Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Stephen Hawking

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Wrong about Philosophy

I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s absolutely wonderful to have scientists as public intellectuals, making science more comprehensible to laypeople and raising its public profile. However, in a recent podcast, Tyson dismissed the intellectual value of philosophy. Given that I do quite a bit of that here, I feel a duty to stand up for myself and for those others who take an interest in political and moral philosophy. I wish to emphasize that I’m a great fan of much of Tyson’s work, and it pains me to have to write a piece like this about something he said, but it has to be done.

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Mechanics and Statesmen

I have spent a lot of time in academic institutions the last several years. There is a level of insularity to such places, of being in a kind of bubble. Being in places in which most everyone around you shares interests that are similar to your own has a distorting effect on the mind. I often hear students complaining about the limits of conversation outside the hallowed halls, of having to talk small or explain their work to “general readers”. There is a certain level of incredulity to these accounts. We forget the extent to which our specializations are niche when we are surrounded for extended periods by others who share them. We know, on some level, that we are oddballs, that most people do not share our idiosyncrasies and predilections, but we nonetheless often find ourselves projecting our interests onto people who not only do not share them, but find the subjects that amuse us thoroughly boring. There is a group of people out there, a group that comprises most of the human species writ large, that not only does not read this blog or blogs like it, but cannot so much as comprehend what anyone would find interesting or worthwhile about such things. They are the disinterested, the apathetic, the politically indifferent. Confronted by these individuals, we rationalize our eccentricity by disparaging and devaluing them, by implying that it is in some “immoral” not to share the political or philosophical inclination. This piece I dedicate to the indifferent, to those who will never read it, and I write it in their defense.

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Stephen Hawking’s Israel Boycott

Stephen Hawking was scheduled to do a conference in Jerusalem, but has backed out, choosing to respect the academic boycott of Israel. The academic boycott seeks to show the Israeli case to be analogous to the South African case–during the apartheid era in South Africa, many academics chose to boycott that country. Is Stephen Hawking right to respect the academic boycott?

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