Alan’s Bottle

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.

[W]
thanks
the whole idea that people believe in fraud because of POMO looks ridiculous

[AT]
Do you agree with the suggestion that even if PoMo isn’t responsible it has undermined our ability to combat misinformation?

[W]
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 […]

[AT]
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.

[W]
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

Jean-François Lyotard, who wrote La Condition Postmoderne at the Québec Government’s request

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

[AT]
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.

[W]
agreed
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

[AT]
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?

[W]
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”)

[AT]
Okay, yes, that probably does describe it pretty well.

[W]
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

[AT]
I certainly agree with the first part of that. Don’t quite get what you mean by “words are not constructions”.
Why construct?

[W]
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

[AT]
Okay, I think I get that.

[W]
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 peirce, gunter reiner grundmann, 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

[AT]
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.

[W]
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

[AT]
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.

[W]
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

[AT]
Yes, I am trying to tone down. Maybe I should ponder this a bit more.

[W]
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

[AT]
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.

[W]
i’ll see what i can do
we could post that chat

[AT]
If you like, that’s fine with me.

[W]
good
enjoy your day

[AT]
Thanks, you too.

About Willard

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92 Responses to Alan’s Bottle

  1. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    > 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.

    I’ve always thought there’s an ideal (even if in reality just less sub-optimal) balance between breadth and depth.

    Do I detect a general depreciation of interdisciplinarity (there’s a word for ya’) or just a callout of a particular interdisciplinary discipline which comprises practitioners with a particular intellectual habit?

    Is there an interdisciplinary discipline where the practitioners don’t know a little bit about everything? Is there an interdisciplinary discipline where the practitioners know a little about everything but aren’t dangerous – I might presuppose because they practice sound science?

    When I look at much of the work product of STS I see work that fits with flawed work in other fields, albeit perhaps in a higher concentration. I consider that a function of the practitioners, not the discipline itself – although I suppose the inherent structure of the discipline itself might, for some reason (if so it would be intersting to know the causality) could attract practitioners of a particular type.

  2. Joshua says:

    > What postmodernist relativism has wrought is, rather, something more insidious: by devaluing the concept of objective truth, it has undermined our own ability to combat objective untruths…

    Whoa! It looked to me like that just came completely out of left field.

    Usually when I get to the penultimate sentence of an article such as that, I can predict what’s coming.

    Did I just miss the logical lead up? Or was the article written to support a conclusion even if it never actually did so?

    As I maybe you’re getting to in the post (I’m usually not quite sure with you), not only do I disagree with the putative cause and effect, I didn’t even see one described.

  3. Willard says:

    > Did I just miss the logical lead up?

    If you click on my tweet, you’ll see I go over Alan’s piece paragraph by paragraph. He goes from a thought experiment, to stats, and to his usual hypothesis. Then comes the big induction step:

    In the thread, I spent some time chasing down the Gergen, the Latour, the Barnes & Bloor, and the Collins citations. In all of these cases, what Alan feared simply wasn’t there.

    Moreover, the connection between relativism and some kind of weakening of our critical thinking skills is far from being established from a cognitive standpoint. To name one name, Stephen Stich is a known relativist:

    Even better, it’s not even clear that to defend Reason and Truth the way Alan does prevents one from succumbing to conspiracy ideation. Take the evolution of James Lindsay, whom I called Conceptual Boi above, the author of a scam that many compared to Alan’s hoax. He too claims to defend Western Civilization against the onslaught of subjectivism, critical theory, and whatnot. Yet he is being red pilled if not black pilled as we speak.

    Something’s amiss.

  4. I don’t know your political context, so most of the names passed me by. Still, the same general problems arise in different contexts too. In particular “our predicament: we say stuff, and if it sounds good enough, we buy it”, is quite independent of specifics, and unfortunately remains true despite a couple of thousand years of developing tools against it. Anyway, this criticism of pomo and sts was quite interesting to me, since it is somewhat different from what I have come across.

  5. brigittenerlich says:

    I am just listening to this webinar on STS and science including earth sciences – it might just be interesting for people to listen to this. This might dispel some myths and perhaps misunderstandings about STS… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_GVZj7Ddu0&ab_channel=STGlobalConsortium

  6. dikranmarsupial says:

    Scientism seems to me to have a much greater influence on society than POMO, and IMHO a significantly greater problem (as it often gives the wrong example of what science actually is, c.f. Dawkins). If it has influenced the acceptance of misinformation, then it is fairly minimal AFAICS.

    “That the Earth is approximately spherical, not flat. That the dinosaurs went extinct long before humans roamed the Earth. That Joe Biden won the 2020 election.”

    I’d say all three of these things are objectively true, but there is a bit of a sleight of hand on the last one. It is objectively true that Biden won the election, but the contention is whether he won the election fairly. Ironically, I’d say the thing that had fuelled misinformation is an over-acceptance in society of of rhetoric, to “win” arguments, rather than skeptical “truth”-seeking (which is hopefully the aim of both science and POMO).

    If you wanted to understand Christian theology, then looking at what conspicuous Christians said and did, probably wouldn’t be a good approach. I suspect the same is true of POMO. Just because someone is (self-) labelled as POMO, doesn’t mean that everything they say is POMO or actually conforms to POMO.

    Perhaps all sufficiently advanced obscuritanism is indistinguishable from POMO

    “Climatic normals and baselines give precise form to the metaphysical notion of climate as an idea that imposes a degree of imaginative order upon the human experience of atmospheric chaos (Hulme, 2016).”.

    Caveat lector: may contain uninformed opinion.

  7. Brigitte,
    Thanks, I’ll have a listen to that.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brigitte, interesting webinar. What Erin Gleeson and Kirstie Dobbs were saying about collaboration resonates with me. In interdisciplinary work, you need collaboration in order to deal with the depth/breadth issues that Joshua mentioned. Some participants will bring depth, some will bring breadth (which is important for bridging divides and communication) – if you collaborate, you don’t need to make a personal depth/breadth compromise, provided that the collaboration covers the requirements on both counts.

    ATTP “Pearce with his criticism of consensus messaging without actually providing an alternative and publishing papers on climategate that repeat the myths, etc” seems very much that. Pearce doesn’t seem to want to collaborate with the climate science community, for example being unwilling to engage with the question of how we should address misinformation suggesting there is no scientific consensus on climate change (which was shown to be a successful strategy with the tobacco-cancer link) if not conduct research that demonstrates the existence of a robust consensus. One-way criticism is not likely to be an effective way of changing things (if that actually is the goal).

    It was also interesting what Jack Stilgoe said about STS being seen as “saying no” to scientists, and I can see there is some validity to that (both as a perception and as a reality – e.g. Pearce). It is a bit ironic that his home page summarises his research as:

    Jack Stilgoe conducts research on the governance of emerging technologies, including genetically modified crops, nanotechnologies, geoengineering, machine learning and self-driving cars.

    and he went on to talk about things being too important to leave to scientists (I suspect few scientists want those things to be left solely to them!). ;o)

    His point about scientists being pressured to avoid politics is very much the problem. If scientists take an overtly political stance, they will be attacked for that as indicating a lack of objectivity/independence when called on to talk about the science on matters of societal importance. Of course scientists have the same right to political input as anybody else, the difficult part is being able to make a clear distinction between scientific “truths” and political “truths”/opinions/values when doing so. Not at all easy.

  9. Brigitte,
    Very interesting webinar, thanks. In fact, I found little that I disagreed with. A few immediiate thoughts, though.

    Something that strikes me is that a lot of the physical sciences have put quite a lot of effort into public engagement/outreach. There are plenty of resources that explain astronomy, climate science, geoscience, etc. There’s an explicit attempt to make it accessible and understandable. I see less of this from the areas of social science that regard themselves relevant to, for example, policy. I realise that Making Science Public was aimed at doing this, and that Jack has a podcast, and maybe I’m missing things, but maybe there does need to be more effort put in to making their ideas accessible and understandable, rather than a tendency to suggest that those who criticise them simply haven’t put enough effort into understanding their field.

    On a similar note, a lot of physical scientists have put effort into debunking nonsense from within their own discipline. It seems fairly clear that some of what comes out of STS is, to be polite, rather confused. If STS scholars think that STS does have valuable resources that can be applied more widely, maybe they need to stick their necks out and debunk some of what is coming from within their own discipline. I don’t think you can expect those from outside the discipline to work out what to ignore and what to pay attention to. Also, and some may disagree 🙂 , but I think I’ve tried to engage with STS for quite a number of years and I can’t still can’t really work out what underpins the discipline and what sort of resources it brings to the table. This isn’t to say that I’ve been critical of everything I’ve seen, but some has seemed to be pretty obviously wrong, and others things just seem pretty obvious.

    There was a part of the webinar where some were a bit defensive about the response from scientists. There’s certainly some truth to scientists sometimes being rather dismissive of the humanities and social sciences. However, it’s not the case that all scientists have these views. However, it doesn’t help when STS scholars themselves generalise about the sciences and over-interpret, and essentially dismiss, any criticism.

    On a related note, I helped to draft a letter to the Lancet, which Jack Stilgoe suggested was a form of stealth advocacy. When I asked where the stealth was, it seemed pretty clear that he didn’t understand what stealth advocacy was and didn’t seem to get that the authors of such letters might not be too pleased if you imply that they’re not being entirely open and honest.

    I guess my overall thought is that should probably all be reflecting more on how we interact with other disciplines.

  10. dikranmarsupial says:

    From Wikipedia “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 …”

    it may be just me, but I would say that an attitude of rejection is not compatible with skepticism (doubt/questioning). Arguably an attitude of rejection towards “grand narratives” (e.g. climate change) would foster the spread of misinformation, if only by a lack of questioning of the opposing “minor narrative”. Fortunately I am aware that Wikipedia is socially constructed ;o)

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    You don’t need to be POMO to savour the irony here! ;o)

  12. dikranmarsupial says:

    This seems a great example of STS trying to take the mote out of science’s eye. This is a ridiculous definition of “stealth issue advocacy” – attaching a label with a connotation of dishonesty to a perfectly reasonable and honest activity is obvious rhetoric and seems the sort of thing that STS ought to be picking up on – not using. Surely it should have suggested that Prof. Pielke Jr might have some sort of agenda that could be investigated?

  13. dikranmarsupial says:

    I should add, it is normally “science says we should do X if we want to avoid Y”. Sometimes the Y ought to be so obvious from context that it doesn’t need to be stated explicitly, but it is there.

  14. Willard says:

    Speaking of scientism, there should be an analogue with the T in STS, something like technologism:

    There should also be something like sociologism. Then we could suggest that STS requires its three letters to work well.

    Writing papers with “party” models like that isn’t that hard.

  15. Dikran,
    It’s not only that, but as I pointed out later in that thread, what Jack described isn’t even “stealth issue advocacy”.

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP Pretty evasive response from Jack – the point wasn’t whether a position was being taken, but whether there was any attempt at stealth involved.

    It seems to me that “stealth issue advocacy” is a way of saying science has no authority to speak on policy matters (even on topics with a science component), which seems self-evidently nonsense to me (so perhaps I am missing something). Is it “stealth issue advocacy” for economists to say that “economics says we should do X”?

    Jack has done a fine job of putting me off engaging with politics in my science! ;o)

  17. I should probably stop so this thread doesn’t just become about STS, but the basic STS position seems confused. It seems to be that scientists should be much more aware of the societal/political implications of their work while, at the same time, avoiding saying anything that might be interpreted as a form of advocacy (stealthy, or otherwise). It almost feels like STS researchers haven’t quite thought this through.

  18. I should probably also stop because I’m trying to think more, and say less, and am clearly failing 🙂

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    … and they don’t seem to apply the same scrutiny to themselves – it is not clear why we should expect STS activities to be free of stealth advocacy.

    Had plenty to think about today about POMO…

  20. Willard says:

    > I guess my overall thought is that should probably all be reflecting more on how we interact with other disciplines.

    I agree. More generally:

  21. [W]
    agreed 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.

    Willard is quite right.

    Seen from up close , for a long time — its seminar stand-up has been running in Cambridge MA for as long as Cats in London , cult seems too perjorative a term for STS, but Hive seems a fair description. Some reflexive head bobbing is seen on the dais, and in the audience, and both clearly share the same bees in their bonnets, and jargon macros in their laptops.

    No wonder the Sciences Po grandees look so amused when they come to town

  22. Willard says:

    Time for some “not all STS” pushback. Here’s Helen, who used to be a physical chemist:

    Now, there are some folks who will argue that studying philosophy of science could be detrimental to the practicing scientist. Reading Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions with its claim that shifts in scientific paradigm have an inescapable subjective component, or even Popper’s view of the scientific method that’s meant to get around the problem of induction, might blow the young scientist’s mind and convince him that the goal of objective knowledge is unattainable. This would probably undermine his efforts to build objective knowledge in the lab.

    (However, I’d argue that reading Helen Longino’s account of how we build objective knowledge — another philosophical account — might answer some of the worries raised by Popper, Kuhn, and that crowd, making the young scientist’s knowledge-building endeavors seem more promising.)

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/doing-good-science/what-is-philosophy-of-science-and-should-scientists-care/

    Helen’s work is presented in another post, one with a great title, The objectivity thing (or, why science is a team sport). An excerpt:

    The scientific method is not a knowledge-making box where you feed in data and collect reliable conclusions from the output bin.

    More to the point, it’s not a procedure you can use all by yourself to make objective knowledge. The procedure is a good first step, but if you’re building objective knowledge you need other people.

    Here’s the thing: we find out the difference between objective facts and subjective impressions of the world by actually sharing a world with other people whose subjective impressions about the world differ from our own. (Given the opacity of what’s in our minds, there also needs to be some kind of communication between us and these people with whom we’re sharing the world.) We discover that some things don’t seem the same to all of us: Not everyone likes Friday Night Lights. Not everyone finds knock-knock jokes hilarious. Not everyone hates the flavor of asparagus. Not everyone finds a ’66 Mustang beautiful.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/doing-good-science/httpblogsscientificamericancomdoing-good-science20110720the-objectivity-thing-or-why-science-is-a-team-sport/

    While we can dispute the last claim (a ’66 Mustang just is beautiful), every Climateball player should be able to accept the idea that science is a team sport. What seems to be under dispute is what to think about the teams.

    One common way of seeing the teams is to divide them according to the kind of objects they study: facts, logics, values, policies, art forms, etc. That works well enough for administrative purposes, but that does not correspond to how humans work. There is no dichotomy between any of these kinds of things.

    There is no need to be able to agree on all the facts before we could deal with epistemic false flag operations. What we need is to trust each other and our institutions enough to be able to produce intersubjective truths. Not in the sense that we need to agree on every single fact: being able to agree to disagree is also a Good Thing. But in the sense that we share enough ways of seeing and doing things that we can work things out together.

    So here’s how I see it: if Alan was right, diplomacy (or any human activity with different kinds of folks) would be impossible. Diplomacy (or any human activity with different kinds of folks) exists. Therefore Alan is wrong.

    Alan could be more than wrong, as what he’s proposing is not far from what I would call the liberal delusion. I really despised when Richard did something similar, so I won’t. It’d be tempting, however.

  23. What we need is to trust each other and our institutions enough to be able to produce intersubjective truths. Not in the sense that we need to agree on every single fact: being able to agree to disagree is also a Good Thing. But in the sense that we share enough ways of seeing and doing things that we can work things out together.

    Yes, good point.

    I really despised when Richard did something similar, so I won’t. It’d be tempting, however.

    Who’s Richard?

  24. Isn’t there also a demographic problem with the PoMo argument? At least in America. I thought one of the reasons the US right gives for hating the left is PoMo. While they have absolute truths from their “interesting” authoritarian reading of the Bible, the left is supposed to pollute the youth with doubt and post-modernism, not?

    Does the far right get its epistemological cues from left wing intellectuals? That is a plot twist I had not expected.

    A more historical account would remind people that the far right has always worked with lies because they do not respect the informational sovereignty of other human beings. The main claims of Qanon are the same story the Nazis told about the Jews.

  25. Willard says:

    > Who’s Richard?

    Sorry. I added a link to The God Delusion after editing my comment, as it’s easier to add a link via the editor. That Richard:

    For context:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2020/03/28/richard-s-decoupling/

  26. Willard says:

    Here’s a good thread on what I have in mind when speaking of due diligence:

    First, we need a claim. Second, we need its support. Third, we need the scope of both: inference, warrants, caveats, etc. Details make that picture messier than portrayed, but the idea should be somewhat clear. It’s not very far from what is called the Toulmin Method.

    Perhaps I should interview Cathryn. Her work is awesome.

  27. V.V :
    “At least in America. I thought one of the reasons the US right gives for hating the left is PoMo”

    Who needs reasons- the US right is simply not on the same page as the US left- not a single conservative journal of opinion has a science editor let alone one who keeps up with Lit Crit.

    The resulting lack of engagement and real controversy is one reason POMO turned into recieved curricular wisdom , and went swampy as an echo chamber in the late 90’s.
    The last battle of the deconstruction wars was arguably Sokal’s debate with Latour at the LSE.

  28. W:
    “Time for some “not all STS” pushback. Here’s Helen, who used to be a physical chemist:

    Now, there are some folks who will argue that studying philosophy of science could be detrimental to the practicing scientist. Reading Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions with its claim that shifts in scientific paradigm have an inescapable subjective component, or even Popper’s view of the scientific method that’s meant to get around the problem of induction, might blow the young scientist’s mind and convince him that the goal of objective knowledge is unattainable. This would probably undermine his efforts to build objective knowledge in the lab.”

    The problem is that Kuhn became required first year reading for History of Science undergraduates circa 1965, and the paradigmatic blowing of young minds left them open to the STS apparat down the hall. The rest of the evolutionary history of STS is mere history of science, though you risk cancellation if you call it that. Some of these folks don’t have much use for primary sources.

  29. Willard says:

    > The rest of the evolutionary history of STS is mere history of science

    STS as history of science would already be a great idea!

    Our Man in Victoria sent us this gem via DM:

  30. Willard says:

    > A more historical account would remind people that the far right has always worked with lies because they do not respect the informational sovereignty of other human beings.

    I think it goes beyond that:

  31. Joshua says:

    Making up cause and effect is fun.

    I blame Alan for causing Glenn to blame media outlets’ blaming others for causing a lack of trust.

    > In a subsequent appearance on “Sunday Morning Futures,” Greenwald pointed to a new survey by global communications firm Edelman that found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media.

    ” They are losing faith and trust, and this is not a new sudden development. This has been taking place for years,” he told host Maria Bartiromo.

    The reason, he believes, is because mainstream media outlets have embraced a response of blaming “others who criticize their reporting, their bad reporting, as though they’re being unfairly vilified.”

    https://www.foxnews.com/media/glenn-greenwald-cancel-culture-will-wilkinson-new-york-times

    As an aside, I’m trying to decide which is more pathetic, the decline of Greenwald or the decline of Ioannidis.

  32. Victor,
    Shaun Otto’s book, The War on Science certainly seemed to argue that PoMo had made it into the US, and even politics, and so it has had a material effect on high-profile discourse in the US.

  33. Dave_Geologist says:

    W: due diligence

    dk: Caveat lector: may contain uninformed opinion.

    This for me has typically been the biggest problem with most STS I read, not is-reality-real posturing.

    They self-evidently Haven’t Done The Research, and are writing from a position of ignorance about their imaginary version of science and technology. Or at least so it would appear.

  34. Willard says:

    > Or at least so it would appear.

    Then perhaps you haven’t done the research and are writing from a position of ignorance about an imaginary version of STS. That said I haven’t either. It’d be hard to do without a deep dive and some formal tools like network analysis.

    Let’s pick Warren’s most recent comment in Nature. Here’s a paragraph that substantiates my earlier remark:

    One of the most influential studies of scientific uncertainty was provided three decades ago by Donald MacKenzie (1990) in Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. MacKenzie outlined three broad positions which formed a ‘certainty trough’ related to the perception of uncertainty in knowledge production and use. First, those directly involved in knowledge production, such as scientific modellers, are keenly aware of the uncertainties in that knowledge. Second, users of said knowledge are likely to perceive less uncertainty, believing, as MacKenzie puts it, ‘what the brochures tell them’. Third, those people alienated from knowledge production and use, or committed to a different technology, will have the highest perception of uncertainty. When represented schematically, this relationship resembles a trough, as shown in Figure 1 (MacKenzie, 1990, p. 372).

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00612-w

    That should suffice to see how Warren proceeds. He picks a hot topic, he selects an old framework, and he applies the old framework to the hot topic. I’m not sure why I would need MacKenzie for a basic tripartition between modellers, users, and the alienated. That figure is obviously schematic:

    His cited work is 65 bucks on AMZN. And that’s the cheap paperback version. That’s not even a real book: the sheets are glued, not bound. The reviews tell me that it’s fairly well researched. Some readers seem to have given a 3 star because it was too researched. The following description tells me there’s historiographical work:

    The author has done an excellent job of researching the topic, and appears to be from the missile guidance community (or at least aerospace). His style is dry, but frank.

    The book traces the US experience in missile guidance technology, then analyzes the sequence of RFP to field test to reveal the sociological dynamics of a technology.

    There should not be a ton of work on the US experience in missile guidance technology. Which is understandable: there is a multitude of historical and sociological events to study. There is not enough researcher in the world to cover them by pigeonholing a researcher to an event, perhaps even a topic.

    To return to Warren’s comment, let’s take a look at his conclusion:

    This article has analysed the representation of uncertainty regarding the virus doubling rate, a key area of controversy in UK science advice, finding contradictions between the outputs from epidemiological models and their public representation. In particular, I have shown how the doubling rate was represented as relatively certain despite the presence of three significant sources of uncertainty: the R0 number, the time elapsed between infectiousness in a primary case and a secondary case, and the influence of increased testing on doubling rate calculations. This article has been written within six months of the events described, so the analysis is necessarily provisional. However, there are three important findings: first, that the science advice system presented the virus doubling rate with unwarranted certainty; second, that role conflation in science advisers between knowledge production and knowledge use helps to explain the downplaying of uncertainties; and, third, that these issues highlight the need for diversity and clarity in the selection of experts and the means by which consensus in advice is achieved. None of this is straightforward to navigate, with trite slogans such as “follow the science” telling us nothing about the tricky business of producing and using scientific knowledge to inform decision-making (Bacevic, 2020). Rather, the unprecedented stress test of Covid-19 provides an important opportunity to learn lessons and strengthen the science advice system in preparation for future emergencies (Obermeister, 2020).

    His “important opportunity to learn lessons and strengthen the science advice system” does not sound less trite than “follow the science,” but then in my experience that’s par for Warren’s course. To see what kind of work he really did I’d have to look at Bacevic, Obermeister, and elsewhere Cassidy, Daston, Douglas, Hilgartner, and all the other researchers to whom he paid lip service. It should go without saying that this includes Funtowicz and Ravetz.

    Would I follow through? Not on my own time and dime. I’d rather assume that Warren did his job, accept his lukewarm conclusions, and move on.

    ***

    Due diligence works both as a norm and as an epistemic ideal. As a norm it leads to a problem:

    We can’t go on forever with suspicious minds. To resolve that predicament, trust is key.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/the-auditing-problem/

    That problem is epistemic: one can’t check everything all the time. What I’m underlying with the Warren comment example is more pragmatic. To double check another researcher’s work is often unrewarding. The same applies to a whole field. The lack of incentives only increases.

    Hence why we have editorials, I guess. All work and no play makes us dull. Hot takes warm our hearts.

  35. dikranmarsupial says:

    The participants in the webinar linked by Brigitte seemed to give a pretty good account of what STS could/should be (although it seems that at least one participant may be a bit of a curate’s egg on that one). Seemed to be plenty of diligence from Erin Gleeson and Kirstie Dobbs. Not a hint of POMO (that I could detect) either! ;o)

    It matched my experience of being a statistician (of sorts) that has frequently collaborated with other sorts of scientists. They key is that you need to work with them and understand what they want from the stats, rather than try to impose your wisdom on them. They key is to be interested in their science (rather than just your own research agenda). I’ve only branched out into another science once without collaboration (in paleontology) – I think I just about got away with it (was on an apparently contentious topic!) – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    It’s also like Steve Easterbrook’s project to see whether the software engineering of climate models could be improved, where he actually wen to work with the modellers (MET Office?).

    STS has also been (generally) fruitful in collaborating with AI researchers on ethical AI, which is a *very* important field of research in machine learning.

    I don’t think we should judge STS by what we see on twitter…

  36. It seems that STS needs to better understand attribution studies and correlation/causation 🙂 . Just because the representation of uncertainty was poor in one situation doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the case in another.

    Warren did post a comment a while back suggesting that we could discuss this, but never came back. Given that even I have failed to avoid being critical of his discipline, I probably sympathise 🙂

  37. Dikran,

    STS has also been (generally) fruitful in collaborating with AI researchers on ethical AI, which is a *very* important field of research in machine learning.

    I don’t think we should judge STS by what we see on twitter…

    Indeed, and I probably need to do better.

    I was thinking about the work they’ve done with AI, and I think there’s also been good work done with geoengineering. I do think, though, that there is merit in distinguishing between work that has the potential to have a direct impact on society, such as developing something that will potentially be implemented (self-driving cars, geo-engineering), and research that is more motivated by simply trying to understanding something, even if what is being understood has societal relevance.

    For example, I tend to think we should regard climate modelling (which is mostly based on understanding the climate and how it responds to perturbations) and geo-engineering (which may still use climate models) as having different societal relevance. The former is more telling us about the implications of what we’re already doing (dumping GHGs into the atmosphere) while the latter is studying something we may soon actively do (intentionally geo-engineer the climate).

  38. Covid vaccines and Cold War overkill make an interesting juxtaposition, but the latter case is fraught with the consequences of invention outstripping the sociology of strategic doctrine in changing policy outcomers. Kuhn tends to ignore theoretical revolutions arising from the rapid evolution of instrumentalities, and Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. conceals a case in point .

    While ” MacKenzie outlined three broad positions which formed a ‘certainty trough’ related to the perception of uncertainty in knowledge production and use… and that concept indeed became
    ” influential in STS, with the implication that different actors reside in different points along the trough depending on their whether they are knowledge producers or users. Sheila Jasanoff proposes that expert reviewers of government science fall within the intermediate zone of reduced scepticism, while also noting the challenge of achieving both familiarity with the subject matter and distance from the scientists involved”

    The “uncertainty” in question drove policy in a direct and quantitative way- the reason nuclear arsenals expanded so rapidly was that in Herman Kahn’s day missiles were both unreliable and inaccurate- as it was reckoned that two Atlas ballistic missile launches would be needed to achieve a 90% probability of one coming down within ten miles of the Kremlin, ten-megaton warheads were the order of the day . The result was the escalation of global arsenals past the 10,000 megaton level in 1961.

    What happened next was fortunately antclimactic- celestial navigation systems appeared , closely followed by the engineering development of inertial guidance and models that enhanced its accuracy. As the Circular Error Probability shrank , so did the perceived need for overkill, and arsenal sizes fell fas.This de facto technology driven disarmament was driven as much by economics as disarmament negotiators, because on both sides of ye olde Iron Curtain, plutonium, enriched uranium and fusion fuel were bloody expensive, and nobody wanted to pay for Doctor Stragelove sized bombs when small but accurate warheads could provide the same level of deterrence.

    To be fair, this all happended before , during , and just after the inception of STS. , but with an attenuation of sociological feedback arising from the gap between the two cultures of science and engineering, which were arguably farther apart then than say, nuclear and antinuclear advertising and propaganda .

  39. Willard says:

    Speaking of sociological feedback, seems that researchers are finally finding what most Climateball players experienced:

    All Americans are affected by rising political polarization, whether because of a gridlocked Congress or antagonistic holiday dinners. People believe that facts are essential for earning the respect of political adversaries, but our research shows that this belief is wrong. We find that sharing personal experiences about a political issue—especially experiences involving harm—help to foster respect via increased perceptions of rationality. This research provides a straightforward pathway for increasing moral understanding and decreasing political intolerance. These findings also raise questions about how science and society should understand the nature of truth in the era of “fake news.” In moral and political disagreements, everyday people treat subjective experiences as truer than objective facts.

    https://www.pnas.org/content/118/6/e2008389118

    The belief that we share the same world matters. The belief that we share humanity might matter even more to humans. So much the worse for Alan’s bottle.

  40. W:
    I can testify that persuading an assortment of militant tendencies that the world hosts, at most, one sort of physics is not an easy sell

  41. Everett F Sargent says:

    It is all about power or who controls what. Most of the rest is just emotional baggage (which includes power, so maybe it is all about being emotional creatures). But since Sokol brings up a specific example, the 2020 election, maybe we should endeavor to examine more closely the history of what got the US here in the 1st place, Stuff like racism, sexism, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, inequality, nationalism, populism, etceteras … as I find philosophy to be a rather dull topic of discussion.

  42. Willard says:

    > since Sokol brings up a specific example, the 2020 election

    You might have better chances to peddle your grievances regarding these elections at Judy’s, Everett.

    It’s Sokal, btw.

  43. Everett F Sargent says:

    Willard,

    Not selling anything over there. Didn’t expect to anyways. But it sure is fun to poke a stick in a bear’s eye so to speak. Oh and sorry about Sokal, I did look at the name but still did not get it right.

    What is Alan’s Bottle a metaphor for? If anything.

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP indeed – might be a fair while before exoplanets have a direct societal impact? ;o)

    Stats/ML/AI is also interesting as theoretical/algorithmic work has little or no direct societal impact, but considerable indirect impact (it is necessary to get the applied work right). This makes talking about the societal impact of your work (e.g. for grant applications) rather difficult without dismissing it entirely (which is inaccurate) or saying things for which you can’t provide verifiable evidence (giving the impression of used-car-salesmanship or B.S.).

    I think part of the problem is that as well as some parts of science needing to be more responsive to society (geoengineering more than climate modelling), at the same time society needs to become more responsive to some of the science. Some things are not a matter of values, so if your values prevent you from accepting something that is objectively true (at least beyond reasonable current doubt), then the problem is not with the science. ECS is not a matter of political values. Although part of this is that it isn’t actually our values, it is that we are not sufficiently rational, and that is preventing us from acting according to our “true” values – because we can’t negotiate properly between short and long-term goals (c.f. thinking fast and slow). It would be good if STS can help with that as well. I suspect I may have said that before…

    I have a bit of a problem with “shared-value-focussed” sci-comm, which is that it would be dishonest for me, because I don’t think my values are shared, but then again we shouldn’t need to share values to listen to what people have to say and give it fair consideration (but apparently we do).

  45. Dave_Geologist says:

    Interesting Willard, but all about the science advice system between you and the science, not the science. Which is not what I was talking about. But then that’s just me being a decoupler. Something I had long experience of in industry actually, distinguishing between the science, its communication, and recommendations to management, HSE etc. The number of times I’ve said “sorry, it is what is is” is (are?) legion.

    We actually had courses (I taught on one for a decade) to convert exploration geologists to development/production geologists. It requires a change of mindset, from imagination and insight (“oil is found in the minds of men”) to telling it like it is, with what uncertainty range. Then it’s up to the engineers, drillers, financiers and marketers to use their insight and imagination to come up with the most profitable way to make do with what they’re got.

  46. dikranmarsupial says:

    I can say from experience that many biologists find the concept of a probability of a probability rather difficult to deal with. It is rather ironic that the IPCC’s (perfectly sensible) method of conveying uncertainty to users comes in for so much criticism from some quarters. They have obviously put in quite a lot of though about the expected users of those statements. Communication of uncertainty is difficult.

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    In this case I did do the research BTW: I read the H&SSC paper the previous time it was discussed.

    As ATTP said, just because the representation of uncertainty was poor in one situation doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the case in another. And as the article itself notes, the uncertainty was exposed under the surface. Just not fed to the public, which will have had political input (a certain SPAD sat on SAGE) and social science input on the right sort of messaging (there is a social-science SAGE working group, with proper social scientists on it as distinct from the infamous “Nudge Unit”). Remember the journalists and politicians saying that the outputs were useless if they came up with a range of deaths from 5,000 to 500,000?

    Covid-19 is an especially unusual situation, because everything is premature: hence the plethora of preprints and shortage of peer-reviewed papers. There isn’t time, and we can’t afford to wait for there to be time. Practically nothing published on it would meet the level of rigour that apples to normal science: rightly so, with millions of people dying you can’t wait to be 95% confident that masks help reduce spread or that this or that drug reduces mortality. You have to weigh the harm from inaction against the possible risk or lack of benefit from action. If I had cancer and my doctor said an operation had a 50% chance of saving my life, I wouldn’t turn it down and wait for one that had a 95% chance. Hell, I’d probably jump at 10%!

    Perhaps that is a more important message to get across to the public than “but the uncertainty monster”. It’s also worth remembering that for all that the SAGE scientists are being criticised now for being too slow to pull the trigger, all the noise and criticism at the time was that they were too trigger-happy. One of the consequences of rushing stuff out is that some of it will look wrong in hindsight, because, what do you know, it is wrong in hindsight. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the best decision that could be made at the time, given the information available at the time.

  48. dikranmarsupial says:

    … and if your recommendations/projections are uncertain then some of them won’t pan out, even if the method/model is correct (c.f. Roger Pielke Jr and the “X% of the IPCC Predcitions are False” B.S.)

  49. Joshua says:

    Hmmm. From Warren.

    > Some experts have argued that this was the result of poor data being fed into epidemiological models in the early days of the pandemic, resulting in inaccurate estimates of the virus’s doubling rate. In this article, I argue that a fuller explanation is provided by an analysis of how the multiple uncertainties arising from poor quality data, a predictable characteristic of an emergency situation, were represented in the advice to decision makers.

    I don’t see any mention of the mechanics of how the public and policy-makers integrate the information supplied by “experts.” What allowance for “motivated reasoning” on the part of those tecieving the information to play a role?

    Just blame the “experts?” As if there is an ummediated cause and effect relationship between what “experts” say and what all the policy-makers and public think?

    I feel like I’ve seen that before, but just can’t quite recall where.

  50. Willard says:

    > What is Alan’s Bottle a metaphor for? If anything.

    I don’t know. Reason-with-a-big-R, modernity, common sense, etc. Not sure what would be the Genie either, or why we can’t put it back in the bottle where it once was.

    That Alan relies on metaphors in the first place amuses me, for one take-home from his hoax was that one does not simply use them to be understood clearly in Mordor.

  51. Everett F Sargent says:
    January 26, 2021 at 1:51 am
    ” maybe we should endeavor to examine more closely the history of what got the US here in the 1st place, Stuff like racism, sexism, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, inequality, nationalism, populism, etceteras … ”

    Everett, a closer examination of POMO suggests Otto was on to something a decade ago : structurally speaking there’s not much on offer today besides terminally predictable struggle session mantras

    A Post-POMO iteration of yours graces the latest factional journal of climate identity poliitics, the inimitable Solarpunk Druid
    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/01/hi-fi-cli-fi-hits-grist-sci-fi-wifi.html

  52. Everett F Sargent says:

    Willard,

    OK, I get it now, I can be a bit slow at times. Good title btw.

  53. Everett F Sargent says:

    Speaking of so-called alternative facts …

    Lost Cause of the Confederacy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cause_of_the_Confederacy

    “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, or simply the Lost Cause, is an American pseudo-historical, negationist ideology that advocates the belief that the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was a just and heroic one. This ideology has furthered the belief that slavery was just and moral, because the enslaved were happy, even grateful, and it also brought economic prosperity. The notion was used to perpetuate racism and racist power structures during the Jim Crow era in the American South. It emphasizes the supposed chivalric virtues of the antebellum South. It thus views the war as a struggle primarily waged to save the Southern way of life and to protect “states’ rights”, especially the right to secede from the Union. It casts that attempt as faced with “overwhelming Northern aggression”. At the same time, it minimizes or completely denies the central role of slavery and white supremacy in the build-up to, and outbreak of, the war.

    One particularly intense wave of Lost Cause activity occurred during World War I, as the last Confederate veterans began to die out and a push was made to preserve their memories. A second wave of Lost Cause activity occurred in reaction to growing public support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Through activities such as the construction of prominent Confederate monuments and the writing of school history textbooks, the Lost Cause movement sought to ensure future generations of Southern whites would know about the South’s “true” reasons for fighting the war, and therefore continue to support white supremacist policies, such as Jim Crow laws. In that regard, white supremacy is a central feature of the Lost Cause narrative.

    Lost Cause narratives typically portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble, and its leaders and armies as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, whose defeat by the Union armies was because the South’s greater military skill and courage was overwhelmed by the North’s numerical superiority and immense industrial power. Proponents of the Lost Cause movement also condemned the Reconstruction which followed the Civil War, claiming that it was a deliberate strategy by Northern politicians and speculators to exploit the South economically and to gain political power. The Lost Cause theme has also evolved into a major element in defining gender roles in the white South, in terms of preserving family honor and chivalrous traditions. The Lost Cause idea has also inspired the construction of numerous Southern memorials, as well as the shaping of religious attitudes.”

    So, it would appear that the US has a rich history of alternative facts that predates PoMo by quite a few decades, at least.

    Alternative facts are probably as old as written histories themselves. Social media today makes everyone sort of historians and recorders of alternative conspiracies.

  54. Everett F Sargent says:

    See also …

    Historical revisionism
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_revisionism
    Historical negationism
    “Historical negationism, also called denialism, is falsification or distortion of the historical record. It should not be conflated with historical revisionism, a broader term that extends to newly evidenced, fairly reasoned academic reinterpretations of history.”

    Which appears to be quite close to anthropogenic climate negationism.

  55. Willard says:

    > structurally speaking there’s not much on offer today besides terminally predictable struggle session mantras

    However simple their mantras, kids will always be cool:

    Nobody can deny that Greta’s right.

    Once upon a time, hippies stopped a war with something as simple as Love & Peace. Today, many hippies have become part of the establishment, and some of them never miss a chance for some red baiting fun. From chaos to order: the cycle of social life is complete.

    My current Climateball hypothesis is that we need more Uncle Murphy’s:

    I’m still wondering how to make that happen.

  56. Willard says:

    And speaking of Greta, just in:

  57. What’s Alan Sokal’s take on Biden’s appointment of Alondra Nelson as OSTP Deputy Director for Science and Society? Last January she told Believer that she:

    “edited a special issue of the cultural studies journal Social Text with a focus on Afrofuturism. The Afrofuturism issue—which addressed “the intersection between African diasporic culture and technology through literature, poetry, science fiction and speculative fiction, music, visual art, and the Internet,” and which maintained that “racial identity fundamentally influences technocultural practices”—turned out to be a seminal issue in the academic investigation of Afrofuturism.

    It also laid the foundation for Nelson’s work in producing critical interventions into Blackness and technology. Afrofuturism’s tentacular reach two decades later extends the prescience of the listserv and that collection of early texts on the subject beyond the academy and into the arts, community, and cultural institutions.”

    What in Cthulu’s name could possibly go wrong with the West Wing extending the tentacular reach of critical intevention by a Social Text alumn?

  58. Everett F Sargent says:

    ‘Inspired choice’: Biden appoints sociologist Alondra Nelson to top science post
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00159-z

    Scientists praise US president’s selection of the bioethics and social inequality specialist to help lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    https://believermag.com/an-interview-with-alondra-nelson/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Believer_(magazine)

    “What in Cthulu’s name could possibly go wrong with the West Wing extending the tentacular reach of critical intevention by a Social Text alumn?”

    I have absolutely no idea. But maybe you do. If so, then please expand on whatever it is that is bouncing between your own ears. TIA

  59. Willard says:

    I would not call the one that shall be named for a mere What About Question, Russell:

    Nelson’s appointment to the OSTP comes as the United States and its scientific institutions are grappling with their record on equity and inclusion. Although Hispanic and African Americans make up 27.5% of the US population over the age of 21, these groups constitute only 13% of the US science and engineering workforce. In the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed nearly three times as many Black Americans as white ones, and it has highlighted gaps in how health care is administered to people of different races and ethnicities.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00159-z

  60. Russell Seitz says:

    Willard, are you resigned to our nice new Chief Executive unleashing the Ancient Ones on OSTP?
    As John Holdren said in 2016:

    “As President Obama noted in his Executive Order 13707, behavioral science insights can support a wide range of national priorities including … accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy.

    That Executive Order, 13707, directs Federal agencies to apply behavioral science insights to their policies and programs, and it institutionalizes the Social and Behavioral Science Team…The adminstration is releasing new guidance to agencies that supports continued implementation of
    The Behavioral Science Insights Executive Order.

    That guidance will help agencies identify promising opportunities to apply behavioral science insights to their programs and policies.”

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-behavioral-science-insights.html

  61. Everett F Sargent says:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2017/07/unforced-variations-july-2017/#comment-679824

    “Russell says:
    4 Jul 2017 at 5:40 PM
    27
    Mal . much as you “hope the Obama Whitehouse eschewed the Black Arts,” it tried to install a permanent directorate to advance the dark art of social engineering – here’s what his science advisor said:

    “As President Obama noted in his Executive Order 13707, behavioral science insights can support a wide range of national priorities including … accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy.

    That Executive Order, 13707, directs Federal agencies to apply behavioral science insights to their policies and programs, and it institutionalizes the Social and Behavioral Science Team…The adminstration is releasing new guidance to agencies that supports continued implementation of
    The Behavioral Science Insights Executive Order.

    That guidance will help agencies identify promising opportunities to apply behavioral science insights to their programs and policies.”

    Executive Order — Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People
    https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/15/executive-order-using-behavioral-science-insights-better-serve-american

    whataboutism :/

  62. Willard says:

    > Willard, are you resigned

    Why would you try to bait me once more, Russell:

    You might like the whole video. She’s great.

  63. Dave_Geologist says:

    Alternative facts are probably as old as written histories themselves.

    I seem to recall that there are a few inconsistencies between Biblical and Egyptian historical accounts of the same events… and wasn’t there a Pharaoh who tried to impose heretical religious beliefs and was airbrushed out of history after he died, with his statues defaced or re-carved to represent a more acceptable figure?

  64. dikranmarsupial says:

    Akenaten?

  65. dikranmarsupial says:

    Looked it up on Wikipedia (usual caveats apply) and it seems that the iconoclasm was not perhaps an example of “activists going too far” being implicit bigotry. Apparently his successor’s (Tutankhamun) reign was one of comparative religious tolerance and the iconoclasm came later from a sub-dynasty with shaky claims to the throne wanting to hide the shakiness of their claim. I suspect it was exploiting religious bigotry though for political gain – “plus ca change…”.

  66. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willard, the bit just after about “bigotries are backlash” is spot-on – will have to go back and watch the whole thing when I have time to watch it properly. Trying to think of non-reactionary bigotries and it isn’t easy.

  67. Yes, Willard, she’ is great, and as she has a sense of the sardonic she may well survive it:

  68. Willard says:

    I think it’s safe to say that having four Evangelists helped as corroboration, at least at an advertizing level. As for the separation between reality and our perception of it, Vedantic philosophy (which isn’t as old as the Egyptians but as old as the Greeks) gave us the Rope and the Snake:

    For a long time now people know that ropes are ropes, and that sometimes what we perceive as snakes could be ropes. If being “woke” refers to the impression of waking up from some illusory state of mind, then POMO has very little to do with it. Modernity is founded on the idea that we’ll never reach reality itself (the noumenon, whatever that might mean) and Postmoderns follow along similar lines.

    As far as I am concerned both George Carlin and Woody Guthrie were both woke in their own ways. The main problem with the idea is when someone keeps saying (paraphrasing) “I am woke! I am woke!” It’s just unfelicitous bragging, and that’s when one becomes a guru. A good podcast on the process:

    Let’s posit we’re creatures of habits. There are good habits, there are bad ones. We want to change the bad ones. It’s hard. There is resistance. Now apply that frame to societies. There are good norms. There are bad norms. We disagree on which ones are good, which ones are bad. We fight over them. There’s resistance. With resistance comes reactionary politics.

    In all these debates political claims hide under seemingly factual claims. Whether these claims are factual or not is mostly a red herring. Anyone who plays Climateball should understand why this is so.

  69. DIkran, thanks for setting cancel culture back 3,500 years . Two centuries before Akenaten was scrathed out of the 18th dynasty record, Hatsepshut was cartouche cancelled by priests of Amun who took a dim view of bearded lady impersonators.

    This took a long time, for erasing even 140 hieroglyph tweets is as labor intensive as carving them.

    Akenaten gets huge points for reducing Egypt’s pantheon footprint.

  70. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Hatsepshut was cartouche cancelled by priests of Amun who took a dim view of bearded lady impersonators. ”

    plus ca change squared!

  71. Willard says:

    3500 years is small change, Russell:

  72. Everett F Sargent says:

    So, it would appear that cancel culture and alternative facts are as old as time itself. And since we all can not agree on the age of the universe what decided to uncancel our universe?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancelled_(South_Park)
    “In the episode, an alien satellite dish is placed in Cartman’s butt. Shortly after, the boys are abducted by the aliens that installed it. They find out that the planet Earth is simply an intergalactic reality show. When word gets back to their home planet, the aliens decide to cancel the show, and something must be done if the boys want to save the day.”

  73. §72. “Cancel culture” can be shortened to “culture” as culture refers to how we eliminate bad ideas.

    An aphorism like that deserves a typeface of its own, Willard,

    Fortunately this need has been anticipated, and you already have six to choose from : https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/k-type/dalek/

  74. Willard says:

    In return, Russell, here’s how I’d celebrate the originality of your hot takes:

  75. That strip’s a fine summa of where Dalek stand-up is headed , but I don’t get the doggy avatar –
    Is it Rin Tin-Tin de Saint-Exupéry ?

    While Dalek first editions of Grammatology. orIdeology and Ideological State Apparatuses might have mellowed postmodernism, I suspect a comic sans graphic novel version of Surveiller et Punir could have fast forwarded Cancel Cultuure into being bundled with Windows 95. Where is Umberto Eco now that we need him?

  76. Willard says:

    Right here:

  77. “I once got to meet Umberto Eco—who was very memorable”

    I had to settle for Borges , who I think agreed with Eco’s penultimate philosophical judgement on what Pomonauts needs must do to save their ship of state :

    ” Take the cork out”

    Mandatory Nature author full disclosure :
    Eco culturally expropriated it from Primo Levi

  78. Dave_Geologist says:

    That’s the one dikran. Amenhotep was the name I later recalled, but I see from Wiki that Akhenaten and Amenhotep IV are the same guy.

    In totally unrelated cancel-culture news, I see the Holocene Climatic Optimum has been cancelled:

    Seasonal origin of the thermal maxima at the Holocene and the last interglacial

    Palaeoclimate puzzle explained by seasonal variation

    I presume from the absence of a hockey-blade in Fig. 1 of the news item that the graph ends at palaeoclimate Year Zero, 1950, and does not extend to the present day. Cue “skeptics” crying “look, there never was a hockey-stick and even now it’s a piss-poor one”. It does make Ruddiman’s Early Anthropocene Hypothesis look more compelling, doesn’t it?

  79. dikranmarsupial says:

    Wasn’t in Stargate SG1 under either label, so cancel culture obviously persists!

  80. Dave_Geologist says:

    IIRC it was already known that the 4,000-year-old tree stumps preserved in blanket bog in NW Scotland were killed by a wetter climate rather than a colder climate, IOW that the local HCO was not necessarily any warmer on average than what followed. They’ll have had access to additional land proxies, but any mismatch with global average temperatures would have been put down to local factors like different states of the North Atlantic Oscillation.

    Still, hotter summers and colder winters with higher summer insolation to dry things out and promote leaf growth would seem better suited to trees than the current dreich climate.

  81. Willard says:

    > Take the cork out

    Tell that to naked short sellers:

    If you think POMO haz any influence, I got a Wall Street Journal to read to you line by line.

  82. I got a Wall Street Journal to read to you line by line.

    Let’s hope it’s the one with this in it:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB112908635843166359

  83. Willard says:

    Good point, Russell. Sardonic op-eds about the United States foreign policy by an Harvard emeritus shows how critical theory has seeped into the most powerful economic megaphone of the world.

    You might like this POMO hoax:

  84. Willard says:

    For a short explanation of the naked short selling hoax:

    For context:

  85. Willard says:

    Alright, last one for the evening:

    Which echoes what Eli said all along:

    Brokers do not expand the scope of choices available to clients, they narrow them. Brokers make markets. Brokers make a living by matching buyers to sellers and taking a commission (You thought they do it for free? What carrot wagon you fall off of bunny?). Ethical brokers will go out on the market seeking product suited to clients and will seek clients suited to products available to them. Ethical brokers have mutual obligations to sellers and buyers, to qualify the buyers and vet the sellers, not to sell every piece of nuclear waste to every rube with a cell phone.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2009/03/honest-broker-and-yellow-pages-pielke.html

  86. Sardonic op-eds about the United States foreign policy by an Harvard emeritus shows how critical theory has seeped into the most powerful economic megaphone of the world.

    Are you talking about my stuff in The Nation, The Guardian , The Times and teh NYRB?

  87. Willard says:

    I doubt the New York Review of Books is “the most powerful economic megaphone of the world,” Russell.

    Please give it a rest. You said your piece.

  88. Please dont read my Washington Post or Foreign Affairs screeds , either,

    No need to risk cancellation by quoting such reactionary sorces of un-doublethink.

  89. Willard says:

  90. Steven Mosher says:

    it has undermined our own ability to combat objective untruths…

    as a practicing pomoer.this has to take the cake. alans essay comes nowhere close to supporting his conclusion. here is what you will find the people who bemoan the “fact that a bunch of literayure professors and philosophers killed the truth never actual ever get pomo right.talk about unraveling the enlightenment. they killed god and blame us.

    so climite science has failed not because scienticists told a shitty story with flawed spokespeople, not because big oil and big money exerted its will to power, but rather because those damn poetry readers emphasized the undecideability of texts and wrote unreadable texts that corupted the youth. alan may not have personally killed truth but he shits on the grave

  91. Willard says:

    Alan is borrowing from an old tradition, the last avatar being our conceptual scammer, who’s being the tweeter darling once again:

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