Still, we used to have some really nutty conversations here on MeFi, e.g. actual biochemists fending off Wikipedia-fueled halfwitted arguments...
But, I'm much better at collecting relevant information and parsing that into something useful. Lay people are terrible at that. They bring up irrelevance constantly, because the irrelevant things are very important to that person.
On the other hand, it turns out that a lot of people will feel much better (and some are even cured) if someone takes only an hour or so and actually listens to their problems. And usually, the "faith healer" or Aunt Ginny do a much better job at that than some high-paid expert who only takes two minutes to take a quick look at you before he's off to the next conference.
Yes, I said “Western civilization”: that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations.
This is something that happens here on metafilter with dismaying regularity.
This book [Eve of Destruction] generated a lot of objections to its subject before anyone read it. In the three years I took researching and writing it, I would tell people that I was working on a book about preventive war. Of course, a lot of folks immediately thought I was in favor of the idea, which I wasn’t; rather, I was just trying to unravel the puzzle of why so many countries — and Putin’s Russia was the case that interested me at first, not Bush’s America — no longer felt a compunction about attacking even remote threats to their security. I think I was ahead of the curve on this: I noted in the book that we’d be likely to see an increase in such actions, the Iraq fiasco notwithstanding. Sadly, I was right.
New York State, small-town public schools.
“…Descriptivism so quickly and thoroughly took over English education in this country that just about everybody who started junior high after c. 1970 has been taught to write Descriptively—via ‘freewriting,’ ‘brainstorming,’ ‘journaling,’ a view of writing as self-exploratory and -expressive rather than as communicative, an abandonment of systematic grammar, usage, semantics, rhetoric, etymology.” But descriptivism in the relevant sense (describing the observed usage of language rather than prescribing how it should be used) has nothing to do with “freewriting” and the like; you can be “self-exploratory and -expressive” using the most traditional Oxbridge prose style (and indeed many have). He’s trying to tar scientific linguists with any brush that comes to hand.
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