All entries by this author

Doubtful Favors

Aug 21st, 2003 12:27 am | By

Here is Part III of the story of the professor of English at Brooklyn College who was prevented from continuing to teach because he refused to inflate the grades he gave his students. At least his account of the story. It is the account of one party in a dispute rather than an impartial account by a disinterested observer. I find it all too credible, but I also keep in mind that I don’t know the facts, that we haven’t heard from the others involved, that Frederick Lang could be telling us less than the whole story.

But then again quite possibly not, because what’s in dispute is not so much what happened as whether what happened is a good … Read the rest



Oh Yeah?

Aug 20th, 2003 11:53 pm | By

This is a rather strange piece of comment. I used to quite like Karen Armstrong’s books, though I found her a bit too woolly about religion even then, but I suppose now that I’m older and less forgiving I’m more aware of…well, special pleading.

The religions are all committed to the quest for truth, however uncomfortable…There is unanimous agreement that the religious quest cannot begin until we see things as they really are. We cannot function effectively while trapped in enervating structures of denial, and a church that ignores the suffering of those it has injured in order to shore up its own authority has lost its way. There can be no healing for either the church or its victims

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Ridiculous, But Not Aboriginal *

Aug 20th, 2003 | Filed by

Prince Harry, modernist artist, kind of.… Read the rest



Islam and Human Rights *

Aug 20th, 2003 | Filed by

Ishtiaq Ahmed argues that a Muslim cultural identity need not be confused with harsh laws and practices from the medieval past.… Read the rest



Galileo and Urban VIII *

Aug 19th, 2003 | Filed by

Galileo annoyed the Pope by claiming certainty for his hypothesis.… Read the rest



Do Artists Pay Critics’ Mortgages? *

Aug 19th, 2003 | Filed by

And if they do does that mean the critics have to give them good reviews?… Read the rest



Even Dissidents Need Evidence *

Aug 19th, 2003 | Filed by

UK media are no longer watchdogs, they are powerful actors themselves.… Read the rest



A Meeting of Minds

Aug 18th, 2003 8:58 pm | By

There is an interesting convergence on Arts and Letters Daily today: one article about Ibn Warraq and his disavowal of Islam, and one by Christopher Hitchens taking issue with Edward Said, especially his new preface to Orientalism. This pairing interests us at B and W, of course, because we have a fascinating article by Ibn Warraq critiquing Edward Said’s Orientalism, and also because we admire Christopher Hitchens’ writing, particularly the anti-godbothering variety. So there we all are.

I’ve been wondering for some time what Hitchens’ opinion of Orientalism is now. I know they are friends of long standing – the friendship was Htichens’ defense, or at least reply, when Martin Amis shouted at him for insisting on quarreling … Read the rest



Fired for Refusing to Inflate Grades *

Aug 18th, 2003 | Filed by

Brooklyn College English professor removed from classroom for…attitude?… Read the rest



‘Other’ or ‘other’? *

Aug 18th, 2003 | Filed by

Christopher Hitchens has some reservations about Edward Said’s Orientalism.… Read the rest



Ibn Warraq and Why He Is Not a Muslim *

Aug 18th, 2003 | Filed by

His book ‘cuts against the ecumenical, feel-good vision of Islam as a “religion of peace”‘.… Read the rest



There is Nothing Wrong With Humanism

Aug 18th, 2003 | By Kenan Malik

Is there a conflict between science and humanism? Jeremy Stangroom thinks so. Science, he argues, is necessarily reductive, and reductive science undermines humanist ideas about phenomena such as consciousness or free will. Humanists, therefore, are forced to reject perfectly good scientific theories that don’t fit with their particular worldview. A good example, he suggests, is my own critique of what I call ‘mechanistic’ science. I am, apparently, a closet Lysenkoist (though I had always thought that such guilt-by-association argument itself smacks of Stalinist rhetoric).

To understand what is wrong with Stangroom’s argument, let us accept for the moment his claim that science will eventually show ‘the stuff of the inner life of human beings – consciousness, agency, will, sensation, etc’ … Read the rest



Non Sequitur of the Year

Aug 17th, 2003 11:23 pm | By

I’ve just done a study, one which involved reading one article from the THES and coming to a conclusion about it. My conclusion is that the guy doing the study the article discusses is, well, over-interpreting his evidence just a tiny bit. What did he find in his pioneering research which involved watching a popular quiz show on tv and seeing what kind of people won? He found that non-academics (or ‘housewives’ and workers, as the article oddly called them) did better than academics. Uh…gee…really? Could that be because shows like Wer Wird Millionär? don’t usually ask qestions about quantum mechanics or the Duhem-Quine thesis? On account of how most of the people who watch them aren’t academics themselves? Is … Read the rest



Peer Review Before Press Release *

Aug 17th, 2003 | Filed by

‘If the MMR and autism paper had been looked at by serious statisticians, it would never have been published.’… Read the rest



Intersection of Discovery and Sales *

Aug 17th, 2003 | Filed by

Confusion of health and fashion concerns in study of obesity research.… Read the rest



Clash of Cutlery *

Aug 17th, 2003 | Filed by

Knives, hatchets – it’s the Guardian on the Booker prize long list.… Read the rest



Literary Reputation and its Discontents *

Aug 17th, 2003 | Filed by

Why is everyone so eager to rubbish Martin Amis?… Read the rest



Politics Was Rough in the 1790s, Too *

Aug 16th, 2003 | Filed by

And politicians were occasionally greedy and ambitious then.… Read the rest



Breakthrough for ‘Trans-national’ Legal Perspective *

Aug 15th, 2003 | Filed by

US Supreme Court is considering entities like the European Court of Human Rights in its decisions.… Read the rest



On Their Own Terms

Aug 14th, 2003 8:25 pm | By

‘On their own terms’ again. Such a handy phrase that is (see ‘Dyslexia in Excelsis’ below). It’s behind so much woolly thinking – the notion that if we’ll all just see all ideas and truth claims ‘on their own terms’ then no one’s self-esteem will be damaged and all will be well. Of course the idea doesn’t apply everywhere – which is indeed the oft-noticed contradiction in relativism, which is the same as the old Cretan liar’s paradox. Relativists want everyone to think that relativism is non-relativistically true. Same thing with ‘on their own terms.’ We’re not supposed to take, say, skepticism about taking things on their own terms on its own terms. But religion, now that’s another story. And … Read the rest