Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Bryant (
21 Aug 1996 11:49:38 -0600

In article <4vab6k$>, Susan <> wrote:

[points noted but clipped for brevity...]

>>Bryant said:
>>This is an interesting point. I've long seen the tension between social
>>and life sciences (I don't know about sociologists' qualms with chemistry or
>>physics) as being a result of social scientists seeing life scientists'
>>theories as having dangerous social implications ("genetic determinism"
>>being one).
>I suspect that's true for some people. But I was speaking more from the
>perspective that social scientists are forced to confront the
>complexities of dealing with human society. We can't as easily control
>for confounding factors as experimental scientists, and we are constantly
>running up against the implication of our conclusions.

Yep, same for ecologists. 99% correlational inference, 1% classic
empiricism. But if you can make more and more predictions about
correlations and test 'em, you're more likely to catch the logical
fallacies of your 'causal' model. (This speaks to the point you were
making about assumptions in science, too--sometimes the only time you
really recognize some problematic assumption *as* an assumption is when
your well-reasoned predictions aren't working and you have to review
everything step by step.)

>I knew grad students were useful for something other than doing all the
>work and getting none of the credit (or is that just my grad

Heh. I've been told that's what I have to look forward to. But I'm
pretty lucky; the folks who've mentored me during my undergrad years have
been really supportive of my doing my own projects, and haven't ever tried
to tack their names on my papers.

>I more talking about when they become professionals, and are talking in
>less formal contexts (as I said above).

I see where you were coming from, now. Yep, your point is a valid one.
We get sloppy in our vernacular. That's problematic on two fronts: one,
we might start "believing" the short-hand and miss important points, and
two, it confuses the heck out of folks outside the field. (I've met a
number of folks, including anthropologists and sociobiologists, who are
confused by Dawkins' genetic vernacular.)

>Theoretically, yes. I think many scientists would agree that it is
>implied, but many lay people would take this at face value, which I think
>is the root of the conflict.

Agreed. Exactly.

>Scientists (and many others) often seem
>either unaware or willfully ignorant of the implications of what they
>say-- or are very carefully to qualify what they say, but their comments
>are simplified in the media (I've heard people say something, then read
>the quote in the next day's paper, which summarizes their conclusions
>without any of the qualifiers!).

Journalists are looking, too often, for the clear, polarized conflict.
And, in my opinion, they're too often unaware of the relevant questions to
ask when they interview scientists. (I've done a couple of side-project
content analysis studies of environmental reporting in newspapers.)

Journalists get tired, I think, of all the qualifications ("well, if you
accept this, and so-n-so was correct in their analysis, that would seem to
indicate...") that they see as scientists' hedging. The hedging ends up
on the clipping room floor.

As you point out, too few scientists know how to communicate their science
in plain English. That doesn't help.

[There's a lot more to respond to in your post, Susan. I don't have time
to give it a fair reading right now, and will follow up tomorrow. Cheers.]