Saturday, October 20, 2012

If not trees, then rivers?

Four decades ago Professor Christoper Stone asked what he called an "unthinkable" question: "Should trees have standing? See Christopher Stone,  Should Trees Have Standing? - Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects? 45 Southern California Law Review 450 (1972). I don't know if trees have standing in New Zealand. But it seems that one river now does. Tree Hugger [sic], New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood care2 make a difference [sic] (September 8, 2012). See also Kate Shuttleworth, Agreement entitles Whanganui River to legal identity New Zealand Herald (August 30, 2012).

It must be nice to live in a country that can afford to take such questions seriously.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Sokal-Like Hoax in the Field of Mathematics

Some people in the hard sciences can be hoodwinked as well. See

Paul Taylor, Stochastically Orthogonal (October 17, 2012) (blog post)


When Alan Sokal tricked Social Text into publishing a nonsensical parody of postmodernist criticism, he thought the journal’s failure to spot that the article was a hoax revealed a shocking lack of intellectual rigour. John Sturrock, writing about it in the LRB, noted that Social Text exists in a different realm of discourse from Nature and that Sokal’s contribution, for all its faults, was a ‘jauntily expressed’ piece of ‘extreme provocation’, and as Sokal knew, the kind of thing that Social Text existed to promote. Well yes, but, as legions of letter writers responded, don’t things you publish sort of have to make sense?
Last month That’s Mathematics! reported another landmark event in the history of academic publishing. A paper by Marcie Rathke of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople had been provisionally accepted for publication in Advances in Pure Mathematics. ‘Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE’ concludes:
Now unfortunately, we cannot assume that

It is difficult, as a non-specialist, to judge the weight of that ‘unfortunately’. 


Hint by Tillers: The equations and expressions found above are gibberish.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Place of Evidence in the Reform of U.S. Legal Education

New York University Law School is apparently undertaking an interesting reform of its 3L educational program. See Peter Lattman, N.Y.U. Law Plans Overhaul of Students’ Third Year, Dealbook (October 16, 2012).  NYU's new 3L programs look enchanting, they are practically "sexy." For example, students can opt to "study[] in Shanghai or Buenos Aires." But, based on the information in the article, it appears that none of NYU's new programs will force or invite 3L students to tackle in a serious way (except through trial and error) how evidence is or might be gathered and assessed. This is most unfortunate.

I can't help wondering whether NYU Law suffers from the mistaken assumption that fact investigation is lower-class work. It might be noted that in the sexy field of international arbitration, the exotic arena of foreign law practice, and the important field of human rights, evidence and facts are quite important.
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