All Hail Science!

Memo to progressives: Unlike God, science doesn’t care if you believe in it.

Dear Reader (Unless you’re at the screening of Al-Qaeda Sniper),

亲爱的读者(除非你恰好在看《基地组织的狙击手》(Al-Qaeda Sniper)这部电影),

All of us are equal in the eyes of God and the law — or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. (Though the fact that Jon Corzine has neither been hit by lightning nor carted off to jail sometimes causes me moments of doubt on both fronts.)

无论在法律还是上帝面前,我们都是平等的——至少本该是这样。(尽管Jon Corzine既没遭雷劈也没被扔进监狱这一事实,让我时常对此感到疑惑)。

I try pay lip-service to the same principle about readers of this “news”letter, but let’s face it. That’s not true. Nearly all G-File readers are cherished, but not all are cherished equal.


(And, in a year or two when my next book comes out, the great schism in my heart will be between those of you who eagerly purchase my book, and you shameful free riders who, for years, were perfectly happy for me to throw you the gold Aztec idol week after week, but now refuse to throw me the whip as promised, saying “Adios, Señor.” This is the quid people, my next book will be the pro quo. If you assume each Goldberg File I’ve written is worth a quarter, you should probably convert it into zombie-apocalypse currency and assume it’s equal in value to a can of dog food, six dead D batteries, or a fully operational calk gun. But the price is what the market will bear, and even at that valuation, it would more than cover the price of my forthcoming magnum opus for any longtime reader. You have been put on notice.)

(并且,等一两年后我的新书出版时,我内心会在两类人之间撕扯:一类是那些迫不及待想要买书的读者,另一类则是那些可耻的搭便车者,多年来,他们满心欢喜地盼着我一周周地把阿兹特克金像(the gold Aztec idol)扔给他们,却不愿如之前说好的那样把鞭子给我扔过来,临走时只留下一句“再见,先生。”(“Adios, Señor.”西班牙语)。我的下一本书需要你用东西来交换的。如果你觉得我写的每一本G-File值得上一毛钱,或许你应该按僵尸界的汇率把它兑换成一罐狗粮、六个D号废旧电池或者一把铆钉枪。当然,书的价格应当是市场可以承受的,并且,对于我的长期读者,我即将出版的煌煌巨著应该是对得起它的标价的。我可是通知你们了哦。)【译注:这里有关阿兹特克金像和鞭子的哏出自电影《夺宝奇兵》。】

I bring this up because Charles Krauthammer is a reader of this “news”letter which, like seeing a spider monkey in your brand new kitchen making crème brûlée with a blowtorch, is both cool and scary. Why it’s cool should be obvious. He’s the Hammer. It’s scary because … he’s the Hammer.

我提这茬,是因为得知查尔斯·克劳萨默(Charles Krauthammer)也是这封“新闻信”的读者,这就像看见一只蜘蛛猴在你的崭新厨房里用喷灯做焦糖布丁,让人不知道该觉得有趣还是害怕。说他有趣的原因很明显,他是“锤子”,说他让人害怕是因为……他可是铁锤查理啊。【译注:注意Krauthammer中的hammer,意为锤子,铁锤查理(Charles Martel)则为查理大帝的祖父,法兰克王国实际掌权者,加洛林王朝奠基者,以武功著称的军事天才。】

I try very hard not to put a face to my readers because, frankly, this thing is sometimes so stupid and self-indulgent if I imagined a real person reading it, I’d push the keyboard away. It’s best if I write this thing like a message in a bottle going to no one.


And the last thing I need for my performance anxiety is to imagine Charles Krauthammer is the guy unspooling my missive from that bottle. The only thing worse would be to imagine George Will standing behind Charles looking over his shoulder and tsk-tsking all of my split infinitives. And yet, to my dismay, Will, too, has told me he on occasion comes by here. I feel like Martin Short in a synchronized-swimming routine.

唯一比这更糟的事,就是想象乔治·威尔(George Will)也站在查尔斯身后,目光越过他肩膀落在信上,看到文中的分裂不定式,不住地摇头。并且,同样令我沮丧的是威尔告诉我,他只是恰巧经过这里而已。我的感觉就像是马丁·肖特(Martin Short)在花样游泳。【译注:指马丁·肖特在周六夜现场节目中拍的一个搞怪视频短片。】


Anyway, Charles is a big fan of “unpaired words.” I don’t mean words with the Bluetooth turned off. I mean … hmmm … how do I explain?

总之,查尔斯是个“不成对单词(unpaired words)”爱好者,“不成对单词”并不是指你的设备在蓝牙没有配对时发出的提示,它指的是……额……我该怎么解释呢?【译注:在英语中,有些词汇是它的否定形式曾经同时存在,比如“innocent”和“nocent”。随着人们词汇使用习惯的改变,这些单词只有其否定形式被保留下来,肯定形式则很少再被使用,下文中作者大玩文字游戏,将出现很多由这种“不成对单词”拼凑的句子。】

Well, many times, during the commercial break on Special Report, we’ve gone back and forth — brandy snifters in hand — talking about how we need a president with more feck running an ept and gormful foreign policy.

好吧,在“特别报道”(Special Report)的广告时间,我们常常举着白兰地酒杯来回踱着步,谈论着我们需要一位“强势”(feck : feckless)总统来执行“精妙”(ept : inept)、“高明”(gormful : gormless)的外交政策。

These conversations usually take place after the make-up lady comes into the studio to make sure that we look kempt and shevelled. Well, last Wednesday, the topic came up again, and we kept bandying them about. Which made me think, “This is pretty cool.” It also made me think, “This would be a good riff for the G-File.”

此时,化妆助理通常会来到直播间确保我们看起来“干净”(kempt : unkempt)、“整洁”(shevelled : dishevelled)。就在上周三,我们又一次聊到了这个话题,并为此争吵不休。这让我感觉很有趣,同时也想,或许可以成为我写G-File的好题材。

Still, I’m hoping that he isn’t gruntled by this somewhat nocuous and entirely effable effort to rip off one of his favorite parlor games. Indeed, I could have dropped this choate schtick without name-dropping Charles, which might have made it seem less petuous, but why leave my motivation unbeknownst when it can be beknownst?

尽管如此,我希望他不要因为我们尝试对他最喜爱的室内游戏之一进行有点“恶意”(nocuous : innocuous)且“直白”(effable : ineffable)的剽窃而“高兴”(gruntled : disgruntled)。事实上,当我展示这些“低级”(choate : inchoate)把戏时,提起查尔斯的大名不过是为了借此抬高自己。这么说或许不够“谨慎”(petuous : impetuous),但是如果可以“公开”(beknownst : unbeknownst)我的意图时,又何必要“隐瞒”(unbeknownst)呢?

Better to go communicado and cognito, I say. Particularly when I’m still throat clearing as I try to scrounge up a real topic to discuss. Still, I fear I seem quite chalant as I search for sipid things to say. If I don’t work harder, this “news”letter will never be combobulated. (“I don’t want to disrupt your flow here, so I’ll rupt it. But you should know this all comes across as soucient and below even your pareil writing style. I would have thrown this whole thing out the window, but you opted to fenestrate it.” — The Couch)

我想,“开诚布公”(communicado and cognito : incommunicado and incognito)总是好的。特别是在我找到一个真正的话题之前,需要用这个来拖延下时间。并且,在我急于寻找“有趣的”(sipid : insipid)话题时,会担心自己显得“紧张不安”(chalant : nonchalant)。如果我不更加努力工作,读者是不会对这封“新闻信”感到“满意”(combobulated : discombobulated)的。(沙发发话了:我不想在这里“打断”(disrupt)你们,所以我就“继续”(rupt : disrupt)了。但是你应当清楚,所有这一切都是被“精心”(soucient : insouciant)组合起来的而且甚至比不上你们“匹配”(pareil : nonpareil)写作的水平。我本该把所有写的这些都扔到窗外去的,但是这可是你们选择看下去的。)

All Hail Science

So my column from yesterday was about the quizzing of Scott Walker and other Republicans about evolution. This is an incessant question every four years. And while it deserves to be cessant, it will never will be. (Okay, I’m done now.)

我昨天的专栏探讨了对Scott Walker和其他共和党人如何看待有关进化论的盘问,这个问题每隔四年就会被提出来,从未中断。这个问题本该“停止”(cessant : incessant)了,却永远停不下来。(好了,文字游戏到此为止。【译按:我的噩梦也终于结束了】)

As many have noted, liberals in and out of the media are very selective in their celebration of science. Guy Benson reminded me of this nicely splenetic post I wrote three years ago in the Corner:

很多人也注意到了,在与媒体打交道时,自由派对科学的赞颂是有选择性的。Guy Benson让我想起自己三年前在专栏里写下的这段怒气冲冲的文字:

Why does the Left get to pick which issues are the benchmarks for “science”? Why can’t the measure of being pro-science be the question of heritability of intelligence? Or the existence of fetal pain? Or the distribution of cognitive abilities among the sexes at the extreme right tail of the bell curve?


Or if that’s too upsetting, how about dividing the line between those who are pro- and anti-science along the lines of support for geoengineering? Or — coming soon — the role cosmic rays play in cloud formation? Why not make it about support for nuclear power? Or YuccaMountain? Why not deride the idiots who oppose genetically modified crops, even when they might prevent blindness in children?

或者,如果这些问题过于让人心烦,那么把是否支持地质工程作为支持科学与否的分界线如何?或者,宇宙射线在云的形成中的作用?是否支持核电可以吗?或者雅卡山(Yucca Mountain)?【译注:雅卡山位于内华达州,用来堆放核废料。】为什么不嘲讽下反对转基因作物的白痴呢,即使转基因作物(黄金大米)可以防止儿童失明?

Some of these examples are controversial, others tendentious, but all are just as fair as the way the Left framed embryonic stem-cell research and all are more relevant than questions about evolution. (Quick: If Obama changed his mind about evolution tomorrow and became a creationist, what policies would change? I’ll wait.)


The point is that the Left considers itself the undisputed champion of “science,” but there are scads of issues where they take un-scientific points of view.


Sure they can cite dissident scientists — just as conservatives can — on this or that issue. But everyone knows that when the science directly threatens the Left’s pieties, it’s the science that must bend — or break. During the Larry Summers fiasco at Harvard, comments delivered in the classic spirit of open inquiry and debate cost Summers his job. Actual scientists got the vapors because he violated the principles not of science but of liberalism.

他们当然可以引用非主流科学家的意见为某个议题辩护,保守派也可以这么做。但是大家都懂的,每当科学直接威胁到左派的信条时,让步的却总是科学。劳伦斯·萨默斯(Larry Summers)在哈佛时,曾因敢于大胆地公开质询和辩论而丢了工作。真正的科学家因为违反了自由派的信条而非科学原则而被驱逐。

During the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration dishonestly claimed that its independent experts supported a drilling moratorium. They emphatically did not. The president who campaigned on basing his policies on “sound science” ignored his own hand-picked experts.

在墨西哥湾漏油事件(the Gulf oil spill)中,奥巴马当局谎称其独立专家支持钻探禁令,但确凿无疑,这些专家并未这么说。虽然总统先生一直宣称自己的政策有坚实的科学基础,但他对身边的专家却置若罔闻。

According to the GAO, he did something very similar when he shut down Yucca Mountain. His support for wind and solar energy, as you suggest, isn’t based on science but on faith. And that faith has failed him dramatically.


The idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing liberal hogwash. I see no reason why conservatives should even argue the issue on their terms when it’s so clearly offered in bad faith in the first place.


Recently, others have made this point better than I have, but as the Marines say of their rifles, this “news”letter is mine.


Anyway, what I find really intriguing is the way people talk about “science” as if it is so much more — and occasionally less — than it is. Critics on Twitter and in my e-mail box say we need to know if Scott Walker “believes in science,” as if his answer on evolution will tell us if he’s a witch burner or not.


Well, I regularly get e-mail from creationists. E-mail. In other words, thanks to scientists, the words of creationists are transported through the sky into my phone or computer. And, while I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure they don’t believe that their e-mail was carried to me on the backs of pixies.


I’m also pretty sure that the vast majority of creationists drive cars, take antibiotics, watch TV, and eat foods with preservatives in them. For liberals, perhaps this is proof of some kind of hypocrisy or cognitive dissonance. And maybe it is, though I don’t see it. But it’s also a demonstration that having your faith — or your superstitions — bump into one of the farther borders of scientific knowledge doesn’t require one to reject all of science.


It’s not a binary thing. Belief in something unconfirmed or even disproved by science is not a rejection of all science. Just as a refusal to believe unicorns are real doesn’t mean I have to reject the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Kate Upton, or other allegedly mythical creatures.

这并不是非此即彼的。对未经科学验证、甚至被科学所证伪的事物的信仰,并非是对科学整体的拒绝。仅仅不承认独角兽存在,并不意味着一个人会否认尼斯湖水怪、大脚怪、凯特·阿普顿(Kate Upton),或者其他传说中的神秘造物存在。

That’s part of the irony. The way the science-lovers talk about science, you’d think science was a kind of magic that requires total faith and conviction. If you don’t believe with all of your heart in “science,” it will stop working. It’s like the scientific enterprise is akin to Santa’s sleigh in the movie Elf (a great film, and not just because it inspired my daughter to answer the phone “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”).


In Elf, Santa’s sleigh no longer relies on flying reindeer. Instead it converts“Christmas cheer” into jet power. That’s how some of these people talk about believing in science. If we don’t project our positive emotions towards it, it won’t take off.


I am typing this on a plane from Detroit, Michigan — on Friday the 13th, no less. What happens if I suddenly stop saying in a hopeful whisper “I believe in you, science!” or if I take a deist bent and hold out the possibility that there’s something more than the material world out there? Will my plane suddenly plummet? Will gremlins slowly emerge from behind the seat in front of me, like Miley Cyrus climbing over a toilet-stall door?


Look, science, unlike God, really doesn’t care if you believe in it. And casting doubt on one part of it doesn’t break the spell. That’s the whole point of science; it’s not magic.


Democrats are more likely to believe in paranormal activity. They’re also more likely to believe in reincarnation and astrology. I have personally known liberals who think crystals have healing powers who nonetheless believe that the internal combustion engine doesn’t actually rely on magical horse power.



But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from listening to these people freak out about it. (Sorry, this “news”letter will be light in links because there’s no internet on this plane. Fun fact: If you shout “There’s no Internet on this plane!” in a really loud, terror-filled, voice — as if the plane runs on Internet — your fellow passengers freak out. Try it some time. If it doesn’t work the first time, say it over and over. Eventually you’ll get a lot of attention.)


When I hear people talk about science as if it’s something to “believe in,” particularly people who reject all sorts of science-y things (vaccines, nuclear power, etc. as discussed above), I immediately think of one of my favorite lines from Eric Voegelin: “When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.” This will be true, he added, even when “the new apocalyptics insist that the symbols they create are scientific.”


In other words, the “Don’t you believe in evolution!?!” people don’t really believe in science qua science, what they’re really after is dethroning God in favor of their own gods of the material world (though I suspect many don’t even realize why they’re so obsessed with this one facet of the disco ball called “science”). “Criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticisms,” quoth Karl Marx, who then proceeded to create his own secular religion.


This is nothing new of course. This tendency is one of the reasons why every time Moses turned his back on the Hebrews they started worshipping golden calves and whatnot.


At least Auguste Comte, the French philosopher who coined the phrase “sociology,” was open about what he was really up to when he created his “Religion of Humanity,” in which scientists, statesmen, and engineers were elevated to Saints. As I say in my column, the fight over evolution is really a fight over the moral status of man.


And, if we are nothing but a few bucks worth of chemicals connected by water and electricity, than there’s really nothing holding us back from elevating “science” to divine status and in turn anointing those who claim to be its champions as our priests. It’s no coincidence that Herbert Croly was literally — not figuratively, the way Joe Biden means literally — baptized into Comte’s Religion of Humanity

如果我们不过是一些通过水和电连接在一起的化学物质,那还有什么可以阻止我们把“科学”供上神坛,并为那些所谓科学斗士行涂油礼令、让他们做我们的神父呢。难怪赫伯特·克劳利会(货真价实地,不是象征性地,此处“货真价实”一词不是按乔·拜登那种用法)皈依孔德的人道教。【译注:乔·拜登曾在演讲中多次错误地使用“literally”一词,一度成为笑柄 】

Personally, I think the effort to overthrow Darwin along with Marx and Freud is misguided. I have friends invested in that project and I agree that all sorts of terrible Malthusian and materialist crap is bound up in Darwinism. But that’s an argument for ranking out the manure, not burning down the stable.



My brother Josh passed away four years ago this month. If I couldn’t get a G-File done this morning, I was going to recycle the one I wrote not long after his funeral. An excerpt:


My brother died last week. He had an accident. He fell down some stairs. He surely had too much to drink when it happened. It’s all such an awful waste. You can read how I felt — how I feel — about my brother here.


But, you know, this is uncharted territory for me. And while I have little to no morbid desire to wallow indefinitely in a public display of grieving, the G-File has always been a dispatch from the frontlines of my mind, a quasi-personal letter to the collective You. Some might even call it the mad scribbling in the virtual ink of diluted fecal matter on my imaginary jail-cell wall.


And, as you can imagine, there are few things more on my mind than this choking fog of awfulness.


I’m told by a friend that there’s a new book out, The Truth about Grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg, that apparently demonstrates how Elisabeth Kubler-Ross made up all that stuff about the “five stages of grief.”


I have no plans to read it. But I’m fully prepared to believe that any hard-and-fast five-point definition of grief is bogus. Admittedly, my data sample set is pretty small but hugely significant; in the last six years I’ve lost my father and my brother out of a family of four people. And, already, it’s clear to me that the geography of grief cannot be so easily mapped.


Obviously there are going to be similarities to the terrain. But just as there are different kinds of happiness — say, winning the lottery versus having a kid, or beating cancer versus seeing Keith Olbermann booted off of MSNBC — there are different kinds of sadness, too. And how they play out depends on the context.


In terms of my own internal response, the most glaring continuity between my dad’s death and my brother’s is loneliness. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got lots of company. I have lots of people who care for me more than I realized. I’m richer in friends and family than I could ever possibly expect or deserve.


But there’s a kind of loneliness that comes with death that cannot be compensated for. Tolstoy’s famous line in Anna Karenina was half right. All unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, but so are all happy ones. At least insofar as all families are ultimately unique.


Unique is a misunderstood word. Pedants like to say there’s no such thing as “very unique.” I don’t think that’s true. For instance, we say that each snowflake is unique. That’s true. No two snowflakes are alike. But that doesn’t mean that pretty much all snowflakes aren’t very similar. But, imagine if you found a snowflake that was ten feet in diameter and hot to the touch, I think it’d be fair to say it was very unique. Meanwhile, each normal snowflake has its own contours, its own one-in-a-billion-trillion characteristics, that will never be found again.


Families are similarly unique. Each has its own cultural contours and configurations. The uniqueness might be hard to discern from the outside and it certainly might seem trivial to the casual observer. Just as one platoon of Marines might look like another to a civilian or one business might seem indistinguishable from the one next door. But, we all know the reality is different. Every meaningful institution has a culture all its own. Every family has its inside jokes, its peculiar way of doing things, its habits and mores developed around a specific shared experience.


One of the things that keeps slugging me in the face is the fact that the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow. Sure, my mom’s around, but sons have a different memory of family life than parents. And Josh’s recall for such things was always not only better than mine, but different than mine as well. I remembered things he’d forgotten and vice versa. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.


The pain is duller now, but the feelings are the same.


校对:Marcel ZHANG(@马赫塞勒张)


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