February 13th, 2005

breaking bad

Slaughterhouse 5

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the bombing of Dresden. I live in Coventry, an ancient city which was similarly flattened by WW2 bombing. I am a massive fan of Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse 5 takes as its spring-off point the bombing of Dresden, which KV experienced at first hand. It is a very powerful anti-war story.

Innocently, Vonnegut took much of his information on Dresden from David Irving, an historian who has since been widely discredited as a Holocaust-denier and Nazi apologist. Many of Irving's claims on Dresden have been discredited (for instance he overestimated casualties by tens of thousands, and downplayed the tactical significance of the factories that were bombed).

Does this innocent error discredit Vonnegut's book? No way. Mass slaughter is a reality, and the emotional response to it is real. The political games played around that slaughter by those with axes to grind make no difference to the power of the book. A discussion of Irving, Dresden and war crimes on Crooked Timber.
breaking bad

Evolution proves creationism

I wanna be an evolutionary psychologist and get quoted in the papers. What should I do?

Take a local, but vigorously contested, social norm, invent a ‘just so’ story and assert that you have discovered a genetically determined universal.

Gotcha. The daft thing is - I do think human behaviour is influenced by genetic predisposition. I really do. It's just these idiots make it so hard not to snort with derision. Real evolutionary psychology is pretty uncontroversial - by definition. We know shutting someone in solitary confinement is a punishment, we know children like to play with toys, and adults like to gossip about each other. But where's the fun in asserting that?

How much better to 'prove' that the Republicans will always win elections because of the existence of the god gene?

Yes, that's right, there is a simple genetic explanation for universal religious belief. What? You thought religious belief was not universal? You thought religious feeling was a complex of different impulses, which varied massively between individuals and cultures? You thought that attributing religious belief to genetics was demeaning to both religion and atheism? Think again, commie.

Dr. Hamer even identifies a particular gene, VMAT2, that he says may be involved. People with one variant of that gene tend to be more spiritual, he found, and those with another variant to be less so.

That settles it I guess.