Links have become an essential part of how I write, and also part of how I read. Given a choice between reading something on paper and reading it online, I much prefer reading online: I can follow up on an article’s links to explore source material, gain a deeper understanding of a complex point, or just look up some term of art with which I’m unfamiliar.There is, I think, nothing unusual about this today. So I was flummoxed earlier this year when Nicholas Carr started a campaign against the humble link, and found at least partial support from some other estimable writers (among them Laura Miller, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jason Fry and Ryan Chittum). Carr’s “delinkification” critique is part of a larger argument contained in his book “The Shallows.” I read the book this summer and plan to write about it more. But for now let’s zero in on Carr’s case against links, on pages 126-129 of his book as well as in his “delinkification” post.The nub of Carr’s argument is that every link in a text imposes “a little cognitive load” that makes reading less efficient. Each link forces us to ask, “Should I click?” As a result, Carr wrote in the “delinkification” post, “People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form.”This appearance of the word “hypertext” is a tipoff to one of the big problems with Carr’s argument: it mixes up two quite different visions of linking.…For Carr and his sympathizers, links impede understanding; I believe that they deepen it. Back in 1997 Steven Johnson (in his book “Interface Culture”) made the case for links as a tool for synthesis — “a way of drawing connections between things,” a device that creates “threads of association,” a means to bring coherence to our overflowing cornucopia of information. The Web’s links don’t make it a vast wasteland or a murky shallows; they organize and enrich it.…Links, you see, do so much more than just whisk us from one Web page to another. They are not just textual tunnel-hops or narrative chutes-and-ladders. Links, properly used, don’t just pile one “And now this!” upon another. They tell us, “This relates to this, which relates to that.”
Did any of us think that we’d be reading this from the ACLU under the Obama administration?
What, according to the fourth Meditation, is wrong with modernity? It is, Nietzsche observes, vulgar (gemein) and money-grubbing, its denizens exhausted by overwork so that the typical demeanor of the passer-by in the city street is one of being ‘harried’. This is partly because, whereas formerly we looked at life from the eternal point of view, we now live in a newspaper (media) culture which barrages us with the events and agitations of the moment. Modern culture is permeated by boredom, ‘industrious boredom’ — because presumably (a) work is what we do nearly all of the time, and (b) modern work practices are intrinsically unsatisfying. That we are bored work-slaves generates a specific kind of art, in particular theater. It is forced to become a ‘lascivious antidote’ to the worker’s exhaustion and boredom. What the audience wants – and gets – is ‘bedazzlement, not art’.…This is what modern German sociologists call the Erlebnisgesellschaft: the society of the frenzied quest for ‘experiences’, for cheap thrills. Without a communal ethos to give aspiration and meaning to one’s life, the only way of keeping boredom at bay is in the frenzied search for cheap thrills.What, however, is actually wrong with ‘post-modernism, with being dominated by the ‘critical-historical’ spirit? Why should such a spirit be culture-destroying? What is wrong, Nietzsche says, is that by presenting us with a smörgåsbord of lifestyle options but with no evaluative ranking of them, it produces a mood of irony, cynicism and bewilderment which turns us into spectators rather than actors. Our culture becomes ‘senile’ since the critical-historical spirit destroys life’s ‘plastic powers’ — its ability to employ its past so as to nourish its future.
I really don’t see what all the fuss is about here:
Long before she became the latest fascination of the political press and the cause-of-the-moment of the Tea Party movement, Christine O’Donnell (R-D.E.) was appearing on news outlets large and small extolling the sins of not just sex but masturbation.The Delaware Republican, who is challenging Rep. Mike Castle in the state’s Senate primary and has earned the financial backing of a portion of the Tea Party movement, made an appearance in the MTV series “Sex In The 90s.” Entitled “The Safest Sex Of All,” the episode was ostensibly geared towards understanding the importance of abstinence. But O’Donnell’s guidance went a bit further. Masturbation, she argued, is not a moral substitute for sex. “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can’t masturbate without lust.”“The reason that you don’t tell [people] that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because again it is not addressing the issue,” she extrapolated. “You’re just gonna create somebody who is, I was gonna say, toying with his sexuality. Pardon the pun.”
St. Thomas Aquinas went so far as to consider masturbation as more evil than forcible rape. His reasoning was that even though forcible rape might cause injury to another person, it could still result in procreation and therefore could not be peccatum contra naturam (a crime against nature), whereas masturbation was definitely against nature since it could never result in procreation. Aquinas no doubt had this text in mind when he wrote in the 13th century that “right reason declares the appointed end of sexual acts in procreation.”
Noë wants to break down mind-body/brain-body dualism, which is commendable. But in so doing, he verges on breaking down subject-object dualism: he wants to project mind out into the environment so our bodily-external tools become a part of us. I am reminded of when Sweeney Todd picks up his razor for the first time in years and cries “My arm is complete again!”Still, I wouldn’t want to dismiss Noë’s extension of the mind completely. Perhaps without using the pernicious concept of mind, we could speak of different senses or extensions of the self. The core sense of self would be the living organism; in its environment, but distinct from it. The next sense of self would incorporate non-living parts of the self, such as the hair and nails. Here the cat’s whiskers serve as a biological analogy to the blind man’s cane. The third level of self would include our clothing and jewelery, which form part of our ‘person’. Fourth might be the tools we use naturally, such as a fork or a pencil and paper. One could take this further and include the things one identifies with, such as family and country – although such identifications are often problematic. Although there would be a solid notion of the person (conscious and bodily) as the primary sense of the self, we could be flexible about the boundaries for different uses of the word. I think this way of speaking would be more intuitive than super-sizing the mind. A framework along these lines would be flexible enough to handle tough cases: the amputee’s prosthetic limb is intimately part of his self insofar as it is strapped securely to him and responds to electrical stimulation from within him, unlike any other tool currently in use. At the same time, if the artificial limb were to be crushed, the amputee would not himself be hurt.The definition of self along these lines would be a fascinating thing to explore. I would not want to dismiss the idea that some sense of the self can be larger than the bare organism, especially given the way technology will surely extend the self in decades to come. But I believe it is essential to preserve the idea of the natural person, especially in the face of a Cartesian materialism which would divide and destroy it.
Most of us have seen the movie Weekend at Bernie’s, right? Two guys going through all sorts of wacky hijinks in order to convince people that their dead boss is still alive, while going to hilariously desperate lengths to deflect any close scrutiny that might reveal the truth?
Why is anyone paying attention to what Stephen Hawkings or most other scientists say about religion except on the basis of their presumed authority? And it’s the flimsiest kind of authority on the topic, based in a reputation gained in an entirely different field of study. As far as I have been able to see, Stephen Hawking has never published a scholarly paper on the subject in a reviewed journal so it’s not even passed that level of testing. Perhaps if he had tried his ideas in that academic realm he might have avoided limiting himself to one, very crude assumption about religious thinking, believing that all of it is as unaware of the vicissitudes of the study of religious questions as he obviously is.Anyone who has read even a little of the rigorous, formal literature around various religions, would know that the contemporary critics of religion almost never have the slightest knowledge of what serious people have said on the topic.
Not a single law of science is anything other than the product of human thought. Not a single one of them has been developed except within a realm which excludes everything but what we can discover of the physical universe. I believe that exclusion is based in our experience and the extension of our logic, which, itself, is a means to address our experience of the physical universe.…A passage in the Book of Isaiah that often comes to mind when thinking about this topic, is when God is said to have said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”. Whatever else people have held about God, no matter how much of our limited minds and thoughts and even our crimes and injustices we have attributed to God, even the most anthropomorphic religion holds that God is not a human being. To think that God would be required to follow our laws of science or, indeed, any possible actual mechanisms of a universe created by God, is rather touchingly naive in a way that even the “ignorant goat herders” who are believed by the incredulous to have written the Bible were able to surpass.
It seems to be an emotional need of the new atheists to believe they have disposed of the question of purpose but most people seem to be unimpressed with that artificial substitute for reason. And that’s only one of the questions that we, mere mortals, have about the universe which we find ourselves in. I am more convinced as I see us destroying ourselves, to a large degree with the products of science and technology, that unless we include questions of purpose, justice, rights, morality and other entirely non-scientific features of human thought and culture, that science is inadequate in itself to ensure our continued existence.
What does it take to be a Megan McArdle? I’m really, truly fascinated by this phenomenon. What kind of psychological contortions must you put yourself through in order to suffer this kind of humiliation on a regular basis without losing faith in your intellectual abilities?
The fact is, very few people are vegetarians; even most vegetarians eat meat. There have been several studies, including a very large one by the Department of Agriculture, where they asked people one day: Describe your diet. And 5 percent said they were vegetarians. Well, then they called the same people back a couple of days later and asked them about what they ate in the last 24 hours. And over 60 percent of these vegetarians had eaten meat. And so, the fact is, the campaign for moralized meat has been a failure. We actually kill three times as many animals for their flesh as we did when Peter Singer wrote “Animal Liberation” [in 1975]…I think the fact is that we’re natural meat-eaters. And a lot of my vegetarian friends don’t like that. But it’s our biology and our evolutionary heritage. It’s tough to fight that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it. But most people lose that balance. And two-thirds of vegetarians eventually resume eating meat.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re driving, anyone going slower than you is an idiot? And anyone going faster than you is a maniac? Why, I tell ya, folks, it’s a wonder we ever get anywhere at all these days, what with all the idiots and maniacs out there. Because no one ever drives at my speed.– George Carlin
Religious people have no real interest in Dawkins, whom they find extreme, clinical, mechanical, and monolithic.
Calvin: Why do you suppose we’re here?Hobbes: Because we walked here.Calvin: No, no. I mean here on Earth.Hobbes: Because Earth can support life.Calvin: No, I mean why are we anywhere? Why do we exist?Hobbes: Because we were born.Calvin: Forget it.Hobbes: I will, thank you.
The classical philosophical tradition gives us an adage that is still hard to improve upon: ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing comes nothing). Any teacher worth his salt would take a student to task if, in trying to explain why and how a given phenomenon occurred, the student were to say, “well, it just spontaneously happened.” Yet we are expected to be satisfied with precisely that explanation when it comes to the most pressing and fascinating question of all: why is there something rather than nothing?
You and I are contingent in the measure that we had parents, that we eat and drink, and that we breathe. In a word, we don’t explain ourselves. Now if we want to understand why we exist, we cannot go on endlessly appealing to other contingent things. We must come finally to some reality which exists through the power of its own essence, some power whose very nature it is to be.But that whose very nature it is to be cannot, in any sense, be limited or imperfect in being, and this is precisely why Catholic philosophy has identified this non-contingent ground of contingency, this ultimate explanation of the being of the universe, as “God.”