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Nobel Laureates Worry Politics Could Undermine Science

GrumpyGuyGrumpyGuy Member
edited December 2017 in Daily News


STOCKHOLM (AP) — An American researcher who shared this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine bluntly criticized political developments at home in his address at the awards’ gala banquet Sunday night.

Michael Rosbash, who was honored for his work on circadian rhythms — commonly called the body clock — expressed concern that U.S. government support such as that received by him and colleagues Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young is endangered.

“We benefited from an enlightened period in the postwar United States. Our National Institutes of Health have enthusiastically and generously supported basic research ... (but) the current climate in the U.S. is a warning that continued support cannot be taken for granted,” he said in a short speech at the ornate city hall in Stockholm.

The 2018 federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump calls for cutting science funding by billions of dollars

“Also in danger is the pluralistic America into which all three of us of born were born and raised after World War II,” Rosbash said. “Immigrants and foreigners have always been an indispensable part of our country, including its great record in scientific research.”

Literature laureate Kazuo Ishiguro of Britain expressed concern about increasing tensions between social factions.

“We live today in a time of growing tribal enmities of communities fracturing into bitterly opposed groups,” said Ishiguro, who was born in Japan.

https://www.apnews.com/2deb22673f9441c39b00938f38dfaeaa/US-Nobel-laureate-worries-politics-could-undermine-science



Comments

  • “We live today in a time of growing tribal enmities of communities fracturing into bitterly opposed groups,” said Ishiguro, who was born in Japan.
    Although the world in 2017 is arguably civilized humanity's greatest historical period in terms of global peace, health and education, I think this growing tribalism is an issue that needs scientists studying it and experts proposing solutions to it just as much as other issues like hunger, disease and violence.  If left ignored, it may very soon lead to a world state in which hunger, disease and violence will be on the rise.

    Assuming the ideal human society is one in which we all belong to the same "tribe," then we're not currently on track towards an ideal future.  There are many tribes, and many of them simply cannot coexist with one another in a peaceful or constructive way.

    Let's look at the major tribes that people currently belong to (most people definitely fall into at least one or two, if not more).  No doubt additional tribes can be identified, but until those are pointed out we have:

    Political Tribes

    Nearly everyone has a political tribe.  Political tribes broadly consist of four major groups:
    • Libertarian Left
    • Libertarian Right
    • Authoritarian Left
    • Authoritarian Right

    I would argue for the inclusion of a fifth:

    • Apolitical (people who choose not to participate in politics out of protest, apathy, religion etc.)
    There exist moderates and theories of political centrism as well, so you could make that six major political tribes.  Most commonly, however, political tribal loyalty comes down to pure Left vs Right ("Leftists!" vs "Right-wingers!") with a third group of moderates/apoliticals who face no real opposition but exist nonetheless.

    Religious Tribes

    It would be silly to list the religions of the world because we all know what those are.  Religion, however, can be and is a tribal affiliation often second to none other. 

    According to Pew Research, as of 2012 roughly 84% of the people in the world are affiliated with a religion.  A few minutes in an atheist forum or subreddit will tell you that many atheists behave as if their lack of belief itself is a religion. 

    It's pretty fair to suggest that most people in the world have a theist or atheist tribal identity of some sort.  Some of the leftover people may be genuinely irreligious, so they might be lacking in a religious tribal affiliation.

    Nationalist Tribes

    Nationalism is a big part of life in the majority of countries, with a significant number of people eagerly and happily participating in nationalism on many levels.  Pride in and loyalty to a flag, a border, a culture and a history are all ways in which people show their nationalist tribal leanings.

    Someone is a nationalist who often finds themselves thinking or saying things that amount to:

    My Country > The Other Countries

    There are people who are not nationalists.  For any number of reasons they are not patriotic or loyal to their country and what it represents.  I would venture a guess that this is a somewhat larger number than the news and superficial observations would have one believe.  In extreme cases you get people who declare themselves citizens of the world or even sovereign citizens.

    Racial and/or Cultural Tribes

    The pretty standard concept of:

    My Race and/or Culture > The Other Races and/or Cultures

    The majority of people worldwide have a racial and/or cultural tribal affiliation.  People who are literally in no way racist or culturalist are rare, although they also exist and so would not belong to such a tribe.

    Wealth Tribe

    The rich vs the poor.  A familiar concept, so I won't waste time blathering on about it.

    Gender and/or Sexual Tribes

    Some might say this is more of a modern thing, but history shows that is anything but the case.  Since the earliest days there has been at least some form of division between men and women.  Often that division was huge and defined one's identity.  Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

    Homosexuality is also nothing new, and neither are trans-gender disordersIn many cultures across the many centuries of human history we have seen examples of both being either reviled or accepted. 

    That said, today there are definite movements of homosexual and trans-gender tribalism in some parts of the world, and the men vs women contest is still going strong.

    Besides the rarest of individuals everyone has some sort of gender or sexual tribal affiliation.

    Minor Tribes

    There are countless minor tribes, such as belonging to the science world, or having a favourite sports team or preferring Star Wars over Star Trek.  They aren't as relevant to this post, since except in rare and sometimes bizarre cases they tend not to directly influence and guide people's lives.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, you can easily conceive of a "typical" person who has a combination of strong affiliations.  Let's say, for example, a right-wing Catholic Italian or perhaps a rich, gay, left-wing atheist American.  You could also conceive of people totally consumed by a single tribe, such as someone whose entire life purpose is to further the cause of right-wing authoritarian politics and who cares about nothing else. 

    If all tribes could somehow find a way to live and work together in a constructive and peaceful manner we might be able to construct a reformed civilization for the future.  Will that happen?  Are we capable of doing it?  That is the question.




  • GrumpyGuyGrumpyGuy Member
    edited December 2017
    Continued thoughts:

    It's interesting that we went from tribes to "civilization," but that tribalism never left in spite of the benefits of cooperation.  Even more interesting that now, in a time of technology and knowledge the original agrarian cultures would have viewed as sorcery, tribalism is on the rise.

    I mentioned above the different major tribes that came to my mind, then presented a potentially-confusing example of people who have multiple tribal affiliations.  I wanted to elaborate on that a bit.

    My example of a rich, gay, left-wing atheist American sees someone with 5 major tribal affiliations, and potentially several others of slightly lesser importance.  How does that work?  Well, it does and it doesn't.

    It works because no one is at any particular moment representative of all of their tribes with their thoughts and actions.  Rather, we remain individuals and then shift into the tribe that is most relevant to a situation as it arises.  Consider the example of the gay American above. 

    They come across a news article about discrimination against gays, so they shift into "gay tribe" mode to consume and process the article's information.  While discussing it with another gay person, the subject of politics comes up.  While both desire better gay marriage laws, it comes out that the second person supports the Republican party while our left-wing example supports the Democrats.  Now they switch into political tribe mode and leave behind, temporarily, the alliance of their "gay tribe" to instead represent their political one.

    Meanwhile the same article is read by the right-wing Catholic Italian on a business trip to New York City.  The subject of homosexuality shifts them into Catholic tribe mode as they consider what they understand to be the religious moral implications of homosexuality.

    If all three individuals were to meet they wouldn't have much common ground upon which to bond and might, in fact, soon find themselves hostile to one another based on irreconcilable tribal differences.

    In any case, at the conclusion of a tribal disagreement or dispute the involved parties will regroup with other members of their tribe who, through the "echo chamber"* phenomenon, will actively soothe and reinforce the mind and emotions of their offended tribal compatriot until equilibrium is restored (and their beliefs, if anything, further reinforced).

    * The "echo chamber" concept is an interesting one.  Basically, it's what happens when a group of like-minded people hang out and discuss topics upon which they mostly agree with one another.  Everyone believing and saying the same things makes it seems as if your own words and opinions are bouncing around the place like echos.  It's one of the most comforting social settings that there is.

    Unfortunately, the downside to echo chambers is that dissenting opinions and counter-arguments are left firmly outside the room.  If they find a way inside, they are quickly assaulted and shattered by a cooperative defensive barrage from the tribespeople who were only moments before enjoying patting one another on the back.

    Generally, people find it much more enjoyable to associate with like-minded people who agree with them about everything than to venture out into a wilderness of hostile tribes.  Why face the risk surrounding new ideas when the comfortable old ideas back home promise complete safety?  It's one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, I think.  How do we drop our guard, listen to one another, and find common ground upon which to build a better human civilization?  Of course most tribes will be quick to supply their own interpretation of the correct answer, and then will fall to argument and conflict when a different interpretation is presented. 

  • One final point:

    Another major tribe exists, and this one is mostly a product of modern Western life and its conveniences:

    The Me Tribe

    It is now more possible than ever before for people to go about the majority of their lives without ever considering other people.  Me first is the rule, and the tribe of me vs all other tribes leads to a lot of individuals who not only can't agree with one another, but who have zero interest in even trying.

    If a presented situation doesn't affect another tribal affiliation, then it will come down to a contest between the self and society as a whole.  Some people choose society through acts of generosity and selflessness, while others choose the self.
  • The self mutilation and adornment tribes.

    These are probably a sub clade of the Me Tribe. They compete with each other for the largest holes in earlobes, the most tattoos, earrings and unusual places where these can be creatively added or attached. Unusual hair colourings and styles often accompany the former. 

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

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