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Monday, June 13, 2016

Pluralism, Politics, and Belief; Or, Of Walking And Chewing Gum At The Same Time (A Twitter Essaylet)


jimf said...

> What we want from scientific beliefs. . .
New Evidence Suggests a Fifth Fundamental Force of Nature

By -- who else?

George Dvorsky

Now, before we all start chanting "All hail to the Divine Gordelpus[*]"
it might be worth recalling the cold fusion brouhaha of 1989
(something which Arthur C. Clarke continued to believe in to
his dying day, which led me to wonder "Was he always that
soft in the head?"); or the more recent "discovery" of faster-than-light
particles (Ozzie SF author Damien Broderick, for one, has long
been hankering after such exotic physics to base wanna-belief in
precognition on -- a project he puts in the fictional hands
of a couple of unattractively gay physicists in _Quipu_[**] ).

For better or worse, the progress of science (in contrast to
the "progress" of science journalism) does not depend on people
pulling new forces of nature out of their, er, fundaments.

[*] Yes, I've been re-reading Olaf Stapledon's _Last and First Men_.

[**] "[W]e have a highly ambivalent relationship. He's quite aware
that I'm not queer, that on that level I'm no threat to his er 'marriage'
with Paul. He strikes me as absurdly insecure, given his proven
accomplishments in particle theory; I take it that he'll be the
youngest person to have a high-energy physics Ph.D. in the history
of the State. Still, he resents my presence ferociously because
I distract Paul from total preoccupation with him. . .

Energy might well travel faster than light, but matters here proceed
slowly. . . Tom growls and stamps about the house, of goes off
in trizzy fits to get plastered at some poofter pub or club.
Hard to comprend that this is one of the prime minds of our
generation. . ."


jimf said...

> Pluralists propose there are different sorts of beliefs
> embedded in different sorts of ends and histories...
> Truth is that which is "good in the way of belief, and good,
> too, for definite, assignable reasons."
A Party Agrift
by Paul Krugman
JUNE 13, 2016

This is not a column about. . . the fraudulent scheme that was
Trump University. . .

No, my question, as Democrats gleefully tear into the Trump
business record, is why rival Republicans never did the same. . .

I mean, it’s not as if any of this dirt was deeply hidden. . .

Were they just incompetent, or is there something structural about
the modern Republican Party that makes it unable to confront grifters?

The answer, I’d argue, is the latter.

Rick Perlstein, who has documented the rise of modern conservatism
in a series of eye-opening books, points out that there has always
been a close association between the movement and the operations
of snake-oil salesmen — people who use lists of campaign contributors,
right-wing websites and so on to sell get-rich-quick schemes and
miracle health cures.

Sometimes the political link is direct: dire warnings about the
coming depression/hyperinflation, from which you can only protect
yourself by buying Ron Paul’s DVDs (the “Ron Paul curriculum”) or
gold shares hawked by Glenn Beck. Sometimes it just seems to reflect
a judgment on the part of the grifters that people who can be
persuaded that President Obama is Muslim can also be persuaded
that there are easy money-making opportunities the establishment
doesn’t want you to know about.

There’s also a notable pattern of conservative political stars
engaging in what is supposed to be activism, but looks a lot like
personal enrichment. For example, Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC gives
only a few percent of what it raises on candidates, while spending
heavily on consultants and Mrs. Palin’s travels.

Then there’s the issue of ideology. If your fundamental premise
is that the profit motive is always good and government is the
root of all evil, if you treat any suggestion that, say, some
bankers misbehaved in the run-up to the financial crisis as
proof that the speaker is anti-business if not a full-blown
socialist, how can you condemn anyone’s business practices? . . .

Finally, the con job that lies at the heart of so much Republican
politics makes it hard to go after other, more commercial cons.
It’s interesting to note that Marco Rubio actually did try to
make Trump University an issue, but he did it too late, after
he had already made himself a laughingstock with his broken-record
routine. And here’s the thing: The groove Mr. Rubio got stuck in —
innuendo that the president is deliberately weakening America —
was a typical example of the political snake-oil the right sells
along with free money and three-minute cures for high blood pressure. . .

jimf said...

> I've been re-reading Olaf Stapledon's _Last and First Men_. . .

Speaking of which, there's a paragraph in today's New York Times
that might be right out of Stapledon:
Orlando and Trump’s America
by Roger Cohen
JUNE 13, 2016

Omar Mateen, the Florida shooter who had pledged allegiance to
the Islamic State, just ushered Donald Trump to the White House,
Britain out of the European Union, Marine Le Pen to the French
presidency, and the world into a downward spiral of escalating
violence. . .

Of course, these somber imaginings may prove to be no more
than that. Mateen has not yet changed the world; he may never. . .

"When your writers romance of the future, they too easily imagine
a progress toward some kind of Utopia, in which beings like
themselves live in unmitigated bliss among circumstances
perfectly suited to a fixed human nature. I shall not describe
any such paradise. Instead, I shall record huge fluctuations
of joy and woe. . .

One brief but tragic incident, which occurred within a century of
the [First] European War, may be said to have sealed the fate of
the First Men. During this century the will for peace and sanity
was already becoming a serious factor in history. Save for a number
of most untoward accidents, to be recorded in due course, the
party of peace might have dominated Europe during its most dangerous
period; and, through Europe, the world. With either a little less
bad luck or a fraction more vision and self-control at this critical
time, there might never have occurred that aeon of darkness, in which
the First Men were presently to be submerged. For had victory
been gained before the general level of mentality had seriously
begun to decline, the attainment of the world state might have been
regarded, not as an end, but as the first step toward true civilization.
But this was not to be. . .

[S]o strong by now was the will for cosmopolitanism that the upshot
would almost certainly have been a triumph of sanity, had there not
occurred in England an accident which tilted the whole precarious
course of events in the opposite direction. . .

At this point occurred one of those incidents which, minute in themselves,
have disproportionately great effects. The unstable nature of
the First Men made them peculiarly liable to suffer from such accidents,
and especially so in their decline. . ."

-- _Last and First Men_ (1930)

jimf said...

I don't suppose this has even been on Donald Trump's
reading list. ;->

"[T]he best of America was too weak to withstand the worst. . .

[T]heir genius for organization worked upon a scale that was scarcely
conceivable, let alone practicable, to other peoples. . . But these
best were after all a minority in a huge wilderness of opinionated
self-deceivers, in whom, surprisingly, an outworn religious dogma
was championed with the intolerant optimism of youth. For this was
essentially a race of bright, but arrested, adolescents. Something
lacked which should have enabled them to grow up. One who looks
back across the aeons to this remote people can see their fate already
woven of their circumstance and their disposition, and can appreciate
the grim jest that these, who seemed to themselves gifted to
rejuvenate the planet, should have plunged it inevitably, through
spiritual desolation into senility and age-long night.

Inevitably. . ."

Op. cit.