Robert Tavernor – Smoot’s Ear: The Measure of Humanity

The title leads one to expect a diversionary tour of the history of the technologies and the debates regarding measurement, and to an extent it is. Sadly, this perfectly serviceable intention is sidelined in favour of a wacky partisan position, in the process making Robert Tavernor the Baigent and Leigh of measurement.

This book is worth reading for the substance and the history, and not the crankery of his interpretation of matters, which makes him come across as a mixture of resentful autodidact (which he isn’t) and flat Earther. The tone is very uneven, and worth turning a deaf ear to. Just in terms of this interpretation (wanting a turn to supposedly more ‘human’ measures), his examples are self-serving. Why he cannot see the efforts at greater accuracy in measurement as a testament to the human mind is baffling. This sense of bafflement is why I have come to regard Tavernor’s position as “not even wrong”. His crankery is so far in the deep end that to engage with him is to risk destabilising reason. To take exception to metric measurement, as he clearly does, need not imply taking exception to rigour in argument and logical coherence.


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