Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Debunking is hard to do

In his excellent article on ‘denialism’ in this month’s New Humanist, Keith Kahn-Harris mentions that one of the problems debunkers face is that they have to engage in ‘a minute and careful examination of the sources… [which is] a time-consuming task that requires considerable skill and fortitude.’ This was precisely what I found myself up against when I reviewed Christopher Booker’s climate-change-denial tract The Real Global Global Warming Disaster for the Observer. I examined in detail just a very few of the claims Booker made (that is, ones that we not transparently false or misleading), and in each case found considerable distortion. I put the results of that trawling on this blog, but even then there was too much information for me to find the time to get it into an easily digested and streamlined shape. The real problem is that the denialists seem to have endless time on their hands. Happily, Booker’s book doesn’t seem to have had a huge impact, but less happily that is perhaps because there is now just so much climate denialism around, thanks largely to the silliness at UEA.

This issue of New Humanist is as full of good stuff as ever, but I particularly liked A. C. Grayling’s skewering of Terry Eagleton’s book On Evil: ‘Eagleton has been too long among the theorists to risk a straightforward statement… as we are dealing with Eagleton here, note that this is of course not a mish-mash of inconsistencies, as it appears to be; this is subtlety and nuance. It is, you might say, nuance-sense.’ For one reason or another, I have recently found myself having to read various texts issuing from the cultural-studies stable, and I can regretfully say that I know just what he means.


DarwinRulesOK said...


I've just been reading 'The Music Instinct'. Having spent 5 years labouring my way through a PhD on emotion and music, I have to say I am very envious of your ability to come a field and comprehend it in one renaissance-man style volume. I think your book is streets better than the alternatives, only matched in some respects by Ani Patel's book on music and language which in any case has a different aim and audience.

That said, I think I may be able to offer an answer to the question you pose on page 317 of where the further emotional content comes from, on the basis of my own research (some of which has just appeared in Music Perception, I can send you a copy of that paper). I can also offer a very tentative solution to the paradox of what timbre is, and why it's so hard to define in musical terms. If you wish to contact me on this, my email is ps401ra@gold.ac.uk

best wishes - apologies for contacting you this way, but I don't have any other way of doing so, as you don’t seem to have an email address on the net, presumably for the obvious reasons of avoiding spam and crank emails.

JimmyGiro said...

"The real problem is that the denialists seem to have endless time on their hands."

Imagine the problem if they had the same government funding that the global warming scientists 'earn'.

JimmyGiro said...

A heads-up, in case your mum hasn't already told you, but you managed to get your 'pretty' mug in this weeks County Press, twice.

Once in a girly wig, and once dressed as Robert Hook.


Philip Ball said...

I just heard about that. The unfortunate thing about this bizarre coincidence is that it enables one to see at a glance what ravages the intervening 25 years have wreaked. And it gives the impression that I have not cut my hair during that period, but have simply gone grey and put it in curlers.