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Politics, science, and neutral language: Noam Chomsky edition

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From Marek Kohn at New Scientist, in a review of Chris Knight’s Decoding Chomsky:

Researchers have devised different ways to create firebreaks between values and data. According to anthropologist Chris Knight, Chomsky’s strategy was as radical as his politics – and he developed it in order to enable himself to sustain his left-wing political commitments.

In his new book Decoding Chomsky, Knight (who mounts his own critique from a position on the radical left) argues that Chomsky needed to deny any connection between his science and his politics in order to practise both while based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an institution that was heavily funded by the US military.

This required detaching language from society altogether. Chomsky built an idealised model of language, stripped of its social fabric and removed from the hands of the anthropologists who had traditionally provided linguistic data. “If language could be reduced to pure mathematical form – devoid of human significance – its study could be pursued dispassionately,” Knight observes, “as a physicist might study a snowflake or an astronomer some distant star.”

No wonder culture analyst Tom Wolfe blew it out of the water in The Kingdom of Speech.

Now for a non-solution to science’s troubles today:

Trenchant and compelling as Knight’s critique of Chomsky is, few scientists would follow him all the way to his concluding vision of science united with revolutionary politics. More.

com.linkedin.stickers.coffee_11.png It’s worse. Most people in North America today think that the remote was invented in order to properly respond to angry radicals.

See also: Tom Wolfe’s take on Chomsky: Andrew Ferguson reviews Wolfe’s Kingdom of Speech at Commentary

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One Reply to “Politics, science, and neutral language: Noam Chomsky edition

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “Chomsky built an idealised model of language, stripped of its social fabric and removed from the hands of the anthropologists who had traditionally provided linguistic data. “If language could be reduced to pure mathematical form – devoid of human significance – its study could be pursued dispassionately,” Knight observes, “as a physicist might study a snowflake or an astronomer some distant star.””

    And seeing how language is reducible to mathematics according to the naturalistic thinking of Chomsky and his followers, can any Atheist point me to the exact mathematical equation that will produce the complete works of Shakespeare when I plug that equation into a computer?

    Human consciousness is much more than mere brain activity, – Mark Vernon – 18 June 2011
    However, “If you think the brain is a machine then you are committed to saying that composing a sublime poem is as involuntary an activity as having an epileptic fit. …the nature of consciousness being a tremendous mystery.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm.....n-activity

    Failing that, perhaps an Atheist can at least point me to the exact computer program that will eventually be able to produce the mathematical equation that will eventually be able to produce the complete works of Shakespeare?

    “the intellect (is) immaterial and immortal. If today’s naturalists do not wish to agree with that, there is a challenge for them. ‘Don’t tell me, show me’: build an artificial intelligence system that imitates genuine mathematical insight. There seem to be no promising plans on the drawing board.,,,”
    James Franklin is professor of mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

    Cantor, Gödel, & Turing: Incompleteness of Mathematics – video (excerpted from BBC’s ‘Dangerous Knowledge’ documentary)
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1119397401406525/?type=2&theater

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    – Kurt Gödel

    The danger of artificial stupidity – Saturday, 28 February 2015
    “Computers lack mathematical insight: in his book The Emperor’s New Mind, the Oxford mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose deployed Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem to argue that, in general, the way mathematicians provide their “unassailable demonstrations” of the truth of certain mathematical assertions is fundamentally non-algorithmic and non-computational”
    http://machineslikeus.com/news.....-stupidity

    And seeing as it is completely ludicrous for someone believe that a mathematical equation could ever produce the complete works of Shakespeare, then why do Atheists insist on believing against all reason that there can ever be a mathematical formulation, i.e. a scientific explanation, as to how the far more sophisticated language of the 3 billion letters in our DNA came to be?

    John Lennox – Is There Evidence of Something Beyond Nature? (Semiotic Information) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6rd4HEdffw

    As my Mom might of said if she would have heard that someone was trying to find the mathematical equation that could write Shakespearean sonnets just as good as Shakespeare himself could, “An ounce of common sense outweighs a million pounds of book sense”!

    Or as Shakespeare might have said:

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

    Of related note to computer programs and Shakespeare: I highly recommend Wiker & Witt’s book “A Meaningful World” in which they show, using the “Methinks it is like a weasel” phrase, (that Dawkins’ used from the Shakespeare’s play Hamlet to try to illustrate the feasibility of Evolutionary Algorithms), actually proves the opposite of what Dawkins intended

    A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature – Book Review
    Excerpt: They focus instead on what “Methinks it is like a weasel” really means. In isolation, in fact, it means almost nothing. Who said it? Why? What does the “it” refer to? What does it reveal about the characters? How does it advance the plot? In the context of the entire play, and of Elizabethan culture, this brief line takes on significance of surprising depth. The whole is required to give meaning to the part.
    http://www.thinkingchristian.n.....821202417/

    Richard Dawkins’s Weasel Program Is Bad in Ways You Never Dreamed – Jonathan Witt – September 23, 2016
    Excerpt: “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.”,,,
    The whole scene and the wider tension between the two men, in other words, actually involves Polonius’s refusal to see intelligent design where it actually exists — namely, in the designed death, the murder, of old King Hamlet. Polonius attributes the old king’s death to purely blind, material causes when in fact the king’s death was intelligently designed — that is, foul play.
    Richard Dawkins Is Polonius
    One parallel to the origins science debate, then, is that Richard Dawkins is a modern day Polonius: He ignores the evidence of intelligent design that should be abundantly clear to him.
    And the moral, if we’re willing to draw a line so far afield from the original play to our present context: Don’t be Richard Dawkins. Don’t mistake an intelligent cause for a natural one. Don’t miss the wider context:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....03162.html

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