Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci

I just finished listening to the edition of
 Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk The book does quite a thorough job of covering the many ways facts and science lose out in the popularity wars.  Also, it mentioned many issues and people I've thought about over the years, and made strong connections to my most recent thinking.

So I went to look at the author's blog, only to find he ended it 3 months ago (in March 2014).

"This is the last Rationally Speaking post, folks! It has been a long and fascinating ride. It began back in 2000, before blogs were a thing, with what at the time I called a (syndicated) internet column, and which became a blog in August 2005.
Since then, I published or edited a total of 1208 posts (this is #1209!), which have been commented upon 35,651 times and have been seen 3,880,694 times"
Pigliucci has redirected his blogging efforts to where he recently commented, in "On the Biology of Race" on Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History which I'd also just been looking at.

I had also just read Alvin Goldman's Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust? which happened to play a big role in the next-last chapter of the book.


In his farewell to the "Rationally Speaking" blog,  Pigliucci notes  how he was inspired by a statement by Noam Chomsky that
“Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for meaningful democracy”

Looking at the comments and reviews of this book I decided maybe this is a Chomsky book that would give me some clue about why his so highly regarded.  So far, he has seemed to me far to inclined to explain things in terms of a massive conspiracy, and, as a self-proclaimed anarchist, I didn't see what he could offer as a counterweight to the "forces of oppression".
  But the quote offered above suggests he may have offered something  besides despair and loathing of the current state of affairs.

Pigliucci also suggested taking a look at an article by City University of New York’s Corey Robin, on “The responsibility of adjunct intellectuals” (published in Al Jazeera America).  Boy that's not going to be helpful with any broad audience -- I took a look at it and it seemed pretty thin to me, but his book  The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

shows some promise with one (Amazon) customer/reviewer suggesting he does what George Lakoff tried and failed to do giving a better conceptual understanding of what conservatism is all about.  Still, it seems likely to be rooted in the conservative/liberal dichotomy which I think (though I've long struggled to articulate this) is a source of illusion and distortion.  It sounds like the analysis may shed some light though even if it

NOTE: This is quite unfinished, but if you have any thoughts on the books articles, etc. mentioned please feel free to add comments.

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