Monday, May 30, 2005


Rhetorical overkill

Johann Hari takes on "climate change deniers", again (hat tip to discussion forum):

The climate-change deniers are rapidly ending up with as much intellectual credibility as creationists and Flat Earthers. Indeed, given that 25,000 people died in Europe in the 2003 heat wave caused by anthropogenic climate change, given that the genocide unfolding in Darfur has been exacerbated by the stresses of climate change, given that Bangladesh may disappear beneath the rising seas in the next century, they are nudging close to having the moral credibility of Holocaust deniers.

Talk about rhetorical overkill.

I'm not a climatologist, and hence loath to speak up about the subject (I will, though, as it seems journalists like Johann Hari obviously want me to have an opinion - namely theirs, lest I end up with the "moral credibility of Holocaust deniers". Trying to do some reading on the subject, recently finished Bryant's Climate Process and Change which the PSSST(KA) hereby recommends). My own field, linguistics, is relatively inoculated against any political or social relevance. That's the way I like it, and that's quite probably one of the reasons I chose it. I like learning for the sake of it, and don't like politics to mix with science. At least taking a certain position in linguistics carries little risk of being labeled a holocaust denier.

Nonetheless, if I were a climatologist, I would be pretty offended by the shrill and more than slightly demagogic way with which Hari describes my field.

An excellent weblog with a wider relevance, but a regular focus on climate-related issues from a Science Studies perspective, is Roger Pielke Jr.'s one here. If I understand Pielke correctly, the whole field has suffered from a merger between science and politics in which political answers (cuts in fossil fuels, Kyoto or no) are seen to flow straight from a scientific position (anthropogenic global warming or not). According to Pielke, the two were better seperated totally (I think Pielke seems to share Lomborg's position in that he believes global warming is happening, and that the cause is human, but that we'd be better off adapting to a changing climate than to possibly futile attempts to avert it).

- Merlijn de Smit

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Max Ross and sexuality

As a certified male sexist pig, I probably should comment on this piece of drivel at the rather unappealing Mens' News Daily, even though it has been comprehensively demolished by PZ Meyers and Sadly No.

In essence, Max Ross sketches a view of the world in which women are waiting around to be raped and ravaged by men merely acting on the imperatives of millions of years of evolution. Of course, he gets evolution wrong:

Hunt, gather, fight, copulate… these are the four basic ‘drives’ of man. Whether you believe in evolution, creation or intelligent design, the human male is uniquely designed and desirous to accomplish these tasks. In human men, sperm production is so ridiculously high that 23 men in a period of one month could produce enough gene juice to impregnate and repopulate the entire planet, currently standing at around 6 billion… Basically, the boys were designed to ‘hit’ as many females in the shortest period of time, whether the women want to mate or not. Through out human history this has been the ‘natural order.’

Because childbearing and infant-rearing is a long-term, physically laborous and, certainly in "natural" surroundings, very risky endeavour, it's generally the women who do the "selection" part of "sexual selection". Whereas men may be genetically predisposed to try and scatter their gene pool over a population of women as large as possible, women are genetically predisposed to say "No" a lot. (A commenter at Sadly, no already made the point that in most hunter-gatherer societies, it's the men that do the hunting and the women that do the gathering).

Max Ross makes a lot about rape fantasies, steering dangerously close to the "no-means-yes" excuse:

In the context of consensual non-consent, both parties are simply acting out what has been programmed into them genetically. Of course, in a modern society all of this interaction requires order… men can’t ‘have’ anyone they want, and women have a way becoming ‘control freaks’ if left to their own desires. In my own experiences, no less five lovers have confessed their desire to be taken and ravaged. Two of them wanted it at random; after work in her parking garage, the other suggested I break into her home and wait. On neither of these requests did I acquiesce. It sounded like a great way to get shot, beat up by some guy wanting to be a hero or (gasp) what if I got the wrong woman? Orange suits, cages and a ‘boyfriend’ named Bubba don’t appeal to me. Sarah and her friends are welcome to their desires and maybe someday this will be alluring, but under the current realities of gender relations, the ‘natural order’ will have to wait.

Of course rape fantasies do not mean women want to be raped. Forced-sex fantasies which are acted out in a consensual relationship have as much to do with rape as a consensual spanking session with physical assault. Max Ross' blurring of the gulf between fantasy and reality eerily mirrors that of the anti-pornography radical feminists.

And just when Ross' piece made me think that, perhaps, the latter have a point, I stumble upon this piece of tedium by one Rochelle Gurstein, which succeeds in blaming Lynndie England's escapades in Abu Ghraib on pornography, and all but excusing poor Lynndie herself. Touching.

I know of a few abandoned islands which seem like just the place for both the Max Ross-type troglodytes and the Rochelle Gurstein-style "censorship is good for you" feminists. I'd sell tickets.

- Merlijn de Smit

Friday, May 06, 2005


British Elections

So Blair has won a third term - but with the smallest of majorities. Tories and Liberal Democrats have been gnawing at his majority, whereas the Tories seem to have weathered Lib Dem challenges well.

The Respect Coalition have done amazingly well. Far-left electoral initiatives tend to start off with high hopes, only to be squashed come the election result. Yet this time around, George Galloway won on the Respect Ticket (albeit narrowly) in Bethnal Green and Bow, and other Respect candidates have put on a very strong show - Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham coming in second with 10,498 votes or more than 27 percent (three thousand votes more and she'd have won it), Abdul Khaliq Mian coming in second in East Ham with 20,7% and Lindsey German coming in second in West Ham with 19,5%.

Can't say this result would dismay me. I dislike Galloway - though it is hard to accurately assess the man as his detractors of the left have a, shall we say, loose relationship with facts - but quite a lot of my objections to the current far left are such that his Labour opponent, Oona King, might be worse (academic boycott of Israel, etc. - and on top of that, support for the mass slaughter in Iraq).

Results from Northern Ireland are dripping in at this moment, and it seems that Sinn Fein is doing well, despite the recent controversy over the McCartney murder - probably Brendan O'Neill's take that Sinn Fein would suffer less electoral damage than predicted by the media was right.

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