Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Engineerism - Towards A Political Manifesto?

Over at Steven Den Beste's place, I found the following:
I'm also one of those people whose overall political views don't permit me to easily fit in any of the classic boxes. Given that I support the war, feel pride in being American, have no interest in thinking of myself as a "citizen of the world", think that affirmative action has reached the point of causing more problems than it cures, oppose "identity politics", feel that equal opportunity is more important than equal results and see them as mutually exclusive, and strongly oppose socialism, leftists generally seem to think I'm conservative.

But how, then, to explain my support for legal gay marriage, legalization of prostitution, legalization of marijuana, and opposition to school prayer? How to explain the fact that I despise Jerry Falwell as much as I despise Noam Chomsky? As I wrote last year, as far as I can tell, I am both a liberal and a conservative.

One of my readers coined the term "engineerist" to describe me, but that wasn't one of the choices on the survey.
Now I have a number of trivial diffences from Mr Den Beste. I'm not American, nor do I ever want to be ( though a recent e-mail to me said 'You are more American than most Americans I know' . But to put that in context a recent reply to a post of mine on The Islamic Forum said 'If you hadn't exemplified yourself as an 'unbeliever' I would definitely have assumed you to be a practising Muslim'. I consider both statements to be High Honours and compliments, but I'd no more want to be an American than I would want to adopt Islam). Although Mr Den Beste describes his attitude as 'Jacksonian', I also consider Andrew Jackson to be one of the very worst Presidents of the US that's ever been, though by Den Beste's description, I too am a Jacksonian. Or more like Teddy Roosevelt : 'Speak softly, and carry a Big Stick'. Jerry Falwell I don't know much about, but what I do know leaves me with no high opinion of him. But in all areas, in spirit if not in letter, I like the cut of Den Beste's jib. I too am an Engineerist, differing only in trivial issues. (Den Beste's definition of an Engineerist is here)

A quick Google finds all manner of interesting tidbits on Engineerism.
Such as a Phllipine Blog's comments on judicial review. Vows to make T-Shirts.

But no Manifesto, no grand declaration of principles and beliefs, no dogma, no credo. And there's a good reason for this. Back to Den Beste :
We Engineerists are intensely pragmatic. We don't try to come up with overriding philosophies ("wealth is evil", "Government regulation is evil", "America is evil") and then judge everything based on it. Individual cases are taken as they come, and the only criterion for any given proposal is practical: will it work better than the alternatives?
Given that circumstances alter cases, and that things change over time, the best that can be done is to state some general principles: Then use dielectic and argument between people of goodwill to try to get, if not the best, then at least a reasonably optimal solution to any given problem. And be prepared to continually modify the details in the light of experience. Engineerism may be the one -ism that can't have a Manifesto as such.

USS Clueless, Den Beste's blog, is always worth a read. It can be difficult sometimes trying to trace a particular thread of thought - an article is likely to start with the laws of thermodynamics, find connections with economic theories, do a lateral arabesque into computer science, and emerge into information theory. All connected though, and the arguments are logical and well-thought out.

A Post from Den Beste is often like a program from PBS's Connections, a program we get here in Canberra over the Discovery Science Channel :
British science guru James Burke believes that learning can and should be fun, and he started the PBS TV show 'Connections' to prove that point. The highly acclaimed series became a world wide hit with over 65 million loyal viewers, eventually spawning both a best selling book and the award winning sequel series, 'Connections 2', seen on The Learning Channel.
The discovery of anything new (and the resulting advance in civilization) relies on the ability to be able to see the potential connection between two other things. As Burke explains it, we now live in a time and space 'web' of these interconnections which were made in the past. Any given object or event in our present day world is not there by chance, but instead can be traced back through history to all of the prerequisite ideas and events which led up to it. And to leave out any one of them from this 'chain' would result in chaos. To illustrate how it works, he presents us with the connections between certain world changing inventions and discoveries, and lets us experience first-hand the process of simple observation and logical conclusions which led to them.
But unlike Den Beste, I think I'll stop there. He no doubt would be able to write with pith and wit on the computer game mentioned in the link above, and possibly tie that to educational technologies, in particular educational games, the resultant improvement in education about connections and the lessons of history, leading to a populace that may become more engineerist too. Ending up with a note on how this may help relations with Islam, thus referring to the Islamic Forum link mentioned above, and thus solve the problems posed by the Muslim separatists in the Phillipines.

As I said, his blog is worth a read.

1 comment:

Redneck Texan said...

I love Den Beste. He was the first blogger I ever came across. His power to reason embarrasses mine. You do have to skip over his animation fetish articles, but you have to be careful...just because it starts off about anime dont mean it wont end up about North Korea.

Alan, have you given any consideration towards migrating to Movable Type, and private hosting. If for no other reason than the much stronger comments support.