Count De Monet – “Sir, the peasants are revolting!”
King Louis – “You said it. They stink on ice.”
Played for laughs in a movie by a producer/performer whom many of us doubt would ever get a green light today. But the great and good in the media and in the intellectual class – really do affect the pose that the peasants stink on ice, and say so, at every opportunity and in every possible venue. They despise the residents in Flyoverlandia – those who had the temerity to be conservative, conventionally religious, independent of thought, fiscally-careful, or even (gasp!) voting for Trump – or against Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua. Victor Davis Hansen collected up a litany of poisonous disparagement in this recent essay; a collection that is all the more depressing as an assemblage, nasty as each one of them were considered in isolation as they occurred and bubbled up to the top of the outrage cycle.
How did all this come about? (David F. ventured on this topic earlier this month.) I mean, there has always been a certain degree of social snobbery on the part of those who viewed themselves as being of the upper class, the managerial sort, the better-educated, and those who honestly felt they were the winners in the Darwinian struggle. The intellectual and artistic set always did regard themselves as a cut above the common herd. Over in Jolly Olde England, the gentry and nobility enforced their own supreme position with a fine sense of social brutality against ambitious interlopers.
In literature and reportage from last century on back, there will be any number of fictional characters and real people who had less-than-charitable opinions of those below them on the social scale – but such extreme utterances often seemed to be vaguely disapproved of, even if the milder versions were pretty much taken for granted. One does not come away from reading Dickens, Twain, Austen, or mainstream social commentators to the right of raving Marxists with the impression that the ruling and managerial class – such as it was – despised their countrymen and women with a white-hot burning passion; wished them all dead, exiled, or in reeducation camps. They might be contemptuous of the beggarly poor, seeing them as potential criminals – but at least they gave lip-service-respect to the working and middle-class; the backbone of the country, to turn the Victorian phrase. It might have struck us in this century as being unbearably patronizing, but at best – they seemed to appreciate the working and middle-class of their countrymen and women. Still snobbish, condescending, patronizing – but not actively, nastily, freely hostile.
How on earth did this come to pass? I speculate (along with others) that it was because we didn’t do as they ordered. We didn’t vote for the Dowager Empress, we cast doubt on the viability of Obamacare – and going back any number of decades, we declined to live in stack-a-prole city apartment blocks and patronize public transportation, decamping for the suburbs and POVs (privately-owned automobiles), declining the wise and kindly rule of those who deemed themselves our betters.
And there we are. Your thoughts – and what are we to do about a ruling elite which viciously despises the half the country and hasn’t the least shred of reluctance about voicing it?
73 thoughts on “Stink on Ice”
How on earth did this come to pass?
In earlier times, classes may have known their differences and there was friction. But we were all one humanity. United in our faith in a Supreme Being. But thanks to Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Einstein, Freud and the German University, that faith was lost. Can you imagine an American President on the eve of victory saying:
When I was a child, each public school day, by law, began with the reading by a student of 10 verses of the Bible and the Pledge of Allegiance. Can you imagine that today? Inconceivable. I was convinced at the time that it constituted an establishment of religion by government and so the practice ended. I am not sure we are the better for it. For now we are all ruled by our own judgement of what is best. To suggest that we are a Christian nation is sacrilege. But as a Christian nation we could accept all religions in toleration. Now as a secular nation we can admit all religions. And may the fittest survive.
Until that fittest emerges and we can again all agree on the value of each human life, I fear the judgement of the Lord.
“Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other”…of course that was also true of all the belligerents (except for the Japanese) in the First World War, but that didn’t stop it.
It’s not my original idea, but The Rise of the Meritocracy, and the elevation of Academia as the creator/indicator of merit is I believe responsible in large part. Those who go to the “best” schools are deemed to be the “best” people. They think they have rights to rule by their superior merits, not through some accident of birth. This leads to disdain and contempt for those less worthy than them, which is elevated to an extreme degree when this conception they have of the way things should be is upended, as when their favored politicians lose.
I also think social media is a major factor in recent social ills. A large number of people are psychopaths who think the world is a movie and they are the star.
“I was convinced at the time that it constituted an establishment of religion by government and so the practice ended.”
No they replaced it with a different “religion”.
Brian and Newrouter both have it right…
The academics conveniently theorized that the “modern condition” necessitated a new sort of leadership, and of course, they were ready to provide it. Just look at Wilson, and all his buddies down through FDR.
They created what amounts to a secular religion, because nothing they brought before the rest of us was falsifiable… It’s all on faith, all the time. There can be no assessment of actual effect, because of that.
It is all of a piece, this new secular faith. You can’t question it, you can’t point at it and say “This… This is not working…”, because none of it is at all rational; everything is a matter of belief. If you question any of their shibboleths or tenets, then you are driven from the temple as unworthy and anathema.
Look at everything around you, and ask “Why don’t people question any of this…?”. Whether it’s race relations, the homeless, or whatever other social ailment they’ve set their hooks into, nobody can even question the basic facts without being excoriated as racist, homophobic, or whatever other “othering” term they might invent.
Fact is, just about everywhere you look, nothing of their worldview actually works. Homelessness? The more money we throw into that bottomless pit at their urging, the more homeless we get. The more false compassion we show, the more the problem festers.
So, why aren’t the basics of all this ever questioned? Does anyone see any actual evidence that the worldview these so-called “progressives” and “liberals” espouse has done anything to improve any of these situations? Have they fixed anything? Ever?
We ceded control of academia, then educational instruction, and finally the schools to these wonderful, brilliant people. What have we to show for it? What have they improved? What is better, since they’ve had their hands on the tiller?
Everywhere you look, they’ve broken whatever they touched. Our schools now graduate functional illiterates in job lots; the universities produce nothing but inept and unhappy “social activists” who go on to sabotage more and more across society, spouting off theories and mad angry resentful claims of patriarchy and oppression.
I think it’s well past time we stopped, looked at what all these wonderful intellectuals have actually produced, and then assess where they are actually taking us. I’ve about reached the point, myself, where I’m starting to wonder if Pol Pot didn’t have the right idea about the entire “intellectual” class. I’m not about to embrace his solution, but… Man, is it tempting.
The shared experiences and beliefs that once bound the various classes, cultures and geographic parts of the country together have been severely weakened or destroyed. The military draft, church attendance, a public school school curriculum that emphasized Western civilization, US history and Civics are examples. The increasingly vast (and largely undeserved) disparities in compensation between the worker and the executive has certainly played a part, as has an increasingly ignorant and ideologically driven Big Media.
Personally, I don’t believe this is fixable, but then I’m a pessimist by nature.
I also think social media is a major factor in recent social ills. A large number of people are psychopaths…
How about social media encourage (or at least enable) antisocial behavior: If I insult you for disagreeing with me, and then insult you every time I see you comment on a blog, you can’t do much. But if I do it in person you can punch me in the fact. The lack of consequences allows people to drift into behaving badly.
I agree it began with Wilson. I blame Roosevelt for Wilson, however, and his sense of entitlement that included everything under the sun.
It was no coincidence that Roosevelt’s biographer thought Reagan was stupid and wrote a biography filled with fiction. The Reagan family chose very badly.
Harding and Coolidge got the country back on keel and we had a period, the “Roaring Twenties,” that resembled the Nineties but was considered immoral by the class created by Wilson and his acolytes.
The 1929 Panic might have ended as the 1907 Panic did but for the class of Wilson Socialists. They took over and we got the Great Depression, which ended only with the War.
The 1950s and 60s were boom times because Europe and Japan were flattened by the War. Something similar had happened with World War I but the post war period was a brief recession and then a boom due to new technology. The 1929 crash resembled the 1978 crash but Reagan happened in 1980 instead of Roosevelt in 1932.
The prosperity of the Nineties was attributed by the left (and still is) to Bill Clinton who was smart enough to get out of the way after 1994. His third term (Gore) did not happen and the left has never gotten over it. The 2000 election (I blame the tie on Rove who encouraged Bush to conceal his drunk driving incident)drove Gore and the rest of the left crazy. They have never gotten over it and they thought Hillary would be Bill’s third term at last.
Trump is Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and now he is keeping promises that were believed to be lies agreed to by both parties.
Related: my post The Phobia(s) That May Destroy America…link goes to post & discussion at Ricochet, there is also a discussion thread at Chicago Boyz.
Particularly interesting, I thought, was Trent Telnko’s comment about the “Rural Purge” of network broadcast television.
“One does not come away from reading Dickens, Twain, Austen, or mainstream social commentators to the right of raving Marxists with the impression that the ruling and managerial class – such as it was – despised their countrymen and women with a white-hot burning passion; wished them all dead, exiled, or in reeducation camps. They might be contemptuous of the beggarly poor, seeing them as potential criminals – but at least they gave lip-service-respect to the working and middle-class; the backbone of the country, to turn the Victorian phrase. It might have struck us in this century as being unbearably patronizing, but at best – they seemed to appreciate the working and middle-class of their countrymen and women.”
I get a different view in one of the Flashman novels…not written contemporaneously with events, of course, but usually very well-researched. Speaking of labor unrest, the protagonist says:
“Everyone I knew was damning the workers up and down, and saying they should be hung and flogged and transported…You have no idea, today, how high feeling ran; the millfolk were the enemy then, as if they had been Frenchmen or Afghans.”
David, I quit Ricochet twice, once for pretty vitriolic opposition to evolution
The second time for using the term “TDS” in a response to a NeverTrump comment. I was suspended for two days for that offense.
I do read the posts from time to time but, after rejoining once at the request of a friend, I think I’m done there.
The evolution thing is significant. I have a daughter who is very well educated and a lefty but reasonable, We had a discussion one time about the Texas school district that mandated the teaching of creation alongside evolution. She was quite worried about this.
I asked her which was more important, teaching evolution or teaching reading and math. She agreed that math and reading were more important.
She is in the “belly of the beast” living in Santa Monica and working for a famous artist. We can talk a bit about politics, but she is convinced (or was a year ago) that Trump would be impeached. We avoid politics so I don’t know if she has changed her mind.
My older son is a trial lawyer and pretty far left. He used to ridicule Orange County as being too conservative. Now, however, he has two children and would like to move back from the Bay Area as they are now in school. His brother is very conservative.
My oldest daughter is a lawyer and FBI agent and a natural Hillary voter but she told me in 2016 that she would NOT vote for Hillary. She would not say why but I assumed the FBI grapevine had something to do with it.
On the topic of the “Rural Purge,” I remember that the age of CBS viewers was a big issue about then. They were very worried about the demographics of their audience because older viewers were thought less responsive to ads and younger viewers more likely to buy stuff.
They ignored the fact that older audiences have more money and, especially recently, that young viewers are heavily in debt.
Southern California has a glut of unsold homes under construction.,
More debt issues. Rental units were most of the construction I would see on visits but that may be all there is that moves.
I am not sure I’d suggest what amounted to a satire that was written generations after the fact as being at all an accurate rendition of the times satirized. Although, I’ve found most of what George MacDonald Fraser’s historical fiction to be well-researched and equally well-written, the thing to remember is that the Flashman novels are written to sell to an audience that might not have accepted full accuracy.
It’s difficult to try to figure out what real opinions were, from historical periods. Yeah, you can read what they wrote, you can observe what they did in what was recorded, but… What were they really thinking? Hell, we really don’t even have that, today–Try to imagine what it would be like for a future historian to try to explain the disparity in polling results from the actual elections vs. the ones that the public opinion surveyors reported. The disparity is vast, and due mostly to people not wanting to say what they really think to some random stranger. If you’re reading a private journal, that the writer thought would never see the light of day… Then, maybe. But, if the writer was putting words to paper for posterity’s sake? LOL… There’s no telling what they were really thinking. You can make believe you have the reality, in those cases, but… I’ve run into too many places where the letters and journals say one thing, and the person in question actually did something quite different. For good, or ill… I’m thinking of one specific family journal that had one of the matriarchs writing as all holy-roller and judgmental, but what she actually did…? Not at all that way–Her actual behavior was quite compassionate and helpful to someone who really screwed things up for themselves. There are also cases that go the other way…
Until we start getting “black box” recordings of people’s actual thoughts and thinking processes, trying to elicit “what they really thought” out of what we have in the historical record is going to remain on the Ouija Board level.
It’s difficult to try to figure out what real opinions were, from historical periods.
I just read the novel last night, “The Prisoner of Zenda.” I have read it before. Anthony Hope was a London barrister with great prospects when he decided to devote his life to writing.
Arthur Conan Doyle was a well educated physician when he decided to spend his life writing, including the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Both of them present an upper class English view of society. Holmes would disguise himself as a bum and had a group of street urchins as informants.
In neither set of novels, which I have read since childhood, can I detect the sort of contempt for the working people we see in present day self described elites.
Dickens used stereotypes but they were not the despised working class of today’s left. David Copperfield rose from the lowest level to be a successful author. It is often considered to be a Dickens autobiography.
What we have today is a poorly educated class that, either knows one thing (like coding) well and not much else, or it is largely uneducated in any real subject. Universities have outlived their usefulness. I say that having three degrees.
From what I’ve observed of the people who “despise the residents in Flyoverlandia” and employ the type of rhetoric described by Professor Hansen, not all of them are members of “the elite” in any sense. Some of them may be *aspiring* members, with a sense of entitlement toward being *actual* members, but many are not anywhere near any kind of elite position. Also, many are not by any means intellectuals or even “intellectuals”.
David: “… not all of them are members of “the elite” in any sense.”
Indeed! What we are probably seeing in that kind of mindless reiteration of CNN news points is ‘Peer Pressure’. If someone wants to be perceived as elite, it is quite likely she will ape the behavior of those she thinks of as elite.
Peer Pressure is fascinating. Compare the plentiful parking outside most western churches on a Sunday morning with the overflow crowds of fighting age young male Muslims spreading their prayer mats in the streets outside mosques at Friday prayers in the UAE. Peer Pressure! The question is — where does Peer Pressure come from?
Perhaps the lack of sadism in the earlier Western canon is just that the enslaved and indentured to this day remain out of sight and out of mind.
Rich kids locked in towers. Poor ones row and hoe.
As God intended.
I was considering also, as I wrote this – if there isn’t also some kind of tipping point near, with the elites vs ‘flyoverlandia’ ordinary citizens in Britain and in France. The gas taxes, and the blatant fine-farming of French drivers drove the regular citizens over the edge. Is the matter of Brexit the breaking point for ordinary Brits?
Really, if we only had an honestly curious media, instead of an assortment of bloggers in-country, we might have a better idea of wot-in-hell is really going on…
Mike, vis-a-vis your reading… I must point out that Hope and Doyle were writing contemporaneously, and trying to sell those very books to the “great unwashed”. Most authors, up until recently, were not so foolish as to insult their audiences.
Doyle’s real opinions? Hopes? Who knows… You want to sell, you don’t write insulting things about your audience. Doyle’s historical fiction, which was what he really wanted to write, is now mostly forgotten. Sherlock Holmes was what kept the bills paid, and he wasn’t tremendously fond of the character, nor did he really respect the audience for those works that much. I’ve seen some of his papers (there was a published collection of Sherlock Holmes peripheral stuff a few years back that included a bunch of letters between him and his publishers…) where he was positively outraged that people wanted more Sherlock, and he didn’t want to write more.
It’s kinda like Frank Baum and Oz; the creator came up with a story for the ages, and then the damn things took on a life of their own.
Teasing out what people were actually thinking, at the time…? Who the hell knows. Actions and deeds should speak louder than mere words, but we keep mistaking the words for the reality. I recall reading some rather Socially-Justicey stuff from a Baptist minister, once. Guy talked really good game about treating blacks like humans, but… Guess who it turns out was a leading participant in a couple of rather nasty lynchings and rampages through the local black community? He was writing for an audience that he knew would include outsiders, and so wrote pleasingly for that audience–But, what were his actual actions?
In a gunfight, watch their hands–Don’t listen to their words. In analyzing historical attitudes, watch what they actually did, not what they said about it. And, even then, you’re gonna have a hard time eliciting motivations and reasonings out of it all, because you lack the context of the times.
“I was considering also, as I wrote this – if there isn’t also some kind of tipping point near, with the elites vs ‘flyoverlandia’ ordinary citizens in Britain and in France. The gas taxes, and the blatant fine-farming of French drivers drove the regular citizens over the edge. Is the matter of Brexit the breaking point for ordinary Brits?
Really, if we only had an honestly curious media, instead of an assortment of bloggers in-country, we might have a better idea of wot-in-hell is really going on…”
The problem, as I see it, is that the trade of journalist has been captured by the same sort of academic twits and twats that infest the academy elsewhere, and have essentially neutered the trade. If Jack London were wandering around France, right now, you might get an earful. The problem is, Jack London couldn’t get a job at any mainstream publication today, and neither could Samuel Clemens.
I think the 1960s were probably the last decade during which the media weren’t academized, and it shows: Woodward and Bernstein were convinced that they took down Hitler/Nixon, but the raw facts are they weren’t smart enough to grasp that they were being used by Mark Felt. And, signally, nothing published by Woodward since seems to show any recognition that he was used, on his part. The man is as dense as a brick, and about as smart. You go digging through his work, and you find occasion after occasion where he let himself be used as a pipeline by someone, and there’s zero recognition of that fact on his part. He’s convinced these people told him the truth, for some reason, and doesn’t ever ask the question of “Why are they telling me this…?”.
Of course, there’s always been a bit of a problem with trusting journalists. Most of them are dumb as posts, and got into the trade because their only skill was an ability to write or speak glibly, and tell facile lies with a convincing mien. I look back at some of the stuff I remember encountering and taking seriously, back in the day, and I have shamefacedly admit that I was taken in, and did not catch the contradictions that stand out like sore thumbs to me, today.
“First draft of History”, my ass. It’s more like “Innuendo, slander, lies, and misinformation”.
Gavin and David, re aspiring elite
I see that quite often in my Gen Z nephews’ FB virtue signaling. My Millennial (now 32 y. o.) son, not so much.
“How did all this come about? (David F. ventured on this topic earlier this month.) I mean, there has always been a certain degree of social snobbery on the part of those who viewed themselves as being of the upper class, the managerial sort, the better-educated, and those who honestly felt they were the winners in the Darwinian struggle. The intellectual and artistic set always did regard themselves as a cut above the common herd… It might have struck us in this century as being unbearably patronizing, but at best – they seemed to appreciate the working and middle-class of their countrymen and women. Still snobbish, condescending, patronizing – but not actively, nastily, freely hostile.”
I think you’ve nailed the answer to the question “why” in what you’ve written. It’s ingroup/outgroup behavior, a part of our “human nature” whose importance it would be very difficult to overstate. It’s an evolved trait that affects every one of us. Chicago Boy Robert Ardrey described it more than 50 years ago in his “African Genesis” in the Freudian terminology fashionable at the time as the “Amity/Enmity Complex. He was referring to the dual nature of morality. We react to the ingroup with empathy, sympathy, altruism, etc., and to the outgroup with hatred and disgust. When the behavior in question evolved, there was no ambiguity about the identity of the outgroup. It was always just the neighboring tribe, competing with ours for resources and territory. As a result, the trait is quite “malleable.” The outgroup can be identified by any number of very subtle clues. That fact is behind a great many of the social maladies of modern societies.
Today we are aware of a myriad groups of “others,” any one of which can be identified as the outgroup. It can be defined according to race (racism), ethnicity (anti-Semitism), the question of whether Christ has two natures or one, or God comes in one person or three (heresy), economic class (the bourgeoisie), etc. The same underlying behavioral trait explains all these forms of bigotry. I think the reason that those who regard themselves as our “betters” today, react to us with a fury that, as Sgt. Mom noted, was absent in the 19th century, is that the ingroup of these elites is defined by ideology to a much greater degree now than it was then. As she also noted, this has always been the case with the “intellectual and artistic set.” I’ve been reading “Breaking Ranks,” by Normal Podhoretz, in which he gives a very eye-opening description of the almost precisely similar ingroup/outgroup behavior of the intellectuals of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s all there – the unanimous embrace of the ideological shibboleths that define the ingroup, the ostracism and shunning of those in the outgroup, including the same shaming, slandering, and career destruction we see today, and naked rage and fury. Think Robert De Niro.
If you want to see the very same behavior in one who is constantly found patting himself on the back as a very paragon of science and reason, by all means, read “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker. Pinker has always had a very fine sense of just how far he can go with pin pricks directed at his academic tribe, and when he needs to placate them with abject virtue signaling. Of course, a defining shibboleth of his tribe/ingroup is hatred of Trump and all he stands for. Sure enough, “Enlightenment Now” is laced with passages that affirm Pinker’s undying hatred of Trump. If we are to believe Pinker, there is no essential difference between Trump and Hitler or Mussolini. We learn that he is inspired by the works of Nietzsche, another of Pinker’s betes noire. All those who support Trump are either Nazis themselves or dupes of Nazis. Apparently it never occurs to Pinker that this begs the question of why anyone he describes as a Nazi would care to “reason” with him, or listen to his “scientific” rants about how evil they are. It seems to me the book clearly documents the fact that, when it comes to Trump, the man has become completely unhinged. It’s well worth reading, if only as documentation of a particularly egregious instance of ingroup/outgroup behavior.
Doyle’s historical fiction, which was what he really wanted to write, is now mostly forgotten. Sherlock Holmes was what kept the bills paid, and he wasn’t tremendously fond of the character, nor did he really respect the audience for those works that much.
Kirk, good points about Doyle. He killed off Sherlock once but revived him to great demand. I don’t know about Hope.
It has been written that there were only something like five plots for fiction until “Zenda” and there have been lots of copies of its theme since.
I have read quite a bit about Doyle and he had quite an interesting life, not just a writer.
Both of them assumed a reader who was interested in the Bourgeois culture of the time. If you read newspapers from the 1860s, readers were quite a bit better educated than the general public today. Of course, there was a population that did not read much, or even anything, but there were a lot of people who provided an audience for serious thought.
“How on earth did this come to pass. . . a ruling elite which viciously despises the half the country and hasn’t the least shred of reluctance about voicing it?” [Sgt. Mom]
IMO, I credit it with the legacy of the divine right to rule. In the past, the right to rule came from above (God). Remember even Charlemagne, in the west, once obtaining the divine power from Pope Leo III passed it on to his own sons, who in turn passed it on to their own sons, etc.
In our society, that “divine right” is credentialism; Ivy League degrees, living in the proper neighborhood, attending the correct social affair, or even being invited to such an affair in the first place are cultural shibboleths which identify one as a member (or potential member) of the ruling class.
It’s a social blindness which, like Versailles under Louis the XVI, is a disassociation from the people they rule (remember, the real point of restrictive social groups is to point out those who are not members, i.e., to validate the superiority of the group). Again IMO, Trump represents a break with that evolution. Unlike the ruling class, some of whom come from humble beginnings and then forget whence they’ve come or to whom they should be responsible, Trump is a contradiction, the billionaire who would rather deal with plumbers, electricians, and construction workers, and who oftentimes acts like one.
It will be interesting to see if “apres Trump, le deluge.”
The problem with SGT Mom’s construct that T quotes is this: The “ruling elite” self-appointed itself, and never bothered to get the requisite approval, approval, or, most importantly–Acquiescence from the rest of us. And, given the fractious nature of the American body politic, their continual attempts to lord it over the “great unwashed”, as they conceive us…?
Tain’t gonna end at all well, for them. We don’t need 90% of what Washington DC and the elites “do” for us, and I think it would be a really good idea if Mr. Trump were to use this shutdown to show that fact.
If I were him, I’d be telling the Democrats in Congress “Fine. You want a shutdown? I’ll show you a shutdown…”, and then start gutting the administrative state back down to what is constitutionally mandated. He’s made a start, with cutting Congressional perks like military transport. All he needs now is to start channeling his inner Davey Crockett, and actually gut the executive branch of all of its extra-Constitutional BS. Democrats want a shut-down, give them one. I’d address the Federal employees apologetically, and tell them that we can’t continue to employ them in good conscience while the Democrats refuse to pay them, sooo… Buh-bye, find work in the private sector.
” . . . The “ruling elite” self-appointed itself, . . .” [Kirk @ 4:43 pm]
Thanks for clarifying and reaffirming my point, i.e., that the ruling class has always been self-appointed, justifying itself by looking at outside sources, whether it was divine power descended from above, credentials and shibboleths which they value, or memberships in exclusive societies. Such smug egotism is especially obnoxious in our governmental system where the power to govern is derived from a contractual relationship with those governed.
I remember a particular descriptive anecdote from 40 years ago: My wife and I were looking to purchase a used piano when we lived in a small Montana college town. A new business had opened up selling used uprights and grands garnered from across the U.S. Upon our first visit to the showroom we were greeted by the salesman. “Hi! I’m John Doe. I graduated from Harvard with a B.S. in chemistry. How can I help you?” (Yes, that is a word-for-word transcription of his introduction.) At the time I was too kind to respond with the obvious — “Then why are you selling used pianos in Montana?” but even then, this was a clear signal with how much the Acela corridor critters are impressed with themselves.
For clarification, that anonymous comment at 4:43 pm is “T” responding to Kirk.
The “Ruling Elite” may have several sources. The Wall Street Journal had a good article some years ago about how high schools started to teach things like drafting and mechanical skills. That was around 1910. The reason was to provide better educated workers for industry.
Classical college education began in the US as preparation for ministry and the northeast is still a Puritan culture even if there is no longer a belief in God. Global Warming has taken his place.
The GI Bill was also an enormous leveling influence but the Ivy League graduates looked with contempt on those “cow colleges.”
My father in law worked for Hughes Aircraft Company for many years and worked with lots of PhDs. He had had two years of college before moving to California and then went to war in 1942. He dealt with his inadequate education by telling his colleagues that he had only finished the 8th grade. They were immensely impressed. Reverse snobbery still existed in those days.
The student loan program, which began in 1960, also encouraged kids to go to more prestigious colleges. Their parents could never have afforded these schools. A smart kid went to Harvard instead of a local state college.
Don Rumsfeld was such a smart kid and his high school principal helped him get into Princeton instead of U of Illinois. On scholarship, of course.
I had no such luck in 1956 as my Catholic high school was not concerned with high level colleges. Rumsfeld went to New Trier in the Chicago suburbs,
T, I like your anecdote about the piano salesman.
Atheists and vegans have similar urges.
An absolutely true story and as, such a sad commentary. Still have that piano, a 1907 Steck former player grand.
How do you tell if someone went to Harvard?
Just wait a minute. They’ll tell you.
Ivy League graduates, Cross-Fit “enthusiasts”, and vegans… Oh, and a certain “type” of military guy who makes a point of telling you, somewhere in the first sentence of whatever conversation you have with him, all about his “elite” status as a Ranger, SEAL, or what-have-you.
The thing is, this isn’t a feature of having been to Harvard, being a Ranger, or whatever else they’re boasting about: It’s the marker for a certain kind of personal feeling of inadequacy, which is usually more than justified. Dude makes a point of telling you something like that, it’s usually because he feels like he can’t stand on his own merits. Which they usually cannot…
Conversely, it’s when you only discover that someone has these credentials by accident that you find that they actually justify all the hype surrounding them.
Handy rule of thumb, for me, has been that every time someone starts boasting about their credentials, run, don’t walk, run–Far and fast. Get off the “X”, as we used to say, because something disastrous is bound to happen around that credentialed dolt.
Obama is a classic example of this. The man boasts about his background at “Hahvahd”; Trump, by comparison, is indeed a boaster–But, with him, it’s a different P.T. Barnum-esque brand of hype. There’s a qualitative and visceral difference–I know guys who were brazen boasters, and could actually walk the walk. The thing to look for is if they talk trash about what they’ve done, vs. who they are and where they went to school. First kind is annoying, but not generally a threat to health and safety. Second type? Get off the “X”, if you know what’s good for you.
” . . . It’s the marker for a certain kind of personal feeling of inadequacy, . . . ” [Kirk @ 6:05 pm]
Couldn’t agree more. It’s kind of like a childhood taunt: “I went to Har-vard and you-uu didn’t!” I believe it was Kathleen Parker who recently pointed out we are being condescended to by our inferiors. I, for one, certaianly hope that Trump is the beginning of a trend, not it’s epilogue.
again, (sheesh!) above comnment @ 6:14 is by “T”
Oh, yes – Kirk; there is a saying to effect that if you have to tell someone or everyone that you are *something* (a lady, a SEAL, an intellectual, or whatever) then you probably aren’t!
You’re misusing the words. What you call meritocracy isn’t. It’s credentialism, which is the opposite of meritocracy. It goes along with the victimhood points and other ways of judging people beyond “Can he/she do the job?” and “IS he/she the best for the job.” THOSE are meritocracy and the left is now openly against it. Because they can’t win at that game. None of them have much in the way of merit. But, oh, they have credentials. And are unduly rewarded for them. Which is the problem.
It generates snobbery and separation and unearned superiority. It will be the death of the west.
No, I’m not.
It is quite clear from my comment, and from countless previous comments, that I don’t believe academia is actually tracking merit very well at all. If you google “credentialocracy” you’ll see several of the hits are from my comments on this and other blogs (sadly, this neologism hasn’t taken off…).
As for your final statement, that’s exactly what I said.
The capital letters were a sign I was referencing this:
“The Rise of the Meritocracy is a book by British sociologist and politician Michael Dunlop Young which was first published in 1958. It describes a dystopian society in a future United Kingdom in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society, replacing previous divisions of social class and creating a society stratified between a merited power-holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited. The essay satirised the Tripartite System of education that was being practised at the time.”
Agree that “meritocracy” is a word that started with Wilson and the Progressives who wanted the country run by an educated elite.
It has persisted while the real Merit of the credentialed has deteriorated. Somebody did a survey of information possessed by Harvard freshmen and seniors. The freshmen scored higher one general information. Harvard should choose applicants, collect tuition and issue diplomas the same day.
I was fortunate to attend college in the 1950s and 60s. When I went back to do pre-med, I could not get a student loan for pre-med so I was an English major for a year. I enjoyed it thoroughly and still have a couple of the books from the courses.
I would not pay for a child to be an English major in college today,.
I think there’s a certain social syndrome that needs to be understood and defined, and that is the process by which that which is identified as “elite” becomes eroded and turned into utter shite. I don’t think there’s a name for it, but I can clearly identify the outline of it all, and I think it deserves careful study, in order to avoid the inimical effect that stems from it.
I’m most familiar with it in a military context; it is, however prevalent in nearly all human endeavors.
The start of it all is that some endeavor, say for example, the US Army Ranger “complex” (by which I mean the entire historical phenomenon proceeding from their start as the US Army version of the UK Commandoes during WWII): Beginning from the root, the initial “thing” gains great acclaim, due to exploits and undeniable excellence. Following the acclaim, the situation gets institutionalized and perhaps co-opted by others. The Rangers followed this path–Initially, they were there to learn from the British Commandoes, then re-roled into “We gotta get in on this raid thing…” before Normandy, then they were used as elite fire brigades in Europe before being shut down. After the war, then the whole thing gradually morphed into a school that was intended to teach leadership through privation and abuse, and re-emphasize light infantry tactics and doctrine. Eventually, it gradually transformed into an elite combat element again, and we have the modern Ranger regiment.
You can trace out a sine wave of sorts, tracking all this–Along with the periodicity of just how “elite” the school and units were. The curves usually go from “high” during periods when visionaries were tasked with reforming the institution of Ranger School and the various iterations of Ranger units, and lows, when the careerist types had run the thing into the ground. The whole thing is cyclic, and if you were to go look at things like the Jesuits and the Lockheed Skunk Works, you’d see the outlines of similar sine wave-like performance curves.
You can also see it in brands, products, and entire industries; something becomes identifiable as “high-quality” and “high-end”, there’s an expansion of sales, and then the brand, product, or company get bought out (or, there’s a change in leadership…) and someone who is merely a bean-counting careerist decides that what is necessary is to make more profit by cheapening the product… Which, of course, that idiot never thinks about as being something that will reduce the long-term value of things. Then, there is a reduction in sales success, people complain, and someone else creates a renaissance of product desirability by improving quality, or whatever. Alternatively, the idiots driving the whole train take it into the ground, and the brand/product dies, to be replaced by something else.
This is a phenomenon that militates against true meritocracy, because the moment that you create and identify anything that’s “merit-based”, the wreckers and careerists immediately begin ruining it. They can’t help themselves–They are fundamentally parasites by nature, and what they parasitize is anything representing excellence. Every arena of human endeavor attracts these people, most of whom don’t even really recognize what they’re doing as they do it–They’re simply doing what comes naturally, trying to “get ahead”, and “do what’s best for their careers”.
This is why the current progressive meritocracy has transformed into what it is today; a kakistocracy. It’s an inevitable thing, and you really can’t do much about it, although I suppose that a truly self-policing and far more self-aware meritocracy might manage to cull the types that are behind this happening. My guess is that the only way you’d really make headway against these people would require liberal use of the “Three S’es: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut-up”, because they’re not going to go away willingly.
I would also suggest that we’re about on the point of the sine wave of Progressivism where the general “value” is becoming increasingly and visibly dysfunctional, such that it’s likely going to commit “brand suicide” the way that various other entities have, over the years. Or, it’s going to have to renew itself by actually exhibiting some real merit. I wouldn’t hold your breath–The movement is infested with people in possession of zero self-awareness and great arrogance, such that reform is probably impossible.
I prefer “credentialism” to “meritocracy” when describing the undue influence of educational credentials. Less ambiguous at present, whatever the history of the terms may be.
someone who is merely a bean-counting careerist decides that what is necessary is to make more profit by cheapening the product…
Schlitz beer comes to mind. Along with Lowenbrau beer. Both were destroyed by incompetents who did not realize that brands are supposed to represent something.
The Navy is now in the throughs of such empty suits. West Point maybe similarly afflicted if the letter from the former instructor is still true.
As with everything we try to describe, the terms become polluted after use and time. Observe how we’ve progressed over the years from term to term in describing mental, uhmmm… What is the currently acceptable term? “Disability”? What once was an acceptable clinical term, like “cretin”, gradually became unacceptable because people started using it in the pejorative sense, to describe the behavior or characteristic identified with it. Not a damn thing has changed with the terms–The mentally retarded are still the same, but because the terms used to discuss them clinically were taken up by larger society as being pejorative insults, well… It is now considered insulting and denigrating to use them.
Same-same with “credentials” and “merit”, but on a slightly different track: Those terms, which were once innocent terms used to describe the reality of things, became unclean and unfit for purpose, because of the pollution. Credentials once meant something; now, because they’ve been taken up by the unworthy, they’re no longer what they once were. A high-school diploma used to mean something; now that we’re handing them out to mainstreamed mentally disabled, they don’t mean squat.
A credential that isn’t guarded and curated doesn’t mean anything, after sufficient time, because once it is easily obtained, it becomes essentially meaningless. Likewise with merit and meritocracy; if you don’t ensure that the members of such a thing actually exhibit and imbue merit and excellence, then the terms become meaningless.
As a meta-concept, the ideas tend to only work for short periods, entirely due to the sorts of false creatures that become attracted to them. Once you define a credential or something that constitutes merit, the careerists and short-cut takers start to show up, and it’s only a matter of time until they take the whole thing over and turn it into an utter sham of what it started out to be.
A credential that isn’t guarded and curated doesn’t mean anything, after sufficient time, because once it is easily obtained, it becomes essentially meaningless.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a hard working black kid whose achievements are discounted immediately ?
If I remember correctly, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams both finished their educations before Affirmative Action.
Clarence Thomas is assumed by the left to be an incompetent AA beneficiary.
On credentialism: Triggered by some earlier discussions on this blog, I have been re-reading an excellent 1975 book by Jack Beeching, “The Chinese Opium Wars”. Highly recommended!
It appears that the 19th Century Chinese mandrinate under Manchu rule was fairly close to being a true meritocracy — with merit defined as the ability to pass a series of increasingly competitive exams. The process was open even to the most remote village child in China, but by the second level of examinations, only about 70 students could expect to pass out of a group that could be five or ten thousand strong. After further stringent exam-passing winnowing, the resulting mandrinate comprised men who were very smart, hard-working, and well-versed in the Confucian texts. However, they were also rather rigid and tradition-bound in their thinking. They did an adequate job of running China for generations — but were unable to react appropriately to changed circumstances when European imperialists landed on their shores.
Our current credentialed Political Class probably has a whole lot less earned merit than the old Chinese mandrinate, but clearly also suffers from the same problem of not being able to adjust to changing circumstances. As new situations arise (such as de-industrialization, unsustainable trade deficits, rising debt, unpayable social security commitments), they are obviously failing — just like the mandrinate.
But I am optimistic that real leaders of genuine ability will arise out of the collapse — individuals with merit rather than credentials. Once we all have our backs against the wall and really have to struggle to pull ourselves out of the mess, educational credentials will mean as little as, say, the credential of a British peerage means today.
“The start of it all is that some endeavor, say for example, the US Army Ranger “complex”… After the war, then the whole thing gradually morphed into a school that was intended to teach leadership through privation and abuse, and re-emphasize light infantry tactics and doctrine. Eventually, it gradually transformed into an elite combat element again, and we have the modern Ranger regiment.”
It was definitely the former when I went through in December/January. It was the year the glaciers returned to Florida. I’ve never come close to being as cold as I was in that state, and I grew up in Wisconsin. I was dumb enough to reveal that I was a good swimmer, so I was appointed “far shore lifeguard.” That meant I had to strip down and swim across any stream we ran into (and there were many) to make a rope bridge, so everyone else could shinny across and stay high and dry. We only got one C-ration a day, so had literally begun to starve at the end of the 12 day swamp phase. If you went prone during a mock firefight, you got dizzy when you tried to stand back up again. The last night in the field we were heading single file towards some objective and paused for a while. My ranger buddy had been hallucinating, and thought he was standing in line at Mama Leone’s restaurant in New York City. I wonder if there’s a good history of the development of ranger training in the U.S. over the years. If so I would love to read it.
Kirk: “You can trace out a sine wave of sorts …”
Congratulations, Kirk! You have independently observed the phenomenon which Professor Charles Handy called the “Sigmoid Curve”, describing the struggling birth, happy growth, and eventual stagnation & decay of every human activity from the Roman Empire to the Catholic Church. He used the concept in several of his books, and apparently leveraged it into a successful business consulting practice.
I wonder if there’s a good history of the development of ranger training in the U.S. over the years.
Is that Ranger school or the “Q course” of SF you described?
Thank you for that. I truly thought I was the only one seeing this, and thinking along these lines, and now I see that I am not the crazy in the room.
What I’d like to know is why it took me this long to make this serendipitous discovery–Which I am truly grateful to you for. Reading Professor Handy’s work is going to be fun.
@Helian, Mike K,
Mike, Helian is referring to Ranger School, and I’d wager he went through that course back before the mid-1980s, given his reference to C-Rations.
I wish there were a good history that “told it all” for Ranger School, but I fear that the people who might write the thing aren’t the sort who’d be at all likely to write it… As with so much of military “stuff”, the real information isn’t to be found in the sorts of history books that actually get written and published.
It’s like the ancient conundrum: Did the Roman Army march in step, and if they did, which was it? Left foot? Right foot? How did they do their drill? How did they keep their cadences, on the march?
Plain and simple, we don’t know. The records were never left, that anyone has found or been able to tease out of a palimpsest. It was simply never recorded, because it was stuff that was below the horizon for the sort of person that wrote histories. Even Vegetius, that stalwart enthusiast for ye Olde Romane Wayes of Warre that he was, writing during the late Empire… He failed to mention that little detail in anything he wrote. So, we don’t know. Was it something that Vegetius thought so obvious that nobody needed to hear about it, or was it something he didn’t know, either, the Roman Army having moved on considerably from the infantry-centric model of the Republic and early Empire. Cavalry, after all, does not need to march in step.
And, like that, the exact details and foibles of the Ranger School experience are going to be lost to time. You want to know what the Program of Instruction was, for a given date? You might, just might, be able to find one somewhere, but… The actual details of what the cadre did, day-to-day? How they conducted training? That’s all stuff that’s passed on, Ranger Instructor to Ranger Instructor, and I’d almost guarantee you that there’s a huge swathe of stuff that simply isn’t captured or recorded in any way.
Why? Because, like the Romans who were in charge of training and leading the Legions, the men who do are not the sort of men who record–And, I’d wager, most of them would have been profoundly puzzled that such things could ever be forgotten.
But they were. To this day, historians studying the Roman Army argue the point of “in step” and “out of step”, with no real determination made. I wager that people in years to come will likewise argue about what Ranger School actually taught, and how it all worked…
Gavin, re Chinese mandarinate: Tyer Cowen has a link to a paper that looks interesting, though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet:
This is intriguing:
“A thousand years later, the regions of China where the Confucian bureaucracy was first introduced have a more educated population and more Confucian temples, but lower levels of wealth. The paper contributes to an important debate on the Great Divergence, highlighting how political institutions interact with culture to cause long-run patterns of growth.”
Hard times create strong men,
Strong men create good times,
Good times create weak men,
Weak men create hard times.
Mrs. Davis, Your pantheon of villains “Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Einstein, Freud and the German University” seems a little off. Certainly we can blame Marx for unleashing a horrible ideology that has killed millions but what exactly did Darwin, Einstein or Freud do wrong other than advance the borders of human understanding of the world? Perhaps some have taking up their breakthroughs and run the wrong way with them, but I can’t fault them for their basic findings. I am no expert, but I think you have also misread Nietzsche. He didn’t kill God, but merely pointed out that “God is dead and we killed him.” By we he meant the Christians, whose belief in the paramount importance of truth lead to scientific discoveries such as those of the aforementioned gentleman that made it impossible to have faith. Far from welcoming the death of God, Nietzsche foresaw the horrible result that the loss of moral authority would have on Western society that we are witnessing today!
I would put Freud in the class of Marx, not Darwin and Einstein. Otherwise, I believe we are in violent agreement. The work of all of them, intentionally or not, accelerated the erosion of the moral authority of Western Civilization. That is the answer to the question of How on Earth did this come to pass? My regret is not their discoveries, but our loss.
Mrs D, why do you think *Einstein’s* work accelerated the erosion of the moral authority of Western Civilization? Referring to Relativity, or the atomic bomb, or something else?
One aspect is Urban design since the 50s. Additions to cities were done with a collection of similar priced homes. One hundred thousand here.. million dollar homes there… Separation. Andrez Duany had a part of his pitch a photo on (I think) Nantucket with the old big Mason next to a very small house. Old Urban Fabric does that..planned communities do not. Blame City planners for the bug… Or was it a feature?
What should we do?
I’ll see you on the barricades.
Wellllll, not exactly. Yes, you can punch me in the face for being a rude sod. Within 15 minutes of your punch landing, I can have you in chains for battery (or more, depending on prosecutorial whim and whether you use brass knuckles) AND well on the way to bankrupting your family via civil lawsuit.
50 years ago, the legal system would have looked at me, laughed their a$$es off, and escorted me to the sidewalk with the free advice “You had it coming. Go away!” Now, not so much.
Especially if I am a member of an Official Victim Group, and you are not. As we saw in Rotherham, fathers defending their daughters from rape got prosecuted. While social media is a convenient scapegoat, social mores have changed plenty without it.
SDN: “As we saw in Rotherham, fathers defending their daughters from rape got prosecuted. While social media is a convenient scapegoat, social mores have changed plenty without it.”
England is a sorry mess. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the West is not too far behind. But have the social mores really changed (which is the Peer Pressure argument), or have Leftists used control of the legal system and the Establishment to impose rules which sit uncomfortably on the Body Politic?
Voting in a democracy is a very crude tool. It is clear that elected “representatives” in many countries are far from being representative, and Far Leftists punch far above their weight because of their drive to take control of institutions. The result includes abominations like the English predilection for prosecuting victims of crimes while protecting (certain) criminals. The Leftists can pass a law, and the rest of us go along with it even though we don’t like it … because we have respect for the law.
But things are changing. General Eisenhower went on to become president of Columbia University — because in those post-WWII days, president of a university was a highly respected position carrying a lot of clout. Today, after the Leftist take-over of universities, no-one cares wha the president of a university has to say about anything. Similarly with the media, where Leftists have won near-absolute control — but have simultaneously destroyed the authority the media used to have. And the Leftists are doing this also with the institution of the Law.
What happens when most people consider the Law to be illegitimate? The times they are a’changing!
As with so much of military “stuff”, the real information isn’t to be found in the sorts of history books that actually get written and published.
I have read all of WEB Griffin (William E Butterworth)’s books on the Army and Marine Corps. He is quite accurate on what he knows, like Korea and Army Aviation, because he was there. Much of the Army series is autobiographical. The street names in military housing near Fort Rucker are correct. That sort of thing. He has some stuff about SF and Q course but I don’t know how accurate that is. A couple of his books are about the Congo and SF people there. I know that is accurate because the biography of Rick Rescorla tells some of the same stories.
I went through basic training but that was Air Force and a long time ago.
England is beyond salvage, although I have friends there and they are doing quite well, but they are part of a subset that lives in a small area that has little to do with the rest of the country.
What we are dealing with, I think, is a principal agent problem, that involves both parties and is unlikely to resolve short of Civil War.
I did get out of California and I would like to get my sister out of Chicago but she is unlikely to leave her grandchildren. She could move to the suburbs but probably won’t. I have also read Kurt Schlicter’s novels and hope they stay fiction.
SDN But if I do it in person you can punch me in the fact. The lack of consequences allows people to drift into behaving badly.”
We used to be an honor society, in which those who were harmed by another were expected to get revenge or”justice” on their own. This is the reason why western movies were so popular for so long. The first western novel, “The Virginian,” popularized that ethos.
“Smile when you say that, stranger.”
Eventually we got to an authority society, called by Wikipedia a “Fear Society.” Punishment was surrendered to an authority that all obeyed.
Now, we are a “Victim Society” in which people seek victimhood status and apply to the authority for redress, even of imaginary injuries.
The result is that trust of authority and willingness to abide by its decisions is waning.
Blacks, who seem be assuming a large victim role these days in spite of their small numbers in the population, are being stirred up by political saboteurs ands demanding special rights. Black Lives Matter is one result.
The illegal aliens are also assuming a role as victims. As a society, we are probably too prosperous for common sense to control these deviations from the culture. It will not end well.
Relativity, absolutely. Which leads to quantum mechanics. It’s not really one person but the upshot of the entire scientific revolution which overthrew the moral basis for Western Civilization and left us in confusion about how to conduct human activities.
I am surprised that no one questioned the German university comment. But think about it. Till 1876 American colleges were English. Think of the names of all the great leaders of them. Then in 1876 with Johns Hopkins the German University invades and the cavalcade of academic superstars begins. What was the difference? What was the focus?
Mrs. Davis is correct. Einstein didn’t just develop physics theories. In the spirit of Deus sive Natura pantheism, he also developed and encouraged metaphysical beliefs denying the existence of an objective reality that could ever be intelligible.
See Einstein vs. Bergson.
Mrs D, re Einstein: “Relativity, absolutely. Which leads to quantum mechanics. It’s not really one person but the upshot of the entire scientific revolution which overthrew the moral basis for Western Civilization and left us in confusion about how to conduct human activities.”
It’s interesting: Einstein *almost* called it the Theory of Invariance instead of the Theory of Relativity, in reference to the invariant speed of light…but was persuaded otherwise.
If he had gone with his original naming, I wonder if the evolution of society would have been different.
I don’t think it is a good idea to blame modern science for the debased culture we have.
Most modern science has come from better methods of measuring. The speed of light, for example.
Ole Rømer first demonstrated in 1676 that light travels at a finite speed (as opposed to instantaneously) by studying the apparent motion of Jupiter’s moon Io. In 1865, James Clerk Maxwell proposed that light was an electromagnetic wave, and therefore travelled at the speed c appearing in his theory of electromagnetism. In 1905, Albert Einstein postulated that the speed of light c with respect to any inertial frame is a constant and is independent of the motion of the light source
Physics has given us electricity, for example. I presume you would not want to go back to gas and candles.
I got into a nasty dispute at Ricochet a couple of years ago when I posted a comment that I would not write a letter of recommendation for a medical school applicant who did not believe in evolution. The reaction was amazing, as well as abusive.
Marxism is not science and that is what is debasing our culture.
Mike — with respect, your understanding of Science is flawed. Science does not have to do with better measurements — although those are important.
Science is about formulating successive approximations to truths that may forever elude us. Yes, Science starts with observations, preferably quantified; and then the formulation of hypotheses which explain those observations. To be worthy of the name Science, those hypotheses have to be testable — they have to make predictions, which subsequent measurements can confirm or deny. Although we colloquially refer to some relatively established hypotheses as “Laws”, real Science insists that no hypothesis is ever beyond question. Thus Einstein disproved Newton’s “Laws” of gravity, and replace them with a better approximation. In the world of real Science, it will take only a single observation inconsistent with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to send Einstein after Newton into a respected place in the history of rejected hypotheses.
No person who claims to respect Science would ever demand that a student “BELIEVE” in evolution. That would be as foolish as Al Gore’s laughably unscientific insistence that Anthropogenic Global Warming is “settled science”. Evolution may be a useful (albeit incomplete) hypothesis — but no scientist would ever treat it as an article of faith. And true scientists would welcome rational questioning of any hypothesis.
No person who claims to respect Science would ever demand that a student “BELIEVE” in evolution.
I’m afraid we are either worlds apart on the definition of Science or disagree on “rational questioning.”
The basis of molecular biology is understanding evolution. Otherwise it is impossible to understand.
Since Medicine is going to be more and more based on molecular biology and genetics, any doctor who does not understand at least the basics of evolution is going to be incompetent. I spent a year studying Albert’s “The Cell,” so I could keep up with my students.
Then I spent the next few years trying to understand Lewin’s “Genes XII”. I actually began with “Genes VII” and every year or two a new edition would be out.
You cannot understand modern Medicine unless you have a working knowledge of genetics. I am now retired but I try to keep up with Greg Cochran’s blog, which is about genetics and anthropology. I learn from it every day.
As far as better measurements are concerned, how would you validate an observation if you could not measure the result?
Grurray, the link you posted ends saying that the significance of the Einstein/Bergson debate was still disputed. It isn’t obvious what role Einstein played in the practice of using the name “relativity” in inappropriate philosophical contexts. As pointed out above, “relativity” actually involves exact relationships, not ambiguity–no more than Newtonian relativity did.
Relativity didn’t lead to quantum mechanics, though the explanation of the photoelectric effect played a role. We learned that we can’t have absolute precision in measurements (and thus had to develop quantum mechanics), but given the scales involved this inability isn’t a staggering hardship.
We always had fuzzy measurements because our instruments were never that precise, and we always will because of quantum effects. Big deal–that doesn’t mean you can’t trust a brake system on your car.
The claims that “everything is relative” and “we can’t know anything” may have been given extra impact by inappropriate use of physics terms, but the claims predate Einstein.
@ Mike K – Evolution is the long-term observation of genetics, but one can understand a lot of shorter-term genetics without it. I have known fundamentalists who understood just fine about Mendelian genetics, and being a possible carrier of genetic abnormalities. I think one quickly hits a wall as a Young Earth Creationist in geology, but in other sciences one can go a lot farther without it being a big deal. (Even most evolutionists have got it wrong in thinking that thousands of generations are necessary to notice any real change, when the evolutionary pressure on Ashkenazi intelligence may have only been fifteen generations or so.)
It is interesting that we increasingly need the longer time-frames of evolution to understand psychology, despite that field’s resistance to those concepts.
AVI — I don’t want to drag this thread off into the murky waters of evolution. Just want to point out that the puzzle of life should not be seen as a faith-based contest between those who believe in “Evolution” and those who believe in Young Earth Creationism. Both of those beliefs are just that — beliefs. They are non-scientific poles at opposite ends of a straight line. The full explanation almost certainly lies somewhere off of that line, and involves knowledge that we do not currently have.
There are too many oddities in standard Darwinian evolution for it to be anything like a complete explanation. Punctuated equilibria, for one. And while mention of irreducible complexity causes the true believers in the Settled Science of Evolution to throw up their hands in horror, there are some issues there that need a better answer than the standard evolutionist’s “Shut Up!”.
My guess is that, in the long run, the scientific method will move us forward, and human beings will develop better theories that provide a more complete understanding of how things have come to be — and perhaps even some day will be able to make testable predictions. Our descendants will look back on today’s hypothesis on evolution rather as we look at Newtonian gravity — the first step towards a more complete understanding.
(Even most evolutionists have got it wrong in thinking that thousands of generations are necessary to notice any real change, when the evolutionary pressure on Ashkenazi intelligence may have only been fifteen generations or so.)
It sounds like you have read Greg Cochran’s book, “The 10,000 Year Explosion .”
Another book you might want to read is “Blueprint,” by Rpbert Plomin which makes the case that 50% of behavior, regardless of parental influence, is genetic. He makes the point that genetic factors become more apparent by middle age.
The field of genetics is like an onrushing train. Darwin is the goat of the fundamentalists but he has nothing to do with modern genetics.
It is important, for example, to understand that mitochondria which provide our ability to use oxygen, were once free living creatures like Rickettsiae.
Rickettsiae are obligate intracellular parasites of eukaryotic cells that are the causative agents responsible for spotted fever and typhus. Their small genome (about 800 protein-coding genes) is highly conserved across species and has been postulated as the ancestor of the mitochondria. No genes that are required for glycolysis are found in the Rickettsia prowazekii or mitochondrial genomes, but a complete set of genes encoding components of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and the respiratory-chain complex is found in both. A 2.4 Å resolution crystal structure of R. prowazekii fumarate hydratase, an enzyme catalyzing the third step of the tricarboxylic acid cycle pathway that ultimately converts phosphoenolpyruvate into succinyl-CoA, has been solved. A structure alignment with human mitochondrial fumarate hydratase highlights the close similarity between R. prowazekii and mitochondrial enzymes.
Why else do mitochondria have genes ? This is beyond most laypeople and I don’t care if everyone accepted evolution but physicians need to know this.
It is all I can do to keep up and I don’t care if most people understand it. If your kid has a genetic disease, I think you want your physician to understand.
Here is another example.
Here is another step forward for human knowledge. (Engineers translate brain signals directly into speech) Between brain research and genetics we are learning so much that our conception of man and society continues to be shaken. These advances are coming much faster than our culture can organize them. This will continue to cause friction in our governance.
The most important and the most likely to appear in our lifetimes (or at least yours) brain signal capture is a retinal prosthesis that communicates vision to the brain.
That is coming and coming soon,.
“Engineers translate brain signals directly into speech”
Is this a good thing? So many of us had to spend our teenage years learning to put a filter between thought and tongue!
Having been an engineer at one time and having a good repertoire of engineer jokes, I think engineers translating brain signals into speech still needs some work.
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