Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, March 10, 2021

The rise of nationalism has made Christopher Columbus’ legacy a peculiar political football. Two modern states — Spain and Italy — claim the Admiral of the Ocean Sea as their native son, despite neither existing as a recognizable political domain during Columbus’ lifetime.

But those two claimants are just the tip of the iceberg. Modern DNA testing on Columbus’ remains and prospective descendants hint at several more ethnic candidacies:

Debate about origins and final resting place of Columbus has raged for over a century, with historians questioning the traditional theory that he hails from Genoa, Italy. Some say he was a Spanish Jew, a Greek, a Basque or Portuguese.

Such was the state of Europe half a millenium ago that no one could decisively trace even a notable figure’s origins. So it is with someone whose life’s pursuits changed a continent’s destiny.

Thanks to my own background, I have a little info about the Greek theory. Timing is critical in this speculation: In 1453, the Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Ottoman Turks (a geopolitical shift that helped spur westward exploration, in fact). Constantinople’s fall led to an exodus of Greeks from the Balkans to the Western Mediterranean, mostly to the Italian states. Because of the murkiness of Columbus’ background, someone suggested that one or both of his parents could have been Greek refugees. Thus, the explorer is granted a Greek heritage — and by extension, the practical discovery of America (as distinguished from the actual discoveries by the Norse and others) is framed as one last flowering of Hellenicism.

There may or may not be some solid academic rigor behind this theory, but I’m not familiar with it. I’m sure there’s some backbone to the Basque, Jewish and other guesses, as well.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:47:32 PM
Category: History | Permalink | Feedback (2)

As an NFL fan, I’m glad that a new collective bargaining agreement was struck, averting turbulence over the next couple of years (even though I thought the panic over staying with the old CBA to be overblown).

As an NHL fan, I kinda wish the football world had imploded, just so another sporting realm could have gotten a taste of what hockey fans went through over the past couple of years.

In any case, for mostly my own reference, I’m going to record the key provisions of the new CBA:

DURATION: 2006-2011, six years in all, replacing the contract that would have expired in 2008.

SALARY CAP: $102 million for 2006; $109 million for 2007. To be determined in future years by revenue. Owners’ contribution to salary pool starts at just under 60%.

RATIFICATION: Union proposal approved by owners 30-2 (Bills and Bengals dissented). Must still be formally ratified by players and approved by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who still has jurisdiction over the antitrust suit filed by players following the 1987 strike.

REVENUE SHARING: Top 15 revenue-generating teams contribute, with the top five teams giving the most. The bottom 17 teams don’t contribute to the pool, expected to add $850 million-$900 million over the life of the contract.

ROOKIES: Players drafted in the first round of the draft can sign contracts longer than five years. Those drafted in rounds 2-7 can sign only four-year deals, to prevent teams from locking up players who prove to be worth more.

FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Discontinues the practice of some teams of protecting a player with the ‘’franchise'’ tag for more than two years. In the third year, ‘’franchise'’ player becomes ‘’transition'’ player, making it easier to leave.

OTHER: Player benefits will be substantially improved, including expanded post-career medical coverage. There will be continued support from the union for stadium construction, youth football, NFL Europe League and other initiatives.

As far as how this deal shakes out, I see a lot of wiggle room in the revenue-sharing component, which was the main sticking point. I’m not sure how the contributions are going to realistically keep track of total revenue generated by all team operations. But I guess that’s something to wrestle over again in 2011 or thereabouts.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:09:12 PM
Category: Football | Permalink | Feedback (1)

One of the arguments used by Intelligent Design advocates is that they’re simply pitting one theory against another, which thus gives them equal weight. Because evolution is an unproven, it’s driven by a faith that its precepts work the way Darwin and others speculated. Therefore, ID, with its reliance on an intelligence agent effecting life formation and other phenomena, has a grounding no less valid than any other scientific theory.

But there are different foundations for faith, not just as it pertains to the spiritual but also to the secular. In “What We Believe but Cannot Prove:
Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty”
, that’s exactly what scientific theorists set out to illustrate.

An excerpt from astrophysicist Martin Rees brings home this perspective for me:

There’s an unthinking tendency to imagine that humans will be around in 6 billion years to watch the sun flare up and die. But the forms of life and intelligence that have by then emerged will surely be as different from us as we are from a bacterium. That conclusion would follow even if future evolution proceeded at the rate at which new species have emerged over the past 3.5 or 4 billion years. But posthuman evolution (whether of organic species or artifacts) will proceed far faster than the changes that led to human emergence, because it will be intelligently directed rather than the gradual outcome of Darwinian natural selection. Changes will drastically accelerate in the present century — through intentional genetic modifications, targeted drugs, perhaps even silicon implants in the brain. Humanity may not persist as a single species for longer than a few more centuries, especially if communities have by then become established away from Earth.

But a few centuries is still just a millionth of the sun’s future lifetime — and the universe probably has a much longer future. The remote future is squarely in the realm of science fiction. Advanced intelligences billions of years hence might even create new universes. Perhaps they’ll be able to choose what physical laws prevail in their creations. Perhaps these beings could achieve the computational ability to simulate a universe as complex as the one we perceive ourselves to be in.

Rees concedes that his speculation relies on far too many present-day constants to be a decisive prediction. In fact, he describes it as a “substitute for religious belief”, invested with his simple hope that it’s correct.

So what’s the difference between this brand of faith and a Biblically-based one? Scientific theory has elements that can be tested and, to a large degree, proven. Based on past behavior, it’s reasonable to extrapolate a future pattern. Religious faith doesn’t rely on testable criteria — at least, not replicatible criteria. Faith in this instance works overtime to fill in all the blanks.

I realize it’s not as cut and dried as this. Questions about tangible proof of the existence of God elicits polar opposite responses among disbelievers and believers: Atheists will look at all of creation and declare there’s no evidence of a Creator, while the faithful will look at the same things and can’t fathom how you can’t see all that as proof-positive of a God. But for me, it’s the difference between reasoned faith and blind faith.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 08:35:20 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)