Content tagged society

A poisoned democracy

posted on 2019-11-05

It's time to talk. I've been thinking about this for months, and it's time to – well, not stop thinking, but start talking. What's bugging me? That Americans have stopped talking. Or at least, that they no longer seem to talk with each other, but only about each other – that the concept of political debate has been given up in favour of self-reinforcing bubble building and the creation of an all-pervading enemy mentality.

Why does this bother me, sitting safely on the other side of the Big Pond? Because I can see it affecting my friends, and because the same societal patterns are beginning to manifest themselves here in Germany, too. America was the first modern democracy and we have learnt much from its experience and example. But right now, I find myself praying: “God, don't let us become like the United States.” The Land of the Free and the Brave has become a poisoned democracy.

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Conservation Optimism

posted on 2019-05-13

“These lectures always make me depressed”, a colleague of mine said as we walked out of the tropical biology course last Thursday. “Why?”, another asked. “Because every time, they show you just how badly we're messing up nature.” The rest of the group had to agree: studying ecology can be horribly depressing at times. Species are disappearing faster than we can count them, whole ecosystems are collapsing right in front of our eyes, and we don't seem to be able to do very much about it. So how do we deal with this desparate outlook? And is there any cause at all for optimism?

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Rezension: Darwin - Abenteuer des Lebens

posted on 2019-05-06

Sieben Monate reiste Jürgen Neffe um die Welt, der Reiseroute folgend, die seinerzeit Darwin an Bord der Beagle nahm. 2009 erschien dann sein Reisebericht: “Darwin – Das Abenteuer des Lebens”. Eine gut geschriebene 500-Seiten Reportage über Gott und die Welt, nur leider nicht die im Titel versprochene Darwin-Biografie…

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Guns and Numbers

posted on 2019-04-29

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine pointed out an article on gun control to me, which made the following claim: “Armed citizens are successful 94% of the time at active shooter events”. Written by a firearms training company, it analyses shoot-outs in the United States between 2000 and 2017. Basically, it says that armed citizens are highly effective at stopping shootings (and therefore, that more citizens ought to be armed). Having been asked to fact-check the article, here is what I think.

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Communicating Science

posted on 2019-03-25

“What can we do to communicate our research to the public?” This was the question for a discussion session with some of my colleagues last week. Many scientists see the need for this kind of communication, but few know how to go about it, and even fewer actively do it. After all, how do you explain your work on, say, a channel protein of the Venus Flytrap to your neighbour, and why should he bother listening? It is a challenge. But believing that it's worth the effort to try, here are some general principles we found.

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Silicon Valley Syndrome

posted on 2019-01-14

“Silicon Valley Syndrome” is the name I give to a wide-spread myth that is frequently found in affluent, tech-savvy circles. It is the belief that “Every social problem can be solved if you just throw enough technology at it”. This belief lies at the heart of many, many attempts to make the world a better place. Their proponents will say things like: “We can save democracy by combating fake news with algorithms”, or “We can solve Third World hunger using satellite imagery”, or “We can improve education in poor areas by giving every kid an iPad”. These are all laudable attempts, and yet their fundamental assumption is all too often sadly misguided. Why is that?

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Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Daniel Vedder.
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