All entries by this author

Troublesome DNA *

Dec 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Mormon scientist faces excommunication after DNA casts doubt on Mormon heredity story.… Read the rest



Situatedness and its Discontents *

Dec 10th, 2002 | Filed by

Are we doomed never to be able to see past our own situations?… Read the rest



Be Cool, Don’t Study *

Dec 9th, 2002 | Filed by

Report says social conformity among black students works against academic achievement and for confronting the teacher.… Read the rest



Alternative Medicine in a World of Science *

Dec 9th, 2002 | Filed by

Why do we heed “the songs of the New Age pied pipers whose melodies interweave quantum physics and the workings of the colon”?… Read the rest



Hawks, Doves, Dawks, Hoves *

Dec 8th, 2002 | Filed by

Containment, Kurds in jeeps, re-alignments, suspicion, fear, hope, revolution from above, Paine, Trotsky, Bosnia, Iraq…it’s all so complicated.… Read the rest



Different Personalities

Dec 7th, 2002 5:47 pm | By

Here is an interesting statement from a spokeswoman for Surrey local education authority quoted in yesterday’s Guardian:

“The schools are skilled in coping with pupils of all abilities and personalities and have excellent behaviour management practices.”

The context for this statement is the case of two boys who were expelled from Glyn Technology school for making death threats against a teacher, then reinstated by an independent appeals panel. The teachers at the school threatened to strike, Estelle Morris intervened to say the expulsion should stand, and the boys have now been placed at other schools, schools with the above-mentioned skills. It is interesting that a strike of teachers occurred this week at a school in France for precisely the … Read the rest



When in Doubt, Claim Certainty

Dec 7th, 2002 2:59 pm | By

Is it possible to have absolute certainty about something that is unclear? Is it possible to have absolute certainty that something “bore almost no resemblance” to something? Is absolute certainty about something so vague even a meaningful notion? I would have thought not, but some opinion-mongers apparently (I’m not absolutely certain about this, mind) have easier access to absolute certainty than I do. Witness this remark in an article about anthropology, blood sample collection, indigenous people, and the Yanomami, along with James Neel, Patrick Tierney’s Darkness at El Dorado, and Tierney’s accusations that Neel deliberately sowed measles among the Yanomami:

“What exactly Neel told his subjects is unclear, but we can be absolutely certain that it bore almost no

Read the rest


Anthropology and Consent *

Dec 7th, 2002 | Filed by

The Yanomamo want their blood samples back, and Neel is guilty of something or other.… Read the rest



Religion Disguised as Science *

Dec 6th, 2002 | Filed by

Intelligent Design theorists upstage Young-Earthers.… Read the rest



Beautiful Facts

Dec 5th, 2002 8:43 pm | By

The wonderful Anne Barton has an essay in The New York Review of Books that is relevant to the creeping infiltration of gossip and story into areas where they do more to confuse issues than clarify them, that I keep remarking on. The relevance of this subject to Butterflies and Wheels may be remote, but it is relevance all the same. The reasons and motivations behind the novelization of biography, for instance, are probably closely related to those behind the long-standing quarrel between Literature and Science. And then it’s a popular move in Lit Crit circles to say that ‘everything is narrative’, very much including science, in fact science most of all.

It’s easy enough to understand the wish fulfillment … Read the rest



Evans on Williams on Truth *

Dec 5th, 2002 | Filed by

It’s good to read a philosopher who knows what he’s talking about when he talks about history, Richard Evans says.… Read the rest



Blank Dogs and Straw Slates *

Dec 5th, 2002 | Filed by

Kenan Malik considers the implications of ideas about human nature.… Read the rest



What Does ‘Jihad’ Really Mean? *

Dec 4th, 2002 | Filed by

A historian examines the word and its re-definition.… Read the rest



Necessary Research or Delaying Tactic? *

Dec 3rd, 2002 | Filed by

When is it time to say we know enough to act?… Read the rest



Too Polite and Agreeable *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Does ecofeminism even deserve a mention? Denis Dutton asks… Read the rest



“Talking too properly” *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Can identity politics make school seem “white”?… Read the rest



Hattersley on Rawls *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Rawls replaced evasion with precision, making bluster unnecessary when enemies of equality asked awkward questions.… Read the rest



Narrative or Ideas?

Dec 1st, 2002 8:26 pm | By

A couple of ideas that we’re interested in at Butterflies and Wheels were the focal points of a discussion among three historians I saw on tv recently. The US channel C-Span put Eric Foner, Robert Caro and Edmund Morris together to talk about the differences between popular and academic history, which is one issue that interests us, and in discussing that they also touched on the question of how to avoid the distorting effects of ideology in writing history. Edmund Morris is a popular biographer, who got a lot of attention, much of it derisive, for inserting himself, Zelig-like, into his biography of Ronald Reagan.
He asserted, in an emphatic and even truculent manner, that some history is “thematic” but … Read the rest



Green Spoon Worm Inhales Husband *

Dec 1st, 2002 | Filed by

David Barash reviews Olivia Judson’s book of sex advice for animals; disputes her definition of promiscuity, but on the whole approves.… Read the rest



Time for Psychologists to Join the Darwinian Revolution *

Nov 30th, 2002 | Filed by

Frans de Waal’s new book examines the potential of evolutionary approaches to the social sciences, and also the misapplications.… Read the rest