0451: "Impostor"

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PhilSandifer
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:05 am UTC

ScumBag wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
BlackSails wrote:I dont have much to add other than:

1) Read Fashionable Nonsense, By Sokal and Bricmont


Oh God, please don't do this. As someone who both knows the theory they're talking about and knows or knows how to follow up on the science, this book is an utter trainwreck of missing the point. It's worthwhile to look at it in terms of a particular historical moment in the tension between the sciences and humanities, but this book is complete trash.


And why not? I've quoted this book (In Britain it's called 'Intellectual Impostures') for nearly every Philosophy of Science paper I wrote. Although, admittedly only for its poised attacks on both Popper and Feyerbend, the rest of the book however is worth reading.

How can it, in your words 'miss the point'? I keep hearing this from the detractors of the book, but never with any elucidation. If someone is trying to sell a paper by making claims like Newton's Laws amount to a 'Rape Manual', or to establish a link between Nietzsche's life and works with the discovery of the atom and the arbitrary (as well as incorrect) use of mathematical symbols to make a point - is that not as the title of the book suggests, 'nonsense'?

The guys who wrote it aren't trying to make claims on the whole subject of literacy criticism (your field of expertise, not mines, so I won't bother to make any claims like some of these supposedly 'know all' engineers) but rather poised right at the guys who made their name big with such garbage, even if the rest of their output (for all I know) is academically sound.


Well, let's see - they open with a bunch of ridiculous assumptions about why the people they're criticizing could possibly be using references to math or science. (Most hilariously, that the only reason you'd ever use an analogy so as to use a clearer idea to explain a less clear one) Then they selectively quote passages where they clearly do not understand what is going on, and, in doing so, fail to think of why or how the math and science could be being employed. And they often don't even understand the passages well enough to make sound analyses of the math and science - since, for instance, critics who understand both (like Arkady Plotnitsky, who has degrees in both literary studies and mathematics) have said that, for example, their attack on Lacan is totally off the mark, and that his use of math isn't actually problematic at all.

So yeah - I'd say it's a pretty wretched book.

ElAleph
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ElAleph » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:12 am UTC

Another problem with Fashionable Nonsense is that it goes from specific examples to global argument without ANY justification. I could easily find scores of papers written by scientists in only the last month that contain misrepresented findings or bad science. Adopting Sokal's terrible argumentative methods, this proves that Science is simply Postmodern Anti-Scientific hogwash.

Secondly, and I have made similar points many times in this thread, the examples quoted by Sokal have VERY LITTLE to do with literary criticism. None of the thinkers quoted are literature academics, and none of the examples used have anything to do with literature.

Before you post in this thread, please take the time to read what has been said previously. Almost all of the anti-humanities arguments have been preemptively defeated.

And, as regards the attempts by Utilitarian materialists (using arguments reminiscent of Marx and Mill) to claim that the humanities are unproductive, I have this question. How much money do you think has been spent in funding research in the humanities? It is very little when compared to the amount of wasted money spent on any single aborted scientific plan (Especially that massive hole about 30 minutes from my house. I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about). So even if I were to concede that the Humanities are "useless" (I am not, as shall be seen) at least they are rarely counter-productive.

But I will take the bait of your off-topic ramblings and prove the usefulness of the humanities. The proof that the Humanities are indeed useful lies in the posts of this very thread. Simply compare the quality of argument that the Humanities-types have been making with that of the anti-Humanities-types. It is plain to see that while Science does train great minds it does not teach people to think and argue about unclear concepts.
Last edited by ElAleph on Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:01 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

PhilSandifer
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:00 am UTC

ScumBag wrote:
voyou wrote:
ScumBag wrote:How can it, in your words 'miss the point'? I keep hearing this from the detractors of the book, but never with any elucidation. If someone is trying to sell a paper by making claims like Newton's Laws amount to a 'Rape Manual'


This isn't, as far as I know, an example that Sokal and Bricmont use; but it's an excellent example of missing the point, because it's based on a very clear misrepresentation of the source. Sandra Harding, who used the phrase "rape manual" in connection with Newtonian mechanics, didn't say that "Newton's Laws amount to a 'Rape Manual'"; she draws the connection hypothetically, in the process of suggesting that historians of science have adopted a double standard, by which mechanistic metaphors are taken to be vitally important in early-modern science, while rape metaphors are said to be "just metaphors" and thereby irrelevant to the kernel of early modern science.


I concede that I made a mistake and yes, the book never made the claim. But rather this was from a review by Richard Dawkins. I'm willing to bet he mistaken one feminist for another. He quoted not Sandra Harding but an another American named Katherine Hayles who rendered a passage by Luce Irigaray clear in which she described E=MC2 a 'sexed equation':

The privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she attributes to the association of fluidity with femininity. Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids... From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence. The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated remainders.


I currently do not have the means to track down the original papers by either Hayles or Irgaray, but the context in which the claim was made in both the book and the article by Dawkins:

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/dawkins.html

If they are simply quoting out of context, then let me know. But from here it looks pretty much comprehensive of their views on the matter, and to me as patent nonsense.


Finally - an actual passage of alleged nonsense to talk about. OK. Let's go through this. First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias. In the quote, this bias is being equated to essential rather than cultural reasons - it's not that girls are told in middle school that they can't do math, but that rigidity and precision are actively and essentially masculine on a biological level. (This, by the way, is the part of the argument I find most problematic)

The example that is being used to illustrate this is the difficulty of creating a mathematical model for fluid mechanics. Now, from a mathematical perspective, the difficulty of fluid mechanics is one of chaos - the problem is that the variables are too numerous and too subtle to effectively calculate. This passage doesn't deny that - note the specific phrasing - the maleness of precision is established, and then there's the limiting phrase "from this perspective." So she's working within one very specific view, and not trying to establish her claim beyond that view.

What's significant here is that this view is not inconsistent with the actual reason why fluid mechanics are hard - they're hard because the math doesn't lend itself to precision and rigidity. Science doesn't deal well with this kind of situation - that's not an untrue statement. All that this argument is doing is linking this fact - that science doesn't deal well with the lack of precision in fluid mechanics - to the gender bias she argues is already present in science and mathematics.

The most important thing here is that this isn't a comment on the facts of science. She isn't saying that science is wrong - she's saying that the focus of science is gender biased. When, elsehwere, Irigaray says that E=MC^2 is a "sexed" equation she's not saying it doesn't describe the universe - she's saying that the ideology that the universe should be be explained precisely and rigidly is sexed.

Now, as I said, I find her biological gender essentialism troubling, and I largely disagree with it. But the paragraph isn't nonsense.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Avram » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:21 am UTC

I'm willing to cut the humanities some slack after spending the evening proof-reading a neuroscience paper which read something like this:
Recent findings which suggest that it has been firmly established that the correlation of the effects of the interaction between the amygdala and the medio-temporal lobe under valence-specific conditions with the patterns of activation observed in the ventro-medial-pre-frontal-cortex in response to variability of difficulty in behavioral tasks within pre-conditioning affective environment conditions given an abnormal sequence of base-level response peaks is untenable are perturbing.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ScumBag » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:09 am UTC

ElAleph wrote:Another problem with Fashionable Nonsense is that it goes from specific examples to global argument without ANY justification. I could easily find scores of papers written by scientists in only the last month that contain misrepresented findings or bad science. Adopting Sokal's terrible argumentative methods, this proves that Science is simply Postmodern Anti-Scientific hogwash.

Secondly, and I have made similar points many times in this thread, the examples quoted by Sokal have VERY LITTLE to do with literary criticism. None of the thinkers quoted are literature academics, and none of the examples used have anything to do with literature.

Before you post in this thread, please take the time to read what has been said previously. Almost all of the anti-humanities arguments have been preemptively defeated.

And, as regards the attempts by Utilitarian materialists (using arguments reminiscent of Marx and Mill) to claim that the humanities are unproductive, I have this question. How much money do you think has been spent in funding research in the humanities? It is very little when compared to the amount of wasted money spent on any single aborted scientific plan (Especially that massive hole about 30 minutes from my house. I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about). So even if I were to concede that the Humanities are "useless" (I am not, as shall be seen) at least they are rarely counter-productive.

But I will take the bait of your off-topic ramblings and prove the usefulness of the humanities. The proof that the Humanities are indeed useful lies in the posts of this very thread. Simply compare the quality of argument that the Humanities-types have been making with that of the anti-Humanities-types. It is plain to see that while Science does train great minds it does not teach people to think and argue about unclear concepts.


Sokal’s targets are not the entire French Left Bank establishment. No, it is quite clear in the book that the likes of Foucault, de Beauvoir and Sartre are not the target, nor even the life works of the people they are writing about. It simply is their misuse of certain terms. Wheter they ARE literacy critics or not.

As for your argument against the so-called ‘Utilitarian materialists’, why is it that I feel as if you have little confidence in your own defence? Gee, I know, instead of explaining why humanities are actully useful (way to go for lumping all of us in the same boat with you), you merely claim that other disciplines cost more. You know what, a degree in paper aeroplane production probably cost EVEN less then literacy criticism, should we eschew all so we can fling bits of paper at each other? Then you claim that this has made you a better debater?!?

ScumBag
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ScumBag » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:19 am UTC

Finally - an actual passage of alleged nonsense to talk about. OK. Let's go through this. First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias. In the quote, this bias is being equated to essential rather than cultural reasons - it's not that girls are told in middle school that they can't do math, but that rigidity and precision are actively and essentially masculine on a biological level. (This, by the way, is the part of the argument I find most problematic)


So, in other words: boys are better then girls at science and phsyics because it involves maths?

ElAleph
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ElAleph » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:39 am UTC

I had a fairly long critique of your next to last posts here, Scumbag, in which I defended my ability to construct rational discourse, but since it added nothing to the discussion on the merits of literary criticism (a fault for which I have criticized people who bring up Sokal), I have deleted it.

I will however, say two things about my "cost" argument -
1. You missed my point,
2. but you missed it because I neglected to actually make it. What I wanted to do was question the assumption that pure science is of economic benefit when cost vs. reward calculations are done. I do not believe that is true, however, so I regret making that argument. It wasn't a good one, I admit.

But as regards my statement that the humanities do teach people to present rational argument, I urge you to read through this entire thread. If you disagree with my conclusion that the posts by humanities supporters are overall better than those of their opponents, THEN we can argue.

As a final note, your last post had some rather aggressive language in it (especially "you claim that this has made you a better debater?!?"). I would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from such rhetoric.
Last edited by ElAleph on Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:18 am UTC, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ElAleph » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:43 am UTC

ScumBag wrote:
Finally - an actual passage of alleged nonsense to talk about. OK. Let's go through this. First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias. In the quote, this bias is being equated to essential rather than cultural reasons - it's not that girls are told in middle school that they can't do math, but that rigidity and precision are actively and essentially masculine on a biological level. (This, by the way, is the part of the argument I find most problematic)


So, in other words: boys are better then girls at science and phsyics because it involves maths?


If you change "maths" to "certain types of math," then you have a not unfair approximation of Irigaray's argument. You can argue that her ideas are wrong, stupid, or sexist (I think all three are accurate), but to call them nonsense is simply false.
Last edited by ElAleph on Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:21 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

ScumBag
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ScumBag » Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:13 am UTC

But as regards my statement that the humanities do teach people to present rational argument, I urge you to read through this entire thread. If you disagree with my conclusion that the posts by humanities supporters are overall better than those of their opponents, THEN we can argue.


I wont for the simple fact, yes youre right on that one. Sometimes I think some of the smarter humanitites students make better scientists then already existing ones.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby jbass357 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:39 pm UTC

ElAleph wrote:Science does train great minds it does not teach people to think and argue about unclear concepts.


right on! 8)

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:43 pm UTC

ScumBag wrote:
Finally - an actual passage of alleged nonsense to talk about. OK. Let's go through this. First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias. In the quote, this bias is being equated to essential rather than cultural reasons - it's not that girls are told in middle school that they can't do math, but that rigidity and precision are actively and essentially masculine on a biological level. (This, by the way, is the part of the argument I find most problematic)


So, in other words: boys are better then girls at science and phsyics because it involves maths?


It's close to that argument - more accurately, math, science, and physics, because they value precise, absolute truth, promote masculine values. It's entirely possible, under her argument, for girls to be as good at math as boys, better at math than boys, or worse at math than boys. All that matters is that the ideological values of math and science are what considers masculine.

ElAleph wrote:If you change "maths" to "certain types of math," then you have a not unfair approximation of Irigaray's argument. You can argue that her ideas are wrong, stupid, or sexist (I think all three are accurate), but to call them nonsense is simply false.


As I said, I think that the question of skill doesn't actually come up in Irigaray's argument. I'd go with half-right, quite clever, and sexist personally. But indeed - they aren't nonsense.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:18 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:
ScumBag wrote:
Finally - an actual passage of alleged nonsense to talk about. OK. Let's go through this. First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias. In the quote, this bias is being equated to essential rather than cultural reasons - it's not that girls are told in middle school that they can't do math, but that rigidity and precision are actively and essentially masculine on a biological level. (This, by the way, is the part of the argument I find most problematic)


So, in other words: boys are better then girls at science and phsyics because it involves maths?


It's close to that argument - more accurately, math, science, and physics, because they value precise, absolute truth, promote masculine values. It's entirely possible, under her argument, for girls to be as good at math as boys, better at math than boys, or worse at math than boys. All that matters is that the ideological values of math and science are what considers masculine.

ElAleph wrote:If you change "maths" to "certain types of math," then you have a not unfair approximation of Irigaray's argument. You can argue that her ideas are wrong, stupid, or sexist (I think all three are accurate), but to call them nonsense is simply false.


As I said, I think that the question of skill doesn't actually come up in Irigaray's argument. I'd go with half-right, quite clever, and sexist personally. But indeed - they aren't nonsense.


I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby flower of your contempt » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:32 pm UTC

ScumBag wrote:You know what, a degree in paper aeroplane production probably cost EVEN less then literacy criticism, should we eschew all so we can fling bits of paper at each other?

I suspect that is the best idea I've read all day. At the very least, a fun way to end arguments.

Person 1: "You're wrong!"
Person 2: "No, You're wrong!"
Person 1: "Screw this, let's make some paper airplanes"
Person 2: "Whee! You're awesome!"
Person 1: "No! You're awesome!"

Hey, at least those two hypothetical people are happy.

ScumBag wrote:Then you claim that this has made you a better debater?!?

I don't suspect that ElAleph was going for the "Paper Airplane Construction is the most beneficial degree to society because it costs little, produces much, and increases the happiness of all involved" angle. But that was a very nice example of an informal apagogical argument, Scumbag.

and

Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.

So you find the premise (or assumption) of her argument contentious. If you can make a cogent enough argument against the initial premise (or assumption), then the author's entire argument becomes unsound. Thus the author must either readdress the argument or attempt to salvage the argument by developing premises that are more sound, or the author must concede the argument is irrational.

--edit--
Informal logics ftw?

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:50 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.


Do you really think it's nonsense, or do you just totally disagree with it? I think it's perfectly easy to understand, and perfectly easy to see why the claim would be made. I think it's an untrue claim, at least on the level of "inherent" truth, but I think the social counterpart to it - that society codes scientific values as masculine - is fairly hard to refute.

So I'm hard-pressed to call it nonsense. Untrue, sure. But even there, I'm a bit hesitant, because I tend to think that gender rolls in our society probably didn't just come up from random chance - that is, that there is some sort of reason behind it. Irigaray's linking of it to the genital level seems to me plausible enough to at least be worth taking seriously.

Especially since this claim isn't a falsifiable one - that is, the causality between genitals and gendered values isn't actually material to the sorts of analysis the theory is being used for.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby cnoocy » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:26 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.


Do you really think it's nonsense, or do you just totally disagree with it? I think it's perfectly easy to understand, and perfectly easy to see why the claim would be made. I think it's an untrue claim, at least on the level of "inherent" truth, but I think the social counterpart to it - that society codes scientific values as masculine - is fairly hard to refute.


It seems to be common to use "nonsense" to mean "very very wrong". This is, of course, a great example of the value of defiing one's terms.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

cnoocy wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.


Do you really think it's nonsense, or do you just totally disagree with it? I think it's perfectly easy to understand, and perfectly easy to see why the claim would be made. I think it's an untrue claim, at least on the level of "inherent" truth, but I think the social counterpart to it - that society codes scientific values as masculine - is fairly hard to refute.


It seems to be common to use "nonsense" to mean "very very wrong". This is, of course, a great example of the value of defiing one's terms.


Sure, but even there, I think the argument isn't prima facia wrong. Or at least, it gets at things that are worth thinking about seriously.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ThemePark » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:40 pm UTC

cnoocy wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.


Do you really think it's nonsense, or do you just totally disagree with it? I think it's perfectly easy to understand, and perfectly easy to see why the claim would be made. I think it's an untrue claim, at least on the level of "inherent" truth, but I think the social counterpart to it - that society codes scientific values as masculine - is fairly hard to refute.


It seems to be common to use "nonsense" to mean "very very wrong". This is, of course, a great example of the value of defiing one's terms.

Except that nonsense isn't at all limited to meaning something that makes no sense.

(1): language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense (2): an instance of absurd action


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonsense
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby jbass357 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

ThemePark wrote:
cnoocy wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:I think the idea that precision is an inherently masculine value is nonsense. The fact that everything else follows from that doesn't mean the rest isn't nonsense.


Do you really think it's nonsense, or do you just totally disagree with it? I think it's perfectly easy to understand, and perfectly easy to see why the claim would be made. I think it's an untrue claim, at least on the level of "inherent" truth, but I think the social counterpart to it - that society codes scientific values as masculine - is fairly hard to refute.


It seems to be common to use "nonsense" to mean "very very wrong". This is, of course, a great example of the value of defiing one's terms.

Except that nonsense isn't at all limited to meaning something that makes no sense.

(1): language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense (2): an instance of absurd action


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonsense


nonsense should be used in the context of... check this example.
person 1: "hey! wanna check out my horse? it has wings and can fly!"
person 2: "thats nonsense"

nonsense is not a word that fits with intelligent discussion.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:07 pm UTC

ThemePark wrote:Except that nonsense isn't at all limited to meaning something that makes no sense.

(1): language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense (2): an instance of absurd action


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonsense


Fine, but the passage isn't absurd either.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Belial » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:12 pm UTC

In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby radtea » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:44 pm UTC

PhilSandifer says: "First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias."

Which is to say, it is caricaturing science and then making a completely unjustified claim about this caricature, apparently based on the belief that there is unitary gender construction that makes such a universal, absolute pronouncement anything more than nonsense.

Science values fluidity, questioning, precision and flexibility. One out of four is, well, lousy.

Now do please go on being wrong, if it makes you feel better.
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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:15 pm UTC

radtea wrote:PhilSandifer says: "First, we should note the core of the statement - basically, all this is saying is that the basic values of science - valuing fixity, certainty, precision, and rigidity - are values that contain an implicit gender bias."

Which is to say, it is caricaturing science and then making a completely unjustified claim about this caricature, apparently based on the belief that there is unitary gender construction that makes such a universal, absolute pronouncement anything more than nonsense.

Science values fluidity, questioning, precision and flexibility. One out of four is, well, lousy.

Now do please go on being wrong, if it makes you feel better.


You're playing word games far worse than what the postmodernists are usually accused of here. Yes - science values questioning. And I suppose it values fluidity and flexibility in terms of the way in which it values changing your mind when confronted with new evidence - though this is hardly unique to it.

But science also values pretty rigid definitions. I mean, that's what precision means - nailing things down exactly. Science is, in this regard, not fluid or flexible - it's pretty binary. And that's the sense Irigaray and Hayles are using the terms in. That there is another sense you can use the terms that produces different results does not invalidate the point. And if we go back to the exact original quote, only one word is actually use - rigidity. I offered some synonyms, but let's stick to rigidity. Is science rigid? I think here the answer is clearly yes - science does make rigid classifications and rigid conclusions. They are endlessly subject to possible revision, but they are made as rigid claims.

Is this a caricature? I don't see how. Does science not try to create a precise explanation for whatever it can? Does it not try to mathematize anything that can be mathematized? Sure - it does more than that. But it's not a caricature to zoom in on one select part of something. (And if it is, we shouldn't even be having this conversation about one paragraph of one piece of commentary on one idea of one postmodernist's thought)

As for the second part of your claim, you're being a bit too snarky to parse clearly, but I'll try. You're saying that the argument is based on a unitary gender construction. It's not - it's based on a specific binary - rigidity vs. fluidity (which is allied with "leakiness," which I think gives a good sense of the sort of fluidity that is intended here - one where fluidity is a failure to consistently and thoroughly fall into a single category.) This binary is being linked to gender on a biological level - something I've already said is problematic (though I've clarified it a few times and pointed out that it's not actually the radical and problematic "girls can't do math). But that's not a unitary gender that is being treated as existing in any sort of absolute way. If anything, that would be far more rigid than Irigaray seems to be being here, suggesting that, well, it's probably a misreading. Irigaray, while valuing fluidity, is not going to make universal, absolute proclamations.

Still not nonsense.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby az_sandhawk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:22 pm UTC

Lunch Meat wrote:
az_sandhawk wrote:Political debates. The targeted, expert use of irony (honed through literary criticism) against those who have authoritarian tendencies can move entire societies in directions that benefit their citizens (see Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact, etc, etc). It also helps train spies. And serves as a handy antidote (for the average citizen) for all sorts of bullshit ideologies (Marxists and Religious Conservatives, for example, hate it).


Argh. I'm really, really sorry to have to do this, because I know it's irrelevant to your point (with which I agree, by the way). But you're making a careless, sweeping generalization that crushes entire cities when you say that religious conservatives "hate" irony and literary criticism. It's not true. It's not even true for the majority. It may be true for the very vocal minority, but I just have to say that the vocal minority makes us cringe and hang our heads and wish they would shut up. It irritates the heck out of me when people say things like this in passing so you don't even get a chance to say "Wait wait wait wait wait. What??" Please, don't judge me by what other religious conservatives have said. It's illogical, it's silly, and it's most incorrect. I am a religious conservative. Yes, some religious conservatives are stupid and bigoted. Not all of us are, and I am not.


Are you a literalist? Do you believe that God created the world in seven days? Because it's written in the Bible? If you are a literalist, you are necessarily a structuralist (you say only what you mean and mean only what you say) which, logically, places you at odds with post-modernist, post-structuralist, deconstructivist philosophy. And you're going to inevitably - at some point - end up walking into a minefield the deconstructivists have put in place. ("How can God create a stone He cannot lift?") Every text, including the Bible, subverts itself.

This has nothing to do with what is conventionally thought of as bigotry, by the way. It's about pointing out that every system, including deconstructivism, has non-negotiables. Autocratic / totalitarian regimes require structuralism (or literalism, if we are going to have to be reductionist about it). It's almost as if literalism creates autocratic thinkers ("Only the objectively correct my speak." ala 1984 or Feminist or Marxist or Conservative Basic Human Decency). Ideas that don't fit must be suppressed in those systems.

Lunch Meat wrote:Goodness, I'm thinking we need another Godwin's Law that says "In any Internet debate, an insult along the lines of 'That idea is as stupid as religious fundamentalism/creationism/conservativism' will be used on one or both sides."


If you're not a literalist, there should be no problem. If you have no room for metaphor (no wiggle room for people who are different or who disagree) then pay no attention since you probably are my target.

And it's not that I think those folk are stupid. They have created a brutally logical self contained world view. They are welcome to it, as long as they do not impose it upon me. I do not function well in an environment in which literalists / structuralists impose their values on me.

Science and engineering are necessarily structuralist. You can't replicate an experiment without well defined standards. But they are also notoriously autocratic, brutal (little concern for emotions) and hierarchical (with those who are "most right" at the top). In literary criticism, the field is much more fluid - akin to anarchy.

And yes, I know that you've probably had an English prof or two who has insisted that his or her pet ideology is the only way to go...For fun, mention deconstructivism and see what happens. Attempt to demonstrate how the pet ideology subverts itself. The response you get will tell you everything you need to know.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Danny_Salinger » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:37 pm UTC

radtea wrote:
Which is to say, it is caricaturing science and then making a completely unjustified claim about this caricature, apparently based on the belief that there is unitary gender construction that makes such a universal, absolute pronouncement anything more than nonsense.

Science values fluidity, questioning, precision and flexibility. One out of four is, well, lousy.

Now do please go on being wrong, if it makes you feel better.


You sound like you find the idea that there are implicit, ingrained biases and assumptions within the scientific community preposterous. Can you tell me with certainty that there's no possibility of this? It seems that a lot of people on this forum who're involved in science and engineering have gone beyond simply questioning the possibility that the humanities provide benefit beyond rhetoric, some going so far as to say that any field that doesn't provide a fixed, certain benefit is illegitimate and not worth studying.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:24 pm UTC

Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Except it still implies that there is some other, "better" (less supposedly sexist / more feminine / take your pick) way of looking at things [without caring about precision, mind you, since that's a "masculine thing"] that would yield more useful predictions about fluid mechanics.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ElAleph » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:38 pm UTC

Remember, detractors, we are talking about Science as a social construction, not some enlightenment ideal of Science as a truth-seeking enterprise. There certainly is a gender-bias in science, and Irigaray wants to explain it by arguing that Science and Society both have made rigidity and precision central features of maleness (this derives from Lacan's psychology). Men like single, unvariable truths, while women want more fluidity, according to her argument. Whether these single truths are indeed accurate descriptions of reality is secondary.

Besides, Random, your asking about "useful predictions" is certainly in line with the male idea of science. :)

I can't believe I am defending Irigaray. Why couldn't you all have attacked someone like Foucault or Derrida (Then again, Sokal doesn't attack them, so I guess they didn't "abuse" the physical sciences)
Last edited by ElAleph on Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:45 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:43 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Except it still implies that there is some other, "better" (less supposedly sexist / more feminine / take your pick) way of looking at things [without caring about precision, mind you, since that's a "masculine thing"] that would yield more useful predictions about fluid mechanics.


No it doesn't.

In fact, I think the idea of "useful predictions" still falls under what is viewed as masculine here.

ElAleph wrote:Remember, detractors, we are talking about Science as a social construction, not some enlightenment ideal of Science as a truth-seeking enterprise.


"Social construction," while not an inaccurate term, might be misleading. "Social phenomenon" might be the better idea here - that is, we're talking not about a body of scientific knowledge, but about the social enterprise of "doing science."

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:56 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Except it still implies that there is some other, "better" (less supposedly sexist / more feminine / take your pick) way of looking at things [without caring about precision, mind you, since that's a "masculine thing"] that would yield more useful predictions about fluid mechanics.


No it doesn't.

In fact, I think the idea of "useful predictions" still falls under what is viewed as masculine here.


So again, what are we supposed to do instead? Just stare at it in awe at one of god's great mysteries? Pray that each new design for (something that depends on fluid mechanics) won't explode horribly? I'm not really seeing what the alternative is.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Quixotess » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:03 pm UTC

Psh. Western religion is, like, the least feminine thing ever.
Raise up the torch and light the way.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:07 pm UTC

Quixotess wrote:Psh. Western religion is, like, the least feminine thing ever.


But there's an implicit anti-science "we should just appreciate it rather than try to find out what it does" in some fundamentalist groups that seems to be shared here. So I drew an analogy.

I'm also very much reminded of the episode of the Simpsons where the boys and girls are segregated and the girls classes (much to Lisa's frustration) is all about like "how do you feel about numbers"

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:10 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Except it still implies that there is some other, "better" (less supposedly sexist / more feminine / take your pick) way of looking at things [without caring about precision, mind you, since that's a "masculine thing"] that would yield more useful predictions about fluid mechanics.


No it doesn't.

In fact, I think the idea of "useful predictions" still falls under what is viewed as masculine here.


So again, what are we supposed to do instead? Just stare at it in awe at one of god's great mysteries? Pray that each new design for (something that depends on fluid mechanics) won't explode horribly? I'm not really seeing what the alternative is.


I don't think Irigaray or Hayles are proposing an "instead." It's not as though they reject western science. Quite the contrary - Hayles is a respected new media scholar who has written on Turing, knows computers and digital technology fluently, and is generally quite sane and aware of the workings of science. There's no "instead" going on here.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:13 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:I don't think Irigaray or Hayles are proposing an "instead." It's not as though they reject western science. Quite the contrary - Hayles is a respected new media scholar who has written on Turing, knows computers and digital technology fluently, and is generally quite sane and aware of the workings of science. There's no "instead" going on here.


The passage that's been quoted here, at least, is saying that there's something _wrong_ (in so far as sexism is wrong) with science. This implies a rejection.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby ElAleph » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:16 pm UTC

Hayles is awesome. And, unlike most of the people we have discussed here, she actually is a literary critic.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:22 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:I don't think Irigaray or Hayles are proposing an "instead." It's not as though they reject western science. Quite the contrary - Hayles is a respected new media scholar who has written on Turing, knows computers and digital technology fluently, and is generally quite sane and aware of the workings of science. There's no "instead" going on here.


The passage that's been quoted here, at least, is saying that there's something _wrong_ (in so far as sexism is wrong) with science. This implies a rejection.


Let's go back to the quote:

The privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she attributes to the association of fluidity with femininity. Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids... From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence. The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated remainders.


I don't see a rejection there. There is a criticism of science as a social practice. There is an observation about the sexed nature of science. That doesn't require a rejection. It might be followed by a rejection - certainly a sort of mystical "how do you feel about the numbers" approach does not suffer from the specific problem described. But I think an awareness of other forms of knowledge and other sorts of values is also a major step towards progress. This seems to me not a critique of the existence of science, but of a particular sort of "only science reveals truth" ideology that is pervasive - as this thread has shown.

But I, at least, have no problems believing that science as an ideology promotes masculine values, while also being married to a female scientist, believing in science, wanting to know more about science, and using the advances of science on a regular basis.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:30 pm UTC

Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.


Which is, if true, a problem with society, not with those attributes or with science.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Well, not quite, since suddenly it's not saying anything about science

----

Of course, I could also go so far as to say

The privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she attributes to the association of fluidity with femininity. Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid,


You know what else becomes rigid?

women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids...


You know what else is a fluid?

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.


Which is, if true, a problem with society, not with those attributes or with science.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Well, not quite, since suddenly it's not saying anything about science


Science exists separate from society?

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Belial » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

Of course. It's practiced by robots. In space.
addams wrote:A drunk neighbor is better than a sober Belial.


They/them

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:44 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.


Which is, if true, a problem with society, not with those attributes or with science.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Well, not quite, since suddenly it's not saying anything about science


Science exists separate from society?


The facts it seeks to describe do. The idea that it's worthwhile to try to describe those facts precisely is not in any way inherently masculine (even if one accepts Belial's statement that it's "held up as masculine by our society").

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:49 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:
Belial wrote:In fact, all you have to do is build one little logical bridge and the whole thing is valid even if you don't buy all the essentialism (which I don't): That, while precision and logical rigidity aren't inherent male attributes, they are attributes that are cultivated and held up as masculine by our society.


Which is, if true, a problem with society, not with those attributes or with science.

Suddenly, the whole argument works again.


Well, not quite, since suddenly it's not saying anything about science


Science exists separate from society?


The facts it seeks to describe do. The idea that it's worthwhile to try to describe those facts precisely is not in any way inherently masculine (even if one accepts Belial's statement that it's "held up as masculine by our society").


So you're just breaking with the biological essentialism again - which I've already said seems to me both the weakest part of Irigaray's argument, largely incidental to Irigaray's argument, and actually not nearly as radical as it looks at first glance because of the particularly narrow scope of Irigaray's argument.

In other words, this is not a point on which you can build a larger refutation of the argument.

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Re: "Impostor" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:54 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:
Random832 wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:Science exists separate from society?


The facts it seeks to describe do. The idea that it's worthwhile to try to describe those facts precisely is not in any way inherently masculine (even if one accepts Belial's statement that it's "held up as masculine by our society").


So you're just breaking with the biological essentialism again - which I've already said seems to me both the weakest part of Irigaray's argument, largely incidental to Irigaray's argument, and actually not nearly as radical as it looks at first glance because of the particularly narrow scope of Irigaray's argument.

In other words, this is not a point on which you can build a larger refutation of the argument.


Yes it is, because no alternate reason why the idea that it is worthwhile to try to find precise descriptions of what the universe does (which is what we're really talking about here, and which does exist separate from society in so far as it could exist unmodified in a completely different society) is sexist or "sexed" has been presented. Saying that that idea is treated as 'something men do' by this society in the here and now is a completely different argument. And, in fact, the biological essentialism is the key factor that means that this argument (remember, regardless of how it might be altered, the original argument is "science is _inherently_" male) is part of the problem rather than the solution, in that it seems to _validate_ society treating it as if it were an essentially masculine practice.
Last edited by Random832 on Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:02 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.


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