Monday, May 14, 2007

Things About Stuff

CKR has an interesting post on climate science:

One of the objections to climate science and the IPCC process is that science is about facts, not consensus.

It’s about both, actually. Scientists are a lot less deterministic lot than is popularly supposed. Some do indeed measure particular properties or effects down to the fourth or ninth or whatever place after the decimal point, but for the most part, the world is slipperier than that. Or it would be nice to believe that scientists pin down causes and effects in an unambiguous way: smoke cigarettes, and you’ll get lung cancer.

That example shows that it’s not so simple. We all know someone who smokes and has lived a long and healthy life. But it still makes sense to discourage smoking, because many people who smoke do get lung cancer, and the cigarettes are the cause of that lung cancer. Probability there, not determinism.
Subtopia discusses an article on "the urbanization of panic":
Berardi describes the state of urban territory as striated by new dimensions of panic where the mental and physical environment of the city overlap in an over-saturation of signs “that create a sort of continuous excitation," he writes, "a permanent electrocution, which leads the individual mind as well as the collective mind to a state of collapse.”
There's an awful lot of stuff I'd take issue with in the theory-laden source article. It's hard to say whether I'll ever get around to it, though. For now, the questions that occur to me are: 1) Is panic really "urban"?; and 2) Is "panic" really panic?

David Neiwart reports on a picnic in Rapid City, MI, at which a KKK flag was flown:
Probably the most noteworthy aspect of the story is the way everyone in the community scrambles to cover for the person who raised the flag. They're all equally quick to deny that the flag's appearance meant anything racial....

If white people sometimes wonder why minorities sometimes view their protestations off innocence on racial issues with deep suspicion, they need only look at incidents like these for a simple explanation.
Except that for many people, assigning ill will to the accuser rather than the accused provides the simplest possible explanation for racial incidents.

Stories like this one show how racism has essentially become inadmissible; it's as though it were so rare a phenomenon, and so inexplicable a form of mental or ethical perversion, that almost any other explanation is not only more plausible, but also more in keeping - perversely enough - with the "civilized" value of tolerance.

Speaking of tolerance, VastLeft extols the virtues of being reasonable:
Maybe it’s part of the plan, the rightwing going so far off-the-rails that the Democrats are stuck being the boring Mr.-and-Ms. Fixits, while the Repubs create all those mind-boggling new realities. But, maybe it’s time we remind people how boringly reasonable we are. It just may be that reasonable is the new reasonable.
Damn straight. Death to extremists!

Kidding aside, Amanda Marcotte would take issue - as would I - with the "Mr.-and-Ms." part of VL's equation:
If you pay very close attention to the way Democrats and liberals are dismissed by the right and in the mainstream, you’ll notice that it’s the same set of dismissals issued to silence and discredit women out of hand. Despite all indicators that we marched off to war because a bunch of neocon wingnuts watched way too many war movies in the 80s, the idea that liberals are ruled by emotions and conservatives are rational still has play (look at any Sensible Liberal® defending his support for the war, and you’ll see that myth played out)....

And it’s all because Republicans have been coded as masculine, and the Democrats as feminine, and thanks to sexism, we believe that masculine is more rational than feminine, regardless of piles of evidence to the contrary.
My thrusting, probing male intellect tells me that the young lady is on to something (I'd emphasize that the "rationality" in question is of the conservatarian variety, and therefore has more to do with kicking ass than, say, devising a sensible trade policy).

Which reminds me: Echidne has written an excellent piece on the media's portrayal of gender research.

(The photo at top is by David Levinthal, from his series "Hitler Moves East 1975-77." Via Coudal.)

No comments: