Monday Miscellany, 12/4/23

Monday Miscellany, 12/4/23 December 4, 2023

The word of the year, the end of Popular Science, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Word of the Year

The Merriam-Webster dictionary people have proclaimed their “word of the year” for 2023:  authentic.

Does this herald a shift away from seeing reality as virtual, constructed, and subjectively created?  As opposed to Merriam-Webster’s first definition of “authentic,” “not false or imitation REALACTUAL”?  Or is it more about the second definition, “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character,” as opposed to the posing and role-playing on social media?

Merriam-Webster said there was a “substantial increase” in online lookups of the word.  BBC reports that the lexographers’  press release said that  the interest in the word was “driven by stories and conversations about AI [artificial intelligence], celebrity culture, identity, and social media”, as well as the blurring of “the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake.'”

Or did so many people look up “authentic” during the year because they no longer know what the word means?

UPDATE:  The UK dictionary maker Oxford University Press announced its word of the year:  rizz, which it defines as “style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”  The new word, which was a runner-up for Merriam-Webster, is thought to derive from “charisma.”

The End of “Popular Science”

Growing up, when I was waiting at the barber shop or visiting my uncle, I would take up a copy of Popular Science, a magazine that always had something worth reading.  Maybe an article about America’s hottest jet.  Or the latest developments in automotive technology.  Or how to build a one-man submarine or gyrocopter.

It wasn’t usually about science in the sense of knowledge about nature, more like the accomplishments of engineering.  But it filled me with a sense of wonder about this amazing world that I inhabited.

Popular Science started in 1872!  But three years ago, the print edition was dropped.  It continued to exist as an online subscription magazine.  But now, after 151 years, that’s stopping too.

It will still hang on, for now, as a website, but the corporation that owns it has laid off all its writers.

Is this another step in our culture’s retreat from physical reality?  If so, this raises another question: Can science, whether popular or non-popular, survive postmodern constructivism?

The Transgender Day of Remembrance

Overall, Americans are compassionate people.  And some groups get their way by manipulating Americans’ compassion.  They sometimes do so by creating a narrative that just isn’t true.

The strongest argument for allowing children to “change” their gender is that they will commit suicide if they don’t.  This is a myth.

There is also the impression that the “trans community” is in danger of “genocide,” due to all of the “hate” that is poured out against them.  This too is a myth.

Recently the White House observed the “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” in which press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre proclaimed the nation’s grief for all of the 26 transgender Americans who have been killed in 2023.

Wilfred Reilly, in his National Review post There Is No ‘Trans Genocide’ [behind a paywall], crunches the numbers.  If, as has been said,  1% of the population is trans, and we round up the 26 number to 30 to account for the rest of the year,”we obtain an annual transgender-murder rate of 30 in 3.32 million, or just 0.9 people per 100,000 people.”

The murder rate for blacks is 30-33 people per 100,000.  Looking from another angle, “4.5 percent of black-male deaths were the results of homicide, versus 2.3 percent for American Indians, 2.2 percent for Hispanics, 2 percent for Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders . . . and 4.9 percent for all whites under full majority.”

Not only that, Reilly looked at the 26 transexuals who were killed and found that virtually all of them died in the course of criminal shootouts and murder/suicides.  “So far as I can tell, not one proven or even seriously alleged hate crime appears anywhere on the Human Rights Campaign’s list.”

So while it is fitting to grieve for these sad cases,  none of this amounts to “genocide.”

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