Aug 18 2011

That’s not skepticism – that’s bubbleheaded post modern BS

EDIT: A couple readers have pointed out that I’m wrong about skepticism not being the claim that we can know nothing. Apparently the definition of “skepticism” that I am familiar with – and honestly, the only definition I’ve heard after years in the skeptical movement – is really methodological skepticism. The author at Feministe is likely talking about philosophical skepticism. I believe my misconception came from the fact that the former is the more commonly accepted, modern definition of “skepticism” alone, and that post modernism also claims that there is a problem with objective truth. But I’m a good scientist, so I’ll admit where I’m wrong. She’s using the term fine, though I still think her views are utter hogwash.

It pains me whenever anti-science claptrap surfaces in feminist blogs I typically enjoy. It’s more evidence that feminism isn’t some monolithic entity or hive mind that constantly agrees. It’s also more evidence that we need to keep talking about how skepticism can aid feminism, because some feminists are writing rubbish like this:

As you may know from the numerous threads in which I’ve gone about it ad nauseum, I’m a skeptic (an fallibilist, existentialist …sort of). Without boring you to death, here’s the short version. I don’t think you can know things. I mean know them, know them. Not feel them, not experience them…but KNOW them. We (humans) cannot (probably) be absolutely certain of anything.

Skepticism is not some ideology where one cannot know anything. And before someone runs in screaming “No true Scottman!” – you could claim skepticism means you enjoy picking your nose while riding elephants, but that wouldn’t make it so. Skepticism is, at the very core, the application of the scientific method. To relabel it as some bizarro philosophy in where there is no such thing as knowledge is ridiculous. I can’t help but think of Tim Minchin’s wonderful Storm:

Conversation is initially bright and light-hearted

But it’s not long before Storm gets started:

“You can’t know anything,

Knowledge is merely opinion”

She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon


Some un-hippily

Empirical comment made by me

Hint: You don’t want to be making the same arguments as Storm.

There are a lot of reasons that Certainty, or at least certainty of the world outside ourselves, doesn’t work. There are the limits of human cognition. The limits of human perception. The unbridled arrogance of dogmatism. The centrality of certitude in the oppression of many, many people. But the one I want to talk about today is that dogma means that you stop learning, you stop listening to other people. In that sense I see certitude as antithetical to social justice.

Ok, I’m with you so far. Dogma = bad. Our brain messes up sometimes. That’s why we have science, right? To get around the limits of human cognition and perception. She then goes on to talk about how this sort of dogma that’s accepted as the most popular belief often gives privilege to those groups and oppresses others. Sure, I can see that. But then the argument goes back into lala land:

In my view, we can tear down all of the institutions, create perfect equality of resources or equality of opportunity, reshape the external world to our liking, but unless we reshape ourselves, address the underlying flaw in our understanding of the world and each other we will simply recreate the same power dynamics over and over again. One group will see their collective perspective as truth, as more valid than the perspectives of others, then they will once again attempt for force that reality on to others.

Which brings me back to skepticism. If we accept that we (probably) can’t know what is real, that as much as we consider, think, feel, explore we will (likely) never grasp the totality of truth, we are free to accept or learn from other people’s perspectives. We are free to accept contradictory perspectives, holding each as true for that person in that moment. We dismantle not just the current dominant narrative but also the very concept of a dominant narrative.

That to me is the goal of social justice.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The idea that we can’t definitively know what’s 100% true, therefore we must accept all people’s views of reality as equally valid is fucking ridiculous. You can’t simultaneously accept that there is no god and that the Christian God is sitting up in the sky hating on gays, just like you can’t simultaneously accept that gravity exists and doesn’t exist. Reality is independent of whatever delusional ideas our brains come up with.

But her views (not valid) make a lot more sense when you see what she says in the comments:

“Science to me contains the same claims to certainty (in many instances) as the most fundamentalist religion.”

Hooooooooo boy.

Science is the antithesis of dogma. We don’t base our views of truth and reality on whatever idea pops into our poorly evolved ape brains. We collect evidence, perform experiments, and repeatedly try to correct our view of the world so it’s close and closer to reality.

The fact that you’re making the same arguments as in-character Stephen Colbert should be a giant red flag:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Shermer
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Shermer: The only way to tell, really, the difference between these true patterns and false patterns is science.
Colbert: Really? You think science is the answer? But isn’t that just your belief? You are a skeptic. You are inclined to believe that skepticism is – the scientific method – the right idea, so you look for evidence out in the world that evidence is a good thing to luck for. But isn’t science just another belief system?
Shermer: It is another belief system, but it’s sets apart from another belief systems because it has built into it self correcting machinery, that says if you don’t look for your disconfirming evidence that debunks your own beliefs, someone else will, usually with great glee in a published form.

To claim that that science is bunk, or worse, just another religion, is to obviously not understand how skepticism, science, or the universe works. You may label yourself as a skeptic, but you’re the complete opposite.


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  1. 1

    So, basically, if we can’t know everything with perfect, unshakable certainty, she thinks we shouldn’t even try. Either that, or she thinks that anything that isn’t perfectly, unshakably certain isn’t “good enough” to count as “knowledge.”What a spoiled brat.

  2. 2

    “Science to me contains the same claims to certainty (in many instances) as the most fundamentalist religion.”Never ceases to amaze me that people still think that.  =/  Science doesn’t make you right, it just helps you to be less wrong.

  3. 3
    Lilla Bertalan

    Yeah, eerily familiar – she is making the same arguments as my radical feminist literature teacher was last year. Now with that one, I had the most epic arguments of my offline life. She seemed to think that equality can be achieved when we stop noticing all differences (both social and biological) between men and women. Flat out ignoring them. Even in situations where they are relevant.And she based this on the assumption that biology, as well as science in general, “always changes anyway”, meaning we can’t know whether a solid theory doesn’t turn out to be bunk the next day. While science does correct itself from time to time, there are some things that are so deeply rooted in evidence that the only possible way they can be wrong is something like a brains-in-a-vat scenario (in which case it wouldn’t even matter, since we couldn’t find out anyway).When I tried to explain this, she accused me of being socially programmed for patriarchal thinking. Knowing full well that when I enrolled, I was just as much of a feminist as she is now.Since then, I keep finding refutations of this hogwash in the weirdest places. Not only in this blog and other skeptic sources, but W. L. Pierce’s novel The Hunter, and even 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. (The latter inspired a little journal entry as well, here: http://lilianmarvolo.deviantar… )This particular brand of feminism that associates itself with absolute relativism and the utter rejection of all knowledge is a dangerous ally to the very dogmas and superstitions it wants to oppose. I don’t know what *your* brand is, but I’ve a hypothesis that it can only be better. :)

  4. 4

    Great post. This kind of “philosophical skepticism” is basically a means to deny the existance of any knowledge at all. Not only is this ridiculous on its face, its also self-contradicting (i.e. saying we cannot “know” anything with certainty is itself a knowledge claim). It almost always revolves around how humans are fallible, limits to perception, etc (although you always have to ask the person – are you CERTAIN that humans are fallible???). But they fail to realize that just because the theoretical possibility of error exists is not enough to doubt any specific knowldege claim. You must have a reason to do this. You must present a viable alternative hypothesis. Otherwise you are wasting everyones time.

  5. 5
    Andrew Hall

    I too have had trouble heeding the “matrimonial warning.”

  6. 6
    Jim Levis

    I hate when people play the post-modernist game. It always makes me think the person just finished philosophy 101. Yes, we get it; we fundamentally can’t prove anything about the universe. That is just a fact of reality. That doesn’t mean we can’t say anything useful about the universe.  Science is about using empiricism to develop and refine provisional truths about the world around us. We use it because it works. Planes stay in the sky; cars keeping running; electricity keeps flowing. Religion and theology don’t provide any similarly useful insights.

  7. 7

    Well, I do disagree with Kristen J.’s conclusions on Feministe, but you may want to investigate the concept of skepticism a little further (for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… ). Our modern, dominant idea about skepticism is methodological skepticism, but philosophical skepticism, that is, “the ideology that one cannot know anything”, as you mock it, also has a long, long history and just as much claim to the word. Hint: it’s not post-modern BS if it originates with the ancient Greeks.You may disagree with these ideas (I also largely disagree, myself), but you are actually the one re-defining skepticism here.

  8. 8

    The text started pretty well, but then she went too far. It’s true science only gets us approximate, provisional answers. There’s an interview with Feynman all over youtube in which he says he holds aproximate answers and different degrees of certainty, but not absolutely sure of anything, that’s exactly what science gives you and nothing more.Science is useful. It works. Is what science tells us really true or are we just living in the Matrix and we just don’t notice? When asked that, science nods, smiles, and says “well I guess anything’s possible” and then moves on to find how stuff works.In fact, I think that special, eternal, cosmic absolute Truth is just something we made up, like God. I blame Plato and his imaginary ideal forms and his cave.I think the article forgets to mention the experiment, which is what science uses to tell what works from what doesn’t. Scientific ideas often have a lot of experiments supporting it and also experiment that contradict in one aspect of another the idea, and that balance of support/contradiction is what makes all scientific ideas provisional. You never know what might be discovered tomorrow. But if we test contradictory ideas and one of them receives an overwhelming amount of support from the experiments, then the supported idea is more likely to be true, according to science, than the other. We aren’t really free to accept contradictory perspectives. We should test those perspectives and see which one does a better job explaining whatever those perspectives are supposed to explain.

  9. 9
    Jim Levis

    I think most people are on board with the whole “you can’t prove anything about the universe” idea. It’s clearly true, but not that interesting. In science we deal in evidence and provisional truths and it’s proven to be very useful. Kristen’s argument that all viewpoints are equally valid is absolutely not useful.

  10. 10

    Maybe some people who aren’t very familiar with science reject it because the enormous amount of BS many scientists say about sexism makes them view science as a force against their goal, i.e. equality. The solution however isn’t to say to them that they’re idiots; I’d rather show them how science can fix itself, delightfully tearing incorrect ideas apart. It’s the self correcting machinery Shermer mentioned.

  11. 11
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Hmm. Not going to go into this too deeply, because I’m in the middle of writing up a tiny bit of research that forms part of my assessment… but epistemology is a big part of educational research, so I’ve spent a lot of time on it in the last couple of years, and here’s where I stand on it.I agree that nothing is knowable in an absolute sense, or rather that there is no absolute knowledge – hence I’m an epistemological constructivist. I’m not an ontological constructivist (not sure, but I think that’s similar to the idea of ontological relativism) – I don’t believe that we all have our own separate realities. If you work under that assumption, nothing is worth anything. My view on philosophy of science is that no science truly claims to know underlying reality – just to model it, and model it in a way that makes valid predictions. We are, after all, just putting labels on things. That’s easier to accept in my former field, when I was in hard sciences, of physics – there’s this thing we call a ‘quark’, but the only things we can say about it are its properties in a model that we already know to have flaws. Ditto ‘space-time’, ‘neutron’, and so ‘forth’. This doesn’t, however, mean that knowledge is all opinion (well, arguing strict semantics it might be possible to argue that, but I wouldn’t), and it doesn’t mean that everyone’s subjective ‘knowledge’ (or opinion) is equally valid. Well, it’s all equally valid in a touchy-feely way, but when it comes down to making serious statements about, well, anything (but good examples include physics, biology, or even education), it’s really not. There’s such a thing as evidence. ‘Softer’ sciences might be less likely to have really conclusive evidence, but we still work with evidence (or at least, some of us do)tl;dr: you can accept the idea that nothing is truly knowable without having to come to the conclusion that ‘everyone is right’. That’s just broken.

  12. 12

    I just wanted to say good use of Indigo famous line.  Bravo

  13. 13

    Why yes, I did say I disagree with Kristen J.’s conclusions. I’ve been doing the science PhD thing myself, so obviously I’m fond of science. I am just pointing out that Jen is wrong in arguing that Kristen J. isn’t a skeptic. Skepticism, in some forms, is in fact a “bizarro philosophy in where [sic] there is know [sic] such thing is [sic] knowledge”. I find it is usually helpful to be accurate, when laying into one’s opponents.

  14. 14

    I’m really tired of the “we can’t know anything unless we’re absolutely certain and we can’t be absolutely certain of anything” meme.  Absolute certainty is a ridiculous qualification for knowledge.

  15. 15

    I too enjoy many of the posts on feministe. And if someone told me a few years ago I’d be saying that sentence I wouldn’t have stopped laughing for a week. Live and learn.But yeah…I was kind of hopeful when she mentioned being a skeptic and then lost it all in the face of vacuous nothing-ness.

  16. 16
    Andrei Anghel

    Dear Jen, I am not a philosopher, I am a scientist of some sort. I am also a skeptic, in your sense of the word. But you are horribly mistaken when you say “I do not think it means what you think it means.” about skepticism. Truth is, skepticism was a very old idea that predated the scientific method by many centuries. The philosophical idea of skepticism  originated independently in several places, but by far the most common school of philosophical skepticism is that of the Greeks. Spearheaded by Socrates and his followers, this school diverged into most subsequent philosophical skepticism schools. The very idea common to all was that currently we do not know anything. Some thought that maybe knowledge was possible, others that it wasn’t (Pyrrho, the first skeptic, took this to an extreme). Others even claimed that it is impossible to state if it is possible to have knowledge, since saying “Knowledge is attainable” and “Knowledge is not attainable” are both epistemological claims that in philosophical skepticism cannot be proved right or wrong. But I digress… What you understand when you say skepticism is the kind of methodological skepticism on which science is based – in essence, demanding evidence for every claim of an epistemological nature. While this kind of skepticism is more widespread today, simply ignoring that philosophical skepticism predates it by a good 1500 years and saying “I do not think it means what you think it means.” is proof of nothing, except that you have not done your homework. Now, you could argue that the whole philosophical skeptical framework is wrong, which is probably true. You could make up your own argument, or simply point to the likes of GE Moore (who was a philosopher and logician who critiqued the skeptical framework) or AC Grayling (who wrote a book called “A Refutation of Skepticism” – I haven’t read it, but I assume there Grayling offers arguments against skepticism). There is a reason most philosophers nowadays do not subscribe to philosophical skepticism. So the conclusion is that whether right or wrong, the lady writing that article had a definition of skepticism that was just as valid as yours. It’s just a different kind of skepticism, and it is probably not true. But that does not give you the right to call it “bubbleheaded post modern BS”. In fact it is just a philosophical school of thought of the past, which has been replaced by others. Andrei

  17. 17

    Thank you for pointing out where I’m wrong. I’ve added a clarification at the top.

  18. 18
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Of course, even the abstract philosophical scepticism doesn’t require abandoning the basic idea of objectivity, it just rejects the concept of absolute objectivity. I see no way that need become anything approaching the conclusions about ‘everything being right’ or even ‘no such thing as knowledge’ (although, as my earlier comment observed, that depends on the meaning of ‘knowledge’ – once the idea of absolute certainty is abandoned, we can instead have a continuum of knowledge states, with ‘as-certain-as-it-gets’ at one end, as an open endpoint, and ‘we have reason to believe this may be the case, perhaps’ at the other).

  19. 19

    Yes, that is sort of how I think about certainty. It obviously does exist in degrees, even if complete certainty can never be reached. Life would become rather difficult without some way to differentiate between ideas. I do think “every perspective is valid” makes some sense within the context of human relationships (well, within limits) but when discussing outside reality, it does kind of give me the willies.

  20. 20


  21. 21

    I agree that we cannot know much “absolutely”.  Perhaps only the Descartes assertion “I think, therefore I am” can be absolutely known (though only by each individual within their own minds).  However, we have to operate in the real world, and science provides the best framework for survival and advancement (and conversely, I’m sure most of us would agree that religion is the worst framework, when war and bloodshed inspired by each is compared).  So saying we can’t know things “absolutely” is factually true but not very helpful to anyone about anything.  People in Somalia are pretty sure they are hungry, even though they can’t be “absolutely” sure!  (Not trying to be funny, either.)btw, Jen, have you read about the study that predicts religion is going to die out in at least nine countries?  Here is a link to the actual study:  http://arxiv.org/abs/1012.1375.  I saw an article about it on the BBC news website, or just Google something like “religion dying out study” and it should come up.  Would love to hear your comments about the study.  And Australia is one of the countries (I’d love to move there someday)!Keep up the good work!

  22. 22

    There’s a certain vocabulary one must decide on when talking about epistemology in this much detail. Terms such as Truth (capitalization intentional), truth, knowledge, justified belief, and unjustified belief (introducing faith as unjustified belief just tends to bog things down in semantics). With these semantics, Truth (pronounced “capital-T truth”) is abstract and personal in nature. Lower-case truth is usually something rationally discovered and is demonstrable, it is similar to knowledge though knowledge tends to be more empirical. Justified beliefs are candidates to knowledge claims, and unjustified beliefs are what we skeptical atheists often identify as “faith”.That said, different philosophers and different people apply different meanings to these words. My belief in Truth is often the most contentious with other atheists, but I like to use a kind of analogy here. There is no such thing as a perfect regular triangle in reality, but we have a concept of it in our heads and can reason about it. This fits in with lower-case truth in my view because these concepts are nearly universally demonstrable (we teach them in schools, at least). When it comes to Truth, there are principles that are found in narrative which may or may not apply to reality…but given the predicates of the narrative, the narrative would show a Truth in reality. Truths tend to concern things in subjective experience (moral intuition, etc), and as a naturalist I do think science can eventually understand it. But for now I’m left using Truth to operate with, and I tend to doubt my perception of reality to know which Truth applies to reality.I know this sounds flaky, but this is something that’s very hard to talk about because you’ve left the realm in which skeptics feel comfortable.

  23. 23
    Eric RoM

    ” You may label yourself as a skeptic, but you’re the complete opposite.”Indeed, but this makes me think, “And what’s the word for THAT?”If a good one doesn’t exist, I suggest “credulant”  (KRED-ju-lent).  The definition can simply be “the opposite of a skeptic”, although that’s a bit lazy.

  24. 24
    Eric RoM

    “…no such thing as a perfect regular triangle in reality”I would edit that to “…regular triangle in the physical world“, since I believe my thoughts to have a reality.

  25. 25
    Eric RoM

    That is some FABULOUS animation there.  Many hours artfully spent.(How does one get paid for that?)

  26. 26

    Yeah, really.  Even criminal courts stick to “beyond a REASONABLE doubt.”

  27. 27

    However, what she is promoting is not what the “skeptical movement” is about or what most people mean when they say they are “skeptics” or that “skepticism works” or the like.

  28. 28
    Daniel Schealler

    The annoying thing about that kind of view is that it fails to recognize that taking up critical reasoning is probably one of the most empowering things a person can do for themselves.Ah well.

  29. 29

    Less wrong:http://lesswrong.com/

  30. 30

    Our ancestors were “usually” correct and certain about the tiger in the weeds.  The ancestors of those not here, well, not so much.  Both may have had reasons for their belief, but nature decided which ancestors “knew” about tigers.  Not every perspective is equally valid.

  31. 31

    Sam, see “The Map is not the Territory” over http://lesswrong.com/

  32. 32
    Al Y

    A while ago I added Feministing and Feministe to my blogroll. I’ve refrained from commenting in most of their threads because of how religion friendly it is, even while every major religion in the world seeks to shackle every uterus they can get their pederasty hands on. Not to mention the case for using data to drive the feminist movement gets entirely thrown out the window when you start claiming “ways of knowing” akin to “making things up because they feel good”. So while I feel the skepticism would be good for their movement, I get the feeling that a lot of the feminist movement (sample size those two blogs) really don’t.

  33. 33
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Exactly what I’m talking about, thank you. Very much the strongest aspect of my view of the ontology/epistemology distinction.

  34. 34

    Not to change the subject and bring politics into the discussion, but here is a link about Rick Perry (the would be president of the US)http://content.usatoday.com/co

  35. 35
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    I generally think it means they’ve jumped on some fairly basic philosophy, as you say, but the distinction seems to be that they’ve not bothered with any philosophy of science. In fact, a lot of people playing games with post-modernism (which does have some uses – this just isn’t one of them) seem to act as if ‘philosophy of science’ is an oxymoron.

  36. 36

    If our minds are optimized for avoiding the “tiger in the weeds”, then false negatives are probably far less rewarded than false positives.That probably explains why we see patterns that aren’t really there.

  37. 37

    Off-topic a bit, kudos to Jen for putting the transcripts under the videos. Not that I don’t appreciate them (Storm! w00t!) but there are so many reasons why it’s often not easy or possible to watch the video. I would put up the Canada-able link for the Colbert clip but I can’t find it. *&#@?!! Comedy Network.

  38. 38

    I refrain from commenting partly because of the woo-friendliness and partly because they’re pretty middle-of-the-road as far as groupthink and wagon-circling g0 with regards to criticism in general.  Also, they’re where I first encountered that idiotic conceit that calling dangerous, irrational behavior and people who characteristically engage in it “crazy” is bigoted, and they’re very insistent about it.  Which I guess kinda ties back into the woo.

  39. 39

    Apparently the definition of “skepticism” that I am familiar with – and honestly, the only definition I’ve heard after years in the skeptical movement – is really methodological skepticism. The author at Feministe is likely talking about philosophical skepticism. I believe my misconception came from the fact that the former is the more commonly accepted, modern definition of “skepticism” alone, and that post modernism also claims that there is a problem with objective truth. But I’m a good scientist, so I’ll admit where I’m wrong. She’s using the term fine, though I still think her views are utter hogwash.

    On second reading, I think, actually, she’s either sloppily or deliberately equivocating, trying to hijack the appreciation and value people have for methodological skepticism, which is what I, too, have always seen meant by “skepticism” without qualifiers,  to her sort of vacuous philosophical skepticism (which I’ve also heard referred to as “radical skepticism” or various metaphorical references to masturbation).  Sort of like “energy cannot be created or destroyed; that means the soul MUST be eternal.”

  40. 40
    John Shutt

    Typo: “a good thing to luck for.”

  41. 41

    I don’t get it, what kind of feminist is she? How can she “know, know” that femism serves a purpose? …If I claim to be skeptical (the coloquial, meaning doubtful) about women deserving equal pay, how would she argue with this position? …- “you can’t be certain, Mario”- “you can’t know that I can’t be certain, lady”- “well, Mario, you cannot know, know that I can’t know that you can’t be certain”Picking my nose seems more fruitful at this point :)

  42. 42
    Svlad Cjelli

    Oh, fun! Jen wasn’t aware of that skepsis tradition?The correct response is “shrug”. That’s it. Absolute skepsis – window walking – is so trivially correct that it doesn’t actually do much. It’s operational in as much as a brick is a machine. Not worthless; indeed valuable; but it just lies there.There’s a common practice of dressing it up, resulting in dramatic, “Water - Is WET! *dun dun duuun*” statements by puffies.

  43. 43
    Svlad Cjelli

    A quite european flavour, I must assume.

  44. 44
    Jeff van Booven

    Out of all the post-modernist influences, it’s really annoying that people take hold of this bit of it and blow it out of proportion. Yes, we can’t actually 100% know things, and we can’t be 100% objective either, and having said that we can now move on to more interesting things. But some people never get past the token nod and decide they need to get into some philosophical punching fight over something that I would assume most scientists know, but don’t worry about because it doesn’t really change much.

  45. 45
    Jeff van Booven

    “Kristen’s argument that all viewpoints are equally valid is absolutely not useful.” I’d like to point out this isn’t exactly what she’s arguing. She’s talking about the fact that each person has their own viewpoint and experiences, with more emphasis coming to the latter, are valid. I.E. The experiences of a poor white urban male are just as valid as the experiences of a rich black suburban woman. It’s not that the ideology that people then layer it with is equal, but rather the experience of living. The use of this approach is the elimination of a normative view of how people live. Ergo, Americans don’t just live in suburban houses with white picket fences or other such claptrap which is presented writ large as the American experience. It’s kind of like watching old propaganda, you’d largely never get a real conception of what it was like to live in America because they simply treated all experiences outside the normative as invalid. For all it’s worth, the main crux of her argument is a rather common one. The issue is the article isn’t well written in explaining it.

  46. 46

    Agh. Jen, as a person that spends a lot of time thinking and writing about critical and lit theory of a bunch of different sorts, could you please be a little more careful about how you’re using “postmodernism?” The category is almost infinitely broad and nominally contains a whole bunch of different ways of thinking about the world, epistemology, and language that are very, very different from one another. “Postmodernism” doesn’t claim anything. Derrida, or Foucault, or Baudrillard, or Irigaray (the latter being one of the *very* few thinkers in this neck of the woods that has little respect for scientific thinking) do. Saying that ” post modernism also claims that there is a problem with objective truth” sounds to me like “biology claims that evolution occurs through rapid, historically rare instances of change where new phyla are created” might sound to you.

  47. 47

    I’s stayin’ outta the philosophizing and panthermodern stuffs here. I’s just an orc, what do I know ’bout that?That said, me sense of many folks is what, ta them, science be something what happens far away in clean rooms with dudes in white coats (sometimes assisted by pretty young wimmenz in white coats and glasses) and lotsa beakers and chalkboards with formulas and random tesla thingies making noises. They thinks science is about stuff what be too small ta matter, or too far away, or too long ago, or too whatevers. All the stuff in they’s daily lives, the facts what they’s tv turns on when they push a button, or what they’s pekapoo won’t give birth ta canis dirus  or fuhggin’ crocoducks, or what they’s toaster won’t create a singularity and suck down the kitchen and half of Floirida, ta them that ain’t science, that’s just life. And since is just life is okay fer ta not even think about it then.But science? That’s just weird stuff far away in some lab. How can anyone be certain about that shite? Might as well be some wacko’s religion fer all they know. Scientists prolly sacrifice goats or postdocs or sumthin’ on Scientific Method alters, fer all they know.Anywho, that be me impression. Not that I’s sayin’ folks is stupid, just that they can get through they’s day without making the connection that science is behind damn near all of it, and is what makes it work bitches ’cause it do be certain, so they don’t bother to.

  48. 48

    Moral and empirical relativism coupled to self-important puffery is the public face of “postmodernism.”  Do something about it if you don’t like it.

  49. 49

    This isn’t about “doing something” about the “public face” of “postmodernism.” It’s about not casually referencing, and stupidly attacking, words and concepts that you don’t understand. Isn’t this *exactly* the same thing we tell creationists about evolution? That you have no business talking about something if you don’t understand the basics of it? One poorly-reasoned Dawkins essay on the subject does not an introduction make.

  50. 50
    Richard Stephenson

    Taking this paragraph:  ”Which brings me back to skepticism. If we accept that we (probably) can’t know what is real, that as much as we consider, think, feel, explore we will (likely) never grasp the totality of truth, we are free to accept or learn from other people’s perspectives. We are free to accept contradictory perspectives, holding each as true for that person in that moment. We dismantle not just the current dominant narrative but also the very concept of a dominant narrative” I wouldn’t draw the conclusions that you’re drawing. You seem to be, more or less, on the same page. You state that science asymptotically approaches the truth. She states that we can likely never grasp the totality of truth. Your take home lesson is:  and here are the things we can do to learn. Her take home lesson is: and here are the things we can do to learn.  You just do it in different ways (doing science vs. listening to others). The things you do,  science and social justice, are ways of learning about the world, and the skepticism is simply a way of expressing these ways of doing. You may emphasize the positive aspects of knowing (science), while she emphasizes the positive aspects of coming together (social justice), but therein lies the whole difference.

  51. 51
    Gideon Hamlett

    If one is to claim there can be no truth they have a problem; in that they are making the mistake in assuming their position is true. So by their own claim the blogger (I don’t mean Jen) has shot herself in the foot already.Then she makes the claim that we can reshape reality and then states science is just as dogmatic as religion.But she can’t know that!Skeptics do not say there can be no truth claims as this is a truth claim. Instead they state that we should cast doubt upon them.

  52. 52
    Gideon Hamlett

    Gah sorry I can’t edit. I should really say: sketpics reject the idea that there can be any valid truth claim.

  53. 53

    Maybe your thoughts are real.  Mine are complex, though. :P

  54. 54
    Zachary Aletheia

    I don’t see why people seem to think the only TRUE definition of knowledge must include certainty.  It seems to me to be a useless criteria to have to reach in order to know something.  So lets get over that stop thinking knowledge is certainty (it seems some people think that certainty is necessary and sufficient condition for knowledge which is absurd.

  55. 55
    Svlad Cjelli

    Then came the Coils. The Tesla coils! The coils of Nikola Tesla!

  56. 56
    Leonard Andrew Spencer

    That’s like saying if someone started doing humour based medicine it couldn’t be new-age claptrap because it was all the rage in medieval times.

  57. 57

    the feministe article you linked to made reminded me quite a bit of a metaphysical philosophy class I took. On the first day the professor told us a story about another professor who’s final exam only had a single question- prove the chair exists (in the middle of the room was a single chair). All of the students went into detailed explanations of why the chair existed but only a single student passed.. that student answered “what chair?”. (yeah, i got the impression that the professor had seen the matrix a few too many times too). The point being that there’s no way to really truly prove anything exists.. including yourself. While interesting and a little mind blowing I find this way of thinking to be completely useless and something that should never really be taken seriously. It’s irritating and has been used to justify prayer, faith healing, magick (as in paganism spells, etc), astral projection and all kinds of woo.

  58. 58
    Petter Häggholm

    The wonderfully convenient thing about people who claim that all viewpoints are equally valid and deserve respect is that I can simply say, “According to my viewpoint you are wrong (about all viewpoints being equal and deserving respect), and by your own logic you have to respect that.”

  59. 59
    lån penge hurtigt

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