All entries by this author

Just Say No!

Jan 28th, 2003 5:53 pm | By

Since everybody and their dog seem to be sending me anti-war petitions, I thought I’d get in on the act.*

Dear Friend

As the world slides towards war in Iraq, we all feel at times as though we
are powerless. Well we are. But let’s just pretend for a minute that we’re
not. It will make us feel better, honestly.

No-one likes war, right? So we’d better oppose this one, right?

Please send this email on to everyone you know NOW!


We, the undersigned, have no idea to whom this petition is being sent or how
seriously it will be taken. We don’t like the idea of war in Iraq and so are
prepared to … Read the rest

Satire Confusingly Like Real Life *

Jan 28th, 2003 | Filed by

The Onion on pity for skeptics. Sounds all too familiar.… Read the rest

Prisoners are Intentional Systems *

Jan 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Genetic determinists and environmental determinists are both mythical beings, Daniel Dennett says.… Read the rest

What Role For School Targets? *

Jan 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Achievement targets in UK schools may be ‘counter-productive’.… Read the rest

Claiming Darwin for the Left: an interview with Peter Singer

Jan 28th, 2003 | By Julian Baggini

Peter Singer looks a very tired man. It’s not
so much the early morning start of the interview, but the weeks of media scrutiny,
misrepresentation and criticism, which seem to have taken their toll.

Singer came to England to talk about “A Darwinian
Left”, but no sooner had he stepped off the plane than the Daily Express
was reviving the old controversy over Singer’s view that in certain circumstances,
it may be better to end the life of a very severely handicapped baby in a humane
way, rather than use all modern medicine can do to let it live a painful and
often brief life. Singer tried to defend himself on Radio Four’s Today
programme, but in such a brief … Read the rest

Two Border-Crossers

Jan 27th, 2003 9:17 pm | By

Consider two writers and thinkers who are in the news at the moment, one because he’s just died and the other because he has a new book out. The New York Times said of Hugh Trevor-Roper that:

His approach to history was essentially belletrist – based not so much on original research as on wide reading and an ability to bring to bear insights derived from other disciplines on his subjects. He sought to appeal to a wide cultivated audience. In his inaugural lecture as Regius Professor, he defended this approach, saying modern history would have “dried up and perished long ago” without the contribution of economists, sociologists, philosophers, art historians and even anthropologists and psychologists.

Surely his approach is … Read the rest

The Blockbuster Effect *

Jan 27th, 2003 | Filed by

Are books that aren’t likely best-sellers doomed?… Read the rest

Richard Sennett *

Jan 27th, 2003 | Filed by

Works as an academic sociologist, but doesn’t really write academic sociology.… Read the rest

Well Who Did Move my Cheese? *

Jan 27th, 2003 | Filed by

Appropriately acid look at self-help ‘books’. ‘It’s very cheap and obvious to laugh at self-help books (which is no reason not to do so)’.… Read the rest

Hugh Trevor-Roper *

Jan 27th, 2003 | Filed by

His ‘approach to history was…based not so much on original research as on wide reading’ including ‘economists, sociologists, philosophers, art historians and even anthropologists and psychologists.’… Read the rest

Mind Readers on Radio 4

Jan 26th, 2003 8:37 pm | By

A recent Start the Week on Radio 4 discussed not one but two issues that we’ve been talking about here on Butterflies and Wheels. Nancy Cartwright, a philosopher of science, here asserts the trendy notion that the discoveries of science are a product of negotiation and agreement among scientists, and that the idea of universality (of science as well as of any other kind of knowledge) is one we should all be very suspicious of. Fortunately, there is also a working scientist on the premises, who disputes her views. Also present is Germaine Greer, who voices one of my favourite exasperations, with the fashion for gossippy biographies of poets and writers that give short shrift to the mental life of … Read the rest

Hugh Trevor-Roper *

Jan 26th, 2003 | Filed by

The Independent’s obituary of the historian who ‘enjoyed vendettas as well as friendships’, as any historian should.… Read the rest

Steve Jones on Raelian Clones *

Jan 26th, 2003 | Filed by

It’s a failure of education that editors take the Raelian story seriously, Jones says. Cloning is not clowning.… Read the rest

Networks *

Jan 25th, 2003 | Filed by

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Networks are either a promising new field, or over-hyped. Or both.… Read the rest

Precautionary or Libertarian *

Jan 24th, 2003 | Filed by

Freeman Dyson on biotechnology, the future, and a debate in Davos.… Read the rest

Tom Tomorrow *

Jan 24th, 2003 | Filed by

The People want tax cuts for the rich, it’s left-wing elitists who don’t. Slippery word, ‘elitist’.… Read the rest

What Everyone Else Thinks? Think the Opposite *

Jan 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

Christopher Hitchens loves mess on the carpet, Stefan Collini says in The London Review of Books.Read the rest

Sigmund, Will You Never Leave?

Jan 22nd, 2003 6:53 pm | By

Oh honestly. Does nonsense never go away? Well I shouldn’t complain, it certainly keeps us busy and entertained here at B and W. But it would be nice to think humans could pay attention once in awhile. Take
this article about Freud in Time magazine, for instance.

At the same time, post-Freudian psychotherapists are figuring out that the old master still has something to offer the science of mental health: an understanding of the human mind and its many malfunctions that’s richer, fuller and more exciting than anything invented since.

Really? Well I suppose it depends how you define ‘richer’ or ‘more exciting’. It would be rich and exciting to be told our brains were full of gremlins and … Read the rest

Basketball Rules OK

Jan 22nd, 2003 2:57 pm | By

A few days ago I took issue with a column John Sutherland wrote in the Guardian about the wonderful benefits of US university athletic programmes. Here is a delightful little story about some of the drawbacks of the US approach. College basketball fans harass and make death threats against an English teacher who has the unmitigated temerity to criticise a coach. Clearly, the basketball coach is important and the pesky teacher is just a thing that causes trouble. Could such an attitude possibly be harmful to actual, you know, education?… Read the rest

Good Idea? Or Idiotic? *

Jan 22nd, 2003 | Filed by

At least the teacher is ‘bothered’ that the lyrics refer to women as bitches and hoes. ‘It’s dehumanising,’ he shrewdly notices.… Read the rest