Easterbrook on Hawking: Huh?

No, Gregg, the fact that something doesn’t agree with your intuition doesn’t mean that it isn’t good physics. The universe is wierd, or hadn’t you heard?

Hey, at least when I dissed Stephen Hawking I was kidding! (Actually, I was making fun of those in the Bush White House and the antiwar left who consider changing one’s mind a sign of weakness. Apparently, either no one got it or no one cared.)

But Gregg Easterbrook appears to be serious. Has he gone completely off the rails? Doesn’t someone at the New Republic read the stuff before it’s printed?

I’m with Brad DeLong on this one: TNR should fire Easterbrook and get someone who isn’t a complete fool to write that column. Anyone who thinks physics ought to track common sense must have slept through the past three centuries. Not that Easterbrook isn’t in good company; H.L. Mencken, toward the end of his life, wrote similar nonsense about “curved space,” though in Mencken’s case no doubt anti-Semitism played a role.

It appears virtually impossible for people who write commentary for a living to grasp the idea that, while ordinary political lies are reasonably easy to deconstruct, some topics cannot be understood by those who haven’t studied them seriously, and that expressing dogmatic opinions on those topics just makes you look stupid.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com