All entries by this author

Did the Chinese Discover America? *

Jan 9th, 2003 | Filed by

Renting the Royal Geographical Society lecture hall and inviting an audience is one way to get attention.… Read the rest

Richard Sennett on the Cello and Respect *

Jan 8th, 2003 | Filed by

The sociologist is more ambivalent than he was in his ‘ferocious Marxist phase’.… Read the rest

Language Has to be Taught *

Jan 8th, 2003 | Filed by

And the television doesn’t do the job.… Read the rest

Less Optimistic But More Impatient *

Jan 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Edmund Gordon studies the achievment gap between black and white students.… Read the rest

Exam Still Bowdlerizes Texts *

Jan 8th, 2003 | Filed by

New York Regents’ exam continues to re-write and abridge literary excerpts, despite promises not to. Quis custodiet?… Read the rest

It’s a Gun Rap

Jan 7th, 2003 10:58 pm | By

Is it a possibility that music can impact on culture in such a way so as to affect people’s behaviour? Apparently not, at least not if the music is rap, the behaviour violent, and you agree with Viv Craske, editor of Mixmag and would be sociologist. To suggest such a thing is “racist, out of touch and bigoted”. But Mr Craske is a little confused. On the one hand, he claims that “if gun crime is up 55%, it can’t be down to music in any part” (he didn’t elaborate on whether it might be down to music in some part if gun crime is up say 54%). But, on the other hand, he doesn’t accept that guns are … Read the rest

More on the Edge Question *

Jan 7th, 2003 | Filed by

The New York Times editorial on Edge’s science question, with extracts from several answers.… Read the rest

Edge Science Questionaire *

Jan 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Edge asks scientists what they would tell the President, if he asked them, are the most pressing science issues he should be attending to. Alas, he hasn’t asked.… Read the rest

Fresh Meat? Old Meat? Scraps? *

Jan 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Did hunting shape human evolution, or was it foraging and scavenging? Or both?… Read the rest

Is Pointing Out the Obvious ‘Racist’? *

Jan 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Culture minister worries aloud about glamorization of guns by rappers, finds self ‘at the centre of a race row’.… Read the rest

You Know You Want It

Jan 5th, 2003 8:35 pm | By

Well, those silly Victorians, you know, of course they thought about sex every instant of their lives just as we do, but they wouldn’t admit it, the nasty hypocritical creatures, but we’ll fix them, we’ll just make a lot of movies and tv shows based on 19th century novels and if the sex isn’t there we’ll just damn well insert it! So to speak. There is an excellent article on this subject in the Boston Globe today. In it Abby Wolf reports, among other things, that child sexual abuse was featured in a tv drama based on Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, a feature that is entirely absent from the novel. This is one reason not to see … Read the rest

Is Language a Spandrel? *

Jan 5th, 2003 | Filed by

Chomsky, Hauser, and Fitch think it may be, Pinker thinks the idea is eccentric.… Read the rest

Hidden Ecological Explanations *

Jan 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Is culture a human category, or can animals have it? Do orangs and chimps learn culture, or adapt their behavior to their environment?… Read the rest

Is It Distraction, or Multi-Tasking? *

Jan 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Can students learn critical thinking while playing solitaire or surfing the Web?… Read the rest

When Good Scientists Go Bad *

Jan 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

They become journalists and friends of the Raelians and are selected to ‘check’ the ‘evidence’ of cloned baby.… Read the rest

Maybe It’s Both

Jan 2nd, 2003 8:26 pm | By

Another, more minor point from the MLA convention.

“The famous line about the M.L.A. is that you’ve never seen a convention where people drink so much and fuck so little,” said Michael Bérubé, an English professor from Penn State University.

Really. That’s so interesting, because I had always heard that was philosophers.… Read the rest

M.I.T. Investigating its own Laboratory *

Jan 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Physicist at M.I.T. accuses lab of hiding flaws in missile defense program.… Read the rest

Specialized Professionals on the Subway

Jan 1st, 2003 6:25 pm | By

I always knew I didn’t want to be an academic, and a story like this reminds me why. Oh God. The jostling, the ogling, the sucking up, the trend-sniffing, the star-chasing, the pretension. I’d rather be a prison warden, a chicken plucker, a bus driver.

And that’s especially true of the MLA. There’s something about…what used to be called literary criticism, but is now called, in a move that to my mind reeks of pretension and seriosity-envy, ‘literary theory’, that makes me want to grab a shovel and cover myself in mud. Which is odd enough, because I’ve always been a literary type. But then again maybe that’s why: after all literature, unlike other academic fields, has always been a … Read the rest

An Evening in Hell *

Jan 1st, 2003 | Filed by

The MLA convention: interviews, fear and trembling, publish or perish, cutbacks, no vacancies, ‘literary theorists are the snappiest dressers’.… Read the rest

Never Mind Offensive, Is It True?

Dec 31st, 2002 5:42 pm | By

There is an interesting comment on the letters page of the New York Times Science section.

The conversation with David Sloan Wilson quotes him as saying, “I tell people I’m an atheist, but a nice atheist” (“The Origins of Religion, From a Distinctly Darwinian View”). The idea that atheists, secular humanists, agnostics and other free thinkers are not “nice” or, as is often more bluntly put, “cannot be moral without a belief in God” is highly offensive to the millions of Americans who are nonbelievers.

I entirely agree with the basic thought, but I would have phrased it a little differently. (Plus, in Wilson’s defense, I think he is reacting to the prejudices of other people, not expressing his own.) … Read the rest