Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday where she sought to use the symbolism of a historic landmark to draw parallels to a present-day America that is in need of repairing deepening racial and cultural divides.

The Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "A house divided" speech in 1858 warning against the ills of slavery and where Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in 2007 — served as the backdrop for Clinton as she spoke of how "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Episode 711: Hooked on Heroin

1 hour ago

When we meet the heroin dealer called Bone, he has just shot up. He has a lot to say anyway. He tells us about his career--it pretty much tracks the evolution of drug use in America these past ten years or so. He tells us about his rough past. And he tells us about how he died a week ago. He overdosed on his own supply and his friend took his body to the emergency room, then left.

New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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The Physicist's View Of Reality

Sep 13, 2013

Science is more like the United Nations than it is like a village. Different communities of scientists carry out their work using their own methods, languages and styles. Scientists in different fields need interpreters if they are to communicate with each other. There is no scientific lingua franca, not even mathematics.

So, while there is no incompatibility between what physics teaches us about the world and what we learn from biology, no one today would seriously propose eliminating biology by reducing it to physics. You can't carry out the work of biology — you can't identify its problems and investigate their solutions — in the language of physics.

And yet, despite this state of affairs, I suspect that many of us, and most scientists, whether they ever take the time to think about this or not, are probably committed to what I'll call the physicist's view of reality.

According to the physicist's view, it is only physics that is in the business of studying things as they really are. Physics investigates fundamental reality. What there really is, what the universe is really made up of, when you get right down to it, is what physics studies. Roughly, it's all particles — things made up of smaller things made up of smaller things made up of smaller things. (Or maybe it's all fields.)

The thing about biology, if we take up the view from physics, is that it is so very parochial. The difference between physical systems that are living and those that are not, or between chemical processes that are organic and those that are not, is not written in physics. It's an imposition or a projection, from outside, onto what are, in themselves, purely physical processes that can be entirely understood by physics.

If biology, from the physicist's point of view, is a field shaped by our characteristically human interest in life, then other sciences, like psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, anthropology and economics — which rely, fundamentally, on notions like perception, language, culture, trade, value and so on — must really look like make-believe. For there is no such thing as perception, language, culture, trade, value in the world as the physicist knows it to be.

These are not really real!

Now when I say that many of us, and most scientists, are committed to the physicist's view of reality — to the idea that physics alone describes things as they really are, apart from made-up human concerns and values — what I mean is that, if pressed, we will find ourselves tempted to say that, really, the physicist's view must be right.

Whether or not there are, or ever were, people, there would be an element with the atomic number 79. But that this element looks yellow and is soft, as far as metals go, to the touch, that it is considered rare or desirable or valuable, all this depends on the existence of creatures like us with nervous systems and social organizations like ours. Gold exists, just as it really is, just as the physicist knows it to be, and that has nothing to do with us.

Now, a worthwhile question to ask right now would be: Is the physicist's view of reality right?

There are two parts to this question. First, is there a way of knowing the world that is an encounter with things as they really are, uninfluenced by our interests, values and perceptual-and-cognitive limitations? Is there, as it has been put, a view from nowhere? Second, is this delivered, or even aimed at, by physics?

We can take it further. Granted, many of us, when pressed, will find it impossible to resist saying that the physicist's view is right. But do we really think that physicist's picture of reality is correct?

After all, we are not gods occupying a view from nowhere; we are flesh and blood; our concerns are emotional and medical and political; we are hot and cold; we experience the earth's pull on our bodies. We love and we value. Can any of us take seriously, truly, that all this might be, well, that it might be unreal?

And can we even imagine a physics that doesn't take its start from the fact that we physicists are curious people in search of good explanations? What, according to the physicist's view of reality, makes an explanation a good one, anyway?


You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.