Medievalism and Mr Clarke 3

May 16, 2003

Charles Clarke wants the state to pay only for subjects of clear usefulness. If only there were a foolproof criterion for identification.

G. H. Hardy, the mathematician who laid the foundation for the whole of quantum mechanics and modern relativity, could still say in 1940 that these subjects were "useless". More recently, the mitochondrial DNA project has benefited greatly from what was previously seen as purely humanities research: the development of concordances. Even studying medieval history may help in understanding what political actions are likely to work in the short term yet be disasters in the long term.

Clearly, Clarke needs to make significant funding available for a Department of Clear Usefulness to investigate how this can be predicated in advance. Sadly, it is likely to be pure theoretical philosophy; hence useless research.

D. R. de Lacey

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