Tuesday, November 18, 2003



Spurred by a desire for the True and the Good, I've decided to explore the much used term ethnocentric.

For those who don't know, ethnocentrism is an adjective borrowed from anthropology which means "centered on a specific ethnic group, usually one's own." When used today, it is applied to groups wider than genetically related ethnic groups; it is applied to groups linked by culture, a common set of values, beliefs, and institutions.

We are told in our education to not be ethnocentric. We are told not to think our way is better than others. Essentially, we are told not to make value judgements.

Students are taught history and social science not so much to teach them about other times and places as to make them aware of the fact that their preferences are only that--simply preferences, accidents of their time and place. (Children cannot understand the issues, but they are easy to propagandize.) Students are not taught that there may be an absolute standard by which all cultures and values will be judged, for this would imply the superiority of some values and cultures over others.

We are told not to despise anyone or any practice. The rationale being that the need to be esteemed is a basic need of all men. So indiscriminateness is a moral imperative because its opposite is discrimination.

The flipside of indiscriminateness, i.e. lack of discernment, is that one cannot praise anyone or anything as good. Men are not permitted to seek for the natural human good and admire it when found, for such a discovery comes together with the discovery of the bad and contempt for it. Our instincts and our intellect must be suppressed by education. Our natural souls are to be replaced with artificial, hollow souls. And why? Because of the fear that people may take their beliefs seriously, may let their souls be felt.

Monday, November 17, 2003


Veteran's day was last week. We should pray for the safety of all involved in the military, and if at all possible, peace for all people.

As if real life military conflict weren't enough, I saw Matrix: Revolutions and didn't think it was that bad. But it left me wanting to know more about the history and future of the story of that world. Maybe there won't be anymore movies. Oh well. Machines as Satan and epic battles with machines as Armageddon is perhaps an eschatology whose time has come and gone. Somebody needs to tell that to the Terminator series as well.

Last week, I helped organize a small workshop on an interesting class of physical problems called "full body problems," in which two or more extended bodies interact, e.g., an asteroid pair, consisting of two irregularly shaped asteroids interacting through their gravitational potential. The workshop went well. I think I won't need to give another presentation until January 7. Whew... Maybe now I can finally focus on writing my thesis. I really need time to just focus on it.

Friday, November 07, 2003


Matt's Insistence

At Matt's insistence, which I consider a good thing, I am writing a blog. It isn't going to be about much, `cause I can't think of anything to say right now. There isn't going to be much in the way of gushy sentimentality about Jessica today. I think I'll reserve most of that for her alone. Although, here's a picture of us from a party last Saturday. Awww..

I got back from New York the day of the party, having spent a quiet Halloween night in Manhattan. John and Alison were very kind to put me up in their apartment in Harlem for the night. It was a crazy night of pizza, The Omen, and wearing a lampshade on one's head. During the trip, I saw a friend from long ago who I hadn't seen in nine years. Lori Yamato, who was in most of my classes from third grade to the end of high school, is alive and kicking in New York. She went to NYU and is now going to get a PhD in something (German philosophy?). It was cool to run into her and hear how things had been.

By the way, the workshop I went to was about an autonomous ocean sampling network using underwater torpedo-shaped robots. They need to do things like navigate the chaotic seas using small subtle onboard controls. The analogy with space probes navigating the chaotic gravitational field of the solar system is one reason I was there presenting my work. Mathematically the problems are similar and similar concepts and computational tools can be brought to bear on them both.

Speaking of the solar system, seems one of the twin Voyager probes may have left the solar system, although there is debate about exactly where the solar system ends and interstellar space begins. The next milestone will be when Voyager reaches another star system, which will be about 40,000 years from now.

On the philosophical side, Stephen Thrasher wonders whether anyone really debates. Do people approach a question with an open mind and look at both sides, or have they made up their minds from the beginning? For example, questions of faith and morality, or which religion is the true one, if there is a true one. Can such questions be answered by an open mind?

A related question is, Are colleges preparing adults to debate issues before coming to conclusions, or do they simply indoctrinate? Before one debates, one has to have a firm foundation of what brilliant minds and faithful co-religionists have thought and done. My impression is that many young people go into a "debate" about an issue with a fuzzy emotional attachment to one side or the other. Their minds are closed. And that is no way to settle an issue. St. Paul warned of something like this. And the answer is to be firmly rooted in known truths, truths which the faithful wrote down
long ago