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4197TkGD1DL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ At a readers’ suggestion I got Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Unlike The Dialectical Imagination this is not necessarily a detached academic book. Rather, the author has a definite perspective. About 20 years ago I read George H. Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God, and there are a lot of similarities between the two books. From that I suspected before doing some research that the author had some influence from Objectivism, and that seems correct. I don’t care too much, and I probably broadly share the authors’ libertarian/classical liberal politics, but the middle sections of the Explaining Postmodernism got a little preachy for my taste.

Nevertheless the first half especially is excellent, and it outlines a genealogy of the Postmodern movement very concisely and in an illuminating manner. There are some details where one might quibble (e.g., the relationship of Immanuel Kant to religion is much more in dispute than presented in Explaining Postmodernism, though that’s a minor objection). But the progression of Transcendental Realism down to the morass we see around us today is a familiar story told more crisply here then elsewhere.

The author does outline a sociological origin for Postmodernism which is very intriguing, as it explains why it is an overwhelmingly far Left movement, despite the implications toward extreme relativism and subjectivism one might infer from the worldview. But there is something that is omitted here, perhaps because the author was not aware of this fact: there is a relationship of Postmodernism to elite intellectual religious revival in the past few decades.

418lqzfRjwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Alister McGrath is a proponent of this school, and outlines his thesis in The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World. To condense McGrath’s argument, if everything is a superstition, then people will fall back on the tried and true superstitions. McGrath asserts the collapse of the authority of rationality and philosophical realism signal the end of the Enlightenment project, and undermines the secular world. As an empirical matter there is a lot one can quibble with here; in particular, though Postmodernism may be vigorous in the academy, science and technology are concrete witness to power of naive realism and rationalist presuppositions. But McGrath’s position is philosophically cogent. And, it is not well known, but the doyen of modern Intelligent Design, Phillip E. Johnson, has admitted that the he was strongly shaped by Critical Theory:

I used to refer jokingly to myself as the entire right wing of the Critical Legal Studies movement, which in their view was a contradiction in terms. Their critique was purely the instrument of a left-wing political program, which was chosen arbitrarily and presumed to be good. It was a faith commitment.

So I’m reading a lot of things on Postmodernism. I’m going back to Hegel. On the one hand this is a major opportunity cost. There’s a lot of science and programming stuff I want to read that I don’t have time to read. On other hand, much that I was suspecting becomes very clear. Ultimately I’m respecting Postmodernism more insofar as it is a reasonable tool from what I can see in destroying certainty and realism for those who are innumerate. If you have any understanding of statistics you’re pretty insulated from Postmodernism. But very few people think statistically. I also now believe it is ultimately far more dangerous than before, because it is a serious intellectual tool that can deconstruct much that is precious and rare in the world. In particular, the Enlightenment project, which in many ways goes against the world historical grain, or at least the grain of human intuitions and preferences. Postmodernism as an intellectual exercise is easy to dismiss. But as a tool of political battle it has to be taken seriously.

A Single Migration From Africa Populated the World, Studies Find. I will blog these papers. It’s a question of time. Please don’t pester me on non-open threads about this stuff.

Widespread allelic heterogeneity in complex traits.

14390818_10153997292567984_5603508903928344619_nGunman kills Jordanian Christian writer charged over anti-Islam cartoon. The title is misleading, as the cartoon was making fun of jihadists, not Islam. He posted the cartoon on Facebook.

Chinese Jews of Ancient Lineage Huddle Under Pressure. Most of the Kaifeng Jewish community was absorbed into the Han, though some became Muslim.

Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition.

Please use the “open thread” for random stuff. The OT comments early in threads are pretty annoying.

Also, if you follow me on Twitter if you tweet at me a lot, and I don’t respond, but you keep tweeting at me demanding a response, I’m probably going to block you. Also, I get annoyed at readers and Twitter followers who presume they know my state of mind or aspects of my life from what they see on the interwebs. If you do that and tweet at me, I’m going to block you, just as if you do that in the comments here your chances of me publishing future comments goes way lower. If you have read me for a while you should be aware that I have a really long memory and recall commenters who have crossed me in some way for years, so even if I let you comment again please don’t think I’ve forgotten. The major problem is commenters who presume over-familiarity with me. Probably a function of the low social intelligence of many of my readers.

Finally, Sean don’t post anything on sexual selection on this thread. I won’t post the comments.

 
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  1. • Replies: @braziliananon
    As a Brazilian (a country which the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I can't vouch for that, depends on who you're mixing with, and many mixed raced people are not nice looking, not by far; sure, some are good looking, but the majority it's not, trust me.
    , @Pseudonymic Handle
    Mixed race children tend to have more mental health problems.
    , @RaceRealist88
    Hybrid vigor doesn't apply to humans as we are already heterozygous at .776, correct me if I'm wrong Razib.
  2. @Pseudonymic Handle
    Is It Better To Be Mixed Race? Yes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZZAckwJHsQ

    Mixed-race relationships are making us taller and smarter...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3146070/Mixed-race-relationships-making-taller-smarter-Children-born-genetically-diverse-parents-intelligent-ancestors.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis#Humans

    As a Brazilian (a country which the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I can’t vouch for that, depends on who you’re mixing with, and many mixed raced people are not nice looking, not by far; sure, some are good looking, but the majority it’s not, trust me.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    what they should really say is that inbreeding is bad. the racial aspect is a corollary, and not a necessary one.
    , @Centrosphere
    As a Brazilian (a country where the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I would like to remind braziliananon that:

    1) Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001125637.htm)

    2) Malnourishment and a lot of other external conditions can negatively affect some of the most acclaimed "universals" markers of beauty, as body symmetry:

    " In contrast, random deviations from bilateral symmetry—known as fluctuating asymmetry (Van Valen, 1962)—are indicative of the nonnormal distribution of morphological traits. Fluctuating asymmetry has been shown to increase with exposure to pollutants, parasites, malnutrition, prenatal maternal alcohol consumption, and other adverse conditions during development." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485838/)
     
    Taken together I think that these two caveats would explain most of your perceptions about the mixed country that is Brazil. Most of the traits you don´t like probably are due to 1) personal preferences and 2) effects of poverty etc.

    For example, personally I´m not attracted by the average chinese or japanese woman. And you can´t of course make the case that they are "mixed" in the sense that brazilians are. But I have really a thing about "nisseis" _ the daughters of the considerable emigré population of japanese origin here in Brazil. Most of all when they are "mixed" with our native stock, what generally make them more curvy.

    So maybe you´re putting a little bit of prejudice before the rational appreciation of the issue.
    , @Sean
    Let us assume an African has children with a European. Their offspring will tend to have relatively many heterozygous genes with one deleterious allele, thus sheltered from expression (given that Africans will tend to have different deleterious alleles from those common among Europeans). But if the biracial children of two such couples marry the deleterious alleles are still there, and the children of an African/European mother and African/European father will often be getting the same deleterious alleles from both parents; quite a lot of them in view of their effects having been sheltered from expression in the parents of that child making the parents more viable than the monoracial average.
  3. Statistical thinking is not mutually exclusive with a modernist or postmodernist perspective.

    Certainly I shudder at intellectuals who claim that science is an ideology, but I don’t personally see science as a reductively comprehensive philosophy. Frankly, I’ll admit that i’d probably need a better perspective on what aspects of post modernism are being described here before trying to defend it from the perspective of a moderately pro numerate pro science stance.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Statistical thinking is not mutually exclusive with a modernist or postmodernist perspective.

    first, i'm talking about postmodernism. not modernism.

    Certainly I shudder at intellectuals who claim that science is an ideology, but I don’t personally see science as a reductively comprehensive philosophy.

    are you talking to me? if so, i'm not proposing scientism, since i didn't mention it or imply it.

    I’ll admit that i’d probably need a better perspective on what aspects of post modernism are being described here before trying to defend it from the perspective of a moderately pro numerate pro science stance.

    postmodernism rejects strawman platonic social constructions (e.g., the 'gender binary') and replaces them with a uniform distribution. as if those are the only two options. the postmodern framework makes more sense (to me) if you actually behave is if categories/constructions are what is doing the creating, rather than them being human tools to construct a map of reality (which is the standard realist position pretty clearly adhere to by scientists). i think this sort of neo-platonism is a lot less persuasive if you think of the world in various distributions and probabilities.

  4. @Jesse
    Statistical thinking is not mutually exclusive with a modernist or postmodernist perspective.

    Certainly I shudder at intellectuals who claim that science is an ideology, but I don't personally see science as a reductively comprehensive philosophy. Frankly, I'll admit that i'd probably need a better perspective on what aspects of post modernism are being described here before trying to defend it from the perspective of a moderately pro numerate pro science stance.

    Statistical thinking is not mutually exclusive with a modernist or postmodernist perspective.

    first, i’m talking about postmodernism. not modernism.

    Certainly I shudder at intellectuals who claim that science is an ideology, but I don’t personally see science as a reductively comprehensive philosophy.

    are you talking to me? if so, i’m not proposing scientism, since i didn’t mention it or imply it.

    I’ll admit that i’d probably need a better perspective on what aspects of post modernism are being described here before trying to defend it from the perspective of a moderately pro numerate pro science stance.

    postmodernism rejects strawman platonic social constructions (e.g., the ‘gender binary’) and replaces them with a uniform distribution. as if those are the only two options. the postmodern framework makes more sense (to me) if you actually behave is if categories/constructions are what is doing the creating, rather than them being human tools to construct a map of reality (which is the standard realist position pretty clearly adhere to by scientists). i think this sort of neo-platonism is a lot less persuasive if you think of the world in various distributions and probabilities.

    • Replies: @Tulip
    Not sure what you mean by "post-modernism" without further elaboration (Foucault is not Derrida is not Fish, etc.).

    However, there is empirical evidence that the metaphors we use to describe social phenomenon impact attitudes. For example, if one uses the metaphor of a disease or cancer to describe a social phenomenon, it elicits a political response different from the metaphor of a rainbow. As much as the empirical world is partially independent of our conceptions, it is in other ways inexorably shaded by our conceptions. Seen from one dimension, politics is an existential struggle between rival metaphors. [Since politics is contained within the space we call natural, then metaphor must be seen as a much a feature of the natural order as the concept of species.]

    I am basically Platonic--the world of sensation can only be cognized through linguistic categories--and concepts such as truth or falsehood ultimately rest on social conventions. [What rests on convention can be known with complete certainty.] That being said, the conventions exist to allow for the possibility of open questions, e.g. questions subject to empirical falsification. The metaphor would be something like Chess--the point of the closed and fixed rules of Chess is to allow an open-ended process to take place, namely play. However, just as there could be no Chess without an arbitrary sets of conventions, there could be no empirical science without a set of conventions, institutions, and norms, all of which is mostly historically arbitrary. So the primacy of the word is irrefutable, and only through the word can any system like empirical science--and empirical description--come into being (ergo why humans have science and monkeys do not even though we presumably share the same empirical world governed by the same empirical regularities).

    As far as the "rationalist" and "objective reality" crowd, Descartes specifically excluded the mind from the net of scientific reification. Because the framework which reifies the other in this sense transcends the other, the mental categories by which the physical world is reified must transcend the physical world, or you get self-reference. [The map can't be at the same time the territory.] But the mind can't be excluded, ergo any attempt to describe the totality will blow up in some version of the liars paradox or Godel's Incompleteness theorem--which is why sophisticated people embrace the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Ergo, the world transcends any system of reification, and therefore we cannot arrive at some ultimate explanation of the world, so we must embrace that the most fundamental truths could only be revealed through something like unknowing.

  5. @braziliananon
    As a Brazilian (a country which the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I can't vouch for that, depends on who you're mixing with, and many mixed raced people are not nice looking, not by far; sure, some are good looking, but the majority it's not, trust me.

    what they should really say is that inbreeding is bad. the racial aspect is a corollary, and not a necessary one.

  6. Razib: I am sorry about the O/T post. However, I am still interested in your opinion:

    “Bioengineering: The Age of Designer Plagues” by Drew Miller
    “The growing ease of genetically modifying bacteria and viruses presages real trouble ahead.”

    http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/09/20/the-age-of-designer-plagues/

  7. Graham Harman says Postmodernism is the Left version of power politics, while Leo Strauss’s teaching is the Right version. Although not a postmodernist and using analytical sounding arguments, lot of what Markus Gabriel says cast doubt on the idea that science is an insulator.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/30/why-world-does-not-exist-markus-gabriel-review
    How can the universe be smaller than the world? Because the universe, as Gabriel defines it, is only one ontological province among others; a field of sense in which one can speak of distant nebulae and subatomic particles, but not unicorns. But there are other fields of sense too, in which we can speak of unicorns – imaginary objects have their own object domains.

    The universe as understood by Gabriel, then, is not only a thing out there but also a kind of perspective, the perspective of science. By contrast, the world contains all ontological perspectives and, given that there are in principle an infinite number of such perspectives, that means it is pretty big. And the world is nonexistent because we can never have a perspective on it from the outside. […]

    Gabriel’s main target is the arrogance of science. He wants to attack the suggestion that only by means of scientific method will we someday be able to comprehend the whole of reality. […] Hawking gets rapped over the knuckles for that witless passage in A Brief History of Time in which he claims that scientists have replaced philosophers as torchbearers in the quest for knowledge. Gabriel charges him with reducing everything in a potentially infinite number of object domains to one, namely physics. “Had he known anything about philosophy and its history,” writes Gabriel of Hawking, “he would have noticed that for a considerable time philosophers have argued that precisely the questions he himself raises cannot be answered by finding out more about the universe.”

  8. @Razib Khan
    Statistical thinking is not mutually exclusive with a modernist or postmodernist perspective.

    first, i'm talking about postmodernism. not modernism.

    Certainly I shudder at intellectuals who claim that science is an ideology, but I don’t personally see science as a reductively comprehensive philosophy.

    are you talking to me? if so, i'm not proposing scientism, since i didn't mention it or imply it.

    I’ll admit that i’d probably need a better perspective on what aspects of post modernism are being described here before trying to defend it from the perspective of a moderately pro numerate pro science stance.

    postmodernism rejects strawman platonic social constructions (e.g., the 'gender binary') and replaces them with a uniform distribution. as if those are the only two options. the postmodern framework makes more sense (to me) if you actually behave is if categories/constructions are what is doing the creating, rather than them being human tools to construct a map of reality (which is the standard realist position pretty clearly adhere to by scientists). i think this sort of neo-platonism is a lot less persuasive if you think of the world in various distributions and probabilities.

    Not sure what you mean by “post-modernism” without further elaboration (Foucault is not Derrida is not Fish, etc.).

    However, there is empirical evidence that the metaphors we use to describe social phenomenon impact attitudes. For example, if one uses the metaphor of a disease or cancer to describe a social phenomenon, it elicits a political response different from the metaphor of a rainbow. As much as the empirical world is partially independent of our conceptions, it is in other ways inexorably shaded by our conceptions. Seen from one dimension, politics is an existential struggle between rival metaphors. [Since politics is contained within the space we call natural, then metaphor must be seen as a much a feature of the natural order as the concept of species.]

    I am basically Platonic–the world of sensation can only be cognized through linguistic categories–and concepts such as truth or falsehood ultimately rest on social conventions. [What rests on convention can be known with complete certainty.] That being said, the conventions exist to allow for the possibility of open questions, e.g. questions subject to empirical falsification. The metaphor would be something like Chess–the point of the closed and fixed rules of Chess is to allow an open-ended process to take place, namely play. However, just as there could be no Chess without an arbitrary sets of conventions, there could be no empirical science without a set of conventions, institutions, and norms, all of which is mostly historically arbitrary. So the primacy of the word is irrefutable, and only through the word can any system like empirical science–and empirical description–come into being (ergo why humans have science and monkeys do not even though we presumably share the same empirical world governed by the same empirical regularities).

    As far as the “rationalist” and “objective reality” crowd, Descartes specifically excluded the mind from the net of scientific reification. Because the framework which reifies the other in this sense transcends the other, the mental categories by which the physical world is reified must transcend the physical world, or you get self-reference. [The map can’t be at the same time the territory.] But the mind can’t be excluded, ergo any attempt to describe the totality will blow up in some version of the liars paradox or Godel’s Incompleteness theorem–which is why sophisticated people embrace the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Ergo, the world transcends any system of reification, and therefore we cannot arrive at some ultimate explanation of the world, so we must embrace that the most fundamental truths could only be revealed through something like unknowing.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    future comments in this vein need to be more concise to be published. can't tolerate so much prolix elaboration on common sense as metaphysical profundity.
  9. In further elaboration of the problems of a mind that does not transcend the material universe, it is useful to consider logic.

    A logically valid argument is an argument that follows certain forms, whereas a fallacy is an argument that follows other forms. To say an argument is logically valid is to make a judgment as to its form.

    Taking a crude Newtonian determinist framework, through the inexorable mechanism of molecules colliding, I judge an argument to be logically valid and you disagree. Lets say the argument goes to a closed community, and through inexorable pushing and pulling of molecules, all the other members of the community agree with me, and you must either renounce or be cast out (depending on how your molecules bang together). This process, while settling the dispute, bears no relationship to truth or objective reality. Even if we suppose natural selection, while we might suppose people are good at spotting hungry tigers in the jungle, it is unclear that human evolution promises any confidence in our capacities for metaphysics or epistemology or philosophy of science.

    So we can have no confidence our philosophical worldview isn’t just an arbitrary artifact of natural selection, with little to no relationship to the real world. Further, we can’t even be so sure about our conclusions about natural selection in the first place, as natural selection is a step removed from avoiding tigers. Our ultimate “knowledge” rests on arbitrary conventions, and although humans have the capacity to reach social consensus, there is no basis to suppose our consensus is objective, rather than simply subjective consensus.

    True authority requires the coincidence of an objective truth and subjective belief (e.g. I believe because it is true.). If belief is driven by natural processes (whether determinate or random), then there is no means of determining who the true authority is, because there is every reason to believe that those natural processes don’t select for truth. For a man to have the truth, that truth must be revealed by something outside, and must rest on subjective assent to the knowledge of the unseen.

  10. @Tulip
    Not sure what you mean by "post-modernism" without further elaboration (Foucault is not Derrida is not Fish, etc.).

    However, there is empirical evidence that the metaphors we use to describe social phenomenon impact attitudes. For example, if one uses the metaphor of a disease or cancer to describe a social phenomenon, it elicits a political response different from the metaphor of a rainbow. As much as the empirical world is partially independent of our conceptions, it is in other ways inexorably shaded by our conceptions. Seen from one dimension, politics is an existential struggle between rival metaphors. [Since politics is contained within the space we call natural, then metaphor must be seen as a much a feature of the natural order as the concept of species.]

    I am basically Platonic--the world of sensation can only be cognized through linguistic categories--and concepts such as truth or falsehood ultimately rest on social conventions. [What rests on convention can be known with complete certainty.] That being said, the conventions exist to allow for the possibility of open questions, e.g. questions subject to empirical falsification. The metaphor would be something like Chess--the point of the closed and fixed rules of Chess is to allow an open-ended process to take place, namely play. However, just as there could be no Chess without an arbitrary sets of conventions, there could be no empirical science without a set of conventions, institutions, and norms, all of which is mostly historically arbitrary. So the primacy of the word is irrefutable, and only through the word can any system like empirical science--and empirical description--come into being (ergo why humans have science and monkeys do not even though we presumably share the same empirical world governed by the same empirical regularities).

    As far as the "rationalist" and "objective reality" crowd, Descartes specifically excluded the mind from the net of scientific reification. Because the framework which reifies the other in this sense transcends the other, the mental categories by which the physical world is reified must transcend the physical world, or you get self-reference. [The map can't be at the same time the territory.] But the mind can't be excluded, ergo any attempt to describe the totality will blow up in some version of the liars paradox or Godel's Incompleteness theorem--which is why sophisticated people embrace the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Ergo, the world transcends any system of reification, and therefore we cannot arrive at some ultimate explanation of the world, so we must embrace that the most fundamental truths could only be revealed through something like unknowing.

    future comments in this vein need to be more concise to be published. can’t tolerate so much prolix elaboration on common sense as metaphysical profundity.

    • Replies: @Tulip
    Fine. At least you seem to identify my remarks with common sense. That's getting off lightly with Razib Khan.

    What do you mean that "statistics" protects against "post-modernism"?

    I suspect the basis of philosophical problems stems largely from attempting to talk about a world of contrasts with a language of dualism. [Besides appeals to transcendence to get around the problem of self-reference, of course. This, in turn, provokes a skepticism, and the whole thing goes round and round in circles.]

    , @Tulip
    Summary:

    Most conventional philosophical accounts offered by naturalists/empiricists fail, because they remain rooted in Cartesian assumptions (subjective/objective split, natural/supernatural split, etc.) while rejecting the Cartesian mind, which is the transcendent Archimedean point which holds Cartesianism together. In other words, they try to do "Descartes" without the Cartesian mind, without recognizing the logical dependency of the entire system on the mind.

    The naturalists seem to be the enemies of the "Post-Modernists", but I find to the extent the "Post-Moderns" are rooted in historicism and language, they generally have more insights, even if they are wrong. Hume, Hamann, Herder--there is the thread.
  11. Postmodernism as an intellectual exercise is easy to dismiss. But as a tool of political battle it has to be taken serious.

    This might be a bit of a digression since I’ll be referring more to progressivism than postmodernism, but a moment of clarity regarding progressivim came when I asked a progressive coworker if she did any charity work. Her very quick reply was “I vote.” I think few conservatives, moderates or even liberals would reply similarly, while many progressives would. Reading a bit about progressive history, it seems that many look at society as the most important unit on which to impart change rather than individuals or groups, so it makes sense they have more institutional sway than any other group even though self described progressives are a minority. It’s not that politics is a valuable tool of politics for progressives, but that it’s the tool, par excellence, for them. So I’m a bit perplexed on how to stop them. Like yourself, I’m a conservative (although a qualitatively different kind – I’m religious), but conservatives don’t think like progressives, so they’ll always underutilize political power relative to progressives. To actually beat progressives in the political arena, conservatives would have to become less conservative to an extent – they’ll have to focus less on the relational, the local and traditional and more on the political. But perhaps only by doing that will they be able to salvage anything.

    • Replies: @iffen
    Use the power of the state and government to ameliorate the condition of the lower strata = progressive.

    Let it play out = conservative

    Epiphytes as a part of liberal democracy = libertarians.
  12. I also now believe it is ultimately far more dangerous than before, because it is a serious intellectual tool that can deconstruct much that is precious and rare in the world. In particular, the Enlightenment project, which in many ways goes against the world historical grain.

    There are many sci-fi stories in which a future society devolves and is no longer able to understand the mechanisms and technological artifacts left from an earlier era.

    Your comment made me think that this is happening, but the archaic technology is Enlightment thinking, and the defunct mechanism is our freedom.

  13. The first question in the debates tonight should obviously be: “To both candidates: what are your preferred pronouns?”

  14. @Pseudonymic Handle
    Is It Better To Be Mixed Race? Yes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZZAckwJHsQ

    Mixed-race relationships are making us taller and smarter...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3146070/Mixed-race-relationships-making-taller-smarter-Children-born-genetically-diverse-parents-intelligent-ancestors.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis#Humans

    Mixed race children tend to have more mental health problems.

    • Replies: @John Massey
    Cite?

    What you've said is directly contradicted by the Youtube video posted at #1.
  15. You might find Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern an interesting appendix to your reading. He posits post-modernism as a sort of hyper-modernism or a play on modernism. Your description above—postmodernism takes “binaries” and turns them into “uniform distributions”—is somewhat similar to Latour’s synthesis:

    The postmoderns retain the modern framework but disperse the elements that the modernizers grouped together in a well-ordered cluster. (47)

    Today, however, postmodernism is passe in the humanities. “The binaries have been deconstructed,” as a professor once told me: it’s time to reconstruct new epistemologies predicated on “embodied” (read: female and non-white) ways of knowing. An honest-to-god postmodernist could be talked to; that’s why Chomsky and Foucault could have an interesting debate; they retained some common ground, even if the nature of that ground was the very thing they were debating. The new guard, in contrast, has declared the ground obliterated, and anyone using it is probably a Trump supporter.

    The digital humanities is the last bastion of Enlightenment thinking on this side of academia, especially among “distant readers” like Franco Moretti and Matthew Jockers.

  16. Aside from statistics, mathematics and hard sciences have leapfrogged postmodern critique in other areas. Role of the observer (measurement) in relativity and quantum theories and recognition of limits of formal languages (Godel) are examples. I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    yes.
    , @Seth Largo
    . I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general. The whole point is to critique the dominant way of knowing, i.e., science and its industrial applications.

    Postmodern skepticism applied to the humanities is simply the humanities. Even the crustiest, most conservative Harold Bloom types recognize that if you want to understand, e.g., Mayan mythology then you damn well better learn Mayan "ways of knowing" and not just layer Western concepts willy-nilly onto non-Western culture---better yet, find a Mayan to write about his mythology for you.
  17. @Slon
    Aside from statistics, mathematics and hard sciences have leapfrogged postmodern critique in other areas. Role of the observer (measurement) in relativity and quantum theories and recognition of limits of formal languages (Godel) are examples. I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to "soft" discourses such as humanities.

    I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    yes.

  18. @MRAtt
    Postmodernism as an intellectual exercise is easy to dismiss. But as a tool of political battle it has to be taken serious.

    This might be a bit of a digression since I'll be referring more to progressivism than postmodernism, but a moment of clarity regarding progressivim came when I asked a progressive coworker if she did any charity work. Her very quick reply was "I vote." I think few conservatives, moderates or even liberals would reply similarly, while many progressives would. Reading a bit about progressive history, it seems that many look at society as the most important unit on which to impart change rather than individuals or groups, so it makes sense they have more institutional sway than any other group even though self described progressives are a minority. It's not that politics is a valuable tool of politics for progressives, but that it's the tool, par excellence, for them. So I'm a bit perplexed on how to stop them. Like yourself, I'm a conservative (although a qualitatively different kind - I'm religious), but conservatives don't think like progressives, so they'll always underutilize political power relative to progressives. To actually beat progressives in the political arena, conservatives would have to become less conservative to an extent - they'll have to focus less on the relational, the local and traditional and more on the political. But perhaps only by doing that will they be able to salvage anything.

    Use the power of the state and government to ameliorate the condition of the lower strata = progressive.

    Let it play out = conservative

    Epiphytes as a part of liberal democracy = libertarians.

  19. It should be noted that “Post-Modernism”, as a label, was never embraced by the two greatest thinkers associated with the movement (or, at least the two thinkers who are most associated with the movement, in the eyes of external observers). Obviously, I’m referring to Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Only Jean-François Lyotard made actual use of the term, in a huge way.

    Nearly all of the late 20th century French thinkers, whose work was quickly appropriated into the American Humanities, are best described as “Post-Structuralist”. This term is much more reflective of their intellectual context. I mean, at the end of the day, this line of work was created in dialogue with Claude Lévi-Strauss’ ethnology, Louis Althusser’s vision of political theory, and Jacques Lacan’s linguistic reworking of the Freudian unconscious. In fact, Derrida and Foucault’s work could be described as a reaction to that sort of Weltanschauung (anyone who studies European philosophy knows that I am simplifying, and being very reductive. A lot more complexity is involved, many more intellectual influences, and a richer theoretical context. I am constrained by the need for some sort of concision).

    Regardless, many people outside philosophy do not seem to understand the dynamics at play with this “school”. Very serious misunderstandings consistently appear (although, there was no real unity among these thinkers, so nothing warrants the use of “school”, but again, I have to simplify).

    I think it would be fitting of me to recommend some accessible works, to provide an introduction to this stream of philosophy. A great place to start would be “Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics“, by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Of Foucault’s own work, “The Archaeology of Language” is quite accessible. I can not think of any proper secondary text on Derrida. So, his own “Voice and Phenomenon: Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl’s Phenomenology” is a good introduction.

    Although, if I am not mistaken, Razib, you do not want to understand the philosophical nitty-gritty of “Post-Modernism”, in depth, right? Rather, you’d just like to have a clear picture of how it figures, genetically, in the popular activism/intellectual culture currently seen on college campuses across the USA, yes?

    If so, I think that might constitute a waste of time. Post-modernism, actual “Critical Theory”, intellectual Marxism, etc, these aren’t huge factors in the sort of stuff that pisses you off about the student left in America. The whole “identity politics” dynamic, the talk of safe spaces, the Leftist slant of cultural anthropology and sociology, all of this is rooted in something much deeper within American academia.

    I’m sure you know that already, you’re a well read man, but I’m just putting it out there for everyone else.

    Anyway, for those who love philosophy, the work of Derrida and Foucault was of deep significance. I use the past tense, because contemporary Continental philosophy has gone in some very different directions. Even Gilles Deleuze is now construed as belonging to an older era. What we see now is a resurgence in realism, and a renewed interest in ontological questions, rather than epistemology and political theory.

    Shockingly, there is even an extremely scientistic bent at play, in some work by philosophers working in the contemporary Continental tradition. Ray Brassier’s unrelenting Nihilism, predicated on a very intense form of materialism and reductionism, comes to mind.

    So again, the whole Derrida/Foucault/Lyotard/Baudrillard stuff isn’t even very relevant in that tradition of philosophy anymore. Instead, it’s adaptation into literary theory persists far more strongly. But even there, very un-Post-Modern thinkers like Deluze, Lacan, and Badiou are now considered more “fresh” and “interesting”.

    Basically, I’m just saying that not much insight is going to be gained from examining this body of work, if you’re merely trying to figure out your “enemies”.

    On the other hand, if intellectual history interests you, and you have an open mind towards examining a philosophical school that differs radically from your own vision, that’s totally different. Many insights, of considerable interest, are to be gained. If so, I hope you have fun.

    Also, Hegel is some trippy stuff, great that you’re looking into him. A guy who had huge influence on both the far left, and the far right.

    • Replies: @jroll
    Agree that post-structuralist is a better descriptor of the good stuff. Sounds cooler too.

    "Structuralist" could be a nice insult to SJW types if it could catch on as a meme. Fits with their rigid racist patriarchal white supremacy worldview.

    Disagree that this stuff has no value. SJW leftists are "interpretation dumb" (they confuse sign and signified, present and past, themselves and society) and could use an infusion of creative criticism.
  20. Is there a good resource to look up the climate in different parts of the world during the time span relevant to human evolution?

    • Replies: @John Massey
    Try this. It's pretty broad brush, but better than nothing.

    http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc.html#maps
    , @ohwilleke
    There are good sources, but they are pretty scattered.

    I have a science blog (Dispatches From Turtle Island) at which I have tagged 76 post in the past five years or so touching on climate, most of which contain reference to studies of paleoclimate in time periods relevant to human evolution, prehistory and history (some more directly than others). At least a third of the posts with that tag are primarily or significantly related to this topic.

    http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com/search/label/climate

    Paleobotanist Dorian Fuller has a frequently updated website that often has new studies on the topic.

    And some of the categories in Science Daily have myriad press releases relevant to the topic.

    Wikipedia has a good one page summary of many of the major points that is well sourced and is a good way to provide context before going deeper.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history
  21. I think postmodernism has been scapegoated as identical to the Frankfurt school as both being cultural marxism and the intellectual origin of social justice warriors.

    Except for Marcuse I don’t see much influence of either and the postmoderns like Foucault rejected marxism.

    It’s multiculturalists like Said with Orientalism and the post-colonialists/culture studies crowd that resemble SJWs (as opposed to “theorists” like Zizek–no SJW).*

    Butler is perhaps an SJW, but her Foucault inspired take on drag and gender performance/self-creation is different from the gender identity self-discovery dominant today.

    I think the science-warriors (notice the name similarity with SJWs) attacks on the postmoderns that influenced the New Atheists led partially to their vulnerability to SJWs. (Remember Dawkins attempt to turn the Atheist movement into the new civil rights movement.)

    Since then they’ve retreated to Utilitarianism (a problem on its own) or HBD.

    Would like to see a revival of pragmatist thinking.

    *For example conservative writer Heather Mac Donald studied deconstruction at Yale before the takeover of the multiculturalists (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfRgvfruhPo).

    (The ordinary language people like Searle influenced by late Wittgenstein have their charms as well. They’ve no love for postmoderns but I suspect it’s a small differences thing.

  22. I agree that there is an affinity of Postmodernism to elite intellectual religious revival.

    I suspect some figures in Islamic thought have appropriated (some of) Postmodernism’s ideas.

    Ali Shariati was called the ideologue of the Iranian Revolution, and was influenced by Third Worldism in Paris (Fanon, Sartre) in the early 60s. I am not sure but I suspect he also imbibed a bit of Postmodernism too since it was “in the air” in Paris at the time.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Shariati

    I doubt Mohammed Arkoun would be classed a full postmodernist, but again with a Parisian education in the 60s, I suspect a bit of it entered his thinking.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammed_Arkoun

    These are just tentative hypotheses of mine.

  23. @Commentator
    It should be noted that "Post-Modernism", as a label, was never embraced by the two greatest thinkers associated with the movement (or, at least the two thinkers who are most associated with the movement, in the eyes of external observers). Obviously, I'm referring to Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Only Jean-François Lyotard made actual use of the term, in a huge way.

    Nearly all of the late 20th century French thinkers, whose work was quickly appropriated into the American Humanities, are best described as "Post-Structuralist". This term is much more reflective of their intellectual context. I mean, at the end of the day, this line of work was created in dialogue with Claude Lévi-Strauss' ethnology, Louis Althusser's vision of political theory, and Jacques Lacan's linguistic reworking of the Freudian unconscious. In fact, Derrida and Foucault's work could be described as a reaction to that sort of Weltanschauung (anyone who studies European philosophy knows that I am simplifying, and being very reductive. A lot more complexity is involved, many more intellectual influences, and a richer theoretical context. I am constrained by the need for some sort of concision).

    Regardless, many people outside philosophy do not seem to understand the dynamics at play with this "school". Very serious misunderstandings consistently appear (although, there was no real unity among these thinkers, so nothing warrants the use of "school", but again, I have to simplify).

    I think it would be fitting of me to recommend some accessible works, to provide an introduction to this stream of philosophy. A great place to start would be "Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics", by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Of Foucault's own work, "The Archaeology of Language" is quite accessible. I can not think of any proper secondary text on Derrida. So, his own "Voice and Phenomenon: Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl's Phenomenology" is a good introduction.

    Although, if I am not mistaken, Razib, you do not want to understand the philosophical nitty-gritty of "Post-Modernism", in depth, right? Rather, you'd just like to have a clear picture of how it figures, genetically, in the popular activism/intellectual culture currently seen on college campuses across the USA, yes?

    If so, I think that might constitute a waste of time. Post-modernism, actual "Critical Theory", intellectual Marxism, etc, these aren't huge factors in the sort of stuff that pisses you off about the student left in America. The whole "identity politics" dynamic, the talk of safe spaces, the Leftist slant of cultural anthropology and sociology, all of this is rooted in something much deeper within American academia.

    I'm sure you know that already, you're a well read man, but I'm just putting it out there for everyone else.

    Anyway, for those who love philosophy, the work of Derrida and Foucault was of deep significance. I use the past tense, because contemporary Continental philosophy has gone in some very different directions. Even Gilles Deleuze is now construed as belonging to an older era. What we see now is a resurgence in realism, and a renewed interest in ontological questions, rather than epistemology and political theory.

    Shockingly, there is even an extremely scientistic bent at play, in some work by philosophers working in the contemporary Continental tradition. Ray Brassier's unrelenting Nihilism, predicated on a very intense form of materialism and reductionism, comes to mind.

    So again, the whole Derrida/Foucault/Lyotard/Baudrillard stuff isn't even very relevant in that tradition of philosophy anymore. Instead, it's adaptation into literary theory persists far more strongly. But even there, very un-Post-Modern thinkers like Deluze, Lacan, and Badiou are now considered more "fresh" and "interesting".

    Basically, I'm just saying that not much insight is going to be gained from examining this body of work, if you're merely trying to figure out your "enemies".

    On the other hand, if intellectual history interests you, and you have an open mind towards examining a philosophical school that differs radically from your own vision, that's totally different. Many insights, of considerable interest, are to be gained. If so, I hope you have fun.

    Also, Hegel is some trippy stuff, great that you're looking into him. A guy who had huge influence on both the far left, and the far right.

    Agree that post-structuralist is a better descriptor of the good stuff. Sounds cooler too.

    “Structuralist” could be a nice insult to SJW types if it could catch on as a meme. Fits with their rigid racist patriarchal white supremacy worldview.

    Disagree that this stuff has no value. SJW leftists are “interpretation dumb” (they confuse sign and signified, present and past, themselves and society) and could use an infusion of creative criticism.

  24. I found Mark Lilla’s “The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics” to be a useful approach to the question of why so many postmodernist intellectuals were attracted to totalitarianism.

    While the book is highly readable, a tl;dr version might be Chesterton’s famous (possibly apocryphal) quote “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

    I might offer a more Nietzschean variant – Having rejected the Apollonian, the postmodernists necessarily fling themselves into the embrace of the Dionysian.

  25. I think a good dose of Aristotelianism is a good antidote for all this:

    1. It is important not to confuse essence with the properties that flow from that essence. In once case, such properties can necessarily flow from the essence, as a sense of humour flows from being a rational being, even though having a sense of humour is not an essential part of being a rational being. But there can also be statistical tendencies that flow from the essence. A woman is a human being whose body is oriented towards providing their offspring with nourishment directly from her body. That’s what the essence of a woman is, and it is as absolute as any Platonist could want. But the fact that women tend to be kinder than men does not mean that being kind is part of a woman’s essence. Women tend to get a suite of personality traits that helps them produce viable offspring via providing nourishment directly from their body, but there are various such personality suites that will do the job, most, but not all, of which include kindness. However, all such personality suites will very likely be quite different from the personality suites of men.
    2. It is important to distinguish between natural substances (such as, for example, elements, and compounds, but also living things) and artifacts and instruments. The former contain their own telos or final cause, but the latter have it imposed from without, making their existence much more unstable. For example, a tree branch of a certain shape can become a club if used as a club, and is a club only because it is so used. It is an instrument. If you actively shape the tree branch, it becomes an artifact. There are lots of things like this, which are what they are, only because their telos is imposed from without, usually by human beings. But it is a serious philosophical mistake to attribute the radical contingency of artifacts and instruments to natural substances.

    —–

    This is, of course, simplified for combox format, but I think you get the general idea.

  26. I will comment further, as time permits, but if you want to know what various obscure philosophers, including recent postmodern thinkers, are actually saying, Routledge has been doing yeoman’s work. Their Routledge Critical Thinkers series is very good for the various pomo people.

    If you’re going to do Hegel, the Routledge introduction by Paul Beiser has been highly recommended all around. Routledge also have specific guides to the Phenomenology of Spirit by Robert Stern and to the Philosophy of Right by Dudley Knowles. (There are good alternative guides from Bloomsbury from Stephen Houlgate and David Rose respectively.)

    I generally don’t recommend diving into any of these people without looking at secondary literature, no matter how smart you are.

  27. Relevant from 2001 on post-structuralist Julia Kristeva calling PC totalitarian http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/14/arts/correcting-her-idea-of-politically-correct.html

    Off topic have been wondering what role the internet is playing in the current politics.

    Nate Silver in his book talks about the printing press leading to nationalism, the decline of Latin, and reformation mass propaganda. Thinking something similar may be happening now as people are exposed to old ideas for the first time.

    Perhaps the sixties unrest was in part a result of people being the first in their family going to college.

    The postmoderns were probably ahead of their time as the rise of the internet’s cultural dominance and the decline of traditional warfare is probably much more of a post-modern culture than the cold war era, which I view as the golden age of civilization.

    Thinking as compared to the printing press we’re getting something similar but at a much faster pace. Medium is the message or whatever.

  28. @Harold
    Is there a good resource to look up the climate in different parts of the world during the time span relevant to human evolution?

    Try this. It’s pretty broad brush, but better than nothing.

    http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc.html#maps

    • Replies: @Harold
    Thanks, much appreciated. That looks helpful.
  29. @Pseudonymic Handle
    Mixed race children tend to have more mental health problems.

    Cite?

    What you’ve said is directly contradicted by the Youtube video posted at #1.

  30. @John Massey
    Try this. It's pretty broad brush, but better than nothing.

    http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc.html#maps

    Thanks, much appreciated. That looks helpful.

  31. As always, I differ with Razib about the character of “the Enlightenment” (to use an admittedly very broad term).

    Far from Postmodernism being simply opposed to the Enlightenment, the former is the latter “gone mad,” as Stanley Rosen suggested. That is, Postmodernism takes over crucial assumptions of the Enlightenment, in particular the claim that reason is “the slave of the passions” rather than a source of truth as such, and extends them to the nth degree.

    The thinkers of the Enlightenment may have had grand plans for “reason,” and, as Razib notes, these have cashed out in modern science and technology, but this is not because the Enlightenment valued reason especially highly. On the contrary, the philosophical (and religious) tradition valued reason more highly, but as a guide to Ultimate Truth rather than an instrument to move matter and get rich.

    By “lowering the bar” for reason and changing the goal, the Enlightenment made possible the modern world, which is built on the passions to master nature and enjoy a life of comfort, but it also paved the way for anti-rationalist movements like Postmodernism (note “post,” not “anti”). “Real rationalism,” or philosophical realism, is the only true alternative to all kinds of relativism (and the only proper foundation for science, I would say, with its concern for “truth”), and that one doesn’t really get from the Enlightenment (or at least not from its most popular and powerful exponents).

    • Replies: @Thursday
    Agreed. For example, if you take Humean ideas about causation seriously, science (or really any kind of knowledge) is obliterated. The problem runs through the entirety of modern philosophy and can't just be blamed on a few radicals towards the end.
  32. Seems to me that if you’re going to write a book called The Twilight of Atheism, wouldn’t you want to first check whether atheism is actually declining? It isn’t…

  33. @Slon
    Aside from statistics, mathematics and hard sciences have leapfrogged postmodern critique in other areas. Role of the observer (measurement) in relativity and quantum theories and recognition of limits of formal languages (Godel) are examples. I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to "soft" discourses such as humanities.

    . I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general. The whole point is to critique the dominant way of knowing, i.e., science and its industrial applications.

    Postmodern skepticism applied to the humanities is simply the humanities. Even the crustiest, most conservative Harold Bloom types recognize that if you want to understand, e.g., Mayan mythology then you damn well better learn Mayan “ways of knowing” and not just layer Western concepts willy-nilly onto non-Western culture—better yet, find a Mayan to write about his mythology for you.

    • Replies: @Sean

    The ‘thinkers of the Enlightenment’, MacIntyre observes, ‘set out to replace what they took to be discredited traditional and superstitious forms of morality by a kind of secular morality that would be entitled to secure the assent of any rational person’, attempting to ‘formulate moral principles to which no adequately reflective rational person could refuse allegiance’. Instead what the Enlightenment ‘bequeathed to its cultural heirs were a mutually antagonistic moral stances, each claiming to have achieved this kind of rational justification, but each also disputing this claim on the part of its rivals’. https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/a-book-in-progress-part-18/
     
    Liberalism is itself a tradition.

    They act as though all past philosophers are contributing to the same argument, seeking timeless and eternal moral truths. But this is wrong, because philosophies are in large part derived from sociologies and are specific to particular societies: "Morality which is no particular society's morality is to be found nowhere" (After Virtue 265-266; see also The MacIntyre Reader 258). Although philosophers can and should learn from the work of earlier philosophers, this is not their main source of ideas when they are doing their job properly. What philosophers primarily do is study the actual world in which they live – its politics, traditions, social organization, families and so on – and try to find the ideas and values that must underlie those institutions and practices... http://www.iep.utm.edu/p-macint/
     
    , @Slon
    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general.

    That is total nonsense. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    [please me more polite -Razib]

  34. @Razib Khan
    future comments in this vein need to be more concise to be published. can't tolerate so much prolix elaboration on common sense as metaphysical profundity.

    Fine. At least you seem to identify my remarks with common sense. That’s getting off lightly with Razib Khan.

    What do you mean that “statistics” protects against “post-modernism”?

    I suspect the basis of philosophical problems stems largely from attempting to talk about a world of contrasts with a language of dualism. [Besides appeals to transcendence to get around the problem of self-reference, of course. This, in turn, provokes a skepticism, and the whole thing goes round and round in circles.]

  35. @braziliananon
    As a Brazilian (a country which the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I can't vouch for that, depends on who you're mixing with, and many mixed raced people are not nice looking, not by far; sure, some are good looking, but the majority it's not, trust me.

    As a Brazilian (a country where the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I would like to remind braziliananon that:

    1) Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001125637.htm)

    2) Malnourishment and a lot of other external conditions can negatively affect some of the most acclaimed “universals” markers of beauty, as body symmetry:

    ” In contrast, random deviations from bilateral symmetry—known as fluctuating asymmetry (Van Valen, 1962)—are indicative of the nonnormal distribution of morphological traits. Fluctuating asymmetry has been shown to increase with exposure to pollutants, parasites, malnutrition, prenatal maternal alcohol consumption, and other adverse conditions during development.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485838/)

    Taken together I think that these two caveats would explain most of your perceptions about the mixed country that is Brazil. Most of the traits you don´t like probably are due to 1) personal preferences and 2) effects of poverty etc.

    For example, personally I´m not attracted by the average chinese or japanese woman. And you can´t of course make the case that they are “mixed” in the sense that brazilians are. But I have really a thing about “nisseis” _ the daughters of the considerable emigré population of japanese origin here in Brazil. Most of all when they are “mixed” with our native stock, what generally make them more curvy.

    So maybe you´re putting a little bit of prejudice before the rational appreciation of the issue.

    • Replies: @Sean
    re. 2

    http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/08/31/072751 Minor dysmorphisms are typically featured in the craniofacial area of SZ patients. Indeed, facial asymmetries, particularly those arising along the midfacial junctions ... are reproducibly found in these patients … Additionally, ear shape abnormalities ... are usually observed in SZ phenotypes … Some of these features ... are considered as pathognomonic for SZ in the differential diagnosis of psychotic conditions … Anomalies in the mouth (e.g. decreased tooth size, abnormal palate shape and size) are also commonly observed in schizophrenics … Likewise, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with shorter and wider palates … Some studies suggested a significant association between minor physical anomalies and the early onset of the disease … More generally, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with smaller lower-facial heights ... In addition, patients suffering from psychotic disorders tend to feature a more brachycephalic (i.e. shorter) skull … Brachycephaly is a frequent skull shape found in domesticated dog and cat breeds.
     
    , @braziliananon
    1) No, beauty doesn't lie on eyes of the beholder, humans have somewhat the same preference in relation to beauty, with slight changes from culture to culture.

    2) Malnourishment isn't the case on the majority of Brazilians, don't give me that, only in some poor rural areas (like some cities in the northeast) or favelas, that we have cases of constant malnourishment, from childhood to adulthood.

    As I said, depends on whom you're mixing with. Sure, some handsome Japanese guy married a hot morena, and give a birth to a hot mixed raced half Japaneses, half morena girl, with very curvy body, but you know that, also it's not the majority, and you know that too, just in case you didn't know, people of the same race or ethnicity, tend to marry each other, yellow tend to marry yellow, as white tend to marry white, pardo with pardo, the statistics don't lie, here, from IBGE (Brazilian institute of geography and statistics):

    http://noticias.bol.uol.com.br/brasil/2012/10/17/brasileiros-casam-se-mais-com-pessoas-de-mesma-etnia-e-instrucao-diz-ibge.jhtm

  36. @Razib Khan
    future comments in this vein need to be more concise to be published. can't tolerate so much prolix elaboration on common sense as metaphysical profundity.

    Summary:

    Most conventional philosophical accounts offered by naturalists/empiricists fail, because they remain rooted in Cartesian assumptions (subjective/objective split, natural/supernatural split, etc.) while rejecting the Cartesian mind, which is the transcendent Archimedean point which holds Cartesianism together. In other words, they try to do “Descartes” without the Cartesian mind, without recognizing the logical dependency of the entire system on the mind.

    The naturalists seem to be the enemies of the “Post-Modernists”, but I find to the extent the “Post-Moderns” are rooted in historicism and language, they generally have more insights, even if they are wrong. Hume, Hamann, Herder–there is the thread.

    • Replies: @Thursday
    Right. The problems go back at least to Descartes. It's interesting how hardcore materialists like Alex Rosenberg or the Churchlands end up undermining knowledge at least as much as Derrida, Foucault et al.
  37. @Njal
    As always, I differ with Razib about the character of "the Enlightenment" (to use an admittedly very broad term).

    Far from Postmodernism being simply opposed to the Enlightenment, the former is the latter "gone mad," as Stanley Rosen suggested. That is, Postmodernism takes over crucial assumptions of the Enlightenment, in particular the claim that reason is "the slave of the passions" rather than a source of truth as such, and extends them to the nth degree.

    The thinkers of the Enlightenment may have had grand plans for "reason," and, as Razib notes, these have cashed out in modern science and technology, but this is not because the Enlightenment valued reason especially highly. On the contrary, the philosophical (and religious) tradition valued reason more highly, but as a guide to Ultimate Truth rather than an instrument to move matter and get rich.

    By "lowering the bar" for reason and changing the goal, the Enlightenment made possible the modern world, which is built on the passions to master nature and enjoy a life of comfort, but it also paved the way for anti-rationalist movements like Postmodernism (note "post," not "anti"). "Real rationalism," or philosophical realism, is the only true alternative to all kinds of relativism (and the only proper foundation for science, I would say, with its concern for "truth"), and that one doesn't really get from the Enlightenment (or at least not from its most popular and powerful exponents).

    Agreed. For example, if you take Humean ideas about causation seriously, science (or really any kind of knowledge) is obliterated. The problem runs through the entirety of modern philosophy and can’t just be blamed on a few radicals towards the end.

  38. Here are some recommendations for anyone interested in how Aristotle fits into contemporary philosophy of science.

    You can’t go wrong with Jonathan Barnes’ Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction. It’s hyper-basic, but will get you thinking in the right framework. For more substantial introductions, I’d recommend Jonathan Lear’s Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, and the Routledge introduction from Christopher Shields.

    If you’re going to engage with the original works, I’d recommend the Clarendon Aristotle series with commentaries. There are a few works of Aristotle that can be read profitably by the layperson without recourse to secondary lit, such as the Ethics, the Politics, the Poetics, the Rhetoric, but for most of the rest you’re going to need a guide. Aristotle is not a particularly obscure writer, but he is highly technical. If you’re going to read De Anima, the Metaphysics, the Categories and so on at all profitably, you’re going to have to pony up your 60 bucks, per volume.

    Now, once you’ve got a decent grasp of where Aristotle is coming from you can look at how the tradition engages with contemporary debates. I’d recommend Edward Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics, William A. Wallace’s The Modeling of Nature, and David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism. These authors are all hardcore Catholics, but this is mostly technical philosophy with only an indirect bearing on religion. I don’t think anyone here will be annoyed with these books.

    I’ve recommended the Clarendon series, but most readers here could go right from Barnes/Lear/Shields on to Feser/Wallace/Oderberg. Feser engages with a lot of contemporary philosophers of science, so his book doubles as a good bibliographic source. As a bonus, you might want to throw in a historical work, like E.A. Burtt’s classic The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science.

    For anyone who is intersted, there are a lot of resources in these works for a defense of scientific realism.

    • Replies: @Sean
    There was a big bang at the begining of the universe, which is true and would be true even if no one believed it, or if no beings capable of comprehending such concepts had ever evolved.

    But some things, would not be true if no one believed in them. Faith itself is a matter of faith.

  39. @Tulip
    Summary:

    Most conventional philosophical accounts offered by naturalists/empiricists fail, because they remain rooted in Cartesian assumptions (subjective/objective split, natural/supernatural split, etc.) while rejecting the Cartesian mind, which is the transcendent Archimedean point which holds Cartesianism together. In other words, they try to do "Descartes" without the Cartesian mind, without recognizing the logical dependency of the entire system on the mind.

    The naturalists seem to be the enemies of the "Post-Modernists", but I find to the extent the "Post-Moderns" are rooted in historicism and language, they generally have more insights, even if they are wrong. Hume, Hamann, Herder--there is the thread.

    Right. The problems go back at least to Descartes. It’s interesting how hardcore materialists like Alex Rosenberg or the Churchlands end up undermining knowledge at least as much as Derrida, Foucault et al.

  40. @Seth Largo
    . I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general. The whole point is to critique the dominant way of knowing, i.e., science and its industrial applications.

    Postmodern skepticism applied to the humanities is simply the humanities. Even the crustiest, most conservative Harold Bloom types recognize that if you want to understand, e.g., Mayan mythology then you damn well better learn Mayan "ways of knowing" and not just layer Western concepts willy-nilly onto non-Western culture---better yet, find a Mayan to write about his mythology for you.

    The ‘thinkers of the Enlightenment’, MacIntyre observes, ‘set out to replace what they took to be discredited traditional and superstitious forms of morality by a kind of secular morality that would be entitled to secure the assent of any rational person’, attempting to ‘formulate moral principles to which no adequately reflective rational person could refuse allegiance’. Instead what the Enlightenment ‘bequeathed to its cultural heirs were a mutually antagonistic moral stances, each claiming to have achieved this kind of rational justification, but each also disputing this claim on the part of its rivals’. https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/a-book-in-progress-part-18/

    Liberalism is itself a tradition.

    They act as though all past philosophers are contributing to the same argument, seeking timeless and eternal moral truths. But this is wrong, because philosophies are in large part derived from sociologies and are specific to particular societies: “Morality which is no particular society’s morality is to be found nowhere” (After Virtue 265-266; see also The MacIntyre Reader 258). Although philosophers can and should learn from the work of earlier philosophers, this is not their main source of ideas when they are doing their job properly. What philosophers primarily do is study the actual world in which they live – its politics, traditions, social organization, families and so on – and try to find the ideas and values that must underlie those institutions and practices… http://www.iep.utm.edu/p-macint/

  41. @Thursday
    Here are some recommendations for anyone interested in how Aristotle fits into contemporary philosophy of science.

    You can't go wrong with Jonathan Barnes' Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction. It's hyper-basic, but will get you thinking in the right framework. For more substantial introductions, I'd recommend Jonathan Lear's Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, and the Routledge introduction from Christopher Shields.

    If you're going to engage with the original works, I'd recommend the Clarendon Aristotle series with commentaries. There are a few works of Aristotle that can be read profitably by the layperson without recourse to secondary lit, such as the Ethics, the Politics, the Poetics, the Rhetoric, but for most of the rest you're going to need a guide. Aristotle is not a particularly obscure writer, but he is highly technical. If you're going to read De Anima, the Metaphysics, the Categories and so on at all profitably, you're going to have to pony up your 60 bucks, per volume.

    Now, once you've got a decent grasp of where Aristotle is coming from you can look at how the tradition engages with contemporary debates. I'd recommend Edward Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics, William A. Wallace's The Modeling of Nature, and David Oderberg's Real Essentialism. These authors are all hardcore Catholics, but this is mostly technical philosophy with only an indirect bearing on religion. I don't think anyone here will be annoyed with these books.

    I've recommended the Clarendon series, but most readers here could go right from Barnes/Lear/Shields on to Feser/Wallace/Oderberg. Feser engages with a lot of contemporary philosophers of science, so his book doubles as a good bibliographic source. As a bonus, you might want to throw in a historical work, like E.A. Burtt's classic The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science.

    For anyone who is intersted, there are a lot of resources in these works for a defense of scientific realism.

    There was a big bang at the begining of the universe, which is true and would be true even if no one believed it, or if no beings capable of comprehending such concepts had ever evolved.

    But some things, would not be true if no one believed in them. Faith itself is a matter of faith.

  42. @Centrosphere
    As a Brazilian (a country where the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I would like to remind braziliananon that:

    1) Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001125637.htm)

    2) Malnourishment and a lot of other external conditions can negatively affect some of the most acclaimed "universals" markers of beauty, as body symmetry:

    " In contrast, random deviations from bilateral symmetry—known as fluctuating asymmetry (Van Valen, 1962)—are indicative of the nonnormal distribution of morphological traits. Fluctuating asymmetry has been shown to increase with exposure to pollutants, parasites, malnutrition, prenatal maternal alcohol consumption, and other adverse conditions during development." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485838/)
     
    Taken together I think that these two caveats would explain most of your perceptions about the mixed country that is Brazil. Most of the traits you don´t like probably are due to 1) personal preferences and 2) effects of poverty etc.

    For example, personally I´m not attracted by the average chinese or japanese woman. And you can´t of course make the case that they are "mixed" in the sense that brazilians are. But I have really a thing about "nisseis" _ the daughters of the considerable emigré population of japanese origin here in Brazil. Most of all when they are "mixed" with our native stock, what generally make them more curvy.

    So maybe you´re putting a little bit of prejudice before the rational appreciation of the issue.

    re. 2

    http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/08/31/072751 Minor dysmorphisms are typically featured in the craniofacial area of SZ patients. Indeed, facial asymmetries, particularly those arising along the midfacial junctions … are reproducibly found in these patients … Additionally, ear shape abnormalities … are usually observed in SZ phenotypes … Some of these features … are considered as pathognomonic for SZ in the differential diagnosis of psychotic conditions … Anomalies in the mouth (e.g. decreased tooth size, abnormal palate shape and size) are also commonly observed in schizophrenics … Likewise, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with shorter and wider palates … Some studies suggested a significant association between minor physical anomalies and the early onset of the disease … More generally, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with smaller lower-facial heights … In addition, patients suffering from psychotic disorders tend to feature a more brachycephalic (i.e. shorter) skull … Brachycephaly is a frequent skull shape found in domesticated dog and cat breeds.

    • Replies: @centrosphere
    Sean,

    Can´t see the immediate relevance.

    Of course a plethora of genetic or congenital pathologies can cause body asymmetry and I didn´t deny it. But I think those reasons are more likely to be important in developed countries. In countries as Brazil, where malnourishment is still a concern and was still more prevalent one or two decades ago, and sanitation (with the associate problems of infectious diseases (re:zika) and parasitosis) is poor, probably this is not the main problem.
  43. @Centrosphere
    As a Brazilian (a country where the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I would like to remind braziliananon that:

    1) Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001125637.htm)

    2) Malnourishment and a lot of other external conditions can negatively affect some of the most acclaimed "universals" markers of beauty, as body symmetry:

    " In contrast, random deviations from bilateral symmetry—known as fluctuating asymmetry (Van Valen, 1962)—are indicative of the nonnormal distribution of morphological traits. Fluctuating asymmetry has been shown to increase with exposure to pollutants, parasites, malnutrition, prenatal maternal alcohol consumption, and other adverse conditions during development." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485838/)
     
    Taken together I think that these two caveats would explain most of your perceptions about the mixed country that is Brazil. Most of the traits you don´t like probably are due to 1) personal preferences and 2) effects of poverty etc.

    For example, personally I´m not attracted by the average chinese or japanese woman. And you can´t of course make the case that they are "mixed" in the sense that brazilians are. But I have really a thing about "nisseis" _ the daughters of the considerable emigré population of japanese origin here in Brazil. Most of all when they are "mixed" with our native stock, what generally make them more curvy.

    So maybe you´re putting a little bit of prejudice before the rational appreciation of the issue.

    1) No, beauty doesn’t lie on eyes of the beholder, humans have somewhat the same preference in relation to beauty, with slight changes from culture to culture.

    2) Malnourishment isn’t the case on the majority of Brazilians, don’t give me that, only in some poor rural areas (like some cities in the northeast) or favelas, that we have cases of constant malnourishment, from childhood to adulthood.

    As I said, depends on whom you’re mixing with. Sure, some handsome Japanese guy married a hot morena, and give a birth to a hot mixed raced half Japaneses, half morena girl, with very curvy body, but you know that, also it’s not the majority, and you know that too, just in case you didn’t know, people of the same race or ethnicity, tend to marry each other, yellow tend to marry yellow, as white tend to marry white, pardo with pardo, the statistics don’t lie, here, from IBGE (Brazilian institute of geography and statistics):

    http://noticias.bol.uol.com.br/brasil/2012/10/17/brasileiros-casam-se-mais-com-pessoas-de-mesma-etnia-e-instrucao-diz-ibge.jhtm

    • Replies: @RCB
    Re "beauty in eye of beholder". It's semantics. Obviously the statement is true in the sense that not everyone ranks others the same on beauty. Compare this to, say, height, about which there's not much room for disagreement. Everyone agrees Shaq is taller than Peter Dinklage. But put two celebrities next to each other and there will be disagreement about who is most attractive. Hence by definition Beauty is subjective.

    It can still be true (and is, I believe) that average beauty standards across groups can still be quite similar.
    , @Centrosphere
    1) it´s easy to see that beauty is relative. Not only across countries but also across time (look at european paintures for example). Nowadays porn is a great example also, if you have the curiosity to compare. An admitidely anedoctal but convincing display is given here:

    "Some designers in North, South, and Central American countries produced an exaggerated hourglass figure," the Fractl team said. "Others in European and Asian nations chose to render her so thin that her estimated BMI, according to a survey we conducted, would fall under or dangerously close to [underweight]."

    https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/perceptions-of-perfection/?utm_source=affiliatewindow&utm_medium=affiliate

    2) as I said before, the eradication of famine is relatively recent phenomenon in Brazil. It putatively initiated in 1996 with the economic stabilization that increased the income of families, and gained more impulse post-2003 with "bolsa familia" and other subsidies to the poor.

    "In recent years, Brazil has experienced one of the most impressive declines in child malnutrition anywhere in the developing world. According to a comparison of estimates from the Demographic Health Surveys program in probabilistic samples of Brazilian children under five years of age in 1996 and 2006-2007, severe forms of malnutrition, as indicated by a sharp disproportion between weight and height, were virtually eliminated throughout the country, including the Northeast Region, where previously there was still a relevant prevalence of such types of malnutrition. "

    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0102-311X2009000500001&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en

    Do the math: someone born in 1996 is twenty years old now, so we still have ample stocks of people with sequels from malnutrition. And 1996 was only the beginning of the process.

  44. @Seth Largo
    . I do see value in postmodern critique when it is applied to “soft” discourses such as humanities.

    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general. The whole point is to critique the dominant way of knowing, i.e., science and its industrial applications.

    Postmodern skepticism applied to the humanities is simply the humanities. Even the crustiest, most conservative Harold Bloom types recognize that if you want to understand, e.g., Mayan mythology then you damn well better learn Mayan "ways of knowing" and not just layer Western concepts willy-nilly onto non-Western culture---better yet, find a Mayan to write about his mythology for you.

    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general.

    That is total nonsense. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    [please me more polite -Razib]

    • Replies: @Slon
    Fair enough, I apologize for getting riled up. Frustrating to read outlandish agenda-driven statements though. Far more ink spilt critiquing the humanities than sciences, by orders of magnitude. Just on Plato alone...
    , @Seth Largo
    I have degrees in literature, rhetoric, and linguistics. And I'm a humanities professor. But yeah, I have no idea what I'm talking about. You win.
  45. @Pseudonymic Handle
    Is It Better To Be Mixed Race? Yes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZZAckwJHsQ

    Mixed-race relationships are making us taller and smarter...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3146070/Mixed-race-relationships-making-taller-smarter-Children-born-genetically-diverse-parents-intelligent-ancestors.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis#Humans

    Hybrid vigor doesn’t apply to humans as we are already heterozygous at .776, correct me if I’m wrong Razib.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    we don't know. i'm skeptical. the real thing is masking of deleterious alleles, not heterosis.

    we're not het on .7 or .8. most of our genome isn't variable. you're talking about SNPs that are very poly
  46. @Slon
    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general.

    That is total nonsense. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    [please me more polite -Razib]

    Fair enough, I apologize for getting riled up. Frustrating to read outlandish agenda-driven statements though. Far more ink spilt critiquing the humanities than sciences, by orders of magnitude. Just on Plato alone…

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i got it. i'm skeptical of the assertion with less knowledge than you.
    , @Seth Largo
    Your reference to Plato tells me that we're each talking about a very different context. When I said that postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities, I meant the humanities as they exist today. If by "humanities" you mean everything and anything going back even before Cicero's humanitas, then yes, obviously, postmodernists turn their critique against "the humanities."
  47. @Slon
    Fair enough, I apologize for getting riled up. Frustrating to read outlandish agenda-driven statements though. Far more ink spilt critiquing the humanities than sciences, by orders of magnitude. Just on Plato alone...

    i got it. i’m skeptical of the assertion with less knowledge than you.

  48. @RaceRealist88
    Hybrid vigor doesn't apply to humans as we are already heterozygous at .776, correct me if I'm wrong Razib.

    we don’t know. i’m skeptical. the real thing is masking of deleterious alleles, not heterosis.

    we’re not het on .7 or .8. most of our genome isn’t variable. you’re talking about SNPs that are very poly

  49. Quick question that google don’t know but who better than you I can’t imagine. Please indulge me. According to the ancestry.com results I just got, I am 66 percent Irish, and maybe more, if my 27 percent “Europe West” includes some Irish outlaws. And, if my 4 percent from “Iberian Peninsula” is the way they say 4 percent Basque, well that’s as good as Irish, since they were them, making me an even 70 (By the name game I’ve always said I’m three quarters Irish.) So my question is, being a fourth generation American, would you say that Irish percentage of mine is much above the mean for fourth generation Americans who claim Irish Ancestry, or much above the mean for any European ancestry Americans popularly claim primarily? (I guess it probably wouldn’t be above the Boston Irish mean, but I’m not from Boston.) I ask because the stupid ancestry.com commercials (God they could be so much better!) they suggest you’re likely in for a surprise, which makes me think I am more Irish than most Irish Americans, which I admit would be a point of pride and mean something important to me, because most of them don’t know the Irish Lore like I do, in fact, I’ve already added to that lore in a way my people will remember when its all said and done, by digging up a date that a made a certain poem mean a lot more— Saints and Scholars my friend, Saints and Scholars. (Seriously I would profoundly appreciate if you would indulge my indulgence of this open thread by bothering you by even asking this personal question. But I do think other readers would be interested if you have a guesstimate in mind.)

    Now to quibble. I think that tidbit from Phillip Johnson was a nice catch on your part. But lets speak very frankly, in plain and simple terms, because you know I have my blind spots and brilliant oversights. Postmodernism called science an ideology, and that’s exactly what the creationists want to hear. Ergo, Postmodernism as a tool can possibly unmake the “secular world.” Now see, you just don’t want to give the Creationists any credit. That’s where the danger lies bucko, not with miserable Postmodernists, but an argument from the faithful about evidence that just ain’t there. Read Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. How’s that for a fuckin subtitle eh?

    “I’m going back to Hegel.” Lol I mean when you just state the enterprise flat like that it sounds well it sounds like your puttin on them heavy boots and readying a torch for the labyrinth. Good Luck. But, speaking of right-wing Frankfurters, I would just read Paul Gottfried’s book on Hegel first.

  50. @braziliananon
    1) No, beauty doesn't lie on eyes of the beholder, humans have somewhat the same preference in relation to beauty, with slight changes from culture to culture.

    2) Malnourishment isn't the case on the majority of Brazilians, don't give me that, only in some poor rural areas (like some cities in the northeast) or favelas, that we have cases of constant malnourishment, from childhood to adulthood.

    As I said, depends on whom you're mixing with. Sure, some handsome Japanese guy married a hot morena, and give a birth to a hot mixed raced half Japaneses, half morena girl, with very curvy body, but you know that, also it's not the majority, and you know that too, just in case you didn't know, people of the same race or ethnicity, tend to marry each other, yellow tend to marry yellow, as white tend to marry white, pardo with pardo, the statistics don't lie, here, from IBGE (Brazilian institute of geography and statistics):

    http://noticias.bol.uol.com.br/brasil/2012/10/17/brasileiros-casam-se-mais-com-pessoas-de-mesma-etnia-e-instrucao-diz-ibge.jhtm

    Re “beauty in eye of beholder”. It’s semantics. Obviously the statement is true in the sense that not everyone ranks others the same on beauty. Compare this to, say, height, about which there’s not much room for disagreement. Everyone agrees Shaq is taller than Peter Dinklage. But put two celebrities next to each other and there will be disagreement about who is most attractive. Hence by definition Beauty is subjective.

    It can still be true (and is, I believe) that average beauty standards across groups can still be quite similar.

  51. @Sean
    re. 2

    http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/08/31/072751 Minor dysmorphisms are typically featured in the craniofacial area of SZ patients. Indeed, facial asymmetries, particularly those arising along the midfacial junctions ... are reproducibly found in these patients … Additionally, ear shape abnormalities ... are usually observed in SZ phenotypes … Some of these features ... are considered as pathognomonic for SZ in the differential diagnosis of psychotic conditions … Anomalies in the mouth (e.g. decreased tooth size, abnormal palate shape and size) are also commonly observed in schizophrenics … Likewise, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with shorter and wider palates … Some studies suggested a significant association between minor physical anomalies and the early onset of the disease … More generally, the odds of having a psychotic disorder seem to be increased in people with smaller lower-facial heights ... In addition, patients suffering from psychotic disorders tend to feature a more brachycephalic (i.e. shorter) skull … Brachycephaly is a frequent skull shape found in domesticated dog and cat breeds.
     

    Sean,

    Can´t see the immediate relevance.

    Of course a plethora of genetic or congenital pathologies can cause body asymmetry and I didn´t deny it. But I think those reasons are more likely to be important in developed countries. In countries as Brazil, where malnourishment is still a concern and was still more prevalent one or two decades ago, and sanitation (with the associate problems of infectious diseases (re:zika) and parasitosis) is poor, probably this is not the main problem.

    • Replies: @Sean
    Baudrillard said Americans may have no identity but they have wonderful teeth. Yet for all the expensive dentistry in the US, and poor nutrition in Brazil, I would say Brazilians have nicer smiles than Americans.
  52. @braziliananon
    1) No, beauty doesn't lie on eyes of the beholder, humans have somewhat the same preference in relation to beauty, with slight changes from culture to culture.

    2) Malnourishment isn't the case on the majority of Brazilians, don't give me that, only in some poor rural areas (like some cities in the northeast) or favelas, that we have cases of constant malnourishment, from childhood to adulthood.

    As I said, depends on whom you're mixing with. Sure, some handsome Japanese guy married a hot morena, and give a birth to a hot mixed raced half Japaneses, half morena girl, with very curvy body, but you know that, also it's not the majority, and you know that too, just in case you didn't know, people of the same race or ethnicity, tend to marry each other, yellow tend to marry yellow, as white tend to marry white, pardo with pardo, the statistics don't lie, here, from IBGE (Brazilian institute of geography and statistics):

    http://noticias.bol.uol.com.br/brasil/2012/10/17/brasileiros-casam-se-mais-com-pessoas-de-mesma-etnia-e-instrucao-diz-ibge.jhtm

    1) it´s easy to see that beauty is relative. Not only across countries but also across time (look at european paintures for example). Nowadays porn is a great example also, if you have the curiosity to compare. An admitidely anedoctal but convincing display is given here:

    “Some designers in North, South, and Central American countries produced an exaggerated hourglass figure,” the Fractl team said. “Others in European and Asian nations chose to render her so thin that her estimated BMI, according to a survey we conducted, would fall under or dangerously close to [underweight].”

    https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/perceptions-of-perfection/?utm_source=affiliatewindow&utm_medium=affiliate

    2) as I said before, the eradication of famine is relatively recent phenomenon in Brazil. It putatively initiated in 1996 with the economic stabilization that increased the income of families, and gained more impulse post-2003 with “bolsa familia” and other subsidies to the poor.

    “In recent years, Brazil has experienced one of the most impressive declines in child malnutrition anywhere in the developing world. According to a comparison of estimates from the Demographic Health Surveys program in probabilistic samples of Brazilian children under five years of age in 1996 and 2006-2007, severe forms of malnutrition, as indicated by a sharp disproportion between weight and height, were virtually eliminated throughout the country, including the Northeast Region, where previously there was still a relevant prevalence of such types of malnutrition. ”

    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0102-311X2009000500001&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en

    Do the math: someone born in 1996 is twenty years old now, so we still have ample stocks of people with sequels from malnutrition. And 1996 was only the beginning of the process.

  53. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False

    A provocative subtitle, but a better and less inflammatory one would have been Mind and Cosmos: Why You Can’t Get Mind From Matter, which gets his point across better. The other subtitle gives the impression that he’d denying common descent, natural selection and/or ev psych, which he’s not.

  54. @Slon
    But postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities in general.

    That is total nonsense. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    [please me more polite -Razib]

    I have degrees in literature, rhetoric, and linguistics. And I’m a humanities professor. But yeah, I have no idea what I’m talking about. You win.

  55. @Slon
    Fair enough, I apologize for getting riled up. Frustrating to read outlandish agenda-driven statements though. Far more ink spilt critiquing the humanities than sciences, by orders of magnitude. Just on Plato alone...

    Your reference to Plato tells me that we’re each talking about a very different context. When I said that postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities, I meant the humanities as they exist today. If by “humanities” you mean everything and anything going back even before Cicero’s humanitas, then yes, obviously, postmodernists turn their critique against “the humanities.”

    • Replies: @omarali50
    Turning it against themselves is the crux of the problem. Most postmodernists (however defined, I don't think the details matter for this purpose) appear to have "leftish" political views. This means they are quick to point out how all "oppressive institutions" and historical narratives are built on sand, but are rarely, or never, equally critical of narratives from "their own side". The standards applied to their opponents cannot be met by their favored ideologies and political movements, but they are usually not subjected to the same examination.
    I have to use so some scare quotes in the above paragraph because none of these terms is rigorously defined or uncontested (and no generalization will apply to every postmodernist), but I think it can be shown that as a political weapon, postmodernist thought is almost always pressed into service against "Right wing" enemies, not against "Left wing" friends. That is fine, but it does seem that the choice is based on fashion, associations, historical accidents and other factors, not on some sort of rigorous application of postmodern insights to history (if there could be such a thing; but if not, then why any political position at all?)..
    At this level, all these thinkers appear to be destructive of civilization without being constructive of anything of lasting value.
    Then again, I guess you could cite someone like Heidegger and say he too was postmodern in some sense, but his personal choices ended up on the Right rather than the Left. Perhaps the issue is not with "postmodernism" but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes.
    I hope someone else will comment and add value to my comment :)
    , @Commentator
    @Seth Largo

    Foucault's whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn't aim at "critique", which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, "analysis" is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves "Post-Modernist", Thomas Kuhn's work is considered essential (with regard to the "hard" sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical "strong programme" in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a "conventional" thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as "chaos theory", took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole "lefty postmodernists hate science" is just a "meme" (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I'm directing this at omarali50). This: "Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes", sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don't identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can't be shoved into either the "analytic" or "continental" labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I'm just tired of people who don't really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won't be a problem. That's all.
  56. @Seth Largo
    Your reference to Plato tells me that we're each talking about a very different context. When I said that postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities, I meant the humanities as they exist today. If by "humanities" you mean everything and anything going back even before Cicero's humanitas, then yes, obviously, postmodernists turn their critique against "the humanities."

    Turning it against themselves is the crux of the problem. Most postmodernists (however defined, I don’t think the details matter for this purpose) appear to have “leftish” political views. This means they are quick to point out how all “oppressive institutions” and historical narratives are built on sand, but are rarely, or never, equally critical of narratives from “their own side”. The standards applied to their opponents cannot be met by their favored ideologies and political movements, but they are usually not subjected to the same examination.
    I have to use so some scare quotes in the above paragraph because none of these terms is rigorously defined or uncontested (and no generalization will apply to every postmodernist), but I think it can be shown that as a political weapon, postmodernist thought is almost always pressed into service against “Right wing” enemies, not against “Left wing” friends. That is fine, but it does seem that the choice is based on fashion, associations, historical accidents and other factors, not on some sort of rigorous application of postmodern insights to history (if there could be such a thing; but if not, then why any political position at all?)..
    At this level, all these thinkers appear to be destructive of civilization without being constructive of anything of lasting value.
    Then again, I guess you could cite someone like Heidegger and say he too was postmodern in some sense, but his personal choices ended up on the Right rather than the Left. Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes.
    I hope someone else will comment and add value to my comment 🙂

    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    Yes, I think you're broadly correct. Many "anti-foundationalist" folks (to use a less loaded term than post-modernist) become Platonists or empiricists when they start talking about, e.g., climate change or homosexuality. In both cases, it's the right wing who take a post-modern turn. Read the climate-skeptics; they're essentially undertaking a "sanctioned knowledge as institutional power" analysis.

    Not that such analyses are wrong per se. Knowledge is absolutely bound up with power, bias, and all the rest of it. I think the difference is between those who think it's just power and bias all the way down and those who think that---with a lot of effort and self-correcting methodical mechanisms---there yet remains real knowledge down there somewhere.
  57. @Seth Largo
    Your reference to Plato tells me that we're each talking about a very different context. When I said that postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities, I meant the humanities as they exist today. If by "humanities" you mean everything and anything going back even before Cicero's humanitas, then yes, obviously, postmodernists turn their critique against "the humanities."

    Foucault’s whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn’t aim at “critique”, which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, “analysis” is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves “Post-Modernist”, Thomas Kuhn’s work is considered essential (with regard to the “hard” sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical “strong programme” in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a “conventional” thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as “chaos theory”, took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole “lefty postmodernists hate science” is just a “meme” (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I’m directing this at omarali50). This: “Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes”, sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don’t identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can’t be shoved into either the “analytic” or “continental” labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I’m just tired of people who don’t really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won’t be a problem. That’s all.

    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    I think there are some definitional quibbles at the heart of whatever disagreement we have, and it wouldn't be particularly interesting to investigate them further. However, indulge a couple points:

    As I've read him, Foucault's criticism was concerned with medicine, psychology, the "social sciences," as you say, but not with the humanities except insofar as the social sciences adopted certain dualistc tendencies from Western philosophy. But I'll admit to not having read him since I was an undergrad.

    Second, the science-skeptical "post-modernism" I'm thinking of includes names like Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Judith Butler, Victor Vitanza . . . But then, I'm coming at this from the standpoint of literature and languages rather than from the standpoint of continental philosophy, which, I think, is really at the heart of whatever debate seems to have begun here. Depending on our emphasis, I suppose we could each rally individual authors who do or do not support the "postmodernism is anti-science" meme. Some of it is, some of it isn't. Thanks for highlighting the complications.

    Anyway, my original post was trying to agree with Slon: post-modern analysis (knowledge as a function of power, the critique of categories, etc.) is illuminating when applied in a humanistic context. My points were simply that a) many humanists had already been doing that in their own way long before anyone coined the term post-modernism, and b) today, you won't often find many academics applying that same sort of critique to their own ideologies.
    , @Sean
    No, Husserl was the one who tried to exclude the conclusions of science, by concentrating only what was present in the mind. Heidegger was simply a man of his society, time and place.
    , @omarali50
    Just to make it clear, I was not thinking of attacks on science, but of the fact that "postmodernism" (at least once it filters down to middle brow people, or even middling professors for that matter) seems to be associated with "anti-establishment" and vaguely left wing positions. And that the people using those scattered memes (i agree that they have rarely read much more than I have, i.e. very little) seem to have no self-awareness at all. The "tools" they deploy against the "dominant narrative" are never deployed against their own narrative, which seem to be a problem.
    I can see that a few people do read the original sources and do so very carefully and engage with those arguments in very sophisticated ways. All of that seems to have very little impact on society at large, one way or another, but I am open to being convinced otherwise. It is possible that I just cannot see what I do not know...
  58. @Commentator
    @Seth Largo

    Foucault's whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn't aim at "critique", which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, "analysis" is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves "Post-Modernist", Thomas Kuhn's work is considered essential (with regard to the "hard" sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical "strong programme" in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a "conventional" thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as "chaos theory", took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole "lefty postmodernists hate science" is just a "meme" (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I'm directing this at omarali50). This: "Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes", sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don't identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can't be shoved into either the "analytic" or "continental" labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I'm just tired of people who don't really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won't be a problem. That's all.

    I think there are some definitional quibbles at the heart of whatever disagreement we have, and it wouldn’t be particularly interesting to investigate them further. However, indulge a couple points:

    As I’ve read him, Foucault’s criticism was concerned with medicine, psychology, the “social sciences,” as you say, but not with the humanities except insofar as the social sciences adopted certain dualistc tendencies from Western philosophy. But I’ll admit to not having read him since I was an undergrad.

    Second, the science-skeptical “post-modernism” I’m thinking of includes names like Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Judith Butler, Victor Vitanza . . . But then, I’m coming at this from the standpoint of literature and languages rather than from the standpoint of continental philosophy, which, I think, is really at the heart of whatever debate seems to have begun here. Depending on our emphasis, I suppose we could each rally individual authors who do or do not support the “postmodernism is anti-science” meme. Some of it is, some of it isn’t. Thanks for highlighting the complications.

    Anyway, my original post was trying to agree with Slon: post-modern analysis (knowledge as a function of power, the critique of categories, etc.) is illuminating when applied in a humanistic context. My points were simply that a) many humanists had already been doing that in their own way long before anyone coined the term post-modernism, and b) today, you won’t often find many academics applying that same sort of critique to their own ideologies.

    • Replies: @Commentator
    Fair enough.
    , @Slon
    Ok, I think our disconnect is in that I used the term "humanities" as a broad shorthand for everything outside of the hard sciences (physics, genetics, etc.) So humanities would include Foucault's major subjects: philosophy, history, psychology, sociology. And yes, you have to include people like Plato, Kant, Hagel, de Saussure, and Freud in your accounting of postmodernism's concerns, otherwise you'll have practically nothing left. I would put those in the humanities corner. Again, apologies for getting ticked off.
  59. @omarali50
    Turning it against themselves is the crux of the problem. Most postmodernists (however defined, I don't think the details matter for this purpose) appear to have "leftish" political views. This means they are quick to point out how all "oppressive institutions" and historical narratives are built on sand, but are rarely, or never, equally critical of narratives from "their own side". The standards applied to their opponents cannot be met by their favored ideologies and political movements, but they are usually not subjected to the same examination.
    I have to use so some scare quotes in the above paragraph because none of these terms is rigorously defined or uncontested (and no generalization will apply to every postmodernist), but I think it can be shown that as a political weapon, postmodernist thought is almost always pressed into service against "Right wing" enemies, not against "Left wing" friends. That is fine, but it does seem that the choice is based on fashion, associations, historical accidents and other factors, not on some sort of rigorous application of postmodern insights to history (if there could be such a thing; but if not, then why any political position at all?)..
    At this level, all these thinkers appear to be destructive of civilization without being constructive of anything of lasting value.
    Then again, I guess you could cite someone like Heidegger and say he too was postmodern in some sense, but his personal choices ended up on the Right rather than the Left. Perhaps the issue is not with "postmodernism" but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes.
    I hope someone else will comment and add value to my comment :)

    Yes, I think you’re broadly correct. Many “anti-foundationalist” folks (to use a less loaded term than post-modernist) become Platonists or empiricists when they start talking about, e.g., climate change or homosexuality. In both cases, it’s the right wing who take a post-modern turn. Read the climate-skeptics; they’re essentially undertaking a “sanctioned knowledge as institutional power” analysis.

    Not that such analyses are wrong per se. Knowledge is absolutely bound up with power, bias, and all the rest of it. I think the difference is between those who think it’s just power and bias all the way down and those who think that—with a lot of effort and self-correcting methodical mechanisms—there yet remains real knowledge down there somewhere.

  60. @centrosphere
    Sean,

    Can´t see the immediate relevance.

    Of course a plethora of genetic or congenital pathologies can cause body asymmetry and I didn´t deny it. But I think those reasons are more likely to be important in developed countries. In countries as Brazil, where malnourishment is still a concern and was still more prevalent one or two decades ago, and sanitation (with the associate problems of infectious diseases (re:zika) and parasitosis) is poor, probably this is not the main problem.

    Baudrillard said Americans may have no identity but they have wonderful teeth. Yet for all the expensive dentistry in the US, and poor nutrition in Brazil, I would say Brazilians have nicer smiles than Americans.

    • Replies: @Centrosphere
    Well, that would be very difficult to ascertain.

    My impression _ again anedoctical _ is that dental health improved a lot in Brazil since I was a child (half a century ago). But I would not be able to make a fair comparision between Brazil and the USA, a country that I visited only a few times (although I lived there for a few months once).

    What I can say is that brazilians are sometimes a vain lot and the more affluent ones will spend tons of money in body improvement _ like teeth withening.

  61. @Commentator
    @Seth Largo

    Foucault's whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn't aim at "critique", which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, "analysis" is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves "Post-Modernist", Thomas Kuhn's work is considered essential (with regard to the "hard" sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical "strong programme" in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a "conventional" thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as "chaos theory", took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole "lefty postmodernists hate science" is just a "meme" (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I'm directing this at omarali50). This: "Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes", sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don't identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can't be shoved into either the "analytic" or "continental" labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I'm just tired of people who don't really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won't be a problem. That's all.

    No, Husserl was the one who tried to exclude the conclusions of science, by concentrating only what was present in the mind. Heidegger was simply a man of his society, time and place.

    • Replies: @Commentator
    That is a rather vague thing to say. I guess you might be referring to Husserl's conception of epoché/phenomenological reduction.

    If so, that's a totally different story, not what I had in mind.

    What I was getting at is this: the fact that Heidegger thought "Western" science is driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the "ontological difference", and that the mode of thinking engendered by scientific practice is deeply damaging/dangerous to human life.

    Husserl wasn't really concerned with philosophical questions of cultural/social/political import. The phenomenological reduction is about epistemology/the philosophy of human perception/human psychology, it has nothing to do with the socio-cultural implications of "Western" science and technology.

    By contrast, Heidegger was never one to shy away from politics/cultural commentary, and his distaste of science had that sort of bent.
  62. @Commentator
    @Seth Largo

    Foucault's whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn't aim at "critique", which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, "analysis" is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves "Post-Modernist", Thomas Kuhn's work is considered essential (with regard to the "hard" sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical "strong programme" in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a "conventional" thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as "chaos theory", took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole "lefty postmodernists hate science" is just a "meme" (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I'm directing this at omarali50). This: "Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes", sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don't identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can't be shoved into either the "analytic" or "continental" labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I'm just tired of people who don't really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won't be a problem. That's all.

    Just to make it clear, I was not thinking of attacks on science, but of the fact that “postmodernism” (at least once it filters down to middle brow people, or even middling professors for that matter) seems to be associated with “anti-establishment” and vaguely left wing positions. And that the people using those scattered memes (i agree that they have rarely read much more than I have, i.e. very little) seem to have no self-awareness at all. The “tools” they deploy against the “dominant narrative” are never deployed against their own narrative, which seem to be a problem.
    I can see that a few people do read the original sources and do so very carefully and engage with those arguments in very sophisticated ways. All of that seems to have very little impact on society at large, one way or another, but I am open to being convinced otherwise. It is possible that I just cannot see what I do not know…

    • Replies: @Commentator
    Honestly, I see where you're coming from. I guess most intellectual work is subjected to this sort of mutation/transformation, once it filters down to people who don't really intensively think about/read this sort of material.

    Personally, when it comes to political philosophy, I am a skeptic, via some strands I find in Nietzsche. Basically, in a secular context, I really don't think its truly possible to achieve a pragmatically effective normative consensus about political legitimacy, or at least one which is untainted by the machinations of state power itself.

    I find that deeply unsettling. In addition, reading the "political realism" literature, not to mention good old Machiavelli, has given me a very bleak perspective on political questions, in general. Hell, one doesn't even need that sort of intellectual heft to arrive at a rather fucked up conception of how society/politics/economics intersect. One simply has to open one's eyes, and observe.

    On top of that, I've read my fair share of Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss, so I understand the intellectual foundations of the far Right.

    Despite all of this though, I am a Leftist when stuff gets "real", and I like Marx (don't agree with him, not a traditional communist, but I do enjoy reading him, and I would like more socialism in the USA). So, I don't mind the viewpoints of my self-absorbed, unaware, and often annoying friends (all students), I usually share their take on practical questions of policy. But I don't like the way they lack understanding of what they speak, and their close-mindedness.

    Basically, I get what you're saying, even though we probably don't share the same views on concrete political questions.

    (Sidenote: sorry for the consecutive postings)
  63. @Seth Largo
    I think there are some definitional quibbles at the heart of whatever disagreement we have, and it wouldn't be particularly interesting to investigate them further. However, indulge a couple points:

    As I've read him, Foucault's criticism was concerned with medicine, psychology, the "social sciences," as you say, but not with the humanities except insofar as the social sciences adopted certain dualistc tendencies from Western philosophy. But I'll admit to not having read him since I was an undergrad.

    Second, the science-skeptical "post-modernism" I'm thinking of includes names like Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Judith Butler, Victor Vitanza . . . But then, I'm coming at this from the standpoint of literature and languages rather than from the standpoint of continental philosophy, which, I think, is really at the heart of whatever debate seems to have begun here. Depending on our emphasis, I suppose we could each rally individual authors who do or do not support the "postmodernism is anti-science" meme. Some of it is, some of it isn't. Thanks for highlighting the complications.

    Anyway, my original post was trying to agree with Slon: post-modern analysis (knowledge as a function of power, the critique of categories, etc.) is illuminating when applied in a humanistic context. My points were simply that a) many humanists had already been doing that in their own way long before anyone coined the term post-modernism, and b) today, you won't often find many academics applying that same sort of critique to their own ideologies.

    Fair enough.

  64. @Sean
    No, Husserl was the one who tried to exclude the conclusions of science, by concentrating only what was present in the mind. Heidegger was simply a man of his society, time and place.

    That is a rather vague thing to say. I guess you might be referring to Husserl’s conception of epoché/phenomenological reduction.

    If so, that’s a totally different story, not what I had in mind.

    What I was getting at is this: the fact that Heidegger thought “Western” science is driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the “ontological difference”, and that the mode of thinking engendered by scientific practice is deeply damaging/dangerous to human life.

    Husserl wasn’t really concerned with philosophical questions of cultural/social/political import. The phenomenological reduction is about epistemology/the philosophy of human perception/human psychology, it has nothing to do with the socio-cultural implications of “Western” science and technology.

    By contrast, Heidegger was never one to shy away from politics/cultural commentary, and his distaste of science had that sort of bent.

    • Replies: @Sean
    I was talking about Husserl's eidetic reduction as against the Empiricist (reductionalist) view (a la Hume) of things as a bundle of qualities, which is what most highly educated people subscribe to and most scientists too I should think. So Husserl was establishing the thing before the mind as the subject of philosophy, which set limits on the authority of science.

    Heidegger's main point is that there is a lot more to things than can ever be apparent in any mode of practice or theory including when seem in the light of technology, which leads to everything being assessed by particularl standard of usefulness, but he was hardly original about technology, and owed much to Ernst Junger among others. Heidegger was in his jargon ' thrown' into a certain era in which he adopted ideas about technology to make the same point he had been making all along.

    Again:

    They act as though all past philosophers are contributing to the same argument, seeking timeless and eternal moral truths. But this is wrong, because philosophies are in large part derived from sociologies and are specific to particular societies
     
  65. @omarali50
    Just to make it clear, I was not thinking of attacks on science, but of the fact that "postmodernism" (at least once it filters down to middle brow people, or even middling professors for that matter) seems to be associated with "anti-establishment" and vaguely left wing positions. And that the people using those scattered memes (i agree that they have rarely read much more than I have, i.e. very little) seem to have no self-awareness at all. The "tools" they deploy against the "dominant narrative" are never deployed against their own narrative, which seem to be a problem.
    I can see that a few people do read the original sources and do so very carefully and engage with those arguments in very sophisticated ways. All of that seems to have very little impact on society at large, one way or another, but I am open to being convinced otherwise. It is possible that I just cannot see what I do not know...

    Honestly, I see where you’re coming from. I guess most intellectual work is subjected to this sort of mutation/transformation, once it filters down to people who don’t really intensively think about/read this sort of material.

    Personally, when it comes to political philosophy, I am a skeptic, via some strands I find in Nietzsche. Basically, in a secular context, I really don’t think its truly possible to achieve a pragmatically effective normative consensus about political legitimacy, or at least one which is untainted by the machinations of state power itself.

    I find that deeply unsettling. In addition, reading the “political realism” literature, not to mention good old Machiavelli, has given me a very bleak perspective on political questions, in general. Hell, one doesn’t even need that sort of intellectual heft to arrive at a rather fucked up conception of how society/politics/economics intersect. One simply has to open one’s eyes, and observe.

    On top of that, I’ve read my fair share of Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss, so I understand the intellectual foundations of the far Right.

    Despite all of this though, I am a Leftist when stuff gets “real”, and I like Marx (don’t agree with him, not a traditional communist, but I do enjoy reading him, and I would like more socialism in the USA). So, I don’t mind the viewpoints of my self-absorbed, unaware, and often annoying friends (all students), I usually share their take on practical questions of policy. But I don’t like the way they lack understanding of what they speak, and their close-mindedness.

    Basically, I get what you’re saying, even though we probably don’t share the same views on concrete political questions.

    (Sidenote: sorry for the consecutive postings)

  66. @Sean
    Baudrillard said Americans may have no identity but they have wonderful teeth. Yet for all the expensive dentistry in the US, and poor nutrition in Brazil, I would say Brazilians have nicer smiles than Americans.

    Well, that would be very difficult to ascertain.

    My impression _ again anedoctical _ is that dental health improved a lot in Brazil since I was a child (half a century ago). But I would not be able to make a fair comparision between Brazil and the USA, a country that I visited only a few times (although I lived there for a few months once).

    What I can say is that brazilians are sometimes a vain lot and the more affluent ones will spend tons of money in body improvement _ like teeth withening.

    • Replies: @Sean
    I was not talking about non-genetic factors but rather the absence of "abnormal palate shape and size .. shorter and wider palates … and smaller lower-facial heights". Basic structure is probably better in Brazilians, from head to toe.
  67. @Commentator
    That is a rather vague thing to say. I guess you might be referring to Husserl's conception of epoché/phenomenological reduction.

    If so, that's a totally different story, not what I had in mind.

    What I was getting at is this: the fact that Heidegger thought "Western" science is driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the "ontological difference", and that the mode of thinking engendered by scientific practice is deeply damaging/dangerous to human life.

    Husserl wasn't really concerned with philosophical questions of cultural/social/political import. The phenomenological reduction is about epistemology/the philosophy of human perception/human psychology, it has nothing to do with the socio-cultural implications of "Western" science and technology.

    By contrast, Heidegger was never one to shy away from politics/cultural commentary, and his distaste of science had that sort of bent.

    I was talking about Husserl’s eidetic reduction as against the Empiricist (reductionalist) view (a la Hume) of things as a bundle of qualities, which is what most highly educated people subscribe to and most scientists too I should think. So Husserl was establishing the thing before the mind as the subject of philosophy, which set limits on the authority of science.

    Heidegger’s main point is that there is a lot more to things than can ever be apparent in any mode of practice or theory including when seem in the light of technology, which leads to everything being assessed by particularl standard of usefulness, but he was hardly original about technology, and owed much to Ernst Junger among others. Heidegger was in his jargon ‘ thrown’ into a certain era in which he adopted ideas about technology to make the same point he had been making all along.

    Again:

    They act as though all past philosophers are contributing to the same argument, seeking timeless and eternal moral truths. But this is wrong, because philosophies are in large part derived from sociologies and are specific to particular societies

  68. @Harold
    Is there a good resource to look up the climate in different parts of the world during the time span relevant to human evolution?

    There are good sources, but they are pretty scattered.

    I have a science blog (Dispatches From Turtle Island) at which I have tagged 76 post in the past five years or so touching on climate, most of which contain reference to studies of paleoclimate in time periods relevant to human evolution, prehistory and history (some more directly than others). At least a third of the posts with that tag are primarily or significantly related to this topic.

    http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com/search/label/climate

    Paleobotanist Dorian Fuller has a frequently updated website that often has new studies on the topic.

    And some of the categories in Science Daily have myriad press releases relevant to the topic.

    Wikipedia has a good one page summary of many of the major points that is well sourced and is a good way to provide context before going deeper.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history

    • Replies: @Harold
    Thank you. I will check all that out. How have I never been to your website before, when I have been reading your excellent comments for a long time?
    , @Roger Sweeny
    I checked out your links. Wow. Good stuff.
  69. @Centrosphere
    Well, that would be very difficult to ascertain.

    My impression _ again anedoctical _ is that dental health improved a lot in Brazil since I was a child (half a century ago). But I would not be able to make a fair comparision between Brazil and the USA, a country that I visited only a few times (although I lived there for a few months once).

    What I can say is that brazilians are sometimes a vain lot and the more affluent ones will spend tons of money in body improvement _ like teeth withening.

    I was not talking about non-genetic factors but rather the absence of “abnormal palate shape and size .. shorter and wider palates … and smaller lower-facial heights”. Basic structure is probably better in Brazilians, from head to toe.

  70. @Seth Largo
    I think there are some definitional quibbles at the heart of whatever disagreement we have, and it wouldn't be particularly interesting to investigate them further. However, indulge a couple points:

    As I've read him, Foucault's criticism was concerned with medicine, psychology, the "social sciences," as you say, but not with the humanities except insofar as the social sciences adopted certain dualistc tendencies from Western philosophy. But I'll admit to not having read him since I was an undergrad.

    Second, the science-skeptical "post-modernism" I'm thinking of includes names like Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Judith Butler, Victor Vitanza . . . But then, I'm coming at this from the standpoint of literature and languages rather than from the standpoint of continental philosophy, which, I think, is really at the heart of whatever debate seems to have begun here. Depending on our emphasis, I suppose we could each rally individual authors who do or do not support the "postmodernism is anti-science" meme. Some of it is, some of it isn't. Thanks for highlighting the complications.

    Anyway, my original post was trying to agree with Slon: post-modern analysis (knowledge as a function of power, the critique of categories, etc.) is illuminating when applied in a humanistic context. My points were simply that a) many humanists had already been doing that in their own way long before anyone coined the term post-modernism, and b) today, you won't often find many academics applying that same sort of critique to their own ideologies.

    Ok, I think our disconnect is in that I used the term “humanities” as a broad shorthand for everything outside of the hard sciences (physics, genetics, etc.) So humanities would include Foucault’s major subjects: philosophy, history, psychology, sociology. And yes, you have to include people like Plato, Kant, Hagel, de Saussure, and Freud in your accounting of postmodernism’s concerns, otherwise you’ll have practically nothing left. I would put those in the humanities corner. Again, apologies for getting ticked off.

  71. @ohwilleke
    There are good sources, but they are pretty scattered.

    I have a science blog (Dispatches From Turtle Island) at which I have tagged 76 post in the past five years or so touching on climate, most of which contain reference to studies of paleoclimate in time periods relevant to human evolution, prehistory and history (some more directly than others). At least a third of the posts with that tag are primarily or significantly related to this topic.

    http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com/search/label/climate

    Paleobotanist Dorian Fuller has a frequently updated website that often has new studies on the topic.

    And some of the categories in Science Daily have myriad press releases relevant to the topic.

    Wikipedia has a good one page summary of many of the major points that is well sourced and is a good way to provide context before going deeper.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history

    Thank you. I will check all that out. How have I never been to your website before, when I have been reading your excellent comments for a long time?

  72. @ohwilleke
    There are good sources, but they are pretty scattered.

    I have a science blog (Dispatches From Turtle Island) at which I have tagged 76 post in the past five years or so touching on climate, most of which contain reference to studies of paleoclimate in time periods relevant to human evolution, prehistory and history (some more directly than others). At least a third of the posts with that tag are primarily or significantly related to this topic.

    http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com/search/label/climate

    Paleobotanist Dorian Fuller has a frequently updated website that often has new studies on the topic.

    And some of the categories in Science Daily have myriad press releases relevant to the topic.

    Wikipedia has a good one page summary of many of the major points that is well sourced and is a good way to provide context before going deeper.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history

    I checked out your links. Wow. Good stuff.

  73. @braziliananon
    As a Brazilian (a country which the majority is mixed-raced, as myself), I can't vouch for that, depends on who you're mixing with, and many mixed raced people are not nice looking, not by far; sure, some are good looking, but the majority it's not, trust me.

    Let us assume an African has children with a European. Their offspring will tend to have relatively many heterozygous genes with one deleterious allele, thus sheltered from expression (given that Africans will tend to have different deleterious alleles from those common among Europeans). But if the biracial children of two such couples marry the deleterious alleles are still there, and the children of an African/European mother and African/European father will often be getting the same deleterious alleles from both parents; quite a lot of them in view of their effects having been sheltered from expression in the parents of that child making the parents more viable than the monoracial average.

  74. I read an article about Chinese Jews decades ago. Many of the kids grew up thinking they were Muslim because they didn’t eat pork, until their parents told them they were Jews. (Parents hid that until their kids were grown because that knowledge could be dangerous in Mao and immediate post-Mao era.)

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