Tuesday, 7 August 2007

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Twenty Years Ago

8-7-87 . . . I recently learned that there’s a new edition of the Lewis and Clark journals being published by the University of Nebraska Press. Gary Moulton is the editor. Today I asked to see the first three volumes in the main library’s special collection. What beautiful books! A few years ago I read Bernard DeVoto’s one-volume edition of the journals, but now I realize just how little I read. The new edition contains all of the entries, including astronomical figures, as well as numerous maps drawn by [Meriwether] Lewis, [William] Clark, and others. Each entry is footnoted to provide additional information. I know it’s rash, but I’d love to have the entire set (eleven) of these volumes. Since only three have been published (beginning in 1983), perhaps I can catch up and acquire them one by one, as they’re published. Then, if I ever follow Lewis and Clark’s footsteps, whether by car, boat, bike, or foot, I’ll have all the information I need. [Counting the atlas, Moulton’s edition turned out to be 13 volumes. I have read them three times in real time. As I completed each volume, I informed Moulton of errors—everything from misspelled words to grammatical gaffes to incorrect references to substantive mistakes. To my surprise, he thanked me by name (along with 30 other people) in the preface of volume 13. I am as proud of this as I am of anything I have published.]


It’s been said that conservatives are as drawn to history as progressives are to sociology. Can somebody explain why?

Sidney Hook (1902-1989) on Academic Propagandists

Listening to some philosophers indict the foreign policy of the United States since the Second World War, we hear merely a litany of horrors. There are horrible enough errors in the record to give all of us pause; but anyone who can mention that record without mentioning the fact that the United States withdrew its major forces from Europe while the Red Army was astride Europe, that it not only offered the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe but extended the offer to countries in the Communist orbit, that when the United States had the monopoly of atomic weapons and could have imposed its will on any nation of the world it offered to surrender that monopoly to an international authority—a concrete proposal for international socialism!—that it encouraged an agricultural and political revolution in Japan that restored it to greater heights of prosperity and with greater freedom than it ever enjoyed, that it has not ideologically interfered with its economic aid to Yugoslavia and other socialist and semisocialist regimes in Asia and Africa—anyone who fails to weigh these things and many others like them together with the errors in the balance of judgment is simply a propagandist.

(Sidney Hook, “Philosophy and Public Policy,” chap. 3 in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, ed. Charles J. Bontempo and S. Jack Odell [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975], 73-87, at 85 [essay first published in 1970])

Religion and Science

Did Albert Einstein (1879-1955) believe in God? He could have. It would not have contradicted anything he believed (or said) as a physicist. Some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in human history have been theists, i.e., believers in a supernatural creator being. Among these are Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), René Descartes (1596-1650), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716). Here is a New York Times column about scientific resistance to the mere mention of God. Do scientists realize how silly this makes them appear?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich” (“Age of Riches” series, front page, Aug. 5):

How can people with so much feel so anxious and unhappy about what they have and who they are? Perhaps because they choose to define who they are—and the ultimate meaning and purpose of their lives—by what they have. The problem with this, as pointed out by the millionaires themselves, is that there is always someone who has more and is therefore “better.”

These are smart people making dumb mistakes: they seem to lack the wisdom to define themselves in other, more substantive ways. I think of people who have less of the money and things but have more of the happiness and well-being precisely because they avoid this mistake and define themselves by the quality of their relationships, or communities, or passions and interests.

It is an old lesson apparently lost on the millionaires: meaning comes from who we are, not what we have.

Christopher Marblo
New York, Aug. 5, 2007

Note from KBJ: Different people find meaning in different places. That the letter writer doesn’t find meaning in the acquisition of wealth, power, or status doesn’t mean others cannot (or do not).

From the Mailbag


I know that you like Queen. Did you know this about Brian May, one of its members? It’s from the blog of a fellow writer of yours at Tech Central Station.


Note from KBJ: This gives new meaning to the 1982 album Hot Space.

Note 2 from KBJ: Let’s make a list of other highly educated rock musicians. Tom Scholz, the founder of (and lead guitarist for) Boston, has a Master’s Degree in Engineering from MIT. See here. I had always heard that Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Rush, has a doctoral degree, but I see no mention of it in his Wikipedia entry. I heard that Iggy Pop (born James Osterberg) was valedictorian of his high-school class, but again, I see no mention of it in his Wikipedia entry.


The editorial board of The New York Times can afford to ignore (or mock) the will of the people. Democrat members of Congress cannot. See here.

A Year Ago