Me and Ken just had a talk over the Science Kerfuffle of the moment, featuring a physics and maths teacher known to pwn fashionable nonsense fans. He recently suggested that POMO weakened our herd immunity to combat objective untruths. He also wonders what to do now that the genie is out of the bottle. What Alan really means by these metaphors remains unclear.
Follows a slightly edited transcript.
[Willard, thereafter W]
[Ken, or AT in what follows]
That’s quite good. May motivate me to write a post.
the whole idea that people believe in fraud because of POMO looks ridiculous
Do you agree with the suggestion that even if PoMo isn’t responsible it has undermined our ability to combat misinformation?
on the contrary, POMO tries to explain how misinformation can happen
Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism […]
Okay, maybe I’ll have to rethink my post. Maybe I misunderstand PoMo, but if some of what goes on in STS falls with PoMo it certainly doesn’t seem to have helped, even if the goal is to explain how misinformation can happen.
we can disagree, that’s fine
it’s just small talk nobody will read
alan makes an important error:
indeterminacy should not lead to denial
and POMO could guard us against conspiracy ideation
the problem you got with STS is different:
for instance, MikeH’s main problem is that he has no idea of what he’s talking about
he has no business making metrological points without studying metrology
so we can agree that people say stuff without paying due diligence
I guess I’m not a fan of over-generalizing. I guess my issue is more to do with STS, for example, claiming they have all sorts of tools for helping to deal with misinformation, while prominent people seem to either promote, or defend, misinformation. Grundmann with his “climate science is like race science”, Pearce with his criticism of consensus messaging without actually providing an alternative and publishing papers on climategate that repeat the myths, etc. So, if the tools are there, it feels that some people in that field are going to have to do a better job of explaining what they are and how to use them.
that’s not POMO tho, that’s editorializing or criticism, which is indeed a bane
STS sucks because it’s an interdisciplinary discipline whose practitionners know little about everything and therefore are dangerous enough almost everywhere
it may have inherited from POMO bad scholarship practices
That’s what I was wondering. Isn’t there at least a PoMo element to some of STS. Weren’t they part of the Science Wars?
STS, as a discipline, is a result of older science wars
it tried to “sciencize” its output
instead of using abstract and unrealistic models like the old philosophers of science did,
it promised to look under the scientific hood
but if all you do is to play pretend by recycle kuhn this and popper that,
you get the worst of both worlds
(warren only adds “let’s find an exotic framework nobody will buy because it’s $150”)
Okay, yes, that probably does describe it pretty well.
so i would conclude two things
first, if one wishes to say something,
one has to study it with all the evidential responsibility it requires
due diligence, an idea that generalizes
me, you, alan, STS, POMO, everyone
second, it’s easier to be led astray by a lack of work in conceptual frameworks,
because words are just words–we need constructions
I certainly agree with the first part of that. Don’t quite get what you mean by “words are not constructions”.
an old idea that i viktor recently retooled for his opiniated podcast
one can define impossible objects
one can’t construct them
empirical science prevents us from making claims that we can’t operationalize
scientists can’t pretend operationalization forces us to conclude one and only one thing
that’s just not what science affords us
that’s the main point from say bruno, whose framework is very good for climateball
once we accept that scientific theories evolve and are not to be taken for granted, all fits
Okay, I think I get that.
so when i say that POMO isn’t responsible for our predicament, all i’m saying is that even if POMO did not exist, we’d still be stuck with that indeterminacy
(the inscrutability of reference is one of the indeterminacies attributed to van)
that said, you might be right on the historical point
warren, gunter, and mike hulme are not exactly helping
but even then, that’s just a guess
to show it would take some work
so as long as you keep clear that you’re editorializing, all should be fine, up to a point
I’ll have to think a bit more. Alan’s point about PoMo not being responsible but also not helping resonated. Maybe that’s just too simple.
it resonates, but it rings hollow to me
after all these years, he’s just saying stuff, and that’s sad
his editorial exemplifies very well our predicament
we say stuff, and if it sounds good enough, we buy it
in fact the converse of his bottle hypothesis looks more plausible to me:
by amplifying the threat of POMO on the fate of western civilization, alan’s reactionary stance has been recycled by newscorp and has weaponized people with mental issues
conceptual boi has become a truther,
same for EricW
That’s possible. I guess I have always thought that we don’t consider how what we say can then influence what we’re commenting on.
James Lindsay has always seemed a bit bonkers to me.
we always lead by example
i learn from your posts because you express an attitude
you helped me keep my cool
in retrospect, toning down ages better
alan’s point is an old one, in fact as old as plato
philosophy is the history of how humans dealt with relativism and skepticism
Yes, I am trying to tone down. Maybe I should ponder this a bit more.
as long as you can support what you’re saying, you should be fine
more so if your point is “if everyone supported their claims, that’d be great”
that’s just a more consistent approach
imo, alan fails that test
i could write a post if you prefer
If you’re keen, go for it. I’m probably going to take it easy this evening, so if you have some time, feel free.
i’ll see what i can do
we could post that chat
If you like, that’s fine with me.
enjoy your day
Thanks, you too.