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Showing posts from September, 2014

Referendum day

People have tended to see in the Scottish independence referendum what they wanted to. George Monbiot thinks it is a referendum on corporate influence in English politics. Labour supporters in England often tend to think it's about the Tories, and how best to fight them or be rid of them. Some people from the north of England I have spoken to think that it is a protest against the London-centric nature of Westminster politics, in the same family as their own such complaints.

I doubt that any of these things are right. And it still seems strange to me that people who are not Scottish and do not live in Scotland should have a view on "how they would vote" or "how Scots should vote" in this referendum. Of course they can have views on what the economic or political or constitutional consequences of independence would be. But people who don't live in that country and share in that identity just aren't placed to assess how those considerations should weigh a…

Dawkins, back in the day

I'm writing a piece about intellectuals on Twitter, which has naturally led me to be reading and thinking about Richard Dawkins. In the course of that, I came across this article, 'In Defence of Selfish Genes', written by him and published in the journal Philosophy in 1981. It's a gem, for reasons that couldn't possibly have been clear at the time:
"I have been taken aback by the inexplicable hostility of Mary Midgley's assault.' Some colleagues have advised me that such transparent spite is best ignored, but others warn that the venomous tone of her article may conceal the errors in its content."  "I deplore bad manners as strongly as anyone ..."  "She seems not to understand biology or the way biologists use language. No doubt my ignorance would be just as obvious if I rushed headlong into her field of expertise ..."  "I am not even very directly interested in man ... "  "In fact, of course, to the extent that …