Wow. Just go read it.
Slate’s Meghan O’Rourke has an interesting article on men who are sexually traumatized by watching women give birth.
Today’s women . . . see having the father in the delivery room as a necessary component of a healthy marriage, one in which both partners contribute equally to collective partnership. This is an absolutely reasonable request: Childbirth is scary and painful, and it makes sense to have reassurance and help from the person you’re closest to (and your child’s father). But the belief that men should be on duty no matter what assumes on some level that sex is just like all the other functions that the body performs. What the experience of the men in the therapist’s article suggests is that, for at least some, this isn’t true; for some, the erotic depends on maintaining a distinction between the sexual and the reproductive.
To the traumatized men, but also to some of these women, I say: it’s not all about you!
Despite my disappointment with the first installment of Guns, Germs and Steel, I went ahead and watched the second installment this week. Same impression.
I’ve concluded that I’m just not anywhere near the target audience for this show. The target audience must be people who’ve never really been introduced to the idea of history as interpretation and who, therefore, have never really questioned the more conventional presentations of history.
At the conclusion of the second installment, Professor Diamond states:
I came to Spain to answer a question – why did Pizarro and his men conquer the Incas instead of the other way around? There’s a whole mythology that that conquest and the European expansion in general resulted from Europeans themselves being especially brave or bold or inventive or smart, but the answers turn out to have nothing to do with any personal qualities of Europeans. Yeah, Pizarro and his men were brave, but there were plenty of brave Incas. Instead, Europeans were accidental conquerors. By virtue of their geographic location and history, they were the first people to acquire guns, germs and steel.
My response to that statement is ‘No duh!’ but the producers of this show must believe that this is a revelation to their target audience. I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the show and understand that it was just not made for me.
I’ve come across the name Jared Diamond a few times in the last year or two, and he sounds intriguing, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading any of his books. So, I was excited to hear that a three-part PBS documentary based on his book Guns, Germs and Steel would be broadcast starting this week.
So, I watched (most of) the first part this week, and the show disappointed me in several ways. First off, as noted elsewhere, it was slow (which is the primary reason I didn’t quite make it through the entire broadcast). But mostly, I found the presentation of the ideas insulting. The first episode explains how the availability of different resources (plants and animals to domesticate) led to different levels of cultural change in different parts of the planet in early human history. Good thesis, but it’s presented in two insulting ways: 1.) as if it is some revolutionary theory, and more importantly, 2.) as if Jared Diamond devised this theory all on his own. In fact, this is a long-established, uncontroversial academic theory, and Jared did not discover it; he is merely the popularizer.
In honor of U.S. Independence Day, Matt Haughey posted the entire Declaration of Independence to his blog. I hadn’t read it in years, and when I did so this morning, I was struck by two points: first, what a prime example of Enlightenment thinking the document is, and second, in a related matter, how it refers directly to “Nature’s God”–the god of the Enlightenment–not the Judeo-Christian god.
Re-reading the document makes me proud to live in a country that was founded on such high ideals, even if we so frequently don’t live up to them.
Xeni Jardin posted an entry on Boing Boing about a bakery in Brooklyn that stopped making cakes with images from customers due to litigation fears for copyright infringement. The entry also includees some feedback from BoingBoing readers about the legal situation.
I am not a lawyer, so I cannot comment on the legal issues. What I find sad is the scorched earth aspect: that the legal fears led to the bakery’s ceasing this service altogether.
Couldn’t the bakery apply some common sense: if a customer brings in an image that they know is copyrighted, decline to do it and explain why to the customer. And if a customer brings in an unfamiliar image, ask the customer what it is. If the cusotmer replies, “Oh, this is my daughter’s favorite TV character”, then decline and explain. But if the customer says it’s an original image and the bakery thinks the customer’s explanation is reasonable, go ahead and make the damn cake.
It’s a shame that a by-product of the current legal situation is the abandonment of good faith and informed judgment.
This smacks of ‘zero tolerance’ policies we often hear about.
I’m afraid I’m still living in the last century. Yesterday, we were showing our family quilts to some friends, and I explained that one of them had survived a flood with my grandmother “in ’97.” Without stopping to calculate the probable timeline of my family, our friend responded, “1897?” Of course, I’d meant 1997.
Then, this morning, I was composing in my head a blog post about a book I’m reading. It takes place in ‘turn-of-the-century Buffalo, NY,’ I thought. To me, I realized, ‘turn of the century’ refers to the turn from the 19th to the 20th century. I’m not sure that’s true with everyone. Maybe I’m just getting old…
The Theory of Evolution: Just a Theory?, by William D. Rubinstein, has been making the blog rounds the last few days. PZ Myers has already posted a thorough critcism of how Dr. Rubenstein misrepresents the scientific method and the science behind evolution.
At the beginning of the essay, Dr. Rubinstein claims that his questions are not motivated by religious belief, but then he goes on to employ several common creationist attacks on evolution. After I read his essay, I immediately concluded that his claim about motivations must surely be disingenuous.
While I totally disagree with Dr. Rubinstein’s arguments and conclusions, I have a certain appreciation for his rhetorical methodology. He has been effective at getting people to take his essay sersiously.
Let’s take a look at his rhetorical framing, starting from the beginning of the essay:
Historian Prof. William D. Rubinstein shares his doubts about the theory of evolution. He raises questions about evolution to which he seeks answers.
Like most people with enquiring minds, I have at least a desultory interest in many fields beyond my own narrow specialty, including the mysteries of science. I am not a scientist, needles to say, although I think I have as much common sense as the next man and probably more in the way of an independent viewpoint than most.
Dr. Rubinstein starts off by establishing his intellectual credibility and by distancing himself from ‘scientists.’ By mentioning his ‘independent viewpoint,’ he plants the idea that scientists who support evolution may not be motivated purely by academic objectivity.
Furthermore, he appeals to common sense, implying that anyone who sees the scientific data without an agenda should find the same questions as he himself.
I have thus long been fascinated by the great dogma of the Theory of Evolution, which of course was formulated by Charles Darwin in his seminal work On the Origin of Species in 1859, probably the most important book published during the nineteenth century. The Theory of Evolution in its commonly-voiced form has long struck me as having so many dubious features that it is genuinely surprising that it has not attracted many more challenges than it actually has – although (I gather) a growing number of scientifically-trained commentators are also having their doubts.
In the next paragraph, Dr. Rubinstein continues his themes from the introduction. His ‘genuinely surprising’ statement again appeals to common sense and implies that anyone who does not question the ‘dubious features’ is working on some other, presumably prejudiced, basis. Furthermore, his use of the word ‘dogma’ in relation to evolutionary theory supports his implication that evolution’s supporters are prejudiced.
One reason for the failure of scientists to challenge Evolution is that the whole subject is tainted and pervaded by the religion vs. science question, such that anyone who questions Evolution is automatically dismissed as a “Creationist” who believes in the literal truth of the Bible and who is seen as having an agenda of religious fundamentalism behind his doubts. Let me make clear, then, that I am not a religious fundamentalist…
The next statement is Dr. Rubinstein’s pièce de résistance. The most common criticism of creationists is that they are motivated by religious dogma. Dr. Rubinstein draws together threads of the previous paragraphs and turns this argument against the scientists themselves, claiming that they are the ones who stick to dogma in the face of (presumably valid) criticism. Having established that, he claims that his questions are indeed not subject to any prejudice.
After having masterfully framed his argument, Dr. Rubinstein devotes most of the rest of the essay to the time-worn arguments of most creationists. The fact that so many people seem to be taking him seriously attests to the success of his rhetorical framing.
Breast cancer is a big issue in Katie’s life: her maternal grandmother died of it; her mother has had two types of it and is currently living with metastasized bone cancer. I just ran across two interesting contrasting commentaries by breast cancer victims: noted feminist Barbara Ehrenreich, and a recent Newsweek “My Turn” commentary.
This morning, I heard a radio advertisement for a furniture store. The ad claimed that their current sale “is the most looked forward to event of the year.”
Why not just “most anticipated”? Poor copyediting?