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Posted: 31 Jan 2015 11:20 PM PST
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com
(RNS) Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who no one seems to have noticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion.
They’re more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans) and more scientifically knowledgeable than “Moderns” (36 percent) who stand on science alone, according to two sociologists’ findings in a new study.
“We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories,” said Timothy O’Brien, co-author of the research study, released Thursday (Jan. 29) in the American Sociological Review.
Put another way, there’s a sizable chunk of Americans out there who are both religious and scientifically minded but who break with both packs when faith and science collide.
Post-Seculars pick and choose among science and religion views to create their own “personally compelling way of understanding the world,” said O’Brien, assistant professor at University of Evansville in Indiana.
O’Brien and co-author Shiri Noy, an assistant professor of sociology at University of Wyoming, examined responses from 2,901 people to 18 questions on knowledge of and attitudes toward science, and four religion-related questions in the General Social Surveys conducted in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Many findings fit the usual way the science-religion divide is viewed:
— Moderns, who stand on reason, scored high on scientific knowledge and scored lowest on religion questions regarding biblical authority and the strength of their religious ties.
— Traditionals, who lean toward religion, scored lower on science facts and were least likely to agree that “the benefits of scientific research outweigh the harmful results.”
However, the data turned up a third perspective – people who defied the familiar breakdown. The authors dubbed them “Post-Secular” to jump past a popular theory that Americans are moving way from religion to become more secular, O’Brien said.
Post-Seculars — about half of whom identify as conservative Protestants — know facts such as how lasers work, what antibiotics do and the way genetics affect inherited illnesses.
But when it comes to three main areas where science and Christian-centric religious views conflict — on human evolution, the Big Bang origin of the universe and the age of the Earth — Post-Seculars break away from the pack with very significantly different views from Traditionals and Moderns.
Areas where the factions are clear:
The universe began with a huge explosion:
Traditional: 21 percent
Modern: 68 percent
Post Secular: 6 percent
Human beings developed from earlier species of animals:
Traditional: 33 percent
Modern: 88 percent
Post-Secular: 3 percent
The continents have been moving for millions of years and will move in the future:
Traditional: 66 percent
Modern: 98 percent
Post-Secular: 80 percent
“Post-Seculars are smart. They know what scientists think. They just don’t agree on some key issues, and that has impact on their political views,” said O’Brien.
When the authors looked at views on the authority of the Bible and how strongly people said they were affiliated with their religion, Post-Seculars put the most faith in Scripture and were much more inclined to say they were strongly religious. And where science and faith conflict on hot-button issues, they side with the religious perspective.
For example, Moderns are the most supportive of embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights for women, but Post-Seculars, who are nonetheless largely positive about science and society, are more skeptical in both areas, O’Brien said.
Candidates running in the 2016 elections might take note.
Where people fall in these three groups can predict their attitudes on political issues where science and religion both have claims, O’Brien said, even after accounting for the usual suspects — social class, political ideology or church attendance.
Posted: 31 Jan 2015 11:10 PM PST
January 29, 2015
DARPA program advances robots’ ability to sense visual information and turn it into action
“The MSEE program initially focused on sensing, which involves perception and understanding of what’s happening in a visual scene, not simply recognizing and identifying objects,” said Reza Ghanadan, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Offices. “We’ve now taken the next step to execution, where a robot processes visual cues through a manipulation action-grammar module and translates them into actions.”
Another significant advance to come out of the research is the robots’ ability to accumulate and share knowledge with others. Current sensor systems typically view the world anew in each moment, without the ability to apply prior knowledge.
“This system allows robots to continuously build on previous learning—such as types of objects and grasps associated with them—which could have a huge impact on teaching and training,” Ghanadan said. “Instead of the long and expensive process of programming code to teach robots to do tasks, this research opens the potential for robots to learn much faster, at much lower cost and, to the extent they are authorized to do so, share that knowledge with other robots. This learning-based approach is a significant step towards developing technologies that could have benefits in areas such as military repair and logistics.”
The DARPA-funded researchers presented their work today at the 29th meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. The University of Maryland paper is available here: http://ow.ly/I30im
Posted: 31 Jan 2015 11:06 PM PST
Excerpt from seattletimes.com
Elon Musk thought three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.
The famous entrepreneur isn’t going to live here, at least not yet. But earlier this month he did announce plans to bulk up an engineering center near Seattle for his SpaceX venture. The invitation-only event was held in the shadow of the Space Needle.
If the plan happens, SpaceX would join Planetary Resources and Blue Origin in a budding Puget Sound space hub. With talent from Boeing, the aerospace cluster and University of Washington, this offers fascinating potential for the region’s future.
Elon Musk sounds like the name of a character from a novel that would invariably include the sentence, “he had not yet decided whether to use his powers for good or for evil.”
He is said to have been the inspiration for the character Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. in the “Iron Man” movies. He’s also been compared to Steve Jobs and even Thomas Edison.
The real Musk seems like a nice-enough chap, at least based on his ubiquitous appearances in TED talks and other venues.
Even the semidishy essay in Marie Claire magazine by his first wife, Justine, is mostly about the challenge to the marriage as Musk became very rich, very young, started running with a celebrity crowd and exhibited the monomaniacal behavior common to the entrepreneurial tribe.
A native of South Africa, Musk emigrated to Canada and finally to the United States, where he received degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. He left Stanford’s Ph.D. program in applied physics after two days to start a business.
In 1995, he co-founded Zip2, an early Internet venture for newspapers. Four years later, he co-founded what would become PayPal. With money from eBay’s acquisition of PayPal, he started SpaceX. He also invested in Tesla Motors, the electric-car company, eventually becoming chief executive. Then there’s Solar City, a major provider of solar-power systems.
Musk has said that early on he sensed three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.
At age 43, Musk is seven years younger than Jeff Bezos and more than 15 years younger than Bill Gates.
His achievements haven’t come without controversy. Tesla played off several states against each other for a battery factory. Nevada, desperate to diversify its low-wage economy, won, if you can call it that.
The price tag was $1.4 billion in incentives and whether it ever pays off for the state is a big question. A Fortune magazine investigation showed Musk not merely as a visionary but also a master manipulator with a shaky deal. Musk, no shrinking violet, fired back on his blog.
SpaceX is a combination of the practical and the hyperambitious, some would say dreamy.
On the practical side, the company is one of those chosen by the U.S. government to resupply the International Space Station. Musk also hopes to put 4,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide inexpensive Internet access worldwide.
The satellite venture will be based here, with no financial incentives from the state.
But he also wants to make space travel less expensive, generate “a lot of money” through SpaceX, and eventually establish a Mars colony.
“SpaceX, or some combination of companies and governments, needs to make progress in the direction of making life multiplanetary, of establishing a base on another planet, on Mars — being the only realistic option — and then building that base up until we’re a true multiplanet species,” he said during a TED presentation.
It’s heady stuff. And attractive enough to lead Google and Fidelity Investments to commit $1 billion to SpaceX.
Also, in contrast with the “rent-seeking” and financial plays of so many of the superwealthy, Musk actually wants to create jobs and solve practical problems.
If there’s a cautionary note, it is that market forces alone can’t address many of our most serious challenges. Indeed, in some cases they make them worse.
Worsening income inequality is the work of the hidden hand, unfettered by antitrust regulation, progressive taxation, unions and protections against race-to-the-bottom globalization.
If the hidden costs of spewing more carbon into the atmosphere are not priced in, we have today’s market failure exacerbating climate change. Electric cars won’t fix that as long as the distortions favoring fossil fuels remain.
So a broken, compromised government that’s cutting research dollars and failing to invest in education and forward-leaning infrastructure is a major impediment.
The United States did not reach the moon because of a clever billionaire, but through a national endeavor to serve the public good. I know, that’s “so 20th century.”
Also, as Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon might argue, visionaries such as Thomas Edison grabbed relatively low-hanging fruit, with electrification creating huge numbers of jobs.
Merely recovering the lost demand of the Great Recession has proved difficult. Another electrificationlike revolution that lifts all boats seems improbable.
I’m not sure that’s true. But it will take more than Iron Man to rescue the many Americans still suffering.
Posted: 31 Jan 2015 10:58 PM PST
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