Luis Murrell

Flushing, NY, United States

About Luis

Bio

Born citizen of United States; raised/educated in New York City area;

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

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Luis Murrell
Posted 4 months ago
Ziyah Gafić: Everyday objects, tragic histories
I don't mean to be unserious, but the various objects he displayed made me think of preserving identity of the dead on a much longer timescale. Reread a book called THE EARTH AFTER US by geologist Jan Zalacewics. In describing the record humanity may leave in the rocks, he created a new category of archaelogical trace that would reflect our propensity for mass murder ("killichnia"). Imagine a future archaeologist coming upon a bed of bipedal fossils, perhaps skewed towards females and juveniles, with a scattering of small personal items like combs, keys, and glasses (the author showed how plastic and metal items like these could potentially fossilize). The layout of the fossils may show that the subjects died at the same time, or may show traumatic injury. Even if the names and faces are forgotten, the earth itself bears ultimate witness to our actions. A sobering thought.
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Luis Murrell
Posted over 2 years ago
Hans Rosling: Religions and babies
I would not say that Rosling's talk proves the irrelevance of religion, but its' flexibility. One of his previous talks re: dropping birth rates mentioned in passing how imams in Bangladesh used their pulpits to promote the use of birth control. This is in sharp contrast to the straw man cariacature most 'new atheists' such as Dawkins, Hitchens, et. al. make of religion as universally rigid, antiquated, and reflexively anti-modern. Religion is not just about the pronouncements made ex cathedra or ex biblia- it's the community of beleivers who can and will make their own decisions in the face of reality and still be committed to their faith institutions. Over time, these people will make the difference how religion will swing on issues like birth control.
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Luis Murrell
Posted over 2 years ago
Tom Wujec: Learn to use the 13th-century astrolabe
Speaking of gaining and losing something in the march of progress...I'm surprised that I couldn't find a s ingle reference to the Antikythera Device on TED. Now that was to a computer as the astrolabe was to a slide rule. How in the world did we lose that?
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt?
It depends on your meaning of the word "literal". The Biblical creation and flood stories were lifted from earlier Mesopotamian legends (who may have gotten them from even older legends from India, or from oral histories from the end of the last ice age). The Bible gives a moral meaning to the events- it's no longer the warring of opposing gods and supernatural beings, with humans as an insignificant by-product; it's the action of a single Deity bringing order from chaos, culminating in a being made in His own image. A devout Jew or Christian can be "non-literal" in the descriptive part (literal six days of creation) but "literal" in the perceived moral part (the universe as having inherent direction, purpose, capacity to generate value). Mind you that this covers a wide spectrum- from the "weak anthropists" (say, Teilhard de Chardin) to the Intelligent Designers. Although I wouldn't give anyone from the Discovery Institute the time of day, I'm not about ready to consider Teilhard intellectually bankrupt.
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
Neil MacGregor: 2600 years of history in one object
In response to Mr. MacGregor's question on 18:48...The next story I want to hear about the Cyrus Cylinder is the acceptance of human history in all its complexity, and not history as the manipulation of self-serving myths, totems and symbols. I want to hear about Cyrus the man of his time and place, dealing with the issues that were important to him- not Cyrus the Human Rights Activist, or Cyrus the Advocate of Religious Tolerance, or Cyrus the Instrument of (the) God(s),or Cyrus the Persian Nationalist, or any other fake "Cyruses". Myth-making is what humans do, but they are just that-myths. They serve as abstractions of the real world, not descriptions of how the world works. Once we stop looking at the past through such distorted lenses, we may be able to better deal with our own problems in the here and now.
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
Jack Horner: Where are the baby dinosaurs?
I remember seeing a PBS special (I think it was NOVA) where Dr. Robert Bakker discussed whether the Nanotyrannus was a separate species or a juvenile Tyrannosaurus. He put one of his Nano skulls in a CAT scanner (no sawing open that I know of) and came to the opposite conclusion based on bone growth- the Nanotyrannus had already stopped growing and had reached adulthood. Mind you, I know Drs. Horner and Bakker, to say the least, don't see eye to eye on a lot of things about dinosaurs- but is there any way you could take the same observations and come to such opposite conclusions? Either way, the talk just impresse on me how fragmentary archaeological evidence can be.
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
David Damberger: What happens when an NGO admits failure
"Education is the key to fixing problems on this scale. The knowledge to build them by themselves, the ability to maintain it all. But even then, who pays their wages? Where do the spare parts come from? It's an outrage that these fundamental things have not been planned out." I agree 100%. Which is why I said that the failure is fundamentally political. Who is responsible for building and supplying schools and teachers' salaries? It's a safe bet that there is no Home Deopt in Malawi- but even if there was one, is there a road to get there and transport supplies back? I'm all for learning from your mistakes, but what I got from this talk was that the root of the "failure" lies beyond the scope of what an NGO can realistically accomplish. It's like attaching high-tech cables and counterweights to the Leaning Tower of Pisa- it helps, but it doesn't change the fact that the foundation is faulty.
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
David Damberger: What happens when an NGO admits failure
Some thoughts on this talk: (1) Gravity-fed water systems are a VERY simple and old form of tech- the Romans supplied water for their cities that way and some of those systems are still in working order. (2) They are still in working order because SOMEONE took the responsibility and effort to clean and repair them, and would be held responsible if they failed. (3) Question: whether the water systems in Malawi or India are made of PVC, aluminum, or concrete, who owns/is responsible for it? Do the villagers just use the tech given them until it breaks, or do they pool their resources and assign responsibility to reapir & replace broken parts? Who owns the land on which these water systems are built? My takeaway is that there are issues of failure that are beyond a technical solution or beyond the purview of NGOs. An NGO may be able to organize people on a small community level to maintain local, low-tech infrastructure, but it cannot make a corrupt government accountable to its' people if they want their leaders (elected or not) to build roads, sewers, aqueducts, and bridges, nor can it make them respect the property rights of its' citizens. The ideal NGO for this situation would also have to do community organizing as well as providing food, tools, and medicine- but then you run the risk of getting caught up in the politics of the region (if the village you're working on is of Tribe A, and the Village of Tribe B is not serviced, or makes up the ruling party/political opposition, how do you answer charges of favoritism?). In summary: The failure is on a political level in the societies in question. NGOs gaven't failed per se- they're just not equiped to do the job at hand. To do so they need to become something different.
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Luis Murrell
Posted almost 3 years ago
David Damberger: What happens when an NGO admits failure
Some thoughts on this talk: (1) Gravity-fed water systems are a VERY simple and old form of tech- the Romans supplied water for their cities that way and some of those systems are still in working order. (2) They are still in working order because SOMEONE took the responsibility and effort to clean and repair them, and would be held responsible if they failed. (3) Question: whether the water systems in Malawi or India are made of PVC, aluminum, or concrete, who owns/is responsible for it? Do the villagers just use the tech given them until it breaks, or do they pool their resources and assign responsibility to reapir & replace broken parts? Who owns the land on which these water systems are built? My takeaway is that there are issues of failure that are beyond a technical solution or beyond the purview of NGOs. An NGO may be able to organize people on a small community level to maintain local, low-tech infrastructure, but it cannot make a corrupt government accountable to its' people if they want their leaders (elected or not) to build roads, sewers, aqueducts, and bridges, nor can it make them respect the property rights of its' citizens. The ideal NGO for this situation would also have to do community organizing as well as providing food, tools, and medicine- but then you run the risk of getting caught up in the politics of the region (if the village you're working on is of Tribe A, and the Village of Tribe B is not serviced, or makes up the ruling party/political opposition, how do you answer charges of favoritism?). In summary: the failure in this case is a political failure of the societies where these needs are unmet. The NGOs have not failed per se- they are just not equiped to do the task at hand. To do so they would need to become something slightly more.
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Luis Murrell
Posted over 3 years ago
Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty
5:14- "the drama of globalization"- that Asian, Latin American, and Middle eastern countries have advanced in health, education, and other human resources but NOT economically. THIS I believe is the root cause of the so-called "Arab spring"- which was started off by a fruit seller in Tunisia with a college degree who set himself on fire out of frustration over limited opportunities to better himself. The old Left had the concept of "stomach socialism"- that if you were starving and desperate enough to run to the barricades, you were a de facto socialst. Question: Will we see in these above mentioned regions the growth of "stomach capitalists"- people like the fruit seller that would probably never describe himself as a free-marketer, but in essence looks forward to economic as well as political liberalization? It's relatively easy to spend money to buy and distribute drugs, educate specialists like doctors (even if those doctors migrate to Western countries for better opportunities), and build roads- but getting people to travel and trade on those roads, and inducing those doctors to stay requires bottom-up growth. And another question: What exactly is the ideal balance between economic laissez-faire and the state investment in social infrastucture? The more I study Rosling's stats (& other TED speakers on similar topics) the more I see the Randian concept of laissez-faire capitalism as abstact and unobtainable as perpetual motion. Church and state will never be hermetically sealed from each other; neither will market and state, and perhaps they never should be- but clearly more freedom works better than less freedom.