jeudi, mars 31, 2005


What if we are immortal beings?

From the point of view of psychology, each individual needs to believe in his own (physical) immortality, a sine qua non condition to maintain his mental sanity. From the social point of view, nevertheless, individuals refrain themselves from expressing such belief in order not to pass by insane. Thence, one interesting social and anthropological phenomena is taking place as more and more individuals have openly spelt out their belief in the possibility of physical immortality.

The first and obvious case is the blog Physical Immortality by Robert Ray Hedges. Hedges' credo may be summarised by his dicto You know that creating children to die really sucks. If I understood his sight correctly, he seems to promise that he can cure our ignorance (sic) and explain to those who contact him how physical immortality is attainable.

There are other recent preachers or visionaries, some of whom I quote hereinafter:

Immortality and Mortality in the Economic Sciences

By Sam Vaknin
Roberto Calvo Macias, a young author and thinker from Spain, once wrote to me that it is impossible to design a coherent philosophy of Economy without accounting for the (sad?) fact that we are mortals. This insight is intriguing. It is not that we refrain from Death in dealing with matters economic. What are estate laws, annuities, life insurance policies - but ways to cope with the Great Harvester? But this, admittedly, only scratch the non-profound surface of the question.

Human Immortality: A Scientific Reality?

If you're alive in 20 years, you may be able to live forever.

In 1796, life expectancy was 24 years. A hundred years later it doubled to 48. Right now, it's 76. "Over half the baby boomers here in America are going to see their hundredth birthday and beyond in excellent health," says Dr. Ronald Klatz of the American Academy of Anti-Aging. "We're looking at life spans for the baby boomers and the generation after the baby boomers of 120 to 150 years of age."

Today's quest for the fountain of youth is taking scientists from inside the genetic structure of cells to analyzing the role of stress and diet on life spans. Would-be immortals flock to anti-aging clinics and shell out as much as $20,000 a year for treatments that include hormone therapy, DNA analysis, even anti-aging cosmetic surgery. These experimental therapies offer no guarantees -- just the promise of prolonging life.

Harmony, Cooperation, Sharing & Reverence for Life

MOUNT SHASTA, CA ÷ Want to watch the evolutionary emergence of a new species? Look in the mirror, according to Gary Zukav. He believes the entire human species is in the midst of a great evolutionary transformation. We have the potential, according to Gary, to become a highly intuitive species --"multi-sensory"-- emerging from what humans are today -- a species focused on surviving using our five senses. He believes humans are moving toward an awareness that we are part of an all-encompassing universal consciousness. He sees his own task as creating a vocabulary for the changes he believes we are all experiencing, illuminating the new territory into which he sees us moving.

At the heart of Zukav's perspective is his belief that humans are immortal souls first, physical beings second. He sees us transforming.
For the first time, human evolution is becoming conscious. We're co-creators in our own evolution. Now our way to evolve is to heal the unconscious parts of our personalities. We must align our personalities (the five-sensory human) with our souls (the intuitive, multi-sensory human.) Our task is to seek authentic power instead of the external power on which our survival once was based. External power -- manipulating, dominating and controlling the physical world -- is not 'bad,' it's obsolete, the source of violence and destruction.

Being born is not a crime, so why must it carry a sentence of death?

By Robert Ettinger

Today more than 150,000 people lost their lives. At least 150,000 more humans will die tomorrow. Some of them will be elderly, of course, but why should that be a death sentence? Even worse, tens of thousands of youthful adults and children will be lost tomorrow—and the next day, and the day after that—to preventable or curable illnesses simply because treatment is not available to them.

Inventor believes humans eventually will be immortal From the Seattle Times

Above is a rich material for anthropological field work.

jeudi, mars 24, 2005

On Power Illusions

If I am not mistaken, some Christian denominations explicitly affirm their belief in the potential physical immortality of humans, which, according to their doctrines, will be realised, i.e., become a concrete fact after the resurrection day. Besides these Churches, I know of no group who admit this hidden assumption.

The non-admitted belief in human physical immortality is important to justify the belief in the highest power. Human societies believe that the highest power is the power to kill. Governments and rulers vest themselves with such prerogative, because they believe that if a State lacks the power to kill it has no power at all.

But members of society also want power and dispute the monopoly of the power to kill. Not surprisingly, from time to time there come groups who demand or revindicate the right to kill in some circumstances. Movements in favour of capital punishment, abortion or euthanasia or against gun control are motivated by the unconfessed belief that they will gain some share of power if they are entitled to kill, i.e., if they possess the divine prerogative of choosing who lives and who dies.

The power to kill is nevertheless illusory, i.e., it is not a true power, if all humans without exception die sooner or later. And it is difficult to understand how can individuals consciously believe in human mortality and still retain the illusion that a license to kill entails some power.

The Schiavo and other similar cases seem to be a power dispute of this sort. Although consciously the parties in the recent controversy allege other reasons, what is sub-consciously behind it is a dispute for the prerogative to kill. The conservative majority in the US Congress think that only the State must hold the power to kill, i.e., to decide who lives or dies and not private citizens. Terri Schiavo's doctors and relatives, on the other hand, want private citizens to have that power too and dispute which of them will have a say in whether she lives or dies. All such parties are pro-choice in this sense and want to make the choice.

mardi, mars 22, 2005

On the Suppression of Self-Defence

Brief Note
The right to self-defence is individual and not transferable. This means that, if it is possible to relinquish such right, it can be only relinquished by a personal and direct choice of each individual. None can, on behalf of a third party, decide to relinquish it. If one individual cannot personally make the choice to relinquish such right, all the other persons around him have to assume that he wants to retain it and will respect it.

This is not a matter of choice to be made upon scientific evidence or technical advice or at the discretion of the State, of a community or of the members of a family.

When, in the course of certain particular events, a person vests himself with the alleged power or right to remove self-defence, he is overstepping his ethical limits and becomes a tyrant.

The right of self-defence, being the very foundation of any ethical system, cannot be suppressed within the limits of ethics. Accordingly, its suppression carries the suppression of the whole ethical system.

samedi, mars 19, 2005


There are many ways to characterise ethics. Some ways belong to a class one may call consuetudinal, while others take ethics as a discipline or science, a particular ethical system being the product of the mind of an author.

Nevertheless, what underlies every ethical system, whether costumary or the construct of one thinker, is a basic principle that seems to take precedence over all others, which is the right to survival and self-defence:

(P) Every human being has a right to life and consequently to self-defence.

In elaborating a normative theory or in analysing a culture, all the other ethical principles may either be derived from (P) above or must be subject to (P). And a whole ethical system may thus be evaluated in terms of fulfilling or guaranteeing (P): a system that violates (P) is not ethical or does not work.

Now, (P) is not unproblematic. Firstly, one of its interpretations might presuppose the belief in the physical immortality of humans, which, as I have explained before, is not explicitly acceptable in human cultures. Secondly, there is a problem of ensuring the survival of the members of a society (even within a limited term) and of balancing the rights to life and self-defence of individuals in (violent or bloody) confrontation.

From the point of view according to which ethics is a groupal construct, ethical principles are the means human societies have to solve or prevent conflicts of interest among their members, whereby ethical principles take scope over what belongs to the public domain. And in this regard, only legitimate interests may be taken into account. But (P) does more than that, for (P) precisely defines what are the most legitimate interests first of all. So, (P) directs what may be under discussion or not.

On the other hand, (P) defines cases in which no compromise is possible, such as when one individual desires or requests the killing of another. In such cases, virtue cannot be in the middle, and (P) automatically decides which side is right and which is wrong.

vendredi, mars 18, 2005

Capital Punishment and its Nonsensical Premises

The oddest idea behind the institution of death penalty is that it presupposes (and encapsulates the belief in) the physical immortality of humans, a thesis that is denied in every culture.

The institution of death penalty has been discussed from several points of view. Here I would like to discuss this issue from a more Philosophical perspective, i.e., in a more abstract and slightly radical manner.

The philosophical discussion of death penalty has a broad spectrum and includes extreme questions of whether life or death is real. Here I shall not take such ample scope. On the contrary, I shall assume that both life and death are real, and take into account that all human cultures accept the following thesis as the Ultimate Truth:

(UT) Every human is mortal.

Variations of this thesis are sentences like death is the only certain fate of all, and they all entail that death is something both natural and inevitable. The explicit proposition that someone could probability live for ever is discarded as completely absurd.

On the other hand, in primitive stages almost all judicial systems and penal codes included death penalty among the array of possible punishments for crimes. (And even nowadays some judicial system still preserve this institution.) This presupposed two things: firstly that there are some acts such as their agents deserve to die, and secondly and most importantly that death is a form of punishment.

Now, the second presupposition is the most curious one: if death is something natural that befalls all humans without exception, why would it be a form of punishment?

Given (UT) above, every individual x is doomed to die someday. If x is a free man and if he commits no crime, he may remain free for all his life but he still will die according to (UT). Now if x commits a crime and is sentenced to a form of punishment what changes in his existence? If he is condemned to imprisonment, his freedom is removed for a number of years, and that is a change in the course of his existence. On the other hand, if x is condemned to be executed, he will die because of his crime. But this is no change in the course of his existence, because if he was not condemned to die, he would die anyway.

It does not suffice to say in such a case, that x is punished because he knows the day of his death. Firstly, by knowing the appointed day of his execution does not mean that he knows the actual day of his death, since he may die before the appointed day, or the execution may be postponed, suspended or cancelled[1]. Secondly, knowing one's day of death does not produce any considerable change, for (UT) is still fulfilled.

Methinks that what underlies death penalty is actually the unconfessed denial of (UT), i.e., the hidden belief that we all may be immortal and/or postpone death for ever. Accordingly, death is seen as a form of punishment because it excludes such possibility. In other words, death penalty is based on the belief that humans are physically immortal and the courts may punish them by removing their immortality. But this implies that both (UT) and its denial are spoused by human cultures, a real contradiction.

It is intriguing to constate that such contradiction is shared by virtually all cultures, and that, where death penalty is still accepted or discussed, humans do not even try manage to administer such contradiction somehow.

[1] Or he may even flee from the authorities.

jeudi, mars 17, 2005



En 2004, la troupe du Poème Harmonique a créé l'événement en interprétant une oeuvre majeure du patrimoine français : Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, de Molière, dans la version originale jouée à Chambord par Lully et Molière devant le Roi Soleil. Vincent Dumestre, le directeur musical, la chorégraphe Cécile Roussat, le metteur en scène Benjamin Lazar et tout le Poème Harmonique se sont associés pour faire revivre cette comédie ballet en lui rendant tout ce qui faisait la force des spectacles baroques du 17ème siècle. Martin Fraudreau a suivi les répétitions au cours du printemps et de l'été 2004 et nous fait découvrir comment la troupe redonne à la pièce toute sa dimension contenue dans sa forme oubliée, où comédie, musique, intermèdes chantés et dansés sont indissociables.

Réalisation : Martin Fraudreau, 2005
Pays : France
Durée : 52 mn
Horaires de diffusion de cette émission (TV5 France):
Le 19 03 2005 à 17:05
Le 22 03 2005 à 05:01


En 1999, en réponse à l'augmentation croissante du nombre de personnes souffrant de malnutrition dans le monde, l'ONU crée un nouveau droit : le droit à l'alimentation. Il s'agit d'obliger tous les Etats du monde à permettre à leurs citoyens d'accéder à une alimentation suffisante. L'année suivante, l'écrivain et sociologue suisse, Jean Ziegler, est nommé rapporteur spécial sur le droit à l'alimentation. « Voyage contre la faim » traite de la mission de Jean Ziegler en Ethiopie, pays touché de façon récurrente par la famine.

Réalisation : Matthias von Gunten, 2004
Pays : Suisse
Durée : 52 mn
Horaires de diffusion de cette émission (TV5 France)
Le 20 03 2005 à 21:08
Le 22 03 2005 à 17:02
Le 23 03 2005 à 05:02

Highlights from FAPESP MAG


FAPESP MAG (full name Revista Pesquisa Fapesp or Fapesp Research Magazine) has published two interesting articles about recent archaeological discoveries that are reshaping the previous views on the History of South-American Peoples before the arrival of the first Europeans. These articles are now available online in English, though the most interesting illustrations can be found only in its paper edition.


FAPESP MAG 105 (Nov/2004)
Paintings and engravings reveal the diversity of shapes and styles of Brazilian rock art

Written in a simple language that is accessible to non-specialists, two recent books, from which the images described above have been extracted, attach central importance to Brazilian rupestral art. In other works, this kind of archaeological finding is often considered no more important than fossils of even more ancient animals, artifacts, or even skeletons of Homo sapiens.
The publications show the diversity of techniques, forms and themes exhibited by the prehistoric graphic activity in two areas of the national territory, the Northeast and the Amazon. The rock paintings are a gateway to the knowledge of life in Prehistory, but they should be observed from a perspective that allows us to go beyond what is shown, without unfounded interpretations writes Anne-Marie. The major issues, which concern the present-day society, are, in part, the same that concerned social groups in prehistoric eras. Published at the end of last year by Fumdham, and sponsored by Petrobras, the book about the archaeological sites of Serra da Capivara is an abundantly illustrated trilingual journey � written in Portuguese, French and English � to the lost world of the ancient inhabitants that, one day, inhabited the 130,000 hectares of the park.


FAPESP MAG #92 (Oct/2003)

Contrarily to what used to be said, Brazil had complex societies before the arrival of the Europeans
Recent archaeological discoveries in at least two different spots of Brazilian Amazonia suggest that the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas were not the only ones to have a monopoly of complex societies at the time Christopher Columbus the navigator disembarked. In the last few years, intensive field work carried out by Brazilian and foreign researchers in the Upper Xingu, in the north of Mato Grosso, and at the confluence of the Negro and Solim�es rivers (some 30 kilometers from Manaus, in the state of Amazonas), had indicated the existence of great and refined human settlements, inhabited simultaneously by several thousands of persons in these areas, 500 years ago, or even before that.The most spectacular evidence of populational density of this magnitude, which is only possible due to the adoption of a sedentary life style and of practices that altered the native forest and afford a reasonably productive agriculture, was found in prehistoric sites located on land inhabited today by the Kuikuro people, inside the Xingu indigenous reserve, and materialised on the pages of the September 19 issue of the American magazine Science, one of the publications with most weight amongst scientists.

In a four-page article, illustrated by six satellite images, a rather unusual team of authors � three from the University of Florida, two from the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro and two Kuikuro Indians � describe the structure of the kind of society that existed in this area of the Amazon rain forest between 1200 and 1600 AD: a group of 19 villages in a circular format, the larger ones protected by ditches of up to 5 meters in depth and palisades, interconnected by a broad and extensive network of compacted earth roads. The researchers estimate that between 2,500 and 5,000 persons used to live in the larger villages. The refinement and precision with which the roads were conceived and executed are impressive. They were extremely rectilinear, between 10 and 50 meters in width and 3 to 5 kilometers in length.The roads are a work of engineering that moved an enormous quantity of earth on the horizontal plane, explains archeologist Michael Heckenberger, from the University of Florida, the main author of the text inScience, a 41-year-old American who speaks Portuguese fluently, having lived seven years in Brazil, one and a half of them inside the Xingu.

[1], [2], [3], [4], [5]

If I have enough time, I shall try to find links to videos talking about such discoveries (but no promises).

Update 1: Fapesp Mag (online edition in Portuguese) has another article about the discovery of a five thousand year old civilisation in Northern Peru. So far, that is the oldest civilisation known to have existed in the American Hemisphere.

Upated 2: Today Brazilian mass media reported that Archaeologist Ni�de Guidon, who works at Fumdham, has been receiving anonymous threats to her life, and that important artefacts and rupestral art sites in the Serra da Capivara National Park have been vandalised recently.
In the year 1991, Unesco included the Serra da Capivara Park in the Wolrd Heritage list.