November 16, 2006

Closed / Chiuso 

This blog has closed permanently. Please visit The Second Version to read new material and update your links accordingly.

Questo blog è chiuso permanentemente. Per favore visitate The Second Version per leggere nuovo materiale ed aggiornate i vostri collegamenti.

Comments (1)

November 10, 2006

Bases of a Natural Morality 

Atheists, including agnostics, are constantly reviled by theists for being amoral, cynical and in short the source of all evil. Christians don't know who to blame for something going the wrong way? Blame atheism, the Enlightment and evolution. I've seen some twisted folk saying that atheists are even worse than Muslims - and this being on Little Green Footballs should give you an idea of the depth of hatred and contempt.

A reason for this behaviour is reaction to the ridiculous and obnoxious figure of the militant atheist, those convinced that their position is the only logical and rational one and hell-bent on proselytizing and mocking religious beliefs.

There is still no way to reach a conclusion about god using only logic and reason; whatever the position, it takes some act of faith. Agnosticism maybe less so, but it's an intermediate position that leaves many unsatisfied.

But there's a lot of atheists who instead are upstanding citizens and moral people, and respect theists even across the wide gap of worldview.

I think that the recent rise of atheism is in great part due to an increase of scientific knowledge. When more and more aspects of the world become clear, it is also more and more difficult to accept divine or supernatural intervention. We can explain lightning, earthquakes, floods, droughts, comets and epidemies without needing a god. In this view, evolution does indeed have a special place, because it says that from a biological standpoint men aren't all that special; just monkeys with little hair but good hands and an impressive brain. While christianity and other religions instead regard mankind as god's greatest achievement.

But if we deny the existence of god, or at least is capacity/willingness to intervene, where can we find the bases for morality? I say, even in nature itself, if we look at it properly.

To start with, the idea that evolution is anti-life is bull, to put it clearly. There is an assumption so obvious and basic in the evolutive model that non-one bothers to state it clearly: living beings must reproduce in order to evolve. If a species fails to reproduce, it will be extinct no matter how wonderful it is (though humans may be close to cross this border becoming able to build artificial lifeforms).

Going further, I maintain that most of the precepts regarded as god-given can in fact be explained through evolutive adaptation. Back when early humans and even hominides lived in tribal societies, orderly tribes which followed some rules had a definite advantage over more chaotic ones. Because observing rules increases trust between the members of a tribe, and the capacity to work as a team. While hunters are out in the wilderness, they don't have to worry too much about someone else stealing their possessions back in the village, or bedding their women. This means a more effective hunt, and thus more food for the whole tribe which in turn can prosper.

And in an historical perspective, societies which are based on family and values are generally more robust and succesfull than the vacuous and hedonistic ones (notice that in this context succesfull does not mean good).

Also Kevin wrote about atheism recently, and as he and others point out in the comments, while humanism produced atrocities the past of religion is far from spotless as well. It would seem that humans can always find an excuse to kill and pillage. Also Paul Kurtz on the Skeptical Inquirer dealt with closely related arguments.

I think that the real damaging positions are the rejection of reason and objective reality, which can be found both among atheists and theists; collectivism (that is also a severe lack of confidence in the individual); hedonism and vapid egocentrism; lack of self-sacrifice.

It is possible to reject all this through reason, examining which societies and ideologies succeeded and which didn't. Yes, faith can be a stronger motivator than mere rationality, but it does not always motivate to do the good thing. Many Islamic suicide terrorists are truly steadfast in their faith, I'm sure.

Or, you can see all this from another point of view. I am unable to believe (and it's not that I never tried) but I also want to live as a decent person, and not let my society crumble to dust. So I'd rather find a valid foundation for my worldview.

This post (which isn't great, I know. My inspiration is still wobbly) does nto want to be exaustive, but only to shed some light on the possible foundations of ethics that do not require divine pronunciation, at the same time avoiding the shortcomings of humanism as we know it.

Comments (3)

November 07, 2006

Perceptions, Wrong 

Coming back to Italy, I realized something that I already knew, but only now actually impacted on me.

It is the perception of the European - Italian in particular - situation that Americans have. Reading any random LGF thread, for example, one would get the impression that in all of Europe it is prohibited to mention the nationality/ethnicity of criminals.

Well, not here. Most media give regularly, clearly and sometimes even prominently the nationality of criminals and perpetrators. Headlines such as "Moroccan rapes woman" are rather common (sadly, because these incidents are not so rare either). Italian media use very sparingly politically correct terms like "youths" or "Asians" (there are no equivalent Italian words anyway). Sometimes, the vague term of extracomunitario/i is used to indicate all of those coming from outside the EU (which was previously called European Community, hence the term). Following this to letter, also Americans would be extracomunitari, but this term is never applied to them in practice.

A perp's religion is not mentioned too often, but that's because it is also redundant in many cases: most people already know that Egypt or Algeria are Muslim countries.

Also public debate regarding Islam and related questions is far from banned. I've seen talk shows on TV and heard them on radio about these issues; hosts are generally polite but don't refrain from criticizing Islam. And a popular position is that immigrants should adapt to the culture of the host country, not the other way around. Of course, without the protection of a First Amendement (and a Second too, I may add...) there is a risk of having to face trial for expressing an opinion - especially when said opinion is expressed boorishly. And this is a problem indeed.

And finally, after a long time, natality rates in north Italy are rising - and immigrants (all of them, not only Muslims) account for only a 10 - 15% of the total births. On the anedoctal side, I can state that Italian children have been a rare sight in my village for most of the 80's and 90's, but now are more common.

Comments (2)

November 03, 2006

Return of the Madman 

Hi all, I finally got my DSL in the new flat! It's nice and fast, but I have some problems with setting up the wireless network.

However, stay tuned. I should be back in activity soon, and there will be changes.

Update: Now my WLAN is working fine. I don't know what exactly the problem was, but I fixed it.

Comments (1)

October 27, 2006


(Un altro articolo copia&incolla, per dimostrarvi che sono ancora in circolazione)

Qualche settimana fa ho dato un’occhiata al giornale anarchico Umanità Nova (che viene regolarmente distribuito nel mio paese da un anarchico del posto) e ci ho trovato una lunga tirata sullo sviluppo del terzo mondo o qualcosa del genere. Non ho lo stomaco per leggere questa tirate da capo a piedi, ma mi è rimasta impressa una frase nella quale, in sostanza, si lamenta il fatto che i nuovi ricchi (o quantomeno borghesi) dei paesi parzialmente sviluppati vogliano comprare automobili e telefoni cellulari, che vengono definiti bisogni indotti dall’Occidente.

In altre parole, cinesi, indiani, pakistani e tailandesi vogliono spostarsi da un punto all’altro? Che lo facciano col risciò, a dorso di elefante o di mulo, ma mai con le dannate automobili. Cinesi, indiani, pakistani e tailandesi sentono il bisogno di comunicare a distanza? Che lo facciano con i piccioni viaggiatori od i messaggeri a piedi, ma iddio li scampi e liberi dalle diavolerie dell’uomo bianco!

Qualche tempo dopo, vedo su RaiTre (sorpresa, eh?) un documentario sul Congo, nel quale un padre salesiano racconta di come i poveri minatori del posto vengano indotti a massacrarsi a vicenda dalle malefiche multinazionali elettroniche avide di tantalio. Per inciso, a parte Motorola ed Intel (che sì sono grossi nomi) la maggior parte dei produttori di dispositivi elettronici si trovano in Giappone, Corea e Cina/Taiwan. Dove le persone non sono esattamente bianche.

Ora, non sono certo così ingenuo da credere che le multinazionali siano innocenti come bambini, ma c’è qualcosa che non mi torna. Perché, per esempio, i viticoltori toscani non si fanno la guerra fra di loro, quando il mercato dei vini pregiati si misura in svariati milioni di Euro? Possibile che i congolesi stessi siano completamente innocenti, e non ci mettano almeno un pochino del loro per arrivare ad uno stato di conflitto armato permanente?

Senza poter fare esempi specifici, perché le ipotesi di complotto coinvolgono sempre americani ed ebrei (tutti bianchi)? Gli arabi od i cinesi vengono ritenuti automaticamente innocenti.

La conclusione a cui arrivo è che in realtà sinistra e cattocomunisti hanno un’opinione molto bassa degli abitanti del terzo mondo. Sono contenti lasciarli nell’arretratezza, fuori dallo sviluppo tecnologico, pur di non far contaminare le loro culture da memi occidentali. Li considerano, in fondo, esseri semplici ed ingenui – buoni selvaggi. Che non sono degni di avere tecnologia avanzata perché non la capiscono; che non complottano perché non ne hanno le facoltà intellettuali; che a volte (o spesso) si comportano da barbari perché non sono in grado di fare scelte etiche. Non li possiamo condannare moralmente per le loro atrocità così come non possiamo condannare un cane che attacca chi entra nel suo territorio.

Altro esempio, le recenti polemiche su quei soldati tedeschi che in Afghanistan hanno trovato del macabro divertimento giocherellando con teschi umani. Pioggia di strali e condanne, non dico ingiustificate. Ma quando i palestinesi fanno le loro esposizioni di resti umani, da sinistra sento solo silenzio. Che sembra sottintendere: “Ma cos’altro vi aspettate da quei selvaggi?”.

Per finire, un’altra storia in parte collegata che mi fa venire voglia di prendere un tronco a colpi di scure. A Torino c’è il Salone del Gusto, che espone prodotti tipici da molte nazioni del mondo. Tutto bene verrebbe da dire, visto che io sono un grande estimatore dei cibi tipici e di qualità da dovunque vengano. Invece no, perché ci si è messo di mezzo il movimento Slow Food a condire il tutto con abbondanti dosi di ideologia, blaterando ad ogni minuto di “giustizia sociale” e menate varie. Per ripicca, vorrei andare a mangiare al McDonald più vicino, e chiedere esplicitamente di avere prodotti da agricoltura ed allevamenti intensivi, dove i lavoratori siano rigorosamente sfruttati. Questo è l’effetto che mi fa chi mi vuole imporre la sua moralità, specialmente in un campo che dovrebbe restare neutro.

Comments (4)

October 12, 2006

This is Still a Test 

Hey lads & gals, missed me? Yeah, an awful lot I see.

Things are OK here in Italy; weather is unusually warm for October and mushrooms are sprouting in the wood up my mountains. Life in Parma is quite good, but the kind and amount of bureaucracy I had to face is staggering. The Patriot Act? It's nothing compared to the stuff I had to go through here. Next time I chat up a girl, I'll tell her my codice fiscale - a sort of social security/national insurance number...

I'll be back.

Comments (6)

September 30, 2006

Enter Hybernation Mode 

A few more hours to gain a little sleep, and leave the room in decent conditions, and then I'm out.

Stay tuned and see you later.

Italianversion, out.

Comments (0)

September 28, 2006

Servizi Offronsi 

Anche se al mio ritorno in Italia sarò piuttosto occupato col completare la mia tesi, voglio farvi sapere che sono disponibile per:

- Brevi traduzioni italiano-inglese ed inglese-italiano
- Correzione e controllo di manoscritti tecnici, scientifici e divulgativi
- Consulenza tecnico-scientifica in generale

Le tariffe saranno modiche, trattabili ed a contratto più che su base fissa; le modalità di pagamento da precisare. Voglio solo arrotondare un po', non certo farlo diventare il mio lavoro...

In coda, complimenti a Mastella per dire le cose come stanno a proposito della finanziaria, e per avere una posizione chiara e decisa. Invece i Verdi ed il loro "ambiente trascurato" possono attaccarsi e tirare.

Comments (1)

September 27, 2006

Modelling Traps 

A serious problem with the climate change - or AGW - research is that it relieas very heavily on mathematical climate models. Even studies aimed at disproving the hypothesis often do it.

Now, mathematical modelling is usaed routinely in a number of different fields; so why is it a problem for climate research? The problem is testing these models.

In the field I'm familiar with - chemical engineering - models are used to design, study and optimize chemical reactors and other units like distillation columns.

These models employ several equations to describe all the phenomena occurring in the specific piece of equipment, and work on user-introduced data to provide the required output - for example, composition of the reactor effluent.

Testing these models is not exactly trivial, but it is amply feasible both as a matter of cost and complexity (for an university or corporation); moreover, there are plenty of conned and bribed students willing and eager to do the research work. Experimental conditions are set and mantained within narrow limits, and the performance of the unit observed closely.

For example, the conditions to set for a chemical reactor are its dimensions and geometry; amount and type of catalyst; temperature and pressure; feed flowrate and composition (not all of them all the times, tho). What is measured generally is effluent composition, but also temperature profiles in the catalyst bed are of interest. How the reactor responds to a change in experimental conditions is most interesting; the parameters of interest are then varied one at a time to study its effect.

If what is observed in reality differs from what the model predicts (within error limits), it means that something is amiss. Assuming that no mistakes have been made (and assumption that isn't so automatic), a discrepance from reality means that either the model is not applicable in certain conditions, or it is completely wrong.

If a model gives results that are only slightly in disagreement with reality... well, that's a more difficult situation. Usually the model is still employed until something better comes out, and with the warning that predictions may be unreliable.

It should be obvious that climate models cannot be tested in a controlled environment. We cannot take a terracompatible planet, endorse it with a vast array of sensors and measurement equipment, record a suitable baseline and then start fiddling around with its atmosphere (and its star, too) to see what exactly happens to the planetary climate.

The only thing that can be done with climate model is to verify how well they reproduce past climate (and hope they will worke the same in the future; extrapolation is justly regarded as a last ditch technique). Now, we're not even sure of what datasets and what data treatment are the most appropriate for past climate; when the result of models are confronted with, for example, smoothed temperature records there are always are discrepancies. The models are sometimes early, sometimes late; they generally reproduce the main features of the curve, but often miss small ones.

Where does all this leave us, then? It leaves us with a lot of uncertainty.

A certain warming has been observed, but even what part of this warming is true, and what parts are due to variations in land use (the famous urban heat-island effect) and data treatment artifacts, is still largely unknown. And even the true warming can be ascribed to different factors, of which anthropogenic greenhouse gases are only one (personally, I am convinced that there is some contribution from them, anyway).

When it comes to predicting future climate, I think that no models are reliable enough to justify taking action - especially when action is a strongly ideologized treaty such as Kyoto. I think that energy efficiency measures and "reducing carbon footprint" should be taken only if they make economical sense overall (knowing that the tragedy of the commons, the prisoner's dilemma and market failures are still there...) and not just because it seems well and good to do so.

Comments (0)

September 26, 2006

Appelli Vari 

Monsoreau aderisce all'appello "In Difesa dell'Italia", che provvedo a ripubblicare per intero:


Il governo Prodi si appresta a cambiare la legge sulla cittadinanza e ad allontanare definitivamente l'Italia dai principi giuridici e di senso comune su cui si è per secoli fondata.
Secondo questo disegno di legge, gli immigrati accederebbero alla cittadinanza italiana dopo 5 anni di residenza invece dei 10 attuali e i figli degli immigrati saranno, ipso facto, italiani se nati in territorio italiano.
Questi cambiamenti avranno un effetto immediato sulla fisionomia nazionale, creando una popolazione di 4-5 milioni di "nuovi italiani" nei prossimi cinque anni.
Contemporaneamente la vera popolazione italiana, in virtù del suo calo demografico, si appresta a ridursi drammaticamente.
La cultura italiana e Cattolica, che ha illuminato il mondo per secoli, non potrà che cedere il passo ad una nuova mescolanza di etnie, culture e religioni lontane e differenti dalla nostra, pregiudicando progressivamente l'identità nazionale.
Non possiamo infine dimenticare il giovamento elettorale per i partiti promotori dell'iniziativa che vedranno aumentare i "consensi" da parte di questo nuovo "proletariato".
Contemporaneamente sarà fortissima la spinta all'immigrazione che proveranno le popolazioni del Terzo Mondo sradicate e impoverite dalle politiche della globalizzazione.
Pertanto i sottoscrittori promuovono la formazione di Comitati Civili di Difesa Nazionale al fine di respingere questo disegno di legge e qualora fosse necessario, di promuovere un referendum per l'abrogazione di un provvedimento che costituisce un formidabile attentato alla nazione.
CHIAMARE I NUMERI 338/9055503 06/35403870 OPPURE
SCRIVERE A difesanazionale@libero.it
Non sono d'accordo su un paio di punti dell'appello: la cultura italiana é si di matrice cattolica, ma per me il momento determinante dell'Occidente é stato quando l'Illuminismo ha per cosí dire messo la religione al suo posto. Inoltre, non mi sembra che "le popolazioni del Terzo Mondo" siano tanto "sradicate e impoverite dalle politiche della globalizzazione"; anzi, in genere chi entra nel mercato globale ne guadagna - al prezzo di un certo grado di contaminazione culturale, comunque.

Sulla stessa vena, Lo Pseudosauro ci invita ad un po' di azione diretta (ma pacifica, beninteso), al di lá degli schieramenti politici e partitici per riprendere il controllo delle nostre cittá contro il degrado che avanza.

E per ultimo, ma non meno importante, il caporalmaggiore Giorgio Langella, del Secondo Reggimento Alpini di Cuneo, é stato ucciso in un attacco dei Talebani contro un convoglio militare italiano nei pressi di Kabul.
Il suo sacrificio, per la libertá contro un nemico vile e crudele, non sará dimenticato. Un nemico che non ha esitato ad uccidere anche un bambino afghano pur di colpire i nostri militari.
L'ordigno comandato a distanza ha anche ferito seriamente il maresciallo Francesco Cirmi ed il caporalmaggiore Vincenzo Cardella.

Comments (3)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?