Friday, December 3, 2010

An Essay on Criticism

by Alexander Pope

As many know of me, I find it important to familiarize myself and constantly learn subjects that I think are important to be a well rounded educated person. Hence, the name, “Engineer of Knowledge.”

I recently have been reading the prose of Alexander Pope’s, “An Essay on Criticism.” Even though it was written over 300 years ago, 1709 to be exact, its applications are still current today. The poem covers a range of good criticism and advice and represents many of the chief literary ideals of Pope's age. The Age of Enlightment.
To the more intelligent and learned readers of my blog, I highly recommend reading this piece of work by Pope. You will find it rewarding.

Pope has been quoted almost as much as Shakespeare and many have heard the quotes of, “To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine” or one of my favorite, “A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing, etc.”

To be correct, the accurate quote from this work is:

“A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”

Pierian Spring relating to the region of Pieria in ancient Macedonia or to the Muses who were once worshipped there. The Pierian Spring from Greek Mythology is the spring believed to be a fountain of knowledge that inspires whoever drinks from it.

This last passage is where Conservative Radio or Fox’s Conservative Programming leads many astray. They pass on accurate statements but only up to a point.

An example being on “Global Warming” or “Climate Change.” I have heard statements with the purpose of discrediting the science behind this issue such as, “Weathermen can’t even predict the weather from day to day, much less week to week. There is no way that they can predict weather or Climate Change 10, 20, or 50 years from now.” I very kindly correct there misuse of the two terms and take the moment to correct their misconceptions and incorrect application of these science terms.

Weather Verses Climate:
The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.

When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather. If summers seem hotter lately, then the recent climate may have changed. In various parts of the world, some people have even noticed that springtime comes earlier now than it did 30 years ago. An earlier springtime is indicative of a possible change in the climate.

What Weather Means:
Weather is basically the way the atmosphere is behaving, mainly with respect to its effects upon life and human activities. The difference between weather and climate is that weather consists of the short-term (minutes to months) changes in the atmosphere. Most people think of weather in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, visibility, wind, and atmospheric pressure, as in high and low pressure.

In most places, weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate, however, is the average of weather over time and space. An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms.

I could go on and on with examples of misuse of science terms or half presented science facts but this posting is getting too long now. The whole complete aspect as presented would change the message of what Conservative Radio or Fox’s Conservative Programming presents as proof to their slanted arguments.

So in concluding, this posting is to the Teabaggers, Ultra Conservatives, and Religious Right Wing people. I would pass onto the Conservative’s point of mind; “Be sure to completely read and learn all on a subject and do not come to conclusions with only a part of the facts that seem to support your viewpoint.” This is your pitfall and how you are led astray by this slanted message media.

This is the lesson of Pope’s message of:
“There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”

In the Ultra Conservative person’s viewpoint cases; “A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing.”


  1. Everyone knows the best lies have an element of truth in them. An additional point for the conservative movement is that these lies are comforting.

    In the case of global warming, there needs to be a drastic change of lifestyle. That threatens the American way of life where they could build subdivisions in the middle of nowhere to avoid the cities' problems. The ability to do this was based upon cheap fuel. But cheap fuel is (a) running out and (b) not good for the enviornment. The changes in lifestyle to deal with this will hit the average person in the pocketbook.

    But leadership is being able to deal with adversity and show the way by offering solutions. We can get into how the climate change crowd is losing ground as the deniers offer happy talk. Deny the effects on the environment and people don't need to make the necessary changes in their lives.

    Also, look at who funds the climate denial industry--usually the energy corporations which don't want to change.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much being done in the way of critical thinking unless it is being used to discredit the other side.

  2. Sadly, Engineer, it seems to me that the People don't care too much about which idiots caused their pain, their shrinking bank accounts, their evaporating 401K's. All they know is that they have got to survive somehow and they'll explore the 'who' sometime later, but not now.

    Glad to see that you are still posting.

  3. One thing that can be distilled from your post is that the ability to reason has to be instilled. Critical thinking has to be taught. It is not innate.
    When I was in grade school english was a subject and I was taught how to parse a sentence. A concept that has totally fallen by the wayside in our age of facebook blurts and twitters.
    An argument has to have both form and substance.
    Today, all we seem to get is the form.
    People do not know how to reason and it isn't taught.
    Marshmallow logic rules....