All entries by this author

Speech Code for Harvard Law *

Nov 21st, 2002 | Filed by

Is it diversity or is it self-serving special pleading, Dershowitz asks.… Read the rest



Yes I mean No I mean Yes *

Nov 21st, 2002 | Filed by

Harvard invites then uninvites then ununinvites poet Tom Paulin to lecture.… Read the rest



‘Our genes are even stupider than we are.’ *

Nov 21st, 2002 | Filed by

Louis Menand is not keen on The Blank SlateRead the rest



Fact and Fiction

Nov 20th, 2002 5:42 pm | By

A remarkably rich essay by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian is full of matter relevant to the concerns of Butterflies and Wheels. His subject is the difficulty and subtlety of distinguishing between fiction and fact, what he calls the border between the two, and the necessity nonetheless of making the distinction, of continuing to patrol that border, and resisting any postmodernist temptation to shrug and say it’s all the same thing. Garton Ash mentions Simon Schama’s Dead Certainties, a fictional account that presented itself as a history until the end. “Schama suggests that history as storytelling, as literature, must reclaim the ground it has lost to history as science, or pseudoscience. I entirely agree; but from this particular … Read the rest



A Straw Other *

Nov 20th, 2002 | Filed by

Passive-aggressive avowals of philistinism, mandarin prose and postmodern hermeneutics combined with barbarian thrusting at the gates, and other odd combinations.… Read the rest



Imagination, Memory, Interpretation *

Nov 20th, 2002 | Filed by

Story, fiction, narrative; fact, evidence, truth; and patrolling the border between them.… Read the rest



The PC Tyranny

Nov 20th, 2002 | By Lou Marinoff

political correctness (noun): conformity to a belief that language and
practices which could offend political sensibilities should be eliminated.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

I’ve been invited to write about political correctness and philosophy
in the North American academy. What qualifies me? I’m a refugee
from political correctness. I emigrated from Canada to the USA because
of an insidious quota system, euphemistically called ’employment
equity’, which decrees that there are too many white male philosophers
in Canadian universities. The Nuremburg Laws excluded Jews from
Nazified German universities because we were ‘non-Aryan’; Jews are
now excluded from Canadian universities because we are ‘white’.
This is a compelling irony. It compelled me to get the hell out.

Before quitting Canada in 1994, I … Read the rest



Question Which Assumptions?

Nov 19th, 2002 4:55 pm | By

There’s a dreary little … Read the rest



Neoclassical Economics and Evidence *

Nov 19th, 2002 | Filed by

An experiment shows that, contrary to neoclassical market theory, efficiency can depend on experience.… Read the rest



Drones should leave school at 14 *

Nov 19th, 2002 | Filed by

School leaving age should be tied to needs of economy, boffin says. But what of education as a good in itself?… Read the rest



Science is Self-correcting *

Nov 18th, 2002 | Filed by

Because scientists often disagree, therefore we might as well believe whatever we like? Scientific American says No.… Read the rest



History and Truth, Again *

Nov 17th, 2002 | Filed by

Is natural science a better model for historians than social science?… Read the rest



Between Tabloid and Treatise *

Nov 16th, 2002 | Filed by

An anthology of the best of Lingua Franca, and its ‘mingling of intellectual excitement with human folly and intrigue peculiar to academia.’… Read the rest



Immortal Roswell *

Nov 16th, 2002 | Filed by

Archaeologists have investigated the crash site of either a weather balloon or an alien ship. If they find it was the former, will the alien story go away?… Read the rest



Germaine Greer in Piss-taking Mode *

Nov 16th, 2002 | Filed by

A mix of fanciful evolutionary psychology, teasing and polemic for weekend reading.… Read the rest



Elitism, Egalitarianism, Passionate Attraction

Nov 15th, 2002 7:16 pm | By

An interesting article in the Guardian discusses the paradoxical way the discoveries of ultra-elitist Newton were found by Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, Jefferson and Adams and Franklin, Saint-Simon and Fourier, to be full of progressive implications. Gravity affects all people everywhere, which made Newton the supreme philosopher of equality during the French Revolution. Fourier connected the gravitational principle of “passionate attraction” with the free love of his Utopian communities. And oddest of all, “in the debate between John Adams and Benjamin Franklin over a unicameral or bicameral legislature, it was an appeal to Newton that resolved the dispute. Adams argued that only a system with both a House of Representatives and a Senate conformed to Newton’s third law of motion: … Read the rest



Newton the Inadvertent Egalitarian *

Nov 15th, 2002 | Filed by

Gravity is the great equalizer, it makes the rich fall down with the poor.… Read the rest



18 to 34 Nirvana

Nov 14th, 2002 4:11 pm | By

There is a story in today’s Guardian about US newspapers competing to attract the ever-popular 18 to 34 year old “market”. Apparently they are crashing into one another and banging heads in a foolish way in Chicago, as each tries to be dumber than the other. The whole subject gives one a feeling of despair. It is so taken for granted that the point of the enterprise is for newspapers to insinuate their way into everyone’s wallets. It is made so drearily obvious that the actual dissemination or clarification of news and knowledge and understanding is just a kind of pretext for or prettification of the real work of delivering customers to advertisers. Is it any wonder that alien abductions … Read the rest



Amanda Foreman on Biography *

Nov 14th, 2002 | Filed by

What is history, what is theory, is biography a branch of history or is it creative writing (let’s hope not!), is theory as important as research, do readers want narrative, and more questions.… Read the rest



What works versus what ought to work *

Nov 13th, 2002 | Filed by

James Traub on the conflict between research and ideology in US education, where a priori beliefs have ‘tremendous force’ in shaping judgments of effectiveness.… Read the rest