The Ubermensch, the Superman, the Transhuman, and how to tell the difference

Despite the influence of crazy cultists like the Raelians, I remain a cautious optimist about the 'transhuman' movement.

For me, the notion that advancements in science will inevitably lead to advancements in human life-span, is screamingly obvious, if perhaps oversold by the techno-fetishists.

Likewise I believe we should embrace the 'cyborg', not as the creepy machine-creature from science fiction, but as the natural extension of our human use of tools (I argue there is an unbroken line between our ancestors using sticks and rocks as tools through the industrial revolution, towards the replacement of body parts, gene splicing, etc. We are already Borg, and always have been).

In any case, this article served as a useful tool for distinguishing between the three relevant, though contradictory concepts.

The Case for Impeachment

Harper's magazine ran this recently, and so far the reaction has been one loud silence.

Pat Buchanan was on the McLaughlin Group a few weeks back and had nothing but hysterical derision for the suggestion that Bush might face impeachment.

Here's my rough back of the hand list of impeachable offenses;

Katrina response
Invading Iraq
Guantanamo Bay
Compromising the identity of an undercover agent during wartime
Torture of captives
Jose Padilla's arrest without warrant and incarceration without trial (he's an American citizen)
Domestic spying and wiretapping without warrant

The good news, such as it is, is;

Bush is now polling at just 34%
Democrats are now outpolling Republicans on Security issues (first time that has happened in decades)
Mid term elections are coming, and the Repbulican majority in the Senate (though likely not the Congress) will be threatened.

Patrick Fitzgerald isn't done laying charges.

Bush only has three years left.

If only we could catch him recieving oral sex from an intern - THEN we would have an impeachable offense!

Clay Aiken may not be exactly as advertised

From the 'all Americans are victims' file comes this tidbit.

It seems a group of aggrieved women are suing Sony because it was recently revealed that Clay Aiken might be gay and they only bought his album because they believed he was straight.

First things first, if the first impression you have of Clay Aiken is 'Hetero Stallion of Love' you need to get your 300lb ass off the couch and meet some real live men.

Secondly, if you bought Clay's album because the thought of this macho man-beast crooning to you in a limp falsetto makes your heart pound and your nether regions stir, you have far bigger problems than Sony's marketing campaign being something less than forthcoming about Clay's sexuality.

I can't decide what about this story is more depressing. That Clay Aiken has a career at all, or that the quintessential manufactured pop-star is being sued because some of his fans actually clued in to the idea he's manufactured.


Suggest names for the two new moons discovered orbiting Pluto!

From Scientific American:

"Dubbed S2005 P1 and S2005 P2 while awaiting proper names, the two moons share the same orbital plane as Charon, albeit with much longer orbits. "

Given the theme of Pluto and Charon, my votes go to;


The Long War

Does this get more Orwellian?

The President declares war, not on a country, but on 'terrorism' - something (like the war on drugs, the war on poverty, and the war on crime) that is largely incoherent as an object of 'war'. Indeed it reminds me of Caligula ordering his army to march into the sea and attack Poseidon.

But the GOP controlled Senate and Congress obediantly cowed to the rhetoric of 9-11 and WMDs and rolled back civil liberties (Jose Padilla, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, etc.) in a shocking reversal of human rights and liberty - in the name of protecting human rights and liberty.

Now Bush wants to enshrine these Presidential powers, not by election, debate, or democratic mechanism. No, that would be too inefficient. The easiest way is to redefine the 'war' in terms of perpetual global conflict with the shadowy forces of terrorism, and then insist on the powers to deal with that threat.

Now, since terrorism is never going to be defeated, and since the President wants these increased powers for the duration of the conflict, bing-bang-boom, the President of the US needs to have war powers FOREVER.

In other words, the President of the US and his staff have; gutted the constitution, spit on the separation of powers, endorsed the practice of torture, violated the rule of Law both internationally and domestically and can now claim to be doing all of this within the powers of the President as constituted by his assumed war time powers.

It may well be the quietest military coup of a civilian government ever seen.

Remember, Americans don't condone torture

The link takes you to an Australian paper that isn't afraid to publish another set of restricted photos from Abu Ghraib.

For the strong stomached only.


The Consolation Prize

Think about this for a moment; the Pens continue to struggle for the rest of the year and finish among the bottom three teams. They win the lottery and select - Phil Kessel to be the third part of the Malkin/Crosby line.

It could happen.

More likely is that St Louis will bottom out even harder than the Pens (if only because Crosby will help them win some games, and there is nobody on the Blues who can do so for them) and take Kessel as the franchise cornerstone to build around.

Still, watching the Pens go through the Nordiques/Senators building program (finish poorly 3-5 years running and build through early picks) while painful, should guarantee them a core group of players that are nothing short of dazzling.

Speaking of the Pens - my vote goes to Winnipeg, but my gut says they end up in Houston. The Houston Penguins. Ugh.

There is some speculation that Eric Johnson, the massive rearguard the Americans used at the WJC may take over the top spot, moving Kessel to #2. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see that happening. Sure the Pens could definitely use him, but would they pick him over Kessel? I doubt it.

Same for St Louis, they need Kessel's flash/dash WAY more than they need Johnson's crash/bang - even if Johnson is superior, Kessel will put asses in the seats. Washington is the only other team with a solid chance of finishing with the top pick, and if you were the GM of the Caps, would you not be licking your chops at putting Ovechkin with Kessel on the powerplay? Sure you need to find a playmaker, but thats the kind of problem Doug Weight as a free agent solves nicely.

So all in all, I just don't see Kessel slipping out of the top spot.

Anaheim announced they will change their name to 'The Ducks' moving forward. Good. 'Mighty Ducks' was both stupid AND crass, whereas 'the Ducks' is merely stupid. Bring back the 'California Golden Seals'!

And of course, there is Rick Tocchet.
I retired his jersey for the SeveredHeads franchise (he was our #2 RW in year one, behind only Tim 'my shoulder hurts' Kerr), and he has a very long and storied history with the team - including being picked up as a spare part 4th liner for the Heads Cup #2, purely so we could say he was on the team.

For sure, mgt overlooked the fact that he eye gouged Dean Chynoweth ending his career. And we downplayed his role in the Penguins sex scandal when Tocchet and three others were discovered partying with some paid for female entertainment. Those kind of incidents merely warm mgts heart, in truth. They show he is both vicious and virile, and the Severed Heads take pride in being both those things.
But being mobbed up is something else entirely.

If it should come to pass that the player whose card still resides in my wallet is in fact tied in to the Scarfo mob family, his jersey will be dropped from the rafters and his number made available to others.

Vicious = Ok. Virile = Ok. Working for the mob = NOT Ok.

What I am going to do with that card in my wallet is another question.

Perhaps the worst part of the Tocchet scandal is not how it affects my perception of Tocchet, but how it affects everyone's perception of Gretzky. He is in the hot-seat and the Olympics are just around the corner.

Not good.

And then we have the steroid scandal. First Bryan Berard gets busted. Ok, so that is a surprise, but I can see him wanting to use the juice as a way of getting himself back into game shape after his eye injury. He faced the music well (not blaming anyone else, taking responsibility and not fighting the ban), but his lack of forthrightness in what it was he took and why, is troubling. He did OK, but he could do better.

And then there is Jose Theodore and his hair treatment. Am I the only guy who heard about his being caught and went 'Wha?' Jose Theodore needs hair growth treatment? Really? Apparently he's been on it for NINE YEARS!

That explains the heavy metal hair, and will no doubt prove a boon to the suppliers of hair restoration prodcuts.


One of the things that I wonder about (cuz, I am a mega geek) is how good is it having the 2nd pick overall in the Entry draft?

Here is a breakdown of the #1 and #2 picks along with who the team should have picked at #2, since 1990.

1990 - Owen Nolan went first, and the Canucks picking second tabbed Petr Nedved. Not bad, just not great. They could have had; Jagr #5, or Brodeur at #22.

1991 - the year of Lindros at #1, but do you recall who the Sharks took at #2? Pat Falloon. How bad was this pick? The Sharks could have had; Scott Niedermayer (#3), Peter Forsberg (#6), Alexei Kovalev (#15) or Markus Naslund (#16). Ouch. Even Ray Whitney (1st Sharks player picked in the 2nd round) would have been a better call.

1992 - Hamrlik went #1 to Tampa Bay, and Ottawa followed up with Alexei Yashin at #2. Not bad at all when you consider the other options are; Corey Stillman (#6) and Sergei Gonchar at #14.

1993 - Alexandre Daigle went to Ottawa at #1 (ugh - that makes up for 1992!), and Hartford took Chris Pronger at the two spot. Clearly a huge pick as none of the multiple all-stars picked afterwards; Kariya (#4), Allison (#17), Koviu (#21) and Bertuzzi (#23), all in the first round, would dislodge him. Makes you feel bad for Ottawa blowing it on Daigle when just about every other pick they could have made (including; Gratton#3, R.Niedermayer #5, Kozlov, #6, Arnott#7, Sundstrom #8, Harvey #9, Thibault #10, Witt #11, etc) panned out for somebody.

1994 - Special Ed went #1 to Florida, and Oleg Tverdovsky was the consolation prize for Anaheim. Tverdovsky it should be said, isn't a bad pick for this draft (it's a weak draft year on the whole), but Anaheim might have done better with Jeff O'Neil #4, Ryan Smyth at #6 or Mathias Ohlund #13, and while you might say that, none of those players exactly blow away Tverdovsky.

1995 - Bryan Berard to the Senators followed by Wade Redden to the Islanders - followed shortly by a trade between the two teams that flipped those two players for each other. On the whole, the Islanders made the right pick and the wrong trade, as only Jarome Iginla to Dallas at #11 warrants being picked ahead of either defenseman.

1996 - Chris Phillips went #1 to Ottawa, and Andrei Zyuzin went #2 to San Jose. Zyuzin has had a journeymans career, unable to elevate his game past that of a #4-5 defender. Phillips has slowly but surely developed into a mammoth stay at home defender in the mold of Keith Brown or Ken Daneyko. Solid, unspectacular and essential. The weird thing is, that as dissapointing as Zyuzin has been, the names that came after aren't exactly inspiring. San Jose would certainly have done better thought with Derek Morris at #13, JP Dumont at #3, or Daniel Briere at #24. Otherwise, Zyuzin was not too shabby a call.

1997 - Jumbo Joe to the B's - excellent pick, Jumbo Joe traded to the Sharks - horrible trade San Jose tries to get the next best thing to Joe at #2 by taking Patrick Marleau. However, they probably should have looked harder at; Luongo 4th overall, or Marian Hossa at #12 instead. Otherwise though, a solid choice.

1998 - K, so the obvious happens and the Bolts take Big Vinny. The Predators decide to make David Legwand their cornerstone. Sadly....no. They could have had; Brad Stuart #3, Alex Tanguay #12, Robyn Regehr #19, or Simon Gagne at #22. Even Scott Gomez at #27 would have been better. Call it a blown pick.

1999 - Patrick Stefan flopped as the top pick, but Daniel Sedin is now cruising along as a pretty decent guy to get at #2. Should Vcr feel cheated by who they missed? Maybe a little, Martin Havlat was the steal of the draft at #26, and Barret Jackman would have been awesome at #17, but on the whole outside of those two guys probably the biggest challenge to Daniel Sedin is the guy at #3, brother Henrik.

2000 - Rick Dipietro went to the Islanders as the top pick. Some guy named 'Dany Heatley' went to the Thrashers at #2. Pretty awesome choice frankly. Other candidates? No serious challenges, but Gaborik was #3 overall, Frolov #20, and Justin Williams #28. All would have been better than slick Rick, but I feel comfortable with Heatley as the best guy.

2001 - Ilya Kovalchouk goes 1st overall to the Thrashers, and the Senators take Jason Spezza at #2. Nobody comes close to those two guys right now, Tuomo Ruutu at #9 overall has a chance to join those guys as elite offensive players.

2002 - Rick Nash to the Bluejackets #1 overall. Nice pick. Kari Lehtonen goes to the Thrashers in the 2 spot. Will Jay Bouwmeester #3, or Joni Pitkanen #4 make them regret it?

2003 - Pittsburgh wins the lottery and takes Marc Andre Fleury. Not bad. Course, they could have picked Eric Staal as Carolina did at #2. Only Phaneuf at #9 is a challenge to Staal now.

2004 The year of Alexander the '8' to Washington. Malkin went to Pittsburgh 2nd overall, but I can't see anyone, even Malkin, displacing Ovechkin as the best of that draft year.

2005 - Crosby #1. Clear winner. Bobby Ryan to Anaheim is too early to rate against his peers.


Quote of the Day

"The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program." — Larry Niven.

The Origins of Life

A marvelous overview on origin of life science.

In defiance of our basic Manichean dualsim regarding 'Life' and 'non-life', the article makes clear an understanding of how 'life' can evolve from 'non-life' - and that the stages inbetween 'living organisms' and 'chemistry' are blurry at best, but always deeply fascinating.




SSM in Canada - safe?

Bouquets of Gray has a tally of the SSM votes for and against broken out by party affiliation.

His conclusion; SSM is safe.

Which leads to an interesting philosophical question for those who are hoping to turf, SSM - why push for the free vote now, if you know you will lose?

Harper's decision to take this to a free vote down the line is smart politics. Smart because SSM will survive the vote, Harper feeds his base some red-meat at no expense to policy or risk to his government. Everybody wins.

Except those who actually want to destroy SSM, but they will get their vote, and then, hopefully they will go away.

On Blasphemy

The riots over the Danish cartoons that mock the prophet Muhammed got me thinking about the nature of blasphemy and public tolerance.

Perhaps to nobodies surprise, I am pro-blasphemy. I've never thought that a religion should have the power to dictate how it is criticized, represented, or have any 'right' to force others to abstain from mocking it.

If you are silly enough to believe in invisible things, than you should be brave enough to put up with our laughter at your choices.

Either your faith is big enough to accomodate dissent (especially from non-believers - but internal heretics count here as well), or it isn't sufficiently robust enough to warrant belief.

To the Danes feeling the pressure to recant and to censor themselves for the benefit of a religious element not used to criticism, I say 'you were behaving like jerks, but I support your right to be jerks'.

To those who would support the restrictions of free-speech for any reason, I quote Ben Franklin;

'The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.'

Lastly, let me say, that blasphemy itself should be protected speech.

Allowing any religious group to place itself above criticism - fair or not - is to give in to Theocracy. To have real freedom means having the freedom to think and speak outside of the normative. Without the power to criticise, to mock, or even to blaspheme, we are all incontrovertibly lost.


Human Libel Sparks Aquatic Anger!

Ok, this was frankly, HILARIOUS

First is the article that spawned everything.

Here is the cephalopod response!

Money Quote:

"Cephalopod, crustacean, nudibranch unite in protest: "Things on seafloor ours!"

Immortality still in the wings

That said, it's not my favourite flavour of immortality - cryogenics is just not as interesting to me as nano-technology that repairs mitochondrial damage, or telomere research etc.

Being frozen solid till someone can fix whatever it was that killed me just isn't as appealing as being conscious and alive.

That said, the fight against decrepitude and Death continues!

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve immortality by not dying." - Woody Allen

How to create a post-modern theology!

Before one of my friends writes something caustic about my endorsement of either theology or postmodernity (I reject both as being vacuous at best, and dangerous at worst), this is in the end, a satire.

And damn funny too. ;-) Here's an excerpt from the middle of the essay - it's short, so make sure you get to the punchline at the end.


Adopting a postmodern perspective, you soon realise that making any metaphysical claims (such as claims that there actually is something 'out there' called 'God') is so passé, as is claiming any special privilege for theology, or claiming that it is anything but another 'discourse' among others. So, you explain that

[a] postmodern theology has had to rethink its warrant without authority from outside its own productive formulations. That is, theology is a textual production that is always in the middle of existing discourses, and there is always an outside of its achievements, but postmodern anti-foundationalism leaves it without special privilege. It makes a place of its own through strategies and tactics within a cacophony of diverse textual voices.

So, theology is now a ‘textual production’. That sounds vaguely Derridean, but is far too obvious. Where are the long words, the obfuscation, the jargon? You decide that in order to further ‘explain’ what ‘postmodern theology’ can mean, or what it actually is or does, you need to adopt the appropriate style and vocabulary. So, what words should you use? ‘Text’, obviously, but how about some more impressive words like ‘deconstruction’ and ‘denaturalize’, combined with a reference to subjectivity? Here goes:

Theology is text production and the deconstruction of constituted subjectivities denaturalizes the onto-theological frame of theological discourse. The frame is instead a materialistic fold in a specific nexus of forces relative to its social and intellectual location. Because of this folding the inside is implicated in an outside so that the achievement of thinking is nonidentical with itself.

Justices Blackmun and Stevens; pro-sodomite Lockeans

From the introduction by Jonathon Rowe;

"In my last post on understanding John Locke, I noted Harvey Mansfield who described the tension between the more traditional notion that individuals belong to God and Locke’s radically innovative insight that individuals own themselves. As Mansfield wrote, “The difference between belonging to God and belonging to yourself is not a small one.”

Mansfield and other East Coast Straussians charge Locke, or at least his ideas, with ushering in a radically modern age (the Enlightenment) which broke with the traditional view of nature and public policy.

Whether Locke intended or foresaw that things would go down as they did, is impossible to know. However, there certainly is a kernel of Truth in the Straussians’ notion that Locke launched the modern idea of liberty which gave men the freedom to live in radically different ways which previously they did not have. Robert Bork pejoratively terms such a notion, “radical individualism.” Locke’s ideas logically lead us to such “radical individualism.” And Bork would probably agree given that he holds the Declaration of Independence responsible for radical individualism, and John Locke, of course, is the key philosopher behind the Declaration.

Take the dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick, the case Lawrence v. Texas overruled. Justice Blackmun, citing an earlier Justice Stevens opinion (who also dissented with Blackmun in Bowers), held “the concept of privacy embodies the `moral fact that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole.’” Bork of course, in Slouching towards Gomorrah, disagreed with this “moral fact.” Now, proving that any “moral facts” exist as a matter of 2+2=4 is not an easy task. Often, we have to start with certain asserted premises. And in determining America’s governing public principles, the Declaration of Independence is a good place to begin. Well, John Locke, whose ideas are behind the Declaration of Independence, is also the author of the “‘moral fact’ that a person belongs to himself.” No wonder why Judge Bork hates the Declaration of Independence and the Enlightenment!"


Let me cast my own ballot with Locke (as well as for the pro-sodomites), since the notion that man 'belongs to himself' is something I take to be intrinsic to the basic understandings of liberty, freedom, and autonomy. If we belong to 'God' as Bork et al, would insist, then the state would be merely a device for delivering us to that God, and enforcing our service to him.

And that is certainly no state I would like to belong to.

How can you tell Republican values are reaching their peak?

The link takes you to a swimwear outlet that specializes in 'modest' and 'wholesome' swim suits.

It's a lycra version of 'Little House on the Praire'.

It's almost as disturbing as Christian Porn.

Quote of the Day

"We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief. At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral."
Ronald Reagan

Bet you didn't see that one coming! (hat tip to 'Ruthless Reviews' for the quote)


The Catholic Church and ID Theory

A fascinating debate is taking place within the Catholic hierarchy. On one side is the Austrian born Cardinal Schonborn, who recently took the position that ID theory was compatible with Catholic teaching (in a reversal of position from the late John Paul II who explicitly endorsed the validity of evolutionary theory) .

Now, at the time I suspected that Schonborn's position was likely politically motivated. ID theory was gaining ground in the US, and even GW Bush endorsed it as a being reasonable to teach in schools (which should be a warning bell in and of itself).

Well, along comes the Director of the Vatican Observatory (the Catholic church has a long, long history of being involved in Astronomy as well as science in general. The Jesuits are just the best example), and he is quite blunt about what he thinks about Schonborn's ID theory position;

" He criticizes Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna for instigating a “tragic” episode “in the relationship of the Catholic Church to science”


Cardinal Schonborn “is in error,” the Vatican observatory director says, on “at least five fundamental issues.”

“One, the scientific theory of evolution, as all scientific theories, is completely neutral with respect to religious thinking; two, the message of John Paul II, which I have just referred to and which is dismissed by the cardinal as ‘rather vague and unimportant,’ is a fundamental church teaching which significantly advances the evolution debate; three, neo-Darwinian evolution is not in the words of the cardinal, ‘an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection;’ four, the apparent directionality seen by science in the evolutionary process does not require a designer; five, Intelligent Design is not science despite the cardinal’s statement that ‘neo-Darwinism and the multi-verse hypothesis in cosmology [were] invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science,’”

So at least for the moment, the Catholic Church has retreated from the brink of total insanity. Now if only we could get them to endorse condoms as a preventative for AIDS, it might even be worth calling them 'sane'.

The Bible in perspective

This may be my single favourite post ever.

It has all the elements that make me smile;

It's science based
It takes the piss out of religious nuttery
It is about 'awe', 'nature' and the importance of having a 'long view' of history.

In short, I am still agog about it.

Intra sex competition leads to breast and penis augmentation

You remember how Feminists attacked the rise in breast augmentation surgery as being the result of male expectations of beauty eroding the female sense of self worth?

Hogwash (as I expected).

By the same token though, this article also demolishes the notion that men who get penile implants, or who pursue enlargement techniques, etc. are doing so to please their partners.

The fact is both are the results of intra-sex competition and not the result of opposite sex pressures.

To wit; the woman who wants bigger breasts isn't getting them because she is hoping to please a man with her newly inflated yahoobies, no - she is getting the implants to improve her position amongst other women! Men, following this logic, get their penile implants and enlargement surgery less because they feel inadequate to women, and more because they are concerned that their position in the hierarchy of other men will be reduced if they are percieved as having a small Johnson.

In short, sexual improvement surgery is not for the opposite sex's benefit (or to be blamed on pressures from the opposite sex), it is at its essence about achieving higher status amongst ones own sex.

Beauty enters through the eye

I recall a conversation I had with my parents (and this may shock some of you who don't have conversations like this with your parents) about the differences between men and women and cognition.

The key part of the debate was when I said;

"When a man meets a women, any woman, we instantaneously assess whether or not we would sleep with them before any other conscious thoughts occur about that person."

My Dad nodded in assent, whereas I believe my Mom simply had her low view of the human male reinforced.

The link in the above is a paper that says essentially the same thing as I did. That humans are wired to assess the 'beauty' (or 'boink-ability', or whatever way you want to put it) of others extremely quickly, and that we do so unconciously.

If God made us in his likeness, then He must have been used to checking out the angelic multitude and how boinkable they were.

The politics of science

An excellent little audio download for the iPod friendlies out there, featuring a discussion on the politics of science with Ronald Bailey (from Reason magazine) and Chris Mooney (author of 'the Republican War on Science).

'The Wedge' revealed

This should put a stop to all the nonsense about ID theory being a secular alternative to 'Darwinism'.

Written in 1998 it is the strategic summary of the Discovery Institutes project to overthrow reason and replace it with faith. From page four of the document as published by the Seattle Times ('Five year strategic plan summary');

"Design theory promises to reduce the stifiling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science that is consonant with Christian and theistic convictions"

So the next time you hear an apologist for ID theory (Orson Scott Card, Gregg Easterbrook, etc) claim that it isn't religiously motivated, remember 'The Wedge'.