Monday, February 9, 2009

Michael Meadon

I'm Michael Meadon, the author of Ionian Enchantment and a graduate student in cognitive science at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. In my younger days, I was rather heavily into the social sciences (I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Universty of Cape Town as an undergraduate), but I've come to a rather dim view of the possibility of a rigorous science of society. As a result, when I'm not procrastinating or trying to read the whole internet, I do research on a narrow but tractable topic: the effect of rapid and unreflective facial judgments on political elections.

It has long seemed obvious to me that South Africa, and Africa generally, badly needs skepticism, science, logic and reason. The great Sir Francis Bacon wrote in the Novum Organum that:
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
Knowledge, in the words of the popular corruption, is power. Achieving our ends depends (at least in part) on our understanding of how the world works. But, as Bacon also pointed out, (1) the world is exceedingly complicated ("[t]he subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding") and (2) the human mind is sadly prone to error ("[f]or the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence, nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture"). Making sensible decisions in a complex world, then, depends (in part) on us recognising the fallibility of our minds, and demands a commitment to science and skepticism.

The aim of this blog is to advocate the application of reason and skepticism to topics relating to Africa, and I hope to pay my dues and make my small contribution.

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