Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
12 Aug 1996 16:54:33 GMT (Bryant) wrote:
>In article <4ud459$>, Susan <> wrote:

>>True, you didn't. And as I've already stated, I'm not sure their
>>conclusions have explicit social bias (though I do think they reflect a
>>particular world view). I just found it an ironic choice.
> I have to question your police work, there, Susan. It was a choice that
>well illustrated the silliness of the social critics'
>(deconstructionists) contenetion that social context determines
>theoretical content. Not ironic at all.

Well, I won't belabor the point. It just struck me that way. It would
have been less ironic if, say, you had chosen the work of Barbara
McClintock, who also contributed significantly to the study of genetics,
but about which (as far as I know) there was never a controversy which
may have had gender bias at its base.

But I still think the original point remains. While the description of
the structure of genes (or indeed any conclusions of the physical
sciences) may indeed be "objective" (given that one is operating with a
scientific worldview), the point which was made earlier is that the
questions themselves are still posed in a cultural framework. What
prompted Watson and Crick (or Barbara McClintock) to ask that particular
question, or follow that particular line of reasoning? Presumably the
discoveries of previous scientists, and also the cultural context of the
particular scientist in question. Other possible lines of reasoning
that could be followed or questions which could be asked have not yet
been, precisely because they have not yet occured to anyone. And in
turn, they have not yet occured to anyone because of the prevailing
cultural ideas of science at this moment. That's where the "cultural
bias" comes in. People who gain fame in science often do so because they
do ground-breaking work, and it is ground-breaking because no one thought
about it before. The argument suggests that this is because of culture.
It is almost a given that we are wrong about a number of things we
currently think have been "proven" by science. That doesn't mean science
as a work view is wrong, but it does mean that it doesn't work in a
vacuum. and what fills the vacuum IMO is culture.

The other point is that to accept the importance (as separate from the
correctness) of scientific conclusions, you have to accept the
scientific worldview (which has already been spelled out repeatedly in
this thread). Now, the scientific worldview (based on independent
reality which can be measured, etc.) may seem unquestionable to some
people, but that's the tricky thing about worldviews-- they always seem
perfectly reasonable and unassailable to those who accept them. But to
those who do not participate in them, it is not so obvious.

I have spoken on a number of occasions, for example, to people from other
cultures, asking for how they see something. To me, their answers seem
everything from reasonable to downright silly. But that's because I have
not been trained to think in those ways. To say that science is
obviously right because its conclusions are right makes as little sense
as saying that myth is right because it answers important questions about
why the work is the way it is. It all depends on your starting premises.
And that's where the possibility of bias comes in-- not in the answers
per se, but in the questions and the contexts in which they are posed.
It's very hard to think this way, to realize that other worldiews make as
much sense (or seem as much "common sense") to their participants as your
does to you. But it is a basic principle of culture as it is understood
by anthropologists (which is _their_ particular worldview-- got a
headache yet?)

>>It was good to
>>know that those who are in this particular discussion are aware of this
>>issue. Most of the people I know, particularly undergraduates, are not,
>>hence my interest in raising it.
>If they possess intro biology textbooks, as I said, they are aware of the

Well, I can only reiterate that I have seen some (and one day I'll walk
over to the bookstore and get the titles of the ones I was looking at)
which do not raise it at all. It would be interesting to "do the
experiment" and see how many people at a number of colleges and
universities, who know about Watson and Crick, have never heard of
Franklin. Scientifically speaking, until someone does that (anyone want
an interesting master's topic? your's for free!), we are both basing our
opinions on anecdotal evidence-- the bane of experimental sciences!

>I apologize for my earlier, offensive tone. It was an unjustified
>emotional reaction to a frustration with a collective trend (of which you
>are not a part) on this group to use "moving target" tactics of
>argumentation. Sorry.


Accepted and forgotten. It is generous of you to say so, and not fire
back. And it makes for much more interesting discussions!

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the above comments!




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