A Quick Twirl

Another miscellany, because there is an ever-growing backlog of items I want to point out and perhaps say a few words about – and I only have six hands you know. Be reasonable. I’m going as fast as I can, here, but I can’t do everything. And besides I have this mosquito bite or spider bite or moth bite or whatever the hell kind of bite it is just right at the bend of my elbow, on top where it gets maximal chafing from my sweatshirt, and it itches, dammit! It’s been itching for days and days and days and days. Normally bites stop itching after a few days, am I right? But this one just keeps on going, like the Eveready battery rabbit. Nasty thing. So naturally this interferes with my ability to write an individual N&C for every item I see. Besides I have burnout. No I don’t, that’s a joke. P Z Myers mocked bloggers who whinge about blogger burnout at Pharyngula yesterday.

There is another excellent post at Black Triangle on quackery and suckery. Anthony also quotes from an article which is one of the items in that backlog I mentioned, about Prince Charles and his presumptuous advice on medical matters. The doctor who gives the Prince what-for makes exactly the point I made about both P.C. and Juliet Stevenson a few months ago – the fact that they and people like them abuse their fame and influence. They ought to recognize that they are famous out of all proportion to their actual importance, for one thing, and that they are famous for things that are entirely separate from any kind of medical expertise, for another, so they really ought, morally speaking, to use immense caution before making the world a present of their opinions on such subjects. In cases where people can do real harm by getting things wrong, celebrity non-experts ought to think and think and think again before going on Radio 4 or talking to journalists about what vaccinations to get and how to cure cancer.

Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth. Furthermore, your public utterances are worthy of four pages, whereas, if lucky, I might warrant one. I don’t begrudge you that authority and we probably share many opinions about art and architecture, but I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies. There is no equivalent of the GMC for the monarchy, so it is left either to sensational journalism or, more rarely, to the quiet voice of loyal subjects such as myself to warn you that you may have overstepped the mark.


And speaking of Stevenson, it was the MMR ‘debate’ she was opinionating on, and Harry’s Place has an interesting post on a Washington Post article on that subject. There’s a fair bit of silly verbiage at the beginning of that article, talking about Wakefield’s charisma and so on, but it settles down after awhile, and it does make the point that media coverage of this kind of thing tends to be grotesquely distorted – to pretend that it’s a 50-50 thing, that expert opinion is split, when that’s not the case at all.

And finally I thought this post at Brian Leiter’s about the state of Nietzsche scholarship was worth a read. I haven’t the slightest idea whether he’s right or not, but the look at the way institutional necessities can distort things is interesting.

Leiter thinks I’m a prat, by the way. But I’m not sure he’s chosen a very good example of my prat-hood. He just doesn’t like an article I linked to in News, that’s all. But I didn’t write it, after all, I only linked to it, and I don’t invariably agree with every single word of every article in News. If I had to go by that standard, our front page would be a tad dull.

So why are they posting prominent links (this used to be on B&W’s front page) to tabloid trash like this, which misstates Foucault’s views from top to bottom, and offers no rational criticism of any view he actually held, while offering up a series of fallacious arguments (ad hominems primarily–you would think Ms. Benson of B&W might notice that references to Foucault’s homosexuality do not refute his ideas).

Huh? Of course they don’t, but who says I think they do? The author of the article itself doesn’t even think they do, as far as I can see, and even if he did it wouldn’t follow that I do. A small point, but then I specialize in making small points.

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