A weekend ramble: Popper, politics and Persians who attack
- I've been hearing good things about the movie '300,' mostly from these two here, since I don't want to read too many "spoilers": "This film," says Joe Maurone, "is nothing less than a rallying cry to stand up and speak out for what's right." Says Aaron Bilger, "Not just imagery, not just presentation, but heroism and sense of life make this film awesome."
This film dramatises, brilliantly by all accounts, what historian John Lewis calls “the single most important battles in all of Western History,” when Persian hordes invaded the Grek mainland intent on destruction, and the defence by the awesome heroes of the Greeks--the "greatest generation" of their day--of their freedom and their lives, and by so doing making made possible all that we consider civilised today. Sounds like my kind of film, made even more delicious since it's got Ahmedinejad himself riled up. I understand it opens in NZ April 5.
- No link here, just a quote, from the bard "Anon":
“The fact that climate change is so uncertain and so expensive is exactly why collectivists have swarmed to the cause. The scope of the problem can never be identified, its cost never quantified, and complete solutions will never be found. The perfect issue for people whose primary goal is the expansion of government control."Think about that when you hear about the UN's plans to step in to police the world's producers and to "plan" the world's energy markets, or read about local politicians plans to throttle producers, taxpayers and forest owners on the twin altars of "sustainability" and "carbon neutrality."
Think about that too when you read about the $150 billion cost of Kyoto in the one year since it's introduction (for, supposedly, a prevention of warming by 0.0015 degrees C); when you read about the American Government’s expenditure to date of $18 billion plus on computer forecasting of climate change (and the computer- modellers are still unable even to predict the past except by fudging, i.e. making adjustments in the models in order to arrive at the answer they already know); or when you hear about the $180 billion of research money that has been spent on climate research since 1990, but still without any unambiguous anthropogenic (human) effect on global climate being proved.
- Speaking of the world's most popular secular religion, if you haven't yet read Martin Durkin's more measured response to critics of his great film 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' (see it online here)-- I posted his more colourful response here last week -- then give it a going over now: "The global-warmers were bound to attack," he says, "but why are they so feeble?"
- Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl "was a slut." That's the view of Richard Schickel in reviewing a new book on the influential film-maker, director of 'Olympiad' and the Nazi celebration 'Triumph of the Will,' and he makes his point well. Influential she may have been, even to non-Nazis, but in placing her obvious talents at the service of last century's third-worst totalitarian, "She overlooked the evils and emphasized the romance of Nazi power."
- Here's some sense on the smacking debate from Luke at Pacific Empire, explaining why he's going to be part of the march on Parliament on March 28. (See smackingback.blogspot.com for more details and other places that are organising marches.) A pity he doesn't see sense on other subjects.
- "First we make out buildings," said Winston Churchill, "and then our buildings make us." What then to make of George W. Bush's house. Notes 'Corbusier' at the Architecture & Morality blog, Crawford, Texas ranch,
As stories of Al Gore's profligate energy use for his mansion in Nashville have circulated, some bloggers have made mention of the environmentally friendly design of the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.He follows up that opening with a post well worth reading, on (genuine) green design, organic architecture, and what the Bush's were like as clients.
- I'm pleased to see that Labour hack Jordan Carter has come out against Labour renewed plans to confiscate people's assets before they're even proved to be guilty of anything: "they are trying to push it through again, so that people who have not been convicted of anything can have their assets stripped." This is wrong, says Jordan, and on that he's absolutely right.
- How do you feel about plans for thirty-minute interviews with minor bureaucrats before you get a passport issued, or re-issued? In what some pundits are saying is a prelude to the introduction of nationwide ID cards, this is what is now being implemented in the UK, that one-time bastion of personal freedom.
- Czech president Vaclav Klaus included in his recent trip to Washington to talk to the Senate Environment Committee a visit to address the Cato Institute (yep, the same series of hearing as Bjorn Lomborg and Al Gore were addressin). "This is not my first speech in CATO," he began.
My today’s presentation here cannot be totally different, I am stubborn and conservative. Everyone has a list – mostly an implicit one – of issues, problems, challenges which he feels and considers – with his experiences, prejudices, sensitivities, preferences and priorities – to be crucial, topical, menacing, relevant. I will try to reveal at least some of the topics from my own list. All are – inevitably – related to something that was absent during most of my life in the communist era.Read on and find out.
What I have in mind is, of course, freedom... Where do I see now, at the beginning of the 21st century the main dangers (or threats) to freedom?
- This looks to be a fascinating lecture tomorrow afternoon at Auckland's Art Gallery, part of the Passion and Politics series: Romanticism, Awe, Terror and the Sublime in British Art. That's one I'm planning to get to.
- "'I love you, and I am a socialist.' This is what I, via the wonders of television, watched being said to [UK Tory leader] David Cameron." Paul Marks at Samizdata thinks that's not entirely an endorsement of Cameron, on whom local Tory leader John Key models himself. How long before Key gets a wind turbine on his house, I wonder, instead of a pair of flip flops?
- Why do intellectuals oppose capitalism? The anti-libertarian intellectual's favourite straw man, the late Robert Nozick tries to answer the question. He begins: "It is surprising that intellectuals oppose capitalism so." Really? See for yourself here why Nozick is both good and bad.
- Stephen Hicks has spotted some goodies:
First some good news: several striking photos of Africa from the air. Then the continuing bad news: Africa continues to stagnate while the rest of the world develops. For example, here’s an intriguing comment on colonialism’s legacy. But good ideas are available. Here, for example, is Enterprise Africa, a joint project of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, The Free Market Foundation of South Africa, London’s Institute for Economic Affairs, and The Templeton Foundation.Incidentally, I owe Stephen a review of his insightful documentary, Nietzsche and the Nazis. (It's coming, Stephen, I promise.)
- Two good press releases here from two good libertarians:
Parents Must Be Allowed to Choose QualificationsDoctors May Stop Discounting Fees
"The news that several prominent schools are considering offering alternative international qualifications, in response to parental dissatisfaction with NCEA, was completely predictable" Libertarianz Education Spokesman Phil Howison said today. "Parents have good reasons to be concerned about NCEA - but the harsh response from the education bureaucracy suggests simple contempt for the rights of parents."... Libertarianz believes that parents have the right to make decisions for their own children. The state has no right to your children...
Libertarianz spokesman Richard McGrath today wondered whether his medical colleagues would shorten consultation times and cease discounting fees in response to the government's persecution of general practitioners who want to raise their charges...
- Those same readers should also find much to savour, if not much on which to agree, in two related and masterful pieces: First, philosopher Karl Popper is often taken to be a pre-eminent defender of both science and liberty. In two articles, Nicholas Dykes shows that as a defender of either, Popper's thought is seriously deficient: 'Debunking Popper: A Critique of Karl Popper's Critical Rationalism,' [25-page PDF] and the much longer, 'A Tangled Web of Guesses: A Critical Assessment of the Philosophy of Karl Popper' [39-page PDF].
Popper's whole notion that science consists of "conjecture and refutation" is shown by Dykes to be both internally contradictory and a position that opens the door wide to subjectivism, to "consensus science," and ultimately to the post-modern bullshit of Thomas Kuhn and his paradigm shifts; and Popper's idea that science may be distinguished from non-science primarily by the virtue of "falsifiability" is seen to be important, but on its own woefully insufficient as an an essential defining characteristic by which to winnow the bold from the bullshit.
Popper is worth reading, says Dykes -- "full of valuable insights, astute observations, and stimulating, sometimes inspiring prose" -- but in the end the Philosopher's Stone of explaining and defending science eluded him. Dykes concludes by suggesting, albeit briefly, what Popper missed, and what might have made his project complete.
Popperians offended by the demolition might at least take comfort in Diana Hsieh's point: "Of course, Dykes knock-down arguments don't just apply to Popper, but also to the similar ideas in Kant and Hume and others in the history of philosophy." (And they might also reflect, as Diana has, that Popper's flawed philosophical base makes him a less than worthwhile advocate for liberty.)
The second piece, which I'd strongly recommend reading in conjunction with Dykes' piece, is David Harriman's account of Induction and Experimental Method. Harriman is both philosopher (in the Objectivist tradition) and a physicist at Caltech, so this is a topic on which he is eminently qualified to write. The piece is a chapter of his forthcoming book on the subject:
[It] examines the key experiments involved in Galileo’s kinematics and Newton’s optics, identifies the essential methods by which these scientists achieved their discoveries, and illustrates the principle that induction is inherent in valid conceptualization.Modern science began with Galileo, he says, in particular with Galileo's methodology.
The scientific revolution of the 17th century was made possible by the achievements of ancient Greece... The modern scientist views himself as an active investigator, but such an attitude was rare among the Greeks. This basic difference in mindset—contemplation versus investigation—is one of the great divides between the ancient and modern minds. Modern science began with the full development of its own distinctive method of investigation: experiment. Experimentation is “the method of establishing causal relationships by means of controlling variables.” The experimenter does not merely observe nature; he manipulates it by holding some factor(s) constant while varying others and measuring the results. He knows that the tree of knowledge will not simply drop its fruit into his open mind; the fruit must be cultivated and picked, often with the help of instruments designed for the purpose.Scientific investigation and philosophical induction, argues Harriman, are characterised not just by falsification (as Popper would have it), but by by a clear understanding of identity, causality (ie., identity in action), and above all of the importance of integration. It is these three that skeptics like Hume never understood, and would-be scientific defenders like Popper needed to learn.
Cognitive integration is the very essence of human thought, from concept-formation (an integration of a limitless number of concretes into a whole designated by a word), to induction (an integration of a limitless number of causal sequences into a generalization), to deduction (the integration of premises into a conclusion). An item of knowledge is acquired and validated by means of grasping its relation to the whole of one’s knowledge. A thinker always seeks to relate, grasp hidden similarities, discover connections, unify. A conceptual consciousness is an integrating mechanism, and its product—knowledge—is an interconnected system, not a junk heap of isolated propositions. Galileo integrated his knowledge not only within the subject of physics but also between physics and the related science of astronomy...The precision necessary for scientific induction is mathematical, says Harriman.
While discussing concept-formation, Ayn Rand explained that “perceptual awareness is the arithmetic, but conceptual awareness is the algebra of cognition.” She ended the discussion with a challenge to the skeptics: Those who deny the validity of concepts must first prove the invalidity of algebra... A concept can function as a green light to induction only if it is defined precisely—and, in physical science, the required precision is mathematical... The cognitive integration necessary to validate a high-level generalization in physics is made possible only because the discoveries and laws are formulated in quantitative terms. Thus progress requires that the key concepts be defined in terms susceptible to numerical measurement. Such measurement is both the primary concern of the mathematician and the primary activity of the experimentalist.
Thus induction in physics is essentially dependent on two specialized methods. Experimentation provides the entrance into mathematics, and mathematics is the language of physical science.
It's impossible to recommend this highly enough. (Unfortunately, the full paper is only available to subscribers to The Objective Standard -- which is partly why I've quoted here as much as copyright allows -- but as I've said before, subscription to this quarterly is worth every penny.)
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- Now that should be more than enough weekend reading for any man or woman, but just to finish on a lighter note, Michael Newberry has three further online art tutorials released at the same time as his tutorial explaining how he integrated the Old Masters with the Impressionists in his painting Denouement: the first of these other three is, Exaltation in Art: Pleasing the Voices in Your Head, which loosely explains how an artist makes up his mind about their own work. The second explains the importance for both composition and for seeing the world of thumbnail sketches -- and rather than being banal, Newberry argues that thumbnail sketches are essential preparatory work for the excitement and spontaneity of major works; they are The Key to the Big Picture. And what of proportion? Much talked about, what exactly is it all about? Artist Newberry uses sculptor Polyclitus to explain why proportion is "math in art."
UPDATE: I've changed the word "demolished" with reference to Nicholas Dykes' articles on Popper, and changed it for something more respectful. Diana's "a less than worthwhile advocate" for liberty and science is more appropriate. And I've removed the paragraph about the debate-which wasn't between Johnson and Hawking. My error for posting it in the first place. Sorry.