Voyou Désœuvré

Moll on the difficulties facing Evo Morales in Bolivia. What I find particularly interesting is the overlap between, for want of better terms, ethical and tactical questions. Moll is worried about Evo sending in the troops against the rich, racist protesters in Santa Cruz; both because if it worked it would reinforce the power of the state (the ethical concern) and because it might not work (the tactical one), fatally weakening the revolution/reform process currently underway. These concerns might look like they’re in tension with one another, if not flat-out contradictory, but I think they’re actually two sides of the same coin, an illustration of the difficulty of understanding the role of the state in revolution. Read more↴

More on Michael Reiss and creationism. Some of the comments at Crooked Timber are interesting in their unargued assumption that the point of science lessons is to get students to believe certain things. I know it’s annoying when people use the “aah, the scientists are the real religionists” line, but it’s tempting in this case. But obviously one ought to figure out what is similar and what is different between science and religion. Reiss took some heat for calling creationism a “world-view,” but it is, in that it’s connected with a general method of making sense of the world, as science is, and it’s not at all obvious how these different methods could connect with one another. However, while modern science and certain religious positions might both be world-views, there’s still a difference of kind between the two. Read more↴

Via this post on a translating (or transliterating, I guess) the GNOME desktop to Shavian, I’ve been reading this interesting article on spelling reform, and thinking some more about the subject. It’s good to see an article address the most obvious problem with phonetic spelling, the fact that there’s no one mapping from words to pronunciations, because there’s no one accent. Still, I’m not convinced by the argument here. Read more↴

There’s been an absolutely absurd response to Michael Reiss’s eminently sensible suggestion that science teachers could use discussions of creationism to talk about the difference between science and non-science. Reiss said:

If questions or issues about creationism and intelligent design arise during science lessons they can be used to illustrate a number of aspects of how science works.

In response to which the New Scientist compared him to Sarah Palin, and a couple of Nobel laureates are calling for him to be sacked from his position as education director of the Royal Society. And of course Dawkins got involved.

I initially posted this just because I thought it was amusingly stupid. But now I think there may be something a bit more pernicious going on. A number of people objecting to Reiss have said things like “teach creation in religious studies,” or “keep it in philosophy class” (see e.g. the comments on that New Scientist blog post). What’s wrong about this is the suggestion that philosophy of science, or the question of the nature and bounds of science, is irrelevant to science itself. This is a problem because it implies a belief that a scientific worldview is somehow obvious, rather than a particular way of thinking that took a long time and a lot of trouble to develop.

The cover for Monaé's "The Chase Suite" shows her as a damaged cyborg in gleaming white plastic. A while back, I was re-reading Isaac Asimov’s series of novels about robots. There’s something faintly uneasy about them, which I’d meant to blog about at the time. The underlying theme of the books is the effect of robot labor on society; and the key thing which distinguishes robots from other types mechanization is that they are sentient, which makes the situation uncomfortable like slavery, a similarity which is always present in the books, but is not dealt with explicitly. This does raise a question for cybernetic communism, though: the usual assumption is that mechanization will abolish, or at least minimize, necessary labor, but what if this depends on an unjustified humanism, an assumption that we can simply farm our work off onto dumb machines? But shouldn’t a sufficiently complex assemblage of machines have some kind of say in its own future? Read more↴

One thing I couldn’t mention in my last post, without breaking the meme rules, was that I’d been listening to a certain amount of funky house, too; because, obviously, I can hardly use the word “funky” without registering my disgust. Indeed, I’d previously dismissed the genre entirely just on that basis. But then I read a post on blissblog describing funky house as “like Musical Mobb and Jon E Cash if they’d tried to do broken beat,” which sounds pretty great. I haven’t actually found anything that sounds that good, though this track by DJ NG is pleasingly sinister (and it’s good to see that funky house shares bassline’s predeliction for producer names that sound like serial numbers), and Kyla’s “Do You Mind,” as mentioned on blissblog, is good, though I’m not sure the funky house version is better than the bassline original (the crossover between the two genres seems kind of interesting; a geographical division of labor?). Actually, the funky house version would be better, if it weren’t for the most obviously funky house part, the shitty drums. On which point this guy seems to be doing better.