Archive for August, 2010


Cuccinelli Smackdown

August 31, 2010

The lawsuit against UVA and Michael Mann has been thrown out:

The University resisted the demand on both technical and broad constitutional grounds. Today Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr. of the Sixteenth Judicial Court of Virginia issued a six-page letter completely dismissing the CIDs issued by Cuccinelli on the ground that he shown no objective “reason to believe” that the University in fact possesses any “materials relevant to a false claims law investigation” and that he also did not state “the ‘nature of the conduct’ with sufficiency to satisfy the requirement of the statute.” I.e., the Attorney General is not given power by the statutes of Virginia to enage in what is the equivalent of a sweeping general warrant based on nothing more than his own ideological zeal and belief (even if sincere) that something was amiss.


Cullen on Colbert

August 31, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cullen on Colbert, posted with vodpod

The Cynical Environmentalist

August 30, 2010

Rajendra Pachauri just gave Bjørn Lomborg’s book an endorsement. Surprising news, I suppose, from the man who once compared Lomborg to Hitler. Evidently,

“Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. “Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century,” the book concludes.”

A philosophy graduate student writes privately with the following insight:

Of course, that’s $100 billion per year to solve the problem “by the end of the century,” i.e. in the next 90 years, which means $90 trillion dollars [sic]. Could it possibly cost that much? And take that long? You know, call me a cynic, but it sounds like he’s high-balling the cost and the time-span to make it seem even more daunting, demanding, and fiscally impossible, thereby lending credence to the skeptics. But that’s just the cynic in me.

Even if it’s just $9 trillion dollars, that’s still a lot of dough. Good magazine has a slightly different cynical take.

Has Pachauri been had?


IAC Report

August 30, 2010

The InterAcademy Council Review of the IPCC report has just been released. Roger has a summary overview at his site.


The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock

August 25, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock, posted with vodpod

Tenure and Jobs

August 24, 2010

Okay. Semester’s upon us. I’ve been slacking like a fishing line on my blog, but you guys keep coming back for more. Or, at least, my blog-hits are still on the high side. Apparently I can leave this puppy to sit for a while and people still come. Honestly, I’m flattered. Apologies for the delays. I’m working on a book and I’ve been deeply engaged in that project.

Here’s a thought that’s been irking me for a while. The philosophy blogosphere was a little nuts earlier last week with some garbage by Mark C. Taylor when he wrote on academic bankruptcy. I don’t agree with him about academic bankruptcy, and I think tenure is a pretty important institution, as I’ve argued before.

Today I read a piece on the philosophy job market. The author there rightly explains that it’s pretty dismal and that it’s nearly impossible to get a job. She laments this state of affairs as akin to sending out a message in a bottle.

Naturally, this raises a question posed succinctly by snwiedmann in the comments.  Here’s the thought that caught my eye:

When a small college offering only a one-year position receives 350 applications and a large university 750, isn’t time we began to examine the admission practices of our graduate programs?

My view is this: it is a pretty serious mistake to assume that the reason that people go to grad school in philosophy is because they expect (anticipate? feel entitled to?) a job on the other end. Surely, some people go to grad school in philosophy under the mistaken impression that they will waltz into a tenure-track job somewhere. I must assume, however, that these folks are in the minority. Most people enter grad school — or, at least, they should enter grad school — knowing full well that the likelihood of landing a job in philosophy, not to mention a good job in philosophy, is pretty slim.

It’s my attitude that just because there are few jobs available that this doesn’t at all call into question the admission practices of our graduate programs. I have two reasons for this:

1) I think there is intrinsic value in studying philosophy (or most other academic topics, though I’ll speak mostly about philosophy). If an undergraduate finishes her BA in philosophy and feels that she has only scratched the surface, feels that she would like to scratch deeper, who are we to stop her? Seems to me that we should encourage her to scratch deeper, to continue scratching, even if it involves living the life of a grad student for two to seven years or more. It’s a nice life. It’s rewarding. It’s fulfilling.

FWIW, this is exactly how I felt when I left my BA. I wanted more. I thirsted for more. And I entered my PhD knowing full well that the odds were against me ever landing a job. As it happens, the stars aligned in my favor, but I had no way of knowing this when I went to grad school. To hedge my bets, I got a professional degree that kept me sane; I carried at least some reassurance that I could always land on my feet. But even without the professional degree, my suspicion is that most graduate students can land on their feet if they really have to.

2) Accepting that there is intrinsic value in studying philosophy, but perhaps stipulating that the value is primarily extrinsic, I even still fail to see the logic in re-evaluating our admission practices. Why not instead re-evaluate the options at the back-end? Why not try to entertain, and even elevate, the status of non-academic positions? Or, perhaps seek to capture some more academic positions by creating new areas of study? Or, even more radically, push for philosophy to be taught at different levels, perhaps even in high school?

I, for one, feel that philosophy is deeply underutilized, and I think some (if not most) of the jobs crisis in philosophy falls squarely on the shoulders of a philosophical establishment that chastises innovation and deviation from a very small sample of questions.

My two cents. Discuss. I’ve got a book to work on.


Grizzly Moms

August 20, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Not in My Baqyard

August 19, 2010

This mosque business is getting ridiculous. Here, enjoy:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Thank Goodness

August 18, 2010

Mark Morford pounds it out with this one. (I don’t even know what that means… but his column was kinda funny.)

Thank God Global Warming is a Hoax

I mean, right? You know? Because gosh Jesus in angry apocalyptic heaven, wouldn’t it be just terrible if it were all true?

Wouldn’t it be horrible if all this stunning, insanely mounting, irrefutable evidence — death, floods, fires, heat waves, the worst this and the most violent that in 1,000 years — were some sort of surefire, cumulative sign that we have, if not directly caused, then wildly accelerated and amplified the imminent implosion of this planet?

But we didn’t! And we haven’t! And we aren’t! I mean, whew…


RoME is Finally Over

August 11, 2010

It was, as usual, a smashing success. Check out pictures here. As a counterpoint to the Opinionator blog at the NY Times, I think you’ll see that while we do have our fair share of ugly, we also have our fair share of decently-well put together.

RoME IV will be coming up soon — August 4-7, 2011 — and the CFP will be distributed soon. Abstracts are due on Feb 1, 2011.