thinking reed

Nov 9, 2005 at 11:35 o\clock

Reflections on the Revolution in France

It is not a civil war

There's been wide-spread rioting but it's not civil war.  There is no clash of rival political or ideological systems.

Tragically, one person has been killed so far.  But the fact there has been only one death shows the limited nature of these events. 

It is not an Islamic uprising

The rioters are Muslims, but they are not acting from Islamic motivation.  In fact, leaders of the French Islamic community have been condemning the riots. 

However ...  If these young men have no prospects and no status, they are prime candidates for the jihadist ideology.  As Wahabis, they can have meaning to life and feel superior to a society that rejects them.

What should the French authorities do?

Order is the first imperative.  The police should be allowed to shoot rioters.  If this fails, the army should be called in.

And afterwards? 

Re-introduce conscription (abolished in November 2001).  It would be costly and is not militarily necessary, but it would promote social cohesiveness. 

Pay people a set amount to leave France.  Several thousand dollars (francs).  The condition is that you have to renounce French citizenship. 

And, yes, also look at conventional approaches such as funding youth centres and soccer teams. 

Why haven’t the French authorities acted decisively? 

This is the puzzle.  Perhaps the authorities are nostalgic for the student strikes of 1968, and this sentimentality prevents them from clear analysis? 

Nov 2, 2005 at 08:31 o\clock

fundamentally, ID doesn't work

We were talking about Intelligent Design at lunch. 

As I understand it, ID says the changes involved in the evolutionary model are so unlikely that they can’t have resulted from a purely random process, of the kind which required by classic Darwinian theory. 

This kind of argument starts quite scientifically.  It gives a statistical analysis of empirical data, and concludes that there must have been a trans-biological mechanism. (Which is not to say that the analysis is actually correct.)

But the argument doesn’t establish the nature of the intervening mechanism.  While the mechanism would have to be over and above genetic mutations, the ID people don’t prove that it is God. 

And the only way they can show this is by doing the classical arguments for God’s existence. 


Oct 18, 2005 at 01:14 o\clock

Do we dream in music ?

Last night, I dreamt that I was telling a friend that a hymn was being sung too slowly, so I started singing it at the right speed. 

The point of this story?  To show that we can dream music.  (Probably no news for a musician, but I haven’t noticed this before.) 

The background to the dream?  Perhaps because the choir was singing a hymn too slowly last Sunday. 

The hymn (that I was singing)?  Wesley’s Christ the Lord is risen today. 

Oct 13, 2005 at 07:59 o\clock

a criterion for sanity?

I've got four cases at work involving people who have loose contacts with reality.  They irrationally spend heaps of energy in pursuing unwinnable causes.  And they're into conspiracy theories. 

I was commenting on this to a colleague, when he cheerfully asked, "And what makes you think you're sane and they're not?"

Well, one answer is that I take that question seriously.  While these people can't even entertain the possibility that their thinking processes might be faulty. 

So there's an empirical test for checking whether you're sane:  can you question whether you might be wrong?