Sunday, August 29, 2004

Paul Hamm and the Gold

I am deeply frustrated by this whole debacle. I see it as really quite simply. Paul Hamm won the gold medal fair and square and all this talk about him giving back the gold is absurd. The FIG,the South Korean team, and the media should stop their haranging of this tremendous and heroic athlete.

I don't know about gymnastic judging or the specific rules, and so can only go by what I hear commentators say. But from what I understand, yes, the judges miscalculated the starting valuing of the South Korean's parallel bars. However, they also didn't take two mandatory deductions. The miscalculation would have added a 1/10 th to his score, but the deductions would have subtracted 2/10ths, leaving the South Korean with a score 1/10 lower. I am not sure, but given the closeness of the competition, this might have even dropped him from the bronze. So, the last person who should want a review of the tapes and re-scoring should be the South Korean!

Moreover, whose to say that even if the South Korean's score was adjusted up 1/10th in the parallel bars, he would have won the gold? He very well might have, but he might also have relaxed a bit too much thinking he had a good lead, and that could have caused him to do worse on the high bar. Or he might have tightened up or got more anxious realizing he was up for the gold, and this could have caused him to do worse on the high bar. Other competitors could have entered the high bar rotation with different expectations and competited differently, resulting in a different scores.

The point is that once play resumes, a call can't be changed. The call is one factor that determines later results and can't be changed without negating those results. This is why Football doesn't allow instant replay once play resumes. And why the Court of Arbitration rarely rules on field-of-play decisions. Going back and changing a call in the middle of game is not fair or right because we can't know the repercussions on the game or competition had that call been made differently on the field-of-play.

There was an appeal procedure available to the South Korean team during play. They should have checked the scoreboard before the next competitor and protested then. That's fair, and that's the place for it. The next day is just being a spoiled sport.

All this talk of showing good sportsmanship should be directed at the South Koreans, not Paul Hamm. He is a great sportsman, competiting hard and great when the chips are down. (Let's not forget how well the South Korean Young did under the stress of a booing crowd after the disputed Russian score on the high bar!)

Paul Hamm earned the gold and deserves the gold.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

How Voters Vote

The New Yorker has an interesting article on how voters vote: The Unpolitical Animal.

Some of the theories about what motivates (if anything) individuals to vote for whom is quite scary. The most striking idea discussed is that only about 10% of the electorate actually have anything close to a coherent political philosophy. And about 20% hardly have what one could call political views and make their voting decisions on gut.

The article also discusses how many voters have little understanding of the views they do hold--that they don't see how some views like being in favor of lower taxes excludes other views like increased social services or that when the polling question is rephrased the answer given is often in contradiction with the previous answer.

Roger is right!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism

Here's a quick review I posted at for Stephen Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism

When speaking with a colleague about this book, he was surprised to find out that Postmodernism has such a storied history including the likes of Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell. And many readers also will be surprised to see the intellectual pedigree that Postmodernism boasts. Of course, Dr. Hicks isn't arguing that Kant or Russell were Postmodernists--but what he does in this quick and highly readable book is to show how Postmodernism evolved out of the ideas and historical trends of the last few hundred years in philosophy. Tracing the development of various ideas in epistemology and politics, Hicks finds the roots of Postmodernism in Kant, Rousseau, and other Counter-Enlightenment thinkers. The primary thesis of this book is that "the failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary." The history of modern epistemology has, by and large, failed at defending reason as one's means of knowing the world. The failure of socialism, both economically and morally, lead to, as Hicks calls it, a "crisis of faith" among many in the Left. In order to maintain their belief in the superiority of socialism over capitalism, many theorists used the failures of epistemology to eschew reason, reality, and truth. One now no longer has to deal with the evidence that shows the superiority of capitalism. Thus, we end up with the nihilistic, skeptical, and relativistic Postmodernism dominating much of academia and the political left.

Dr. Hicks is able to condense abstract and complicated ideas for a non-philosopher to understand without losing the essence of the ideas. He competently and clearly presents the ideas and positions without ever degenerating into ad hominem or resorting to polemics. As such, I highly recommend this wonderfully written and highly readable work to anyone--philosopher or not--with an interest in the history of ideas or an interest in understanding postmodernism.