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Nov 01 2011

A feminist embarrassment

I cringed reading this woman’s lament that evolutionary biology is responsible for the oppression of women, starting with Darwin. It’s one long colossal failure of logic.

The argument has some genuinely true facts embedded in it, which then get spun out into a series of false conclusions. It is true that the Victorian gentlemen who formulated and expanded upon the theory of evolution tended to be 19th century chauvinists who made up stories about the inferiority of the feminine mind, and Darwin was right among them. It is also true that there are contemporary biologists who still make up similar stories and engage in blatant retrofitting of the data to rationalize sexism or racism (Satoshi Kanazawa comes to mind as one of the most egregious examples).

But don’t confuse cause and effect! Sexism predated evolutionary theory, and is a product of the wider culture. And creationism, most obviously, is extremely sexist, with its predefined gender roles and gender-based assignment of blame for the entirety of our wicked nature. To single out a late 19th century scientific theory and accuse it of promoting a deplorable cultural attitude that was both present before the theory was discovered, and present to an even greater degree in the individuals who strongly opposed the theory, is ridiculous in the extreme, and embarrassingly stupid.

But I’m not done. The entirety of the edifice of her logic is built on exactly one essay, one attack on evolution, by one guy. And that guy is the rabid squirrel of creationism, Jerry Bergman.

Bergman is so awful, so incompetent, so dishonest, that citing him in any way in support of your position (let alone allowing his lying slander of Darwin be the sole source) instantly discredits anything you might say. It says you have no discernment or capability of critical evaluation of your sources.

I’m sorry to say that the taint of incompetence has now also spread to Loretta Kemsley.

(Also on Sb)

258 comments

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  1. 1
    heironymous

    Evolutionary biology is responsible for sexism/oppresion of women?
    I hate to say it, but sexism may predate even religion, let alone evolutionary biology. Religion codifies it and propagates it, but I can’t even make the case that it’s the cause.

    This argument is just plain silly.

  2. 2
    A. R

    Wow, this just goes to show that the Creationists will even “stoop” to feminism to discredit Darwin.

  3. 3
    ChasCPeterson

    embarrassingly stupid

    the executive summary

  4. 4
    Shamelessly Atheist

    Just what the heck is a “psychological species”?

  5. 5
    b00ger

    Hehe. You said taint.

    Sorry, I just got done watching Bevis and Butthead.

  6. 6
    mikeym

    Because scientific theories are always tested by their moral consequences.

  7. 7
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Just for the sake of argument…you’ve got to wonder how someone comes to the conclusion that openly rejecting well-documented facts is a good counter-argument to the assertion that the minds of the group one belongs to are inferior. >.>

  8. 8
    mikeg

    We’re equal. We both have nipples. (Though one sex does have bewbs)

  9. 9
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I’m shocked, shocked to find out that a man who lived in the 19th century was sexist.

  10. 10
    Shinobi

    Is she confusing Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Psychology?

  11. 11
    raven

    If you want blatant misogyny, just read the bible.

    Women are property. They are supposed to shut up, do as they’re told, and be baby factories.

    The xian church that claims to be christ/gods representative on earth, the Catholic church has instituted those biblical principals for centuries.

    1. Only men can become priests. Supposedly celibate men at that, they aren’t even supposed to get too near women.

    2. Up until recently, in the RCC, women were not even allowed to get near the altar. I don’t know if that rule has been changed or not.

  12. 12
    Somite

    I’ve said this before. Underlying a lot of feminism is a post-modern pseudoscientific underbelly. As a skeptic I suggest we support women equality efforts based on facts rather than this ideology.

  13. 13
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Is she confusing Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Psychology?

    Yes, but she understands neither core evolutionary concepts nor certain specific evo-psych proposals. Leaving aside whether the hypothesis is well-supported (I said leaving aside, y’all, so don’t start this debate), she doesn’t even understand the idea that rape might be selected for. She thinks such an explanation for behavior requires conscious awareness on the part of the rapist that “he needs to spread his seed.” Since early humans couldn’t know that, she argues, the hypothesis makes no sense.

    Yeah, she’s really that confused. I wonder if she similarly objects to evolutionary explanations of the urge for consensual intercourse, since early humans couldn’t know they “needed” to spread their seed, so of course they’d have no motivation to fuck.

  14. 14
    Glen Davidson

    And she didn’t even fear the oppressive stupidity of Bergman?

    Priorities.

    Glen Davidson

  15. 15
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’ve said this before. Underlying a lot of feminism is a post-modern pseudoscientific underbelly. As a skeptic I suggest we support women equality efforts based on facts rather than this ideology.

    The author’s confusion strikes me as no different from the common American ignorance about evolution. Her level of understanding and the conclusions she draws are exactly the same as Christian creationists (indeed, she’s got one in her comments thread supporting her). Several academic disciplines in the humanities have been infested and afflicted with pseudo-scientific garbage and po-mo crap, certain strains of academic feminism among them. But those strains are not representative of feminism as a whole, and crappy academic feminism is not unique in being held in thrall to po-mo.

  16. 16
    myeck waters

    That comment thread hurts my brain. So much stupidity, applied with so much anger.

  17. 17
    Anthony K

    Fucking Bergman, the dishonest puke.

    If there’s misogyny among evolutionists then point the finger at the infectious concept of the scala naturae.

    And that one falls squarely on the shoulders of Bergman’s pet mythology.

  18. 18
    rad_pumpkin

    Oh yes, personal opinions and science: “A review of the most prominent late nineteenth century evolutionist writings, focusing on Charles Darwin, reveals that a major plank of evolution theory was the belief of intellectual and physical inferiority of women.”
    But it gets better, this is the last sentence of the abstract: “The implications of this history for Christianity are also discussed.” Yep, let’s talk about how evolutionary theory is rooted in sexism, and then go on to that one fable in which the first woman was created out of a rib from the first male, presumably because the sky daddy no longer wanted to fap to clouds. Cool…might there be a connection here?

    Protip: if the abstract makes the reader laugh at your incompetence, rewrite it, burn it, bang your head against a desk for an hour or so, write it again, shred it, resume the head banging, write it one more time, tear it up, drink a fifth of whiskey, and try one more time. Chances are it will be a great improvement on the first attempt!

    Oh yeah, isn’t Bergmann the guy who claimed that baryons (or was it leptons?) were irreducibly complex in a debate with PZ? I still chuckle every time I remember that…

  19. 19
    Randomreason

    #12 Somite,

    Please contine to say this again, until it is heard.

  20. 20
    MGM

    There’s a lot of assholes who try to use Evolutionary Psychology to justify sexism, and a good essay could be written about them. It also seems possible that some biologists were influenced by sexism, and built that into their work. I would be interested in learning more about those things. Of course, a good essay wouldn’t rely on creationist propaganda to make its point, so I doubt I’ll find out about them there.

  21. 21
    Cipher

    Underlying a lot of feminism is a post-modern pseudoscientific underbelly.

    You are naturally aware that you’ve fallen among feminists who do not agree with the unscientific nonsense in the OP, right? Go ahead and try to use the essay we all disagree with as representative of our views though, that’s a great plan.

  22. 22
    Randomreason

    #15 Josh,

    Several academic disciplines in the humanities have been infested and afflicted with pseudo-scientific garbage and po-mo crap, certain strains of academic feminism among them. But those strains are not representative of feminism as a whole, and crappy academic feminism is not unique in being held in thrall to po-mo.

    Good point – and one that I trust you raise during po-mo-infected discussions about “privilege” in the atheist community.

  23. 23
    Randomreason

    #21 classic cipher,

    You do know that nothing in your comment refutes the sentence you quoted, right?

  24. 24
    truthspeaker

    Yes, it’s well known that women weren’t oppressed until 1859, just as European Jews weren’t persecuted until 1933.

    Do I even need to add a sarcasm tag?

  25. 25
    McWaffle

    #12 and #19,

    I’ve never seen anybody here defending pseudoscientific or po-mo feminism though. And most anti-feminist types who show up don’t attack it on those grounds. So, I guess I’ll look forward to a far classier debate on gender issues here in the future?

  26. 26
    julian

    Meh

    After spending an entire afternoon arguing with a group who honestly believed abortion is an attempt by the U.S. government to commit genocide against blacks I’m kinda numb to this stuff.

    You do know that nothing in your comment refutes the sentence you quoted, right?

    You realize that wasn’t the point of the comment, right?

  27. 27
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    OY veh. I think I chipped a few teeth headdesking my way through that linked piece. Ugh. Embarassment indeed.

    I’ve said this before. Underlying a lot of feminism is a post-modern pseudoscientific underbelly. As a skeptic I suggest we support women equality efforts based on facts rather than this ideology.

    feminist ideology or pseudoscientific ideology?

    **

    You are naturally aware that you’ve fallen among feminists who do not agree with the unscientific nonsense in the OP, right?

    SHHHHH!!! some random dudes have a bone to pick with strawfeminists. Don’t interrupt them, you shrill. hysetrical harpy!

  28. 28
    Ing

    Pro-mo is apparently the new fascist panacea. just throw it on anything you don’t like to dismiss it.

    Never mind that people cite their reasons, explain the process, and cite sociology and stats for supporting their ideas on privilege, it’s all pro-mo.

    Also goes to show that certain anuses will use any excuse to attack women.

  29. 29
    Funk

    This argunment along with the evolution is responsible for Hitler argument are equally silly. Even if these were true nothing would change about evolution. That physics made nuclear weapons possible doesn’t render physics false. Same for chemistry and chemical weapons or biology and biological weapons.

  30. 30
    hotshoe

    #21 classic cipher,

    You do know that nothing in your comment refutes the sentence you quoted, right?

    Were you dropped on your head as a baby, or do you just choose to act like an asshole and pretend to stupidity as an excuse ?

    Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM was not trying to “refute” your sentence, just giving you a friendly heads-up that attempting to slam feminists on this thread will not end happily for you. But since you’re too stupid or too assholish to take a friendly hint, fuck off.

    Pick up your porcupine at the door and take it with you.

  31. 31
    Jalyth

    I enjoy a good feminist critique of certain things that scientists have studied. But this woman’s writing wasn’t one of them. She certainly wasn’t open to criticism either, and I thought it was quite good – no mansplaining, just a critique on her ideas. Anyway, I’ve never heard of her, and I have no interest in going back to that website either.

  32. 32
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Randomreason, could you please explain how the concept of privilege is postmodernist?

    You may not have noticed, but around here postmodernism and pseudoscience (isn’t ‘postmodern pseudoscience’ redundant?) are not well-looked upon. It may have something to do with their being utterly inane.

    The comment at #12 is only partly true. Citations would be required for the assertion that ‘Underlying a lot of feminism is a post-modern pseudoscientific underbelly’. Feminism movements and feminism as an ideology predate postmodernism. Besides which, if it were entirely true, Somite would be preaching to the choir as per my previous paragraph. But Somite doesn’t seem to be doing that, nor does it seem that you take it that way.

    There’s obviously more than one strain of feminism today and the strains represented here certainly don’t involve any postmodern inanity. In any case, it’s inaccurate to describe feminism as having a postmodern underbelly.

  33. 33
    RandomReason

    Privilege is apparently the new fascist panacea. just throw it on anything you don’t like to dismiss it.
    Never mind that people cite their reasons, explain the process, and cite evidence and stats for supporting their ideas on thinking critically,, it’s all privilege.

    Also goes to show that certain Pharyngulites will use any excuse to attack critical thinkers.
    There. Fixed that for you.

  34. 34
    SQB

    We’re equal. We both have nipples.

    Recently, I read in Cosmopolitan, that both men and women have nipples, because they are formed in the womb, before the sex of the foetus is determined.

    WTF doesn’t quite cover it.

  35. 35
    RandomReason

    Hotshoe,

    It wasn’t my comment. Don’t be so eager to shoot your load.

  36. 36
    Ing

    Privilege is apparently the new fascist panacea. just throw it on anything you don’t like to dismiss it.
    Never mind that people cite their reasons, explain the process, and cite evidence and stats for supporting their ideas on thinking critically,, it’s all privilege.

    Also goes to show that certain Pharyngulites will use any excuse to attack critical thinkers.
    There. Fixed that for you.

    Your example shows you using the term “thinking critically” to mean “Agreeing with me” which doesn’t make your point, it refutes it. The analogy fails since thinking critically isn’t a fucking ideology, it’s a process. You might as well have put in “skiing”

  37. 37
    julian

    There. Fixed that for you.

    Christ, but you are an idiot.

  38. 38
    Ing

    PZ when you get a sec, IP check Randomreason; he’s familiar and clearly has a past beef.

    Also A Gunboat Diplomat is requesting he be banned.

  39. 39
    Ing

    It amazes me that PZ gave certain MRAssholes what they demanded: A critique on the irrational nonsense of a feminist. And what do they do? Bitch about how feminist everyone is.

  40. 40
    Inaji

    RandomReason:

    Privilege is apparently the new fascist panacea. just throw it on anything you don’t like to dismiss it.

    That you, Indeterminate Me?

  41. 41
    Ing

    @Caine

    I’m usually decent at reading people and he pops up as familiar. But then again they all start sounding the same. Hysterical, nasty, pseudolectual and irrational.

  42. 42
    Inaji

    Ing:

    PZ when you get a sec, IP check Randomreason; he’s familiar and clearly has a past beef.

    Given the privilege thing, it sounds like Indeterminate Me from the red pill thread. IM went on and on an on about privilege, had a serious problem with it.

  43. 43
    lofgren

    Several academic disciplines in the humanities have been infested and afflicted with pseudo-scientific garbage and po-mo crap, certain strains of academic feminism among them. But those strains are not representative of feminism as a whole, and crappy academic feminism is not unique in being held in thrall to po-mo.

    “Po-mo” corruptions of certain academic disciplines trickle down into the general society more virulently than others, such as medicine and, according to my observation, feminism. Whether it’s representative of feminism as a whole, I can’t say, nor do I particularly care. It is, however, an exceedingly loud and annoying representative. With little substance or critical awareness, po-mo variations of even the hard sciences are perfectly packaged for the soft-brained and brainless alike. As that represents the majority of humanity, and therefore women, it’s not unreasonable to be especially wary of it when it starts to rear its head in non-academic circles.

    And so far I have seen nothing here to indicate that somebody is objecting to the feminists on this site in particular. The post above is not about a feminist on this site. Discussion of the worst stupidities of modern feminism is very much on topic in this thread.

    Besides, every social and political movement that went through the ’70s and came out the other side got some of that icky new agey taint on it. As long as we stick to evaluating truth claims and don’t try to smear somebody as feminist, or even a certain kind of feminist, we ought to be able to avoid reflexively discounting feminist claims.

  44. 44
    Ing

    And so far I have seen nothing here to indicate that somebody is objecting to the feminists on this site in particular. The post above is not about a feminist on this site. Discussion of the worst stupidities of modern feminism is very much on topic in this thread.

    Except Randomreason is directly attacking people here.

    Do try to pay attention…or if you came in late keep quiet until you pick up the context.

  45. 45
    asmallcontempt

    Reading the comments made me ragey.

    Seriously, who ARE these fools? That write stuff like this? The only real classroom experience I have is ten weeks of student teaching in a 9th grade classroom, but this would have failed any kind of essay or paper, unless this woman is a master in creative nonfiction?

    Ms. Kemsey doesn’t seem to understand why the reputation of her sources are important; I bet I could direct her to a minimum of 100 high school students (in Oxford, Indiana, no less) who could maybe ‘splain it to her.

  46. 46
    lofgren

    Whether it’s representative of feminism as a whole, I can’t say, nor do I particularly care.

    Just to clarify that thought, medicine is afflicted with a lot of magical thinking. Even if three out of four doctors were homeopaths, the remaining 1/4 of heart surgeons would still be the right person to talk to if you’ve got a heart problem. And even though a relatively tiny number of doctors actually are homeopaths doesn’t mean they’re not idiots who ought to be called out.

    So the same goes for feminism. I’ve seen some “feminist” claims that were bullshit and barely worth more than a chuckle. Obviously, there are also a lot that can be substantively supported with, like, facts and shit. But the irrational is strong and very seductive to people, especially when it comes packaged with a message of victimhood or empowerment (see the post about Catholics today). It’s unsurprising that the same people who would otherwise fall for a different kind of dumb sometimes end up calling themselves feminists.

  47. 47
    julian

    And so far I have seen nothing here to indicate that somebody is objecting to the feminists on this site in particular.

    Eh?

    Randomfactor’s disdain for ‘privilege’ and its use sounded like a pretty obvious jab at the feminists who regularly post here.

  48. 48
    mikeg

    Ok, I am just going to preface this with: I am a product of failed USian school systems. I am 20, and am not that cultured. So excuse me if I sound like a jag.

    How do you all feel about post-modern art?

    What ‘is’ post-modernity within the context of feminism, really? I am having trouble understanding what post modernism is in the critical context.

    Thanks everyone.

  49. 49
    John Hill

    I can’t remember where he wrote it but Huxley once said that he agreed that women were generally intellectually inferior to men, but that that was all the more reason not to put impediments before those women who were indeed smart enough to enter professions like science and medicine.

  50. 50
    Ing

    Seriously, people you can look back far enough in the Tomb of Squid and find me arguing with people here about privilege and patriarchy. It’s not some dogma, it can be defended and has been. I have and will continue to admit I was wrong on that subject.

  51. 51
    lofgren

    Except Randomreason is directly attacking people here.

    No, he’s not. I just read every post from him to be sure. Unless some have been deleted, he has not attacked anyone as far as I can tell. I dunno, maybe you are more psychic than me.

  52. 52
    Ing

    What ‘is’ post-modernity within the context of feminism, really? I am having trouble understanding what post modernism is in the critical context.

    Good question. That isn’t well established.

    Pro-mo in this context seems to be the idea that everything is subjective because pure objectivity is impossible and there is no ultimate way of verifying the existence of anything. I.E. it’s a dressed up way of accusing someone of just making shit up without caring about reality.

  53. 53
    julian

    Obviously, there are also a lot that can be substantively supported with, like, facts and shit.

    Is there something in particular you’d like to talk about?

  54. 54
    Ing

    No, he’s not. I just read every post from him to be sure. Unless some have been deleted, he has not attacked anyone as far as I can tell. I dunno, maybe you are more psychic than me.

    No maybe we’re just smarter and recognize that he’s resuming a past argument.

  55. 55
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    RandomReason paints privilege as postmodern, sees Pharyngulites using privilege as a panacea for anything they disagree with and sees certain Pharyngulites using any excuse to attack ‘critical thinkers’.

    We have an idiot!

    You know, RandomReason, wikipedia actually has a rather short and general overview of what privilege is about. It takes maybe three minutes to read it, if you’re slow. Maybe you could pop over there and come back here slightly less ignorant?

  56. 56
    Ing

    Ok, I am just going to preface this with: I am a product of failed USian school systems. I am 20, and am not that cultured. So excuse me if I sound like a jag.

    Don’t be too harsh on yourself. You’re apparently sharp enough that you recognized the flaw in Randomreason and other assholes whining: Terms are not defined.

  57. 57
    lofgren

    Is there something in particular you’d like to talk about?

    Huh? Are you unaware of feminist claims that have the backing of facts?

  58. 58
    Ing

    Oh Lofgren?

    Good point – and one that I trust you raise during po-mo-infected discussions about “privilege” in the atheist community.

    Take your foot out of your mouth now please kthx?

  59. 59
    Ing

    @Thomathy

    To be fair accurate, he was mocking a comment I made about how someone was using pro-mo without any apparent meaning behind it just as a label to slap on stuff they disagree with. A stance I will defend.

  60. 60
    Inaji

    lofgren:

    I dunno, maybe you are more psychic than me.

    No, we simply have years and thousands upon thousands of posts to go on. If you’re ever around to lob your lackadaisical attitude at wave after wave of MRAs and other assorted douchebags for days on end, we’ll see how you’re doing then.

  61. 61
    lofgren

    No maybe we’re just smarter and recognize that he’s resuming a past argument.

    Maybe I don’t give a shit about your old arguments.

    Obviously I can tell that RandomReason’s post about privilege was pointed. That’s not an attack, unless you’ve got skin so thin that you roast in incandescent light.

    Is he a jerk? Yeah, probably.

    In any event my response was to posts 12, 15, and 21. The author of 12 was accused of targeting his description of “a lot” of feminism at the audience of this particular blog before RandomReason even turned up. The actual claims I addressed were in 12 and 15. Random has nothing to do with my post.

  62. 62
    lofgren

    No, we simply have years and thousands upon thousands of posts to go on. If you’re ever around to lob your lackadaisical attitude at wave after wave of MRAs and other assorted douchebags for days on end, we’ll see how you’re doing then.

    No you won’t. What a sorry, stupid waste of time that would be.

  63. 63
    Ing

    And so far I have seen nothing here to indicate that somebody is objecting to the feminists on this site in particular.

    You know rather than moving those heavy goal posts while digging that hole you could just admit you were wrong.

  64. 64
    Ing

    No you won’t. What a sorry, stupid waste of time that would be.

    Then leave. No one here asked for a nanny

  65. 65
    mikeg

    Pro-mo in this context seems to be the idea that everything is subjective because pure objectivity is impossible and there is no ultimate way of verifying the existence of anything. I.E. it’s a dressed up way of accusing someone of just making shit up without caring about reality.

    This is much appreciated.

  66. 66
  67. 67
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    smear somebody as feminist

    It should be pretty difficult to ‘smear’ anybody as feminist, considering the implications of feminism as it’s understood around here.

    Lofgren, that kind of remark is a red flag.

    It’s unsurprising that the same people who would otherwise fall for a different kind of dumb sometimes end up calling themselves feminists.

    Are you suggesting that ‘feminism’ is co-opted by generally stupid people (the majority of everyone, as you say), infected with the drippings of postmodern inanity who don’t know what feminism is?

    I really don’t know what to make of a claim like that. I want to ask for evidence that it’s the case that feminism is generally corrupted by postmodernism and that this corrupted version has trickled down, virulently into society at large, but you admit you wouldn’t know and really don’t care. And that’s why I don’t know what to make of your claim; you don’t know and don’t care about the validity of your ‘observation’ and yet you’re sharing it here. Do you know how stupid that seems?

  68. 68
    Algernon

    *headdesk*

  69. 69
    julian

    Maybe I don’t give a shit about your old arguments.

    Then maybe you have no reason to get involved or comment on it since it’s not an argument you care enought for to want to participate in?

  70. 70
    Ing

    ; you don’t know and don’t care about the validity of your ‘observation’ and yet you’re sharing it here.

    Which a musingly, is an example of the vulgar definition of Pro-mo.

  71. 71
    etcetera

    @A.R.

    Stooping to feminism happens quite regularly in evangelical circles. I remember being dragged to the godawful “Jesus Northwest” by my parents as though it were some sort of pilgrimage and then being forced to listen to an incompetent simp wonder aloud why feminist thought that St. Paul was anti-woman since he did more to free women than anyone else in history.

    Of course, all of this is true if you define words however you like. “Feminism” means that women learn to appreciate their rightful place beside men. “Freedom” means being free to believe in Christ or burn in Hell.

  72. 72
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    I skimmed the beginning of the article and decided it was a big fat waste of time to read the whole thing. This is one of those “Darwin was wrong about something, therefore evolution is wrong!” arguments.

    Look, Darwin didn’t even know about genetics. They didn’t even know there was such a thing as DNA back then. This is like saying that Galileo was wrong about everything because he didn’t know about the big bang. This is a SUPER common religious failing, the argument from authority – if you can just prove that Darwin was wrong about something, then it means that evolution is wrong and God wins!

    It’s even more irritating when this is a supposedly feminist thing, which is like, what? Oh look, Victorian-era people thought women were inferior? They had wacky hypotheses about women being less evolved? (Whatever THAT means, since evolution doesn’t have a goal. I mean there isn’t an evolutionary finish line or anything. If there were, I think crocodiles have won.) It’s so irritating that legitimate concerns about sexism aren’t being addressed and instead are being used to try to discredit one of the best (i.e. has shitloads of supporting evidence) scientific theories out there, just so that Christians can feel better about themselves and the horrible misogyny inherent in their idiotic bronze-age goatherder magic book.

    I mean what’s more insulting, the idea that women have had less evolutionary pressure from natural selection and therefore have less skills than men, OR the idea that women were specifically created to be inferior baby incubators that are devoid of humanity because they’re just chattel to be bought and sold for the purposes of men? Put that way, yeah, I think that Darwin’s ideas ARE more feminist that the bible. Yeah I do. Although let’s face it, being more feminist than the bible IS NOT THAT HARD.

    This tripe is so powerfully stupid on so many levels. This is why we need better science education, to nip shit like this in the bud before someone goes traipsing merrily off thinking that the drivel they just vomited out remotely resembles a logical, well-reasoned argument.

  73. 73
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Ing: Od Wet Rust, regarding #59, oh, I’ve seen it and I would defend that position as well. Pseudo-intellectuals do throw around postmodernism as a label for things they disagree with (which is ironic, considering what postmodernism is). And I know RandomReason was mocking, but it was so bad an attempt due to the fact that RandomReason obviously has beef with privilege.

  74. 74
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Ing: Od Wet Rust, question: Is there a reason you keep using ‘pro-mo’ and not po-mo or postmodern(+suffix)? I’m unfamiliar with that abbreviation.

  75. 75
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Randomreason

    Good point – and one that I trust you raise during po-mo-infected discussions about “privilege” in the atheist community.

    This shouldn’t need pointing out, but just so I’m on the record: privilege exists. The way it works has been demonstrated in compelling detail on this blog repeatedly. You know this, and we know you know.

    That’s all. There’s no reason to speak to you further.

  76. 76
    ChasCPeterson

    Is there a reason

    Ing has an internet license permitting the misspelling of anything, any way, at any time.

  77. 77
    SallyStrange

    Oh, here we go again. Yes, RandomReason sounds a lot like Indeterminate Me. Privilege is a useful, valid, well-supported and predictive concept. There’ve been people who don’t like the idea, but none of them have been able to mount a successful challenge to the idea.

  78. 78
    tim gueguen

    The idea that evolution has an end goal of producing ever more sophisticated and capable beings is a common one. I wonder if this is because it fits in with the idea of storytelling, where there is a beginning, middle, and clear end to a series of events. The presentation of history often follows a similiar pattern, with historical events presented as if they were a story designed to lead up to a specific result. Of course anyone who looks at history beyond that sort of “here’s what happened, chapters 5 to 10 will be on the test” knows that isn’t what happened, that the “end” of a series of events is predictable only in hindsight.

  79. 79
    jose

    She says this in the comments:

    “Were any of the evolutionists’ quotes he used inaccurate? If not, then the evolutionists were wrong about women. It’s as simple as that.”

    And that’s true. They were wrong about black people too and about a lot of other things, basically about everything concerning any human who wasn’t a white male.

  80. 80
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Josh:

    This shouldn’t need pointing out, but just so I’m on the record: privilege exists. The way it works has been demonstrated in compelling detail on this blog repeatedly.

    Privilege: the social blindness that results from being the fucker, and not the fuckee.

  81. 81
    jose

    From the comments:

    “Men throughout history have said their views are “science” when, in fact, they were simply using science as as means to spread their misogynist views to proclaim women are inferior, subhuman and even nonhuman.

    These pseudo-science biases need to be exposed and discussed because they have harmed millions of women over the centuries and are still being used to harm women today.”

    I’d say this is correct as well. Scientists in history HAVE used science to justify racism and sexism and they HAVE presented themselves as dispassionate, objective seekers of the truth.

    However those biases have already been exposed. There are many books about it, for instance The mismeasure of man.

  82. 82
    raven

    Were any of the evolutionists’ quotes he used inaccurate? If not, then the evolutionists were wrong about women. It’s as simple as that.”

    You could say the same thing about the entire bible.

    Somehow I don’t think she is going to do that.

    Hyprocrisy is one of the 3 major fundie sacraments.

  83. 83
    Randomreason

    I didn’t read Josh’s comment as an attack targetting commenters here; rather, he explicitly saw in the rhetoric, logic and arguments of the embarrassing article many of the pseudoscience tropes of the worst excesses of po-mo thinking in the Humanities.

    It was that sentiment I agreed with.

    Dismissing the article as just theist nonsense misses the opportunity to notice what several of us here see as symptomatic of a particular type of lazy thinking that links this article to non theist and even atheist articles written about Natural Science by po-mo-educated folks in the “soft sciences.”

    The community here is not immune to this thinking, any more than any other community, nor am I nor any other critic. It is a good thing to keep talking about and examining the underlying thinking of absurd crap, no matter the source or topic.

    Personally, I think lack of thinking skills do more to perpetuate religious and ideological thinking than any act by theists and Chopralites to promote their shit. Poor thinking is why so many are vulnerable to political demagoguery, as well.

    I see it as all part of the same problem, so I applaud whenever a commenter makes those kind of connections.

  84. 84
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It is a good thing to keep talking about and examining the underlying thinking of absurd crap, no matter the source or topic.

    But not your absurd crap. After all, you will be exposed for the poser you are…

    I see it as all part of the same problem, so I applaud whenever a commenter makes those kind of connections.

    Look in the mirror, you make the same mistakes too, including pompousity…

    Funny how Pot, Kettle, Black is a byword for trolls here troll.

  85. 85
    Allienne Goddard

    Eh, what the hell. Darwin was certainly sexist (and racist) by modern standards, and I don’t find it at all improbable that his sexism affected his theorizing on specific evolutionary questions. It is also plausible that these hypothetical sexist hypotheses gave some scientific backing to the general culture of sexism operating at the time.

    Also, post modernism is a fantastic corrective to those naive people who imagine that they can perceive objective truths.

    Also, feminism is awesome.

    Also, bacon.

  86. 86
    Dhorvath, OM

    Post modernist feminist bacon is objectively awesome.

  87. 87
    Cipher

    Can we not use “post-modern” as a general pejorative, please?
    Sheesh.

  88. 88
    skeptical scientist

    Bergman is so awful, so incompetent, so dishonest, that citing him in any way in support of your position (let alone allowing his lying slander of Darwin be the sole source) instantly discredits anything you might say. It says you have no discernment or capability of critical evaluation of your sources.

    Let’s play “name that logical fallacy”!

  89. 89
    Amphiox

    And yet, for all his sexism, Darwin was the one who first proposed sexual selection, and gave primary importance to female choice.

    And his contemporaries, Wallace among them, rejected this precisely because they would not accept the notion that the choices of “mere” females would have such importance.

  90. 90
    Allienne Goddard

    But, if we situate post modernist feminist bacon in the context of ante-structuralist thought, it is not possible to avoid the emergence (explosion) of a new problematic narrative operating as a visible modality but obscuring the “there-being” which is always beyond us. So, no. It’s only subjectively awesome.

  91. 91
    A. R

    etcetera: True, very true

  92. 92
    Crissa

    Hey, could you focus on refuting somite and randomreason instead of falling into ape-like pecking and petting circles?

    Honestly, it shouldn’t be too hard for you.

  93. 93
    Dhorvath, OM

    Alienne G,
    I do not have the ken to riposte, so a hearty phooey will have to suffice. Smiles.

  94. 94
    Allienne Goddard

    What is to refute? Is there excessive “po-mo” thinking in feminism? Who knows? It hasn’t been defined. As far as I can tell, Randomreason has very strict rules about reasoning that when broken lead to things like the concept of privilege and also religion. Somehow, I guess, thinking that object truth is unattainable even if it “exists”, and therefore we are left with truths that are relative to a particular epistemology somehow has permeated the world and led to everyone believing in Jesus. Except Randomreason, he doesn’t believe in Jesus. Not Randomreason.

  95. 95
    Forbidden Snowflake

    crissakentavr:
    you are absolutely right to demand that people talk how you want, about what you want! After all, you are entitled to their efforts and your enjoyment is the primary metric of the conversation’s merit.

  96. 96
    Randomreason

    #Allienne Goddard,

    But, if we situate post modernist feminist bacon in the context of ante-structuralist thought, it is not possible to avoid the emergence (explosion) of a new problematic narrative operating as a visible modality but obscuring the “there-being” which is always beyond us. So, no. It’s only subjectively awesome.

    Sokol, thank goodness you’re here. We have been stuck in Colonialist anterior-posterior ontogeny.

  97. 97
    Allienne Goddard

    Dhorvath,

    Well, just because I think post modernism is valuable doesn’t mean the style hasn’t been abused. It is awfully easy to say nothing with it, but that is because it is so hard to say any specific thing in general. When you make an issue of the concepts underlying thought and language, it makes thinking and communicating hard. I will say, if anything is objectively awesome, it is probably post modernist feminist bacon. Thanks for the laugh.

  98. 98
    Randomreason

    Randomreason has very strict rules about reasoning that when broken lead to things like the concept of privilege and also religion

    I think you are confusing me with other commenters in this thread. The concept of priivilege is not the issue, and not something anyone here seems to disagree about.

    As for religion, yes, I do think it’s continued appeal is primarily the consequence of lack of critical thinking education. As is the persistence of Chopralites, and an alarming number of products of Humanities departments in this country.

    I take it you disagree. I would like to hear why?

  99. 99
    Randomreason

    #97,

    Seems we are in violent agreement after all.

  100. 100
    SallyStrange

    Privilege isn’t the issue?

    Then you are a crappy communicator.

  101. 101
    Randomreason

    Oh, for heavens’s sake, #33 was an ironic response to #28, intended to expose how it was not a valid argument.

    One would assume people here telling other commenters to review the entire archives of Pharyngula would bother to read five consecutive comments in this thread before revving up into a Pirhanna-esque frenzy.

    This thread has nothing to do with the concept of privilege, it is about the shoddy thinking exposed in the article PZMyers aptly eviscerated. Some commenters noted similarities in the language and logic to the worst excesses of other, pseudo-critical writing – not in any way restricted to nor disproportionately present to feminist writing, just present there as well. I agreed with them. I posit that the common denominator is lack of, and devaluing of, critical thinking and the scientific method.

    Calm down and apply logic. Similarly, saying sexism is a problem among atheist communities is not saying all atheists are sexist, nor that sexism is restricted to the atheist community.

    Just as it is useful to determine which factors are contingent and which are not, it can be useful to note which tropes in this article are related to creationism, and which are more widespread.

    Goodness.

  102. 102
    Cipher

    Good point – and one that I trust you raise during po-mo-infected discussions about “privilege” in the atheist community.

    Privilege: Not the issue?

  103. 103
    Randomreason

    P.S. for the irony-impaired, bracketing that comment with “for heaven’s sake” and “Goodness” is not evidence I am a sekrit theocrat trole.

  104. 104
    Ing

    It’s pro-mo because shut up

  105. 105
    Allienne Goddard

    Randomreason, if this not you in 22?

    Good point – and one that I trust you raise during po-mo-infected discussions about “privilege” in the atheist community.

    Well, it is certainly possible I’ve misunderstood, and you don’t blame “po-mo” for the concept of privilege. I had to pull an all-nighter so I’m pretty damn sleepy.

    As for religion, yes, I do think it’s continued appeal is primarily the consequence of lack of critical thinking education. As is the persistence of Chopralites, and an alarming number of products of Humanities departments in this country.

    Well, there is critical thinking and then, there is critical thinking. In my view you are a victim of insufficient critical thought, in that you are unable to understand the importance of concepts in language even (dare I say it?) in the hard sciences.

    Now, now, quiet your angry murmurs everyone. Quiet, I say! Let me finish.

    Empiricism is awesome. The hard sciences are great. Heck, they make all my stuff! However, naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory. That being, for example, a white upper class male member of the greatest empire in the world of the nineteenth century might constitute a subjective perspective tinged with a(dare I say it? I dare!) privileged status that distorts the individual’s understanding of reality.

    It’s a bold statement, I realize. I’m just a kooky po-mo kinda gal, I guess.

  106. 106
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    That being, for example, a white upper class male member of the greatest empire in the world of the nineteenth century might constitute a subjective perspective tinged with a(dare I say it? I dare!) privileged status that distorts the individual’s understanding of reality.

    It’s a bold statement, I realize. I’m just a kooky po-mo kinda gal, I guess.

    This fuckwittery shows you aren’t really reading the thread, which conceded that Darwin was a man of his age, with the privilege associated with it. Which has nothing to do with days male privilege, other than being a logical precursor to those who can’t see the the trees for the forest…

  107. 107
    Randomreason

    #102 no, shoddy thinking is the issue. It’s not just evident among church-goers. You’ll note that the full comment I said should be repeated was,

    Several academic disciplines in the humanities have been infested and afflicted with pseudo-scientific garbage and po-mo crap, certain strains of academic feminism among them. But those strains are not representative of feminism as a whole, and crappy academic feminism is not unique in being held in thrall to po-mo.

    (emphasis added)

    I have a big problem with Deepak Chopra. To conclude from that that I have A big problem with quantum mechanics is just plain shoddy logic.

    I have a hard science bias. I question a lot of Humanities claims that seem to be embraced as passionate dogma to hurl at people, rather then as useful tools for progress.

    I object to using a hammer to bash people’s heads in. Doesn’t mean I think hammers are not valid or useful tools.

  108. 108
    Allienne Goddard

    Nerd, thank you for your insightful ability to completely miss the point. I have lurked her lo these many years, and often wondered how I would reply to you when you invariably misunderstood me and acted in the charming manner you always evidence. I think I’ll go with: You are a joke to me. I don’t give a fig what your opinion is, and will not be replying to your bait again. Go fuck yourself, you conceited, arrogant asshole.

  109. 109
    Randomreason

    naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory.

    Silly empiricists, with their peer review and expectations of replicability, citing (and sharing) of data and methods for verification, insisting on testable claims and all other measures to correct for confirmation bias, observation errors instrumentation inprecisions, false positives, dble-blind studies, and other subjective flaws the scientific method was created in explicit acknowledgement of and with humble admission of imperfection.

    See, this is exactly the kind of rhetoric and ideology I was referring to. It’s increasingly infecting academia, and I think it is a problem.

  110. 110
    Cipher

    I question a lot of Humanities claims that seem to be embraced as passionate dogma to hurl at people, rather then as useful tools for progress.

    Stop trying to dance around the point. Your form is lacking.

  111. 111
    Allienne Goddard

    And furthermore, I am sleepy. I will come back in a couple of hours to read any insults that may have been offered, so please try to make them good.

  112. 112
    Ing

    This again? Fuck it. I’m pretty sure this one was already dealt with anyway.

  113. 113
    skeptical scientist

    I think there’s strong evidence that evolutionary biology takes some of the blame for sexism.

    Whether or not the study of evolutionary biology is to blame is an entirely different question.

  114. 114
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I think there’s strong evidence that evolutionary biology takes some of the blame for sexism.

    Citation needed…

  115. 115
    R Hayes

    Allienne Goddard #97, love love love!

    Also, a trifle of textual analysis: I think (sneer)quotes around privilege and the use of the friendly abbreviation po-mo point at a slight discomfort with recent thinking in the humanities.

  116. 116
    Dhorvath, OM

    RandomReason,

    Silly empiricists, with their peer review and expectations of replicability, citing (and sharing) of data and methods for verification, insisting on testable claims and all other measures to correct for confirmation bias, observation errors instrumentation inprecisions, false positives, dble-blind studies, and other subjective flaws the scientific method was created in explicit acknowledgement of and with humble admission of imperfection.

    You are coming across like the tool is already well honed, but culture still proves difficult to probe with it. We are still learning how best to use these ideas on social structures, but does that mean we should make no attempts to redress problems while the path is not totally clear?

  117. 117
    Stacy

    I think there’s strong evidence that evolutionary biology takes some of the blame for sexism

    Deserves some of the praise for feminism and the impetus to fight for equality, too.

    That is, it would, if we wanted to anthropomorphize evolutionary biology, or to point out that it underlies much of our behavior. But the first would be silly and the second seems like a trivially obvious point.

  118. 118
    SallyStrange

    Adrienne, that was a perfectly wonderful post. I have no idea why Nerd reacted as he did. It’s pretty unusual that he gets it that wrong.

  119. 119
    julian
    I question a lot of Humanities claims that seem to be embraced as passionate dogma to hurl at people, rather then as useful tools for progress.

    Stop trying to dance around the point. Your form is lacking.

    Yes, please. Making everyone guess as to what point you’re trying to make makes any kind of discussion confusing and difficult to follow.

    If there is something specific in feminism (like privilege) you take issue with, say so and, if it’s not to much bother, say why.

  120. 120
    Tethys

    My there’s an awful lot of trolls/sockpuppets on this thread.

    Random reason sounds a lot like the recently banned Mercurial Muse.

    I read her poorly reasoned article, and then read part of the comment debate. The author refuses to believe that her article is not credible because it starts with a flawed premise.

  121. 121
    Jadehawk

    Silly empiricists, with their peer review and expectations of replicability, citing (and sharing) of data and methods for verification, insisting on testable claims and all other measures to correct for confirmation bias, observation errors instrumentation inprecisions, false positives, dble-blind studies, and other subjective flaws the scientific method was created in explicit acknowledgement of and with humble admission of imperfection.

    you really need to inform yourself about such concepts as Post-Positivism, Model-dependent Realism, and theory-ladenness of observation. You’re welcome to make rational arguments refuting these epistemological concepts, but you don’t get to just sneer because you’re ignorant of them.

  122. 122
    SallyStrange

    Excuse me: Allienne, not Adrienne. Sorry, I’m tired too. And posting from my phone.

  123. 123
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Go fuck yourself, you conceited, arrogant asshole.

    Oh, what shall I do??? Something doesn’t like me…Another internet stalker perhaps?

  124. 124
    Insipid Moniker

    It seems to me that Alliene Goddard was pointing out that things like confirmation bias can cause some very ugly problems when present in supposedly empirical thought. And I think that’s one thing that too many people refuse to recognize, empirical and rational thought is really, really hard.

  125. 125
    RandomReason

    We are still learning how best to use these ideas on social structures, but does that mean we should make no attempts to redress problems while the path is not totally clear?

    Not at all.

    Why erect that straw man in response to a discussion about how commonly the kind of pseudo-scholarship the article exhibits is considered academically acceptable in many social sciences disciplines ever since the infection of postmodernism mutated into just another form of quantum bafflegab?

    What does one have to do with the other?

  126. 126
    RandomReason

    things like confirmation bias can cause some very ugly problems when present in supposedly empirical thought.

    As opposed to non-empirical thought? Science has developed tools to address the problem of confirmation bias, and correct for it when it is not addressed up front.

    What kinds of measures does non-empirical thought apply to address the problem, and in what way are they superior to empirical thought?

    Sounds like a faith-based argument to me.

  127. 127
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    But, if we situate post modernist feminist bacon in the context of ante-structuralist thought, it is not possible to avoid the emergence (explosion) of a new problematic narrative operating as a visible modality but obscuring the “there-being” which is always beyond us. So, no. It’s only subjectively awesome.

    Does that actually mean something?

  128. 128
    SallyStrange
    We are still learning how best to use these ideas on social structures, but does that mean we should make no attempts to redress problems while the path is not totally clear?

    Not at all.

    Why erect that straw man in response to a discussion about how commonly the kind of pseudo-scholarship the article exhibits is considered academically acceptable in many social sciences disciplines ever since the infection of postmodernism mutated into just another form of quantum bafflegab?

    What does one have to do with the other?

    1. It’s not much of a straw man when it’s pretty common to find it used to do precisely that, prevent people from taking action to ameliorate social problems. See the recent kerfuffle over unwanted sexual advances in the atheist community (aka “Elevatorgate”) for examples.

    2. You have some concrete examples of how “the kind of pseudo-scholarship the article exhibits is considered academically acceptable in many social sciences disciplines ever since the infection of postmodernism mutated into just another form of quantum bafflegab”? Because so far all you’ve done is assert that this is the case, and the only concrete example of this supposed “quantum baffelgab” (great phrase, by the way) that you have offered so far was privilege, and you seem to have backed entirely away from that.

  129. 129
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Empiricism is awesome. The hard sciences are great. Heck, they make all my stuff! However, naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory. That being, for example, a white upper class male member of the greatest empire in the world of the nineteenth century might constitute a subjective perspective tinged with a(dare I say it? I dare!) privileged status that distorts the individual’s understanding of reality.

    It’s a bold statement, I realize. I’m just a kooky po-mo kinda gal, I guess.

    Your main problem seems to be that you know very little about empiricism or the hard sciences and are responding to some stereotype you have in your head. You are also taking mistakes made decades ago and flatly assuming that people working in the same fields couldn’t possibly have learned from them without your personal insight…

  130. 130
    SallyStrange

    As opposed to non-empirical thought?

    No, “supposedly empirical thought” is in opposition to “actually empirical thought.”

  131. 131
    RandomReason

    one thing that too many people refuse to recognize, empirical and rational thought is really, really hard.

    Indeed. Dogmatic and irrational thought is much easier, which is why it tends to dominate in the absence of an emphasis on empirical, rational thought.

    Which, after all, is the central argument we all have against the validity of religion, isn’t it?

    The more passionate we are about something, the less critically we tend to think about it. That is true whether the passion is of the Christ or of the Chopra or of the Chomsky.

    That being the case, it is useful to apply critical thinking most assiduously and consistently to our own convictions and dearly-held beliefs.

    Don’t you agree?

  132. 132
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    It seems to me that Alliene Goddard was pointing out that things like confirmation bias can cause some very ugly problems when present in supposedly empirical thought. And I think that’s one thing that too many people refuse to recognize, empirical and rational thought is really, really hard.

    I think the main objection is her smug implication that no “real” scientists could possibly have noticed this or tried to do anything about it on their own.

  133. 133
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    I think another problem is that “hard sciences” isn’t clearly defined.

    People misinterpreting biological functions, gene sequences, and so forth? Double-blind tests for drugs? Those things can have some confirmation bias.

    On the other hand, no matter how much I may personally hate manganese, my feelings about it aren’t going to change the products of my reaction.

    The “softer” a science, the more likely it is that personal interpretations, confirmation biases, prejudices, and sloppy thinking are going to be a problem. Obviously there’s no special branch of science that’s immune from sloppy thinking, but once you involve humans as research subjects, well, all sorts of shit gets thrown at the wall, and a lot of it doesn’t stick.

  134. 134
    julian

    That being the case, it is useful to apply critical thinking most assiduously and consistently to our own convictions and dearly-held beliefs.

    And I’m sure you’ll agree we should be equally critical of our motivations and reasons behind mocking, dismissing and ignoring certain ideas or beliefs. After all, it’s just as possible to not believe something for poor reasons as it is to believe something for equally bad reasons.

  135. 135
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    That being the case, it is useful to apply critical thinking most assiduously and consistently to our own convictions and dearly-held beliefs.

    Why do I always feel you are leading toward something of non-critical thinking. Maybe if you stop talking about it, and show some real world examples of where you are going. Like white, male privilege doesn’t exist…

  136. 136
    Jadehawk

    As opposed to non-empirical thought?

    strawman. no one here is asking anyone to abandon empirical thought for non-empirical thought; merely to not pretend as bias and subjectivity weren’t still very much present in science. go look up the concepts I noted above and stop being ignorant.

    I think the main objection is her smug implication that no “real” scientists could possibly have noticed this or tried to do anything about it on their own.

    wut?

  137. 137
    Insipid Moniker

    @131 – I do agree that we should look rationally at our deeply held beliefs and I was no t trying to imply that empiricism had no tools to correct for conformation bias. Just to point out that we often simply rationalize our beliefs rather than examining them with an intention to change if incorrect. I have no strong feelings about post modernism one way or the other, but I would rather see a comprehensive explanation of it’s flaws within the field in question than a statement that it is trickling down into our feeble brainmeats.
    @132 – I can see how it could read as obnoxious now that you point it out. Also, I do think good empirical testing is the best solution to the problem Alliene addressed.

  138. 138
    Ing

    The more passionate we are about something, the less critically we tend to think about it. That is true whether the passion is of the Christ or of the Chopra or of the Chomsky.

    Oh fuck you so much.

  139. 139
    Captain Quirk

    You know, RandomReason, wikipedia actually has a rather short and general overview of what privilege is about. It takes maybe three minutes to read it, if you’re slow. Maybe you could pop over there and come back here slightly less ignorant?

    Actually, I am rather fond of Avenue Q’s “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. It helped me understand this concept (the basics, anyway) back in high school so that when a college student was explaining, I thought “Oh! It’s like that song from that musical,” and is irreverent fun to boot.

  140. 140
    Allienne Goddard

    Damn it. Cannot sleep. Okay, I’ll give this another try. As a preface, I’m not everyone else you’ve ever argued with about this topic, and I’m trying not to make any assumptions about others here who have not acted like obvious assholes for years. I understand that people have made use of the “no objective reality” idea to undermine empirical science, but that isn’t my point at all. We have come up with no better way to learn about the physical universe, and I am a huge fan. Empiricism is great, and the scientific method has devised many approaches to minimize the effects of bias on data collection and interpretation. My problem is with naive empiricism (i.e. not all empiricism).

    The problem is that the human mind (i.e. the activity in the modified proto-chimp brain in the meat robots that are us) is always already (it’s a po-mo thing, go with it) filtering perception and relying on a wide array of concepts (some linguistic, some “innate”, some intellectually modifiable) when experiencing the world, and there is no way to escape that. You can, and should, refine the concepts and eliminate bias as it becomes apparent, but you will never be able to experience the world without these mediating systems. So, it doesn’t matter whether or not there is an objective truth, because you can’t get there from here.

    So, then, who cares? Why is this important? Because, believe it or not, there are naive empiricists who imagine that philosophical theory has nothing to contribute to science, because not every scientist always keeps the limitations of empiricism in mind, and because some not too far away say shut up with your po-mo crap about Darwin was a sexist, and no it had nothing to do with his answers to particular questions, and his body of work never acted as scientific support for sexism because shut up you po-mo asshole.

    So, another aspect of this is that empiricism and rational thought are not identical. Philosophy, history, non-empirical areas of anthropology, sociology, and so on can be, and usually are, done through rational thought. Logic, mathematics, and basket-weaving are other contained rational systems that rely not at all on empiricism. It seems to me that the question of Darwin’s beliefs and their influence on his thought and the possible role of science in supporting sexism is a historical question that will not be solved by empiricism. In fact, it won’t be “solved” at all, in the sense of coming to a final conclusion that… oh, forget it.

    It would take an essay, and I think someone already wrote one on the subject of post modernism. Sorry, as you can probably tell, I don’t comment much, and I don’t at all have the style down.

  141. 141
    SallyStrange

    Examples, RandomReason.

    Put up or shut up.

  142. 142
    Insipid Moniker

    And Sally Strange says in two sentences what it took me a wall of text to get at. Your OM is, yet again, well deserved.

  143. 143
    RandomReason

    You have some concrete examples of how “the kind of pseudo-scholarship the article exhibits is considered academically acceptable in many social sciences disciplines ever since the infection of postmodernism mutated into just another form of quantum bafflegab”?

    Sure:
    Tim Morton, noted Professor of English (Literature and the Environment) at UCDavis and one of the pioneers of one of the newest fields of Phlapdoodle Philosophy, “Object-Oriented Ontology”:
    http://www.continentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/viewArticle/46
    .
    Of course, one anecdote is just one anecdote. If you will trust me that this is but one in a thousand points of light, we can acknowledge the phenomenon and go on to discuss its significance, impact and remedy. Besides, I assume you are aware that critiques like mine are neither novel nor new.

    Surely you are familiar with the seminal work of post-physics, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, by Prof. Alan Sokal, which led Social Text to institute (for the first time ever) a peer review system for published articles.

    Or, to cite an even older example, perhaps you’ve read of the recent unearthing of footage of the famous Dr. Fox Lecture on ‘Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education’ http://www.weirdexperiments.com/apps/blog/show/8846691-the-legendary-dr-fox-lecture-footage-found-

    My personal favorite, however, is http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/
    (If you don’t like the first sample article, just refresh the page)

    BTW, I didn’t coin “Bafflegab”. Credit goes to Milton A Smith, assistant general counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce in 1952, who, during an award ceremony recognizing his creation, defined it as “multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies”

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-baf1.htm

    (Think of the version term I use, Quantum Bafflegab, as a synonym for Deepak Chopra.)

  144. 144
    RandomReason

    #Jadehawk,

    merely to not pretend as bias and subjectivity weren’t still very much present in science.

    Can you quote a comment in which I or anyone else in this thread made such an argument?

    I think we can all agree not to engage in pretenses none of us here engage in.

  145. 145
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    *reads first twenty comments*

    Well, it doesn’t take a psychic to see where this thread is going. I’m out.

  146. 146
    Jadehawk
    You have some concrete examples of how “the kind of pseudo-scholarship the article exhibits is considered academically acceptable in many social sciences disciplines

    Tim Morton, noted Professor of English

    lol

    Can you quote a comment in which I or anyone else in this thread made such an argument?

    sure:

    naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory.

    Silly empiricists, with their peer review and expectations of replicability, citing (and sharing) of data and methods for verification, insisting on testable claims and all other measures to correct for confirmation bias, observation errors instrumentation inprecisions, false positives, dble-blind studies, and other subjective flaws the scientific method was created in explicit acknowledgement of and with humble admission of imperfection.

    See, this is exactly the kind of rhetoric and ideology I was referring to. It’s increasingly infecting academia, and I think it is a problem.

    Listing the steps of the scientific method to a comment that says that we have reduced but not eliminated subjectivity looks suspiciously like claiming that the scientific method actually removes subjectivity; either that, or you’re responding to something no one said, thus creating a false impression of your intent.

  147. 147
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Yawn, random reason is another sophist philosopher. As a result, I don’t’ believe anything it says without citation to the scientific literature. Hard physical evidence separates science from the “logic” of philosophy, which can prove anything if it isn’t grounded in reality. Solid physical evidence is reality.

  148. 148
    otrame

    Damn, damn, damn. We were running low, and now this… And the price of deceased porcupines is going up, too.

    Ah, well, it will still be entertaining.

    *runs off to get the last of the butter pecan ice cream giggling gleefully

  149. 149
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    That being the case, it is useful to apply critical thinking most assiduously and consistently to our own convictions and dearly-held beliefs.

    Such as the belief that the risk of confirmation bias can be simply disregarded because peer review exists, which is almost as stupid as the whole “HAH, you pointy-headed know-it-alls didn’t think of THAT, didja?” shtick it’s been juxtaposed with in this thread?

  150. 150
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)
    I think the main objection is her smug implication that no “real” scientists could possibly have noticed this or tried to do anything about it on their own.

    wut?

    Um…

    Empiricism is awesome. The hard sciences are great. Heck, they make all my stuff! However, naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory. That being, for example, a white upper class male member of the greatest empire in the world of the nineteenth century might constitute a subjective perspective tinged with a(dare I say it? I dare!) privileged status that distorts the individual’s understanding of reality.

    It’s a bold statement, I realize. I’m just a kooky po-mo kinda gal, I guess.

    You don’t see it there? Especially with the last two lines?

  151. 151
    Allienne Goddard

    I don’t get it, Azkyroth. I was referencing naive empiricists. They exist. Hell, one of them posted at 147.

  152. 152
    SallyStrange

    See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?

  153. 153
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    …okay, I may have overread, then.

  154. 154
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I was referencing naive empiricists.

    I’m not a naive empiricist. I agreed with you that Darwin was as sexist as his culture was. But I took nothing further, as there was no real evidence that his writings are overtly sexist, or any more so than would be expected. But definitely not sexist compared to the babble.

    You can say things in a much simpler fashion than you are doing, and achieve better communication. Think of it this way. A one paragraph executive summary, instead of the seven pages of conclusions.

  155. 155
    RandomReason

    Because, believe it or not, there are naive empiricists who imagine that philosophical theory has nothing to contribute to science, because not every scientist always keeps the limitations of empiricism in mind, and because some not too far away say shut up with your po-mo crap about Darwin was a sexist, and no it had nothing to do with his answers to particular questions, and his body of work never acted as scientific support for sexism because shut up you po-mo asshole.

    1) Can you provide an example of these “naive empiricists who imagine that philosophical theory has nothing to contribute to science?

    2) Can you explain the relevance to this discussion – either something in the article,in the critique of the article, or in the comments about how its rhetoric is reminiscent of shoddy thinking found, in particular, in certain disciplines in the Humanities? Where is “naive empiricism” on display?

  156. 156
    Crissa

    RandomReason, 143: That was fairly impressive.

  157. 157
    Crissa

    Forbidden Snowflake, 93:

    I’m glad you spoke up so you could increase your pecking order points. It’s not like you had anything to add to the conversation.

    I don’t. I was hoping the vaunted locals did, or would. They’ve disappointed. There’s something wrong when questions aren’t answered.

  158. 158
    Allienne Goddard

    Well, Nerd, you could work on clarity and reading comprehension. Or at least refrain from replying angrily to posts that you don’t understand because they contain too many words. Is that better?

    By the way, I hypothesize that you were born with a tail, but your parents didn’t tell you. They had it removed when you were two and buried it in the garden. If you go to your childhood home and dig up the garden, you will eventually find a lunch box — a silver lunch box like the one construction workers used to have when they would sit on a construction girder and dangle their legs over empty space. Inside the lunch box you will find a Skippy “Super Chunk” peanut butter jar (without the peanut butter). This type of peanut butter (and jar) was manufactured on only three non-consecutive years at a factory in Tennessee that was (it burned down) right next to a condom factory (that’s still there). But that isn’t important. What is important is that inside that jar is your tail, and the weird thing is that it will show no signs of decomposition whatsoever, but as soon as you unseal the jar the decomposition will begin. It’s just a hypothesis, though.

    Sorry for all the words.

  159. 159
    SallyStrange

    1. I’m not clear on what’s wrong with “object-oriented ontology.” It seems like a useful framework for approaching fields like ecology, which require consideration of non-human interests, even the interests of non-living things. It’s not clear to me how that’s related to the post-modern concept of the impossibility of pure objectivity.

    2. Some clever jerk submitted a hoax paper to a non-peer reviewed journal. The journal then started peer-reviewing articles. Social sciences have been lax in the past. Are you contending that the laxness of the journal is reflective of the field, more so than other fields? And how is that related to the post-modern no access to objective reality without filters thing? The laxness and the postmodernism are linked perhaps? This could be interesting to discuss.

    3. The lecture guy. That’s a funny one. There was a post about it here a little while ago. Again, unclear how this relates to post-modernism specifically, so we are left with one out of two examples that are actually pertinent.

    Being that I am a bit tired and would prefer watch Dancing with the Stars, rather than attempt to figure out what your ill-defined beef is, especially if your examples are only 33% helpful and relevant. Ta.

  160. 160
    SallyStrange

    I’m glad you spoke up so you could increase your pecking order points. It’s not like you had anything to add to the conversation.

    I don’t. I was hoping the vaunted locals did, or would. They’ve disappointed. There’s something wrong when questions aren’t answered.

    You’re such a filthy liar, Crissakentavr. You truly are the lowest of the low. I have more respect for pedophiles than you. I mean that sincerely. (Ask me why!)

  161. 161
    SallyStrange

    RandomReason, 143: That was fairly impressive.

    Oh that terrible peanut gallery. Don’t you just hate that peanut gallery.

  162. 162
    Allienne Goddard

    1) Can you provide an example of these “naive empiricists who imagine that philosophical theory has nothing to contribute to science?

    Yes, see post 147.

    2) Can you explain the relevance to this discussion – either something in the article,in the critique of the article, or in the comments about how its rhetoric is reminiscent of shoddy thinking found, in particular, in certain disciplines in the Humanities? Where is “naive empiricism” on display?

    Yes, it was in response to you. I don’t know how naive your empiricism might be; maybe not at all. You were, however, denigrating “po-mo” approaches to analysis, and were not specific about what you had a problem with. I gave it a whirl, and you responded that while yes, bias exists, there are elements in the scientific method to deal with that. I agreed that there are, but suggested that nevertheless it would never achieve perfection, and consequently social analysis will always have a role to play, even in the hard sciences (and basket-weaving). Then you asked me the above questions, and here we are.

  163. 163
    RandomReason

    Listing the steps of the scientific method to a comment that says that we have reduced but not eliminated subjectivity looks suspiciously like claiming that the scientific method actually removes subjectivity;

    That’s a groundless inference, beginning with a mischaracterization. The comment I replied to stated that

    naive empiricists seem to be frequently inclined to believe that their perceptions and experiences and interpretations are not colored by their subjective state. That they can truly see objective reality in all its shiny glory.

    The context of that statement was a defense of postmodernist critique of science. It was a general critique of empiricism as being unaware of subjectivity and confirmation bias – which the commenter has now walked back to say they were only referring to some unidentified sub-set of empiricists.

    There is nothing in that comment that states that “we have reduced but nor eliminated subjectivity”.

    In response, I pointed out that not only are practitioners of the scientific method aware of confirmation bias and observer error, that is *exactly* the reality which the scientific method was designed to take into account and compensate for.

    GPS systems compensate for relativistic phenomena. Does that imply that relativistic phenomena do not exist, or do not effect GPS systems? Neither does the existence of the scientific method argue against subjectivity – it demonstrates the exact opposite! And then seeks to do our best to provide useful results despite it.

    It is rather bizarre to be defending the scientific method against postmodern rhetoric on Pharyngula.

    If you think strict empiricism and the scientific method don’t work, or don’t work well enough, can you provide me with any alternative means of knowledge with a similar track record of utility, veracity and predictive power?

    Precisely what subjective measures would you use, and how would they improve results, say, in vaccine molecular design, or measurements of dark energy in the universe?

  164. 164
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Well, Nerd, you could work on clarity and reading comprehension.

    I’ve always read above my grade level, and I try to write clearly so others less educated in my field can understand what I say, and why my work is important for them. So can you. Right now, you are as clear as mud, and as funny as doggy doo on the bottom of your shoe. Lose your arrogance as a first step. It would help.

  165. 165
    RandomReason

    #149, Azkyroth,

    Such as the belief that the risk of confirmation bias can be simply disregarded because peer review exists

    Straw man. I made no such argument, nor would I.

  166. 166
    Allienne Goddard

    Randomreason, that is incorrect. I always was only referring to naive empiricists as my comments will show. I have walked back nothing. I was never attacking science, I was attacking naive empiricists. I was misunderstood, and I guess I ought to have said “those who are naive in their understandings of the nature of empiricism,” but it sounds kinda wordy. People don’t like words, turns out.

  167. 167
    echidna

    Why do I always feel you are leading toward something of non-critical thinking. Maybe if you stop talking about it, and show some real world examples of where you are going. Like white, male privilege doesn’t exist…

    RandomReason gives me that impression as well. An argument without a stated conclusion is discomforting, because it feels like there is a rhetorical trap being set up.
    Given I’d be much happier if RR was explicit, I’ll be explicit about this bit:

    The more passionate we are about something, the less critically we tend to think about it. That is true whether the passion is of the Christ or of the Chopra or of the Chomsky.

    We don’t even know if Jesus, later known as the Christ, even existed, and what little is written is inconsistent.

    Chopra, formerly an assistant to Sexy Sadie (Beatles reference) is renowned for his inconsistent views, so I get that reference too. But my familiarity with Chomsky is largely in relation to the impact that his work on linguistics had on computer languages. What is the connection between the three? I don’t get it.

    In other words, RandomReason, please flesh out your arguments to include both evidence and a conclusion. Otherwise, you are just making rhetorical flourishes to an international audience, not all of whom can intuit what you are trying to say.

    Pharyngula is not the place for dog-whistles.

  168. 168
    Allienne Goddard

    Nerd, thank you for your advice. I will ignore it immediately. I have another hypothesis about you: You are a flatulent cow abuser (both parsing are correct).

  169. 169
    SallyStrange

    It is rather bizarre to be defending the scientific method against postmodern rhetoric on Pharyngula.

    It would be, if that’s what you were doing. But it’s unclear that the scientific method is in need of defense from anyone, much less you. Or how postmodern rhetoric is attacking it.

  170. 170
    echidna

    Allienne Goddard,
    You are right, people around here don’t like people who use words to not say anything. I’ve read a number of your comments about naive empiricism, and I still don’t know what you mean by the term.

  171. 171
    SallyStrange

    Allienne, I dig your style.

    I also think Nerd’s giving you good advice.

    Take that as you will.

  172. 172
    Jadehawk

    It was a general critique of empiricism as being unaware of subjectivity and confirmation bias

    incorrect. but you inability to tell the difference between “naive empiricists” and “empiricism” has been duly noted.

    so, evidently, the latter explanation I provided for your comment is true, and I apologize for assuming you can read and were thus responding to what people actually wrote.

    GPS systems compensate for relativistic phenomena. Does that imply that relativistic phenomena do not exist, or do not effect GPS systems? Neither does the existence of the scientific method argue against subjectivity – it demonstrates the exact opposite!

    what a loltastically inaccurate analogy. The correct analogy would be to wonder whether the compensation fully compensates for relativistic phenomena, or whether they are still do a small degree present in the already adjusted data.

    It is rather bizarre to be defending the scientific method against postmodern rhetoric on Pharyngula.

    it’s bizarre that you think that’s what you’re doing, or that the scientific method needs defending from anyone here.

    If you think strict empiricism and the scientific method democracic elections don’t work, or don’t work well enough, can you provide me with any alternative means of knowledge government with a similar track record of utility, veracity and predictive power?

    makes as much sense.

    Precisely what subjective measures would you use, and how would they improve results, say, in vaccine molecular design, or measurements of dark energy in the universe?

    strawmanning again, are you? do quote where I or anyone else advocates the discarding of the scientific method.

  173. 173
    SallyStrange

    Retaining the idea that you’re always looking at the world through filters is a big help when designing a scientific study.

    It’s unclear to me how the recognition that humans are always approaching objective reality through subjective lenses is at odds with the scientific method. If anything, the former, being postmodern theory, or thought, or whatever the jargon is, is a useful tool in the correct application of the latter.

  174. 174
    Jadehawk

    I’ve read a number of your comments about naive empiricism, and I still don’t know what you mean by the term.

    to give you one simplistic example, people who think science is a method that gives us the correct answer, rather than a method that eliminates incorrect answers

  175. 175
    Jadehawk

    another example would be people like what RandomReason currently presents as: those who decide that criticism and acknowledgement of the flaws of the scientific method equal rejection thereof in favor of even more flawed system.

  176. 176
    Jadehawk

    I apologize for all the atrocious typos and grammar mistakes in my posts.

  177. 177
    Allienne Goddard

    Echidna, I’m not sure why this isn’t clear. Empiricism works well, but it is naive to think that it leads to an unmediated objective truth because our relationship to the world is always through systems of conceptual categorization and filtered perceptions. This naivete is bad because it leads to people dismissing rational concerns about how concepts and bias have affected the collection and interpretation of data. These naive empiricists actually exist, and even when a person does understand these limitations it can be forgotten in the heat of an argument about, say, a cherished figure. That’s it, in as condensed and still kinda thorough form I can do it.

    I’ll note that when I raised these points in #105, I got the Randomreason reply in 109 that includes:

    See, this is exactly the kind of rhetoric and ideology I was referring to. It’s increasingly infecting academia, and I think it is a problem.

    But, he’s been all over the place with his comments, so I don’t know whether he is a good example of a naive empiricist or not.

    Now, too late for sleep, must go to work. Goodnight all.

  178. 178
    RandomReason

    A lot of the postmodern/critical studies arguments against naturalist empiricism strike me as oddly similar to NOMA arguments.

    Rather than saying pesky evidence-based science should keep its nose out of religion, the argument here seems to be that pesky evidence-based science should keep its nose out of the social sciences. Ironically, this argument about “subjectivity” is made even while both religious apologists and many “it’s all subjective” critics from the Humanities are eager to cloak their work in (pseudo) scientific objective credibility – using technical jargon and pretending to conduct empirical research, while frequently ignoring parts of the scientific method designed precisely to correct subjective biases, usually because they are too tangible or, dare I say it, “objective”).

    Some of the arguments also strike me as Chopra-esque. He loves to attack “Western science’s obsession with the Object Subject Split” and “scientism”. His quantum bafflegab reads an awful lot like that “Object-Oriented Ontology” paper, right down to sounding scientific without actually saying anything concrete.

    I’m an unapologetic proponent of philosophical naturalism. I find no evidence to support the notion that objective reality does not exist, or that it is unknowable (inference being one of science’s most powerful tool, enabling us to make statements with predictable power about many things beyond our sensory limits that we cannot directly experience at all).

    The burden of proof is on those who claim that naturalism has failed.

    Or, if the claim is that it is flawed, the burden is on the claimant to demonstrate how they would improve on current scientific methodology, and to provide evidence that a non-empirical approach – to *any* form of knowledge – yields useful results (or even has meaning).

    If the claim is that naturalism is not an adequate explanation of the world, the burden is on the claimant to provide evidence of phenomena that are, in principle and not just as of yet, immune to scientific, naturalistic explanation.

    It doesn’t matter whether the claim of the incompleteness of science comes from religion, quantum woo-woo or social studies. Without evidence, it is just bafflegab.

  179. 179
    RandomReason

    e people like what RandomReason currently presents as: those who decide that criticism and acknowledgement of the flaws of the scientific method equal rejection thereof in favor of even more flawed system.

    Nonsense. This sounds dangerously like a creationist rejection of evolution.

    What precisely are these alleged “flaws of the scientific method”?

    What is the evidence that they are inherent flaws, that cannot be addressed using the internal corrective means of the scientific method?

    Do you have a better alternative?

    Do you have any empirical evidence to demonstrate the superiority of this alternative to the scientific method?

  180. 180
    Jadehawk

    Rather than saying pesky evidence-based science should keep its nose out of religion, the argument here seems to be that pesky evidence-based science should keep its nose out of the social sciences.

    Does the epic fail in that sentence show RandomReason to be a liar or an idiot? does it matter? either way, that’s what we here on the internet used to refer to as a Fractal Wrongness, and more recently as an Epic Fail.

  181. 181
    Allienne Goddard

    Oh, and thank you Sally, that’s very nice of you. I certainly appreciated the work you’ve been doing in the feminist threads. Great stuff! I’m sorry I didn’t compliment you, and others, at the time, but unfortunately I usually can’t bring myself to comment unless I’m really annoyed. This of course has a predictable affect on how I am perceived online, but that’s the price of laziness.

    I’m afraid I can’t listen to Nerd, though, he’s always so mean-spirited that I can’t even stand to see his name appear in the comment list.

  182. 182
    Jadehawk

    Nonsense. This sounds dangerously like a creationist rejection of evolution.

    yes, it’s not at all surprising that the strawman you’ve created would look like a creationist. what’s your point?

    What precisely are these alleged “flaws of the scientific method”?

    you still haven’t looked up Post-Positivism, Model-dependent Realism, and theory-ladenness of observation

    What is the evidence that they are inherent flaws, that cannot be addressed using the internal corrective means of the scientific method?

    what makes you think anyone is claiming the flaws are inherent in the scientific method?

    Do you have a better alternative?

    when will you stop pretending this question is relevant to the current discussion?

  183. 183
    echidna

    Jadehawk@174 re naive empiricism:

    to give you one simplistic example, people who think science is a method that gives us the correct answer, rather than a method that eliminates incorrect answers

    Ah, thanks. I didn’t know where the naivity lay. Ok, so some people get the wrong end of the stick about what science can do.

  184. 184
    Jadehawk

    Am I the only one greatly amused at the fact that RR quotes me, and then proceeds to demonstrate the accuracy of that quote despite not understanding what it says?

  185. 185
    echidna

    Allienne Goddard :

    Echidna, I’m not sure why this isn’t clear.

    It’s not clear because I don’t have your cultural background.

  186. 186
    RandomReason

    #162 Allienne,

    it was in response to you. I don’t know how naive your empiricism might be; maybe not at all.

    You could have asked, rather than assume incorrectly.

    You were, however, denigrating “po-mo” approaches to analysis, and were not specific about what you had a problem with.

    Again, you could have asked me: what specifically about postmodern approaches to analysis bother you? It’s much easier to just plow ahead on the Internet, isn’t it ;-)

    Hopefully, subsequent posts have clarified what bothers me. If not, please feel free to ask for clarification, rather than making unsubstantiated assumptions.

    I gave it a whirl, and you responded that while yes, bias exists, there are elements in the scientific method to deal with that. I agreed that there are, but suggested that nevertheless it would never achieve perfection, and consequently social analysis will always have a role to play

    Unjustified conclusions based on red herring built on unsubstantiated assertion.

    Red herring:

    Science is not about perfection nor does it make claims of perfection. Science is strictly utilitarian. It is valued because it works. Consistently. Progressively. Predictively. Usefully.

    Far better than any other useful method of understanding reality we have yet invented.

    Typically, creationists and Chopralites criticize science as being a naive, scientismic search for ultimate perfection. You know, “evolution is only a theory”. I am pretty sure you are neither a creationist nor a Chopralite, so why resort to such simplistic anti-rational cant?

    Unsubstantiated assertion:

    You present no evidence the scientific method is inadequate, or that there are realms into which it cannot or must not intrude.

    Unjustified conclusions:

    a) There is no reason to believe that, even if the scientific method were inadequate, that social analysis, as opposed to, say, prayer, wishful thinking, dowsing or submitting bafflegab articles to social science magazines, would be the answer.

    b) You present no evidence that adding “social analysis” has “fixed” any kind of inherent flaw in the scientific method to produce a useful scientific theory, discovery or benefit.

  187. 187
    Kseniya

    What is the connection between the three?

    Err… Switzerland?

  188. 188
    Tethys

    Am I the only one greatly amused at the fact that RR quotes me, and then proceeds to demonstrate the accuracy of that quote despite not understanding what it says?

    *raises wavelet* I am amused.

    I keep trying to understand exactly what random reason is trying to say, but all the bafflegab makes it difficult to understand exactly what xe is arguing about.

    I’m still somewhat confused as to how it applies to this particular topic.

  189. 189
    RandomReason

    #159, Sally Strange,

    1. I’m not clear on what’s wrong with “object-oriented ontology.”
    It seems like a useful framework for approaching fields like ecology, which require consideration of non-human interests, even the interests of non-living things.

    I’ll call your bluff. What is Tim Morton actually saying, what evidence does he provide to support his thesis, and what is its utility?

    2. Some clever jerk submitted a hoax paper to a non-peer reviewed journal.
    Ah, that would be Alan Sokal, professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University, and co-author, with Professor Jean Bricmont, Belgian theoretical physicist and philosopher of science, of “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” and other books. Just “some clever jerk”.

    3. The lecture guy. That’s a funny one. There was a post about it here a little while ago. Again, unclear how this relates to post-modernism specifically, so we are left with one out of two examples that are actually pertinent.

    It is all part of the same disease. Both Sokal-type hoaxes and Dr. Fox hoaxes have been repeatedly demonstrated, revealing the intellectual price of accepting ideologically-pleasing concepts as superior to cold, reductionist, empirical science and naturalism.

    If the connection is not clear to you, and if you are truly not aware of the breadth and depth of critique of what ails the social sciences in the wake of postmodernism, deconstructionism, critical studies and the whole anti-Enlightenment social relativism culture, then you are hardly qualified to defend against it.

    If one does not read critical reviews of the “subjective reality” worldview and ontological beliefs, how can one make claims that other worldviews are flawed and would benefit from an infusion of social analysis?

  190. 190
    RandomReason

    what makes you think anyone is claiming the flaws are inherent in the scientific method?

    If they are not inherent, then they can be remedied using the existing toolkit. In which case the argument against naturalism, and the argument that science can and must benefit from social analysis, is groundless and irrelevant.

    The relevance to this post was clear before the strange obsession with attacking simple assertions, made by others, about how the rhetoric in the article is reminiscent of a particular type of social studies practice, assertions with which I agreed.

    This suggests that, rather than simply dismiss this article based on our shared anti-theistic bias, it might be useful, or at least interesting, to explore why people believe weird things so completely that they lose all contact with reality.

    My thesis is that the problem is a lack of critical thinking, and that the remedy is wider teaching and adoption of the scientific method in particular and critical thinking in general.

    It’s pretty simple to follow along, if you just skip all the irrelevant straw men and personal nonsense and silliness. There actually are a number of people here who were participating in a constructive and interesting discussion sparked by this article, until inexplicable hostility scared them away.

    Which is why people like me mostly lurk, and only comment when we have a day off and find something interesting to comment about.

  191. 191
    pelamun

    What is the connection between the three? I don’t get it.

    Let me say it. While American linguistics is dominated by Chomskyans, most non-Chomskyans regard them a little bit like a cult. Also there are severe empirical problems with his theory (which also changes approx. every five years). I’ve seen the Chomsky worship first hand when I spent a summer at MIT/Harvard.

    Please don’t ask me to go into more detail, Chomskyan linguistics is a depressing topic for me. I’d rather talk about the question whether Mandarin has one or two LE constructions.

  192. 192
    Stacy

    You present no evidence the scientific method is inadequate, or that there are realms into which it cannot or must not intrude

    Speaking of red herrings, yours is huge and stinky. “Imperfect” does not equal “inadequate”. And who here has said that there are “realms into which [science] cannot or must not intrude”?

    You present no evidence that adding “social analysis” has “fixed” any kind of inherent flaw in the scientific method to produce a useful scientific theory, discovery or benefit

    Again–who said anything about “fixing” “inherent flaws”? What’s been proposed is awareness of human limitations.

    So what is the purely objective method by which scientists choose which experimental protocols to use?

    Do ambition, competition, economic factors, or bigotry never play a part in scientists’ work?

    Oh, they do?

    But social analysis is useless there, right?

  193. 193
    RandomReason

    Final comment and then I’m back to lurkdom:

    The reason one so rarely sees actual practicing natural scientists in these kind of arguments is because

    a) the notion that confirmation bias or observer error os issue is somehow a revelation to empirical scientists is so puzzling, given the amount of time scientists spend thinking, talking and worrying about it, that they simply don’t know how to respond. It’s as if critics in the social sciences have never heard of Philosophy of Science – of think natural scientists haven’t.

    b) the quality of argumentation is so sophomoric that it seems demeaning and wasteful to engage.

    Here is what a mature, vigorous yet respectful, quality discussion about naturalism and the adequacy of reductionism, looks like, between actual scientists/philosophers of science who both support an empirical approach to understanding reality, yet who differ wildly on whether strict reductionism is adequate to explain it.

    The discussion is enlightening, illuminating, thought-provoking and focuses on exploring and sharing ideas, not winning arguments with strangers on the Internet.

    (I recommend the philosophytv site in general, for those interested in how naturalism informs modern philosophical discussions about the nature of reality, what science has contributed to our understanding, and how we can continue to move forward to greater shared understanding.)

    http://www.philostv.com/owen-flanagan-and-alex-rosenberg/

    After viewing that, it is not hard to understand why most of these discussions here do not attract many real scientists – or critical thinkers.

    It was interesting, for a while there.

    Back to lurking.

  194. 194
    Jadehawk

    If they are not inherent, then they can be remedied using the existing toolkit.

    no, that does not follow. If they are not inherent, they can be remedied; whence the remedy is orthogonal to this, and depends on the problems.

    the argument against naturalism

    you are confused.

    the strange obsession with attacking simple assertions, made by others, about how the rhetoric in the article is reminiscent of a particular type of social studies practice, assertions with which I agreed.

    you’re confused, again, about what people are disagreeing with you about. and which “others” are you referring to? because if you say “Josh”, I’m going to laugh at you.

    My thesis is that the problem is a lack of critical thinking, and that the remedy is wider teaching and adoption of the scientific method in particular and critical thinking in general.

    and yet, that’s not what you’ve been saying and that’s not the part that people are disagreeing with you.

    Your lack of response to the remainder of my post has also been duly noted.

  195. 195
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    okay since I’m currently grading lab reports and something my students keep fucking doing no matter how many times I tell them not to is actually applicable here:

    RandomReason:

    When you talk about possible sources of error in an experiment, you are supposed to talk about variables you, as a scientist, are unable to control. The source of error that is NOT acceptable is human error – because all experiments have human error, and if you knew what errors you were making, you should have done the experiment again. Saying “I may have screwed up” is trivial. Of course you could have, and if a peer reviewer catches that error, well, then you’ll know where it was. But the nature of human error is that the person committing it can’t see they’re committing it. No amount of scientific awesomeness can eliminate this!

    However, we can look at experiments and realize that they will always be limited by our human imperfections, and try to be aware of those limitations and design around them, even though we can NEVER eliminate them.

    There is a limitation of the scientific method. It’s always performed by stupid jumped-up apes that transpose numbers and miscalibrate instruments and so on and so forth.

    Now I have to go back to these reports ’cause they are due tomorrow and I am procrastinating being in here.

    /relurk

  196. 196
    Jadehawk

    a) the notion that confirmation bias or observer error os issue is somehow a revelation to empirical scientists is so puzzling,

    this, of course, is a bit of a strawman as well.

    It’s as if critics in the social sciences have never heard of Philosophy of Science – of think natural scientists haven’t.

    considering how intently you’ve been ignoring my requests for you to look up the three aspects of Philosophy of Science I keep on mentioning, (as well as ignoring the continuous mentions of said Philosophy of Science by AG) I really don’t think it’s the people you’re arguing against who haven’t heard of Philosophy of Science; nor is anyone other than you conflating modern research scientists with the naive empiricists under discussion.

    the quality of argumentation is so sophomoric that it seems demeaning and wasteful to engage.

    coming from you, that’s hilarious.

    After viewing that, it is not hard to understand why most of these discussions here do not attract many real scientists – or critical thinkers.

    heh. you have some very interesting delusions if you think the people you’re talking to aren’t scientists and critical thinkers.

  197. 197
    SallyStrange

    1. I’m not clear on what’s wrong with “object-oriented ontology.”
    It seems like a useful framework for approaching fields like ecology, which require consideration of non-human interests, even the interests of non-living things.

    I’ll call your bluff. What is Tim Morton actually saying, what evidence does he provide to support his thesis, and what is its utility?

    Bluff? What bluff? I’ve only ever heard of Tim Morton or Object-Oriented Ontology today. I read a little bit, and right now I’m watching a short explanatory video from Morton’s website. The main thrust seems to be that it’s desirable to remember that objects exist independent of their role in human history. I cannot see how it would lean toward or against empiricism or the scientific method. It’s just another lens.

    It seems you are incapable of actually explaining the relationship I was questioning you about, and are instead engaging in a “Dance monkey dance” tactic of diverting me into doing your homework for you. If you can’t summarize how and why this relates to your issues (if they are your issues, your writing is so muddled, it’s difficult to tell) with postmodern rhetoric/thought, then what basis do I have for granting your analysis a priori? I have admittedly studied little of either postmodernism or “OOO” as it’s kind of pretentiously called, but so far nothing jumps out at me as being in tension with empiricism or the scientific method.

    2. Some clever jerk submitted a hoax paper to a non-peer reviewed journal.

    Ah, that would be Alan Sokal, professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University, and co-author, with Professor Jean Bricmont, Belgian theoretical physicist and philosopher of science, of “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” and other books. Just “some clever jerk”.

    I’m sure he’s very smart and accomplished. It was actually pretty cool what he did. That doesn’t change the fact that you are resorting to argument from authority here, and have once again failed to articulate either the link from this to the abhorred philosophy, postmodernism, or your actual problem with the latter.

    3. The lecture guy. That’s a funny one. There was a post about it here a little while ago. Again, unclear how this relates to post-modernism specifically, so we are left with one out of two examples that are actually pertinent.

    It is all part of the same disease. Both Sokal-type hoaxes and Dr. Fox hoaxes have been repeatedly demonstrated, revealing the intellectual price of accepting ideologically-pleasing concepts as superior to cold, reductionist, empirical science and naturalism.

    Is postmodernism an “ideologyically-pleasing concept”? Whose ideology is pleased by it? How are you certain that all of the editors of the journal that accepted Sokol’s hoax and all of the members of Dr. Fox’s audience subscribed to that ideology? Why are you emphasizing this unlikely explanation in favor of the simpler one that it’s relatively easy to combine bafflegab and a reputation as a smart person and an expert to intimidate people from asking basic questions or just saying, “That made absolutely no sense at all”?

    If the connection is not clear to you, and if you are truly not aware of the breadth and depth of critique of what ails the social sciences in the wake of postmodernism, deconstructionism, critical studies and the whole anti-Enlightenment social relativism culture, then you are hardly qualified to defend against it.

    I’m not defending anything, particularly, I just don’t really see what your big problem is. You can’t explain it, so I can’t really get on board with agreeing that it’s a big problem.

    If one does not read critical reviews of the “subjective reality” worldview and ontological beliefs, how can one make claims that other worldviews are flawed and would benefit from an infusion of social analysis?

    This seems like more argument from authority. Why must I read critical reviews of the “subjective reality” worldview and ontological beliefs when you can’t even really explain what you mean by that bafflegabby grouping of words? Your explanations don’t jive with the reality I’m observing through my own readings. I admit, I’m no expert, but I’m not a dunce either, and I can spot when a person is dancing around a subject without really saying anything. That’s you. I’ve learned a lot from reading the links you’ve offered, but none of what I’ve learned jives with your interpretation of what you think you’re showing me. So. If you have done these readings that you think are so important, then spit it out. Be clear and concise. If you can’t, then pardon me if I don’t feel like wasting my time with you when I could be going straight to the source material. The review of The Ecological Thought by Peter Gratton seems quite interesting so far; critical, but appreciative of the genuinely interesting insights Morton brings to the table. At least Morton, unlike you, provides a few genuinely interesting insights into the nature of reality.

  198. 198
    SallyStrange

    Or rather, to be precise, since we’re going all postmodern right now, Morton provides insights into the nature of our perception of reality.

  199. 199
    A. Noyd

    Allienne Goddard (#166)

    I guess I ought to have said “those who are naive in their understandings of the nature of empiricism,” but it sounds kinda wordy. People don’t like words, turns out.

    You could totally test that hypothesis with an n>1.

  200. 200
    mouthyb

    The feminist/social scientist grad student (also with an MFA in English) says *ouch*. I hate ‘my science is better than yours’ pissing contests.

    I always find it depressing when someone abuses post-modern theory. It’s like watching someone light a bunch of hand-tatted lace on fire because they think that if it has those little holes in it, the lace cannot possibly be useful.

    The usefulness of the lace measured by whether or not it holds water, say, misses the point.

    For looking at the formation of meaning around words in societies, post-modern theory is excellent. You can’t beat a theory set which forces you to ask what the hell people are up to by associating a set of sounds and shapes to a meaning. It allows you to perform geneologies of meaning and treat context like an important variable in the process of communication.

    Do I think there is some really sloppy thinking in English? You bet. Do I think all of English is sloppy? No, not at all.

    The methodologies between the ‘hard’ sciences and the humanities are very different. This does not imply that the humanities are meaningless.

    randomreason: I suggest you read “Godel, Escher and Bach: the Eternal Golden Braid”. The thing about humans is that they produce systems which will tend to create meaningless or nonsense propositions, while being well within the rules for the system. It might cure you of the tendency to assume that the rules you like are the only, complete rules for generating useful meaning.

  201. 201
    suyamariyathai

    There is no reason to believe that, even if the scientific method were inadequate, that social analysis…would be the answer.

    Would be the answer to what question? A scientific analysis could prove Kanazawa’s notorious ideas are empirically false, but it neither examines nor explains how certain types of false ideas keep getting disseminated in science and as science in society.

    The question of how social analysis has improved scientific knowledge is a really interesting one, I haven’t yet read Has Feminism Changed Science, but she discusses how feminism thought provoked new lines of scientific inquiry.

  202. 202
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I’m afraid I can’t listen to Nerd, though, he’s always so mean-spirited that I can’t even stand to see his name appear in the comment list.

    Listen to your arrogant egotistical self. You aren’t the smartest poster on this thread. Lose the attitude, and actually state clearly what you want to say. I still don’t understand where you are coming from as it is encased in obtuse philosophical jargon. If you want real communication, simplify it for those of us not trained in philosophy and its jargon (I took math classes instead of philosophy back in the day). I also call a spade a spade, and if you come across to me as arrogant, windy, and purposely obtuse, you will be called on it, as you are.

  203. 203
    Gunboat Diplomat

    I don’t usually get a chance to read the comments section but I see Ing is still lying and doing his Mussolini trick – swaggering around threatening people with someone else power:

    @Ing #38

    PZ when you get a sec, IP check Randomreason; he’s familiar and clearly has a past beef.

    Also A Gunboat Diplomat is requesting he be banned.

    May not be quite quantum bafflegab but its still nonsense.

  204. 204
    G.Shelley

    I have an ebo0ok of Descent of man, but can’t find the passage “males are more evolutionarily advanced than females” or anything similar. Darwin may well have written or implied it, but if so, I’d like to read the context rather than take some Creationists word for it (A Google search for the phrase + Darwin brings up a number of Creationist sites).
    But of course, even if he said it (which really seems unlikely, it makes no sense for one sex to be more “evolutionarily advanced”) it doesn’t mean people have actually treated women differently based on this.
    Her article is quite appaling in its ignorance. It’s clear she has no knowledge or understanding of evolutionary theory and from her responses to the many posts patiently trying to explain her errors, no interest in acquiring any. In her world, anyone who points out flaws rather than saying “Yes, they were all so biased they weren’t real scientists” is apparently so in love with Dogman they can’t bear to see it challenged.
    An example, she brings up a book claiming rape has an evolutionary basis and says this shows sexism because if it was true, females would have evolved to kill the males. Someone points out this isn’t true (though I think their counterargument is flawed) and rather than addressing their point and admitting her original argument was poor, she whines that neither admit that “the harm imposed on women by faulty “science” or that misogyny inserted into pseudo-science causes direst harm to women” and “I have no interest in trying to convert a religious person of any sort, including those who use evolution as their bible and cannot bear to admit there is harm within.” a blatantly dishonest response
    Of course, it may be that the book is flawed, I can think of several real objections to the theory, but without reading it, I don’t know if they addressed them or not.

    And then, very near the end, a long and well thought out post, to which her only response is to lie that it misrepresents her post then refuse to address any of the issues

  205. 205
    Ing

    I don’t usually get a chance to read the comments section but I see Ing is still lying and doing his Mussolini trick – swaggering around threatening people with someone else power:

    You’re free to point out where I lied.

  206. 206
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    I have an ebo0ok of Descent of man, but can’t find the passage “males are more evolutionarily advanced than females” or anything similar. Darwin may well have written or implied it, but if so, I’d like to read the context rather than take some Creationists word for it (A Google search for the phrase + Darwin brings up a number of Creationist sites).

    I would be really surprised if he had ever written that in Descent of man. After all he works out sexual selection in this book, and the essential part for this to work is that males and females of a species evolve in sync. That sentence really shouldn’t have made much sense to Darwin, and if he has indeed written it, it would be due to a gross misunderstanding of his own theory.

  207. 207
    Ing

    Also accusing someone of being dishonest, while at the same time calling them a fascist for pointing out how horrible a person is arguing FOR using other people like objects (or tissue paper) is hilarious.

  208. 208
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    May not be quite quantum bafflegab but its still nonsense.

    Considering your history here, your post is nonsense. But then, what else is new? You do think banning is a sign of your power, instead of your abject incoherance, illogic, and general losership.

  209. 209
    Ing

    At least I keep the trains on time.

  210. 210
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    No maybe we’re just smarter and recognize that he’s resuming a past argument.

    Beautiful. Arrogance, egotism, and tribalism, all wrapped into a perfect single-sentence pearl.

  211. 211
    Ing

    I disagree with your statement but will take the criticisms into consideration for future posts.

  212. 212
    RandomReason

    #mouthyb,

    randomreason: I suggest you read “Godel, Escher and Bach: the Eternal Golden Braid”. The thing about humans is that they produce systems which will tend to create meaningless or nonsense propositions, while being well within the rules for the system. It might cure you of the tendency to assume that the rules you like are the only, complete rules for generating useful meaning.

    You mean my 1980 edition?

    http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/2480/img0210fn.jpg

    (Sorry it’s so dog-eared. It’s been 30 years, after all, and I can’t count the times I’ve cracked it open. You might be interested in his other books. I recommend in particular 2007′s I Am A Strange Loop, in which he delves into moving discussion about the death of his wife in 1993 and the nature of memory. He wrote it, in part, because of his disappointment with GEB.)

    I suggest you read up on the 30 years of cognitive science and philosophy of mind development since then.

    Like I said, the primary reason so few *real* scientists and critical thinkers bother to engage here:

    the quality of argumentation is so sophomoric that it seems demeaning and wasteful to engage.

    Sorry I don’t have time today for the standard nonsense here. Consider this a one-time pity delurk.

  213. 213
    Ing

    Sorry I don’t have time today for the standard nonsense here. Consider this a one-time pity delurk.

    *awaits the criticism for arrogance*

  214. 214
    SallyStrange

    I’ll just take this as an admission that you are incapable of articulating your own thesis in a coherent manner, RandomReason.

  215. 215
    Cliff Hendroval

    Actually, all you’d have to do to tell Kemsley’s article was nonsense would be to look at the avatar she publishes with.

  216. 216
    Brad Emery

    Hi thar, peeps!

    On the OP:
    WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? Seriously, that’s sort of like blaming sexism on grapes, because someone might have been ‘graped’ while passing through a vineyard.

    On the rest of the hoo-ha with randomreason:
    I don’t know jack about post-modernism yet, so I’m not touching that. There was a strand of crazy with PARTS of ze second-wave feminism, and I’m sure there are traces in parts of third-wave (as there are in any sort of ideology or broad social framework), but unless you’ve been hearing the crazy here, you might just be barking up the wrong tree, and frankly, some of your arguments seem right in line with Loretta Whoziwhatsits arguments in the article PZ eloquently ranted about.

    *returns to the burrow*

  217. 217
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Sorry I don’t have time today for the standard nonsense here. Consider this a one-time pity delurk.

    You got it wrong. We are to be pitied for trying to make sense of of post.

  218. 218
    montjoy

    Allienne Goddard et al,
    I, for one, welcome your defense of post-modernism. Its facile misuse as pejorative is not surprising, but it is lazy. At worst, the best post-modernist thinking and writing is only performance for those who have an ear for it. Apparently the worst at its best is as a stand-in for facile, glib, lazy relativism. (I’m kidding, of course. The worst may be yet to come. Though I doubt post-modernism is the ascendant mode of critical theory in the humanities these days.)
    The insights of Derrida (or Borges, if you find Monegal’s claims believable) are perhaps not many, but I find them enjoyable, and despite their playfulness, meaningful. Extensions to statements regarding science, as I see the po-mo critics here frame them, are indeed an over-reach. I’ve always viewed these as the exaggerations of academics needing to find nearby ground for publication subjects. (It’s easier to extend, however tenuously, than to say something new or interesting.) But you can’t get tenure merely from the masterful teaching of Logic 201 or Shakespeare, sadly.

  219. 219
    Allienne Goddard

    From Nerd of Redhead in

    Listen to your arrogant egotistical self. You aren’t the smartest poster on this thread. Lose the attitude, and actually state clearly what you want to say. I still don’t understand where you are coming from as it is encased in obtuse philosophical jargon. If you want real communication, simplify it for those of us not trained in philosophy and its jargon (I took math classes instead of philosophy back in the day). I also call a spade a spade, and if you come across to me as arrogant, windy, and purposely obtuse, you will be called on it, as you are.

    First of all, you calling someone else arrogant and egotistical is among the most hypocritical statements made in the history of the world (citations available upon request). I’m sure you must make substantive posts at times, though I have to admit I haven’t ever seen one, but you generally just attack people in the most vicious terms for the least and often mistaken reasons for what you perceive to be comments not living up to your standards. You are a conceited asshole, from top to bottom.

    I have looked over my comments, and still do not see my crimes. I have made every effort to explain myself in response to questions, and have restated my arguments in the simplest way possible. The problem is that it is impossible to talk about complicated ideas without either explaining everything thoroughly, which leads to very long posts, or using jargon as shorthand. According to you, neither are appropriate.

    Though I actually think I used very little jargon, perhaps we disagree on which terms are jargon and which are not. If so, you might either google the terms, or ask for an explanation. Simply saying, “I don’t understand, therefore you are an arrogant asshole.”, may be satisfying to you, but it is not in the least helpful. As a mathematician I would think that you would understand the problem, and I suspect that the reason you don’t is that you have no respect for philosophy whatsoever. You think it is all bullshit if you don’t immediately understand it without making any effort to understand it.

    Executive summary: Fuck you, jerk. I’m happy to explain myself to others, but you have never shown the slightest consideration, generosity, or simple decency to anyone who is not already known to you. Philosophy is complicated and I’m doing my best, and if you ask something specific I’d be more than happy to respond. If thinking that those with no experience in an area of thought are dipshits for dismissing it because they don’t immediately understand it makes me arrogant, then fine, guilty as charged.

  220. 220
    ChasCPeterson

    heh heh heh

    Nerd, you just got stomped om.

  221. 221
    BabblingBear

    This is the disconnect between scientific and religious thought, and why so many religious people have so much trouble with thinking scientifically.

    To the religious mind, ancient wisdom is inerrant. The speakers of that wisdom, must themselves be inerrant as well. In that way, the “ancients” are to be venerated and in some cases, deified.

    In science we suppose no such thing. Ancients are not inerrant, their wisdom exists outside of themselves and is judged on its own merits. The merits being the ability to withstand the assault of an idea through scientific methodology. Ideas which stand the test of time become accepted on the basis of the idea, not the charisma of the author. Exactly opposite to the way religion functions.

    This is why you see creationists quoting Darwin, his contemporaries and “ancient scientists” so often. In their minds, by exposing a flaw in the individual they then assume their ideas expressed in scholarship must also fall. For they see it no different, if you toppled Christ then Christianity (in their opinion) would be sure to follow. This is why they need apologetics. To save face for the lack of inerrancy their authorities suffer from.

    Fundamentally, they cannot divorce themselves from this view–That would expose the lie that religion has built.

  222. 222
    SallyStrange

    To recap, RandomReason’s arguments boil down to

    1. Argument from authority

    2. Bare assertion

    3. It’s easy to fool people with bafflegab, therefore people who have certain ideologies are pleased that postmodernism gives them an opportunity to ignore empiricism and the scientific method.

    4. Thirty years of developments in cognitive science contradict you, but RandomReason can’t be arsed to explain exactly how. (Really, just more argument from authority. He really loves that one.)

    Did I miss anything?

  223. 223
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Nerd, you just got stomped om.

    Yep, but he’s a lightweight, didn’t feel it through my steel-toed shoes. Quite the arrogant and supercilious little temper tantrum though.

  224. 224
    Gunboat Diplomat

    @SallyStrange #222

    Yes you missed:

    the quality of argumentation is so sophomoric that it seems demeaning and wasteful to engage.

    He’s clearly fairly knowledgable on the issues. You don’t like that he doesn’t pepper his posts with wikipedia links though.

  225. 225
    Ing

    He’s clearly fairly knowledgable on the issues. You don’t like that he doesn’t pepper his posts with wikipedia links though.

    How do you know he’s knowledgable about it? Because he sounds knowledgable? Isn’t that entirely missing his point? Or do you know him otherwise and thus can confirm it. Since he hasn’t provided citation that I have seen.

  226. 226
    Allienne Goddard

    Well, though I find it incredibly insulting, I guess it is only fair for you to assume that I am lying about my gender (particularly since it cleverly allows you to call me hysterical without opening yourself up to criticism for using a sexist trope – Bravo!), as I suspect that you are lying about being a human being. You were born a mink, which explains the tail, and ought not to be blamed for manifesting the behavior characteristic of this vicious creature.

  227. 227
    SallyStrange

    Wikipedia links? Listen, if I’m explaining climate change to a person who’s unfamiliar with basic science, I will include a lot of links, but I will also make damn sure that I am able to summarize the basic concepts towards which the links are leading. Otherwise, what right do I have to expect that person to take me at my word that these links are worth reading? For the record, both Morton and his reviewers seem pretty convinced that Morton is contradicting certain concepts of postmodernism in his philosophy. I’m not well enough versed in either one to say whether Morton and his reviewers are all stupid and/or lying, but I can sat with certainty that they, unlike RandomReason, are capable of writing coherent sentences about the subject.

    What is YOUR beef here, Gunboat Diplomat? Are you also jumping on the i-hate-postmodernism bandwagon, or you just felt the need to try to put me down?

  228. 228
    SallyStrange

    say with certainty

    not “sat”

  229. 229
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Allienne Goddard says:

    particularly since it cleverly allows you to call me hysterical without opening yourself up to criticism for using a sexist trope – Bravo!

    Would you mind linking to the comment that calls you hysterical? I’ve searched the thread and only see that word in your post and one other, and that one was not about you.

  230. 230
    Dhorvath, OM

    Allienne,
    I may be misreading here, but as near as I can tell hysterical wasn’t directed your way by anyone in this thread.

  231. 231
    Allienne Goddard

    Erulóra Maikalambe, comment 223. If you don’t think accusing me of a temper tantrum is equivalent to an accusation of hysteria, I disagree. Sure, you may argue that temper tantrum implies immaturity more than femininity, but I think he was well aware that accusing me of getting emotional as a way of completely ignoring my statements would play better if he called me “he”.

  232. 232
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Allienne Goddard,

    And I think that’s a bunch of bull. But feel free to prove me wrong by providing evidence, rather than just asserting that every insult aimed your way is masked sexism. I’m having a damned hard time picturing that coming from Nerd. You could start by finding an example of where he’s done that to somebody else.

  233. 233
    Allienne Goddard

    Erulóra Maikalambe, which part is bull? That he dismissed my statements as an emotional tantrum? That he called me “he”? Fine, think it is bull. I disagree, and I think he knew exactly what he was doing. I can’t prove it because I cannot take his brain and put it through a sifter to extract his intention and thought process. Perhaps it was coincidence that he referred to me as emotional and denied my gender in the same brief comment. You obviously believe so, perhaps because you think well of him and likely I am suspicious of him because I think he’s an asshole.

    Also, your assertion that I am “asserting that every insult aimed your way is masked sexism” seems obviously inaccurate to me. Do you actually believe that?

  234. 234
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Allienne Goddard

    Erulóra Maikalambe, which part is bull? That he dismissed my statements as an emotional tantrum? That he called me “he”?

    That he did that on purpose (is that not obvious?), or in your words

    he was well aware that accusing me of getting emotional as a way of completely ignoring my statements would play better if he called me “he”.

    I can’t prove it because I cannot take his brain and put it through a sifter to extract his intention and thought process. Perhaps it was coincidence that he referred to me as emotional and denied my gender in the same brief comment.

    Because you prefer to attribute to malice what is equally explainable by mistake.

    You obviously believe so, perhaps because you think well of him and likely I am suspicious of him because I think he’s an asshole.

    I’m rather neutral towards him. I think he’s an asshole much of the time. But to accuse him of blatant sexism is something wholly different, and I’m not going to believe it based solely on your gut feeling.

    Also, your assertion that I am “asserting that every insult aimed your way is masked sexism” seems obviously inaccurate to me. Do you actually believe that?

    It was an exaggeration, to be sure, but I think it accurately describes this instance. Your feelings got hurt and you’re looking for a way to make him the bad guy.

  235. 235
    Allienne Goddard

    But to accuse him of blatant sexism is something wholly different, and I’m not going to believe it based solely on your gut feeling.

    To be specific, I am accusing him of subtle sexism, not blatant racism. That’s why I thought it clever.

    It was an exaggeration, to be sure, but I think it accurately describes this instance. Your feelings got hurt and you’re looking for a way to make him the bad guy.

    So, your exaggeration was accurate? That is a neat trick. My “feelings” are not hurt. Nerd has acted like a complete jerk, as he normally does, and I have decided to push back. He is a joke to me, and I always wondered why no one ever calls him on his crap. He stated that I was simply being emotional when I had made substantive points, and simultaneously reassigned my gender. I thought this intentional, and clever.

  236. 236
    montjoy

    Jeesus. What a lot of talking past each other.

    Allienne, I wouldn’t take this stuff personally — in the right circumstances, Nerd will unload on anyone he disagrees with (whether he understands them or not). Usually I find this entertaining, but not so much here. I thought your original posts were comprehensible and funny.
    I don’t get the “he” thing. Maybe it was a typo. If not, ugh.

    Nerd, well, I don’t know, I agree with some of what you’re saying. It’s all ad hom for an ad hom at this point, though. Or I will characterize it that way to save time (and it seems plausible).

    Then back to Elura and Allienne, talking past each other….

  237. 237
    Dhorvath, OM

    Then back to Elura and Allienne, talking past each other….

    Communication is not always perfect on first pass.

  238. 238
    montjoy

    Dhorvath: “Communication is not always perfect on first pass.”

    True. I can’t even get names right, apparently.

  239. 239
    Allienne Goddard

    I don’t take any of this personally, it’s the Internet. Moreover, it’s Pharyngula! But, online commenting has its own place and rules and ways of participating. I was intending to wander off after last night, but decided to go ahead and tell Nerd why I have such dislike for his online persona. He probably is a great guy in the real world, and he might even like me if we were to meet. That’s not really what this is about. It’s about interacting online, arguing about ideas, uses of rhetoric, and talking about bacon. It’s the Internet.

  240. 240
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Okay, let’s get one thing straight. I didn’t remember Allienne’s sex (after I read the recent posts I remembered it mentioned last night), and used a generic he. My apologies for that. Secondly, Allienne could have stopped the whole business yesterday with a simple “this is what I believe, and this is the evidence to back it up” post. A lot of attitude has been displayed by Allienne, but not what I would call constructive. More like Allienne thinks she is smarter than everyone here. That does rub people here the wrong way. But it still appears folks aren’t quite getting your point.

  241. 241
    Allienne Goddard

    Okay, Nerd, I apologize. I thought my name was a tip-off, and it was easy to impute to you malice that, well, was clearly there, but wasn’t manifesting as sexism. My complaint is that you never actually seem to try to find out what a person is saying before you viciously attack them. You never ask probing questions, you just spout insults. Is this constructive?

    Philosophy is not empiricism, and does not rely on empirical evidence. We can reason together, and I can make rational arguments, but I can’t just create empirical facts when what we are dealing with is conceptual. If you’d like to know what the hell I’m talking about, please ask me about things that I’ve said that weren’t clear.

    I don’t understand how you get that I think I am smarter than everyone else here. I think we all have our specialties, — sorry have to run, daughter is here. Will check back later.

  242. 242
    SallyStrange

    I’m not having much problem getting Allienne’s point, and I’m also not getting that she thinks she’s smarter than everyone here, just irritated at Nerd’s sometimes reflexive abrasiveness. Yeah, she could have been clearer at first, but she’s tightened it up a lot since then, and she does clearly know what she’s talking about. So I’m not understanding the source of the controversy.

  243. 243
    mouthyb

    Random Reason: Maybe you missed the ‘social sciences grad student’ part of that post. This means that I read cognitive science for my degree.

    I was looking for something which had the right science coding for you to read, since you seem to be hung up not on accuracy or clarity, but on your personal criteria for ‘worth listening to.’ I should note, too, that I’ve run into what appears to be your criteria before, and it tends to cause serious blindness to any critique of meaning, despite your claim that you represent the ‘real’ critical thinkers who won’t post here.

    I’m glad you read GEB. I’m surprised that you still have the view you do of the appearance of logic in science after that book, but who knows? Maybe it’s just been awhile since you read it.

    People appear to be trying to tell you that using big words does not make you coherent. I’ll echo this point: congratulations, you know big words. Do try to make a clear point with them.

  244. 244
    montjoy

    [...]with a simple “this is what I believe, and this is the evidence to back it up” post[...]

    Heh. I don’t entirely disagree, though I suspect the “simple” part is not so simple.

    I guess my expectations from the mode of writing were not leading in this direction, as I was assuming Allienne was more in the lighthearted conversational mode/mood, and was commenting to be sociable and throwing in a couple of oblique ‘Theory’-riffing bon-bons for fun. Wasn’t so much expecting the formulation of a falsifiable thesis.

  245. 245
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    To be specific, I am accusing him of subtle sexism, not blatant racism. That’s why I thought it clever.

    Subtly, sexism, and cleverness? That’s three things I’m not used to seeing in Nerd’s posts after more than two years here.

    So, your exaggeration was accurate? That is a neat trick.

    I was exaggerating the scope. As in, “every”. Hence my clarifying with “this instance”. Are you even reading what I’m writing? Rhetorical question. Don’t bother.

    Anyway, I see Nerd has already cleared this up and you have apologized to him. So much for the po-mo joke I had planned. Good, I’m very glad that’s settled (partly because it wasn’t that funny anyway (I’m no Brownian)). But I can see why he doesn’t like you. I told you exactly what kind of evidence would support your accusation, and all I got was you telling me two more times what you think. To Nerd, that’s like chum in the water.

  246. 246
    Allienne Goddard

    Erulóra Maikalambe, additional evidence would be necessary if my thesis was: Nerd has a habit of making sexist remarks. My thesis was rather: This remark was sexist. That question is self-contained, and does not require (though it would clearly benefit from) additional occasions on which sexist remarks were made. So, I wasn’t willing to go through a search for other examples that would also be subject to disputations of interpretation if I could show evidence supporting my thesis without them. My evidence was the odd coincidence of gender changing with the accusation of emotionalism. As it turns out, it was simply an odd coincidence, and so, I apologized for thinking the worst of him.

  247. 247
    Allienne Goddard

    Wow, how do you all do it? This is exhausting!

    I’m going to force myself to close the tab and bow out because I’m obviously terrible at this, and am just pissing people off. To paraphrase Nietzsche, there is no better way to harm a cause than defending it poorly.

    I’m sure I’ve confirmed some negative stereotypes about post modernism and philosophy in general here, and I feel bad about it. They aren’t perfect, by a long shot, they’re sometimes absurd, but they have a role to play in the accumulation of knowledge and I hate to see them casually dismissed.

    Unfortunately, they are also complicated and make pretty extreme demands on the listener, since they question assumptions that are subtle and implicit. I hardly consider myself an expert, but I am well-read in some parts of philosophy, and have spent decades thinking about and discussing it. I thought I could voice a reservation about the dismissal of post modernism, and about the limitations of empiricism (which is still fantastic). Apparently, it is beyond me.

    Thanks again to Sally for her charitable reading of my comments. I really appreciate it.

  248. 248
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    My thesis was rather: This remark was sexist

    Your thesis was that a staunch feminist, not known for making subtle or clever remarks, cleverly disguised a subtle sexist insult in his comment to you.

  249. 249
    A. Noyd

    montjoy (#244)

    I was assuming Allienne was more in the lighthearted conversational mode/mood, and was commenting to be sociable and throwing in a couple of oblique ‘Theory’-riffing bon-bons for fun.

    Well, that’s what I thought, but then she ruined it by saying things like:

    So, another aspect of this is that empiricism and rational thought are not identical. Philosophy, history, non-empirical areas of anthropology, sociology, and so on can be, and usually are, done through rational thought.

    This isn’t so much wrong as it is problematic, because to the extent that any of those things are useful in talking about reality, they require just as much of an empirical foundation as does “hard” science. That is, they all need sufficient evidence backing their premises to justify their conclusions. While they “can” be done without empirical input, it causes them to become as irrelevant as theology. Then there’s this:

    It seems to me that the question of Darwin’s beliefs and their influence on his thought and the possible role of science in supporting sexism is a historical question that will not be solved by empiricism. In fact, it won’t be “solved” at all, in the sense of coming to a final conclusion…

    What this gets wrong is flagrant and what it gets right is trivial. We can never conclusively know the mind of another, historical or contemporary, but the things mentioned can only be settled to any degree through empiricism. (Perhaps she’s using a definition of empiricism that sets particularly severe and arbitrary limits on experimentation or observation.) And this:

    You were…denigrating “po-mo” approaches to analysis… I…suggested that nevertheless [the scientific method] would never achieve perfection, and consequently social analysis will always have a role to play, even in the hard sciences (and basket-weaving).

    This is just bad reasoning times two. First, one can legitimately denigrate po-mo without disagreeing that social analysis has utility, because not all social analysis is postmodern. Second, the conclusion here is a variation on god-of-the-gaps, not a consequence of the premise. Imperfections in the scientific method do not give social analysis a role to play in “hard” science. Being useful in its own right is what does that.

  250. 250
    montjoy

    @A.Noyd Yes, I may be reading things a bit optimistically. Personally, though I am fond of some post-modernist critical analysis, I don’t think social theory/critical theory/etc. is very productive when dealing with, for instance, empiricism or scientific truth. It’s why I got out of philosophy as an undergraduate, really. There’s only so much you can say about the fact that there’s only so much you can say about things (etc., add recursion for wacky philosophy hijinks). Epistemology as philosophy is very interesting, but again, I think it has limited utility outside academia.
    I hold out hope that liberal arts in the academic context does hone critical thinking skills and enlarges perspective and makes people smarter and wiser and better looking, but I suspect most students actually learn few thinking skills in college despite the best efforts of teachers in these disciplines.

  251. 251
    A. Noyd

    montjoy (#250)

    Yes, I may be reading things a bit optimistically.

    Sorry, I meant to convey I was just as optimistic about her intentions (and still am), but later (by the third paragraph of 140), I realized she wasn’t making quite the joke I had assumed. A bit like thinking someone baiting a fundamentalist is a skeptic only to find out that she believes in fairies.

    Epistemology as philosophy is very interesting, but again, I think it has limited utility outside academia.

    I think “how we know stuff” should be one of the foundational things we teach kids. Because it seems like even school curriculums that promote critical thinking don’t manage to do that. Thus, people have no idea why they can’t have their own facts, or why faith doesn’t work to separate facts from fantasy, or why there have to be standards for evidence, and so on.

  252. 252
    Seeker Lancer

    As I understand it she’s not attacking the theory of evolution itself, but that some of the scientists had put forward ideas that were inherently sexist.

    But to what purpose? If we expose Darwin as a misogynist (which comes as a surprise to no one) what does this change? The theory of evolution is unaffected. What exactly are we learning or gaining from this exercise? If anything it was misogynist thinking that effected the science of evolution early on more-so than evolution effected misogynist thinking.

    We can go back and call many great minds sexist, but what does it accomplish other than expose they were flawed human beings?

    She also seems to feel that giving scientific explanations for people such as rapists gives them an excuse to commit rape. This is senseless. Science is not a moral code. Because we can explain the psychology of a rapist doesn’t mean that psychologists condone rape. It helps us to understand why these things happen and maybe even helps us to find ways to prevent it from happening. Scientific theories may be cold and emotionless but human beings are not. Taking theories as an implication that we should simply let nature run its course without implementing our own moral standards is just ignorance.

    I feel sometimes emotions and dedication to a cause can result in people losing their perspective when faced with opposition they disagree with. In this case it’s in the form of great minds who said some dumb things. I see no reason to prosecute the dead or thumb our noses at their important contributions.

  253. 253
    RedOyster

    I like how the outgroup is to blame, but not the ingroup. (It’s evolutionary psychology’s fault, not evolutionary biology’s!)

  254. 254
    Ing

    Okay, Nerd, I apologize. I thought my name was a tip-off,

    ugh blame Sandi

  255. 255
    Dhorvath, OM

    Allienne,
    Exhausting? For me it’s invigorating, I could scarce find this many ideas and engage with them any other way. I do find myself confused on much of what you said, but I am accustomed to blaming confusion on my own reading rather than other’s writing. At the very least I thought we were on a similar page with respect to the incomplete nature of empiricism and the scientific method. I also hope it was clear both to you and to others that I see a need to continue examining them from different perspectives to better refine the tools we use for examining the world we live in.

  256. 256
    montjoy

    @Dhorvath, OM #255 —
    So, you’re being generous, energetically intellectual, and persistent in your open-minded inquiries into the nature of things? Bah. Typical atheist.

  257. 257
    Dhorvath, OM

    Montjoy,
    Those are ideals I could aspire to. Someday, someday.

  258. 258
    Ace of Sevens

    I wanted to say “in before someone tries to represent this as typical feminist scholarship,” but I’m too late. This is hardly the only piece of sloppy pomo feminist scholarship out there. My textbook in Intro to Women’s Studies had a chapter about empiricism is a tool of the patriarchy. The author had a point about how bias can skew interpretation of empirical data, but rather than arguing this can be empirically demonstrated, she argued for other ways of knowing.

    I also read plenty of poorly-reasoned history articles, largely as class exercises in how to spot bad reasoning in academic papers. Any field will have some nuts who make bad arguments and some fields are more vulnerable to this than others. So what? How does this say anything about the validity of the field as a whole?

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