Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
5 Aug 1996 18:12:10 GMT (Bryant) wrote:
>>In article <4t8970$>, Susan <> wrote:
>>>>As the argument goes (and I'm inclined to agree with it myself), all
>>>>interpretation of "fact" comes from some sort of political and/or social
>>>>perspective, or agenda.
>Please explain (or "deconstruct" or whatever) how each of the following are
>expressions of political or social bias:
>1. E=mc^2
>2. Newton's second law
>3. the identification by Francis and Crick of the structure of DNA
>4. the identification of medicinal alkaloids in plant tissues
>5. Cell theory

Several other posters have already addressed some of these, so there's no
real need to add any detailed thoughts. But I can't resist some

1. There is a prevailing assumption that the notion of everything having
a set of culutral assumptions underlying it it somehow "bad." I never
meant to imply that. It just "is" because of the nature of humanity. As
someone already pointed out, all of the stated conclusions are based on
the basic assumptions of science, like there being an independant,
physical world that can eventually be measured. It isn't "bad" to think
that, but it is an assumption, i.e. something that cannot be proven. I
happen to agree with this particular assumption. But I suspect that many
scientists run afoul of other ideas about the world because they often
have an arrogance about their idea being "facts" while other peoples'
ideas are not. I'm not pointing any fingers here, because so far this
discussion seems to have been fairly calm. But I certainly know many
scientists who are insufferable about their particular world view being
"right", when in fact it is also based on a set of unprovable

2. Science explicitly controls the kinds of questions that can be asked
in a scientific framework, so in that sense all of your examples show
that particular slant. They must be in the form of hypotheses, they must
be provable, falsifiable, etc. "Is there a god" is not a scientific
question, because the whole nature of god as generally understood is not
amenable to physical law, and is therefore outside of science. It is not
always to conclusions that are biased, it is usually farther back than
that in the process-- what questions can we explore scientifically to
begin with.

3. On a related subject, your example of Watson and Crick is an
interesting one, only because of the unsavory aspects of sexism which
permeate it. The story is a long one, and unfortunately I can never
remember whether it was Watson or Crick who was involved, but historians
seem to agree that one of them got a crucial piece of information
regarding the structure of DNA from a female scientist (Rosalind
Franklin) and never bothered to acknowledge her contributions until years
after winning the Nobel prize. To this day her contribution is not
acknowledged in standard textbooks. There are lots of variations on the
story (though all agree on her unacknowledged contribution), but for
references check Anne Sayre's biography of Franklin, Freeland Judson's
book "The Eighth Day of Creation", and the quick retelling of the story
by Judith Lorber in Paradoxes of Gender (a book which has a number of
problems, in my opinion, but this particular story checks out). This of
course doesn't invalidate their conclusions, but it is ironic that their
work would be cited in the context of "objective" scientific research.




"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips