Is Gender Studies Anti-Science?

Let’s take a quick look at the abstract of a scholarly paper entitled Sex, Biological Functions and Social Norms: A Simple Constructivist Theory of Sex by Asa Carlson

Feminist theory needs a constructivist account of biological sex for at least two reasons.

Notice the post-modernists have targeted “biological sex.”

The first is that as long as female and male are the only two sexes that are taken for granted, being cisgender, heterosexual, and preferably a parent will be the norm, and being intersexed, transgender, bi- or homosexual, infertile or voluntarily childless will be deemed failure.

Is Carlson leading with her chin here?  For just who is it that “deems” such a state as “failure.”  That’s quite the loaded term.  For example, most babies are born with sight.  But rarely, a child will be born blind.  Does anyone truly deem the baby a “failure?”

The second is the fact that, usually, sex and gender come together in the way that is expected, i.e. the fact that most females are women and most males are men needs to be explained.

Whoa.  Needs to be explained?  Sexual dimorphism and reproduction are already fairly well understood by the scientific community. And it’s not something that is unique and unusual among the human species.

This paper provides a constructivist theory of sex, which is that the sex categories depend on norms of reproduction. I argue that, because the sex categories are defined according to the two functions or causal roles in reproduction, and biological function is a teleological concept involving purposes, goals, and values, female and male are normative categories. As there are no norms or values in nature, normative categories are social constructions; hence, female and male are not natural but social categories.

When you have a perspective that uses words to “argue” that “female and male are not natural categories,” you have an anti-science perspective.  Imagine this perspective gaining more and more traction in academia over the next several years.  Would it be terribly surprising to read about some biology professor being accused of microaggressions for using the terms “male” and “female” in a Bio101 course?  Not really.  Give it time.  Especially since the “March for Science” geniuses have invited this mindset into the lab.

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27 Responses to Is Gender Studies Anti-Science?

  1. TFBW says:

    Unbelievable. While all the ultra-orthodox Darwinists were busy guarding the gate against the incursions of “Intelligent Design Creationists”, they let this outright biology-denial waltz in the back door and take up residence. Good luck combating that, fools: given how far the academy has tilted over to the left, you know that the institution is going to side with personal feelings over your hateful, patriarchal, white-supremacist biological “facts”!

  2. Kevin says:

    At least it was published in a progressive nutjob journal, and not a science journal. It’s still alarming that there are people who actually think this way.

  3. FZM says:

    I argue that, because the sex categories are defined according to the two functions or causal roles in reproduction, and biological function is a teleological concept involving purposes, goals, and values, female and male are normative categories. As there are no norms or values in nature, normative categories are social constructions; hence, female and male are not natural but social categories.

    You can’t fault the study’s author for lack of ambition. It isn’t possible to read the actual text but the part that proves that biological function is a social construction that does not exist in nature seems to be key to the argument. That is a big claim.

    It might be more worthwhile for someone who accepts a kind of Humean empiricist metaphysics to look at the way data from biological science relates to and informs moral and value judgements, in the light of things like Hume’s famous fact/value distinction. The author at least seems focused on value judgements and moral issues as much as anything.

    TFBW,

    While all the ultra-orthodox Darwinists were busy guarding the gate against the incursions of “Intelligent Design Creationists”, they let this outright biology-denial waltz in the back door and take up residence. Good luck combating that, fools: given how far the academy has tilted over to the left, you know that the institution is going to side with personal feelings over your hateful, patriarchal, white-supremacist biological “facts”!

    Maybe they helped it do so sometimes, provided it served to further an anti-religious agenda.

  4. TFBW says:

    @Kevin: What’s alarming is that there seem to be university departments all over the place now which take that kind of “progressive nutjob journal” perfectly seriously. This is the alarm that folks like Jordan Peterson and Clay Routledge have been sounding.

    @FZM: Sure. I think it was assumed that all the atheists were on the same pro-science, pro-reason, pro-every-epistemic-virtue-you-can-name side there for a while. Rude awakening, huh? Phase one: unity; phase two: bifurcation; phase three: enemies. That escalated quickly.

  5. Andrew says:

    From a naturalist perspective, I think it’s technically accurate to argue that “there are no norms or values in nature”, assuming we take the terms “norms” and “values” to be moral rather than anthropomorphic or mechanical (e.g. “nature abhors a vacuum” or “evolution prefers better adapted species” use words associated with human will or direction to describe processes that are considered purely mechanical).

    However, there’s a sleight of hand going on here. It’s one thing to say that “nature doesn’t recognise categories” and quite another to say that “nature functions as if categories don’t exist”. Sexual reproduction in “mammals” (a human name describing a natural functional category), for example, requires the presence of a pair of creatures of the same “species” (another human name for a natural functional category), one of which is “male” (ditto) and another of which is “female” (ditto). To suggest that these functional categories don’t exist independently of our naming them is to engage in literary skepticism at an inane level. Especially since a corollary to that claim is that we can change the functionality by changing the naming.

    If you put six male mice in a breeding box you will not get any baby mice, regardless of what words you use to name the particular adults.

  6. Michael says:

    However, there’s a sleight of hand going on here. It’s one thing to say that “nature doesn’t recognise categories” and quite another to say that “nature functions as if categories don’t exist”. Sexual reproduction in “mammals” (a human name describing a natural functional category), for example, requires the presence of a pair of creatures of the same “species” (another human name for a natural functional category), one of which is “male” (ditto) and another of which is “female” (ditto). To suggest that these functional categories don’t exist independently of our naming them is to engage in literary skepticism at an inane level. Especially since a corollary to that claim is that we can change the functionality by changing the naming.

    If you put six male mice in a breeding box you will not get any baby mice, regardless of what words you use to name the particular adults.

    You nailed it. The question that always comes to mind when you hear these SJW pontificate and rationalize is this – where does it all stop?

    You are entirely correct in noting that such a post-modern analysis does not stop with “male” and “female” and could be applied to just about any category in biology.

  7. FZM says:

    What’s alarming is that there seem to be university departments all over the place now which take that kind of “progressive nutjob journal” perfectly seriously. This is the alarm that folks like Jordan Peterson and Clay Routledge have been sounding.

    That’s true. I think in a number Western countries this type of ideological view has been gradually spreading beyond universities, into education, government, politics and the media. It seems it has just reached the point now where this is starting to become more evident and therefore an issue people want (or need) to discuss. Up to a certain point the controversial and weird ideological content could probably pass under the radar, because on a surface level there was a general consensus about the need to do something about discrimination against women, racism and so on.

  8. Nolan says:

    Hi Mike. I was thinking we should try an experiment. Let’s stipulate that we are in total agreement that the article in question is stupid, and that I have no desire to even appear to be defending it. But, as the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even a stupid article can incidentally say something conventional and uncontroversial. Let’s just focus on a single sentence — just this one sentence — and your response to it.

    The second is the fact that, usually, sex and gender come together in the way that is expected, i.e. the fact that most females are women and most males are men needs to be explained.

    Whoa. Needs to be explained? Sexual dimorphism and reproduction are already fairly well understood by the scientific community. And it’s not something that is unique and unusual among the human species.

    In that sentence the author is not questioning the biology of sexual dimorphism and reproduction, making your response irrelevant. The author is simply pointing out, as a matter of fact, that the vast majority of males adopt all the social conventions of a man as defined by the society they live in (dress, ornaments or lack thereof, etc.), and likewise the vast majority of females adopt the socially-defined role of woman. However sometimes that is not the case. Sometimes males don’t adopt the role of man as defined by society, and sometimes females don’t adopt the role of woman as defined by society. Again, these are just facts. Nothing controversial. And it’s also a fact that we don’t actually know why most people adopt the societal role that matches their biological sex while some do not. That is yet to be explained. This is just a mundane fact. Not controversial. Virtually every person with a modicum of education understands the sentence as I’ve described it.

    Except you.

    And we know enough about cranks and conspiracy theorists to know that it is not surprising that you would misunderstand/misinterpret that sentence. As a motivated reasoner with a strong agenda, the words from that sentence go into your brain but are not comprehended in the way that others comprehend them. They go in and get twisted around — granted, unconsciously — with the end result being a new, unconsciously-imposed meaning that reinforces previously adopted stances.

    So, you made a simple mistake. You just misread the sentence. Here’s the experiment: will you admit that? Cranks and conspiracy theorists keep doubling down when they are wrong, never admitting even the most trivial error no matter how obvious it is to everyone else. Show that you’re not a crank or conspiracy theorist: concede that, with respect to that one sentence, you dun goofed.

  9. TFBW says:

    @Nolan:

    As a motivated reasoner with a strong agenda …

    I had to re-read that sentence, because I thought you were talking about yourself, initially.

  10. stcordova says:

    A forgotten fact is the guy who co-authored Creationism’s Trojan Horse, Paul Gross, about 16 years ago also attacked the post-modernists associated with feminism. And 20 years ago By Barbara Ehrenreich and Janet McIntosh and Pheobe Ellsworth saw all this coming:

    http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/Ehrenreich.html

    >The Nation, June 9, 1997
    The New Creationism: Biology Under Attack Debate
    >When social psychologist Phoebe Ellsworth took the podium at a recent interdisciplinary seminar on emotions, she was already feeling rattled. Colleagues who’d presented earlier had warned her that the crowd was tough and had little patience for the reduction of human experience to numbers or bold generalizations about emotions across cultures. Ellsworth had a plan: She would pre-empt criticism by playing the critic, offering a social history of psychological approaches to the topic. But no sooner had the word “experiment” passed her lips than the hands shot up. Audience members pointed out that the experimental method is the brainchild of white Victorian males. Ellsworth agreed that white Victorian males had done their share of damage in the world but noted that, nonetheless, their efforts had led to the discovery of DNA. This short-lived dialogue between paradigms ground to a halt with the retort: “You believe in DNA?”

    More grist for the academic right? No doubt, but this exchange reflects a tension in academia that goes far deeper than spats over “political correctness.” Ellsworth’s experience illustrates the trend — in anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and other departments across the nation — to dismiss the possibility that there are any biologically based commonalities that cut across cultural differences. This aversion to biological or, as they are often branded, “reductionist” explanations commonly operates as an informal ethos limiting what can be said in seminars, asked at lectures or incorporated into social theory. Extreme anti-innatism has had formal institutional consequences as well: At some universities, like the University of California, Berkeley, the biological subdivision of the anthropology department has been relocated to another building — a spatial metaphor for an epistemological gap.

  11. FZM says:

    Virtually every person with a modicum of education understands the sentence as I’ve described it.

    Read in the context in which it appears the meaning of the sentence may be less clear:

    Feminist theory needs a constructivist account of biological sex for at least two reasons.
    …….
    The second is the fact that, usually, sex and gender come together in the way that is expected, i.e. the fact that most females are women and most males are men needs to be explained.

  12. Dhay says:

    Nolan > … Except you.

    And we know enough about cranks and conspiracy theorists to know that it is not surprising that you would misunderstand/misinterpret that sentence. As a motivated reasoner with a strong agenda, the words from that sentence go into your brain but are not comprehended in the way that others comprehend them. They go in and get twisted around — granted, unconsciously — with the end result being a new, unconsciously-imposed meaning that reinforces previously adopted stances.

    So, you made a simple mistake. You just misread the sentence. Here’s the experiment: will you admit that? Cranks and conspiracy theorists keep doubling down when they are wrong, never admitting even the most trivial error no matter how obvious it is to everyone else. Show that you’re not a crank or conspiracy theorist: concede that, with respect to that one sentence, you dun goofed.

    I thought that sort of ‘the more you deny it the more you prove my diagnosis right’ bollocks died with Sigmund Freud. Let’s see, after first diagnosing Michael as a crank and conspiracy theorist you declare that cranks and conspiracy theorists double down and won’t admit they are wrong; denial of being a crank and a conspiracy theorist being a sure indicator of being a crank and a conspiracy theorist, the stronger the denial (framed by you as “doubling down”) the surer the diagnosis. Yep, Freud lives.

    Then the passive-agressive shit: Michael should show he’s not a crank and conspiracy theorist by retracting — and if he doesn’t retract and instead corrects you, he’s a crank and conspiracy theorist doubling down, in denial. Heads you win, tails he loses.

    In your dreams.

  13. Michael says:

    Hi Mike. I was thinking we should try an experiment.

    What’s the objective of the “experiment?” It would appear to be as follows:

    If Mike is indeed a crank and conspiracy theorist, he will fail to acknowledge that Nolan’s interpretation of a particular sentence is the correct one.

    The problem with your “experiment” is that it so horribly flawed that it would not even pass muster at an 8th grade science fair.

    First, you have a subject size of 1 and no controls. Because of this, there is no experiment here.

    Second, the experimental design is further flawed in multiple fundamental ways:

    1. You write, “Let’s just focus on a single sentence — just this one sentence — and your response to it.” Yet as virtually every person with a modicum of education understands, any sentence must be interpreted in its context.

    2. Concerning your interpretation of the sentence, you insist

    “Virtually every person with a modicum of education understands the sentence as I’ve described it.
    Except you.”

    Yet there are no data to back up this claim. None. A key empirical claim behind your experimental design is without any empirical evidence whatsoever. What if, for example, 10% of people with a modicum of education don’t understand the sentence as you do?

    3. Your experiment builds on a logical fallacy:

    Here’s the experiment: will you admit that? Cranks and conspiracy theorists keep doubling down when they are wrong, never admitting even the most trivial error no matter how obvious it is to everyone else.

    While it may be true that cranks and conspiracy theorists keep doubling down when they are wrong, never admitting even the most trivial error, this is NOT a trait specific to cranks and conspiracy theorists. On the contrary, it’s a very common human trait. Since it is a trait that is not specific to cranks and conspiracy theorists, it is a failed metric for trying to detect what you think you are detecting.

    It’s actually quite fascinating to consider the multiple levels of flawed thinking entailed in your “experiment.” It depends on a procedure that violates reasoned consensus (sentences should be interpreted in their context) and when you implement this flawed procedure, you merely assume everyone but me would agree with your interpretation without offering a shred of empirical support whatsoever. Your “experiment” relies on imagined data. To top it all off, to reach any conclusion from your experiment, you are relying on a metric that simply fails to deliver what you need it to deliver. It is like arguing, “Since most cranks and conspiracy theorists are men, I can demonstrate Mike is a crank and conspiracy theorist by demonstrating he is a man.”

    Look, we could have had a reasoned discussion about that sentence, but since you have made it clear it’s all an “experiment,” I thought it necessary point out the thoroughly bogus essence of your “experiment.” Since the results of such a deeply flawed approach would be meaningless, it would be irrational to proceed.

  14. Michael says:

    And 20 years ago By Barbara Ehrenreich and Janet McIntosh and Pheobe Ellsworth saw all this coming:

    http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/Ehrenreich.html

    Nice find. Thanks.

  15. Nolan says:

    Hi Mike. As suspected, you couldn’t bring yourself to admit even that small and obvious error. Q.E.D.

  16. TFBW says:

    @Nolan. You didn’t admit that your “experiment” was in error, so by your own logic, everything that you have accused Michael of also applies to you. So that makes you a self-admitted what? “Crank” and “conspiracy theorist”, I believe, were in the list.

  17. Michael says:

    Hi Mike. As suspected, you couldn’t bring yourself to admit even that small and obvious error. Q.E.D.

    As if things we not bad enough, you now jump to your conclusion without even doing to the experiment. Pay attention – I did not participate in your experiment. You made it clear from the start that this was an experiment, so I analyzed your methods and found them to be fatally flawed. It looks like you couldn’t bring yourself to acknowledge these flaws as you breathlessly raced to discover your preconceptions.

  18. TFBW says:

    @Michael: either you did not participate in his experiment, or he conducted it without your consent. If the latter, then we can add “unethical” to the list of problems.

  19. FZM says:

    Feminist theory needs a constructivist account of biological sex for at least two reasons.
    ….
    The second is the fact that, usually, sex and gender come together in the way that is expected, i.e. the fact that most females are women and most males are men needs to be explained.

    This reader, at least, understood the sentence in the following way:

    The majority of biological males adopt certain social roles, distinctions of dress, behaviour which are distinct from certain social roles, distinctions of dress and behaviour which the majority of biological females in the same society adopt. In the context of Feminist theory at least, a constructivist account of biological sex is required to explain this. I guessed this was because Feminist theory excludes in advance any biological explanation of the phenomena and has some concept that it cannot have a biological basis or explanation.

    Otherwise it isn’t clear why a social constructivist account of biological sex is required to explain why this observed phenomena arises. It’s equally not clear what advantages this kind of account would have against competing ones.

  20. grodrigues says:

    FZM quoted this bit from the article of the OP:

    “I argue that, because the sex categories are defined according to the two functions or causal roles in reproduction, and biological function is a teleological concept involving purposes, goals, and values, female and male are normative categories. As there are no norms or values in nature, normative categories are social constructions; hence, female and male are not natural but social categories.”

    In a nutshell, the argument seems to go like this:

    (1) sex categories are defined via their biological, functional roles.

    (2) biological, functional roles imply that nature exhibits teleology.

    (3) but there is no teleology in nature.

    (4) ergo sex categories are not objective features of nature.

    If this is the intended argument, it is valid. It is unsound because (3) is false, or to put it in different words, (and to avail myself of the usual slogan that “one man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens”), while the authors take (4) as the conclusion I take (4) as obviously false, and take the proper conclusion to be the denial of (3).

    Another possible (and nowadays, the typical) defense is to deny (2). I think such defenses always end up failing, but that is a topic for another day.

  21. grodrigues says:

    To put my previous post in perspective: it seems to me that the authors are simply taking the implications of naturalism seriously and ending up where it always ends up: in an absurd eliminativism.

  22. TFBW says:

    It’s hard to analyse nonsense of this sort, and you’re braver than I if you try to derive a syllogism from it. Nolan made a fuss over the way Michael interpreted “needs to be explained”, as though it only admitted of one possible interpretation. Such narrowness is an artefact of his mind, rather than the text, however. Consider the following.

    When someone says that something “needs to be explained”, it suggests that no explanation currently exists, or at least that no acceptable (by some criteria) explanation exists. But biological explanations do exist: as Michael points out, sexual dimorphism is a well-studied concept in biology. If one makes the perfectly reasonable assumption that the biological differences also produce some behavioural differences, then there’s nothing to explain: behaviour is correspondingly dimorphic. This is exactly why the paper can speak of “male” and “female” gender identities (distinct from physiologies) in the first place: if there were no behavioural differences, then there would be no such corresponding distinction to make.

    Given that a biological explanation does exist, the author implies that the biological explanation is not acceptable. This is a “woah” worthy example of anti science: to suggest that biological explanations are not acceptable is exactly like Jerry Coyne saying that “Intelligent Design Creationist” explanations of origins are not acceptable. It’s not a minor thing — it’s a fundamental disagreement over whether biology is even a legitimate tool for investigating such questions. Constructivist accounts of things are “needed” precisely because they are legitimate (in the same way Jerry Coyne asserts the legitimacy of Darwinian explanations), and biological explanations are not legitimate (in the same way Jerry Coyne asserts that of “creationism” — i.e. everything but Darwinism).

    Yes. Woah. Our Constructivist thinks of Jerry Coyne’s science the way Jerry Coyne thinks of creationism. I’m pretty sure a lot of folks who align with mainstream science haven’t noticed that, simply because the concept is so unthinkable to them. In fact, even as I point it out, they’re probably thinking it can’t possibly be so, because it would be so staggeringly unreasonable a position to hold.

    Perhaps Nolan falls into this camp.

    Nolan would like to interpret this little excerpt as though it were suggesting that no biological explanation exists — that there is some kind of mystery as to why most men behave like men, and most women behave like women, but some don’t. Nolan also asserts that he’s being entirely uncontroversial when he says, “we don’t actually know whymost people adopt the societal role that matches their biological sex while some do not.” He’s so sure of this assertion that he’s willing to write Michael off as a crackpot if he denies it.

    I see two problems with this position.

    First, I deny his assertion as a matter of common sense. Roles are not “defined” by society: they emerge from it. The vast majority of men exhibit certain character traits which we identify as “male” because men exhibit them, and likewise for women. A trait common to both is the general desire to have one’s biological sex recognised correctly, and so the large amount of gender-conformity we actually observe is utterly unsurprising. The fact that there are exceptions is not especially surprising either: there are real but rare biological pathologies capable of disrupting sexual development; some such behaviour can probably be attributed to mental illnesses; and, most importantly, human beings are simply capable of deciding to behave in some way other than their biological urges, and have a great many possible reasons for choosing to do so. That latter fact tends to lie outside the usual purview of biology, and is only a problem for the hard-line extremists who insist that biology is all we have (in itself a philosophical, rather than scientific, position).

    So, it’s not really the huge mystery that Nolan makes out. Not that I can see, anyhow. Clearly I’m some kind of crank or conspiracy theorist for thinking so.

    Secondly, Nolan’s objection rests on a skewed representation of the original quote. Pay close attention, and note that the original quote says nothing of the exceptional behaviour. What it wants explained is, “the fact that, usually, sex and gender come together in the way that is expected, i.e. the fact that most females are women and most males are men needs to be explained.” It wants the typical case explained, and is utterly tacit about the atypical case. While Nolan seems to think that the call for explanation is symmetrical, the text itself is distinctly one-sided. I get the impression that the author expects the natural state of the world to exhibit no strong correlation between sex and gender, so the “aligned” case needs an explanation precisely because it ought not to be so typical.

    No doubt the author has a Constructivist argument narrative to explain this anomaly.

  23. Michael says:

    Yes. Woah. Our Constructivist thinks of Jerry Coyne’s science the way Jerry Coyne thinks of creationism. I’m pretty sure a lot of folks who align with mainstream science haven’t noticed that, simply because the concept is so unthinkable to them. In fact, even as I point it out, they’re probably thinking it can’t possibly be so, because it would be so staggeringly unreasonable a position to hold.

    Exactly. For example, from the link provided by stcordova above:

    But no sooner had the word “experiment” passed her lips than the hands shot up. Audience members pointed out that the experimental method is the brainchild of white Victorian males. Ellsworth agreed that white Victorian males had done their share of damage in the world but noted that, nonetheless, their efforts had led to the discovery of DNA. This short-lived dialogue between paradigms ground to a halt with the retort: “You believe in DNA?”

    and

    As neo-Marxist and behaviorist theories of the tabula rasa human gained ground over the next decade, other disciplines followed anthropology’s lead. So completely was sociology purged of biology that when Nicholas Petryszak analyzed twenty-four introductory sociology textbooks in 1979, he found that all assumed that “any consideration of biological factors believed to be innate to the human species is completely irrelevant in understanding the nature of human behavior and society.” In general, by the seventies, antibiologism had become the rallying cry of academic liberals and feminists — and the apparent defense of human freedom against the iron chains of nature.

    and from this interesting article on post-modernism:

    However, he has not found postmodernists committed to explaining their reasoning and describes a bewildering conversation with postmodern philosopher, Laurie Calhoun,

    “When I had occasion to ask her whether or not it was a fact that giraffes are taller than ants, she replied that it was not a fact, but rather an article of religious faith in our culture.”

  24. stcordova says:

    If I can summarize what I see happening with culture it would be : RITUALS AGAINST REALITY

    Zoltan Istvan looked for scapegoats for why we humans aren’t immortal and the convenient scapegoat was religious belief!

    The left wing tantrums are religious rituals trying to create magic to fix the world. They have blind faith in a god that doesn’t exist whom they trust will fix the problems of reality. They want safe spaces to help perpetuate their delusions. They want utopia and immortality. Christianity was at least more realistic in telling people that utopia (heaven) and immortality (eternal life) won’t be accessible in this life. Even assuming for the sake of argument that Christianity is false, at least it agreed with the reality of the real world as we know it, namely: “Life is hard, then you die!”

    Now that we’re in a post Christian culture, what does the enlightenment have to offer when confronted with the reality of the human condition?

    I thought about how post modern culture could be so irrational, then it dawned on me, this isn’t about rationality, this is about creating self-delusional safe-space. It is a rebellion against reality. The truth hurts, and they hate the truth.

    The South Park episode on “Safe Space” summarized the situation well…..

  25. TFBW says:

    Earlier in this thread I quoted Nolan’s turn of phrase, “as a motivated reasoner with a strong agenda.” At the time, I snorted derisively. My immediate (and perfectly valid) reaction was, “right — like you aren’t guilty of the same thing.” Identifying hypocrisy scores easy points. Let he who is not a “motivated reasoner” cast the first stone.

    Tonight, I was going through some YouTube talks on the SJW issue (I may have developed an unhealthy obsession) and I found one featuring Jonathan Haidt from June last year (start at 6:25 if time is precious) in which he uttered the haunting phrase “motivated ignorance“. Yow! That strikes home with much more force than “motivated reason”. All that shouting down and shutting down in the name of rejecting hate? Motivated ignorance. Motivated reasoning is at least a form of reasoning. Motivated ignorance, on the other hand, I find hard to interpret charitably — and yet when one puts it that way, the parallels between the SJWs and New Atheists become so obvious.

    So obvious that I won’t spell them out here and now. If they’re not obvious to me and others a day from now, then I probably just stayed up too late.

  26. Kevin says:

    Motivated ignorance? Hey, it’s Stardusty!

  27. Dhay says:

    Looks like Nolan is obsessive about “cranks and conspiracy theorists”, a phrase he used repeatedly in his main response above, and is desperate to claim Michael is one.

    As part of his efforts to establish that Michael belongs to the category of “cranks and conspiracy theorists” Nolan went into considerable amateur psychological detail:

    And we know enough about cranks and conspiracy theorists to know that it is not surprising that you would misunderstand/misinterpret that sentence. … the words from that sentence go into your brain but are not comprehended in the way that others comprehend them. They go in and get twisted around — granted, unconsciously — with the end result being a new, unconsciously-imposed meaning that reinforces previously adopted stances.

    … Cranks and conspiracy theorists keep doubling down when they are wrong, never admitting even the most trivial error no matter how obvious it is to everyone else.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/is-gender-studies-anti-science/#comment-17372

    Nolan’s evidently a guy determined to see conspiracy theories where there are none. It’s even clearer in a previous thread:

    … Rather than accept Dawkins’ stated position—held by virtually every person living in Western democratic countries—you have launched into conspiracies about how Dawkins secretly does wish to conscript governments into doing his evil bidding. His clear and unequivocal statements to the contrary—indeed his saying that such an idea horrifies him—are merely ruses to throw us off the trail. And a staff member at the National Center for Science Education, Nick Matzke, facilitated the cover-up. Question: Do you believe that Matzke is merely one of Dawkins’ unwitting pawns, or does the conspiracy go deeper, with the NCSE being secretly in league with Dawkins’ evil agenda? After all, the NCSE was instrumental in throwing out the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Who knows what other dark deeds are on their docket?

    The psychology of conspiracy theorists is quite interesting and continues to be studied. A common thread among them is the inference of hidden intent or grand design in events that are otherwise mundane. Where others see coincidence and human foibles, conspiracy theorists see overarching design. 9/11 conspiracists are a great example of this, but rather than get into those specifics let’s examine the conspiracy you have put forth.

    All of us, at one point, have misread something. And all of us, after realizing the mistake, know what it’s like to look back on the text we misread and think, “Jeez! How did I miss that?” Sometimes this is caused by a wrong assumption about the context. For example if you thought a passage was about Paris, after reading it you might think it mentioned the Eiffel Tower when it only said “tower”. If the subject of religion in schools is the hot topic of the day, with (then) Prime Minister Tony Blair driving the news on it, then misreading the start of a petition about religion and children in that context seems quite possible.

    But not to a conspiracy theorist. To them, there can’t be simple human mistakes. There’s a plan. There’s an agenda. To argue that someone couldn’t possibly have misread something, and to show the text as “proof”, is to endow that person with hindsight not accessible at the time. No matter. The person can’t possibly have made a such a mistake. To conspiracy theorists, there are no mistakes and there are no coincidences. The unfolding of events in history are not contingent but part of an overall design, often sinister in nature.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/taking-richard-dawkins-concerns-seriously/#comment-16226

    Weird paranoid stuff. Looks like Nolan is a crank and a conspiracy theory conspiracy theorist.

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