlessly comforting platitudes in place of of hard questions. The exchanges with Michael Sandel, Jim Holt, and Neil deGrasse Tyson ran on a bit, but to great effect.  “The tide goes in, the tide goes out…” Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Papa Bear? Uh, no.

colbertAnd check out the current “Out of Context” quote on his website: “If they pass this law that you can get a license to carry a gun in a bar, the first thing I’m going to do is open up a funeral home.” –Bar owner Steve Smith on Tennessee’s concealed weapons legislation

We Tennesseans just never stop doing ourselves proud, do we?

Tyson did a longer and more thoughtful interview with The Science Network.

Tyson, Sandel, and Holt were well-targeted clip choices, given my long-standing admiration of Sandel (we’ll be reading his Case Against Perfection in Bioethics next semester) and Tyson, and my newfound appreciation of Holt. I was just reading him over the weekend. He writes in Why Does the World Exist? that

any purely scientific explanation of the existence of the universe is doomed to be circular. Even if it starts from something very minimal– a cosmic egg, a tiny bit of quantum vacuum, a singularity– it still starts with something, not nothing.

Lawrence Krauss runs up against the same observation, in A Universe From Nothing. Maybe “nothing” is literally beyond us? That is, maybe we can’t imagine it, and thus can’t really entertain it as a live option against which to contrast the known universe. Still, it’s a hard question to shake and a fun one to play with.

Then Julliane gave us her “ecotopia” in EEA. I like it better than Ernest Callenbach’s, with its alternative reality world of cool science, free magnetic supertrains, and a reunified U.S.E. (United States of Ecotopia). It’s good to dream. We  must continue to build our castles in the air, and then build the ladders to reach them.

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