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Sunday, February 21, 2010

True Religion and Bosonic Politics

It's time to complete my field guide to mathematical liberals. The remaining commonly encountered species is the true believer. This species contains two subspecies, the believer and the bosonic believer (terminology explained below). Neither of these is endemic to academe; so, at best this post offers a new metaphor. For the believer, politics replaces religion, both in fervor of belief and unquestioning acceptance of precepts. Arguing with the faithful is never fruitful. My early introduction in graduate school to these acolytes included such revealing declarations as "I may not know the facts and figures as well as you do, but I know you are wrong. I don't know why, but you are wrong." It's hard to argue with that.

The bosonic believers are also beyond argument, but for a different reason. Their axiom system differs from that of the fiscal conservative. There can be no intelligent argument between two sides if they do not share the same fundamental axioms. This is a statement of logical rather than of social necessity. This is also the reason why 90% of arguments about social issues have no content. You cannot argue a point with someone if you differ on first principles.

So, what is the fundamental difference in axioms? My bosonic believers are sufficiently well versed in economic and political reality to concede that statist economic policies lower the average standard of living, yet still they advocate such policy. I have been told by a fellow professor that he "would prefer that everyone had less than that some had significantly more than others." Thus we are wrong to think these bosonic believers simply value the prosperity of the hive over the freedom of the individual. What they desire is a society that truly resembles a hive. Recall that in statistical mechanics, bosons refer to species of matter which can have unlimited numbers of indistinguishable particles in the same state. Substitute citizen for particle and this is the description of the ideal society for a bosonic believer. It is useless for the individualist to remind him: bosonic particles tend to cluster at the lowest possible energy level.

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