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On Consciousness: Science and Subjectivity: A Q&A with Bernard Baars – Scientific American

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Far from being some free-floating cloud around our heads, sensory consciousness is profoundly embedded in biology, anatomy, physiology, and above all, in adaptive functions that serve us in every waking second of life. This is not some philosophical speculation. It is now supported by numerous findings published in peer-reviewed journals that are easily found in web archives.

One of my favorite thinkers and researchers on this topic is Bernard Baars.Baarsfundamentally changed the scientific study of consciousness over 30 years ago and he has done it again in a stimulating update on consciousnesscalled On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity Updated Works on Global Workspace Theory. In his new bookhe proposesnovel predictions and drawson the latest research in cognitive science. This magun opus is really incredible andshould be on the bookshelf for anyone seriously interested in wrestling with the paradoxes and mysteries of human consciousness. In this interview with Baars, we discuss his new book and his latest thoughts on the scientific study of consciousness.

Q. How did you get interested in the scientific study of consciousness?

I couldnt avoid it. I was interested in philosophy, where every major voice had something to say about consciousness. Then I read A.J. Ayer, a famous logical positivist, who made the case that English and American philosophy since Bertrand Russell was essentially a non-empirical enterprise. I was a newbie, so maybe I got that totally wrong, but I became a psychology major and lucked out. My brilliant introductory professor had us read George A. Millers beautiful little history book, Psychology: The science of mental life.

That did it for me, because under the professional strictures of behaviorism you were not supposed to talk about mental life, and Miller made the case (in a very polite way) that the radical behaviorists were wrong. I had no idea at that time that the Harvard Psychology Department had actually split in two in the 1950s over that debate. The half called psychology was known for B.F. Skinners radical behaviorism, and the new Social Relations department had the most famous sensory psychologist of the time, S.S. (Smitty) Stevens. A very famous article by C.P. Snow, a British scientist-novelist, had publicized what was called the split culture pitting the sciences against the traditional humanities. Historians still view that as a disaster.

So I had fabulous professors who were sincere and eager to communicate, and who privately wondered about the same things. Almost everything Ive written since then had its beginnings in the research programs of my undergrad and grad professors. Even B.F. Skinner changed his mind about radical behaviorism in his two-volume autobiography in 1976, called Particulars of my Life. Thats a Shakespeare quote, and it came from his four-year undergraduate quest to become a stream of consciousness novelist.

Im interested in all aspects of human nature. When I started in 1980 as a cognitive scientist, behaviorism was still powerful and nobody wanted to study consciousness directly. It was considered to be career suicide. Cognitive science in the 80s was a much more broad-minded approach to psychology than the others at the time where we incorporated artificial intelligence, linguistics, anthropology, neural networks, and language science I enjoyed it immensely.

When you ask how I wandered into the lone forest of consciousness and the brain, which is now a coherent field of science, I have to blame the whole history of Western ideas going back to classical Greece. But that even looks arbitrary these days. Now that we have another thousand years of ancient history its obvious that the Indus Valley Civilization had a flourishing trade with Sumer, which was part of the Fertile Crescent, where people carried on constant trade and had early cuneiform alphabets, enormous archives of them. On top of that, the Greco-Buddhist Empire of Ashoka imported Greek sculptors, and the Indo-European languages were already spoken across most of the Eurasian landmass. So the whole idea of East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet is an intentional joke, because Rudyard Kipling knew all about the Greco-Buddhist Empire.

In every wisdom tradition I know, subjectivity (aka consciousness) is a central topic, perhaps because it combines the individual with the social group in such an obvious way. Our individuality is a function of the cortex, which is now proven by brain studies to be the organ of consciousness. Wilder Penfield discovered that in 1934 via open-brain surgeries in fully awake patients, who were able to talk with him and gesture. Over three decades he studied about 1,200 patients at the Montreal Neurological Institute. That surgery is still being done, and the biomedical archives are full of direct evidence. Just do a search on conscious AND brain and it pops up.

Anyway, as you know, consciousness had been neglected for about 100 years since William James. This was an enormous opportunity and challenge, of course, and I could see ways of scientifically addressing it.

Scientific work may look humdrum to outsiders, but many scientists experience it as a kind of creative struggle, filled with practical and conceptual challenges that have never before been solved. We only need to look at the growth in genomics today for endless examples. But what can the creative aspect of science tell us about our mindbrain? This term mindbrain science comes from neuroscientist Jakk Panksepps wonderful books on emotion, and I think he wanted to emphasize that mind and brain are not separate, they are profoundly linked.

So, in 1982, I was able to combine the idea of a global workspace architecture with the stream of consciousness. In a way, it combined the novel idea of swarm computing with the evidence we had about the limited capacity of the conscious stream. The empirical theory was called Global Workspace Theory, or GWT.

GWT continues to grow with more and more evidence. The idea has since entered mainstream science.

Consciousness is a fundamental concept, like mass and energy, entropy and life. Scientists can't avoid it, so we use any number of pseudonyms. People call it "perception" or "attention" or even "knowledge." Those terms capture part of the truth, but they are by no means the whole network of empirically anchored concepts.

The empirical anchors of conscious events are emerging even today, with some real progress on cortical markers for conscious events that are comparable to experimentally matched unconscious ones. This is an emerging field, but it is being developed in a very reliable way by excellent researchers.

Q. What is Global Workspace Theory?

Global Workspace Theory is an effort to understand the biggest empirical paradox that I know of in the very broad field of psychobiology (stretching from consciousness all the way to deep biology). I call this well-known puzzle a paradox, because I dont know the answer. But GWT is an effort to make some sense out of it.

Global Workspace Theory came out of the realization by people like Alan Newell, Herbert A. Simon, Donald Norman, and Daniel Kahneman that the narrowness of the stream of consciousness seemed to conflict with the enormous capacity of unconscious memories, or automatisms, or whatever people called them. You have this fabulous memory domain that no one has any quantitative estimate of, and its all run by this tiny rivulet, as William James called it. He couldnt figure it out either, but he knew the evidence.

Alan Newells group at Carnegie-Mellon University had the insight that none of the available algorithms could solve the ARPA challenge of identifying 1,000 spoken words. So they found a kind of swarm-computational answer: If you put a hundred crummy algorithms together and let them share hypotheses and vote on the most popular one, it turns out that very inadequate algorithms could jointly solve problems that no single one could solve.

People had been thinking about parallel computers, and parallel-interactive problem solving, and a small group of neural network pioneers somehow arrived at a very similar view, perhaps from considering the many layered arrays in the brain.

That turned into Global Workspace Theory as a way to organize a lot of evidence about closely similar conscious and unconscious brain processing. We studied dichotic listening, where the subject wore headphones with two input channels, left and right, and had to say the heard syllables as fast as possible. It was called shadowing the input. People can do that extremely well, the only cost being the fact that the Unattended ear is totally unconscious. But I read a beautiful experiment by Donald G. MacKay, who discovered that an ambiguous word in the conscious (attended) channel could be changed by an unconscious word at the same moment in the unconscious channel. The phenomenon of unconscious brain events shaping conscious ones is now routinely studied, although it is still described in behavioristic terms.

Now we have fabulous brain instruments and we can actually observe signal processing in vision and hearing, not with ground truth precision, but good enough to test hypotheses. I had the good fortune to work with Gerald Edelman on these questions, and by now its very clear that the cortex is the perfect brain structure for a dynamic global workspace.

My current research extends the Global Workspace (GW) theory of conscious experience to brain evidence, particularly the role of the cortex and thalamus. While cortex and thalamus look separate to the naked eye, they act as an integrated system (Llinas and Pare, 1991; Edelman and Tononi, 2000; Steriade, 2006; Freeman, 2007).

Conscious state studies typically compare waking to slow-wave sleep, coma, general anesthesia, and the epilepsies. Studies of conscious contents compare conscious vs. unconscious cognition during the waking state, using binocular rivalry, the attentional blink, backward masking, and attentional manipulations. Both conscious and unconscious stimuli trigger sensory volleys that can be traced well into the cortex (Gaillard et al., 2009; Panagiotaropoulos et al., 2012).

Brain imaging experiments have supported the best-known GW prediction of widespread integration and broadcasting (Dehaene and Naccache, 2001). That is, conscious stimuli typically evoke cortical activity that is more widespread, intense, and correlated than matched unconscious stimuli.

Part IV of my latest book On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity develops GW dynamics, suggesting that conscious experiences reflect a flexible binding and broadcasting function in the brain, which is able to mobilize a large, distributed collection of specialized cortical networks and processes that are not conscious by themselves. Note that the broadcast phase proposed by the theory should evoke widespread adaptation, for the same reason that a fire alarm should evoke widespread responding, because the specific needs for task-relevant responders cannot be completely known ahead of time. General alarms are interpreted according to local conditions.

A brain-based GW interacts with an audience of highly distributed, specialized knowledge sources, which interpret the global signal in terms of local knowledge (Baars, 1988). The global signal triggers reentrant signaling, resonance is the typical activity of the cortex.

Q. What is the proposed biological function of consciousness?

A great body of evidence suggests that conscious sensation and cognition provides the leading edge of moment-to-moment adaptation to the sensory, social, and conceptual world. Darwinian evolution occurs over generations, and by epigenetic expression it also regulates life development. But animals encounter very fast changes in the world, which are novel and ambiguous. To adapt to fast and ill-defined dangers and opportunities we need the brain.

Cortical sensory consciousness is believed to operate around 10 Hz, which is the theta and alpha range of brain oscillations. If youre a rabbit confronted with a potential snake, you first have to run to safety, and then try to evaluate what you saw. The 100 ms domain (10 Hz) is a very useful dwell time for sensory input, and its also the sniffing rate of small, ancestral mammals. Biologically the 100 ms domain makes a great deal of sense, and consciousness is clearly biological. It has to have plausible bio-functions.

New evidence now also implicated the slower delta range. It is possible that these slow oscillations are modulated by beta and gamma oscillations that carry content, along with spatial arrays that are linked point-to-point by labeled line connections. This is a very exciting frontier.

Q. What does Global Workspace Theory predict about conscious cognition?

Like any other theory, it has numerous implications. I address just this question in my newest book, On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity - Updated Works on Global Workspace Theory (The Nautilus Press, 2019), laying out a framework for the role of conscious and unconscious experiences in the living brain.

The most novel prediction of GWT is the idea of a global broadcast linked to conscious but not unconscious events in the brain. It has received substantial corroboration from several laboratories.

Q. How does modern science go about studying consciousness?

Consciousness is a part of nature, and we now have clear evidence about the organ of the conscious mind, the cerebral cortex, which fills 80 percent of the cranial volume. Broadly, sensory perception is conscious, while stored memory traces are not. Endogenous senses like inner speech and visual imagery are also conscious, perhaps more vividly in children.

The most revealing studies compare matched conscious and unconscious conditions, aka contrastive analysis, and that has allowed us to pinpoint the location and processes that give rise to visual consciousness, for instance.

Q. Has there been scientific progress?

Yes, an enormous amount. When I first proposed GWT in 1982 all we had was psychological evidence and a new understanding of parallel-interactive processing. Both were vital. But now we can look directly at the living brain at high spatio-temporal resolution, we can trace the fiber system, and we can see how cortex is wired to allow global integration and broadcasting.

We also understand why the cortex is so enormously flexible, and we have new experimental tools.

Cortex can be traced via the fossil record to come even before the mammals. The current weight of evidence suggests that all cortical animals are at least sensorily conscious. Humans have the added advantage of spoken language and more precise use of meanings, which depend on the association areas of cortex. There are alternative proposals for the biological basis of consciousness, but they dont have the enormous bandwidth of cortex.

As you know, there are some simple and informative ways to study the stream of consciousness (SoC). The subjective world is not inaccessible. People can tell us an enormous amount about their conscious inner lives. You can study spontaneous fantasy, creativity, and post-traumatic intrusions. The cortex is essentially never at rest as long as it is awake, so the term resting state is misleading. The conscious component of cortex is always active, even in dreams, and it is simply part of the causal network of nature. Its not something that lives in some other metaphysical space.

Now that we have amazingly good brain instruments, we can also study sensory processes at the level of neurons. What is new, I believe, is what Ive called contrastive analysis, which is the precise experimental comparison between closely matched conscious and unconscious events. It allows us to treat consciousness as an empirical variable. And then we test hypotheses that are falsifiable, in a Karl Popper fashion.

This has been worked out very beautifully in two ways: sensory competition (like binocular rivalry), and what is called the Attentional Blink (AB). Both methods allow close experimental comparisons between nearly-identical conscious and unconscious threads in the brain. The conscious ones we know, because we can describe them; and the matched unconscious conditions are not reportable, but they can be studied via direct cortical recording. Now we can ask, What makes conscious brain activities different from all the others? And there we get a growing family of global workspace (GW) theories.

In science the trick is to pinpoint the empirically answerable questions. Around 1900 physics realized that the cosmic ether was not testable, so they dropped it. In biology they dropped the life force of Henri Bergson, because it was not testable. Even Einstein gave up on trying to understand quantum phenomena in classical terms. Empirical testability allows us to sweep away speculations, and this simplifies things immensely.

Im particularly fond of work done at the CNRS in Paris by Stanislas Dehaene and Jean-Pierre Changeux, first-rate scientists, and by the Max Planck research group in Tuebingen, Germany, led by Nikos Logothetis and Fanis Panagiotaropoulos et al. (2012) building on almost two decades of findings from intracranial recordings in the macaque. They used an experimental technique called flash suppression, involving a long-lasting type of binocular rivalry between the conscious (perceived) and matched unconscious (unperceived) sensory input. This method allows for contrastive analysis of conscious vs. unconscious contents with identical stimulus presentation to the two eyes.

Im glad that this work broadly confirms a prediction I made in 1982, the global workspace hypothesis, which is kind of an integration and broadcasting function in the visual brain, exactly where you would expect it: in areas IT/MTL where visual input is integrated into coherent Gestalts.

IT/MTL is where we organize visual information into people, buildings, and scenes. So it is an area of high-level integration and broadcasting of visual information. The broadcast or ignition appears to be propagated to other parts of cortex.

The area called MTL is the hippocampus, which now appears to be the first experiential holding buffer for memories that will later be spread to cortex and other regions. It takes the traces of moment-to-moment experiences and turns them into vast numbers of synaptic connections.The conscious cortex is the leading edge of moment-to-moment adaptation to new and significant events in the world. It is not some floating halo around the head.

Q. What about the Hard Problem of mind versus the physical world?

With apologies to my friend David Chalmers, the Hard Problem has no supportive evidence. Neither does the new proposal of panpsychism, which is not falsifiable as it is described. Science can only use empirically testable hypotheses.

The mind-body question, in various guises, is ancient, but it is posed as an all-or-none dichotomy, as if mind must be the basis of brain, or vice versa. This is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? You divide the world into two halves and expect a sensible answer. It doesnt work. What you need is to study the genome and its phenotypical expressions; this is very complex and the answer is never one causes the other. Its always a set of interactions. The Hard Problem tries to shoehorn all that into simple categories and its not testable.

I make a rule of ignoring any ideas that are untestable empirically, and of focusing on the testable ones. A very old practice in the history of science, which allows us to filter out empty scholasticism following Karl Poppers rule that empirical hypotheses have to be falsifiable, or they are useless. This was crucial to physics and biology in the 20th century.

It seems to be very difficult for people to think of consciousness as a natural phenomenon. But now we have decades of evidence and some theory that points to that idea.

Q. How are you pursuing these ideas today?

Theres a huge task of communicating the new science. My editor Natalie Geld and I are constantly working together to reach out to educated audiences, via our latest book, On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity, talks, virtual seminars, and our new Podcast On Consciousness with my co-host, neuroscientist David Edelman. Im exploring other cortical hypotheses and answering some new questions with mathematicians.

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On Consciousness: Science and Subjectivity: A Q&A with Bernard Baars - Scientific American

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:44 am

Scientist Admits Biologists Are Obsessed with Intelligent Design – Discovery Institute

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What do scientists spend more time thinking about sex, or the theory of intelligent design? Scientific research famously gives a range of answers to the question of how many times per day men think about sex (from 19 times to 7,200 times). If one European researcher is correct, scientists in the United States (who are mostly male) spend one-fifth of their waking time thinking about how to combat intelligent design. Despite incessant declarations that there is no controversy about evolution, ID is evidently on the mind of many biologists, to the point of obsession!

Evolution News recently commented on an article in an Italian philosophy journal that took intelligent design (ID) arguments with refreshing seriousness. Now another European journal has published its own noteworthy commentary. The author is Giuseppe Longo, who studies mathematical computer science and epistemology as research director (emeritus) at Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) in Paris. His article, Scientific thought and absolutes for an image of the sciences, between computing and biology, appears in the humanities journal Angelaki.

He writes:

During a recent colloquium on biology in Paris, I have heard with dread all American colleagues, but fortunately only them (for the moment), lost 20 percent of their time and brain power combat [sic] intelligent design theory, so much the stakes have become drastically central, even for the financing of research, in this country.

Multiple thoughts come to mind.

First, if the critics are right to say ID is dead, why devote so much time to it? Evolution News reported in 2014 that an article in the journal Nature admitted that scientists self-censor criticisms of neo-Darwinism to avoid lending credence to ID. As Laland et al. (2014) conceded: Perhaps haunted by the spectre of intelligent design, evolutionary biologists wish to show a united front to those hostile to science. In 2017 we observed how Laland followed his own advice, refusing to admit in a report published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution that the 2016 Royal Society meeting included strong critiques of the neo-Darwinian paradigm. Clearly, ID arguments are potent, and evolutionary biologists are aware of this which is why they admit they dont like to acknowledge problems in the evolutionary consensus.

Second, intelligent designs supposed negative impact is hyped beyond reason. The notion that financing of research in the U.S. is being hurt by ID is laughable. Pure ID research gets exactly zero dollars from the Federal Government. From other sources, the amount of money available to fund ID research, though not trivial, is minuscule compared to the amount of money available for evolutionary science. No evolutionary scientist has any right to complain.

Third, its a shame that 20 percent of their time and brain power is going to ID because the trend in thought is now running toward government-backed censorship.

Fourth, it does happen from time to time that ID critics reply to ID arguments. More often what they are doing is attacking straw man mischaracterizations, as in the recent BioEssays that demanded censorship of Evolution News and other ID publications. In his article, Giuseppe Longo himself goes after ID straw men:

Creationist theories require divine intervention case by case: there is no universality of either method or criteria, but only faith in an omnipotent God, who created species and biological functions one by one, each with their own characteristics. Generality is in God, not in the method of knowledge.

We can say the same of the modern version of creationist absolutism: intelligent design theory, which is having great success with the American public. Tapping the molecular alphabet on the genetic keyboard, God would program DNA mutations for his own supreme ends. But then, paleontological evidence tells us that approximately 99 percent of species that were formed on earth have disappeared, and that, especially in the five greatest known extinctions, massacres and death have ravaged our planet. That all of this has taken place to conserve us, as well as the 1 percent of species that have survived, does not seem to be very productive, or particularly intelligent. Hence, we invoke the impenetrability of divine design, of the Absolute Programmer, as the face of the tens of millions of deaths caused by the mutation of the flu virus (the Spanish flu of 1918 for example). Whenever we see fit, this intelligent design becomes impenetrable (unintelligible), the criteria change, and we invoke faith.

What a mess. Its hard to know where to begin. What mainstream ID proponent actually argues like that? Who says that ID requires faith in an omnipotent God? Not Stephen Meyer:

The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the supernatural realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information. The theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine the identity or any other attributes of that intelligence, even if philosophical deliberation or additional evidence from other disciplines may provide reasons to consider, for example, a specifically theistic design hypothesis.

Or who says that the theory of intelligent design requires divine design where God created species and biological functions one by one, each with their own characteristics? Here is Michael Behe:

So, based on developmental biology and our new knowledge of lifes molecules, can we draw a reasonable, tentative line between Darwin and design in animal evolution? . Combining the reasoning from the past several sections, then, we can conclude that animal design probably extends into life at least as far as vertebrate classes, maybe deeper, and that random mutation likely explains differences at least up to the species level, perhaps somewhat beyond. Somewhere between the level of vertebrate species and class lies the organismal edge of Darwinian evolution.

Behe again:

[ID] is not an argument for the existence of a benevolent God, as Paleys was. I hasten to add that I myself do believe in a benevolent God, and I recognize that philosophy and theology may be able to extend the argument. But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angelfallen or not; Platos demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. Of course, some of these possibilities may seem more plausible than others based on information from fields other than science. Nonetheless, as regards the identity of the designer, modern ID theory happily echoes Isaac Newtons phrase hypothesis non fingo.

ID grants that organisms might undergo various degrees of Darwinian evolution. Within vertebrates Behe allows that this may extend even up to the level of the class hardly requiring that God specially creates each type of organism in its current form. This is what Behe calls the edge of evolution.

William Dembski agrees that ID does not require special creation:

Intelligent design does not require organisms to emerge suddenly or to be specially created from scratch by the intervention of a designing intelligence. To be sure, intelligent design is compatible with the creationist idea of organisms being suddenly created from scratch. But it is also perfectly compatible with the evolutionist idea of new organisms arising from old by gradual accrual of change. What separates intelligent design from naturalistic evolution is not whether organisms evolved or the extent to which they evolved, but what was responsible for their evolution.

And who says that there is no universality of either method or criteria by which we detect design, but only faith in an omnipotent God? Not Dembski. He laid out an objective criteria by which we can detect design, requiring no religious premises. The method is based on recognizing information in nature, indicating the past action of intelligence:

[I]ntelligent design can be formulated as a scientific theory having empirical consequences and devoid of religious commitments. Intelligent design can be unpacked as a theory of information. Within such a theory, information becomes a reliable indicator of design as well as a proper object for scientific investigation.

The type of information that indicates the prior action of intelligence is complex and specified information (CSI). We can rigorously measure CSI:

To see why CSI is a reliable indicator of design, we need to examine the nature of intelligent causation. The principal characteristic of intelligent causation is directed contingency, or what we call choice. Whenever an intelligent cause acts, it chooses from a range of competing possibilities. Intelligent causation always entails discrimination, choosing certain things, ruling out others. Given this characterization of intelligent causes, the crucial question is how to recognize their operation. Intelligent causes act by making a choice. How then do we recognize that an intelligent cause has made a choice? The actualization of one among several competing possibilities, the exclusion of the rest, and the specification of the possibility actualized encapsulate how we recognize intelligent causes, or equivalently, how we detect design. We can summarize this argument for showing that CSI is a reliable indicator of design as follows: CSI is a reliable indicator of design because its recognition coincides with how we recognize intelligent causation generally. To recognize intelligent causation, we must establish that one possibility from a range of competing possibilities was actualized, determine which possibilities were excluded, and then specify the actualized possibility.

When Longo says that ID is based on faith and absolutism, this bears no resemblance to the actual theory of ID.

What about Longos claim that if organisms go extinct then this shows the design does not seem to be very productive, or particularly intelligent? He argues that unless we admit that extinction refutes design, this shows the impenetrability of divine design. By that he means ID proponents change the goalposts arbitrarily, and Whenever we see fit the criteria change, and we invoke faith.

If ID proponents had ever argued that design requires that all species must live eternally, he might have a point. But no mainstream ID proponent has ever said that, and ID readily allows that mass extinction occurs. Evolution News dealt with the perfect design objection in response to BioEssays as well. Imperfect design is still design. Anyone who ever got stuck trying to upgrade a computers operating system is well aware of this fact. From the textbook Discovering Intelligent Design:

[W]hen ID proponents use the term intelligent, they simply seek to indicate that a structure has features requiring a mind capable of forethought to design the blueprint. But does intelligent design require perfect design?

For that matter, what constitutes biological perfection? Take humans for example. Should our bodies all last 100 years? 200 years? Forever? Should we be impervious to injury and never get sick? These are philosophical or theological questions, having little or nothing to do with science.

Holding biological systems to a vaguely defined standard of perfect design is the wrong way to test ID. The examples at the beginning of this chapter broken machinery, computer failures, and decaying buildings all show that a structure might be designed by intelligence even if it breaks or has flaws. Intelligent design does not mean perfect design. It doesnt even require optimal design. It means exactly what it says: design by an intelligent agent.

In attacking such outlandish straw men, ID critics parade their own ignorance.

So as weve seen, evolutionary biologists think about intelligent design quite a bit (whether its 20 percent of the time, who knows?), and sometimes they get very frustrated about it. They dont like that there are potent challenges to their materialistic origins paradigm. Sometimes it seems they wish ID would just go away. As recent responses indicate, they typically deal with ID in three different ways:

(1) They may pretend that ID challenges dont exist, as Laland et al. (2014) suggested, and Laland (2017) later practiced.

(2) They may put out a fake response, attacking straw men versions of ID, as Giuseppe Longo does.

(3) Writing in BioEssays, Dave Speijer followed approach (2), but added an extra touch of malice by calling for Internet censorship. Thats always an option for dealing with ideas you dislike.

Of course, theres a fourth option. Its a tougher assignment: respond substantively to IDs arguments. If the critics could do that, they probably would.

Photo credit:ThisisEngineering RAEngviaUnsplash.

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Scientist Admits Biologists Are Obsessed with Intelligent Design - Discovery Institute

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:44 am

Maryam Rajavi’s Message on Eid Al-Fitr: Iran Will Be Free From the Yoke of the Mullahs’ Tyranny – NCRI – National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

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Mrs. Maryam Rajavi the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

Mrs. MaryamRajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, sent a videomessageto all Iranianson the eve of the Eid al-Fitr, elaboratingonthetrue meaningof this Eid, which is returning to the humanitysessence, liberty. She alsocommemoratedthememory ofthefounders of the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) who were executedon May 25, 1972 and based this organization on sacrifice, selflessness, and honesty.She also condemned the regimes inaction and cover-up intheface of the COVID-19 crisis, which has resulted in nearly 45,000 deaths across Iran, andsheprayed for the speedy recovery ofpatients.

Happy Eid al-Fitrto everyone who fasted during the month of Ramadan and to all my beloved compatriots across Iran and throughout the world.

The historic endowment of the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) was the sacrifice of the organizations founders and historical leaders on May 25, 1972.

They were harbingers of freedom and justice and they opened a new chapter in our nations history. They were the great MohammadHanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, Ali AsgharBadizadegan, and their colleagues MahmoudAsgarizadehandRasoulMeshkinfam.

For members of the PMOI/MEK, Eid al-Fitrrepresents a universal celebration of freedom, and a reunion with the true essence of humanity in confrontation with the rule of the Shah (monarchical dictatorship) and the Sheikh (theocracy).

Although today, our cities and villages are afflicted with tremendous pain and suffering because of the coronavirus outbreak, and although the mullahs religious fascism, repression and poverty are tormenting society, the symphony of liberation can be heard evenin the midst ofthis agony.

Eid al-Fitrbears the promise of victory and is the indispensable destination of our society, whose anger erupted like a volcano during the November 2019 protests.

For our people whose discontent and defiance have been accumulating against the mullahs, day by day under the pressure of the coronavirus crisis, and for the rebellious youth and Resistance Units who are counting down the days to overthrow the mullahs criminal regime, Eid al-Fitris the promise of certain triumph.

Ultimate freedom will come out of the Iranian peoples battle against the regime

In our prayers during Eid al-Fitr, we asked God to save our people out from every misery and misfortune and endow them with goodness and beauty.

The greatest virtue of our time is the full-fledged struggle for the destruction of the evil mullahs regime, who have usurped the Iranian peoples right to sovereignty as well as their freedom.

Eid al-Fitrcelebrates humanity breaking free from chains of coercion and servitude. It is a celebration of the power of humanitys willpower and its capabilities.

Eid al-Fitrshows that a human beings fundamental qualities,consciousnessand the ability to choose, can shape his or her behavior. Human beings are not doomed to arrive at a certain destiny. They are not hapless. They are not doomed to be blind followers. They are not doomed to be seized by their instincts. Human beings have an endless power to build a new world and new relations based on emancipation and equality. They are fully capable of fighting exploitative ideologies and those that run counter to the tide of evolution.

Imam Ali said that the purpose of fasting is not self-mortification or deprivation. It is, rather, akin to waging a type of struggle or battle.

Everyone who fasts and all Muslims must answer this question: fasting is a fight against which forces? The answer is: against forces that deprive human beings of their essential human nature and core identity; forces that take away humanitys combative willpower in the realms of individuality and society, combating against systems and ideologies that enslave human beings. In contemporary times, these forces are personified in the regimes of the Shah and the Sheikh (mullahs).

It is out of this struggle and battle that theFitror true freedom emerges.

So, like otherEids, the message of Eid al-Fitrfocuses on the essence of humanity and the glorious destiny of human beings. The same humanity that during the Eid of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) praises its endless ability to make sacrifices.

The same humanity that during the month of Ramadan shows the definitive power of its consciousness and willpower, pledges to write its own fate during the Night ofDestiny, andcelebrates its victory in the Eid al-Fitr.

According to the PMOI/MEK teachings, every Eid represents a return to the soul and coordinating and aligning withit;an evolutionary and conscious return to the origin and fountainhead of liberation and salvation. It is not aboutretreatingor aimless repetition and it is not a vicious circle. Rather, it is all about a tortuous and blood-drenched struggle and an enduring path to shake off all the semblances of alienation and overcome the obstacles of achieving unity and harmony.

This is howhuman kindovercomes divisions and separations, including forms of discriminations based on gender, ethnicity or social classes. In the end, by reining in his cruel instincts, which are common with animals, humanity overcomes the compulsions and paves the way towards a world commanded by consciousness and free choice.Thushumanity unravels the unmatched secret and mystery that defines its divine being.

At the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, everyone, whether they have fasted or not, mustmake a donation.

The donation must be the equivalent of three meals to feed a hungry person. This donation symbolizes a collective pledge to end hunger within society. One can speak of a reunion with humanitys essence only when hunger, poverty and destitution have been eliminated universally.

Khamenei seeks to take advantage of the pandemic to preserve his regime

Sisters and brothers,

Fellow compatriots,

In the great uprising of November 2019, the mullahs clearly saw that their regime is trapped in a vortex of destruction and they have no options to save it from inevitable overthrow.

Therefore, several weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread throughout the country due to the mullahs own inhuman policies, they attempted to conceal the ambers of discontent under the ashes with a thick cover of the coronavirus crisis. They sought to extinguish the blazing flames of the November uprising, with all its 1,500 proud martyrs. They wanted to instill the impression that the social rebellion, which rapidly spread to hundreds of areas across the country, never even happened.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the mullahs found themselves in an extremely critical position. As the state-run press noted, they clearly saw that the slightest miscalculation in managing the disease would spell an existential catastrophe and they would -- and will -- be the biggest losers of the crisis.

Yes, the mullahs supreme leader sees the eruption of peoples fury and uprising on the horizon.

Therefore, instead of fighting the coronavirus, the first and foremost priority for Khamenei and (his president Hassan) Rouhani became the regimes security.

They refused to allocate the minimum budget for treating patientsin order toavoid the slightest reduction in the financial pot that has been allocated to suppression inside Iran and to warmongering and commission of other crimes in the region.

They refused to use the resources and equipment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Army for the treatment of patients so that they could have all the resources at hand to preserve the regimes security.

They avoided using even a penny from the wealth accumulated in KhameneisSetad(or Headquarters conglomerate) or other plundering foundations to fight against the pandemic.

Instead, they increased the prices of commodities and food, such as bread. And, they paved the way for the spike in the value of foreign currenciesin order toreplenish the coffers of a bankrupt government.

Indeed, when it came down to a choice between using foreign exchange reserves and other financial sources to avert an economic collapse on the one hand, and sending off underprivileged and hardworking people to production centers on the other hand, the regimes leaders chose the latter option and thus caused a further spread of the disease.

And, as if that is not bad enough, they shamelessly blamed the people themselves for the coronavirus tragedy and scolded the population.

Today, Khuzestan Province has turned into a killing field for the coronavirus. In mid-May, more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients lost their lives in this province, demonstrating just one outcome of the regimes inhuman policy. The clerical regimes officials openly admit that the soaring number of infections began on April 11, when the regime ordered a re-opening.

In reality, Khameneiwants to use the coronavirus crisis as a beneficial parameter to prolong the regimes survival.

For this reason, the mullahs tried to cover up the reality of the enormous and expanding protest movement; they tried to conceal the growing impact of PMOI/MEK Resistance Units and Resistance Councils inside Iran, and they tried to deny that the regime is moving down the irreversible path to being overthrown.

The regimes endless fear of the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance

To achieve these goals, the mullahs carried out a chain of activities and offensives in various arenas. For example:

-- They launched missile attacks against U.S. forces and facilities inIraq;

-- And they launched a satellite into space; and

-- They launched attacks and made widespread arrests of rebellious youths and families and supporters of PMOI/MEK and severely tortured them.

-- They sent their mercenaries to Albania, with a list of 8,000 signatures of so-called families of the PMOI/MEK, whoin the midst ofthe pandemic and social distancing measures, claim that they have missed their parents at Ashraf 3.

The motto of the backward supporters of this circus in foreign countries is Long live the Shah, the same slogan chanted during the 1953 coup (against Dr. MohammadMossadeq), which is an affront to Iranian peoples history and revolution. It is an affront to millions of people who toppled the monarchic dictatorship with the chants of death to the Shah and freed the political prisoners.

The mullahs reactionary and ignorant ideology dates back to 1,400 years ago, but the people of Iran have a longer history of thousands of years, to the days when Kaveh the Blacksmith rose up againstZahhak, the tyrant that had snakes on his shoulders.

The same rings true today. The reality of popular uprisings and resistance cannot be denied, just as the final phase of the regimes life is a formidable reality.

Khameneis remarks on May 22, and earlier on May 17, reflect this truth and the regimes endless fear of the PMOI/MEK and the Iranian Resistance.

On May 17, Khamenei admitted that the regime has not been able to exploit the outbreak for its own benefit, and as an opportunity to prolong its survival. Therefore, he attacked the PMOI/MEK while calling for a youngHezbollahigovernment following in the footsteps of a henchman like Qassem Soleimani.

Khamenei says any form of retreat would be too costly for the regime. This is because he has the experience of the Shahs downfall.

Khamenei pointed to the large number of youth who joined the ranks of the PMOI/MEK after the 1979 revolution. He wanted to focus the attention of his mercenaries on the great threat gripping the regime in the current situation, namely the youths draw and attraction to the PMOI/MEK and Resistance Units.

He urged the regimes forces to draw a solid red line between themselves and supporters of the PMOI/MEK, and to forge a front against them. He said: Do everything you can to expand (the regimes) ranks and recruit, adding: Of course, I do not mean recruiting hypocrites (PMOI/MEK). Yes, the most dangerous name is still the PMOI/MEK and the only red line continues to be drawn against the PMOI/MEK.

Khamenei then warned the regimes forces that they must be careful about the inevitable orientation of protests and uprisings toward the overthrow of the regime, adding: Dont allow demands and protests to be interpreted as a protest against the Islamic system. This is important. Seriously prevent this from happening.

What the regimes tyrant has said represents a political watershed moment. Initially, he wanted to exploit the situation arising from the coronavirus spread as a means of averting the regimes overthrow. Now, he has exposed the discord and divisions at the helm of the regime and is urging the young generation not to support the PMOI/MEK.

Of course, Khamenei himself explicitly said after the November 2019 uprising that the protests had taken on a greater security import due to the presence of the PMOI/MEK and the establishment of Ashraf 3 (in Albania). He claimed that several days before the protests against the spike in gasoline prices broke out in November 2019, the PMOI/MEK met with an American official in this small but sinister, and truly evil, European country and they planned the protests. According to Khamenei, that plan was rolled out several days later during the gasoline price protests. He added that what I mean by saying several days is that the plan was updated in several days, otherwise they had carried out activities before and they had prepared individuals on the ground.

$30B from the Iranian peoples wealth spent on propping up the dictator of Syria

On Friday, May 22, the last Friday during the month of Ramadan, when the regime was forced to scrap its plans to set up the unpopular theatrics of QodsDay, Khamenei maneuvered toward the Palestinian issue and proceeded to unleash a wave of slander and criticism against the late historic leader of Palestine, Yasser Arafat, which is actually a badge of honor and a further testament to Arafats integrity and pride. The criminal supreme leader of the regime praised Hezbollah and Hamas in opposition to Arafat, and openly said that he has drawn up plans to deliver weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.

This is while the people of Iran chant: Not for Gaza, nor for Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran.

Just recently, the former chairman of the regimes parliamentary Security and Foreign Policy Committee confessed that so far $30B from the Iranian peoples wealth has been spent on propping up the murderous dictator of Syria, and that the regime pockets about 200 billiontomans(roughly $11.5 million) every day as a result of increasing gasoline prices. That is the blood-stained money that was taken by the regime while killing Iranian protesters (in November 2019).

When the number of deaths as a result of coronavirus had just reached 2,000, in his statement on March 7, 2020, the Iranian Resistances LeaderMassoudRajavi declared: Khamenei has to allocate the $100B of wealth in the Setad-eEjraeeFarman-e Imam and the vast funds accumulated in the cooperativesbelonging to the IRGC,Bassij, and State Security Forces (SSF), and in theMostazafanFoundation, as well as the funds that are being spent in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, and Lebanon, toward providing healthcare to the Iranian people and for the treatment of patients.

He emphasized: The budgets allocated to the regimes nuclear and missile programs and the capital and resources at the hands of the Red Crescent, which has set up numerous locations in the Middle East and Africa in order to advance the regimes reactionary ideology and terrorism objectives, must instead be spent on treating coronavirus patients.

The assets of theAstan-eQodsRazaviin Khorasan province, which has amassed huge wealth and capital by exploiting the name of Imam Reza and obtaining astronomical religious endowments, and which is controlled by Khamenei, can currently pay for the delayed wages and salaries of workers, teachers, and office employees on the eve of the (Persian) New Year, and it can also pay for their treatment.

He added: Prisoners, particularly political prisoners, must immediately be released. This is the only way to prevent a coronavirus catastrophe in the regimes prisons.

The Resistance Units, capable of overthrowing the regime, have exhausted the enemy

Today, after 2.5 monthsand in comparisonwith statistics in early March, the number of coronavirus deaths is 22 times higher. It is immeasurably unfortunate that the number has surpassed 44,000. Observers believe the real figures are much higher.

This is where one can see the regimes final fate and road ahead.

Today,all ofthe causes and factors that triggered the vast November 2019 uprising are not only still in place, but they have been considerably aggravated due to the coronavirus catastrophe and the mullahs inhuman policy response.

The economy is contracting by 9%, the inflation rate ranges from 50% to 60%, the government budget has a 50% deficit, and the devaluation trend of the national currency continues, with the regime slashing four zeros from it. All this indicates that the regimes economy is on the verge of collapse.

Today, the erosion of the regime has not only been reversed, but under the pressure of social protests and political and economic failures, the entirety of the regime has been rendered weak and powerless. Half of Rouhanis government is essentially not operational. The regimes spokesmen and officials cannot do anything other than to lie. Regime institutions are engaged in infighting and quarrels, and Khamenei is setting the stage to take down Rouhanis government.

Today, not only the force capable of overthrowing the regime has not been stopped even after being subjected to numerous suppressive measures and arrests, but it has rather multiplied among the younger generations, and its fighting spirit shown in Resistance Units has exhausted the enemy.

Yes, the mullahs have failed to exploit the coronavirus situation and the peoples poverty and destitution to hide the fact that they are on the verge of being overthrown.

TheFitrof the Iranian peoples liberation

Sisters and brothers,today is May 24.

It is the 48th anniversary of the year that (PMOI founders)Hanifnejadand his friends became eternal. While this day is drenched in blood, it contains the cornerstone for theFitrof liberation for the Iranian people.

The bullets that were fired at the most loving spirits of our time in that blood-stained dawn sparked a vast fury that ultimately brought down the Shahs dictatorship.

We renew our endless praise for MohammadHanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, Ali AsgharBadizadegan, MahmoudAsgarizadehandAbdol-RasoulMeshkinfam, who were all executed by a firing squad of the Shahs regime in 1972.

The Shah could never imagine of the social whirlwind that would result from these executions in Iran. Similarly, even though the mullahs have put in practice all the lessons learned from the experience of the Shah in order to prevent their own downfall, but after the execution and massacre of the PMOI/MEK and murdering of rebellious youth, they have eliminated all other options for their miserable rule and have instead opened the path toward their ultimate overthrow.

It was in that tumultuous and blood-drenched spring in 1972 that Massoud assured Hanifnejadthat his generation will persevere.

And, since then,Massoudhas endured the great suffering associated with the perseverance and salvation of this generation and this Resistance, thereby guaranteeing its victory,freedomand bright future.

Yes, today, it is this rebellious and enthusiastic generation and Resistance Units who have forged their iron resolveeven more, andhaverisen upto overthrow the religious fascism.

Now, it is time for us to spread the flames of resistance and hope everywhere, ensuring that these flames burn ever brighter.

That is how theFitrof the Iranian peoples liberation will arrive, and that is how freedom will dawn on Iran.

Hail to freedom

Hail to the Iranian people

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:44 am

10 Faith-Conscious Films On Disney Plus And 5 Still In The Vault – The Federalist

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One can only speculate what British author C.S. Lewis, who spent his boyhood in rural Ireland a century ago, would think of todays WiFi-enabled home entertainment revolution.

Doubtless, the Christian apologist would be curious to see movie versions of The Chronicles of Narnia his best-selling mythic allegories grounded in virtues and sacraments on Disney Plus. The streaming service has two big-budget Narnia adaptations listed right between modern updates on Winnie the Pooh and Cinderella, with its Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo soundtrack.

Staunchly religious American families have long had a complicated relationship with The Walt Disney Company, as VidAngel founder Neal Harmon shared in a recent interview. After his company developed filtering technology to allow subscribers to sanitize streaming films and shows, Disney and other Hollywood studios promptly sued them. Litigation is ongoing.

Still, when asked what films sparked his creativity as a child, Harmon did not hesitate to name two titles featured on Disney Plus.

Entertainment shaped the way we saw the world, he said, having grown up on an Idaho farm with his three brothers. I remember watchingSwiss Family Robinson, then building treehouses in the trees behind our house. After watchingStar Wars, wed jump in the canals during a big snowstorm and pretend the Empire was coming to attack.

Others are less enthused by the Magic Kingdom and its wares. Due to religious or other values, they ardently avoid all things Disney, concerned aboutconsumerism, undertones of aprogressiveagenda, orcorporate values that conflict with their own.Biblically engaged believers freely admit that the gospel according to Disney has always been animated more by pixie dust and wishing stars than a loving God come to seek and save humanity.

Disney filmography has for decades provided many fascinating, imperfect reflections of American civil religion. On-screen stories of faith are rarely told with doctrinal orthodoxy or austere respect, which is also true of how most of the nation treats religion. Now with hundreds of past films one click away, it provides a window into the evolution of faith on-screen.

Particularly since the dawn of the 20th century, Judeo-Christian archetypes and imagery have stirred the American imagination, as reflected in the following 10 films on Disney Plus. This list concludes with five faith-conscious titles not yet released on the rising streaming service.

1. The Sound of Music (1965)

When top Hollywood director Robert Wise (West Side Story) took on the hit musical by theater team Rogers and Hammerstein, it was destined for greatness. Winner of five Academy Awards, The Sound of Music took liberties with the true story yet portrays religious aspects of the Catholic teachers love story and later flight from the Nazi regime during World War II.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

Co-produced by Walden Media, the beloved fantasy classic came to life 15 years ago in this lavishly produced $180 million film. Disneys answer to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, it stars A-list talent including Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, and Liam Neeson. Although it veers from the source material at times, the Lion overall captures its redemptive essence.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Only two years following the sudden loss of Jim Henson at age 53, his son Brian Henson marshaled the Muppet performers and award-winning Rainbow Connection songwriter Paul Williams for a heartfelt comic adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Highlighting the conversion of Scrooge with laughs and overtly religious lyrics, many regard it as the best version of Dickens novel.

4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Following last years devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, many rewatched this animated reimagining of Victor Hugos 1831 novel. Given unprecedented access, Disney artists captured its sacred beauty. Following the release of kid-friendly The Lion King, Hunchback is decidedly more mature, pitting an oppressive judge against outcasts and a kindhearted priest.

5. Full-Court Miracle (2003)

While Disney Channel productions tend to avoid religion, this TV movie is a curious exception. Steeped in Jewish history and ending with the celebration of Hanukkah, it draws on the story of Judah Maccabee and his second-century BC revolt against Roman tyranny, using those events to inspire a current-day sports drama at a grade-school Hebrew academy in Philadelphia.

6. Millions (2004)

Director Danny Boyle (Yesterday) explores a humanistic version of Christian theology in this Fox Searchlight dramedy. Having recently lost his mother, a 7-year-old boy is obsessed with Catholic saints, and thinks it providential when a duffel bag stuffed with cash shows up. Even as Millions inspires through themes of sacrifice, parents should be aware of its PG-13 content.

7. Ruby Bridges (1998)

Recounting an important chapter in the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges takes some inspiration from Norman Rockwells iconic painting. In 1960, a 6-year-old African-American girl was among the first to attend a newly integrated public school in New Orleans. Bridges and her family rely on their Christian faith to persevere in a film that quotes scripture throughout.

8. Pollyanna (1960)

Produced with great care and investment by Walt Disney himself, Pollyanna distills his vision of God and country in a narrative that draws on his childhood in small-town America. An orphaned girl who helps everyone around her see the bright side of life, Pollyanna influences even a local fire-and-brimstone preacher to shift his message to emphasize love and optimism.

9. The Small One (1978)

Years before he left Disney animation, writer and director Don Bluth (An American Tail) honed his craft on this musical story that imagines events adjacent to the Gospels Nativity accounts. When a peasant boy in first-century Judea gives up his beloved donkey to a carpenter and his pregnant wife, it means more than he couldve imagined.

10. Miracle at Midnight (1998)

Only a few years after Schindlers List, Disney partnered with mega-producer John Davis (The Blacklist) for a family-friendly dramatization of a little-known World War II story starring Sam Waterston (Law & Order). More than 7,000 Jews in Denmark are rescued in a courageous covert mission led by Christians and Jews acting in solidarity.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Due to diminishing box-office returns, only three of the seven Chronicles were produced, including this story of the temptations Narnian royalty face when confronting their fears.

2. Selma, Lord, Selma (1999)

This biopic dramatizes the cataclysmic March 1965 events of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, featuring Clifton Powell (Ray) as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

3. A Friendship in Vienna (1988)

During the late 1930s, two schoolgirls living in Vienna one Jewish, one the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer cannot make sense of how a changing society seeks to sunder their friendship.

4. Father Noahs Ark (1933)

While Disney Plus features more than 100 classic animated shorts, hundreds more remain unreleased, including this musical Silly Symphony adaptation based on the Genesis account.

5. A Man Called Peter (1955)

Hollywood leading man Richard Todd (The Sword and the Rose) portrays the journey of Peter Marshall from his boyhood in Scotland to being appointed U.S. Senate chaplain.

One can see moments depicting believers throughout the Disney canon from the Swiss Family Robinson pausing for prayer when they reach shore, to a funeral scene in Up, to Friar Tuck defending the downtrodden in Robin Hood. Such scenes resonate with people of faith, especially as popular entertainment increasingly shuns religious themes portrayed with sincerity.

Correction: The last film summary was updated to correctly identify the lead actor.

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in The Daily Signal, The Christian Post, Boundless, Providence Magazine, and Christian Headlines. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area.

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

Chobani, Skyr, Dannon: How yogurt took over the dairy aisle –

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Once upon a time, yogurt occupied a thin sliver of the dairy aisle. Now its an entirely separate section of the grocery store. There are at least a dozen brands of plain yogurt, but wait! Theres more! Yogurt comes with fruit on the bottom, sprinkles on top, M&Ms mixed in, and almond butter swirled over. The choice is overwhelming, but its also what consumers have come to expect.

For many Americans, yogurt is a staple snack food. In other parts of the world, its a marinade, a dip, a base for a soup, a drink. Indians stir it with chickpea flour and turmeric to make a warming, bright yellow dish called kadhi. Persians use strained yogurt as an aromatic side dish called mast o khiar, with cucumbers, rose petals, raisins, herbs, and garlic. In Turkey and Lebanon, meat dumplings are bathed in a tangy yogurt sauce to make shish barak. In the US, in spite of all the years yogurt has been a fridge mainstay, were still stuck on fruit and granola. Go figure.

But despite the more narrow American views of yogurt, it has managed to occupy a unique role in the countrys food culture its evolution on grocery shelves has mirrored that of eating habits and cultural touchpoints. There have been distinct eras in yogurt tastes, from Greek to Icelandic to nondairy, and each one offers a glimpse into the ingredients, diets, and narratives people were buying into at the time. Sure, yogurt is just one product in a sea of groceries. But it tells a compelling, complete story about the American diet.

Yogurt showed up in America from Europe as early as the mid-20th century, in the wake of World War II. In Europe, it was a fridge staple meant for snacking or eating for breakfast plain, tart, and creamy, often adorned with some berries. In the US, though, it would be a while before yogurt achieved that same staple status.

The problem, says Frank Palantoni, who was vice president of marketing for Dannon from 1987 to 1991, is that in its pure, unsweetened form, yogurt tasted terrible to the American palate. Americans associated dairy products with ice cream and milkshakes, and therefore a lot of sugar. Everyone was brought up such that if it smells tart, you throw it away, he says. In the post-World War II era of rations and cans and boxed mixes and TV dinners, people had a predisposition for foods that were convenient, easily consumed, and often high in sugar. They didnt want to spend all day in the kitchen. They didnt care as much about splurging on higher quality ingredients.

Owing in part to a popular Dannon ad campaign from 1977 featuring older people saying the secret to their vitality was yogurt, Americans gradually began to regard it as a health food.

Dannons big breakthrough was fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, released in the late 1980s, which was packaged as single-serve cups, and had the candy-like strawberry and blueberry flavors people were used to. In 1992, yogurt was being marketed to kids in the form of products like sprinkle-topped Sprinklins, which Palantoni helped pioneer. He says sugar wasnt as much of a concern for people back then. The thought was, kids run around, they need sugar, he says. The basic concept is that we are giving kids milk, and it is high protein, so if there is sugar it is okay.

Yogurt was marketed equally aggressively to women, because they were seen not only as the primary shoppers in the house, but also as diet-conscious. Advertisements showed women eating spoonfuls of yogurt at the spa bedecked in plush white robes, and ogling at a raspberry cheesecake before realizing excitedly that there was a raspberry cheesecake flavored yogurt. (Spoiler alert: It tastes nothing like raspberry cheesecake.)

As a result of all this, the yogurt business suddenly exploded. Everyone from kids to adults was eating it. Got Milk ads were in full swing, which only bolstered the appeal. In 1992, the yogurt market was valued at $1.135 billion.

A single word can define American dietary preferences of the early 2000s: protein. It was the magical nutrient that could keep you both satisfied and trim. Meal replacement bars suggesting they had enough protein to keep you full all day were getting big. Muscle Milk was a body-building staple. It was in this protein-obsessed environment that Greek yogurt a thick, strained version of the original was able to not just succeed but completely dominate the yogurt market.

There had been attempts at introducing Greek to the broader market. Palantini says Dannon introduced a product called Mini Moos around 1990 that was meant to be a high-protein snack for kids, but it tanked because it was marketed as fromage frais, or fresh cheese. Fage, with its ultra-thick Greek yogurt, was gaining popularity, but it was pricey, and it had a tart taste. Americans still loved sugar the protein shakes and protein bars were loaded with it.

The brand that was able to break through was Chobani, started by Hamdi Ulukaya, who came from a family of dairy farmers in Turkey. Chobanis offerings were affordable and had less sugar, but still enough to satisfy American tastes. But most importantly, Chobani pushed the protein messaging hard, and became seen as a healthier choice than all the other sugar-laden yogurt brands.

Because of the protein angle, Greek yogurt prompted advertising to finally shift away from focusing exclusively on women. The containers were now shaped like six-packs, the branding was black (because masculinity!), and the marketing sold it as post-gym fuel for bros a more all-natural version of protein powder, essentially.

Greek yogurt occupied 1 percent of the yogurt market in 2007; that jumped to 44 percent by 2013. Once Greek became accessibly priced and broadly distributed and people understood Greek means high protein, they snapped it up, says Peter McGuinness, president of Chobani. There was this total Greekwashing, with every major yogurt brand coming out with its own version of Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt walked so all the other country-specific yogurts could run. Almost as soon as this once-foreign food became a hit, consumers started looking to see what else was out there. Suddenly, Icelandic, Australian, and French yogurts were crowding grocery aisles, marketing themselves as more curated choices for food lovers. This was at a time when food and restaurant culture was starting to feel more mainstream thanks to publications like Bon Apptit and Lucky Peach, and shows like No Reservations. Chefs like David Chang and Alice Waters were household names. People were traveling not just to see sights, but to eat specific dishes at famous restaurants.

Greek yogurt did a lot of educating people about the importance of protein so we didnt have to talk about those things, says John Heath, the chief innovation officer at Icelandic Provisions. We were focused on this X factor of having a story. Creating a premium product for someone who has a bit more of a food IQ and an appreciation for where the food comes from.

Greek yogurt walked so all the other country-specific yogurts could run

Icelandic yogurt, or skyr, was being sold alongside this Viking heritage of Iceland, and stories of heirloom yogurt cultures. In the 2010s, Iceland became a more popular place to travel and was ranked as home to some of the worlds happiest people. This destination was aspirational, Heath says.

Siggi Hilmarsson, who founded Siggis, another Icelandic-style yogurt, also marketed his product as more premium than Greek. But he decided to focus less on the narrative, and more on the lack of sugar an ingredient that was vilified in the media. With a tagline that promised more protein than sugar, while still offering customers familiar flavors like blueberry and vanilla, from 2013 to 2019, Siggis quickly caught the attention of mainstream grocers, trainers, and doctors.

The story was important, he says. But they were primarily buying into the narrative of, wow, I didnt realize there was this much sugar in yogurt in America. This brand is telling me there is something better.

Nondairy yogurt has existed since the 1990s, but it was long associated with a chalky, unpleasant texture, bitter taste, and loads of additives. A few years ago, the tide started to turn in two key ways: First, nondairy milk was becoming standard in coffee shops and in fridges, as people increasingly believed that dairy was bad for the environment, and that lactose was upsetting their digestive systems.

Second, the nondairy yogurt market finally had options that mimicked the creamy texture of yogurt and the rich, full flavor. Anitas Yogurt, started in 2013, offered yogurt made out of coconut milk. Kite Hill, founded in 2010, popularized almond milk yogurt. Liz Fisher started Lavva in 2018 after discovering that pili nuts became buttery and creamy once blended. Fisher and others started a movement toward branding their yogurt not as nondairy but as plant-based shifting the focus away from what their yogurt didnt have.

Most importantly, when it seemed like yogurt had been modified and flavored in every possible way, nondairy milk gave consumers even more choice, and even more permutations to try. For a lot of people, the appeal of nondairy wasnt necessarily that they wanted to stop consuming milk products. They just wanted to try something new, and the environmental and health-angled marketing made that decision feel even better.

Fisher says Lavvas sales are up 300 percent from last year. Brands like Chobani and Siggis have both released nondairy offerings. Still, Fisher adds, while health food grocers cant get enough of nondairy yogurt, the category is still not growing all that much among larger retailers.

They are focused on the percentage of the business that anchors the category, which is cows milk yogurt, she says. As popular as nondairy yogurt may seem to be, its not a replacement. Dairy yogurt is here to stay.

With dairy still occupying the lions share of the market, there are plenty more innovations to be had. Previously, every brand of dairy yogurt was putting out low-fat or fat-free offerings, to track with the steady concern of Americans with fats. Now, with the rise of low-carb, high-fat diets like ketogenic, and increased awareness of the idea of good versus bad fats, yogurt companies are now leaning into fat.

Theres Siggis triple-cream yogurt, Iceland Provisions whole milk yogurt, Chobani Greek yogurt with almond butter, and Peak, a product whose 17 percent milk fat is displayed right on the package. Its a full-circle moment: These companies are reclaiming the notion perpetuated so long ago by early companies like Dannon that yogurt could be an indulgence, and a legitimate replacement for dessert, while still being good for you.

With yogurt occupying more and more shelf space in grocery stores and tracking so closely with American diet habits companies are constantly trying to figure out whats going to be big in yogurt. Heath says Icelandic Provisions is making a big bet on cold brew, having recently released a coffee-flavored yogurt made with cold brew concentrate. Hilmarsson, meanwhile, believes the business will go the way of the Impossible Burger, and people will develop synthetic proteins that work in yogurt.

Palantini compares what has happened with American consumers and yogurt to what happened with wine. Americans have a very limited receptivity of their palate to new flavors, he says. But once given options, with different tastes and textures, you will eventually develop your palate and it will get more sophisticated. The variety in yogurt has made many people more adventurous eaters. As packed as the yogurt aisle seems, expect even more wide-ranging offerings in coming years. And that, he adds, is a good thing.

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

On Intelligent Design, an Italian Philosophy Journal Takes a Step in the Right Direction – Discovery Institute

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Philosophers are making some important and interesting contributions to the conversation about biological origins. Earlier today we saw that philosopher Subrena E. Smith registered a harsh critique of evolutionary psychology in the journal Biological Theory, even saying that evo psych explanations are impossible. Now, a new paper in the Italian philosophy journal Humana Mente, Residuals of Intelligent Design in Contemporary Theories about Language Nature and Origins, observes that the arguments of intelligent design proponents are applicable to many explanations of the origins of language. The authors are cognitive scientists at the University of Messina, and although the English translation isnt always easy to follow and some of their ideas about ID are both dated and heavily critical, the openness to taking ID seriously is clear.

First, the authors semi-accurately describe ID arguments, noting:

IDs current and general criticism not only to evolutionism but also to biological science is not that complex phenomena cant be explained without the participation of a creator God, but rather that they cant be entirely solved inside a radically monistic theory. In other words, they cant be exposed to a naturalistic reduction

They correctly quote Phillip Johnson noting that ID isnt based upon the Bible: the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion, and even rightly observe that Natural selection is the actual target of ID, quoting ID theorists Angus Menuge and Michael Behe to this effect. They even recognize that ID is potentially compatible with common ancestry, noting that under ID evolution can reveal itself as a sequence of related species, but never as a casual variation of structures that come in succession across a selective ecological modeling. What you just saw is something rare: scholars recognizing in a mainstream academic journal that ID is not based upon biblical arguments, is compatible with common descent, but takes issue with the causal power of natural selection.

Dont take this to mean that the authors are pro-ID. They are not. The article is peppered with gratuitous rhetorical jabs at ID in which they show their bona fides to fellow academic materialists. Indeed, their primary information about ID comes from a highly inaccurate and outdated polemic against ID published back in 2004. Their ideas are so outdated that they cite Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, a name we havent used in over 15 years! They quote ID proponents such as Michael Behe, Angus Menuge, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, and Jonathan Wells calling them new gladiators, apparently unaware that Johnson passed away last year, some 15 years after their primary source on ID was written. They use all kinds of outlandish rhetoric, including calling ID second generation creationism, a more sophisticated and dangerous theistic science tradition, and a vehicle of philosophical infection, an insidious vehicle because it seems reasonable and moderate. In a passage that has to make you laugh, they state:

If nothing is ascribable to structural transformations generated by natural selection, but neither comes out already equipped by a demiurges mind, how the hell we can explain the ID foundational phenomena, or the irreducible and specific complexity in range of a carefully regulated universe? [Emphasis added.]

Theres no need to for their mystification about the cause behind ID. Since as human beings we have extensive observations of intelligent agents designing things, we can readily recognize the effects of intelligent agency in the natural world. Thus, intelligent design is detectible by science, and while it may not have a naturalistic mechanism it certainly provides a scientifically acceptable cause: intelligence. You might even call it a mechanism (although definitely not one in the materialistic sense).

Nonetheless, the point of the article is less to attack ID than it is to attack their fellow evolutionists who propose non-direct evolutionary pathways. They do this, ironically, by claiming that such evolutionists are falling into some traps of ID.

To make this argument, they first note that ID strongly criticizes direct evolutionary pathways:

From this point of view two decisive points of evolutionary analysis are brought into question: the first one is that the origin of language has to be obligatorily connected to functions directly linked to reproductive advantage; the second one is that, from the point of view of adaptive selection, the functional components acquired with language development might not be considered, or revealed, as an evolutionary advantage (on the contrary, they even could show themselves as counter-evolutionary features).

This second point raised up by Dembski seems to challenge the central mechanism of evolutionary reconstructions. According to Darwinian dictate, indeed, also the most complex organism derives from numerous, successive, and slight mutations of their own morphologic structures. The pure reconstruction of these transformations and the internal laws that rule them, is called by ID supporters a direct Darwinian pathway (Dembski & Well, 2008, p. 151).

They believe that language is amenable to such direct evolutionary pathways:

In human language, for example, a direct Darwinian pathway can be rebuilt taking into account the original structural constraint story (peripheral and central structures of hearing-vocal system) and the interaction between ecologic and environmental constraint (bio-geographic, for example) and social structure constraints, produced in turn by morphogenetic and cognitive constraints (from human females hidden ovulation, to the sentence of semantic and syntactic categorization caused by vocal articulation). In short an intersection between different restrictions, but all inside a natural perspective.

They then take aim at those who use non-direct explanations to account for human language oddly linking this somehow to a flaw in ID:

[U]ntil recently many explicative models, born in the field of cognitive sciences, have unconsciously adopted this dangerous dualism surreptitiously brought by ID in their attempt to explain complexity in human language without using the right way: an evolutionary explanation linked only to the progressive variation of morphologic structures.

They then delve into the debate about the best way to explain the evolutionary origin of language. Heres their view:

Direct Darwinian pathway goes through the analysis of body morphology: organisms narrate an evolutionary story made by phylogenetic heredity and species-specific changes. The functions that every organism show depend by constraints given by its body shape and by the interaction with the habitat he lives. Human language, as any cognitive function, showed itself only when sapiens morphology reached a usable minimum threshold, a discreet ergonomic target and a system of neural control that make possible compositional segmentation (Wray, 2002) and constant articulation of vocal sounds. In this way, it is possible to explain the presence of a communicative and representative complex function as human language without intelligent residuals, without necessarily using an external substance, and without spasmodically researching the adaptivity of every linguistic component to demonstrate evolutionary continuity.

We prefer to stay out of this fight. However, note that some theorists are deeply skeptical that the origin of human language is amenable to a detailed evolutionary explanation, appealing to adaptive benefits alone. For example:

In a very real sense, the two principal peculiarities of human language are an evolutionary embarrassment. It is not easy to picture the scenarios that would confer selective fitness on, specifically, syntactic classes and structure-dependent rules. While linguists advise us that these are formal properties without which human language cannot be modeled, it is not at all clear what functional properties of language are served specifically by these formal properties. Perhaps recursiveness is such a property; it may depend on syntactic classes. Let us pretend that it does: I, at least, do not see how to realize recursiveness without syntactic classes. These classes afford the kind of abstract representation in which the rewrite rules, needed for recursiveness, can be easily realized. But if this is correct, even in the weak sense that syntactic classes provide an economical or simple access to recursiveness, the, peculiarities of human language would remain no less an evolutionary embarrassment. I challenge the reader to reconstruct the scenario that would confer selective fitness on recursiveness. Language evolved, it is conjectured, at a time when humans or protohumans were hunting mastodons. Having language would be a benefit to them. They could do social planning, discuss strategies together, lay plans for specific contingencies. Now the alleged advantage of recursiveness is not simply unlimited sentences, but even more perhaps, the compacting of information. Would it be a great advantage for one of our ancestors, squatting alongside the embers, to be able to remark: Beware of the short beast whose front hoof Bob cracked when, having forgotten his own spear back at camp, he got in a glancing blow with the dull spear he borrowed from Jack? Human language is an embarrassment for evolutionary theory because it is vastly more powerful than one can account for in terms of selective fitness.

Its difficult to know how to make sense of all of it. These philosophers take ID seriously, at least enough to describe the relevant arguments accurately. Yet they heavily criticize design theory, with trite and easily answered low-brow objections. One of the main points on which they take ID seriously seems to be a misapplication of ID ideas: they critically compare invoking the arguments of ID theorists to linguists who adopt non-direct evolutionary explanations for the origin of human language. Of course ID proponents are some of the most vocal critics of those who promulgate indirect evolutionary explanations. Why? Because such explanations are weak, difficult to test, and just highly unlikely. Sometimes indirect evolutionary explanations almost sound teleological.

Again, the English translation of this paper is rough. Perhaps the article rejects indirect evolutionary pathways because those pathways seem too goal-directed. Perhaps the authors intuit that material causes dont work very well to guide an evolutionary pathway toward a specific, complex endpoint. If this is the way they see things, then theyre exactly right. But then what they dont appreciate is that there is a cause that can operate with an end-goal in mind to guide evolution to produce a highly complex function. In the words of Stephen Meyer: The answer is: intelligence. Conscious activity. The deliberate choice of a rational agent.

Photo: Socrates, a bust displayed in the Vatican Museum, via Wikimedia Commons.

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

The Limits of Science – Varsity Online

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Joshua Harris explores the philosophy of science, the history of thought, and the future of humanity through the paradigm of evolution.

Courtesy of innovations in science and technology, famines, plagues, wars, and infant mortality are now so low that most people living in economically developed countries expect to survive to old age, something which is unprecedented in the history of our species. Our modern society is able to avoid or survive diseases and wars far better than previous civilisations, but one of the final problems facing any civilisation is overextending the bounds of its resources - that is, running out of food.

Some farming practices, such as zero-till farming and applying fertiliser, are able to reduce nutrient losses, or spread them out over a larger area. However, in order to entirely eliminate nutrient losses from the food system, we would need to fertilise crops with our own faeces and dead bodies. Applying artificial fertilisers mined from rocks can help, but these will inevitably run out.

Physiological evolution has in some cases come close to the limits of what is physically possible.

Yet now, it seems as if even food production, the ultimate constraint on our survival, could be solved by technology. Bacterial cultures could produce food from thin air (or, rather, water), and be processed into substitutes for much of what we eat. We would still need to grow fruit and vegetables, but the amount of land required for this is tiny compared to what is required to produce animal products.

Is there any limit to what technology can solve? Thinking about the evolution of technology throughout history helps us address this question. Technology is a part of our cumulative culture, and there is a compelling argument that culture evolves by natural selection acting on memes, analogous to how organisms physiology evolves by natural selection acting on genes. In this sense, technological advances and scientific breakthroughs have little to do with individual people, but are to a large extent a product of the culture which these individuals experience. In support of this idea, there are many examples of convergent evolution. Agriculture arose at least 10 times independently. Calculus was formulated by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz around the same time. Big religions with just one or a few gods tend to evolve from animism and the worship of various spirits, wherever agricultural societies emerged from hunter gathering.

The various developments which eventually led to the iPhone may have been reliant on chance events. But if one of the inventors of Morse code, circuit boards, or miniature batteries had been run over by a bus before their big breakthrough, it seems highly likely that someone else would have made it in their stead, and the iPhone would still ultimately result. If Charles Darwin had never gone on the voyage of the Beagle, it is highly likely that someone else would have discovered evolution by natural selection. In fact, Alfred Russell Wallace did.

We are not in any way special compared to other creatures: we are all governed deterministically by evolutionary processes.

Physiological evolution has in some cases come close to the limits of what is physically possible. Some trees have reached their maximum possible size. Our eyes can detect single photons. Dogs noses can detect single molecules. Similarly, there surely must be limits to technology and scientific discoveries. There is surely a finite amount which can be known about the world, and, like distantly related groups of animals under similar environmental conditions converge on the same ecotypes, we will eventually arrive at a given set of explanations for how things work. Evolution, or the laws of physics, exist, and were just waiting to be discovered. To a certain extent, the way in which we think about things is influenced by our language and our culture, but the principles of formal logic and mathematics upon which science is ultimately based are the same regardless of the language which we use to express our internal thoughts and the cultural biases which impact hypotheses.

If evolution, culture and even ideas always converge to common ground, we might reasonably ask: do our individual choices matter, or is everything predetermined? Arguably, our actions are strongly influenced by our values and general worldview, which is shaped by the culture in which we live, which is to some extent a product of biogeography. The general direction of society is modelled by the struggle for survival between different memes which infect our minds and propagate themselves as we transmit ideas to others. In this sense, perhaps we are not in any way special compared to other creatures: we are all governed deterministically by evolutionary processes.

However, what sets us apart from other evolved species is our ability to predict and manipulate the world. For example, physicists could predict that if you dropped a hammer and a feather on the moon, they would hit the ground at the same time, and when people went to the moon, they showed that this was indeed true. Hypotheses in complicated systems like ecology can never be proved definitively, but we can use statistics to discriminate the better theories from worse.


Does the human lifespan have a limit?

So, whilst our beliefs and values are just human constructs, humans have the remarkable ability of predicting phenomena which occur regardless of the cultural frames through which we perceive them. To quote the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, The good thing about science is that its true, whether or not you believe in it. And, although recognising that our actions are to some extent predetermined can make life feel meaningless, I think its impossible to imagine a better existence than to be a conscious being in a world full of fascinating things.

Varsity is the independent newspaper for the University of Cambridge, established in its current form in 1947. In order to maintain our editorial independence, our newspaper and news website receives no funding from the University of Cambridge or its constituent Colleges.

We are therefore almost entirely reliant on advertising for funding, and during this unprecedented global crisis, we have a tough few weeks and months ahead.

In spite of this situation, we are going to look at inventive ways to look at serving our readership with digital content for the time being.

Therefore we are asking our readers, if they wish, to make a donation from as little as 1, to help with our running cost at least until we hopefully return to print on 2nd October 2020.

Many thanks, all of us here at Varsity would like to wish you, your friends, families and all of your loved ones a safe and healthy few months ahead.

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 10, Marvin Gaye I Heard It Through the Grapevine – The Guardian

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A crucial step towards forming his own nuanced artistic identity. ... Marvin Gaye. Photograph: Gems/Redferns

It can be hard to grasp the depth and breadth of Marvin Gayes career. He seems to have lived one of those kaleidoscopic lives that could only have occurred at the birth of modern pop and celebrity culture: starting as a session singer for Chuck Berry before songwriting and drumming for Motown groups such as the Marvelettes and the Miracles; earning his stripes as a duettist with Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell and then breaking out on his own, first as a tentative R&B man and then as a socially conscious soul auteur and hedonistic sex symbol. And then, at the age of 44, he was shot dead by his father.

His expansive life is much like his voice: all four octaves of range from honeyed baritone to raspy, yearning tenor (his tough man voice) and then the heart-rending, vulnerable falsetto, differing musical personalities contained within the singular liquid runs he would make in his songs. Reconciling these competing expressions would prove to be a lifelong evolution, one that can be traced back to Gayes first solo commercial success, 1968s I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

Like much of the music in Gayes early career, the release of the song was heavily contested and almost didnt happen. Originally written by Motowns Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, the song riffed on the concept of the human grapevine that slaves coined during the American civil war to communicate information, adapting it to the tale of a singer longing after a partner they had heard was leaving them for another. It was recorded by the Miracles before Gaye got to it in 1967, and again later that year by Gladys Knight and the Pips.

The arrangement of Knights version is almost unrecognisable from the one made famous by Gaye: all funk and shuffling tambourine, it highlights her gravelly, full-throated voice in a call and response, reducing it to yet another light-hearted song about a wronged lover. After hearing this version and predicting it would be a hit, the notoriously controlling Motown boss Berry Gordy had Gayes recording shelved and blocked from release.

Luckily, producer Whitfield had it added to Gayes 1968 eighth solo album release, In the Groove, where it soon became popular via radio play and forced Gordys hand to release it as a single in October 1968. It became the biggest hit single in Motown history for the next 20 months and it earned Gaye his first solo No 1 in the US. It was so successful that In the Groove was ultimately reissued with the title I Heard It Through the Grapevine. It was also his first and only UK No 1, reaching the top in April 1969 for three weeks.

After almost a decade in the Motown camp, adhering to Gordys strict demands on appearance and music choice, this win for Gaye was a crucial step towards forming his own nuanced artistic identity. Gayes hits to date had been as the preppy, clean-cut counterpart to Weston and Terrell, songs that spoke to the all-conquering power of love, yet with Grapevine we hear the beginnings of Gayes true skill: the forlorn interweaving of loss, defiance and lust those constituent parts of a more realistic love than the sickly exaltation of songs such as Aint No Mountain High Enough.

As on many of Gayes subsequent hits (Whats Going On, Lets Get It On and Sexual Healing) an instrumental opening grabs the listeners attention a slowly vamping Rhodes and bassline layered with a tambourine and a shrill call of horns before Gayes plaintive vocal illuminates the opening lyric: I bet youre wondering how I knew. From there, its his voice that brings home the narrative line after line, cushioned by strings played by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra: his falsetto rasps through a longing for his lover; his tenor registers a defiant resignation to losing her.

One key tenet of Gayes solo work is this palpable sense of loss and the attendant sadness that exists just beneath the surface of his sentiment. Its there in the eco-soul of Whats Going On and Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), and even in the aching opening of the lustful Lets Get It On. This is the quintessence of his soul music, the knife-edge balance of opposites that momentarily reconciles to create a newfound whole.

Having had the first solo hit of his career, Gaye was characteristically resigned and dismissive, telling a reporter that he didnt deserve it. This was likely due to the fact that his longtime friend and singing partner Terrell had brain cancer at the time. Her death less than a year later would send him into a profound depression, one that would leave him resolved to leave Motown and to ultimately create his conceptual masterwork Whats Going On in 1971.

Here, Gaye would establish himself as the bad boy of Motown, both a figurehead for rising anti-Vietnam sentiment and archetype of the socially conscious songwriter. It is a far cry from the straightforward sweetness of a Holland-Dozier-Holland recording such as How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) released only six years earlier, showing an emotional depth that would ultimately take a profound toll on Gayes life. With I Heard It Through the Grapevine, we find him stepping out into his independence, all potential buoyed on by the force of his first creation.

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The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 10, Marvin Gaye I Heard It Through the Grapevine - The Guardian

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

Global wine trends react to Coronavirus – The Shout

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As we ticked over from 2019 to 2020, one of the hottest topics in the drinks industry was what the years trends would be.

Now, as we reach mid-2020, its likely that predicted trends have faced unexpected challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps not achieving results forecasted before the virus exploded across the world.

Knowing this, Wine Intelligence has reissued their Global Trends in Wine 2020 report, in an updated document with insights and commentary about how each trend is likely to be impacted by Coronavirus in the short and medium term.

In a new introduction to the report, Lulie Halstead, Wine Intelligence Co-founder and CEO, said: Back in January, we reported that the key themes in global trends in wine for 2020 revolved around The Four Rs: Relationship, Retail, Repertoire and Responsibility. In our new environment, we believe these mega trends are as valid as they were in the pre-coronavirus world. However, the way in which these trends present themselves in the current context, and the path of their evolution through the remainder of this year and beyond, has undoubtedly changed.

Some of the most notable trends for retailers are below, but the full report has also now been made free to access on the Wine Intelligence website (normally worth upwards of $2,000). You can download that in full here.

The first R is home to the trends of rising involvement with reducing knowledge, and increasing visual impact.

Before COVID-19, the first relationship trend points to consumers becoming more involved with wine, but reducing their technical wine knowledge. This was largely credited to how we increasingly rely on external measures, like smartphones, to retain and recall knowledge for us, rather than relying on our own cognitive measures. However, Wine Intelligence has predicted that both wine involvement and knowledge may increase now thanks to the pandemic and how it has shifted our daily lives and habits.

The report noted: We anticipate that as a result of the enforced shift in wine purchasing away from the on- premise, some to retail stores, but most to online, objective wine knowledge may in fact increase. Having to pre-populate search terms and having more time and opportunity to read online reviews and commentary will enrich knowledge levels. Overall, involvement may also rise because consumers will have time to explore.

Meanwhile, the second relationship trend relates to the visual impact of a wine bottle, and how consumers will increasingly use this to make purchasing decisions. This is set to be unaffected by the pandemic, and the report said: The attractiveness and appropriateness of the bottle and label design will carry on growing in importance in 2020 and beyond.

The second R has three trends: maturing consumers, growing on-premise opportunity and premiumisation.

The maturing consumer trend refers to the relevance that the over 55 demographic has on the world of wine. In a globally ageing population, the cohort is the largest consumer group of wine, albeit with less confidence than younger generations. the significance of the maturing consumer is predicted to continue through 2020 despite COVID-19 affecting older generations more than younger.

Wine Intelligence said: The wine drinking population will continue to mature, with these drinkers remaining more wine experienced and knowledgeable due to the number of years they have spent engaging with wine.

In terms of the on-premise trend, in January Wine Intelligence described how higher priced and special occasion wines are more likely to be consumed in venues to help boost experiences. Of course, with the shut down of so many on-premise markets across the world, this has been re-forecast on the medium and long term, to suggest at-home consumption of wine will be boosted instead.

The ongoing premiumisation trend was set to continue in wine this year, as more consumers looked for options to help them drink less but better. But with the extreme economic shock that the pandemic has caused, value for money options have overtaken this trend, at least in the short term, with the report noting: We may have seen the end of the premiumisation trend for now.

The third R discusses the trends of switching out of wine, shifting wine choices, and universal rose.

Consumers that are part of the switching out of wine trend are contributing to the growing number of drinkers that are no longer defined by the one category they frequent. Instead, Wine Intelligence predicted a drop in regular and frequent wine drinkers, as they switch out to other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage categories. This is unlikely to be impacted by COVID-19.

The millennial demographic is largely driving the shifting wine choices trend, with predictions centring around the growing number of consumers expanding their repertoire to a larger number of grape varietals from a smaller number of origin countries. The new report predicts this will continue, however with consumers now choosing more local products, or opting to support nations that have displayed actions that align with their personal values throughout the pandemic.

We anticipate a renewed focus on domestic and local wine in wine producing countries, reflecting national populations becoming more inwardly-focused and protective. This will also reflect consumers agendas to support their local businesses at a time of economic crisis. Potentially, there could be a consumer backlash against certain countries and regions, depending on how the pandemic is managed, the report said.

The ever-growing popularity of pink has seen rose predicted to trend again in 2020. Even with the pandemic, this is set to continue, especially as the Northern Hemisphere moves into summer, which is likely to boost demand.

The final R area of Wine Intelligences report contains the trends of moderation and rising ethical engagement.

Low and no products have experienced boosts in sales through the moderation trend and that was predicted to continue in 2020 before COVID-19 struck. However, as the updated report notes, Evidence indicates that abstinence does not typically occur during times of crisis and if anything, consumption of alcohol can increase.

However, early findings describe how consumers are also moderating but drinking more, choosing lower ABV products but perhaps consuming more of them. In any case, the moderation trend has been predicted to be on hold for the short term as more people are confined to their homes with changed lifestyles.

The final trend that was set to see big results in 2020 was rising ethical engagement from an increase in consumers looking for brands and products that align with their values. Areas of particular note were sustainability and health causing boosted popularity for organic and other alternative wine types, especially in younger demographics that are more willing to invest in conscious consumption practice.

This has already been a trend that has been impacted by Coronavirus in other markets, for example in many venues no longer accepting reusable coffee cups. Wine Intelligence says there is potential for wine to go either way in this trend.

During times of crisis, benefits which can be seen as desirable rather than fundamental are typically the first to be abandoned. This may be the case for sustainable wines, particularly as they are often more expensive than their regular counterparts. [When this is over] purse strings will tighten and may reduce the attraction of sustainable and alternative wines. Conversely, we can also expect a heightened focus on collective responsibility, leading to support for sustainable products, Wine Intelligence explained.

The full revised report goes into more detail about the data points of these trends on a country specific level and can be downloaded here.

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Global wine trends react to Coronavirus - The Shout

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May 28th, 2020 at 7:43 am

Planet Earth Report The Supernova at the Bottom of the Sea to What Covid-19 Autopsies Reveal – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

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Posted on May 22, 2020 in Science

Bow, Humans: Trillions of Cicadas Are Going to Rule America, As humans remain stuck inside or socially distanced, trillions of buzzing cicadas will burst out of the ground across the U.S. between now and summer 2021. Its already starting, reports Motherboard Science.

The Secret History of the Supernova at the Bottom of the SeaHow a star explosion may have shaped life on Earth.reports Julia Rosen for

Consciousness is Like Spacetime Before Einsteins Relativity The question that has intrigued several of the planets great physicists, including Stanfords Andre Linde and Princetons John Archibald Wheeler in the last decades of his life, was: are life and mind irrelevant to the structure of the universe, or are they central to it? Are we living in a participatory, conscious universe, a cosmos in which all of us are embedded as co-creators, replacing the a purely materialistic universe as out there separate from us.

The ground is softening. Something is shifting in Antarcticas McMurdo Dry Valleys, reports Massive Science,The first water measurements here were taken in 1903. Long-term monitoring since then tells the tale of an abrupt ecosystem shift.

COVID-19: What the Autopsies Reveal-Pathologists are starting to get a closer look at the damage that COVID-19 does to the body by carefully examining the internal organs of people who have died from the novel coronavirus, reports Scientific American.

The Carouser and the Great Astronomer -Its a fine line between oblivion and immortality, reports What had brought Frederik and Johannes to Prague was the arrival there the year previously of Frederiks third cousin Tycho, a 54-year-old bear of a man with an artificial nose made of gold and silverhis fleshly one had been sliced off in a duel. At the age of 30, in 1576, Tycho Brahe had established the most advanced astronomical observatory in the world, Uraniborg, on the Danish island of Hveen, of which he was Lord.

The giant tectonic plate under the Indian Ocean is going through a rocky breakup with itself.In a short time (geologically speaking) this plate will split in two, a new study finds.

Graduate Student Solves Decades-Old Conway Knot Problem. It took Lisa Piccirillo less than a week to answer a long-standing question about a strange knot discovered over half a century ago by the legendary John Conway, reports Quanta. I didnt allow myself to work on it during the day, she said, because I didnt consider it to be real math. I thought it was, like, my homework.

Will Hot Weather Kill the Coronavirus Where You Live? Asks The New York Times.The forecast from researchers is grim: Warm weather alone will not control the virus in America or abroad. Here are the results for the United States, showing weather on its own cannot meaningfully reduce infections to the rate of 1 new case per every infected person, the point by which the number of infections falls continuously.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish Water Worlds Like Earth May Not Be Best Bet for Life

The Last Place on Earth Wed Ever Expect to Find LifeMicrobes are turning up deep beneath the ocean floor, a sign that life might have fewer limits than scientists once thought, reports The Atlantic.

Egg Laying or Live Birth: How Evolution Chooses A lizard that both lays eggs and gives birth to live young is helping scientists understand how and why these forms of reproduction evolved, reports Quanta.

The Fed chief warned of a whole new level of uncertainty as financial pain deepens, reports The New York Times. Mr. Powell said the nations economy was in a downturn without modern precedent.

The U.S. Is Getting Shorter, as Mapmakers Race to Keep Up, reports The New York Times. Scientists are hard at work recalibrating where and how the nation physically sits on the planet. Its not shrinkage its height modernization.

Could science actually make Game of Thrones happen? Sometimes! reports Farah Qaiser for Massive Science,Fire, Ice and Physics breaks down the science behind Game Of Thrones, including beheadings, White Walkers and wildfire.

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