Jane Austen Teaches Science, Tea for a Cause, & The Winner Is…

I’ve learned a lot from the Internet recently, including that (1) I should refrain from cutting Mr. A.M.B.’s guest posts on this blog, (2) a pot of tea and a good book can be even better than usual, and (3) I’m not the only one who thinks that Kurt Vonnegut’s books are worth reading!

(1)   What Jane Austen Teaches Us About “Proof”:

Persuasion Image with Quote

While wasting time on the Internet last week, I came across a list, 10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing, which included “Proof” as one of the most widely misunderstood concepts.

Per Physicist Sean Carroll:

[S]cience never proves anything! So when we are asked “What is your proof that we evolved from other species?” or “Can you really prove that climate change is caused by human activity?” we tend to hem and haw rather than simply saying “Of course we can.” The fact that science never really proves anything, but simply creates more and more reliable and comprehensive theories of the world that nevertheless are always subject to update and improvement, is one of the key aspects of why science is so successful.

Coincidentally, before seeing this list, I cut a paragraph from a draft of Mr. A.M.B.’s post on Jane Austen’s Persuasion that raised a similar point about the limits of “proof” while arguing that Jane Austen’s novel is more than a love story. He wrote:

Persuasion includes a number of remarkable observations about humanity, many of which can easily pass without notice if a reader sees it only as a love story. When Anne is debating with Captain Harville about whether men hold romantic attachments as firmly as women, he asks “But how shall we prove anything?” She replies:

“We never shall. We can never expect to prove anything upon such a point. It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin, probably, with a little bias towards our own sex; and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle…”

There are two separate remarkable observations in there, one about the limits of “proof” in the context of social science, the other about a psychological phenomenon we now call “confirmation bias.” Persuasion is filled with mature, compelling observations about human nature stated simply and plainly in the middle of a book that would only appear “superficial” if you weren’t really paying attention.

Clearly, there’s a lot we can learn from Jane Austen (& Mr. A.M.B. 🙂 ).

(2)   Making Tea & Books An Even Better Combination:

Evergreen Tea BlendAlso last week, I learned from Melanie at The Indextrious Reader that Distinctly Tea (in Ontario, Canada) created a special green tea blend in honor of the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award, which “gives adult library users the opportunity to vote for Canadian fiction or non-fiction from a shortlist of 10 titles each year, with readers choosing the winner.” A portion of the profit made on the tea will support the Stratford Public Library.

As I tweeted, tea and books always go well together, but the combination is even better when it supports a library. The Evergreen Tea Blend I ordered from Distinctly Tea arrived yesterday by mail, and I’m pleased to say that it’s delicious! I’m not normally a fan of smoky lapsang, but this blend works for me.

The Best Combination of Tea & Books(3)   What kind of library user are you?

Speaking of libraries, I saw a link to this Pew Research Quiz on Stephanie’s blog, So Many Books.

I’m an “Information Omnivore.” According to Pew:

Information Omnivores are more likely to seek and use information than other groups and are more likely to engage with technology. They are strong users of public libraries and think libraries have a vital role in their communities.

So, what kind of library user are you?

(4)   Drumroll Please…

The winner of my Literary Blog Hop giveaway is Orange Pekoe Reviews! Isn’t that a great name for a blog? Books and tea really go so well together (See #2).

Thank you to everyone who participated. It was nice to see what books participants are interested in reading. I was particularly happy that someone mentioned wanting to read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which is one of my favorite books. As I’ve discussed on this blog before, I’ve been concerned about Vonnegut’s literary reputation (see Vonnegut’s Literary Reputation: Evidence That American Culture Must Be In Decline).

Thanks again to Leeswammes for hosting the blog hop.

Have a great weekend!




  1. I appreciate reading your husband’s insight into Persuasion. It makes me want to reread the book. 🙂

    I hope you enjoy your tea. Admittedly, I am not a tea (or coffee) drinker. Hot chocolate is another story though.

    My response to the library quiz was the same as yours. I admit to being a little surprised given how little I use the library for myself. We do try to take my daughter at least once or twice a month though. I do love the library though and am so glad we have one close to where we live.

    1. I like hot chocolate too! I think most book bloggers will be either library lovers or information omnivores. My family uses our local library, but not nearly as much as we should. It’s such a great place. I feel very lucky to have it in our neighborhood.

  2. Information Omnivore, I have a book recommendation for you, it has to do with science and Jane Austen! “Jane Austen, Game Theorist” by Michael Suk-Young Chwe — I think you might like it… And I’m going to make myself a cup of tea 😉 .

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve heard of “Jane Austen, Game Theorist” before, but I’ve never read it. I really should. I’m going to make myself a cup of tea now too. 🙂

  3. Jane Austen, psychology, tea and libraries…what a pleasing post. It confirms my bias that book bloggers are more likely to be information omnivores 😉

    1. Thank you! My guess is that most of the people who stop by this blog are either library lovers or information omnivores. Thanks again for introducing me to the Evergreen Tea Blend. It’s great! I was also very impressed by how quickly Distinctly Tea mailed it to me.

  4. Tea, Persuasion, Science, and Proof. Aye, an omnivore alright. A certain amount of evolution is required to produce such a specimen.

    This might sound strange, but the famous passage on poetry in persuasion and its possible dangers on those who love it made me always think of poetry as a branch of science…doubtless there’s some bias involved here.

    1. I’ve always loved the discussion between Anne Elliott and Captain Benwick on poetry. I can see why Anne, who has been suffering for a long time, would think that it is “the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.” Persuasion is such a rich novel. Thanks for stopping by!

        1. I’m glad to hear that you’re writing! Good luck with it. I hope you’ll keep us updated on your blog (when you return to it–I hope you will!).

          I’m doing well. My work-life tends to get a little crazier in the summer, but I’m managing to balance it all for now. I wish I had a little more time for reading, though.

  5. That’s a great point about Jane Austen describing confirmation bias! On the other hand, even if we can’t prove the answer, we could collect some evidence as to whether Anne or Captain Harville is right! Probably someone already has, but sadly my internet searches turn up a lot of confirmation bias and not much data.

    1. I wish I had kept that paragraph in his post! It just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the piece. I bet you’re right that someone has added research to the the Anne Elliott- Captain Harville debate. It would be hard to separate confirmation bias and gender stereotypes from the data.

    1. Books and hot chocolate are a great combination! I’m glad to hear that you also enjoy Vonnegut’s books. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. 🙂

    1. I hope you enjoyed the quiz! My guess is that most of the people who stop by this blog are probably library lovers or information omnivores.

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