THE PRIMACY OF tHE oBSERVER:

The surprising origins of wave-particle duality (Ethan Siegel, 2/20/24, Big Think)


One of the most powerful, yet counterintuitive, ideas in all of physics is wave-particle duality. It states that whenever a quantum propagates through space freely, without being observed-and-measured, it exhibits wave-like behavior, doing things like diffracting and interfering not only with other quanta, but with itself. However, whenever that very same quantum is observed-and-measured, or compelled to interact with another quantum in a fashion that reveals its quantum state, it loses its wave-like characteristics and instead behaves like a particle.

PHILOSPHIZING HATRED:

Patrick Deneen Fails to Understand the Liberal Tradition: Deneen grasps neither liberal theory nor even the supposed basis of his own thought (Sharon Kuruvilla, Sourodipto Roy, Feb 26, 2024, Liberal Currents)

Of course, in order to define a positive conception of the elite and the commons, Deneen must define what he considers to be its negative contemporary manifestations. The elite, under liberalism, appears to be the “laptop class”. This is an amorphous collection of Never-Trumpers, campus liberals, college professors who promote Neo-Marxism (distinguished by Deneen from traditional Marxism, as a result of the new variant’s promotion of such anti-traditional forms of thought like critical race theory or critical theory), Silicon Valley professionals, “woke capital” (he does not clarify who could be included here), and all those prone to supporting liberalization of traditional socio-cultural mores. Opposed to these are the salt-of-the-earth coalition of workers and small business owners (but only those who follow Deneen’s conception of right-communitarianism, one would have to imagine. The rest are elites.) To Deneen’s credit, he doesn’t provide a simplistic Manichean understanding of these groups: he is quite clear that the contemporary commons are given to an uneducated populism which manifests itself in the election of immoral figures such as Donald Trump. Nevertheless, Deneen believes that the degradation of the commons is attributable to the elites in the last resort. In one word, we can characterize contemporary elites as “woke”. They promote an ideology that breeds suspicion, emphasize meritocratic competition that destroys social bonds…

The entirety of MAGA is just white male resentment at having to include “others” in the meritocracy and their–justified–fear that they can’t compete on equal terms.

WALLOWING IN UNEARNED GUILT:

Looking Back at the ‘Unmarked Graves’ Social Panic of 2021: A new book tries to explain how millions of Canadians became convinced that the bodies of 215 ‘missing’ Indigenous children had been discovered in British Columbia. (Tom Flanagan & Chris Champion, 1 Mar 2024, Quillette)

One reason this social panic unfolded as it did is that Canadians had already been led to believe that there was some enormous number of Indigenous children who’d simply vanished—“missing children” whose tragic fates had now been discovered. That claim, too, was always untrue.

This concept was popularized by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), whose officials spoke of up to 4,200 Indigenous children who were sent to Residential Schools but never returned to their parents. It is absolutely true that children died at Residential Schools of diseases such as tuberculosis, just as they did in their home communities. And the fate of some children may have been forgotten by their own distant relatives with the passage of generations. But “forgotten” is not “missing.” The myth of missing students arose from a failure of TRC researchers to cross-reference the vast number of historical documents about Residential Schools and the children who attended them. The documentation exists, but the TRC did not avail themselves of it.

Amid the moral panic that began in mid-2021, the “unmarked graves” were presumed to be populated by these “missing children.” Lurid tales of torture and murder, of babies thrown into furnaces and hanging from meat hooks, became popularized. Yet Indigenous parents, no less than other parents, love their children and certainly would have noticed if they went away to school and never came back. There is no record of parents filing complaints with police or other authorities about children who simply vanished—even though there are documented parents’ complaints about harsh discipline (documented complaints that, it should be added, were addressed by school authorities in favour of the parents’ concerns).

Notwithstanding larger debates about the assimilationist mission of these schools, and episodes of abuse, their operation was governed by bureaucratic protocols. As in schools all over the world, each child received an identifying file number upon admission, which was used for administrative purposes.

The federal Department of Indian Affairs also kept close track of students because it paid a per-capita subsidy to Residential Schools. It reviewed admission records meticulously because it didn’t want to pay for the non-Indigenous students who were sometimes enrolled in such schools. For their own part, the Residential Schools were equally motivated to keep track of students because their income depended on such subsidies.

Media stories about Indian Residential Schools are often accompanied by the claim that 150,000 Indigenous children were “forced to attend” such institutions. In fact, scholars generally agree that more students attended day schools located on Indigenous reserves than went away to board at Residential Schools. Children were not required to go to Residential School unless no day school was available. Moreover, a large number didn’t go to any school at all. And it wasn’t until 1920, decades after the Residential School system had been established, that attendance at either day school or Residential School was made compulsory for Indigenous children. And even then, enforcement was often lax. Even by 1944, estimates indicate, upwards of 40% of Indigenous children were not enrolled in any school whatsoever.

For each student who did attend Residential School, an application form signed by a parent or other guardian was required. Numerous specimens have been preserved and can be viewed in online government archives. Moreover, many Indigenous parents saw Residential Schools as the best option available for their children. Cree artist Kent Monkman’s famous painting, The Scream, showing missionaries and police snatching infants from the arms of Indian mothers at gunpoint is a fever dream of the modern Canadian imagination. It’s not even close to an accurate depiction of historical reality, even if taken metaphorically.

YET MAN IS fALLEN:

A personal tale of intellectual humility – and the rewards of being open-minded (Gemma Ware, 2/29/24, The Conversation)

To Daryl Van Tongeren, the pressure to be right all the time is an “unassailably tall order”. He believes that we’re living in a moment where even when people make mistakes, apologize and say they’ve changed their minds, it isn’t good enough.


We demand perfection. Not only perfection now but also perfection in one’s past and perfection in one’s future.

Van Tongeren is a psychology researcher at Hope College in Michigan in the U.S. who conducts research into the concept of intellectual humility. He explains it as something that happens both within us – “our ability to admit and own our cognitive limitations” – and in our relationships with others. “It means being able to present my ideas or interact with someone in a way that’s nondefensive,” he says.

Overall, if somebody is intellectually humble, they are willing to be open-minded enough to revise their beliefs if presented with sufficiently strong evidence.

Because ideologies are utopian they deny humanness.

A CLASH OF IDENTITARIANS:

Stuck in the Middle with Hayek (James E. Hartley, 2/29/24, Law & Liberty)


In 1944, Friedrich Hayek wrote in “Why the Worst Get on Top” in his The Road to Serfdom:

It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off—than on any positive task. The contrast between “we” and “they,” the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses. From their point of view it has the advantage of leaving them greater freedom of action than almost any positive program. […]

The stories Alberta tells are interesting, but the most important part of the book is a conversation Alberta relates with a set of prominent evangelicals who vocally oppose the Trumpian wing of evangelicalism:

We all agreed that these ideological diehards whom [David] French was describing were not a majority of the evangelical movement. There is a difference between the people who prefer the 6 p.m. hour of programming at Fox News to those of its cable rivals, and the people who marinate in right-wing misinformation all day long. That latter group, everyone estimated, was still no more than 15 or 20 percent of most church congregations they knew of. The problem is, as [Russell] Moore pointed out, “That vocal minority will always push around a timid majority. The people who care the most usually get what they want.”

It was at that moment I had an epiphany.

I am an evangelical Christian who works at a secular liberal arts college. I am thus personally acquainted with not only this new wing of evangelicals, but also with the woke academy. While the woke movement is incredibly and aggressively vocal on college campuses, it is a minority of the community. There is a very noticeable difference between the generally liberal members of the faculty and student body and the woke activists who capture all the headlines. A good estimate of the size of the latter group is 20 percent.

Looking at the American landscape, we are watching a pair of dueling religious movements consisting of a vocal minority of people using fear of their opponents as a recruitment tool. As John McWhorter documents in Woke Racism, what is happening on college campuses, the rise of what he calls “the Elect,” is not “like” a religion; it actually is a religion. “An anthropologist would see no difference between Pentecostalism and this new form of antiracism.” There is a clergy, an original sin, attempts at evangelism, an apocalyptic narrative, and ostracism of heretics. The stories in Alberta’s book have obvious parallels with this new religion on the Left. Thinking about the evangelical church, David French noted, “If [pastors in evangelical churches] had a just-as-committed twenty percent to push back on [the politicized 15 to 20 percent] the churches would be just fine. But they don’t.” The same thing is true in the academy.

The Right is the Left.

HISSY FITS LOSE STEAM:

When the populist tide ebbs: What’s left behind? (H. W. BRANDS, FEB 24, 2024, A User’s Guide to History)

Populists in the 1890s attacked globalization, particularly international finance. Populists today are equally anti-globalist. As president, Trump launched tariff wars against America’s foreign competitors, and as a candidate again, he has promised more of the same. The 1890s attack hardly slowed the growth of international trade. Today’s attack has been equally unsuccessful. After a covid dip, world trade resumed its steady growth of around five percent per year. It’s more than twice as large as it was when the 1999 Battle of Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization kicked off the current anti-globalist campaign.

Populism is as much a mood as it is an agenda. Sometimes parts of the agenda stick. The mood always passes.

US immigration: economics vs. politics (Riley Callanan, 2/28/24, GZero)

According to a CBO study, the surge in irregular migrants seen under Joe Biden will lead to 1.7 million more workers in 2024, and will grow the economy by about $7 trillion over the next decade.

One of the reasons the Right is so anti-capitalist is that economic growth attracts immigrants. And immigrants produce more growth.

MET ONE IDENTITARIAN…:

He Hunted al-Qaeda. Now He Hunts Neo-Nazis (Feb. 27th, 2024, Free Press)


On a frigid night last February, Iraq combat veteran Kristofer Goldsmith woke to the sound of his dogs barking. He removed a gun from the safe next to his bed and crept downstairs to the kitchen of his home in suburban New York when he noticed movement just outside the glass kitchen door.

He turned to find a man in all-black tactical gear crouched behind a bush, pointing an AR-15 with a suppressor directly at him.

“I didn’t know at that moment if it was a terrorist or a cop,” Goldsmith remembers.

Goldsmith, 38, has made enough enemies that they frequently retaliate. He is the founder of Task Force Butler—an elite team of veterans who use their military expertise to take down neo-Nazi terrorists on American soil. Over the last few years, the Aryan Freedom Network (AFN) has repeatedly posted his home address online as well as photos of his family. Just this month, the FBI contacted him to say an AFN member had made a credible threat to “exterminate” his family.

That night back in February 2023, someone had called the police claiming Goldsmith had murdered his wife, and a cop had staked out his home.

Though Goldsmith managed to defuse the situation, he could have easily ended up wounded or killed. But he says it’s all in a day’s work for a neo-Nazi hunter and former Army sergeant who’s tasted his fair share of danger.

“I have a high threshold for threats,” he says with a slight grin and a shrug.

Folklore is philosophy (Abigail Tulenkois, 2/26/24, Aeon)


The Hungarian folktale Pretty Maid Ibronka terrified and tantalised me as a child. In the story, the young Ibronka must tie herself to the devil with string in order to discover important truths. These days, as a PhD student in philosophy, I sometimes worry I’ve done the same. I still believe in philosophy’s capacity to seek truth, but I’m conscious that I’ve tethered myself to an academic heritage plagued by formidable demons.

The demons of academic philosophy come in familiar guises: exclusivity, hegemony and investment in the myth of individual genius. As the ethicist Jill Hernandez notes, philosophy has been slower to change than many of its sister disciplines in the humanities: ‘It may be a surprise to many … given that theology and, certainly, religious studies tend to be inclusive, but philosophy is mostly resistant toward including diverse voices.’ Simultaneously, philosophy has grown increasingly specialised due to the pressures of professionalisation. Academics zero in on narrower and narrower topics in order to establish unique niches and, in the process, what was once a discipline that sought answers to humanity’s most fundamental questions becomes a jargon-riddled puzzle for a narrow group of insiders.

This was inevitable once Physics became obscurantist. It was intolerable for specialists that people could understand their fields but they couldn’t understand others. So they just added phoney-baloney theories too.