Sunday, 17 January 2010


“[W]e are pitted against an enemy swathed in religious and political certitude and we have only the ghost of a notion to sustain us: the notion of freedom of speech and freedom of thought.” [1]

I find it almost incredible that anyone could believe not only that the idea of freedom of speech and thought sustains us, which is a weird belief all by itself, but that it is the only thing that does so. I accept that liberalism estranges a man from reason and reality, but could it really set him so far asunder? Surely it is possible, but I doubt it in this case: it is far more likely that here is just another instance of flippantly-hyperbolic and ill-considered status-posturing to magnanimity which is typical of liberals  when they are taking  the safe opportunity to demonstrate their adherence to a creed which consists of little else but flippantly-hyperbolic and ill-considered status-posturing to magnanimity. [2] Still, if they expect their airy nihilism to be of any force against “an enemy swathed in religious and political certitude”, then they may be disappointed. Then again, perhaps the vapour of liberalism really does have the power to corrupt and corrode everything that comes into contact with it. [3] That is a possibility which cannot be discounted, but it is one too awful to contemplate.

[1] Rod Liddle, “We must defend the right to be stupid, vile and obnoxious”, The Sunday Times, 17th January 2010. (There is no such right, no corresponding duty to defend it, and therefore no right for liberals to impose that duty. Thereon see also a post at one of the other places, or better still, see David S. Oderberg, “Is There a Right to be Wrong?”, Philosophy, 75 (2000), pp.517-537.) Mr Liddle does have his good side: he heartily offends those further to the left of him, for which we may be thankful.
[2] One may be curious to know whether a careless mind feels like a great soul, but one would have to become a liberal misquoting a philosophe to find out.
[3] Friedrich Nietzsche once kindly noted: “The honourable term for mediocre is, of course, the word ‘liberal’.” (The Will to Power, tr. W. Kaufmann & R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p.462: §864.)


“The political buffoons who want to rule us cannot even revolt properly.”

[“Nicht einmal mehr richtig putschen können die politischen Hanswürste, die uns regieren wollen.”]

Mcp, “Im Westen nichts Neues”, Mit Elektrischer Feder (weblog), 12. Januar 2010.

Fewtril no.272

It is funny when ministers and parliamentarians make a promise of treating the voting public like grown-ups and responsible adults; it is just the kind of language to use when one wishes to flatter children and adolescents.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Climate-Science and Conspiracy

“I am very happy to affirm that I am not a giant expert on climate change: I know a bit, and I know that there’s not yet been a giant global conspiracy involving almost every scientist in the world (although I’d welcome examples).” — Ben Goldacre. [1]

One can hardly trust the integrity, or else the intelligence, of someone who would cast the matter in so flippant and so adversely-framed a fashion, but it seems instrumentally, though not morally, to be the best strategy left to those who still wish to defend an obvious example of bad science.
.....It is ironic that Ben Goldacre, who has made a journalistic career out of professing to be against bad science, would speak in favour of a magnificent and glaring example of it, though we should hardly be surprised. He is another small example of why posterity, if there might still be a sapient and merry remnant of it, will laugh its head off.
.....The dichotomy which Mr Goldacre sets up is clear: either one believes it likely that the science of global warming is valid, or else one believes it likely that there is a global conspiracy, involving almost every scientist in the world, to conceal its invalidity. I can suggest a dichotomy of my own: either Mr Goldacre lacks the intelligence to understand that relatively few scientists in the world are actually involved in generating the claims of climate-science; that a few of those few in that sub-field of science have influence over the  direction of research; that all of those few find it conducive or even necessary to their careers to profess a belief in a certain theory; that some other scientists who stand outside that sub-field may be inclined to give credence to its claims; and that a sub-field of science, or even the whole field of science itself, can be warped or corrupted at various levels in many simple, subtle, and all-too-plausibly-human ways; — or he is employing a contemptible strategy designed to suggest that his opponents must believe in something highly implausible, if not absurd: something like a worldwide network and active conspiracy amongst hundreds of thousands of glint-eyed scientists all laughing madly in their secret conferences at the vast deception that they are knowingly perpetrating. But perhaps my dichotomy is a false one too. Perhaps it is a trichotomy: it could be that Mr Goldacre is none too bright, or that he is a scoundrel, or that he is both.
.....If we were to judge the success or validity of scientific theories by the number of occasions, and the degree of enthusiasm, by which they were proclaimed to be unquestionable truths as held by the vast majority of genuine and reputable scientists, then we might rightly say that the theory of anthropogenic global warming has been a very successful one, perhaps second only to Lysenkoism. But maybe Mr Goldacre finds incredible the claim that the science of biology in the Soviet Union was for many years subverted by a quack-theory. I mean, fancy believing that all the scientists of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Soviet Union — every one of them reputable by its power to define them as such — were involved in a conspiracy against genuine scientific research! Or perhaps it was mostly that a vast public-bureaucratic government, much like our own, involving ideologies and ambitious men, much like our own, was able to kill a science and let a zombie-science arise in its place. Either way — preposterous!
.....Sarcasm aside, in suggesting the high implausibility of a global conspiracy of hundreds of thousands of witting members, I do not mean to imply that there have been no conspiracies in the case of climate-science. Clearly there have been. Some scientists have conspired in various ways to deceive a large number of scientists and non-scientists alike. Of that we know for sure. Thereto alone it is somewhat irrelevant the extent or proportion to which they were informed by benevolence, malice, hopes for large dinners, or anything else. The question of benevolence, malice, or anything else, is addressed largely to the motive-content of conspiracies, and is at a tangent to the mere fact of their existence. [2] Other conspiracies, each formed for whatever reasons and interests, some fleeting and trivial,  some long-lasting and serious, we may well suspect to exist at higher and lower levels of significance and influence. Great power and wealth are to be had and social maneuvers to be made — with the usual agent involved: a clever and aggressive species of hairless ape.
.....There is nothing surprising in the mere fact of the existence of conspiracies, or rather, there is nothing more surprising therein than that groups of school-children, company-executives, or marketing-men conspire against particular rivals and against the general outgroup, the scope whereof may extend to the public at large. To adapt a phrase from Robert Michels: who says organisation, says conspiracy.
.....Most conspiracies are largely insignificant or petty, simply occurring as natural and frequent aspects of any group-life. Some, of course, can be grander or more significant, as is clear in the case of climate-science. The most pertinent questions in this regard are about their nature and aims, their size and scope, and the relative degrees of their deliberate and systematic aspects, wherewith one ought not to make oneself prey to, nor indeed be put off by, the silliest and the unfairest connotations which tend nowadays to be associated with the word.
.....The fairly-recent and widespread refusal to believe in conspiracies, which, as I say, are in varying degrees of significance natural aspects of all groups and organizations, testifies to the increasing inability on the part of millions to think without having their thoughts subverted and overthrown by unnecessary connotations; for this refusal does come mostly by way of cravenness in the face of the justifiable fear that one will be called a nutcase in acknowledging any state of affairs to which the word “conspiracy” is rightly and significantly applicable. It seems that the word “conspiracy” cannot be taken in a prosaic sense by most people anymore; they must take it in a grand sense, by a few in reference to their own grand claims of conspiracy, and by most in mockery of any claim thereof.
.....One might have expected that the experience of the playground, in which some groups of children conspire against other groups of children, would have been enough to give most people a life-long understanding of the nature of social reality; but it seems that at some time or other in their lives the species of wit native to them, a species educable by experience, is overrun by an interloping foreign species of faux-sophisticated cretinism. A world of fools can be turned into a world of morons by selling them the idea that moronic disbelief is rational and enlightened detachment.
.....Anyway, in the absence of credible evidence, it is trivially true, of course, that the climate of the earth might be changing outside its natural pattern due to human interference, but then it is trivially true that the Zarboks of Planet Nasquib might at this very moment be pointing a giant laser-gun at the earth, ready to blast it to smithereens. But let us conspire to keep this latter possibility a secret amongst ourselves. We do not wish to give governments or corporations any more bright ideas. Inter-stellar battle-fleets are expensive to build, I hear, and no doubt Al Gore would need to be involved.

[1] Ben Goldacre, “Climate change? Well, we’ll be dead by then”, The Guardian, 12th December 2009.
[2] It is a fairly good adage that one should never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence, so long as it is not misapplied or made into a mind-emptying mantra. (The case is similar with Occam’s Razor, which is perhaps the most popularly-misunderstood and abused principle of all time.)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Tiresome Joke

“Staggering across the fringes of the [Copenhagen] summit are the people who will see their countries live or die on the basis of its deliberations. . . . Dazed Chinese and Indian NGOs explain how the Himalayan ice is rapidly vanishing and will be gone by 2035 — so the great rivers of Asia that are born there will shrivel and cease.” [1] 

Staggering? Dazed? Maybe it was the booze and the tedium of the keynote-presentations, or perhaps Johann Hari is just making things up again. Glad to say, however, that I very seldom read anything by Mr Hari: he is a bad joke endlessly repeating itself, faintly amusing on the first reading or two, but soon growing tiresome; but I do wonder if he has ever made a pretence at truthful reportage that hasn’t been immediately exposed as laughable fancy by his own ill-judged hyperbole:— laughable, I say, at first.

[1] Johann Hari, “Leaders of the rich world are enacting a giant fraud”, The Independent, 11th December 2009. (At least the title of his article alludes inadvertently to the state of affairs.)

The Argument from Haughtiness

Edward Feser has touched on the matter of haughtiness in philosophy [1] and how it may overwhelm rational commitment and truthfulness, such that there is a refusal to admit simple or obvious mistakes; and he has reminded me of something that J.R. Lucas wrote:
“When I started philosophy, Logical Positivism was very much in vogue, and my tutor tried hard to get me to believe the Verification Principle. So I asked him whether it was a tautology, perhaps showing some new meaning being given to ‘proposition’, or ‘meaningful’, so that only some selected instances could be accorded the favour of being thus described. He said No. Was the Verification Principle, then, an empirical proposition, discovered by careful research in which lots and lots of propositions had been examined, and none found to be meaningful except those that were analytic or empirical. He admitted, albeit a trifle reluctantly, that no such research had been carried out. In that case, I concluded triumphantly, the Verification Principle, if it were true, was itself meaningless, hoist by its own petard. He did not think it a very good argument, and told me to try harder to believe.” [2]
Herewith a little sketch of an argument:

I. It goes without saying that I am a very clever and careful analytical philosopher.
II. Very clever and careful analytical philosophers, such as I, do not make or accept obvious mistakes.
III. It goes without saying that I do not make or accept obvious mistakes.
IV. Anyone who does not recognise the obvious truth of (III), which logically follows from the obvious truths of (I) and (II), is making an obvious mistake.
V. Anyone who claims that I have made or accepted an obvious mistake is (a) making an obvious mistake and is (b) not a very clever or careful analytical philosopher. [From II, III, and IV.]
VI. Very clever and careful analytical philosophers, such as I, ought to dismiss as unworthy of consideration the obviously-mistaken claims of not very clever or careful analytical philosophers.
VII. I ought to dismiss as unworthy of consideration any claim made by anyone that I have made or accepted an obvious mistake. [From V and VI.]

[1] Edward Feser, “Rosenberg Responds to his Critics”, Edward Feser (weblog), 10th December 2009; last paragraph. Therein also: “in contemporary academic philosophy, what is grounds for failing an undergraduate paper can be Festschrift material for a professional.”
[2] J.R. Lucas, “A Simple Exposition of Gödel’s Theorem”, A Talk at King’s College, London, October 1996, reproduced online at the website of J.R. Lucas.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


“Copenhagen is poised to achieve a profound historical transformation: reversing the road we have travelled for 200 years.” [1]

I regret to note that the prime minister does not have in mind the overthrow of public-bureaucratic government and the restoration of the ancien régime. Unfortunately the one-eyed klepto-visionary is having another fit of “moral passion” at the prospect of “a great global project of mutual ambition”, [2] which of course is forward down the road which we have been urged to travel by the self-declared friends of humanity for the last two-hundred years. Well, he calls it “moral passion”, whatever that means, but to me it seems more like the slavering of a butcher’s dog when sensing that dinner-time is approaching at last.

[1] Gordon Brown, “Copenhagen must be a turning point. Our children won’t forgive us if we fail”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 6th December 2009.
[2] Ibid.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Lifting the Benighting Mist

“Queenie understands the drabness of Britain without immigration and grabs her chance of excitement, defiant of the heart-breaking consequences. The real point of diversity, on television and in life, is not that [it] is correct but that it is vibrant.” [1]

It seems that, for thousands of years, Europe was burdened with unremitting drabness, its hideous peoples condemned to unvibrant lives; but that now the dark ages are over, and the present age is yielding ever more to a bright future whereunder the benighting mist of the dullest and most hideous race on earth will finally lift to reveal a sunlit land of vibrant diversity. Praise the gods — or buy a Kalashnikov.

[1] Sarah Sands, “See why diversity works – switch on your set”, The Independent on Sunday, 6th December 2009. (“Vibrant and diverse” — the gibber of mass-insanity.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Today the Lisbon Treaty came into force, and so, in a humble way, I should just like to mark this great occasion by swearing undying enmity to the European Union.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Dodgy Uncle

“[Rajendra] Pachauri said the large number of contributors and rigorous peer review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be rapidly uncovered.” [1] Or that bias would be amplified and dissent from it smothered. It is odd, but I am quite sure that Mother Nature used to get a say on the validation of scientific hypotheses. Maybe she has been voted off the panel. Uncle Peer-Review, on the other hand, seems to be doing all right for himself, not that I’d trust him, mind you, especially when he’s feeling rigorous.

[1] James Randerson, “Leaked emails won't harm UN climate body, says chairman”,, 29th November 2009. (H/T: Dennis Mangan, “Global Warmers Won’t Give Up Easily”, Mangan’s (weblog), 30th November 2009.) On zombie-science and the baleful influence of peer-review, see Bruce G. Charlton, “Zombie Science — Dead but Won’t Lie Down”, Medical Hypotheses, 2008, Vol.71; reproduced online at Medical Hypotheses (weblog), 26th July 2008; id., “Peer Usage versus Peer Review”, British Medical Journal, September 2007, Vol.335:451; reproduced ibid., 1st September 2007; id., “Truthfulness in Science Should be an Iron Law”, Medical Hypotheses, 2009, Vol.73; reproduced ibid., 13th October 2009; and Alexander A. Berezin, “Hampering the progress of science by peer review and by the ‘selective’ funding system”, Science Tribune, December 1996. (Note: Mr Mangan’s fine blog has been deleted for some reason.)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Schwein’sche Weltansicht: Pig Propositions Nos.1-10

As received and written down in the year 1850 by “Sauerteig”, aka Thomas Carlyle:—

1. The Universe, so far as sane conjecture can go, is an immeasurable Swine’s-trough, consisting of solid and liquid, and of other contrasts and kinds;—especially consisting of attainable and unattainable, the latter in immensely greater quantities for most pigs.
2. Moral evil is unattainability of Pig’s-wash; moral good, attainability of ditto.
3. “What is Paradise, or the State of Innocence?” Paradise, called also State of Innocence, Age of Gold, and other names, was (according to Pigs of weak judgment) unlimited attainability of Pig’s-wash; perfect fulfilment of one’s wishes, so that the Pig’s imagination could not outrun reality: a fable and an impossibility, as Pigs of sense now see.
4. “Define the Whole Duty of Pigs.” It is the mission of universal Pighood, and the duty of all Pigs, at all times, to diminish the quantity of unattainable and increase that of attainable. All knowledge and device and effort ought to be directed thither and thither only; Pig Science, Pig Enthusiasm and Devotion have this one aim. It is the Whole Duty of Pigs.
5. Pig Poetry ought to consist of universal recognition of the excellence of Pig’s-wash and ground barley, and the felicity of Pigs whose trough is in order, and who have had enough: Hrumph!
6. The Pig knows the weather; he ought to look out what kind of weather it will be.
7. “Who made the Pig?” Unknown ;—perhaps the Pork-butcher?
8. “Have you Law and Justice in Pigdom?” Pigs of observation have discerned that there is, or was once supposed to be, a thing called justice. Undeniably at least there is a sentiment in Pig-nature called indignation, revenge, &c., which, if one Pig provoke another, comes out in a more or less destructive manner: hence laws are necessary, amazing quantities of laws. For quarrelling is attended with loss of blood, of life, at any rate with frightful effusion of the general stock of Hog’s-wash, and ruin (temporary ruin) to large sections of the universal Swine’s-trough: wherefore let justice be observed, that so quarrelling be avoided.
9. “What is justice?” Your own share of the general Swine’s-trough, not any portion of my share.
10. “But what is ‘my’ share?” Ah! there in fact lies the grand difficulty; upon which Pig science, meditating this long while, can settle absolutely nothing. My share—hrumph!—my share is, on the whole, whatever I can contrive to get without being hanged or sent to the hulks. For there are gibbets, treadmills, I need not tell you, and rules which Lawyers have prescribed.

Latter-Day Pamphlets, No. VIII: August 1850: Jesuitism (London: Chapman & Hall, 1850), pp.269-70. (Sus exsaturatus grunnit: “We’ve clearly cracked all the important things and are now left with the minor trivia of life.” Tim Worstall, “What Joy It Is”, Tim Worstall (weblog), 25th November 2009.)

Sissyfuss in Vain

Apparently there has been much screeching by feminists in opposition to the establishment of so-called men’s societies at English universities. The founder of one of these societies pleads for acceptance:
“The mens [Masculinity Exploring Networking and Support] society is no threat to women’s rights or their welfare, and we certainly aren’t a reaction to them. We are the only (as far as I am aware) society at Manchester to have a code of conduct for members. We are being trained by Nightline, the excellent listening and counselling service, with a view to establishing a drop-in centre. We hope to work closely with the lgbt and women’s rights collectives. Together, not as men or women or trans, but as human beings, we can make a better community, a better world.” [1]
I am not sure why feminists are so angry in this particular case, unless it is just another instance of the general and mechanical reaction arising from the potent and unpredictable mix of liberated hormones and political visions, whereof it is senseless to ask for reasons. This society will be “running workshops” regardless of “gender identity” and “gender categories”, and “holding lectures and screening documentaries exploring the historical perceptions of masculinity”. [2] It sounds like a society for the neutered who will labour in vain to please their foul harridan-mistresses. Feminists ought to be cackling with glee.
.....Although not much given to envisaging the establishment of societies, I can see the need for an Anti-Harridan Society, yearly awarding the Matthew Hopkins Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Hag-Offending. Yet it fails my powers to imagine the need for it to work closely with lgbt and women’s rights collectives. Maybe there are “workshops” that can help me with my disability.

[1] Ben Wild, “My men’s group isn’t anti-feminist”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 25th November 2009.
[2] Ibid.

Monday, 23 November 2009

In the Same Fume

“We are no gods, but shortsighted men and must be content with finding out a little bit of truth in wading through a sea of errors,” wrote the chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein. [1] Sad to say that governmental policy-setters, political interest-groups, and image-impressed masses demand great and all-at-once truths to bolster their swift-rising needs and desires, or, failing such truths, great and unanimous falsehoods vouchsafed by the authority of self-reviewing idols, who are fancied to reside at a lofty remove, but who breathe the same poisonous fume of ideology amidst the thin air of expedience as do their all-too-corrupted demand-makers. Junk-philosophy, junk-literature, junk-art, junk-scholarship, junk-music, junk-religion, junk-statecraft, and junk-science: we can expect little else from the liberal disorder of modernism, except that it will continue to be vigorously defended as progress by junk-humanity.

[1] Letter to Michael Faraday, 17th September 1857, The letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862, ed. G.W.A. Kahlbaum & F.V. Darbishire (London: Williams & Norgate, 1899), p.289. (For an understanding of the present state of science, philosophers and sociologists of science will of course find more illumination, if less edification, in the emails of modern climate-scientists than in the old letters of long-dead gentlemen-scientists.)

Warm Diplomacy

“Central American nations will demand $US105 billion . . . from industrialised countries for damages caused by global warming, the region’s representatives say.” [1]

The proper response, of course, is to send the equivalent value in warships and gunboats.

[1]Nations to seek billions in ‘climate debt’”, Adelaide Now, 21st November 2009. (H/T: Dennis Mangan, “Global Warming Exposed as the Greatest Scandal in Modern Science”, Mangan’s (weblog), 22nd November 2009.)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A Question

“Is Society become wholly a bag of wind, then, ballasted by guineas?”

Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, No. V: May 1850: Stump-Orator (London: Chapman & Hall, 1850), p.163.

By Three-Thirds

“You cannot play fast and loose with England”, says Lord Hattersley, in a paean of new patriotism [1], whereat Mr Laban Tall wonders whether hanging is too good for him. [2] I am inclined to say that it is, although, if we added drawing and quartering, the matter could be settled rightly and in a manner fit for a latter-day lord of misrule.

[1] Roy Hattersley, “My search for God’s own country and why I wouldn’t swap England for anywhere else”, Mail Online, 6th November 2009.
[2] Laban Tall, “Sparkbrook”, UK Commentators (weblog), 7th November 2009.