All entries by this author

Skepticism is not Cynicism *

Aug 1st, 2003 | Filed by

‘To doubt claims that are not backed by evidence…seems only reasonable.’… Read the rest

Our Mole

Aug 1st, 2003 12:18 am | By

How B and W does keep rising in the world. A couple of weeks ago we had our first plagiarist, and now we have our first mole. I’m very chuffed. A mole in the Open University, this is, who has discovered a little vein of woolly thinking there.

Students of the Open University current undergraduate course on Renaissance studies have to learn of “the occult sciences, and … their very great contribution to scientific developments in this period” – something which might raise the eyebrows of one or two scientist historians of science. But I think most scientists, and many philosophers, might question the assertion “natural magic is best thought of as an esoteric form of physics”. I did physics

Read the rest

What’s the Problem?

Aug 1st, 2003 12:17 am | By

There is a highly interesting article in the July Prospect on a subject that, not surprisingly, keeps recurring on B and W: the quarrelsome relationship between journalism and truth. We examined the issue via the tale of Jayson Blair and the New York Times, for example, and also the self-contradictions and one-eyed views of the Guardian.

It is, after all, an important matter, isn’t it. Journalism is of necessity where most of us get our knowledge of what’s going on in the world. Even the movers and shakers, even the people who make things go on in the world, get some of their knowledge from journalism, and the rest of us naturally get most or all of it there. What … Read the rest

‘Journalists Aren’t Supposed to Tell Lies?!’ *

Jul 31st, 2003 | Filed by

When they tell a pack about him, John Lloyd discovers how unbothered they are about it.… Read the rest

Do Humans Make Progress? *

Jul 31st, 2003 | Filed by

Adair Turner says John Gray’s pessimism is overstated and his economics all wrong.… Read the rest

Science Does Progress *

Jul 31st, 2003 | Filed by

Science is not a matter of opinion, John Gribbin says.… Read the rest

Endless Irritating Debate on Nature-Nurture *

Jul 31st, 2003 | Filed by

H. Allen Orr is pleased to find that Matt Ridley does have something new to say about the subject.… Read the rest

Slums from the Qing Dynasty are Still Slums

Jul 31st, 2003 | By David Stanway

In Yichang, in central China, the site of the infamous and globally reviled Three Gorges Project, something strange is happening. After five days travelling along the Yangtze River, your correspondent is beginning to think that in itself, the Three Gorges might not have been such a bad thing after all.

The project – designed primarily to control flooding, improve navigation, and generate power – consists of the world’s largest dam in the middle reaches of the world’s third longest river, and has become something of a cause célèbre, uprooting over a million residents on the banks of the Yangtze and causing untold environmental damage.

Just before our party reached the mountain that is supposed to resemble a prone Chairman Mao … Read the rest

Democracy and its Tensions

Jul 30th, 2003 11:43 pm | By

I’ve been re-reading the chapter on democracy in Norman Levitt’s Prometheus Bedeviled. I’ve been pondering the tensions between democracy and science, public opinion and truth, elections and epistemology, for – well for years, really, but with renewed attention recently. The discussion of scientific literacy a few weeks ago, reviews of Fareed Zakaria’s new book on democracy, the naive surprise of so many of the good and great at the possibility (or likelihood) that democracy in Iraq might very well result in a fundamentalist theocracy, Julian’s latest Bad Moves on the democratic fallacy and majoritarianism, and more, have combined to show me or remind me that the subject is full of unnoticed pieties, assumptions, sentimentalities, untrue bromides, leaps of faith, … Read the rest

Trust Me, I’m a Communicator

Jul 30th, 2003 10:54 pm | By

Oh, the hell with the Enlightenment project, you know? Screw all that stuff about education and rationality and informed consent and critical thinking. Nah. Too much trouble. We’ve got better things to do, we’ve got tv to watch and sports pages to read and an inner child to get in touch with. Don’t bother us with that rational argument and evidence and peer review crap. Just manipulate us, okay? Just make us feel good, make us feel empowered and participatory and noticed and brimfull of self-esteem, and we’ll do anything you want.

Research over the past decade has begun to question the central importance of knowledge in shaping public opinion about science. Instead of public education programs, argue some social

Read the rest

First Aid TV Style *

Jul 30th, 2003 | Filed by

Fully trained after watching ER?… Read the rest

Junk Science *

Jul 30th, 2003 | Filed by

The real risks of not immunising children outweigh worries based on bad evidence.… Read the rest

No Link Between Autism Rise and MMR Jab *

Jul 29th, 2003 | Filed by

Improved diagnosis rather than increased incidence, post hoc versus propter hoc, media influencing beliefs – the usual.… Read the rest

Not Ill, Just Naughty *

Jul 29th, 2003 | Filed by

Do neglectful parents use ADD diagnoses to excuse their children’s bad behaviour?… Read the rest

Behind the Scenes

Jul 29th, 2003 12:12 am | By

I heard something interesting on the US public radio show ‘Fresh Air’ last week. Peter Stotherd, a former editor of the Times (of London), has written a book called Thirty Days: Tony Blair and the Test of History, about Blair in the days on either side of the beginning of the war in Iraq. It’s all quite interesting, it’s a subject that interests me – for one thing, I was relieved to hear that (contrary to some reports I’d read) Blair has a business-like relationship as opposed to a friendship with George Bush. Absurd, isn’t it. What do I care, what business is it of mine? But there’s something so repulsive in the thought of a grown-up, intelligent man like … Read the rest

They’re Out There

Jul 28th, 2003 6:42 pm | By

This is an alarming article. Hate mail ‘by the ton’, name-calling, character assasination, merely for doing research.

The simple act of conducting research into the matter struck some as an enterprise ”designed to cheer on child molesters,” as one anonymous letter writer wrote, ”and ridicules the suffering sustained by children who are abused as well as therapists who are knowledgeable about the effects of trauma on children’s minds and bodies.” Clancy was a ”bad person,” according to another letter writer, to question such reports. Yet another suggested that she was probably an abuser herself.

So Susan Clancy, the researcher in question, decided that ‘repressed’ memories of child abuse made for an excessively sensitive subject, and also that the fact … Read the rest

History Doesn’t Always Agree *

Jul 28th, 2003 | Filed by

The verdict of history is no more likely to agree with us than that of the present.… Read the rest

Revenge Disguised as Literature *

Jul 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Got a grudge? Write a novel and get your own back.… Read the rest

Stupid Right-wing Books Flourish *

Jul 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Note that only ‘liberals’ are the elite. And Bush & Co. are…?… Read the rest

Down the Memory Hole *

Jul 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Russia’s nostalgic-nationalist view of its past keeps Dr. Zhivago off the syllabus.… Read the rest