Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kristof's editorial

Kristof wrote an editorial in the Sunday Times this week: "With a Few More Brains..."

I don't actually disagree with anything he's saying, I generally like Kristof and agree with things he writes. He raises awareness of issues that are sometimes beyond the scope of day-to-day news coverage.

The only thing I don't like about this article is that I think I wrote a similar one for the Spectrum about eight years ago, right before (or maybe right after) slightly less than half of this country went slightly crazy and elected our current idiot-in-chief. (Well, you know, "elected" is a strong word to use, but we're not going to go there right now.) It wasn't as erudite or well-read as Kristof's, to be sure, and times have definitely changed at least a little, but I wrote an editorial piece my senior year about how anti-intellectualism was making our nation a laughingstock and was going to send us all to hell in a handbasket. Or something like that. (I believed Al Gore back then, before it was fashionable.) I think it was part of my "revenge of the nerds" phase, in which I was extremely excited that they'd let a geek like me write opinion pieces for the paper.

Unfortunately, I can't actually link to that article, because the Spectrum site apparently went to hell in 2003, then the paper was renamed, and I can't access the Hawkeye site either. So you'll have to believe me on this one. But I was lamenting Americans believing in UFOs over Darwin way before you, Kristof! [Former Spectrum writers... can anyone back me up on this? Or did I imagine this whole thing?]

Until proven otherwise, I'll just believe I'm an uncited source for his article. Is that ok with everyone? Cool.

Oh, and I think Kristof's reference to Darwin at the end of his article, although well-intentioned, shows something of a misunderstanding of how evolution works. He says,
The dumbing-down of discourse has been particularly striking since the 1970s. Think of the devolution of the emblematic conservative voice from William Buckley to Bill O’Reilly. It’s enough to make one doubt Darwin.
The trouble with that, of course, is that he's saying things have gone from good to bad. Well, that's not how evolution works. Evolution supports whatever works best at a particular time, and unfortunately for us that appears to be O'Reilly. He is suited to the TV niche better than Buckley. Natural selection doesn't have value judgements. As I mentioned in my post about fish with knees, evolution works with what it has to make the best solution available, not the best of all possible solutions to a particular problem.

Anyway, this is geeking out and getting off topic. Never mind what percentage of people do or don't accept evolution; it's alarming that we're even using the word "believe" to describe a scientific phenomenon.

As of today, I'll try renouncing my belief in gravity. We'll see what happens.

What scientific theory do you choose to believe or not believe? I look forward to seeing your comments.


Dustin said...

String theory is some buuuullshit.

Aliza said...

yes, i vaguely recall that article. i probably have it on a floppy disk somewhere. let's hunt down b. horowitz for failing to maintain the website. he'd make an easy target.

also, it's kind of funny that us spectrum alumni are all blogging in various places- we should somehow unite (remember the days of "webrings?") or combine forces or something.

Josh Tauberer said...

I don't believe in the Big Bang (as popularly understood). Not because I think any other theory is better, obviously, but because it's not really any better than anything else.