Analytical Envy

Great quote here about Economists trying to be cool like physicists:

The success of mathematical physics led the social scientist to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power.  The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences….Very few econometricians are aware that if they are to imitate the procedure of modern physics and not its mere appearance, a mathematical economist must begin with a critical account of these quantitative notions and the means adopted for collecting and measuring them.

Apparently, the hard sciences were a real kick in the gut to every major branch of study – from economics to literature to psychology to art.  It’s as though math was so impressive that they all developed inferiority complexes and went off on quests to prove they were just as good.  So economics went all Keynesian and literature went all deconstruction and reader response.  But across the board, every major field of study that didn’t have something hard to measure either faked it, fudged it, or abandoned all pretense of logic.  What I don’t get is how people forgot that numbers aren’t the only way of thinking.  Rhetoric and inductive logic predate calculus by thousands of years.  These things don’t wear out with time; they just go out of fashion.

Good thing he ran for congress

The fewer English teachers like this that we have in the world, the better.

My favorite correction is the one that says the bill is only 286 pages, by word count, instead of over 1000. Here’s the full bill, weighing in at 1190 pages. It may be that the word count to pagination ratios are different on a legal bill than on a term paper.

Overall, though, if you read through all the corrections, it’s pretty clear that “the teacher” gave “the student” an F, not because of poor logic or bad rhetoric, but because he didn’t like the student’s political goals. Yeah. And we wonder why kids hate school.

Good Fashion, Good Business, Bad Science

First, an excellent video about bikinis and modesty:

I am 100% in favor of this lady’s designs and business.

Second, a rant on bad logic in science:

She sites a study that somebody did somewhere that indicated that men, when confronted with a woman in a bikini, lose the ability to think clearly. That should strike you as the sort of thing that doesn’t need a scientific study or a bunch of electrodes taped to a guy’s head, but please remember that people in lab coats need jobs too. What bothers me is that, instead of observing that a woman in a state of undress undermines a man’s capacity for abstract thought, lowers his communication skills, and increases his urges for physical activities, the brilliant scientists concluded that the parts of male brain that became active were those most associated with mechanical tools and that therefore men view women in bikinis as “objects.”

I find myself at something of a loss to describe how poor that logical reasoning is. Working backward, a tool is something more specific and more valuable to a person than a generic “object.” You would think that the logical conclusion would have been that, if a bikini makes a man’s brain activate its tool-oriented sections, he must think of the bikini clad woman as a tool. Or, if that conclusion were unsatisfactory, they might have reached the conclusion that the human brain is too complex to have large sections dedicated to “tools” and “objects” and gone looking for a more justifiable hypothesis.

Beyond that, you can’t escape the impression that this study was attempting to prove that male psychology itself is dangerous to women, that a man who sees a female belly button is unavoidably geared up for assault, that any decent man really ought to avoid seeing any belly buttons ever. At which point, you have to ask the question, “is there no appropriate time and place for a man to look on a woman?” Oh, yes. Marriage.

Well, let’s go do a study on happily married men, and see which parts of their brain light up when looking at their own provocatively dressed wives. If the system works smoothly, you might hope the sight undermines his capacity for abstract thought, lowers his communication skills, and increases his urges for physical activities. At which point you can ask the wife, who knows him best, if in this state he is thinking of her more as an object, or a tool.


Here’s Tim Challies on birth control. As usual, it’s a pretty clear and concise summary of the standard Evangelical view on birth control. I’m with him about 98% of the way. But I had to smirk at his footnote on the sin of Onan:

A word about Onan: The story of Onan is recorded in Genesis 38 and it goes like this: “Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.” God did not kill Onan because he used coitus interruptus as a method of birth control, but because he refused to fulfill his duty toward his brother and his brother’s family. He made a mockery of the commands of God, being willing to take pleasure in his brother’s wife but being unwilling to accept the responsibility of raising a child in his brother’s name. While this story may not be entirely irrelevant to our discussion, it is not the place to begin.

In other words, God killed Onan, because he short-changed his brother, and not his brother’s wife. She would be the character in the story who was entering into sexual relations with the expectation of getting children, which was the longing of every decent woman in her era. Onan, on the other hand was “willing to take pleasure” in the activities, but “unwilling to accept the responsibility of raising a child…” It was less about the actual actions, and more about the heart attitudes involved, which heart attitudes mirror exactly those of people who use birth control today.

The more I hear people explain how the sin of Onan wasn’t about birth control, the more I get the impression that birth control is a really bad idea, and the the more I’m impressed with the human ability to argue themselves in circles.