IT MAY not in itself justify The Conversation's $6 million dollar existence, but this report on "impossible" crystals is fascinating. Read and enjoy if geological curiosities are of interest, but hold no hope of further entertainment at the site because academia's leading vanity press soon returns to form, which is a pity. After a bona fide man of science's thoughts on crystals, every word accessible and honest, Andrew Jaspan's visitors may next be confronted by Stephan Loondowsky, scourge of sceptics, who has slipped the leash once more to throw another foam-flecked fit.
Loondowsky's performance is even more alarming than one of those heretic-hunter videos he likes to post on YouTube (see below), and that is saying something, because this time the University of Western Australia's Savanarola on the Swan does more than serve as his own case study in abnormal psychology. In a display that can only dismay the university's fee-paying parents, the psychologist takes on utilitarianism and, in his efforts to explain it, loses badly. That he does so in defence of Heartland forger Peter Gleick's actions and motives is also a worry.
If Loondowsky were a philospher of old you would want to be very careful when selecting a spot to sit beneath the olive tree, as his gift for exposition and persuasion best suits someone who teaches dogs rather than young minds. Because Churchill deceived Hitler in order to defeat him, thereby improving the common good, lies are justified in a just cause. He doesn't quite mention utilitarianism or Bentham and Mill*, but that is just as well, as neither is known to have had much tolerance for simpletons, and this is the perspective of a mind that is either poisoned with condescension or, just as likely, which has absorbed little and retained less. Nor does he touch on Popper, who begged to differ about betterment being the correct denominator of enlightened choice, arguing that suffering's reduction must always be the better yardstick. Rafe and the Catallaxians could expand Loondowsky's horizons on that point, particularly in regard to the anti-carbon crusade's disproportionate impact on the world's poor, but they would need to be operating an outreach mission to the baffled and challenged if they were to go through the motions with any show of enthusiasm.
On second thoughts, Loondowsky's essay is worth reading, especially by whichever minister-to-be takes up tertiary education in the imminent Coalition government. The University of Sydney recently sent some 100 academics packing and the chill winds which prompted that eviction will grow only colder as the Abbott government's hunt for waste, fraud and abuse leads it quickly to the nation's institutes of higher learning. More mad uncles will be winkled out of their attic rooms and it would be reassuring to believe pink slips are being slid under the most deserving doors.
* originally mis-typed as "milne". it was late, OK? Thanks to commenter Stephen Dawson for the fix. 2 - AAAAARRRRRCCCCCHHH. THIS IS A CHERNOBYL MOMENT. NO BLOODY 'S'!!!!