Wednesday, 22 August 2007

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Thank You, God, For the Silicon in My Motherboard, the Carbon Dioxide I Expel, the Paper in My Book, &c. &c. &c. According to this article, "frozen smoke" or "Aerogel" is a "miracle material for the 21st century." All well and good. Until you read the comments. "Edmund Burke" opines: If it is produced in the laboratory, it is not a miracle. "Markangelo," from "Torrance, Amerika," responds: Why can't "GOD" make a miracle in the laboratory[?] "CK" of "DFW, Texas" answers his question: He did. The Universe that provides the elements that the scientists manipulate to make these wonderful things. Or, did you miss that? "AGS," from Chicago, attempts to bring some common sense to the proceedings: Please note that "miracle material" is not a theological term implying supernatural origin. It simply indicates unusually outstanding properties and applications that exceed the conventional by a wide mark. He is ignored. "Eric" of Atlanta merely repeats "CK"'s answer to "Markangelo"'s question: He made the silica gel, the carbon dioxide, and the brain of the man that has the arrogance to think he can "make" anything. All glory goes to God. Humanity arrogantly credits itself for His work in the world. To be honest, I hadn't noticed this mode of theistic complaint until it was brought to my attention yesterday. More Twain, again from Letters from Earth: If science exterminates a disease which has been working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes, he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it. That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time. When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God's work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, "Let tyrants understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds of his wrath upon them in his appointed day." They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives then, and annexes the dividend. For "Eric," "CK," and their ilk, nothing is possible without God, therefore all credit ultimately belongs to him. This is why home-runs lead to hosannahs: If God had not blessed a particular athlete with the skills required to hit a home-run, he never would have been able to the swing the bat (whittled from lumber of His stock),...
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On K.C. Johnson's Durham in Wonderland and Until Proven Innocent (The second installment can be read here.) With all due apologies to Ralph, Scott, Timothy, Miriam, and the rest of the good folk at Cliopatria, I've got to say: keeping K.C. Johnson on the roster does the rest of the contributors a disservice. He divined the truth of what happened in Durham on the night of March 13th long before the police announced the results of their investigation. He was correct. Those who believed three Duke lacrosse players had raped an African-American women were incorrect. Granted. But I spent an hour this afternoon catching up with Johnson's Durham-in-Wonderland. If the research presented on the blog is indicative of the content of his soon-to-be-published book—Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case—then I can only conclude that the book'll be positively Horowitzian in tenor and substance. Like Horowitz—and clocks twice a day—Johnson occasionally nails his target. Consider his series of profiles of the "Group of 88." That Wahneema Lubiano is a tenured associate professor in the Program in Literature with one edited volume on her CV and two monograph that've been perpetually forthcoming since 1997 infuriates me. It also infuriates every academic struggling for tenure, so the notion that her position is indicative of a general rot in the academic humanities is willfully misleading. One down, eighty-seven to go. Only he's not going to get to all eighty-seven. He's shutting down the blog when Until Proven Innocent's published in September, and as of August 30th had only written fourteen—and even that's being charitable, since the final three were group profiles. I can imagine the response: "So what? He's found fourteen intellectual frauds in a group of only eighty-eight professors! That's a damning percentage." It certainly is. Were he a baseball player, he'd be hitting a Ruthian .159. But he isn't even hitting that well. Consider his profile of Joseph Harris, the director of Duke's University Writing Program. He's published three books and numerous articles. His articles are published in the most important journals in the field of composition studies. He has what can only be described as a stellar publication record for someone working in composition and rhetoric. Johnson's dismissive description of the books—"each of which discuss how to teach writing"—is a blatant attempt to minimize the work of the entire field. (A field, I should add, whose lack of respect is often lamented by conservative critics when they bemoan the reading and writing skills of the contemporary college student.) What really galls me about Johnson's profile of Harris is his attempt to mislead his readers into believing statements like the following point to the liberal bias of Duke composition classes: In a 1991 essay, he asserted that composition classes should "teach students to write as critics of their culture," with "teaching itself as a form of cultural criticism, about classrooms that do not simply reproduce the values of our universities and cultures but that also work to resist and question them." That's about...

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