Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Comment on The Belmont Club,
"Procrustean bed"


Vulgar misreading of scientific progress results in the presumption that because something can be improved it will be. This removes the all important function of negative feedback and correction.

In Biology this leads to the "Hopeful Monster" hypothesis. That is what happens when the student speculates how neat it would be if a horse grew wings or baboons were pink and the instructor dashes their hopes by pointing out that such a creature would be quickly eliminated from the gene pool.

In social situations this leads to wild enthusiasms such as financial or political bubbles. Ten years after the bubble pops it is viewed with distaste and anyone still protesting nostalgia for it is viewed with derision. There are people who's intellectual closets are filled with Nehru shirts. They supported Hitler in '36 and '02 (Buchanan) or Castro in '58 and '08 (NYT). Instead of being tested and discarded quack nostrums merely retreat until their consequences fade from memory. If the lessons of experience are not transmitted by an effective educational system then we get a cycle of concepts that should have been discredited and keep coming back. The frequency with which this happens, that is how rapidly a discredited idea returns, can be a measure of the health of the system.

The relentless destruction of our education system has resulted in a situation where truly bad ideas are no longer cleansed from the public body by the disinfecting light of experience. They fester and return to attack again. The Obama administration is the return of the second tier players from the Carter administration. We can only hope that after the disaster is over the opportunity will arise to thoroughly reform the educational and foundation systems to prevent a repetition of this condition. Right now the frequency of quack nostrums returning is very high. This indicates that the body politic is suffering from a feverish condition. If is survives and the fever breaks then reality may be rediscovered. Or we may all grow wings.

Human societies can endure for a long time while trapped by disabling fantasies but at a terrible cost. That is what happened in places where Islam dominates.

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