The More Things Change … Part Two

I am happy to report that my back is doing much better now. Not quite good as new yet, but rapidly getting there.

In this previous post I mentioned that spending a lot of time flat on your back does allow you to get a lot of reading done. Lately I’ve been having a go at Bleak House, by Charles Dickens of course, first serialized in 1852 and 1853. The upside of a Dickens novel is that he wrote truly beautiful sentences. The downside is that he was never in much of a hurry to move the story along. But that’s just perfect for my present situation, since I haven’t been doing much “moving along” myself lately.

Anyway, here’s a cool paragraph:

Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state, and rarely bored. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man, to have so inexhaustible a subject. After reading his letters, he leans back in his corner of the carriage, and generally reviews his importance to society.

That, my friends, is good writing. It also helps set up my latest contribution to the “It Has Always Been Thus,” file. Try to read the following without thinking of a phrase like, “Inside the Beltway.”

Then there is my Lord Boodle, of considerable reputation with his party, who has known what office is, and who tells Sir Leicester Dedlock with much gravity, after dinner, that he really does not see to what the present age is tending. A debate is not what a debate used to be; the House is not what the House used to be; even a Cabinet is not what it formerly was. He perceives with astonishment, that supposing the present Government to be overthrown, the limited choice of the Crown, in the formation of a new Ministry, would lie between Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle — supposing it to be impossible for the Duke of Foodle to act with Goodle, which may be assumed to be the case in consequence of the breach arising out of that affair with Hoodle. Then, giving the Home Department and the Leadership of the House of Commons to Joodle, the Exchequer to Koodle, the Colonies to Loodle, and the Foreign Office to Moodle, what are you to do with Noodle? You can’t offer him the Presidency of the Council; that is reserved for Poodle. You can’t put him in the Woods and Forests; that is hardly good enough for Quoddle. What follows? That the country is shipwrecked, lost, gone to pieces (as is made manifest to the patriotism of Sir Leicester Dedlock), because you can’t provide for Noodle!

On the other hand, the Right Honourable William Buffy, M. P., contends across the table with someone else, that the shipwreck of the country — about which there is no doubt; it is only the manner of it that is in question — is attributable to Cuffy. If you had done with Cuffy what you ought to have done when he first came into Parliament, and had prevented him from going over to Duffy, you would have got him into alliance with Fuffy, you would have had with you the weight attaching as a smart debater to Guffy, you would have brought to bear upon the elections the wealth of Huffy, you would have got in for three counties Juffy, Kuffy and Luffy, and you would have strengthened your administration by the official knowledge and the business habits of Muffy. All this, instead of being as you now are, dependent on the mere caprice of Puffy!

As to this point, and as to some minor topics, there are differences of opinion; but it is perfectly clear to the brilliant and distinguished circle, all round, that nobody is in question but Boodle and his retinue, and Buffy and his retinue. These are the great actors for whom the stage is reserved. A People there are, no doubt — a certain large number of supernumeraries, who are to be occasionally addressed, and relied upon for shouts and choruses, as on the theatrical stage; but Boodle and Buffy, their followers and families, their heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, are the born first-actors, managers, and leaders, and no others can appear upon the scene for ever and ever.

Nope. Nothing familiar in that!


  1. #1 JimR.
    December 11, 2012

    Sir Boring Dedly having been interviewed by reporter Wolfe of the Huff&Puff Post was quoted as saying that we have it all wrong.
    “Platitudinous sayings abound, For every crisis around.
    New sources can be found, We can continually hound.
    Many are quite renowned, But so very tightly wound,
    Whom we can constantly pound, Only to hear our voice’s sound.”
    Wolfe loped off to ask Sir Dedly’s neighbors what they made of him, he was variously described as garrulous, occasionally querulous, but always meritless.

    I invite others to continue the story.

  2. #2 eric
    December 11, 2012

    Welcome, back! See what I did there? Heh.

    Anyway, if you feel like descending from the beauty of Dickens back to the tawdry world of the evolution/creation conflict, creationist Jason Lisle has written an essay claiming that all mathematics is creationist. Here’s a quote from the end of his article (italics in the original):
    “For the most part, secularists don’t even attempt to explain mathematics at all. Mathematics is an inherently creationist field of science.There are creation biologists and evolution biologists. There are creation geologists and evolution geologists. But when it comes to mathematics, everyone is a creationist.”

    Well, that ought to get your interest. 🙂

  3. #3 eric
    December 11, 2012

    Oops, I forgot an important credit: the Sensuous Curmudgeon pointed me toward that article.

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    December 11, 2012

    I haven’t read Bleak House, but I infer from this passage that Sir Leicester Dedlock is one of the unsubtly named characters Dickens is known for (a la Uriah Heep of David Copperfield). Amirite?

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    December 12, 2012

    eric —

    Thanks for the well wishes (and the pun!) Thanks also for the link to the Jason Lisle essay. I mentioned a while back that I was working on an article for Skeptical Inquirer about the ways in which religious apologists, creationists in particular, use mathematics in making their arguments, (a project which, alas, got put on the back burner when my back problems started) so this essay will fit right in. Lisle has been beating this drum for a while. I’ve only skimmed the present essay, but it looks pretty similar to Lisle’s book The Ultimate Proof of Creation. That little volume contains nuggets like this:

    Likewise, the evolutionist must use biblical creation principles in order to argue against biblical creation. In order for his argument to make sense, it would have to be wrong. Ironically, the fact that evolutionists are able to argue against creation proves that creation is true! (p. 45)

    As Jon Stewart would say, “Go oooooonnnnn…”

  6. #6 eric
    December 12, 2012

    I only scanned it but I would agree with your reading. Its the old “can’t have logic without a logic-maker” argument.

  7. #7 eric
    December 12, 2012

    I did, however, very much like the irony in SC’s commentary: here is a guy (Lisle) saying that Platonic forms only make sense in light of Christian theology. One wonders how Plato got by without it.

  8. #8 MNb
    December 12, 2012

    Hey Eric, don’t you have pity with JR? That article you linked to is so funny his back must hurt again – from laughing.

    “It’s not that 2+3 usually equals 5; rather, it always equals 5. There are absolutely no exceptions.”
    My first-graders know better. They learn that 2+3 can equal 1 (if anybody needs a hint: draw a clock of four hours).

    “We would expect different mathematical laws for different mathematicians”
    Now that’s a revelation. Given the stunning amount of scientific laws that are exactly the same for all scientists studying the field of research where they apply it is obvious that the entire science is divinely inspired! God formulated String Theory and Keynesian Economics!

    “The secularist is truly stuck when it comes to mathematics.”
    Excuse me, while I kiss the sky – I have some worshipping to do.

  9. #9 Kevin Dowd
    December 13, 2012

    I tried reading bleak house .. as you say Dickens was not too worried about moving the story along.. and I found myself skimming large sections looking for some thing that actually occurred.

    and at times I found it.. and it was bleak.. heroines wasting away, once promising young men reduced to penury by the expectation of a future allotment..

    My GF likes reading them more than I. I am more a history and science reader.

  10. #10 David
    two-dollar window at Pascal Downs
    December 13, 2012

    “We would expect different mathematical laws for different mathematicians”

    But we don’t find different laws — they’re all the same, just as they’re all the same in physics labs around the world! This is clearly proof of the wondrous and mysterious work of God! Just like we see that all religions have the same . . . uh, wait a minute . . .

  11. #11 Kevin Dowd
    December 13, 2012

    I am currently reading a tome titled “The Road to Reality” by Roger Penrose…(2005) wherein he starts with natural numbers and move briskly through reals, imaginary, complex analysis and group theory to particle physics to manifolds and GR and string theory…

    I am slogging through, as I either have forgotten or never learned most of the math I took.. but he gave a great explaination of why we use log e.

    which I had failed to grasp all these years.. in fact, I have forgotten it already and have to go back and re-read it. so it is a bit of a stretch..

    easier than “A modern introduction t oQuantum Field Theory” by Michele Maggiore .. (2005) by a long shot.

  12. #12 eric
    December 14, 2012

    Another off-topic thing you might be interested in, Jason:

    The Museum of Math opens tomorrow, Saturday, 15 December. Its in Manhattan, though, so you may want to wait until your back is up to a 5-hour car/bus ride.

  13. #13 atheistmorons
    December 14, 2012

    we really enjoy your atheist blog

    do a search on youtube for skepticality

    a little souvenir

    it is the video about the PIGS

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