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2013.02.01: "Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it

Friday, February 01, 2013

Scully's quote (from "Herrenvolk") has a potentially ambiguous 'it' in it: does the 'it' refer to what happens or to nature? I suspect it is intended to apply to 'nature', as that is the most obvious antecedent and it provides the clearest interpretation, semantically and syntactically. The parallel 'contradiction to' almost ensures this. That provides a good, clear, objective-subjective epistemological divide between being and knowing. But I'd like to extend the 'it' to whatever happens ('nothing happens', for example) to provide a more phenomenological take.

But this is just a matter of playing with words.

It's a new month. Yesterday I took Schiller with me on the road and from here on this month I think I need to quote from him, Goethe, Lessing, and Kant (and their colleagues) on a daily basis. Today, though, I will ... detox ... cleanse ... purge?

And this evening we begin season 4 of 'The X-Files', season 1 of 'Millennium', and even have episodes of 'Top Chef' and 'Elementary' lined up if we feel like it.

I. Detoxing

Thoughts from the forums -- the forums/fora (see also: painintheenglish.com/cas
and forums.xkcd.com/viewtopi
) -- regarding 'detox' 'diets' or 'cleanses' and all that other nonsense:

As per DRAGONCHILDE: "Now, a 'detox' involving eating clean, with whole foods and no artificial crap, is fine. That's not really a detox though, that's just eating clean." Precisely.

I'm reminded of a flippant yet basically true retort in the scientific community to 'alternative medicine':

- Q: What do you call 'alternative medicine' that works?
- A: Medicine.

And as per BUNNYKICKRS, a 'mental reset' or similar, finding a routine or ritual, is not a bad, personal thing to do. But there should be no illusions about the efficacy of 'detoxing' and the like. I find "I don't know if such-and-such works, but I like it" to be problematic at best: yes, you do know whether it works, or can know, because all the science has been done. Detoxing is 'not even wrong' in the sense provided by Wolfgang Pauli; it's not just that it doesn't work -- and that the process can be harmful -- but there's nothing to 'detox.' It's nonsensical. To the extent any detoxing takes place in the body, we already have systems in place: they're called kidneys and the liver. We know this objectively, certainly, and for a fact. One can 'like' it and prefer doing it, but one cannot claim ignorance as to whether it works, one cannot suggest that 'the jury is still out' or such.

Sometimes it's as if the Enlightenment never happened.

II. Beer

A good {over|re}view of some gluten-free beers turned into a rehashing of ill-informed quotes and notions in the comments section.

Preemptively: xkcd.com/386/

It began with Frank Matheis' silly comment, "Hops, malt, barley and pure water make beer. In Germany this is the Purity Law, and beer has been made that way for many hundreds of years. Anything else is not real beer. It's some other brewed drink, but it 'ain't no real beer, baby'".

First and foremost:

[1] Germany doesn't get to define what beer is.

[2] It's not enforceable (see: EU, protectionism, and so on).

[3] This never 'defined' beer.

[4] Third this was not about 'Germany', it was Bavarian.

[5] It wasn't even really about maintaining purity of 'beer' (see: not about definition, above) but about economics and prices.

[6] Even adhered to in the most literal sense, it's inaccurate.

The so-called 'German' Purity Law is not German but Bavarian dates to 1516, so is nearly five-hundred years old. It was a law and after-the-fact, it never defined what beer was, but instead defined what was allowed to be used in the making of beer in Bavaria. Its impetus was not some sort of culinary eugenic pride, but rather a matter of price controls; wheat, which has been used in beer for ages, was also used by bakers for bread, and the Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) was a form of price control that kept bakers and brewers from competing for resources.

The notion that hops, malt, barley and 'pure' water make beer (see: silly Frank Matheis, above) is incomplete, as yeast is required. One might call it an oversight; one might also note that it was impossible for the 1516 law to really take yeast into account, as the functioning of the microorganisms could not be fully understood until much later.

The Reinheitsgebot is almost the reverse of the AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) as applied to Cognac and Champagne in one sense. In those cases a regional designation -- Cognac, Champagne -- has been made synonymous with a legal definition of the product in Europe (or the EU) and been given legal protection; to be called Champagne you must be from the Champagne region of France and made in a certain way, etc. In contrast any attempt to apply the Reinheitsgebot more broadly would be the attempt to take a general term (beer) and limit it to a regional definition. But at the same time this is not that far removed from Champagne and Cognac; in the U.S. neither is a specific term but rather a general label for a kind of product, not necessarily its origin or manner of production. With the AOC, though, what had become generic outside of France, let's say, or had threatened to become such, was legally reverted to specific and given the analog of trademark protection.

The Reinheitsgebot would differ in that it would attempt to maintain a definitional control but without the accompanying analog of trademark status. Both, however, are attempts at trade control and protectionism. The broadening of the Reinheitsgebot beyond Bavaria was a political and economic endeavor in the late 19th century, an attempt by Bavarian brewers to crush their northern competition. And in that regard it only ever had a negative effect upon Germany's "beer ecosystem". Applying the Reinheitsgebot EU-wide was a non-starter from the beginning and is non-sensical. Beer was never a German-only, German-best, or German-first situation. The Reinheitsgebot never had anything approaching authority outside of parts of Germany for parts of history. It has no mandate.

Closer analogs in the beer world to the AOC ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ap
) -- and some do have the appellation d'origine contrôlée -- are kinds of Belgian beers, in particular Trappist beers.

"Today there are close to 170 Trappist monasteries and convents around the world. Very few produce beer. In fact, there are only 7 Trappist monasteries producing beer that qualifies for the “Authentic Trappist Product” (ATP) designation as defined by the International Trappist Association (ITA)."
-- cheeseweb.eu/2012/06/tra

Key here is a later line, "Like wine from an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), these rules [...]" -- 'like' the AOC, but not equivalent. Similar, but with less international scope. Restricting ourselves to Germany we have AOC-type analogs in Kölsch and Alt, with are local to Köln/Cologne and Düsselfdorf respectively.

What Matheis doesn't get is that 'beer' is not and never has been a fixed ideal, but a moving target. It may not be the case that "anything goes," but over the centuries or even millennia the grains (and, more recently, non-grain sugars) used to brew have changed to fit with the climate, regions, and resources. It is not the case that hops have always been employed. The manner of brewing has changed, the way yeasts are used, the way grains were malted, and so on. And beer will continue to change.

Aside: Black Cash continues the silliness when misquoting Ben Franklin, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". There is no evidence that Franklin ever said that (see: urbanlegends.about.com/b
); still, it's slightly better than attributions of this line to Jefferson, Washington, and others, as is frequently the case.

III. Links

[1] waronidiocy.tumblr.com/p

[2] www.bbc.co.uk/news/scien

[3] www.npr.org/2013/01/31/1

... not that I need more books to read!

And Missouri is getting really stupid again:

[4] freethoughtblogs.com/pha

Speaking of the Enlightenment ... throughout much of the U.S. 2013 still seems more like 1513 than 1713 or 1813. We're a nation composed of people who are proud to be on the wrong side of history. Having a "personal opinion" (by definition) or "belief" is a statement of the situation; it is not, however, a justification for stupidity.

Also via my beloved Pharyngula,

[5] www.gocomics.com/tomthed

Have a happy weekend and good beginning to February.
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