New professorial challenges for those teaching philosophy

The new academic problem is the bad information spread by Peterson, Boghossian, Lindsay, that ilk. I suspect it wasn’t so bad when these ignoramuses just turned up their noses and ignored philosophy, but now they’ve decided that they completely understand it, and they don’t like it, nosir, so they’ve begun active disinformation campaigns that are infecting college-aged students. A professor writes in to Reddit to vent:

But in the past few months internet outrage merchants have made my job much harder. The very idea that someone could even propose the idea that there is a conceptual difference between sex and gender leads to angry denunciations entirely based on the irresponsible misrepresentations of these online anger-mongers. Some students in their exams write that these ideas are "entitled liberal bullshit," actual quote, rather than simply describe an idea they disagree with in neutral terms. And it's not like I'm out there defending every dumb thing ever posted on Tumblr! It's Simone de fucking Beauvoir!

It's not the disagreement. That I'm used to dealing with; it's the bread and butter of philosophy. No, it's the anger, hostility and complete fabrications.

They come in with the most bizarre idea of what 'post-modernism' is, and to even get to a real discussion of actual texts it takes half the time to just deprogram some of them. It's a minority of students, but it's affected my teaching style, because now I feel defensive about presenting ideas that I've taught without controversy for years.

Peterson is on the record saying Women's Studies departments and the Neo-Marxists are out to literally destroy western civilization and I have to patiently explain to them that, no, these people are my friends and colleagues, their research is generally very boring and unobjectionable, and you need to stop feeding yourself on this virtual reality that systematically cherry-picks things that perpetuates this neurological addiction to anger and belief vindication–every new upvoted confirmation of the faith a fresh dopamine high if how bad they are.

I just want to do my week on Foucault/Baudrillard/de Beauvoir without having to figure out how to get these kids out of what is basically a cult based on stupid youtube videos.

Honestly, the hostility and derailment makes me miss my young-earth creationist students.

I haven’t had to deal with this yet in my classes — post-modernism isn’t part of the biology curriculum, and since I address sex and gender from the ground up with genes and molecules and signaling in my genetics class, by the time we would get to cultural aspects (we don’t, they’ll have to go to the social sciences or humanities for that), they’re already accustomed to the fact that the biology is complex and plastic and variable. But I’ve definitely seen this intransigence and stupidity online. Peddling simplistic misrepresentations of science and philosophy seems to be a major money-maker for those who understand neither.

That last line, though…yeah, I’d rather deal with young earth creationists. The difference is that creationists, whether they’re aware of it or not, have a serious case of science envy. They’re all wanna-bes who are constantly trying to rephrase the Bible in sciencey-sounding terms, thinking they can explain the Flood with geology, or constraints on evolution with genetics. That’s the whole point of Intelligent Design creationism, to provide pseudo-scientific, rather than religious, justifications for their beliefs. They can’t, but it means their arguments can be spanked by somebody who understands the scientific discipline better than they do.

It’s their greatest weakness, actually. It’s why they don’t make greater inroads into academia, because everyone who is well-trained in the sciences can see right through them.

But these anti-philosophy gomers are taking a completely different approach. They don’t want to be philosophers, or sound like philosophers, because they hate philosophy and women’s studies and sociology and all those other disciplines. Rather than trying to learn just enough of what they’re complaining about to try and turn the jargon against them, they’re in flat-out denial and a total rejection of everything to do with, for instance, post-modernism. They’re engaged in simple-minded anti-intellectualism (creationists come out of a religious tradition that usually respects an intellectual foundation, or at least a pretense to one), and the know-nothings who eat that crap up won’t even listen to word one from someone who has the educational background to know what they’re talking about.

So that’s what lesbians do!

My first instance of school yard sex ed was a peer trying to tell me that daddies got mommies pregnant by peeing on them. I had a vague suspicion even then, at the age of 5, that this was incorrect, but it did take a few years before I could get access to the grown-up books at library and learn how it actually worked (and oh, but that was a surprise!). So I guess I’m not terribly shocked at the inanities promulgated online any more, like this one, the claim that “feminists are going to trigger a genomic meltdown…

…because they keep pushing for asexual reproduction, or trying to combine ovaries, when the most likely outcome is a population running about – unable to reproduce sexually since the whole “male genocide” bit – with incredibly damaged chromosomes.

So when a lesbian loves another lesbian, they writhe around a bit and try to push their ovaries together to make a little baby lesbian? I have a vague suspicion that this is also incorrect, I guess I’ll have to go to the library…wait. I don’t think our library stocks those kinds of books.

I will say I’m impressed that modern 5 year olds are so proficient at getting online and typing out those long words, though.

Mad Mike Hughes actually did it!

Mad Mike Hughes, the guy who build a steam-powered rocket to prove that the Earth is flat, succeeded in launching himself into the sky yesterday. He reached an altitude of about 600 meters, was battered in the landing, but he survived.

The one thing he did not accomplish was to prove that the Earth is flat.

I don’t quite get the point of the rocket, though. He could have just rented a Cessna, which has a service ceiling of something around 5000 meters, and reached a significantly higher altitude with little personal risk, and he probably wouldn’t have needed to be carried away in a stretcher afterwards.

Do you want to fight about movies some more?

I saw A Wrinkle in Time last night. My wife enjoyed it.

I hated it. Hated the whole thing. If I’d been alone, I’d have just walked out on it.

Things just happened in the plot, which made no logical sense. There was no feeling of consistency or reason to this universe, the writers had a whim and made it happen on the screen. There was all this New Age crap throughout — yeah, there was “quantum”, and there was “vibration”, and wouldn’t you know it, the secret ingredient that made it possible for Chris Pine to teleport (oh, excuse me, “tesser”) 91 billion light years to a conveniently habitable planet was the “vibration of love”.

Worst movie I’ve seen this year. Go ahead, fight me.

I can’t believe they’re making a movie of Ready Player One

It’s coming out on 26 March, and the book was appalling dreck. The only question is whether the movie will improve on the source material somehow, and be at best a direct-to-dvd crapfest, or whether it will wallow in the bizarre 80s obsession and be a Star Wars Christmas special for millennials. I’m going guess the latter.

Yes, I know, some of you will tell me that you loved the book. Don’t care. It was a one-shot special purpose stimulator for geek/nerd pleasure centers, and I’m sure it was like a hit of cocaine for some of you. It was, however, an objectively bad book.

Here’s another example of its flaws that initially sailed right past me, because I didn’t care for much of any of 1980s cartoons built around toys, or Knight Rider, or the A Team, and even the stuff I did enjoy at the time, like E.T. and The Goonies, weren’t well captured by the book, except as fleeting references that I was supposed to adore. “Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a circle jerk of male geek culture sustained over a grueling 400 pages.” Yeah, it’s a stroll through the Not-Pink Aisle at Toys’R’Us.

That why everything from Transformers to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can get reimagined with CGI reverence — but the idea of a blockbuster live-action American Girl Dolls or The Powerpuff Girls franchise sounds laughable.

Hey! I really liked the Powerpuff Girls! They were much better than He-Man, which my kids just ate up.

Here’s an amusing riff on the built-in bias: Jenny Nicholson reads from an imaginary Ready Player One…For Girls. It’s just like the version for boys! Bad!

Friday Cephalopod: Female cuttlefish are conspiring together!

Oh, sure, you all hear about the bold dominance displays of male cuttlefish, and their camouflage, and the flashing color changes, but this is a new one on me. The females have a unique display, that they only show to other females (or to themselves in a mirror).

Here it is an a drawing: elegant, understated, quite nice.

What I find disturbing is that they do not display this signal to any other males — it’s like a secret code for the lady cuttlefishes only. What are they communicating? Are they talking about me? Do they have secrets no male is permitted to discover?

I bet it’s for the cuttlefish whisper network.

M. E. Palmer, M. Richard Calvé, Shelley A. Adamo (2006) Response of female cuttlefish Sepia officinalis (Cephalopoda) to mirrors and conspecifics: evidence for signaling in female cuttlefish. Animal Cognition 9(2):151-155.

Listen while you still can

The last episode of the Just Us Women podcast is up, for now, and it’s heartbreaking. She’s leaving the atheist movement for reasons that are all too common.

I will no longer be interviewing women who have left religion, since I cannot in good conscience refer them to the atheist community, where they could find support. … All the resources are tainted with connections to the top tier of misogynist, sexist men.

This is where we are now. I don’t see how atheism, as any kind of movement, will recover.