Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The original meaning of symposium

After returning from the Intl Coral Reef Symposium, let me reflect on a few things. This quadrennial meeting of the world's top marine scientists deal with issues ranging from how corals can breathe to the long term effects of global warming on the carbon cycle. But the symposium ended with the REAL SYMPOSIUM.

The Floridian hosts of the meeting reminded that this event was a real symposium. It was on the last night that truth was revealed. Notwithstanding the scientific issues raised during the day, the night defined what a symposium is all about.

The word symposium is derived from the Greek "symposion", which is a bacchanalian night were truth was supposed to be spoken ( I wonder if the Greeks were prone to drunken riots?!?). The Romans gave us the aphorism "Vino veritas" but the their equivalent of symposium was the more formal and somewhat churchy "convivium". (from where we get the ecclesiastical term "convocation").

Well the coral reef symposium closed with an 85 dollar dinner ticket that included live performances of a Key West band and free flowing alcohol. On the 2nd daiquiri,I called it quits since I was about to crawl back to the hotel. Now that what's a symposium is all about.

And good old Mr Darwin was one of the stars of the gig!

On the coattails of the symposium, I bumped into my diving instructor, Martin Olson. Martin is now based in the San Francisco bay area. While he was not in Fort Lauderdale for the symposium, he was on the way to Key Largo for a dive trip.

I haven't seen Martin in more than 15 years. Still stoic and cool as a dive instructor should be, it is still hard to elicit a laugh from him.


Jego said...

You might be interested in Suzan Mazur's developing e-book on the Konrad Lorenz Institute symposium in Altenberg. She's been on the story ever since it first leaked that a group of scientists were looking to re-examine the orthodoxy. It's an international cast and we Pinoys are represented by NYU's Michael Purugganan.

But will the A-16 deliver? Will they help rid us of the natural selection "survival of the fittest" ... ?

Or will the A-16 tip-toe around the issue, appease the Darwin industry and protect foundation grants?

blackshama said...

I think the most serious challenge to neo-Darwinian orthodoxy is an older orthodoxy, Lamarckian inheritance.It seems that is also an important driver for evolution especially for infectious organisms.