Tempting fate in schools: contrived randomness as educational policy

Australian economist Andrew Leigh has entered into public discussion with Noel Pearson about Aboriginal inequality by proposing that randomised trials should be initiated for those educational innovations supposedly aimed at improving outcomes for disadvantaged groups. He takes his cue from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who is well known for testing the effectiveness of cash rewards … Continue reading Tempting fate in schools: contrived randomness as educational policy

Stewart Brand: Four sides to climate change – but which four?

Stewart Brand (whom, incidentally, we have to thank for the 'whole earth' photo at the Fourcultures masthead) wrote an op-ed recently in which he identified four types of climate change talk, based on two scales, scientists-politicians and agreement-disagreement. This produced four poles, not merely two. They are: denialists (ideological disagreement) skeptics (scientific disagreement) warners (scientific … Continue reading Stewart Brand: Four sides to climate change – but which four?

On the science and politics of climate change

Mike Hulme, author of the splendid Why We Disagree about Climate Change, has written a very measured op-ed about the theft of his emails from the University of East Anglia and the relationship between science and politics in the climate change debate. Fourcultures has previously written about: Mike Hulme's book, Why we Disagree about Climate … Continue reading On the science and politics of climate change

Making up the facts about climate change?

Upton Sinclair said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Let's just try to understand a fairly straightforward question. I don't mean straightforward as in 'easy to determine' , but as in 'you'd think it might have a definite, clear answer'. Here it … Continue reading Making up the facts about climate change?

Which of my identities takes precedence?

Mort recently asked the following: Where does cultural cognition reside?Is it within the individual or their cultural environ – the social assumptions and influences that we are surrounded by? Which of my identities takes precedence, me the autonomous decision maker, or me the social role? Thanks for reading and for your encouragement Mort. I think … Continue reading Which of my identities takes precedence?

Do genes drive culture? New developments in culture-gene coevolutionary theory

A recently published  research paper lends support to the idea that genes and culture influence one another mutually, effectively co-evolving. A link has been proposed between the collectivism-individualism scale of national cultures and a gene that affects the supply of seratonin to the body, the seratonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR. A media-friendly summary of the research … Continue reading Do genes drive culture? New developments in culture-gene coevolutionary theory

Two kinds of tales, one true and one false

More on truth and lies: 'There are two kinds of tales, one true and one false,' Socrates claims in Plato's Republic (trans A.D. Lindsay, 1935, London: Dent, p. 376). ‘The depth of consciousness created by the exercise of the arts of deception is the first arena for the practice of that dissimulation proper to the … Continue reading Two kinds of tales, one true and one false

The Ethics of Autonomous robots

Further to a recent post about the ethics of autonomous robots, it seems military robots are not the only kind that can kill, allbeit by 'mistake'. In Japan there are already robots that feed the elderly and baby-sitting robots in shopping centres. So who exactly should be held responsible when they go wrong? It's an … Continue reading The Ethics of Autonomous robots

Nipping and Biting: Characterising the Conflict between Science and Religion

Much of the supposed conflict between science and religion may well be imaginary, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any conflict. How then should this conflict be characterised? Gregory Bateson once noted the distinction in playful animals between the nip (playful) and the bite (serious). It’s clear that animals, including ourselves, can tell the difference, … Continue reading Nipping and Biting: Characterising the Conflict between Science and Religion