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Oct 22, 2011      `

Varia: ERV vs Benson + A site on Ross Ashby

No "me+ME" Nederlog today, though I got some relating to it:


1. ERV and Benson
2. Ross Ashby

1. ERV and Benson

As I said before, I have done some more reading on ERV's blog  that I like (the XMRV-issue of September 29 seems to have stopped at long last at 1106 comments), and which has rather a lot that is not about XMRV but about other subjects, like ERV's - Abbie Smith's - opinions on God, science, dogs, marriage, family and - surprise! - Ophelia Benson.

At this point you probably ask something like "WTF is Ophelia Benson?!", and I will tell you, briefly: 

I found her site in the days of my having a slow and bad telephone- modem, when I was looking for folks who wrote things like I wrote about the destruction of education and the universities in Europe and the US since the middle or late 1960ies, and she had taken her inspiration from Norman Levitt and  Alan Sokal, and was one of the few critics of what has been happening in Western universities and schools since over four decades now, which is levelling, bureaucratization, simplification and moronification, all designed "in the name of equality" to give every boy and gal who wants it a university degree, regardless of talents and interests, because it would be very "undemocratic" not to do so - or this is what bureaucratic and political types have been saying and thinking for four decades now, with very detrimental effects, that will take generations to undo.

Here is the manner of thing I wrote, decades ago, but still quite true and accurate, indeed to the extent that I am the only person to have been removed from a Dutch university because of my publicly outspoken ideas, as if the civil laws in Holland don't exist (and indeed they don't, in practice, in Amsterdam, unless you have powerful political friends):

- Spiegeloog-columns (Dutch and in English translations)

It fairly soon turned out that in fact Ms. Benson is mostly a postmodern feminist with a postmodern feminist's agenda, and everything else she thinks and writes seems subordinate to that set of prejudices, while she also is - or was at the time - possessed of a very great fondness of Ms Ali, which I, in the kindness of my heart, tried to correct, but completely in vain since, like the other postmodern feminists  I know, she is hardly amenable to reason, and believes that she, located on the US West coast, knows far better than I do who is who in Holland, and what Dutch politics are like, and that I must be a very despicable and mean person for having the temerity of disagreeing with A Woman like she is.

So we fell out, also because even in private mail she has irrational, unreasonable and quite impolite ways of treating one's prose and thoughtful and polite objections: She writes as if everything one writes in the way of logical argument was never written, except for one tiny detail, that she insists on quoting out of context, and commenting on from her own prejudices. This is very tiresome.

Here is the falling out and the e-mails that led up to it, from August 2007 (and note both pieces are fairly long, but also quite clear, while both provide rational and full insight into Ms Benson's personal motives, or so I fear):

- A psychological experiment - 1
- A psychological experiment - 2

It turns out that Ms Benson and ERV are very much opposed, to the extent that Ms Benson tends to ban everyone from her personal site, on which she has developed a great fondness for banning contributors, e.g. for the eminently sane reason that they may write also on ERV's site, or in Ms Benson's sweet and reasonable words:

"Anybody who posts supportive comments at ERV is likely to be blocked from posting comments here."

She also has developed, like the Dainty-creature on the Phoenix Rising site, an apparently unstoppable urge to censor and edit whatever does not rhyme with her own private prejudices, which indeed must be a feast for those thus inclined: Never could naturally born censors and verbal thugs get more satisfaction than with internet! Such joys for those thus inclined! So instructive for students of psychology!

So I am not amazed, since I diagnosed her that way back in 2007, after which I mostly forgot about her, but then there is this, for the Ms Benson or ERV fans, on ERV's site:

- Have you ever met my friend Kyles mom?

from August 6 last, with currently no less than 3820 comments, the latest from today, and mostly - that I saw - about feminism and feminists like Benson. Here is ERV's opinion on her (post nr 162)

- "Benson is a mean, hate-filled she-hag."

It's a bit colourful and pleonastic - hags, like witches, happen to be females - but I don't say "no", given my experiences with the lady.

As I said, I have also read some - a small part - of the 3820 posts in the thread, but what I got from that reading, apart from confirmation of what I think about Benson, is that (1) much in feminism is still mired in the 1980ies type of postmodern feminism, that I neither like nor sympathize with and (2) politically, the US is rather different from Europe, though just as insensible, and (3) about the only defense against thinking, talking and writing nonsense, especially about politics and religion, is a really high intelligence, with which few are blessed or cursed. And even then many are prone to wishful thinking rather than using their minds rationally and reasonably, let alone wisely.

2. W. Ross Ashby

One of the first books I read about cybernetics was by W. Ross Ashby, an English M.D. and psychiatrist - surprise: a sensible one, like McCulloch - namely "Introduction to cybernetics", originally from 1956. This was a good choice and good introduction, because he understood his subject and the maths also was correct (as it often wasn't in other publications, by others, devoted to the subjects of "cybernetics" and "general systems theory").

W. Ross Ashby lived from 1903 to 1972, and it turns out that his family has taken the trouble to put his notebooks on line, and much more, which must have taken a lot of work.

The site's opening page is here

- The W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive

The font is rather large in Firefox, but this is easily fixed when you have a mouse with a wheel: Press Ctrl and wheel, one direction for larger, the other for smaller.

There is a lot of material on the site, and I didn't read most of it, but it probably is interesting for those interested in cybernetics, and also because of an incidental reason, which is that his notebooks have been put on line, which are all handwritten, in a legible hand, but also showing how much more work people had to do to produce a piece of printed text before the days of the personal computer.

His books are also on line, and also are available from the above link, and as I said: They are clear and sensible, and give good introductions to the fundamental ideas of cybernetics.

P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
-- Oct 23 & 24, 2011: Straightened out some mistakes and unclarities. Clearly I was very tired when I wrote this.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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