Alan Alda Explains Yet More Science! to Children

Rufus T Firefly
The President of Freedonia, about to take up the tax – and the carpet.

“Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. (turns to Bob) Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it.”  – Groucho Marx, Duck Soup

Rufus T. Firefly, president of Freedonia, wanted the aid of a 4 year old to understand a government report. Alan Alda wants to explain science to 11 year-olds. Not sure what, if any connection to make here…

Alan Alda runs a yearly contest to take a school kid’s science question and ask scientists to explain it at a level an 11-year-old can understand. We have discussed this previously here. Today, the next topic, one much more suited to this sort of treatment than time, 2013’s topic, was announced: sound.

It’s really a nice project, on the surface, at least, run by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. Here’s the Mission Statement.

But there are issues here. First off, this effort is part of the journalism school at Stony Brook, which might be OK if there were any indication that journalists have any success whatsoever communicating science. Click the Science! category to the right for reasons to suspect otherwise. Also, Mr. Alda mentioned back in 2012:

“There’s hardly an issue we deal with today that isn’t affected by science,” Alda said. “I’ve even heard from a number of people in Congress that they often don’t understand what scientists are talking about when they go to Washington to testify, and these are the people who make the decisions about funding and policy.”

Really, now? So apparently the goal here is to shape little 11 year old minds so that, when they grow up (or are drafted into an activist  photo op – or is that too cynical?) they make correct policy and funding determinations about science – as understood by the journalists at Stony Brook. Since Alda thinks there is ‘hardly an issue’ that isn’t affected by science, that means, following the logic here, there’s hardly an issue upon which your 11 year old should not have his views shaped by university journalists.

What could possibly go wrong? How has it worked out so far to have journalists explain everything to us, including what constitutes right thinking and right action?

5 Observations of the Modern World

  1. I don’t think any readers of this blog would not soon see that I read a lot of books by people I vehemently disagree with – for starters, Hegel, Fichte, Luther spring to mind. Marx, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Kant, Descartes – the list goes on and on. Whether I’ve heard from somewhere or other that I should or should not like what they say figures very little into my decision to read them. Yet there seem to be people who think that reading somebody with the goal of becoming conversant in their ideas is, somehow, granting approval to those authors and ideas. Huh?
  2. Thus, once a while back when I defended in some combox somewhere the radical idea that it was OK to *read* Heidegger, (1) I got called a Nazi. The distinction I tried to make – that  reading Heidegger didn’t mean you agreed with him, but that there was great virtue in knowing exactly what your opponent is talking about – seems to have been completely incomprehensible to my accusers. So I let it drop – life is too short for that level of discussion.
  3. In a similar vein, I’ve long said that if one is in fact interested in finding out about cultures very different from our own (what I imagine ‘multiculturalism’ would mean if it meant anything other than ‘the stick I’m beating you with at the moment’), then one would read the ancient Greeks and Israelites – now, there are two very different cultures, both from us and from each other, separated by both time and space. The wildest Brazilian tribesmen or most mysterious oriental kingdom could hardly be more different from us than the worlds of Homer and Moses. Yet, I gather that’s not what those in favor of multiculturalism mean?Red & Blue Pill
  4. In the middle of the chain of links of our lives, I found myself in the dark wood of Mencius Moldbug. Now, I’ve read only a few dozen pages of his and may or may not go back for more, and so far have come across nothing all that outrageous, but I gather he is double plus ungood. I of course don’t care, and will take his actual positions, whenever he chooses to reveal them, on a case by case basis. So far, he has asserted that Chomsky is just the Blue Pill soaked in red dye #3 – which cracked me up. He also notes that Moderns do not read old dead guys, in fact make it a point of pride that all they know about the past is the-predigested tidbits spoon-fed to them, and yet are full of opinions and outrage. Duh. No wonder they need safe spaces – it’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door…. He most controversially asserts that the constellation of theory and power most clearly seen in the iceberg tip of Harvard is, by any useful political definition, a religion, and an established state religion at that. Won’t get any argument from me.
  5. Finally, The Martian is a really good movie. You should go see it. F-bombs that, for once, do not seem gratuitous – I myself might let one fly if I were to find myself in the situations portrayed in the movie. Other than that, good clean fun and good hard science! What a combo!
  1. Not that I, myself, have any inclination to read any Heidegger. The time may come, but the tiny bit I’ve tried makes Hegel read like Hemingway. I sort of figure the damage was done before Heidegger came along – by his time, philosophy had been removed to such esoteric heights that normal people began treating philosophy like a cage of vindictive monkeys: keep your distance, or you’ll get poo on you. I’d rather read the arsonists who set fire to the building than the people trying to create edifices out of ashes.