Chutzpah, pure chutzpah

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There’s an article in today’s York Dispatch about the upcoming Intelligent Design lawsuit. This particular article discusses the rats leaving the sin Discovery Institute’s principled decision not to support the Dover school district in this case. Most of the quotes from the various DI talking heads is the usual stuff, but there was one statement attributed to Casey Luskin that displays a disregard for reality that is below and beneath even the rather loose standards of the Discovery Institute:

He [Luskin] said the Discovery Institute is “not trying to hinder their case in court,” but the organization wants intelligent design to be debated by the scientific community, not school boards

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

150 Comments

York Dispatch Wrote:

Teaching intelligent design is not unconstitutional, but the institute doesn’t support the Dover school board’s stand because it doesn’t want intelligent design to become a political issue, said Casey Luskin, program officer in the Public Policy and Legal Affairs department at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

They don’t want ID to become a political issue?? Uhhh, it’s a bit late to worry about that. This became a political issue years ago with things like the Santorum Amendment and Sen. Santorum himself writing pro-ID op-eds in various newspapers. It became a political issue when the DI held their ‘Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design and Its Implications for Public Policy and Education’ briefing on Capitol Hill, in May 2000. And add to that the DI’s press releases, public opinion polls, lobbying state and local school boards to “teach the controversy”.

ID is politics and has been almost from the very beginning.

The York Dispatch Wrote:

But the institute has been a hindrance to the school district’s attempts to find “scientific” witnesses to testify about intelligent design, Thompson said.

That was a nice touch, putting “scientific” in quotes, as if they’re going to have to hold auditions at the local community theatre so they can find actors to portray ID proponents.

But the institute has been a hindrance to the school district’s attempts to find “scientific” witnesses to testify about intelligent design, Thompson said.

I would think that the complete total utter inability of ID “theory” to produce anythign remotely resembling science, might have something to do with that …

The most revealing thing about this debate is the number of well known, nationally printed columnists and politicians who write essays filled with errors, misconceptions, and in some cases, outright lies. They fail to do their homework and believe propaganda from people like Behe and Dembski, and from places like the DI. When they write so poorly about the one thing I know something about, how can I believe what they write on topics I am ignorant of? To me, everything printed is now suspect. If I want to educate myself about an issue, who can I trust?

I don’t know, KL, there have been some bright spots. I’ve seen plenty of prominent columnists coming out in favor of science on this topic. Even archconservative columnists like George “Hooray for rich people” Will and Charles “Hooray for war” Krauthammer have thoroughly bashed ID in their syndicated columns.

Most of the really ignorant articles and essays have come from no-name reporters and crank guest editorials, as far as I’ve seen.

I think I figured out the Waterloo thing – Dembski is actually French.

Sure. That’s why they hired the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” P.R. company to push their agenda. That’s what we all do in the scientific community. Currently, I am working hard on a new ad campaign I’d like to associate with my next grant submission. We’ll broadcast it to the TVs of perspective grant reviewers at the NIH “study section”. Marketing studies show that successfully placed TV commercials can increase grant funding chances by 57% for reviewers in the 35-50 age range. If anyone here has ideas about a catchy jingle, please let me know.

Shame on you, Casey!

A thought just occured to me ( don’t have these too often)…What would happen if we(pro science people) started to use the anti-science peoples’ rhetoric against them, we might be able to (at the very least) put a kink in their armor.

For example, we can say, this ID thing is just a non-scientific hypothesis and hasn’t come close any scientific rigor nor observable data that would indicate that it is a viable alternate to any scientific theory.

My main emphasis here is for us to band together and use similar rhetoric that they use such as… non-scientific hypothesis rather that the word “theory.” In my (humble) opinion, using the word theory (even when it is quotes) actually gives ID some credibility.

I have to give the anti-scientists credit for getting out their word. Over the past five years or so, I kept hearing the phrase “evolution is just a theory.” I remember the first time I heard this phrase. I fellow racquetball player and I were discussing the state of education in the US. I brought up science education and he just latched on to that and said “evolution is just a theory.” I was speechless. i didn’t know how to respond. I wondered if he knew that what I was hearing was…”evolution is just this thing that has been established over the past 140+ years by observations of the natural world, fossil records, DNA evidence, etc. by these hack athiests who know nothing of the miracles of god.”

Our discussion turned into a debate (a crowd gathered at the racquetball court). The only thing I thought to ask him was “do you know of an alternate theory that better explains how we and all animals and plants formed?” Of course his response was ID Theory. I then asked him if he knew what a theory was. I don’t really remember his response because he went off on some rant about “this guy that came to discuss this issue at his church.” This guy told him that whenever discussing the issue of evolution to “…throw back that evolution is just a theory.”–I get nauseous very time I hear this. Then, he started talking about the “missing link”…blah blah blah. I had heard it all before.

I really think we need to come up with some catch phrases that we can all keep repeating and repeating and repeating. If we do this, we might make them feel some of the nausea that I (and I’m sure some of you) have felt over the years every time I hear that stupid phrase “evolution is…” …I can’t even type it.

Thanks for having a site where we can vent about the sillyness and stupidity that surrounds us. I think I’ve said too much.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch all of you with His Noodly Appendage.

A thought just occured to me ( don’t have these too often)…What would happen if we(pro science people) started to use the anti-science peoples’ rhetoric against them, we might be able to (at the very least) put a kink in their armor.

For example, we can say, this ID thing is just a non-scientific hypothesis and hasn’t come close any scientific rigor nor observable data that would indicate that it is a viable alternate to any scientific theory.

My main emphasis here is for us to band together and use similar rhetoric that they use such as… non-scientific hypothesis rather that the word “theory.” In my (humble) opinion, using the word theory (even when it is quotes) actually gives ID some credibility.

I have to give the anti-scientists credit for getting out their word. Over the past five years or so, I kept hearing the phrase “evolution is just a theory.” I remember the first time I heard this phrase. I fellow racquetball player and I were discussing the state of education in the US. I brought up science education and he just latched on to that and said “evolution is just a theory.” I was speechless. i didn’t know how to respond. I wondered if he knew that what I was hearing was…”evolution is just this thing that has been established over the past 140+ years by observations of the natural world, fossil records, DNA evidence, etc. by these hack atheists who know nothing of the miracles of god.”

Our discussion turned into a debate (a crowd gathered at the racquetball court). The only thing I thought to ask him was “do you know of an alternate theory that better explains how we and all animals and plants formed?” Of course his response was ID Theory. I then asked him if he knew what a theory was. I don’t really remember his response because he went off on some rant about “this guy that came to discuss this issue at his church.” This guy told him that whenever discussing the issue of evolution to “…throw back that evolution is just a theory.”–I get nauseous very time I hear this. Then, he started talking about the “missing link”…blah blah blah. I had heard it all before.

I really think we need to come up with some catch phrases that we can all keep repeating and repeating and repeating. If we do this, we might make them feel some of the nausea that I (and I’m sure some of you) have felt over the years every time I hear that stupid phrase “evolution is…” …I can’t even type it.

Thanks for having a site where we can vent about the silliness and stupidity that surrounds us. I think I’ve said too much.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch all of you with His Noodly Appendage.

Perhaps it would be proper to add to the count of those peer-reviewed papers by ID adviocates a few words about the quality of those papers and their relevance to the ID vs science debate. While I know nothing about the rest of the papers in question, at least two of them have been discussed in detail including right here on PT. These are papers by Meyer and by Behe & Snoke. They are different - Meyers’s paper is a review while Behe & Snoke’s paper is closer to a normal research paper. But both have been found seriously flawed. Quality may be even more telling than quantity - it can be justifiably stated that so far ID crowd has not produced anything of value in any field of science or math insofar as their output relates to the evo vs creo debate.

Perhaps it would be proper to add to the count of those peer-reviewed papers by ID adviocates a few words about the quality of those papers and their relevance to the ID vs science debate. While I know nothing about the rest of the papers in question, at least two of them have been discussed in detail including right here on PT. These are papers by Meyer and by Behe & Snoke. They are different - Meyers’s paper is a review while Behe & Snoke’s paper is closer to a normal research paper. But both have been found seriously flawed. Quality may be even more telling than quantity - it can be justifiably stated that so far ID crowd has not produced anything of value in any field of science or math insofar as their output relates to the evo vs creo debate.

Sorry for pressing the “post” button twice. My fault. AR

For example, we can say, this ID thing is just a non-scientific hypothesis

Technically, does an idea have to be testable to qualify as a hypothesis?

Whether the DI is involved or not, the Kitzmiller case will establish a legal precedent that IDC = creationism and that IDC = religion. This is going to hurt them next time around, no matter how carefully they choose the situation.

AR Wrote:

… it can be justifiably stated that so far ID crowd has not produced anything of value in any field of science or math insofar as their output relates to the evo vs creo debate.

Oh yeah? Here’s Three ID discoveries that say otherwise.

I love the idea of our own catch phrases to combat ID. We should also come up with a slew of questions we can put to any IDer that confronts us with ridiculous statements about evolution or irreducible complexity like where did the Intelligent Designer come from? Why would s/he make so many “mistakes” is design like the ostrich or dodo, birds that cannot fly?

Also, did anyone catch the article about creationists confronting museum docents at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/s[…]_kansas_his/

The creationists state that there is a lot of criticism out there for evolution. This statement just makes me want to scream! It doesn’t matter how much criticism there is, it matters WHO is making the criticism. When people without any understanding of basic biological and scientific principles criticize science, it is irrelevant whether there is one person or one million people doing the criticism. They don’t know what they’re talking about and therefor their opion carries no weight. That opinion doesn’t matter!!!

Sheesh.… I get really upset about this stuff.

There is one thing wrong with evolution but I think it would be a flaw in intelligent design as well. Why are so many people near sighted? Why didn’t near sightedness get wiped out by sabre-toothed tigers a few thousand years ago?

Ostriches do very well, thank you - hardly a “mistake” at all, whether designed or not. It must be a pretty good niche, emu’s and the other large flightless bird do very well, too.

Dodo’s did fine until the ecosystem changed.

Maybe nearsighted folks were protected by the others since they were good at picking small seeds out of the dirt. Also, early humans were pretty social, so the poor-sighted ones - like me 8^) - could depend on others for warnings.

Are there near-sighted chimps or Gorillas?

One possible explanation, Ken, is that nearsightedness is caused by primarily environmental rather than genetic factors, and thus isn’t susceptible to natural selection. Another is that the gene or genes responsible are linked to genes with positive value, so there is a net selective pressure in favor of the overall group (as with the sickle-cell anemia gene helping confer resistance to malaria). Here are some papers suggesting that myopia is linked to brain development; if this hypothesis is correct, the survival of the myopia gene can be attributed to the increased brainpower of the nearsighted. (On average, of course. And as someone having about 10/200 vision, I’m naturally attracted to this theory!)

The big difference between these evolutionary hypotheses and any ID hypotheses (whatever they might be-the FSM likes the nearsighted, maybe?) is that the evolutionary hypotheses can be, and are being, tested …

I always feel a bit stupid commenting on such things, cuz I’m no scientist, but here goes: isn’t near-sightedness something that gets worse with age? That is my personal experience; I could get away without corrective lenses until I was 15, but could not remotely do it now, at 49.

The lifespan when humans were in caves fighting tigers was about 20-25, was it not? So a minimal amount of near-sightedness in the “young” might not have been an insurmountable affliction. And, one would assume the profoundly near-sighted were frequenly selected against before they reproduced.

Anyhoo, my frequent come back to those who claim we are intelligently designed is the location of the human female urethra. It is the cause of much suffering from bladder and kidney infections, as I can personally attest to. Then there is the fact that until modern surgery, appendicitis killed something like one in ten children or young adults. So why did the “intelligent” Creator give us the freakin’ thing?

Comment #49182

Posted by Ken Willis on September 22, 2005 10:27 AM (e) (s)

There is one thing wrong with evolution but I think it would be a flaw in intelligent design as well. Why are so many people near sighted? Why didn’t near sightedness get wiped out by sabre-toothed tigers a few thousand years ago?

I was at a seminar at the Pepperdine School of Law years ago. It was boring, so I went into their library and by happenstance read a book by Jon L. Karlsson titled “The Genitics of Human Mentality.” Karlsson explored three factors of human mentality in the Icelandic population. These were a family history of myopia, psychosis and alcoholism.

What I read, and it was a long time ago, was myopia was inheritbable condition that provides benifit without liability in a heterozygous condition and twice the benifit with liablity in a homozygous condition. Speficially, a population of persons with one myopia gene will (all other factors being controlled), on average, have an IQ 7 points above “average” on full non-myopes. A population fo persons with two myopia genes will (all other factors being controlled), on average, have an IQ approximately 15 points over average.

Karlsson’s work on myopia has been duplicated over time. i.e., myopes run “smart” and mypopia is an inheritable condition, not from reading, masturbation or excessive near-work.

I read this article a few years ago and it brings up evolution, myopia, asthma and allergies. I don’t know enough about the fundamentals of evolution to address the evolutionary concepts, but I thought it was interesting:

MYOPIA, INTELLIGENCE, AND THE EXPANDING HUMAN NEOCORTEX [International Journal of Neuroscience (1999)] Precis of Storfer on Brain-Intelligence

I have never discussed it with anyone so I don’t know if it’s solid science, speculative science or just complete bull**** as it goes into a lot more than Karlsson. But, it was interesting.

Are there near-sighted chimps or Gorillas?

I think I saw some TV show in the late 60’s where a chimp was wearing glasses…

Comment #49189

Posted by Arden Chatfield on September 22, 2005 11:30 AM (e) (s)

Are there near-sighted chimps or Gorillas?

I think I saw some TV show in the late 60’s where a chimp was wearing glasses…

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Not only did Lancelot wear glasses in his disguise, but the Duchess also wore glasses and the Baron wore a monocle and Wang Fu had a Charlie Chan mustache.

Actually, it is far-sightedness, not near-sightedness, that is correlated to age.

The paper’s supposed relevance to ID is the key point. While a couple of them, penned by DI fellows themselves, may promote ID, the rest probably do not.

The DI shot themselves in the foot and lost a considerable amount of credibility when they compiled their bibliography of papers that supposedly cast doubt on evolution and submitted them to the Ohio Board of Education back in 2002.

The initial response was what I imagine the DI was hoping for: confusion. How were board of education members supposed to decipher these highly technical papers and decide if they really posed any challenge to evolution? Clearly, they couldn’t, so the DI simply hoped they’d take their word for it.

NCSE did an analysis of the bibliography that included contacting many authors of the papers, and many of them were, to put it bluntly, seriously pissed off that the DI would distort their work to use as a tool in their political agenda.

It may have been written a while back, but I would highly recommend reading NCSE’s analysis and the comments by the authors of some of papers used back in 2002 to gain a real insight into the downright dishonest and slimey way the DI tries to use real science as a prop to compensate for their complete lack of any actual original research supporting ID:

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/ar[…]4_5_2002.asp

JJ wrote: “For example, we can say, this ID thing is just a non-scientific hypothesis and hasn’t come close any scientific rigor nor observable data that would indicate that it is a viable alternate to any scientific theory.”

I was thinking the exact same thing as I read the start of this thread. Blast you, you beat me to publication!

What better way to illustrate to a lay public about what “theory” means than with a counterexample, a hypothesis. To be useful scientifically, a hypothesis should be testable (one major strike against ID), but I think an idea can qualify as a hypothesis without testing. We can’t positively conclude that ID will never think of a way to test (although it is looking doubtful now), but by framing the issue in this way we put the onus on them to do so. Anyone can have a hypothesis, but to qualify as theory, in the scientific rather than colloquial definition of the word, a hypothesis must be rigorously tested and supported by evidence. Our revulsion to IDists is rationally based on their obvious attempts to claim theory status without coming up with any evidence. If and when they go through the process of providing evidence for their hypothesis over the established theory, I think many researchers, including myself, would take great interest in examining the issue further. The key aspect is that even non-science types can understand that, we don’t reject it because it conforms to someone’s religious ideas, we reject it because it is as yet entirely unfounded.

Tom wrote: “Oh yeah? Here’s Three ID discoveries that say otherwise.”

I don’t know if this is a joke or what, but so far nobody has responded to Tom so I’ll do the honors, as it relates to the rest of this post.

That page is a talking points memo from an ID website. There is nothing there in the for of actual evidence that supports the ID hypothesis. Did you post the wrong link? When you have any evidence to support the ID hypothesis, come back and the scientific community will gladly discuss its veracity and significance with you.

sanjait,

Tom’s link was to an ID spoof site. The Predator designer should probably have been a dead giveaway.

Ed

I don’t know if this is a joke or what

The line about pastry science did it for me.

I wouldn’t say ID is “just a non-scientific hypothesis.”

Rather, I’d say ID isn’t even a hypothesis.

AR Wrote:

Perhaps it would be proper to add to the count of those peer-reviewed papers by ID advocates a few words about the quality of those papers and their relevance to the ID vs science debate. While I know nothing about the rest of the papers in question, at least two of them have been discussed in detail including right here on PT. These are papers by Meyer and by Behe & Snoke. Meyer’s paper is a review while Behe & Snoke’s paper is closer to a normal research paper. But both have been found seriously flawed.

Of the remaining 4 papers Mike Duford listed: Denton’s two papers deal with non-Darwinian evolutionary processes, Denton et al. (2002) explicitly refers to natural law. They imply, at best, a cosmological fine-tuning argument – of course “intelligent design” can’t be probabalistically inferred from a sample of one. Denton is a favorite of ID because his flawed two decade-old book has become a chestnut of theirs, a critique which Denton has basically abandoned.

Loennig and Saedler (2002) cite Behe and Dembski only in a couple long lists of references. Neither’s concepts or methodology is singled out; the term “design” never appears.

Finally and most interesting D.K.Y. Chiu & T.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis,” International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, 4(3) (September 2002): 766-775. used to be available here http://www.fuzzy.org.tw/download/IJ[…])/4(3)-4.pdf The opening paragraph (not the abstract):

Detection of complex specified information is introduced to infer unknown underlying causes for observed patterns [10]. By complex information, it refers to information obtained from observed pattern or patterns that are highly improbable by random chance alone. We evaluate here the complex pattern corresponding to multiple observations of statistical interdependency such that they all deviate significantly from the prior or null hypothesis [8]. Such multiple interdependent patterns when consistently observed can be a powerful indication of common underlying causes. That is, detection of significant multiple interdependent patterns in a consistent way can lead to the discovery of possible new or hidden knowledge.

Reference [10]: Dembski’s The Design Inference

The article does not cite [10] again, has nothing to do with a conclusion of “design”, and never mentions “specification”, “detachable”, Dembski’s Explanatory Filter, his Universal Probability Bound or any other Dembski concept – including CSI after those initial sentences. It is basically about finding correlations, and essentially employs Bayesian hypothesis testing, which Dembski-ism eschews. Its methodology addresses an example of human disease, not evolutionary relationships. The first author was a member of Dembski’s ISCID and had a background in algorithms for voice recognition before writing this paper. Seems like a gratuitous attempt to insert a irrelevant citation to a Dembski term and reference to get it into the peer-reviewed literature. His Fuzzy Logic reviewers (perhaps Taiwanese?) probably never heard of Dembski and had no idea of the significance of formal DembskiCSI.

“Tom’s link was to an ID spoof site. The Predator designer should probably have been a dead giveaway.”

Ok, I don’t know who this makes look worse, me for being inattentive or IDists for being so near to self-parody that I couldn’t immediately tell the difference.

Regarding the Taiwanese paper mentioned above: This is extremely interesting. It is not surprising that Demski would trumpet the reference, but if one reads this paragraph closely it is very reasonable and actually demolishes Demski’s design inference in the first sentence.

“Detection of complex specified information is introduced to infer unknown underlying causes for observed patterns [10].” CSI isn’t used to infer design, it is used to infer unknown underlying causes. Even if Demski’s models accurately protrayed the probability of a complex system evolving using present knowledge of evolutionary theory, the low probability outcome wouldn’t lead to a design inference, it would lead to an “unkown” inference. I read a criticism of Demski from Shallit (can’t remember where but it was linked from a PT thread) that said essentially the same thing. If we calculated our present understanding of evolution was insufficient to account for the observed, we would reasonably infer unknown rather than supernatural causes. However, it also must be observed that Demski’s calculations don’t accurately model the evolutionary process, which makes the methodology flawed on two major fronts.

Lastly, there are many defitions of “hypothesis,” some that require and some that don’t require testability. In a scientific sense, I don’t think it is necessarily complimentary to call an idea “hypothetical.” I would grand ID that if it helped people to understand what “theory” by contrast implies.

I’m rather with most of you here in having a negative impression of MENSA and their members.

I and my circle of friends are easily intelligent enough to join, being well above the set level, yet we found we unanimously hadn’t wanted to. We each, independently, came to the conclusion that MENSA’s IQ standards were actually surprisingly low, that their members were a laughing stock when they held a conference at our university and kept locking themselves out of their rooms (through failing to understand the door mechanism), and that the membership cost made it more of a con-trick on the semi-intelligent rather than being anything the truly intelligent would aspire to join.

Since then, the only people I’ve encountered on the internet boasting of being in MENSA have indeed been some of the most functionally stupid (and nasty) of the semi-intelligent. Typically, they were unable or unwilling to follow conversations properly and wouldn’t notice or even care about their inability when it was drawn to their attention. Instead they preferred to blame any results of their misunderstandings onto other people, rally gangs of like-minded attackers and be defamatory about the ones pointing out their errors rather than deal with the issues. There’s a particularly nasty gang culture of the semi-intelligent over at h2g2 on the BBC.

A classic Simpsons episode springs to mind r.e. MENSA.

I haven’t seen it. So you’ll have to explain why it’s relevant if you want me to know.

Up the IWW! Lenny, keep up the good work. Every time I read your replies to the obfuscators, your litany, I recognize that left or right isn’t what divides us, it’s the issue of social justice. And, you’re correct, the US doesn’t *have* a left now, if it ever did. Justice? I wonder.

I said: “I’m probably a bit younger than he”

Lenny said: “Does that mean you think I’m an old fart? Gee, it used to be that ya couldn’t trust anyone over 30. Now, it’s the other way around. ;>”

Nothing personal Lenny. I was generally referring to my own inability to understand the name drops flying back and forth, which I assumed because I wasn’t of age when they were big names. Also, there seems to be some lingering Cold War tension between you and Mona that I don’t really understand either.

Nothing personal Lenny.

Nothing TAKEN personal. I’m just busting on ya. ;>

I was generally referring to my own inability to understand the name drops flying back and forth, which I assumed because I wasn’t of age when they were big names.

Geez, thanks for making me feel like “ancient history”. Ya know, back when *I* was a kid, we WALKED to school. And it was all uphill. Both ways. ;>

The 60’s were a crucial time in American history. We are still witnessing many of the effects of (and reaction to) the social movements of the 60’s – religious fundamentalism/creationism/ID being just one of them.

I think it would be critically important for everyone today to understand what happened back then and why. Teaching about the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, the feminist movement, the international student movement (from Berkeley to Paris to Prague), and all the other things from the 60’s, is far far more relevant to what is going on around us than dithering on about the Civil War or the Guilded Age or lists of dead presidents. Whether one agrees with them or not. They are still determining factors in what is happening around us.

Also, there seems to be some lingering Cold War tension between you and Mona that I don’t really understand either.

Dude, the Cold War ended twenty years ago. Arguing over it now has about as much relevance as arguing whether Ishida or Tokugawa were right at Seki-ga-hara.

I’m more annoyed that Mona seems insistent on dragging her ideological hobby horse into things that have nothing to do with it. How the hell she goes from “IQ tests don’t really measure anything” to “STALINISTS KILLED LOTS OF PEOPLE !!!!!!!!”, I just don’t know. Particularly when she seems to think that “STALINISTS KILLED LOTS OF PEOPLE!!!!” is some sort of surprise to anyone here.

When she yammers about people here “defending Stalinists”, I can only assume that she is just nutty, like all the Birchers who used to scream that Eisenhower was a Communist. Or else she’s just too uninformed to know the difference between a “stalinist” and a “leftist”. (shrug)

Extreme argumentiveness, refusal to admit when wrong

I *thought* I was wrong once.

But I was mistaken.

;>

Aren wrote

(For the record, I was invited to join Mensa and turned it down.)

So did I. Told ‘em I was over-qualified. :)

RBH

While I do not share Mona’s political orientation, I must confess, Lenny, that I don’t see the level of “nuttiness” that you do. Is she not correct that the left in this country (back when it had one) was slow to condemn Leninism-Stalinism? And further that those who did take such a stand were ostracised from left-political circles? I don’t know, I mean, I like that the Thumb is kind of a free-fire zone, and that all views are welcome, and discussion of diverse topics is tolerated. But what good does it do, sniping between ourselves about politics, when we’re on the same side of the issues that are the raison d’etre of the site? Quit calling her a yammering Bircher, and maybe she’ll consider leaving references to her political opinions out of her comments. Or, perhaps better yet, the two of you could just ignore each other.

Um, make that “Arden wrote”.

It is entirely possible to be completely skeptical about the value of the concept of IQ, and yet fully support the various forms of “special ed”, including gifted and talented programs. “Intelligence” is an extraordinarily complex concept, and attempts to use a single number to quantify “intelligence” suffer from the fundamental flaw of assuming that everyone’s brain works in pretty much the same way.

As fundies show, some people’s brains don’t seem to function at ALL. (grin)

Wayyy back when I was in school, there was no such thing as “gifted” programs. Me, I got straight A’s, in every subject, right up till age 14-15, when I discovered (1) girls, (2) beer, (3) pot and (4) teenage rebellion. :> After that, my grades (and my attendance) plummeted so sharply that it quite literally came down to one final exam whether or not I would graduate —- all I had to do was pass it, and I got a “D”.

I do think, though, that a part of why I burned out so spectacularly was that I was bored out of my skull most of the time. Every class I was in, was going over stuff that I had already learned on my own years ago.

Had I been able to move to a class where I could operate at the level I was capable of, instead of the level of the dumbest kid in the class, I probably would not have flamed out. But, alas, ’twas not to be.

Ah well. Gotta get back to my kayak frame — it should be dry by now. :>

A last note before leaving this thread to its fate - I notice “A” hasn’t bothered to return and defend, possibly in many repeated postings, his/her stupidities. I’ll presume, till evidence suggesting otherwise surfaces, that it was a simple, dishonest (not-very-able) troll spewing for the fun of seeing mature, intelligent people (we’re still speaking very relatively, of course) become upset.

It is very, very hard to find the decent side of real conservatives these days, and to spot the complacent yet honest ones, with whom common ground and entertaining and important insights can be shared, among the blind, loud, and cowardly unsympathetic Baby Hueys that dominate the current brandname.

Hmm, not dry yet. …

Is she not correct that the left in this country (back when it had one) was slow to condemn Leninism-Stalinism?

No, she is not.

Keep in mind that there is a veritable smorgasbord of “leninist” groups and groupuscules in the US. Off the top of my head, I can think of the CPUSA, the SWP, the PLP, the RCP, the IMLO, and MIM. Most of these are Trotskyite, a few are Maoist. The only one that stuck to the Soviet line was the CPUSA (when it rained in Moscow, Communist Party USA members all carried umbrellas). The rest hated the USSR, hated Stalin, and also hated each other.

In addition, there are a large number of “leftist” groups that are marxist-oriented but non-leninist. They all spoke out against Stalin and the USSR (and Mao and China, Ho and Vietnam, and Castro and Cuba). Only the most ignorant of ideologues would declare that leftists, here or abroad, were “slow to condemn Leninism-Stalinism”. Only the Stalinists (the CPUSA) didn’t condemn it. Duhhhhhhh.

Indeed, one of the deadliest threats to the newly-formed Bolshevik government during the Russian Civil War was not the US- and UK-backed Tsarists, but was the guerrilla army led by Nestor Makhno, a syndicalist from the Ukraine who gathered a large number of leftist groups with the stated aim of overthrowing the Bolsheviks by military force and instituting a democratic government based on the “soviet”, or elected workers council. They were supported by the largest left groups in the US at the time, including the IWW and the Socialist Party, both of which condemned Bolshevism right from the start. Indeed, there was so much leftist opposition to the Bolsheviks that Lenin wrote an entire book, titled “Left-Wing Communism; An Infantile Disorder”, to try to respond to all their criticisms and defuse their popularity.

Unfortunately for future history, the non-leninist leftists lost, and were all shot by the Bolsheviks. As were all the members of the Worker’s Opposition and the Council Communists. Of all the people who died in Stalin’s purges, the vast majority were anti-stalinist leftists.

In the US, the most vocal leftist opposition to the Soviet Union was destroyed by the Palmer Raids, in which IWW and SP members were illegally rounded up and arrested (a predecessor to later illegal actions such as COINTELPRO and the Enemies List). That left the fledgeling CPUSA as the only left force remaining, which is why the CP, not the IWW, played the leading role in the left movement of the 1930’s. There WAS no one else.

Mona doesn’t have to lecture me on the history of Stalinism —– I suspect I long ago forgot more about it than she ever knew in the first place.

I don’t know, I mean, I like that the Thumb is kind of a free-fire zone, and that all views are welcome, and discussion of diverse topics is tolerated.

We need our Bathroom back. ;>

As I said before, the thing I like about the OT posts are that tey allow all of us to see each other as real live human beings, rather than just words on a computer screen.

But what good does it do, sniping between ourselves about politics, when we’re on the same side of the issues that are the raison d’etre of the site?

None. As I’ve often pointed out.

Quit calling her a yammering Bircher, and maybe she’ll consider leaving references to her political opinions out of her comments.

Works for me.

Mona?

But it’s not her opinions I am objecting to, nor her mentioning them. What annoys me is her proclivity to drag them out at every conceivable excuse, however tenuous (or nonexistent). It seems to me that she just wants to preach. And I have no use for preachers, of any sort.

But it’s not her opinions I am objecting to, nor her mentioning them. What annoys me is her proclivity to drag them out at every conceivable excuse, however tenuous (or nonexistent). It seems to me that she just wants to preach.

I have to say I agree. We’re all smart people here, we all know Stalin killed millions and millions of people. It doesn’t make one especially courageous to condemn Stalin. But Stalin has been dead 52 years, and there’s no one cheerleading for him in the West.

Stalin (and Marxism in general) ain’t very relevant anymore in America, and in fact the main people here who invoke him nowadays are rightwingers like David Horowitz who have convinced millions of gullible people that leftists and Stalinists are the same thing. (‘Leftist’ being defined by him as anyone who dislikes Bush.) I would hope Mona could understand why that’s incredibly offensive (and I hope I don’t have to remind people, a lie), and realize that’s the stink that clings to comparisons between leftists in Stalin in the 21st century.

rightwingers like David Horowitz who have convinced millions of gullible people that leftists and Stalinists are the same thing.

In exactly the same way they have convinced millions of gullible people that atheists and evolutionists are the same thing.

I suspect that is not a coincidence.

“You could also modify the silly, hugely overstated, insulting characterization of literature, anthropology, and pretty much everything else you know nothing more about than the typical creationist foot soldier about about science or the ToE (I’ll give you a place to start: THIS is your elbow, and THIS is your…)”

The thrust of Darwin Finches argument seems to be that I know nothing about the humanities, since I majored in philosophy and minored in literature at the ANU, and since I am currently doing a post graduate degree in philosophy ( Australian National University) I find this claim ridiculous. Firstly, no one could accuse me of being anti lit crit, as you seem to do, I am just against most modern lit crit. I got an A average for god’s sake. I don’t think I ever met a single professor who wasn’t at least a bit of a releatvist.

Even Harold Bloom, that supposed defender of the western tradition claimed that there was no truth. Pick up any introduction to lit crit ( I’ve read several) and you will find that every modern movement, postcolonialism, Deconstruction, Feminism, Gynocriticism, Marxism, Social criticism, the New historcism, Psychoanalytic criticism mentioned in it, treats truth as relative or takes a sceptical view of truth. Secondly I have not caricatured anthropology, as I conceded in my original post not all work done in this area is relativist, but all but the whole fields so infected with it that you can’t escape it for long if you work in it. Boas started relativism about morality and it quite quickly spread to relativism about truth, you try convincing your average anthropologist that the creation myths they study are false.

If A continues in his or her graduate studies, I expect he (or she) will find that it’s a lot easier to lump a whole bunch of intellectual movements together than to make philosopbical sense out of the naked claim “There is truth, damn it!” A rhetorical move isn’t the same thing as a philosophically defensible position. A better hope that Socrates doesn’t parachute into his dorm with a few questions about just what this truth is and how A is so sure about it.

For the record, Marxism simply isn’t a skeptical or relativistic position. Neither is classical psychoanalysis. Deconstruction isn’t traditional skepticism either. And if A thinks Boas started relativism about morality, somebody ought to inform the Sophists and Montaigne that their copyright is being violated. Doesn’t anybody take Western Civ anymore?

In my experience, all intellectual movements in Anglo-Saxon countries decay into a pop version of cultural relativism before they expire. That doesn’t mean they start out that way.

A wrote: “Even Harold Bloom, that supposed defender of the western tradition claimed that there was no truth. Pick up any introduction to lit crit ( I’ve read several) and you will find that every modern movement, postcolonialism, Deconstruction, Feminism, Gynocriticism, Marxism, Social criticism, the New historcism, Psychoanalytic criticism mentioned in it, treats truth as relative or takes a sceptical view of truth.”

What is truth? Please define your terms.

But before you do, answer these questions:

1) does 2+2=4? a] True b] False c] Maybe

2) If you believe you can jump off a twenty story building and fly, will you be able to fly?

about question #1, I hope “A” doesn’t take any Modern Algebra classes. Might think that dang ol relativism has infected the math department.

“For the record, Marxism simply isn’t a sceptical or relativistic position. Neither is classical psychoanalysis. Deconstruction isn’t traditional skepticism either. And if A thinks Boas started relativism about morality, somebody ought to inform the Sophists and Montaigne that their copyright is being violated. Doesn’t anybody take Western Civ anymore?”

I did not say that Boas started moral relativism, rather that he brought it, with a vengeance to modern anthropology, I am aware that there is a fine tradition of moral relativists in western culture, from full blown cases like the Montiage and the classical skeptics to sympathisers like Hobbes and to some extent Hume ( to be honest I haven’t really got a problem with moral relativism, it’s relativism about truth which infuriates me). psychoanalysis does lead to relativism about truth, especially in it’s modern incarnations, consider Krivesta, it’s true Freud was no relativist, but in the context of literature psychoanalysis is almost always relativistic, and if Freud had have followed his ideas consistently he would have found relativism . Marxism, with it’s emphasis on ideology, becomes sceptical and relativistic in practice if not theory, and I don’t know how the hell you got the idea that deconstruction isn’t relativism, it’s main tenet that the reader creates the meaning (i.e that meaning is relative to the reader) erriely echoes Protagoras ‘s comment “Man is the measure of all things” if Deconstruction isn’t relativism I don’t know what bloody is. It’s true that relativism has always been with us but it’s been a parasite on western culture from the start. Norman Doering, Truth is a correspondence between a proposition and it’s object ( I’d be the first to admit that believing in truth is a sort of kriekgraadian act of faith.)

I must admit I’m unfamialiar with the philosophy of Kriekgraad, though it strikes me that there isn’t a huge amount of difference between believing that truth is an act of faith and radical epistemological relativism. Well, the extremes touch.

You’ll forgive me if I thought you meant that Boas started relativism about morality just becasue you wrote “Boas started relativism about morality.” I’m not subtle enough for that one. On the other hand, when you wrote “If Deconstruction isn’t relativism I don’t know what bloody is” was a witty way of admitting you don’t know what relativism is. I did get that. But then nobody should feel bad about not knowing what relativism is. By now the word has become a blunt club indeed, a mere term of abuse that can be flung at anybody you don’t like. Thus even Freud and Marx were brothers under the skin since they would have recognized that they were both relativists if only they had understood their own ideas better. No doubt you check under your bed for relativists before going to sleep.

For all I know, Australian Universities are infested with Professors who talk like pot heads. Or it could be that in some cases, you don’t really understand what some of them are driving at. Or, horribly inconvenient thought, the truth lies in between.

Technical note: people who do the tub-thumping bit to argue for TRUTH often slide back and forth between talking about reality and talking about truth. Reality, at least in one of its common language senses, is what hangs around without reference to our opinions. If truth, on the other hand, is “a correspondence between a proposition and its object.,” it necessarily and always has a social component because language is a social and cultural fact. Whatever else it is, truth is always relational since it has to do with the relationship between people and the world. It is not necessarily a skeptical move to notice that the reader has something to do with the meaning of a proposition; and, anyhow, I’m not sure why skepticism, especially methodological skepticism, is obviously a bad thing.

It is clear from the context ( the whole paragraph was about anthropology) that my comment about Boas was a way of saying that Boas first brought moral relatvism to anthropology, not to the world. The whole paragraph was about anthropology.

“If Deconstruction isn’t relativism I don’t know what bloody is” was a witty way of admitting you don’t know what relativism is.”

Firstly, relativism about a certain area is the belief that truth in some domain truth is relative to an agent, hence one can have moral relativism, cognitive relativism, religious relativism, political relativism etc. That a snappy enough definition for ya?

Deconstruction is almost the pure distilled essence of relativism. The proposition that the meaning is determined by the reader, and nothing else is relativism, because relativism is by definition the making of truth dependent on the individual, rather then on the world.

Freud’s work leads to relativism or skepticism, depending on your epistemological views. If one explains certain beliefs in terms of Id struggles etc ( let the pun be noted) there’s no real reason not to explain all beliefs in these terms.

Marxism clearly leads to skepticism ( not relativism) as a key component of it is ideology. Marx explained just about everything in terms of ideology, from economics, to religion, to histographical schools, to morality. Nothing is spared, if anything can be ideology, if nothing is safe from the all controlling hand of the economic base then it follows that one cannot know that any of one’s beliefs are true. This belief in ideology gives a valuable lesson in the dangers of relativism, consider Lysenkoism, sustained in part by a belief that evolution was a just another capitalist ideology.

Just because thinkers believe there views don’t entail something, doesn’t mean they don’t. I am clearly not engaging in relatvists and skeptics under the bed paranoia, when one considers the works of Freud and Marx it is clear that the result of both is that scientific, historical, even mathematical and logical domains are “debunked” by both ( actually Marx’s attempts at mathematics were hilarious, you should read some of them).

Your attempt to prove truth socially relative is trivial. It clearly doesn’t prove the key proposition of relativism, that, in the words of Niszetche “there are no facts, only interpretations.”

There’s nothing wrong with skepticism, if I wasn’t a skeptic in the sense you mean I wouldn’t be posting on Panda’s thumb. The problem is with skepticism about our basic epistemological tools, which make the asking of questions possible.

“Guthrie put it best in another post”

Cheers sanjait!

I personally get rather bored with all this discussion of philosoophy, can we get back to the science please?

I also think that everything is relative to everything else. Does that make me a relativist?

Since knowing is something that people do, it’s pretty hard to leave people out when you talk about truth or knowledge. Science is a social, historical, and economic phenomenon–not even a grad student should not be unware that it is something rather different than a drawing room debate. Why this obvious and highly relevant fact is so upsetting is unclear to me. It certainly doesn’t imply some sort of generalized skepticism about the possibility of figuring things out. What strikes me as unfair is the way in which scholars who aren’t particularly interested in impugning the validity of scientific results get attacked as relativists or nihilists because they dare to point out, for example, that physics is not conducted by disembodied spirits.

Meanwhile, it’s just silly to blame Marx for Lysenko unless you literally believe in ghosts, rather like blaming Christ for the Inquisition. Anyhow, as I think I mentioned before, Marx originally wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin. He was hardly some sort of anti-evolutionist. If there were no ideological profit in denouncing him, he would doubtlessly be recognized as a significant contributor to the development of economics and history. After all, the fact that we don’t agree with everything other dead white men (and women) had to say doesn’t prevent us from recognizing that they made a contribution.

Jim

I willing concede that Freud and Marx have made great contributions to the study of the social sciences, but that doesn’t make them right. I don’t blame Marx for Lysenkoism ( not directly anyway), I blame Marxism. I am of course aware that science isn’t carried out by disembodied spirts, that doesn’t prevent the possibility of truth in the way demanded by relativism. The additions of interpretations of facts to phenomena doesn’t mean there aren’t any facts. I suppose I agree with that whatshisname in the Edinburgh school who argued that science is highly influenced by culture, but is also substantially corresponds with facts about the real world.

Jim

I willing concede that Freud and Marx have made great contributions to the study of the social sciences, but that doesn’t make them right. I don’t blame Marx for Lysenkoism ( not directly anyway), I blame Marxism. I am of course aware that science isn’t carried out by disembodied spirts, that doesn’t prevent the possibility of truth in the way demanded by relativism. The additions of interpretations of facts to phenomena doesn’t mean there aren’t any facts. I suppose I agree with that whatshisname in the Edinburgh school who argued that science is highly influenced by culture, but is also substantially corresponds with facts about the real world.

Now if I can just get you to notice that treating terms like “Marxism” and “relativism” as if they named unchanging essences, I would have really done you a favor… Of course one can define something like Marxist doctrine by a set of specific tenets (the labor theory of value, a materialist theory of history, etc.). Unfortunately, the standard definition of Marxism doesn’t include very much that is obviously relevant to Lysenko; and, anyhow, the vast majority of even self-proclaimed Marxists disagreed with some of the standard stuff. As Nietzsche once wrote–and this is one notion of his to which I very much subscribe–only a word without a history has a definition.

I doubt if it helps very much to decide whether a theoretical approach is right or wrong, not because all ideas are equal, but but because things are too complicated to usefully judge in such terms. Has there every been a philosopher who was willing to say that any other philosopher was simply right? Since thinking isn’t a multiple choice test and there is no answer book, I prefer to assess the worth of a thinker in different ways.

By the way, I appreciate that the correspondence theory of truth is good rhetoric. It sounds like commonsense. Unfortunately, it isn’t very easy to defend if somebody bothers to fight back. Correspondence works well in cases where I have just as many pebbles as bunny rabbits, but though I have it on the advice of Richard Feynman, that m = fa, I’m damned if I can specify exactly what in nature is supposed to correspond to the equation. Ideas in the mind of God? Platonic forms?

If all you want to say is that there are plenty of liberal arts idiots around who make indefensible statements about scientific matters, I can readily agree; but in my experience blanket rejections of contemporary ideas throw out entirely too many babies with not enough bathwater. Anyhow, one can not frame a defensible epistemology by kicking a stone and bellowing “I refute it thus!”

“If all you want to say is that there are plenty of liberal arts idiots around who make indefensible statements about scientific matters, I can readily agree; but in my experience blanket rejections of contemporary ideas throw out entirely too many babies with not enough bathwater. Anyhow, one can not frame a defensible epistemology by kicking a stone and bellowing “I refute it thus!””

At some point in our epistemologies we have to do a Johnson and kick the stone (much of my epistemological though centres around, how much, at what point, why etc we must do this, I plan to publish eventually if your intrested). If you wish to preserve any facts at all you just have to take a non factual stand eventually. To even be able to believe in those liberal arts idiots (that they exist), one has to have some evidence they exist, and finding this evidence depends on dogmatically assuming some things to be truth, for example that the law’s of logic hold absolute ( with the possible exception of the law of the excluded middle.), that sense is evidence of something other then a one’s own mind, etc, etc. I can appreciate your attempt to take a more complex stand on the issue, but eventually you will have to take a stand on something. Consider the law of parsimony, what evidence is there for it? Yet knowledge of the external world as we know it would it would be impossible without it.

I am not rejecting all contemporary ideas, as I said in my earlier post there’s some very good non relativistic research out there. Even relativistic schools of thought have some components that can be removed and used usefully, consider post-colonialism, it has given us a more nuanced understanding of the value of other civilizations.

“Now if I can just get you to notice that treating terms like “Marxism” and “relativism” as if they named unchanging essences, I would have really done you a favour…”

You are absolutely correct, only words without histories have meanings as such, recall Wittgenstein’s analysis of the meaning of the word “game”. Yet the different meanings of words have common threads that run through them, common themes. It is these common theme’s that allow us to accept or reject an idea like relativism or Marxism.

Despite the implication of the line of your post “Now I if I can only get you to.” It wasn’t you who made me realise that Freudian psychology and Marxist economics have made profound contributions in the histories of these fields, I’ve understood that since I first examined these ideas. But, as I said earlier, the fact that I realise these ideas made profound contribution’s to their fields doesn’t stop me disagreeing with their implied skepticism about knowledge intensely, and disliking both at a personal level immensely.

Or calling ( some of) Gould’s ideas on IQ “Bizzare Marxist fantasies” like I did near the start of the thread for that matter ;).

I don’t blame Marx for Lysenkoism ( not directly anyway), I blame Marxism.

You SHOULD be blaming “stalinism”. After all, most Marxists thought Lysenko was full of crap.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on September 22, 2005 4:07 AM.

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