Friday, June 26, 2015
I've been training fairly hard, working to get back into shape for ultras (next up, the Elkhorn 50K on August 1). Last year I started a new approach to training -- I mostly train for 5K races (a distance I had not done since 2006) and added my weekly long runs on top of that. My idea is that this doesn't affect my total weekly distance, but does change the intensity of some of the running -- and my steady diet of ultras-only plus injuries had reduced my speed, such as it was, to less than a snail's pace. Because of numerous interruptions to my training last year I wasn't able to test this training regimen, but this year I'm on track. I doubt this will make me much faster at ultra distances, but I certainly think I am in better shape and am getting my speed back for short runs.
All of this is an introduction to the real point of my post. On 18 July I will be running the 1st annual "Running Lungs" 5K in Bozeman Montana, a fundraiser for cancer research. In 2008 a friend of mine, Linda Wortman, was diagnosed with lung cancer. It's worth noting that Linda had never smoked. Apparently the cancer was rather fast developing, and Linda had to have half a lung removed. Linda survived.
No scratch that, Linda thrived. She took up up running (she was over 60 at that point, and while active and fit was a non-runner) and has subsequently run a 5K in every state. She's now working towards completing a 10K on each continent, and has three so far (North America, South America, and Europe). But also, Linda has established the Wortman Lung Cancer Foundation and is organizing and directing the Running Lungs 10K, 5K, 2K, and Virtual Run. I'm doing the 5K (or maybe 10K if I feel the urge) and I invite all Unforeseen Contingencies readers to join me.
If you are or will be in Bozeman and run, I will buy you post-race beer, iced tea, or whatever else suits you. Plus, you are welcome to camp out at my place. Sign up! But suppose you aren't in Bozeman...
Well, sign up for the Virtual Run: Join us anywhere on July 18 and run or walk your own course. If you do this, I will again buy the beer etc. next time we meet -- or, if meeting is out of the question (a number of my readers are well outside North America) then I'll find a way to buy your drinks from a distance. Just get me evidence that you signed up ($35 entry fee) and completed any distance. Should I have a minimum distance, say, 1 meter? nah. Just run!
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Political Correctness and the Decline of the West
Meanwhile, I've come across a couple of pieces I think relevant to the discussion of political correctness. In the first, from the Foundation for Economic Education's FEE Daily Aaron Tao documents and discusses how leftwing political correctness is shutting down free speech in both the U.K. and the United States. It's an excellent and thoughtful piece, very well documented with chilling examples (read his hyperlinks). I think he is right that this PC war on freedom of thought and speech is a result of post-modernism.
The second is an essay by Brendan O'Neill in Spiked (OK, OK, it's actually sp!ked) on "Feminism and the Turn Against Enlightenment." O'Neill argues that lying behind the rise of what I have called radical feminism (or gender feminism) is the post-modernist rebellion against the Enlightenment and its universal values of reason, truth and freedom. I don't fully agree with everything in the essay, but I think his main point is on target. My differences? For one thing, I am skeptical that radical feminism is the only manifestation of the left that has any popular currency in high places -- what about crazy ideas on race & privilege, or the supremacy of "the environment" over rights and interests of human beings, or leftist kow-towing to "the other" when "the other" happens to be fundamentalist Islam?)
Both of these are worth reading.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Let's have a national conversation about gun control
Now, is there anything else anyone wants to talk about?
Photo: Unforeseen Contingencies chief blogger Charles N. Steele puts a round into the A zone of a USPSA target.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Tim Hunt and the Political Correctness Scam
Amidst all the inane yammering over the various transexual and transracial fiascos of the day, case of Tim Hunt has been largely ignored, at least in America. Tim Hunt, a brilliant English biochemist who has among his many honors the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, happened, during a talk in South Korea, to say the following: "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise (sic) them, they cry."
These lines were immediately circulated on social media, and in short order the feminist thought police were screaming shrilly for his head. Always politically correct, academia complied, and despite his immediate groveling apologies, Hunt has been forced to resign from a number of positions. The careers of both Hunt and his wife, Mary Collins, also a scientist, are in tatters.
This is the real face of the left and the true nature of political correctness. One toes the line, or else. Brilliance, dedication, hard work, and achievement count for nothing. Obedience is the sole value for the politically correct left.
Do I exaggerate? Well, consider this: everything Tim Hunt said in these comments is absolutely true. And if "but it's true!" can't be a defense, then political correctness is indeed nothing more than a demand for blind, stupid, unthinking obedience to the whims of others.
First, consider that Tim Hunt was addressing human problems that arise in the course of research work, that is, things that interfere with careful, objective thought. One of the most powerful features of the human condition is sexuality -- our attraction to, 96.6% of the time, members of the opposite sex. (Actually, if you read the link carefully you'll realize it's 97.3% of the time, but why quibble over something likely not within a 95% confidence interval.) Thus his first two comments seem right on target -- it would certainly make sense that office (or lab) love affairs can be a source of distraction, a real problem. It is certainly true that human sexuality -- which is overwhelmingly heterosexual -- is a powerful force and in work environments can be an unwelcome distraction. It would be absolutely crazy to deny this. Yet for being so politically incorrect as to point it out, Hunt is crucified.
Then what about "when you criticize them, they cry?" Look, everyone knows that women are far more prone to crying than men. In the course of teaching thousands of undergraduate and graduate students (I once tried counting, and some years ago was certainly over 2,000) I have never once seen a male student cry, anywhere, for any reason. On the other hand, it is not at all rare to have a female student cry in my office... usually with fairly good reason, but sometimes over small things. Similarly, my ex-wife Johanna told me that many times her female doctoral students burst into tears over their dissertations... so far as I could tell, it happened yearly; female hysterics seemed to be a regular job hazard for her. It's quite clear that women and men are not the same emotionally, and yes, sometimes women cry or otherwise go to pieces emotionally, and sometimes very inappropriately and unprofessionally. Tim Hunt is exactly right about this, and the feminists and their politically correctly emasculated lapdog men hate him for pointing out this truth. Yet the irony is that, in other contexts, feminists themselves point it out too, and trumpet it as a virtue of women. We've all heard feminists claim that politics would be different with more women in power, because women bring bring a different perspective, and in particular more sensitivity and empathy. Of course. That's why they cry more. Feminists themselves recognize this.
One of the clearest instances of this I've seen was some years back at a Southern Ecomonics Association panel on "feminist economics." The panelists, all women and all self-described feminists, unanimously agreed that "feminist economics" (there's a reason I put this term in quotation marks) is different from regular (male) economics because women are more caring and sensitive and emotional and nurturing and such. The panel proceeded to jump to various confused conclusions, for which audience member Deidre (then Donald) McCloskey took them to task, but the important point for our purposes is that feminists readily acknowledge the emotional, intellectual, and biological differences between men and women... if and when it suits their purposes. But if anyone else, like poor Tim Hunt, points them out at any other time, there'll be hell to pay, especially if such inconvenient truths poke holes in feminists' claims of women being at least equal to men in every way. (Equal? I have run zillions of races in distances from 1 mile to 100 miles... in every one of them there was a separate division for female competitors. Since the "first place" woman rarely finishes in even the top ten if there's a big field, I can only surmise that this is because being female is a handicap in running. Feminists never complain about this unequal treatment, so I concur they agree being female is a handicap. Women just aren't as good in most sports, in general, and we all know this.)
So there's the scam of political correctness. Feminists know women are different from men, and in some respects inferior. They know that they are, in general, more emotional than men. I suspect that in some ways women are superior to men, but I cannot think of any feminist argument to this effect, other than their intermittent claims to superior empathy and emotionalism. (Incidentally, it should be noted that in some circumstances being more emotional is an asset and in others, a weakness.)
So the Hunt fiasco is a case study in the intellectual bankruptcy of political correctness, a poster girl for such bankruptcy. Two brilliant scientists, whose work quite literally advances human life, are brought down because one of them failed to to grovel sufficiently at an ideological idol. Political correctness is indeed nothing but a religious doctrine -- irrational, incoherent, and rather easily punctured. Those who fail to obey are branded as heretics and immolated, crucified, or ostracized. That's today's left for you.
But think carefully about it, it gets worse. PC leftists, including feminists, are loathe to criticize Islam and even Islamic fundamentalists. Sam Harris and John Pepple repeatedly document this so I won't bother to do so here. (For example, in Moral Landscapes Harris recounts his debate with a feminist who went so far as to say it is acceptable that a man throw acid in a woman's face in matters of honor, since that's the culture of some traditional Islamic societies. Or see an example from Pepple here. ) The conclusion is obvious. Vicious and utterly anti-female Moslem fundamentalists are exempted from PC criticism, while a poor sap like Tim Hunt has his name and career destroyed for a few random inadvertent comments that happen to be true. I suppose there many reasons for this, but one very important one is that when challenged, Moslem fundies do their damnedest to kill you, while Tim Hunt collapsed like a wet noodle. The difference between the two is that Tim Hunt, even though he is right and seems to basically a very decent man, has no moral clarity and thus feels uncertain and is easily intimidated. The Moslem fundmentalists, on the other hand, have a kind of moral clarity about them. Their ideas are flawed and evil, but they have a deep belief in them and in their own actions in service of these beliefs, and so they are not easily intimidated at all.
So what of the advocates of political correctness, do they have any confidence or clarity in their moral vision? Certainly not -- that's why they capitulate to Moslem fundamentalists. Had Tim Hunt let them have it with a strong, confident, rational defense of his comments, one which pointed out that they are both true and of trivial importance, I suspect the PC mob would not have succeeded in lynching him. They would have been the ones intimidated. For political correctness really is a scam; save for a few poor crazies, no one really believes in its values.
There's a lesson here. Western Civilization seems to be undergoing something of a moral-intellectual crisis, in thanks largely to the leftists who have seized the reins. But I predict that this will be a passing thing, and that when the West regains its moral clarity, it will overwhelm the rest of the world. And that will be a good thing for everyone, because it will overwhelm the world in the service of one of its greatest discoveries -- individualism and individual rights.