1. says

    For a similar troll, google sci.stat.math and “Reef Fish” – a retired stats professor who claimed that the former editor of Bayesian analysis, the journal of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis wasn’t a Bayesian because he used the term “MAP estimate”.

    In this case I suspect the problem is a man who never scaled the heights his early career suggested, so is reduced to trying to drag everyone else down. Even if it does result in having to claim that y=ax+bx^2 is a straight line.


  2. says

    What I take from this, is that regardless of education, experience, age, socio-economic position, or chosen career, assholes abound.

    I have worked as a subway sandwich dork, a gas station attendant, a grocery store stocker, and a software developer, and have met assholes and had to deal intimately with assholes of equal scale in all jobs.

    The more educated assholes just have bigger asshole vocabularies and better asshole sentence structure. Their assholery remains quantifiably the same.

  3. says

    Every department must have at least one of those guys. We had one who, after the U banned smoking, would flamboyantly march to his office each day trailing a lit cigarette. At least he was only polluting the air, I suppose.

  4. says

    The other side, aka Prof. P. Troll, should be given a fair hearing before forming an opinion. The Blogger(ess)’s pic shows a blow of blond hair, but I dont believe in blond hair. BTW, when x=0 then y=ax+bx^2 is a straight line.

  5. says

    Excuse me for going off topic and blog-spamming y’all, but would anyone here care to help answer some questions about what makes great art from an atheist point of view?

    If so, go here.

    The context of the question is a debate between Christopher Hitchens and David Allen White where I thought Hitchens agreed with too much of what White was saying. Mr. White said that great art needs a “higher vision,” whatever that means (I think it’s just code for great art should be religious/Christian because all his examples are religious art). Hitch said, I think, that it should be transcendent (whatever that means) but didn’t give any real examples, he talked about Hubble photos and black holes instead.

    I think the best art today is fairly realistic, but I’m looking for other opinions.

  6. Ichthyic says

    I think the best art today is fairly realistic, but I’m looking for other opinions.

    I agree with Salvador Dali that the idea of “great art” is a base perversion of the concept of art to begin with.

    Based on his writings, I’d say he devoted a large part of his career to making supporters of “fine art” look pretty damn silly.

    the only way someone could think of art as “transcendant” is if they are enitrely stifled in their own creative expression. which seems funny when applied to Hitch, but when he talks of space photos and black holes as art…

    there’s an opinion for ya.

  7. BruceJ says

    Art is relevant to Atheism as Bicycles are relevant to Fish.

    This is not to say that atheists cannot produce or appreciate art, just that not every damn thing in our lives must be funneled through the lens of disbelief in Sky Fairies.

    Michaeleangelos’ Pieta is no less beautiful and moving for the fact that it’s religious in nature than the fact that it’s in Florence, rather than, say Paris, or Tokyo.

    Picasso’s Guernica is equally beautiful and moving, despite it’s expressly secular nature.

    Heck, unless you want to get into the fluffiest of pop psychology (Consumerism is a Religion) Andy Warhol’s Cambells Soup series is removed from commercial advertisng art only by its placement in a gallery.

    And then we complete the circle in grotesque fashion by the mass-produced horror that is Thomas Kinkaid’s factory output, which is expressly Christian in the sense that it’s sold, overwhelmingly to True Believers and has consciously fundamentalist coding.

    Where critics such as White go off the rails is in ascribing artistic inspiration to supernatural sources, whereas the reality is that both our ability to create Art and create Supernature are actually rooted in the same deep wellspring of purely human creativity.

    A wellspring, by the way, that must confer an evolutionary advantage, since it’s deeply intertwined into every human culture historic or prehistoric that we’ve ever studied.

    There’s no need to decorate a clay pot, or dye cloth, or carve decorations on a headboard, yet humans do this as a rule. We seem to have an undeniable instinct to decorate our environment.

    Religion and religiosity is simply different expressions of the same impulse, which is why they’ve been endlessly confused through history.

    Organized Religion, otoh, is merely a political system of control utilizing this impule.

  8. Onkel Bob says

    Eek, this post is rife with land mines. I’m a significant other to an Ivy League professor in Dev Bio and Genetics, so I know/see many, many examples of academia run amok. I am also a nontraditional grad student, a veteran (in all aspects of that word) of the high tech sector.
    So in my little state school, there’s a nice Art History Program, the chair is Dr. S (Call me Anne) my grad advisers Drs. M and W (call me Johanna, Marilyn). Of course I TA for others namely Dr. G (call me Dr. G) what gender is Dr. G? Your answer is probably wrong because you’re making an assumption that this is gender bashing thread.
    Then there’s a friend of my s.o. who is an academic of the sciences. His take on why there are few women in full professor positions is that they are too smart. No one in their right mind goes through the pain and suffering that is necessary to succeed in sciences, the grant funding is absurdly low, the old guard refuses to acknowledge that science advances when the paradigm is overthrown (see T. Kuhn) and the outside opportunities are too lucrative.
    Finally, consider this situation: what department gives a full professor slot to the wife of the president of the university? Never mind she hasn’t published in 12 years and those papers were in tier 3 journals. What department gives a full professor slot to the wife of the president of a nearby university? (across the street nearby) Who do you think has to teach 100 hours, the associate professor with the R01 and numerous private grants (with a need to get even more) or said full professors with beautiful and pristine labs mostly because they are never occupied nor is science investigation performed? What is the gender of the chair of this department?
    Politics and corruption have little to do with gender and everything to do with an inflated sense of importance within the overall environment. This professor knew the environment she was entering, understood full well the snakepit that is academia, and now wants to complain? Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

  9. mothworm says

    There’s plenty of “great” art that can be read as entirely secular (I don’t think atheism or theism necessarily applies. Just that it was not inspired by or produced for the Church). Is this man entirely ignorant of the 20th Century?

    It’s probably safe to say that most members of the Dada movement were atheists. Marcel Duchamp is, as far as I am concerned, the greatest artist of the past several hundred years, and was essentially our Leonardo. Most of his art was either about sex, or about the concept of art itself. So, there’s him.

    I don’t know the beliefs of most artists unless they make it explicit, but I find it entirely possible to feel deeply moved by abstract art without having any sort of religious feelings or interpretations attached. One of the most “transcendent” moments of my life occurred while sitting in the room that held Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals in the Tate Modern. He may have had some religious notion in mind while painting them (I doubt it), but there’s no way to know that from the viewer’s side. They’re just profoundly affecting.

  10. says

    mothworm asked:

    Is this man entirely ignorant of the 20th Century?

    You mean David Allen White? Well, almost. In his debate with Hitch he said there were only two works of art that were inspired by the Apollo moon landings; Norman Mailer’s “Of A Fire On The Moon” and a minor poem by W. H. Auden.

    What disturbed me was that Hitchens didn’t challenge him on that.

    Read the debate and see for yourself, I linked a transcript on my blog, they are both surprisingly dismissive of most art that isn’t old moldy religious stuff.

    I know the rest of you are posting here on PZ’s instead of on my blog cause you’ll get a wider group of readers — but we are off topic here. Why don’t you copy and paste your comments to my blog to share you views with my readers coming from other places.

  11. Ray C. says

    Returning to topic, I wonder if Dr. Troll is aware of who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911.

  12. Ichthyic says

    I know the rest of you are posting here on PZ’s instead of on my blog cause you’ll get a wider group of readers

    Of course, I can’t speak for other’s motivations, but actually, I was just being lazy.

    still am.

  13. says

    I once had a professor who was (seemingly) the nicest, most polite man in the world in mixed company, who would turn into a vile misogynistic asshole anytime he was alone with his male students. It was so unnerving to listen to him gripe about “yet another c@#& who should be pumping out babies rather than trying to teach” only to switch to polite professional conversation when said female professor would enter the room.

    Ezekiel has it nailed. You can dress an asshole up and give him a doctorate, but in the end all you have is an asshole with a larger vocabulary.

  14. says

    For a much lesser offense, Harvard’s Presidente Lawrence H. Summers was sacked. Professor Troll wouldn’t last a day if he really behaved as described.

  15. Mez says

    BruceJ, Do you mean the extraordinary Bandini Pietà (aka the Deposition) in Florence, or the much more famous, much earlier, Pietà tucked behind heavy security barriers up towards the doors at the back of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. (There’s another, even more extraordinary, fragmentary, late Pietà that you can experience in the Sforza Castle at Milan.) Definitely an artist who could use standard religious themes in his own way.

    And Ray C, there’s quite a few more science-based Nobel Prizes on the distaff side, if you’d like some examples for your local Troll.

  16. Michael Murray says

    For a much lesser offense, Harvard’s Presidente Lawrence H. Summers was sacked. Professor Troll wouldn’t last a day if he really behaved as described.

    He would need to do it in a sufficiently public place for it to be noticed or the person in question would need to complain. In my University the outcome of a complaint like this being upheld would probably be `conciliation’ or a reprimand and an apology being required. It would be easy for the troll to say it was a friendly jest and to apologise for any offence. Sacking wouldn’t come into it until the offence was repeated and then, in the circumstances described, I would expect the end result to be some pressure to resign rather than an outright sacking.