Teach Your Children Well

Intellectual compacency is the disease. Platitudes are the vectors. The habit of irreverence is the vaccine. I hope that a child who has been raised to laugh at God will find it natural to laugh at intellectuals, politicians, teachers, judges, journalists, and even economists whose cultural icons have displaced their ability to wonder.

- Steven Landsburg, Fair Play, p. 74

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No. Not to "wonder", but to

No.

Not to "wonder", but to think and conclude, with real live human efficacy.

Enough bloody paeans to whimsy, chance, and ineptitude already, dammit.

Don't be too hasty now. It

Don't be too hasty now.
It is our ability and proclivity to wonder that leads us to think and conclude in the first place. Don't you think Einstein maybe started by "wondering" what happens as you approach the speed of light?

What makes you so certain

What makes you so certain Einstein was right?

How many people have actually travelled close enough to the speed of light to verify his theory?

And can Velocity really be a constant? I mean, I can see how the units that make up Velocity could be a constant (Time and Distance), but how could Velocity itself be a constant?

I'm not even sure what that is suppose to mean?

Maybe you can explain it to me?

The point -- and fact -- is

The point -- and fact -- is that human life requires one hell of a lot more than just "wonder", which is where the admonition stops.

Any bloody moron can sit around and "wonder". People who actually get things done don't stop there.

This is not difficult to understand, but very few on the scene these days have what it takes to figure it out and then say it in the face of this childish infatuation with is, at root, an assertion of human incompetence to deal with reality. That is the whole reason why the admonition stops with "wonder".

Billy Beck: This is not

Billy Beck: This is not difficult to understand, but very few on the scene these days have what it takes to figure it out and then say it in the face of this childish infatuation with is, at root, an assertion of human incompetence to deal with reality. That is the whole reason why the admonition stops with "wonder".

I?m wondering if you could have articulated this better?

But I think understand what you are trying to say.

Billy, Your quite right that

Billy,

Your quite right that wonder by itself is not enough. Science Fiction writers like Jules Verne can sit around and write about what the world might be like in the future, but engineers and scientists are the ones who actually get it done.

While wonder by itself is not sufficient, it is necessary. We often get stuck in the same paradigms, believing that ours is the only way. Without the ability to wonder what things might be like outside our paradigm, we have no means by which to escape its imprisonment.

I don't dispute the value of

I don't dispute the value of "wonder", Micha, although it's becoming a word that I despise because of the ways that starry-eyed gimps kick it around. Like "create", for instance.

Don't mistake me: I am pressing for a necessary epistemic continuum that finds answers instead of simply "seeking" them (to point up another word that is far too common among mush-brains).

Necessarily implicit in the concept of a "continuum", "wonder" has its place. I should think this would be obvious. It is in no way sufficient, however, and I note that Landsburg, in the quote you cited, couldn't get it up to carry on past it.

I indict this fact (which is what it is: he stopped there) on general grounds of culture. What was once applauded world-wide as American "can do" spirit is now generally denigrated to "arrogance".

I don't know you well enough to know whether you have any real practical and working insights to this, but where I come from, worthwhile people solve problems. They don't sit around with their thumbs up their asses "wondering" about them.

Most academics lost sight of this sort of thing a long time ago, and that's why they say things like Landsburg did.

I didn't read what Landsburg

I didn't read what Landsburg was saying the same way you did. First of all, the sentence I quoted came at the conclusion of a chapter titled, "Cultural Biases," in which Landsburg discussed how we can become blinded by our cultural assumptions and how solutions often require non-conventional thinking.

I wouldn't dismiss Landsburg as a regular academic; he is to most economists what most economists are to regular academics, i.e. outside the mainstream.

Billy Beck: What was once

Billy Beck: What was once applauded world-wide as American "can do" spirit is now generally denigrated to "arrogance".

Perhaps that's because we still believe we "can do" everything under the sun, even though we've grown so fat and complacent as to stop doing much of anything productive. The Koreans are much more of a "can do" society than we are today. We're resting on our laurels; they're figuring out how to manipulate the genetic code to create new, better laurels.

I'm speaking of the South

I'm speaking of the South Koreans here, obviously - although that Kim Jong Il really is the Little Freakazoid That Could. (And I wonder, does he use a Flobee? Do we have an embargo on those?)