Monday, 28 May 2007

I Shot an Arrow into the Air

With 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone to watch, I need to get busy. Yesterday, I watched the 15th episode, “I Shot an Arrow into the Air.” Does anyone remember it? Eight men blasted off into space in a rocket ship named “Arrow One.” Mission control lost contact with the men almost immediately. The ship eventually crashed on what was thought to be an asteroid. Three of the men survived, and, as Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) would have predicted, they were immediately at each other’s throats because of the lack of water. One of the men climbed a peak, rolled to the bottom, and died, but not before drawing a “†”-shaped symbol in the sand. One of the two remaining men, who had been nothing but trouble since the crash, then shot the other to death. When he got to the top of the peak, he saw what the first man had drawn: a telephone pole. The men were on Earth! They had crashed into the Nevada desert, just 97 miles from Reno (according to a sign). The scenes were highly unrealistic, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. I enjoyed it. By the way, when was the first manned space flight? This episode aired originally on 15 January 1960.

Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (1929-2003)

I just happened upon this review, by Thomas Nagel, of three books by Bernard Williams, who, like Peter Singer, was a student of R. M. Hare (1919-2002) at the University of Oxford.

John M. Ellis on Political Radicalism

Academics weigh all the facts; radicals select those that make their case. Academics look at different interpretations to see which one best fits the facts; radicals fix rigidly on conspiracy theories and then make the facts fit them. Academics use analogies and metaphors cautiously; radicals use them rhetorically and recklessly. Academics use arguments consistently; radicals use them opportunistically: the same argument is used when it helps, and rejected when it does not. Academic teachers used to consider this undisciplined thinking as something that a university education corrects; now it is what many professors themselves suffer from and inflict on their students. A radically anti-academic way of looking at issues has gradually made huge inroads into a community formerly devoted to patient, reasoned analysis, and to careful abstraction from a comprehensive review of all available evidence. The academic mind must be free to change direction as new evidence and argument takes research into unexpected new directions, and to follow wherever the argument leads it. But political radicalism is so shackled to its rigid initial commitments that it cannot have that kind of freedom, and so must act in anti-academic ways to protect itself from the affront to those commitments that new evidence or argument will bring.

(John M. Ellis, “How Serious Is the Damage?” Academic Questions 20 [winter 2006-07]: 14-21, at 19-20)

Outsourcing the News

Here is a fascinating column about the practice of outsourcing the news. Can your job be outsourced?


Today is a rest day in the Giro d’Italia. Ever wonder what it would be like to ride across Scotland on a bicycle? See here. (Click “Next photo” repeatedly to see the entire set of images.)

First Principles

Here is Michael Novak’s meditation on Memorial Day.


Does anyone out there use WordPress? A few hours ago, I upgraded to version 2.2. It went well, except that I now have trash characters in some of my posts. Scroll down the page and you’ll see what I mean. I went to the WordPress support forum and found this, but I have no idea what it means. I’m a blogger, not a goddamned computer programmer. Why do I have no luck with blogs? I started out with Blogger, then moved to PowerBlogs, and then moved to WordPress. Do I have to move again?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

As a bioethicist who supports robust informed consent throughout the health care system, I am outraged by pro-life strategists who have hijacked and misused this important concept.

The point of informed consent is to offer the consumer the best medical facts about her condition, so that she can plug those facts into her value system and her life circumstances and make the best choice for her.

If there is good evidence that a significant number of women suffer emotional distress after abortion, that is important information women should know.

They should also be informed of the physical risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, the proportion of women who suffer postpartum depression and the emotional consequences of giving a baby up for adoption.

Dena S. Davis
Cleveland, May 23, 2007
The writer is a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Note from KBJ: Like the letter writer, I’m a bioethicist, a lawyer, and a supporter of “robust informed consent.” That’s precisely why I support laws that require abortion providers to inform women of all risks of the procedure, including the risks to their psychological health. It sounds to me as though feminists want to keep women ignorant.


Will Nehs sent a link to this column.

A Year Ago