Politics masquerading as Philosophy

I occasionally visit the blog Talking Philosophy, where a gaggle of working philosophers/professors of philosophy infrequently pontificate on anything that strikes their fancy.  Most of the articles are interesting, fun analyses of obscure topics, quasi-satirical take-downs of bad argumentation, or explorations of philosophical concepts.  Still others are teaser posts for the philosopher’s publications.  Great stuff, highly recommended.

Some, however, are political exhortations couched in the language of philosophy, presumably to give meandering sermons some degree of academic legitimacy.  BLS Nelson’s most recent post is an example of the latter; the arguments non-existent, the examples misleading, and the politics so obvious that even a philosophical veneer doesn’t hide the pulpit.  Indeed, the first comment says 90% of what needs to be said; it’s two pages of a message that could have been distilled into a twitter feed, and probably should have.

The post started strong, briefly outlining the benefits and drawbacks of critical thinking.  However, he couldn’t finish the first paragraph without a token dis to conservatives, and an irrational one at that.  Ironically, while the conservative blog he linked to in The American Conservative was indeed talking about critical thinking in a decidedly woo-ish manner, they were both making parallel points!

We’ve learned only critical thinking skills, and not the equally challenging skills of prudent acceptance: We don’t even realize that we need to learn when to say yes, and to what.

Yes, dear reader, the content and context of what you just read is a rough approximation of warranted deference.  Not once does the “conservative” relate his point to politics, nor does he claim that critical thinkers don’t “trust”, only that “Nobody can live by critical thinking alone.”  If what follows in BLS’ post is “critical thinking”, I’m with the conservative.

Anyways, he then goes on to list “two maxims related to deference”

(a) The meanings of words are fixed by authorities who are well informed about a subject.e.g., we defer to the international community of astronomers to tell us what a particular nebula is called, and we defer to them if they should like to redefine their terms of art. On matters of definition, we owe authorities our deference.

(b) An individual’s membership in the group grants them prime facie authority to speak truthfully about the affairs of that group. e.g., if I am speaking to physicists about their experiences as physicists, then all other things equal I will provisionally assume that they are better placed to know about their subject than I am. The physicist may, for all I know, be a complete buffoon. (S)he is a physicist all the same.

On (a), I have no trouble with the “maxim”, but I quote it because you’ll notice that he later attempts to use the logic here to prop up a social argument.  More on that below.

On (b), I agree with the maxim (insofar as “prima facie” is included), but his example is a mess.  The first sentence of the example begins by making a mundane point about the “experiences” of physicists as physicists, then takes a sharp turn down a blind alley by changing the subject to. . .well, the subject ‘physics’.  It’s a subtle shift, and though I doubt it’s intentional, it’s shamefully sloppy.  Furthermore, the force of the example should properly be found in that second sentence, and without consistency, it has neither force nor coherence.  It’s one thing to be the member of a group, it’s rather another to study a subject intensely enough to be a bona fide authority; it’s the difference between being a human that behaves, and being a proper student of human behavior.

He then makes the claim that both maxims “follow directly from the assumption that your interlocutor, whoever they are, deserved to be treated with dignity.”(emphasis mine).  Not without a pile of other premises, my man.  You can treat anyone with dignity without accepting their authority, even provisionally, on the “group” to which they belong.  If you have zero information about that group(think: alien liason), one individual’s testimony is insufficient to establish anything like a reasonable approximation of the truth of that group’s experiences.  If you have alternate information from equally “authoritative” sources, one individual’s counter-testimony won’t immediately grant the most recent account ascendance.  Furthermore, this is nearly identical to the argument made by the conservative blog BLS links to in the beginning.  It’s about dignity, not “good reasons in(sic) cooperative conversation.”

What is brushed aside here is all of the information we have which informs the scope of testimony that we will accept from any individual from any group.  Presumably, BLS won’t accept the testimony of a latino lesbian that contains an account of the privileged status of latinos or lesbians in western culture.  He will be at pains to explain why he would reject such an account, however, were he to rely on the reasoning he presents in this post.  Clearly, the level of trust we place in testimony has far more to do with consistency with past experience than with “group membership” or marginalized status.

Continuing with pseudo-philosophical linearity, he presents a “banal” (read: moral) conclusion:

(c) Members of group (x) ought to defer to group (y) on matters relating to how group (y) is defined.

I won’t bore you with an analysis of his example, first and foremost because it doesn’t make any sense if it isn’t obviously false.  The important point here is that he nowhere clarifies what he means by “defined”.  Does he mean how one is to be included in group (y)?  Does he mean the totality of group (y)’s experiences?  Does he mean an average characteristic experience of (y)?  It’s frankly ambiguous, and this is a problem, because “defined” is what his entire “argument” rests on.

Now, if the political aspect of this post wasn’t obvious from the start, he makes it patently so with his “logical instantiation” (i.e. in other words) of (c):

(c’) Members of privileged groups ought to defer to marginalized groups on matters relating to how the marginalized group is defined. For example, if a man gives a woman a lecture on what counts as being womanly, then the man is acting in an absurd way, and the conversation ought to end there.

Again we’re left wondering what he means by “defined”, but his example does us no good.  The devil is in the details, and in this case, the devil is language.  The contrast of “privileged groups” and “marginalized groups” is a grope at our heartstrings, an emotional appeal rather than a straightforward “instantiation” of (c).  It’s loaded, to say the least.  So too the remainder of the example.  Man “lecturing” woman alludes to a dominance relationship, one of many boogymen(persons?) since second-wave feminism gained preeminence in political discourse.  We’re taught to recoil, on pain of social ostracism, from approving in any way, shape, or form of demonstrations of male dominance.  It is, not just un-hip, but downright shameful, and has little or nothing to do with what the man is lecturing about.  The wording was either chosen deliberately for precisely that reason, or unconsciously out of an inability to police the author’s own tendency to use emotion over reason in making his arguments.  The intellectually honest approach would have been to flip the example and allow his reasoning, rather than social pressure, carry his point (if it can).

Some hint of what he might mean by “defined” is to be found in his phrase “what counts as being womanly”, but this fails to meet the challenge for all the reasons we might bring to bear on politically and socially charged issues.  Consider for a moment a different phrasing:

For example, if a woman gives another woman a lecture on what counts as being womanly, then the first woman is acting in an absurd way, and the conversation ought to end there.

Is it fair to say that even women shouldn’t be given “prima facae authority” pertaining to “what counts as being womanly”?  I would think so.  If even women can’t reasonably “lecture” other women on the definition of ‘woman’, or what it means to be “womanly”, why was it necessary to use ‘men’ in his example?  What possible good does it do his argument?  What clarity is gained with this method?  I submit that nothing philosophically relevant is elucidated with this example, and it was tailor made to bend, nay, shame, the reader into acquiescing to the conclusion.

You reject this maxim?  Then clearly you find men lecturing women on their “place” an acceptable practice.

We’ve learned nothing save how to play dirty.  He even slyly insinuates this by referring to those who find (c’) controversial as “some sorts of people.”  Delightfully ambiguous; this is what’s called plausible deniability(i.e. how cowards insult people).

But BLS is not without subtlety, as he demonstrates by providing an extreme example (d) of “conclusion” (c), essentially denying that members of group (x) are entirely lacking any authority on the experiences/definition of group (y).  Great, but the gulf between (d) and (c) is what “some sorts of people” find controversial, so it does no good to gesture vaguely at said gulf as though it’s orthogonal to the discussion.  The post is, after all, about warranted deference.  Apparently, it’s not never, and it’s not always.  Bravo.

The remainder of his post is a sort of hurried mush-mash of lecturing about discourse and the like.  My favorite is his redefining of the term ‘silencing':

To be silenced is to be prevented from speaking, or to be prevented from being heard on the basis of perverse non-reasons (e.g., prejudice and stereotyping).

Those of you who follow the shenanigans in the “atheist community” will understand the buzz-word-laden addendum (and the scare quotes).  To be silenced is to be prevented from speaking, or to be prevented from being heard.  Period.  It’s still silencing if you think your reasons are acceptable, so the “on the basis of [blah blah]” is just a whole lot of “it’s not silencing when I do it”.

His final example is not a continuation of his argument, but rather what’s called “putting a fine point on it”, in this case ‘it’ being “check your privilege”.

And if Petra is a member of a marginalized group, it is no good to say that Petra has no knowledge of what counts as being part of that group.

Yes, if you’ve been paying attention, that’s a “logical instantiation” of (d), not (c) as he would like you to believe.  Any student of persuasive writing will recognize the essential task of leaving your reader with a succinct copy of your central point when closing.  Instead of doing so, he retreated to the extreme, trivially true form of his central point because, I suspect, he is at least unconsciously aware that he hasn’t persuaded us of anything.  Are members of a group more, or less, likely to accurately define said group?  What does that even mean, and who adjudicates the matter?  These are the questions left unanswered, and they are what fill the gulf between (d) and (c).

Why do I care?  Well, it’s just the internet, but after first reading a more recent post from the same site, called Critical Thinking and College, BLS’ points seemed to clash mightily with a paragraph from that one:

Another matter of serious concern is the fact that students are exposed to influences that discourage critical thinking and actually provide irrational influences. One example of this is the domain of politics. Political discourse tends to be, at best rhetoric, and typically involves the use of a wide range of fallacies such as the straw man, scare tactics and ad hominems of all varieties. For those who are ill-prepared in critical thinking, exposure to these influences can have a very detrimental effect and they can be led far away from reason. I would call for politicians to cease this behavior, but they seem devoted to the tools of irrationality. There is a certain irony in politicians who exploit and encourage poor reasoning being among those lamenting the weak critical thinking skills of students and endeavoring to blame colleges for the problems they themselves have helped create.(emphasis mine)

Indeed.

Dear Dick

Comment left here

Hello Richard,

Let me premise this by saying that I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I watched (and watched, and watched) that debate (the second, less formal one) with Mike Licona on the resurrection. You were absolutely brilliant, and I’ve also read some of your blog posts in the past which I agreed with. One in particular was your discussion of atheism and agnosticism in February of 2007. That post is particularly apropos, as it was one of the many in which the term “atheist” was distilled to it’s literal meaning, and nothing else. While you didn’t directly respond to the claim that atheism doesn’t entail eg nazism, you responded implicitly:

I prefer “atheism” to be used in its equally literal sense: a-theismos, without theism, i.e. without a belief in god. For in actual practice, this is how it is almost always used. And, as far as I see it, any other usage rhetorically violates the Law of the Excluded Middle.

[...]

Ergo, the only thing that can ever logically matter in distinguishing theists from “atheists” is whether we believe any god exists. Hence all that matters in defining an atheist is that an atheist does not believe in any god.

This has always been important to me as a principle, and only partly for it’s usefulness as a cogent response to the “atheism entails X [im]moral position” that is often bandied about by the religious as a practical response to acceptance of atheism, or rejection of deism/theism. Time and again this has been pointed out to W.L. Craig, et al, unfortunately to little effect.

However, since this A+ thing has surfaced, and you jumped on board, suddenly “atheist” is not just “without theism”, but an identity (here I am responding to roughly the 2 minute mark in your video), replete with “some basic moral principles” that we should all endorse, or that should be ‘linked’ to atheism in some logical sense.

This, to me, is troublesome, and is why I down-voted your video. Now to be clear, I agree in principle that these basic moral principles should be endorse by everyone, but that has nothing to do with atheism, and that is a point of paramount importance. I applaud yours and others endorsement of things like integrity, compassion, and all the rest, but those positions stand as value judgments that are entailed by certain other values assumed. Where I disagree is not in your endorsement of those assumptions and attendant moral principles, but in your position that, say, a pragmatist or nihilistic approach to ethics and the “good life” has no place in an “atheist” movement.

I think alternate views on morality, alternative values at the core of our moral judgments, different perspectives on political and social issues, are what characterize a diverse and vibrant movement (not just the color of your skin or the shape of your genitalia). It seems to me that the only glue binding this community together should be the rejection of theistic authority, on the basis of the failure of theistic arguments, leaving all else open for discussion. The only disqualifying characteristic for denial of membership should be faith.

All of the other concerns, social justice, feminism, progressive vs traditional social mores, conservatism, have their own attendant movements, their own voice. They are composed of theists and atheists alike, as the two can come to the same conclusion even if they start from different assumptions, or have the same values for different reasons. If a subset of one of these movements came out and said, “We’re rather tired of making the same political arguments about taxes and immigration, and we’d prefer to start talking about atheism,” the backlash would be as predictable as rain in April. Not only that, but at least in America they would be on firm legal ground if the dissenting members exorcised that subset from their midst.

Respectfully,

Lee.

Rats in a Barrel

So the rats got a whiff of some social justice cheese and proceeded to dive headfirst into a barrel of their own creation.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/22/adria-richards-did-everything-exactly-right/

Naturally, PZ thinks that following the conference code of conduct in reporting sexual humor was appropriate.  Leaving aside the question of what planet we live on in which sexual humor “harms” someone, more to the point how “big dongles” is somehow demeaning to women, the facts on the ground suggest that simply reporting the incident in accordance with the procedures being aired so vehemently by the conference organizers was the right thing to do.

Fine.

That, however, is not what put Adria under the reticle, so to speak.  This is the same equivalency that was employed during Elevatorgate, applied to Dawkin’s dismissive response to the subsequent flavor of discussion and reaction in which he replied, and now being applied to the reddit/4chan responses to her behavior.

Adria was unsatisfied with the overall result of plying the official channels to redress her “grievance”, for the simple fact that her victimization, and courage, had no audience.  If she followed the rules, utilized the in-place policies to address the “problem”, the “perpetrators” would be dealt with, a measure of justice would have been rendered, and that would be that.  This, I can imagine, is a rather hollow victory for any social justice activist with a public image to foster.  Lets not mince words, either, she is by any stretch a political animal with a public face, and moreover is actively employed in the commission of improving the public and employment image of developers.  She is a developer evangelist, she knows full well (indeed makes her living off of) the importance of a positive public image, and the detrimental nature of a negative one.

Any apology from her that does not reference these selfish motivations is disingenuous at best.

Following redress through the proper channels, she publicly humiliates two men, plastering her well-read blog with their faces and details of the entire sordid affair, and then briefly basks in the supportive comments and tweets that inevitably follow the “victory” over “patriarchy”, punctuated tactfully with demure condemnations of the inevitable brow-beating of men who made an off-color remark amongst themselves.

She knew what would happen, she knew the disastrous blow those men’s reputations would absorb, but she didn’t care.  The important thing, to her, was recognition.  A positive public image, especially in this realm of “fighting sexism” and other such tripe, would directly improve her financial prospects; both her blog and her professional credibility depend on her standing out (and above) her competition.

Then, things began spiraling out of control.  You see, publicly humiliating people, especially for mild-to-absent offensive behavior, is hardly a settled issue.  There are at least two very vocal, very emotional, very enthusiastic sides to the debate over speech and it’s content/appropriateness.  The backlash was vociferous, and, coming as it did from a highly technically competent faction of the internet, highly effective and heavily onerous.

There has been a general confusion about the causal chain in this whole affair, and this has led ideologues like PZ and his baboons to conclude that Adria is being dealt a raw deal by the “forces” of misogyny.

Nonsense.

Adria was let go because her vindictive and irresponsible, not to mention self-aggrandizing twitter/blog circus, did not reflect positively on the company she was working for.  The conference organizers didn’t agree with her behavior either, as it arguably violated the very code of conduct she was apparently trying to underline.  The reactions from the internethatemachine were wholly predictable at this point.  No one is in any way confused about how this works; it’s so obvious that cynical marketers like Sarkeezian (among many others) have begun utilizing it for financial gain.

By any stretch of social justice, that a man was publicly humiliated and subsequently fired for making a harmless remark to his friend is grounds for a stinging response.  We all react negatively when someone is punished more harshly than they deserve, extremely so when someone is punished when we don’t think they did anything wrong to begin with.

In short, Adria didn’t “do everything right” as PZ claims.  She did some right and some wrong, and the wrong is what she’s being taken to task for.  She’s not a Joan of Ark, she’s not a moral crusader on a white horse, she’s just a selfish asshole who took a risk and paid for it.  She deserved to be fired, deserved to be publicly shamed herself, and everyone needs to learn a lesson from this:

Grow up.  No one gives a shit about your fee-fees.

PZ’s troupe is so unaccustomed to interacting with. . . well, the rest of society that the backlash appears to be nothing more than hatred of women (or blacks).   It would be pure comedy, if such reactionary language weren’t so damaging to the discussion.  Adria behaved badly in the same way as (for example) Watson behaved badly in publicly shaming Stef McGraw.  The blowback to both sets of behaviors was, ironically, not hatred, but empathy.  Empathy for the man humiliated, given that many people don’t think they did anything wrong or, if wrong, not harmful.  Empathy likewise for Stef, who many considered to be a victim of bullying.

The reason PZ et al don’t recognize this, and categorize it as hatred, is because they are blinkered by a double standard.  They don’t apply principles to situations, thereby retaining both consistency and credibility, rather they arbitrarily derive principles based on the conclusions they wish to draw from individual situations.  This is why, in the case of Watson and Adria, their acts of public shaming were acceptable because they’re women, and the problem is a hostile environment.  In the case of the backlash and public shaming of Watson and Adria, these actions are unacceptable because it’s not acceptable to publicly shame women or something.  The demonstrable fact that both women had access to a far wider audience for which they could draw support from, and a conference structure through which to air grievances appropriately, is irrelevant in the context of a wider society that allegedly oppresses women (except for Stef, apparently).

The man who was fired found out first-hand how “privileged” he is.  The conference organizers reprimanded him, his company fired and disowned him, and he’s unlikely to find work in his field.  The “toxic culture” happily threw him under the bus.

None of this will count as evidence that such a “toxic culture” is a fantasy created by professional victims, because RAPE.

—–

There are a thousand and one other reasons to be incensed over this.  Adria is simply the most recent in a new crop of drama queen feminist activists who leave misery and trouble in their wake, on a quest to fix a largely fabricated problem, for instances of “harm” that are no such thing.  This is analogous to the recent shenanigans at Oberlin, almost certainly a hoax like the many perpetrated before it, created to drum up ire over a manufactured problem.  The target, invariably white men, are consistently marginalized and dehumanized in a very familiar pattern.  It has gotten to the point that to advocate for whites, or men, is akin to hate speech.  This is a dangerous path.

It’s claimed that the joke was “sexist”, but no explanation is proffered for this.  The phrase “I would fork his repo” is absolutely a double entendre , but it’s got zip to do with women. It has sexual connotations underlying it, clearly, but only in form.  It’s the “I would tap that” joke.  How, precisely, does forking his repo imply the inferiority of women?  How would even forking her repo imply it?  It doesn’t, it’s not sexism, it’s sexual.  

So the problem, apparently, is that sexual humor that denigrates no one is a problem that ephemerally harms future female coders.  The logic just doesn’t add up.

What’s done is called conflation.  You take something like a sex-themed double entendre, amplify it to culture-wide significance, subtly imply that such humor is sexist (because reasons), and vilify it.  This doesn’t help women, doesn’t help men, doesn’t foster community; all it does is create tension in the workplace and ice camaraderie.  Given the disastrous and random inflation of an isolated, harmless joke, every man and woman is going to be terrified of saying anything that could maybe, possibly, squinty-eyed ex rectum be conflated as a joke about sex or sexuality.  Your job, and livelihood, hangs in the balance.

Fuck you, Adrias of the world.

What should have happened is that everyone read the content of the joke, thought for a moment, and told Adria to go pound sand.  They didn’t need to fire the man, nor did they need to fire Adria.  A commitment to diversity, to not marginalizing any demographic, is just that.  It’s not making sure no one gets offended, ever, by anything anyone else might say.

Go, watch, and understand.

blah

Of course, you’ve all spectacularly missed the point about privilege being gender neutral. The few white males at the top ignores that the vast majority of white males are nowhere near the top, and are just as underprivileged as most women(this encompasses all of human history). Yet somehow it’s acceptable to claim the top white males are representative of white male privilege, whilst the women at the top are not likewise representative of female privilege. We find it acceptable to measure individual white males, not by even their average characteristic wage or privilege, but by the top performers in their group, while the mere mention of average characteristics of women is sexism. In addition, we don’t credit white males as a group for literally erecting modern civilization with all that entails, but we’re fine with crediting them today with the moral failings of the past (even if women were equally complicit in their own “oppression” eg the vote).

In addition, all the male deaths (95%) in the workplace aren’t representative of female privilege. Full control of fertility, in which women can choose to become a mother or not while men have no such choice, is somehow not an instance of female privilege. Men are four times more likely to be assaulted or killed in society than women, but this isn’t female privilege. Roughly 15% of men win sole custody of their children, while most have limited or no visitation while still being consigned to levying a crippling portion of their income to support <i>the mother</i>, the reverse representing about 3% of cases, and this isn’t a case of female privilege. Women are outperforming men in schooling from start to finish, and making more when they come out of school, but this isn’t female privilege. Women receive an average of 17-30% shorter sentences, or aren’t convicted, for the same crimes as men. Again, not privilege apparently, it’s all about the Benjamins.

All of these counter cases are suffered by the vast majority of men, top to bottom in society, purely based on their gender. The latter points referring to men who have no control over their own fertility, save a “vasectomy” or just not having sex. One need only ponder the response I would likely receive from you lot for claiming women don’t need contraception, they can just get their tubes tied or stop being irresponsible, to grasp how misandric that response is to me.

No call for more women in waste management? Forestry? Construction? No calls for reforming schools to fix the gender gap in education attainment? No concern for the widening gender gap in unemployment (hint: it’s not more unemployed women)? You don’t want more women in male dominated fields, you want more women in high paying, low risk fields; let the men do all that low-paying, high risk work. That is, after all, what a privileged class does.

Let me guess, if you get women into top spots in society, the wealth will…hmmm, what’s a good phrase here…ah yes, <i>trickle down</i> to the rest of their “class”. Working swimmingly for men.

Now you want to moan about how everyone else isn’t lining up to pay for childcare for women who, apparently, don’t know how birth control works. No one ever “did it all”, that was the function of marriage. Despite all the research decrying the poor behavior of children from single-parent households (a PC-friendly term as we all know it’s largely single mothers), despite having full control of their fertility, women are still having children when they’re not financially stable, don’t have time for them, can’t look after them, and are uninterested in marriage (the only system that provided for children in the past) even to have a man at home.

This is not a problem we need to look to the state to solve, it’s a problem we need to look to women to stop creating. However, this horrid patriarchy, in which men strive to preserve the privilege of men, will change the corporate culture and “provide affordable childcare” for an unprecedented model of an individual life plan (something men were never provided). It will mandate representation of women in all the most privileged positions, and nary a peep about putting a sledgehammer or a chainsaw in the hands of even one more woman.

You’re stated position is in direct opposition to your movement’s aims and campaigns. You don’t want equality for women, you want all the goodies, none of the crap. Fine. Fuck you, fight for it.

bleh

I’m tempted to applaud your tenacity for hanging on here, like a pitbull who’s got hold of the postman’s leg, but am dissuaded from doing so by the suspicion that it stems from an absolute inability to contemplate the fact that you might be wrong coupled with the delusional certainty that, given enough time, you will win us round to your way of thinking.

It’s important to realize that my contributions here aren’t for you, or your commenters. I hold no illusions that I’ll dissuade Sally or Patrick, or PZ for that matter, of his position. I do “contemplate the fact that” I might be sorely mistaken on these points, often and ever, and this in part is why I comment here, rather than just pal-it-up with people who already agree with me.

I am aware of Marxism; labor theory of value is in contrast to the capital theory, which is the society we live in. We are moving toward a radical individualization, away from the traditional family view of societal “units”, and this is in large part due to feminism/consumerism. What feminists have traded, in exchange for the “right” to work, has been the “right” to not work, and who, pray tell, benefits from a much larger labor pool? Those hiring, and those taxing, but certainly not those working. All of that extra cash went into the coffers of the top 1%, and has grown gov’t spending, while little of it redounded to the workers(those still able to find jobs).  The explosive technological innovations of the recent decades, the internet included, have veiled these trends.  

I’m not suggesting we move BACK to the traditional view, it’s not clear that it’s even possible, but it’s important to remember why that worked. It worked in large part because it served to buffer the individual from the state on the one hand and abject poverty on the other. Radical conservatives who say “let the losers die” are wrong in the present circumstances because the support system they dream of returning to simply doesn’t exist any longer.

Where feminism plays hide-the-ball is in characterizing “class” along gender lines in particular, in it’s attempts to make men and women interchangeable in the context of disparate biological drives and motivations that simply aren’t the same*, and never will be**. That’s striving for “a classless society” in form, even if not identical to the Marxist conceptions of it. It’s the opposite of the mistake made by radical conservatives; what feminists dream of is a future that doesn’t exist, rather than a past that does no longer.

This is why I find it highly ironic that people here are saying that those other guys just did Marx wrong, failing to realize that this is precisely what you’re doing; this is what we’re bound to do until we stop treating Marx like some kind of political messiah. It’s not some massive coincidence that socialism is a hot political topic at the moment. It’s perfectly true to say quotas aren’t

Individuals like Rowant, who dropped out of the discussion some time back, are exquisitely representative of the reasons I oppose a quota system. Even if I grant you the entirety of social conditioning as an hypothesis for, say, more women teachers and fewer women CEOs, and we could somehow make this known to people like Rowant, she’s still going to desire to work with animals. Merely explaining someone’s desires doesn’t make them vanish, so until you actually correct the “social conditioning” that (apparently) underlay Rowant’s desire to work with animals over being a high-powered executive or w/e other high-paying, high-stress job you want to use, she would have to risk being blocked or passed over for her desired work because she’s the wrong gender. The same applies for other jobs where women occupy a majority.

The bare fact that I have to frame this as a detriment to women should (but won’t) highlight the sexism inherent in not giving a shit about this treatment of men, on the basis of some few or some dead men who (apparently) did-down women in the past (plus 99% of men, but fuck ‘em).
___________

* The research showing sex-specific behaviors, via gene expression and a combination of cognitive architecture and development, is levied in support of the general scientific consensus in cognitive psychology that runs severely contrary to the “blank slate” view of “social conditioning” as the only cause of sex-specific behavior. Due to ethical concerns, most of the actual experimentation can’t be done on humans, so, sorry bradley, mice and monkeys is what you get.

** The human population has transcended any form of natural selection that has ever been shown to shift a sexually dimorphous species towards…well, anything other than what it is, really. You need pressure, and selection, and we’ve tech’d ourselves out of the game. Barring eugenics, what we’ve got is what we’re stuck with.

META discussion of Pharyngula and it’s “horde”

Reposting a comment I made on Noelplum’s blog, then expanding those ideas.

(Pharyngula discussion)

The commenters there do not behave like individuals, but rather like a collective. There are the few “heavy issue” posters who are more likely to quote you and, miracle of miracles, actually interpret about 50% of what you say accurately. Then there are the orbiters, who haul things out of context, misunderstand your argument, and cast everything you say in the worst possible light. Both types regularly degenerate into a combination of personal attacks and back-slapping, and any internal policing (eg “hey X, that’s not what he said”) is offered cynically if at all, with copious “he’s a fuckwad anyways, but” caveats lest any expressions of charity cause alienation from the hive.

What they’ve created is a place where dissent is certainly possible, but in an extremely narrow range, on a small number of issues**. Stretch the politics or social position too far, and nothing short of a mewling display of obsequience will exonerate you from an endless barrage of vitriol.

In addition, while very real, very relevant disagreements occur in the hivemind’s responses to you(amongst themselves), these disagreements are simply utilized to further do-down Big Dissent. When half of them agree on issue X, and half disagree, arguing against X is perceived as arguing against a position no one is espousing. When supporting X(and thus not arguing against it), it is perceived as “ignoring” the commenters who argue against it, not responding the argument destroyer that is X for cowardly reasons.

They don’t have regular dissenters because most normal people aren’t going to put up with that kind of abuse, whether or not they get banned. He doesn’t need to ban, all you have to do is read responses to something you might agree with to realize that your thoughts and attention is best applied elsewhere. I imagine that, while the dungeon is not very populous, one can go back through the history of contentious posts on PZs blog and find unique, single or double post individual dissenters who, when realizing the extent of groupthink and personal vitriol, just left and never came back.

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Another interesting paradox is the stated position of PZ in contrast to my continued existence as one of his commenters. Clearly, I’m no “regular”, but riddle me this: If dissent on feminism is by definition unreasonable, and PZ bans unreasonable people, why am I permitted to retain commenting privileges?  Is it:

1. I’m not disagreeing with feminism.

2. I’m disagreeing with feminism, but doing to reasonably.

3. I’m unreasonable, but PZ hasn’t noticed me yet.

4. I’m unreasonable, but PZ has changed his tune on banning people.

Now it theoretically could be the first option, since I reject his definition of feminism, and I’m certainly not claiming women aren’t people.  However, I am disagreeing with some of the core dogmas and methods of feminism, esp. the PC paradigm.  While there is disparity in privilege in society, this exists in all society, and it’s not clear that the line between “privileged” and “underprivileged” can be drawn along gender/race lines.  It’s perfectly true to say that men have advantages in society, but it’s also true to say that women likewise have advantages.  Framing privilege in terms of the GDP of a particular gender or race ignores other measures of social privilege.  Indeed, defining privilege as something possessed by one gender necessarily entails that the positive aspects of that gender’s experiences are the only aspects of anyone’s experiences worth measuring.

Perhaps it’s the second option out of the four listed above, though that would render PZ’s position on reasonable vs. unreasonable dissent simply false.  If there is a way to reasonably be an anti-feminist, and I persist in affirming so, then PZ is wrong.  Allowing me to comment for so long would be a tacit concession of that fact.

The third option strikes me as implausible, given the sheer length of the thread and, judging by the number of lurkers, the volume of page hits accrued.  Of course, this possibility, that he really hasn’t/doesn’t care, opens up some interesting questions.

Since Noelplum can reasonably cite instances where he and others have commented honestly and genuinely, and been banned for being unreasonable or narcissistic, is PZ’s failure to moderate my contributions evidence that he is relaxing his grip on the discussion?  I think it’s entirely possible, and that brings us to option four.

This seems to me to be the most plausible, and least self-aggrandizing, proposed hypothesis.  First, it doesn’t assume out the gate that I’m being reasonable.  Second, it suggests that PZ is listening and taking seriously the people who are criticizing his blog policies, a compliment for any skeptic.  Third, the style of change that this hypothesis posits is consistent with what Crommunist adopted on his blog on the same network.  He regularly modified comments from other people, behavior that was mean-spirited, proves absolutely nothing about the commenter, and deprives anyone else from hearing what that person might have said.  Hitchens speaks passionately about the right of every person to hear every form of heresy, and decide for themselves whether it’s right or wrong; else, who might you choose and trust to filter your ears?  After repeated criticisms that manually editing other people’s posts to say horrific or silly things is nothing more than abusing power, he appears to have ceased doing so without any fanfare.  Perhaps PZ has likewise changed while maintaining a positive image among his “horde” and the wider community.

Finally, on that fourth point, there exists a less complimentary reason that PZ is relaxing his grip on the discussion, and this is something I point out in the fourth paragraph of this post.  He has cultivated a garden of sycophants and attack dogs, more or less homogeneous in their political and social views, who create such a hostile environment for 99% of those who might otherwise voice their opinions that the tiny minority willing to let such hatred wash over them and persist in disagreeing doesn’t present a problem worth risking FREEZE PEACH criticism from his peers.

As long as there are 20 people telling some new person he’s wrong, and no one supporting him, the appearance of said person’s abnormality, and by contrast the normality of the majority, is sustained; what we might call a “reality space” all their own.  This phenomenology can be experienced by simply referring family and friends to the discussion for feedback, and realizing that your self-doubt in failing to make any headway is due mostly to the “horde” being unable or unwilling to transcend the vagaries of semantics.

Alternatively, it might just be self-defense; put a group of rats* in a barrel and they don’t start eating one another until you stop feeding them.

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* Given all of the disgusting personal attacks directed at me throughout that discussion, I don’t feel even the slightest qualms about referring to them as a group of rats in a barrel.

** All well and good if you’re Radfem hub or Conservipedia, but highly objectionable under the banner of “Freethought”.

asdf

Hello again, Patrick. Lets start with this:

<blockquote>If mandating percentages is a poor solution, how do we ensure and verify that recruitment is being done blindly? For example, in the U.S., would labor laws be rewritten? Would the government refuse to contract with companies that don’t adhere to such rules? Would non-blind recruiting be made a civil offsense? Or is this something addressed by the private sector? If so, how? Trade association rules? Union oversight? Decertification of companies who don’t adhere? How do we handle companies operating internationally?</blockquote>

There are three ways to approach such a problem. The first is on the back end, either by quotas or blind recruiting (however that can be done, if it can). The second is to find the root of the problem, and just keep hacking until it’s dead. The third is to do nothing.

On the first, you must recognize that you are objecting to a bias that blocks certain groups from being hired and rising up in the private sector, based on attributes that have nothing to do with performance. To turn around and say that we’ll now block another group, which has traditionally succeeded in the private sector, is to act in the precise objectionable manner you’re attempting to correct. Some might call it fighting fire with fire, others an eye for an eye.

<blockquote>Tokenism is a result of the type of thinking that casts minority X as a monolith/inanimate object, rather than seeing them as a diverse group of people.</blockquote>

Indeed, white males are a diverse group as well, many of whom are leaders of nothing, failures by most financial measures. They haven’t succeeded, <i>often they aren’t interested or don’t care to partake</i> in that culture. They won’t be helped or harmed by these measures, though, and are largely invisible. The harm, if it manifests, is to those who are interested, and who do possess the secondary characteristics (ambition, competitiveness, aggression, insight, etc..) in spades that would make them an asset, but who would be excluded for their skin color or gender.

Those characteristics are present in some portion of all groups. So what about blinding recruiters? I did posit this as a potential solution, but I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that this method is only marginally effective on recruiting. It is unsustainable on performance reports, as how would you evaluate someone blindly?

Alright, so lets examine the third option next: nothing. This can work <i>IFF</i> companies that actively diversify are measurably more successful in their given field. If having 40% women, as some companies do voluntarily, has all of these benefits, then they will surpass their competition and the market will select for such practices. The market is <i>highly</i> competitive, and well-organized firms monitor these shifts for positive and negative causal factors. The study was probably financed by a business group or corporate group, frankly, curious about whether to adopt the same practices.

However, this isn’t very fair. After all, why should the inclusion of a certain group have to <i>improve</i> performance before we open or encourage their participation? Shouldn’t the measure be equivalent performance? Absolutely, but that’s not going to convince any company, so doing nothing only works if there is an improvement due to diversity.

To me, that leaves the final option: tackle the root of the problem. This is…a vast issue, and humanists of all stripes have made strides on these problems for years. Improve access to education, get qualified candidates out in the world, do what can be done without mandates (blind recruiting where possible), and continue making arguments against, well, people like me :)