Junk science

by Henry Farrell on March 4, 2004

“Juan non-Volokh”:http://volokh.com/2004_02_29_volokh_archive.html#107834026231790507 and “David Bernstein”:http://volokh.com/2004_02_29_volokh_archive.html#107820064555793050 suggest that the recent brouhaha over the Bush administration politicization of science is only to be expected; whenever the government funds scientific research, it’s liable to get politicized. Their proposed alternative – a “separation of science and state.” This proposal rests on an implicit claim that is, to put it kindly, contestable: that scientific research on politically topical issues is liable to be less politicized when it’s funded by the private sector. Judging by the sober and disinterested contributions to the public scientific debate coming from junkscience.com, Tech Central Station, and, in an earlier era, the good old “Council on Tobacco Research”:http://www.prwatch.org/improp/ctr.html, I reckon that Bernstein and non-Volokh have their argument cut out for them.

Line of the day

by Ted on March 4, 2004

Apparently, the new Bush ads — which use images of Ground Zero — have upset some of the relatives of the victims of 9/11 tragedy, or, as Karen Hughes calls them, “Democrats.”


Do you google?

by Eszter Hargittai on March 4, 2004

It seems “googling” is now used by many as a synonym for online searches just like kleenex is used to refer to a tissue or xeroxing to using a copier. I have yet to see empirical evidence that suggests Google is used by the majority of Internet users, yet many people talk about it as though it was the only existing search engine. References to Google as the be-all and end-all of search engines abound at least among journalists and academics, and perhaps it is not surprising that such people know about and use Google. But not everybody does although you’d be hard-pressed to know that judging from the rhetoric.

I have a small piece in this month’s First Monday in which I discuss this issue and why it is problematic to assume everyone uses a certain service when that is not necessarily the case.

Actually, I only mention one concern in that piece. Another that I do not bring up there but have alluded to elsewhere is that it is problematic to have so much riding on a proprietary service. We do not know where it is headed and since the details of its algorithm for displaying results are not transparent to the public we should not depend on it to guarantee equal access to all types of information indefinitely.

The Gay Divorcee

by Kieran Healy on March 4, 2004

Divorce was declared illegal in Ireland by the “Constitution of 1937”:http://www.ucc.ie/law/irishlaw/constitution/. A referendum to repeal the ban was proposed in 1986 and soundly defeated. Almost two-thirds of the electorate voted against it. In November 1995 a second divorce referendum was put to the country. That one passed, by a margin of “just over nine thousand votes”:http://www.adnet.ie/divorce.html in a total valid poll of 1.62 million. I had just started graduate school at “Princeton”:http://sociology.princeton.edu that Autumn and remember the slightly frozen expressions of fellow grad students when I told them about the constitutional debate raging at home. Most of them were under the impression that Ireland was an advanced capitalist democracy located in Europe, fabled continent of liberal attitudes toward sex and generous social provisions for all. I decided not to upset them further with stories of my “college years”:http://www.rte.ie/tv/reelingintheyears/1991.html, which coincided with the time of the “Great Condom Wars”:http://www.ifpa.ie/about/hist.html in Ireland.[1]

The rhetoric of the Irish divorce debate is strikingly similar to what we’re hearing today about gay marriage in the United States.

[click to continue…]

John and Belle

by Chris Bertram on March 4, 2004

“John Holbo and Belle Waring”:http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/ have now finished their week of guest blogging with us, so I think it appropriate to say how much fun it was to have them around. With reflections on Sesame Street, the English murder-mystery, Chinese-Italian (or should that be Italian-Chinese) cuisine from Belle and on the changing experience of blogging, the FMA and conservatives in academia from John — we at CT have certainly done well from having them on board. (You can check out those posts again by clicking on the little squiggly thing next to “Guest Bloggers” on the LH sidebar.) I hope we’ll be seeing them again some time soon, but in the meantime be sure to visit their blog regularly.


by Chris Bertram on March 4, 2004

bq. “The launch of his Kulturkampf has been a blitzkrieg.”

“Sidney Blumenthal”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1161399,00.html trips over the “fascist octopus”:http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/patee.html in a polemic against G.W. Bush.

Wagner and evolutionary psychology

by Chris Bertram on March 4, 2004

I’m off to see “Das Rheingold”:http://www.metopera.org/synopses/rheingold.html on Saturday (or, rather, since the production is by “English National Opera”:http://www.eno.org/home/index.php , “The Rhinegold”:http://www.eno.org/whatson/full.php?performancekey=18 ). The anticipation of this set me off googling for a hilarious passage from a Jerry Fodor review of Steven Pinker. I’d have liked to have found the whole thing, but the money quote is there in this “review”:http://www.yorku.ca/christo/papers/Fodor-review.htm of a Fodor’s “In Critical Condition”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/026256128X/junius-20 :

bq. The literature of psychological Darwinism is full of what appear to be fallacies of rationalization: arguments where the evidence offered that an interest in Y is the motive for a creature’s behavior is primarily that an interest in Y would rationalize the behavior if it were the creature’s motive. Pinker’s book provides so many examples that one hardly knows where to start.… [H]ere’s Pinker on why we like fiction: “Fictional narratives supply us with a mental catalogue of the fatal conundrums we might face someday and the outcomes of strategies we could deploy in them. What are the options if I were to suspect that my uncle killed my father, took his position, and married my mother?” Good question. Or what if it turns out that, having just used the ring that I got by kidnapping a dwarf to pay off the giants who built me my new castle, I should discover that it is the very ring that I need in order to continue to be immortal and rule the world? It’s important to think out the options betimes, because a thing like that could happen to anyone and you can never have too much insurance. (p. 212)

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter C.P. Shaw. The whole Fodor article, which I’d failed to find using Google is “available on the LRB website”:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v20/n02/fodo01_.html .