Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
29 Aug 1996 17:37:20 GMT (Bryant) wrote:

>I'm sure you're bored to death with this topic

Who me? Yeah, bored with the opportunity to endlessly analyze
something...what kind of academic would I be???

> but I'd like to ask for
>some clarification, because this really confuses me. If I state that my
>criteria for "better" ways of learning about the world include
>predictability, and then assert that hypothesis testing generates more
>predictive models than ESP or biblical literalism or postmodern
>deconstructionism (three widely divergent non-hypothesis testing ways of
>looking at the world), I don't see why any red flags should go up at all.

If you state at the outset that you are beginning from a scientific
frame, then I wouldn't see this as a problem. But I find that people
aren't always this careful. Something like "Well, from a scientific
perspective, independent evidence and predictability are important. In
that context, hypothesis testing becomes a better way of knowing"
wouldn't raise any red flags to me. It conveys respect for other
potential points of view, and clearly delineates yours. But all too
often, what I hear instead is flat assertions of science being better--
period and in all contexts. Using your example, saying that ESP doesn't
exist is different from saying that there is no good evidence for ESP so
far. The latter allows room for the possibility, and for people who
believe that it is possible to not feel stupid. To me, that latter is
important because people who are made to feel stupid are generally not
terribly receptive to change!

>We just finished up the main paper from that (we'll submit it this coming
>week. It's on developmental stability and psychometric intelligence, a
>critique of some aspects of the hereditarian school of IQ study). I'd be
>happy to send you a copy of that, if you're interested. It's pretty short.

Love to get it! I'll e-mail my address to you.

>Fascinating! 'Didn't know that.

One of the main reseachers in this area is Susan Blackmore (I think
that's her name). She's done lots of interesting stuff.

>The teachers, of course, reported greater
>aggressiveness in the kids whose fathers were not living at home. But,
>they only reported this about the boys who the teachers *knew* had no
>father. Other kids who grew up in father-absent homes weren't reported to
>be particularly aggressive!

Yup-- that's the insidiousness about it all! One of the first in a long
line of such unconscous manipulation was a study where teachers were told
which students were the smarter ones and which were at or below average.
The teachers responded to those kids entirely differently, encouraging
the former and just barely interacting with the latter. Trouble was, the
kids had been randomized and the test scores weren't actually their own.
Moral-- it always makes me wonder what I'm doing that I don't realize,
which I think is a healthy thing!

>A prof I know was literally laughed at when he suggested cryptic female
>choice in insects.

The most recent book I read on female choice was "Female Choices" by
Meredith Small. It has some problems, and some very annoying cutesy
tendencies, but the basic conclusions are interesting in this regard.
She essentially suggests that female choice in at least some primates is
not a simple matter, and may have a lot to do with quantity as much as
quality. Simply getting pregnant is more important than being fussy.
It's an interesting book.

> What I've meant to say is that I don't think that
>these kinds of bias inevitably taint theory. Bias (I think) does more to
>direct where research effort goes than to shaping test results.

I think you're right to some extent, though I wouldn't rule out the
latter. Remember your example about the teachers who rated kids as more
or less violent! Such ratings are often used as the basis of research in
social science, and not everyone would bother to check if those doing to
ratings knew whether there was a father at home or not. Theoretically,
the double blind is the way to go, but they are complicated to
administer, and not everyone is always so scrupulous.

One, which I'd love to track
>back down, was explicitely about a feminist view of behavioral biology.
>If you have any titles to recommend, I'd be interested in reading 'em.

Well, there's Myths of Gender, by Anne Fausto-Sterling. She'e done a lot
of work in the area of the biological basis of gender, particularly the
more nasty abuses of sociobiology. Then there's another one that I
posted from home, but I don't know if it made it on the newsgroup or not.
I'll try it again and see what happen. I think it's called "Health and
Gender", but I don't remember anything else. I'll keep looking.

>That's unfortunate. I think that academic feminism's more oft quoted
>representatives have done a lot of harm in this regard. Simple "equity"
>feminism would probably get a lot of support, at least in academia. But
>the folks who say that all men are rapists, etc., doom their ideas because
>men can introspect honestly, and a good number of them can come away
>saying "nope, I'm not into sexual coercion." (For example.)

Glad to hear it! As for the other, there is a school of thought that
comes out of the good cop-bad cop model That Martin Luther King
couldn't have accomplished anything without the more extreme versions of
Malcom X. People sometimes need to be shocked out of their complacency.
Moderate ideas become all the more reasonable if there is an extreme
against which to compare them. And of course, there is always the
question as to whether the extremes are in fact having the impact
everyone says they are. By characterizing feminists (or whomever) by
their most extreme voices, it becomes easier to dismiss them. I don't
think this is conscious, but it is certainly they who get the most press.
How often do you hear "moderate idea proposed at meeting." But when you
get down to it, it is often the moderates who carry the day.

>simply cannot become about making folks feel good. It's got to be as
>objective an effort as possible, or it will become little more than an
>adventure in dialectics.

I agree, but where we differ is that I think it's important to consider
how those conclusions are presented. IMO, science should't be allowed to
be more important than people. There are ways to present things that do
less damage to people. Sometimes, I think scientists use their supposed
objectivity as a weapon to say things they know will make people angry.
Then they can always retreat behind "well, but it's objective science,
what am I supposed to do?" There are ALWAYS options, and the old adage
about not what you say but how you say it I think is the key.

>ones that set up all experiments so that
>a chi-square test will do the trick.

Ah, you read my dissertation...?




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