[Ctrl-P] Steven Novella: “Alternative Engineering”: A Postmodern Parable

Voor deze copy-paste een oudere tekst van Steven Novella, neuroloog, voorzitter van New England Skeptical Society, medisch consulent voor quackwatch.com, fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry en JREF en opperhoofd van de podcast The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.

Novella, onthou die naam!

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Steven Novella, M.D.: Alternative Engineering”: A Postmodern Parable (2003)

A new phenomenon is sweeping the country, gaining the attention of both consumers and manufacturers alike. Increasingly disenchanted with the cold metallic world of modern technology, people are looking closely at more natural alternatives. Collectively called Alternative Engineering (“Alt Eng”), a host of new and old methods are gaining scientific and journalistic respectability.

Alec Waterstone is one such self-styled alternative engineer. He has no degree or formal training in engineering, which, he explains, is an advantage: “My thinking is not limited by mathematics, logic, or any stodgy old mechanistic paradigm. I do not have to pay homage to the likes of Newton or other Western male pedagogues. My complete lack of training frees me to consider unique and innovative solutions to engineering problems, unfettered by the annoying constraints of “reality.”

Energy-Based Bridges

Alec’s latest project is a design for a 1200-foot non-suspension bridge. He claims the bridge will be able to span this distance without pylons or overhead suspension, and will be supported only by the ancient art of Feng Shui. “This wisdom, which is thousands of years old, is the art of channeling energy through design and form. This energy can be used to support a 1200-foot bridge, or even larger structures.” City planners are intrigued by these designs, because such bridges will cost less than half as much as conventionally designed bridges.

Alec is also quick to point out that ancient Chinese documents reveal absolutely no accounts of collapsing suspension bridges. His technique’s safety record is, he argues, unparalleled. “How else would it have survived all these years if it didn’t work?

Anthony Trellis, a professor of engineering at State-of-the Art University, claims that Alec’s designs run contrary to basic principles of physics and materials science. An exasperated Trellis commented, “A bridge based upon Waterstone’s designs simply could not stand. It would be unsafe in the extreme.”

But Alec is not perturbed by such criticism. “Of course professor Trellis does not like my designs, because they challenge his precious status quo and turn his world upside-down. But the protectionism of the old guard is starting to crumble, like one of their obsolete buildings,” he retorted at a recent symposium for progressive thinkers who agreed that those who fail to jump on the bandwagon will be left behind. His talk to a standing-room-only crowd also accused the American Society of Civil Engineers, the steel industry, and other “vested interests” of trying to suppress his views.

Skeptics have suggested that before we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on such projects, and subject American motorists to the unknown risks of driving over a Waterstone bridge, Waterstone’s basic principles should at least be tested to see whether they work. This is especially true since his designs seem to run contrary to conventional wisdom. But Waterstone responds:

I”m too busy designing bridges to jump through some skeptic’s hoops. They will never be satisfied, anyway. The American motorists should be free to decide for themselves if they wish to drive over one of my bridges. I respect their intelligence and ability to make smart decisions for themselves. They don’t need to be told by some bureaucrat, or professor in an ivory tower, which bridges are safe and which are not.

Professor Trellis and other naysayers argue that individuals should not have to be scientists or engineers in order to drive safely over our bridges. Regulations are not designed to limit freedom, but to provide a basic level of safety and protection for the public. This attitude, however, is increasingly being dismissed as overly paternalistic and protective.

Lees hier verder.

Noam Chomsky versus Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Zizek and Noam ChomskyHoewel ik zelf denk dat qua onderwerpen Kritische Massa heel vrij, ruim en liberaal is, vallen soap series er normaliter toch buiten. Edoch.

Op 10 juli postte ik [Ctrl-P] Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’. Vandaag zag ik op de excellente website Open Culture (een van mijn favorieten in wording) dat het intellectuele haantjesgevecht verdergaat.

Noma Chomsky is een taalkundige streep politiek activist die zijn schijnbaar aangeboren kritieken en commentaren op de VS en het kapitalisme uitsmeert in eindeloze boomstructuren. Slavoj Žižek is… tja. Wat is die man? Ik kan niets boeienders bedenken dan dat je de naam Žižek uitspreekt met iets dat lijkt op de laatste klank in garage en dat het grappig wordt wanneer je dat verschillende malen snel achter elkaar probeert te doen. Verder heeft die man een hoog Geert Hoste-gehalte: weinig te melden en toch volle zalen trekken.

Mijn voorkeur? Ik ben niet in staat om al te veel zinnige commentaren te geven, maar ik hoop wel dat de Noam die Žižek een goeie djoef ep z’n mulle of iets in zijn radijzen gaat geven.

Voor mensen die nu pas overschakelen, herpost ik de eerste clip.

1. Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’

2. Slavoj Žižek Responds to Noam Chomsky: ‘I Don’t Know a Guy Who Was So Often Empirically Wrong’

[Žižek:] What is that about, again, the academy and Chomsky and so on? Well with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my first point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate, not just some crazy Lacanian speculations and so on… well I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong in his descriptions in his whatever! Let’s look… I remember when he defended this demonstration of Khmer Rouge. And he wrote a couple of texts claiming: No, this is Western propaganda. Khmer Rouge are not as horrible as that.” And when later he was compelled to admit that Khmer Rouge were not the nicest guys in the Universe and so on, his defense was quite shocking for me. It was that “No, with the data that we had at that point, I was right. At that point we didn’t yet know enough, so… you know.” But I totally reject this line of reasoning.

Het vervolg kan u hier verder lezen of beluisteren.

3. Noam Chomsky Calls Postmodern Critiques of Science Over-Inflated “Polysyllabic Truisms”

Dit fragment uit 2010 komt een vijfdelig intreview, de zogenaamde Chomsky Sessions. Het eerste deel vindt u hier.

4. The Feud Continues: Noam Chomsky Responds to Žižek, Describes Remarks as ‘Sheer Fantasy’

I had read it, with some interest, hoping to learn something from it, and given the title, to find some errors that should be corrected — of course they exist in virtually anything that reaches print, even technical scholarly monographs, as one can see by reading reviews in professional journals. And when I find them or am informed about them I correct them. But not here. Žižek finds nothing, literally nothing, that is empirically wrong. That’s hardly a surprise. Anyone who claims to find empirical errors, and is minimally serious, will at the very least provide a few particles of evidence — some quotes, references, at least something. But there is nothing here — which, I’m afraid, doesn’t surprise me either. I’ve come across instances of Žižek’s concept of empirical fact and reasoned argument.

Moest u zich nog op deze pagina bevinden, dan kan u hier klikken om verder te lezen.


Update 26 juli 2013

5. Slavoj Žižek Publishes a Very Clearly Written Essay-Length Response to Chomsky’s “Brutal” Criticisms

To avoid a misunderstanding, I am not advocating here the “postmodern” idea that our theories are just stories we are telling each other, stories which cannot be grounded in facts; I am also not advocating a purely neutral unbiased view. My point is that the plurality of stories and biases is itself grounded in our real struggles. With regard to Chomsky, I claim that his bias sometimes leads him to selections of facts and conclusions which obfuscate the complex reality he is trying to analyze.

Consequently, what today, in the predominant Western public speech, the “Human Rights of the Third World suffering victims” effectively mean is the right of the Western powers themselves to intervene—politically, economically, culturally, militarily—in the Third World countries of their choice on behalf of the defense of Human Rights. My disagreement with Chomsky’s political analyses lies elsewhere: his neglect of how ideology works, as well as the problematic nature of his biased dealing with facts which often leads him to do what he accuses his opponents of doing.

Lees hier verder.

[Ctrl-P] Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’

Chomsky“When two tribes go to war, a point is all you can score,” zo gaat de wijsheid van die andere Frank(ie). Het punt dat Noam Chomsky maakt in een interview dat dateert van december 2012, is er eentje om u tegen te zeggen. In vier minuten krijgen de drie narren van het linkserig postmodernisme, Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Lacan en Jacques Derrida hun plaats in de geschiedenis toegediend.

Het doet me een beetje denken aan die andere linkse denker, Alain Sokal, die om net dezelfde reden het postmodernistische geteem (discours in het jargon), op de korrel nam. Op skepfile·be heb ik het onderwerp eerder al behandeld, in het artikel Genereer uw eígen nonsensFreud online en Over pseudowetenschap en dito wetenschapsfilosofie.

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Open Culture: Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’

In this brief excerpt from a December, 2012 interview with Veterans Unplugged, Chomsky is asked about the ideas of Slavoj ŽižekJacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida.

Noam Chomsky’s well-known political views have tended to overshadow his groundbreaking work as a linguist and analytic philosopher. As a result, people sometimes assume that because Chomsky is a leftist, he would find common intellectual ground with the postmodernist philosophers of the European Left.

Big mistake.

Lees hier verder.

P.S. Enkele dagen later poste dezelfde website, Open Culture, een fragment van een interview waarin John Searle korte metten maakt met Michel Foucault: John Searle on Foucault and the Obscurantism in French Philosophy