This are my notes (originally hand-written) on five sessions of the Battle of Ideas. Most of the talks did not stick to their published synopsis but in terms of content they were on: drug development, animal cognitive abilities, learning Latin in 30 minutes, space exploration and the nation-state.
The key issue in drug prescription is medication at end of life.
Scientific illiteracy is universal, it's not just the media. GPs want certainty in the advice that NICE issues.
Holistic treatments don't fit with single-problem treatment plans.
Our knowledge of how drugs work in people is really limited to how drugs work in Antipodean backpackers.
Over a century people have adapted to the causes of cardiovascular disease
For the first time there are drugs being discovered that can only be tested in humans. We are targeting mechanisms that only exist in human physiology.
We need to talk about the inevitable death that will happen in human-only trials. Our current system minimises risk to people.
Eliding Darwinism and Freemarketeering is an example of scientific illiteracy.
Professor Mark Butler of NICE is hugely impressive during the discussion.
Only corvids who have stolen other birds caches hide their own caches if they are observed.
There's a naivety at play where non-thieves don't move caches.
Intelligence seems related to relative brain size. Absolute size makes no difference.
Symbolic and abstract reasoning is transformative
Imagination is the ability to "see" something that an individual has never seen or encountered or which may never even have existed.
Memory is not evidence of identity
The space exploration discussion
The Carrington Event would have destroyed our current form of civilisation, at the time though it only destroyed the telegraph system.
Countries are going to invest in space as part of their infrastructure spending. They need location services, weather reporting and telecommunications and space technology is an integral part of providing that now.
Kennedy considered nuking the moon instead of landing a man on it, aiming to create a new crater visible from the Earth.
I'm not sure if this is true. The Daily Mail seems to have reported it.
The exploitative economics of the solar systems are very different from to a planetary one. What is unsustainable in one might be sustainable in the other.
Space exploration offers an outlet for the human need for excitement.
The question of space exploration is more about the programmes that have less immediate goals and aims than the near space ones
Korolev and von Braun were interested in putting main into space and they used military projects to try and advance their own agendas.
I think there's an element of truth to this but I would argue that the programmes used both men more than they used them.
China isn't allowed to be part of the ISS due to American distrust
It's not about feeding the hungry or going into space. Without space technology more people would be starving than do today.
A mission to Mars is affordable in terms of defence spending.
This might be true but then so is fusion and any number of projects. The bigger issue is why are we so motivation to spend on defence with so little oversight or clear goals.
India is the third largest spender on space technology
Lots of references to Mallory's "because it's there" quote
Very weird analogy now on the Pilgrim Fathers and the colonisation of Polynesia. The motivations for the migration were not all positive or constructive in their nature.
The question of entitlement is met with the view that humanity is entitled to do whatever it can do.
Definitely seen that attitude in space technologists before.
Some of the panellists appreciate that there is in fact an ethical dimension to exploring and exploiting other planets.
Audience now also getting into dodgy territory by conflating the right to explore and Christopher Columbus's exploration of the New World.
My favourite quote on Christopher Columbus is that you've got to hand it to him; because if you don't he'll kill you and take it anyway.
I know this is purely anecdotal evidence but all the white males have no problem claiming entitlement as being self-evident.
Good question: what is the return that private investors in space technology looking for?
Bit of a trite point that space profits will be taxed, but where Luxembourg?
At least ethical concerns are acknowledged on planetary mining.
Interesting that most of the participants on the panel were experts but not intellectuals (with a few exceptions).
A contrast with the other panels.
The lunchtime session on Latin was about rote learning and its alleged superiority to modern teaching techniques.
Yeah, fuck child-led teaching! There's only one way to learn things effectively!
Latin has some duplicate verb declensions, which is a bit surprising. That's generally a sign of a language in evolution from a perfect (unique) system to a simplified one. I guess Latin had the Etruscan influence.
The teacher did illustrate that Latin has such strict rules that expression comes down to plugging the right verbs and endings into the sentence construction. However the exercise fills arid and unrewarding, the answer is inevitable and the process merely tedious.
An attendee, with no sense of either history or irony, is claiming that social media could have prevented Nazi excesses.
Ignoring the fact that the NSDAP was a popular movement (+1 that anti-semitism) and the way that IS uses social media to promote their own extreme ideology. Facebook hasn't stopped a single decapitation.
Turkey considers the Kurds to be more a threat to its integrity that IS.
There are no legitimate forms of government beyond the nation-state and almost every inhabitable area of the earth (and much uninhabitable) is claimed by a nation-state.
It's the most popular and successful form of government in history.
The nation-state is struggling to engage its constituents in larger political visions.
There is also a question as to whether new nation-states can be instituted in the current framework.
Ethnicities that are without a state are a disproportionate cause of problems in the world
Speaker from Brighton (Dr. Tim Stanley, a lot of PHDs on this panel) decries London, which is odd as he effectively lives in a London suburb. I thought he might be from Cheltenham or something.
Democracy and sovereignty cannot be separated if the system is going to be accountable and responsible to its constituents.
The Scottish Referendum was changed in a panic from Yes or No to Yes or Devo Max with no democratic input.
Scottish Unionists have been betrayed.
European freedom of movement isn't extended to Roma
Open borders are not incompatible with sovereignty
The Cold War ossified borders and states. Neither side had an interest in making adjustments no matter what the logic on the ground and both were prepared to expend significant resources to maintain the status quo.
Russia and China represent a traditional national-state challenge to the West far more than IS.
Russia doesn't represent a significant challenge to the West as Putin doesn't wield the same kind of control over Russia as democratically elected leaders do in Europe.
He can order the seizure of the Crimea but his control in other areas of the country are limited.
I think the speaker is trying to say that his power is more about putting Pussy Riot in jail than getting measures enacted consistently across the country. The kind of thing democratic governments with effective and uncorrupt civil service don't even think of.