Friday, 27 June 2008

The Yellow Standard

By analogy to the decline of journalism, James Kerian in The Wall Street Journal sums up the decline of science into what he calls yellow science [1], wherein the scientific method submits to sensationalism, with particular reference to the theory of anthropogenic global warming — a theory which is at least proving successful as the foundation of a thriving ad-hoc-hypothesis industry, keen to make hay whilst the sun of failed predictions still shines, and which has already turned the innocent but dull pleasure of talking about the weather into a thrilling pseudoscience for everyone to enjoy.
.....Sensationalism is employed in a public milieu to inculcate a sense of significance of some information at even the lowest level of understanding, competing for the attention of even the dullest or most jaded minds. It is an employment that, through the neglect and dilapidation of the faculty for discernment that it abets, has the effect of rendering such minds even more incapable of understanding, and so making them more in need of sensation.
.....Now that science has become an industry largely dependent on the supply of public money, as regulated by governments largely dependent on public demands, it is not unlikely that, given no ethos of resistance to extraneous demands, the information that this industry supplies in return for its money will be to some extent determined by those demands, and, as anyone with an ounce of discernment who has read any newspaper recently can testify, the public demands sensation — which is a demand for the significance of the information that is put before it, understandable as significant at the lowest level.
[1] James Kerian, “Yellow Science”, The Wall Street Journal, 25th June 2008.

Friday, 6 June 2008

On Holiday

Business and laziness have kept me from blogging much recently. Now I have another excuse: I shall be on holiday for the next two weeks, on a pig,-pickle-and-pivo tour of Eastern Europe.


“We are . . . obliged to confess that perception and that which depends on it cannot be explained mechanically, that is to say by figures and motions. Suppose that there were a machine so constructed as to produce thought, feeling, and perception, we could imagine it increased in size while retaining the same proportions, so that one could enter as one might enter a mill. On going inside we should only see the parts impinging upon one another; we should not see anything which would explain a perception.”

G.W. Leibniz, Monadology (1714), §.17, in Philosophical Writings, tr. M Morris and G.H.R. Parkinson (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1973), p.181, original emphasis.

“Let us assume that in a particular case you eventually observe several efferent bundles of pulsating currents, which issue from the brain and through long cellular protrusions (motor nerve fibres), are conducted to certain muscles of the arm, which, as a consequence, tends a hesitating, trembling hand to bid you farewell — for a long, heart-rending separation; at the same time you may find that some other pulsating bundles produce a certain glandular secretion so as to veil the poor sad eye with a crape of tears. But nowhere along this way from the eye through the central organ to the arm muscles and the tear glands — nowhere, you may be sure, however far physiology advances, will you ever meet the personality, will you ever meet the dire pain, the bewildered worry within the soul, though their reality is to you so certain as though you suffered them yourself — as in actual fact you do!”

Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, in What is Life? With Mind and Matter, and Autobiographical Sketches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), p.124.

Residual Loyalty

There is nothing romantically tragic about the decline and diminishing of England. Not without laughing could one paint of it a picture of a few far-off figures dwindling into a hinterground of honourable retirement — there to die out rather than be compromised. No, the reality is an ugly daub filled with people out shopping, or pontificating about how we should “celebrate” its “vibrant diversity”. The decline is their ascent.
England does not deserve pride. It has gone to the dogs, and that may be an insult to dogs. If England is to restore its sense of pride, it needs to start with its sense of shame. And the first thing it should be ashamed of is the pathetic excuse for a government that afflicts it at present, and will afflict it for the indefinite future until something drastic is done. [1]
I am in two minds these days: I feel, on the one hand, that it is no longer my homeland and is beyond redemption anyway, the English having become some of the boldest and most spoilt vulgarians on the planet, though demure enough to accept their own diminishment; but on the other hand, that I have a residual loyalty and duty to do something. Or I could just go shopping.

[1] Mencius Moldbug, “OL8: A Reset is not a Revolution”, Unqualified Reservations (weblog), 5th June 2008.