14 July 2004

Miscellaneous Ire

Howard Dean provides Exhibit 4,716,942 supporting a strong (not impenetrable—that's impossible) and high wall between church and state. It's an excellent article; but it's only part of why I'm irrasced this morning.

I am sick of the disdain for the visually impaired that is taking over news reporting on the Internet. Frankly, I don't give a [insert expletives here] for the convenience of programming ads on news sources, or unstoppable automatic updates that interfere with fax transmission and receipt. If I want a rich multimedia experience dominated by ads, I can always turn on the idiot box. I'd really rather that what is fundamentally a text-based medium doesn't move that way. With a little more effort—say, 20 minutes' worth, which is what it took me to redo the Washington Post's front page—and judicious use of SSIs (which actually make accurate updating more reliable), any news outlet can make its format friendly to a text-only reader without sacrificing its ads. However, too often it's the S&M and ad-designer folks who end up both designing the intended look and doing the programming. Designing the look is one thing; we can probably educate some of them on these issues. They're not programmers, though; and the Washington Post is far from the worst offender (been to CNN's website lately using a dialup connection?).

In any event, Dr. Dean's description of the Bush Administration's attitude toward science is, if anything, rather understated and overly generous concerning motivation. Professor Leiter was also much too gentle yesterday, at least at first; he remained rather civil when discussing the "arrogance" of science. All of this points out the importance of the distinction between speaker and viewpoint. Admittedly, there are a lot of arrogant scientists out there who simply cannot accept the possibility that they and their theories are less than perfect. There are even more theologians with that attitude; but that's not the point here. Even where so closely linked, though, allowing one's disapproval of the speaker to conclusively reject the speaker's position is intellectually lazy at best. The whole point of science is to apply the intellect to the universe and discern replicable and predictive explanations for how it works as a matter of proximate cause. Mixing considerations of first cause in there takes one outside of science; and calling a panel of advisors "scientific" under such circumstances would violate the FTC Act, if the government itself was subject to it.