From Discover via the A & L Daily: ‘The Mystery Of Extraordinarily Accurate Medieval Maps‘
A few beautiful maps at the link.
‘To track how portolan charts’ accuracy changed over time, Hessler drew again on the methods he used to quantify butterflies’ evolutionary relationships. As with the butterflies’ wings, he imagined each chart drawn on a metal plate and simulated bending it to move the landmarks on the medieval chart to meet their locations on a modern map. The less energy required to distort the metal into the new shape, the more accurate the chart.’
Via Marginal Revolution, Joseph Bottum at The Weekly Standard: ‘The Spiritual Shape Of Political Ideas‘
‘Plenty of the spiritualizing of American social politics occurs on the political right. In the libertarian elevation of the idea of individual freedom above all or in the tendency of Tea Party members “to be excessively confident in their righteousness” (according to conservative academic Jon A. Shields), one can sometimes discern dissociated Christian ideas. It’s in the air, and no one in public life entirely escapes breathing it.
But most of the recent cases of banned speakers and censored heresies seem to come from the radical side of things—unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the left’s dominant position in academia and the media, and its claim to possess now the moral authority once held by the mainline liberal consensus. Think of it in terms of the old Christian idea of shunning. Or, rather, think of it in terms of the shape and tone of the idea of shunning, set free from its constrained place in a general theological scheme. Think of shunning as it lives now, in the Church of Christ Without Christ that produces so much of our current social discourse.’
This reminded me of the Jonathan Haidt piece at Edge ‘What Makes People Vote Republican‘ (which is a pretty good questioning of one’s own beliefs and one’s own ‘tribe’). The official responses from some other Edgers reminds me of why many in academia, especially in the social sciences, tend to be so predominantly politically liberal. The epistemology of these fields is born of much post-Enlightenment, rationalist thinking and I’m guessing many are likely attracted to these fields because of already existing assumptions, worldviews, and beliefs, framed, no doubt, by early experiences, family lives, political loyalties etc. (perhaps true of all of us, and in retrospect, could be applied to explain why I supported the Iraq War).
I do think it’s reasonable to hope for academic integrity and intellectual honesty over time.
Personally, I love to rib NPR on twitter, highlighting the absurdity when older, square liberal boomer and Dewey-esque folks (sometimes with a whiff of temperance and prohibition about them) feel the urge to find out what’s crackalackin‘ on the streets, or feel pressure to support the furious fist of social justice. Few things are funnier to me than the fact that there’s a Unitarian Universalist College Of Social Justice.
Activism as a virtue, feminism, environmentalism, race awareness, and the ideas of social justice and progress…are the water in which many folks at NPR already swim, so it’s rather amusing when the claim is made that they’re totally just a news organization serving all of the public. I hadn’t noticed the schisms between leftist factions, some of whom are totalitarian and radical. Perhaps progress is sometimes dependent on street theater, wealth-extraction, city machine-politics and back-room dealing? Perhaps it’s not simply a matter of logic to support public policy/program/tax x after speaking with an activist, an expert, and throwing some stats around on air?
‘Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.’
On that note, perhaps Mark Steyn’s prediction of Western demographic decline isn’t empirically valid (that would take work, time and thought I don’t have at the moment), but I do partake in some of his satire and truth…I do:
‘For the last decade, I’ve been lectured by the nuancey-boys on how one can’t generalize about Islam, and especially about Islam in the West: There are as many fascinating differences between Mirpuri Pakistanis in Yorkshire and Algerian Berbers in Clichy-sous-Bois as there are between Nogais and Lezgians in Dagestan. No doubt. But, whatever their particular inheritance, many young Muslims in the West come to embrace a pan-Islamic identity. The Tsarnaev boys, for example, fell under the influence of an “Australian sheikh.” That’s to say, a sheikh born in Sydney. While back in the Caucasus in 2012, Tamerlan is rumored to have met William Plotnikov, a Toronto jihadist whose Siberian parents are such assimilated Canadians they winter as Florida snowbirds. When they came back, they found a note from William saying he’d gone to France for Ramadan. And thence east, to his rendezvous with the virgins’
There is always a battle for space, ideas, and influence in the public square…such ideas have consequences for all citizens.
They’ll be plenty of time to criticize the cronyism, favoritism. cattle-swappin’ and back-room deals to come under a Republican administration should we be headed in that direction. It’s the only way to keep them reasonably honest.