Author Archives: Denyse O'Leary

Indian philosopher of science: Science “studies” are a stealth face of post-modernism

From Meera Nanda, author of Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India, at Butterflies and Wheels:

Science studies, as I said, is not an ordinary academic discipline. It constitutes the beating heart of postmodernism, for it aims to “deconstruct” natural science, the very core of a secular and modern worldview. Since its inception in the 1970s, the discipline has produced a sizeable body of work that purports to show that not just the agenda, but even the content of theories of natural sciences is “socially constructed.” All knowledge, in different cultures, or different historical times – regardless of whether it is true or false, rational or irrational, successful or not in producing reliable knowledge – is to be explained by the same causes. This demand for “symmetry” between modern science and other local knowledges constitutes the central demand of the “strong programme,” the central dogma of science studies. One cannot assume that only false beliefs or failed sciences (e.g., astrology) are caused by a lack of systematic empirical testing, or by faulty reasoning, or by class interests, religious indoctrination or other forms of social conditioning. A truly “scientific” approach to science requires that we suspend our preconceived faith that what is scientific by the standards of modern science of our times brings us any closer to truth. In the spirit of true scientific impartiality and objectivity, science studies demand that modern science be treated “symmetrically,” as being “at par” with any other local knowledge.

In principle, there is nothing whatsoever wrong in the agenda of science studies: modern science is not a sacred form of knowledge that cannot be examined skeptically. Science and scientists must welcome a skeptical look at their enterprise from social critics. The problem with science studies comes in their refusal to grant that modern science has evolved certain distinctive methods (e.g., controlled experiments and double-blind studies) and distinctive social practices (e.g., peer review, reward structures that favor honesty and innovation) which promote a higher degree of self-correction of evidence, and ensure that methodological assumptions that scientists make themselves have independent scientific support. Science studies start with the un-objectionable truism that modern science is as much a social process as any other local knowledge. But using radically relativist interpretations of Thomas Kuhn’s work of science as a paradigm-bound activity, science studies scholars invariably end up taking a relativist position. They argue, in essence, that what constitutes relevant evidence for a community of scientists will vary with their material/social and professional interests, their social values including gender ideologies, religious faith, and with their culturally grounded standards of rationality and success. Thus, scientists with different social backgrounds, from different cultures and from different historical periods, literally live in different worlds: the sciences of modern western societies are not any more “true” or “rational” than the sciences of other cultures. If modern science claims to be universal, that is because Western culture has tried to impose itself on the rest of the world through imperialism. More.

All courses that add “studies” to their name should be approached, in principle, with deep suspicion if they claim to do more than help people understand a discipline better, rather than actually practice/make a living in it. That said, Nanda’s work appears aimed mainly at her native South Asia “Nowhere is the influence of social constructivist and postcolonial critiques of science more evident than in India, where these ideas have become indistinguishable from the Hindu nationalist promotion of assorted “Vedic sciences.” Worthy of note: “This is the philosophical basis on which the Indian government recently introduced the study of astrology as an academic discipline at post-secondary level in state-funded colleges and universities”

Her discussion is welcome but in the West, post-modernist challenges to science (as in “the sciences of modern western societies are not any more ‘true’ or ‘rational’ than the sciences of other cultures.”) are mainly coming from social justice warriors, not from religious or nationalist movements. Critics of naturalism in science are happy to seek evidence within the traditional framework.

My impression is that Western big science bureaucrats are too frightened of the edge-of-a-riot SJWs to risk challenging them. The result will be loss of prestige and funds. After all, if science truths are the equivalent of folklore truths, why should people who lack interest in science support it?

See also: SJWs stream into science: Don’t cite white male geographers

Is it a myth that scientists are awful writers? Accusing the critics of hard-to-read writing of “cultural appropriation” is a group whine scientists certainly don’t need.

Objectivity is sexist.

Social justice warriors hit engineering. This is what happens when scientists come to believe that consciousness is an illusion and objectivity is sexist.

Algebra is NOT racist.

The war on freedom is rotting our intellectual life: Intersectionality

Journal Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science


New York Times op-ed tells ACLU to reject free speech

From Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media:

In the op-ed, K-Sue Park, a housing attorney and Critical Race Studies fellow at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, acknowledged that the ACLU “has a long history of defending the First Amendment rights of groups on both the far left and the far right.” Park was correct, and the ACLU’s free speech activism even led the group to defend the white supremacists’ rights this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

Park argued that this activism was wrong-headed. “While admirable in theory, this approach implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression,” the UCLA fellow author wrote.

She expressed her “respect” for the ACLU’s work, mentioning that she interned with the organization in 2011, but nevertheless attacked its free speech activism. “By insisting on a narrow reading of the First Amendment, the organization provides free legal support to hate-based causes. More troubling, the legal gains on which the A.C.L.U. rests its colorblind logic have never secured real freedom or even safety for all,” Park argued.More.

Reality check: No real surprise. The Times is simply not needed any longer as a news source. It can survive as a vendor of propaganda, but only in a protected position.

See also: Ex-Google engineer Damore is an emblem of the liberal crackup Note: Crackdown, not crackup.


Words are not violence People who think words are violence tend also to think that violence is words.


Statues as casualties in the war on history – Lee and Lenin

From Tom Knighton at Townhall:

While speaking on a radio program, however, Mayor Ed Murray opined that both a Confederate memorial located in a private cemetery and the Lenin statue should be removed.

As much as I despise everything Lenin stood for in his life, if we’re not free to do things that upset others, we have no freedom at all. It doesn’t matter if that thing is hosting a Confederate statue or one of Lenin, freedom means freedom for all. More.

Reality check: All totalitarian movements seek to abolish history because they do not think they themselves have anything to learn. The rest of us should lern only what they tell us.

See also: Words are not violence People who think words are violence tend also to think that violence is words.


Words are not violence

From the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,

In her recent New York Times article entitled “When Is Speech Violence?” Barrett contends that speech that “bullies and torments” ought to be prevented because “from the perspective of our brain cells,” it is “literally a form of violence.” She points to scientific findings showing that “Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain—even kill neurons—and shorten your life.”

Professor Barrett is a respected psychologist and she cites studies in neuroscience that support her statement that verbal abuse can bring on stress that causes physical damage. Let’s not question the science she cites. Let’s agree that she is correct in saying that chronic stress is bad for an individual, perhaps even life-shortening.

The problem is that there is no apparent connection between chronic stress and merely listening to someone speak, for a while, no matter how provocative his words may be. More.

Reality check: How did today’s pensioners get through all these years reading letters to the editor in a free press?

People who think words are violence tend to think that violence is words. Hence the SJW swinging the bicycle chain.

See also: Campus starts shovelling snowflakes off sidewalk


Polls: Measuring the Trump conundrum

From Byron York at the Washington Examiner:

In the RealClearPolitics average of all polls on the favorable/unfavorable question, Trump is now at 55.6 percent unfavorable versus 39.0 percent favorable. That is little changed from his average on Nov. 8: 58.5 percent unfavorable, versus 37.5 percent favorable. Among the unfavorables, that is just 1.5 points difference from then to now; among the favorables, 2.9 points.

Considering all that has gone on in the Trump presidency — it’s too much to recount in a sentence or two — the stability of the Trump favorable/unfavorable rating is notable.More.

Reality check: Because the only poll that matters is the 2018 mid-term elections. Too many media people today sound like lazy heirs hoping to learn that Grandma has died. Or, on the other side, like hypochondriacs taking their temperature.

See also: Mark Steyn on the Deep State coup against Trump


Universal basic income as a calamity

From Dan Nidess at Wall Street Journal

Why a Universal Basic Income Would Be a Calamity

How long before the elites decide the unemployed underclass shouldn’t have the right to vote? Reality check: Not long.

Leading voices in the tech industry—from Mark Zuckerberg to Sam Altman —are warning that increased automation risks leaving an unprecedented number of Americans permanently unemployed. In response, many concerned Silicon Valley luminaries have called for a universal basic income, or UBI. Guaranteed income from the government may seem like the easiest way to address long-term unemployment, but UBI fixes only the narrowest and most quantifiable problem joblessness causes: lack of a reliable income. It completely ignores, and may exacerbate, the larger complications of mass unemployment.

He also notes that Finland’s world-famous experiment involves only 2000 peole which is basically nothing in world demographic terms. Saudi Arabia, he suggests, is a better example because after decades of oil-fed welfare, it is hard to get the population interested in work.

But perhaps the critical question is, are there going to be very many jobs in the future that under skilled, under-motivated people can do? There may be a relationship between Saudi Arabia’s absence of civil liberties and the fact that the population does not reallyfund the government.

The reality is that in a highly automated society, only strongly motivated, smart people stand a chance of a job. That does not create mass unemployment in itself because many needs go unfilled in any society, simply because no one is available to do the job.

For example, before writing and arithmetic were invented, no one needed schoolteachers… Automation will bring with it similar opportunities – for the skilled, talented, and motivated. Not necessarily for angry, depressed people looking for someone to blame.

The main reason punitive make-them-work schemes never took off in the past is that we assumed that unemployed people could in fact be employed. And thus make money for themselves and the government to spend. Arguments centred on who to blame for unemployment, why, and what to do to fix it…

But future structural unemployment due to automation may turn citizens into inmates. The high tech companies are making their authoritarian bent quite clear. Best to advocate for our civil liberties while we can still justify them.

See also: Ex-Google engineer Damore is an emblem of the liberal crackup Note: Crackdown, not crackup.


Guns facing the wrong way: Journal Nature displays deadly weakness on “science and bigotry”

Announcing from on high that it is Against Discrimination, Nature tells us: Science cannot and should not be used to justify prejudice.  No indeed. But is there any general wish that it did? Then,

Difference between groups may therefore provide sound scientific evidence. But it’s also a blunt instrument of pseudoscience, and one used to justify actions and policies that condense claimed group differences into tools of prejudice and discrimination against individuals — witness last weekend’s violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the controversy over a Google employee’s memo on biological differences in the tastes and abilities of the sexes.

A nice touch that, to equate hapless engineer Damore’s ejection from the Goolag with white supremacist violence.

The two situations are not remotely similar. Damore discovered that on a number of subjects, evidence thoughtfully considered does not matter, however respectfully offered. So then is irrational rage becoming an essential virtue even in science and engineering, as it has now become in (what used to be) arts disciplines?

As we have noted before, the guns are facing the wrong way. The threat to science today is post-modernism: You know, objective fact is sexist, algebra is racist, science is about the personal bummers of scientists…

If  Nature cannot deal with this problem, fine. Someone eventually must. But everyone will remember Nature’s failure.

See also: Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science. Excuse me guys but, as in so many looming strategic disasters, the guns are facing the wrong way.


Extra! Extra! A handy guide to the normal fake news: Surviving information overload

From Denyse O’Leary at MercatorNet:

10. Studies show…

There are now millions of studies in the world and most of us can analyze very few of them. Many of these studies are of poor quality, especially in contentious fields such as social sciences and nutrition. But these are the very fields whose findings are widely touted in popular media. When treated as some kind of truth, they are a form of fake news.

Jonny Anomaly and Brian Boutwell lament at Quillette:

Chances are you’ve found yourself in a heated conversation among a group of friends, family, or colleagues when someone throws down the gauntlet: “Actually, studies show…” Some nod in silent agreement, others check their text messages, and finally someone changes the subject.

It’s hard to know what to say when people cite scientific studies to prove their point. Sometimes we know the study and its relative merits. But most of the time we just don’t know enough to confirm or refute the statement that the study is supposed to support. We are floating in a sea of information, and all we can do is flounder around for the nearest buoy to support a view that’s vaguely related to the conversation. More.

The fact that we are not able to analyze the studies does not obligate us to accept the information provided as a truth. Not only can a study be wrong, so can dozens or hundreds of them. Without further information, we should just use our own best judgment while avoiding useless social conflict.

Another type of fake news is insinuation. If media frequently hint that the mayor is suspected of corruption, they may never need to defend their claims. They needn’t fear libel either if they make no specific accusation. They merely plant the idea and repeat it until it festers. Then there is the fake news practice is treating only the figures on one side of a controversy as experts. The ones on other side are mere dissidents, regardless of the state of the evidence. Readers who examine news stories thoughtfully will doubtless come up with many other categories of fake news as well. It’s fun, usually free, and any number can play.

See also: What can we do about fake news that would not diminish real news? Critics of ‘fake news’ should go to China — only the government has the right to post fake news.


Ex-Google engineer Damore is an emblem of the liberal crackup

From  Mark Lilla at Wall Street Journal:

As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate.

Over the past decade a new, and very revealing, locution has drifted from our universities into the media mainstream: Speaking as an X…This is not an anodyne phrase. It sets up a wall against any questions that come from a non-X perspective. Classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. What replaces argument, then, are taboos against unfamiliar ideas and contrary opinions.

Rod Dreher adds at the American Conservative,

The Damore debacle at Google is a perfect example of what Lilla disdains in his book. Google engineer James Damore wrote an impolitic memo criticizing the way diversity is handled at Google. He said there are scientific reasons why Google’s diversity initiatives aren’t working to change Google’s male-female employee ratio. He said clearly that he favors diversity, but thinks that science shows there are more effective ways to achieve it. And he criticized Google for being the kind of place where people who disagree with cultural progressivism cannot speak out.

This got him fired. It also energized the mob of left-wing witch hunters, who piled onto Damore for his alleged sexist bigotry. Much of the hysteria had nothing to do with Damore’s actual arguments. It bashed him on identity politics grounds. Never mind that Damore said in the memo that he favors diversity, and that he thinks racism and sexism are real problems. Never mind that he simply complained that the way Google pursues diversity is unfair to men. And never mind that Google provided the internal forum precisely so that its workers can discuss workplace issues. More.

Reality check: Lilla is self-deluded if he thinks that the junior jackboots of We’ll Fix U are in any sense liberal. They’ll just freeze him out now. Why should they think when they can riot? Why should they persuade when they can enforce?

See also: It’s not just Google


Mark Steyn on the Deep State coup against Trump


The notion that the “intelligence community” is entitled to leak against the President has been so normalized that one-on-one phone conversations between heads of government can be published on the front pages of the public prints to the approval of half the country. I’m a foreigner, so I look at this from a foreigner’s point of view. I don’t know the Mexican guy but over the years I have had some small contact with the Aussie Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. As some of you know, he once walked out of a speech of mine. On the other hand, we passed a not unpleasant day sitting side by side at some gabfest – lot of loose lips, including a somewhat lively exchange between him and me …but on Chatham House rules. So, when somebody or other sought permission to publish our back-and-forth, Mr Turnbull nixed it – because that wasn’t the basis on which our conversation was conducted. I can imagine how he feels seeing his Trump convo splashed across The Washington Post.

But I find it harder to see why he should take a call from the White House ever again. Because there’s no point in heads of government phoning each other unless they can talk candidly. More.

Reality check: Our American friend John Gilmore thinks the coup is failing. Maybe. The thing to remember is that progressives need unaccountable power like a drug. Other people get busy with real lives and forget, and next thing you know, the progressives have made another advance in their war on reality, at human nature’s expense.

See also: The slow rolling coup against Trump


Traditional journalist bemoans Silicon Valley takeover

From Franklin Foer at the Atlantic:

Makers of magazines and newspapers used to think of their product as a coherent package—an issue, an edition, an institution. They did not see themselves as the publishers of dozens of discrete pieces to be trafficked each day on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Thinking about bundling articles into something larger was intellectually liberating. Editors justified high-minded and quixotic articles as essential for “the mix.” If readers didn’t want a report on child poverty or a dispatch from South Sudan, they wouldn’t judge you for providing one. In fact, they might be flattered that you thought they would like to read such articles.

Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot. Now each assignment is subjected to a cost-benefit analysis—will the article earn enough traffic to justify the investment? Sometimes the analysis is explicit and conscious, though in most cases it’s subconscious and embedded in euphemism. Either way, it’s this train of thought that leads editors to declare an idea “not worth the effort” or to worry about whether an article will “sink.” The audience for journalism may be larger than it was before, but the mind-set is smaller. More.

Reality check: If tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make any noise? If left coast journalism just isn’t popular the way it used to be, would the left coast know that? Or would they start blaming new technology that – if not jimmied – allows readers to opt out? Hmmm.

See also: Why left-wing Salon cannot pay its rent


Why was there such dishonest media coverage of the Google firing?

From Guy Benson at Townhall:

When CNN’s Brooke Baldwin framed Damore’s thesis as, “he’s essentially saying well I don’t really like women anywhere near a computer,” Mary Katharine Ham’s facial expression says it all.  It’s a truly ridiculous claim that bears no resemblance to the actual memo.  To her credit, liberal commentator and free speech advocate Kirsten Powers slapped back at the media’s atrocious coverage of the storyMore.

Reality check: Traditional media would love to control what we are allowed to know about the world around us. They can only dream of what Google could do if permitted. See ‘Dangerous’: Milo Yiannopoulos delights to provoke: The book by the gay conservative provocateur is not nearly as Dangerous as the social media world he exposes.
See also: It’s not just Google


Googly or gone

From Charlie Martin at PJ Media:

Googly. Yes, it’s a word, at least within Google. It’s an adjective describing someone who has the appropriate characteristics of a Google employee.

How do I know this? Because the last time I went through the Google recruitment mill, I got up to the point where we were discussing a trip to Mountain View for in-person interviews. That’s when they let me know that one of the in-person interviews was to determine if I was “Googly.”

James Damore was just fired for being insufficiently Googly. He rejected Google’s internal mythology, and worse, he did so with basic math, in a company where mathiness is supposed to be part of the culture. More.

Reality check: Progressives are at war with arithmetic. They can’t win but they can inflict many casualties.

See also: It’s not just Google


It’s not just Google

From Ben Shapiro at Townhall:

Unfortunately, this philosophy of diversity before freedom or merit has run amok at many of America’s major companies. And it has an impact on product. YouTube has reportedly been restricting videos it deems controversial or inappropriate, and disproportionately targeting comics like Steven Crowder and educators like Dennis Prager. Facebook has taken steps in recent months to curb its own biases, but only after a blowup with conservatives who were angry at its apparent attempts to crack down on non-leftists. Twitter has banned or suspended conservatives for mysterious reasons that it has never applied to members of the left. More.

Reality check: Social media platforms other than Big Progressive are not yet illegal.

See also: Why left-wing Salon cannot pay its rent


Climate change: Progressive prof targets dogs and cats

From Valerie Richardson at Washington Times:

A UCLA professor who recommended replacing dogs and cats with more climate-friendly pets in the name of global warming may have bitten off more than he can chew.

His study, which found that dogs and cats have a significant impact on carbon emissions as a result of their meat-based diets, met with howls from pet owners and a lukewarm reception even from some environmentalists who also happen to love dogs.More.

Reality check: Progressives are really serious about seeing to it that no one is happy enjoying a normal traditional life. Progressives would never be happy anyway while a free human being breathes. Also, rabbits and hamsters are stupid compared to dogs and cats.

See also: Better to be hated than loved by liberals (and “helping professionals”)