Sunday School

Sunday School August 28th 2022

This topic contains 69 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 3 weeks, 6 days ago.

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  • #44340

    If only Christians followed Jesus when it came to praying and did so privately. Apparently, me reminding them of this on the high street is so offensive!

    The number of Latino ‘Nones’ is steadily rising.

    Giving teachers guns to protect children and belts to beat them with.

    World of Woo:  We are drowning in disinformation because the public continues to eat it up.

    Environment: Severe heat and droughts are wreaking havoc across the globe.

    ­The infidels will not be silenced!

    The merry-go-round of morality debates.

    Scientists create ‘synthetic‘ mouse embryos that developed a brain, nerve cord and beating heart tissue.

    Seven-million-year-old femur suggests ancient human relative walked upright.

    Long Reads: White Christian Nationalism is out in the open now. Book banning in U.S. schools has reached an all-time high. What is a law of nature? Why a workout is good for your gut bacteria. A once-respected journal has announced that it will be subordinating science to ideology.

    Sunday Book Club:  Before the Big Bang by Laura Mersini-Houghton.

    Some photographs taken last week.  Some weather photos from around the world.

    While you are waiting for the kettle to boil……

    Coffee Break Video: Iranian atheist Soheil Arabi was awarded the Freethought Champions Award for 2022 and there is a transcript here. Christian Nationalism for Dummies.  Francis Collins: Is religion a threat to science?

    #44342

    Have a great week everyone!

    #44344

    Strega
    Moderator

    Thanks Reg!!

    #44348

    Autumn
    Participant

    A once-respected journal has announced that it will be subordinating science to ideology.

    That’s… not accurate.

    The major weakness of science is humans. Humans choose what studies to pursue. Humans choose how to present their findings. Humans choose how to interpret those findings.

    The last group is the most concerning. There is a communication breakdown between research and the general public. And that’s exacerbated by people who deliberately want to mislead either for ratings or to push an agenda.

    Does that mean that more selective publishing is the answer? I don’t know if that’s true, but there is a bigger picture to consider with regard to what studies are conducted, how, and how that data is presented.

    In particular, data concerning illness or dysfunction that disproportionately affects one demographic subgroup is often used to stigmatize that group. HIV was literally referred to as the ‘gay plague’. Violent crime statistics are used to perpetuate anti-Black racism. Domestic violence statistics have been used in anti-Indigenous racism. Depression statistics in the transgender population (and other populations) have been used to prop up transphobia. I am sure I am missing many more examples.

    Is that the fault of scientists and journals? In some cases studies are actually poorly structured or written up. People think journals will catch that sort of thing prior to publication, but that seems to be a bit of a mixed-bag.

    In many other cases data is being misinterpreted or used in misleading ways. It’s difficult to hold scientists accountable for that when they weren’t responsible the biases that drive their research findings to be misused. But in certain areas we know how the data is being misused so if you keep generating and publishing data with no acknowledgement that the data is being used and abused are we contributing to fact or fiction at that point? It’s a complex situation.

     

    #44350

    Doug Hanlon
    Participant

    As the West declines, we will see the disease of ‘wokeness’ invade previously ‘neutral’ areas. In most cases, since most of our intelligentsia is ‘woke’, we’ll see ‘woke’ political criteria push aside the previous rules which governed things like what articles get published in scientific journals.

    Researchers will adjust what they write in order to please their politicized editors.

    The link [https://quillette.com/2022/08/28/the-fall-of-nature/] quoted above, about Nature, is just one more example, albeit a shocking one, given that journal’s prestige.

    (Another example of this descent into politicization is Scientific American, as witness their nasty obituary of a great scientist, E.O Wilson.  There will be protests at this overt politicization [https://razib.substack.com/p/setting-the-record-straight-open] but it will continue, relentlessly.  The power to present reality as you want it to be is seductive.)

    What we will see is the adoption, by those who work for government, universities, the media, or big ‘woke’ corporations, of the mentality that prevailed in the old Soviet Union.

    Few intelligent people living there really believed the official propaganda — on the other hand, you did not dare contradict it, and in public, and in conversation with anyone except your very closest friends, you pretended to believe it. No one really did, and everyone knew that no one really did, but you kept up the pretense. But more than that. You sort of half-believed it. The psychic energy required to have a complete double-consciousness was just too much.  George Orwell called this ‘double-think’.

    I lived in the old Soviet Union for a few months, in 1985, just before Gorbachev, and made several friends there. I returned for short periods of time after that, and it was very interesting to watch them, over time, slowly being able to say  and think,  things that were strictly verboten before Gorbachev.  Now we’ll see the reverse process, starting in the US, as people who know better start to pretend to believe what the authorities tell them to believe.

    In fact, something similar has been going on for a long time in some places.  The Portland, Oregon school board quite consciously teaches ridiculous falsehoods to Black children, things that the nice white progressives on the Board know are nonsense, and has done so for over thirty years.  But they do it for, as they see it, good reasons.  And they have the power.

    Of course, teaching distorted versions of history to children is probably universal. Usually, outright lies are not told, it’s just that inconvenient truths are missed out or brushed over.  This used to be most blatant, in the US, in K-12 schools … but now we’ll see the same method introduced into universities.

    It used to be the case that this sort of thing did not occur in scientific journals.  But the ‘woke’ infection has now reached them as well.

    One bright spot: a Soviet citizen once said to a Westerner that he actually was in a better position than someone reading the supposedly ‘free’ press in the West. He said that he (and his friends) knew that they were being lied to by their press, so they were extra careful when reading it, to try to dig out the truth the jounalists were concealing. But people in the West, he said, were naive about their papers, and were thus easier to fool.

    I suppose this is less true now, since the mainstream media are openly partisan, and willing to suppress inconvenient facts to advance the political cause of their owners.  We no longer have a ‘neutral’ media: you can choose to listen to Fox News and similar, or to the New York Times and Washington Post, and CNN  and in either case you’re getting news focussed through partisan lenses.  So we’ll need to develop that skeptical attitude of the wise Soviet citizen.

    It’s a shame to see this happening to scientific journals, but there you are — scientists are not insulated from the political and social pressures of the society in which they exist.

    Too bad.  As Trotsky said, “The motor force of progress is truth and not lies.”

    #44351

    Autumn
    Participant

    As the West declines, we will see the disease of ‘wokeness’ invade previously ‘neutral’ areas. In most cases, since most of our intelligentsia is ‘woke’, we’ll see ‘woke’ political criteria push aside the previous rules which governed things like what articles get published in scientific journals.

    The wokety-wokes woked at a woke Woke?

    Did you actually read the ethics guidelines?

    https://www.nature.com/nature-portfolio/editorial-policies/ethics-and-biosecurity#principles-of-scholarly-freedom-and-scholarly-responsibility

    #44352

    Davis
    Moderator

    Wokeness is a snarl word that some people use to blanket criticise people who work towards making life bearable to those who face endless racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination because of disability and countless other things that make one marginalised. The world, and my own life, is immensely better and more bearable, because of people who stand up for treating others with dignity, chipping away at biggotry, discrimination, passive indifference to suffering and those who try to pretend that we live in a post-racist, post-sexist, post-homophobic world. Being considerate to others, promoting real equality and pointing out pointless harmful behaviour is not a “disease”. Covering your ears and eyes, pretending everything is okay and resisting mild change for the immense improvement of many people’s lives is the disease.

    #44353

    Autumn
    Participant

    I agree, though I might change the word ‘criticize’ to ‘dismiss’. Criticize fits in a way, but I find the word ‘woke’ is often used to brush off people and their arguments without going to the effort of understanding what argument is being made let alone making anything that ordinarily constitutes criticism against it.

    Research ethics evolve over time especially where impact on humans is concerned. It’s nothing woke or radical or reality altering to look at research ethics and revise. The question is whether or not a given proposal for change is valid and warranted, and waving it off as ‘woke’ doesn’t provide us with an answer.

    #44354

    jakelafort
    Participant

    When ya bandy about highly contentious, ambiguous, amorphous, politicized ideological terms ya gotta define it or it is useless discourse. Scoring cheap dog whistle points is the last bastion to unfasten and requires redaction to achieve satisfaction.

    “Oh i am not religious but i am highly spiritual.” I would probably conclude that i am talking to a ditzy or itsy bitsy malaprop fitzy. So if ya wanna criticize wokeness be specific. Exactly what in the speaker’s opinion is objectionable/contemptible? Cuz otherwise it is just a shite comment. If wokeness describes an actor’s attempt to penetrate the morass of civilization with greater acuity then it ain’t a bad ting ‘tall. If the actor’s intention is to redress wrongs, ameliorate oppression-yippee…go get em Jay Jay…

    #44355

    Unseen
    Participant

    @autumn, Davis, et al

    Should genetics have ever been studied? Sure, it’s discoveries have yielded countless benefits, but it’s also been misunderstood and misapplied in ways used to justify racism, eugenics, conquest (of “inferior peoples”), and the holocaust. And that’s not to mention the myriad folks who’ve been discriminated against and insulted based on misunderstandings of genetics.

    Imagine, had the journals (or whatever functioned as such) in Mendel’s day quashed his ideas, six million Jews might have been spared!

    #44356

    Autumn
    Participant

    @autumn, Davis, et al Should genetics have ever been studied?

    Yes.

    Sure, it’s discoveries have yielded countless benefits, but it’s also been misunderstood and misapplied in ways used to justify racism, eugenics, conquest (of “inferior peoples”), and the holocaust.

    That’s why there is a need to further strengthen the ethics around research and publication.

    Imagine, had the journals (or whatever functioned as such) in Mendel’s day quashed his ideas, six million Jews might have been spared!

    Imagine ideas such as racial genetic superiority or race-based-eugenics not been humoured as tenable when they weren’t. The idea of racial superiority was stimulated by social prejudice then lent credence by hypotheses jumping off from that warped starting point. The results were predictably fucked up.

    #44357

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think we need to study anything and everything.  Reality is a complete picture whose parts all fit together logically.  One part may inform another more distant part.

    A problem with ideological extremists is that they often seem to want to change facts to fit their ideology.  I can’t think of a “woke” example, but a feminist has said to me that evolutionary psychology is not allowed to exist because it somehow justifies racism, and a men’s rights activist said that the statistics are all wrong and ought to be more favourable to men.

    #44358

    Doug Hanlon
    Participant

    It’s pointless to argue this issue in the abstract, since everyone can mouth generalities that all decent people would agree with.

    So let’s take a concrete example: suppose someone does some research that indicates that one tribal group is more intelligent than another, for genetic reasons.  Or suppose this person just expresses this as his opinion, based on his exposure to both tribal groups.  (I use the word ‘tribal’ because it’s more precise than ‘race’.)

    Should this person’s writings be published? Or published in the first case, i.e. where the research cannot be faulted on technical grounds.

    In the second case, where they just express an observation about one tribal group being more intelligent, on genetic grounds, say, in a book  … should a responsible publisher bring out this book?  Should they still be welcomed in academic circles?

    #44359

    Autumn
    Participant

    So let’s take a concrete example: suppose someone does some research that indicates that one tribal group is more intelligent than another, for genetic reasons.

    Such a study is unlikely to exist for numerous reasons. While genes may have a role in shaping intelligence, there isn’t a known genetic cause and there are a number of additional factors beyond genetics that can affect intelligence measures such as intelligence quotient tests. Also why would one need to compare one ‘tribal group’ to another for the purposes of this study?

    Or suppose this person just expresses this as his opinion, based on his exposure to both tribal groups.

    Why would that be published in a scientific journal?

    Or published in the first case, i.e. where the research cannot be faulted on technical grounds.

    It would help if you had used a more realistic example. If, let’s say, there was a gene that caused some cognitive condition that made learning easier or more difficult, then one would expect the findings to be published; however, the researchers ought to be careful about being clear what the research does and doesn’t indicate in light of how such information has been historically misused.

    In the second case, where they just express an observation about one tribal group being more intelligent, on genetic grounds, say, in a book … should a responsible publisher bring out this book?

    Probably not. But it’s not clear what you mean by ‘publisher’? Do you mean research journals and the like, or publishers like Random House? I don’t get why the former should publish opinion pieces especially on perceived differences in intelligence and perceived genetic causes. The latter is necessarily discriminating, though not necessarily on the same ethical grounds researchers might be held to. Most likely they will accept or reject books based on what they think will sell along with other factors that are up to them to determine. And of course if we aren’t talking scientific publications, there is always self-publication.

    Should they still be welcomed in academic circles?

    Depends. If it’s someone who just won’t let their pet theory fucking die, no one owes it to them to beat a dead horse. There is no academic merit in that.

    #44360

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think it’s fine to compare two social groups according to some standard. In studying morality, people do it all the time.

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