Wittgenstein, Peter Pan

Like some comic bit part player out of Wittgenstein’s Blue and Brown Books, I planted some herbs yesterday, wrote out little plastic labels, and stuck them in the pots. A storm in the night wiped the labels clean, but I thought I could just discern traces of some letters, so I took the labels out of the pots and went indoors to fetch my glasses. Yes, this one seemed to read “coriander”, so the other one must be parsley. I was about to write them out again, when an awkward inner voice suggested that it wouldn’t make much difference whether I wrote “coriander” on the one that had originally been labelled “coriander” or on the other one, because…

Definitions are important, and ascribing meaning to them is not as simple as merely writing your labels in indelible ink. Scientists like to boast that they define their terms, so don’t have to worry when philosophers faff about the meaning of meaning. The problem for scientists arises when they leave the laboratory and try and explain their findings to the masses. They arrive in the media armed with their little plastic labels, but they’ve naturally left their pots or plots back in the greenhouse or on the computer. Their labels undoubtedly say something, and the something makes sense, and, with a bit of luck (for their notoriety and therefore their careers) that something will interest the journalists and the public. But…

Take this article by Damian Carrington in the Guardian. (No, do, really. Articles like these used to be churned out five a day at the Graun in the heyday of globalwarmism. They’re rare as Tasmanian wolves now, which is why this sighting is so intriguing.)

Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

Earth is a planet in upheaval, say scientists, as the World Meteorological Organisation publishes analysis of recent heat highs and ice lows

The article is guaranteed science-free. All there is is quotes from scientists, such as:

We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.

Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona

The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

and this one, from “Prof Sir Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK’s University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN’s climate science panel”:

Our children and grandchildren will look back on the climate deniers and ask how they could have sacrificed the planet for the sake of cheap fossil fuel energy…”

Hang on, Prof Sir Robert, (or “Bob” as you used to be, back in the days when you worked at the White House, or burbled incoherently in defence of the UEA’s chief email-wiper, was-to-be-but-won’t-be-now Sir Phil Jones, at the Guardian’s Climategate show trial – Robert Watson, Robert Ward – what is it with these climate Bobs? Are they losing their common touch? Or the plot?)

Where was I? Oh yes. Hang on Professor Sir Bob. What’s all this about us climate deniers sacrificing the planet? What, you mean burning it on the altar of our disbeliefs like Homeric heroes with the fat thighbones of an ox? I don’t think so. I’ll plead guilty to sacrificing a concept labelled “planet”. Not only would I sacrifice it, Professor Sir Bob, I’d screw it into a tight wad and stuff it up your GCM. But that’s not a planet with its 7 billion inhabitants I’m sacrificing. It’s a concept, full of unpacked hidden meanings. I don’t like it. It bores me. Wooosh, it’s gone.

I’ve suggested this before, but not spelt it out. When an elderly climate hysteric like Bob Watson, Chris Rapley or James Hansen starts worrying what his children and grandchildren will think – not of him – but of us climate deniers, he’s revealing a whole syndrome of worries bubbling under the surface of his cognitive faculties, (or “mind”, as it used to be called, for a few thousand years, before Professor Lewandowsky came to Bristol to enlighten us.)

There’s not much to be said for mortality, at least for us atheists, but one cheerful thought is that we won’t be around to see our children and grandchildren when they’re mumbling old wrinklies like us. Those who feel the desire to project themselves into that future are exhibiting some unconscious desire to surmount their own mortality, I would suggest. It’s a weird impulse, which may have positive results, for example in the creation of a work of art, such as Edward Bellamy’s 1888 science fiction novel “Looking Backward 2000- 1887” which is a fascinating insight into how past intimations of the future can illuminate the present. But if you’re not going to produce a work of art, best shut up, and stop embarrassing the younger members of your family.

There’s more embarrassment over at the Independent, which announces that Earth’s worst-ever mass extinction of life holds ‘apocalyptic’ warning about climate change, say scientists.” It’s another dire (though a bit late) warning about the end of the Permian 250 million years ago, base on a new article in Palaeoworld snappily titled: Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction.”

The Independent, too, elicited the opinions of experts, and they are – dare I say it – sceptical.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, suggested a major methane pulse was possible. However he said this would be “maybe not apocalyptic, but catastrophic” […] However, Professor Wadhams criticised the title of the Palaeoworld paper… “There’s a serious tendency these days to offer a breathless overkill on the importance of a discovery. The title of the paper is over the top,” he said. “Methane may or may not be the cause of the extinctions described. The evidence is equivocal. It doesn’t justify all the razzamatazz.”

Not apocalyptic, but catastrophic.” “..not drowning, but waving.” Does anyone care what they write on their labels any more? Does it matter? Should we care?

And Professor Tim Palmer, an Oxford University physicist who has worked on the IPCC reports, said it was unclear what future humanity was facing. […] In a recent talk at the Royal Society in London, Professor Palmer suggested “lukewarmists”, who downplay the dangers of climate change, and “catastrophists”, who do the opposite, were both making the same mistake. The science, he said, suggested a range of possible outcomes from one to the other and it was unclear what would happen.

See what happens when you enter the media debate armed with little labels? Professor Palmer, anxious to defend “the science” from opposing criticisms of unwarranted alarmism and unwarranted complacency, firmly places the dangers of climate change somewhere between “exaggerated” and “underestimated”. Somewhere between the opinions of his embarrassingly hysterical green allies and his embarrassingly convincing critics – not the “deniers” of course, nor the “sceptics” who have usurped that title because the true sceptics are the scientists themselves who are (97% of them) true believers – but the “lukewarmers”, who, for true believers like Professor Palmer, are handy opponents, because, like the different coloured fairies in Peter Pan, they don’t know what they are.


We sceptics, or deniers, are somehow excluded from the “debate” (or ceremonial brandishing of labels.) My awkward inner voice suggests this doesn’t matter. We are the true different coloured fairies, because we’re sceptic. We really don’t know what we are.

Never mind. Like Peter Pan, we are immortal. And we shall always have Tink.

32 thoughts on “Wittgenstein, Peter Pan

  1. CODA
    Tom Stoppard wrote an entire play (“Dogg’s Hamlet”) in an imaginary language you had to learn as the play went along. He was inspired by an anecdote in Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations” in which he imagines learning a language from listening to guys on a building site. A bloke says “brick” and his mate hands him a brick, so you assume that “brick” means a brick. But, says old clevercuts Ludwig, it might just as well mean “Hand me another” or “How’s the wife?”

    Similarly with Climatespeak. You assume that “climate catastrophe” means “lots of people dead,” but it might just as easily mean: “do what you’re told” or: “hand me another research grant.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Not apocalyptic, but catastrophic.” “..not drowning, but waving.” Does anyone care what they write on their labels any more? Does it matter? Should we care?

    The more emotive the label, the more it will spread and influence others, increasing the likelihood that said others will also deploy similar labels. This is irrespective of the veracity or lack thereof implied by the label. Even the above mentioned Lewandowsky knows this. From ‘Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing’, by Lewandowsky et al (2012):

    ‘But we have also noted that the likelihood that people will pass on information is based strongly on the likelihood of its eliciting an emotional response in the recipient, rather than its truth value (e.g., K. Peters et al., 2009)’

    This age-old and simple mechanism fuels the certainty of imminent climate calamity. As emotive influence builds up in society over decades, scientists who are embedded within society are not magically free of the effect. As Lewandowsky also notes in the executive summary of ‘Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community’, (2015):

    “Nonetheless, being human, scientists’ operate with the same cognitive apparatus and limitations as every other person”.

    You’d think that knowing these things, he could put 2 & 2 together. But then as he also notes, worldview bias can be very powerful.

    Where unresolvable uncertainty means that the emotive components of such labels cannot easily be short-circuited out of the game, their high selective value is very hard to mitigate against using reason. Although in the big picture the resultant cultural waves have upsides as well as downsides (and with historically a net benefit, which is why we evolved in a manner that supports them), it’s hard to see any upsides in some, calamitous climate change being a case in point.

    When even Peter Wadhams is pointing out that a label is OTT, we know we’re in seriously emotive territory. While the uncertainty means that worst case scenarios cannot be ruled out, no cultural story in history has ever been true; they are just fairy tales that serve social purpose. Hence the *certainty* of near term (decades) climate calamity, is also a fairy tale, whatever is happening with the physical climate and whether ACO2 turns out to be good, bad, or indifferent.


  3. Re CODA:

    part of the power of such vague yet emotive labels is that they can mean all those things at once. Yet also with plenty of wiggle room for folks to emphasize what is convenient at any particular time (or from a particular sub-framing) and distance or back-pedal from what isn’t.

    P.S. there is something wrong with the formatting of this post page I think. The ‘Post Comment’ box is tangled up with the recent articles list, I have to jiggle page-width to be able to push ‘post comment’, and it won’t do on a phone. Don’t see this issue on other posts, so I don’t think it’s my end. [PM: Thanks, fixed now I hope.]


  4. Labels are important in science – any science. I have often run into difficulties on other sites where I attempted to use a term in a specific way (later checked to see if I was using it with scientific accuracy) only to be informed that this was not the common usage and therefore I was wrong. Scientists commonly use terms as a form of shorthand and forget when using them with non-specialists that they may convey different meanings.

    With regard to seed labels, I can only think they have one use. If one seed tray fails to germinate, you can use the label to determine what to replant. Once germinated, if you can’t distinguish coriander from its smell alone, why bother planting them at all?


  5. I’m not convinced that such articles are so rare these days.
    Here is today’s offering of climate alarmism from Carrington.
    Unsurprisingly, notorious climate charlatans Mann and Rahmstorf are involved, and there are the same science-free soundbites:
    “Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity,”


  6. This is an area that Dr Lew should be able to help, if he wasn’t pretty poor at his job. If you’ve failed to convince people with ‘catastrophic’, you don’t improve the take up by ramping up to ‘apocalyptic’. The problem is not that people are not worried enough, but that they are not worried much at all. The alarmist’s idea is to write coriander in larger and more impressive fonts but the sceptic says it’s probably parsley. Eventually most people become resigned to waiting to see which herb will pop up and dealing with the seasoning issue when it arises. Without being able to prove the species by looking at the pot, the coriander claims become so tiresome, the listener begins to wonder if they should call the plant parsley no matter what comes up, just to annoy the coriander fascists.

    The public have not stopped listening to experts but they’ve stopped believing them without supporting evidence.


  7. ‘ceremonial brandishing of labels’ – that’s a large part of the ‘debate’ to date. Scott Adams had some interesting observations in this area: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/147595892021/how-persuaders-see-the-world :

    When you are trained in the ways of persuasion, you start seeing three types of people in the world. I’ll call them Rational People, Word-Thinkers, and Persuaders. Their qualities look like this:

    Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)

    Word-Thinkers: Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.

    Persuaders: Use simplicity, repetition, emotion, habit, aspirations, visual communication, and other tools of persuasion to program other people and themselves. This group is about 1% of the population and effectively control the word-thinkers of the world.

    Of course the good folks here at CliScep are Rational People … That’s the label for us. Alas we swim in a sea of Word-Thinkers, perhaps searching in vain to reach those Persuaders. And of course, we can’t escape using the odd label on the way …


  8. John Shade.
    Rational People, those who supposedly only use data and reason to arrive at truth are cyborgs. There is no room for intuition, original thinking or judgement. Since 97% of climate scientists believe in CO2 induced climate change a rational person (cyborg) looking at this data and using reason alone would logically conclude that sceptics must be wrong.

    I am pleased to be a word-thinker because I do indeed think in words, I label things and use analogies to help me understand in terms that I already understand. I thought everyone did this. I cannot believe that one in a hundred don’t use these mental shortcuts.

    The separation of humans into these three groups is bovine excrement. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting perspective from Adams. I think people are a mix, depending upon the issue and their abilities. We can’t have an opinion on everything and we tend to go with the flow on stuff that doesn’t matter to us. We bring baggage to most issues. Many warmists (and casual sceptics) are trying to persuade without any real passion for the issues so they use the art of the persuader. But they’re not real persuasion techniques. They might sell a product to an amenable audience but they’re no good for mass persuasion of often hostile forces. Incidentally, most elections come under the heading of a consumable. People risk decisions based on the knowledge that in 4/5 years time they can guess again. The UK referendum was different. It was a now or never decision and was based more on the past 40 years of data than anything said during the campaigns. Young people had perhaps more experience of European integration but very little knowledge of how the EU manipulates.

    Most vocal sceptics were shifted out of their word-thinker mode when something jarred with their real knowledge. They were encouraged by the opposition to rational thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Word-thinkers are those people who are using the left hemisphere of the brain which processes language and logic. It’s plodding, but generally reliable and most of us inhabit the left brain a lot of the time. The right hemisphere is where the real magic happens:creative, intuitive, musical, mathematical, artistic, able to make connections at lightning speed without being hampered by following a logical chain of thought structured by language. Many people tap into this hemisphere briefly; few to any great degree. You might argue that the right brain is dominant in perhaps 1% of the populace and such people are usually polymaths, extremely gifted, intuitive, creative, artistic individuals. I don’t recognise Adams’ ‘mostly imaginary’ Rational category; I suggest he’s being a bit tongue-in-cheek.


  11. Jaime, next you’ll be telling us there are male and female brains, and that the latter use their right brains more.


  12. No Alan, only that the Left, just like the Right, employ their left brains more than their right but, in the case of the former, with decidedly less impressive results!


  13. Jaime. I had read that if you take the Left to extremes, you met up with the Right coming in the opposite direction. This supports your contention in part.
    But surely by constructing the world’s second largest economy suggests your belief that the Left does not produce impressive results is inaccurate left brain thinking? Forgive my right brain bluntness.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alan,

    But surely the construction of the world’s second largest economy was a stroke of right-brained genius by the few (or the one, even) – who may or may not have been left-wingers, I know not. It is sustained in its audaciousness and illogicality via a marked preponderance of faulty left brain thinking by predominantly lefty types. This is the irony.

    The alternative is that, like life itself, the economic miracle that is state-funded climate research and tax-payer funded climate mitigation arose spontaneously via just a few very specific cases of faulty left brain thinking which, in very fortuitous circumstances, blossomed into an entire self-sustaining industry.


  15. Ahah Jaime. I think you may have fallen into the fallacy trap that right brain thinking (“The right hemisphere is where the real magic happens: creative, intuitive, musical, mathematical, artistic, able to make connections at lightning speed without being hampered by following a logical chain of thought structured by language”) only produces things of value. But presumably drug cartel overlords, fascist leaders, and yes even originators and promoters of climate science are/were “right brain thinkers” – creative, intuitive, mathematical and so on. Gifted people can be good or bad, perceptive or delusional, Sherlocks or Moriartys.


  16. Jaime. Oh what a council of despair, that morality doesn’t have any right brain component.


  17. Alan,

    Morality appears to reside in the left frontal lobe; cats don’t have much of it (dispassionate little buggers that they are) and pre-menopausal women have more of it than men. The right hemisphere doesn’t even get a look in!

    “In some MRI tests, researchers found that the left frontal lobe and temporal lobes were activated when making moral judgments, and it seems that when some of that neural circuitry is injured, our morality can also be impaired. Cats have very small frontal lobes so they tend to not be as compassionate. Women appear to access this part of the brain (not the cats’, their own) more than men, especially during childbearing years.”


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jaime. Don’t believe it. Morality surely can be associated with intuition, with being artistic and so on. I refuse to believe that someone like St. Thomas Aquinas was a left brain thinker.

    Actually, I’m not sure I fully believe in brain lateralization (except for very specialized regions like the Broca’s or Wernicke’s Areas). Most visualizations of brain activity that I have seen show both hemispheres lighting up, showing both are involved in most activities and thoughts. Isn’t this whole business about right and left thinking just a bit of cod culture?

    I refuse to be drawn on commenting upon thought processes during pregnancy. Mrs.K would not forgive.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Most geniuses use both sides I would guess. Certainly most famous artists were much more logical than it would first appear. They were happy to use any trick going to make their work better. The concept of the artist starving in a garret is a relatively modern idea based on the final fait of artists who drank and bonked their way through several fortunes. Most old masters were also very commercial.

    When you look at many engineering projects, there is great artistry too. Mathematics is both logical and beautiful. What makes a lot of nature beautiful is mathematics.

    But there’s another ingredient and that’s dedication. Society is full of distractions these days and it’s a wonder how anything gets done. Perhaps that’s why those with conditions like Asperger’s show special talents. My Dad used to say that I’d be a genius if I hadn’t got the memory of a goldfish and the perseverance of a snowflake (yes, I was an early adopter of snowflakism). I’m interested in too many things and can’t focus most of the time. Schools are poor at generating future geniuses because they don’t push kids to specialise. They concentrate too much on originality and choice and not enough on learning the underlying tools people need, including pushing through the desire to stop and do something else when things get boring or difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Alan, like most things in life, it’s not black and white, more Yin which ever merges into Yang, and vice versa. You cannot argue that lateral asymmetry of brain functions does not exist, likewise you cannot argue that the right and left hemispheres are completely separate entities which process discrete brain functions.

    I’m not sure I buy fully into the deterministic physiological basis of the higher brain functions anyway. Saying that inspirational/intuitive/creative thoughts arise purely from neuronal electrical interactions in any particular physical location within the brain seems to me to be missing the wood for the trees – but such musings bump uneasily along the lawless border region between science and philosophy.


  21. So returning to my original comment which sparked off this conversation, I still maintain that rational, logical, language-orientated left brain thinking dominates the thought processes which we employ in our daily lives in order to process information. The right brain is more involved with spatial tasks and also dominates when our creative, artistic, mathematical, musical, intuitive abilities come to the fore. But the brain is of course one organ; the two hemispheres are intimately connected, therefore each hemisphere is not uniquely tasked with fully processing any particular higher brain function/thought process.


  22. I was wondering if there would be a comment on this article which seems germane to Geoff’s recent article on how the AGW terror seems to be slipping down the agenda.

    However, this post set me off down some interesting trackways. I have long been puzzled by the perversion of language in the world of AGW. We have all read or even heard the prominent catastrophists declaring that “the science is settled”, for example. And yet, when I was studying O-level physics back in the 1970s, I never remember a teacher or text book referring to something called “the science”. They would talk about the laws of physics instead. So it wasn’t “science” that said that the extension of a spring was related to the mass attached to it: instead it was Hooke’s Law (please forgive me if I garbled this, but it was quite a while ago).

    Similarly, I have watched many scientific documentaries and read articles but the scripts talk about about how some scientists think “this” but other scientists think “that”. Everything on the edge of general knowledge was provisional and subject to doubt and uncertainty. There was no such thing as an abstract force such as “the science” telling us something. This does lead me to wonder whether, as Geoff is suggesting, people such as Gavin S and co are using words in coded ways.

    In turn, this leads me to wonder why Ken frequently comes onto blogs to describe his views (often using words such as “the science says”) and then always slopes off in high dudgeon complaining that he has been misunderstood. Perhaps when he says things such as “it would be foolish to assume that sensitivity is low” he does not really mean that he thinks it is foolish to assume that sensitivity is low. He is not interested in a discussion on this point, which invariably ends up with him declaring that he has been misunderstood. We are taking his words as if he means them in the terms that we understand them – we being people who mare not invested in AGW alarmism. Perhaps he is just saying “wouldn’t it be fun to get a shedload of money and do some fancy computational stuff to show that sensitivity could be high in some set of circumstances”. In other words, it is equivalent to saying “I would like a research grant”.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I go away for five days and a lovely discussion ensues. Maybe I should do that more often. Many thanks all. (And that doesn’t mean I think it’s over. It’s never over.)

    I hope people will appreciate the difference between the intelligent discussion here between people who don’t always agree, and the spectacle there (e.g. at https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/ of people stroking each other’s left hemispheres.

    ALAN KENDALL (26 Mar 17 at 1:50 pm)

    With regard to seed labels, I can only think they have one use.

    My point was that once you’ve removed the labels from the seedbeds (without labelling them so you know which seedbed they came from) they are no use at all.


  24. Geoff, it’s much more interesting than reading how BBD wants to castrate oil executives or how Brandon Gates wants to force everybody to wear identical clothes and all the other intellectual heavyweights who post radically intense and identical things on his posts. ATTP has certainly ensured that everybody posts re affirming things 0n his pasteurised site. Not a sign of scepticism or doubt there. They are wearing the White Hats, right?


  25. Geoff. Sorry for being dense. I assumed you would have rewritten the labels one by one, but of course you didn’t. However, if you read my comment again it still makes sense. Once germination occurs the labels are superfluous. However, I acknowledge that this was not the point you were making.

    Jaime. Yes there is evidence for brain lateralization (and for differences in the wiring of adolescent/adult and male/female brains), but does physical evidence exist supporting the view that there are people that use one half of their brain more than the other? Or is this belief what I suggested earlier? It is cod science.


  26. Alan, I fear you are confusing my statements here with the popular misconception that people are either ‘right-brained’ or ‘left-brained’. What I have indicated is that most people are left brain thinkers in that language dominates our habitual ways of thinking – and language and logic are primarily lateralized in the left hemisphere.

    “Still other abilities are localized and lateralize to one hemisphere. For left-hemisphere-dominant people (which is most people) language and math localize to the left hemisphere, while music and visual-spatial processing localize to the right hemisphere. It is this fact which seems to have led to the right brain-left brain idea.

    However, just because there are specific abilities that localize to a specific part of the brain in one hemisphere, that does not mean that our general personality or cognitive style also localizes to one hemisphere or displays hemispheric dominance. Many basic cognitive functions just don’t localize in this way.

    Further, the two hemispheres have massive interconnectedness. The corpus callosum, for example, is a thick cable running between the two hemispheres, and there are other, smaller cables. There are many networks in the brain that span the two hemispheres. Both sides of our brain work together seamlessly to produce one consciousness.

    There is no significant basis in neuroscience for the hypothesis that people have hemisphere-dominant cognitive styles. This is just a popular made-up myth.”


    I know there are scientific studies which have been carried out which appear to dispel the popular myth of the logical left brain/creative intuitive right brain and these tend to be used as a cudgel by ‘realists’ to completely discredit the idea of cerebral lateralization. But in fact what they demonstrate is only that the actual situation is far more complex than we thought and that you cannot isolate cognitive functions completely within each hemisphere but, at the same time, cognitive functional abilities are still organised very differently in both hemispheres and do tend to dominate in one or the other. The salient fact is the brain has evolved two distinct hemispheres which are connected. It has not evolved as one homogeneous lump of grey matter. There must be a biological reason for this.

    Personally, I believe that that nebulous thing which we call ‘consciousness’ tends to ‘inhabit’ the left brain a lot more than it does the right hemisphere. ‘I think, therefore I am’ and most people think in words. A few years ago, I indulged my misspent youth by occasionally collecting and consuming naturally growing psilocybe mushrooms. The result of which I spent one glorious night casually observing the constant flow of ‘words in bubbles’ emanating from the logical language orientated left hemisphere. I couldn’t ‘pop’ the bubbles and expose their content but I knew they were words. To this day, I still think that my consciousness at that time had been temporarily displaced to the right hemisphere. I may be wrong. It may be a fantasy, but anyway, that’s my own personal experience of cerebral lateralization.


  27. Jaime, interesting. However abilities in mathematics, foreign languages and music (all more or less laguages) tend to go together, yet are “placed” in different hemispheres. My granddaughter is an exemplar of this association.
    Unlike your good self I have never indulged in kabouter tendencies, but can testify to the hemisphere melding properties of my favourite Jamiesons.


  28. Alan, this is a fascinating subject for me and I could go on and on and on, but with respect to the post’s core subject, I won’t. I will say that musical abilities span both hemispheres. This post is interesting:


    Mathematics is even more fascinating. It too spans both hemispheres. Numeracy and logic obviously feature more as left brain functions. Yes, mathematics is a type of language with its own inherent structure and rules, but it’s also an expression of the beauty of nature. As Godfrey Hardy said: “there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics”. As such, higher mathematics and the appreciation of pattern and beauty, originate in the right brain.

    For myself, I never found much ‘beauty’ in pure mathematics, but I discovered it in applied; however I’m sure that most pure mathematicians would argue vigorously that their pursuit of pure mathematical truth and form is rooted in right brain creativity!


  29. Jaime. I too will stop my meandering with this post, but your last caused me to remember my theory of map contouring. In my research and in teaching I commonly have had to construct contour maps from geographically scattered data. Students who have never constructed this sort of map before tend to produce ugly maps, full of contour lines with sharp angles, non-uniform spacing and so on. With practice you begin to produce more pleasing maps with sweeping curves, more equal spacing. Contour maps are predictive (they suggest values between data points), and what is interesting is that beautiful maps are, in my experience, better predictors of these intermediate points than ugly maps are.
    My theory is that our brains are hard wired to see nature as beautiful, so that when we represent nature in an ugly fashion we misrepresent it. It just doesn’t look right. When we construct pleasing maps we approach nature’s reality more closely and make our maps better predictors. I have no evidence to support this speculation, other than experience. Nor have I ever spoken of this almost mystical hypothesis. However look at most weather charts: invariably they are beautiful to the eye.

    Liked by 1 person

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