Saturday, December 15, 2007

Huston Smith - Why Religion Matters (2)

[Please see Part One of this review of Smith's book.]

After the first half of this book, I nearly gave up on it. From my perspective, he continually belabored his point that the scientific wolrdview, which sees as scientism, is responsible for the demise -- or near demise -- of the traditional religious worldview. This is only a partial truth, and its too simplistic in its assumptions.

This theme continues into the second half of the book, as well, but here we get more of what made Smith one of the world's best-known scholars of religion. His insights into the religious nature of human beings may not hold much weight with scientists, or with atheists, but it is likely to make sense to anyone who has felt the religious -- or more accurately, spiritual -- impulse in their own lives.

For example:

Seen through the eyes of faith, religion's future is secure. As long as there are human beings, there will be religion for the sufficient reason that the self is a theomorphic creature -- one whose morphe (form) is theos -- God encased within it. Having been created in the imago Dei, the image God, all human beings have a God-shaped vacuum built into their hearts. Since nature abhors a vacuum, people keep trying to fill the one inside them. [Pg. 148]

I think that this is true to a great degree, but that the nature of what one defines as God changes as one progresses through the hierarchical developmental stages (what Ken Wilber now refers to as altitude). So, while some pre-rational stages might see God as an old man with a long gray beard, wearing white robes, those in the post-rational stages might see God as universal love or light, just as one example.

He cites Theodore Roszak's The Making of a Counter Culture (1969) as "proof" that science as a system of faith was failing by the 1960s. From this "rejection" of scientism, Smith argues, the New Age movement rose to fill the vacuum he describes above.

Roszak's counterculture was enraged primarily by the destructive uses of technology, whereas its successor, the New Age movement, picks up the other side of the science story: its worldview and the strictures it places on our full humanity. The advocates of that latter counterculture want out -- out from the prison of that outlook. Because they lack seasoned guides, their unbridled enthusiasm for the Aquarian Age careens crazily, and conceptually the movement is pretty much a mess. Pyramids, pendulums, astrology, ecology, vegetarianism and veganism (we are back to religion as dietary restrictions); amulets, alternative medicine, psychedelics, extraterrestrials, near-death experiences, the archaic revival, channeling, neopaganism, and shamanism -- these and other enthusiasms jostle one another promiscuously. [Pg. 161]

As a historian of religions, Smith holds little sympathy for New Age beliefs. I don't feel it's fair to see all these various approaches as guilty by association. This is again to fall into the pre/post fallacy. Several of these "enthusiasms" are very valid -- ecology, alternative medicine, shamanism (in the right hands), and so on. Anything that seems irrational -- meaning not rational -- is dismissed.

However, but he does recognize that the New Age movement, in his words, "has two things exactly right":

First, it is optimistic, and we need all the hope we can get. Second, it adamantly refuses to acquiesce to the scientistic worldview. Instinctively it knows that the human spirit is too large to accept a cage for its home. [Pg. 161]

Again, I think this is true. The problem, as I'm sure Smith would agree, is that the New Age movement, much like traditional religion, has built-in virus protection that allows its adherents to operate within their faith irrespective of evidence to the contrary. In the case of monotheistic religion, the virus protection is the promise of heaven and/or the fear of hell. Yet even pre-rational forms of Buddhism hold that bad karma leads to reincarnation in a lower form, or spending time in a hell realm following death. So, it isn't fair to look only at Abrahamic traditions in this regard.

It's also true that memes such as religion and New Age beliefs operate not only because of, but in spite of, rational attempts to disprove them. This is why atheists had never really converted religious believers to their own camp. All memes, and both religion and science are memes, have built in protections against other memes -- and it's survival of the fittest.

Future chapters in the book will look at how a detente might be reached between science and religion, but I suspect that Smith will not offer anything as sophisticated as what Ken Wilber proposed in The Marriage of Sense and Soul. I'll keep you posted if anything promising shows up.

Ravel's String Quartet in F Major

The Hagen Quartet plays Ravel's String Quartet in F Major. Very nice.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

LSD Research and Why it Was Stopped

The history of LSD is one of great potential gone lost. The early research in mental health and creativity was highly promising. Stan Grof was one of the leading experts on LSD in psychology before the drug was banned. His research has had a lasting impact on how some psychologists understand pre- and perinatal psychology, not to mention his work in transpersonal psychology.

The military thought the drug was useful as well. Unfortunately, the CIA and the military dosed subjects without their knowledge -- many died.

When the drug made its way into mass culture and threatened to generate serious cultural upheaval, the drug was made illegal and designated a Schedule I narcotic -- which is a faulty designation. This kept it out of researchers hands, however, and effectively ended any potential it might have in mental health.

I personally credit LSD and psilocybin for much of my awakening in my late teens and early twenties. It didn't suddenly make me awake (aside from the drug-induced experience), but it showed me there was more to my mind than I ever could have known, and it revealed, for me, an interconnectedness in all things that motivated me to find that same connection without the drugs.

As the video points out, most of the scare stories about the drug were false or overblown. Yeah, some people didn't react well, but that just highlights the need for more research in controlled environments. All of the hallucinogens have the potential to teach us a great deal about how our brains work and perceive the world, and the research should never have been stopped.

OK, didn't know I was going to rant. Here's the video.


Native American Ritual Stone Structures of Northeastern U.S.

This is a cool look at the magical-mythic religion of Native American cultures of the Northeast.


Satire: Hillary Accuses Obama of Bed-wetting

Andy Borowitz is an entertaining man.

Hillary Accuses Obama of Bed-wetting

Posted December 14, 2007 | 01:34 PM (EST)

The increasingly contentious race for the Democratic presidential nomination got a little bit nastier today as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) charged that her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill), wet his bed when he was a toddler.

Iowans have grown used to displays of testiness on the part of the leading Democratic contenders in recent weeks, but few were prepared for Sen. Clinton's accusation that her surging opponent had been a bed-wetter.

Moments after her campaign released this latest bombshell, Sen. Clinton went to great lengths to show that the bed-wetting incident, while occurring when the Illinois senator was only three years old, was "relevant" to the current presidential campaign.

At a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Sen. Clinton said that the alleged bed-wetting incident "should not disqualify" Sen. Obama from the White House, but should make Democrats "think long and hard" about voting for him in next month's caucuses.

"Personally, I don't have anything against having a bed-wetter in the Oval Office," Sen. Clinton said. "But you can be sure that the Republican right-wing attack machine will have a field day with this kind of thing."

At a campaign appearance in Davenport, Sen. Obama brushed off his alleged bed-wetting as an "isolated incident," and added an apparent jab at Sen. Clinton: "I'm not the one who's so scared about this race that I'm peeing myself now."

In response to Sen. Obama's remark, Sen. Clinton later released a statement referring to herself as "rubber" and Sen. Obama as "glue."

Elsewhere, the state of New Jersey banned capital punishment, arguing that living in New Jersey was bad enough.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Poem: At the Moment

At the Moment

unobstructed doors / where meaning resides
when / however / to resist / to bury

my dreams beneath an oak / memory/
wherein I am restrained / seeking

the shuttered window / as if / but no /
riding the sky / the raven of these words

as though soul / so much unspoken / silence
of bones / and in the moment of decay

we are all undone / meaningless / unless
some small fragment survives the storm

New Poem: The Past

The Past

As if rising from a winter fog, suddenly
there is a past, my past, composed partly of you,

but then the trees, those ancient oaks, and ravens,
and the arms of night embrace me whole.

In the fragile minutes before sleep, a magnification
of you, your scent, opaque, a denseness as though

your body was lying next to mine, but then
the silence , a murky thickness of loss.

The end was waiting, gathering me together
into its arms, offering solace against the cold.

Filed in:

SCTV - Philosophy Street

SCTV was always better than Saturday Night Live.

Speedlinking 12/14/07

Quote of the day:

"There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity."
~ Robertson Davies

Image of the day:

~ Exercise of the Week: Heavy Supports -- "With squats, fear is often the limiting factor. Part of us is afraid that a big weight will flatten us like a pancake and make people want to pour syrup onto us. Heavy Supports will cure that fear."
~ Stop Overtraining Now! Vary Your Workouts With Periodization! -- "Adding variety to an exercise program can improve adherence and can also help you stay physically challenged and mentally stimulated. Blow away your plateaus by considering the following ideas and methods of variation training."
~ Budgeting Calories Might Help Take Off Unwanted Pounds -- "If most of us could budget our calories like we budget our money, we would have a much better chance of staying in good shape. "Many of us eat so much during the holiday season, we probably never consider the cost of all those calories on the waistline until our clothes start getting tight," said Karen Brewton, M.A., R.D., L.D. with The Methodist Hospital Wellness Services in Houston. Budgeting calories like money can really help people think about how much they eat."
~ Wild mushroom can fight prostate cancer: Israeli researchers (AFP) -- "Israeli scientists claim that a wild mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine for a century, could treat prostate cancer, the University of Haifa said Friday."
~ Can junk food ever be good for you? -- "Snack foods filled with fruits or vegetables are growing trend. But some nutrition experts say their their better-for-you claims may be going too far."
~ Neuroprotection From Green Tea For Parkinson's Disease -- "Does the consumption of green tea, widely touted to have beneficial effects on health, also protect brain cells? Authors of a new study being published in the December 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry share new data that indicates this may be the case."
~ According To New Clinical Data, Chromium Picolinate Improves Cognitive Function -- "Nutrition 21, Inc., a leading developer and marketer of chromium-based and omega-3 fish oil-based nutritional supplements, has announced the results of a clinical study that showed daily supplementation with 1000 mcg of chromium as chromium picolinate improved cognitive function in older adults experiencing early memory decline."
~ Debating Honey: Symbiotic Food or Unnatural Poison? -- "Honey is an age-old food and medicine, dating back thousands of years at least. One would think that both believers in creation and believers in evolution would feel that honey is a symbiotic food and medicine." More than you ever wanted to know about honey.
~ Too Much Fructose Could Leave Dieters Sugar Shocked -- "Dieters should focus on limiting the amount of fructose they eat instead of cutting out starchy foods such as bread, rice and potatoes, report researchers, who propose using new dietary guidelines based on fructose to gauge how healthy foods are."

~ Suicide on the rise for middle-aged Americans -- "The suicide rate for middle-aged Americans has climbed to its highest point in at least 25 years, in what's being described as an unrecognized tragedy."
~ recent dopamine related papers -- Links to several scholarly papers on dopamine.
~ So, What’s In It For Me? -- "One thing I think a lot of us think when we stumble upon something in life is: what’s in it for me? Not because we are extremely selfish. But we spend all day, every day in our bodies and our lives. So I think it’s pretty natural that you think about your own life, problems and challenges a bit more than you think about other people or things."
~ depression, bipolar disorder et al -- "Links to several scholarly papers on depression and bipolar disorder.
~ FEATURE - Living Loud With Joy Rose - "Sacred Struggle and Keys to Joy" -- "The challenge it seems, is to confront whatever self you have negotiated thus far in your life; to find that “perfect, whole and complete” you. This is easier said than done. This means working through, and past, the defenses - and opening to the flow of what’s around us. This means acceptance."
~ Why Problem Solving Itself is a Puzzle, Even to Poincare and Picasso -- "The process of human creativity is both fascinating and, at the same time, mystifying. Understanding the mental processes of great thinkers offers an enormous reward to any who can replicate them: immortality. Perhaps if we really understood what was going through their minds, we too could create an object or idea that would live long after our deaths."
~ The Power of Love -- "Love is the best antidepressant."
~ Emotional Unavailability and the Bedroom -- "Much has been written about those individuals that we consider emotionally unavailable (they have difficulty being vulnerable in the emotional arena, and therefore tend to shy back from getting to that point). Much has also been written about the effect of this on their unwitting partners, who often remain blissfully unaware of the reality of their situation until years have passed, and much damage - both to them and the relationship - has been done."
~ 15 Can’t-Miss Ways to Declutter Your Mind -- "The world of stresses and worries and errands and projects and noise that we must all endure inflicts upon us a mind full of clutter and chaos."
~ Humans appear hardwired to learn by 'over imitation' -- "Children learn by imitating adults—so much so that they will rethink how an object works if they observe an adult taking unnecessary steps when using that object, according to a Yale study today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

~ Books of The Times: Perhaps There’s Some Life in the Old Corpus -- "Nicholas Ostler's history charts Latin's rise and fall. Harry Mount's short primer makes a passionate case for studying the language."
~ Review - Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, by Jon Savage -- "Savage sets the scope of his history to begin in 1875, with two exemplary biographies, one of an American juvenile delinquent on trial for murder, and another of a highly Romantic French-Russian girl whose published diary was a sensation in late Nineteenth Century Europe. Together they represent iconic poles of the image of youth: on the one hand, moody striving to combine the glamour of youth with adult privilege, and on the other, threatening lawlessness not yet conditioned to adult responsibility."
~ Between Liberalism and Leftism -- "Mr. Walzer's essays take exactly the opposite approach: They set up camp in the midst of the world we all live in bringing the rigor of political theory to the messiness of political debate. It makes sense that Mr. Walzer is both a professor at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study and an editor of Dissent, the left-liberal journal: His theories are always also interventions."
~ Imperial March -- "President Bush has added more power to the imperial presidency than previously imagined. It's time to recalibrate the checks and balances between Congress and the president." Free log-in required.
~ All the Rage -- "Rage seems to be all the rage lately. Look around; it’s not difficult to conclude that the world is getting angrier and angrier. Our politics are angry, dominated by Bush-haters and Clinton-haters and even Nader-haters. Our popular music is angry, spiked with misogynistic rants and paranoid fantasies. Our highways run like rivers of anger"
~ Deepak Chopra: It's Hard Being Purple -- "In a country divided between red and blue states it's hard to be purple. A few years ago this didn't seem to be entirely the case. Average Americans held political views that weren't as extreme as either the far right or left. But the Iraq war has led to more polarization, and Bush's congenital inability to compromise with any opponent, which leads him to stubbornly follow failed policies, apparently out of spite, has made him far more a divider than a uniter. Yet there is a deeper historical trend at work."
~ 2007's Top 10 Rights & Liberties Stories -- "Happy holidays! Now, let's talk about fascism."
~ I kind of love Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth -- "Youth Without Youth (Sony Pictures Classics), Francis Coppola's first new film after ten years of self-professed director's block, is a vast, lumbering white elephant of a movie—but I sort of love it. Self-financed by Coppola and shot on low-budget locations in Eastern Europe, the movie has been labeled "stilted," "soporific," and "a pretentious, meandering mess." But you certainly couldn't call it conventional, predictable, or pandering."

~ Google Launches Knol, a Potential Wikipedia Competitor -- "Google this morning announced a test project it's calling "Knol," which will comprise a collection of authoritative articles on various subjects. The project is currently invitation-only, and represents only a minor threat to Wikipedia, Scott Gilbertson argues."
~ Stellar Opposites: Sky survey reveals new halo of stars -- "The Milky Way galaxy possesses a distinct outer halo that orbits in the opposite direction from its inner halo and the rest of the galaxy."
~ The Blogosphere Gets a Newspaper in The Issue -- "Brooklyn, NY-based The Issue aims to bring the best of the wider blogosphere into focus via a daily, human edited online newspaper that aggregates quality blog content in a single place."
~ Canadian Polar Bears Fighting for Survival -- "As ice retreats off Hudson Bay, the bears must venture further out for food."
~ Compromise expected at climate talks -- "As the United Nations climate talks here moved toward their conclusion, delegates were meeting well into early Saturday morning in an effort to reach a compromise between the United States and its few allies in the global warming battle and the rest of the world."
~ Study Looks at Social Structure of Prison Communities -- "In community settings, there`s always at least one person or perhaps a group of individuals who are most highly respected. Prison systems are no different; one`s social status results from interpersonal dynamics. To better understand social structure in California prison communities, Brian Colwell, a researcher at the University of Missouri, recently examined peer relationships among inmates."
~ Captain Kidd Ship Found -- "Divers have found a ship abandoned by Capt. Kidd in the Caribbean in the 17th century."

~ T-Shirt of the Week -- "Since my workshop "Big Love Integral: A Participatory Exploration into Conscious Romantic Relationship in an Integral Context" (phew!) starts up again next month, this seems like a good time to show off the T-Shirt!"
~ The Buddha Diaries Recommends -- "To learn more about what is planned as a collaborative site, please check out our just-launched Accidental Dharma: The Gift Wrapped in Shit, presented by The Buddha Diaries. You'll find the site's intention described there, along with several examples of the kind of story that we're looking for. We're hoping to receive your stories to post, if and when you feel moved to send them to us at While we can't promise to include everything we receive, we'll post every story that is in harmony with the spirit and intention of the site."
~ Ancient Wisdom, Post-Modern Living -- "Don Alverto Taxo of the Atis people of Ecuador is dedicated to bringing ancient wisdom into modern living. He travels and teaches in the United States and Europe, encouraging individuals to bring more heart and intuition to their daily lives."
~ Buddhist relic exhibit opens in Tucson -- "A Tucson exhibit will showcase relics said to date back to Siddhartha Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism who lived about 2,500 years ago. The Heart Shrine Relic Tour's opened on Wednesday at the Anjali Yoga Studio and Day Spa, 330 E. Seventh St." I'm hoping to see this.
~ Drinking, reading, Buddhism: impossible? -- "Many of my Buddhist friends don’t drink alcohol at all. Some of them are in recovery, and a lot of them strive to keep the precepts as best they can. This means, if taking the Buddha’s words as they is written in the Pali Cannon, that they can drink no more than a dewdrop’s worth of alcohol at any time. I abstained from drinking for about a year in an attempt to keep the precepts, and it wasn’t easy. It taught me how to socialize with other people without relying on alcohol to open myself up."
~ The Porous Nature of Thought -- "My daily walks are a combination of meditation and exercise. I practice the Alexander Technique, meaning I am acutely aware of how I use my Self. The Self includes the body and mind, the whole package."
~ Paul Lonely: Luminous Poet, Postmodern Priest, Integral Visionary -- "Last month I got to meet Paul Lonely, author of what he calls a "contemporary Upanishads" - Suicide Dictionary. If you move in Integral circles and/or read the blogs of Ken Wilber or Stuart Davis, you already know that this first-time author is much touted as the visionary Integral artist-in-waiting. But whether you've heard of him or not - this book is a must read for anyone interested in poetry, religion, literature and the possibilities of a spiritual next-stage as intuited and mapped-out by Integral Theory."

Daily Dharma: Making the Mind Stay

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Making the Mind Stay

For some, [the] task of coming back a thousand or ten thousand times in meditation may seem boring or even of questionable importance. But how many times have we gone away from the reality of our life?—perhaps a million or ten million times! If we wish to awaken, we have to find our way back here with our full being, our full attention….In this way, meditation is very much like training a puppy. You put the puppy down and say, “Stay.” Does the puppy listen? It gets up and runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over ad pees in the corner or makes some other mess. Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again.

- Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart; from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith.

Björk & PJ Harvey - Satisfaction (Rolling Stones Cover)



TED: Murray Gell-Mann: Beauty and Truth in Physics

A cool TED Talk:

Wielding laypeople's terms and a sense of humor, Nobel Prize winner Murray Gell-Mann drops some knowledge about particle physics, asking questions like, Are elegant equations more likely to be right than inelegant ones? Can the fundamental law, the so-called "theory of everything," really explain everything? His answers will surprise you.

tags: , , , , ,

Third Eye Blind - How's It Going to Be?

Classic Third Eye Blind, from their first album.


tag: , ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steroids in Baseball - Yawn

Senator Mitchell's report came out today, as was covered by nearly every paper and news report in America. My comments below.

Roger Clemens, who won the Cy Young award a record seven times, and seven players who won baseball’s most valuable player award were among dozens of players named Thursday in the former Senator George J. Mitchell’s report on his investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

“For more than a decade there has been widespread anabolic steroid use,” Mr. Mitchell said in a news conference announcing the results of a 20-month investigation he led at the behest of Major League Baseball. He said the use of performance-enhancing substances “poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game.”

Clemens was the most prominent name in the report, along with the Most Valuable Player award-winners Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, José Canseco, Jason Giambi, Juan Gonzalez, Mo Vaughn and Miguel Tejada.

The report also includes the names of three of the top 10 home-run leaders of all time: Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero.

Mr. Clemens was among several players named in the report from the Yankees championship teams of the late 1990s, which put together one of the most dominant performances in baseball, winning three consecutive World Series from 1998 to 2000. Others from those teams included Andy Pettitte, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch. Other players named included Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Lenny Dykstra, Denny Neagle, Todd Hundley, Mike Stanton, Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagné.

“Each of the 30 clubs had a player or players involved in taking illegal substances,” at one time or another, Mr. Mitchell said. He called the years on which he focused his investigation “the Steroids Era.”

“If there are problems, I wanted them revealed,” said Bud Selig, baseball’s commissioner since 1992. “His report is a call to action, and I will act.”

The evidence against the players includes receipts, checks and e-mail, much of it provided by Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who has pleaded guilty to federal charges for selling steroids from 1995 through 2005. Mr. Radomski cooperated with Mr. Mitchell as part of his plea bargain. Other evidence came from Brian McNamee, a former trainer for Mr. Clemens and Mr. Pettitte and from an investigation led by the Albany County district attorney into Signature Pharmacy.

I've been clear on this blog about my feelings regarding performance enhancing drug use in sports. In addition to this new report, Marion Jones admitted her use of drugs and was recently stripped by the IOC of the five medals she won in the 2000 Olympics. Certainly, there will be others.

Focusing just on baseball for a minute, this "investigation" is big pile of bullshit. Everyone in baseball knew about anabolic steroid use and growth hormone use among players, not to mention amphetamine use which has been going on for decades (and amphetamines aren't even banned in the NHL). All the big heads looked the other way because the increase in size and strength, and the resulting higher level of play -- not to mention the lengthening of careers -- brought back a lot of fans who had left the sport following the strike year of 1994.

Baseball isn't alone in its hypocrisy on drug use. The NFL testing program is so predictable that athletes know when they will be tested, which allows them to use fast-acting (and fast-clearing) drugs, knowing they can beat the test.

While N.F.L. officials are proud of their program, antidoping experts say the framework and timing of N.F.L. testing allows players ample room to outmaneuver the tests, particularly if they are using amphetamines and fast-acting steroids that can be quickly flushed from the body.

A well-known steroid expert comments:

“Testing catches the careless and the stupid,” said Charles E. Yesalis, a professor of sports science at Penn State University. “If you believe only 1 to 2 percent use drugs, that is incredibly naïve. Drug use is the greatest problem facing elite sports, and testing creates the facade that everyone is clean.”

The New York Times article concludes with this from Yesalis:

Yesalis, who has studied drug use by athletes for the last 30 years, said he recently came to the conclusion that drug testing was doing more harm than good.

“The major breakthroughs have come from law enforcement, not by any testing,” he said. “Testing is there to provide the fan, who is already disinterested in drug use, with plausible deniability because the leagues tell the fans the athletes are clean because they have drug testing.”

It's worth noting that only the International Olympic Committee has a fully functioning testing program, and they test Olympic athletes in conjunction with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but none of the professional sports leagues in this country have been willing to contract with the USADA to test their athletes.

This is a telling fact. Why wouldn't these leagues do EVERYTHING in their power to be sure their sports are clean? The answer, as always, is money.

It's not in the best interest of the sports or the athletes to lose the best players as a result of positive drug tests. Despite what fans may say about drug testing, they want to see the best athletes doing things that seem super-human. If football players were only marginally better than the average athlete, or if the baseball season didn't produce several players with 30-50 home runs, or if we didn't have aging players like Roger Clemons to cheer for, who would want to spend more than $100 to take a family of four to a ballgame?

The reality is, as always, that people will do whatever they have to do to be successful, especially when there is BIG money on the line. And this includes using performance enhancing drugs. With this as a fact, there will always be chemists coming up with the next new undetectable drug, athletes who will use them, and owners/managers/coaches who look the other way.

There are two real options in solving this problem, since drug testing will NEVER be 100% effective.

1) Make performance enhancing drugs legal again, but require that doctors supervise their use and administration. In this view, drugs are just another technology -- like ultra-light bikes in cycling, or tracksuits among sprinters, and so on. Various technologies have revolutionized sports like golfing, why not allow drugs to serve the same purpose, as they already have.

2) Limit the pay that any athlete in any sport can make per season. The extravagant money that might normally be paid could be put into retirement programs for athletes so that they are well taken care of when their relatively short careers are over. I would propose that no athlete is worth (or needs) more than a million dollars a year. Alex Rodriguez will make 27.5 million dollars a year for the next 10 years, plus performance incentives. With money like this on the table for the best athletes, no wonder they are willing to use drugs to get that extra edge over other players. Take away that insane money, and you take away the incentive to use drugs.

Of course, neither of these things will happen, and the hypocrisy will continue.

Golden Globe Nominations

The Golden Globe nominations came out this morning. This list is considered one of the bell-weathers for the Emmies and Academy Awards, so in that sense the list is interesting. This may be the first time that I have no idea what half the TV shows are. I guess that isn't a bad thing.

Reuters story here.

Full list from MSNBC:

Best movie, drama
“American Gangster,” “Atonement,” “Eastern Promises,” “The Great Debaters,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood.”
Actress, drama
Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”; Julie Christie, “Away From Her”; Jodie Foster, “The Brave One”; Angelina Jolie, “A Mighty Heart”; Keira Knightley, “Atonement.”
Actor, drama
George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”; Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”; James McAvoy, “Atonement”; Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”; Denzel Washington, “American Gangster.”
Best movie, comedy or musical
“Across the Universe,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Hairspray,” “Juno,” “Sweeney Todd.”
Actress, comedy or musical
Amy Adams, “Enchanted”; Nikki Blonsky, “Hairspray”; Helena Bonham Carter, “Sweeney Todd”; Marion Cotillard, “La Vie En Rose”; Ellen Page, “Juno.”
Actor, comedy or musical
Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd”; Ryan Gosling, “Lars and the Real Girl”; Tom Hanks, “Charlie Wilson’s War”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Savages”; John C. Reilly, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”
Supporting actress
Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”; Julia Roberts, “Charlie Wilson’s War”; Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”; Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”; Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton.”
Supporting actor
Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”; Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”; John Travolta, “Hairspray”; Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton.”
Tim Burton, “Sweeney Todd”; Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, “No Country for Old Men”; Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Ridley Scott, “American Gangster”; Joe Wright, “Atonement.”
Diablo Cody, “Juno”; Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, “No Country for Old Men”; Christopher Hampton, “Atonement”; Ronald Harwood, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; Aaron Sorkin, “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
Foreign language movie
“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Romania; “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” France and U.S.; “The Kite Runner,” U.S.; “Lust, Caution,” Taiwan; “Persepolis,” France.
Animated movie
“Bee Movie,” “Ratatouille,” “The Simpsons Movie.”
Original score
Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder, “Into the Wild”; Clint Eastwood, “Grace Is Gone”; Alberto Iglesias, “The Kite Runner”; Dario Marianelli, “Atonement”; Howard Shore, “Eastern Promises.”
Original song
“Despedida” from “Love in the Time of Cholera”; “Grace Is Gone” from “Grace Is Gone”; “Guaranteed” from “Into the Wild”; “That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted”; “Walk Hard” from “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

TV series, drama
“Big Love,” HBO; “Damages,” FX Networks; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC; “House,” Fox; “Mad Men,” AMC; “The Tudors,” Showtime.
TV actress, drama
Patricia Arquette, “Medium”; Glenn Close, “Damages”; Minnie Driver, “The Riches”; Edie Falco, “The Sopranos”; Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters”; Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace”; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer.”
TV actor, drama
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”; Hugh Laurie, “House”; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “The Tudors”; Bill Paxton, “Big Love.”
TV series, comedy or musical
“30 Rock,” NBC; “Californication,” Showtime; “Entourage,” HBO; “Extras,” HBO; “Pushing Daisies,” ABC.
TV actress, comedy or musical
Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?”; America Ferrera, “Ugly Betty”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Anna Friel, “Pushing Daisies”; Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds.”
TV actor, comedy or drama
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Steve Carell, “The Office”; David Duchovny, “Californication”; Ricky Gervais, “Extras”; Lee Pace, “Pushing Daisies.”
TV miniseries or movie
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” HBO; “The Company,” TNT; “Five Days,” HBO; “Longford,” HBO; “The State Within,” BBC America.
TV actress, miniseries or movie
Bryce Dallas Howard, “As You Like It”; Debra Messing, “The Starter Wife”; Queen Latifah, “Life Support”; Sissy Spacek, “Pictures of Hollis Woods”; Ruth Wilson, “Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre).”
TV actor, miniseries or movie
Adam Beach, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”; Ernest Borgnine, “A Grandpa for Christmas”; Jim Broadbent, “Longford”; Jason Isaacs, “The State Within”; James Nesbitt, “Jekyll.”
TV supporting actress
Rose Byrne, “Damages”; Rachel Griffiths, “Brothers & Sisters”; Katherine Heigl, “Grey’s Anatomy”; Samantha Morton, “Longford”; Anna Paquin, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”; Jaime Pressly, “My Name Is Earl.”
TV supporting actor
Ted Danson, “Damages”; Kevin Dillon, “Entourage”; Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”; Andy Serkis, “Longford”; William Shatner, “Boston Legal”; Donald Sutherland, “Dirty Sexy Money.”

Speedlinking 12/13/07

Quote of the day:

"If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day."
~ John A. Wheeler

Image of the day (Neil Creek):

~ Crazy Shit That Works -- "Tuck the kiddies into bed and get ready to read some stuff so downright crazy, it's just gotta work. These aren't trendy new techniques you can pick up from the girl that leads your spin class; this stuff works!"
~ Accelerate Your Goals With S.P.E.E.D. -- "Even though the holiday season has begun, fitness enthusiasts aren't covered by sweaters, scarves and jackets all winter long. Effectively and efficiently hit your short term goals with S.P.E.E.D. - 5 steps to getting fit in record speed!"
~ What Is The Best Workout When You Are Short On Time? -- "What is the best workout when you are short on time? Get a quickie right here to boost your training efficiency. The following routines and tips are exactly what you need. These include GPP, HIIT, EDT, and more."
~ Eating Less Red And Processed Meat Likely Reduces Cancer Risk, Study -- "A new study by researchers in the US suggests that people who eat the least red and processed meat are the least likely to develop cancer compared to people who eat the most. The research is published in the journal PLoS Medicine and is the work of Amanda Cross and colleagues at the US National Cancer Institute."
~ Reading List -- "Everyone keeps asking me about which training books you should read … so here's the list of books I recommend my training staff (and in fact - ALL trainers) should have on their bookshelves (in no particular order)."
~ Too Much Fructose Could Leave Dieters Sugar Shocked -- "Here's one tip for how to eat at the holidays: Don't take your cues from Santa. The sugary cookies and fat-laden fruitcakes the mythical North Pole resident eats are a no-no. But you don't have to go no-carb to stay fit at the holidays, either, University of Florida researchers say. In fact, many dieters may actually be cutting out the wrong foods altogether, according to findings from a UF paper published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition."
~ Why use steroids? They work -- "Baseball players and other athletes use steroids for one reason -- they work." As I've argued before, the negative effects only occur with abuse of steroids, which the media seems to believe is the only way they are used.
~ What if bad fat isn’t so bad? -- "For decades, Americans have been told that saturated fat clogs arteries and causes heart disease. But there's just one problem: No one's ever proved it." Certainly, we need some saturated fat in our diets (and skinny guys bulking up can get 1/3 of their fat calories from saturated fat); the problem is that we get way too much of the bad fat and not nearly enough of the good fats.
~ The Good and the Bad of the Atkins Diet -- "Here is a break down of the Atkins diet, via three good points to the Atkins diet and three bad points of the Atkins diet."
~ Get Mountain Ready With Ashtanga Yoga -- "If you take the time to lengthen and strengthen your legs and core before heading to the slopes, you can seriously decrease the delayed onset muscle (DOMS) you experience the day after boarding or skiing. Let me tell you, Ashtanga Yoga can help get you mountain ready, especially the Primary Series."
~ Molecular 'Trip Switch' Shuts Down Inflammatory Response: Important Implications For Lupus -- "Like a circuit breaker that prevents electrical wiring from overheating and bringing down the house, a tiny family of three molecules stops the immune system from mounting an out-of-control, destructive inflammatory response against invading pathogens. This major finding means that new methods can now be pursued to shut down uncontrolled inflammation, restore immune system regulation, and treat chronic autoimmune disorders such as lupus."


~ Memories, attention, and intention [Cognitive Daily] -- "The human perceptual system is able to enforce a large array of illusions on our conscious experience. Most importantly, we hold the illusion of a complete and vivid picture of our surroundings, while in fact we selectively ignore nearly everything we see."
~ How The Brain Manages Conflict: Global and Local Conflict Adaptation Effects [Developing Intelligence] -- "If you encounter a difficult situation, you may be extra careful afterwards, even in a different or unrelated situation. This intuitive statement has recently been confirmed in a laboratory task, and extended to show that such carry-over "conflict adaptation" effects may affect the speed with which you approach subsequent tasks very differently from how it affects the probability of making a mistake."
~ Scanning psychopaths -- "Today's Nature has a great article [pdf] on the neuroscience of psychopaths, as investigated by an ingenious study being run by a group of Dutch researchers. Although there is a higher number of psychopaths among violent criminals, a psychopath is not necessarily someone who is violent.
~ The Trail of Your Life -- "Everything that has happened in a person's life, all the events, all the emotions, all the joys and sorrows, all the highs and low, expectations, disappointments, and all the people with whom the individual interacts, could be called the trail of a lifetime. It makes no difference what age the person is; it is simply the trail that is discernible behind the current now moment."
~ How to Fail Intelligently -- "Failure is certain on the way to success. There is no way we can succeed without experiencing failure here and there. But failure could have either one of these two roles: either it becomes an obstacle that hinders you from success or it becomes a stepping stone which brings you closer to success. What makes the difference is whether or not you fail intelligently."
~ Rekindling an Old Flame--or Not -- "Are you still pining for your ex?"
~ From Breakup to Wakeup -- "Mapping the time course of recovery."
~ Does Time Slow In Crisis? -- "In The Matrix, hero Neo wins his battles when time slows in the simulated world. In the real world, accident victims often report a similar slowing as they slide unavoidably into disaster. But can humans really experience events in slow motion?Apparently not, said researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who studied how volunteers experience time when they free-fall 100 feet into a net below."
~ 7 Ways to Deal with Holiday Grief -- "Holidays tend to be family-oriented and if you’ve lost a loved one, the season can be an especially painful reminder of the death. Here are some ways to cope."

~ 'Classics' raise more questions than answers -- "The "importance" of poetry is often invoked, sentimentally, by those whose interest in it begins and ends with the poetry they themselves were taught at school. To harrumph about Children Not Being Taught Classic Poetry is to preserve a thoughtless automatism about what's "classic" - to make of poetry a heritage artefact, rather than a form of communication or an instrument of pleasure. If studying poetry has any worth, it is surely that it should involve an inquiry into value, not an a priori assertion of it." Yes, and No.
~ The Year in Books -- Slate authors pick their favorite books of the year.
~ Steroid Report Implicates Top Players -- "Clemens was the most prominent name in the report, along with the Most Valuable Player award-winners Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Juan Gonzalez, Mo Vaughn and Miguel Tejada. The report also includes the names of three of the top 10 home-run leaders of all time: Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero." It seems Sosa wasn't named, but if you look at his career, it's obvious he was juicing too.
~ An American Humanist Political Party? -- "To our credit, we have many of the answers but one nagging question seems to continue to puzzle us. Why is it that we, who have so much to offer the world in terms of reasoned intelligence, thoughtful ideas, and personal passion, why is that we are so... well, alone? Why is it that we have been unable to attract numbers into our well-reasoned world? Why is it we are effectively perennial pariahs to much of the culture? In short, why is it we are, in essence, a "cult"?"
Believe it or not -- "And yet those with no religious beliefs are shut out from political power. Earlier this year, a secularist group offered $1,000 to the highest-ranking politician in the land who would publicly proclaim no belief in God. This turned out to be Peter Stark, a Democratic congressman from the San Francisco area. He is the only congressman, of 535, who professes no belief in the Almighty."
~ Rights and Liberties: The USA's Human Rights Daze -- "Human rights day passed by with barely any notice -- but we would all do well to understand the meaning of human rights."
~ I Am Legend, reviewed -- "Note to human race: Never try to cure cancer. You'll only end up with a faux-humble doctor (an uncredited Emma Thompson) bragging on cable news that a supervaccine is well on its way to eradicating the disease worldwide. Three years later, in 2012, that vaccine will have morphed into a population-destroying superbug, and you'll be alone on the planet with Will Smith and a German shepherd."
~ Rove, Bolten Cited for Contempt -- "The Senate Judiciary Committee voted for a contempt citation against Karl Rove and Josh Bolten on Thursday."
~ Politics: Playing the God Card -- "John Nichols | It's not Romney's Mormon faith that threatens the core values of a secular nation. It's Huckabee's messianic candidacy."

~ Scientists Clone Glow-in-the-Dark Cats -- "The feat involves a procedure that may help develop disease treatments."
~ In a parallel universe, this theory would make sense -- "If only we could prove that the multiverse was real, we could explain the contradictions of quantum mechanics."
~ Beyond the point of no return -- "As the pace of global warming kicks into overdrive, the hollow optimism of climate activists, along with the desperate responses of some of the world's most prominent climate scientists, is preventing us from focusing on the survival requirements of the human enterprise."
~ Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years -- "Preliminary global temperature figures show that the top 11 warmest years have all occurred in the last 13 years. The provisional data currently places 2007 as the seventh warmest on records back to 1850."
~ Light Sheds On New Fiber's Potential To Change Technology -- "Photonic crystal fiber's ability to create broad spectra of light, which will be the basis for important developments in technology, has been explained for the first time. The fiber can change a pulse of light with a narrow range of wavelengths into a spectrum hundreds of times broader and ranging from visible light to the infra-red. This is called a supercontinuum."
~ Moss is a super model for feeding the hungry -- "One of the simplest plants on the planet could help scientists create crops to survive the ravages of drought."
~ Reversible data transfers from light to sound -- "As a step towards designing tomorrow's super-fast optical communications networks, a Duke University-led research team has demonstrated a way to transfer encoded information from a laser beam to sound waves and then back to light waves again."

~ Sitting as surrender -- "Just because the story of Siddhartha Guatama says he realized enlightenment while sitting under a pipal tree, does that mean that we must also literally sit if we want to do the same? As far as I can tell, his teachings do not suggest this. Yes, seated meditation is one form of practice in which many Buddhist engage, but what else is there to it?"
~ How To Meditate, Google Frame as a Global Issue -- "How to Meditate is a big question. One that's no longer just effecting a few people in private according to Google. It appears to be one of the hottest issues of our time, up there with who is god, and what is love. These are the big issues found by Google in the 2007 Zeitgeist, capturing what they call our 'collective consciousness.'"
~ Better Late than Never... -- "So I know it's a bit late, but finals week had me a bit busier than I thought I would be, so I didn't have the time to put up the results of my Eastern Religions and Philosophies project."
~ Daniel Dennett Doesn't Want to Exterminate Religions -- "As I've been ranting lately on my blog, there's a spectrum of the New Atheists. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett may have been labeled under the same banner but their views and approaches to religion vary. So to say that the New Atheists are fundamentalists, reductionists and are only talking about the mythic God are naive sweeping generalizations."
~ Astrosociobiology article on Wikipedia deleted -- "The astrosociobiology page on Wikipedia has been deleted. For the sake of posterity, I present its final incarnation here."
~ Guns: A Loud Noise -- "Well, when I said yesterday that I was "sticking my neck out" with my remarks about guns, I did so advisedly. The piece came out in a slightly different version on the Huffington Post and immediately attracted a number of angry and indignant comments--20 as of this writing--several of them starting out with a derisive "Well, Pete..." Ouch!"
~ Misc Fun With Science... While there's still an Enlightenment... -- Some cool links from David Brin's blog.
~ The definition of compassion and loving-kindness -- "What makes you happy? What defines a good, meaningful life?"
~ Are Science & Spirituality Two Mutually Exclusive Pursuits? Part 2 -- "Whatever, whether scientific facts or spiritual faith, is not universally true is only a relative reality (bounded in space and time) and not the universal reality or the ONE TRUTH (commonly known as God). That is why it is important to understand the universe to know the ONE TRUTH since it helps a universal validation of the perceived intuitions, hypothesis, observations or experiences."