The Beautiful Lie

Have you seen this, yet? It has about 600,000 views on YouTube.

Steven Heyward over at PowerLine comments, “Here you will take in a typically politicized student, at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, arguing that “Science as a whole is a product of western modernity, and the whole thing should be scratched off.” The audience laughs with approval at this apparent bold transgression, and when someone interjects, at about the one minute mark, that “It’s not true,” he is shouted down and demanded to make an apologize for having violated their “progressive safe space.” Chairman Mao would have been proud.”

Quite. As Steve says, then the nonsense resumes,

Steven Novella of the NeuroLogicaBlog summarizes it thus:

She gives as an example that Newton saw an apple fall, made up gravity, wrote down some equations, and now that is scientific truth imposed on the world forever (seriously, I am not exaggerating this one bit).

The other pillar of her position is that in Africa there are practitioners of black magic who can summon a lightening bolt at their enemy. This is not explainable by “Western” science, and yet this is African knowledge, and therefore is an example of Western colonialism suppressing indigenous wisdom.

via Academic Absurdity of the Week: Who’s Against Science Again? | Power Line

Wow! Just Wow!

But as Steve also says, it allows us to introduce Dan Sarewitz’s essay in The New Atlantis, “Saving Science,”

I’ll give you the opening, as Steve did, but while very important, this essay is long, it’s also wide ranging , well written, fascinating, and I think pretty much on the money, but make a pot of coffee, because you’ll be a while.

20160816_tna49sarewitzendlessfrontiercoverw300Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

The story of how things got to this state is difficult to unravel, in no small part because the scientific enterprise is so well-defended by walls of hype, myth, and denial. But much of the problem can be traced back to a bald-faced but beautiful lie upon which rests the political and cultural power of science. This lie received its most compelling articulation just as America was about to embark on an extended period of extraordinary scientific, technological, and economic growth. It goes like this:

Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.

“The free play of free intellects…dictated by their curiosity”

So deeply embedded in our cultural psyche that it seems like an echo of common sense, this powerful vision of science comes from Vannevar Bush, the M.I.T. engineer who had been the architect of the nation’s World War II research enterprise, which delivered the atomic bomb and helped to advance microwave radar, mass production of antibiotics, and other technologies crucial to the Allied victory. He became justly famous in the process. Featured on thecover of Time magazine, he was dubbed the “General of Physics.” As the war drew to a close, Bush envisioned transitioning American science to a new era of peace, where top academic scientists would continue to receive the robust government funding they had grown accustomed to since Pearl Harbor but would no longer be shackled to the narrow dictates of military need and application, not to mention discipline and secrecy. Instead, as he put it in his July 1945 report Science, The Endless Frontier, by pursuing “research in the purest realms of science” scientists would build the foundation for “new products and new processes” to deliver health, full employment, and military security to the nation.

From this perspective, the lie as Bush told it was perhaps less a conscious effort to deceive than a seductive manipulation, for political aims, of widely held beliefs about the purity of science. Indeed, Bush’s efforts to establish the conditions for generous and long-term investments in science were extraordinarily successful, with U.S. federal funding for “basic research” rising from $265 million in 1953 to $38 billion in 2012, a twentyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. More impressive still was the increase for basic research at universities and colleges, which rose from $82 million to $24 billion, a more than fortyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. By contrast, government spending on more “applied research” at universities was much less generous, rising to just under $10 billion. The power of the lie was palpable: “the free play of free intellects” would provide the knowledge that the nation needed to confront the challenges of the future.

To go along with all that money, the beautiful lie provided a politically brilliant rationale for public spending with little public accountability. Politicians delivered taxpayer funding to scientists, but only scientists could evaluate the research they were doing. Outside efforts to guide the course of science would only interfere with its free and unpredictable advance.

We are, of course, free to agree or disagree with what he says. I’m inclined to agree, particularly since I have always found that unless you have some sort of a destination in mind for any endeavor, well, how will you know you’re making progress.

Steve also says that this sort of nonsense is even more prevalent in social science. I’ll easily forbear from arguing with that thesis.

This English Major Just Got Fired. Here’s Where I Went Wrong

tumblr_nof8igts8n1qbceqdo1_500This is pretty interesting. It tells us quite a lot about how it is out there in the job market. But it tells us something else, maybe. Maybe our young people are coming out of college with rather overblown expectations of what a degree is worth. The best thing that college can teach you, is to be responsible for yourself, and it sounds like this person got that lesson, but that’s not enough to start a career at anyplace but the (or pretty close, anyway) bottom.

For the first time in my life, I’ve been fired. It was probably as easy an experience as it can ever be. I had known it was coming, since I had gone in the day before to check the coffee shop schedule, and found my name wasn’t on it.

I wasn’t fired for incompetence; the manager made that clear. I could do the work required as well as anyone. The trouble was that I’m not a very enthusiastic, outgoing, or bubbly kind of person, and I couldn’t pretend to be for six hours at a time. I’m not a “people person,” you see, and begging is not my style.

Only trouble was, no one else wanted me, either. Nine years ago, I went into college with only a vague notion of what I would do when I got out. I took a degree in English writing, since my intention was to eventually become a writer, although I knew I’d need some kind of suitable day job in the meantime. I figured that would just work out and that pretty much anything would do.

During college I considered and rejected pretty much every career option you can think of, from teaching to law enforcement, but never settled on anything definite. I ended up taking a job at an auto parts company upon graduation.

About a year ago, after leaving that job, I found myself looking for work.  I had a college degree and almost four solid years of work experience under my belt. I am intelligent, dependable, and courteous, and I have a record of learning new duties quickly. Apparently, that qualified me to work in a coffee shop. Then I was courteously dismissed from it with no further prospects.

College Taught Me I Didn’t Need College

Weeks have now turned to months. I’ve sent application after application. About one time out of a hundred, I’ve been called in for an interview. Most of the time I receive nothing. As of this writing, I am still unemployed.

My experience is not unique. There are thousands of college graduates in my shoes today. In fact, I’m better off than most: thanks to my wonderful parents, I don’t have any student debt weighing me down. I was also fortunate that the school I went to included a Great Books program, which is where I first truly learned to think.

Having learned that particular skill, I’ve concluded it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to go to college. Oh, I’m grateful for many things—the aforementioned Great Books program, the friends I made, and so forth. But looking back, I can’t avoid the conclusion that if I had learned to think a little sooner I would have realized that I shouldn’t have gone to college at all when I did.

I would have been better off going into the military or getting a job right off the bat. That way I would have had the kind of skills necessary to find the kind of jobs I want. College, for me, was unnecessary. Many people have to go into debt to attend a school where, instead of teaching you to think logically, they teach you how much the world owes you. It’s a liability.

Could well be so, hard to say from here. But there is also this, most employers, for a job with any kind of future don’t want to talk to you if you don’t have that piece of paper. It likely has to do, amongst other things, with how risible a high school education has become, and it’s an easy marker for computer sorting. To continue:

Searching for work is a potent cocktail of urgency, confusion, rage, and helplessness. You are keenly aware that you need a job, and you want to get one, but at the same time it feels as though it is completely out of your hands. All you can do is send out your applications, wait, do your follow-up calls, and wait again while whatever money you have saved dwindles and the gap in your resume grows.

That’s the worst part of looking for work: how utterly powerless one feels. You don’t get to set the terms. You don’t control if or when the other side will respond. You have to jump through the same tedious hoops over and over, laboriously entering the same information time and again, all the while knowing your only reward is likely to be a form letter stating they “have decided to go with a candidate who better fits our qualifications” and they “Wish you luck in your search.”

That’s if you’re lucky. Most of the time your application simply vanishes into the ether without leaving so much as a ripple. You are competing with untold thousands of others, leaving it highly unlikely that anyone will even see your application. But you’re forbidden from applying in any other way.

via This English Major Just Got Fired. Here’s Where I Went Wrong Do read it all.

I sympathize, boy do I sympathize. I too have been there, and applying online just plain sucks, although I completely understand why most companies do it that way now.

I suspect I would, if I were still active in growing a business, would love to have this person on board. That way of thinking is the key going far. But as they’ve discovered, even with a college degree, they have to start at the bottom. What they may not know is this. It’s always been that way. Back in the day, when being the ‘Standard Railroad of the World’ meant something, a newly graduated civil engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad started as an assistant rodman, and worked through many positions before their title included that coveted word ‘engineer’. No matter what you want to do, there are many things that you can only learn from experience, not from school. Although schooling is always helpful, if not always required.

Still Naught For Our Comfort

One of the things that I love about my partner here, Jessica, is that she has rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen each of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

She has greatly enriched my life, but more importantly, she has enabled me to make my points much more clearly. I wrote most of this post while she was just starting to recover from her illness, and it spoke deeply to me then, and in fact, looking at the world today, it still does.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to where we are now, in America.

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted it to me when by deceit, Obamacare was ruled constitutional. That defeat continues to unfold to the detriment of the country, as do many others.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us, personally, and for us as Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either. Nor does the next four years look exactly like ‘Morning in America’. But then neither did 1976.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Makes me wonder at who we are considering hiring to run ‘America, Inc.’

We will have to simply use our intelligence to try to select the best person. We have many things to fix. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

That may well happen again, but if we look around, the landscape does rather look as the poet describes here, doesn’t it?

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

There is, of course, another lesson implicit in the poem. King Alfred succeeded because he was true to his vision and his faith. If we are not, we will fail.

By the way, Jess and I also often quote Mother Julian of Norwich to each other as well, especially as reported by T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

No Safe Spaces Here

UChicagoThe University of Chicago is nearly unique.

Unique in its ability in the reason for its existence, in its present form. This school was one of the founders of the Big 10 Conference as well as 6 times champion of the league, and home of the winner of the first Heisman trophy, but withdrew from intercollegiate sports when it found that it interfered with its core mission. They returned to NCAA Division III football in 1973. And so it was under the bleachers of its unused football stadium, Stagg Field, that the first ever controlled nuclear reaction took place.

Unique in being the home of the Chicago School of Economics, and its most famous spokesman, the late Milton Friedman, who has been highlighted here many times, not least for his I, Pencil, perhaps the best demonstration of how interdependent we all are.

And maybe unique also in something that came up this week. My friend Chalcedon (who is employed in University Administration after (and concurrent with) a distinguished career in University teaching himself) over at All along the Watchtower said this today

A Catholic university is charged with developing a learning community which inculcates such values, and should strive to help form its students in such a way; but it also needs to engage its students actively in this process – there is no room for ‘safe spaces’ or for students to be merely passive receivers (even if such students existed and wanted to come to a university with a Catholic ethos).

A Catholic university places itself, Newman wrote, at the service of revealed truth (Idea of a University, Discourse 4).

Personally, I think that is the mission of all universities, not just Catholic ones, and I suspect that the University of Chicago would agree. They said this in a letter to incoming students.

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

via University of Chicago to students: no safe spaces here | Power Line

I applaud both of them, the solutions to our problems, and they exist; we created the problems, and we can (with God’s help) solve them, never have, and will never be in hiding from the problems or in not honestly exploring them. That is not, and never was a comfortable undertaking. As Hannah Holborn Gray, a former President of the University said:

[E]ducation should not be intended to make people comfortable,

it is meant to make them think.

And you know, I think with that ethos, they will each begin (maybe the word is continue) to attract the robust student who is there to learn, and to discuss, and to study, and to discern some actual truth. Often here we say that the truth can stand on its own, and it can, but we also need those that will proclaim it throughout the land. Truth in an ivory tower, does little good, but the truth in the marketplace of ideas will gain adherents, and may well win the day. One hopes so, anyway. Our society needs a huge dose of truth these days.

A complacent elite is to blame for politics being turned upside down: Now what?

This has been kicking around in my files for a month now, seems like the best-laid plans… In any case, as it grew less timely, I wonder if it hasn’t become important. I rather think it has. Seems to me that what he speaks of here is becoming more true in the US, at least, every day. A huge amount of the day-to-day reality of how politics is done is this country has been uprooted, on both sides. And so all is in flux.

How we put it back together to make it work (or not) is likely to be to be a large part of the question going forward. And do remember it’s not just us. Brexit in the UK, much of the turmoil caused by the Islamists in Europe, has much the same cause.

In large measure, I think all of the enemies of freedom around the world are sensing that the system is weak at the moment and that this may be their opportunity. They could be right, but they don’t have to be. How we answer the basic questions going forward will answer that question.

Western political systems are in the middle of a realignment. The way we think of left and right is a relic of the Cold War. Reality is finally catching up with us, several years late, and doing away with obsolete political movements and parties.

We saw direct evidence of this when, on both sides of the Atlantic, ordinary people finally had a chance to circumvent their nations’ political elites. In the United States, Trump used his wealth and high profile to sidestep party donors, special-interest groups and political correctness.

In the United Kingdom, the referendum on European Union membership vested power temporarily in the British voting public, not Cabinet ministers or party whips.

These unusual circumstances exposed profound but long-hidden fault lines in both countries’ political systems. I knew these fault lines existed, but I was surprised by how quickly they devastated the status quo.

The American conservative movement, for instance, at least as we knew it before Trump’s entry into the presidential race last summer, no longer exists. Whether by accident or design, Trump ignored the reference points of left and right, putting together a coalition of Middle Americans who don’t care about ideological purity. Coming from old-fashioned Democratic and Republican backgrounds, these voters are united by a cultural conservatism that used to be standard in both parties. They care about pragmatic action on a handful of issues, mainly immigration, political correctness, crime and jobs.

Something similar happened in Britain. Outside the London cloister, Labour voters overwhelmingly rejected the metropolitan version of left-wing politics. Along with many shire Tories, they have specific views on sovereignty, independence and immigration. Just as in the US, this broad cultural conservatism used to be a given within each party until cosmopolitanism took its place.

We are heading for a politics in which the divisions are no longer just left and right, at least not in the sense we’ve used those terms for the past few decades. The shift is splitting all current movements into nationalist and internationalist wings – or perhaps populist and establishment, middle class and upper class, or urban and provincial.

This is happening because so many of the traditional features of left and right no longer apply to them. A working-class white person seeking representation used to find it in the left. Now what does he get? A movement telling him to check his “privilege”. A conservative used to be able to count on the right to make the case for cultural assimilation. Now he, too, is told to be quiet and make way for “progress”.

via A complacent elite is to blame for politics being turned upside down – CatholicHerald.co.uk

Like so much of what we write here, we have to answer the questions for ourselves. I’m not sure that there are correct answers, in aggregate, you have to answer based on our knowledge and bedrock philosophy. So do I.

The Stupid: It Burns

Caveman_Cooking_Over_Fire_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_081102-131412-829050When I first read this, I simply didn’t believe it was real. Well, it is.

But there were downsides, too. Occasionally, the smoke burned their eyes and seared their lungs. Their food was likely coated with char, which might have increased their risk for certain cancers. With everyone congregated in one place, diseases could have been transmitted more easily.

Much research has focused on how fire gave an evolutionary advantage to early humans. Less examined are the negative byproducts that came with fire, and the ways in which humans may or may not have adapted to them. In other words, how did the harmful effects of fire shape our evolution?

from The New York Times, they must be so proud.

I mean really, the downside of fire? Undiscover fire and we simply go back, even beyond the hunter-gatherer, to the naked, hairless ape, trying not to get eaten by the faster, stronger animals. I imagine its Racist as well, because, no doubt those ancestors of ours who thought  that fire was the best thing since, well I was going to say meat, but they had never tried that, were no doubt black.

Next up the downside of the wheel, no doubt. I think Manhattan Island would be far more beautiful though without, I imagine it might support, oh maybe 100 people, at least til winter. These people are simply parasites, on the order of a tapeworm. Why we think they deserve to be paid the big bucks, is simply beyond me.

Hat tip to the HQ, there are far more honest companies who package their toilet paper on rolls, without ink smeared on it. Cheaper and softer too!


Then there is the British Daily Star, who shared with its readers, that the British MOD had spent £183 million on a new five-inch gun, which according to the paper is about the size of your toothbrush. Well, they got corrected, not too politely.

Obviously, the Iowa class battleships, with their 16 inch main batteries were no big deal, after all, most AR 15s, even those that don’t have the thing that goes up, have 20″ barrels.

From SOFREP News 


In case you missed it, The Green Party nominated Jill Stein for President last week, in Houston. Here’s an outline of what they want.

  • “Greens want to stop runaway climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 40% by 2020 and 95% by 2050, over 1990 levels.”
  • “Enact a Fee & Dividend system on fossil fuels to enable the free market to include the environmental costs of their extraction and use…. The carbon fee will initially be small, a dime per kilogram of carbon, to avoid creating a shock to the economy. The fee will be increased by 10% each year that global atmospheric carbon dioxide content is greater than 350 ppm, decreased 10% each year it’s less than 300 ppm, and repealed entirely when it falls below 250 ppm.”
  • “The Green Party calls for elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, biomass and waste incineration and biofuels.”
  • “Move decisively to an energy system based on solar, wind, geo-thermal, marine, and other cleaner renewable energy sources.”
  • “We call for a ban on the construction of large-scale and inappropriately-located, hydroelectric dams.”
  • “The Green Party calls for a formal moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants, the early retirement of existing nuclear power reactors, and the phase-out of technologies that use or produce nuclear waste, such as nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all uses of depleted uranium.”
  • “We call for a ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. With limited supplies and in the absence of commercially viable ‘clean coal’ carbon sequestration, which may never be feasible, coal is neither an economically nor an environmentally sustainable solution.”
  • “We call for the cessation of development of fuels produced with polluting, energy-intensive processes or from unsustainable or toxic feed stocks, such as genetically-engineered crops, coal and waste streams contaminated with persistent toxics.”
  • “We oppose further oil and gas drilling or exploration on our nation’s outer continental shelf, on our public lands, in the Rocky Mountains, and under the Great Lakes.”
  • “Plan for decentralized, bioregional electricity generation and distribution.”
  • “De-carbonize and re-localize the food system.”
  • “Investment: Enormous amounts of investment capital will be needed to accomplish the energy transition, much more than the promise of $150 billion for renewable energy over ten years, and must now come from government.”
  • “The Green Party calls for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible (in no more than five years)….”
  • “The Green Party supports a transportation policy that emphasizes the use of mass transit and alternatives to the automobile and truck for transport.”

In other words, “Stop the world, I want to get off”. Not only that but also this

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

And this

Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

via: Green Party Energy: Front Door Cronyism, Back Door Poverty (convention concludes in Houston) The entire energy platform is there as well if you’re masochistic enough.

Like the source link, I think Milton Friedman summed up things quite well when he said:

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

%d bloggers like this: