Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weekend ramble, April 14

Another weekend ramble through sites and sounds worthy of a weekend's worth of exploration.
  • As Marcus says, some good news from the (UK) Daily Telegraph -- there's one British Tory who's not all pink:
    David Cameron has embraced the environmental agenda with greater ardour than any other political leader, even inviting Al Gore to address the shadow cabinet recently, after publicly lauding his film, An Inconvenient Truth.
    But one outspoken Tory, MEP Roger Helmer, is eager to distinguish himself from the rest.
    Helmer has organised a "counter-consensual climate conference" in
    Brussels next week, which will see former chancellor Lord Lawson head a line-up of sceptics, including the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming.
    "Many climatologists reject the alarmist scenario, and there have been disgraceful efforts by the establishment to silence the dissenters," Helmer
    tells Spy. "I've decided to organise the conference to give a platform to the
    other side of the issue. David Cameron wants us to put an extra focus on the
    environment and I'm delighted to help in that process."
    And Gore's Oscar-winning documentary certainly won't be showing. "The event will be followed by a screening of the recent Channel 4 film, The Great Global Warming Swindle."
  • "This year marks the 100th anniversary of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's birth. His hometown of Kansas City is marking the occasion with special events." reports End of the Universe. "Even though he's been dead for nearly two decades, he continues to cast a long shadow on the science fiction field. Which Heinlein book are you going to read to celebrate the centennial?"

  • And on Lord Bore of Nashville's forthcoming 24-hour smugfest, Rob Lyons says, don't do it! Live Earth: Change the Record.
    If you weren’t feeling patronised enough by Live 8, the freebie gig in 2005 that called on G8 politicians to cancel Third World debt (which they were planning to do anyway), Live Earth might really tip you over the edge.
  • Tyler Cowen records something to remember about the Chinese economic miracle:
    ...of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13
    million) or more, 2,932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions
    in the five industrial sectors - finance, foreign trade, land dev
    elopment,
    large-scale engineering and securities - 85% to 90% are held by children of
    high-level cadres.
    As Samizdata comments, "These filial links between the commanding heights of China's supposedly private sector and its government betray the fact that China Inc. is [still] the unholy alliance of a dictatorial regime and the application of corrupted 'free' market ideals." At some stage the tension between the two will out, but with what consequences?

  • For those who find it hard to keep up with how to avoid offending the easily offended and the politically correct (but I repeat myself), here's a how-to guide to either offend or to avoid offending: A Politically Correct Lexicon.

  • Let's sing the praises of the internal combustion engine. In fact, says Dwight Lee,
    All environmentalists should be singing the praises of the internal combustion engine (ICE) instead of damning it for polluting the environment. The environmental advantages of the internal combustion engine have been obvious for a long time.
    Join him in his praise at TechCentralStation's Our Green ICE Age.
  • Architects Christopher Wren and Frank Lloyd Wright both liked to play jokes on clients, and it turns out they even played similar jokes, this one by Wren on the Windsor councillors. Can anyone tell us on which Wright building he played a similar joke with his client?

  • Better Living Through Lefty Activism. Well that's the title of this short video at any rate ...

  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism promises "to give [anti-capitalists] an in-your-face economics education that they won't forget — ever." Buy a copy for an anti-capitalist friend today.

  • Tom Beard has news about developer Terry Serepisos' plans for the tallest building in Wellington. Says Tom
    At least you can't accuse him of developing boring buildings. While the later stages of the Century City development on Tory St and the "explosion in a bling factory" planned for Dixon and Victoria streets may be the visual equivalent of a hyperactive kid force-fed with food colouring and party pills, at least they're not the grey envelope-filling cuboids currently being extruded all over Taranaki St like so many rectilinear turds.
    And he throws down a gauntlet: "In fact, and I hope none of my architect friends take offence at this, I can't really think of any New Zealand architects that I could imagine designing a truly exciting 40-50 storey skyscraper..." Any offence taken?

  • For those like me with a taste for hard-core Objectivism, the news that the archives of Stephen Boydstun's Objectivity magazine is now all online is something to sing and shout about. There is some seriously good stuff in here on science and mathematics, value and metaphysics, Aristotelianism and Newtonian physics, and from everyone from Stephen Hicks to Tibor Machan to Ronald Merrill to Michael Huemer. A great resource -- noe making it worth buying another ink cartridge for your printer.

  • Thomas Jefferson’s birthday was earlier this week. Historian David Mayer remembers Thomas Jefferson. Here are the official White House biography, the website for Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and Genevieve LaGreca’s toast to Jefferson’s achievements. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

  • What’s Wrong With Contemporary Philosophy. Answer: Lots.

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali always gives good interview. Here she is again in good combative style in Guernica magazine.

    Guernica: It seems when you talk about Islam, it's not your style to say things in a gentle way...
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I'm the gentlest of them all, honestly. (laughing)

    Oh yeah, she does irony very well too. :-)

  • Roger Kerr writes on 'The Lever of Riches,' and how we NZers aren't really getting any of it.
    Productivity, described by American economist Joel Mokyr as the “lever of riches”, is a hot topic these days, and rightly so: it's the single most important contributor to reducing poverty, increasing leisure time and meeting health, education, environmental and cultural needs.

    That's why New Zealanders should react with alarm to the news last week that the rate of growth in labour productivity (that's the amount of goods and services produced from each hour of a worker's time) was the lowest on record.
    Read on here to find out what's been going wrong.

  • We may not be as productive as we should be, but boy do we have plenty of commissioners to nanny us. Zen Tiger has some slightly tongue in cheek news of new plans to protect our commissioners in Leaving No Commissioner Behind. After all, when you have Children's Commissioner and would-be uber-Nanny Cindy Kiro as a model, then almost everything is possible.

  • Speaking of children and of nanny, Tessa Mayes reports here on how the British government is recruiting children to spy on and ‘re-educate’ the adult population. Kiro et al will no doubt be taking notes. What's Worse Than Big Brother? Little Brother.

  • The ever prolific Tibor Machan explains how to become more prolific yourself: Don't procrastinate. Tibor has tips too on how to overcome your own procrastination, in Remedying Procrastination. Watching Tibor duck out of a conversation a few years ago to use a friend's computer to produce an article on an idea produced in that conversation made me realise just how simple it is to become prolific: it can be as simple as ignoring the calls to Manana. If it worked for Tibor, it can work for you too.

  • Here's an oldie on old Ken Ring's moon madness, a three-parter by Bill Keir from the Auckland Astronomical Society. Good reading.

  • As should have been obvious, Iran's capture and subsequent release of British seamen and marines was a trial balloon that told them much about British and American resolve in the face of piracy. There isn't any. Says Charles Krauthammer,
    Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and subsequent release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran's intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. All with total impunity. Further, it exposed the utter futility of all those transnational institutions -- most prominently the European Union and the U.N. -- that pretend to maintain international order. You would think maintaining international order means, at a minimum, challenging acts of piracy. No challenge here. Instead, a quiet capitulation.
    See Krauthammer's Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's.

  • Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill has a similar comment: "What is Britain’s role in the world today? Judging from the Iranian captives saga, it is to play the victim." See A Lean, Mean Victim-Making Machine.

  • Based on her reading of Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, Diana Hsieh reflects on how christianity demands one substitute blind obedience for clear-headed moral responsibility.
    Toward the end of the chapter on "The Ascetic Odyssey," Freeman observes that "one can never know whether one is truly saved" in Christianity because "there is no way to judge objectively just how guilty one is in the eyes of God." Consequently, "the only true way to secure a rest from tension on earth is to escape completely from the exercise of moral responsibility; here the 'virtue' of obedience becomes crucial."
    Just another reason to abjure religionists from the field of morality, I'd suggest.

  • On that issue, and relevant to the recent discussions here on christianity and the Dark Ages, Andrew Bernstein has a brilliant full-length review of Rodney Stark's book The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Says Bernstein,
    This book, and others like it—along with their admiring treatment by the mainstream liberal press—are signs of the resurgence of Christianity in America. This is all the more frightening because the arguments are being delivered and embraced at an intellectual, not merely a grassroots, level. If such arguments were sound, their growing acceptance among contemporary intellectuals would present no problem; but, as will be shown, this pro-religion thesis, although convincing to some, is egregiously and provably mistaken.
    Bernstein then proceeds to masterfully prove the mistakes in Stark's thesis. As always with articles at The Objective Standard, the full article is available only to subscribers (but as I've said before subscription really is worth every penny) -- you can get the flavour of Bernstein's full review in the opening paragraphs, and also in his reply to two letters on his article in a subsequent issue. See The Tragedy of Theology: How Religion Caused and Extended the Dark Ages, and Letters to the Editor, Spring Edition.
    Why, you ask, did medieval Europeans embrace Aristotle and the Greeks? More broadly, why is Western culture, despite all its flaws, more committed to reason than is any other culture?
    Read on to discover his answer.

  • "America is the Nation of the Enlightenment." Philosopher David Kelly explains what that statement means, and points out who the philosophical enemies are.

  • "Why so gloomy about global warming?" asks scientist Richard Lindzen. "A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now." See Lindzen in Newsweek: 'Why So Gloomy? Learning to Live With Global Warming.'

  • Far from being a libertarian hero as Tim Wikiriwhi has claimed, Frank Bainimarama is driving a truck through Fiji's constitution. Idiot/Savant considers its prospects for restitution in Fiji: Demolishing the Constitution.

  • And finally, what does Nairobi's plastic bag problem tell us about property rights, and the lack thereof? Says Greg Rehmke, an awful lot. "Sometime symptoms are confused with the disease that causes them. Litter is one such symptom often confused with an economic disease." See Nairobi's Plastic Bags Are Barking.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Excellent debunking of Ken Rings' unscientific forecasting method.

Perhaps Ken Ring would want to team up with NZ charlatan psychic Jeanette Wilson to advise Al Gore about the future of the planet's climate. Jeanette can give accounts from the messages coming to her from the dead, of what's gonna happen in the the next few decades or so and Ken can give accounts of the long term effects of the moon on the planet.

4/14/2007 06:35:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

The Philosophy article you link to is interesting, in that it's a fairly good example of a Strawman argument. I mean, the first paragraph alone deserves a dissertation devoted to refuting it. Highlights are:

'Analytic Philosophy (AP), although it comes in many varieties, has four striking properties. First, it is cultivated with every appearance of theoretical rigour. Second, its practitioners do not, by and large, believe that philosophy is or can be a science, i.e., they do not believe that it can add to the stock of positive human knowledge. [Right, this is the conflation of several claims. You might claim that Philosophy is not a science (perhaps because you want it to be a meta-discipline that is able to comment on science) but, then again, a lot of philosophers do equate Philosophy with science. Some don't, but for the reason that they think it is a complementary discipline (i.e. the work in naturalised epistemology that goes with work in neuropsychology).] Third, the philosophers who until very recently were the most influential models in the pursuit of philosophy as a theoretical enterprise – Chisholm, Davidson, Armstrong, Putnam, Kripke, Searle... – have no obvious successors. [Possibly because it takes a while to work out who the successors will be. Einstein is often put forward as Newton's successor; Dawkin's is put forward as Darwin's... Also, this isn't, strictly speaking, a property.] Finally, AP has succeeded in the institutional task of turning out increasing numbers of highly trained, articulate and intelligent young philosophers. Each of these properties reflects a relatively uncontroversial empirical claim.

Hmm, other highlights:

'But this interest in the real world is not, as it happens, a characteristic of analytic ontology and metaphysics. Consider, for example, the metaphysics of social objects and of social facts (of money and contracts, wills and corporations). The questions proper to this part of metaphysics might reasonably be thought to be of great interest for any philosophy, practical or theoretical, of political, social and cultural phenomena. But analytic metaphysics of the social world only begins with the publication by John Searle in 1995 of The Construction of Social Reality and it has still gone little further than Searle.' [Right, so we'll ignore Wittgenstein then, shall we, or the other, countless, philosophers who have written on these subjects.]

Or:

'Another example of the lack of interest in the real world in analytic ontology and metaphysics is provided by the sad story of current work in such fields as bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and the so-called ‘Semantic Web’. Ontology and metaphysics ought surely to be acknowledged as of great importance in fields such as these.1 In fact, owever, philosophical confusion is the order of the day, because AP-philosophers with some knowledge of ontology, manifesting their horror mundi, have shown little interest in grappling with the problems thrown up by these fields, leaving it instead to philosophically naïve exponents of other disciplines to wreak ontological havoc. Philosophers, for their part, occupy themselves with in-house puzzles, ignorant of the damage their neglect is wreaking in the wider world.' [What about naturalised epistemology? If you choose to ignore work in epistemology since the 1950s...]

This is a truly absurd piece of 'scholarship,' PC, made all the more fascinating by looking at Smith's publication record, especially since he has written on subjects that, according to this article, aren't being studied by philosophers.

Still, Smith et al make some interesting points in regards to the History of Philosophy, but, in fairness, this is as much of an issue for other 'Histories of' and philosophers as far back as Collingwood have written on this very issue.

4/14/2007 07:17:00 pm  
Blogger sagenz said...

you will be pleased to know that Windsor planners remain as stupid as ever. I had planning permission refused on the basis that my plan would have reduced Thames flood plain capacity by 3 m3 more than the permitted level.

In a village that has been placed at greater flood risk because of the Jubilee River scheme

4/14/2007 09:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Excellent debunking of Ken Rings' unscientific forecasting method.

Perhaps Ken Ring would want to team up with NZ charlatan psychic Jeanette Wilson to advise Al Gore about the future of the planet's climate. Jeanette can give accounts from the messages coming to her from the dead, of what's gonna happen in the the next few decades or so and Ken can give accounts of the long term effects of the moon on the planet.

--
Posted by Falafulu Fisi to Not PC at 4/14/2007 06:35:14 PM

4/15/2007 10:09:00 pm  
Anonymous HORansome said...

The Philosophy article you link to is interesting, in that it's a fairly good example of a Strawman argument. I mean, the first paragraph alone deserves a dissertation devoted to refuting it. Highlights are:

'Analytic Philosophy (AP), although it comes in many varieties, has four striking properties. First, it is cultivated with every appearance of theoretical rigour. Second, its practitioners do not, by and large, believe that philosophy is or can be a science, i.e., they do not believe that it can add to the stock of positive human knowledge. [Right, this is the conflation of several claims. You might claim that Philosophy is not a science (perhaps because you want it to be a meta-discipline that is able to comment on science) but, then again, a lot of philosophers do equate Philosophy with science. Some don't, but for the reason that they think it is a complementary discipline (i.e. the work in naturalised epistemology that goes with work in neuropsychology).] Third, the philosophers who until very recently were the most influential models in the pursuit of philosophy as a theoretical enterprise – Chisholm, Davidson, Armstrong, Putnam, Kripke, Searle... – have no obvious successors. [Possibly because it takes a while to work out who the successors will be. Einstein is often put forward as Newton's successor; Dawkin's is put forward as Darwin's... Also, this isn't, strictly speaking, a property.] Finally, AP has succeeded in the institutional task of turning out increasing numbers of highly trained, articulate and intelligent young philosophers. Each of these properties reflects a relatively uncontroversial empirical claim.

Hmm, other highlights:

'But this interest in the real world is not, as it happens, a characteristic of analytic ontology and metaphysics. Consider, for example, the metaphysics of social objects and of social facts (of money and contracts, wills and corporations). The questions proper to this part of metaphysics might reasonably be thought to be of great interest for any philosophy, practical or theoretical, of political, social and cultural phenomena. But analytic metaphysics of the social world only begins with the publication by John Searle in 1995 of The Construction of Social Reality and it has still gone little further than Searle.' [Right, so we'll ignore Wittgenstein then, shall we, or the other, countless, philosophers who have written on these subjects.]

Or:

'Another example of the lack of interest in the real world in analytic ontology and metaphysics is provided by the sad story of current work in such fields as bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and the so-called ‘Semantic Web’. Ontology and metaphysics ought surely to be acknowledged as of great importance in fields such as these.1 In fact, owever, philosophical confusion is the order of the day, because AP-philosophers with some knowledge of ontology, manifesting their horror mundi, have shown little interest in grappling with the problems thrown up by these fields, leaving it instead to philosophically naïve exponents of other disciplines to wreak ontological havoc. Philosophers, for their part, occupy themselves with in-house puzzles, ignorant of the damage their neglect is wreaking in the wider world.' [What about naturalised epistemology? If you choose to ignore work in epistemology since the 1950s...]

This is a truly absurd piece of 'scholarship,' PC, made all the more fascinating by looking at Smith's publication record, especially since he has written on subjects that, according to this article, aren't being studied by philosophers.

Still, Smith et al make some interesting points in regards to the History of Philosophy, but, in fairness, this is as much of an issue for other 'Histories of' and philosophers as far back as Collingwood have written on this very issue.

--
Posted by HORansome to Not PC at 4/14/2007 07:17:54 PM

4/15/2007 10:09:00 pm  
Anonymous sagenz said...

you will be pleased to know that Windsor planners remain as stupid as ever. I had planning permission refused on the basis that my plan would have reduced Thames flood plain capacity by 3 m3 more than the permitted level.

In a village that has been placed at greater flood risk because of the Jubilee River scheme

--
Posted by sagenz to Not PC at 4/14/2007 09:08:36 PM

4/15/2007 10:10:00 pm  

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