Oh. So. True.

Mike Flynn notes the following remark on academic cowardice when it comes to the Darwin Mythos:

Science Kicks the Creationist Dog

A hard scientist can’t complain (out loud) about the stupidity exhibited, for example, in the Women’s Studies  department, where students and teachers turn on the lights and fire up their laptops prior to discussing how Science has no valid claim to truth, it is in fact nothing more than a tool of oppression wielded by patriarchal misogynistic elites to keep women in line. So, instead of screaming to high heaven over the traitors to truth in the adjoining buildings,  traitors who have a lot of influence with the administration and don’t shy away from publicly destroying the careers of people who challenge them, science fans bravely go after Creationists, who don’t do any of that stuff and have no pull and often no presence in their institution.

Now that Hitchens is dead, what really sticks out about so much of Evangelical Atheism is the sheer cowardice of the thing.  It habitually picks on people who have no power and is remarkably gutless in the face of anybody who poses a real threat.  It’s like being attacked by Dwight Schrute.

  • http://far-above-rubies-and-pearls.blogspot.com/ Alisha

    +1,000,000 for the Dwight Schrute reference.

  • Benjamin

    It’s bad enough that the jab at Women’s Studies is sexist, but even worse, it’s a complete strawman.

    • Dave P.

      Oh, please. I know more than enough women who will tell you that Women’s Studies is a complete waste of time…

      • Benjamin

        Now you’re just doing saying the exact same crap New Atheists say about theology. Stupid, waste of time, not real, etc etc.

        • Alexander Anderson

          Well, I’ve studied it enough to know that while it may not be a waste of time, it is very dangerous. It regards anything with claims to “truth”, including science, as simply a tool of oppression by those in power. The philosophical background of many of those “Studies” programs is a frightening sort of reverse Nietzscheanism, and is actually very, very deadly to the concept of scientific truth, unlike the hokey “creation science” or “intelligent design” peddlers who hold no sway in academia anyway.

          • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

            Women’s studies departments are suspicious of truth claims, but that suspicion could just as easily be regarded as an extension of science. After all, science isn’t supposed to make truth claims, it simply claims our to be our best working understanding of empirical phenomena. And while I’m sure you can find all kinds of feminists out in the internet, I’ve never even heard of one in an academic setting who wanted to do away with the idea of science. In fact, their caution about science reminds me most of Catholic caution about science: science can be useful but it is not all encompassing and can also be misused.

            On the other hand, while creationists hold no sway in academia, they absolutely hold a great deal of sway in society at large. They command far more actual resources and popular support than women’s studies departments are ever likely to. And creationist attacks on science are far more direct and sweeping. I’ve heard no serious proposals from feminists that science text books teach both science and the idea that science is patriarchal. Women’s studies departments don’t have nearly the sway to get a “teach the controversy” movement going.

            • Mark Shea

              An excellent apologetic for the regime.

              • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

                I enjoy sarcasm as much as the next person, but I’m interested in getting an actual discussion going here. Since you don’t want to get the ball rolling, I’ll have to do it.

                Me: I think you’re wrong. I think creationists are far more directly engaged in attacks on science, as evidence by the large “teach the controversy” movement which was popular at least as recent as a few years ago, passed legislation in several states, and has no equivalent in terms of organization or success.

                You: Yes, Reluctant Liberal, but you’re ignoring the broad societal changes that feminists are clearly responsible for. What about teaching tolerance in public schools? The Massachusetts public school system is imposing its views about homosexuality and transgenderism on our children in a way that creationists are not. How can you claim that feminists have less power when creationists haven’t been nearly so successful?

                Me: Well, Mark Shea, that is a fair point. But I would argue that feminist changes in school are relatively minor when compared with the overall feminist critique. But that’s a discussion for another time. We aren’t talking about impact on society in general so much as impact on science in particular. And in particular, I am unaware that any feminist group has changed so much as a single letter of a science textbook, whereas creationists have not only changed textbooks and passed legislation in some states, but their politicians have stripped federal funding from science research they didn’t like. You may have a point about society in general, but in terms of science, creationists impact science far more than feminists.

                You: Those are interesting arguments, I will have to respond to them in my next post.

                Me: I would greatly appreciate that, Mark Shea (or other interested party). I am very curious to know what your response will be. And also, I wanted to let you know that I really liked your post about Pope Francis washing the feet of those prisoners and the reactions to that. I thought it set exactly the right tone.

                You: Thank you.

                Me: You’re welcome. I hope we can continue this discussion soon, though I have work in a few hours so may not be able to respond right away.

                • Dale Price

                  I think you’re far too sanguine about the impact of feminist epistomology in science and the academic scientific endeavor. The impact on the social sciences is well-developed, and it’s progressing into the so-called “hard sciences” as well.

                  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/

                  The fact is, it’s easier for the academy to mobilize against a bunch of knuckle-dragging creationist outsiders, but the response to an internal challenge is far more muted and coloured by the desire for self-preservation.

                  • Jmac

                    That may be true, but I definitely have to agree with RL that creationist attacks on science are absolutely more worrisome and imminent than anything that feminism/women’s studies has done.

                    Merely because there is an article on feminist empiricism does not imply that there is an imminent attack on the scientific method from that corner any more than any other non-popular pseudoscience. Creationism is dangerous to science specifically because it is popular.

                    • Alexander Anderson

                      The New Atheists think the creationist attack is more imminent/worrisome because they don’t understand the feminist and postmodern attack. Further, most of them see this in a political lens and try to defend against the creationist, because he is on the “wrong side” while the feminist is on the “right side” so who cares if his philosophy gnaws at the foundations of science?

                    • Jmac

                      I’m actually a Catholic, so whatever.

                      I do see this through a sort of political lens, however, because a lot of Creationists do. That’s why, unsatisfied with the scientific response to their claims (usually something involving a lot of laughter), they have decided to take it to courts and school districts, or even introduce legislation to legitimize their own kooky branch of pseudoscience (looking at you, Santorum).

                      So, in short, I can point to dozens of tangible things creationists have done or attempted to do to science. Can you give me anything that feminist postmodernism has done? Because honestly I think that their little group of academics will have a lasting effect on science just as soon as the Pope is a woman in a polygamous marriage.

                  • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

                    We should put some context on this:
                    - With some trepidation, I suggest that the polls that show an almost complete ignorance of science among the poll-responding general public are pretty much true. In the decades over which I’ve been talking science with people, it certainly seems to be true that near complete ignorance is the norm.
                    - In that environment of ignorance, universities stand – and intend to stand – as pillars of scientific TRVTH.
                    - So, battles in academia are battles between people who claim to be the special purveyors of truth in an environment – the non-academic world – dominated by ignorance. Anybody who has spent time on campus knows this to be true.
                    - So, like Pilate, we ask: What is truth? And, in academia (with few exceptions) we get 2 basic answers:
                    * the Ted Nugent answer (applied with varying degrees of sophistication): If I can’t bite it, it doesn’t exist. These folks live mostly in the hard science and business departments, and embrace logic (even though they can’t bite it!) and evidence.
                    * the Hegelian/Marxist answer: logic and evidence are for the little people (Hegel’s contribution) and, besides, it’s all about who is oppressing whom (the Marxist contribution). Critical Theory, deconstruction, Freudian and all other psychologies, Marxist economics, political activist Sociology (the only kind taught!) gender and ethnic studies – all these are utterly dependent on some flavor of Power Dynamic analysis, and so utterly antithetical to empirical science (and philosophy, the arts, history and anything else where any objective measure is proposed and defended).
                    One might expect such antithetical views to be a constant source of friction and debate in academia. Critical theorists should be going toe-to-toe with chemists out in quadrangle every lunch period, right? Is the boiling point of water within an experimentally established range and under standard conditions just an opinion, and a tainted one at that? Or does it have some sort of objective reality and a claim on our allegiance? Or is it, instead, one of an unlimited number of equally valid (and invalid!) realities, among which are any number of world views that claim science is merely a tool of oppression used by the entrenched elites to maintain their power? Wouldn’t that be an important issue to discuss in institutions that proudly claim to promote Reason and Truth?
                    If you expected such debates, you would be disappointed. Not coincidentally, if our imaginary hero chemist were to go before the administration to argue for more funding for their efforts, those same critical theorists or their supporters would be on the committee. And could torpedo the appropriation.
                    Could academics be so petty? Does the Pope speak Spanish?
                    Meanwhile, out among the great ignorant masses, you can find people arguing not that science is invalid, not that all truth is relative, not that the world is only understood as an evil power dynamic irrespective of any facts or evidence, but arguing that Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection doesn’t explain *everything*. Some of these people – most, probably – are motivated by religion, but some are not. Note that these ID proponents and Darwin doubters are not generally aiming to destroy science – that makes no sense. They want science – objective, empirical science – on their side. They are all kinds of confused, mostly, and suffer from some serious selection bias, generally, but they aren’t the enemies of science in any coherent sense. But they don’t sit on tenure committees, either.

                • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

                  I liked this discussion, thanks Reluctant Liberal!

                  Admittedly, it’s been a long while since my days in a super-liberal liberal arts university, but from what I remember, for every person who took Women’s Studies very seriously, there was someone else who poked fun at it, or outright held it in contempt. I think the the apparent power of “Women’s Studies” is stronger than its actual power.

                  • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

                    I’m not qualified to speak on Women’s Studies. However, I want to echo Beadgirl in praising Reluctant Liberal: RL, your attempt to get a thoughtful, civil discussion going was both entertaining and admirable. Good for you.

            • Alexander Anderson

              Actually, here, we can point out the very important similarities between our creationists and our women’s studies folks with regard to science. In the old, modern conception of science, we looked to what was measurable and controllable in nature with the goal of harnessing nature for our ends. Creationism and women’s studies do something similar, but they expand the goal, and the goal hyjacks the science. Creationists want to prove that, say, the Earth is 5,000 years old, and they go out and find any physical evidence that can be construed to support this claim. Whether you or I or anyone thinks their evidence is convincing or not, that’s why they are doing. Our women’s studies friends go out and try to find evidence for claims like “children are unaffected by divorce”, or “children are happier when their parents are happier”, the goal of which is not the old goal of controlling nature, but the new goal of controlling policy. Since science is just a tool for those in power, we can use it to expand our power.

              • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

                I’ve got to refer you to Jmac’s response. Regardless of what feminists might want to do, Creationists are having success in the realm of science that feminists are not.

                • Alexander Anderson

                  Really? I use an example that includes using science as a tool to enact no-fault divorce (something that is the law of the land everywhere now) and you say they aren’t as effective in using science toward their goals as creation science, which has received such backlash regarding their legislative goals that anywhere enacting a “teach the controversy” policy instantly becomes a pariah for the rest of the country? Calling them wrong makes sense, calling them successful strains credulity.

                  • Jmac

                    We’re talking about the PHYSICAL sciences here.

                  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

                    “Teach the controversy” got passed in some states. Meanwhile, using science as a tool isn’t the same thing as changing science and science education entirely. Creationism casts doubt on the fundamental assumptions of biology. Assuming your claims are true, feminism pushes wrong answers in one subset of sociology, which many people don’t even consider hard science.

                    Again, creationists did change science textbooks in a big way in many places. Feminists haven’t even tried to do that, that I’m aware of.

                    • Alexander Anderson

                      It’s not like they aren’t capable. In the near future, you could have something like this in your science textbook:

                      http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/transgress_v2/transgress_v2_singlefile.html

                      The question is, will the outrage be nearly as loud as the outage over creation science when that happens?

                    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

                      Gender theorists are more interested in changing things like marriage laws and the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, and in getting non-heteronormative stuff added to public school curricula than they are in changing high school biology textbooks, AFAIK. Whether that’s as true of Women’s Studies in particular as of gender theorists in general, I don’t know. Of course, all of the things I mentioned are driven by activism and the arts at least as much as academia.

                    • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

                      But feminists and power dynamic fans don’t need to change text books because they write their own, and because they can hand out degrees and award tenure – or not. Outside a few fundamentalist colleges, creationists can’t do those things.

                      The Power Dynamic crowd – those who believe that the world is only understood by correctly identifying the Oppressors and the Oppressed du jour – run entire university departments, sit on academic boards and have supporters in admin. They don’t need to fight it out about what goes in somebody else’s textbooks. They have cowed their natural academic opponents into silence.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                Yard Sale chose one of the multitude of “Studies” studies only by way of illustration. It may as well have been any of the others; environmentalism, say, or post-colonial studies. In 1989 the American Chemical Society commissioned an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History to be called “Science in American Life.”
                The ACS scientists naturally expected an exhibit celebrating the triumphs of 20th century American science and did not imagine that this needed to be spelled out in the contract. But five years and $5 million dollars later, what the scientists got was an exhibition that presented American science as a series of moral debacles and environmental catastrophes: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Silent Spring, Love Canal, Three Mile Island, and the explosion of the space shuttle.
                – “The Flight from Science and Reason” (Wall Street Journal, 7/10/95)

                Do not discount the effect of Womyn’s Way of Knowing™ on the way Postmodern science will be done, even when it is not officially advertised as such. Creationists have no impact on the way science is done — only funding sources can do that, and the scientist’s own socio-political prior commitments. But pomo gnaws at the very roots of the scientific program, a steady acid drip. You can already see it. The social “sciences” are already lost (and were barely won to begin with). Even orthodox scientists now use arguments based on political motives. Eldrege and Gould were criticized for their saltationist theories by orthodox Darwinians not because they could be proven wrong but because they gave aid and comfort to “the enemy.” (Meaning creationists.) More recently, they have rallied to criticize the philosopher Thomas Nagel on essentially the same political power grounds.

                In a letter to the Financial Times, 9 April 2010, Martin Rees (President of the Royal Society) and Ralph J. Cicerone (President of the US National Academy of Sciences) wrote: “Our academies will provide the scientific backdrop for the political and business leaders who must create effective policies to steer the world toward a low-carbon economy.” Read that again: the purpose of the two scientific academies is to help steer us toward a predetermined policy goal. As science becomes progressively more subordinate to goals, the pomo critique of science as being all about power relationships will gain more and more traction.

                The trend was set by a cluster of ideas emanating mainly out of the French philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. These philosophers’ work is often subtle and insightful (more so in Foucault’s case), but that of their herds of followers rarely is, and can be summarized by two complementary principles: look for the power structure, and do not indulge in fantasies of “objective truth.” You want to understand why astronomers refer to certain phenomena as “black holes”? Look to the astronomers’ bosses’ skin color and forsake any notion that this may somehow have to do with the intrinsic properties of the phenomena in question. The two “principles” have thus spawned an entire generation of studies that amount to little more than nonsense. Worse, they have propelled a fundamental change in attitude toward nature and the spirit of research among our academics, supplanting the basic wonder at the world that animated previous generations of scholars with a ubiquitous and deep-seated cynicism. If everything is power and nothing is truth, such a change in attitude was inevitable.
                – Uriah Kriegel

                Hostility to science, coupled with misgivings about reason, is the norm among a sizable and influential group of academics devoted to the study of… environmental philosophy.”
                – Martin Lewis, geographer and environmentalist

                [Women's Way of Knowing] “is an influential book that impugns ‘male ways of knowing’ as excessively concerned with logic and hard data and ‘valorizes’ something called ‘connected knowing,’ a compassionate style of cognition women are supposed to be especially good at.”
                – Christina Hoff Sommers, “The Flight from Science and Reason”

                “Here [the faculty of arts] some professors are hired, promoted, or given power for teaching that reason is worthless, empirical evidence unnecessary, objective truth nonexistent, basic science a tool of either capitalists or male domination, and the like.”
                – Philosopher Mario Bunge, McGill University

                • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

                  Thanks. I’ll only add that it’s easy to get lost in the emotional appeals and miss the underlying philosophy: it’s true that working people have been exploited, and that (some) women have been mistreated, and that blacks were enslaved and American Indians were disposed and murdered (and so on). Those are real issues, with real consequences that present real moral challenges. BUT – that does not mean that there is no truth, that everything from child-rearing and marriage to global politics is only and completely explained by some power dynamic, and that anyone who challenges the power dynamic is by that fact alone a tool of da Man.

                  And that is the claim: There is no truth; everyone is either an oppressor, a tool of the oppressors, or a member of an oppressed class. There are no facts outside this reality (meaning: if you are faced with facts outside this reality – a happy marriage, loving children, reasonably contented workers or, conversely, nasty behavior among indigenous peoples – you can’t see it, or, if you must see it, it must be explained away.)

                  So, yes, we all should acknowledge current and historical injustices, and even act morally to rectify them as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean swallowing the vapid yet deadly philosophical positions espoused by the most vocal and strident proclaimers of these wrongs. Just because one sees that workers and women have been exploited doesn’t mean you have to accept Marxism or Marxist feminism.

                  • Ye Olde Statistician

                    “Das Kriterium der Wahrheit liegt in der Steigerung des Machtgefühls.”
                    (The criterion of truth resides in the heightening of the feeling of power.)
                    – Nietzsche, Will to Power #534
                    Hence, the importance of “feeling empowered.” Whatever makes you feel that way is “true.” And whatever makes you feel otherwise is “false.” And notice that it is the feeling not the thought. Hence, today we often say “I feel that…” rather than “I think that…” And the Good is confused with whatever the triumphant will desires. Especially if it’s sex.
                    From Nietzsche to Derrida to the Academy. The funny thing is that Nietzsche used to be considered right wing but the detritus of his philosophy is embraced by the left.

                  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

                    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to all of this as I’d like to. For now, I’ll simply say:

                    1. Most of your arguments are clearly from critics of these programs, which means their perception of tenure proceedings and other administrative measures is biased at best. Most of the rest amount to little more than “look where feminists are leading us!” which is little better than a slippery slope argument. What your arguments are scarce on is concrete examples.

                    2. I am decidedly a postmodern feminist, and I believe in God and in absolute truth. Feminism chooses to avoid anything monolithic, which makes feminists hard to categorize as absolutely as you have done.

                    3. Feminists look at power, but most don’t see power as the only thing to look at. They seem to focus disproportionately on power because power does decide more than it’s given credit for. That said, looking at power allows feminists like myself to remove power from the equation. My wife and I have a deep and loving relationship based on our mutual respect for the other’s human dignity. That was only possible after we looked at the parts of our relationship that had been subtly shaped by mismatched power dynamics.

                    Pax tecum

        • Jamie R

          Just because Atheists wrongly call certain things a waste of time doesn’t mean it’s always wrong to call something a waste of time.

        • Dave P.

          Benjamin:

          I’ve studied “Women’s Literature” as a requirement for my degree. It wasn’t a bad class in and of itself, but the authors and works could have been integrated into other genres. I’ve also studied feminist theory for both literature and theology. The best I can say for anything involving “Women’s Studies” is that it can be addressed in other majors and disciplines. Too often (as with the other PC disciplines introduced in the 60′s and 70′s), it is nothing more than an exercise in leftist narcissism, and a means of indoctrination.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com Robert King

      The strawman accusation holds some weight (more or less, depending on the university in question), but I’m trying to figure out how the quoted post is sexist. The Women’s Studies Dept. is an example of a sacred cow in many universities, one which regularly makes claims about science which are at least as absurd as ideological Creationists, yet is immune to critique from scientists for political reasons. That it regards women specifically is entirely incidental; it’s simply that, while there are other examples of academic sacred cows, I can’t think of one that provides a better example (except the evolutionary development of Women’s Studies: Gender Studies, which may not be as broadly disseminated among U.S. universities).

      • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

        Thank you, yes – an example among many.

    • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

      Women’s Studies was used as an example. There are numerous examples.

      Having had the displeasure of both spending considerable time on modern university campuses and of having read a bit of modern textbooks, and having a background in philosophy and literature, I reject the ‘straw man’ accusation. I’m not judging intentions here, but stated philosophy.

  • bob

    Straw *woman*. Pig.

  • Mark R

    I don’t think Creationism has anything to do with orthodox Catholic teaching. But I get his point.

  • Jmac
    • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph M

      Right, exactly. Sokal is one of the very few willing to point out the absurd anti-reason, anti-fact, anti-objective-reality miasma that is much of college education these days. In such an environment, we’re going to worry about creationists?

      • Jmac

        Maybe it’s my double major in applied math and computer engineering talking here, but my college education was anything but anti-reason/anti-objective-reality. Although there was quite a miasma in the science building when finals week rolled around. Your point is definitely well taken though. Still, as I argued above, I do indeed think that creationists currently pose a larger threat to scientific education than any type of “studies” discipline.

  • An Aaron, not the Aaron

    Tsk Tsk, Mark. Attacking athiests on their most holy of days? You’re starting to sound like Benjamin.

  • kenneth

    Flynn might have a point about some academics getting a pass, but he falls far short of establishing equivalence between the level of threat by creationists and women’s studies positions on science. Creationists are not simply saying disparaging things about science. They are promoting a system of fraudulent and delusional science which has the potential, partially realized, I would argue, to destroy our economic viability. They have continuously sought to insert this fraud into school curricula at state and local levels, with some success. They have advocates at the highest levels of our government. For all their supposed radicalism, womens studies professors typically have influence about as wide as the floor plan of the buildings in which they work. Moreover, Flynn is very vague about what constitutes womens studies claims about science.

    Flynn says they say “science has no valid claims to truth.” Well, what does that mean? Are they claiming that the scientific method cannot provide any consistent understanding of anything, as creationists do? Or does it mean that science cannot reveal ultimate truth or solve every problem of existence? If so, that’s not that radical. Any honest scientist will concede that right off. We are told the feminists other transgression that makes them the same as creationists is that they say “science is a tool to oppress women.” Nothing too scurrilous there. Everyone agrees that science can be misused to one end or another. Their claim can be debated on its own terms, but it hardly makes them anti-science in and of itself.

    Flynn’s case falls short on another critical point. He doesn’t elaborate on who is “having their career destroyed” in academia, but I assume he refers to creation “scientists” who are blackballed in science departments. Everything turns on the details of the particular case, but if a science faculty member is advancing fraudulent science, or doing something that is not at all science, that’s a problem and its fair to hold them accountable. Women’s studies is not science, or not a hard science. It’s history and philosophy and anthropology, primarily. I’m not sure that a womens studies professor disparaging the value of science is the same as a biology professor employing fraudulent science.

    If Flynn can establish some real equivalency with details, I’ll be the first to kick the womens studies dog just as hard as the creationist one. All we have so far is an unsubstantiated allegation that boils down to “everyone knows liberals and atheists are hypocrites.”

    • Mike Flynn

      Are they claiming that the scientific method cannot provide any consistent understanding of anything, as creationists do?
      But creationists in general do not do this. They claim that there are some things that the scientific method cannot deal with. More particularly, they claim that – e.g. – the emergence of consciousness is not amenable to methods that explicitly exclude subjective phenomena.
      (Some of them indeed wish to have their beliefs elevated to the lofty status of Scientific Fact, but this amounts to a claim that the methods of science can provide a consistent understanding even of their own beliefs.)
      Or does it mean that science cannot reveal ultimate truth or solve every problem of existence? If so, that’s not that radical. Any honest scientist will concede that right off.
      Why is it okay for feminists to hold this but not for creationists to hold the same?
      (For that matter, honest scientists have not conceded that much in the case of Thomas Nagel, where they have insisted that one day, really truly, objective methods will explain a subjective reality.)

      We are told the feminists … say “science is a tool to oppress women.” Nothing too scurrilous there. Everyone agrees that science can be misused to one end or another. Their claim … hardly makes them anti-science in and of itself.

      Their stance is that Baconian science is inherently oppressive to women. It focuses on [masculine] control and domination of [feminine] Nature. And in fact, Bacon’s “The Masculine Birth of Time or The Great Instauration” is explicitly masculinist in its imagery and point of view. Neither the feminist nor the environmentalist critique of science it totally without merit. Heresy is always a truth taken too far.
      (“The Masculine Birth of Time” used to be available on the web, but the link is now broken, and I can no longer find it.)
      + + +
      At brunch yesterday, I was told by a high school teacher that, at their most recent in-service, they were told by a science teacher how embarrassed he was that none of the scientists he was talking about were scientists of color and consequently, he began the class by apologizing to the class for this lack. He recommended the other teachers adopt this more “sensitive” approach. When teachers are more concerned with this than with teaching Boyle’s Law, the rats are already gnawing at the roots.

      • kenneth

        There are creationists and then there are creationists. Maybe the first step is defining which sort. There are plenty of people of scientific and unscientific bearing who believe that the universe was created by and/or maintained by, a supreme being or an intelligence and purpose of some sort. I don’t consider that position “creationism” and real science has nothing to say on the matter. The question is, for now, untestable and unrefutable. What science can say so far is that there is no evidence that natural processes are insufficient so as to require the personal intervention of a supernatural entity. That doesn’t preclude the possibility that there is, but the question of belief in God or gods is the province of theologists, not scientists.

        What I would call “real creationists” are, in one stripe or another, Old Testament literalists and very often young Earthers. They make specific scientific claims that evolution is false, and offer “scientific theories” which always, every time, resort to un-testable supernatural mechanisms. They are intellectual nihilists who explain away the massive and varied body of evidence by saying that everything we know about physics and chemistry and geology is illusory. It is the only way their position makes sense. They have never made any claims that science “can’t explain” a particular natural process. There are things the scientific method cannot deal with, such as the overarching questions of “why”? and morality.

        Scientific nihilism, particulary when it is enforced in law and curriculum, holds a real threat of economic destruction in the 21st Century. Womens studies departments may be annoying in the politically correct way that liberal academia often is, but I see no real parity in threat level between creationists and feminists where science is concerned. To the extent they promote emotivism and irrationalism, womens studies academics deserve the same sort of criticism that creationists get. To the extent they say that modern science has been misused to oppress women or that it has led us into an unsustainable relationship with nature, they have a good case.

    • Alexander Anderson

      Oh no! The Creationists may upset the Economy, that cruel and capricious god. Quick, do away with the heretics, or the Economy will surely rain his firey justice upon us all!

      • kenneth

        Capricious thought it may be, the Economy is also the only way to fund food and shelter for the vast majority of us foolish enough not to be born to A-list celebrities or billionaires. There are only two kinds of countries in the world today. Places where big things are happening, and places where big things USED to happen. Three, I guess, if we consider places where big things never happened. One feature of all the places where things are happening is a workforce with strong scientific and technical skills. That only happens when the government and culture and citizens make real science education a priority. It doesn’t happen in places mired in superstition or where reality takes a back seat to political or religious fiat.

        We are well on the road to becoming a has-been economy. Look at where the new patents are coming from, and where the investment capital is going and where middle and upper middle classes are growing. It’s not here.

        Creationism is not nearly the only source of our ills. We are losing our edge for a variety of reasons: A political and economic culture that rewards rent-seeking and financial shell games over making things and innovation. Grotesque disparities of wealth and resources. Low expectations and laziness of students. A complete lack of any real national strategy for economic growth or technology development.

        Creationists are not the only problem, nor the most prominent, but they’re seeking to celebrate and mandate willful ignorance at every level of education in this country, and we absolutely cannot afford their nonsense now, if we ever could. I don’t think we have to do away with them as heretics, but we should do what we can to ensure that they don’t rise to any serious positions of responsibility for education policy or funding.

    • Dale Price

      “Women’s studies is not science, or not a hard science. It’s history and philosophy and anthropology, primarily.”

      Except that, in the highly-politicized and politically-monochrome world of academia, the WS (and related grievance-studies) departments are the furthest thing from being hermetically-sealed off from the rest of the school. Throw in the fact that women are now upwards of 60 percent of undergraduates, and the “women’s ways of knowing” approach is going to have a lot more influence on the future ruling class than the occasional high school textbook battle.

  • SM

    This reminds me of an incident from my college days a couple years back. Upon coming across a passage in our biology textbook which stated that the life of an individual mammal begins at conception, one of my feminist classmates argued that the author only wrote that because he was a man and therefore he could afford to ignore the importance of reproductive rights.

    So…..yeah.


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