MWF blogging

I’ve only been to a couple of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival so far[1], but already this statement from Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty has been worth the trip for me. Responding to a rant against Darwinism as religious orthodoxy, coming not from a creationist but from a neo-Lamarckian viewpoint[2], Doherty said:

Science is revolutionary, which is why George W. Bush and John Howard hate it so much

Well said!

I’ll be talking about blogging and gatekeepers at the BMW Edge, Federation Square this evening at 5:30 and on Parched, the Politics of Water tomorrow (nearly sold out, so hurry if you’re interested). More details here.

fn1. I had to go to a climate change symposium in Canberra en route which made for a hectic trip, but also allows meant I could do the Canberra gig while minimising extra CO2 emissions.

11 thoughts on “MWF blogging

  1. Actually the idea that science is “revolutionary,” “disrupting,” etc. is a myth we moved on from long ago.

  2. Did you buy carbon offsets? I have noticed lately that when you buy tickets on the Qantas website you can also purchase carbon offsets, but the price is ridiculously cheap (about $10/tonne) and they do not explain how this price is arrived at (maybe the NSW certificates?).

  3. George W and Little Johnnie don’t HATE science – they just fundamentally misunderstand it.

    Science to them is a magical goodie dispenser which underwrites perpetual economci growth and never impinges upon social or political debate. As such it’s an essential prop to their ideology.

    That is pretty much the view of science promulgated up until the 1960’s so in Johnny’s case at least he’s simply guilty of failing to keep up with the times.

    Oh and while I don’t know the details of Australian science funding under Howard, Bush significantly increased science funding in the US (even as he attempted to control and censor the outputs from that funding).

    whether that increase was due to any underlying in-principle support for science or part of the general drunken bacchanal of Bush-era spending I’m uncertain.

  4. The book you link to (on Ted Steele and Lamarck) doesn’t sound terribly reliable. Anyone who says that TD Lysenko ‘used Lamarckian theory to improve crops’ is naive and poorly informed or rather less than honest.
    This is not to comment in any way whatsoever on Ted Steele or his work.

  5. Science to them… and never impinges upon social or political debate.

    That’s not right. You only have to think of a few issues (stem cell research, global warming/climate change, GM crops,… etc) to know that statement is baloney. Science is being debated in politics all the time. The only problem is that the religious and political right think that they can throw in, (as Robyn Williams calls them) “trojan turkeys” every now and then.

  6. ‘PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd says the ordered nature of the cosmos convinces him of the existence of God.

    Mr Rudd, a regularly practicing Anglican, was today asked on Fairfax Radio in Brisbane to give his single biggest argument in favour of the existence of God.

    “As you know I’m a believer and I’ve never pretended not to be and I respect those who have no religious belief – it’s a free country,” Mr Rudd said.

    “For me, it’s ultimately the order of the cosmos or what I describe as the creation.

    “You can’t simply have, in my own judgment, creation simply being a random event because it is so inherently ordered, and the fact that the natural environment is being ordered where it can properly coexist over time.

    “If you were simply reducing that to mathematically probabilities I’ve got to say it probably wouldn’t have happened.

    “So I think there is an intelligent mind at work.”

    Mr Rudd said in his entire political life he had never been asked in a media interview to prove the existence of God.

    “You … have a world first,” Mr Rudd said.’

  7. Smiley – of coruse the statement isn’t right that’s why I described it as a fundamental misunderstanding of science.

    My poitn is that for both Howard and Bush, science was only useful for making new toys and new ways to blow up brown people.

    When science went outside what they saw as its proper role, their principal impulse was to repress it.

  8. Pr Q says:

    Science is revolutionary, which is why George W. Bush and John Howard hate it so much.

    Its a risky business telling Nobel prize winners how to suck eggs in the philosophy of science. But Doherty’s statement, although nailing Bush, seems a little unfair to Howard, and starry-eyed about science.

    For sure Bush hates science. Or more accurately, he hates having to study any topic too deeply. And science is simply the deepest form of study.

    In one interview before becoming President he famously confessed to his pet hatred:

    “Sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something,�.

    Worringly, it didnt seem to do his chances any harm. (Obama’s evident wonkishness is evidently a negative.)

    But no one has every offered any convincing evidence that Howard is opposed to the findings of proper science. His opposition to signing Kyoto was based on political and economic considerations, not epistemic one. He is not a Creationist.

    But Howard did show most of the media-academia complex a clean pair of heels when it came to the more cultural sciences. No PM in recent AUS history has had a shrewder grasp of human nature and its relation to social structure than JW Howard. This is a scientific achievement of sorts, and deserves recognition.

    Over the past generation there have been no fundamental revolutions in hard science, although there have been technological ones aplenty. Mostly its been a consolidation of standard theory. Proper scientists these days are actually conservative, its the anti-scientists who are posing as revolutionaries.

    But public discussion of science has grown massively, with bad ideas tending to outnumber good ones. The upper reaches of science spend alot of time dealing with cranks and hype from PR’s perpetual commotion machines. (How much time does Pr Q spend correcting howlers as opposed to making breakthroughs in micro-eco?)

    As Stove pointed out:

    Physicists and chemists rightly try, therefore, to maintain a professional organisation, and a nut-screen, designed to exclude the teeming would-be Columbuses whose letters begin, “1 do not have a science-degree, but…

    Its fun listening to my cousin and a boss who are both topish-notch physics teachers/researchers, laying down the physical law to interlopers. It boils down to “what part of NO dont you understand?”.

  9. Prof Q (or anyone else): can you explain how you go about that and how you work out how much (many?) you need to buy?

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