Quick Roundup 318

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reason Blamed for Terrorism

In yesterday's post, I neglected to mention yet another blog I have recently encountered, Applying Philosophy to Life, by KM.

He recently unearthed an article in The Times of India that basically blamed a "correlation between engineering and terrorism" on the fact that engineering is a rational discipline. The passage he quotes is italicized below.

Engineers consider themselves problem solvers, and when the world seems to present a problem, they look to engineering-type solutions to solve it. Engineering, Gambetta and Hertog suggest, predisposes its votaries to absolute and non-negotiable principles, and therefore to fundamentalism; it is a short step from appreciating the predictable laws of engineering to following an ideology or a creed that is infused with its own immutable laws. It is easy for engineers to become radicalised, the researchers argue, because they are attracted by the "intellectually clean, unambiguous, and all-encompassing" solutions that both the laws of engineering and radical Islam provide.

This is partly true and partly and viciously false. The method of engineering is the method of science. The principles and laws of science are indeed absolute and non-negotiable. But they are not just that. Unlike religious principles, they are objective, evidence-based, verifiable and demonstrably true. To the extent that an engineer is attracted to radical religion, he is denying the validity of the scientific method.
I would add only that the notion from modern philosophy that reason is incapable of providing certainty is doubtless what makes it so easy for these sociologists to regard engineering and religion as similar based on the fact that both claim to provide certainty -- despite their essential difference in method.

And yes, I did also remember to add a link to the right!

Objectivist Roundup

This week's edition is being hosted by Nick Provenzo over at Rule of Reason. Take a look!

Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

I got a kick out of this article on the technological applications of the fact that there is a range of sound frequencies that can be heard almost exclusively by teenagers and young adults.

First, someone, probably from my age bracket, realized that he could use the frequency for crowd control:
As the security device inventor contemplated the problem, he recalled from his teens the awful buzz of an ultrasound welding machine at his father's glue-plastics factory. He remembered that his complaints about the noise would be met with a quizzical look from workers: "What noise?"

From that impulse to help rid his local market of loiterers came his invention, "the Mosquito," an electronic contraption that emits a high-pitched pulsating sound that can mostly be heard only by teens and people in their early to mid-20s. It works because an age-related hearing loss called presbycusis reduces the ability to hear high-pitched sounds after the late 20s. The device is mostly inaudible to older adults, young children and pets. [bold added]
But kids can be pretty swift, too....
Young people, meanwhile, have turned the table on the technology. Many have downloaded the sound onto their cell phones, creating a ring tone that they can hear but older adults can't. Teen Buzz, a short Mosquito ring tone, has become among the most downloaded ring tones worldwide. Some use it to alert high school classmates of recently sent text messages. For others, it's come in handy when parents curtail use of their cell phones. [bold added]
Back in my Navy days, my hearing test results were quite impressive. Now, I'm going to have to look for that sound on the web somewhere to learn whether I am one of those rare adults who can actually hear this.

Of course, if I don't get around to it and I can hear this, I imagine I'll find out soon enough!

Gold Certificates

Amit Ghate has been posting actively over at Thrutch lately, and I found his post on gold certificates interesting. Says his co-blogger Rob Tarr, "[I]t's hard to believe [the pictured bill] existed less than 100 years ago."

My grandfather lived to be nearly a hundred, so I use him as a sort of "century-stick" to help me put that time span in human terms. If we can go away from using gold as a currency to fiat money in that time span, we can certainly return to using gold in a comparable span.

Such a goal may sound daunting, but a century is not really that long a time, and similarly great political changes for the better have been made in a similar span. After all, our nation went from having slavery to abolishing it during a similar time span. Great changes can be wrought in decades by men of principle, as I learned in Telluride.

And, by the way, his orchids are in bloom!

-- CAV


Brad Harper said...

Ringtones here...


17.4 is the highest I can hear @ 32.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for finding that link.

I can hear them all, although 20-22 kHz were VERY faint.

It's neat to know that I can still hear in that range!

C. August said...

At about 20 kHz, I can barely hear anything. In fact, I can't tell whether I'm just hearing the buzz of current through the speakers, or the tone itself. This is because the three highest frequencies sound exactly the same to me. So I think I'm not hearing the intended tone, but rather some other by-product.

Man, I can certainly see my kids doing something like this in a few years. Though by the time they're teens (10-ish years) there will probably be a whole new set of technologies they can use to fool us old fogeys.

Gus Van Horn said...

Probably so, and worse for Mrs. Van Horn and myself since we haven't yet had kids!

When I think of that fact, I recall a crack David Letterman made shortly after he learned that, at the tender age of 56, he was about to become a dad: "Well, by the time he's old enough to start getting into trouble and stealing cars, I'll be dead!"

Amit Ghate said...

Thanks for the links Gus! And interesting about the frequencies and their use. I can hear up to 17.4 quite clearly, above that I only hear a few "clicks".

Brad Harper said...

Hmmm, after a few hours of concentration (programming and a guitar lesson), and a bit of caffeine I can now hear up to 20 kHz. I can *feel* the highest one, but not really hear it. This morning my wife (an audiologist) was adamant that according to the results of my last screening, I should be able to hear the higher frequencies.

Gus Van Horn said...


C. has me wondering now whether I really heard, 20, 21, or 22 kHz. They all sound the same to ME. But they DO differ from 19 kHz, so I know I'm not dead yet!

Anonymous said...

"Reason blamed for Terrorism"

You might be interested in a recent post of mine, which is very much relevant to this topic.


K. M. said...

I am flattered by your attention and thankful for the increase in visibility. I should tell you that it was your blog, among other things that influenced me to start blogging.

K. M.

Anonymous said...

It was good of you to include HOS on your list of Objectivist organizations.


Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the pointer. I think that on the level of implicitly rational people being "sucked in" to thinking that something like communism is a rational system of thought, you have a good point.


You're welcome, and your blog seems to be off to a good start.

And I'm glad I influenced you to start blogging. Welcome to the blogosphere!


You're welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

(For other newcomers, you can find my list of external links here. I haven't updated the "Local Organizations" in awhile, so if you know of any local Objectivist clubs I'm missing, feel free to drop me a line.)


Anonymous said...


Er... perhaps I ought to be a bit less cryptic.

I was actually going for an explanation as to how this nutbar Tharoor could even conceive of claiming that engineers and terrorism have anything in common. It's the frozen abstraction that people have jammed in place of the actual definition of the word - reason.

If Tharoor knew what reason really is - what it really is for, then such a claim could not even be thought up, much less uttered.


Gus Van Horn said...