Morning Ed: Society {2018.05.17.Th}

[So1] “Alienation’s for the rich and I’m feeling poorer every day…”

[So2] Dagnabbit!

[So3] Just because it’s a socially enforced norm doesn’t mean people actually want it.

[So4] Culture matters, which means that we may have reason to care what goes on in peoples’ sex lives and political correctness may serve a very valuable function.

[So5] Chris Morgan defends bowling alone. I agree up to a point, though my experience has always been that as the default in a way that is, as I consider it, regrettable.

[So6] Laughing is good! Of course, laughing can be bad, too.

[So7] A really interesting look at our cultural relationship with Japan.

[So8] “OMG,” Lord Fisher said to Winston Churchill.

[So9] I do hope that somewhere in all of this, someone flipped a flat earth model like a table.


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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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76 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2018.05.17.Th}

  1. [So1] Interesting pieces juxtaposed there… although I think you’re burying the lede.

    The first article looks at alienation and sees it rising.

    Health is declining and death rates increasing among less-educated white people because of their “disengagement from the mainstream economy; declining levels of social connectedness; weakened communal institutions; and the splintering of society along class, geographic, and cultural lines”

    The second looks at alienation and pronounces it good (or at least, dead).

    Despite all their complexities and diversity, the thinkers within this rubric shared a common distrust of a key assumption: that a unified, holistic self or community was inherently superior to their opposites.

    … and in a nutshell, if you put them together you have the thesis of Deneen’s book. It isn’t that Liberalism has failed, it that it has succeeded; and that we’ll make up the small per-unit loss in volume.

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      • I always assumed that “Dad Gum” was a way to say “God Damn”.

        I was 16ish, I think, and we saw Big River and Huck Finn’s dad was singing “dad gum gov’ment” and got into a part where he just started singing “dad gum, dad gum, dad gum” and, golly, you saw him switching letters out before he said each one.

        Golly and Zounds strike me as being similar to “dad gum” but benefitted from being so old that they were so ivy covered that you couldn’t tell that, once upon a time, they were also scandalous.

        Dagnabbit, as far as I can tell, is a nonsense word that sounds like something scandalous… compared to something scandalous that deliberately has letters swapped around.

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    • I always favored “Golly day!” (used by Calvin in the book version of “A Wrinkle in Time,” and I was amused to learn some years later that one of my mom’s bosses – years and years before the book was written – apparently had used it too, when she referenced it).

      The idea of not calling the bear or wolf by its “real” name is kind of spooky and numinous to me – I can imagine Bronze age people huddled around a fire. Then again – until very recently, most people I knew referred to cancer as “The Big C” or similar….which I guess is the same idea, really.

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  2. I do not understand the why of flat Earth theory, except as some kind of religious throwback.

    Climate change resistance I get, but flat Earth boggles.

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    • I get the impressions that it really is this sort of pseudo-intellectual rebellion thing. Challenging science, or existence of God, or whatever else you want to place highly is just ok, so let me really challenge the most basic principal and go after “the earth is round”. Silly, but I guess if you want a unique hill to die on that is one.

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      • You see the same stuff with the Shakespeare authorship crowd. Some years ago it was fashionable in similar circles to argue that Richard III had nothing to do with the disappearance of the Princes he had thrown in the Tower. The more recent trend for Jesus mythicism also scratches the same itch.

        You get to be a Brave Truth Teller standing up against the awesome might of English (or History or Religious Studies) departments everywhere. The main difference between these and the Flat Earthers is that the Shakespeare/Richard/Jesus crowd have the good sense to stick to historical questions, which never are really fully provable. The Flat Earthers, by moving into a realm subject to active experimental confirmation, force themselves down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. An Oxfordian can claim that the English Lit Establishment is subject to groupthink such that anyone earning a living in it is forced to go along with the idea that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. The Flat Earthers are pretty much forced to posit as massive international conspiracy actively lying in order to push a nefarious agenda for obscure reasons.

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        • I can understand the “itch” as you call it. My natural inclination on any topic is skepticism and to immediately go the opposite way of the crowd on general principle. But you have to balance such impulses with being a truth-seeker. Granted that is very different intellectual exercise, maybe even a spiritual one in some ways, but it is the barrier that keeps you from going too far down the rabbit hole of “there is no truth” which is where you wind up if everything is a conspiracy.

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        • — I’m actually kinda sympathetic to the “Jesus was a myth” crowd. It’s not that I think they’re right, not exactly. On balance, that guy probably lived and did a bunch of religious stuff and got executed by the Romans, and the religion founded in his name is probably about him. However, I do think our actual historic knowledge of “the guy named Jesus” is pretty darn sketchy.

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            • This is a perfectly intellectually respectable position. Thomas Jefferson said essentially the same thing. It is also quite specifically not the mythicist position. Your points sometimes get dragged into the argument, but that is like pointing out that it is physically impossible to throw a dollar across the Potomac River anywhere near Mount Vernon, so therefore we conclude that George Washington wasn’t a real person.

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              • — It’s been years since I looked at this stuff. One of the “mythicist” positions I found interesting was this: read a face value, much of Paul seems to be talking about something quite a bit different from the gospels. I can’t give examples — it’s been literally decades since I read anything on this. But I recall at the time find it a fascinating exercise in how our preconceptions can shape how we understand a thing.

                I can easily imagine that there were multiple “threads” of religious belief swirling around, that kinda coalesced on the “Jesus” figure, who was long dead by the time we have solid non-scripture-based historic evidence of Christian doctrine.

                The point is, many possible historic timelines could have produced similar evidence.

                Perhaps the “Jesus story” is a combination of the acts of several people. In fact, I would be surprised if there were zero aspects of his story that weren’t actually something someone else did that later got attributed to him. Such mixups are common enough.

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            • The mythic parts at least. When you shorn the New Testament of its miracles, Jesus’ life story if very close to the myriads of other Jewish prophets and teachers running around in late Judea. It was a time of great activity and agitation among Jews. The difference between Jesus and many other Jewish teachers was that his followers continued to spread his message after he died.

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          • This is the theatrical equivalent of the engineer flat-earther. The resume seems to add gravitas to the discussion so long as you don’t think too hard about why that would be. I’m sure that Derek Jacobi thinks about Shakespeare a lot, but in ways that don’t really apply to a history discussion. I’m sure that Derek Jeter thinks about baseball a lot. That doesn’t make his qualified to tell us who invented the game.

            The added element for performers is that the Shakespeare authorship discussion can be grist for the mill of how to think about performance. I can totally see how, to an actor, reimagining the plays as being written by the Earl of Oxford would provide an interesting way to inform the performance. The thing is, so would reimagining the plays as being written by Oscar Wilde. You want to put on a production based on this? Sure, why not? I’m in! This has nothing, however, to do with the historical question.

            I also wonder if there isn’t some pleasure in sticking it to the English Department types. My Shakespeare prof in college was something of an anomaly. While in the English Department, he was really more performance oriented, and taught the class that way. He also had some pointed commentary about the traditional English Department approach to the class. I don’t know who common this attitude is, but I can see how performers would be reflexively dismissive of Shakespeare scholars.

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        • There is a snobbery aspect to Shakespeare cranks though because a lot of it is a “glover’s son” could not write about as much and as deeply as Shakespeare did. We do know he did have some co-authors especially on Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

          But these people often get that an Elizabethan grammar school was a very different thing than the modern equivalent.

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          • Calling Shakespeare a glover’s son really doesn’t get a grasp on Shakespeare’s socio-economic position. Shakespeare came from one of the most affluent families in Elizabethan England. His dad might have trained a glover but ended up as business man with a wide range of commercial interests, some of them kind of crooked. He held public office. Shakespeare wouldn’t be able to go to grammar school if his family wasn’t affluent.

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            • The “glover’s son” crack isn’t intended as an analysis of 16th century English society. Its purpose is to emphasize that he was not from the gentry, or at least not for a sufficient number of generations as to obscure the embarrassment. Hence the enthusiasm for the Earl of Oxford, or at least Francis Bacon, as a candidate. Even Christopher Marlowe is better. He was born middle class, too, but he went to university, and has that sexy (if somewhat speculative) James Bond action going for him.

              In any case, notice how no one ever suggests that it wasn’t Shakespeare who wrote those plays, but someone less famous or lower class. If we are going to construct a narrative, we could have it be Jane the Scullery Maid, borrowing Shakespeare’s name because of course Jane the Scullery Maid can’t get plays produced.

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            • My interpretation on the “Shakespeare wasn’t the author of ‘Shakespeare’s’ plays” trope is that it (the trope) gets much of its inspiration from from opposition to the idea that Shakespeare was all that great to being with. I heartily sign on to that inspiration, although I’m agnostic about who actually wrote those plays.

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              • My favorite take on this was Freud’s.

                He thought that Hamlet was a *PERFECT* illustration of the Oedipal Theory and then, when he looked at the timeline of when Hamlet was written compared to the significant events of Shakespeare’s lift, concluded that, yeah, Shakespeare could not have written Hamlet. It had to be someone who fit the theory… and Shakespeare didn’t.

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      • Yeah this is probably it. A lot of Young Earth Creationists are also Electrical Engineers from what I’ve heard. As is the guy who figured out how to screen for cancer.

        A lot of intelligent people (or at least people intelligent enough to get advanced educations)convince themselves of some very wacky things.

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        • Engineers seem to be prone to this sort of stuff. I have seen the suggestion that this is because they think in terms of starting with data from manuals (or whatever the modern equivalent is. Do they still have CRCs in their offices? I would guess not.) Where that data comes from is a black hole to them. So if they get a bug up their butt, they can decide to substitute data they like more. It’s just a different black hole. This presumes the field in question is not what they actually work in. I would be surprised to find an aerospace engineer who is a flat earther, though not to fine one who is an anti-vaxxer, for example.

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        • Two points, . 1. Engineering, as a profession, tends conservative. And that’s a good thing! I want a conservative designing the bridge I’m driving my rig over. I want someone who’s skeptical of innovative designs and materials to do that when my life is at stake.

          2. For a lot of STEM pursuits ideas like creationism or global warming are irrelevant. You can be a YEC and be a perfectly competent auto designer.

          But certain fields are more problematic. I read once about a YEC astrophysicist. And he reconciles his beliefs with the science with a theory that holds that creation started billions of years ago on a sort of universal “shell” and proceeded inward at the speed of light to converge on earth 6000 years ago. And he’s otherwise a respected and published scientist working on stellar physics. Just don’t ask him about cosmology, LOL.

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            • Tends to be older engineers as well*. Younger engineers are more likely to listen to the accepted science.

              *Remember that the BBT was first put forth in the 1920’s, and solid evidence for it wasn’t really found until starting in the 1960’s. There’s a generation or two of engineers still working for whom the BBT was a wild-assed idea.

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                  • When he did his big cosmological/astrophysics work — steady-state, stellar nucleosynthesis — he was an atheist. Late in life he talked intelligent design, but at the level of “if any of the nuclear constants were even slightly different, stellar nucleosynthesis would produce orders of magnitude less carbon, and if carbon were rare than the probability of the right carbon-based molecules developing goes down by at least the same orders of magnitude.”

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              • Another thing that blows my mind a little: Plate tectonics (old name: continental drift), which I was absolutely taught in my intro geo courses in the 80s, was not even widely accepted until the late 60s. My father, who is a geologist, probably had plate-tectonics-deniers as professors when he was an undergrad.

                the thing is, it explains SO MUCH. I guess I never had any trouble accepting it because in retrospect it seems to make such clear sense.

                Of course, in my own career I’ve seen the rise of stuff like epigenetics (which I don’t fully understand, but that’s OK, I just have to understand enough to teach the very basics) and the importance of the human gut biome as more than just “bacteria that help you digest beans.”

                I will say I think some of the epigenetics stuff (and probably some of the gut biome stuff) is WILDLY oversold in the popular press; I had a hard time finding a basic book on epigenetics that didn’t have a heavy helping of woo.

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                • Do you have a recommendation for such a book? Epigenetics was just starting to be a thing when I was in undergrad, such that I’ve learned more about it from the pages of Natural History and to some extent the Best American Nature and Science Writing series than I have anywhere else.

                  While I would love to read more, and could filter out the woo, I don’t really want to. And once in a while I gin up the energy to read proper journal articles, but mostly I am too lazy these days.

                  So if there is such a book, I’d be most delighted to read it!

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          • There’s conservative in the sense of “wary of innovative but untested theories / preferring redundant safety mechanisms” and then there’s conservative in the sense of “women’s place is in the home / taxation is theft / let starvation deal with the surplus population / prison should be maximally miserable so convicts come out with years of extra trauma hampering their every effort at rehabilitation”

            I’m pretty sure you can separate those two “convervatisms”. If anything, in my experience, the safety-consciousness kind of “conservatism” goes with the political “liberalism”. Maybe I don’t know enough engineers, or a nonrepresentative sample.

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    • — Honestly, I’d love to sit a flat earther down and make them do the math. All the math.

      Like, give them the actual global airline schedules and have them draw them on a flat map, accounting for velocity and distance.

      I want them to explain timezones. For example, I have a g/f living in Vancouver. Time is different there. When it’s a few hours past sunset here, it is still daytime there. How does that work?

      My ex-wife lived in South Africa. Time was different there also, in the other direction. She has relatives in Italy. She calls them sometimes (from the states). Noontime and midnight work differently in Italy.

      My coworker is married to a Chinese woman, who often flies home. Guess what! Time is different there.

      My GPS works. How?

      How does this work? Draw a map.

      #####

      Given enough variable and sufficient degrees of freedom, it is of course possible to fit any model to any data, but dammit you end up with a weird looking model.

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      • , Honestly, I’d love to sit a flat earther down and make them do the math. All the math.

        No, you don’t. It’ll make your head hurt.

        Like, give them the actual global airline schedules and have them draw them on a flat map, accounting for velocity and distance.

        The airlines are part and parcel of the global conspiracy. They’re lying to you about how far places are from each other and will deliberately take longer routes to maintain the illusion.

        I want them to explain timezones. For example, I have a g/f living in Vancouver. Time is different there. When it’s a few hours past sunset here, it is still daytime there. How does that work?

        That ones easy. The sun isn’t stationary of course; it’s a ball of fire that runs along an invisible track a few dozen miles in the sky, roughly over the circular path we mistakenly call the Equator. And the track wobbles in position over the course of the year to account for the seasons. Or something.

        So yeah, there are reasonably bright people–people who can do math, compose sentences, tie their shoes, etc– that have worked all of this out. It’s incredibly complicated, basically pre-Copernican, with epicycles on epicycles (and frogs on bicycles for all I know) and anything they can’t explain is just another lie perpetrated by the global conspiracy of the evil elites.

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        • The sun isn’t stationary of course; it’s a ball of fire that runs along an invisible track a few dozen miles in the sky, roughly over the circular path we mistakenly call the Equator.

          That makes little to no sense.

          For the most obvious question: Wouldn’t that mean we could still _see_ it at night? And if their answer is ‘it is too far away’…guys, we can literally see it go down behind the horizon. The sun doesn’t just get smaller and fade out. (This is why the sun, on Discworld, just goes around the thing, and everywhere mostly has day and night at the same time. (Except that the speed of the light is really low, so not quite.))

          For a slightly less obvious question: Wouldn’t this mean it was _literally impossible_ for the sun to pass directly overhead east to west?

          I mean, I guess that’s sorta inherent in the entire concept of a flat earth, because you have to assume all lines of longitude are actually circles, but those are fictional lines and you can just assert they are curved. But the path of the sun in the sky is not fictional. So instead of ‘east to west’, let’s try ‘straight line’. If you ever catch the sun moving overhead in a perfectly straight line (Like anyone in the Tropics will get literally twice a year), flat earth is impossible.

          Actually, the path of the sun problem is even worse than that, thinking about it. It’s especially dumb for Australia.

          This is a bit hard to for me to explain, but the sun appears to curve to the south for people north of it. I don’t just mean it _is_ in the south, but if you put up a pole to cast a shadow, the end of the shadow will curve as it moves.

          Now, I am not sure how the hell Flat Earthers explain this. They probably have some pseudo-nonsense to do so, and I can maybe imagine a way it makes sense….in the Northern Hemisphere.

          But the problem is, the sun absolutely, unequivocally, should _not_ be tracing the same (Or, rather, inverse) path in the Southern Hemisphere.

          In the north, they are _inside_ the circle of the sun, and in the south, they are _outside_. There is no way in hell to explain how the shadow appears to be behaving identically except with north and south flipped. There is perhaps some utter nonsense explanation that could cover how it works in the North, or some other utter nonsense about how it could work in the South, but they can’t _both_ be true.

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    • The articles I’ve read on it do seem to at least imply a religious motivation although it’s not terribly explicit.

      On the other hand, my daughter knows a guy from her high school graduating class that’s a flat-earther and his motivation doesn’t seem to be any deeper than “LOL, looks flat to me!” She describes him as “just this dumb little stoner” that barely managed to graduate. So he doesn’t subscribe to any particular permutation of flat-earth because he doesn’t actually understand the reasons why it doesn’t work.

      What trips me out is how incredibly complicated the theories get to try to accommodate observations of reality. Seasons, phases of the moon, gravity, etc. Take gravity for instance. One permutation of this holds that the flat earth is constantly accelerating “up” at 9.8 m/s^2. Well, props for grasping Einsteinian Equivalence I guess, but still…

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      • Which religions even suggest the earth is flat? I don’t think the shape of the earth is even really talked about in the bible (or if it is, it’s a metaphorical reference, rather than an actual claim).

        I just don’t understand what is to be gained by maintaining a global conspiracy of a round earth? Who is making bank or gaining power from this idea such that they can enforce the conspiracy?

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        • There is a strain of flat-earth fundamentalist Christianity. Even most young-earth fundamentalists look askance at those guys, but they have a point. If you are going to go all-in on Young Earth Creationism based on a “literal” reading of the Bible, then a similar “literal” reading produces a flat-earth ideology. Take a look here for an example.

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        • Which religions even suggest the earth is flat? I don’t think the shape of the earth is even really talked about in the bible (or if it is, it’s a metaphorical reference, rather than an actual claim).

          During the temptation of Christ by Satan, Jesus is taken to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world below, and Satan says they can rule together if Jesus will join the Dark Side by throwing God down the reactor shaft. (I might be confusing that with a movie.)

          So, anyway, if all the kingdoms of the earth are visible from a single mountain, the earth must be flat.

          I’ve never actually seen anyone take to this to the logical conclusion and claim that not only is the earth flat, but the government is hiding the existence of the largest mountain on the planet. A mountain that should presumably be able to be seen from all the kingdoms of the world, or at least most of them. (Mountains are smaller than nations, so I guess it might be hard to see from a few of the farther-off kingdoms.)

          I’ve _also_ never seen anyone point out that the whole ‘ships disappear in the ocean because of the atmosphere causing them to fade out’ theory that Flat Earthers invented to justify ‘the horizon’…makes ‘seeing the entire planet’ from a mountain kinda impossible. If things fade out of existence over just a few miles, how the heck is this mountain supposed to work?

          It’s Voodoo Sharks all the way down.

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          • So, anyway, if all the kingdoms of the earth are visible from a single mountain, the earth must be flat.

            Or, you know, this being Satan, he wasn’t actually showing Jesus all the kingdoms of Earth, because Satan lies, and Sauron does not share power!

            (Wait, now I’m confusing movies with reality! Damn it Dave!)

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      • One permutation of this holds that the flat earth is constantly accelerating “up” at 9.8 m/s^2. Well, props for grasping Einsteinian Equivalence I guess, but still…

        Zoidberg: (underwater) My home, it burned down! How did this happen!?
        Hermes: That’s a very good question!
        Bender: (picking up his still-lit cigar from the underwater ruins) So that’s where I left my cigar. (puffs on it, blows a smoke ring)
        Hermes: That just raises further questions!

        -Futurama, quote stolen from TV Tropes.

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      • I don’t agree with the flat earthers, but I gotta admit that I can’t prove the earth is round.* However, it’s probably not a big surprise that I have a certain fondness for such people.

        *As I understand, it’s not “round,” but kind of approaching a pear shape (for some values of “pear”). But of course, “round” means “round,” and anyone who hates SCIENCE is awful, end of story.

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    • And that’s the fascinating part of it for me as well. I mean the theory’s absolutely ridiculous rubbish that’s childishly simple to refute so that part isn’t even interesting. But how otherwise seemingly normal people could come to that belief and hold onto it like a dog with a bone despite all the evidence against it is perplexing.

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    • I worked with a lady (in a scientific research department at UCLA — she was an Administrative Assistant) who not only believed that the Earth was flat, but also square. “The Bible says that there are four corners,” she was always proud to inform us (though she didn’t mention why she assumed equal sides.) She was bright, a hard worker, a devoted mother, and was not at all embarrassed or hesitant to argue with the professors about her belief. Given all the positives she brought to the room, her less-than-universally accepted belief was tolerated with general good nature. She also liked to listen to distant thunder because: “That’s the Lord moving planets and such.”

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  3. So9 – I have decided I will be a ‘Convention Happeneder’.

    The convention _did_ happen, and all the governments of the world are suppressing it for some unknown reason, probably because the Bedford Level Experiment finally proved, once and for all, that the earth was flat.

    Everyone who says the convention fell apart and didn’t happen is part of the conspiracy.

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    • Sessions is about to use a rarely used AG power to make a really egregious decision. The Attorney General is the head of the Executive Office of Immigration Review. As such, he can refer immigration decisions to himself and rule on them. In 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that victims of domestic violence who aren’t protected by their home country’s government can receive asylum in the United States as members of a particular social group.

      In Charlotte Immigration Court, there is a notorious immigration judge named Stuart Coach. He has a very high asylum denial rate and behaves like a spat when reversed on appeal. He denied an El Salvadorean woman asylum on the domestic violence ground. The BIA reversed him and order him to grant the case if security checks came back clear. Rather than follow the BIA’s order, IJ Coach held onto the case for a year and a half while doing nothing before returning it to the BIA even though he can’t do that.

      This case is Matter of A-B. It is the case that Sessions referred to himself to determine whether victims of “private crime” may receive asylum. This case is so horrible and procedural irregular that even Trump’s DHS is begging Sessions not to use this case to make a ruling. Yet, Sessions is going to to it because he can.

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