Wednesday, November 30, 2005

We're realizing Allah of things here.

I will attempt to state what is true and perhaps we can agree. I certainly agree with you that issue is and always will be primarily of what is rather than what exactly it says. To teach children what is science and what it is not is the real purpose, as you state. No doubt you're in company. John Dewey himself wrote that "science teaching has suffered because science has been so frequently presented just as so much ready-made knowledge, so much subject-matter of fact and law, rather than as the effective method of inquiry into any subject-matter." Until children understand the latter, they won't accept the former's facts and laws. Period. In this sense, you're right to say that we need more than evidence. What we need, of course, is an argument -- in this case an effective method for determining truth in particular realms of knowledge. We happen to have this argument, and we have it because it works: it gets us want we want, and it gets us truth. If we need to teach it in a biology classroom in a lesson called, "how to not science," then that is fine. We have learned something. As you say, we should be doing this anyway. What we don't need is for people to actually believe in ID for it to be taught as a counterexample, just as we shouldn't encourage murderers because we think murder is law. This is why we shouldn't let these bandits of truth and beauty "go ahead" and teach their voodooism. History provides us with enough counter-examples, or what Nietzsche might have called the anti-monumental history.

Pop Culture Blogging, or What an unceremonious way to begin my blogging career

Working at a record store does not mean that you meet bands, or get into concerts for free, or meet hip industry people. It means that you notice the conspicuous similarities between shitty 99 cent records by bands who now tour the casino circuit and make shoddy Photoshopped album covers, and ironic faux-metal ponces.

Just look what I found the other day. First, British blues rock band Savoy Brown's 1972 live release, Hellbound Train.

Now compare One Way Ticket to Hell and Back by the Darkness.

Yes, that's right; the Darkness chose to emblazon their sophomore release with a blatant piece of forgery. Have you no decency, sirs, no sense of shame? I have yet to hear their new single, but from the looks of the album cover they're going for a sort of dirty 70s Southern rock/Nuge thing, since they've exhausted all their Queen poses and can probably no longer fit into spandex jumpsuits. You see, part of the 70s rock phenomenon was that unattractive, overweight dudes with beards in tight jeans could be really fucking cool and lay down some sweet licks. They just end up in their 50s as recovering alcoholics with dyed blonde, thinning hair roughly the consistency of dirty straw. I have seen such specimens in concert, playing their old favorites for diet RC Cola money. And I wouldn't wish any different future for the members of the Darkness.

Robbie: true but still misses the point

Robbie- You're correct to ridicule me for not reading the article further. The truth is I still haven't, and don't want to and probably won't. Deal with.
On the other hand, I think you're incorrect about the "teach the controvery" thing. The reason this thing is good is not because I actually believe that this is a valid debate, but because I think that thinking about whether it is a valid debate will benefit our country. There is no scientific legitimacy to the creationists' argument. But you can't find that out until you figure out what science actually is. And that process is what will help us as a country: everybody assumes that we know what science is and what it isn't. But this debate has continued to exist in a violent form, especially in the social sciences. The point is that kids will now have to go to class and ask, "Why are we studying what we're studying in this class?" The answer should be that they are learning about science. But if they have no idea what makes science different from other kinds of thought, they aren't learning anything. That's why you cannot merely say that "we have the evidence". Unless people realize that science is considered authoritative for specific reasons and is not merely another, competing ideology to religion, we will never progress past the dumb christian vs. science controversy. We need to cut their legs out, not just say that we have the evidence. And we can only do that when we are faced with an actual challenge, as we are now. I agree that science will come out on top, but serious work and learning needs to be done before that happens.
In my own (public)high school we learned plenty of chemistry, bio, etc. We learned "the scientific method". But it never reached the point that we realized that "Scientific method" is something that is not just used in biology or physics, but also in the social sciences, and something that has opponents, at least in that area. High School students need to realize why the scientific method, and possibly other methods (in other areas) are important but still controversial. Until we get this kind of meta-thought into young people's minds we cannot expect anything but time to help us accept new theories or paradigms. This kind of education, early early early, could help us move past the sort of "paradigm shift" phenomenon Kuhn talks about.
I'd be happy to hear any other thoughts you have on the issue.

Teaching the Contraversy: A response to Austi

I am afraid I find your argument sufficiently difficult to follow. The segment I was able to comprehend -- your distaste for Stanley Fish -- is one I no doubt disagree with, but we can leave that for another debate (over backgammon, perhaps). I lose you in the second paragraph. You're quite right to bring up John Stuart Mill, in particular because if you had continued to read the article, you would discover that Fish brings up John Stuart Mill making the same point. I think I understand the Millian-Thompsian position that we need stupidity and error in our society for the truth to be true, and the smart to be smart. The fact of the matter is, though, that stupidity and error will exist in our society forever, and it's something you don't really need to worry about promoting as you do by stating that "teaching the debate is OK." Teaching the debate is OK, but not as you seem to suggest it is. It is a debate that should be taught in humanities classes or the social sciences, not in a biology class. Why? Because if it is the case that we haven't been "fighting hard enough" for our beliefs, it seems like letting people in Kansas teach the blatantly wrong sounds like an awfully bad strategy for winning the fight. Our ideas, meanwhile, will bring them to their needs because our"ideas" on Intelligent Design are true and their "ideas" are false. We will win the argument because we have the evidence. That's the end of the scientific debate, really. I don't wany any kids in America to be taught this garbage, and I will not be cutesy (ie. Mill's argument) about letting it happen. If you have a committment to the truth -- and what makes this debate so nice is its rather obvious black and white of truth and false -- then you should care what happens in Kansas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Intelligent Design and John Stuart Mill

I'm trying to read Stanley Fish's intelligent design article in this month's Harper's. But I just don't really like him enough to keep going. He's condescending, like a professor who tries not to let you know what he actually thinks so that he can maintain his socratic style. Thanks, buddy, but when you're writing an article you need to tell us your fucking argument so I can know why I'm reading it. Anyway, he brings up the fact that Gerald Graff created the whole "teach the controversy" argument when he was arguing for multiculturalism. This is one of the more ironic appropriations that republican types have come up with. But maybe teaching the debate is OK.
I keep thinking about John Stuart Mill's point in On Liberty. He argued that we need to allow dumb ideas to be repeated because we need to maintain the kernel of wisdom that exists in our own conventional wisdom. The reason this whole debate came up isn't that evolution really has problems, but that we haven't been fighting hard enough for it. So bring it on: I don't give a shit what you do in Kansas. It's wrong to play games with kids' minds, but they're your kids so I can't really do anything about it anyway. Moreover, they will make my kids smarter when they have to defend evolution during their summers at camp or whatever. Our ideas will bring you to your knees, small-minded fools! Prepare!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The American Dream.... in Ireland

An article in today's Post talks about the vast amount of east-european workers who are going west to find good work. This sort of thing is why I think Europe is so interesting right now. People are leaving their homes in order to go after their dreams; it seems like the last vestiges of peasantry are being destroyed, i.e. the tie to one's land. Gotta get over there.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cracks in the Republic

So there's been an earthquake and this huge chemical spill in the bowels of the good ol' sleeping dragon. My guess is that the latter is indicative of the kind of thing we'll continue to see from China. They are simply growing too fast and are too big not to make huge fucking mistakes on a regular basis. I read somewhere that they were going to punish the people responsible for the spill. That's really going to help. It's like Mussolini getting the trains to run on time or something; but you can't just put a gun to people's heads and expect the economy to grow. Got to finish the first draft of my thesis, ciao.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fear of Strangers

I just took a long walk through the old stomping grounds, people at home were just getting too much for me and I wasn't making any progress on my thesis. I saw my old paper route, the places I used to run early in the morning to get in shape for wrestling, my old house, etc. As I was walking up the driveway from my mom's old condo I ran into some lady walking her dog.
I said "Hi there!". But she just kept talking to her dog and ignoring me. What the fuck is wrong with people?!? No matter how nice you are to some people, they just won't relax and be friendly. Just because you aren't in the group of seven people they'd like to speak with everyday, you are treated as if you don't exist. It's as if the old saying "Stranger, Danger" is embedded into people from their childhoods and never leaves. Grow the fuck up and be a bit more flexible! You might learn something or do something different for a goddamn change, if you aren't too much of a fucking asshole to turn everyone off.

Calexico's "Feast of Wire" = the shiznit

This album is quite good. As it is my first listen through, I do not have any useful comments yet. But you will better yourself and your countrymen if you buy it.

Working Hours

My friends and I drove through the freezing Ann Arbor night, hoping to find fast food to pack into our gaping maws. Alas, there was none, unless you consider the "Super Italian Sub" from Amoco the equal of a Cheezy Gordita Crunch. I don't, but I think it is probably a good sign that Americans still have a healthy family life. Either people refuse to work on Thanksgiving, or no one will buy anything anyway. No matter what, it shows that we have something that really matters. At least until they get out of Massachusetts.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Chinesa Man

Most of the time, Chinese/Asian culture completely bores and even revolts me: everyone looks the same, wants the same things, is completely materialistic, and just pretty much sucks all around. However, this incredible homogeneity can create the highest drama. Look at this courtroom example:

She was so enraged at her prosecution that in the courtroom, she bit her finger and with the blood scrawled on paper: "This is revenge," her lawyer, Jin Xuekong, said.

I'm not sure if it's completely ruined or shot into eternal awesomenes by the next line:

"She has a very strong spirit," he said.

It sounds like something out of a goddamn karate kid movie. The article, from the LA Times, talks about the rise in mistresses in China.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Birth Control

The New York Times has an article today about the process used to rule out Plan B as an OTC medication. The higher ups over at the FDA decided that it was not appropriate for adolescents even though the advisory committee voted 27 to 1 that it was. That is just bullshit. Second, they continued to play even lamer games after that:
In his rejection letter to Barr, Dr. Galson suggested two ways it could receive approval. First, it could perform another study that included more young adolescents. Or it could seek to sell the drug "behind-the-counter," making it easily available only to women 16 and older, with younger women still needing a prescription.
Barr took the second approach in an application filed in July 2004. Although the agency's rules required it to issue a decision in January, it has delayed doing so indefinitely.
It is unusual for the agency to suggest a means of approval to an applicant only to decide later that its own suggestion might not be appropriate.

That is just horseshit. I rarely get angry about women's rights but this makes me pissed. These people are cro-magnons. The last sentence is sort of entertainingly awkward, but hopefully true. It should read, "It is unethical for the agency...."

Friday, November 11, 2005 have more hip-hop please?

Who better to turn around a city that has steadily declined for 70 years and in the past four years been led by a mayor more engaged in graft than progress than... that same mayor. (re)Introducing the "hip-hop mayor," Kwame Kilpatrick.
I honestly don't have too much of a problem with the guy. At least he's likeable, which is something pretty important for mayors. Unfortunately, likeability itself doesn't bring in much money. The problem with cities like Detroit, as my colleague Lyke Thompson at Wayne State University points out, is that running a city with a huge deficit is a tough task. Detroit, of course, has been running a deficit ever since mass-migration to suburbia began in the 1960's and with it, the tax base. Kilpatrick's victory is no doubt a victory for urban resentment, as this story which quotes my uncle, Professor Mike Whitty, shows. How to turn things around? It's going to take a lot more than a likeable mayor, that's for sure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Glee and the Bonfire of Insanity

I can only describe my reaction to the news from France as glee. Those snooty bastards are finally getting a taste of American-Style teen violence. As for the worry that these kids are islamists, it has been completely erased by the fact that they are all wearing basketball jersies. I can't think of anything better: second generation immigrants to france are taking on our culture and rejecting that of France, in an extremely violent and American way. Others share in my pleasure:

What the Aussie pundit Tim Blair calls the nightly Paris car-B-Q looks great on television, but without being sufficiently murderous to provoke the state into forcefully putting down the insurgency.

Indeed, it's an almost perfect tactic if your aim is to have the entire French establishment dithering in grievance-addressing mode until you've extracted as much political advantage as you can. Look at it this way: after two weeks, whose prestige has been more enhanced? The rioters? Or Mayor Debré, President Chirac and Prime Minister de Villepin? On every front these past two weeks, the French state has been tested and communicated only weakness.

This from the Telegraph.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Who's the Smartest

I am quizzing Robbie right now on who the smartest people ever are. So far he's said

Shakespeare vs. Plato : Plato

Socrates vs. Plato: Not qualified to answer. Pussy answer. I think this would require an analysis of

Socrates in Xenophon and others vs. Socrates in Plato. But maybe not: Plato had to understand everything that Socrates told him in order to write it down. When pressed, Robbie is now saying Plato, because without Plato, Socrates wouldn't have been anything. Moreover, Robbie says "I think Socrates was completely transformed in Plato. To reconstruct him as he does in the Dialogues is genius". Ok, fine.

Shakespeare vs. Nietzsche: Nietzsche. I tend to agree, but need to read more Shakespeare.

Allan Bloom vs. Paul Wolfowitz: Bloom.

Robbie asks: Bloom or Saul Bellow: I say Bloom. Robbie sez Bloom too.

Controversial Statement: "Idiots make great literature... I don't respect artistic creativity as much as I respect philosophic creativity, though the two are often intertwined".

Suggests using tiers of genius: 1st tier: Shakespeare, Plato, Nietzsche. Lower tier: Bellow, Bloom.

On the question of Cervantes: "You could definitely argue for first tier, but second." Also on second tier: Rousseau.

Where's Einstein: "Science, wow. Yeah, that's first tier. Newton, first tier"

me: "What about Leibniz?"
Robbie: "The calculus was good but his stupid philosophy puts him in fourth or fifth"

All quotes are approximate. Deal with it. Also, I would like to point out that this post is sort of a post about posts, among other things. I make no claim to saying anything profound on this blog. Wilde said that all bad poetry was sincere. This blog will attempt at least mild sincerity. Maybe.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

France, Europe: More fucked up than you might think

The shit going down in France right now seems to be based on fundamental problems, meaning that it is only a precursor to more intense events in the future. Dig this quote, chico:

Though France has a policy of officially ignoring ethnic differences in favor of French identity, its people have been slow to open their arms to newcomers who are told that they should enjoy the same rights.

"On paper we're all the same, but if your name is Mohamed, even with a good education, you can only find a job as a porter at the airport," said Kader, 23, who works at the airport. He complained that the immigrant suburbs had been neglected by the current government.

That's from the NYT article today. In addition to the obvious racism, it seems that France has other problems: their demand that goverment provide everyone with jobs. While seemingly only sort of bad by itself, this demand becomes more volatile when people feel they are being discriminated against. Suddenly, it is not employers who aren't hiring people but the government who is depriving them of their rights. Germany would seemingly also have this problem brewing, if it hasn't begun already. Of course, they always copy the french so look for turks going nuts in berlin in a week or so. there's NO TURNING BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!