xenologer: (bye bye)
Whenever discussion of the declining space program comes up (example story about the Mars program, and another about our suspended shuttle program), it makes me sad because I feel like it's one more piece of our nation's love for science that we're leaving behind. It's a sentiment I heard echoed at a sci-fi convention by the friendly science-loving folk who attended, and I definitely can feel it, too.

At the same time, I hear Gil Scott-Heron in my head whenever people are talking about the billions of dollars we ought to be spending on the space program.



So while I'm sad about the fact that we allegedly SUDDENLY can't afford the space program, realistically we haven't been able to afford it for a long time. Unfortunately, that money is going to get used to pay for war and not for the things I'd like us to be dreaming about instead. With the cost of putting a few physically-perfect highly-educated and well-trained professionals into space, what could we do about AIDS? What could we do about malaria? What could we do about cholera? What could we do about ill-funded schools or food deserts?

Makes me upset when the closing down of the space program is framed as a lack in our ability to dream. It probably is, because it'll probably mean more of our money goes to making war. It probably is about us failing to dream big enough or well enough, but it wouldn't have to be, because I think there are far more important things for us to spend our money on.

It's just sad that we probably won't.
xenologer: (objection!)
Clinical Trials and the Cultural Mania for Torture

I am against clinical trials.

Rather, I am against clinical trials as they are now conceived and implemented.

I am against the mass “treatment” of the desperately ill via the marketing of hope (and often one of “only hope”).

I have no stats and I’ll certainly update this next contention should someone share some valid and pertinent data with me: Surely most clinical trials offer zero benefit to any subjects in terms of quality of life and likely not even in quantity of life. (...)

With that as backdrop I’d go further and argue that “applied science” in the service of the consumption economy is intensely evil at its core as it becomes realized in this very way. We are subjects in one very long experiment. It is in utter dismay that I confront the fact that we honor, or at least offer deference to, by calling “science” and “research” and the noble character trait of man, the mania for discovery (exploration).

Harlow and Suomi, as vile as they are, are no exception. The “mad” scientist is the norm, fellow subjects, and the mad patient is his collaborator.


Douglas Storm doesn’t seem to know anything about experimental research after the sixties. I did my bachelor’s thesis for my anthropology degree on the use of authority and power in online communities, and I had to get IRB approval to interview people. To /talk to people/ under circumstances in which they were free to just not answer questions, and in which they were free to choose how I’d refer to them later if I did so. Why? Because that counts as human experimentation.

Now, the author undoubtedly wasn’t intending to discuss research like mine. I am fully confident that ethnographic fieldwork like mine isn’t even on the author’s radar, because it looks a lot like Storm doesn’t actually realize the full breadth of what he’s condemning. That’d require him to do more than read the Wikipedia article on Harlow’s research (and there are so many similarly awful old studies that the fact that he only mentioned Harlow suggests to me that he didn’t spend very long researching his opinion) and get really upset at everybody who so much as sorta seems like a scientist.

So to more directly address Storm’s apparently narrow area of exposure to research… Storm’s opposed to clinical testing, but is he opposed to marketing and selling /untested/ products? At that point, we’d all know they’re still being tested. They’d just be tested on people who didn’t consent and don’t know what they’re getting into, whereas contrary to what reading about one of the many nasty studies from decades ago might have indicated to Storm, there are standards for clinical trials or any kind of experimentation on living creatures (particularly creatures that can feel pain).

However, Storm’s against clinical testing. What does he propose happen to products intended for animals or people before they’re sold, then? I guarantee you we’d have a lot of the same medications and other consumables, but they’d be coming without that package insert that tells you what you’re getting into. I don’t know about you, but I like that package insert. It’s how I accomplish a little thing that researchers call “informed consent.” What Storm is suggesting is wildly irresponsible and would result in danger and harm to a lot of people.

How do I know this? Because that’s how it used to be before clinical trials were A Thing. That’s how snake oil salesmen worked. That’s how antifreeze ended up getting used as a sweetener in children’s medicine. Nobody did trials or studies because nobody had to, and you know what? People died. As someone whose loved ones /must/ take a whole host of medications for serious chronic ailments, I’m a little bothered that Storm is suggesting that “applied science” is an “intensely evil” force in our consumption economy.

I think Storm is blinded by his own able-bodied privilege in that he can just decide that science is bad and he doesn’t want any, and he can just decide that all of its effects are evil despite how many of them keep other people alive. Frankly, if Storm or his students have received vaccinations for lethal or disabling illnesses, “applied science” is keeping him alive, too. He’s just obviously able-bodied enough to ignore it.

Scientists need regulation. They need rules and ethical standards and accountability and consequences when those standards aren’t met. Why? Because, contrary to Storm’s narrowly-researched and ill-considered opinion, we need them.

A lot of people need them just to function day to day, and if Storm cares more about some bizarre notion of ideological orthodoxy ("applied science" is categorically "intensely evil" and no benefit to anyone can be admitted) than he cares about keeping chronically ill or disabled people alive and healthy, then Storm can seriously climb a wall of cocks.
xenologer: (objection!)
Dear people who believe that Big Pharma is keeping marijuana illegal because they are afraid of its panaceic majesty:

Marijuana seems like it has a lot of health benefits and potential for treatment for lots of things, but it's hardly a replacement for pharmaceutical research. For one thing, if you like having things like studies to back up the medical treatments you use before you use them, universities aren't the only people doing those.

Pharmaceutical companies are no less in need of a critical eye than any other company, but the problem is not the drugs they produce (which go through a lot more testing and refinement to prove relative safety and efficacy than any drug I can buy on the street from someone who grew it in their yard or made it in their house). The problem is having medicine be a for-profit industry at all.

I mean, it's not like "alternative" medicine companies are any less excited to squeeze money out of desperate sick people. At least companies whose claims are regularly evaluated by the FDA have some supervision to curb their more callous and ruthless impulses (which is not to say that they don't have them, because they certainly do--otherwise we'd never have needed the FDA to tell them to do things like stop using antifreeze as sweetener in childrens' medicine).

I just worry more about the companies the ones who want sick people's money just as badly as pharmaceutical companies but don't have to jump through ANY of the regulatory hoops that actual medicine needs to be put through.

I know this is sort of a tangent, but just because pharmaceutical companies are run by brutal and callous assholes who think that other people's sickness should be an opportunity for profit doesn't mean that people selling alternatives to medicine are being hocked by people who are terribly different. Those people just aren't required to prove anything about their drugs, because as long as they don't actually make real claims to safety or efficacy they can sell whatever they want and /imply/ that it's safe and effective.

So it's more than big pharma. It's the entire for-profit medical industry. The naturopaths and the homeopaths and the people who want to twist your spine to cure your diabetes and the people who think you can treat cancer by holding a crystal and standing with one foot in a patch of clover while you rub garlic into the sole of the other foot or whatever the heck are all playing the same game, and it's the game that screws people over.

And yet we have people (probably on both sides of the political divide, but I've encountered them most on the left) who are more suspicious of the people who are legally required to disclose the limitations and side-effects of what they sell than the people who can sell whatever they want as long as they do it in entirely-unregulated supplement circles.

But again. Focusing on "big pharma" as though they're some kind of uniquely evil cabal of kitten-eating reptilians from outer space seems short-sighted to me. As the kids these days put it (or perhaps as they used to put it like twenty years ago, I dunno): Don't hate the player, hate the game. I would add that you can hate the player if you want, but at least try and give the side-eye to the other players, too. It's never just one.

Signed,

A person who treats her illness with science, not conspiracy theories or magic.
xenologer: (vagina)
This is my obligatory reminder to the internet that I am an angry feminist madwoman who believes that the person who has the final legitimate say on whether a pregnancy continues is the person who is pregnant.

Why people need to stop telling me that life begins at conception because that's when babby gets soul. )
xenologer: (ooh!)
When did phones become this ridiculously advanced? I must have missed it. In 24 hours I went from, "Will my phone connect to the network, or is it a pocketwatch today?" to "Hey look, I can change the colors on my lightsaber and make it Rickroll people when I ignite it."


Science. It works, bitches.
xenologer: (always shine)
Greta Christina's new piece, "Can Atheism be Proven Wrong?"
Yes, atheists pretty much agree that no existing religion has a shred of decent evidence to support it. That's why we're atheists. If we thought any religion had supported itself with decent evidence, we'd accept that religion. That's not the game. The game isn't, "What religion that currently exists could convince you that it was right?" The game is, "What hypothetical made-up religion could convince you that it was right?"

Or, to put it another way: We're talking counter-factuals. We understand that the universe, as it is now, is overwhelming in its evidence for atheism and materialism, and against any kind of deity or supernatural realm. We get that. We're talking about alternative universes. We're asking, "What would the world look like if there were a god or gods?"


There is good stuff to be had in here about what would actually convince most atheists that a religion was presenting a reasonable and worthy picture of the world. There's also a link to this page, which gives a pretty good rundown. Where this really gets interesting is after Greta gets done stating for the millionth time that actually atheists are not dogmatic zealots who take their conclusion as an article of faith (that we do, in fact, have standards of evidence--that no religion has met despite ample opportunity). She takes the, "no religion has actually managed to present a hypothesis supportible by evidence," point one step further by cutting off those last three words.

Religions haven't just failed to support their assorted hypotheses with good, solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are even worth subjecting to testing. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are worth the paper they're printed on.

Religions are notorious for vague definitions, unfalsifiable hypotheses, slippery arguments, shoddy excuses for why their supporting evidence is so crummy, and the incessant moving of goalposts. Many theologies are logically contradictory on the face of it -- the Trinity, for instance, or an all-powerful/all-knowing/all-good God who nevertheless permits and even creates evil and suffering -- and while entire books are filled with attempts to explain these contradictions, the conclusions always boil down to, "It's a mystery."

And the so-called "sophisticated modern theologies" define God so vaguely you can't reach any conclusions about what he's like, or what he would and wouldn't do, or how a world with him in it would be any different than a world without him. They define God so abstractly that he might as well not exist. (Either that, or they actually do define God as having specific effects on the world, such as interventions in the process of evolution -- effects that we have no reason whatsoever to think are real, and every reason to think are bunk.)

And when I ask religious believers who aren't theologians to define what exactly they believe, they almost evade the question. They point to the existence of "sophisticated modern theology," without actually explaining what any of this theology says, much less why they believe it. They resort to vagueness, equivocation, excuses for why they shouldn't have to answer the question. In some cases, they get outright hostile at my unmitigated temerity to ask.


It's too bad that lots of the so-called "moderate" religious people that I know personally are all so invested in seeming and feeling rational that they can't just admit that they're not religious because they actually believe its claims are true. It would save us all a lot of effort if they did. I'm tired of having religious people try to throw reasoned arguments and evidence at me and then eventually concede--only after we've both wasted a lot of time and effort--that they don't really find those things persuasive either.

I mean, ffs. If it was never about evidence to begin with, if it's all metaphor and "personal revelation," then why do religious people get so upset when somebody points out that their sermons and holy books are full of fairy tales? And why do they let me give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that THIS TIME, THIS ONE TIME maybe they'll present a reasonable case, if they're just going to switch gears later and admit that they lied about their worldview in the hopes of getting me to sit still and stfu while they practice the flimsy reassurances that allow them to sleep at night?

I think that's one major reason why lots of religious people don't like talking to atheists, or even about religion to each other. It's not that we're all hurtful and mean, or that we're all joyless zealots, or even that we're all oversexed radical liberal feminazi pinko commies. It's this: If Pascal's Wager (or insert your fav apologism here) is the only reason you can face your day, you need everybody around you to be reassuring you that it's sound. Every person who shrugs and finds it unconvincing is a reminder that you've built your life on terror of your life, and an unwillingness to live in the real world. That'd suck, and I guess it does make us sort of mean.
xenologer: (ooh!)
"We will not survive in this apartment without locomotion," Brian says, after I tried to convince him that I cannot get up and make food, because I am sessile now.

He offered to go make rice, since now that I am sessile he must provide for all my needs.

I told him no, because I want him to be sessile too.

Evidently this would result in our deaths.
xenologer: (stupid questions)
Hat tip to ievil_spock_47i for posting this amazing Evolutionary Psychology Bingo Card.

This post is dedicated to the guy who told me it is his unavoidable essential nature as a man to sexually harass younger women, and thinks I just ought to understand that and not sweat it. This is one of the things that women and social scientists laugh at because it's the only way not to cry.



If it wouldn't be needlessly antagonistic, I would print a copy of this and bring it with me next time I had to talk to that person. (Actually, that probably wouldn't stop me. The likelihood of me remembering in time to do this hilarious and awesome thing is low enough that it'd get in the way far more often than my essential grace and gentleness would.)
xenologer: (it are fact)
Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys, apes and humans.

Anthropologists have long believed that humans evolved from ancient ape-like ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth. One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar.

Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. The latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs.

Holy shit awesome.

xenologer: (it are fact)
Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys, apes and humans.

Anthropologists have long believed that humans evolved from ancient ape-like ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth. One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar.

Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. The latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs.

Holy shit awesome.

xenologer: (it are fact)
Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys, apes and humans.

Anthropologists have long believed that humans evolved from ancient ape-like ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth. One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar.

Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. The latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs.

Holy shit awesome.

xenologer: (it are fact)
I keep joining these message boards that are full of people who, despite all their blustering about thinking for themselves, are not actually very good at it. Their political affiliation is such an ingrained part of their identity that there are many things they simply do not need to consider, many facts that cannot possibly be relevant.

And I get tired of hunting these posts down and reposting them. Hopefully putting it up here will make it easier for me to copy-paste this every damn time. The latest discussion was about why electing Creationists to public office is a bad idea, so you'll see some hints of that topic in here.

Cut for length. )

xenologer: (it are fact)
I keep joining these message boards that are full of people who, despite all their blustering about thinking for themselves, are not actually very good at it. Their political affiliation is such an ingrained part of their identity that there are many things they simply do not need to consider, many facts that cannot possibly be relevant.

And I get tired of hunting these posts down and reposting them. Hopefully putting it up here will make it easier for me to copy-paste this every damn time. The latest discussion was about why electing Creationists to public office is a bad idea, so you'll see some hints of that topic in here.

Cut for length. )

xenologer: (it are fact)
I keep joining these message boards that are full of people who, despite all their blustering about thinking for themselves, are not actually very good at it. Their political affiliation is such an ingrained part of their identity that there are many things they simply do not need to consider, many facts that cannot possibly be relevant.

And I get tired of hunting these posts down and reposting them. Hopefully putting it up here will make it easier for me to copy-paste this every damn time. The latest discussion was about why electing Creationists to public office is a bad idea, so you'll see some hints of that topic in here.

Cut for length. )

xenologer: (hope)
Another run-down of things I'm reading right now. I'm categorizing them again so that "liberal" issues like racism and violence against women are easier for some of you to scroll past.

RACE

The Right Reacts to Powell Endorsement. Turns out Powell just saw a black man and said, "Yeah! That'll do!" I mean, I understand that they have to find a way to disqualify the endorsement of one of the most respected Republicans left in this country, but couldn't they have thought of anything better than simply pointing out that they're both black?

What kind of "Election Day unrest" are we talking about? I can't even summarize this one. But it's worth reading.

White Guys and the Prospect of an Obama Presidency "What I predict will change the most about racism under an Obama presidency is that the white guys wearing the Obama buttons will refuse to take racism seriously." Racism happens. Despite fears from some, that's not going to stop. Jessie points out some measures of racial inequality that won't be changed by Obama's election, but will be easier to ignore (not that people don't do just fine ignoring them already).

McCain supporters reveal racism, and while they're much much worse than Obama's supporters, the latter are not exempt either.

CLASS

Palin: American Taxpayers Aren't Patriotic. Look at Alaska's tax system and tell me she's learned anything useful running it. They don't even pay taxes there, but can run their state on the generosity of oil companies and federal *gasp* earmark dollars.

Higher Ed and the New New Deal. What would happen if public colleges and universities were free?

WOMEN

NY Shelters Will Be Reimbursed For Helping Undocumented Victims of Intimate Partner Violence. I know there are people on my friends list who hate nothing more than they hate the idea of illegal immigrants getting anything from Americans, but some of us are glad of this.

The original article is here. It mentions, "Though there are many economic and psychological reasons women linger with men who beat them, a shadowy immigration status makes it even harder to break away. Five women in the two shelters told me they had feared going to the police, because they worried that that could lead to deportation. Even if they sought to do so, the women said, their companions or husbands would have threatened to betray them to immigration officials."

LAPD allows over 200 rape cases to pass the statute of limitations without testing the rape kits. Fuck you, too, LA. Seriously.

MISC. ELECTION

Socialists: Obama no Socialist. Red-baiting is less effective when real socialists can publicly disagree with you, isn't it?

Be careful. First sociopaths kill animals. Bear cub was shot, and its body left with Obama signs stuck over its head.

Republicans heckling voters. Not politicians. Voters. At least they didn't slash their tires, vandalize any voter registration offices, beat any journalists to the ground, or otherwise attack anybody. No one was lynched in effigy, either. So I suppose we should be grateful that they're only yelling.

The Courts. What the USSC will really look like under Pres. McCain, or Pres. Obama.

Irony Alert: GOP Political Consultant Arrested For Voter Registration Fraud.

SCIENCE!

Do the use of hand gestures slow language learning?
xenologer: (Speak)
Found a link to a study about The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years on Neuroanthropology.

I have no idea what to think of it. Apparently having strong social ties to people as they become obese means that you are statistically more likely to become obese.
A person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6 to 123) if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40% (95% CI, 21 to 60). If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37% (95% CI, 7 to 73). These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic location. Persons of the same sex had relatively greater influence on each other than those of the opposite sex.

Whoa, what?
To the extent that obesity is a product of voluntary choices or behaviors, the fact that people are embedded in social networks and are influenced by the evident appearance and behaviors of those around them suggests that weight gain in one person might influence weight gain in others. Having obese social contacts might change a person's tolerance for being obese or might influence his or her adoption of specific behaviors (e.g., smoking, eating, and exercising). In addition to such strictly social mechanisms, it is plausible that physiological imitation might occur; areas of the brain that correspond to actions such as eating food may be stimulated if these actions are observed in others.

I'm glad that statisticians are actually looking at the fact that social networks influence the choices of individuals (since I think asserting otherwise is pretty stupid), but this was something I hadn't expected.
We considered three explanations for the clustering of obese people. First, egos might choose to associate with like alters ("homophily"). Second, egos and alters might share attributes or jointly experience unobserved contemporaneous events that cause their weight to vary at the same time (confounding). Third, alters might exert social influence or peer effects on egos ("induction"). Distinguishing the interpersonal induction of obesity from homophily requires dynamic, longitudinal network information about the emergence of ties between people ("nodes") in a network and also about the attributes of nodes (i.e., repeated measures of the body-mass index).

The use of a time-lagged dependent variable (lagged to the previous examination) eliminated serial correlation in the errors (evaluated with a Lagrange multiplier test) and also substantially controlled for the ego's genetic endowment and any intrinsic, stable predisposition to obesity. The use of a lagged independent variable for an alter's weight status controlled for homophily. The key variable of interest was an alter's obesity at time t+1. A significant coefficient for this variable would suggest either that an alter's weight affected an ego's weight or that an ego and an alter experienced contemporaneous events affecting both their weights.

Do we have any statisticians in the house? I find this very interesting, but I'm not qualified to judge their methodology well.

If anybody is interested, there's a 28-minute video on social contagion of obesity. I'm just now watching it, so I can't tell you just yet whether it's incredibly offensive or what. It's got the scientists who did this study in it, so it's worth watching.
xenologer: (ouch)
A good quote was linked on another journal I read, and I thought I would relay it here. It's good.

[M]y problem is with the all too common accusation of intellectual arrogance being hurled at myself and most of my colleagues who defend science from pseudoscience, be that creationism, intelligent design, UFO claims, psychic powers, astrology or "alternative" medicine. The reasoning, such as it is, goes like this: how dare you, Dr. X (put here any name of any scientist who dares to write for the public), claim that so many people are wrong and you and a small number of other egg-headed intellectuals are right? Who are you to declare the truth of evolution and the falsity of intelligent design? What makes you the arbiter in deciding what is science and what is bunk? ...

Intellectual arrogance, in the utmost degree, is being displayed by those who dismiss out of hand the considerate opinion of someone who has studied a field for 25 years only because they cherish a particular religious worldview that has no independent foundation in reality. Arrogance, according to my dictionary, is "having an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities," and it seems to me to fit perfectly someone who has no technical background in a given field and yet pontificates endlessly about what is True and what is not.

-Massimo Pigliucci, "Intellectual arrogance" at Rationally Speaking

Here is where I assert what I know. I know some things about history, and the way cultures grow and develop. I know some things about religion, and what place it has for many people in their lives. I also know a couple of things about politics, particularly where it intersects with religion or culture (and in the latter case, this happens a lot). This isn't to say I'm actually an expert in any of these things. Sure, compared to someone without a degree in anthropology I've got decent credentials, but I have only a Bachelor of Arts, which in an academic subject means little. It means that most people I talk to with an education have a vastly higher amount of experience and expertise in the area they studied. It means that most people I talk to about anything important have at least studied something, and even if its only tangentially related they are coming to the discussion with a healthy respect for expertise, education, and fact.

Then there's the internet. The internet is where I find people who aren't college professors, or other folk who've proven themselves capable of studying various things. The internet is where I find people who glorify ignorance over education, and use anti-intellectualism as a shield and a mask for their own bitterness that they don't know jack, and for once they aren't getting away with pretending they do. The internet is where I find people who think that America will progress socially, economically, scientifically, and politically by being resentful of experts instead of being interested in what they have to say or how they came to their conclusions. The internet is where I find poor Republicans voting against their own interests, gay Republicans voting against their own interests, transsexual Republicans voting against their own interests, Pagan Republicans voting against their own interests, female Republicans voting against their own interests, and independents voting for whomever they can to avoid supporting "that popular guy."

The internet is where I'm reminded that even if the test scores are wrong and I am of average intelligence... that still means half the country is less intelligent than I am. And they'll never forgive me for it. These people are the same hateful brats I knew in grade school, the ones who encouraged smart kids to shut up, who still haven't forgiven kids like me who dared to get above ourselves and actually do our best.

And this, my friends, is why I have not checked my friends page in days.
xenologer: (ouch)
A good quote was linked on another journal I read, and I thought I would relay it here. It's good.

[M]y problem is with the all too common accusation of intellectual arrogance being hurled at myself and most of my colleagues who defend science from pseudoscience, be that creationism, intelligent design, UFO claims, psychic powers, astrology or "alternative" medicine. The reasoning, such as it is, goes like this: how dare you, Dr. X (put here any name of any scientist who dares to write for the public), claim that so many people are wrong and you and a small number of other egg-headed intellectuals are right? Who are you to declare the truth of evolution and the falsity of intelligent design? What makes you the arbiter in deciding what is science and what is bunk? ...

Intellectual arrogance, in the utmost degree, is being displayed by those who dismiss out of hand the considerate opinion of someone who has studied a field for 25 years only because they cherish a particular religious worldview that has no independent foundation in reality. Arrogance, according to my dictionary, is "having an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities," and it seems to me to fit perfectly someone who has no technical background in a given field and yet pontificates endlessly about what is True and what is not.

-Massimo Pigliucci, "Intellectual arrogance" at Rationally Speaking

Here is where I assert what I know. I know some things about history, and the way cultures grow and develop. I know some things about religion, and what place it has for many people in their lives. I also know a couple of things about politics, particularly where it intersects with religion or culture (and in the latter case, this happens a lot). This isn't to say I'm actually an expert in any of these things. Sure, compared to someone without a degree in anthropology I've got decent credentials, but I have only a Bachelor of Arts, which in an academic subject means little. It means that most people I talk to with an education have a vastly higher amount of experience and expertise in the area they studied. It means that most people I talk to about anything important have at least studied something, and even if its only tangentially related they are coming to the discussion with a healthy respect for expertise, education, and fact.

Then there's the internet. The internet is where I find people who aren't college professors, or other folk who've proven themselves capable of studying various things. The internet is where I find people who glorify ignorance over education, and use anti-intellectualism as a shield and a mask for their own bitterness that they don't know jack, and for once they aren't getting away with pretending they do. The internet is where I find people who think that America will progress socially, economically, scientifically, and politically by being resentful of experts instead of being interested in what they have to say or how they came to their conclusions. The internet is where I find poor Republicans voting against their own interests, gay Republicans voting against their own interests, transsexual Republicans voting against their own interests, Pagan Republicans voting against their own interests, female Republicans voting against their own interests, and independents voting for whomever they can to avoid supporting "that popular guy."

The internet is where I'm reminded that even if the test scores are wrong and I am of average intelligence... that still means half the country is less intelligent than I am. And they'll never forgive me for it. These people are the same hateful brats I knew in grade school, the ones who encouraged smart kids to shut up, who still haven't forgiven kids like me who dared to get above ourselves and actually do our best.

And this, my friends, is why I have not checked my friends page in days.
xenologer: (ouch)
A good quote was linked on another journal I read, and I thought I would relay it here. It's good.

[M]y problem is with the all too common accusation of intellectual arrogance being hurled at myself and most of my colleagues who defend science from pseudoscience, be that creationism, intelligent design, UFO claims, psychic powers, astrology or "alternative" medicine. The reasoning, such as it is, goes like this: how dare you, Dr. X (put here any name of any scientist who dares to write for the public), claim that so many people are wrong and you and a small number of other egg-headed intellectuals are right? Who are you to declare the truth of evolution and the falsity of intelligent design? What makes you the arbiter in deciding what is science and what is bunk? ...

Intellectual arrogance, in the utmost degree, is being displayed by those who dismiss out of hand the considerate opinion of someone who has studied a field for 25 years only because they cherish a particular religious worldview that has no independent foundation in reality. Arrogance, according to my dictionary, is "having an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities," and it seems to me to fit perfectly someone who has no technical background in a given field and yet pontificates endlessly about what is True and what is not.

-Massimo Pigliucci, "Intellectual arrogance" at Rationally Speaking

Here is where I assert what I know. I know some things about history, and the way cultures grow and develop. I know some things about religion, and what place it has for many people in their lives. I also know a couple of things about politics, particularly where it intersects with religion or culture (and in the latter case, this happens a lot). This isn't to say I'm actually an expert in any of these things. Sure, compared to someone without a degree in anthropology I've got decent credentials, but I have only a Bachelor of Arts, which in an academic subject means little. It means that most people I talk to with an education have a vastly higher amount of experience and expertise in the area they studied. It means that most people I talk to about anything important have at least studied something, and even if its only tangentially related they are coming to the discussion with a healthy respect for expertise, education, and fact.

Then there's the internet. The internet is where I find people who aren't college professors, or other folk who've proven themselves capable of studying various things. The internet is where I find people who glorify ignorance over education, and use anti-intellectualism as a shield and a mask for their own bitterness that they don't know jack, and for once they aren't getting away with pretending they do. The internet is where I find people who think that America will progress socially, economically, scientifically, and politically by being resentful of experts instead of being interested in what they have to say or how they came to their conclusions. The internet is where I find poor Republicans voting against their own interests, gay Republicans voting against their own interests, transsexual Republicans voting against their own interests, Pagan Republicans voting against their own interests, female Republicans voting against their own interests, and independents voting for whomever they can to avoid supporting "that popular guy."

The internet is where I'm reminded that even if the test scores are wrong and I am of average intelligence... that still means half the country is less intelligent than I am. And they'll never forgive me for it. These people are the same hateful brats I knew in grade school, the ones who encouraged smart kids to shut up, who still haven't forgiven kids like me who dared to get above ourselves and actually do our best.

And this, my friends, is why I have not checked my friends page in days.

April 2016

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