Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Points of Interest: Bat Loss, Patterns, Shariah

Bats like this one are dying en masse in the northeastern United States for unknown reasons. This could be very good news for midges, mosquitoes, and other flying insects that the bats hunt with such amazing grace. Oh, to have the power of sonar but for a day, adding it to our strong tendency to find patterns:

At a more general level, humans are extraordinary open-ended pattern detectors, because we so compulsively inhabit the cognitive niche. Art plays with cognitive patterns at high intensity. The pleasure this generates is an essential part of what it is to be human and matters both at the individual level, for audiences and artists, and at the social level, for the patterns we share (in design, music, dance, and story). The pleasure art’s intense play with patterns affords compels our engagement again and again and helps shape our capacity to create and process pattern more swiftly. Perhaps it even helps explain the so-called Flynn effect, the fact—and it seems to be one—that IQs have risen with each of the last few generations: perhaps as a consequence of the modern bombardment of the high-density patterns of art through television, dvds, music and iPods, computer games, YouTube and the like.
Flynn effect notwithstanding, Noah Feldman appears to have spent too much time ignoring patterns and admiring Shariah and not enough time inquiring as to its legitimacy, as Noah Millman points out:
Islamism in the Muslim world is a populist and reactionary movement. And populist reaction does not lead to his ideals of an enlightened clerisy that “checks” abuses of power. Literalism, obscurantism and pedantry are endemic features of populist, reactionary religion which is best understood as a feature of modernism rather than of traditionalism. One of the ways that fundamentalism, a reactionary response to modernism, absorbs modernism is by subverting traditional meritocratic authority – thus, preachers will appeal to the lowest-common-denominator believer by appeals to prejudice and simplistic interpretations, and authority is increasingly derived not from expertise (evaluated by other experts) but by authenticity (as perceived by the crowd).
The furtherance of Shariah is the furtherance of the rule of law? I call batshit.


mikesdak said...

Even if one accepts this idea, the advance of bad law, law that applies unequal standards and punishments, that systematically mistreats large numbers of those it affects, cannot be considered positive.

Dale said...

Noah Feldman needs to dislodge his head from the small space into which it is lodged. This sort of fatuous apologetics will, if left unchecked, give us exactly what he claims to want and then some, at which point he'll be stoned to death in a repurposed soccer stadium for lodging his head in an unholy place.