Dan Robinson was the guy heading south, then rapidly east, in the hopes of staying on a parallel northward track to the May 31st, 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma tornado. I can appreciate a man driving towards such a thing.
‘I was not trying to get close. I knew from how the tornado first appeared that it would be very large, violent and dangerous. My goal was simply to remain in a good position for photography and video, which I felt would be best with the tornado backlit by the bright skies to the southwest. I wanted to be just close enough to have a high-contrast view. ‘
It turns out that particular evening, many of the variables leading to supercell formation, and even EF5 tornado formation, were in place. So many were in place, in fact, that this became one of the most violent and dangerous tornadoes ever recorded.
It changed directions suddenly. It slowed down to 5 mph and sped up to nearly 50 mph. 2.6 miles wide at one point? 300 mph wind?
Eight people died.
The guy in a Toyota Yaris, slipping on a wet, gravely Oklahoma road unable to disable traction control doesn’t exactly come off a hero. The guy suddenly racing for his life, enveloped in the outer wind-field, is easily criticized. Bigger balls than many? Maybe. Stupid enough to get killed? Possibly.
Thanks, Dan, for chasing on your own dime, sharing your information, and respecting the wishes of the families of those in the car behind you. That was the last anyone saw of them.
It is what it is.
From the Weather Service video below: A small percentage of the world’s surface supports the kinds of extreme clashing air masses found on the U.S. plains. Very few thunderstorms become supercells, and very few of those supercells form tornadoes. Even fewer tornadoes become violent F4 and F5 monsters which spawn sub-vortices and anti-cyclones.
The El Reno, Oklahoma tornado from 2013 took the lives of eight people, including experienced stormchasers known for their judgment and contributions to the rest of us.
I tend to be skeptical of guys who, upon their deaths, freeze their heads into perpetuity. Probabilistically, though, I suppose it could be a bet worth taking.
We could use more outside-the-box thinkers with real-world experience making bets on where to fruitfully think.
Our institutions have more rot than usual, and dangerous capture. There are too many prizes, too many piles of old money, and not enough brains and courage.
I’m of a mind to say Nature is beyond value judgment (I judge things all the time, but Nature doesn’t seem to care). The people I love and who love me, do care about me (as long as we’re here).
God? Maybe. The universe: Unclear. The little I know of the laws of the universe suggest more of the same Nature I’ve known here on Earth.
Beauty plays a key part in understanding the world. It can both anchor us into our own bodies and experiences, while keeping us searching for new experiences. Truth has a clear empirical element in my thinking, and refers to a world I believe genuinely exists. Collecting data about the world is a lot like actually referring back to the book you’re quoting, or asking the other person what they’re really thinking…then listening.
Beautiful and dangerous. Maybe the tornado is telling you something? Maybe not.
Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…
‘The minor vogue and rapid extinction of Imagism, a movement whose influence we still feel, has been hashed over by literary critics for a century. Its rehearsal here is merely to bring the poem into focus within the slow progress toward the densities of language, the images like copperplate engraving, that made Pound Pound.’
Thorough and well done.
The result would echo back to the States years later:
Once we start arriving at ‘ecological’ appreciations of nature, and the postmodern, confessional altar of Self and the turn inwards to the Self a subject for the art, and the desperate search for meaning, I get more and more turned off, for my own reasons. Such good poems will carry on.
There are many reasons for the capture of existing and emergent communication platforms by loud voices and true believers.
Here are three I can think of:
Liberation movements aren’t necessarily freedom movements-I suspect there is an inability of some secular humanists and liberals to realize their ideas have provenance, and limitations in reality. The knowledge transformations going on within many intellectual fields won’t necessarily translate to conceptualizations of ‘shoulds’ nor ‘oughts’ for all of ‘society.’ Don’t hold your breath expecting too much honor nor honest reflection regarding your politicians, either, especially when you give them bad incentives. One may find out well past a popular opinion, fervently held, how wrong many elements of that popular opinion have been. Also, radicals may simply come to destroy you last, or first.
Attention feels good, especially when you’re not getting attention anywhere else–It’s not all losers online, but the people with the most time on their hands, and/or the most reasons to be marginalized by everyone else, often gain the most through the time and distance shortening elements of online platforms. This can be quite a good thing, mobilizing talents and skills. This also partially explains the allure of ideology, identity politics, and the downstream dangers of political idealism (making political causes into morally virtuous crusades). Quite a bit of human activity boils down to resentment, jealousy, and the same human vanity, pride and prejudice there’s always been. A lot of religious doctrine, as I see the world, at least has foundational limiting principles when mobilizing human passions into direct political action (as if that were enough to prevent the worst abuses and cycles of dysfunction). Watch out for this stuff within yourself.
The regression to the mean of human behavior as it appears on the new communication platforms. Do you remember Craigslist? It was the new want ads and a useful place to communicate. Many years later, it still serves some of these functions, but has regressed to an online flea market with the the usual stuff found in the alleyways of all marketplaces (scam artists, scoundrels, junkies, prostitutes and johns etc.)
On that note, I enjoyed this discussion with one of the co-founders of Wikipedia on how he views Wikipedia now. I do agree with him a movement towards internet decentralization is one way to go, is beginning to happen now, and could bring a lot of good.
Just a reminder, a lot of people don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about, and I could be one of them.
Dear Reader, I can’t help notice a tendency to offload the fear of our own demise into causes likely to outlive us. The sweet nectar of catastrophizing and doomsaying is…sweeter than the vengeful lust fueling Khan’s relentless quest to defeat James T. Kirk.
Add the patina of scientific authority by way of character acting, the dipshittery of celebrity…and:
***Note that the video will probably not have a link to the U.N., nor Wikipedia, nor any other semi-functional authority with the same ol’ design problems.
Perhaps you’re thinking that’s a standard 1978 ‘Custom Star Trek ‘boogie’ van: The kind you might see parked at a ‘Bad Company‘ concert, or maybe pulling next to you at a stoplight, blasting Journey’s ‘Wheel In The Sky‘ or Heart’s ‘Barracuda.’
Move-in a little closer, however, and that sweet exterior paint-job begins to reveal mysterious depths of the human condition.
No, I’d say someone involved here has the soul of a poet.
Is Spock in possession of that bare-chested space Amazonian?
Have we, the observers, already stumbled unawares into a supreme space drama unfolding in real time? Some potential new danger calling-up our best selves to triumph as we too gaze to the horizon along with them…to the heavens…to Dairy Queen or the gas station…to that final frontier?
You try and learn from people, especially from people who know stuff you don’t.
Just ’cause you know about physics (theories grounded in evidence and experiences explaining all known evidence and experiences), doesn’t mean you know everything, but you do know some important things.
Originally posted over ten years ago now. I’d love to hear what the humanities experience is like for students these days. Can you simply read literature/poetry with intellectual rigor? What about reading and writing without a direct focus on the ‘-ist’ narratives (feminism, racism, sexism, classism)? I must have some things wrong.
‘The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that resists innovation.’
Has the institutionalization of poetry done it much good?:
‘Lilly’s contribution (and contributions) to the Poetry Foundation are the only reason it is what it is today. In other words, it’s not through any intrinsic or hard-earned merit that the Poetry Foundation is surviving and flourishing today, but because of a drug baron’s fantastic wealth.’
Maybe it wasn’t Emerson that kept Whitman going, but rather, the thought of returning to his tenure track position after a long hiatus. Yet should there be no state funding at all of poetry…only patronage?
And in the meantime, this process is dovetailing with the loudest, most strident voices in the postmodern soup taking ideological control of the supplies of someone else’s money.
For many Westerners, perhaps there is no longer a God revealing Himself to Man, but there are expanding fields of knowledge and human endeavors able to light the way forwards onto a future of hope and progress; backwards onto human origins.
In the popular media (such as in the publications displaying the photo above), perhaps this knowledge can align with current popular sentiment and belief. An imprimatur, of sorts.
Such thinking can also coincide with a rather Romantic Idealization of Nature; a vision of Man without dominion over Nature, necessarily, but rather men, women, children and an ever growing list of humans (and animals, even) living both frustratingly apart, but also interconnected within Nature, following Nature’s lead alone and with each other.
Most people, I suspect, often without such specialized knowledge (not specifically trained in the sciences), require a lot of moral oughts and shoulds regarding how to live and what to do.
Furthermore, people tend to organize into groups united by shared principles and beliefs, and so often, in the modern world, beneath political ideals and political ideologies. Even if these political ideals and ideologies aren’t explict moral philosophies, necessarily, they can certainly end-up engaging the moral sentiments, basic human desires and motivations of the people within them.
Such movements are certainly understood by many of their members as posessing truth and knowledge enough to write the laws and rules we all must follow, prescribing our own personal moral behavior enough to align us with the people who ought to be in charge of us.
Perhaps the poet or Romantic genius can help guide Man into the Self and the Self into Nature. The poet/thinker’s example can be full of grief, anguish and Nature’s brutality, indeed, but it can also offer moments of self-actualization, beauty, consolation and transcendence. It can be taught as part of a civilizing hierarchy or canon, a reef of traditions and structure enough to develop seriously good artists and produce quite a few educated citizens.
I suspect there’s always been a tension between the poet/artist and the Man of Science and Mathematics; people generally more concerned in seeking the underlying order and patterns within Nature, discovering the probabilistic and mathematical laws able to accurately describe and predict the strange world in which we seem to find ourselves. Such laws can be beautiful, and symmetrical, and true just for their own sake, sure, but like a good poem, a mathematical law remains curiously silent about how to live and what to do.
Addition: Perhaps, I might add, but perhaps not. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about just which dangers accompany such lights, and which problems endure.
‘The claim that “open societies” are now increasingly threatened would probably meet with little argument. But what is the nature of the threat, and what are its roots? Here less agreement might be found. Some would say an essentially religious clash of civilizations is the main cause, and point to the growing struggle between Islam and the West.
Others might point to Russia under President Putin, finding evidence of a long-standing political tradition that owes relatively little to the Russian Orthodox Church, but has always found liberty odious.
And then there’s a third and troubling possibility — that from an evolutionary perspective, taking a long view of our historic and prehistoric origins, open societies where voluntaristic principles prevail are new forms of human association only recently arrived from the distant tribal past, and in the more violent trouble spots around the world they never arrived at all.’
The late Ken Minogue:
On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”
Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…
Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.
Bhattacharya’s view of the potential Covid-19 end-game: Everyone’s likely to get the disease, and you may even end-up getting it twice. It will circulate like the flu.
In the meantime, for your consideration: Get vaxed, and/or accept the much, much higher risk of severe illness and harm against the much lower risk of vaccine damage. The older you are, and the more co-morbidities you have, the more risk you carry. The goal is to reduce the severity of the disease upon first contact. Try not to get it, but deal with risk appropriately, balancing your interests accordingly. If you get it, increase your odds to get over it with as little loss as possible.
Of note: This logic runs counter to many current political and bureaucratic incentives to contain the disease, claim credit for current institutional authority and outcomes, or write it off altogether. A lot of people are heavily invested (personally, emotionally, identity-wise, money-wise, career-wise and ideologically etc.) in all kinds of stuff.
Unfortunately, the disease has coincided with our crises of instutional authority.
‘Interesting times’ indeed…what’s your strategy?
My dead horse: If you accept that (S)cience only gives you a method and a process for arriving at truth, you’re a lot closer to living reasonably than not. Such ideas can be life-altering enough.
A caveat: If you find (S)cience to be a source of moral worth and political identity, suffusing you within the warm glow of belonging, you’ve probably missed a lot of the plot.
I expect a lot of scientists, many ‘rationalists’ and many New Atheists to continually become disappointed with human nature, the depth of ignorance found therein, and the incentives of politics and bureaucratic authority. Sooner or later, folks find themselves exasperated with the ideological zealot demanding to be heard from the back pews, claiming ideological certainty from a position of emotional righteousness.
So, put this method of knowing and arriving at truth in its proper place, and appreciate just how wonderful and useful it is. Integrate it and pursue it with respect. Have some courage when it’s needed. Know that it will always have skeptics and enemies, too.
—On that note:
How about we reclaim a good Humanities education?
Trying to ‘nudge’ good ol’ classical liberals back to sources of moral philosophy which prevent ideological takeover?
Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).
According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.
Friedrich Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.
Martha Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.
Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.
Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism. Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now
Maybe it all started with Beethoven: Everyone’s a (S)elf.
Isaiah Berlin pretty much blackballed Roger Scruton, so it’s not all roses.
“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”
“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”
“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”
Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.
Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?
The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.
Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought. From friesian.com:
Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’
‘It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else.‘
On this analysis, It’s the people who’ve benefitted most from industrial activity that are using their wealth and leisure to promote an ideology that is ultimately harmful to industrial activity, and the people who live by it. Tucker has been following how such ideas actually translate into public policy and political organization for a while. Tucker also invokes Thorstein Veblen, and highlights how environmentalism can make for strange political bedfellows:
‘But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus. As Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes, Keystoneis the dividing line of the “two Americas,” the knowledge-based elites of the East and West Coasts in their media, non-profit and academic homelands (where Obama learned his environmentalism) and the blue-collar workers of the Great In- Between laboring in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, power production and the exigencies of material life.’
Aside from the political and sociological analysis, I would offer that there are many to whom environmentalism serves as a kind of religion (or at least a political and organizational entity offering purpose and membership, as a religion has a pretty particular definition).
On this view, man has fallen away from Nature, and built civilized society atop it through harmful, unsustainable means. He must atone, and get back in harmony with Nature, as he has alienated himself from his once graceful state (tribal? romantically primitive? collectively just? equal and fair? healthy? “spiritually aware?” morally good?). This obviously gives meaning to people’s lives, a purpose, belonging and group identity as well as a political and secularly moral political platform. A majority of these folks are almost always anti-industrial, and it’s worthy of note how environmentalism has grown in our schools, marketplace, and in the public mind.
It’s often tough to tell where the sciences end (and they are often invoked to declare knowledge that is certain, or near-certain, and worthy of action) and where a certain political philosophy (usually more communal, politically Left, Statist…regulatory, centrally planned economically) begins.
What say you?
Nuclear makes a lot of sense, but so does recognizing all the rather lost souls looking for some purpose in their lives, and making activism their purpose.
“Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”
How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the totalitarian impulses, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough? Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.
If you visit my Twitter feed, you’ll quickly realize the genius of Peace Pavilion West, a global peace raft overseen by a strong authority. Join us, fellow human (this is very serious business):
Who shall hear our cries? Gaia, Gaia. Who shall heal her wounds? We shall. We shall. Who shall clean our air? The Western Wind. -Community Morning Prayer from The Human Pagoda. Namaste, NPR.
“The math is telling us that when we begin to fracture rocks, however we do it, whether we do it randomly or deterministically, there is only a certain set of possibilities,” said Furbish. “How clever is that?”
Our author uses a bit of Plato to tie the piece together; a discussion of ideal forms:
As for Jerolmack, after first feeling uncomfortable over a possibly coincidental connection to Plato, he has come to embrace it. After all, the Greek philosopher proposed that ideal geometric forms are central to understanding the universe but always out of sight, visible only as distorted shadows.
“This is literally the most direct example we can think of. The statistical average of all these observations is the cube,” Jerolmack said.
“But the cube never exists.”
‘Universal’ is saying a lot.
In the meantime, enjoy walking through an abandoned mine. From engineers and geologists to wise men, fools and crazy old coots, it’s dangerous, dirty work.
Travel inside the Earth:
Maybe out of the depths of post-war guilt and nihilism, some Germans are still trying to thread the needle of all experience through the new fields of knowledge.
There’s something about the earnest piety of ‘We Germans’ and the Natural World which unsettles. The triumphs and failures of German Idealism have convulsed to some terrible extremes.
Nevertheless, join Wener Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer as they use documentary filmmaking to discover something true about that Natural World and deep within ourselves and our origins.
A reader sends a link: Curtis Yarvin is questioned by David Friedman in Yarvin’s debate with Robin Hanson over the truth claims of Futarchy.
Potential deeper subtexts-Monarchy vs anarcho-capitalism as forms of political arrangement and maybe some Hobbes v Locke in terms of property and incentives.
Just as the Universitarian Universalists promote a mish-mash of secular humanism, ‘religion’-lite ethics and alignment with many progressive causes (rainbow flags aloft), some of what’s in the air is an undermining of legitimate forms of authority into the postmodern soup.
I’m pretty sure members of the activist Left have driven much of the social change beneath the banner of liberal ideals (rainbow flags aloft), and further entrenched an incredibly cynical and ruthless take on all forms of authority (generally people you don’t want in charge of anything).
Most radicals mostly see liberal idealism and pragmatism as obstacles to be defeated on the way to….liberation and revolutionary praxis.
From another reader: Has the Homo lineage, Homo Sapiens particularly, domesticated himself by forming coalitions of beta-males to resist the natural tendency towards one alpha male among a group of breeding females? Is utilizing fire (cooked food, protection) a primary means of this domestication? Have we carved out a little spot for guided evolution?
Bio-anthropology might have some insights.
The cleaner sciences tell us only about the laws of nature, and relatively little about the (how/why/what does it all mean?) questions we’re bound to ask about ourselves.
A minor aside: What’s with the academic and Romantic tendency to additionally celebrate broad and general categories like ‘women’ and ‘minorities’ under the idea of secular humanism (readers know I harbor skepticism towards the latest moral cause and the ‘-Isms’)?
I’d argue such skepticism is a political third-rail these days, but likely a longer-term good position to hold (you can support individuals and other people without such ideas).
I have feet in many camps, but I think each of us is subject to constant reinforcement and reification of our group’s basic beliefs (academics are no different). Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are…to some extent.
Of note: When the economic and military strength of one nation (let’s say America) is over-estimated and due for an update, and that of another (let’s say China with cutting-edge AI capabilities) also doesn’t match current many estimations, treaties, and alliances…watch out. Conflict is more likely.
My take: There are, and will be, rules, and authority. This emerges from deep within us. Leaders are stewards. Sometimes the authority’s pretty corrupt (serving the wants/needs of individuals claiming to serve all but incentivized to serve their faction while enriching themselves). There’s always some corruption and politics is a necessary evil. Existing institutions can easily be co-opted, and usually will, by less honorable, loud, and driven people.
We can all actively benefit, but must be very careful handling, coalitions of men. Men in committed marriages, having earned respect for their judgment and experience, with large networks of business and social connections, motivated by an urge towards decency and protection of their families, are often the ones you want in charge.