Friday, November 27, 2015

Quote of the Day

No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

- CS Lewis

Thursday, November 26, 2015

CRISPR to Eliminate Malaria?

The mosquitoes have two important genetic additions. One is genes that manufacture antibodies whenever a female mosquito has a “blood meal.” Those antibodies bind to the parasite’s surface and halt its development. Yet normally, such an engineered mosquito would pass the genes only to exactly half its offspring, since there’s a 50 percent chance any chunk of DNA would come from its mate. And since the new genes probably don’t help a mosquito much, they’d quickly peter out in the wild.

That’s where CRISPR comes in. In a gene drive, components of the CRISPR system are added such that any normal gene gets edited and the genetic cargo is added to it as well. In James’s lab, practically all the mosquitoes ended up with the genetic addition, a result Esvelt calls “astounding.”

What worries Esvelt is that, in his opinion, the California researchers haven’t used strict enough safety measures. He says locked doors and closed cages aren’t enough. He wants them to install a genetic “reversal drive” so the change can be undone, if necessary. “An accidental release would be a disaster with potentially devastating consequences for public trust in science and especially gene-drive interventions,” he says. “No gene-drive intervention must ever be released without popular support.”

James says the experiment was safe since the mosquitoes are kept behind a series of locked, card-entry doors and because they aren’t native to California. If any escaped, they wouldn’t be able to reproduce.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I would not question the sincerity of vegetarians who take little interest in Animal Liberation because they give priority to other causes; but when nonvegetarians say that "human problems come first" I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.

- Peter Singer

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake you are no longer authentic.

- Jean Paul Sartre

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

Being sad with the right people is better than being happy with the wrong ones.

-  Philippos

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

Retire into yourself as much as possible. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one. People learn as they teach.

- Seneca

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

 -Mark Twain

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

With the assumption that early human hunter-gatherer societies have been fairly egalitarian, Hayek seems in agreement with many anthropologists. Indeed, this feature has recently been explained by Christopher Boehm in his book Hierarchy in the Forest (1999) by the ability of the small bands to spontaneously form coalitions among their members. Through these coalitions, weaker members were able to block stronger individuals when they attempted to gain dominance and to subdue other members. Given the importance of this ability for upholding within-group cooperation, egalitarian preferences that make it easier to form blocking coalitions may well have implied a reproductive advantage at the group level. Over thousands of generations of human existence in hunter-gatherer bands these preferences may therefore have been selected for and may have entered the genetic endowment still present in modern humans as Hayek argued. But are egalitarian preferences indeed dysfunctional today when they induce people to endorse income redistribution in modern capitalist economies?

I think in a broader view on human history we find reason to assume that this is not true. History did not jump from the early hunter-gatherer societies to the conditions of the Medieval Mediterranean city states in which Hayek identifies the nucleus of the extended order of the markets of today. There are some ten to twelve thousand years in between during which agriculture unfolded and drove out hunter gatherers. The new production method resulted in serendipity and population growth. Group size increased far beyond that of the hunter-gatherer bands, making the spontaneous formation of blocking coalitions more difficult. Further, the necessary accumulation of capital in the form of harvested stock, livestock, dwellings etc. became a source of increasingly unequal personal wealth. Huge wealth differences facilitate attempts of individuals or families to gain dominance within their groups. Anti-blocking coalitions can be formed by buying allies.

As a matter of historical fact, in place of the rather egalitarian and participatory organization of human society, agriculture brought hierarchically stratified social formations. With them dominance and subordination, the characteristics of the social interactions of our primate ancestors, returned albeit in despotic and more cruel forms, including slavery and feudal villeinage. Thus, during the agricultural phase, human society took a road to serfdom in a literal, not the fictitious, sense which Hayek feared Western societies would be moving down in the 20th century, driven by a mislead egalitarianism. For that reason, the lesson to be learned from the road to serfdom actually taken in human history is not about how income redistribution threatens liberties that have been gained after a long struggle against feudal tutelage and suppression. To the contrary, it is a lesson about how the extreme income and wealth inequality of emerging despotism and feudalism have demolished the political organization of participatory societies and the personal liberties of their members.

In this light, the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution can be seen as mile stones at which the human kind reclaimed at least in some regions of the world a fairly egalitarian participatory formation. Under the conditions of modern capitalism it is no longer one akin to small bands with their spontaneously forming blocking coalitions. It is a much bigger and more anonymous formation in which individual freedom and egalitarian participation are upheld by institutional rules of the game characterized by checks and balances. But the rules and the checks and balances still need to be stabilized by the formation of coalitions capable of blocking claims to dominance and supremacy of small but powerful other coalitions. Their power grows more as the more extreme inequalities in the wealth distribution become and make it possible, like in the unfortunate past, to bribe and turn around members of blocking coalitions. With our innate egalitarian sentiments we may intuitively feel that income redistribution is not subversive to liberty, but a necessary condition for safeguarding it.

Coming back to the question in the heading: how should Hayek be seen, after all, as an intellectual hero or an ideologue? In my (European) view, the answer would be: Under the historical condition which Hayek developed his liberal social philosophy, his courageous opposition to a fashionable, pro-socialist Zeitgeist made him an outstanding intellectual. However, as I tried to point out, he misunderstood or did not wish to understand the role of income redistribution in a free society. Instead, his continued crusading against allegedly atavistic ideals of material equality puts income redistribution at par with socialist irrationalism. This one-sided interpretation paved the way for his arguments to be over-simplified for political partisanship in the United States. Hayek’s new adherents fail to account for his intellectual stature and make him appear post mortem like an ideologue.

Friedrich Hayek. Intellectual Hero or Ideologue?

Quote of the Day

It was only by escaping into the desert that Moses and the Jews were able to solidify their identity and reemerge as a social and political force.Jesus spent his forty days in the wilderness, and Mohammed, too, fled Mecca at a time of great peril for a period of retreat. He and just a handful of his most devoted supporters used this period to deepen their bonds, to understand who they were and what they stood for, to let time work its good. Then this little band of believers reemerged to conquer Mecca and the Arabian Peninsula and later, after Mohammed's death, to defeat the Byzantines and the Persian empire, spreading Islam over vast territories. Around the world every mythology has a hero who retreats, even to Hades itself in the case of Odysseus, to find himself.

- Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

- St Augustine