Archive for November, 2010

Tantalizing Criticism

Posted in Reviews, Science!, Things You Should Read with tags , , on November, 2010 by melendwyr

Some of you may remember my writing of a frustrating and outraging book I’d recently read that I said I would blog about. Well, I never quite got around to it – I wrote drafts and drafts, rethinking and rewriting, but I never quite expressed everything that I found wrong with the book. Yes, there were that many things wrong.

So I’ll just say it:

The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris, was absolutely horrifying. It started off relatively well, pointing out that the most distinctive and definitive traits of humanity were from a naturalist’s perspective not at all the things we’d most likely think of (hence the title of the book). And it does a reasonably good job of reviewing the nature of human sexuality from an ‘alien’ point of view.

But it’s also full of pseudoFreudian psychobabble, grotesque misrepresentations of associative processes, just-so stories, inaccuracies, arguments asserted without proper logical or evidentiary support, and mindless repetition of the dogmas of the times in which it was written.

I may eventually point out a few of the specific problems I had with the book, because without providing the justifications this ‘review’ is really just a slander. But that will be a subject for another day.

By Definition

Posted in Favorite Words on November, 2010 by melendwyr

A comment at TGGP’s caught my eye recently. It addresses (rather drolly) the idea that ‘over-simplification can be bad’.

But of course, over-simplification is necessarily bad in some important way, because otherwise it would just be simplification. ‘Over’ conveys excessiveness, missing a target of some kind, and that implies a value judgment.

A common rhetorical strategy is to confuse a value-neutral concept with a value-laden one, particularly through substitution; I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone argue that ‘reductionism is bad’ who follows it up with examples of gross over-reductionism.

(Note: there is no argument which attempts to accurately portray some aspect of the world that is not reductionist. Breaking the holistic universe into discrete elements is what perception is all about, after all, and no mental representation can match the full complexity of the systems it’s embedded in.)

Starting Again

Posted in Blogging on November, 2010 by melendwyr

I haven’t gotten around to writing anything for… well, months. Far longer than is probably a good idea.

My apologies to my readers – all five of you. ;c|

At least I’ve hopefully generated some topic ideas in the fallow interregnum.