Deciding the ultimate seminar speaker: The rules

Here’s the bracket:


Here’s how I set things up last month:

Who would be the ultimate seminar speaker? I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

My list includes eight current or historical figures from each of the following eight categories:
– Philosophers
– Religious Leaders
– Authors
– Artists
– Founders of Religions
– Cult Figures
– Comedians
– Modern French Intellectuals.

All these categories seem to be possible choices to reach the sort of general-interest intellectual community that is implied by the [notoriously hyped] announcement of Slavoj Zizek Bruno Latour’s visit to Columbia last year.

The rules

I’ll post one matchup each day at noon, starting tomorrow and ending up on 6 Apr, the final day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

So here’s what we have to look forward to in the next few days:
3 Feb: Plato (1) vs. Henny Youngman
4 Feb: Mark Twain (4) vs. L. Ron Hubbard
5 Feb: James Joyce (3) vs. Mary Baker Eddy
6 Feb: Mohammad (2) vs. Ed McMahon
7 Feb: Miguel de Cervantes (2) vs. Joan Crawford
and so on.

Once the pairing is up, all of you can feel free (indeed, are encouraged) to comment. I’ll announce the results when posting the next day’s matchup.

I’ll decide the winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!

P.S. In case you’re wondering: Yes, we’re continuing the regular flow of statistical modeling, causal inference, and social science posts. They’ll alternate with these matchup postings.

4 thoughts on “Deciding the ultimate seminar speaker: The rules

  1. You do realize that this whole ruse will never obscure the fact that Columbia is 11-9 (and not really in a legitimate NCAA division, *snicker, har, har*).

  2. I admire Ms. Kruger (“DOUBT+BELIEF=SANITY” clings magnetically to my fridge), but I doubt her in-your-face approach would move many from positions that have withstood countless direct attacks. Carlin using humor to dodge our defenses, taught many of us to recognize not just imprecision but misprecision and malprecision. When I look at a shampoo bottle that touts “weightless coconut oils”, and wonder how they violated the laws of physics for earthbound shampooers, or note that “the most awarded SUV ever” happened to be around for decades before any other SUV, it was Carlin (and Jean Shepherd) who first endowed that critical faculty. Years of in-person standup experience created an adroit humor that could run around the defense of diverse audiences. I choose Carlin as the seminar speaker more likely to shift the mindsets of those who enter the seminar space, and isn’t that the point for the seminars that aren’t job talks?

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