Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Today there will be a little less Drek in Total Drek.

Howdy folks, and welcome to an extra-special edition of Total Drek. As some of you may have gathered already, I am something of a proponent of free speech. I think that the right to free expression is one of the most crucial rights that can exist in a society and that without that right, no democracy can long endure. I think it fairly obvious that I approve of free speech because daily I use this forum to turn my rather flaccid wit on some person, group, or idea that I take issue with. In the process I am frequently rather caustic, and probably unfairly so from time to time, but such is consistent with what I promised when I began my blog. If you read what I write it is either because you find it useful (Crap, I hope not) or because you find it entertaining (a more likely, if still far-fetched, possibility).

However, while I do believe in free speech, I also recognize that I post from behind a curtain of anonymity. (Now, I know you didn't think I was actually named "Drek." Where did you think my family was from? "Bullshitistan?") As such, the individuals and groups I discuss in my posts do not have the opportunity to face me squarely. I regret this, but prefer anonymity as, among other things, it allows me much greater latitude to be appropriately vague when it is advisable and possible to be so. As a consequence of this, I think it not inappropriate for me to make certain reasonable accomodations for those who wish to respond to what I write.

And so, it is with great pleasure that we embark on what I hope will be the first in a series of rebuttals from those I have discussed on this blog. Today's guest, Dr. Jim Pass, is the primary advocate for the establishment of an ASA section devoted to "Astrosociology." When he contacted me a few days ago to take issue with my thoughts on this effort, I invited him to provide me with a rebuttal to post here. I am pleased to say that he has taken me up on this offer. So, without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Dr. Jim Pass.


Astrosociology: A Necessity Rather than an Absurdity

First, let me thank Drek for this opportunity to reply to his earlier comments regarding the establishment of astrosociology as a new subfield. His offer allowing me to respond is accommodating even if the tone of his remarks was not quite so generous. (The material below consists of excerpts of a copyrighted paper currently under development). As laid out here, my response centers on two major statements (of many possibilities) pertinent to astrosociology, and reflects ongoing points of contention of those who oppose it. For the most part, my responses are on a general level.

Statement 1: The study of human activities related to space, from a sociological perspective, reflects an important undertaking.

I start with this statement due to the demeaning response that the general subject matter generates among some sociologists. Even the term "astrosociology" results in disapproving remarks by some. Critics of my basic proposal sometimes respond with jokes about Tang, "the final frontier" and "putting the ass in astrosociology" as many of you are aware. I have only one question about such critical approaches: Is this truly necessary? "Outer space" receives ridicule as well, but in sociology, the term "space" possesses several meanings. I believe it is wise to make this distinction.

In contrast, societies value space exploration. Ultimately, human beings and organizations, constituents of societies, will move further into space for cultural as well as practical reasons. (I am sure none of us favors a dystopia in our future!) A spacefaring future is a legitimate possibility. We are more likely to move into space than back into caves, humor notwithstanding. The arguments against astrosociology seem dated as we continue to move forward in our expansion into space. Current measures such as the number of human beings in space are irrelevant to the overall trend. That is, the pace of progress in space is less important than its inevitability.

It should be obvious that sociological inquiry in this area of social life is an important undertaking despite detractors. A lack of interest by particular individuals is not equivalent to the irrelevancy of an entire subfield. Other specialties are of less interest to me, yet I do not call for their removal from the discipline.

Statement 2: As a discipline, sociology inadequately covers the areas of study related to outer space.

Many oppose the establishment of astrosociology because they claim existing subfields, such as the sociology of organizations as well as science and technology, continue to cover the pertinent issues without consequence. As a first step to counter this view, permit me to list a few of the areas proposed to fall under the purview of astrosociology:

organizations in the astrosocial sector; space policy; space law; international cooperation/conflict regarding space; spacefaring future and its characteristics; cultural influences on human activities in space; impact of space sciences and technologies (including contributions to solving social problems and "spinoffs"); space advocacy and education; the roles of the state and private enterprise in space; the influence of the military; and practical astrosociology (e.g., sociologists involved in the planning of space communities and other "hands-on" efforts).

As things now stand, how many subfields are required to cover all of these areas of sociological inquiry? Is this situation truly manageable? I argue it is not.

By bringing together unorganized areas of concentration currently considered separately, with space serving as the underlying theme, astrosociology possesses the promise of allowing a single literature to develop. This new organized approach potentially provides for a greater chance to move forward at a reasonable pace. Sociologists specializing in Marxism, criminology, and all other subfields enjoy this same advantage. Unquestionably, outstanding sociological works related to space do exist, though that is not the point. The problem lies in their disorganization within the existing structure of the discipline.

Disorganization has a major consequence. Overall, the sociological study of space remains underwhelming. Only a new subfield dedicated to this area of social life can generate interest, not to mention a level of legitimacy that is clearly absent. The study of human behavior related to outer space continues to attract ridicule even though thousands of human beings work in areas related to space, and have been doing so for decades. How has the
space age affected society? How much do we really know? Respectively, the simple answers to these questions are tremendously, and not much!

While I, too, worry about the proliferation of unneeded subfields and specialties in sociology, proposals with merit that demonstrate a need for establishment must not succumb to unexamined rejection. The sociological community will ultimately decide on the intrinsic worth and necessity of astrosociology. Whether or not the establishment of astrosociology as a new subfield becomes a reality, it deserves a fair hearing, and serious consideration, without the unwarranted contempt already evident in some circles. If any subfield deserves serious consideration as we move further into the "final frontier," it is this one.

I thank you for your time and consideration of my proposal to establish astrosociology as a new subfield. I welcome your responses.


Jim Pass


Well, folks, that's it for me (Drek) today. If you have any questions or comments for Dr. Pass, please use the e-mail account he supplied above. You can also leave comments here, which I will forward to Dr. Pass, but if you choose to do so please clearly indicate that your remarks are directed to him. Or, you know, just send them directly and avoid the middle man.

Editorial Update: The original text I received from Dr. Pass contained numerous hard carriage returns. I have removed them as best I could, without destroying the intended paragraph structure, so as to ease reading. Any errors this introduced are entirely my fault.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so does this mean no more astroglide jokes?

Thursday, July 15, 2004 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Well... let's not be too hasty. I'm sure astroglide will work its way back in eventually. Probably it'll work its way back in with that smooth, even, comfortable rhythm that makes Astroglide America's preferred sexual lubricant. Astroglide: Sex will never be the same.

I have, however, said my bit about "Astrosociology."

Thursday, July 15, 2004 3:54:00 PM  
Blogger Starstuph said...

As an ASA member, I had the pleasure of receiving Dr. Pass' Astrosoc. e-mail last evening. After I followed the link to, I laughed. Really, I thought it was some kind of an elaborate joke. I read Part One of his essay, and stopped laughing. It's not funny. That it is NOT a hoax is perhaps what makes it so frigging sad. How could a sociologist seriously push for such an embarassment to the field? Being in the spotlight of fame is tempting, I suppose.

At any rate, the essay entertained me for the day. I started thinking about how cool it would be to start my very own subfield: Abnormal Sociology. (Afterall, I enjoyed my abnormal psych. class.) While courses in the sociology of deviance cover a lot of what is deemed to be "abnormal," I'm sure I could dream up a damned fine reason to support the need for abnormal soc. Hey, maybe then astrosociology could be a subfield of MY subfield! Heh.

Sunday, July 25, 2004 7:19:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

I'll tell you what- You propose abnormal soc, and not only will I... er... comment on it here, I'll even come to your information session. Sound fair?

Sunday, July 25, 2004 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd drop one in for the Doc and say that ANY field, sub-field, or "peon-field" for that matter that tries to increase the critical thinking of the forward-looking individuals in our society(present company excluded) ESPECIALLY where our place lies in the future as far as space is concerned, will be well recieved by MANY more than it is rejected by.I believe that time will tell.
Anyone who thinks,"people have been doing that (Attaching the word "astro" to something...) since the space program became fashionable (albeit briefly) in the late twentieth century. It became such a trend...", has a better grip on their "Astro-Glide" covered dork than they do on todays society and has obviously chosen a career a little (no make that a lot) too daunting for their shallow vision.
"Albeit briefly..."?
Where have you been wasting your time at Drek? From the sound of it I'd say some "Astrobar" sippin' on a "Gay Fuel" aye Princess? Your strange obsession with "Ass-jokes" suddenly doesn't seem so strange man.
And this comment truly plants your narrow-minded ass squarely in the "Lost and Found" box,"If there were genuinely something for a sociologist to study in space, I'd be the first to sign up for astronaut (See? Another great use of astro!) training."
You, a grad student? From where The Liberal School of Joint Rolling? It's not that an occasional "gibber" isn't relaxing, but if you've been a "space-nut" as long as you can remember then you must have the attention span of a refried bean. Lay off the Cheeba dude. This is The Golden Age of Astronomy Drek not Aquarius.
And this HAS to be the final nail in your intellectual coffin "Einstien". Were you even coherent when you said," There's more than enough for we scientists(I almost thought you were including yourself in that catagory for a second.)to discover in the world already. We don't have to resort to inventing more."?
Holy Shit Drek, that was deep!"We don't have to RESORT to inventing more."Your right dude, why invent anything else huh?
Hey thanks a million Drek! I haven't laughed this hard in a LONG time.I'll thank you personally the next time I hit the fast food drive-thru.
Honestly though, have a good one man.
Rich P. []
P.S. Dr. Pass really should tone down that War of the Worlds meets MAD Comics web site a touch though.

Sunday, August 01, 2004 5:28:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Rich P.,

Glad to see that you were interested enough to comment. I hope you stick around and keep interjecting your brand of wisdom on the site! God knows it gets tiring having to make fun of myself all the time. It's much more convenient to have someone else do it for me.

There isn't really a lot I want to say about your comments (seeing as how they don't really advance an argument and all) but there are just a few things I can't resist saying:

(1) In answer to your question, "albeit" means "Even though; although; notwithstanding" and "briefly" means "for a short time." So, "albeit briefly" means "although for a short time." Thanks for asking! The only truly stupid question is the one that is not asked.

(2) His name is spelled "Einstein."

(3) When you wrote, "Your right dude, why invent anything else huh?" I believe you should have written, "You're right, dude, why invent anything else, huh?" You see, "you're" is a contraction of "You are" and indicates that the person you are addressing "is" something. "Your," which frequently sounds the same, actually indicates that something belongs to the person you are addressing. So far as I know, I don't possess any "right dude," but I guess I haven't cleaned out my closet recently. There could be a "right dude" lurking back there somewhere.

(4) Commas ARE your friends.

(5) The space bar: live it, learn it, love it.


Sunday, August 01, 2004 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Starstuph said...


Could you possibly be any more hilarious than that? I just about died when I read that response, and I guess maybe it was a bad thing that I didn't keel over, 'cause Lord knows that someone out there could've used my death as a prime example of "astrosocial phenomena." "Look up dare, Jethro, she wuz once a lost soul, but now she's up an' dancin' with dem dare starz. Whaddya be thinkin' dat means for the rest of us earthly folk? I herd there's this Starman dat doesn't make maps, but he might be able to enlighten us." (It's late, sorry.)

I think that Dick, I mean, Rich must be a dear friend (or student) of Dr. Pass. There's no other explanation for all that. If he had a brain in his head, he never would've insulted your intelligence in favor of all that is, let's face it, PASStrosociological.


P.S. Still working on my working definiton for Abnormal Soc. I'll get back to you on that in about 8 years or so when I'm a Ph.D. and am looking to make a name for myself. ;)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Drek,
After all my unruliness and you still reply with a bit of tact. Nice man. And you even managed to put in a couple of sentences that answer why I came to Dr. Pass' defense in the first place. Never met the man by the way.
The quote was,"Thanks for asking! The only truly stupid question is the one that is not asked."
I couldn't have said it better myself Drek. I couldn't agree more. Even if the questions that Dr. Pass' "astrosociology" bring up have already been answered elsewhere, one here and one there, it's my opinion that having these questions re-asked in a forum devoted specifically to this line of questioning would at the very least bring answers more focused on this particular area of discussion.It's also my opinion that at the rate that our space program is advancing, I believe that this area of discussion will be very useful fairly soon. If not fairly soon, then it just means that we'll have more time to hash it over.
Who knows Drek, maybe there's a lot of people out there (myself included) that wouldn't mind discussing the issue.
Then again, maybe the Doc and I are the only two. But you can't let that stop progress can ya'?
Anyway, to me, it's just one more way to dissect the subject a bit more and that I am all for.
As for "Astro-Ho", I don't know about a definition for "dat' der'" Abnorm Soc, but she could surely use that blog as an example.It's too bad we ALL can't be intellectual giants like her. Doesn't that pseudo-highbrow wannabe' bitch know that condescension is a sign of a serious inferiority complex? You'd think she'd know that being on her way to becoming a Ph.D. as she says. Don't hold your breath. And what's that brown stuff on her nose Drek? Ass-kissers are the worst man. Ya'think?.(Now dat der's some grade A condescension!)
Anyway, thanks for the interesting dialogue bud.
Have a good one.

Saturday, August 07, 2004 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...


I certainly have no objection to the asking of questions, but that isn't what the astrosociology debate is about. The debate is about whether or not this "area" has enough questions that are not being addressed by other areas as to necessitate a new administrative unit to deal with them. I have not been convinced by Dr. Pass that this is so, and therefore I do not think he has a strong case for astrosociology as yet.

Admittedly, I am generally opposed to adding sections to the ASA unless there is a pressing need, but this is out of concern for the unity of the discipline. I rather doubt many sociologists are members of all sections, and the average number of section memberships per person is likely quite low (I don't have time right now to do an adequate search for figures) so the more sections there are, the worse the odds are that any two sociologists have one or more section memberships in common. This creates a situaton where the intellectual work done in one area may be painfully reinvented elsewhere. It draws us apart as a discipline, which is something I consider to be ultimately harmful. Certainly, there are times when a new section IS needed, but as I said, I am not sufficiently convinced that this is one of them to overcome my general dislike for new sections.

I encourage you and Jim Pass to discuss the issue, though I do not consider Astrosociology to be "progress" by definition as you seem to (i.e. "But you can't let that stop progress can ya'?"), but I don't see the real benefit to be obtained from a new section. If you would care to provide more concrete arguments in support of your opinion that, "...having these questions re-asked in a forum devoted specifically to this line of questioning would at the very least bring answers more focused on this particular area of discussion," I would certainly welcome them. That being said, your assertion above seems more or less tautological to me.

I don't want to re-argue the Astrosociology issue, since Dr. Pass and I have both had our say, I simply wanted to answer your implication that I object to asking certain questions in the first place. My objections center not around intellectual freedom, which I enourage, but bureaucratic necessity.

As for Starstuph, she's as free to post comments as you are, Rich. Whether or not I'm critical of them is entirely my choice, as you and she are free to be critical of each other. I AM sorry to hear that you care so little for her work, as her comments have thus far been at least as intelligent and well-written as your own, but you have a right to your opinion. I am unaware of any blog she may publish, however. Since you apparently do know of one, (I'm unsure what else you could be referring to by, "...she could surely use that blog as an example,") would you care to enlighten me?



Monday, August 09, 2004 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Starstuph said...

If recognizing and respecting the intelligence of another somehow equates into being an "ass kisser," then I guess I could rightly be called an ass kisser extraordinaire. Pucker up, Drek. And Rich, know that nothing you could pump out would ever come close to gracing this nose.

So, wow, I've never been called a "ho" before, but am seeing how the "astro" prefix has a way of softening the blow. No one has ever called me a "bitch" either, except for my father, so thanks, Rich for the treat. It means a lot, man. But what does your choice of language say about you? All I had to do was identify myself as a female, and BAM! It is my hope that you're not a budding sociologist.

I don't have a blog, Drek--reason being, there's so much that pisses me off on a day-to-day basis that I'd never leave my computer if I had one. It was Pass that brought me here, and maybe I was wrong to jump on the Pass-bashing-bandwagon, but I think it's pretty bad if a soc. undergrad (finishing my last semester)can find major holes in the logic of a Ph.D.'s work. Maybe people wouldn't be so anti-astrosociology if it was evident that he had thought out the basics (e.g., definitions and conceptualizations) before going public with it, but it doesn't seem as though he did.

Anyway, that's it from this condescending, brown-nosed Astro-Ho. Peace.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Ok, folks, we've all had a good time calling each other names, and I think we've all had a good say, so allow me to suggest that we let the matter rest.

Or, failing that, present actual arguments. You know, something. Much as I enjoy free speech, I'd just as soon we don't perpetuate a flame-war in my comments section. Not accusing, and not saying various parties weren't provoked, but let's leave matters be, eh?

Starstuph: Good luck finishing your degree and applying to grad school. It isn't exactly fun and games being a grad student, quite, but I've never loved a job more. Keep us all (and by "all" I mean "myself and my hypothetical, largely imaginary, fans") posted on how things go for you! If you want advice on departments, you can certainly find a lot of good people to ask through all these blogs.

I invite both of you (Starstuph and Rich) to continue to read and post on this blog. I mean, shit, if it makes you happy, who am I to stop you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 1:16:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter