Sorry, got nothing coherent, so a few random thoughts inspired by glancing at some sites, mostly Vox Popoli.
The Return of Cliometrics. Evidently “Peter Turchin and his team” have concluded that the “Population Stress Index” in the USA is at 1856 levels. I’ve been saying 2016 is 1856 for a long time (check the archives!), and Turchin’s War and Peace and War was a fun read, but c’mon, dude… the “Population Stress Index”? Like all the Liberal Arts,* History started pretending it was a science back in the days. Its nadir was “cliometrics,” which put the statistics in lies, damn lies, and statistics. Any used bookstore in any college town probably still has a copy of Fogel and Engerman’s Time on the Cross on sale for a buck-fifty, if you want to make your eyeballs bleed seeing this stuff firsthand. That Infogalactic link helpfully distinguishes between old-school “cliometrics” and Turchin’s new-school “cliodynamics,” but both are attempts to quantify the unquantifiable. E.g.:
Cliodynamics, unlike cliometrics, maintains a close relationship with the natural sciences, often employing dominant methods from the natural sciences such as differential-equation models, power-law relations, and agent-based models. Evolutionary game theory and social network analysis are also frequently employed by cliodynamicists, but not cliometricians. Cliodynamicists also tend to include factors associated with ecological context and biological determinants in their models.
I’m no Cliodynamicist, but I can make two predictions about this stuff with 99% certainty: Bayes’ Theorem is involved somehow; and my predictions don’t count, because I don’t even vector calculus, bro. (Former?) Regular Reader Gary still says it best:
Assaulted with the glut of dorky shit like this inundating the net, I feel a certain geek fatigue taking hold. The guy is a lampoon waiting to happen, but I can’t seem to work myself into a satiric mood. All I can muster is a kind of weary disdain at the whole spectacle.
Oh, and there’s one major data point that all these “history is totes science!” people always overlook: The vast majority of professional historians are hardcore left-liberals. I doubt there are enough self-identified conservatives in the American Historical Association to have a pickup basketball game, and of them, maybe two or three don’t have “Emeritus” after their name. Everyone in the field is still pretending socialism can work, and you’re going to trust them with differential equations?
Speaking of statistics, Hugo Award-winning sci-fi author John Scalzi has precisely quantified how many fucks he gives for the likes of Vox Day: zero. A fact which he seems compelled to remind his readers of every few months, to Vox’s readership’s great delight. I guess I’m neither a “gamma” nor an “alpha” male (speaking of the glut of dorky shit inundating the internet), because I can’t comprehend either side of this. I get twisting the knife a bit, but Vox, dude… that’s just cruel. As for the Scalzi side, well, Morgan actually received some nerd-rage over his take on something I wrote here way back in the days. I can’t quantify the number of fucks given there — remember, not a cliodynamicist — but it seems to be north of zero. Which, as I said at the time, is just bizarre — Nobody Reads Morgan’s blog, and even fewer read Rotten Chestnuts (yes, Six is less than Nobody; see what I mean about this cliodynamics thing?). This would be like us getting bent out of shape over snark from…. some blog with five or less readers. And I’ll admit it — criticism hurts a little, even / especially if the critic has a point. But writing 6,000 words about how much one doesn’t care about that criticism is beyond odd. I have a hard time believing anyone is that insecure, especially someone who chose to make a career out of putting himself in public. There must be some kind of long con being played here. Are Scalzi and Vox secretly in cahoots? Do their respective sales numbers and blog hits go up when they snipe at each other?
Last, thanks to everyone who’s read my stuff this year. I think I speak for the co-bloggers in this: We really appreciate it. My output — weird and scattershot as it is — will probably drop significantly over the next few months, what with the holidays, family, new job, etc. Which kills any chance I have of getting bought out by Soros, alas, but whaddaya gonna do? I just wanted to let everyone know I appreciate you stopping by — yeah, even the critics (you bastards).
Merry Christmas, everyone.
*Yes, even English. There’s a scene in that godawful saccharine movie Dead Poets’ Society where Robin Williams has a student read the intro to the textbook, in which “J. Evans Pritchard, PhD” tries to rate a poem’s excellence mathematically. J. Evans Pritchard, PhD, wasn’t real, but that type of thing most certainly was.