Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A is for Average


Don't take this entirely too seriously.  I saw the chart at Wm. Briggs, Statistician to the Stars! and followed it back to Gradeinflation.com but I did not dig into the data.

The average grades given for each year by a sample of 79 colleges over the past near-century. Data for the 1930s is sparse, being only about 8 colleges.  So it may also be that not all schools are present in all years, esp. in the early part of the graph.

A Warning to Air-Ship Investors!

Freight haulage?  We think not?
Ir's amazing how incisive rational thinking is when applied to new possibilities. 

Good old Paleofuture delights with these excepts an editorial in the December 10, 1908 Engineering News on the future of air transportation (as reprinted in the January 2, 1909, issue of Literary Digest*)
So far as the possibilities of freight transportation are concerned, it may be passed with a word. Wherever ordinary methods of transportation on land are available, it will be absurd to carry goods of any sort through the air. The cost of such transport would be measured not in mills per ton mile, as in rail or water carriage, or cents per ton mile, as in wagon haulage, but in dollars or hundreds of dollars per ton.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quote ot the Day

James Chastek at Just Thomism took note of an comment by Thomas Aquinas, aka Da Man, regarding when sex is sinful even in marriage.  He writes:

Brandon digs out a fantastic text from STA’s commentary on Corinthians:
…that the conjugal act is sometimes meritorious and without any mortal or venial sin, as when it is directed to the good of procreation and education of a child for the worship of God; for then it is an act of religion; or when it is performed for the sake of rendering the debt, it is an act of justice. But every virtuous act is meritorious, if it is performed with charity. But sometimes it is accompanied with venial sin, namely, when one is excited to the matrimonial act by concupiscence, which nevertheless stays within the limits of the marriage, namely, that he is content with his wife only. But sometimes it is performed with mortal sin, as when…
So guess: what is he going to say? Is sexual activity a mortal sin when “it is not open to procreation” (an answer that is at hand from what he says at the head of the quotation) or when “it is performed in an unnatural way”? Don’t we expect St. Thomas to mention some obvious perversion? Yet, in the casual way that he says all his revolutionary things, he says that sexual activity is a mortal sin when…

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stop the Presses

Science™ has proven that college boys like to look at sexy women!

And you thought you already knew that?  That was only Anecdotal Evidence© and had not been vetted in a really-truly Scientificalistic Experiment™ and statistically analyzed by people who took a whole semester of cookbook Stats for Psychs course back in undergrad!  Woo, as they say, hoo! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Res gestae Arturi britanni

TOF amidst his books thinking
seriously of writing something
One of the peculiarities of writing, and for some a fun part, is researching and creating the background.  It is TOF's custom to weave any real history into the fictional narrative as closely as possible, so if any reader is insane enough to research some reference, he will actually find something at the other end.  Usually.  Well, sometimes. 

In the current work-in-progress, The Shipwrecks of Time, fellows at a small private historical research institute are conducting various studies.  Francis Xavier Delacorte (aka Frank) is off in the Rhineland searching for evidences of "Lost Books," tomes known only by reference to their titles, like Shakespeare's play Cardenio, or Francois Villon's The Devil's Fart.  Most of the books are "cover," since his real interest (or rather, the Institute Director's real interest) is in the lost Peruzzi Manuscript, allegedly written by one Henry of Regensburg in the 14th century and supposedly cursed.  Everybody who gets close to finding it dies.  (A good reason not to look for it, sez TOF; but then a) some folks don't believe in curses and b) there wouldn't be a book then.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Getting Personal

A most peculiar book.
Highly recommended
On another site there is an on-going dialogue of the deaf regarding the nature of person and when this personhood comes into existence.  By this I mean not that various commentators are arguing with one another, or even arguing past one another; but that most commentators are content to post their own opinion and then ignore anything else that gets said.  This peculiar reluctance to engage is related I think to what John Lukacs once called the Philadelphia cult of safety. 

Just as the cult of Boston was respectability and that of New York was success, Late Modern Philadelphians were concerned with avoiding risk.  Thus, one simply did not chuck it all and head off to California but stayed with the tried-and-true.  There is much to recommend this attitude.  Cutting Edge fails far more often than State-of-the-Art, and one need only say the words "Experimental Literature" or "Progressive Education" to understand the risks involved.  But to be safe includes being safe in one's own opinions, and that makes contrary speech an intolerable threat to one's safety.  We can see that the wider Kulture today has been largely Philadelphianized.  Disagreement is treated as if it were aggression. 

But we digress.  My larger point, aside from the one under my hat, is that there are several common tropes in the discussion of person that bear examination. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Congratulations

are in order for the Son of Flynn,(*) who has been inducted into the ΑΦΣ National Criminal Justice Honor Society, ΩΞ Chapter.

Son of Flynn is in the center with the Alaska shirt.
 To be selected for this honor, each student had to maintain a 3.2 overall cumulative GPA and 3.2 GPA in their Justice major. Alpha Phi Sigma is the only National Criminal Justice Honor Society for Criminal Justice majors. The society recognizes academic excellence of undergraduate and graduate students of criminal justice.
 He has been acclimating to Alaska, meaning mainly getting used to darkness and moose.  Here he is hiking in the wilds.  You can see he is almost as tall as the mountains behind him.

(*) To wit: Dennis Michael, son of Michael Francis, the son of Joseph Francis, the son of Francis Thomas, the son of Daniel Joseph, the son of John Thomas, the son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea, in the County Galway, descended of the O Floinns of Sil Maelruain. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bambi vs. Godzilla


US House of Representatives
Note twin fasces flanking the flag

The growing powerlessness of the modern state reflects the abdication…of its erstwhile governing classes; and it is at least probable that in its wake there will follow not the blessings of increased liberty but a long transitory brutal period of insecurity and terror.
 – John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age
Alexis de T
The Age of the State. 
The absolute, divine-right monarch had been unknown during medieval times, which preferred its kings weak and nominal; but royal absolutism ensured peace and security; and those are bourgeois virtues, par excellence.  So the rise of the bourgeoisie meant the rise of the monarchs.  Strong monarchs were even seen as democratic – champions of the people against unruly barons. 

And with the monarchs came the Totalizing State.  The self-governing chartered corporations of the Middle Ages – free towns, universities, guilds, companies of players – were brought under State regulation or control.  The scope of State authority continued increasing even after the bourgeoisie turned against the monarchs.  Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that democratic despotism would be “more extensive and more mild.” 
The supreme power then … covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd.  The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. 
The result would be governments that would “interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do.”

 In fact, it is worth quoting the estimable de Tocquville at length (feel free to browse or skip).  He is here describing the Europe of his day (that is, during the presidency of Andy Jackson):
In the centuries of aristocracy before our time, the rulers of Europe had been deprived of or had voluntarily given up many of the rights inherent in their power.  Less than a hundred years ago in most of the nations of Europe there were private persons or almost independent bodies who administered justice, raised and maintained soldiers, levies taxes, and often even made or interpreted the law.  The state has everywhere reclaimed for itself alone those natural attributes of sovereign power.  In all matters of government, the state allows no intermediary between itself and the citizens, but directs them in matters of general concern itself.  Far from criticizing this concentration of powers, I merely point it out.

In Europe at that same time there were many secondary powers representing local interests and administering local affairs.  Most of these local authorities have already vanished, and the rest are tending quickly to disappear or to fall into a state of complete subordination.  From one end of Europe to the other seignorial privileges, the liberties of cities, and the powers of provincial governments have been or soon will be destroyed.  ....

[T]hese various rights which have been successively wrested in our time from classes, corporations, and individuals have not been used to create new secondary powers on a more democratic basis, but have invariably been concentrated in the hands of the government.  Everywhere it is the state itself which increasingly takes control of the humblest citizen and directs his behavior even in trivial matters.

 In Europe in the old days almost all the charitable institutions were managed by individuals or corporations.  They are now all more or less under government control, and in several countries, are administered by the government.  The state almost exclusively undertakes to supply bread to the hungry, assistance and shelter to the sick, work to the idle, and to act as the sole reliever of all kinds of misery. 

In most countries now education as well as charity has become a national concern.  ...

It is also safe to say that now in almost all Christian nations, Catholic as well as Protestant, religion is in danger of falling under government control.   ....

The sovereign's power having spread, as we have seen, over the entire sphere of previously existing authorities, is not satisfied with that, but goes on to extend in every direction over the domain heretofore reserved for personal independence.  A multitude of actions which formerly were entirely free from the control of society are now subject thereto, and this is constantly increasing. 
Reflecting Walker Percy's observation that at this most crowded era, man feels most alone and isolated, de Tocqueville foresaw:
I wish to imagine under what new features despotism might appear in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of men, all alike and equal, turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.  Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest.  His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country . . . Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny.  It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed.  It would be like a fatherly authority, if, fatherlike, its aims were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only to keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind.  It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it.  It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principal concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances.  Why can it not remove them entirely from the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?






Keep some of those thoughts in mind.  "Everywhere it is the state itself which increasingly takes control of the humblest citizen and directs his behavior even in trivial matters."  That the alienation of the individual, his "alone-ness," is a consequence should be obvious. 





As for "In all matters of government, the state allows no intermediary between itself and the citizens," where have we heard that before?  Oh, yes.

Everything within the state; nothing outside the state; nothing against the state.
- Benito Mussolini

Fascism is alive and well; but it is the soft fascism described by de Tocqueville, not the hard fascism with the spiffy uniforms.  Fascism (or "national socialism" except that the German variety ruined the name) differs from international socialism in its resolution of the class struggle.  Instead of a rising of the proletariat (led, of course, by the privileged Vanguard), fascism conceives of a brilliant, popular LEADER who embodies in his very person the aspirations of his People.  Like the fasces, which by wrapping a bundle of sticks together makes the whole bundle stronger than the individual stick, the LEADER unifies the classes so they work together for the betterment of the nation.  And -- no fooling -- for hope and change.  (See Lukacs The Last European War, Part II, Chapter III.  Yale Univ. Press, 1976)

This is done through rules and regulations, enforced uniformity, and government-led cooperation.  (As in: cooperate or else.)  More elaborate examples of this include Mussolini's "syndicates" and Hilary Clinton's proposed "health care alliances."  They "rationalize" unruly free market capitalism and "wasteful competition" by allocating market share to each provider. 

Starting ca. 1870, the States of Europe assumed power over the two fundamental principles of private life: the formation of marriages and the education of children.  State-run secular schools with mandatory attendance date from this time: Austria (1869), England (1870), Switzerland (1874), the Netherlands (1876), Italy (1877), Belgium (1879), and France (early/ mid 1880’s). German public schools were secularized around this time also.  State-run schools naturally glamorized the State, and the net result was throngs of people cheering the onset of World War One. 

Likewise, Austria instituted civil marriage in 1868, and the idea spread to Italy (1873), Switzerland (1874), the German Empire (1875), and France (1881).  Today, we have forgotten that people once married without a State permit.  By the early 1900s, the State even proposed to decide who could marry whom based on Darwinian principles, although eugenics got a bad reputation shortly after and is now on hold, then it decided marriages could be dissolved on a whim, currently, it is musing on something called same-sex "marriage." (Marriage, like education, suffered the fate of anything run by the State.) 

[Greenblatt writes:] “Human insignificance—the fact that it is not all about us and our fate—is, Lucretius insisted, good news.” Indeed it is good news for Harvard professors, and for anyone else in positions of power. As materialism disenchants, the principles and norms and standards by which we can hold the powerful accountable melt away.
-- R.R.Reno, Book Review of Greenblatt's The Swerve

The barrera is there for a reason. 
Ask the bull.
Curiously, libertarianism has abetted this emptying out of the public square, in which the Rugged Individual and the Total State now face each other across an empty plain littered by the ruins of all the other organizations that used to buffer them from each other: local states and cities, churches, guilds, families, and so forth.  In the process, the old Catholic notion of Social Justice has been emptied out.  Whereas it once meant that each level and pocket of society received what was its just due -- individual, family, town, church, union, university, and so on -- it now means "an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny."  The lone individual now faces the omnicompetent State with no shield or barrera.

It's Bambi vs. Godzilla.  


"It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."
- A.D. Lindsay, The Modern Democratic State


A funny thing happened on the way to the Total State





What comes next, Big Brother?  Maybe not.  A funny thing happened on the way to the Total State.  It began to fade away.  Lukacs in 1970 cited several reasons for this:
  1. The impotence of technology.  Large super-scientific States with massive arsenals found themselves in the position of “hunting bumblebees with an elephant gun.”  And they no longer dared, as Napoleon had, to line up the cannons and fire on rioters. 
  2. The democratization of warfare.  The resistance movements of WWII presaged popular warfare carried out by small private groups.  It had already been proven that no State could prevent incursions by air.  In 1970, Lukacs wrote that they would be unable to prevent foreign incursions by land.  “I am not thinking only of guerrilla and commando raids,” he wrote, “I am thinking of the sudden migratory pressure of large populations, sloshing across frontiers.”   The result will be a blurring of the line between war and peace: fighting may diminish or intensify at times, but will never entirely cease.  States will be unable to negotiate and enforce a peace because there will be no State authority with which to negotiate. 
  3. The deterioration of sovereignty.  Toward the end of the Modern Ages, Popular Sovereignty began to subvert the State as the main legitimizing authority.  Both Hitler and Mussolini claimed their authority directly from the People, not from the constitutions of Italy or Germany.  Even tyrants now stage election kabuki to claim rule in the name of “the People.” 
After four hundred years of bloody wars to make their respective boundaries match, the Nation and the State have begun to part company once more.  Multi-national States disintegrated (Yugoslavia), divorced (Czechoslovakia), or devolved (the United Kingdom).  The Scottish Parliament reconvened.  Bretons, Basques, Flemings and Walloons began to question the legitimacy of the States they lived in – echoing the Sudeten Germans of an earlier generation.  The notion arose that politicians of one Folk could not represent citizens of another Folk, and that Rights apply to Folks rather than to individuals.  Folkish Nationalism shifted from the right to the left. 

Frequency of the term “patriot” in English language sources, per Google
Always remember that fascism was above all a popular movement against the bourgeois and had at first a great many admirers.  Made the trains run on time, and all that.  Remember, too, that in 1900 Argentina was accounted what we now call a "first world country."  Then she went with Peron and fascism and today counts as a third world county. 

The New Feudalism
Meanwhile, States began to farm out their services.  Some were “privatized” or “subcontracted” (Maximus Canada  operates health services in British Columbia.)  Others were awarded as grants to NGOs (ACORN, Halliburton, Planned Parenthood, etc.) or spun off as “quasi-governmental entities” (Federal Reserve, USPS, Fannie Mae, etc.).  Still other State powers were subsumed by supra-State organizations like the European Union or the United Nations. These moves bear a curious resemblance to the granting of fiefs. 


But the natural impulse of a Popular State is to extend the idea of fairness through rules.  This triggers circumvention, loop-holing, and gaming the system, which leads in turn to further rules to plug the holes.  Eventually, the rules accumulate so that the normal citizen no longer understands how to deal with them.  How exactly does one go about running for Congress or opening a small business?  At this point the Popular Government as such begins to collapse. 

The New Brownshirts, prepared to
mob gatherings of the opposition

It has become possible to foment and even run a rebellion without ever crossing the border.  The power of radio was seen already in WWII, but since then videotapes and the Internet have added to that capacity.  Today, a demonstration or mob can be organized in a flash.  It is naïve to suppose that the organizers will always be kinder, gentler people.

The Future™


For SF writers, what will the future look like?  Perhaps the modern State will run to completion and become to the Total State it always aspired to be, regulating or running everything within its territorial boundaries, telling people what sort of light bulbs they can use or how much water their toilets must hold, or even what products they must buy.   But perhaps it will become something more like a holding company, providing a playing field within which it will license various NGOs to deliver what States used to deliver.   Or both: They might subcontract the “toilet police” job.  Meanwhile, the people living within its borders will self-identify not with the “landlord State” but with the Nation or Folk to which they feel they belong. 

But “the feebleness of enormously powerful states” among themselves reflects their impotence within themselves.  A few thousand students or farmers upset over a cut in their subsidies can defy governments armed with tanks and atomic bombs.  Eventually, this will become common wisdom and “a long transitory brutal period of insecurity and terror” will set in.  A New Dark Age. 
But it was once a truism that the Mafia-controlled neighborhoods of New York were the most crime-free, and anyone can play the game of private warfare.  The reaction against the anarchy may see a sort of alliance between governments, NGOs, and street gangs, as a new sort of feudal warfare becomes the norm.
+ + +
References
Barzun, Jacques.  The House of Intellect.  (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2002)
Chastek, James. On a cause of corruption in popular governmentsJustThomism (Jul 27, 2011)
Chastek, James.  On apocalypse scenarios.   JustThomism (Jul 18, 2010)
"Darwin." Alone with the stateDarwinCatholic (May 4, 2012)
Lemieux,
Fr. Denis. Fascism reduxLife With a German Shepherd (March 20, 2012)
Lukacs, John .  The Passing of the Modern Age.  (Harper & Row, 1970) 
Lukacs, John.  At the End of an Age.  (Yale Univ. Press, 2002)
Percy, Walker.  “The Delta Factor” in The Message in the Bottle (Picador, 1975)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giant Panda Strikes

English language news reporting in Taiwan is a bit...  odd.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

You Know You're in Pennsylvania When...

TOF's Tochter is working a job a couple valleys north of the Heimatland, up in the Wyoming Valley. Yesterday she fell in conversation with a co-worker, who was wondering what to get her mother for her birthday/Mother's Day. She was considering an ebook reader, like a Kindle or Nook, since her mother was a librarian. It was either that or a gun. Since her mother was also a competitive shooter. She asked her father and her father was shocked. "Don't buy your mother a gun!" he gasped.  "I already bought her one."

Yessir.  Pennsylvania, where a daughter can't buy her mommy a gun because her daddy already did.

East Side Dave and the Mountain Folk:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Old Boskone Panel on You Tube

I had run across this a few years ago and thought it would amuse some folks. It is a video of a panel on the Rise of Modern Science done at Boskone a few years back. For the patient, it is in seven parts and the embed below is for the first part, after which you will be cued to pick the second, etc. The panelists are John Farrell, Br. Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory, and yr. obt. svt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Captive Dreams

A starred review from Publishers Weekly for the forthcoming collection, Captive Dreams.
 
Captive Dreams
Prometheus Award–winner Flynn (In the Lion’s Mouth) assembles six tales delving into deep melancholy and moral ambiguity. Each story builds from scientific what-ifs to a reality of human fragility and despair. In “Melodies of the Heart,” genetic conditions have a young girl aging too quickly and an old woman too slowly. In the title story, ideological differences hinder a young boy’s ability to make sense of afterimages and echoes floating in his brain. “Hopeful Monsters” pulls back the curtain on the world of designing babies. In “Places Where the Roads Don’t Go,” a lifelong friendship is strained when a heated debate over the nature of mind becomes more than talk. “Remember’d Kisses” explores science that offers to absolve emotional pain. In “Buried Hopes,” buried objects keep hope alive. While great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary outshine the scientific concepts, the stories will linger after the last page is turned. Agent: Eleanor Wood, Spectrum Literary Agency. (Aug.)

A Footnote to the Previous Post on the Decline of Science

Dr. Briggs is the gift that keeps on giving.  In Study Finds 9-Month-Old Babies Are Racist,
he reports on a really-truly peer-reviewed paper “Building biases in infancy: the influence of race on face and voice emotion matching” by Margaret Vogel, Alexandra Monesson and Lisa Scott, Development Science (May 2012). Here is Dr. Briggs:
Anyway, our trio gathered babies together whose “parents reported their infants having had little to no previous experience with African American or other Black individuals.” They did not do the opposite and find babies who never saw white faces. They had 24—count ‘em—5-month-olds and 24 9-month-olds. This makes 24 + 24 = 48, a simple math equation, but important to assimilate because of the authors’ admission that for the behavioral analysis
43 infants were excluded due to experimenter or technical error (n=8), because they became fussy during testing (n=1), because they exhibited a side looking bias (n=14), because they failed to fixate both images during one of the test trials (n=18), or because the infant was not Caucasian (n=2).
I leave it as homework to discover what is 48 minus 43. For the electrophysiological analyses, they had 15 5-month-olds and 17 9-month-olds, but 19 these were added to the result from the homework question (how many were 5-months old or 9-months old we are never told); however, 23 of these 15 + 17 = 32 were excluded too. What we have here, in statistical terms, is small sample (get it? get it?).
There are several scary things here.  One is that the authors of the paper apparently believe that "fixate" is a transitive verb; but more seriously, they apparently believe that they are doing Science!™.  Or worse still, that they are using Statistical Methods.  Briggs writes "it appears that they did their t-tests based on the samples they would have had had they not tossed out the data." [emph. added] That is, they seem to have used the degrees of freedom for samples of 48 and 32 rather than for samples of 5 and 9.  One suspects that the reason is that they would not otherwise have secured "significant p-values."  No journal bothers to publish papers that do not announce significant findings.

This leads to a further scary thing.  The paper peer-reviewed?  And no one noticed the violation of statistical practice?  Apparently the "peers" were simply other voodoo scientists and cargo cultists with all the expertise in statistics one gets from a one or two semester course on "Stats for Social Science."
(Let us be charitable: maybe the df they used for the t-test was based on the number of times each baby was pestered to look at the pictures.)
In Remembered Past, John Lukacs writes of the problem of inflation: the number of historical documents in the current age has far exceeded the number of worthwhile or interesting historical documents.  A similar process is at play in Science, where the demand for publications has far exceeded the supply of actual scientific findings.  One must publish or perish, and so no one will spend the time spent by Galileo, Newton, or Darwin is completing and thinking through a genuine insight on the natural world.  

In any case, we learn that the [white] 9-month-olds spent on average “59.2%” of their time looking at white novel faces but just “52.3%” of the time looking at the black novel faces in the paired-faces experiments.  (These averages must be across babies; the raw numbers must have been formed from the ration "seconds looking at W/seconds looking at WUB." But averaging ratios is a tricky business to begin with if the denominators differ.)

Now, a materialist might conclude that this meant babies instinctively notice more subtleties in that with which they are familiar.  (Just as a Nantucket fisherman might sniff out the approach of a nor'easter with greater facility than he would detect the signs of tornado-weather on the Great Plains.)  But the authors are mystics, and in their press release announced:
"These results suggest that biases in face recognition and perception begin in preverbal infants, well before concepts about race are formed,’ said study leader Lisa Scott in a statement.
"It is important for us to understand the nature of these biases in order to reduce or eliminate [the biases]."
And we are back to the Baconian Thing we mentioned in the previous post, in which the Goal of ther researchers (or their funding source) gobbles up the science and spits it out.  The objective is not to learn about the natural world, but to advance an acceptable policy or goal. Because the only thing the "results suggest" is that the infants' eyes focused on one of two images slightly more often than on the other.  And with sample sizes of 5 and 9, even this much is not assured!

A Thought Experiment.
TOF's Faithful Reader is invited to suppose scenarios in which five or nine [white] 9-month-olds spend on average only “52.3%” of their time looking at white novel faces but dwell “59.2%” of the time on the black novel faces (in the paired-faces experiments). If you start with the premise that the goal is to Fight Innate White Racism and you are hunting for "scientificalistic data" to back you up, you can easily concoct an interpretation of these contrary results that would lead to the same tendentious conclusion as before.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Masque of Science.





Eddington is more agnostic about the material world than Huxley ever was about the spiritual world.

-- G. K. Chesterton, "The Well and the Shallows"
Dedicated revolutionary

1. The Rise of Modern Science
Ancients and medievals had studied Nature, but the Modern Ages were a time when Science could be spelled with a capital-S, and the mere act of wearing a white lab coat could endow the speaker with the magical ability to sell products on TV.  Science, with its effort to describe the world “as it really was” went hand-in-glove with representation in the arts.  Though which was the hand and which the glove is a fine point. 

The medievals had sought to appreciate the beauty and interconnectedness of Nature -- how Her ends meshed with one another. But in the early 17th century, a number of remarkable men revolutionized the way in which science was done by wedding physics to mathematics and engineering in a ménage a trois
  • Mathematics.  Descartes believed that if physical theories were expressed in mathematical language, they could be proven with the same rigor as mathematical theorems! 
  • Engineering.  Francis Bacon compared Aristotelian natural philosophers to little boys, who could talk, but not impregnate women [i.e., Nature] to bear children [i.e., useful products].  Descartes agreed that the purpose of science was not simply to learn about Nature, but to make men her “masters and possessors.”