December 21, 2007

Deep questions about how our world works and who we are

This is the season for year-end lists of books in which the mainstream review media steer literate culture away from deep questions about how our world works and who we are and toward celebrations of narcissism, celebrity gossip, and literary cliques. What I wrote in 1991 in "The Emerging Third Culture", still pertains today:

A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.

Given the well-documented challenges and issues we are facing as a nation, as a culture, how can it be that there are no science books (and hardly any books on ideas) on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year list; no science category in the Economist Books of the Year 2007; only Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker's list of Books From Our Pages? ...
Sorry! from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen
By the way I regard Obama as the most intellectual candidate; having been a law professor is part of that. Of course that needn't make him the best candidate; Woodrow Wilson was an intellectual but a disaster as President. There is no doubt that Ron Paul is very widely read and is an admirable defender of individual liberty. I've also met him and I believe his IQ is high. But if you think that he is intellectual, ask yourself what standards of evidence and procedural rationality he applied when he wrote this. Sorry people, but I have to call 'em as I see 'em. As I said in my previous post, I'm still happy with the idea of protest votes for Paul.
And by the way, as long as I'm courting controversy, here's a study on how much early environment shapes the brain and IQ.

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