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first_img(Visited 628 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 He was highly regarded in his day, but the beliefs of Comte de Buffon seem comical now.Janet Browne is delighted to see a new translation of a 1778 book by French philosopher Comte de Buffon (full name: George-Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon, hereafter Buffon). Browne is the historian of science who wrote an eye-opening but richly-sourced biography of Darwin we have referred to repeatedly (Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, Princeton 2002). Her portrayal of Darwin failed to sufficiently exalt the bearded Buddha to the pantheon of Greatest Scientist Ever as Darwin lovers expected. Instead, she exposed him as a schemer surrounded by accomplices (the X-Club) who used “audacious skulduggery” to get his ideas adopted and criticisms quashed (3 March 2008), to the point where Darwin schemed to manipulate his disciples to worship him as a god. But with access to the largest number of original documents, she had to tell the truth as a historian.Now, Browne is relishing the translation of Buffon’s Les Époques De La Nature — (Epochs of Nature, or the story of the Earth, first published in 1778). It had only been available in French till now. First, some background on Buffon (1707-1788), as described in Janet Browne’s review of the translation, published by Current Biology:George-Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon (1707 – 1788)Born into the landed bourgeoisie during the ancien régime, Buffon was a self-made, dynamic and cosmopolitan intellectual who became one of Europe’s best-known natural philosophers of the Enlightenment period, rapidly ascending to the directorship of the Jardin du Roi and Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He was elevated to the aristocracy in 1772 and died in 1788, just before the [French] revolution began. Had he lived longer, Buffon might have lost his head to the guillotine, although natural history was regarded as useful knowledge by the revolutionaries, and figures such as Buffon’s student Jean-Baptise Lamarck were allowed to remain active as professors at the Jardin. Nevertheless, Buffon’s death from natural causes marked the end of an era in Enlightenment science. Knowledge became a very different enterprise as the 19th century dawned.Browne is no ally of creationism, nor opponent of Darwinism. She just tries to be honest with the history of important figures in the rise of science. Creationists generally look down on Buffon for his atheism and his push to “naturalize” all science. He was one of the first to postulate long ages. Additionally, Buffon was one of the first proponents of “positivism,” teaching that the rise of materialistic science as the culmination of a series of evolutionary stages in the history of mankind, with science triumphing over religious superstition in the final stage. Would the French Revolution or the world wars of the 20th century have shaken his faith? We can only surmise.Buffon’s Epochs of Nature dealt with the Earth’s history from its origins in the planetary system to the modern era, arranged in seven successive epochs or time periods. In creating the volume, Buffon produced one of the most influential geological books in European science. Of course, there had been authoritative histories of the Earth beforehand and much careful research performed. Yet Buffon presented a thoroughly ‘enlightened’ and scientific view of the Earth that ran against the general Christian orthodoxy of the biblical story and proposed a vastly expanded timeframe. He is noted as one of the first scholars to introduce evidence for a directional, developmental history of the Earth and for laying important foundations for what would become an evolutionary point of view.As she indicates, Buffon influenced many scholars to come, who began to embrace long ages and evolutionary ideas. The myth of progress blossomed in the Victorian age, as increasing numbers of scientists, starting with the geologists, jettisoned the Bible and looked to their own “enlightened” reason to explain the world around them. This all culminated in Darwin’s Origin in 1859. By Darwin’s death in 1882, few were the scientists remaining who did not optimistically embrace the core of Buffon’s “positivism” that trusted in unaided human reason’s power to explain everything without reference to Divine revelation.Now that the table is set, let’s see what Buffon actually believed. Remember, he was highly regarded in his day. He was a scientific “expert.” His influence was profound; “one of the most widely read authors of the day — a rival to Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire.” But with the hindsight of history, who would not chuckle at what he taught in this book? Without meaning to, Browne presents him as somewhat of a buffoon by today’s standards. She kills him with kindness in her review that lauds his influence on the history of thought. Here are some tidbits gleaned from the review:“His account was founded on the idea of successive epochs, each following the other from the dawn of time and possessing different organisms to match changing atmospheric and geological conditions.”“his section explaining the metaphorical links between the bible and actual Earth history is a masterpiece of inventive yet logical thinking.“To Buffon, “everything proceeded along entirely natural pathways, one geological change generating the conditions for the next to emerge, a secular process of development set into place at the beginning by some abstract, supernatural force.““Yet his Earth was exceedingly old, older than anyone previously had suggested: some 75,000 years from the beginning, and almost ‘blasphemously old’ in the words of the authors.”“Buffon explained that the Earth was once an intensely hot cloud of matter that had spun off from the sun.““As the planet cooled, the waters emerged and receded, landmasses took shape, and the first living beings were spontaneously generated in the highest latitudes, as those were the areas first to cool.”“animals diversified according to environmental conditions and colonized the vacant landmasses, proceeding from north to south.”Modern scientists might try to defend these views as initial baby steps in a framework to explain phenomena by natural means. And yet most of what this “expert” said is no longer believed today, even by the secular evolutionary geologists and biologists who are his philosophical heirs. The Earth spun off the sun as a hot cloud? Water “emerged” somehow? Where did it come from? (This is a major problem for planetary science to this day.) Life emerged by spontaneous generation? It started at the highest latitudes? It moved from north to south? And all this happened without design in 75,000 years? “Inventive thinking” is the best euphemistic praise one could give to such ideas.The take-home lesson from Browne’s review is that today’s scientists can have little confidence that their own expertise will be looked on favorably 240 years from now. Their books might even by decaying on the shelves of the Eloi.Ha! Just imagine. The planet spun off the sun as a hot cloud! Life arose spontaneously! Water “emerged”! The environment created animals! Inventive thinking! Stuff happens! Hey, wait a minute; except for enlarging Buffon’s 75,000 years by almost three orders of magnitude, they still believe similar types of buffoonery today.last_img read more

first_img The Basic Education Department’s General Household Survey 2010 indicated that 1% of female learners attending school fell pregnant in 2009/10, equating to approximately 89 390 girls. UNAids regional director and a member of the taskforce, Sheila Tlou, said the prevention of unplanned pregnancies and HIV infection in young girls should be a major priority of the South African government. “Keeping girls in school is the best thing we can do to reduce new infections among girls and women and help them to reach their potential,” she said. The taskforce noted how crimes of gender-based violence, including brutal hate crimes against the LGBTI community, and in particular the “corrective” rape of lesbians, created a climate of fear and drove communities underground, fuelling HIV infection. Shaban commended Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana for initiating the National Council against Gender-Based Violence and urged her department to strengthen the council’s capacity to fight gender-based violence as part of addressing HIV/Aids. “Our collective conscience as a nation must refuse to accept that women and girls continue to perish from preventable diseases as a result of our failure to place gender equality and women’s empowerment at the centre of our policies,” Xingwana said. The department’s Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, said the work done by the taskforce would help them to identify gaps and challenges, which would enable them to develop more effective intervention programmes. “Any programme aimed at addressing gender-based violence and HIV prevention must target men. We have a responsibility to mobilise, educate and empower men and ensure that they are part of the solution,” she said. Source: SANews.gov.za 29 October 2012 A United Nations high level taskforce on women, girls, gender equality and HIV for eastern and southern Africa has called for accelerated efforts in protecting the rights and well-being of women and girls in South Africa. The taskforce concluded its one-week high-level political advocacy mission in South Africa on Saturday. The taskforce was in the country to conduct a mid-term review. The Women, Children and People with Disabilities Department had invited the taskforce to do an independent assessment of South Africa, and to share its experiences on critical issues facing women and girls in the country, such as teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and sex work. Members of the taskforce met with South Africa’s political leadership, the United Nations in South Africa, civil society organisations and other stakeholders working on the HIV response. They also held discussions with networks of women, people living with HIV, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities as part of their assessment process.Reducing mother-to-child transmission Kenyan Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development and leader of the delegation, Naomi Shaban, applauded the South African government for its efforts in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. “South Africa has done a commendable job in significantly reducing transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their new-borns, but more still needs to be done to keep mothers alive,” Shaban said. South Africa has seen a decrease in mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) from 3.5% in 2010 to 2.7% in 2011, and is well on its way to meeting the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and Aids target of virtually eliminating MTCT by 2015. South Africa has also developed a programme with four outcome areas: increasing life expectancy; addressing maternal mortality, dealing with tuberculosis and HIV; and strengthening the health care system. The taskforce, however, noted that despite South Africa’s progress in the HIV response, women and girls remained disproportionately affected by the epidemic, with young girls – particularly teenagers – still vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy and HIV infection. ‘Keeping girls in school’last_img read more

first_imgAmid low footfalls at the newly built Kartarpur Corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has asked the “cash-rich”’ Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to pay the $20 per pilgrim fee out of its coffers. Capt. Amarinder has also urged the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan to waive the passport condition for travel through the corridor and instead accept other forms of identity. ‘No visa to be stamped’“These should be acceptable since there was no requirement of visa to be stamped on the passport in any case,” he said.“The low number of devotees reportedly crossing over to the historic gurdwara was not because of lack of interest among the people but because of the two conditions of passport and $20 fee. Lakhs of pilgrims were waiting to visit the Kartarpur Gurdwara on this historic 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji but were held back because of these problems,” he added.“Though Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted before the opening of the corridor that passport would not be needed for devotees to come through, the decision was not formalised,” Capt. Amarinder pointed out. He urged Mr. Khan, as well as Mr. Modi, to resolve the problem by coming to an agreement to amend the MoU requirement for passport to travel through the corridor.‘Flush with funds’Pointing to the lavish spendings of the SGPC on holding separate programmes to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nana Dev Ji, the Chief Minister said it was evident that the religious body was flush with funds. “However, instead of flaunting their money to appease their ego and make a political point through this religious occasion, they should spend the same on supporting the devotees, especially the poor ‘yellow card’ holders who simply did not have the money to pay the necessary fee to Pakistan for entering their territory and pay obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara,” he said.Aam Aadmi Party senior leader and Leader of the Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema also demanded that the government simplify the process to travel to Kartarpur by lifting the mandatory passport condition.last_img read more

first_imgAs Indian domestic cricket circuit tries to reinvent itself, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar suggested that every Ranji Trophy game should be played on two different pitches to prepare a better Test team for overseas assignments.He also had an interesting take on how to make bilateral Test series engaging – by having back-to-back home-and-away rubbers so that the strength of two teams remains mostly constant but the conditions change to make for a bigger challenge. (Also read: How Sachin Tendulkar transformed Virat Kohli into a run-machine)However, it is Tendulkar’s suggested innovations of two different pitches for a single Ranji match which will make anyone sit up and take notice.”I have thought a lot about neutral venues in Ranji Trophy (which is being experimented this season). I have a suggestion which can be radical. When we go to places like Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa, we play with kookaburra balls which swings early. Think about a young Ranji batsman playing with SG Test in India and then facing difficulty overseas,”Tendulkar spoke at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.”Let us have the first innings on a green top with kookaburra balls which would give openers a challenge. Even bowlers will have something. Our spinners will also learn how to bowl with kookaburra on Green tops,” Tendulkar explained. His next suggestion was even more interesting.”Now let there be a pitch adjacent to the green top which would be a rank turner. Now the second innings will be played on that track with the SG Test ball which would also help our batsmen play against quality spin bowling. We have been too focused on playing pace in overseas conditions but we should not forget how to play spin bowling. Don’t forget even overseas teams are losing to us in India. May be they would start using SG in their domestic matches.”advertisementFor Tendulkar, two pitches, two balls in two innings of a match takes curator preparing designer pitches out of the equation and also nullifies the toss factor.”A captain would start thinking that winning the toss will give him only 10 percent advantage that is his right to choose first. But if he chooses to bowl on green top he should remember that he would need to bat on a Turner in the fourth innings,” he said making it clear that it may or may not click.In fact, BCCI president Anurag Thakur was among the audience listening with rapt attention. (Also read: Virat Kohli + Alastair Cook = Sachin Tendulkar?)About the dwindling crowd in Test cricket, Tendulkar blamed lack of rivalry in the longest format that has caused affected the interest in the sport not to forget the emergence of Twenty20.”When we grew up we had rivalries like Sunil Gavaskar vs Imran Khan, Viv Richards vs Jeff Thomson and then (Brian) Lara vs Glenn McGrath or Steve Waugh vs Curtly Ambrose. The West Indies team in ’80s and ’90s generated interest. The target then was to beat the West Indies. Australia was an incredible players. Nine world class and if 3-4 could close the game. That is missing,” he lamented.Asked what could be a solution, Tendulkar said: “Look we went to England in 2014 and lost the series. Now England are down in this series and since 2014, they have lost a couple of players.”My suggestion is to have back to back matches against same the side home and away. Let us play two Tests in India and then two Tests in England. Same set of players but different venues. Obviously there will be some changes in terms of form and injuries but core will be same. That will be a fair contest.”He was all praise for the current Indian team led by Virat Kohli.”This team reminds me of our times between 2000-2011. They have a quality pace and spin attack. We believe that it is the best team in the world. Soon rest of the world will follow us.”Tendulkar, who has been promoting Olympic Sports, also spoke about some discussions he has had with Sports Authority of India to popularise various events.”During IPL, we can have athletics events and then during ODIs when you have packed houses. That will also encourage the athletes.”last_img read more

first_imgWINNIPEG – Winnipeg residents are voting today on whether the city’s most famous intersection will be opened to pedestrians.The story of Portage and Main began when Henry McKenney purchased a low and swampy parcel of land to build a store in 1862.It morphed into the corner of commerce for decades but, unlike most other famous corners around the world, it lacks a market square or place for people to gather. In 1976, the city opened an underground concourse and infamous barriers blocking foot traffic were erected a few years later.Here are five things to know about the intersection:MUSICPortage and Main has inspired multiple musicians but most famously it was featured in the chorus of the 1992 Randy Bachman and Neil Young song “Prairie Town.” The chorus which says “Portage and Main, 50 below” references the two roads meeting in Winnipeg. It’s not the only time musicians have looked to the intersection for inspiration. Stompin’ Tom Connors’s song “Red River Jane” takes place at the corner and Burton Cummings had a CBC-TV special named after the intersection.COLDIt has a reputation as the coldest and windiest corner in Canada, but that claim is not proven, although “Prairie Town” probably has something to do with it. The average temperature in Winnipeg for January is -16.4 C, but it dropped to -30 C or colder six times last January.STAMPTo mark Canada 150 last year, about 3,600 people gathered at Portage and Main to create a living flag which will be featured on a stamp. The majority of people wore red and crowded together to create a giant maple leaf. A handful of people dressed in white were used to spell out “150” below the leaf. The downtown Winnipeg business improvement zone said the human display was the largest living Canadian flag and largest living maple leaf. There is also a 1974 eight-cent stamp featuring the corner.BOBBY HULLThe corner not only has strong connections to music — it’s also linked to some big moments in hockey. On June 27, 1972, Bobby Hull stood at Portage and Main and signed the largest contract in hockey history at that time. The player, known as the Golden Jet, joined the Winnipeg Jets for almost $2.8 million over 10 years, but he was paid $1 million up front. It made him the first player to sign a million-dollar contract.JETSThe corner has always held a special place for Winnipeg Jets players and their fans but the latest round of so-called “whiteout” street parties captured the attention of the world. When the Jets clinched a spot in the second round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in franchise history last spring, thousands of Winnipeggers shared their excitement by descending on the intersection. The excited cheers of fans dressed in blue and white, some wearing wigs and others holding up giant Jets flags, filled the corner and echoed through neighbouring blocks. Each time the Jets played a game, people continued to gather until the Vegas Golden Knights knocked the team out of the Western Conference final.last_img read more