All entries by this author

Inclusion and Wishful Thinking *

Jul 9th, 2003 | Filed by

Liberals and conservatives put aside their differences to come up with a terrible idea.… Read the rest

People Do Change Their Views

Jul 8th, 2003 10:37 pm | By

I found a rather odd interview with Susan Greenfield the other day. The site is some sort of Christian one, but some of Greenfield’s answers are still a bit strange.

My husband, Peter Atkins, is an atheist of the Dawkins stamp and so I’ve sat through many science-religion ding-dongs, and they strike me as a complete waste of time. No one is going to change their views. The Atkins-Dawkins stance treats science almost as though it were a religion, and evangelically try to convert other people. Meanwhile, the religious person can’t articulate why they believe what they do: they just do.

But people do change their views. Of course they do. Not all people of course, and not every time … Read the rest

Other People’s Rhetoric

Jul 8th, 2003 7:36 pm | By

Let’s revisit Deborah Cameron’s article yet again, because judging by the comments on my comments, I didn’t make myself clear. Or perhaps I did and people disagree anyway, or perhaps I’m just dead wrong. But I want to try to clarify one or two points all the same. The disagreement is with what I said about the different value we place (the culture we live in places) on thoughts and feelings. I do think that difference exists, I do think there is a seldom-examined or -questioned assumption that feelings are good, authentic, spontaneous, real, honest, natural, and for all those reasons and perhaps more, better than thoughts. Some readers point out that the distinction between thoughts and feelings is not … Read the rest

Ersatz Magic versus the Real Thing *

Jul 8th, 2003 | Filed by

A.S. Byatt ponders why adults are so smitten with Harry Potter.… Read the rest

A Book With Everything, Even Classy Prose *

Jul 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Alas poor Joe McCarthy, martyr to the com-symp liberals and Ed Murrow.… Read the rest

Private School or State School? *

Jul 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Adam Swift and Anthony Seldon debate issues of fairness and positional goods.… Read the rest

Larkin Wasn’t Cuddly *

Jul 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Misogynist, racist, hated children, pessimistic, and deeply drunk. So?… Read the rest

Rashomon is Fiction, the Friedmans are Real *

Jul 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Postmodern ambiguity as marketing ploy, and how gullible reviewers help.… Read the rest

How to Avoid Pop Culture

Jul 7th, 2003 | By Christopher Orlet

In these dark times holding out against the constant barrage of pop culture
has become more challenging than surviving a succession of carpet bombings.
Pop music seeps and swells from the ceilings and nooks of shops, offices, and
coffeehouses. Television sets are now permanent fixtures in airports, post offices,
saloons, and doctor’s offices – in fact, one dangled precariously above me as
I suffered a recent root canal, tuned to Oprah no less, which was far
more painful than the surgery itself. I commenced to pray the set would dislodge
from the ceiling and put me out of my misery, but Yahweh spared me – evidently
to continue His good work.

So much of popular culture is so indescribably bereft … Read the rest

The Weather *

Jul 4th, 2003 | Filed by

The stuff of small talk and of survival, and all is not well.… Read the rest

Argument Over Academic Boycott of Israel *

Jul 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Oxford professor rejects Israeli student, and is now being investigated.… Read the rest

Private School After All *

Jul 4th, 2003 | Filed by

State school is better socially, but what of children who want to do sums now?… Read the rest

‘Somebody with a Doctorate’

Jul 3rd, 2003 5:27 pm | By

Well, this is what I’m always saying. This is where anti-elitism gets you. Influential political operatives who are not ashamed to sneer at education.

Why this administration feels unbound by the consensus of academic scientists can be gleaned, in part, from a telling anecdote in Nicholas Lemann’s recent New Yorker profile of Karl Rove. When asked by Lemann to define a Democrat, Bush’s chief political strategist replied, “Somebody with a doctorate.” Lemann noted, “This he said with perhaps the suggestion of a smirk.” Fundamentally, much of today’s GOP, like Rove, seems to smirkingly equate academics, including scientists, with liberals.

And hence with really terrible people. The GOP could of course look at it another way – they could wonder why … Read the rest

The Bush Administration Versus Scientists *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

To Karl Rove, a Democrat is ‘someone with a doctorate’…and that’s not a compliment.… Read the rest

Orwell Bash *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Contradictions, inconsistencies, and life-risking commitment to the truth.… Read the rest

Fiedler’s Legacy *

Jul 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

“Do you still believe that st-st-stuff about Huck Finn?” asked Hemingway.… Read the rest

Caring and Sharing

Jul 2nd, 2003 11:25 pm | By

Now, language is an interesting subject, isn’t it? So much of what we talk about at B and W comes down to language – well it would, wouldn’t it, since we’re talking about what gets written and said in academic ‘discourse’ and ‘texts’. Naturally it’s language, what else would it be, mud pies? But it’s interesting all the same.

I mentioned Deborah Cameron the other day, after hearing her with Richard Hoggart on Thinking Allowed. A friend sent me a link to this article of hers, which is an excellent read. Also quite amusing in places.

In the past, the habit of talking about oneself was almost universally decried as impolite, immodest and vulgar. Today’s experts, by contrast, do not

Read the rest


Jul 2nd, 2003 8:44 pm | By

I have one or two more thoughts on this matter of scientific literacy that we were discussing last month (that is to say, yesterday), inspired by this article on the CSICOP website, which was in turn inspired by a pair of articles in the Guardian.

One thought, which I touched on but in a jokey not to say flippant manner, has to do with how manipulative and touchy-feely and sub-rational it all seems. The public feels this and feels that, and the public feels this or that because we do things to make them feel that way. We hold their hands, we flatter them, we plant moist kisses on their cheeks, we tell them we really value their opinions. Is … Read the rest

The Reptile Brain

Jul 2nd, 2003 8:38 pm | By

I’ve had one or two further thoughts about Deborah Cameron’s ‘Good to Talk’ article.

And the relevance of this to the subject of conversation is that intimacy must be created and sustained to a large extent through a particular kind of talk, involving continuous mutual self-disclosure. The modern cliché ‘they just couldn’t communicate’, proffered as an explanation for the break-up of a marriage or other significant relationship, does not imply that the parties never spoke or that they found one another’s conversation unintelligible. Rather it implies a lack of honesty and emotional depth in their exchanges—a failure by one or both individuals to share their feelings openly and express their true selves authentically.

This is all true, and good stuff, … Read the rest


Jul 2nd, 2003 6:36 pm | By

On second thought, I take it back. That business about incentives and rewards. The fact is I don’t really believe that, or if I do it’s only about 25%, it’s only set about with a mass of stipulations and qualifications and reservations. I don’t so much believe it as see that other people have a point when they believe it. Or perhaps I mean I don’t so much believe it as want not to be a silly fatuous naive wool-gatherer who doesn’t understand how the economy works. I don’t want to have the kind of ideas that, if anyone were ever so stupid as to put them into practice, would immediately reduce the economy to a level with Bangladesh’s. So … Read the rest