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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Confessions of a Lust-Crazed Scientist

Those of you who are relatively well-read within the blogosphere (Which is a bit like referring to someone who collects and memorizes Bazooka Joe Comics as literate) are aware that Brayden was kind enough recently to post over on Pub Sociology about the misguided-idiocy of those from my home state of Florida.

As a side note: never let it be said that I am not thorough, nay, enthusiastic about providing proper citations in my blog.

What you may not have noticed is the link that he provided pointing to a recent editorial in Scientific American that deals with the proper role of science in politics, and politics in science. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find a direct link to this editorial online so, since you should all go read it, let me point you to a downloadable .pdf copy that you can use until and unless the magazine asks me to remove it. Once that happens, allow me to direct your attention to a transcribed copy posted on the blog too much and too little. Allow me also to indicate that Scientific American is a truly wonderful publication and that I recommend you all subscribe. It just so happens that I have a link that will help you do that very thing.

In any case, the editors over at Scientific American make a very interesting point in a very interesting way. Specifically, they comment that their coverage of issues has been unfair. They admit that their coverage of evolution has been "...hideously one-sided," for example, adding that:

"...the theory of common descent by natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it."

Indeed, they go on to observe that they were led astray, as feeble humans often are, by:

"...fancy fossils, their [scientists'] radiocarbon dating, and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence."

It would, however, appear that they intend to make their own point through mountains of sarcasm.

The good folks over at Scientific American are weighing in on an issue that has absorbed many of us for some time now in the guise of the debate over Public Sociology. Some of us have generally been amenable to the idea of using social science as a vehicle for political change, and they are not, I think, without a measure of support from other corners of the blogosphere.

Yes, yes, I'm aware that a sphere can't have corners. I admit it: you're very smart, you really got me there. Now shut the hell up.

Moving right along: this initiative has even become so popular that it has spawned a blog all of its own. Albeit, a decrepit, abandoned blog, but a blog nonetheless. Yet, this effort to make sociology more public has not come without criticism. Some of us are adamantly opposed to it in all of its manifestations; Mathieu Deflem being the best example. Others, such as myself, have been won over to the position that greater public exposure for social science is probably a good thing, but remain adamantly opposed to the outright politicization of sociology. I believe that Jeremy's position on this is rather similar to my own, though he is welcome to correct me on that. Still other bloggers, such as Julia over at Everyday Sociology, give us reason to believe that sociology is not the only social science currently in the throes of such debates.

I have no intention of rearguing the point here, I remain convinced of my own position on the subject, and maintain that social science should be publicized, but not politicized. Yet, what I find interesting is the way that the piece in Scientific American probably made most of us feel.

"Finally," we might almost have thought, "someone is giving the conservatives and the Bush administration what-for. That'll teach them to screw with science!"

Indeed, I certainly felt something very similar. I felt like cheering over this editorial, and its brutally sarcastic, yet effective, defense of the value of scientific standards. Yet, the deeper point is this: those of us who agreed with this editorial, those of us who deplore the efforts of the current administration to knock the teeth out of science and relegate us to the position of political-lapdogs, must also accept that we cannot politicize our own science. If we object to the teaching of Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, as I do, and if we object to the stifling of scientific facts that are inconvenient to the administration's political goals, then we must also object to politicized science that is intended to support liberal of leftist objectives. To do otherwise is nothing more or less than sour grapes.

It is one thing to discover that the facts support one side or the other, it is an entirely different thing to discover facts in order to support one side or the other. Does this mean that we must all be valueless automatons who don't care about the outcomes of our work? Oh, hell no. It just means that we must approach our science as a pursuit meant to discover fact, and not as a political club with which to beat down the opposition. And if you laughed at the editorial in Scientific American, then I daresay you agree with me.

In the title of this post I implied that I am lust-crazed, and I stand by that assertion. Yet, my lust is not (merely) for those of my romantic type, but for the product of science itself: facts and understanding. To discover the way the world really works is to empower all mankind, but to twist science to fit conclusions that have already been drawn is to impoverish us all, whether those conclusions are conservative or liberal.

The editors over at Scientific American understand that. The question now is: Do we have the courage to understand it too?


Blogger Brayden said...

And I thought this was going to be a post about the sexual promiscuity of academic life....fooled again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan Raddick said...

This would be a good time to point out that the Bible really does say that the Earth is flat.

Revelation 7:1 in the King James Version (favorite of the "religious" right):

"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree."

When will people realize that the Bible is NOT (NOT NOT NOT) a science textbook; it's a record of human understanding and experience with the Divine?

I know, that's probably a rhetorical question, but one can always hope.

Thursday, March 31, 2005 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger tina said...

Slag, religious right folks tend to prefer more approachable translations, such as the NIV.

Drek, I don't really get yours and Mr. Deflem's worry about the politicization of sociology. I don't see anyone arguing to abandon science for Marxist polemics. Am I missing this part of the debate, or is this just a hypothetical worry, or perhaps a slippery slope argument?

Thursday, March 31, 2005 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Tina,

I don't think you're missing part of the debate, I think it's that I spend more time around graduate students than you do. It seems not an uncommon view among sociologists in the larval-state that Sociology should be used as a political tool.

So, maybe this isn't a crucial debate in a disciplinary sense, but at the same time, I do feel a certain need to defend the value of objective, scientific sociology from my peers.

Friday, April 01, 2005 9:04:00 AM  

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