Higher education exists to advance and transmit knowledge, and learning requires disagreement and argument. Even the most vocational curriculum — accounting, physical therapy, civil engineering, graphic design — represents knowledge accumulated through trial and error, experimentation and criticism. That open-ended process isn’t easy and it often isn’t comfortable. The idea that students should be protected from disagreeable ideas is a profoundly anti-educational concept.
A friend emails:
I am becoming very disturbed seeing otherwise intelligent people that I know and respect starting to succumb to the anti-Israel drumbeat in the mainstream press. What books could I recommend to people like this so that they get a more factual picture of the history and evolution of Israel in general, and the evolution of the Israeli- Palestinian (and other Arabs) conflicts in particular?
Great question. Any recommendations?
UPDATE: My friend provides additional info in a follow-up email:
Sir Martin Gilbert has written several good books but I am looking for others. I especially want to turn younger folks onto some good books because they have mostly been force-fed propaganda if they graduated within the last 10-15 years. I will watch the blog to see what your readers recommend. They are a pretty sharp bunch!
Martin Gilbert’s books are a good start. And I agree about CB readers.
It’s good to see the Israelis use social media effectively. OTOH, the high number of anti-Semitic responses to Israeli govt tweets is a bit dismaying.
(Via the IDF on Twitter.)
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
John R. Lott’s review of the latest Freakonomics book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Lott seems to have an ongoing personal quarrel with Levitt and Dubner. However, his critiques of their arguments seem reasonable. His review is worth reading.
The short answer in many cases is “no”:
In one session, almost half the group of 160 gynaecologists responded that the woman’s chance of having cancer was nine in 10. Only 21% said that the figure was one in 10 – which is the correct answer. That’s a worse result than if the doctors had been answering at random.
The fact that 90% of women with breast cancer get a positive result from a mammogram doesn’t mean that 90% of women with positive results have breast cancer. The high false alarm rate, combined with the disease’s prevalence of 1%, means that roughly nine out of 10 women with a worrying mammogram don’t actually have breast cancer.
It’s a maths puzzle many of us would struggle with. That’s because, Gigerenzer says, setting probabilities out as percentages, although standard practice, is confusing. He campaigns for risks to be expressed using numbers of people instead, and if possible diagrams.
Graphic showing “false positives” in mammogram tests
Even so, Gigerenzer says, it’s surprising how few specialists understand the risk a woman with a positive mammogram result is facing – and worrying too. “We can only imagine how much anxiety those innumerate doctors instil in women,” he says. Research suggests that months after a mammogram false alarm, up to a quarter of women are still affected by the process on a daily basis.
Survival rates are another source of confusion for doctors, not to mention journalists, politicians and patients. These are not, as you might assume, simply the opposite of mortality rates – the proportion of the general population who die from a disease. They describe the health outcomes of people who have been diagnosed with a disease, over a period of time – often five years from the point of diagnosis. They don’t tell us about whether patients die from the disease afterwards.
The linked article is worth reading despite its implicit pro-NHS boosterism. See also this. The poor education in statistical analysis of doctors, lawyers, journalists and members of other influential groups in our society is a significant problem.
UPDATE: Gerd Gigerenzer’s Books
Chicagoboyz used to buy cheap plastic watches until we realized they are false economy, since you end up having to replace the bands and batteries every year or two. That is why this Casio Men’s EF106SG-2AV “Edifice” Two-Tone Stainless Steel number with faux-gold trim is the new official watch of the Chicagoboyz blog.
There is also an all-stainless version for those of you who prefer something a bit more understated for fishing trips or the opera.
These Casios are cheap, sharp looking, have a 10-year battery and durable metal band (see the Amazon reviews for easy adjustment instructions) and IME are highly waterproof. They also have nice big dial markings for those of us in the Ctrl++ demographic. Recommended.
Jefferson’s great insight is that all decisions in this world are marginal cost decisions; and if we feel free to heap deficit spending on the future to remember the children will also be free to repudiate it. The paramount question we should be concerned with is not whether slavery was evil, but whether a black man living in America today can make a better life than in the Congo; whether Israel is better replaced by the Palestinian authority. For we cannot change the past; it is useless to try and even more useless to make a career of it. Even if it were possible to change the past, Bradbury argues there is no guarantee that the resulting alternative future would be any better.
Our task must to leave the world better than we found it, not to remake it from the foundations. That doesn’t mean the past is gone, but it lacks the special quality of activity. The dead are already costed into the present…
He got that right.
From an Instapundit comment thread re genetic testing of newborns to confirm/disconfirm parentage:
Come on. Who do you think calls himself “an expert in ethics?” Would you? Would I? Of course not. Anybody with a trace of common sense and humility understands that no mere son of Adam can possible be considered competent in ethics, let alone an expert. Isn’t the next article up about Native American torture? And then there’s the one on terrorists murdering five-month olds? No sane member of the H. sapiens species would consider it plausible that any one of us could be a mini-Christ, prepared to judge right from wrong, separate the sheep from the goats.
So, ipso facto, who are the “ethicists?” They are those who lack genuine empathy, humility, or any deep awareness of the challege and subtlety of moral judgment. They are the narcissists, the borderline personalities, the grandiose who imagine themselves fit to be the stewards of God. In another age, they would join the Inquisition.
There is something to this argument.
The crack Chicagoboyz all-blogger precision drill and synchronized swimming team heads to the beach to hone its skills.. . . .
It’s a good post and there are many good comments in response.
What it comes down to is that no one yet knows the extent to which current economic weakness results from tech-driven structural changes in the economy, and demographic changes, as opposed to bad govt policies.
The stock market keeps going up. Is this mainly a result of easy money or is the market telling us something about future growth? My hunch is that the longer it keeps going up, the more likely it’s discounting future growth. The fact that this is an unpopular idea makes me more confident that it’s valid.
Maybe it’s a combo of structural change and anticipation of the lifting of Obama’s boot from the economy’s neck. Time will tell. It may yet turn out to be mostly an inflationary bubble.
Disclaimer: The above is not investment advice. Your cat may understand this stuff better than I do.
UPDATE: Here’s a good presentation of the alternative case.
“What if”, or as they call it now, path dependency, is an eternal question. In this case it seems justified.
From an interesting article about the 1919 Tour of the Battlefields bicycle race:
Tormented by hunger and cold, they pedalled on. Either side of the muddy roads the detritus of war was everywhere – twisted tree stumps, fields long since obliterated by shelling, concrete bunkers, mine and shell craters, wrecked gun carriages, clothing, bones. All around, belts of wire, trenches and duckboards zig-zagged in all directions, and hastily-erected crosses littered the landscape. And still the sleet and rain fell. And still the wind blew, unchecked by trees or hedgerows.
At 11.10 in the evening, 18 hours and 28 minutes after he set off from Brussels, Charles Deruyter crossed the finish line in Amiens. The man who finished in fifth place arrived at 8.00 the next morning, having spent an uncomfortable night sheltering in a trench somewhere on the Somme battlefield. The last-placed finisher took 36 hours to complete the 323km stage.
The article dryly notes that the race was run just one more time after 1919, and then only as a one-day event, since “the logistical problems of putting on a multi-stage race in a part of Europe that had almost no infrastructure were far greater than anyone had expected.”
Worth a read.
(Via sportsman extraordinaire Dan from Madison.)
A few weeks ago I paddled around Key Biscayne, one of Miami’s barrier islands, with a buddy of mine. We traveled clockwise on the map (click the preceding link) from Crandon Marina. The weather was unusually good and we had a great time. Here are some photos.
Departing Crandon Marina.
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As far as war and peace go, closure for Obama is when the United States is surrounded by war and confronted with looming conflicts, and yet has ended them all by declaring that we choose not to be interested in any of them. Obama is right about one thing: losing is certainly a way of reducing the violence.
Genteel defeat is the way of the appeaser and comes from cowardice or expediency, sometimes both. The cowardice may be physical though it is often intellectual, a willful cutting of corners for short-term political gain at the expense of foreseeable long-term geopolitical disaster.
Closure is a pernicious concept. People who use the term sincerely, rather than as cover for some hidden agenda, may have a compulsive aversion to loose ends. Sometimes a loose end or other untidy low-energy equilibrium is the best, least risky, most robust outcome that one can hope for in a bad situation. Obama has achieved closure in Iraq. We could have had a muddy equilibrium stabilized by a few tens of thousands of US troops. Instead we will get closure in the form of a decisive defeat for the USA and its allies following Obama’s principled military withdrawal.
The more than 90,000 children who crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. and were apprehended this year, and the more than 140,000 expected next year, could and should turn the immigration issue into a GOP weapon against Democrats.
Instead of sending them back home to their parents, Attorney General Eric Holder made it a priority to hire taxpayer-funded lawyers for them. Why don’t we hear Cantor, Ryan and other GOP leaders shout that Democrats are exploiting children to further their political agenda?
The main thing the Republicans have going for them is that the Democrats are worse.
An explication of the exchange of messages between the commanders, concerning retrieval of dead and wounded soldiers from the battlefield.
(Via Rand Simberg on Twitter.)
-Drive slow in the fast lane? Yes, you can!
-If you maintain a speed of at least 120 MPH while weaving through highway traffic on your motorcycle, other vehicles will appear to be standing still, making it easier for you to maneuver around them.
-Hills are rare. Savor them. Slow down to 15 under the limit on any bridge or elevated express lane. The drivers behind you won’t mind as they will now be able to enjoy the view themselves.
David Horowitz, Why Republicans Need the Tea Party:
So how do we fight fire with fire? How do we go from a party that is eager to explain to Democrats why their policies won’t work but reluctant to call them out for who they are, to a party that will go toe-to-toe and hammer-and-tongs with them and defeat their politics of personal and political destruction? Another way to put this is: How do we develop a political weapon that matches and neutralizes theirs, in particular the claim that we are waging a war against women, minorities, and the poor?
Actually, it’s not that difficult if you are willing to be aggressive, if you are willing to match their rhetoric and be called extremist for doing so. Every inner city in America of size is run by Democrats and has been for 50 to 100 years. Detroit is a good example. It is 85 percent black. Fifty years ago it was per capita the richest city in America, the industrial jewel of an industrial superpower. Fifty years ago Democrats came to power in Detroit and began implementing their plans for social justice.
Fifty years of progressive policies and Democratic rule has bankrupted Detroit, and ruined it. A third of its population is on welfare. Half its population is unemployed. Its per-capita income has plummeted so far that it is now the poorest large city in America. It has been depopulated. More than half the people who lived there are gone. Everyone has fled who can. It is a giant slum of human misery and despair. And Democrats did it. Democrats are Detroit’s slumlords and the authors of the racist policies that have reduced a once great city to its present squalid state. Democrats are cynical liars and rank hypocrites when they claim to be interested in the well-being of minorities and the poor, whose necks bear the marks of their boot heels.
Fighting fire with fire means throwing the Democrats’ atrocities — their exploitation and devastation of black and brown Americans — in their faces every time they open their mouths. It means accusing them of destroying the lives of millions of poor black and Hispanic children who are trapped in the public schools that don’t educate them — schools the Democrats run as jobs programs for adults and slush funds for their political campaigns. It means taking up the cause of the victims and indicting progressives for their crimes. The one thing it does not mean is business as usual.
Gary Becker, one of the greatest living economists and a longstanding member of the University of Chicago faculty, has died. עליו השלום.
(Photo courtesy Nobelprize.org.)
UPDATE: Gary Becker links follow.
James J. Heckman (pdf)
(Links via Lex and Joseph Morris.)