All entries by this author

Simple Gifts

Apr 22nd, 2003 9:52 pm | By

I linked to this essay about George Bush in the Atlantic Monthly a few days ago. I was and still am particularly interested in the depiction of Bush’s narrowness that Richard Brookhiser gives.

“Practically,” Brookhiser writes, “Bush’s faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognize, ambiguity: there is an all-knowing God who decrees certain behaviors, and leaders must obey.” While this clear-cut belief structure enables him to make split-second decisions and take action with principled confidence, it also means that he is limited by “strictly defined mental horizons.”…”Bush may be a free-range animal, but he has a habitat, in which he stays. If he needs to know some facts that his advisers don’t know, he can discover them.

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Could Do Better *

Apr 22nd, 2003 | Filed by

Matt Ridley is making good progress in agreeing with Steven Rose, Steven Rose says. … Read the rest

SARS in a Wilderness of Mirrors

Apr 22nd, 2003 | By David Stanway

There is an old Chinese folk tale in which a fool
deposits 300 pieces of silver in a hole. In order to conceal his largesse, he
puts up a sign nearby to announce that “300 pieces of silver do not lie here.”
The moral of the tale was that the more you try to cover something up, the more
obvious it is that something is being concealed.

The Chinese government, fiercely vigilant when
it comes to any manifestation of press freedom, are learning this lesson the
hard way with regard to the viral condition known as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome. It used to be thought that in China, the only way of confirming if
a story was true … Read the rest

We Need Reductionism *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Thomas DeGregori on the scientific advances ‘reductionism’ has made possible.… Read the rest

Fund Vocational Training Too *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Engineering and technical apprenticeships should have as much money and esteem as academic subjects.… Read the rest

Theory *

Apr 21st, 2003 | Filed by

Don’t you wish you’d been there? No? No, nor do we.

External Resources

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Iraqi History and Archaeology

Apr 19th, 2003 7:48 pm | By

The story of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and other museums in Iraq is an interesting and deeply discouraging one. A giant hole has been blasted in the world’s stock of available knowledge that will never be completely repaired. Even if all the missing artworks do eventually turn up on the black market (a highly unlikely if), that still leaves all the books and manuscripts that went up in flames at the National Library, and all the artworks that are not missing but smashed. Whatever the neglect or indifference of the Pentagon in not protecting the sites, the damage is done now, and people who think history and knowledge are good things are in shock.

Slate has a … Read the rest


Apr 19th, 2003 6:00 pm | By

Ian Buruma says in this article in Prospect that the source of the bitterness between France and the US is that they are the two great missionary-revolutionary countries, the two great believers in universals, only they have different ‘universals’ (quite a paradoxical outcome). Both are idealist nations, both are the proud inheritors of institutions and values born in violent revolution, but the ideals and institutions and values are not the same ones. So we come to Liberty fries and Liberty toast and a deluge of Francophobe jokes on the Internet.

But it’s possible that Buruma overestimates US idealism at times.

Unless one believes, like Noam Chomsky, that the war was fought for the sake of corporate interests, that too was

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Heat and Light Between Scientists *

Apr 19th, 2003 | Filed by

Shock-horror at tampering with the speed of light; coarse and flippant attacks on peer review.… Read the rest

Democracy or Freedom?

Apr 18th, 2003 7:00 pm | By

Sometimes it can seem as if Americans have a special gift for naïveté – something to do with living in a huge country bordered by oceans, thus distant from the rest of the world, and also to do with our dreams of exceptionalism and being the City on a Hill, and maybe also to do with vague notions that people who live right in the place where Levis and Hollywood movies and Big Macs actually come from have no need to do a lot of heavy lifting-type thought, that that kind of thing is for those poor deprived people in other countries who have to import their Jurassic Park and Kentucky Fried Chicken from us. Whatever the reason, we’re not … Read the rest

Tocqueville Updated *

Apr 18th, 2003 | Filed by

Niall Ferguson reviews Fareed Zakaria’s book on the rivalry between democracy and freedom.… Read the rest

Pope Lays Down the Law *

Apr 18th, 2003 | Filed by

More ridiculous rules and strictures from the guy at the Vatican.… Read the rest

Anthony Gottlieb Reviews ‘Rational Mysticism’ *

Apr 17th, 2003 | Filed by

But attitudes of reverence and wonder need not be ‘mystical’.… Read the rest

Susan Greenfield on Scientific Literacy *

Apr 17th, 2003 | Filed by

Science as exciting as football, as fun as going to the cinema.… Read the rest

Archaeologists’ Letter in Guardian *

Apr 16th, 2003 | Filed by

Nine archaeologists urge protection for Iraq’s antiquities. … Read the rest

Library Burnt *

Apr 16th, 2003 | Filed by

The fire at the National Library in Baghdad destroyed manuscripts many centuries old.… Read the rest

Sheffield, Baltimore, Florence *

Apr 16th, 2003 | Filed by

Single women supporting art, eccentric women traversing Europe to buy shocking paintings: Michael Palin’s sort of thing.… Read the rest

Strike! Give Will His Due! *

Apr 16th, 2003 | Filed by

Teachers’ union considers a boycott of English test that dumbs down Shakespeare.… Read the rest

Shiva the Destroyer?

Apr 16th, 2003 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

Postmodernist anti-science thought was once primarily associated with European
and North American academics in the humanities. Now not only has its influence
become international, but it has become integrally intertwined with a number
of other issues such as anti-globalization, anti-transgenic technology in agriculture,
and conservation. Nobody can fault the prevailing internationalism of postmodernists
and their respect for different cultures and peoples (except for the culture
of those who are committed to modern science/technology and its benefits). Nor
can we fault their argument that all of us have biases, though they fail to
comprehend the vital role that scientific method plays in helping to overcome
the limitations which personal and cultural biases impose. Their belief in the
worth and dignity of … Read the rest

James Watson on Using Genetic Knowledge *

Apr 15th, 2003 | Filed by

Conservatives want to stop improvement, Watson says, but enhancement means making better.… Read the rest