Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
22 Aug 1996 17:31:48 GMT (Bryant) wrote:
>In article <4vab6k$>, Susan <> wrote:
>[points noted but clipped for brevity...]
>>>Bryant said:

>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.)

That's the value of science, from my perspective. It is, at least
theoretically, self-corrective. And for those correlational sciences,
the self correcting feature is, I suspect, even more pertinent, because
you are relying on "making an argument" rather than experimental evidence
(which has its own problems, but can be more difficult to "see into" in
terms of assumptions). Now what facinates me is the assumptions that no
one questions, because they seem to work. It is only later that they are
proved to be assumptions. I haven't followed the thread, but I know
Gould has been under some fire here. But at the risk of drawing it, I
still think he had the best presentation of it, in the struggles of
scientists to account for problematic results in the search for racial
and gender differences in intelligence-- and never stopped to think that
there might be assumptions.

I find it facinating because 1) it shows the socially embedded part of
science, and 2) it makes me wonder what we assume now that we can't see
out of, because it is so embedded in our cultural worldview. What will
they be laughing at us for believing 100 years from now??

>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.

Ain't it great when that happens? I work with someone now who's like
that. But I should say that this never happened to me personally in
grad school (in case anyone from Penn is reading!), though I know people
who have suffered from it. My advisor was good at putting my name on
stuff-- the problem was he never got around to publishing much of it!

>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.)

Yeah, I've been there, too. Try explaining archaeology, which is the
science of caveats, to a journalist who has 5 inches of column to fill!
But I also think some people are predisposed to thinking in more
simplified terms. I've had the experience many times of taking the time
to explain some complex issue in class, only to get it back in discussion
or exams completely simplified and stripped of its complexity (and, I
might add in the latter case, wrong!).

>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.


I wonder how much of this comes from early schooling? Somewhere we teach
our kids that issues should be simple, and that knowledge is absolute.
As someone who teaches social science, it makes it very hard to address
issues which are matters of interpretation. One of the early mistakes I
made in my teaching career was assigning a book that I found interesting
in part because I didn't agree with large parts of it. In class, I did a
critique of the book, and tried to get some discussion going about
whether they agreed or not. After several class periods of effort, and
few results, one of the students finally said with exaperation "well why
did you assign this book if you thought it was wrong?!" They had missed
the point that I thought parts of it were valuable, and I also thought it
was a useful way to look at the methodological problems with doing
anthropological fieldwork.

For all I know, some of them are in this group right now wondering "well,
is there evidence of matriarchy or not?!"




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