“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”
― Milton Friedman

“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Academiot roundup

Feminist prof says 'traditional science' is rooted in racism
Sara Giordano, Women’s Studies professor at UC-Davis, is quoted in that link as follows:
“At the root of the justification for social inequality then is Western science,” she says, claiming that science’s distinction between “humans and non-humans” has allowed “capitalism [to become] justified as a natural economic system…”
That quote is a bit confusing out of context. If you read the whole paper, you'll see that the key idea is not that animals in their natural state reject capitalism. Or, that there's no distinction between humans and, say, banana slugs. It's that "the colonial and capitalist roots and development of the sciences have produced “man,” thoroughly embedded in a racial hierarchy, through … the “Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom.”"

That is, racism (and sexism) is reinforced by science because the practices and definitions of science were established by colonialism and white male 'privilege,' not objective reality. Capitalism is really just along for the guilt by association ride.

Professor Giordano came to Women's Studies via a PhD in neuroscience, a sort of science apostasy, so she may be motivated by feminist resentment. She hopes her essay “opens up questions about what kinds of scientific illiteracy we might embrace to destabilize science and remake knowledge production… In part, science maintains a special status because its products are not accessible to a wide range of people.

Given the specialized jargon and SJW in-group assumptions, this paper is an example of something not accessible (nor of interest) to a wide range of people. It seeks special status. Its title, Those who can’t, teach: critical science literacy as a queer science of failure, should have been - How to (further) politicize science

Giordano goes on: “We need to disrupt the epistemic authority of Science…[and] the assumption that science = truth,” [by implementing a] “feminist science practice that explicitly unsticks Science from Truth.

Science and truth are, indeed, different things, but promoting scientific illiteracy is not going to improve anything. In fact, it will make the differences between voodoo and particle physics much harder to discern. But, maybe that's intentional.
I use the word queer to suggest not only a challenge to capitalism but also a challenge to the categories of human/nonhuman and normal/abnormal that science has enforced and drawn on for success. Halberstam argues that we can read a history of successes and failures under capitalism in multiple ways and suggests reading the history of failures as “a tale of anticapitalist, queer struggle” (2011, p. 88).”…

“Independent artist, filmmaker, and activist Lucía Egaña Rojas writes in “Notes on a Transfeminist Technology” (2013) that “A transfeminist technology will value illiteracy for its improductiveness for industry, as a way of finding paths unimagined by speed and productivity.” Rojas advocates creating new worlds by being gender illiterate and acknowledging how the positive relationship between epistemic power/authority and literacy devalues the knowledge of many of the world’s poorest inhabitants.”
She wrote - sitting in a major American University, publishing with trivial ease a document written on a computer powered by electricity conducted on copper wires made in complex factories from ore mined by machines designed by engineers proficient in bending reality to their will - and all of which scientific miracles cost her a pittance from the salary she’s paid by skimming from the labor of other humans. Maybe the world would be more evenly just in the transfeminist Medieval world she happily contemplates, but it seems as if that world would be able to afford far less actual justice.

And, by the way, I have no idea why the word 'queer' is a challenge to capitalism. In-joke, I guess.

Yale ‘decolonizes’ English dept. after complaints studying white authors ‘actively harms’ students
"[A] student could graduate from the program without ever reading either [Chaucer or Shakespeare}."

If Yale will grant a degree to an English major who has never studied Chaucer or Shakespeare, how long will it be before they grant degrees in Mechanical Engineering to students who never took a course in the Behavior of Engineering Materials because Henry Bessemer was white (not to mention English)? Would you want such a graduate designing bridges? Well, that's like an English teacher who doesn't know Shakespeare.

Get On the Bus or Get Under It: Shouting Down Free Speech at Rutgers
“[M]any intersectional activists… view speech as a form of literal violence. For that reason, it is justifiable to shut down opposing voices before they even speak, a tactic called “no-platforming”…

[T]he Rutgers protesters settled for a shouting campaign with the dual goals of rattling the panelists and, more importantly, keeping the rest of us from hearing what they had to say. Tellingly, it was usually when a speaker was in the middle of making a compelling – and potentially damning – point that the protesters suddenly became most determined to drown him or her out…”

The protesters were particularly antagonized by Foster’s contention that police violence against African-Americans has been statistically exaggerated. When he started explaining the methodological research behind his claim, the audience exploded. “Facts?! Facts?! Don’t tell me about facts!” one person screamed. Foster tried to finish as five or six people shouted at him. “Do facts matter?” Foster asked, and repeated it several times in mounting frustration. “Do facts matter? Do facts—

The resounding, devastating answer was no, facts do not matter…

Intersectionality is a strange kind of essentialism that professes to hate essentialism. It assumes people are determined by inherited characteristics, which is exactly what racists also think.”
Postmodern Creationism in Academia: Why Evergreen Matters
“[A] comprehensive search reveals widespread acceptance of notions that oppose the conclusions of research on human evolution, particularly regarding the migration and dispersal of early cultures that came to populate the New World. This opposition has now become the dominant view in many departments of American Indian Studies, Indigenous Studies, Multicultural Education, Ethnic Studies, and allied fields (a broad umbrella, henceforth referred to as Cultural Studies).

The most important recent impetus for the surge in creationist ideology–within the institutions of higher learning–can be traced to the brazen attack on the theory of evolution in Red Earth White Lies by Vine Deloria Jr.2 The backdrop to the evolution-denial arguments is the politicized dismissal of the advances of modern science that are cast as “Western,” leading to, for example, creation myths being held up as contradicting the findings of evolutionary anthropology, population genetics, and archaeology…

If the findings of empirical research are not confirmed or disconfirmed by objective criteria of evidence, but instead are socially constructed by the dominant classes, which, as claimed, scientists serve, then our knowledge of the natural world cannot advance. From this point of view, knowledge is forever relative, dependent on the confrontation of ideological and political interests. Belief systems and political programs of social groups compete, each with their own knowledge system, each “epistemology” with its own equally valid interpretation of facts.”
This occultist repudiation of science is the politics of 2+2 equals 5. American colleges and Universities are awash in it, especially in the social 'sciences,' but hard science is increasingly in danger.

How does it come to pass that such claims can unabashedly be put forward as "truth?" Pauline Marie Rosenau can help us understand: Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences

I have not yet read started reading (11/06) this book, but I've ordered a copy because the reviews and excerpts I've found are positive. I think this bit from the Amazon description is accurate: "Serving as neither an opponent nor an apologist for the [Postmodernist] movement, she cuts through post-modernism's often incomprehensible jargon in order to offer all readers a lucid exposition of its propositions."

I've excerpted some of Rosenau's observations from a University of Alabama overview of Postmodernism.
Postmodernism and Its Critics

Rosenau’s Guidelines for Deconstruction Analysis:
  • Find an exception to a generalization in a text and push it to the limit so that this generalization appears absurd. Use the exception to undermine the principle.
  • Interpret the arguments in a text being deconstructed in their most extreme form.
  • Avoid absolute statements and cultivate intellectual excitement by making statements that are both startling and sensational.
  • Deny the legitimacy of dichotomies because there are always a few exceptions.
  • Nothing is to be accepted, nothing is to be rejected. It is extremely difficult to criticize a deconstructive argument if no clear viewpoint is expressed.
  • Write so as to permit the greatest number of interpretations possible.....Obscurity may “protect from serious scrutiny” (Ellis 1989: 148). The idea is “to create a text without finality or completion, one with which the reader can never be finished” (Wellberg, 1985: 234).
  • Employ new and unusual terminology in order that “familiar positions may not seem too familiar and otherwise obvious scholarship may not seem so obviously relevant”(Ellis 1989: 142).
  • “Never consent to a change of terminology and always insist that the wording of the deconstructive argument is sacrosanct.” More familiar formulations undermine any sense that the deconstructive position is unique (Ellis 1989: 145). (Rosenau 1993, p.121)...”

“Pauline Rosenau (1993) Rosenau identifies seven contradictions in Postmodernism:
  • Its anti-theoretical position is essentially a theoretical stand.
  • While Postmodernism stresses the irrational, instruments of reason are freely employed to advance its perspective.
  • The Postmodern prescription to focus on the marginal is itself an evaluative emphasis of precisely the sort that it otherwise attacks.
  • Postmodernism stress intertextuality but often treats text in isolation.
  • By adamantly rejecting modern criteria for assessing theory, Postmodernists cannot argue that there are no valid criteria for judgment.
  • Postmodernism criticizes the inconsistency of modernism, but refuses to be held to norms of consistency itself.
  • Postmodernists contradict themselves by relinquishing truth claims in their own writings.
Also useful:
How to speak Postmodern

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