Attractive Models

by Kieran Healy on September 19, 2006

Via “Jeremy Freese,”:http://jeremyfreese.blogspot.com/2006/09/and-you-thought-astrosociology-was.html a paper by Alan Gerber and Neil Malhotra called “Can political science literatures be believed? A study of publication bias in the APSR and the AJPS.” Here’s the main finding.

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Honderich: After the Broadcast

by Chris Bertram on September 19, 2006

Well now the Honderich’s “The Real Friends of Terror”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/09/19/honderich-on-terror/ has gone out, I’m free to post, and, to be honest I thought it was simply awful. The whole thing was a showcase for Honderich’s fatuous “principle of humanity”, as called in aid of the proposition that the Palestinians have a “moral right to their terror”. This “principle”, which is presented as a pathbreaking step in moral philosophy, is basically just Honderich’s pet list of 6 essential components of human flourishing coupled with the suggestion that we have duty to take all rational steps necessary to bring them about. So think Sen and Nussbaum (similar list) plus a heavy dash of consequentialism. The programme consisted largely of archive footage of the aftermath of terrorist acts coupled with Honderich interviewing a few talking heads: Jenny Tonge (the Lib-Dem peer), Brian Klug, Helena Kennedy, Riz Mozal and a UK-based Palestinian academic (Ghada Karmi). The central theme was that all recent terrorism, 9/11 and 7/7 included, were basically caused by the failure of the US and UK to restrain what Honderich calls “neozionism”. The whole shoddy programme was further worsened by Honderich intoning portentously in his Canadian baritone “this I believe” in connection with a series of eminently dubitable propositions.

(Update: slight edit in the light of email.)

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Via “PZ Myers”:http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/its_such_a_quick_read_too.php, “What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? The Graphic Novel”:http://faultline.org/index.php/site/comments/whats_liberal_about_the_liberal_arts1/.

Honderich on terror

by Chris Bertram on September 19, 2006

As a guest of “The Philosophers’ Magazine”:http://www.philosophersnet.com/ I went to an advance screening of Ted Honderich’s programme “The Real Friends of Terror” in C5’s “Don’t Get Me Started”:http://www.mydigiguide.com/dgx/wbl.dll?a=6&h=49&PID=22132 series last night. The showing was followed by a panel discussion. I’ve been asked not to write about the content of tonight’s broadcast before it is shown, so I won’t. Regular Honderich-watchers won’t be surprised either by the content of the programme or by my reaction to it, but I won’t post more until after it goes out at 19.15 this evening on Channel 5 in the UK. This post is just to alert interested viewers. The “programme description”:http://www.mydigiguide.com/dgx/wbl.dll?a=6&h=49&PID=22132 refers to Honderich as “Britain’s leading moral philosopher”. I guess there’s room for disagreement about that claim, and much else.

Update: re-reading this post, I guess someone might get the impression that the panel discussion will be broadcast. That’s not the case: a transcript will appear in a future issue of TPM.

Heaven and Hell

by John Quiggin on September 19, 2006

Pessimism seems to be a newly popular theme in American cultural discourse. Having written a bit about worst-case scenarios, I was interested to get a review copy of Karen Cerulo’s Never Saw It Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst. Perhaps because I’m naturally optimistic by temperament, I’m finding Cerulo’s relentless pessimism a bit annoying, and, not coincidentally, finding a lot to disagree with in the book.

One point particularly struck me. Cerulo claims that “positive asymmetry” is demonstrated by the fact that, in theology and art, Heaven is given a detailed and appealing description, while hell is described only in vague and non-specific terms. She mentions, as an illustration of the latter point, an etching inspired by Dante’s Inferno.

My recollection of Dante is that the descriptions of Hell, and the various categories of sinners, were detailed and intricate, making the Inferno a fascinating book, while Purgatory was less distinctly graded and the Paradiso was unreadably dull. I haven’t read Paradise Lost or Paradise Regained, but I get the impression that the same is true. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I thought this was one of the standard criticisms of religious art – Hell and the Devil are made much more interesting than Heaven and Hell.

Cerulo focuses mainly on paintings, and maybe she’s right on this score, but even here I’d hazard a guess that the work of Hieronymus Bosch is much more widely reproduced than any detailed representation of Heaven.

The agenda of child well-being policies

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 19, 2006

There has been already quite a lot of discussion about children’s well-being on CT in recent years, but not so much in political circles in most countries. But this might be changing, after the “open letter on childhood”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/Content/displayPrintable.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/09/12/njunk112.xml&site=5&page=0 about which “Chris Bertram wrote”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/09/12/that-letter/ last week. In the UK there is now the “Archbishop of Canterbury”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5354998.stm warning about a child crisis, and “the children’s society”:http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/ asking children, young people, parents, professionals and other adults “to submit their own views”:http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what+we+do/The+good+childhood+inquiry/call+for+evidence/Call+for+Evidence.htm about what makes for a good childhood.

I think all this debate is great, and I don’t know any country where it’s not at least somewhat needed (the Nordic countries, perhaps?). But here are three thoughts about this debate. First, the social conditions of children vary drastically between countries: for example, in some countries there are concerns that children spend too much time at school, but this is not the case in other countries. Thus, what is an urgent problem in one country might not be an issue at all in another. Second, many of the issues relevant for children’s well-being cannot be discussed in a gender-neutral framework. I don’t want mothers to bear all or most costs for the social changes that are needed for the well-being of children. Thus, the debate on children’s well-being policies needs to be gender-sensitive, and we need to discuss who will bear the ‘costs’ (broadly defined, of course) related to the well-being of children. In fact, these distributive justice issues are not just between fathers and mothers, or men and women, but also between parents and non-parents. Third, rather than moving forward with a haphazard agenda, shouldn’t we first debate what kind of issues need to be discussed? I have my own idiosyncratic list of issues (which includes, among other things, breastfeeding policies, parental leave, parenting classes, urban planning issues, and the inevitable child care question); what issues do you think should be on the agenda of child well-being policies?