Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Left-Wing Intellectual

I’ve been struggling to come up with a good acronym for my spouse, because I have at various points used Husband, Spouse, and Mr. P/H, but am not particularly satisfied with any of them. Then I recalled a memorable incident from a few semesters ago, when he was teaching a history survey course, and had a group of students who were completely puzzled about the meaning of right-wing and left-wing politics. When one of them asked him what left-wing actually meant, he enjoyed the opportunity to get a good discussion going about the origin and ideological significance behind these terms, but afterwards he came home in fits of exasperation: “All this time I’ve had this image of myself as the European Left-Wing Intellectual, and they don’t even know what that means !” So at least on my blog, he can be secure in his existence as the LWI.


A lazy, half-asleep conversation last night in bed:

P/H: Wow, we’ve been together over eight years. Do you still love me?

LWI: Mm-hmm.

P/H: It hasn’t gotten old?

LWI: Nope. I’d need to replace my underwear after eight years, but not you.

P/H (pondering this comparison): What if I got holes?

LWI: Holes?

P/H: Like your old underwear.

LWI (pause for thought, then a cheerful conclusion): ...Patches!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The great worriers

Today's entertaining student typo: one of my students wrote an essay on the ancient Assyrians, whom she describes as "a group of fierce worrier people."

At least I thought it was a typo, but she describes them as "great worriers" throughout the essay. Now I can't shake the mental image of these powerful bearded men sitting around their campfires, wringing their hands and moaning "Do you think it's such a great idea to conquer Egypt? What if they fight back? What if we all get killed? Oh, whatever shall we do?"

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Galileo and intelligent design

Working to prep a class later in the semester, I came across a letter written in 1615 by Galileo to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, in which he defends his ideas and complains about those who accuse him of heresy. His arguments are striking in light of recent debates about teaching creationism alongside evolution in the schools:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations. This must be especially true in those sciences of which but the faintest trace is to be found in the Bible.

People who are unable to understand perfectly both the Bible and science far outnumber those who do understand them. The former, glancing superficially through the Bible, would arrogate to themselves the authority to decree upon every question of physics on the strength of some word which they have misunderstood, and which was employed by the sacred authors for some different purpose. And the smaller number of understanding men could not dam up the furious torrent of such people, who would gain the majority of followers simply because it is much more pleasant to gain a reputation for wisdom without effort or study than to consume oneself tirelessly in the most laborious disciplines.

(Full text may be found here.)