The Magazine

The Law of Dismality

Joseph Bottum, the dismal scientist

Jul 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 40 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
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But I didn’t do it for the fame. In any investigation of these topics, we stand on the shoulders of giants, from Kelvin and Planck’s classic restatement of entropy in thermodynamics to the enthralling analysis of Thomas Malthus in economics. Sophocles’ plays, the Book of Ecclesiastes, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Thomas Friedman’s columns in the New York Times: How could anyone not be uplifted and inspired by these ancient texts? Richard Dawkins (2006) is correct, of course, that the past was full of people who weren’t Richard Dawkins, but I, for one, am still indebted to them.

As you should be. For without their premodern superstitions, how would I have known to investigate scientifically the Law of Dismality? And without my law, how would you understand why you feel so bad every time Manny Ramirez fails another baseball drug test or the president gives another speech? 


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