September 1, 2016

"Get hard! Whatever you do, make it sound scientific. Get out from under the stigma of studying a 'social science'!"

"By now 'social' meant soft in the brainpan. Sociologists, for example, were to observe and record hour-by-hour conversations, meetings, correspondence, objective manifestations of status concerns, and make the information really hard by converting it into algorithms full of calculus symbols that gave it the look of mathematical certainty— and they failed totally. Only Chomsky, in linguistics, managed to pull it off and turn all— or almost all— the pillow heads in the field rock-hard. Even before receiving his PhD, he was invited to lecture at the University of Chicago and Yale, where he introduced a radically new theory of language. Language was not something you learned. You were born with a built-in 'language organ.' It is functioning the moment you come into the world, just the way your heart and your kidneys are already pumping and filtering and excreting away."

From Tom Wolfe's new "Kingdom of Speech," which I've been audiobooking around town this week.

I also liked this passage, which is also about Chomsky (but made me think about Donald Trump):
Charismatic leaders radiate more than simple confidence. They radiate authority. They don’t tell jokes or speak ironically, except to rebuke— as in “Kindly spare me your ‘originality.’” Irony, like plain humor, invariably turns upon some indulgence of human weakness. Charismatic figures show only strength. They refuse to buckle under in the face of threats, including physical threats. They are usually prophets of some new idea or cause.
What it made me think about Trump was: By that description, Trump is not a charismatic leader. 

114 comments:

TreeJoe said...

Charismatic leaders absolutely tell jokes.

Brando said...

"Charismatic leaders radiate more than simple confidence. They radiate authority. They don’t tell jokes..."

I didn't realize Reagan, FDR and JFK weren't charismatic.

Brando said...

"Charisma" is more of an "it factor"--measured not just in how much authority one projects, but how they are able to get others to react. If others want to listen and follow, if they're drawn to you, you're charismatic. Charismatic people can project humor and warmth, though these aren't always required (Hitler was certainly charismatic, and I don't think even his followers found him warm or humorous).

Fernandinande said...

"Why did NYT give Tom Wolfe a pass on his ignorant attack on Darwin & dismissal of evolution?"
-> to
"NYT’s pathetic summary of Tom Wolfe’s book misses the boat on evolution and linguistics"

Tom Wolfe has jumped the shark: thinks he can refute Darwin w exclamation points. Excellent review by Jerry Coyne.
-> to
"His white suit unsullied by research, Tom Wolfe tries to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky".

rehajm said...

Doosh wears white suits with vests. All. The. Time. And he's from America!

Sigivald said...

Only Chomsky, in linguistics, managed to pull it off and turn all— or almost all— the pillow heads in the field rock-hard.

You should hear linguists talk about Chomsky, Mr. Wolfe.

The scientific-minded ones don't like his work very much - it's some amazing coincidence that the Universal Grammar Of Fundamental Human Language is ... just like English, isn't it?

(They increasingly don't buy universal grammar.

And he seems to have since given up on all that early work anyway, with a new program that the critics call simply unfalsifiable and vague.

The man's linguistics seem increasingly to simply be as bad [structurally and evidence-wise] as his politics, just dressed up as science.)

virgil xenophon said...

Anyone over the age of 12 who didn't immediately spot Chomskys work as naught but BS dressed up in pseudo-scientific lingo probably had an IQ in single digits

Brent said...

What Brando said. My same first thoughts when reading the "definition". That and the word "idiotic"

buwaya said...

I don't know.

Napoleon and Wellington and Eisenhower were all extremely ironical and sarcastic, in their personal communications with their subordinates.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Brando said...
I didn't realize Reagan, FDR and JFK weren't charismatic.


Nor was Hitler

Sigivald said...
You should hear linguists talk about Chomsky, Mr. Wolfe.


My links above are from linguist/psychologist Steven Pinker, who has (substantial) disagreements with Chomsky.

Wolfe also has a technical error in the first sentence of the book which demonstrates that he doesn't know basic high-school science: "...my face aglow with god-knows how many milligauss of x-radiation..."
Gauss measures magnetic field. X-rays units are Rem or becquerel.

Wolfe is "not even wrong", a polite phrase for "full of shit".

mockturtle said...

Chomsky is charismatic??

exhelodrvr1 said...

The self-deprecating jokes many charismatic leaders tell actually adds to their charisma.

virgil xenophon said...

@brando/

au contraire, mon frere, Hitler was known to be quite popular with women due to the fact he was known as an accomplished dinner table conversationalist and master of the sort of polite "small talk" to which women are so attracted. Plus he liked Dogs..

buwaya said...

"Hitler was certainly charismatic, and I don't think even his followers found him warm or humorous"

They did actually, those who knew him well. He was apparently quite a convivial sort when in the mood.

Paddy O said...

They don't tell jokes?

Truly charismatic leaders are few and far between indeed, and rule out most of the great leaders in history.

The only people who I find consistently lack a sense of humor are those who grow up wealthy. But even among this group there are major exceptions. Churchill was a wit. But was he charismatic? He was enough for his time!

And Lincoln? Right out! Reagan? No way! Both made lots of jokes.

Was Ike funny? That I don't know. Roosevelt? I don't know that either.

I think Jobs made jokes. Didn't he?

buwaya said...

"Was Ike funny? "

His mode it seems was sarcasm.

rhhardin said...

Chomsky was great with transformational grammar and downhill after that.

traditionalguy said...

Good leaders develop a trust between themselves and the people they lead. There are many levels to establishing that relationship that can be learned. It is a social science in itself.

Charisma has been conflated with using good leadership skills. But Chrisma is nothing less than the casting of a spell over a group so that it no longer thinks straight and only will hear, and loves to interact with the presence of a Magician's, sweet loving Big Lies.

Obama's smile promising to be the good Black Man sent by MLK, and Hitler's soulish assaults on all mythical betrayers of the German Nordic Soul were both carried along by Charisma power.

Michael McClain said...

Heh! Didn't realize studying History nailed me with a social stigma. Now teachers taking a degree in Educational Leadership, that's worthy of ridicule and the application of social stigma.

mockturtle said...

From what I've read about Hitler, he was not just charismatic but quite charming. Most manipulative people are.

Brando said...

"au contraire, mon frere, Hitler was known to be quite popular with women due to the fact he was known as an accomplished dinner table conversationalist and master of the sort of polite "small talk" to which women are so attracted. Plus he liked Dogs.."

Hmmm....maybe I misjudged this "Hitler" fellow! (Ducks)

Roughcoat said...

Best study IMO on charisma and leadership is John Keegan's The Mask of Command.

Michael said...

Trump is not charismatic - Obama is/was charismatic. Trump is a vessel or vehicle for existing frustrations and discontents. He doesn't cast a spell over people; many of his supporters don't even like him. They know what his problems and limitations are. They just want to be heard, and they want a voice, and they feel that he gives them these things when no one else does. His lack of charisma is actually a redeeming feature. It's charisma that leads you over the cliff.

AReasonableMan said...

I liked Wolfe's book on Art. I don't know much about art.
I didn't like Wolfe's on Architecture. I know a bit about architecture.
Wolfe's book on Evolution is complete nonsense. I know a lot about evolution.

n.n said...

Trump is charismatic but he is not boyfriend material. For one, he is married, with children. He promotes the novel ideas of law-based civil and science-based human rights. In the "secular" religious context, he is the anti-Choice.

Language is something we learn. We are conceived with a built-in learning system capable of recognizing and expressing complex patterns including coherent coding schemes (e.g. language). Well, there is the unknowable: science is incapable of discerning between origin and expression.

As for social science, good luck reconciling the bias constellations of billions of people. And there is the fantasy trifecta of scientific mysticism that assumes/asserts uniformity, independence, and linearity. Your best bet is to force a consensus (e.g. democratic, authoritarian).

mockturtle said...

Best study IMO on charisma and leadership is John Keegan's The Mask of Command.

Thanks, roughcoat! Unfortunately, not available on kindle but I'll look for a used paperback somewhere.

Ficta said...

@Sigivald I just finished reading the book last night. You've neatly summarized Wolfe's points, actually. Out of context the quote in the post might have mislead you as to Wolfe's intentions.

jdniner said...

While speech is extremely important. It evolves. The rules change. The pronunciations change. Academics who use language as a method of clear communication are usually too conservative to adapt to new thought. They are lost in a forest of periods and commas and only see their error when some rube or hick makes them cry in a staff meeting.

Roughcoat said...

mockturtle -

My pleasure. I'm amazed that Amazon hasn't Kindled Mask of Command. But you can get used hardcover copies through Amazon for as little as 1 cent (plus shipping)!

His chapter on Grant is especially good. Keegan regards Grant as one of history's greatest generals/commanders/leaders, and a great and admirable American as well. Which are my sentiments entirely.

We lost a great one when Keegan passed. Brilliant historian and writer, and always and ever a great friend of America. He was close friend of one of my close friends and by all accounts just a truly nice guy.

Sebastian said...

"They did actually, those who knew him well. He was apparently quite a convivial sort when in the mood." Albert Speer would beg to differ.

Fernandinande said...

"Sociologists ... make the information really hard by converting it into algorithms full of calculus symbols"

As far as I can recall, I've never seen "calculus symbols" in a sociology paper - has anyone seen them? Is Wolfe confusing calculus with statistics?

Brando said...

Maybe that Final Solution thing was just a joke and his underlings didn't understand Hitler's humor, and when he found out he was like "you guys did WHAT?"

mockturtle said...

Ferdinande, sociologists use statistics a lot. It's their bread and butter. And, as Disraeli said, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics."

mockturtle said...

Brando said: Maybe that Final Solution thing was just a joke and his underlings didn't understand Hitler's humor, and when he found out he was like "you guys did WHAT?"

LOL!! And maybe Mein Kampf was political satire. ;-)

gspencer said...

I'll respect the holder of a PhD in any of the hard sciences, and along with MD/DDS degree holders, I'll give them the title of "Doctor."

It's a no-go for the rest of them. So many of these horses-asses, yes, I'm looking particularly at you PhD-ers (cough) in "education" or some "studies," are so full of themselves and of shiitte.

"Gag me with a spoon."

mockturtle said...

You know what they say: BS=bullshit, MS=more shit, PhD=piled high & deep.

My late husband had a PhD in biochemistry but he would even chuckle at that.

Fernandinande said...

mockturtle said...
Ferdinande, sociologists use statistics a lot.


Indeed they do. Do they use "calculus symbols"?

And, as Disraeli said,

Apparently [space] not.

"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics."

Whoever came up with that saying might've been better off sticking with: "Math is hard" -- Barbie.

sean said...

I find Trump and Chomsky very similar in their style of discourse. Both of them have the knack that they simply keep talking, ignoring interruptions and refusing to engage very directly, speaking phrases that have some vague relevance to what others are saying, but emphatically do not reflect careful consideration of others' statements, or address them in a particularly responsive way. As befits a professor, Chomsky's discourse is somewhat more grammatically and syntactically coherent, but they are very similar.

I don't like either of them. With all their getting, neither of them has gotten understanding, which has always been my goal and what I respect in others.

Paul Snively said...

Fernandinande:

mockturtle said...
Ferdinande, sociologists use statistics a lot.

Indeed they do. Do they use "calculus symbols"?

Yes, just like econometrics does. And with roughly as much justification.

mockturtle said...

Yes, just like econometrics does. And with roughly as much justification.

:-) Yep.

mockturtle said...

BTW, Ferdinande, any attribution used today will be disputed by someone.

Rob said...

Hitler was not only funny, he was--according to Franz Liebkind in "The Producers"--a terrific dancer.

Josephbleau said...

I attended the American Statistical Asoc. Joint Meeting in Chicago last month and got hundreds of pages of short course notes, from Baysian Markov Chain monte carlo methods to Survey Sampling and there are real "Calculus Symbols" on 1 in 5 pages (estimated.) Granted that drag and drop "statisticians" in some sciences delude themselves that they "work" with eigenvalues and "integrate" the pdf to a cdf.

Rusty said...

AReasonableMan said...
I liked Wolfe's book on Art. I don't know much about art.
I didn't like Wolfe's on Architecture. I know a bit about architecture.
Wolfe's book on Evolution is complete nonsense. I know a lot about evolution.

You teach biology?

Fernandinande said...

Josephbleau said...

Thanks!

Michael said...

ARM

So you've read the new Wolfe book? The words in it?

mockturtle said...

Roughcoat: Thank you. My problem, living as I do in a small RV and traveling most of the time, is that I don't really have room for many books and it is difficult to get things shipped, so I rely heavily on kindle now. But this sounds like a book well worth reading, so I'll pick it up at a used bookstore and then donate it when I'm finished. What would you recommend as the best biography of Grant?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Only Chomsky, in linguistics, managed to pull it off and turn all— or almost all— the pillow heads in the field rock-hard.

The irony of which is that some of Chomsky's biggest/most famous ideas are the ones that are least scientifically rigorous--"universal grammar" being the obvious example due to its nonfalsifiability.

I couldn't remember Dr. Everett's first name but was going to mention hearing a talk he gave where he convincingly attacked Chomsky's work...but I found his Wiki which includes:

In 2016 Tom Wolfe published a book, The Kingdom of Speech, in which he discusses work of four major figures in the history of the sciences of evolution and language, the last of them being Daniel Everett.[1]

So apparently Wolfe's book has that covered!

wildswan said...

Is Wolfe trying to "refute" Darwin? Or is he trying to present Darwin and Chomsky as the same kind of person - upper class snobs enriched by a theory and determined at all costs to keep the theory flag flying above themselves unto their own enrichment? And both are contrasted with poor men (Wallace and Everett) who went out into the wilds and studied nature as it is, reported back and were in various ways excluded from the scientific heights ascended by Darwin and Chomsky. Though Wallace and Everett had both done better research, they had trouble mostly, in this story, because they were up against an establishment. But that story isn't an attack on evolution; it's an attack on the character of Darwin and Chomsky and also an attack on the way in which we come to accept a theory as "scientific" and "true" (Hint: why do some of us accept climate change as "scientific" and "true.")

Wolfe's second point is that the capacity for speech is supposed have a material basis yet, after all this time, no one has located it. As if we were talking about the circulation without finding the veins. The capacity for speech differentiates us from animals, is material, and yet has no known bodily location. Animals have brains, circus animals demonstrate intelligence, birds signal, bees dance. Even that we can't explain. Geometry, Shakespeare, logic, calculus, HTML - forget about it.

Myself, I believe that Americans and all of the English speaking tradition are seized with a vertiginous horror when we realize that a happy little empirical problem has changed over the years into a tangle which quite evidently requires a higher level analysis for solution - that is, gasp, gasp - metaphysics - aieeeeee. And pretty much everything in psychology, sociology, linguistics these days has reached that point, i.e., needs metaphysics - AHHHHHHH EEEEEEE, screams from outside the cabin. THUD.

Or religion and tradition can fill the gap. But don't think they will last unless within religion and tradition the curious types are allowed to meet the rational problems and do meet them, head-on. Faith seeking understanding i.e., Metaphysics even for an American. AAAAIIIEEEEE. Boris Karloff Laugh. Over and over.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Why would you listen to some random libarts person defining 'charisma'?

Hypothesis: charismatic people are (among other things) faster in deciding what to say. Smarter, more confident, better read of the situation, more experience in persuasion - whatever the reason.

Trump is definitely that kind of mentally quick. As for charisma, it seems he one-on-one gladhands nearly as well as Clinton and certainly public-speaks at least as well. I meant Bill Clinton, of course. Hillary's probably something, or was something, 1 on 1, but I haven't been impressed by her public performance lately - it seems both weak and strident.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Yes, she failed the DC bar exam and fled to Arkansas+Bill without telling anyone.

But she is, objectively, a smart cookie with high potential. And she's more than fulfilled that potential.

Fernandinande said...

wildswan said...
Wolfe's second point is that the capacity for speech is supposed have a material basis yet, after all this time, no one has located it. ...The capacity for speech differentiates us from animals, is material, and yet has no known bodily location.


Link above:
"Determined to reject the idea that any part of language is hard-wired, Wolfe chooses again to rely on sarcasm rather than data. He therefore ignores the observation that circuits of our brains are devoted to processing language, while different parts deal with non-linguistic sounds and with general reasoning and problem-solving. Further, the configuration of the human larynx is novel among primates: The voicebox has evolved downward, and half the tongue is lodged in the throat, giving us an exquisite ability to articulate — particularly the vowels so important for speech. There are genes that, when mutated, cause disorders of language, speech and comprehension, and statistical analyses of our genomes show that these genes were targets of Darwinian natural selection."

Or religion and tradition can fill the gap.

If you don't understand something, just make up some stuff. It's a lot easier than doing or studying research.

richardsson said...

I haven't read Wolfe's new book but I've thought about these issues too. By the time I finished my M.A. in Political Science, I felt it had been a drab, dreary waste of time. Since a lot what makes a person successful in politics is intuitive, why was it a surprise when "Political Scientists" couldn't agree on a common definition of Politics? "Political Scientists" were doing multiple linear regression analyses using measurements of nonsense and coming up with coefficients of correlation that had more in common with the odds in the Daily Racing Form than science. Then some political scientists who did good and useful work were shown the door when their findings weren't politically correct. So much for science.

Science has become an Idol. This is not to say that there aren't real scientists doing science. "Science" has become a magic word used by people who think it makes them sound smart. Back in the 1970's, dumb guys would use the word "finalize" in every other sentence to try to convince themselves and others that they knew what they were talking about. Same thing today with "Science."

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Rob said...
Hitler was not only funny, he was--according to Franz Liebkind in "The Producers"--a terrific dancer.

9/1/16, 2:26 PM
_____________________________________________________

How come the conviviality of Hitler has worked its way into this thread and no one has mentioned the warmth of Stalin?

ALSO

Where is our resident Chomskyite, Robert Cook, when we need him?

Fernandinande said...

richardsson said...
Then some political scientists who did good and useful work were shown the door when their findings weren't politically correct. So much for science.


So much for the open-mindedness of liberal academia. (Plus, some people wouldn't treat "political science" as a real science.)

Same thing today with "Science."

That's why modern atomic submarines, antibiotics, chemicals, cell phones, computers and GPS systems are no better then the submarines, antibiotics, chemicals, cell phones, computers and GPS systems of the 1600's.

And! Modern "scientists" have identified the demon Amaymon as the cause of schizophrenia.

Fernandinande said...

LarsPorsena said...
How come the conviviality of Hitler has worked its way into this thread and no one has mentioned the warmth of Stalin?


"[Stalin]s] bodyguard Karl Pauker, was able to reduce Stalin to tears of laughter with his impressions of Grigory Zinoviev begging for his life in front of the firing squad. Stalin must have eventually tired of the joke because he later had Pauker executed too."
+

Stalin summoned Radek and said, "I know you spread jokes about me. It's impertinent."
"Why?"
"I am the Great Leader, Teacher, and Friend of the people after all."
Radek said "No, I've not told anybody this joke."

Rusty said...

Where is our resident Chomskyite, Robert Cook, when we need him.

He had a date with Chomski.

Paddy O said...

Other animals have speech. Such as dolphins who can identify each other by name and almost all animals communicate to each other in clear ways. A lot of animals understand speech even in human terms, so the conceptual ability is not limited to humanity.

Animals make tools and some even show self-recognition and an ability for complex thought and memory.

We're the only ones who have religion though. That I'm aware of. And human religious inclination goes as far back as complex language, maybe farther.

We're the only ones who have religion, maybe because we're the ones who really need it.

People need an orienting philosophy of some kind, it is hard-wired into our being. It may even be the element that makes us human. It might be that which led to complex speech, passing on philosophy and tradition takes more than grunts and whistles.

Todd Galle said...

Mockturtle-
In my opinion, you could do far worse than reading Grant's autobiography. It truly is a classic, even according to Mark Twain. I would also recommend V.D. Hanson's "Soul of Battle" dealing with motivated 'democratic' armies.

AReasonableMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

Todd Galle said..In my opinion, you could do far worse than reading Grant's autobiography. It truly is a classic, even according to Mark Twain. I would also recommend V.D. Hanson's "Soul of Battle" dealing with motivated 'democratic' armies.

Thank you, Todd!

AReasonableMan said...

Michael said...
So you've read the new Wolfe book?


I have read the two I mentioned. I have not read the most recent one. There have been numerous reviews that excerpted parts of the book. It is nonsense. It appeals to people like Althouse, who appreciate a finely turned phrase rather than slightly dull facts.

Roughcoat said...


mockturtle: What would you recommend as the best biography of Grant?

Rather than a biography, I highly HIGHLY recommend Grant's autobiography, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.

Mark Twain, who loved and admired Grant, edited and published the two-volume memoir. It's available for 99 cents on Kindle, in one complete volume. Since its in the public domain, you can find it in other places, for free, e.g. Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, etc.

Grant's memoir is widely regarded as a brilliant example of autobiographical writing, one of the best in the genre. It is also provides an astonishingly vivid look into a time and place in American history, civilization, and culture. It will transport you to that time and place.

This is what Mark Twain said about the general's memoirs: "I had been comparing the memoirs with Caesar's Commentaries. ... I was able to say in all sincerity, that the same high merits distinguished both books—clarity of statement, directness, simplicity, unpretentiousness, manifest truthfulness, fairness and justice toward friend and foe alike, soldierly candor and frankness, and soldierly avoidance of flowery speech. I placed the two books side by side upon the same high level, and I still think that they belonged there."

I concur totally with this assessment. Do yourself a favor and read it!

mockturtle said...

Thank you, again, roughcoat! Seems you and Todd agree on that. I just ordered it for my kindle for only $0.99!

Todd Galle said...

Mockturtle -
My pleasure! I work in the public history sphere, and half of my day is recommending books! Spent this AM in meetings in our state archives planning an exhibit on 'Conscientious Objectors" to highlight the WW1 & WW2 anniversaries upcoming (my main office is at an historic site associated with Quakers). Great things, indeed. We can start the exhibit with stuff from the 1690s during King William's War (there is even an original William III proclamation charter). I had hoped to get two standard exhibit cases, will end up with 5 plus wall mounts.

Terry said...

On NPR tonight they interviewed five college students / graduates that they have been following since their high school graduation in 2011. I believe they were Black or Hispanic. All were the first in their family to go to college.
Four of the five had gone into the arts or social work. The arts and social work do not pay high wages. They pay wages you often find in work that does not require a college degree. The four were convinced that they were supposed to "follow their passion", a miserable idea the boomers invented to cripple the competitiveness of following generations.
One of the four was going to go on to law school.
The fifth was working on her nursing degree.
I will be bold and say the world has enough actors, social workers, and lawyers, but the world does not have enough nurses.

JCC said...

@ ARM and Ferandinande -

You're offering a critique of the book - and really ridicule at that - and you haven't read the book? WTF?

You're quoting from a number of NY Times articles which are unduly harsh of Wolfe because he says mean things about Chomsky? You really have no idea what's that book or what Wolfe really says?

Amazing. Typical but still amazing...

JCC said...

I bought the e-book version a day or two ago, because after reading the reviews on Amazon, it became apparent that most reviewers, and especially the most critical of them. never read the book. They, like done here, simply quoted from the Times reviews, which are universally harsh and in their tone, offer personal attacks on Wolfe ("he wears white suits") rather than criticism of the book's actual content.

On Amazon, not a single reviewer was a verified purchaser.

JCC said...

@ ARM -

"It appeals to people like Althouse, who appreciate a finely turned phrase rather than slightly dull facts."

That's rich, coming from someone who offers criticism including the phrase "Wolfe's book on Evolution is complete nonsense" when you haven't actually read the book in question, and you're just parroting the NY Times. Like Cliff notes perhaps?

The irony is inescapable. The slightly dull fact is that you're again making sh*t up.

JCC said...

ARM says "I know a lot about evolution."

Did you read the graphic novel verson of Origin of the Species?

AReasonableMan said...

JCC said...
You're quoting from a number of NY Times articles which are unduly harsh of Wolfe because he says mean things about Chomsky? You really have no idea what's that book or what Wolfe really says?


This is a bullshit complaint. You can't read every book. A sensible book reader reads a lot of reviews and then selects wisely. Wolfe's book is obviously designed to create a furor rather than inform and does not cross any reasonable threshold for devoting time to reading it. There are a lot of reviews available in addition to the NYT's review, which was generally considered more favorable than was reasonable, given the tawdry product under review.

There is a lot science envy in the field of arts. It is not science's fault that they screwed up their own fields. They should piss off and leave scientists alone to do productive work.

AReasonableMan said...

JCC said...
Did you read the graphic novel verson of Origin of the Species?


No but I have read the original. It is surprisingly readable. You should give it a go, rather than waste time on dross like Wolfe's book.

rcocean said...

"audiobooking around town"

Ha. I love that.

rcocean said...

I audiobooked "Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full" and loved both of them.

I don't think Trump is a charismatic figure compared to other political leaders, say Ronald Reagan or even Rubio. He is a TV personality, a billionaire businessman who knows how to market himself. And most of all, he's right on the issues.

Trump got nominated because the other Republican POTUS candidates REFUSED to address his issues in the way he was addressing them.

rcocean said...

Academy is full of frauds but you can't get the average moron to care.

In the USA, college isn't about learning anything. No one gives a damn about that, except maybe STEM which has a practical application.

Its all about getting a degree, or networking, so you can make $$$. And for the rich its about hanging out and having sex/fun while pretending to do something important.

Sociologists and Political "Scientists" figured this all out. They also figured out you could get a nice, easy job with plenty of cute Co-eds by convincing the rubes you were some sort of "scientist" who was solving societies problems.

Paul Snively said...

richardsson: Science has become an Idol.

Hence, "scientism," a metaphysical belief in a version of "science" that doesn't exist, and never did. The elevation of the myth of "self-correction" to an article of faith, and an acceptance of the metaphysical claim that science is capable of addressing all questions of human experience, which is how you get titles like: "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design" unironically.

If you have a genuine interest in the history of science, warts and all, let me highly recommend The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, which may be the best science writing, ever.

If you want an agnostic's beat-down of the cult of scientism, let me recommend The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.

If you want a theistic analytic philosopher's apologia on science and faith, let me recommend Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"If you don't understand something, just make up some stuff. It's a lot easier than doing or studying research."

I appreciate you practicing what you preach and preach and preach. Keep on keeping on, that way you can never forget how smart you are and how dumb people around you are.

wildswan said...

"Wolfe's book is obviously designed to create a furor rather than inform and does not cross any reasonable threshold for devoting time to reading it"

Any book that can make the old story of Darwin and Wallace new and readable and assimilate that dusty old story to a new battle between Noam Chomsky and an unknown professor of linguistics studying a Brazilian Indian tribe which only knows 350 words - and make the whole book a page turner - well, that is an artful book. As for its meaning, I think the book is challenging the liberal consensus by presenting one of its iconic figures as an arrogant idiot who recently took back the main assertions that made him famous in the field of linguistics without the press or any liberal noticing.

As Wolfe says: "A century and a half’s worth of certified wise men, if we make Darwin the starting point — or of bearers of doctoral degrees, in any case — six generations of them had devoted their careers to explaining exactly what language is. ... Chomsky all by himself had spent sixty years on the subject. He had convinced not only academia but also an awed public that he had the answer. And now he was a signatory of a declaration that language remains… an enigma?" The Kingdom of Speech (Kindle Locations 1737-1738).

This isn't a book about evolution, it's a book about liberal icons. Wolfe has always been a very topical, very timely writer who wouldn't dream of not shocking everyone possible with his treatment of themes and memes and this is another one in that series. It says something about where Wolfe thinks we are; he thinks we are about to repudiate uncritical acceptance of "science" as a source of social or political understanding.

AReasonableMan said...

wildswan said...
Any book that can make the old story of Darwin and Wallace new and readable and assimilate that dusty old story to a new battle between Noam Chomsky and an unknown professor of linguistics studying a Brazilian Indian tribe which only knows 350 words - and make the whole book a page turner - well, that is an artful book.


I am not saying Wolfe is not a good writer, I liked 'The Painted Word'. But, I was very sympathetic to his basic thesis, that academicians have killed the field, much as they have done to music, poetry, are currently doing to jazz, and will/have done to any other artistic endeavor you can think of.

I thought 'From Bauhaus to Our House' was much weaker. I like modern architecture. I didn't need any theoretical gobbledegook to reach that point of view. So, from my perspective, his basic premise was flawed. He is older than I am. The broad revival of interest in mid-century architecture and furniture suggests that mine is not a minority view.

Darwin and Wallace is well worked over territory. Short of new facts, which he is, Wolfe doesn't seem to have anything to add other than gossip constructed from pure speculation. To complain that evolution theory can't currently explain everything about the biological world is a weak complaint, given how much it does explain. Linguistics, like neuroscience more generally, is fertile ground when looking for poseurs to deflate but here Wolfe doesn't seem to have anything original to say and is simply coopting existing critiques.

Jupiter said...

AReasonableMan said...
"I liked Wolfe's book on Art. I don't know much about art.
I didn't like Wolfe's on Architecture. I know a bit about architecture.
Wolfe's book on Evolution is complete nonsense. I know a lot about evolution."

I assume you refer to The Painted Word, and From Bauhaus to Our House. They are not about Art and Architecture. They are about the slow strangling of Knowledge by Education.

whitney said...

Wildswan,

I read the book yesterday, I enjoyed it a great deal, and since then have been reading what people say about it, mostly from people who don't seem to have read it.

So far, you have the best synopsis I have read. Nicely done.

wildswan said...

"To complain that evolution theory can't currently explain everything about the biological world is a weak complaint, given how much it does explain. Linguistics, like neuroscience more generally, is fertile ground when looking for poseurs to deflate but here Wolfe doesn't seem to have anything original to say and is simply coopting existing critiques."

I kind of agree. And I think Darwin was far nicer and far more clever than he appears to be in this book. Nevertheless Wolfe always seems to be ahead of trends and this book is illustrating an oncoming trend. Wolfe isn't talking about evolution or linguistics but about a way of looking at a certain type iconic figure, the SCIENTIST - less awe, more awareness of limitation.

AReasonableMan said...

From further reading, it seems much of the current enthusiasm for Wolfe's new book is due to the fact that it is viewed as a takedown of a lefty icon. This is a remarkably shallow reason to read a book. A sad example of the partisan politicization of every aspect of life.

wildswan said...

Thanks Whitney.
After I read that I put it on Amazon.

AReasonableMan said...

wildswan said...
Darwin was far nicer and far more clever than he appears to be in this book.


Darwin's cleverness is an interesting phenomena in itself. He wasn't, by academic standards, all that bright. Yet, I have never read work by anyone else who anticipated solutions for such a broad range of problems as Darwin. When I question IQ as a useful measure of intelligence, Darwin is one of the examples that first comes to mind.

Wolfe always seems to be ahead of trends and this book is illustrating an oncoming trend. Wolfe isn't talking about evolution or linguistics but about a way of looking at a certain type iconic figure, the SCIENTIST - less awe, more awareness of limitation.

The flood of articles in the popular press over the last few years on the reproducibility crisis in science suggests that he is a bit late to that particular party. Science has taken multiple hits to its prestige over the last few decades, perhaps starting with the problems with nuclear power safety, but steadily expanding to most other fields since then. Science is held in greatest esteem in forward-looking countries, like China, where scientists are still held in great admiration. The US has become a backward-looking, nostalgic country.

Again, I think he is a good writer and controversialist.

Leigh said...

The NYT just can't bear to admit that Noam Chomsky is a poser -- a mere wanna'-be cunning linguist.

@HoodlumsDoodlums -- you made me think instantly of Chad Everett, my long-ago forgotten TV hero. Dr. Chad Everett. You re-booted my hard drive! Are you enough of a dinosaur-oldster like me to remember the Dr. Everett show on TV? In my mind's eye, he looked just like John Edwards did in 2008. Maybe that explains why Edwards appealed to so many leftist boomers -- and to think his seeming charisma may have been purely subliminal!

@PaddyO -- I've often wondered if religion was born out of necessity. Do you think we're religious so that we can form and survive within a civilized group, or do we form and survive within a civilized group because we're religious? Or could it be we're more likely to die because we're religious? If you respond, please be kind; I've only half a thimbleful of Hitchen's intelligence, if that (and no, I haven't read God is Not Great ... yet).

LarsPorsena said...

For what it's worth..about twenty years ago I remember Wolfe making an aside about Chomsky during remarks to a graduating class of a school in Boston. I can't remember the school or the exact words of the remark. I think Chomsky's been in his cross hairs for a long time.

LarsPorsena said...

Fernandinande said...

Thanks for your 4:31. I needed a good laugh today.

Fernandinande said...

JCC said...
You're offering a critique of the book - and really ridicule at that - and you haven't read the book? WTF?


I offered two reviews from a biologist, referred by a linguist.

The only part I critiqued was the first sentence, which had a glaring error, and questioned a statement in the excerpt AA posted.

You're quoting from a number of NY Times articles which are unduly harsh of Wolfe because he says mean things about Chomsky?

I quoted part of a review because it addressed a related incorrect statement from wildswan.

They, like done here, simply quoted from the Times reviews, which are universally harsh and in their tone,

Apparently you didn't read the reviews that you're criticizing, didn't read my posts and the criticism I posted links to - the Times liked the book.

Leigh said...

@hoodlumsdoodlums -- Oops. Partial re-boot. The TV show was called "Medical Center." Chad Everett played Dr. Joe Gannon. And I'm telling you, that hound dog John Edwards must be Chad Everett's clone! The resemblance is uncanny.

https://youtu.be/sr0kM0SLSiE

wildswan said...

"Yet, I have never read work by anyone else who anticipated solutions for such a broad range of problems as Darwin."

I noticed that when I read the Origin of Species. All possible objections were known and a solution proposed. All the literature had been read and placed in relation to the theory. It was an education in biology to read that book if you looked up all the references. I accepted evolution but not by natural selection. There is a theory first proposed by Irene Manton based on increases and decreases in chromosome number and on chromosome re-arrangement which seems more persuasive.

Fernandinande said...

Guildofcannonballs said...
I appreciate you practicing what you preach and preach and preach. Keep on keeping on, that way you can never forget how smart you are and how dumb people around you are.


Thanks for reminding me of the latter.

So, superstitious religious nuts: religion, its beliefs, rituals, etc, sometimes let people feel better about their circumstance. I don't doubt that; heroin and such can do the same thing. When someone is in physical pain they give him physical drugs, not religion.

What tangible knowledge about the physical world has any religion provided? Something that actually increases human health and wellbeing. There are plenty of examples of the opposite.

Leigh said...

As for true cunning linguists, Bill Clinton clearly takes the cake. Check out his $$ interpretation of the Former Presidents Act:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-01/foia-records-show-bill-clinton-used-taxpayer-money-pay-foundation-employees-and-purc

Terry said...

Well, one thing Chomsky seems to have done is disguise his sociology as linguistics. Like sociology, Chomsky's linguistics has made an academic discipline out of asking questions which either have obvious answers or no possible answers at all.

rcocean said...

Wolfe's book on Evolution is complete nonsense. I know a lot about evolution.

Oh I bet you do. Tell us, when and what university gave you a PHD degree in Evolutionary Biology?

We're all ears.

LarsPorsena said...

Since all the right people are panning this book, I just had to buy a copy.

William said...

One man's aura is another man's stench. Wolfe and Chomsky have antagonistic charismas. I've no wish to read or understand Chomsky's theory of linguistics. Whether he's right or wrong, it will be of no great moment to my life, and the effort involved in forming an opinion seems pointless. Wolfe may be all wrong, but reading his book would be its own reward.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Not a language organ. A language instinct.

Next time you walk around a large city and find two pre-menopausal women talking to each other, going, "Yeah, like, Oh my god, she said, blah blah blah," ask yourself if any of the shit that comes out of their mouth is in any way conscious.

It's pre-conscious in every sense of the word. Opening their mouths and making sounds come out is instinctive. Turning those sounds into words is instinctive.

If it weren't, they wouldn't be the bimbos that they so clearly are. Ergo, language simply does not require thought.

Rhythm and Balls said...

It's like herding behavior. Instinctive.

virgil xenophon said...

Tod Galle@4:46pm/

Damn you! I got here too late to be a hero for mockturtle.I was reading down to catch up, didn't realize how late it was, and was about to reply to her about Grants autobiography. FWIW He finished it on his porch at his home in upstate NY while dying of throat cancer, finally reaching the point that he only had energy enough to write a single word each on small squares of numbered paper. Took a strong willed man to fight thru the pain to finish it before he died..

William said...

The great prophets of the modern age were Darwin, Marx, Freud and Einstein. Marx has been discredited and is no longer believed in by any except superstitious peasants like Chomsky. Freud has been mostly discredited, although many of his ideas still have value. In any event, nobody died because of his bad ideas. My addiction to Internet porn doesn't leave me sufficient time to study physics, but it's my understanding that Einstein has held up pretty well. Still, those nuclear weapons which are so much a part of his legacy are a bummer. The only prophet who has held up and whose pronouncements have not done any significant harm to mankind is Darwin. I do hope that this is not the beginning of his fall from grace.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There's science and then there's gossip about scientists.

tim in vermont said...

So, superstitious religious nuts: religion, its beliefs, rituals, etc, sometimes let people feel better about their circumstance. I don't doubt that; heroin and such can do the same thing

You forgot politics. There are lots and lots of people who think that their politics makes them smarter and better, for example, than those stupid losers who support Trump.

JCC said...

@ Fernandinande -

So you conclude "Wolfe is "not even wrong", a polite phrase for "full of shit"." without having read the book? But you read a review or two from some pundit offended that Chomsky gets trashed in the book. Opinion trumps actual knowledge again.

ARM -

"You can't read every book." I agree, but you can't review a book you didn't read, which is really the point. You're panning - repeatedly - a book that you have zero direct knowledge of.

"From further reading...a remarkably shallow reason to read a book... partisan politicization of every aspect of life."

You don't see the irony in this at all, do you? Look in the mirror.

JCC said...

Lars Porsena -

Exactly.

David Begley said...

Wildswan

I like your take: ."It says something about where Wolfe thinks we are; he thinks we are about to repudiate uncritical acceptance of "science" as a source of social or political understanding."

And that is because science has become so politicized. See, CAGW.

Halfway through the book. Althouse writes like Wolfe. Big reason why I like Althouse.

AReasonableMan said...

JCC said...
ARM - "You can't read every book." I agree, but you can't review a book you didn't read, which is really the point. You're panning - repeatedly - a book that you have zero direct knowledge of.

"From further reading...a remarkably shallow reason to read a book... partisan politicization of every aspect of life."

You don't see the irony in this at all, do you? Look in the mirror.


These are books of ideas. The ideas can usually be summarized relatively briefly, the entire purpose of book reviews. Anyone is free to criticize those ideas. To the extent that Wolfe has anything meaningful to say about Darwin he is trying to frame him in a class warfare context, with Wallace as the working class victim. It is reasonable to say this is bullshit.

mtrobertslaw said...

"What tangible knowledge about the physical world" has provided us with knowledge of the abstract truths of mathematics?

Neither ARM nor Fernand... has a clue as to how to answer this question.

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernandinande said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
There's science and then there's gossip about scientists.


"There is much harm and little good for either party in such worldly gossip and judgement of others."

JCC said...
So you conclude "Wolfe is "not even wrong", a polite phrase for "full of shit"." without having read the book?


The excerpts were ridiculous, plenty of false statements. I don't think Wolfe knows the difference between calculus and statistics. I don't think Wolfe knows basic physics. I'm a regular reader of that one critic and trust his opinion (he had other goofy excerpts). I'm not interested in gossip about the beards of people who died 200 years ago. I've read most all of Wolfe's books and the last two were pretty bad (he's got one good book, the rest mostly OK with a funny writing style).

Why are you so fascinated with this silly book?

mtrobertslaw said...
"What tangible knowledge about the physical world" has provided us with knowledge of the abstract truths of mathematics?


IOW, you don't have any examples of religion providing useful ideas. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

FWIW, I think mathematics at best is an approximation of reality and its truths are indeed abstract, not concrete, kinda like: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." -- Some naughty atheist.

Paul Snively said...

Fernandinande: FWIW, I think mathematics at best is an approximation of reality and its truths are indeed abstract, not concrete...

The mathematical physics community would like a word.

...kinda like: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." -- Some naughty atheist.

Einstein was not an atheist, no matter how devoutly devout atheists wish it were otherwise. And before you go splitting semantic hairs with me:

"I am not an atheist." — Albert Einstein

mockturtle said...

Well, Paul, she did preface her remark by FWIW. Which, as we know, is very little.

Martin said...

If you're interested in charisma there's a very interesting book, "Hitler's Charisma" about exactly what the title says.

When Max Weber came up with the idea and term for charismatic leadership, he did not consider it necessarily a good thing...

My copy of Wolfe's book came from Amazon today and I am looking forward to spending a hunk of the 3-day weekend with it.