Culture, politics, science, philosophy.
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The deep Crisis of the West
Unheralded mathematician bridges the Prime Gap
25.05.2013. On April 17, a paper arrived in the inbox of Annals of Mathematics, one of the discipline’s preeminent journals. Written by a mathematician virtually unknown to the experts in his field — a 50-something lecturer at the University of New Hampshire named Yitang Zhang — the paper claimed to have taken a huge step forward in understanding one of mathematics’ oldest problems, the twin primes conjecture. Editors of prominent mathematics journals are used to fielding grandiose claims from obscure authors, but this paper was different. Written with crystalline clarity and a total command of the topic’s current state of the art, it was evidently a serious piece of work, and the Annals editors decided to put it on the fast track. Continue reading at Simons Foundation.
For some popular scientific general background, see e.g. Prime numbers and cryptography.
Political abuse of the IRS threatens the basic integrity of government
19.05.2013. We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they're seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration's credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. Continue reading in The Wall Street Journal. See also the follup-up WSJ-article The IRS Scandal Started at the Top.
A total failure
13.05.2013. Below are excerpts from the transcription of Niall Ferguson’s contribution as speaker in the Munk Debate on Has the European experiment failed?:
We warned them, ladies and gentlemen. We said, if you have a monetary union without labour market integration and without any fiscal federalism, it will blow up. I predicted that in 2000. It is happening in real time, in a chemistry lab, on the other side of the Atlantic.
But this was also a political experiment gone wrong. Do you know what that experiment was? The experiment was to see if Europeans could be forced into an even closer union — despite their wishes — by economic means because the political means failed.
Loss of political legitimacy
And when the European peoples voted against further integration, their respective governments were told to try again. It happened to the Danes in 1992, and to the Irish twice: in 2001 and again in 2008. Their citizens gave the wrong answer in the referendum, so the governments just held another one. This tells you something about why this experiment has failed — it has failed because it has lost political legitimacy. And we see this not only in Greece but in government after government across Europe. Thirteen have fallen since this crisis began two years ago, and more will follow in the months to come.
Finally, the European experiment has been a geopolitical failure. The European Union was supposed to act as counterweight to the United States. Do you remember Jacques Poos’s 1991 “hour of Europe” speech announcing that Europe was going to solve the war in Bosnia [He actually said that after war broke out in Slovenia and Croatia]? Yes, that was supposed to be in 1991. But 100,000 people died in that war and 2.2m were displaced, and the conflict didn’t end until the United States finally stepped in and sorted out the mess.
Henry Kissinger famously asked, “Who do I call when I want to call Europe?” The answer came several years later: you call Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Nobody had ever heard of her, nor had they ever heard from her. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re Canadians. You know how hard it is to run a federal system with just 10 provinces and only two languages; that’s why you will understand more readily than most people why the European experiment, with 27 countries and a staggering 23 languages, has ended in ignominious failure. Thankfully, here in Canada I only have to use two or maybe three words now. Thank you and merci.
Read the entire article at Document.no.
On neurological differences between men and women
05.05.2013. Does the difference between men and women extend to their brains? Neurologist Sandra Witelson discusses the variances in language, quantitative skills, personality and temperament between the genders. See the video of her lecture at Ideacity.
The war against it in the social sciences
05.05.2013. Last year Quadrant Magazine published a series of articles by urban anthropologist and political ethologist Frank Salter. Below are excerpts from the first of these articles, viz. The War Against Human Nature in the Social Sciences (link in original)
Recently the American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt described how the social sciences reproduce their intolerant political agenda. Like Antony Jay and the BBC, Haidt knows his subject from the inside. Indeed, he presented his criticisms at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, in January 2011. Haidt argued that the discipline of social psychology is a “tribal-moral society” that shuts out research and researchers likely to produce results that conflict with liberal (i.e. socialist) beliefs.
Haidt based this thesis on three observations. First, social psychologists have sacred values that are neither empirical nor methodological dogmas. These values take the form of taboos that constrain thinking. Secondly, they have created a homogeneous society. There is almost no moral or political diversity within the discipline. While conservatives outnumber liberals 2-to-1 in the general U.S. population, they are outnumbered 200 or 300-to-1 within social psychology. Haidt managed to locate only one declared conservative social psychology academic. Finally, social psychologists have created a hostile environment that suppresses and discourages non-liberals, such as libertarians and conservatives. He gave examples of how conservative students are intimidated into not pursuing social psychology for fear of the social environment in the discipline and the taboo-breaking results they might find. The situation described by Haidt is a microcosm of the soft totalitarianism that a radicalised intellectual elite has imposed on Western societies since the Second World War.
The taboos identified by Haidt concern race and sex differences, blaming the victim, stereotype accuracy, and nativism. The lack of political diversity hurts the discipline because different points of view lead to the discovery of novel phenomena. What Haidt found in social psychology also exists in the liberal social sciences. Haidt’s report agrees with Hiram Caton’s article discussed earlier about the importance of political correctness in selecting personnel in the social sciences and how it shapes research agendas and chills creativity from student times onwards.
Despite promising signs, until now Australian social sciences have managed to keep human nature at bay. While not monolithic, the exclusion of biosocial science has been effective enough to retain the Standard Social Science Model as the accepted dogma in many departments. The situation is a harsher version of that overseas. Disciplines whose subject is human social behaviour generally do not include biological information in their curricula or research. It is like economists considering money to be unmentionable or physicists writing off certain particles for lack of charm.
Behavioural biology is making headway in psychology while the sociological disciplines—sociology, anthropology and political science together with specialist areas such as gender studies—have maintained the rage against any science that dispels utopian dreams. The result has been the unfolding, largely unwitting, of the Gramscian vision of training a new intellectual elite, year after year, generation after generation. That is how the social sciences long ago became a vital area of strength for leftist hegemony in Western intellectual culture and a breeding ground for radical movements.
Read the entire article in Quadrant Magazine.
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