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2 November 2007


EACH WEEK we scan ads from an actual catalog, a catalog selling junque. (That's junk with cachet.) These ads are real. Maybe they don't
seem real, but they are.

This week we once again feature an item from wonderful (for my purposes) Hammacher-Schlemmer, their Gift Preview 2007. Zoltar, yes, Zoltar, for almost nine-thousand dollars. The complete ad is shown below. You would call that, er, excessive, right, $9000.00? But what if Zoltar earned his keep? Considering the cost of shrinks these days—and they must be going for what, at least $200 per hour in the better neighborhoods—what if you thought of Zoltar as your own personal shrink, sitting right there in the den, next to the ficus, across from something Feng Shui. Zoltar "augurs a spoken and printed fortune for you" whenever you need him. Isn't that what shrinks do except without the whenever and the printout? Think of the convenience. No phone messages. No, "Didn't we talk about calling me on the weekend?" And you could forget parking and wondering if he's really listening and could forget writing that check for two-hundred per. And there you go, Zoltar is paid for faster than you can say cognitive dissonance. In other words, if you only go to a shrink once a week at $200 per visit, Dr. Zoltar is paid for after 45 weeks. Twice a week, and he's earning his keep right at 22 weeks.

How do you feel about that?


The Catalog of Catalogs Page

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Fear of Knowledge

by Paul Boghossian

2006 Paul A. Boghossian

Oxford University Press


From the Introduction


Equal Validity


On October 22, 1996, The New York Times ran an unusual front-page story. Entitled “Indian Tribes’ Creationists Thwart Archeologists,” it described a conflict that had arisen between two views of where Native American populations originated. According to the standard, extensively confirmed archaeological account, humans first entered the Americas from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait some 10,000 years ago. By contrast, some Native American creation myths hold that native peoples have lived in the Americas ever since their ancestors first emerged onto the surface of the earth from a subterranean world of spirits. As Sebastian LeBeau, an official of the Cheyenne River Sioux, a Lakota tribe based in Eagle Butte, S.D., put it:


We know where we came from. We are the descendants of the Buffalo people. They came from inside the earth after supernatural spirits prepared this world for humankind to live here. If non-Indians choose to believe they evolved from an ape, so be it. I have yet to come across five Lakotas who believe in science and in evolution.


The Times went on to note that many archeologists, torn between their commitment to scientific method and their appreciation for native culture, “have driven close to a postmodern relativism in which science is just one more belief system.” Roger Anyon, a British archeologist who has worked for the Zuni people, was quoted as saying: "Science is just one of many ways of knowing the world. [The Zunis world view is] just as valid as the archeological viewpoint of what prehistory is about."

Another archeologist, Dr Larry Zimmermann, of the University of Iowa, was quoted as calling for a “different kind of science, between the boundaries of Western ways of knowing and Indian ways of knowing.” Dr Zimmermann added: “I personally do reject science as a privileged way of seeing the world.”

Arresting as these remarks are, they would be of only passing interest were it not for the enormous influence of the general philosophical perspective they represent. Especially within the academy, but also and inevitably to some extent outside of it, the idea that there are “many equally valid ways of knowing the world,” with science being just one of them, has taken very deep root. In vast stretches of the humanities and social sciences, this sort of “postmodernist relativism” about knowledge has achieved the status of orthodoxy. I shall call it (as neutrally as possible) the doctrine of Equal Validity: “There are many radically different, yet “equally valid” ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them. …”





The New York Times/Science Times

30 October 2007



Low Buzz May Give Mice
Better Bones and Less Fat


by Gina Kolata


Clinton T. Rubin knows full well that his recent results are surprising—that no one has been more taken aback than he. And he cautions that it is far too soon to leap to conclusions about humans. But still, he says, what if…?

And no wonder, other scientists say. Dr. Rubin, director of the Center for Biotechnology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is reporting that in mice, a simple treatment that does not involve drugs appears to be directing cells to turn into bone instead of fat.

All he does is put mice on a platform that buzzes at such a low frequency that some people cannot even feel it. The mice stand there for 15 minutes a day, five days a week. Afterward, they have 27 percent less fat than mice that did not stand on the platform—and correspondingly more bone….



Neanderthal Bones
Make a Case For Redheads


An artist painting a Neanderthal portrait would be pretty well stumped. Just bones exist of this hominid species, which lived in Europe and Asia and became extinct 30,000 years ago. So other than some general anatomical features—a large nose and heavy brow among them—not much is known about how they looked.

But by analyzing DNA from some of those old bones, European researchers have helped fill in the picture. Some Neanderthals, the suggest in a study published online by Science, were fair-skinned and redheaded….

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