Poor philosophy…

I was listening to BBC news on KQED tonight, and had a chance to hear the author Rick Warren speak about his new book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, claiming to use Christian philosophy to change your life in 40 days. The author talked about the three questions that plague us when we are quiet and have time to think: why am I here (existence), what is my purpose, and what is my fate? He claimed that you can understand the answers to these questions in one of two ways. Much like if you discovered some new and intricate device, the only ways to understand it are to (1) talk to its creator or (2) read the owner’s manual.

His conclusion was that the only way then was to learn from the creator, presumeably by some kind of dialog (I guess there’s no manual). However, I think that he missed a crucial *third* way: dissect the device and understand its pieces, its construction, and the laws that govern it. Ultimately, by a personal investigation driven by your curiosity, you’ll come to a much clearer understand of at least the purpose of the device, if not its origin and perhaps its fate.

So to you, Mr. Warren, I say this: your passive philosophy will get people nowhere. Rather, teach people to empower themselves by taking command of their own human capacity for curiosity and creativity, and by doing so teach them to find greatness in themselves.

I hope the opinions expressed in your BBC are not indicative of the best-selling philosophy you peddle in your book.

A week of validation

Another long and busy week. The first part of the work week gave me a chance to focus on my efforts to understand the BaBar “background filter”, or “BGFilter”. The BGFilter is responsible for taking our triggered data, which is written to disk in a fairly raw format, and filtering it to select interesting events and reject crap. However, this filter also happens to reject my invisible decays of Upsilons, assuming they occur in Nature. Understanding how to tune this filter is critical to making progress in my research.

I saw a more important nook that needed to be filled come midweek. BaBar is currently making a huge effort to understand the new data coming from the collider. This is a delicate and tricky process, as many things have changed since last Summer (when we last took data). I realized, after a brief chat with a colleague, that a project one of the MIT students works on is **perfect** for studying the detector response in Run 5. Yi and I spent Wednesday to Friday working through the details of this comparison, and we’re pretty close to results.

It’s been a busy week on the political front. I became aware of the request from a Congressional committee for financial records, data, and analysis code of several climate scientists whose work is the basis of much called-for reform in industry and energy policy. This is suspicious, only because conclusions to the opposite are never called into question (i.e. those that uphold consumption of fossil fuels and the maintainence of current reckless environmental industry policies). It also doesn’t bode well for other branches of science, since Congress could call for such a private review *outside the scientific review process* to address conclusins with which it doesn’t agree. Dangerous!

Finally, I treated myself to a wonderful lecture (“on the web”:http://vmsstreamer1.fnal.gov/VMS_Site_03/Lectures/Colloquium/050622Scott/index.htm)
by Eugenie Scott, a leader at the “National Center for Science Education”:http://www.NCSEWeb.org. She spoke about the history and legacy of creationism and neocreationism, the “three pillars of creationism” which even intelligent design advocates adhere to (evolution is a “theory in crisis”, evolution and religion are incompatible, and it’s “only fair” to teach creationism with evolution). Her slides are “available from the Fermilab website”:http://vmsstreamer1.fnal.gov/VMS_Site_03/Lectures/Colloquium/presentations/050622Scott.ppt.

Three Senators attend Hearing on Climate Change

It’s sad. I know it was a busy day on the Hill, but every day is a busy day on the Hill. So when I read that “only three U.S. Senators from the Senate Commerce subcommittee on global climate change attended hearings where the new head of the National Academies spoke about the scientific consensus on global warming”:http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/07/21/global.warming.ap/index.html?section=cnn_space,
I was saddened.

Who were the three attentive Senators? They were David Vitter, R-Louisiana, Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. What at least impressed me about the mix is that is was statistically bi-partisan. If you read literally into small numbers, it was overwhelmingly Republican – also encouraging.

Who were the missing subcommittee members? They were Republicans John McCain (AZ) and Olympia Snowe (ME), and Democrat John Kerry (MA). What a sad list of those missing. Half the committee was not present, and 2/3 of those not attending were people I know well enough to admire! John McCain and John Kerry are two of my favorite Senators, some of the few I consider Statesmen and not just politicians.

I just hope they had a good excuse. This was a rare opportunity for such a group of Senators to sit, ask questions of the National Academies’ new President, and have a healthy public discourse on the science of and the overwhelming evidence for human-induced global climate change.