Scott Atran: ” the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team”

Here He Goes Again: Sam Harris’s Falsehoods

Sam Harris

Here He Goes Again: Sam Harris’s Falsehoods (This View of Life)

POST: JUNE 13, 2013 1:05 PM

Sam Harris posted a recent blog about my views on Jihadis that is unbecoming of serious intellectual debate, if not ugly. He claims that I told him following a “preening and delusional lecture” that “no one [connected with suicide bombing] believes in paradise.” What I actually said to him (as I have to many others) was exactly what every leader of a jihadi group I interviewed told me, namely, that anyone seeking to become a martyr in order to obtain virgins in paradise would be rejected outright. I also said (and have written several articles and a book laying out the evidence) that although ideology is important, the best predictor (in the sense of a regression analysis) of willingness to commit an act of jihadi violence is if one belongs to an action-oriented social network, such as a neighborhood help group or even a sports team (see Atran, TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Penguin, 2010).

Harris’s views on religion ignore the considerable progress in cognitive studies on the subject over the last two decades, which show that core religious beliefs do not have fixed propositional content (Atran & Norenzayan, “Religion’s Evolutionary Landscape,” BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES, 2004). Indeed, religious beliefs, in being absurd (whether or not they are recognized as such), cannot even be processed as comprehensible because their semantic content is contradictory (for example, a bodiless but physically powerful and sentient being, a deity that is one in three, etc). It is precisely the ineffable nature of core religious beliefs that accounts, in part, for their social and political adaptability over time in helping to bond and sustain groups (Atran & Ginges, “Religious and Sacred Imperatives in Human Conflict,” SCIENCE, 2012). In fact, it is the ecstasy-provoking rituals that Harris describes as being associated with such beliefs which renders them immune to the logical and empirical scrutiny that ordinarily accompanies belief verification (see Atran & Henrich, “The Evolution of Religion,” BIOLOGICAL THEORY, 2010).

Harris’s generalizations of his own fMRIs on belief change among a few dozen college students as supportive of his views of religion as simply false beliefs are underwhelming. As Pat Churchland surmised: “There is not one single example in [Harris’s work] of what we have learned from neuroscience that should impact our moral judgments regarding a particular issue. There may EXIST examples, but he does not provide any.” (personal communication 2/24/11; see also the fMRI work by our neuroeconomics team lead by Greg Berns in the theme issue on “The Biology of Conflict,” PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY, 2012).

Context-free declarations about whether Islam, or any religion, is inherently compatible or incompatible with extreme political violence – or Democracy or any other contemporary political doctrine for that matter — is senseless. People make religious belief – whether Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and so forth – compatible with violence or non-violence according to how they interpret their religious beliefs. And how people interpret religious injunctions (e.g., the Ten Commandments), as well as transcendental aspects of political ideologies, almost invariably changes over time. For example, on the eve of the Second World War, political and Church leaders in Fascist Italy and Spain claimed that Catholicism and Democracy were inherently incompatible, and many Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants believed that God blessed the authoritarian regime. As Martin Luther proclaimed, “if the Emperor calls me, God calls me” – a sentiment that Luther, like many early Christians, believed was sanctified by Jesus’s injunction to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Nevertheless, the principles of modern liberal democracy first took root and grew to full strength in The European Christian and Colonial heartland. As Benjamin Franklin expressed it in his proposal for the motto of the new American Republic: “ Rebellion against Tyranny is Obedience to God.” Or, as the Coordinating Council of Yemeni Revolution for Change put it, an Islam of “basic human rights, equality, justice, freedom of speech, freedom of demonstration, and freedom of dreams!” (National Yemen, “The Facts As They Are,” Youth Revolutionary Council Addresses International Community, April 25, 2011).

That there is a cruel and repugnantly violent contemporary current in Islam, there is no doubt. Factions of the Christian identity movement, the Tamil Tiger interpretation of Hinduism as necessitating suicide attacks against Buddhist enemies, Imperial Japan’s interpretation of Zen Buddhism as a call to a war of extermination against the Chinese, all have produced cruel and barbarous behavior that has adversely affected millions of people. But Harris’s take on such matters is so scientifically uninformed and mendacious as to be a menace to those who seek a practical and reasoned way out of the morass of obscurantism.

As a final note, I should also mention that I am a lead investigator on several multiyear, multidisciplinary field-based science projects sponsored by the Department of Defense, including “Motivation, Ideology, and the Social Process in Radicalization,” aspects of which are taught to military personnel from general officers down. And I am recurrently asked to give briefings on these subjects to the White House, Congress and allied governments. I know of no comparable demands or operational interest among the political, defense or intelligence agencies of the U.S. and its allies for Harris’s musings on religious ecstasy. In Harris’s strange worldview, which is admittedly popular among many who believe that reason’s mission is to end religion to save the species, failure to apply those musings to stop religiously-directed violence across the globe may well be a another sign of the “crazy” ideas that he regularly ascribes to those who refuse his truth.

Here is what Harris wrote:

I have long struggled to understand how smart, well-educated liberals can fail to perceive the unique dangers of Islam. In The End of Faith, I argued that such people don’t know what it’s like to really believe in God or Paradise—and hence imagine that no one else actually does. The symptoms of this blindness can be quite shocking. For instance, I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism. According to Atran, people who decapitate journalists, filmmakers, and aid workers to cries of “Alahu akbar!” or blow themselves up in crowds of innocents are led to misbehave this way not because of their deeply held beliefs about jihad and martyrdom but because of their experience of male bonding in soccer clubs and barbershops. (Really.) So I asked Atran directly:

“Are you saying that no Muslim suicide bomber has ever blown himself up with the expectation of getting into Paradise?”

“Yes,” he said, “that’s what I’m saying. No one believes in Paradise.”

At a moment like this, it is impossible to know whether one is in the presence of mental illness or a terminal case of intellectual dishonesty. Atran’s belief—apparently shared by many people—is so at odds with what can be reasonably understood from the statements and actions of jihadists that it admits of no response. The notion that no one believes in Paradise is far crazier than a belief in Paradise.

Scott Atran is an American and French anthropologist who is a Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University in England, Presidential Scholar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and also holds offices at the University of Michigan. He has studied and written about terrorism, violence and religion, and has done fieldwork with terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists, as well as political leaders.

Bolsa Família enfraquece o coronelismo e rompe cultura da resignação, diz socióloga (FSP)

11/06/2013 – 10h37


Dez anos após sua implantação, o Bolsa Família mudou a vida nos rincões mais pobres do país: o tradicional coronelismo perde força e a arraigada cultura da resignação está sendo abalada.

A conclusão é da socióloga Walquiria Leão Rego, 67, que escreveu, com o filósofo italiano Alessandro Pinzani, “Vozes do Bolsa Família” (Editora Unesp, 248 págs., R$ 36). O livro será lançado hoje, às 19h, na Livraria da Vila do shopping Pátio Higienópolis. No local, haverá um debate mediado por Jézio Gutierre com a participação do cientista político André Singer e da socióloga Amélia Cohn.

Durante cinco anos, entre 2006 e 2011, a dupla realizou entrevistas com os beneficiários do Bolsa Família e percorreu lugares como o Vale do Jequitinhonha (MG), o sertão alagoano, o interior do Maranhão, Piauí e Recife. Queriam investigar o “poder liberatório do dinheiro” provocado pelo programa.

Aproveitando férias e folgas, eles pagaram do próprio bolso os custos das viagens. Sem se preocupar com estatística, a pesquisa foi qualitativa e baseada em entrevistas abertas.

Professora de teoria da cidadania na Unicamp, Rego defende que o Bolsa Família “é o início de uma democratização real” do país. Nesta entrevista, ela fala dos boatos que sacudiram o programa recentemente e dos preconceitos que cercam a iniciativa: “Nossa elite é muito cruel”, afirma.

Socióloga Walquiria Leão Rego, uma das autoras do livro sobre o Bolsa Família, que será lançado hoje, às 19h, na Livraria da Vila, em SPWalquiria Leão Rego, uma das autoras do livro sobre o Bolsa Família, que será lançado hoje, às 19h, na Livraria da Vila, em SP. Karime Xavier-31.mai.13/Folhapress

Folha – Como explicar o pânico recente no Bolsa Família? Qual o impacto do programa nas regiões onde a sra. pesquisou?

Walquiria Leão Rego - Enorme. Basta ver que um boato fez correr um milhão de pessoas. Isso se espalha pelos radialistas de interior. Elas [as pessoas] são muito frágeis. Certamente entraram em absoluto desespero. Poderia ter gerado coisas até mais violentas. Foi de uma crueldade desmesurada. Foi espalhado o pânico entre pessoas que não têm defesa. Uma coisa foi a medida administrativa da CEF (Caixa Econômica Federal). Outra coisa é o que a policia tem que descobrir: onde começou o boato. Fiquei estupefata. Quem fez isso não tem nem compaixão. Nossa elite é muito cruel. Não estou dizendo que foi a elite, porque seria uma leviandade.

Como assim?

Tem uma crueldade no modo como as pessoas falam dos pobres. Daí aparecem os adolescentes que esfaqueiam mendigos e queimam índios. Há uma crueldade social, uma sociedade com desigualdades tão profundas e tão antigas. Não se olha o outro como um concidadão, mas como se fosse uma espécie de sub-humanidade. Certamente essa crueldade vem da escravidão. Nenhum país tem mais de três séculos de escravidão impunemente.

Qual o impacto do Bolsa Família nas relações familiares?

Ocorreram transformações nelas mesmas. De repente se ganha uma certa dignidade na vida, algo que nunca se teve, que é a regularidade de uma renda. Se ganha uma segurança maior e respeitabilidade. Houve também um impacto econômico e comercial muito grande. Elas são boas pagadoras e aprenderam a gerir o dinheiro após dez anos de experiência. Não acho que resolveu o problema. Mas é o início de uma democratização real, da democratização da democracia brasileira. É inaceitável uma pessoa se considerar um democrata e achar que não tenha nada a ver com um concidadão que esteja ali caído na rua. Essa é uma questão pública da maior importância.

O Bolsa Família deveria entrar na Constituição?

A constitucionalização do Bolsa Família precisava ser feita urgentemente. E a renda tem que ser maior. Esse é um programa barato, 0,5% do PIB. Acho, também, que as pessoas têm direito à renda básica. Tem que ser uma política de Estado, que nenhum governo possa dizer que não tem mais recurso. Mas qualquer política distributiva mexe com interesses poderosos.

A sra. poderia explicar melhor?

Isso é histórico. A elite brasileira acha que o Estado é para ela, que não pode ter esse negócio de dar dinheiro para pobre. Além de o Bolsa Família entrar na Constituição, é preciso ter outras políticas complementares, políticas culturais específicas. É preciso ter uma escola pensada para aquela população. É preciso ter outra televisão, pois essa é a pior possível, não ajuda a desfazer preconceitos. É preciso organizar um conjunto de políticas articuladas para formar cidadãos.

A sra. quer dizer que a ascensão é só de consumidores?

As pessoas quando saem desse nível de pobreza não se transformam só em consumidores. A gente se engana. Uma pesquisadora sobre o programa Luz para Todos, no Vale do Jequitinhonha, perguntou para um senhor o que mais o tinha impactado com a chegada da luz. A pesquisadora, com seu preconceito de classe média, já estava pronta para escrever: fui comprar uma televisão. Mas o senhor disse: ‘A coisa que mais me impactou foi ver pela primeira vez o rosto dos meus filhos dormindo; eu nunca tinha visto’. Essa delicadeza… a gente se surpreende muito.

O que a surpreendeu na sua pesquisa?

Quando vi a alegria que sentiam de poder partilhar uma comida que era deles, que não tinha sido pedida. Não tinham passado pela humilhação de pedi-la; foram lá e compraram. Crianças que comeram macarrão com salsicha pela primeira vez. É muito preconceituoso dizer que só querem consumir. A distância entre nós é tão grande que a gente não pode imaginar. A carência lá é tão absurda. Aprendi que pode ser uma grande experiência tomar água gelada.

Li que a sra. teria apurado que o Bolsa Família, ao tornar as mulheres mais independentes, estava provocando separações, uma revolução feminina. Mas não encontrei isso no livro. O que é fato?

É só conhecer um pouco o país para saber que não poderia haver entre essas mulheres uma revolução feminista. É difícil para elas mudar as relações conjugais. Elas são mais autônomas com a Bolsa? São. Elas nunca tiveram dinheiro e passaram a ter, são titulares do cartão, têm a senha. Elas têm uma moralidade muito forte: compram primeiro a comida para as crianças. Depois, se sobrar, compram colchão, televisão. É ainda muito difícil falar da vida pessoal. Uma ou outra me disse que tinha vontade de se separar. Há o problema de alcoolismo. Esses processos no Brasil são muito longos. Em São Paulo é comum a separação; no sertão é incomum. A família em muitos lugares é ampliada, com sogra, mãe, cunhado vivendo muito próximos. Essa realidade não se desfaz.

Mas há indícios de mudança?

Indícios, sim. Certamente elas estão falando mais nesse assunto. Em 2006, não queriam falar de sentimentos privados. Em 2011, num povoado no sertão de Alagoas, me disseram que tinha havido cinco casos de separação. Perguntei as razões. Uma me disse: ‘Aquela se apaixonou pelo marido da vizinha’. Perguntei para outra. Ela disse: ‘Pensando bem, acho que a bolsa nos dá mais coragem’. Disso daí deduzir que há um movimento feminista, meu deus do céu, é quase cruel. Não sei se dá para fazer essa relação tão automática do Bolsa com a transformação delas em mulheres mais independentes. Certamente são mais independentes, como qualquer pessoa que não tinha nada e passa a ter uma renda. Um homem também. Mas há censuras internas, tem a religião. As coisas são muito mais espessas do que a gente imagina.

O machismo é muito forte?

Sim. E também dentro delas. Se o machismo é muito percebido em São Paulo, imagina quando no chamado Brasil profundo. Lá, os padrões familiares são muito rígidos. É comum se ouvir que a mulher saiu da escola porque o pai disse que ela não precisava aprender. Elas se casam muito cedo. Agora, como prevê a sociologia do dinheiro, elas estão muito contentes pela regularidade, pela estabilidade, pelo fato de poderem planejar minimamente a vida. Mas eu não avançaria numa hipótese de revolução sexual.

O Bolsa Família mexeu com o coronelismo?

Sim, enfraqueceu o coronelismo. O dinheiro vem no nome dela, com uma senha dela e é ela que vai ao banco; não tem que pedir para ninguém. É muito diferente se o governo entregasse o dinheiro ao prefeito. Num programa que envolve 54 milhões de pessoas, alguma coisa de vez em quando [acontece]. Mas a fraude é quase zero. O cadastro único é muito bem feito. Foi uma ação de Estado que enfraqueceu o coronelismo. Elas aprenderam a usar o 0800 e vão para o telefone público ligar para reclamar. Essa ideia de que é uma massa passiva de imbecis que não reagem é preconceito puro.

E a questão eleitoral?

O coronel perdeu peso porque ela adquiriu uma liberdade que não tinha. Não precisa ir ao prefeito. Pode pedir uma rua melhor, mas não comida, que era por ai que o coronelismo funcionava. Há resíduos culturais. Ela pode votar no prefeito da família tal, mas para presidente da República, não.

Esses votos são do Lula?

São. Até 2011, quando terminei a pesquisa, eram. Quando me perguntam por que Lula tem essa força, respondo: nunca paramos para estudar o peso da fala testemunhal. Todos sabem que ele passou fome, que é um homem do povo e que sabe o que é pobreza. A figura dele é muito forte. O lado ruim é que seja muito personalizado. Mas, também, existe uma identidade partidária, uma capilaridade do PT.

Há um argumento que diz que o Bolsa Família é como uma droga que torna o lulismo imbatível nas urnas. O que a sra. acha?

Isso é preconceito. A elite brasileira ignora o seu país e vai ficando dura, insensível. Sente aquele povo como sendo uma sub-humanidade. Imaginam que essas pessoas são idiotas. Por R$ 5 por mês eles compram uma parabólica usada. Cheguei uma vez numa casa e eles estavam vendo TV Senado. Perguntei o motivo. A resposta: ‘A gente gosta porque tem alguma coisa para aprender’.

No livro a sra. cita muitos casos de mulheres que fizeram laqueadura. Como é isso?

O SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde) está fazendo a pedido delas. É o sonho maior. Aliás, outro preconceito é dizer que elas vão se encher de filhos para aumentar o Bolsa Família. É supor que sejam imbecis. O grande sonho é tomar a pílula ou fazer laqueadura.

A sra. afirma que é preconceito dizer que as pessoas vão para o Bolsa Família para não trabalhar. Por quê?

Nessas regiões não há emprego. Eles são chamados ocasionalmente para, por exemplo, colher feijão. É um trabalho sem nenhum direito e ganham menos que no Bolsa Família. Não há fábricas; só se vê terra cercada, com muitos eucaliptos. Os homens do Vale do Jequitinhonha vêm trabalhar aqui por salários aviltantes. Um fazendeiro disse para o meu marido que não conseguia mais homens para trabalhar por causa do Bolsa Família. Mas ele pagava R$ 20 por semana! O cara quer escravo. Paga uma miséria por um trabalho duro de 12, 16 horas, não assina carteira, é autoritário, e acha que as pessoas têm que se submeter a isso. E dizem que receber dinheiro do Estado é uma vergonha.

Há vontade de deixar o Bolsa Família?

Elas gostariam de ter emprego, salário, carteira assinada, férias, direitos. Há também uma pressão social. Ouvem dizer que estão acomodadas. Uma pesquisa feita em Itaboraí, no Rio de Janeiro, diz que lá elas têm vergonha de ter o cartão. São vistas como pobres coitadas que dependem do governo para viver, que são incapazes, vagabundas. Como em “Ralé”, de Máximo Gorki, os pobres repetem a ideologia da elite. A miséria é muito dura.

A sra. escreve que o Bolsa Família é o inicio da superação da cultura de resignação? Será?

A cultura da resignação foi muito estudada e é tema da literatura: Graciliano Ramos, João Cabral de Melo Neto, José Lins do Rego. Ela tem componente religioso: ‘Deus quis assim’. E mescla elementos culturais: a espera da chuva, as promessas. Essa cultura da resignação foi rompida pelo Bolsa Família: a vida pode ser diferente, não é uma repetição. É a hipótese que eu levanto. Aparece uma coisa nova: é possível e é bom ter uma renda regular. É possível ter outra vida, não preciso ver meus filhos morrerem de fome, como minha mãe e minha vó viam. Esse sentimento de que o Brasil está vivendo uma coisa nova é muito real. Hoje se encontram negras médicas, dentistas, por causa do ProUni (Universidade para Todos). Depois de dez anos, o Bolsa Família tem mostrado que é possível melhorar de vida, aprender coisas novas. Não tem mais o ‘Fabiano’ [personagem de "Vidas Secas"], a vida não é tão seca mais.

AUTOR Walquiria Leão Rego e Alessandro Pinzani
EDITORA Editora Unesp
QUANTO R$ 36 (248 págs.)
LANÇAMENTO hoje, às 19h, na Livraria da Vila – Shopping Higienópolis (av. Higienópolis, 618; tel. 0/xx/11/3660-0230)

Climate research nearly unanimous on human causes, survey finds (The Guardian)

Of more than 4,000 academic papers published over 20 years, 97.1% agreed that climate change is anthropogenic

, US environment correspondent, Thursday 16 May 2013 00.01 BST

An iceberg melts in Greeland in 2007. Climate change. Environment. Global warming. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

‘Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary’. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

A survey of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals has found 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity.

Authors of the survey, published on Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, said the finding of near unanimity provided a powerful rebuttal to climate contrarians who insist the science of climate change remains unsettled.

The survey considered the work of some 29,000 scientists published in 11,994 academic papers. Of the 4,000-plus papers that took a position on the causes of climate change only 0.7% or 83 of those thousands of academic articles, disputed the scientific consensus that climate change is the result of human activity, with the view of the remaining 2.2% unclear.

The study described the dissent as a “vanishingly small proportion” of published research.

“Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary,” said John Cook of the University of Queensland, who led the survey.

Public opinion continues to lag behind the science. Though a majority of Americans accept the climate is changing, just 42% believed human activity was the main driver, in a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre last October.

“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception,” Cook said in a statement.

Guardian partners Climate Desk interview John Cook on his new paper

The study blamed strenuous lobbying efforts by industry to undermine the science behind climate change for the gap in perception. The resulting confusion has blocked efforts to act on climate change.

The survey was the most ambitious effort to date to demonstrate the broad agreement on the causes of climate change, covering 20 years of academic publications from 1991-2011.

In 2004, Naomi Oreskes, an historian at the University of California, San Diego,surveyed published literature, releasing her results in the journal Science. She too came up with a similar finding that 97% of climate scientists agreed on the causes of climate change.

She wrote of the new survey in an email: “It is a nice, independent confirmation, using a somewhat different methodology than I used, that comes to the same result. It also refutes the claim, sometimes made by contrarians, that the consensus has broken down, much less ‘shattered’.”

The Cook survey was broader in its scope, deploying volunteers from website to review scientific abstracts. The volunteers also asked authors to rate their own views on the causes of climate change, in another departure from Oreskes’s methods.

The authors said the findings could help close the gap between scientific opinion and the public on the causes of climate change, or anthropogenic global warming, and so create favourable conditions for political action on climate.

“The public perception of a scientific consensus on AGW [anthropogenic, ie man-made, global warming] is a necessary element in public support for climate policy,” the study said.

However, Prof Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who studies the forces underlying attitudes towards climate change, disputed the idea that educating the public about the broad scientific agreement on the causes of climate change would have an effect on public opinion – or on the political conditions for climate action.

He said he was doubtful that convincing the public of a scientific consensus on climate change would help advance the prospects for political action. Having elite leaders call for climate action would be far more powerful, he said.

“I don’t think people really want to come around to grips with the fact that climate change is a highly ideological issue and it is not amenable to the information deficit model,” he said.

“The information deficit model, this idea that if you just pile on more information people will get convinced, is just completely inadequate, he said. “It strengthens the people who actually read and pay attention but it is certainly not going to change or shift the opinions of others.”

Jon Krosnick, professor in humanities and social sciences at Stanford university and an expert on public opinion on climate change, said: “I assume that sceptics would say that there is bias in the editorial process so that the papers ultimately published are not an accurate reflection of the opinions of scientists.”

“Cientistas podem contar uma história sem perder a acurácia” (Fapesp)

Dan Fay, diretor da Microsoft Research Connections, afirma que a tecnologia pode ajudar os pesquisadores a expor artigos e atrair mais leitores, sejam eles seus pares, formuladores de políticas ou agências de fomento (foto:Edu Cesar/FAPESP)



Por Frances Jones

Agência FAPESP – Com mais de 20 anos de Microsoft, o engenheiro Dan Fay faz parte de um seleto grupo de profissionais que vasculha o mundo científico em busca de parcerias entre a gigante de informática e autores de projetos relacionados às ciências da Terra, energia e meio ambiente.

São projetos como o software World Wide Telescope, desenvolvido em parceria com pesquisadores da Universidade Johns Hopkins, que permite que cientistas de diversas regiões do mundo acessem imagens de objetos celestes coletadas por telescópios espaciais, observatórios e instituições de pesquisa, manipulem e compartilhem esses dados.

“Nosso desafio é encontrar pesquisadores a cuja pesquisa podemos agregar valor e não apenas fornecer mais máquinas”, disse Fay, que, além de ser diretor da divisão de Terra, Energia e Ambiente da Microsoft Research Connections, o braço de pesquisas da Microsoft, integra o conselho consultivo industrial para Computação e Tecnologia da Informação da Purdue University, no estado norte-americano de Indiana.

Fay esteve em São Paulo para participar do Latin American eScience Workshop 2013, promovido pela FAPESP e pela Microsoft Research de 13 a 15 de maio, quando proferiu duas palestras a pesquisadores e estudantes de diversos países sobre avanços em diversas áreas do conhecimento proporcionados pela melhoria na capacidade de análise de grandes volumes de informações. Em uma delas, falou sobre como a ciência pode utilizar a computação em nuvem; na outra, sobre “como divulgar sua pesquisa internacionalmente”. Em seguida, conversou com a Agência FAPESP. Leia abaixo, trechos da entrevista.

Agência FAPESP – O que o senhor espera para o futuro com relação à eScience, a utilização no fazer ciência de tecnologias e ferramentas de computação?
Fay – O interessante sobre a eScience é combinar dados computacionais e novas técnicas nas mais diversas áreas. O que vemos agora é um uso maior da computação, mas o passo seguinte será o cruzamento dos diferentes domínios e o uso combinado dessas informações, como, por exemplo, da biologia e do meio ambiente juntos, fazendo uma análise transversal. Os dois domínios falam línguas diferentes. A passagem entre as áreas será um dos próximos desafios. Não se pode assumir que um dado significa algo. É preciso ter certeza.

Agência FAPESP – Como os pesquisadores podem utilizar a computação em nuvem para seus estudos?
Fay – A computação em nuvem fornece um novo paradigma para enfrentar os desafios da computação e da análise de dados nas mais diversas áreas do conhecimento científico. Diferentemente dos supercomputadores tradicionais, isolados e centralizados, a nuvem está em todos os lugares e pode oferecer suporte a diferente estilos de computação que são adequados para a análise de dados e para colaboração. Nos últimos três anos temos trabalhado com pesquisadores acadêmicos para explorar o potencial desta nova plataforma. Temos mais de 90 projetos de pesquisa que usam o Windows Azure [plataforma em nuvem da Microsoft] e temos aprendido muito. Como em qualquer tecnologia nova, há sempre pessoas que começam antes e outras depois. Há vários pesquisadores que começaram a usá-la para compreender como isso pode mudar a forma com que fazem pesquisa.

Agência FAPESP – O senhor acha que no futuro haverá uma mudança na forma de se divulgar ciência?
Dan Fay – Comentei com os alunos no workshop que sempre haverá os artigos tradicionais, de revistas científicas, que são revisados pelos pares. Com a quantidade de informações que temos hoje, no entanto, para tornar isso mais visível para outras pessoas e para o público em geral, os dados também podem ser apresentados de outra forma. Um artigo que se aprofunda nos detalhes também pode ser acessível a pessoas de diferentes domínios. Produzir fotos e vídeos, entre outros recursos, também pode ajudar.

Agência FAPESP – Esse é um papel dos cientistas?
Fay – Você pode usar os mesmos dados científicos acurados e contar histórias sobre eles. E permitir que as pessoas escutem diretamente de você essa história de forma visual. Essa interação é muito poderosa. É a mesma coisa que ir ao museu e ver várias obras de arte: as pessoas se conectam a elas. Os cientistas querem que seus colegas e as pessoas em geral se conectem dessa forma com suas informações, dados ou artigos. Acho bom encontrar outros mecanismos que possam explicar os dados. Estamos em uma época fascinante na qual há uma preocupação em divulgar a informação de um jeito interessante. Isso é verdade não apenas quando se quer falar para os seus pares, mas especialmente se você quer que os formuladores de políticas, o governo ou as agências de fomento entendam o que é o seu trabalho. Às vezes ele tem de ser apresentado de forma que possa ser consumido com mais facilidade.

Agência FAPESP – A tecnologia ajuda nesse ponto?
Fay – Sim. Parte disso porque essas formas fazem com que as pessoas leiam com mais profundidade os artigos. Há uma pesquisadora em Harvard, uma astrônoma, que criou um desses tours virtuais que temos sobre as galáxias. Ela calcula que mais pessoas assistiram a seus tours do que leram seus artigos científicos. Esse tipo de entendimento está aumentando. Se posso ajudar alguém a ler um artigo ao ver isso em outro lugar, isso é um avanço.

Agência FAPESP – O senhor acha que os cientistas devem entrar em redes sociais digitais, como o Facebook, para expor seus trabalhos?
Fay – Sim. Eles devem sempre se apoiar no rigor científico, mas ajuda empregar técnicas de design ou de marketing. Mesmo em seus pôsteres. É uma forma de divulgar melhor as informações.

Agência FAPESP – E as novas tecnologias promoverão a abertura dos dados científicos?
Fay – Para além da abertura de dados, há um problema social, no qual as pessoas se sentem donas de suas ideias ou informações. Encontrar formas de compartilhar os dados e dar o devido reconhecimento às pessoas que os coletaram, processaram e os tornaram disponíveis é importante. É aí, acredito, que estão vários desafios. Também há a questão dos dados médicos ou de outros dados que você não quer que fiquem soltos por aí.

Lord of All I Survey (Slate)


Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 10:30 AM

Science and religion

How much do you know about science and religion?. Illustration by Shutterstock/ollyy

Last week, a couple of online surveys came to my attention. Both were from the Pew Research Center (a non-profit, respected group); one was about public knowledge ofscience, the other about religion.

If you haven’t taken them, they are very short (13 and 15 questions each) and will literally only take a couple of minutes for you to fill out—they don’t ask for any specific personal info, and the questions are very simply stated. So please, go take them both before you continue reading here.

<sound of “Jeopardy!” theme>

OK, all done? How did you do?

Bragging time: I got all the answers right, on both quizzes. But, apropos of a test on religion, I have a confession: I guessed on the last religion question; I’m not all that clear on the First Great Awakening (though I knew it wasn’t Billy Graham, so my odds went up to 50/50 for my guess).

I found the questions and results interesting. I’ll note the religious test was given out in 2010 (32 questions were used in the phone survey; only 15 are listed online), but I didn’t find the questions particularly dated.

Not surprisingly, I was pretty confident in the science test, and knew my answers were right. I was shakier on some of the religious questions; I have a broad knowledge of many religions, but specifics not so much. Still, I did well.

Also not surprisingly, Americans didn’t fare so well in the science test (maybe we should make members of Congress pass both tests before being allowed to sit on the House Science Committee). But more interesting is which questions were answered incorrectly, and by what percentage; Pew reports the results.

For example, only 20 percent of the respondents were correct in answering that nitrogen is the most abundant element in our atmosphere (over three times more abundant than oxygen, which I’d guess is what most people think makes up the majority of our air). I think people should know that, in that I think people should have a broad working knowledge of basic science and its principles. On the other hand, it’s not criticallyimportant that people know that. It won’t directly impact their lives, for example.

On the other hand, only 58 percent knew that carbon dioxide causes rising temperatures. Global warming is a fantastically important issue, even if you think (incorrectly) it’s not real. Either way, it’s a big political topic, and one our economy (and our very lives) depends on. Yet 42 percent of Americans don’t know the single most basic fact about it.

That’s terrifying.

What I found most fascinating, though, are the percentiles of the overall surveys; that is, how many people got how many correct total. By getting all the science questions right, I did better than 93 percent of the people surveyed (only 7 percent got all 13 questions right). By getting all the religion questions right, I did better than 99 percent of the people surveyed (only 1 percent got them all right).

Mind you, only a few thousand people were surveyed, there was probably no overlap between the two groups, and it’s a small number of questions. Still, this implies something interesting: people know less about religion than science!

I’m not sure how strong an inference to take here. How do you compare the two questions? After all, most Americans are supposed to get a basic science education, but I expect it’s extremely unlikely that most will get a firm basic knowledge of religions other than their own (and sometimes not even then). I’d even bet there’s a bias against it, in fact.

So I wouldn’t read too much into this. It’s just interesting. I suspect the real impact of this survey is personal. What did you get right? What did you get wrong? How important is the distinction to you?

I think there’s always room for more learning, and if these surveys spur that on, even a little bit, then that’s a pretty good thing.

Mainstream green is still too white (Color Lines)

By Brentin Mock; Cross-posted from ColorLines

We missing anything here?Last year was the hottest on record for the continental United States, and it wasn’t an outlier. The last 12 years have been the warmest years since 1880, the year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking this information. And climate scientists predict that the devastating blizzards, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires we’ve been experiencing lately will worsen due to climate change.

In many ways these punishing weather events feel like Mother Nature seeking revenge for our failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary cause of global warming. Despite abundant evidence, the U.S. government has yet to pass a law that would force a reduction in these emissions.

During his first term, President Obama did make climate change a priority, both in his campaign and in office. The American Clean Energy and Security Act that Congress produced passed through the House in June 2009 by a narrow margin. Yet the bill never reached a vote in the Senate, and it died quietly.

Environmentalists have been flummoxed ever since. One prominent cause-of-death theory says that large mainstream (and predominantly white) environmental groups failed to mobilize grassroots support and ignored those who bear a disproportionate burden of climate change, namely poor people of color.

With Obama in for a second term and reaffirmed in his environmental commitments, climate legislation has another chance at life. Now, observers are wondering if mainstream environmentalists learned the right lessons from the first climate bill failure and how they’ll work with people of color this time around.

Anatomy of a conflict

To hear some environmental leaders tell it, their defeat wasn’t due to a lack of investment in black and brown people living in poor and working class communities, but to an over-investment in Obama. For example, Dan Lashof, climate and clean air director for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has blamed the president for having the audacity to push healthcare reform and he’s pointed the finger at green groups for being too patient with Obama.

Asked what environmental advocates who led the first climate bill effort could have done differently in 2009, Bill McKibben, founder of the online grassroots organizing campaign, says their game plan was too insular. “There was no chance last time because all the action was in the closed rooms, not in the streets,” he tells

Yet that “action” took place behind closed doors for a reason: Major mainstream green groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy teamed up with oil companies and some of the biggest polluters and emitters in the nation to form the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). This ad hoc alliance was the driving force behind the failed 2009 bill and there were no environmental justice, civil rights, or people-of-color groups at the USCAP table.

Obama can’t be blamed for the blind spots of major groups. As recent Washington Post and Politico articles have pointed out, their leadership and membership simply don’t reflect the race or socieconomic class of people most vulnerable to climate change’s wrath.

Sarah Hansen, former executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, argued recently that the mainstream has been stingy with funding and resources and inept at engaging environmental justice communities. In a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) study, “Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environmental and Climate Funders,” Hansen reported that philanthropies awarded most of their environmental dollars to large, predominantly white groups but received little return in terms of law and policy. Meanwhile, wrote Hansen, too few dollars have been invested in community- and environmental justice-based organizations.

According to the NCRP report, environmental organizations with $5 million-plus budgets made up only 2 percent of green groups in general but in 2009 received half of all grants in the field. The NCRP also found that 15 percent of all green dollars benefited marginalized populations between 2007 and 2009. Only 11 percent went to social justice causes.

In January, Harvard professor Theda Skocpol released a study of the first climate bill campaign’s failure and faulted green groups involved for choosing direct congressional lobbying over grassroots organizing. Some of the major organizations did spend money on field organizers, wrote Skocpol, but only to push public messaging like billboards and advertisements.

“The messaging campaigns would not make it their business to actually shape legislation — or even talk about details with ordinary citizens or grassroots groups,” Skocpol wrote in the report. The public “is seen as a kind of background chorus that, hopefully, will sing on key.”

Take one for the team?

That the environmental movement thought billboards and ads could replace educating and organizing actual people was their biggest flaw, a position shared by Hansen and Skocpol. In comparison, health reform advocates took a lobbying and grassroots approach while the climate-change bill made the rounds and got a law passed.

“If you want to gain the trust of the emerging non-white majority, it’s not just a messaging thing,” explains Ryan Young, legal counsel for the California-based Greenlining Institute, a policy research nonprofit focused on economic, environmental, and racial justice. “It’s a values thing. You must understand the values of these communities and craft policy around that.”

Why does this matter?

Consider how the website of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) recently featured an article on city bird sanctuaries from the group’s print magazine titled “Urban Renewal.”

Having people of color on staff might have helped NWF understand that for some, “urban renewal” signifies a historical legacy of black and Latino neighborhoods being effectively erased by development projects such as sports stadiums. Cultural snafus like this have led to white environmental groups being clowned in influential outlets including The Daily Show.

In an interview about the unintended message of “Urban Renewal,” Jim Lyon, NWF’s vice president for conservation policy, told that the group doesn’t “always get everything right” and that “he’d take it back to his staff.” (Ironically, one of the harshest critiques of urban renewal came from Jane Jacobs, a white conservationist.) On the topic of staff diversity, Lyon said the organization isn’t where they want it to be, but that they’ve made “good progress.” He would not release staff demographics, but said NWF achieves diversity through partnerships with other groups and programs like Eco-Schools USA, which he says “engages more than 1 million children of color” daily.

Beverly Wright, who heads the New Orleans-based Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, says racial oversights of traditionally white groups are the main reason black and Latino environmentalists have formed their own organizations. The culturally divided camps sometimes use the same words, but they’re often speaking different languages.

Take “cap-and-trade,” a scheme that would commodify greenhouse gas emissions for market-trading as a way to reduce those emissions. The first climate bill centered on cap-and-trade because most major environmental groups supported it. But cap-and-trade was anathema to environmental justice because it did nothing to curb local co-pollutants such as smog and soot, direct threats to communities of color. That’s not to mention that cap-and-trade was the brainchild of C. Boyden Gray, a conservative member of the Federalist Society and leader of FreedomWorks, today a major Tea Party funder.

Wright says major green groups tried to coax environmental justice organizations into supporting cap-and-trade by claiming it was for the “greater good.”

“But that meant white people get all the greater goods and we get the rest,” says Wright. “Until they want to have real discussions around racism, they won’t have our support. That’s what happened last time with the climate bill. It did not move, because they did not have diversity in their voices.”

“Diversity” doesn’t just mean hiring more people of color. As the 30-year-old Center for Health, Environment and Justice stated in March, the diversity conversation “really needs to be about resources and assistance to the front line communities rather than head counting.”

What’s next?

So in the new round of climate bill talks, will large environmental groups meaningfully engage community-based environmental justice groups?

The prognosis is mixed. Look at MomentUs, a mammoth collaborative started in January to ramp up support for new climate legislation. While MomentUs claims to be a game-changer, the strategy behind it seems very similar to that of USCAP’s — the one that failed to deliver a climate-change law the first time around. On its website, MomentUs describes its board of directors as “cultural, environmental, business, and marketing leaders who offer the diversity of viewpoints and keen insight vital to advancing MomentUs’s mission.” At press time, all of the directors are white. So is the staff, except for one office administrator.

Looking at MomentUs partners, it appears that the same traditionally white environmental organizations who teamed up for USCAP are now working with corporations including ALEC funder Duke Energy, predatory subprime mortgage king Wells Fargo, perennial labor union target Sodexho, and Disney. At press time there are no environmental justice or civil rights groups involved.

On the other side of the spectrum, The Sierra Club — one of the nation’s largest and whitest green groups — has had an expansive role in environmental justice and advocacy, particularly in the Gulf Coast. In January it joined the NAACP and labor unions in launching the Democracy Initiative, which will tackle voting rights, environmental justice, and other civil rights concerns.

To be sure, it’s way too early to make a conclusion about MomentUs or the Democracy Initiative, but the latter appears to be a step in the right direction in terms of highlighting the intersection between poor environmental outcomes and racism.

McKibben, the founder, has helped cultivate a multicultural fight against the Keystone XL pipeline project, but he admits that the overall environmental movement has “tons of work to do” on racial equity and inclusion.

“The sooner [mainstream environmentalists] absorb the message and are led by members of the environmental justice movement, the better,” he says.

In that case, the question is a matter of timing and power, of who decides when and which environmental justice activists get to lead.

Stay tuned.

Brentin Mock is a New Orleans-based journalist who serves as ColorLines’s reporting fellow on voting rights.     

Indigenous rights are the best defence against Canada’s resource rush (Guardian)

First Nations people – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet

By Martin Lukacs

Friday 26 April 2013 16.12 BST –

Canada blog about Aboriginal rights : First Nations protesters in Idle No More demonstration Toronto

First Nations protesters are silhouetted against a flag as the take in a Idle No More demonstration in Toronto, January 16, 2013. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.

This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.

How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.

He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.

“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”

This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.

Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprisingmay be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”

The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.

No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.

Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.

But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.

This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”

Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.