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Barbara Oakley - Social Psychology, Genes and Human Evil
Posted: 20 January 2009 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Good point, Doug. Let me amend your suggestion so that we multiply the predictive power of a field by its social utility. Astronomers can predict that, if you watch for meteors on a special date at a special time, you will see more meteors than you normally would. That’s a prediction, and it can be quite reliable. But it’s not very useful. On the other hand, Barbara Tuchman’s book made a vague prediction to Mr. Kennedy: if you don’t keep the generals on a tight leash, they might turn a diplomatic crisis into a shooting war. As predictions go, it was pretty vague and impossible to verify. Yet its social utility in this case was probably greater than all the astronomy in human history.

This still leaves the arts out in the cold, but they operate in a completely different dimension. I’m considering only the pursuit of knowledge of the world.

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Posted: 23 January 2009 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Chris: ...I’m saying that scientists get mad over criticisms of their work all the time. Does that seem odd to you?

When it is inexplicably often, neurotic or extreme.. then yes. Same for Wegener’s critics who said things like “utter damned rot!”. Hardly a scientific rebuttal.

How about Thomas Gold’s Deep Origins Hypothesis?

Vaguely aware, but not aware of any climate of “taboo” or prohibited research topics re: petroleum origins. The contrary seems the case as much research is done on both sides. Is there a digestible account of the debate in book-form?

sate, if the social sciences are so corrupt, then why are you citing renowned people like Cosmides, Tooby, and Pinker as examples? These people are not victims being crucified—they are respected scientists. Yes, of course there is controversy: do you expect science to proceed without disagreement?

Those “renowned” people are only respected in limited circles and are often part of the insurrection against the Old Guard social science. I said in one of my first posts that there is something like a civil war in psychology.. which is the point. Those renowned people remain controversial and unbelieved. Try telling a social science major (whatever stripe) that rape isnt about sex, that ethical emotions are inborn, that there is no pay gap between men and women (once you factor out preference), etc.., and you will see what dogma is. The president of Harvard was fired as he cited research of these new “renowned” people- he isn’t a victim?
I’ve never said I don’t expect disagreement or that that is the problem. In science I would say disagreement is the solution- peer review. The disagreement is often not over who or what theory is correct but over whether or not you get to disagree. The AAA was essentially voting to tell Freeman he was not allowed to disagree, the content was irrelevant.

I’d like to ask exactly what behavior you find so objectionable. So far, you have only argued that some scientists don’t accept the work of other scientists—and then you use wild words like “taboo”, “banned”, and “rage”. So let’s examine your words, starting with “Taboo”. You maintain that the work of Mr. Freeman is taboo. Yet I can easily find items on the Internet from reputable sources that discuss Mr. Freeman’s work in the open. If Mr. Freeman’s work were taboo, there would be no such discussions. So you are wrong in claiming that Mr. Freeman’s work is taboo.

Mr. Freeman overcame 80 years of suppression of a taboo truth- that Mead was a fraud or incompetent. The fact that the lies did not survive beyond 8 decades because someone fought bitterly to overcome is proof of a prevailing dogmatic establishment, not proof there isn’t one. I actually used the word taboo citing Donald Brown not Derek Freeman. Brown talks about the study of universals being essentially taboo. You will find Brown has become rather accepted as well to some degree but his is another cautionary tale of a won battle in a bitter conflict. He says flatly his subject matter flies in the face of all of his education as an anthropologist and primarily for ideological not academic reasons.

Next we turn to “banned”. From where has it been banned? Can you cite any forum or publication which has declared that arguments sympathetic to Mr. Freeman’s work will not be tolerated? I doubt it. So your use of the term “banned ” is incorrect.

I never used the term banned. I quoted Brown (not Freeman) using it. He said “...all but banned” indicating a dogmatic attitude. I wonder if you have read my posts as carefully as you may.

Next, let’s talk about “rage”. I’m happy to stipulate that some scientists reacted to Mr. Freeman’s work with rage. How does this injure anybody else? I’ve known a lot of scientists and I have found them to be emotionally less mature than most people. So what? Does a scientific result require articulation by a suitably emotionally balanced person in order to be acceptable to you? If so, you’d better wipe out a lot of scientists. Newton was a pretty vicious character, and he demonstrated rage on a number of occasions. Are you therefore going to dismiss Newton’s Laws of physics?

It injures any honest scientist who wants a fair hearing, not vitriolic nay-saying demagogues who don’t care a wit about the content of their research. Most people simply don’t have the stomach for the level of acrimony people like Freeman had to endure. Freeman’s case spells out in no uncertain terms: here is the price you will pay for going against the Establishment.
Again you misunderstand.. the crux of my alarm is not that there is disagreement or high emotions- that’s normal. When the disagreement amounts to “you are not allowed to ASK that question” something is terribly wrong. When the fury comes not from content but sheerly from the act of disagreement, there is a deeper problem. Dogmatism is cancer here. Yes people are flawed and there is an element of it in every human endeavor but in some it is typical and in control of said endeavor.  By the way when Einstein effectively did dismiss (or rather, update) Newton’s physics, no one voted him down as unscientific.

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Posted: 23 January 2009 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Chris: As to the material you cite as being taught in your course, I am surprised that you took such a lousy course; certainly many the statements you attribute to this course are not representative of the social sciences as I know them. Let’s go through them:

I only listed items in brief and from the top of my head. Generally I could have randomly opened the textbook to any page and found a questionable concept or outright falsehood within a page or so. The school was CSN (http://www.csn.edu) which enrolls 40,000 students each term. I no longer have the text, but it was the standard anth textbook, 2003 I think (new that year) by William A. Haviland if you wish to track it down.

America is not becoming less religious. That statement is difficult to assess…

Actually the point was the modern world is not becoming less religious. The US was cited as an example of this alongside a vague list of things that scare or prompt people to believe (such as nuclear war, global warming, terrorism etc) though no evidence or study was cited indicating any of those things actually cause anyone to be more religious. The US, particularly a few small Christian denominations were cited to indicate growth of religion for the entire western world. In other words, the US, the freakish statistical outlier among western states was held up as a typical example of western states. This is first rate bullshitery. Not a single word mentioned the decline of religion in the rest of the first world, let alone any attempt to explain it. This is not bad research or a dissenting perspective.. it is a brazen lie.

It’s wrong to judge other cultures. Actually, I’ll agree with this, to some degree. ....

How the culture evolved is a separate topic, Chris. That would be the study of said culture, which would be fine. Actually I don’t care if you agree or disagree.. the fact is telling me the correct moral position I need to take on any issue is outside of science. It is the domain of politics and ideology- why is it being shoved down my throat in a “science” class dressed up as content?

Apes can learn to talk. Gee, I never saw this claim anywhere. I did see claims that a few carefully educated apes appeared to be able to manipulate symbols. Perhaps you misunderstood what was being taught?

You’re asking the wrong question, Chris. The better question is, why does it matter if apes can talk, if dogs can rollerskate or if squirrels can waterski? Scientifically, it is basically irrelevant. To the ideologically compromised it matters. Why? because culture hinges on language and if language is biologically rooted (and it is) then it means there is a biological basis for culture. This would be the dreaded determinism that social science has always desperately fought against because they believe the mere idea of determinism leads to justifying classism/sexism/racism. Also many believe that “ape rights” hinge on how much like us they are so apes need language to have proto-culture and thus gain protective rights. Now, it does not matter if you or I think apes should have “people” status- the point I am making here is anth is desperate to “scientifically” show apes can talk for political reasons. The truth is, they can’t and yes they can do some sort of symbol manipulation but the fact has not stopped the endless parade of disingenuous or incompetent researchers from trying for the last 60+ years. Often in embarrassingly awful attempts.

4. Margaret Mead’s work was important and studious. Well, it was certainly important…

Mead’s god-like stature for empty, meaningless field work suppressed legitimate study for decades. Only religion has otherwise been so acutely lethal to honest inquiry. Mead’s only legacy of import is “how not to do science”.

6. The incest taboo is arbitrary culture. Gee, that’s not what I have read. Everything I’ve seen suggests that the incest taboo is almost universal and certainly not arbitrary.

The text cites ancient Egypt, a time when incest was seemingly openly permitted. This is a comically anemic support for such a grand claim but it was nonetheless the claim.

7. Primitive peoples are more peaceful. ...You must have gotten a strange textbook.

I strenuously objected in class, and even brought in my own sources. The text cited a few rare bands.. as before citing the extreme outlier as typical.

10. Language has no principle base in biology. There are some people who still hold onto that view—and they’re a diminishing minority.

Aye. But I am not soliciting your opinion. I am telling you what was taught to me, as fact, in a classroom.

I too would react negatively if all this stuff were dumped on me in a course. I suspect that the course you are taking, or the instructor of the course, is pretty wacko. But that’s one of the things about the social sciences: there are all kinds of people out there with all kinds of different views…

I wouldn’t say I reacted negatively so much as I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone; I would look around me to see if anyone noticed we were in the grip of madness and insanity- but in true TZ form I was the only one who seemed to notice.
This was only one course but the others I had reinforced the same ideas and positions where overlap exists at all- including other professors, other text authors, and a school in a different state entirely. It strains reason to imagine I coincidentally had many wacko classes and that they are all wacko in precisely the way criticized by people like Pinker.
I could go into more examples but to do so convincingly I would have to again research those subjects and people and I am out of time. Perhaps I will revisit later. I recommend Pinker’s The Blank Slate as a good review of many of my own objections

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Posted: 23 January 2009 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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I looked up that textbook on Amazon.com and there isn’t much information there. So I decided to see what information there is on the web. I started with Wikipedia, looking at its articles on cultural anthropology, social anthropology, and ethnology. The only mention of Margaret Mead in these articles was 1) a mention of her Samoa book in a list of important books in the early history of ethnology; and 2) her inclusion on a list of notable ethnologists. There was no mention of her on either the cultural anthropology or the social anthropology articles. The Encylopedia Brittanica entry on her mentions that her book on Samoa was controversial because she relied on direct observations rather than more rigorous statistical methods.

The problem with rejecting Ms. Mead is that she did a great deal more than Coming of Age in Samoa. She was an early feminist, a prolific writer, and a popularizer of social sciences. Albert Einstein was dead wrong about quantum mechanics, but that doesn’t tarnish his stature in the world of physics because he did so many other things. The same thing can be said of Margaret Mead.

I spent some time researching the history of this controversy and it’s very complicated. I think your presentation is oversimplified in a misleading way. Yes, Margaret Mead is revered by anthropologists as one of the major figures in its history. But there’s plenty of criticism of Ms. Mead to be found. Indeed, my impression is that most anthropologists now conceded that her work on Samoa was wrong. Nevertheless, they honor Ms. Mead for her other work.

Another factor in this is that Mr. Freeman’s attack on her was itself rather acidulous. There had been criticisms of her work before Mr. Freeman came along. There’s also plenty of evidence that Ms. Mead’s work was not well-received by the academic community in the 20s and 30s. Again, this suggests that she is honored for a lifetime of work, not a single book.

Another factor at work is the nature of anthropological evidence. Some anthropologists prefer the more limited but more rigorous statistical methods; Ms. Mead was in the opposing camp that favored observation and analysis over numeric data.

Yet another element of controversy was the question of the degree to which the anthropologist’s presence altered the behavior of people being studied. This controversy also figured in the Freeman-Mead controversy.

But the core controversy involved “cultural determinism”, initially articulated by Mr. Boas. Ms. Mead apparently set out to Samoa to prove Mr. Boas’ hypothesis, and fudged her data accordingly. The cultural determinism controversy is part of the larger nature/nurture controversy that has been going on for decades. And that controversy is now losing some of its heat as some of the claims of both camps are being demonstrated to be true. The growing consensus is that culture builds on a foundation of genetic predispositions.

Ironically enough, I’m very much on the side of the people arguing nature (and I read The Blank Slate when it first came out). And I have actually taken some serious heat for writing about this. An article about my work that mentioned a few things about genetic determinism generated a comment that I deserved to have a rusty spike rammed up my, er, exhaust port. So yes, some of these people are pretty emotional about it. But I do not condemn the social sciences in general, or anthropology in particular, for the exuberance of some partisans.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Thought this might be of interest.

Massimo Pigliucci - Strong inference and the distinction between soft and hard science, part I

http://www.rationallyspeaking.org/

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Posted: 29 January 2009 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Massimo Pigliuuci has posted his follow up piece on the distinction between soft and hard science [part II].

http://www.rationallyspeaking.org/

I find this entry even more fascinating than the first. Massimo throws out a couple zingers, my favorite being the quote below. The first sentence is familiar as it has been expressed widely, but it plays a nice lead up to the conclusion of what follows.

The realization is beginning to dawn even on molecular biologists that the golden era of fast and sure progress may be over, and that we are now faced with unwieldy mountains of details about the biochemistry and physiology of living organisms that are very difficult to make sense of. In other words, we are witnessing the transformation of a hard science into a soft one!

[ Edited: 29 January 2009 06:53 PM by Robert Buhn ]
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Posted: 31 January 2009 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Chris: The problem with rejecting Ms. Mead is that she did a great deal more than Coming of Age in Samoa. She was an early feminist, a prolific writer, and a popularizer of social sciences. Albert Einstein was dead wrong about quantum mechanics, but that doesn’t tarnish his stature in the world of physics because he did so many other things. The same thing can be said of Margaret Mead.

I spent some time researching the history of this controversy and it’s very complicated. I think your presentation is oversimplified in a misleading way. Yes, Margaret Mead is revered by anthropologists as one of the major figures in its history. But there’s plenty of criticism of Ms. Mead to be found. Indeed, my impression is that most anthropologists now conceded that her work on Samoa was wrong. Nevertheless, they honor Ms. Mead for her other work.

I presented a cliff-notes version fit for a forum. Provided details that you could not call “oversimplifying” would actually be much more damning. I wrote a paper on Mead. As part of my research I read Coming of Age in Samoa as well as Freeman’s The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead and Oran’s rebuttle (of sorts) to Freeman Not Even Wrong. Admitting Mead’s work was “wrong” is a bit like admitting Enron had an imperfect business plan. Anth has been forced to downgrade its heroine rather against its will as we have seen. Now they focus on her “other work”.
So your (or their?) claim is that in Samoa she was either incompetent to the point of absurdity or a lying fraud .. who was then exhalted for her awesome field work and that this praise led her to change her ways and suddenly become an honest meticulous little scientist? Sure, nothing implausible about that. If only Enron could get the same PR agents as Mead.
Let’s look at some of her other awesome fieldwork. She went to New Guinea.. and told the world about the Chambri and the Arapesh-

Pinker: She called the Arapesh “gentle”; they were headhunters…
She said that the Tchambuli (now Chambri -s) reversed our sex roles, the men wearing curls and makeup. In fact, the men beat their wives, exterminated neighboring tribes, and treated homicide as a milestone in a young man’s life which entitled him to wear the face paint that Mead thought was so effeminate.(How the Mind Works, p426-7)

What a wonderful coincidence that Mead had a strong desire to promote feminism and her field work subjects just happened to prove her point and along just the axis that she needed it to. Except that it was wrong, maybe a lie. Tell me, is it in the interest of feminism to spread lies meant to buttress feminist claims? If it is not, then Mead’s vaunted contribution to feminism is suspect. In my view, people like Mead with a casual disinterest in what the facts are, are the reason a huge number of people who share the goals of feminism would never, ever want to be called a “feminist”.


Chris:Another factor at work is the nature of anthropological evidence. Some anthropologists prefer the more limited but more rigorous statistical methods; Ms. Mead was in the opposing camp that favored observation and analysis over numeric data.

This is apologetic nonsense though, when it comes to Mead. Okay so you’re big on observation and analysis? Here are quotes from Mead herself, notes I made on my own while reading her book.

“Romantic love as it occurs in our civilization, inextricably bound up with ideas of monogamy, exclusiveness, jealousy, and undeviating fidelity does not occur in Samoa” (Mead, 105)
Two pages later..
”…in olden days, if his heart was not softened, he might take a club and together with his relatives go out and kill those(appeasement party of the adulterer against his wife) who sit without.” (Mead, 107)

Yeah.. no jealousy or exclusiveness there, apart from the times they kill adulterers. In her summations she reported the second quote as factual. My critique here is not that she lacks rigorous statistics, but that she’s brazenly lying to us (assuming she is not severely mentally deficient). I could go on.. she had zero male informants but felt totally at liberty to discuss the life of males in detail. She said youth delinquency was very low while her own notes showed it to be very high..

Chris:..the core controversy involved “cultural determinism”, initially articulated by Mr. Boas. Ms. Mead apparently set out to Samoa to prove Mr. Boas’ hypothesis, and fudged her data accordingly. The cultural determinism controversy…. So yes, some of these people are pretty emotional about it. But I do not condemn the social sciences in general, or anthropology in particular, for the exuberance of some partisans.

The controversy is scientifically meaningless however. It proves the thesis that Anth. and sister disciplines hinge on ideology whereas any science is inflicted with ideological problems they are not actually generated, driven, and defined by them. We don’t get to make up “wouldnt it be nice” facts we think support our social agenda. The facts are what they are. How they impact our ideology is irrelevant to their truth. The idea is lost of the Boasian dynasty and its faithful descendants.. to this very day. Their rule is over. Their legacy, sadly, remains. It isn’t possible to draw a box called “social science” around this group of people.. at the start I merely said social science has a long way to go to overcome its shady past.

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Posted: 31 January 2009 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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You know, sate, we really should just get down to the basics: you’re mad because you took some courses that you didn’t like, you disagreed with the professors, and you may have gotten some low grades because of those disagreements. Because you’re mad, you badmouth anthropology and the social sciences. Your comments here are not reflective of a reasoned, dispassionate analysis of a field of human inquiry—you’re pissed and you want to wreak some verbal revenge. I realize now that I’m wasting my time pitting reason against anger. My advice to you is to simply forget it for now. After you’ve cooled down—a year or a decade from now—you might want to explore some of these fields independently. I have found coursework to be largely a waste of time; the great majority of my education comes from my own reading. I encounter lousy books sometimes, but I don’t react by badmouthing an entire discipline; instead, I resolve never to read anything by that author again. There are some truly fascinating books on related subjects. Among them, I recommend:

Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance. by Steven Goldberg. Super Politically Incorrect! Great fun!
When Wish Replaces Thought: Why so much of what you believe is wrong. also by Steven Goldberg. Cranky sociologist cuts loose about everything
The Evolution of Civilizations. Carroll Quigley
Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture. by Johann Huizinga. 70 years old and a classic
Archaeology and Language, by Colin Renfrew. A very nice synthesis of archaeology and linguistics, although he’s probably wrong.

I think that some of these books might well reverse your ugly perception of these fields.

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Posted: 31 January 2009 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Chris Crawford - 31 January 2009 03:26 PM

You know, sate, we really should just get down to the basics: you’re mad because you took some courses that you didn’t like, you disagreed with the professors, and you may have gotten some low grades because of those disagreements. Because you’re mad, you badmouth anthropology and the social sciences. Your comments here are not reflective of a reasoned, dispassionate analysis of a field of human inquiry—you’re pissed and you want to wreak some verbal revenge. I realize now that I’m wasting my time pitting reason against anger. My advice to you is to simply forget it for now. After you’ve cooled down—a year or a decade from now—you might want to explore some of these fields independently. I have found coursework to be largely a waste of time; the great majority of my education comes from my own reading. I encounter lousy books sometimes, but I don’t react by badmouthing an entire discipline; instead, I resolve never to read anything by that author again.

Must be nice being able to dismiss me, and my cited evidence, on the basis of ad hominem vendetta-laying. I never got bad grades. The paper I wrote about Mead (which I called Drunk on Mead: 80 Years of Thought Pollution)? She gave it an A and held it aloft to the class and said ‘this is the best student paper I’ve ever seen’. She also had written on it “thesis well supported”. I always knew the “correct” answer on the test, even if it was also the false answer. I did fine in Soc. My gender studies prof loved me. You’re wrong on both counts. If I had an irrational grudge with the field based on a few isolated classes or books I’d never cite a Freeman, Brown, Pinker, Diamond (Diamond’s essay “Race without Color” was actually an assignment in one class), etc.., let alone commend their work- and I surely do. That list is much longer than I’ve ever mentioned here. Moreover, lots of people in those disciplines echo my criticism. Do they all also have an ax to grind? Strains imagination to think so. Is it possible that every text, class, teacher I’ve had in multiple schools in different states at different times all were “bad” in precisely the same way? The same way criticized by many in social science? Strains statistical probability to silly levels to think so. Maybe them Klansmen are OK guys- you’ve just only seen the “bad” ones. Such a rush to judgment.

Second, I am angry. But it isn’t personal. I am angry at injustice, dishonesty, and betrayal. I’m sad when ego prevents the advancement of knowledge. I’m upset seeing teachers, an almost sacrosanct position of trust and authority, feeding their students misinformation in a supposed institution of learning. I’m pained that bullshit research informs policy makers which ends in laws that fail to protect people they are meant to. I have ideals. When they get trashed, I become upset. The day that changes, I will no longer be alive.
I will get a chance to explore, as you say, this year. This fall will see my transfer to the University of Illinois for a different adventure. Should it be you are more correct or I.. es macht nicht as the germans say, I will bend toward whatever is truer without hesitation.

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Posted: 31 January 2009 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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It’s good that you got good grades; at least your anger isn’t due to that. But it seems that you are changing your drift here. Earlier your complaint was, as I understand it, against the social sciences in general. Now, well, I can’t tell at all what ax you’re grinding, other than (perhaps) anger at Margaret Mead. Now you’re citing lots of teachers and writers as sharing your thoughts. But I have read some of those authors and I certainly don’t recall them dismissing anthropology and indeed the entirety of the social sciences outright. You’ve been very specific about one anthropologist (Margaret Mead) and one book (the textbook from your course). And I’ll be happy to join you in jumping up and down on both of those, merely because I don’t much care about either. But if you are still maintaining that anthropology and the other social sciences are a bunch of bull—all I can say is, that’s anger, not reason.

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Posted: 31 January 2009 07:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Fearing that I had done you an injustice, I decided to go back and re-read the last page or so of your posts, so as to get a clearer idea of what it is that you are so exercised about. Our discussion of Margaret Mead, I think, clouded that issue. I think that the central thesis that you are presenting is summarized in this statement of yours:

It proves the thesis that Anth. and sister disciplines hinge on ideology whereas any science is inflicted with ideological problems they are not actually generated, driven, and defined by them. We don’t get to make up “wouldnt it be nice” facts we think support our social agenda. The facts are what they are. How they impact our ideology is irrelevant to their truth. The idea is lost of the Boasian dynasty and its faithful descendants.. to this very day. Their rule is over. Their legacy, sadly, remains. It isn’t possible to draw a box called “social science” around this group of people.. at the start I merely said social science has a long way to go to overcome its shady past.

And this statement contains the contradiction that has been tripping me up. It starts off with a strong statement:

“Anth. and sister disciplines hinge on ideology”

and I certainly reject that claim. But then later on you make this statement:

” The idea is lost of the Boasian dynasty and its faithful descendants.. to this very day. Their rule is over.”

So your real statement is that SOME anthropologists were unreasonable, not the entire discipline. Or perhaps that the entire discipline was wrong at some point in the past, but is healing now. I’m not sure, because your statements bounce around quite a bit. Now, I hate it when people play gotcha games and rip quotes out of context and juxtapose them to suggest false conclusions, so I’m going to ask you to clarify your meaning. Specifically, are you condemning:

1. A school of thought within anthropology and/or the social sciences that you find unscientific

or

2. Anthropology and/or the social sciences in general.

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Posted: 01 February 2009 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Chris Crawford - 31 January 2009 07:43 PM

1. A school of thought within anthropology and/or the social sciences that you find unscientific

or

2. Anthropology and/or the social sciences in general.

2. You ask for evidence, and of course whatever my answer is is going to be specific disciplines and people. We started with sociology- Milgrom & Zimbardo as well as Barbara Oakley’s (not mine) observation of thousands of instances of use of a non-existent technical term. You then accused me of overgeneralizing from few accounts so I brought up Donald Brown, Derek Freeman. I mentioned like-minded critics Pinker, Tooby, Cosmides, Hauser, Symons, Chagnon, and Chomsky. I cited evidence that even today good scientifically-supported ideas are dogmatically rejected: Try telling a social science major (whatever stripe) that rape isnt about sex, that ethical emotions are inborn, that there is no pay gap between men and women (once you factor out preference), etc.., and you will see what dogma is. The president of Harvard was fired as he cited research of these new “renowned” people- he isn’t a victim? . You engaged me on Anth and Mead and I gamely went down that path with you. For all I care, we could have been talking about Stanley Milgrom, Edward Sapir, E.O. Wilson, Richard Lewontin, Alan & Beatrix Gardner, the history of PC thought on rape, B.F. Skinner, Michel Foucault and on and on..,

I have offered evidence from other people-people actually in the fields which neither of us are- that there are widespread, systemic problems. I already quoted Donald Brown saying as much. Here are a few more-

The evolutionary psychology of this book is a departure from the dominant view of the human mind in our intellectual tradition, which Tooby and Cosmides have dubbed the Standard Social Science model (SSSM). The SSSM proposes a fundamental division between biology and culture. ...biological evolution, according to the SSSM, has been supersede by cultural evolution. Culture is an autonomous entity that carries out a desire to perpetuate itself by setting up expectations and assigning roles, which can vary arbitrarily from society to society. Even reformers have accepted its framing of the issues…
The SSSM not only has become an intellectual orthodoxy but has acquired a moral authority. When sociobiologists first began to challenge it, they met with a ferocity that is unusual even by the standards of academic invective. The biologist E.O. Wilson was doused with a pitcher of ice water at a scientific convention, and students yelled for his dismissal over bullhorns and put up posters urging people to bring noisemakers to his lectures. Angry manifestos and book-length denunciations were published by organizations with names like Science for the People and the Campaign Against Racism, IQ and the Class Society. In Not in Our Genes, Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin dropped inuendoes about Donald Symons’ sex life and doctored a defensible passage of Richard Dawkins’ into an insane one (Dawkins said of the genes, “They created us, body and mind.”; The authors have it quoted repeatedly as “They control us, body and mind.”).

(How the Mind Works, p44-5) Bolded areas are mine.

They, in this case Pinker, Tooby and Cosmides, sure make it sound like a prevalent problem. Pinker immediately acknowledges his work is against the grain. T&C created the term, SSSM, which describes not a particular discipline or researcher but the Standard Social Science model- the politically-morally correct social science paradigm. Pinker notes the level of resistance is above and beyond expected academic resistance and conflict.

I am curious, what evidence would persuade you? You don’t like my emotion but don’t much argue the facts either. How big does the pile of bullshit have to be before it is a big problem for you? I guess so far it is manageable for you, for me.. not so much. Being something of an idealist though I do believe the honest will ultimately prevail and that the old ways will deteriorate under the fecundity of the new.
Thanks for the book list, by the way.

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Posted: 01 February 2009 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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sate, my problem isn’t with the quality of the evidence you provide, or its magnitude, but with the conclusions you draw from it. Yes, you’ve presented lots of evidence of dogmatic behavior. But your point continues to escape me. I asked you pointblank whether you are condemning a school of thought or an entire discipline, and you didn’t answer my question. The conclusions that you do draw are all vaguely worded. For example, you use the evidence to come to the conclusion that “there are widespread, systemic problems”. What in blazes does that mean? Are these widespread systemic problems within the single discipline of anthropology, or are they within all the social sciences, or academia, or the United States, or humanity in general?

There are a number of other points I’d like to raise, but I don’t want to deflect your attention from the central question I am asking you. Since you didn’t answer my question, I will create a hypothesis regarding what I think to be your position, and you can correct my hypothesis. I infer that you are making the following claims:

1. There exists a school of thought characterized by Cosmides and Toobey’s term, the Standard Social Science Model
2. This school of thought dogmatically rejects all ideas inconsistent with the SSSM.
3. This school of thought constitutes the great majority of academics in the social sciences.
4. Members of this school of thought frequently attack dissenters viciously and injuriously.

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Posted: 01 February 2009 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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My answer was 2. My conclusions are worded to the degree of precision commensurate with their scope.
If you don’t know what systemic means, grab a dictionary. It’s referent is the same as the SSSM.

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Posted: 01 February 2009 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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OK, so you condemn anthropology and the social sciences in general, and you do not wish to avail yourself of the clarifying hypothesis that I offered. I shall proceed on the basis of your statement that you condemn anthropology and the social sciences in general.

Your statements contradict each other. On the one hand you condemn the social sciences in general, and on the other hand you quote approvingly the statements of many social scientists. It is therefore a trivially obvious conclusion that your case is nonsense.

Perhaps you would like to clarify your position? Or should we just leave it as nonsense?

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