Sunday, February 13, 2005

Anti-Science Prejudice

I have heard good things about The Tao of Pooh, and can generally keep an open mind about perspectives and paradigms differing from what I personally identify with. However, anti-science prejudice seems to be blatantly in my face these days. It's starting to annoy me.

I am taking a pre-requisite History of Psychology course this semester, and the prof admits to having a bias against the natural science side of psychology - the side of which I of course happen to prefer. Admitting his bias doesn't do much to curb how it manifests in the teaching style, however, and the prof takes every chance he can get to shit on natural science psych: John Watson was a manipulative anti-ethical evil man, "science" seeks to alienate the individual, "science" is blind to human emotion, "science" prides itself on a false sense of objectivity. Yes, okay, fine - some of these comments are based in truth and these criticisms need to be made. But focusing solely on these aspects of natural science psych and ignoring the numerous beneficial aspects is just plain ignorant.

So that is what I have to deal with 3 times a week: blah blah blah natural science is evil, blah blah blah science sucks. There's only so much of that I can take, and I don't need to see it reflected in books I'm reading for pleasure.

The Tao of Pooh is similarly afflicted with blatant, uninformed, prejudiced views of science.

"the Brain, the Academician, the dry-as-dust Absentminded Professor. Far from reflecting the Taoist ideal of wholeness and independence, this incomplete and unbalanced creature divides all kinds of abstract things into little categories and compartments while remaining rather helpless and disorganized in his daily life" (25).

"It is very hard to find any of the spirit of Taoism in the lifeless writings of the humorless Academic Mortician, whose bleached-out Scholarly Dissertations contain no more of the character of Taoist wisdom than does the typical wax museum" (26).

"The Confusionist, Desiccated Scholar is one who studies Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge, and who keeps what he learns to himself or to his own small group, writing pompous and pretentious papers that no one else can understand, rather than working for the enlightenment of others" (26).

etc. It goes on endlessly in similar manners.

So, as scientists, we are: incomplete, unbalanced, helpless, disorganized, humorless, wisdomless, pompous, pretentious, and of course, MALE.

This smacks of generalizations, prejudice, hate, misinformation, hypocrisy, a complete lack of a desire to be understanding and tolerant of opposing positions, and not to mention condescending as all fuck. This from someone promoting a life-philosophy of enlightenment?

Pardon me while I vomit my scientific lifelessness and arrogance all over this piece of hypocritical hate "literature".

Listening to: Secret - Maroon 5


At 5:04 PM , Blogger Janet said...

I'm sorry. I'd probably be frustrated with the anti-science literature, too.

At 10:25 PM , Blogger Andy Dabydeen said...

I find that anti-science sentiments usually come from the old "intellectual" guard who are threatened by the emergence of science as the new fount of the intelligentsia. Those threatened usually lash out irrationally and claim superior intelligence. They accomplish little other than confirming the emergence of science to the forefront of intellectual thought. For all its faults, science welcomes such questioning – even the questioning of its validity and its purport of being intellectual. See my post on a similar topic here.

At 11:22 PM , Blogger windspike said...

A recent post of mine included a reference to Kinsey, and his scale, which is based on a serious amount of scientific work. If you can believe it a person posted this comment:

"I really don't know much about this subject, but I do have to say that if all a man has to back him up are science, publishers, and his peers, then he's in a lot of trouble."

YIKES. There is a large anti-science bias when fundamentalist chritians have no argument other than, "the bible' says...

Check out the post:

At 8:26 AM , Blogger Andy Dabydeen said...

I came across this article in Wired that may be of interest: Revenge of the Right Brain. It's adapted from the book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel H. Pink.

At 11:12 AM , Blogger Joanna said...

yikes windspike, that is quite a frightening response. It illustrates fairly well the complete lack of understanding that non-science individuals have about the scientific method and how that contributes to their prejudice.

Andy: thank you for the article, it was quite interesting. I think it would have been stronger to leave out the right/left brain distinction: the extent of differences in lateralization is a huge misconception that is abundant in pop psych. That and the "we only use 10% of our brains" - my biggest 2 psych pet peeves. The article didn't seem to completely understand that there is very little differences between left and right hemispheric function. The left traditionally deals with language, and the right with spatial information. That is one of the very few established differences - and not everyone even manifests those differences to the same degree.

Emotion and reason and logic are are higher cognitive processes that are widely distributed through the brain, though sometimes located more in certain brain regions (the amygdala for emotion, for example). But the lateralization differences are not as obvious and distinct as the author suggests.

that was quite a ramble, so I'll stop now :) But if you want to discuss this further, don't hesistate to email me!

At 11:03 PM , Blogger alsocanadian said...

Wow! Theres nothing wrong with your left frontal lobe.
Your prof is just a dickhead. Dont let him get you down.

At 12:24 PM , Blogger supine said...

Hi, I am new here...that's weird about your psych professor being so anti-hard science. I thought the psych field was constantly trying to fight the idea that it's too "fluffy" by pushing how much of it relies on statistics and results.

At 5:48 PM , Blogger Jay said...

Don't worry, we won't watch while you vomit. Just be sure to use your prof's tie to wipe up when you're done.

At 9:09 PM , Blogger Richard said...

I am a bear of very little brain, and big words confuse me.

I am fairly sure that Pooh (or rather Hoffman) is talking mostly about Confucian and "Taoist" scholars when he condemns "dry as dust" academics and people who study knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Hoffman's presentation of Taoism is not that science is bad, rather that you should engage with life rather than data points.

From a dirty old humanities perspective, you're quoting out of context.

At 11:48 AM , Blogger Chorna said...

Oh man... I'm currently stuck writing essays... and having a bias lecturer or someone who seems to drive in only the one message can be quite frustrating. I sympathise, Joanna!


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