Re: Recent Acrimony

Sheldon Klein (sklein@CS.WISC.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 01:01:57 -0500

JSCook III, in forwarding a message articulated by Alexis Manaster Ramer,
seems to be indicating an unhappiness with his own interactions on Anthro-L,
[apologies if this is not so]

>Many of us obviously are concerned with the flood of
>postings on this and other lists dealing with language,
>(pre>history, culture, and the like, which in our view
>do nothing but purvey blatant misinformation. At the
>same time, it is an enormous burden on one's time
>and energy to try to refute such things...

Why does Jess (if these are his views as well) feel the need to
to refute? A true believer might feel that 'others' must be protected
from blasphemy on all occasions.

Why does anyone join a list? I imagine some actually
enjoy the debates.

Physicists think psychology is hot air.

Psycholinguists in psychology departments have contempt
for the views of linguists in linguistics departments,
(including Chomsky).
They especially condemn the uncontrolled data collection techniques
which would be unacceptable in their field. Linguists laugh at
psychologists naivete about language.

Physical scientists & psychologists tend to think the social
sciences are not 'science'.

Artificial Intelligence researchers find nothing useful
in contemporary standard linguistic theories. [They have TRIED]

Computer speech recognition only succeed when the standard
distinctive feature model was abandoned because it lost too much
information-- the current level of success relies on raw
wave forms, pattern recognition & hidden Markov processes.

Connectionist models are the rage in AI research-- symbolic
models are attacked with vigor (and also defended with vigor) in
psychology departments. Connectionist researchers believe they
have a handle on the real circuitry of the brain.

Neurophysiologists believe they have strong empirical evidence
that undermines Chomskian views about the innateness of language.
They also lump AI connectionsist/neural net models together with
symbolic models as being about equally removed from the 'wet-ware'
reality of brain functioning.

NSF reports that they could fund more social science applications
than they do, but are prevented from doing so by the extreme
visciousness of referees in that domain-- it seems almost
everyone denounces almost everyone else's ideas.

>For misinformation that is repeated often enough tends
>to become accepted as information, esp. in areas that
>are rather abstruse or poorly known...

True. So true that it even seems to become the
'standard' accepted theory of someone else's field.

>So, here is my suggestion: that those of us who consider
>ourselves to...know the literature on the subjects we
>speak about and to be competent to offer opinions on
>the subjects on which we do make it a habit to accompany
>our statements, whenever we make any, by very specific
>references to the standard sources. And if we propose
>something that is NOT standard...that we (a) make
>it very clear that this [is] a new idea, <b) cite the standard
>position and literature, and <c) give our reasons for
>the new proposal.

What are refereed journals for?

>If we all do this in our own postings, then I hope the
>difference between such postings and those of the
>many purveyors of misinformation, dogma, fantasy, and
>sci-fi will hopefully be apparent to all who read,
>and hopefully over time good information (embodied in
>good postings> will drive out bad <embodied in bad ones>.

Why does the author feel so threatened?
Does the author truly want to read only ideas
that are traditional?

This unhappy reaction may be suitable for a sectarian theology list,
but not for a subject area where old theories are collapsing,
and new syntheses are still over the horizon.