Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The ears have walls

Michael Shermer's The Believeing Brain is a treat.  He argues that our beliefs inform our knowledge, rather the other way around.  Much of this was covered in Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, which Shermer cites extensively.

We are once more led through the arguments as to why the liberals and conservatives of our political spectrum will not really hear each other.  This stuff is convincing as well as depressing.  Why bother even trying to parse and report the data?

Just when you are about to forget about marshalling argument and evidence, Shermer explains why there are grounds for hope.  The scientific method is responsible for great strides in our understanding of the cosmos.  From Aristotle to String Theory, we have come a long way.

But what does all this have to do with the stuff of political debates.  Here we get four pages on the Jared Diamond's "biogeographical theory" towards the end of the book.

Having convincingly argued that political debate is pointless, and that the scientific method is wonderful, Shermer does not really connect these.  A fine book, nevertheless. 

His chapters on consipracy theories are must reading.  The X-files and many others like it have a huge following.