Very nice post, Keith. Thank you.
David on Jen’s Twitter feed
It's pretty focken exciting, isn't it?
I just gotta say: it is only diabolical circumstances keeping me away from Avonside Drive tonight. I really wish I could have seen this.
I also gotta say that I'm detecting in our learned author's words evidence of some incipient-but-severe man-crushes. It's the old-world charm of actual, real manual competence, plus the earthy humility that tends to go with it; gets me every time too.
Hope the night-time convoy goes well. This is pretty much the coolest thing ever, and I'm extremely happy for you guys.
I hope today goes extraordinarily well for you all, David.
The weather looks good at least.
Here's what I don't understand. With your property being effectively stolen, why is it so necessary to "Fell cabbage tree" before that happens? Poetry? Spite?
when pain – mental or physical- is omnipresent, I rather think it does have an effect on our brain
Absolutely, Islander. And I really can't imagine anything worse. It's how torture works, after all.
And for a materialist, the mind/body dichotomy is seriously problematic anyway. But personally, at the fringes of my imagination, I can conceive of the possibility of experiencing my place in the world in a way that would make the slings and arrows seem less painful, less personal, less malevolent.
I’m curious where this suspicion about ‘truth’ comes from?
Hey Rob, I think it's the connection with the "grand truth" thing that you mention. I mean, saying something is "true" is fine - a nice, gentle adjective. But "the truth", what with that definite article and all, comes out seeming so pompous.
And a true piece of data is confined to that particular moment. The problem with truth when it seems universal is that a whole lot of convenient, subsidiary "truths" can be derived from it. But when we start deriving truths, we need to bring into the picture all the other truths impacting on however the context is changing.
I can't speak for people you've spoken to, but basically that's my problem: when a truth becomes the starting point for a whole lot of ill-conceived derivative assumptions masked as true.
I don't know enough philosophy to go into the more abstruse arguments.
But of course there is also the simple old possibility for truth to be lost in translation:
there’s a stool in the middle of the kitchen floor
Yes, well I was talking out my arse somewhat, I admit.
But the depression-related factors you cite are precisely the kinds of things I meant by "beliefs" (I wasn't talking about religion at all). I might be wrong, but it seems to me that there's a big big cultural factor to depression, and the problem with culture is that we tend to "believe" the things it tells us, like pain is avoidable, poverty should be escaped, romantic relationships are dependable.
I can imagine human beings less deluded and thus less depressed by reality.
And I'm not being judgmental or dismissive or whatever. I believe in the reality of depression; and if drugs help people, fantastic. But the notion of there being some fundamental, basic physiological phenomenon that is "clinical depression", a direct antidote to which is an SSRI, I think is fairly questionable, and is the kind of arithmetic understanding of mental conditions that cheap-science encourages.
(I also suspect that I'm not talking about more categorical things such as bi-polar - just as complex of course, but with aetiologies possibly more physiological than cultural.)
No, I didn't think we were arguing :)
I think I prefer "knowledge" to "truth" because it seems a little more contextualised, less grand, less sweeping. "Knowledge" knows its own limits, it seems to me.
Part of what I was trying to say above is that ultimately scientific knowledge is simply the knowledge of what our science is able to know. It's the definition of its own borderlines. That's why science is ultimately about nothing more than itself, even though it happens to throw up certain solutions to real world questions now and then.
This is unwelcome news for two reasons: 1, it implies that scientific knowledge is really only held by scientists themselves and is not available in a Coles Notes version; and 2, it questions our millennial faith in the ability (nay, role) of science to furnish answers to all human concerns. Oh well.
Your anti-depressent example is precisely to the point. I don't know about SSRIs particularly, but I've been amused in past to read about some treatment in the DSM where they actually acknowledge that the meds in question started out as something like a hair-loss treatment, only they discovered that it seemed to reduce the symptoms of borderline personality as well, so what they hell? seems to work. Great science.
The answer to depression does not lie in science: it lies in the realisation that everything that everybody believes is wrong. We don't have to stop believing, but we do need to learn to understand that our beliefs are ridiculous. Then we'll stop getting depressed at our inability to live up to our stupid beliefs.
Simple human curiosity- and the desire to effect a practical end
I suspect, Rob, that the presence of the latter all too often comes at the cost of the former - particularly, of course, where that latter is career advancement and other matters completely unrelated to the question at hand.
But even the notion of a practical end that is intimately tied to the subject matter at hand (i.e., the practical application of knowledge) is massively over-priveleged in our collective mindset, leading to the really quite unsurprising trends canvassed in that (very good) article you linked to - which, nonetheless, still concluded with a somewhat disappointing lament for "truth".
Science is not about truth; it's about science. And it's certainly not about real world applications. The moment those things became the end-to-be-achieved, the method itself was in serious danger. A pure scientist is happy with anomalous data, because that simply enlarges their field and piques their curiosity. Doing better, more comprehensive, more informed science is their only reasonable end. If their basic motivation is to develop a white pill, their science is doomed from the start, because their motivation is not to do science: their fundamental thought patterns aren't scientific; their mindset is already skewed.
We should know by now how susceptible humans are to believing nice and entirely ridiculous fictions that simultaneously tug on all manner of (often contradictory) feelings and beliefs and knowledge. (Fiction itself is quite a good example of this.)
So it's no surprise that highly captivating narratives that take a predominantly "scientific" form should be so seductive - and thus treated with deep scepticism.
Also, the regression to mean stories in that article don't strike me as surprising in themselves. Presumably regression to mean is a phenomenon. By definition it's a phenomenon that, when it occurs like this, is going to be striking. That's because it begins with outlier results - i.e., results that seem to imply something beyond the usual white noise of indistinct data. Such results are going to be noticed and documented. Thus the regression to mean is also (eventually, we hope) noticed and documented. That's good science: just a shame that it's disrupted, delayed and obstructed by the combined effects of myth-making, the market place, and the quest for truth.
"Who claims Truth, Truth abandons."
The tribal lie thing is interesting and to the point.
Equally, the pursuit of the lie can just as much be tribally driven: ie, the fact of the lie is relished and exploited for tribal reasons, regardless of how innocuous or irrelevant it may be.
It may be naive in these times to preface an idealistic hope with "Journalists should...", but nonetheless, I think that an important step would be to bear these things in mind and limit ourselves to the pursuit of the really heinous lies, to tear from them their tribal adornments, and to allow passionate repudiation, based on extremely sound principles and facts, to be heard -- perhaps by concomitantly toning down the passion when it comes to the innocuous or irrelevant lies.
For the most part, political lies per se are not much different in my book from rhetorically expedient statements that cannot stand up to half a minute's intelligent review. These are effectively lies too: the speaker is willfully deaf to perfectly cogent criticisms of the position they maintain.
But that's all politics.
The interesting question is whether a given lie is worth pursuing seriously.
And where it is worth pursuing, a strong, non-tribal articulation of why it's worth pursuing is also required (to shake us out of our tribalism for a rational moment or two).
So, Afghanistan detainees? Worth pursuing? If so, why?
Fundamentalist talk about the need for growth when you still haven't solved the energy problem?
Climate change denials?
Catching up with Australia?
The problem I guess is that everyone can make a case for the seriousness of anything -- again, a tribally inflected judgement, more than likely.