The Science Fundamentalism of King Crocoduck

The Science Fundamentalism of King Crocoduck September 19, 2019

Look out, you po-mo poobahs, King Crocoduck is heading up the Scientific Inquisition!

Medieval instrument of torture Spiked Punishment Collar (iron collar, spanish collar) on wooden background

A popular urban legend in the ’60s claimed that soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army were still holed up in remote Pacific islands, unaware that World War Two had ended decades ago. Similarly, YouTuber King Crocoduck is still fighting the Science Wars of the ’90s, evidently unaware that the combatants have largely found common ground. You can’t blame a smart guy like King C for getting tired of waging one-sided slapfights with creationists and crackpots. However, like all fundies, he’s a little behind the times when it comes to keeping up with contemporary thought.

Make Videos Not War

I’ve discussed King C before, when I answered his question “Is Science a Social Construct?” in the affirmative. I still find it amazing that people like King Croc think there’s something wrong with admitting that the scientific method is a human invention and that scientific inquiry in its entirety is a for-us-by-us construct. Does he want us to think that science sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus or something?

Well, King C is back with another video in his playlist called The Science Wars. Is he any more fair-minded than he was in dealing with these issues in the past? We shall see.

As in his previous video about constructionism, King Croc starts out with a very astute and comprehensive description of what postmodernists believe about truth and discourse:

In 1979, the French post-structural philosopher Jean-François Lyotard published a book called The Postmodern Condition, where he says the following: “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” A metanarrative is a discourse, which is particular to a specific history and culture, but is incorrectly taken by its participants to be universally applicable. Science, and quote-unquote “Western” science in particular, is regarded by postmodernists as one such metanarrative. They take science to be a discourse that is situated within a particular social context, which means that not only are its signifiers artifacts of the cultures that produced it, but the discourse as a whole exists to reinforce and legitimate the unquestioned assumptions of that culture. And in order for science to be universal, it would have to encompass all discourses, requiring science to be the product of the culture and history of every society that has ever existed and ever will. Since science is evidently no such thing, its claims to universality are unfounded, which makes it a metanarrative.

I don’t see that as being anything more than a straightforward explanation of Lyotard’s idea of the metanarrative and how it relates to scientific inquiry. But King Croc seems to think the ideas are so self-evidently absurd that merely stating the position renders it null and void. As with his dismissal of constructionism, he never explains what’s wrong with these ideas. He intends his alarmist tone to make us believe that postmodernists want to get rid of science, but how does he back that up?

Let The Online Shenanigans Begin

What he does is cherry-pick a few excerpts from the writings of the postmodernists that he knows his audience will find incomprehensible or idiotic. King Croc leans heavily on feminist authors, whose works are excerpted to highlight the criticism of the patriarchy that he considers self-refuting. Science fans are notoriously averse to reading philosophy, so the chance that the average science bro could assess a passage taken out of context from contemporary philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s writing—particularly one King Croc only chose for its density and obscurity—and immediately make sense of it is comically slim. His audience is supposed to gather that this is New Age nonsense, and King Croc drives the point home by fixating on the abstruse paragraph as if it is a foundational text of postmodernism.

King C likes to lump postmodernists and social constructionists in with the garden-variety crackpots and creationists he usually debates, assuming that since they all are targets of his immature scorn, their ideas must all be similar at their roots. This is clumsy sleight of hand that definitely won’t make Penn & Teller lose any sleep. Putting pictures of Deepak Chopra in his videos while he discusses postmodernism is simply assuming what he’s supposed to be proving; since King Croc never explains what’s wrong with postmodern approaches to scientific inquiry (except to call them “stupid” and employ loaded terms like “Lysenkoist”), anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills is left wondering why King C thinks Chopra is relevant to the discussion.

The Vendetta Gets Personal

Even more unfair is the way he treats Donna Riley. King Croc makes it seem like Riley is just some gender studies hack whose criticism of the emphasis on rigor in engineering is boilerplate undergrad blather. In fact, Riley is a scientist with impeccable credentials, and one who was program director at the National Science Foundation for two years. He even introduces her as the Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, a position she has held since leaving Virginia Tech’s engineering education program in 2017. So in what universe does a vlogger like King Croc get to characterize Donna Riley as some sort of anti-science nitwit? Anyone more informed about Riley’s work—and inclined to make his claims comport with reality—would be charitable enough to admit that she has spent decades working to situate engineering education in a social context that is more about inclusion than about accurate calculations. She’s asking the question, “How can we get women and minorities to be better represented in the traditionally white male fields of engineering?” Just because King Croc doesn’t consider that a relevant question doesn’t mean that most science educators share his indifference.

Privilege, Not Parsimony

It’s obvious from his sneering references to the “emancipatory political agenda” and “historical guilt-mongering” of the postmodernists that all this has more to do with political ideology than scientific methodology. King C doesn’t object to postmodernists on the same basis as he does the creationists, because there’s no religion involved; what he objects to is their left-wing, feminist critique of science’s objectivity and authority. It’s a matter of privilege for King Croc: he doesn’t present rational defenses of modern science against accusations that it was founded in an era of colonialism and domination; that the universality of science is philosophically problematic; or that science has become the enabler of corporate and military interests. He just doesn’t feel obligated to consider those accusations, that’s all.

Is This Freethought or Fundamentalism?

It’s no accident that his latest video begins with footage of a March for Science speech by activist and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer, saying:

Let us celebrate indigenous science, that promotes the flourishing of both humans and the beings with whom we share the planet. […] Western science is a powerful approach, it is not the only one. Let us march not just for science, but for sciences.

King C once again expects the viewer to see this rhetoric as self-evidently fallacious, without ever explaining what is wrong with it. Kimmerer, a Native American woman with her hair dyed green and wearing artisanal jewelry, talking about “cultures of respect, reciprocity and reverence,” is simply supposed to represent something negative and scary to King C’s science bro audience. It’s not as if he goes out of his way to outline how conventional Western science could address the concerns of activists like Kimmerer or Donna Riley; he implies by his silence that those concerns aren’t worth his attention. Basically, the idea that there is more than one science is simply unconscionable to people like King Croc, because it represents a challenge to their perceived power and authority.

King Croc is applying purity tests to those engaged in scientific inquiry and education and calling for the shunning of heretics who deviate from the letter of the holy law. His brand of scientific Inquisitionism isn’t exactly what you’d expect to appeal to freethinkers, or anyone who sees scientific inquiry as a useful and versatile methodology rather than our sole authority about absolute Truth.

What are your opinions on King Crocoduck’s coverage of the “science wars”?


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  • Milo C

    This seems like an effort to criticize people who are promoting things he ideologically disagrees with, but chooses to spin his attacks as a defense.

    Personally, I don’t think science is a metanarrative unless we’re specifically talking about a field that studies metanarratives, i.e. culture studies. Mathematics and physics still apply no matter what the consensus is. OTOH, there is enough documentation of bad science as a tool of ideology that KC should have no issue with people unmasking it.

    Lastly, I can acknowledge that some people are going to claim their ideas are/have been unjustly attacked in the fervor of a social movement, with or without that actually being true.

  • John Pieret

    anyone who sees scientific inquiry as a useful and versatile methodology rather than our sole authority about absolute Truth

    Ooooh! “absolute Truth™” … I wonder what the definition of that is supposed to be …

    Empiricism broadly and science concretely are, epistemologically, the closest thing to “truth” that humans have. I have been reading Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method and, so far, I generally agree. If someone can come up with different hypotheses or a new methodology that delivers as much “truth” as science as presently conceived does, more power to them. Of course, it is only to be expected that such innovators will be measured against the best “truth” deliverer we presently have.

  • KC

    I notice, Shem, that other people’s comments have been approved, while my rebuttal hasn’t. What gives?

  • Chris Morris

    May I ask what you consider to be the motivation behind your videos? Is it that you’re interested in engaging in the philosophical dialogue of which the various strands of postmodernist arguments are a part or do you feel that science requires defending from views which appear to be placing limits on its epistemological reach?

  • Conspicuously missing from your sneering response is any attention paid to the matters I raised in this post.

    I’m still not sure why the idea that science is a discourse, and that marginalized communities are free to conceptualize, use and teach scientific methods in any way that benefits their communities, is some sort of existential threat to science. You never explain how “conventional” “Western” science is poised to answer the problems your hated foes identify in the exclusion of women and minorities from STEM fields, or the corporate and military use of science that currently threatens the environment and any democratic conception of empirical inquiry. Your claim that critique was not your main focus doesn’t explain why your chief mode of argument against these critics of science’s objectivity is to call them “drivel” and leave it at that.

    When I used to debate 9/11 truthers, I was greatly amused by their presumption of expertise. If I had a dime for every time I was told that the engineers at ASCE or NIST were wrong about steel structural failure, I’d be typing these blogs from a chalet on Orcas Island rather than here in the hood. That’s why I’m tickled to hear you once again knock Donna Riley, a science educator and administrator with impeccable credentials, and expect me to believe that her glaring ineptitude and obvious anti-science perspective—though obvious to anonymous vlogger King Croc—were factors that no review board at Purdue, Virginia Tech, or the National Science Foundation even bothered to address before hiring her for high profile positions in engineering education.

    Handwaving away my accusations that your hatred of postmodern approaches to science derives from your politically-motivated disdain for leftists and feminists is a lot different than refuting them. Your bad faith tactics—the demonization and ridicule of marginalized populations under the camouflage of scientific objectivity—are designed to pander to the ignorance and privilege of the science bros who constitute your audience.

  • wannabe

    A popular urban legend in the ’60s claimed that soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army were still holed up in remote Pacific islands, unaware that World War Two had ended decades ago.

    Actually, the last confirmed Japanese holdout finally surrendered in 1974 (Wikipedia). So not exactly an “urban legend” in the 1960s.

    /pedant

  • Empiricism broadly and science concretely are, epistemologically, the closest thing to “truth” that humans have.

    And without any independent knowledge of “truth” apart from what we understand through the methods we use to study it, how are you able to gauge this proximity?

    Basically, the thrust of this post is that—unlike religious people who expect the rest of us to overlook the downside of religion—we can acknowledge the successes of science while admitting its shortcomings. We should have misgivings about the way the institution of science has been co-opted by the powerful, the way science education has been geared to exclude and discourage women and minorities, and the facile way we lump legitimate criticism of science with crackpottery and denial.

  • islandbrewer
  • Jim Jones

    But has anyone rescued Gilligan – and Mary Ann?

  • wannabe

    IIRC they were rescued more than once but somehow always ended up back on the island.

    They also ran into a Japanese holdout once, again, IIRC.

  • KC

    I’m still not sure why the idea that science is a discourse, and that marginalized communities are free to conceptualize, use and teach scientific methods in any way that benefits their communities, is some sort of existential threat to science.

    Even after being corrected on what the proposition being objected to is, you continue to mischaracterize my position. The quality of your responses compels me to attribute this serial error to incompetence rather than dishonesty, so I will repeat myself this one last time, and then no more: the proposition being objected to is that the social situation of the scientist is inextricable from the content and application of her work; that science is necessarily the product of one’s own socially situated biases.
    If the marginalized communities in question are employing the scientific activity to develop models of the world with predictive and explanatory power, then we have no problem; these communities are effectively members of the scientific enterprise (“Western Science”).
    However, “in any way that benefits their communities” could also entail the application of cargo-cult science in service of political aims that ostensibly benefit marginalized communities. For example, under the catalog of “any way that benefits their communities,” Muslim creationists might be able to make an argument to the following effect:
    1) science is a socially situated discourse that reflects and reinforces the hegemony of dominant power groups
    2) evolutionary theory was created by a member of the British Empire, which oppressed, among other peoples, Muslims
    3) by 1 and 2, evolutionary theory reflects and reinforces the hegemony of those who oppressed Muslims

    After this, our not-so-hypothetical creationist (https://answersingenesis.org/charles-darwin/racism/did-darwin-promote-racism/) can take the next step and insist that Muslims, being a marginalized community that the West alienates from their culture and traditions (including their creation myth via the institutionally mandated teaching of evolution), are “free to conceptualize, use and teach scientific methods in any way that benefits their communities,” which in this context will entail the teaching of Islamic creationism.

    When Donna Riley insists upon the elimination of linearity, superposition, and rigor from engineering curricula on the grounds that they masculinize and whitewash the discipline, her argument is effectively of the same form as above:

    1) engineering is a socially situated discourse that reflects and reinforces the hegemony of dominant power groups
    2) linearity and superposition were created by members of the dominant gender and racial group, which oppressed, among other peoples, women and people of color
    3) by 1 and 2, linearity and superposition reflect and reinforce the hegemony of those who oppressed women and minorities

    Incidentally, where Riley is concerned, I was amused to see your inner coward come out after I’d pointed out a very specific, pragmatic example of how altering engineering curricula in the manner that she advocates would be injurious to the discipline of engineering. Instead of addressing my claim that civil engineers unequipped with the principle of superposition would not be able to accurately calculate the profiles of seismic waves and that this would have detrimental consequences to the buildings they’d construct, your inner coward comes out and you decide to offer an argument from authority. In case you didn’t catch it the first time, here is my reply to “I’m tickled to hear you once again knock Donna Riley, a science educator and administrator with impeccable credentials, and expect me to believe that her glaring ineptitude and obvious anti-science perspective—though obvious to anonymous vlogger King Croc—were factors that no review board at Purdue, Virginia Tech, or the National Science Foundation even bothered to address before hiring her for high profile positions in engineering education.”

    I assess the contents of her belief system rather than her credentials. It wouldn’t matter if Stephen Hawking himself came back from the dead and made such claims- he would still be open to the criticism and ridicule that such drivel invites. The question of how to turn more women and minorities into competent engineers is not answered by “remove linearity, superposition, and rigor from the curriculum.” It is her inability/unwillingness to recognize this, and not her desire to bring more women and minorities into STEM, that invites contempt.

    If you think that I’m wrong about the consequences of removing linearity and superposition from engineering curricula, please do better than to offer circumstantial ad hominems concerning my anonymity and vlogging, or arguments from authority concerning Riley’s CV. If you’re going to engage in the business of bolstering your position with arguments to the effect of “muh experts,” then I will respond in kind by simply marshaling the vast body of literature that employs linearity and superposition in service of engineering, and retort that Riley’s expertise on the matter is outweighed by the broader engineering community’s expertise on the matter.
    I reserve the right to be as sneering and condescending to this caliber of argument as humanly possible, and you may rest assured that I will continue to exercise that right if you give me occasion to do so.

  • KC

    The limits of science’s epistemological reach are, by my naturalistic estimation, synonymous with the limits of its methodologies. The philosophical questions which most interest me are those concerning the best means of expanding those limits, which anti-naturalists (including postmodernists) actively attempt to hinder. Conflict between us is thus inevitable.

  • John Pieret

    without any independent knowledge of “truth” apart from what we understand through the methods we use to study it, how are you able to gauge this proximity

    By what works and what doesn’t. Science delivers useful knowledge of the facts of the world more frequently and more completely than other methodologies people use … religion, prayer, dowsing, magic, late night bar-generated “theories” and the like. Would you care to nominate any other human methodology that comes closer than science to delivering the most facts?

    I have read a fair amount of the philosophy of science and I don’t remember one author that didn’t “admit” to the shortcomings of science (usually by way of explanation why everyone should follow the author’s prescriptions). As to claims that the institution of science has been co-opted, science education excludes and discourages women and minorities, and the facile way legitimate criticism of science is lumped in with crackpottery and denial, certainly that is true to some extent but none of those bear, logically or empirically, on whether the results of science are “true.” At worst, it shows that the scientific community is no better than society at large.

  • Chris Morris

    “Anti-naturalists” is rather an interesting concept which I would need to have you define, or at least tell me who you throw in that box. In what way do you consider that these people are “actively attempting to hinder” expanding the limits of scientific methodologies? Like you, I’m also interested in the philosophy of science and I see a lot of people questioning how sciences work, where they’re most effectively used and so on. Is there any evidence that these debates are entirely harmful to the work that scientists are doing every day? Do you differentiate conspiracy theorists like climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers from serious philosophers interested in understanding why scientific methodologies have been so successful in many areas and what this can tell us about the human experience of reality?

    “Conflict between us is thus inevitable.” Well, this seems a rather unfortunate attitude to me – if you start from that point of view then it seems to me you will find conflict instead of understanding.

  • By what works and what doesn’t. Science delivers useful knowledge of the facts of the world

    I’m just trying to get you to see the circularity here: science works, because we call what works science; we call what science produces facts, so obviously science is our best source for producing facts. We need to admit that science is a for-us-by-us construct, and like all human constructs there’s a lot of self-validation work involved in its activity.

    And once again, I’m not trying to say anything goes as far as pseudoscience. I’ve never, not once, entertained crackpottery or conspiracism on this board. Species evolve, vaccines work, planet’s getting hotter, period. It’s just that science is a lot more about processes of justification and power dynamics in the industry and our society than we acknowledge when we rhapsodize about “following the evidence wherever it leads.” That’s another circular argument, because we’re the ones who define what constitutes evidence and what it means in the first place.

    As to claims that the institution of science has been co-opted, science education excludes and discourages women and minorities, and the facile way legitimate criticism of science is lumped in with crackpottery and denial, certainly that is true to some extent but none of those bear, logically or empirically, on whether the results of science are “true.”

    They don’t? It seems to me those should be warning signs that science isn’t the totally-objective and self-correcting methodology that its cheerleaders make it out to be. Maybe the way science functions has a lot more to do with power and authority (and reflects and reinforces the inequities based in those power relations) than our idealized notion of empirical inquiry allows.

    Furthermore, what’s “true” is only one aspect of the way we assess the validity of facts and claims in our society. We forget at our peril that the guy that pushed the preposterous and racist conspiracy theory about the cover-up of Obama’s African provenance is now in the White House. All our fact-checking and debunking didn’t seem to matter. Anyone who still believes that the whole birther brouhaha was about paperwork is has no business calling anyone else delusional.

  • It turns out that Gilligan’s Island is actually Gaunilo’s Most Perfect Island, which is all islands at once but more.

  • If you like Feyerabend, give Lakatos a gander. He’s the guy that, most of the time, Feyerabend is responding to, explicitly or implicitly.

  • Definitional circularity is much less vicious when the loop includes empirical observations, because that represents a manner by which the loop can change and break. That science holds up under human experience to empirical scrutiny does place it on something of a pedestal compared to circular structures that have no external moorings. Even Feyerabend, who was skeptical of all claims to coherent scientific methodology, believed that.

  • John Pieret

    Yeah, I intend to. ScribD has the version where Lakatos’ lectures on the scientific method are included, since he died before he could do the intended reply to Feyerabend.

  • John Pieret

    I’m just trying to get you to see the circularity here: science works, because we call what works science; we call what science produces facts, so obviously science is our best source for producing facts.

    “We call what works science” … and, doh!, it works! It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t true … unless you are going for a complete negation of empiricism … in which case, why talk about science at all? We call what works “facts” precisely because they are the basis of our successfully manipulating the material world. Of course, it is not as simple as that but you have failed to show that those broad outlines of what empiricism and science do, despite any problems within the scientific community, do not, in fact, deliver the closest thing to “truth” that humans have.

    They don’t? It seems to me those should be warning signs that science isn’t the totally-objective and self-correcting methodology that its cheerleaders make it out to be.

    I can’t be responsible for every opinion of everyone with access to the internet (including you). Again, based on my reading of the philosophy of science, going back as far as Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, I have never encountered one author that asserted that science is totally objective. And science is, broadly, self-correcting, as shown by the history of science, whether measured by Feyerabend’s, Popper’s, Quine’s, Kuhn’s or anyone else’s metric.

    It seems to me those [faults in the scientific community] should be warning signs that science isn’t the totally-objective and self-correcting methodology

    Why? That’s a serious question. Presumably, you believe (as do I) that women and minorities can do science just as well as white males. Where is the evidence that white males can’t do science as well as women and minorities? If there is no such evidence, what reason is there to suspect that the science that was done wasn’t “factual.” It is a valid point to say that getting women and minorities into science would offer new perspectives on particular questions and methodologies but it does not, again, bear logically or empirically, on whether the science that has been done is “true” or not.

    what’s “true” is only one aspect of the way we assess the validity of facts and claims in our society

    Wait! You’re blaming science because a large portion of America has deliberately decided to ignore science in pursuit of political goals? Ever hear the phrase “blaming the victim?”

  • Milo C

    In consideration of KC’s clarifications to his position, it appears to me that you, Shem, are failing to acknowledge his logical answer.

    Obviously, it is not objectionable to acknowledge (for simplicity, what I term bias) in scientific endeavor. The second question was moot, and I hope rhetorical. The point of the scientific method is to reduce and remove these biases, but you seem to be championing them instead.

    If KC feels that respected scientists are being rewarded for their minority status over their scientific contributions, he’s right in calling it out. The same holds true if those scientists are clinging to biases that they choose to incorporate into their research, rather than remove.

    But if he feels that they cannot contribute because they conduct their research with biases they fail to remove (even celebrating them), he’s committing a fallacy of purity; just because something is imperfect doesn’t make it useless.

  • ghoulgoblin

    You know you could just admit you hate women and minorities and want to make money off pandering to bigots and that’s what motivates what you do.
    Although the fact you spend so much time sneering out your responses here suggests narcissism is also a motivating factor.

  • KC

    Yeah, in the same way that I can just admit that I hate God and that’s what motivates me to be an atheist. Bravo. Incidentally, do you know how much money I make off of YouTube? My ad revenue gives me approximately 10 dollars per video (and even less for videos concerning the Science Wars, which receive fewer views than my average video), and my Patreon makes around 200 bucks per video. I don’t discuss these matters for profit, I do it as a public service.

  • KC

    What exactly is so objectionable about acknowledging the psychological and sociological aspects of scientific endeavor? Why should we believe science is any less affected by personal and social biases than any other human endeavor?

    I acknowledge the existence of that subset of psychological and sociological biases that can hinder scientific judgement, that does NOT include biases that issue from a scientist’s membership in a particular demographic. For example, I acknowledge that the “publish or perish” culture of the academy offers perverse incentives for careerism bolstered by statistical chicanery like p-hacking; I acknowledge that the importance of h-indices to tenure committees offers the perverse incentive to increase one’s own citation count by publishing highly controversial, weakly supported hypotheses, and using the resulting dissent to pad one’s own academic record; I acknowledge the roles of things like confirmation bias, the primacy effect, and the availability bias, and the importance of mitigating them with things like large randomized samples, double blinds, and controls. Indeed, the existence of these last three things, and many others (meta-analysis, 2 by 2 designs, and even peer review itself) are a response to psychosocial biases.

    The fundamental difference between these types of psychosocial pathologies and the sorts of claims made by Kimmerer and Riley is that the former is supported by a robust body of empirical research, and the latter is supported by a body of speculative humanities philosophizing. Claims to the effect of “scientists will construct and support theories that align with the biases that support their group demographic” are empirical claims and must be demonstrated, not merely speculated.

    Thank you for the multiple times you referred to my inner coward in your response. It just goes to demonstrate the maturity and rationality you bring to these discussions.

    You’re welcome. Perhaps someday you’ll muster the courage and rationality to explain why you think my critique of Riley’s insistence that we remove rigor, linearity, and superposition from engineering curricula is incorrect. In the broader conversation concerning political bias in science, perhaps your willingness to overlook this kind of antiscience might be a topic for further discussion.

    …your loathing for people like Donna Riley and Robin Kimmerer just strikes me as incredibly disproportionate to any threat they pose in our society or the institution of science. This isn’t about shoddy research or anything, you’re accusing these people of having a dangerously “anti-science” epistemology.

    My loathing issues from my expectations concerning the function of the academy, which was the production of knowledge. I’ve since readjusted my expectations, upon encountering the sophistry of standpoint epistemology and pomo criticisms of science, to entail only the scientific enterprise. Regarding climate change, I’ve already preemptively addressed this critique in the Introduction video of the Science Wars series, and in addition to standing by what I said there, I’ll add that plenty of qualified individuals (chiefly among them potholer54, who boasts a much wider audience than mine) are already doing an admirable job of leading the charge in educating the public about climate change and the plurality of solutions at our disposal. To my knowledge however, no other science channel on YouTube is covering this particular brand of antiscience, and so I ended up filling this niche. The fact that you find it politically inconvenient that I dare to bring these issues to light and be critical of your political allies, is not sufficient justification for me to terminate the series.

  • It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t true

    That depends. Even geocentrism accurately predicted the vast majority of astronomical observations; planetary motion was weird and anomalous, but there’s always more to figure out. Science works, except when it doesn’t.

    Presumably, you believe (as do I) that women and minorities can do science just as well as white males. Where is the evidence that white males can’t do science as well as women and minorities? If there is no such evidence, what reason is there to suspect that the science that was done wasn’t “factual.” It is a valid point to say that getting women and minorities into science would offer new perspectives on particular questions and methodologies but it does not, again, bear logically or empirically, on whether the science that has been done is “true” or not.

    That just shows what a hyper-idealized view of science you have. To me, gender and racial imbalances in researchers, and the way science is in hock to corporate and military interests, are valid reasons to suspect that what we understand through empirical inquiry may be so sodden with biases that a more inclusive and independent research community is necessary. Your assumption that these factors don’t in any way compromise the efficacy or objectivity of science verges on irrational.

    Wait! You’re blaming science because blah blah blah

    The point I was making is that whether something is true or not isn’t the only important thing we can ask about facts, claims and information in public discourse. Your immature grandstanding makes me suspect you deliberately ignored the point, and this rhetorical tactic of yours is getting a little annoying. I didn’t treat you with any disrespect, so try to meet me halfway here, okay?

  • John Pieret

    geocentrism accurately predicted the vast majority of astronomical observations; planetary motion was weird and anomalous, but there’s always more to figure out. Science works, except when it doesn’t.

    Show me where science didn’t work. A hypothesis was presented (geocentrism) that produced results good enough for the level of observation at the time. Tycho Brahe produced better observations and within a short period of time after Copernicus and Kepler, the scientific community, despite the opposition of the very powerful Catholic Church, accepted heliocenterism. No one, except you maintains that science is never wrong. The very notion of “the scientific method” (at least the simplified one we teach kids) is to provide a method for correcting error, either in the the peer-review process (yes, I know it doesn’t always live up to that ideal) or in subsequent work (hopefully) spurred by

  • KC

    “Conflict between us is thus inevitable.” Well, this seems a rather unfortunate attitude to me – if you start from that point of view then it seems to me you will find conflict instead of understanding.

    I see no contradiction between coming into a contest of ideas, and understanding what those ideas are and where they come from. Conflict is inherent to any dialectic, and I accept it.

    Regarding naturalism v antinaturalism: I understand the former to be a commitment to theories of knowledge & being that are constrained by the methodologies which inform our best empirical theories. This is somewhat general, so I’ll take a moment to expound upon what I mean.

    Our best empirical theories are informed by a plurality of methodologies, and the resulting webs of knowledge may be assessed by their predictive capabilities (how well they predict data within the regimes that bound the theory), their explanatory efficiency (the ratio of explanans to explananda), and their flexibility (their ability to be revised to admit counterfactual data, balanced against some set of criteria that would warrant falsification/revision/crisis.) By these criteria, our best empirical theories include the catalog of most natural science theories, many “positivist” social science theories, and almost no “anti-positivist” theories. To be clear, “natural vs anti-natural” is not a partition between quantitative vs qualitative methodologies: there are good qualitative methodologies (ie focus group analysis in marketing) because they produce theories that meet the aforementioned criteria, and there are bad quantitative methodologies (ie p-hacking in medicine) that do the opposite. Fundamentally, what distinguishes naturalism from anti-naturalism is that the former is committed to the development of theories with predictive capabilities, explanatory efficiency, and optimal flexibility, while the latter is not.

    As I mentioned, I’m interested in the development of methodologies that we can add to the catalog of “science,” thus expanding our ability to create good empirical theories. Anti-naturalists, which include postmodernists by virtue of their commitment to bad methodologies (including deconstructive textual critique, interpretivism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis), compromise this mission by attempting to undermine, on poorly considered grounds, the enterprise which produces those methodologies in the first place. Their assessment of the quality of scientific theories does not rest upon the criteria that I’ve outlined, but upon the extent to which those theories appear to the postmodern critic to rest upon and/or reinforce unjust power relations. A bad scientific theory, by the postmodernists’ conception, is one which preserves those power relations, regardless of how accurately and efficiently it predicts data. A good scientific theory, by contrast, is one which transgresses those power relations, regardless of how inaccurate or resistant to falsification that theory is. This point of view is anathema to the naturalistic program, which is why I say that those who hold it actively attempt to hinder the expansion of scientific methodologies. Because while superficially, it may appear that the admission of textual criticism and phenomenology into the scientific program would expand the methodologies of science by virtue of increasing the number of methodologies considered “scientific,” in reality, it will have the effect of degrading scientific practice by admitting methodologies which produce theories that don’t meet the aforementioned criteria, while barring the admission of those methodologies which produce theories that do meet them.

    As you might have gathered from my reply, I value the philosophy of science, but I am not anarchistic with respect to what I’m prepared to admit as “good philosophy.” Good philosophy generally, and good philosophy of science in particular, rests atop good science. Or as physicist and philosopher Sean Carroll famously put it, “our metaphysics must follow our physics.” Similarly, good science is guided by good philosophy. Any question that is asked by the philosopher is a good question if it may be investigated by the scientist; any investigation undertaken by the scientist is a good investigation if the attendant concepts may be revised by the philosopher. Neither discipline comes prior to the other; they are both part of the same more general, more fundamental program of knowledge production.

  • Hi KC

    Hi, im wondering where this phrasing originates from: “our best empirical theories”…, is it Sellars?

  • Show me where science didn’t work.

    It’s like I’ve been saying all along here: when it works, we call it science. When it doesn’t, we don’t. There’s nothing supernatural or mystical about cold fusion, for instance, but since it doesn’t seem to work we don’t consider it science.

    You are arguing with the voices in your head, not me. The position I have taken is that, yes, the science community would be improved by including more women and minorities but that you are making a different claim … that the present relative absence of women and minorities means that the science being done now is wrong.

    Once again, if you’d just read what I’m saying, you’d realize that my position is that the exclusion of women and minorities, and the way science is beholden to corporate and military interests, are indicators that scientific inquiry is not as objective and bias-free as we want to think it is. I’m not saying that this means everything we think we know is wrong or that scientific endeavor is futile and self-defeating. I’m saying that truisms like science works have become mantras that relieve us of the responsibility for looking deeper into the way we’ve conceptualized empirical inquiry. We’ve decided that pointing to the many successes of science completely excuses us from acknowledging the extent to which science has become a legitimating institution whose function is as much to validate the social order as to produce reliable knowledge about natural phenomena.

    it seems to me that whether something is true is kinda the threshold issue in any debate over the truth content of any alleged fact.

    Sure. And what I’ve been saying here in plain enough English is that the truth content of a fact isn’t the only important aspect of how information works in our society. As I keep asking, do you still think that the facts about Obama’s birthplace constituted the be-all and end-all of the birther conspiracy? Did fact-checking and debunking do anything whatsoever to keep the conspiracy theory’s principal proponent from the White House?

    I’m just trying to point out that there are many times in our social discourse when it seems like whether a claim is true isn’t the most relevant question we can ask about it.

  • Deconverted Man

    Donna Riley, whoever that is, might be a scientist in her day job, and then leave that aside during her exploits as a feminist/post modern woo writer/maker.
    This is akin to when apologists say they have scientists who are creationist. Although to be fair the scientists creationist have typically have failed careers. So hey, you got that going for her. but it doesn’t make other things she says immune from critical questions. Seems like you got your post modern knickers in a bind there author.

  • I acknowledge the existence of that subset of psychological and sociological biases that can hinder scientific judgement, that does NOT include biases that issue from a scientist’s membership in a particular demographic.

    It seems to me that people like Riley are saying that since science is the invention of societies and industries historically dominated by white males, that dominance has become embedded in the ways we’ve come to conceptualize scientific inquiry and describe the phenomena under study. As with a lot of cultural phenomena, we’re conditioned to think that the way scientific inquiry is defined, conducted, funded, and utilized in our society is the only conceivable way to do so.

    Perhaps someday you’ll muster the courage and rationality to explain why you think my critique of Riley’s insistence that we remove rigor, linearity, and superposition from engineering curricula is incorrect.

    Well, I have to admit that your bashing of Riley on the grounds that she’s anti-superposition seems like yet another instance of your Chicken Little alarmism. Has Riley written any dissertations against superposition, or are you really defining her position by a few words in a bullet point buried in a helpful-hints-handout for young researchers entering the curriculum? The rest of the sentence, that is, the whole being simply the sum of its parts, makes it sound like it’s an awkwardly worded warning against knee-jerk reductionism, not a comprehensive condemnation of an important engineering principle.

    You’re not just putting words in Riley’s mouth, you’re putting entire manifestos in there.

    The fact that you find it politically inconvenient that I dare to bring these issues to light and be critical of your political allies

    As I said before, I question the level of daring involved in conducting this vendetta against feminists and indigenous activists. The reason I wrote this article is that the entire enterprise seems motivated not by facts & evidence but rather by your outrage at the idea that science and its influential custodians should have to answer to the concerns of women, nonwhites, or anyone with concerns about science’s appropriation by corporate and military interests.

  • Let’s see, either I could believe that King Croc is exaggerating the existential threat posed to science by a credentialed and accomplished science educator, or I could believe that he has uncovered a sinister conspiracy to destroy science from within by evil feminists.

    Which one sounds more plausible? Hmm. This is a tough one.

  • Chris Morris

    Thank you, KC, for this comprehensive response.

    I see nothing in your definition of good empirical theories, as far as it goes, that I would disagree with but, naturally, as a confirmed empiricist you will agree that how this definition is manifested in the real world is important so, for example, you would need to list a few of those ‘positivist’ social science theories that you regard as included in our best empirical work in order for your view to be clear (“…and almost no ‘anti-positivist’ theories” is intriguing – which ‘anti-positivist’ theories would you cite as properly empirical?)

    “Fundamentally, what distinguishes naturalism from anti-naturalism is that the former is committed to the development of theories with predictive capabilities, explanatory efficiency, and optimal flexibility, while the latter is not.” As you’ve presented this sentence in bold type my intuition suggests that this is a very important point for you so I need to examine this closely. The interesting word, for me, here is “committed”, suggesting that you recognise the motivation of the scientists undertaking these various projects as an essential element in the process of bringing this knowledge to light and, presumably, that there is some empirically-verifiable means of distinguishing such commitment.

    “Anti-naturalists, which include postmodernists by virtue of their commitment to bad methodologies…, compromise this mission by attempting to undermine, on poorly considered grounds, the enterprise which produces those methodologies in the first place.” Well, this seems to be quite a strong assertion and, as we atheists are always telling the Christian apologists, such an assertion needs equally strong evidence to support it so I would be interested in seeing some of this evidence. I have to admit “compromise this mission” is a phrase I can only hear in the voice of HAL9000 in 2001 when the humans got in the way of the protocol!

    A considerable part of the problem I see with the view you’ve expounded here is what seems to be a rather unempirical understanding of what postmodernism is or who postmoderns are. I’m sure you will have read some of what are regarded by university philosophy departments to be its ‘foundational texts’ but ‘postmodern’, like ‘science’, ‘music’, ‘democracy’, ‘religion’ or ‘atheism’ can mean many things to different people in different contexts. It seems to me that a too rigid or precise definition of any of these words tends to obstruct creativity, impeding any hope of further development while, of course, an overly broad definition becomes pointless so that there really needs to be some acceptance ‘within reason’ of what we’re talking about. My point, in my earlier comment, about starting from a position of conflict is that, as you say, where ideas come from is an important part of understanding those ideas so choosing a label and attaching it to ideas in either an unreasonably precise or vague extreme to tends to produce the type of entrenched conflict that may be very entertaining in internet debating but has very little benefit to the wider world.

    I certainly agree that philosophy and science, using both words in the broadest of reasonable senses, are equal partners in our gaining knowledge; as I’ve said elsewhere, my philosophical ramblings will be unlikely to provide any benefit if they don’t take in to account the findings of empirical research so I’m fairly ‘consequentialist’ on this: generally if people are applying faulty methodology and thereby producing bad results those results will, in the same way, be unlikely to provide any recognisable benefit. What I’m suggesting, I think, is that you’re actually over-emphasising the role metaphysics has in directly dictating the production of some areas of knowledge despite your agreement with Carroll’s “metaphysics must follow our physics”. In my experience most physicists spend very little time worrying about the metaphysical foundations of their work – the results tell them whether they’re doing it correctly. On the other hand, social scientists need to spend considerably more time thinking about the metaphysical foundations of their work because it is empirically clear that social phenomena are meaningful in a way that purely physical phenomena are not. Many, of course, do exactly this and formulate views which lead to hugely beneficial understandings of how humans operate socially.

  • The point of the scientific method is to reduce and remove these biases, but you seem to be championing them instead.

    I’m not sure what biases you’re talking about.

    The activists King C excoriates in this video are making the case that science encodes and perpetuates a lot of biases because it developed in a civilization obsessed with domination and, like all legitimating institutions, serves to validate and reinforce the power dynamics of the society in which it operates. I don’t consider this an outrageous proposition, or one that endangers the scientific program in any way. It’s merely asking us to acknowledge the extent to which what we consider true in scientific terms is because of hard evidence and how much is a function of socially conditioned expectations.

    Does this mean science is wrong about the atomic weight of barium? Probably not. But it means that we should be careful when we get into areas like genetics, disease and deviance not to assume that cultural conditioning has no influence whatsoever on the way we produce, arrange and interpret the data.

  • ghoulgoblin

    I included “narcissism” as a motivating factor for you, remember. And it doesn’t really matter whether you believe your lies or know you’re full of shit, you’re being dishonest either way.

    As for what you provide, I’m sure Jerry Falwell Jr. would also claim he’s just doing a “public service.” And he has the same views on women and minorities as you do.
    Just because your bigotry is secular doesn’t make it any less hateful and wrong. It’s why you’re forced to constantly act in bad faith and can’t support your claims.

  • Chris Morris

    My response to this is currently labelled “detected as spam”.

  • You’ll have to be patient. The Patheos spam filter is a hungry old beast, and I’m trying to keep up with it. I upvoted your post even before it got flagged. Apologies for the inconvenience.

  • KC

    Can’t support my claims? These videos contain extensive bibliographies citing to peer reviewed studies authored by academics at some of the top universities in the world. You didn’t even watch any of my videos, did you? What business do you have attributing bad faith and sinister motives to other people when your only means of assessing the quality of their work is via a secondhand account? Maybe it’s time for you to face the mirror and confront your intellectual laziness.

  • ghoulgoblin

    “These videos contain extensive bibliographies citing to peer reviewed
    studies authored by academics at some of the top universities in the
    world.”
    And those academics agree with your interpretations of their work? Because your claims are unsupported by any evidence and there’s no amount of “citing” that will change that.
    And don’t try to play innocent when it’s really fucking obvious you’re not acting in good faith and are ignorant about most of what you’re talking about.
    Your comments on “postmodernism” alone disqualify you as having any sort of knowledge on the subject.
    You’re not special, your type’s been dissected time and again. It’s obvious to everyone outside your bubble that you’re just trying to rationalize your own bigotry using “science.”

    https://theoutline.com/post/3810/lawrence-krauss-allegations-skeptics-inequality-science?zd=1&zi=rllp25r3

    https://theoutline.com/post/7083/the-magical-thinking-of-guys-who-love-logic?zd=1&zi=2oxzmq6k

  • KC

    It seems to me that people like Riley are saying that since science is the invention of societies and industries historically dominated by white males, that dominance has become embedded in the ways we’ve come to conceptualize scientific inquiry and describe the phenomena under study.

    That is an empirical claim and thus needs to be demonstrated, not merely waxed on about philosophically. The Science Wars can be summarized as critical theorists and poststructuralists attempting to interpret and deconstruct scientific texts whose histories and contents they had no understanding of, waxing poetically about how this or that concept was the result of straight white male capitalists, and then having scientists and mathematicians come along and point out their incredible incompetence with respect to the subjects they were waxing on about. If you want to convince scientists that “[straight capitalist white male] dominance has become embedded in the ways we’ve come to conceptualize scientific inquiry and describe the phenomena under study,” you have to demonstrate it empirically. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

    As with a lot of cultural phenomena, we’re conditioned to think that the way scientific inquiry is defined, conducted, funded, and utilized in our society is the only conceivable way to do so.

    Again, if someone wishes to present an alternative, they have to demonstrate it to have predictive and explanatory capabilities, and not merely wax on about its supposed emancipatory potential.

    Regarding Riley, here is the quote from her textbook:

    “Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall… forgo the notion of linearity and its attendant principle of superposition, that is, the whole simply being the sum of its parts” (emphasis mine)

    This passage was situated within a chapter that insisted that the linear Newtonian framework, having been developed by scientists in an increasingly irrelevant culture of straight white male supremacy, needs to be abandoned in order to address those matters that are of greater concern to women, like turbulent flow. “Linearity” is a mathematical term that, simplified, refers to any set of functions that meet the following two conditions:
    1) they produce a valid result when multiplied by a constant term.
    2) addition by other such functions produces another valid function.
    The first of these two conditions is called “homogeneity.” The second is called “additivity.” And the conjunction of homogeneity and additivity is called “superposition.” Thus when this professional engineer advocates for the abandonment of “the notion of linearity and its attendant principle of superposition,” this is not some clumsy statement on the metaphysical shortcomings of reductionism. This is the announcement of a very clear and specific intention to remove certain mathematical principles from engineering practice on purely ideological grounds.

    The reason I wrote this article is that the entire enterprise seems motivated not by facts & evidence but rather by your outrage at the idea that science and its influential custodians should have to answer to the concerns of women, nonwhites, or anyone with concerns about science’s appropriation by corporate and military interests.

    The scientific enterprise already DOES answer to these concerns. It isn’t just white men who have benefited from longer lifespans, fewer diseases, fewer famines, global telecommunication technology, and modern transportation. It is almost exclusively women who benefit from the advances in medicine that turn breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and childbirth into things that they can recover from; globally, it is almost exclusively people of color who benefit from advances in medicine that make HIV and sickle-cell anemia treatable. I could post dozens of such examples, but the point is made.

  • Chris Morris

    No problem. I did briefly suspect the computer was punishing me for being disrespectful to HAL… 😀 Thanks.

  • KC

    With regard to my understanding of “postmodernism,” the video that Shem is critiquing lays out a general exposition of the type of semiotic analysis that leads to poststructuralism/deconstruction. One begins by recognizing that signifiers are situated within culturally and historically contingent discourses and acquire their meanings from all of the other signifiers in a particular discourse, and from there, it is trivial to arrive at concepts like “the infinite deferral of meaning” and “differance.” If one then applies the linguistic equivalent of bundle theory, and recognizes that no signifier can exist in the absence of other signifiers, then one can be led to believe that nothing which comes into contact with our senses may exist independently of the web of meaning that situates and contextualizes all such signifiers. Thus everything that can be said to exist does so within the totality of all discourses, and language is fundamentally what shapes our reality. With this linguistic ontology in hand, we can move to the conceptually more advanced concepts of “hyperreality,” “metanarrative,” and “phallogocentrism,” which all describe certain qualities of discourses.

    When I refer to “postmodernism,” I am referring specifically to the philosophical program situated within the sort of linguistic idealism that I’ve outlined above. Of course, just because Derrida, Lyotard, and Baudrillard arrived at their program via this kind of semiotic analysis, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault, and all the others did as well. I’m aware that there are multiple paths to this kind of ontology, so I would summarize postmodernist philosophy in the following manner:

    1) a commitment to an ontological idealism that pays particular attention to the role of language in shaping being
    2) an attendant commitment to a radical anti-essentialism

    As far as I can tell, all of the above thinkers, as well as others broadly considered to be members of the postmodern canon (Irigaray, Flax, Kristeva, etc) meet these two criteria, and no one who isn’t considered a postmodern philosopher meets those criteria. Ironically, I seem to have found a way to essentialize that school of thought which emphatically resists essentialism.

    The specific subset of postmodern critiques that I focus on are those which concern science, either by critiquing the scientific enterprise directly, or by abusing scientific terminology in service of some pet social theory. It is instructive to divide postmodern critics of science into two camps: poststructural critics, as exemplified by the likes of Bruno Latour, and postcolonial critics, as exemplified by the likes of Robin Kimmerer. The former critique science in more general philosophical terms, treating scientific practice as a fundamentally sociological phenomenon, no different from the meaning-making of indigenous mythologies of folk theory. The latter critique science in terms of the historical situation of scientific ideas, specifically in terms of the group demographics involved in meaning-making, and how the resulting theories reflect the power and privilege of those demographics.

    That is a very broad outline of my understanding of postmodern critiques of science, which I have condensed to avoid unnecessary tedium. My evidence of their attempts at undermining scientific practice is offered in the video that Shem has responded to, and constitute a significant portion of the items being responded to by members of my side of the argument during the first Science Wars. The lack of commitment in developing theories which meet the operational criteria that I’ve outlined is evidenced by their willingness to accept theories that do not meet those criteria, and by their unwillingness to accept the subset of “oppressive” theories that do meet those criteria. Evidence of the latter includes their willingness to dispense with the biological sex binary in humans, predictions associated with measures of intelligence, and pretty much anything that comes out of evolutionary psychology, no matter how well supported. Evidence of the former includes their acceptance of poorly supported theories explaining the mechanisms that perpetuate inequality in professional and academic life, including implicit racial bias and stereotype threat.

    Finally, regarding the social sciences and the findings that I’d consider to be scientific: on the “positivist” front, I’d cite prospect theory as a paradigmatic example, and on the “anti-positivist” front, I’d cite successful Coolhunting theories with respect to market trends as a rare example.

  • KC

    Of course the people I’m citing don’t agree with my appraisal of their work, since I’m critiquing it. This is a bizarre argument, since I could just as easily point to the scientific community’s response to their work and say that because the scientists who they’re critiquing disagree, the constructivists are wrong. Of course they disagree with the scientists they’re critiquing! That’s why they’re critiquing them! And of course I’m in disagreement with these critiques, since I’m critiquing them! Don’t you get how this works?

    And don’t try to play innocent when it’s really fucking obvious you’re not acting in good faith and are ignorant about most of what you’re talking about.
    Your comments on “postmodernism” alone disqualify you as having any sort of knowledge on the subject.

    It’s interesting that you say that, since Shem himself describes my exposition about postmodernism, in this article, as “a very astute and comprehensive description of what postmodernists believe about truth and discourse.”

    Do you disagree with Shem’s appraisal here? If so, why? What exactly and specifically do you think I misrepresented? What claims did I make without offering evidence in support of it? Could it be the case that instead of watching my video, you decided to assume that you already know the kind of content it contains and the sinister motivation for its development? Because if so, I’ll invite you to take a good long look in the mirror and to ask yourself whether you’re content with this kind of intellectual laziness. If your position is so strong, why do you need to engage in such dishonesty to defend it? Have you ever considered that?

  • It seems to me that people like Riley are saying that since science is the invention of societies and industries historically dominated by white males, that dominance has become embedded in the ways we’ve come to conceptualize scientific inquiry and describe the phenomena under study.

    That is an empirical claim and thus needs to be demonstrated, not merely waxed on about philosophically.

    Um, no, it’s a philosophical matter. There’s no scientific way we can answer the question of whether scientific inquiry is a metanarrative. It seems incumbent on someone who claims that science—or any human endeavor—operates independently of cultural or personal biases to demonstrate how that can conceivably be true.

    Regarding Riley, here is the quote from her textbook:

    You do realize that it’s not a “textbook,” right? You even cite it in your video as Engineering and Social Justice, a collection of essays by educators who are deliberately trying to situate engineering education in the context of social justice. In that framework, it makes sense to define engineering as being about more than just calculations. You’re being deliberately deceptive in making it sound like Riley wants to “get rid of superposition,” when the quote you’re mining only makes sense in terms of the program being put forward by the authors. Riley is talking about expanding engineering students’ cognitive horizons by expecting them to think of their activity as “seeing through the lens” of a particular set of ideas about the world, knowing this to be only one of many that may be applied, all of which are valid.

    This is why I accuse you of science fundamentalism, because you’re the secular version of the religious nuts who assert that there’s only one valid way to define reality. Unless we’re ready to relinquish the concept of freethought, we have to entertain a lot of dissenting opinions on the scientific consensus. This doesn’t mean the sky’s the limit on pseudoscience and numbnuttery, just that we have to come up with ways to separate the wheat from the chaff that don’t just summarily exclude the ideas of people whose opinions don’t completely jibe with our own.

  • KC

    Um, no, it’s a philosophical matter. There’s no scientific way we can answer the question of whether scientific inquiry is a metanarrative. It seems incumbent on someone who claims that science—or any human endeavor—operates independently of cultural or personal biases to demonstrate how that can conceivably be true.

    And here you reveal yourself as a presuppositional apologist for radical constructivism. You take it as an axiom that the scientific enterprise reflects the socially specific values of the demographic which practices it, and assume that this postulate should be as self-evident to everyone else as it is to you. At least you have finally admitted that you have no evidence to support the claim that the scientific activity is a straight white male way of thinking. My evidence that it isn’t is that its models successfully predict future data with efficient, optimally flexible models. And before you start pointing to the predictive capabilities of folk theories, geocentrism, and indigenous conceptualizations, I will remind you that the superiority of the scientific enterprise is defined in terms of is predictive accuracy, explanatory efficiency, and theoretical flexibility. This means that heliocentrism is superior to geocentrism because it offers more explananda with fewer explanans, scientific theories are superior to folk theories because they are more accurate at predicting things, and indigenous conceptualizations that make use of unfalsifiable posits like spirits are inferior to scientific conceptualizations of the same phenomena because all posits of the latter are accountable to independent verification. Adopting Feyerabend’s anarchism is what has led you to foolishly defend the patent nonsense of Riley, and offers you no mechanism to reject creationism, climate change denial, or holocaust denial. You are at the mercy of every quack and charlatan who comes along with their own special “way of knowing.”

    “You’re being deliberately deceptive in making it sound like Riley wants to “get rid of superposition,” when the quote you’re mining only makes sense in terms of the program being put forward by the authors.”

    I didn’t quote mine anything. The words in the chapter are what they are; the author wrote “Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall… forgo the notion of linearity and its attendant principle of superposition.” I understand that you think that you have the license to interpret the words on the page as saying something other than what they say, and that this kind of sophistry constitutes nuance and sophistication, but those of us who have gotten over our woke undergraduate phase aren’t going to be quite as impressed. Perhaps I’ll interpret Mein Kampf as being a book about the merits of intersectionality, The Vagina Monologues as being a technical training manual for building a Saturn V spacecraft, and Landau’s textbook on Electrodynamics as an abstract script for a pornographic film. I’ll be allowed to interpret texts in this manner because I’ll take it as an axiom that, for example, sex lies at the center of the human unconscious and is therefore present in every single social activity that humans undertake, including science, and that science is therefore replete with pornographic material. I’ll then insist that the burden of proof that this isn’t in fact the case rests with you, since I’ve simply presupposed, on philosophical grounds, that all human activities are unconsciously saturated with sexual content. Isn’t this fun, Shem? When freed from such pesky constraints as empirical justification and reading the words on the page, the both of us may engage in as much idle sophistry as our hearts desire. Meanwhile, the world outside continues to exist, as you demonstrate every time you cross the street. For all of the noise made by epistemic pluralists about the multitude of “ways of knowing,” they seem awfully reluctant to tap into the “ways of knowing” that might result in their becoming traffic hazards. Please Shem, define reality in such a manner that excludes the existence of speeding cars, and try experiencing that reality with a stroll down the highway. Then, if you are able, feel free to report back with your findings.

  • Please Shem, define reality in such a manner that excludes the existence of speeding cars

    Um, okay, King C, that sounds so sane and reasonable.

    Thanks for contributing here.

  • KC

    Every bit as sane and reasonable as defining reality in such a manner that fluid mechanics are feminine since female genitals leak menstrual blood, and rigid body mechanics are masculine since male genitals become hard.
    You’re welcome.

  • Deconverted Man

    Sounds like a false dichotomy. It also sounds like you missed the point I was making. Are you pro post modern and/or feminist ideas?
    Yes, or no?

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    Not a pedant; I knew that when Shem posted, but figured I’d let somebody else comment on it first.

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    I rescued Mary Ann. Schwing!

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    Shem, given that multiple people have pointed out the analogy in your first paragraph is in error …

    I suggest you edit it, either with a delete or a better analogy!

  • wannabe

    Thanks!

  • Sounds like a false dichotomy.

    Well, it covers the range of opinions expressed here. King Croc is indeed saying that scary feminists are endangering science. And I’m saying that there’s a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole being bandied about.

    What’s your take on it?

    Are you pro post modern and/or feminist ideas?
    Yes, or no?

    I sure am! Couldn’t you tell?

  • Oh, I don’t think it really matters whether the story was an urban legend. The fact that King C considers feminist scientists to be engaged in dangerous anti-science epistemologies is just classic science fan alarmism, whether or not there were Japanese Army holdouts in the Pacific or not.

  • That just shows what a hyper-idealized view of science you have. To me, gender and racial imbalances in researchers, and the way science is in hock to corporate and military interests, are valid reasons to suspect that what we understand through empirical inquiry may be so sodden with biases that a more inclusive and independent research community is necessary.

    This has always been my particular frustration with your critique of the scientific academy. It is easy to see how its lack of diversities in several areas, and its service to structures of power and control, that those things themselves have ethical import. Scientists don’t get to claim clean hands when it comes to the effects of their discoveries.

    But that is a very different claim than the one you seem to want to advance, maybe a few half-steps too far, that this probable moral defect leads also to a factual one, leading to framing errors so severe that the discoveries themselves are suspect. I think that’s plausible in some areas of social science, and maybe biosciences in a few areas, but a pretty implausible claim when one zooms out to science as an entirety. Measuring the dipole moment of a proton isn’t going to be improved or degraded by variations in the ethnic makeup, sexual orientation, political allegiances, or cultural identity of anyone making the measurements.

  • But that is a very different claim than the one you seem to want to advance, maybe a few half-steps too far, that this probable moral defect leads also to a factual one, leading to framing errors so severe that the discoveries themselves are suspect. I think that’s plausible in some areas of social science, and maybe biosciences in a few areas, but a pretty implausible claim when one zooms out to science as an entirety. Measuring the dipole moment of a proton isn’t going to be improved or degraded by variations in the ethnic makeup, sexual orientation, political allegiances, or cultural identity of anyone making the measurements.

    Fair enough. I’ve never claimed that science is completely wrong. It’s just that we should wonder whether factors such as the influence of corporate and military interests, and the exclusion of women and minorities, foster a conformity of opinion and purpose that’s not particularly conducive to innovation and freethought in scientific disciplines.

    I at least have a certain amount of evidence that there’s a lot we don’t know we don’t know thanks to our satisfaction with science as a boys’ club. I posted this article a while ago about a maverick biologist whose work on escape hatching in frog embryos initially faced a lot of opposition and apathy from the male research hierarchy. Different people ask different questions, she says, and she’s adamant that her queerness was a major factor in her pioneering research.

    It’s all well and fine to chalk this up to the magically self-correcting process whereby science progresses blah blah blah, but it’s worth noting the extent to which science stifles innovation and creativity by making it a sausage party and not feeling obliged to change that. Plenty of my loyal detractors here are making it sound like science is just about truth and accuracy, full stop, and anyone who critiques how science operates in our society is doing nothing apart from providing intellectual cover to climate change deniers and Holocaust deniers.

    King Croc here is a perfect example of someone whose alarmism is intended to reinforce the conformity of opinion about science. He’s pandering to the indifference and privilege of science bros; he actively demonizes anyone who wants science to change in order to better serve the needs of the community. All his derision for epistemological pluralism and humanities woo is intended to make his immature vendetta seem like a noble intellectual crusade.

    If we’re satisfied with saying, “science is responsible for the computer you’re typing on, so STFU,” then I guess we already know what questions we want to ask and who we want asking them.

  • ghoulgoblin

    No, this is you looking like Ray Comfort debating any person capable of knocking down his bullshit.
    And you providing a reminder that you’re transphobic as well as misogynistic and racist.

  • So then, its clear you must reinvent the wheel, so to speak, from the ground up you must make your own culture, and own language, you must also make your own math, logic, & science, although the labels will not be those.

    You’re out of your mind.

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    I’m going to jump in again re both Shem and 3Lemonope.

    I’m probably less identity-issues skeptical than Shem, but a bit more than Lemon, but it’s not just on “does science make social issues wrong.” In biology, as well as social sciences, it still drives a lack of ethics at times.

    Only a decade or so, Arizona State profs and grad students, after getting consent from American Indians of southwestern tribes to study their DNA for diabetic-related issues, went beyond that consent to study the DNA for other issues. There may be more things like this that we haven’t yet heard of. That didn’t compromise any science, but it produces bad enough ethics that it could compromise future science. NAGPRA on Indian reburials may lead to bad science the other way, but … Anglo scientists of the past created that fallout.

    The answer, on bad ethics or bad science (or the outright sexist pseudoscience of Ev Psych) is not “women’s ev psych” or “Havasupai evolutionary biology.” Rather, it’s better science.

    I don’t believe the legend that science is “uniquely self correcting.” I do believe that, overall, it is more self-correcting than any other modern discipline, and that we shouldn’t look to various forms of identity theories to provide the corrective.

    I otherwise believe that, per Lemon, in chemistry and physics, while sexism or racism has hindered the advance of individual scientists in the past, unlike bits of biology and more than bits of social sciences, it hasn’t produced bad science.

    To again apply this to the American Indian world, as it can get overlooked more than African-American or women’s concerns with science, and because I have some familiarity with this world. I don’t need a Vine DeLoria, PhD and all, telling me “the Sioux have always been ‘there.'” You weren’t even in your “there” of the Black Hills until about the same time Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri.

    To extend further, American Indians were NOT Rousellian “noble savages” before 1492. Or 1001. (I don’t believe in European contacts before that, or any Chinese ones.) The were sometimes noble. And sometimes savage. I mean, the Spanish have nothing to compare to Aztecs ripping beating hearts out of still-living humans. And, while Europeans enslaving blacks, and Indians, was harsher than most slavery practiced pre-Contact by American Indians, it wasn’t harsher than the potlatch cultures of the Pacific Northwest, where slaves, like other “household goods” were destroyed (killed) on potlatch fires. Yes, really.

    Being a virtuous practitioner of identity theories is no guarantor of moral or intellectual superiority. But, neither is being a practitioner of scientism, or movement skepticism, or atheism.

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    For both you and John, have you ever read John Horgan’s “The End of Science”?

  • I have not.

    I know it is dangerous and fairly foolhardy to get an impression from a wiki excerpt, but if this is an accurate thesis statement of the book–

    “[…]that science will not achieve insights into nature as profound as evolution by natural selection, the double helix, the Big Bang, relativity theory or quantum mechanics. In the future[…]scientists will refine, extend and apply this pre-existing knowledge but will not achieve any more great “revolutions or revelations.”

    –it seems at once fascinating and pretty obviously, painfully wrong. Is he being deliberately provocative? That I can get behind. But the claim itself is silly; even the task of uniting quantum mechanics and relativity likely will require a revolution in understanding, so unless he is claiming that such understanding is simply beyond the scientific enterprise altogether, it doesn’t seem to hold water. Until a little while ago we didn’t understand basic etiologies of major diseases, like viruses that can cause certain cancers and bacteria that cause ulcers; likely we have just scratched the surface there. And then there is the brain, conscious experience, and related fields like AI; I understand he’s written a bit on that too, skeptical of science’s ability to probe those questions effectively. That strikes me as a rather arbitrary line of demarcation, much fuzzier than Popper’s for sure.

    The thesis reminds me in a funny way of Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. he too thought that after the Cold War, all the great political arguments were over and all that was left was tinkering with liberal democracy and capitalism. He was way wrong too, and lived to write about his errors. It seems to me that subjects of study don’t really peter out into caviling irrelevance but are rather either shunted directly into another discipline better equipped to fruitfully handle particular questions, or exploded into metaphysics and left for the next generation to put some order and rigor back into it in its next form.

    Anyway, now I gotta go find myself some copies of his work. Thank you for the head’s up/recommendation.

  • tophilacticus

    As for modern feminism, I’ve yet to see anything coherent be produced by it supported by fact or logic.

    Then you haven’t seen.

  • Fmr ATrealDonaldTrump

    I’m actually with Horgan more, or at least the general idea. And, yes, going beyond Fukuyama, I know that “the end of science” has been proclaimed before, like a decade or so before Max Planck dropped his quantum bombshell. But … speaking of …

    In things like cosmology, the quantum means that we never will know it all. Some versions of quantum theory, like the multiverse, are not, and will not be, testable by their nature. Others, like string theory, will be realistically untestable due to energy input issues.

    I said 15 years ago that I thought an older generation cosmologists not only thought the universe was finite, they wished for it to be so, in the sense of faith, precisely to “close a loop.” Well, an ever-expanding universe means that some issues in cosmology will likely remain untestable.

    And, per the spirit, though not the letter of Gödel, in the realm of mind, we’ll likely never have some final answers on consciousness.

    The belief (yes, in my world) otherwise is #scientism. I first ran across Shem due to pretty much a common stance on this via connections with one of top denouncers of scientism in my online world, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.

    That said, on Horgan, besides his new book/ebook on consciousness, I first came across him in Rational Mysticism. Excellent tome IMO.

  • Gerry Wallington

    lol