Axioms about the News

-Every page is an editorial page. Often by what’s said, always by what’s left out.

-Every reporter is a pundit. Often by what’s said, etc..

-Pundits have an objective element too.

-Where objective means true, all pundits have some; where it means consensus, none.

-It’s very hard not to call it “subjective” when it lacks consensus, even though it’s obvious that it needn’t be.

-We know truth isn’t social but act as though it is.

-Our strongest anachronism is, say, our inability to see Socrates as a weirdo. Creepy, unemployed, ugly old guy who hung around the mall and the gym and bothered people with questions. Or Jesus, a construction worker from a hick town who thought he was some sort of religious authority. Eyeroll.

-The myth of the hero reporter reigned from the dethroning of Joe McCarthy to Rathergate. And it was a dethroning, for all their protestations that there was a wicked witch hunt that they stood against on pure principle.

-All hail the internet. Why couldn’t we have just jumped from local party newspapers right to it?

-The consensus of science relies on few caring what it says, and even then it has to be policed like a Supermax with grants, tenure, publications, heavily incentivized self-selection, etc..

-“The Scientific Community” is the highest amount of totalitarianism we can stand. To have this level of totalitarianism about something we care about would be unendurable.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. November 9, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Re your last paragraph: science is something I care about. I wonder at and appreciate knowing, in at least one reasonable sense of “knowing,” that, say, the earth is a planet orbiting a relatively unimpressive star, one of many billions in a relatively ordinary galaxy, itself one of many billions. The “totalitarianism,” as you label it, that underpins that sort of knowledge is by no means unendurable.

  2. November 10, 2016 at 6:08 am

    I sympathize with the authors concern. I believe that totalitarianism, which I think is very real, means the weight of countless received ideas, hypotheses, assumptions, simplistic interpretations (which don’t even need to be popular, the scientist hold them as well), most of what comes disguised in science’s prestige but is mainly crude or half-baked or crass, both the thick layer of assumptions and lazy thinking about what this knowledge means, the very root of the philosophical prestige of quantitative science, both the fringes of hard science and its core, with no reasonable working alternatives (unlike in politics, ethics, where the sources of the claims are much more varied and different, even opposed). So, it’s also a lack of an alternative to modern quantitative science, because the attempts at an alternative science have been either creepy or naïve, or purely declarative and verbal, mostly disjointed from what is appealing, sound and convincing in modern science (verifiability); the ancients spoke in terms of contemplation, but the harsh theoretical severing of knowledge from practice (daily or technical) seems also a modern misunderstanding, by which I mean that a trustworthy alternative would need to make sense also in terms of practice (as Goethe tried, in his works in optics, or as some pioneers of a qualitative biology also strove to achieve).

  3. November 10, 2016 at 6:14 am

    And a few typos from haste in my reply above (it should read: author’s, scientists …).


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