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Recommendations for October 23, 2012

So, a bit later than I promised, but still. I will try to get back on schedule this weekend.
 Article: “On Consilience” by Massimo Pigliucci
 This is about the search for a “Theory of Everything,” a set of scientific principles that can be generalized not from one case to others, but from one whole field of knowledge (say, biology) to others (say, political science or astrophysics). Pigliucci’s conclusion, ultimately, is that this isn’t going to happen, but he does some very interesting things on the way to making that case. In particular, he distinguishes between “ontological reductionism”— which he defines as “the idea that the bottom level of reality (say, quarks, or strings) is causally sufficient to account for everything else (atoms, cells, you and me, planets, galaxies and so forth)— and “epistemic reductionism,” which “claims that knowledge of the bottom level is sufficient to reconstruct knowledge of everything else. It holds that we will eventually be able to derive a quantum mechanical theory of planetary motions and of the genius of Shakespeare.” He suggests that while ontological reductionism is basically untested (and maybe untestable), epistemic reductionism is “obviously false.” Specifically, he takes issue with E.O. Wilson’s attempt to explain all of human behavior through the biological theory of evolution. He concludes that the desire for a general theory is rooted more than anything else in aesthetic preference: we like “simplicity” and “elegance” and “parsimony” (the latter a favorite word in my own discipline), but that doesn’t mean we have any reason to believe that the principles by which the universe operates are either simple or elegant. 
 I also find it interesting that Pigliucci begins the piece by dismissing the claims of “poststructuralist” thinkers like Foucault and Latour, and then constructs an argument that mirrors many significant aspects of theirs. 

Slideshow: “Extreme Animal Portraits: Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Winners” by Coburn Dukehart

 http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/10/17/163103676/extreme-animal-portraits-wildlife-photographer-of-the-year-winners

 The title here pretty much tells the story. Some amazing pictures of animals in action.

 Song: “Photon” by Pantha Du Prince
 Pantha Du Prince is probably most often classified, for what it’s worth, as “minimal techno.” On his forthcoming album, though, he uses a concert carillon (“concert” means it has more than 50 bells) as a complement to that sound. The combination is very cool, and, once you hear it, makes perfect sense.
  
 Song: “Once” by Rafiq Bhatia
 I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately, and this is the kind of thing my taste tends toward. I don’t know if it is technically free jazz, but it’s moving in that direction; there is an energy to this, a kind of “screw it and go crazy” thing, that I really enjoy.
 Also listen to his Strata EP on Soundcloud: 

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