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Proceedings Start Against ‘Sokal Squared’ Hoax Professor (chronicle.com)
178 points by rjf72 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 295 comments



As someone in academia, I often encounter (although mostly tangentially via student politics) grievance studies or rather the mindset that goes with it.

I think about it as an asymmetric game. Most researchers have to give their all to get ahead in their field of study (speaking from a hyper-competitive STEM subfield, ymmv). Grievance scholars however have as part of their march through institutions achieved for themselves not to be subjected to similar standards. Consequentially, academic politics from the undergraduate level onwards is dominated by students from fields whose very existence depends on asserting their importance through these politics.

To us, this is academic politics with nothing to win, everything to lose. To them, it is a vicious existential fight. It is no surprise that the rational choice most people take is to try to ignore this.

However, ignoring it is not an option any more, so out of fear, people chose sides. Taking one side means having to make empty statements and then being (for the most) left in peace. Taking the other side means having career-ending events happening to you.

I am not sure how this is supposed to end but I am getting out of academia as fast as I can.


As a former academic (I left to go back to my startup) the STEM academics need to step in and do something about the whole grievance study area and the related fields it has infected.

The STEM disciplines are the heavy artillery within the university system and when they act on mass over some issue the other side folds. The problem is that the STEM disciplines rarely act on mass over something like this, but the damage to the whole university reputation is now so great that STEM is at risk of losing public support and funding. It is time to act.


In my 10+ years in academia, i‘ve seen only a few STEM people in university politics. From what I have read over the years, it’s the same in ‘real’ politics. That needs to change. We can not complain about politics when we do not take part in it. I assumed for a long time that people in universities have scientific, enlightenment, world-views. A lot of them do not. I know people in Phd programs who belive in angels and astrology. I know some who ‘do not belive in truth’. This leads to different values and different politics.


> I know some who ‘do not belive in truth’

This is such an important point that it needs to be emphasized. Large chunks of the humanities and social sciences operate under a completely different epistemology. This epistemology rejects reason. And I don't mean that as a jab, I mean it literally rejects the philosophical concept of Reason itself.

Everything is about ideology. It has at it's core the notion that there is no objective truth, and that any assertion of truth is merely the application of power of one group over another. Under this epistemology, lying, contradiction, hypocrisy, fallacy, and rhetoric are all acceptable and even encouraged.

Dig a little in to post-structuralism, postmodernism, critical theory and deconstruction and so much of the Social Justice movement will make sense. You'll start to find very little about Social Justice is about social justice.


I'm not an expert but I think this is a pretty gross mischaracterization of these philosophical bents, sort of like quoting "I think therefore I am" and going about telling people that Descartes was purely a solipsist. There's something to it, but it's not the whole truth, and in a sometimes-violent climate of name-calling (and worse) I think it can be damaging when misinformation is wielded as a club against political opponents like this.


> gross mischaracterization of these philosophical bents

Could you please explain? I don't think I misrepresented anything, but I'm open to correction. I'm no expert either, but I have explored these ideas and I feel like I gave fair summary.

> but it's not the whole truth

True, it was a summary of what I felt were the relevant points.

> misinformation

I don't think what I said is even particularly controversial, least of all misinformation. It's just not well known. Most of what I said is explicitly stated by the people who hold those beliefs.


Explain, then, the epistemology that leads someone with a degree in international relations and economics to say that being morally right is more important than being factually correct?

I agree that misinformation can be wielded like a club; I disagree that GP is the one doing so.


If you're going to throw quotes or references to news in to conversations out of nowhere at least source them.

For those playing at home: he's quoting stripped of context Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Watch the video here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/01/06/ocasio-cor...


What about that context contradicts torstenvl's interpretation?

It seems to me that saying that Washington Post fact-checkers are "more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right" is one step away from saying they are morally wrong, an example of the "post-fact" attitude that holding the right position is more important than reality.

I suppose it was inevitable that when fact-checkers became inconvenient for politicians, politicians would attack them. How long until the same thing happens in academia and STEM is attacked for caring more about facts than being "morally right" according to someone's personal definition of morality?

People who still care about facts need to stand up to those who don't, lest facts cease to matter entirely.

Edit:

In response to the claim that the WaPo is being "pedantic" and "petty", I should include their response:

> The first problem here is that Ocasio-Cortez is really minimizing her falsehoods. Four Pinocchios is not a claim that Glenn Kessler and The Post’s Fact Checker team give out for bungling the “semantics” of something. It’s when something is a blatant falsehood. It’s the worst rating you can get for a singular claim.

...

> What might be most problematic about Ocasio-Cortez’s defense, though, is the idea that people should care less about specific facts and more about being “morally right" — as if this is a zero-sum game in which the two can be weighed against one another. She’s practically saying, “Well, maybe I was wrong, but at least my cause is just.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/07/alexandri...


The point she is making is that playing 'gotcha!' with relatively minor errors (in this case misinterpreting 21 trillion dollars worth of unaccounted for income AND expenditure as merely 21 trillion dollars of cash unaccounted for) misses the greater conversation about huge military spending vs civilian spending.

Sure you can spend your life being pedantic about things and us nerds commonly fall in to that trap, but it doesn't engage the conversation in a meaningful way and is very petty.

The reason I linked it is because the larger back-and-forth with Cooper where she admits facts are important and talks about when she makes mistakes provides colour that is missing from the misleading snipped quote "being morally right is more important than facts".


It is not a minor error. It's not pedantic. It's not petty. She claimed the DoD lost more money than it has ever had, cumulatively, in its entire history, including when it was the Department of War.

If you want to have a conversation about military spending vs. civilian spending, fine. Let's have that conversation. But it's only worth having that conversation with people who will be honest and admit when they're wrong.


It's perfectly reasonable to debate whether we should spend money on the military or on healthcare, but that's not what she said.

Instead, she suggested we could pay for Medicare for All just by improving Pentagon accounting, without making sacrifices, which is false. Pointing out the difference is neither petty nor pedantic.

It's also dangerous (but all too common) for her to suggest that her position is "morally right" and anyone who questions it, anyone who supports the military, is "morally wrong" without even considering what happens to the world if Pax Americana ends.


>> How long until the same thing happens in academia and STEM is attacked for caring more about facts than being "morally right" according to someone's personal definition of morality?

Perhaps journalists have "facts", but, in the sciences, we don't have anything of the sort. We have evidence, and theories that attempt to interpret the evidence. Scientists are often accused of equivocating about the significance of their results, and changing their minds every few years, because the public expects "facts" and absolute scientific truth where all we have is best-guesses given the data, and uncertainty. And this is an expectation bred by the reporting of scientific results in the lay press.

The comment you quote above seems to be about WP fact-checkers; not scientists. I don't see why you have to go from that, to a crisis in scientific credibility. Journalists can be expected to have much less rigorous research processes than scientists. In that light, the comment you quote, that being morally right is more important than being factually correct makes sense: journalistic "fact-checking" is not going to be very accurate at all. So why not make sure it's at least ethical?

In any case, I don't see any, well, evidence of the kind of crisis you're talking about.


What is "evidence" if not "facts"?

Theory is always changing and improving, as it should, but facts are the foundation for sound theory.

AOC is arguing that what's important is that the theory be appealing, whether or not it fits the facts.

If STEM operated that way nothing would work.


Isn't that a false dichotomy?


Interestingly the field that talks most about epistemology and different epistemologies, is philosophy, which I'm pretty sure is part of the "grievance studies" bloc the authors wish to push a narrative about. It is absolutely the field you'd go into if you wanted to dissect and examine different epistemologies.

> post-structuralism, postmodernism, critical theory and deconstruction

I've worked in the pre-eminent enemy-of-the-right organisation in Australia, GetUp. I also am/was a postgrad philosopher. I can confidently say I've not heard a single left-wing activist talk about any of those 4 areas in my time working at that organisation, or, truly, in any other activist context.

Additionally, to read these four areas and to then claim that they form the basis of "identity politics" demonstrates a fundamental misreading. Perhaps this misreading is a motivated one.


"I can confidently say I've not heard a single left-wing activist talk about any of those 4 areas in my time working at that organisation, or, truly, in any other activist context."

I've mostly heard these things discussed on Reddit and YouTube because of Jordan Peterson. I've heard postmodernism discussed by a professional counseller but nobody else I've ever talked to. I find it intriguing the intensity which people fight beliefs that seemingly few people believe or have even heard of.

I do find epistemology a very interesting subject in the modern day though. I've heard arguments in Canada about how traditional native forms of knowledge should be acknowledged to be as legitimate as science. People aren't proposing this merely as a thought experiment they want things like oral tradition to hold weight in the court system. They feel that a lack of scientific evidence about possible harms from say natural resource development is being used as grounds to harm the ecology of areas in spite of the warnings and precautions of oral traditions. Epistemology is becoming very relevant politically here in these parts yet it seems to be a subject that both myself and the public at large is uneducated about.


I'd be interested to hear more about this - but in the past its certainly true that indigenous myths were seen as useless to science. There are several examples of natural events and disasters being correlated with myths retold in indigenous oral histories.

You're right to point to Mr. Peterson regarding these postmodernism complaints. A succinct summary is that he claims in a movement called "postmodern neo-marxism". Marxism is a modernism movement, the phrase itself is already a contradiction. And yeah, almost no activists even know about postmodernism.


I can't find the resources I was looking at but here's one paper on the subject

https://cirl.ca/files/cirl/david_laidlaw-en.pdf

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge DOES have weight in the Canadian legal system just not very much especially in the lower courts. A point bought up in the context of using it in the courts is - isn't oral tradition fundamentally built on hearsay?


It is a super interesting jurisprudential question, because legal systems are typically objective in part, but also rely on some idea of what a "reasonable person" would consider factual or reasonable. It stands to reason then, that under a native epistemology, it is reasonable for oral tradition aka hearsay to be given legal weight - when under the modern tradition we wouldn't. It is probably worth wondering if we'd consider aboriginals to have no knowledge if we took a hardline view that all hearsay was not knowledge. I think that's a pretty counterintuitive conclusion, so I think there must be some credit given to knowledge in a system with no written record. And, the next question that comes to my mind anyhow is what would it be like if nothing was considered knowledge unless it was written down? This isn't even currently the case in our modern tradition, given that witnesses and memories are still considered to have at least some weight.


A couple of questions

1. How big is GetUp here in Australia? How many full time staff?

2. How can you be a postgrad philosopher in both the present and past tense?


1. The information you seek... is found in the first Google result.

2. Counter-question: Is it possible to simultaneously hold a post-graduate degree, and be studying one?


1. I would prefer to hear the answer from someone with personal knowledge as not everything you read on Google is true.

2. Yes, but that was not my question.


Ok, and ok.


I had previously associated that with the right wing partisan media like Fox News and infowars. Surprised to hear that this may be relevant in academic social sciences as well


I'd say they are a little different. Infowars et al are basically just running their mouths for tabloid headlines. Academics adopting this "alternative epistemology" is more concerning. Stupid blowhards will be stupid blowhards, but the should-be bastions of clarity and reason doing this based on a rejection of all Western philosophy is concerning.


That is the whole point of 'STEM' it is to separate technical from humanities. Otherwise you would just call engineering, or biology, or math. Someone knew exactly what they were doing when they invented the word 'STEM'.


>> As a former academic (I left to go back to my startup) the STEM academics need to step in and do something about the whole grievance study area and the related fields it has infected.

Traditionally, if you think a scientific field is a bunch of nonsense, you have two options: a) ignore it, and, b) change it from within, by publishing better work yourself, etc.

But, to mobilise some kind of research police to tell other academics what to research and how to research it? I don't think so. Academics should be free to study whatever they like. If this ends up producing a load of garbage like gender studies, then so be it. They can study their irrelevant and useless subjects, so that I can study my all-important subject (AI; and I'm being sarcastic- of course my own field looks more important to me).

In any case, it's really not the job of STEM researchers, or any researchers, to police other fields. I don't see any sort of justification in what you describe.


I agree in principle and I think most researchers do, which is why grievance studies have been allowed to do whatever they wanted for so long, but grievance studies have taken it upon themselves to police other fields. "Policing" that is only self-defense at this point.


By "policing other fields" I assume you mean papers that are critical of STEM research?

The comment to which I replied calls for STEM researchers to "do something" - without specifying what. What are you suggesting should be done? Are we talking about writing papers criticising those fields, as they criticise ours, or are we talking about some more radical kind of "self-defense" like making sure their funding is cut and their research and teaching positions cancelled?


I think there's a place for departments that are concerned with ethics and social issues, but such departments are not above reproach either.

It seems sensible, at the very least, to ensure their research meets the highest standards of rationality just as they ensure STEM meets high ethical standards.

I also think it's worthwhile to ensure those departments are completely inclusive and don't exclude Christians, white men, the right wing, etc. A principled, rational approach to inclusion can help ensure that the social departments are truly representative of all the people.

Edit:

This isn't a description of grievance studies as it currently exists, rather it's an answer to the question "what should we do?" - we should advocate and lobby for something like this, I think.


>> It seems sensible, at the very least, to ensure their research meets the highest standards of rationality just as they ensure STEM meets high ethical standards.

Thank you for clarifying. But, why is that anything to do with STEM researchers, or researchers from any other field, than the fields in question? What are we, the guardians of scientific rationality? If a field is full of nonsense, it's up to its community to fix it. If they don't see the problem- well, that, too, is their problem.

You and other commenters here sound like you think a problem in, e.g., gender studies is a problem for all of academia. I really don't see why.

Edit: to clarify- I don't see how the gender studies etc fields "ensure that STEM meets high ethical standards". If such critique is really common among the humanities, at least my field is completely ignoring it. And I don't see how we can be forced to pay attention if we don't really care to.

In short- they can say what they like. Why should I care?


Because reputation spreads. The linguistics department understands that the literature department's behavior does not reflect on the chemistry department, but the electorate seems not to grasp that so easily. Since STEM depends heavily on government to fund basic research, STEM's progress can definitely be impeded by widespread mistrust of academia as a whole.


Not important, but I think you intend en masse when you write on mass (almost the same pronunciation when spoken).


Indeed, the STEM community has recently taken decisive action on mass:

https://www.bipm.org/en/news/full-stories/2018-11-si-overhau...


They should also make the decisive step and call it Grave instead of kilogram. It's unfair


Your comments here amount to bitter insulting stereotypes, without any support by evidence or analysis, or any real engagement with the people you disagree with. To an outside bystander with no stake in whatever game you are playing, this kind of uglyness largely discredits whatever point you were trying to make.

I would recommend keeping such rhetoric off of this forum. It doesn’t lead in a direction of productive conversation, and it feeds negative stereotypes about scientists/techies. There are many better venues for venting.


I am not venting at anyone, but expressing my concern over the damage being done to something I love.

I have insulted no person and I have proposed a positive agenda of having the STEM field step in to get rid of these grievance study areas from universities.

The only one insulting anyone personally is you.


“Grievance studies” (like “social justice warrior”) is a made up term whose goal is to group together a large group of people with a wide range of interests, ideological premises, methodologies, etc., and dismiss/discredit them collectively without bothering to engage with their work.

You have called these scholars unintelligent, an infection, gangrenous, an existential threat to the university, etc. who must be “gotten rid of”.

What is your definition of “insult” if this doesn’t qualify? Or are you maintaining that “no person” is insulted if you aim your vacuous broadsides at a group?

You and others supporting your position here haven’t specified precisely who you are talking about, given any concrete evidence/explanation about what you are so mad about, provided any serious analysis, etc.

It’s pretty much “those Sneetches with no stars on their bellies on them are really terrible. We Sneetches with the stars should make sure to keep them out of our hallowed institutions.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sneetches_and_Other_Storie... (Trigger warning to delicate STEM students: Dr. Seuss with his message of diversity and toleration was a famous “grievance scholar”)


I think we inhabit such different intellectual universes that I doubt we can have a civil conversation, but let’s try.

If grievance studies is just a “made up term” then how can I be insulting anyone let alone any group?

As for who I am wishing to see removed from academia it people in those areas that the hoax we are discussing exposed - "in the areas of cultural, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies." [1]

As for engaging with their work I don’t think that it is possible to have a rational discussion with people that think papers like these are worthwhile academic research [1].

Accepted and published

Helen Wilson (pseudonym) (2018). "Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon". Gender, Place & Culture: 1–20. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2018.1475346. (Retracted)

Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity) (2018). "Who Are They to Judge? Overcoming Anthropometry and a Framework for Fat Bodybuilding". Fat Studies. 7 (3): i–xiii. doi:10.1080/21604851.2018.1453622. (Retracted)

M. Smith (pseudonym) (2018). "Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use". Sexuality & Culture. 22 (4): 1542. doi:10.1007/s12119-018-9536-0. (Retracted)

Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity) (2018). "An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant". Sex Roles. 79 (11–12): 762. doi:10.1007/s11199-018-0962-0. (Retracted)

Accepted but not yet published

Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire". Hypatia.

Carol Miller (pseudonym). "Moon Meetings and the Meaning of Sisterhood: A Poetic Portrayal of Lived Feminist Spirituality". Journal of Poetry Therapy.

Maria Gonzalez, and Lisa A. Jones (pseudonyms). "Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism". Affilia.

Revise and resubmit

Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "Agency as an Elephant Test for Feminist Porn: Impacts on Male Explicit and Implicit Associations about Women in Society by Immersive Pornography Consumption". Porn Studies.

Maria Gonzalez (pseudonym). "The Progressive Stack: An Intersectional Feminist Approach to Pedagogy". Hypatia.

Stephanie Moore (pseudonym). "Super-Frankenstein and the Masculine Imaginary: Feminist Epistemology and Superintelligent Artificial Intelligence Safety Research". Feminist Theory.

Maria Gonzalez (pseudonym). "Stars, Planets, and Gender: A Framework for a Feminist Astronomy". Women's Studies International Forum.

Under review

Carol Miller (pseudonym). "Strategies for Dealing with Cisnormative Discursive Aggression in the Workplace: Disruption, Criticism, Self-Enforcement, and Collusion". Gender, Work and Organization.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievance_Studies_affair


So is a fair summary of your position: “Anyone working in roughly the same field as any journal editor who was taken in by a hoax should be fired from their job and removed from intellectual discourse, and their subjects of study should be blacklisted as inherently illegitimate”?

How far do you cast your net? You seem to want to throw out anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, literary criticism, etc. Are you going to scrap history, philosophy, political science, economics, education, religion, design, ... departments too?

Be careful what you wish for: an awful lot of scholarship in lower-tier STEM journals is also garbage, albeit typically a different flavor of garbage: unoriginal, lazy analysis, strong claims unsupported by the evidence, based on incorrect technical premises, making false advertisements of its practical applicability, massaging data in illegitimate ways, etc. (I know this because I spend a lot of time reading math and science papers in my spare time.) Even Nature and Science occasionally need to retract a paper when it turns out the author plagiarized it or falsified the data.

P.S. You didn’t need to copy/paste a wall of hoax paper titles from Wikipedia.


No. I am suggesting that I can't have a rational conversation with anyone who thinks the hoax papers are serious research. Surprisingly that is what I said.

I don't want to throw out any area of research, I want to throw out those that publish papers that pretend to be research.

I am very critical about researchers failings in the natural sciences. I am probably even more critical of bad science because it is so much more damaging.

I think the wall of hoax papers does rather get across the scale of the problem.


> I think we inhabit such different intellectual universes that I doubt we can have a civil conversation, but let’s try.

That's a pretty pompous thing to say...

>> “Grievance studies” (like “social justice warrior”) is a made up term whose goal is to group together a large group of people with a wide range of interests, ideological premises, methodologies, etc., and dismiss/discredit them collectively without bothering to engage with their work.

> If grievance studies is just a “made up term” then how can I be insulting anyone let alone any group?

You're being obtuse. It's obvious to anyone with experience of human society that terms can be made up that have very little utility beyond being insulting to some person or group.

The GP makes a valid point about the use and meaning of those terms. I can admit that even though I'm no fan of many of the ideas and attitudes that are lazily lumped under them.

> As for who I am wishing to see removed from academia it people in those areas that the hoax we are discussing exposed

Would you like a system more like the Soviet Union's, where a political authority controls who gets admitted into academia and who gets kept out?


I am suggesting academics do the removal, not some political authority.


"Grievance studies" are all rooted in conflict theory, which was developed by one of sociology's three founding fathers, Karl Marx. They are literally rooted in a single (disproven) theory that all relationships are based on power and dominance. These are the people I believe we are talking about, the ones who speak of power and oppression and some tribe or class that is in control and must be stopped in the name of virtue, subsequently going on a witch hunt finding evidence and evils wherever they look because they have been taught to use post-modern reasoning, a form of irrational reasoning meant to question logic but not be used as logic.

The tactics they use, weaponizing shame and applying post-modern reasoning/critical theory, is a Marxist socialist tactic when combined with his ideology that cuts to the core of the most fundamental human psychological need -- the need for social connection, validation (psychological or scientific), and by using reasoning that cannot be argued with rationally is disarming if not disorienting in a political fight/argument. There's even a word for when they use it against other radical socialist groups -- leapfrog paranoia -- meant to get the different intersectional factions to unite against a common enemy in order to seize power. This is all in their own words.

(sidebar - watch the documentary Hard Times at Douglas High, where an inner city debate team uses critical theory in a debate about anything to make it about racism in order to win. In other words all debates became about their narrative, and these were Baltimore kids in what was the first integrated high school, indoctrinated by their professor back in the 90s).

It's coercive and dishonest, not simply persuasive, and a form of violence. They force people to submit under threat of social disconnection, which research has shown is more brutal than physical violence because it's psychologically traumatic, permanent, and has a biological impact on the individual as well as a sociological impact. Guilt is saying you did something wrong, shame is saying you are something wrong. There is no greater authoritarian or fascist behavior, which needs to be pointed out as distinct from the field of study itself.

So if the words "grievance studies" or "social justice warrior" are offensive, perhaps a better and more historically accurate and verifiable label to apply would be to call them Marxists or conflict theorists? I don't think that would be completely fair because as pointed out, few even know what those words mean let alone the roots and origins of their own beliefs, the nature of the tactics they use, or the nature of reasoning and belief systems themselves. What word wouldn't be offensive that embodies the characteristics that define them to others? The "grievance studies" label seems scientifically accurate and neutral without any attached ideology or behaviors.

If this offends anyone it is not meant to, I take no sides in any of this and seek the value in studying all of it.


It's about as made up as the validity of studying things like "Contextualizing the Power Relations among Surfers in the Water" https://twitter.com/RealPeerReview/status/108307733196981452...

Someone used their grant to go surfing and concluded it was racist.


I've read non-scholarly writings about surfers including behavior/etiquette in the water and found it interesting. I think it would be a worthwhile subject for research. Examining human behavior in niches can be illuminating to different and broader contexts.


This has no bearing on the parent comment


Neither does this


Maybe the entire funding schemes need an overhaul? At least in Europe, i think it would be useful and productive to have a realignment of incentives and measures. And perhaps it is worth to explore a more transparent system than the current funding pipeline.

I think the trend is for people to leave academia instead of trying to do politics ; besides , a lot of people went into academia to avoid politics in the first place.


Someone's been out of academic life for a long time. Sign up for the colloquia at your former institution. STEM ain't gonna help you. They're as bad as everyone else.


I hope not as that is too depressing for words if true.


Trying to understand what was written: did you mean "en masse," not "on mass?"


Grievance scholars isn't a real label.

Judea Pearl thinks that DL is nothing more than curve fitting. Is he a greivence scholar?

In the humanities criticism plays a similar role.

A researcher criticizing slavery or modern social structures isn't completely now free of any standards.

The journal they tricked has an impact factor of 1.1, so im not impressed.

Using 'greivence scholars' is stupid, and contributes to the STEM superiority complex.


>Grievance scholars isn't a real label.

What everyone means when they refer to "grievance scholars" is the same group of people that were popularly called S.J.W. (social justice warrior) only a year ago, except with less popular baggage and a more academic tone (which might not last once popular personalities get a hold of it). I don't know what the technical requirements for something to be a real label are, but I can confidently say that it is a real group of people. As reluctant as we all are to admit it, I think the "Jordan Peterson" reactionary movement has made the jump from YouTube personalities to academia, and although they might not want to be associated with their origin story, all of the language and concepts are coming along.

>Judea Pearl thinks that DL is nothing more than curve fitting. Is he a greivence scholar?

This is a red herring, because although many off-mainstream scholars have literal grievances, their primary subject of study is not the fact that they do.


>Grievance scholars isn't a real label

I agree essentially, its a meme created to debase the humanities.

And I'm not too worried about the legitimacy of this viewpoint from within the academic community.

What is dangerous is that people who are only marginally invested form a dangerous and disingenuous opinion of large fields of research on the basis of "SJWs are annoying".

> On Pearl

Obviously a counterexample within the context of STEM. What this guy hates about the humanities is that it challenges the status quo.

The point I'm trying to make with this relates to communities and the perception of criticism.

Foulcaut would say all the humanities are capable of is to criticize modern institutions.

> I'm just talking about the modern context.

When we say "greivence studies",

This is a phrase this guy came up with, to obviously target a subset of the humanities with a left leaning adgenda (i.e. womens studies, african american studies, and whatever gay studies is called), and target a low quality journal to confirm his preheld belifes.

It's not a useful idea to try to understand discourse or solve any problem within the humanities, but an disrespectful attempt to mar whole departments.

The choice of the label Grievence scholar is deliberate. If to critically understand anything is impossible, all you're doing is complaining.

> Marring whole fields of study

This is the intended response. Not to expose flaws in the paper to publication pipeline. So people could point and laugh.

It doesn't help that STEM people love to do this anyway.

Until you bring up research fraud in their respective field, and how dumb did that made them all look.

In bio this happens all the time, most often at the top of the research hierarchy.


>I agree essentially, its a meme created to debase the humanities.

Associating "grievance studies" with the humanities might be a little too broad, after all the ultimate villain of modern critical thought (Colonial-era affluent Englishmen, probably), loved and generously funded the humanities of their day. To cast the claim in the strongest light I would say that it simply refers to the minority of people that, under the flag of helping, have made horrible accusations towards innocent people (a brief review of the literature will turn a few of these up, after all there's nothing stopping them from being published). In the most pessimistic light, "grievance studies" would just be, as you say, a conservative action word belonging right next to all of the similar liberal action words. The fact of the matter is that it is probably being used right now in both ways, by different camps.

Edit to respond to edit in the parent comment:

>but an disrespectful attempt to mar whole departments.

The claim that "whole departments" deserve to be marred is exactly what he's saying, and a lot of people agree. In this comment thread, I saw someone call the group of people (which out of respect for your argument against using the term I will not name) a "gangrenous foot." There is no word-mincing going on when someone calls whole departments gangrenous feet.


>>> Grievance scholars isn't a real label

>> Grievance scholars isn't a real label

> I agree essentially, its a meme created to debase the humanities

I think you're agreeing with the quote of your own comment.


>>Grievance scholars isn't a real label

>I agree essentially, its a meme created to debase the humanities.

Stop trying to associate humanists who care about literature and art, and social scientists who care about truth, with political activists who have academic cover.


If you think this stuff was on YouTube before it was in academia, you haven’t been paying attention to academia for very long.


You seem to be either unaware of the details of the Grievance Studies project or are deliberately minimizing it.

They didn't target one journal, they targeted multiple. 7 papers were published and 5 others were in the process of being iterated on, all taken seriously. They cited numerous existing papers to jump off of and build their ridiculous premises. Such as the idea that white students should be chained up in class to understand privilege or that obesity is great. These papers were lauded as exciting contributions and one was singled out with an award.

This work is nearly indistinguishable from real papers in the field, and was constructed to justify ridiculous conclusions, working backwards to find precedent in the fields in question. That's what makes them qualify as Grievance Studies. There are no real hypotheses being tested, it's just the academic laundering of ideology.

Do you seriously think someone could spend a year just learning the lingo of a real STEM discipline and get similarly farcical work published? With no real results required? This isn't about real sociology, linguistics, literature or psychology.

The fact that these disciplines are actively trying to break into STEM by claiming a necessity for feminist geography or astronomy really says enough. They're not happy to just sit in their own departments, doing "research" and producing an inbred body of work, they want to compel the hard sciences to take them seriously.

Remember the C+equality parody that went around a few years ago and which ticked off enough gender activists to get it banned from github? Well, they were just lampooning a real thesis someone had written, about how feminism could enrich logic and coding, because masculinity focused too much on rigid categories. This empress already has no clothes.


"Do you seriously think someone could spend a year just learning the lingo of a real STEM discipline and get similarly farcical work published?"

As a matter of fact, yes.

Google scigen, mathgen - you will find the stories of how computer-generated nonsensical papers were accepted by conferences and low quality journals.

For example: http://thatsmathematics.com/blog/archives/185


Have the authors of these non-sensical papers consulted the ethical panel, whether to conduct the experiment?

It seems to me (as was actually pointed out by the hoaxing authors themselves) that either you can take what they did seriously, or not, but not both.


I'm with Dawkins on that:

"If the members of your committee of inquiry object to the very idea of satire as a form of creative expression, they should come out honestly and say so. But to pretend that this is a matter of publishing false data is so obviously ridiculous that one cannot help suspecting an ulterior motive."

In my opinion, this equally applies to allegations of unethical experimentation.


>> Do you seriously think someone could spend a year just learning the lingo of a real STEM discipline and get similarly farcical work published?

I think it would be possible to publish a paper in one of the large machine learning venues with completely made up results and techniques, that nonetheless looked very impressive. One would have to take a bit of care to make the paper look legitimate, in other words, copy the style and conventions of a machine learning paper- but it's not that hard to do. After all, a great deal of machine learning research is, well, not quite made up, but for example there are important details left out of papers, experiments are poorly described, data is not available, results are interpreted in fanciful manner, etc etc.

Of course, such a "hoax" would be immediately condemned by the whole field because results would have to be fabricated. Then again, that is what Boghossian is accused of.


A bit of a tangent, but I suspect I'm missing the meat of the Pearl DL debate - any good links? I ask this because I also think of DL as "just" curve fitting that works extremely well for some families of input. Is that far off from the view of most DL people?


Well there are certainly heavyweight researchers who believe the DL can organize and recognize higher principles. Andrew Ng and Geoff Hinton are among them.

But DL nets can be very fragile solutions, that only curve fit to the training data.

You dont want to recognize the same picture of the puppy, you want to recognize all puppies.

Others who disagree are trying to integrate logical approaches with DL into novel archetectures.

I see it as more of pendulum moving back and forth.

But Pearl's work is in Causal Statistics and is a hard core Bayesian.

https://www.quantamagazine.org/to-build-truly-intelligent-ma...

It's not like his complaints aren't being addressed in the field, they are just not easy problems (transfer learning, world models)

In a neural analogy, you don't haven't built a brain, you have a reflex.


>> It's not like his complaints aren't being addressed in the field, they are just not easy problems (transfer learning, world models)

Machine learning is rapidly losing its ability to innovate as a field and the reason is the extreme focus on deep learning for classification- and secondarily the fact that the billions of corporate funding now attract researchers from the sciences who have no background in computer science or AI and haven't got a clue what the fuss is about that people like Perl are making.

Here it is from Hinton himself:

One big challenge the community faces is that if you want to get a paper published in machine learning now it's got to have a table in it, with all these different data sets across the top, and all these different methods along the side, and your method has to look like the best one. If it doesn’t look like that, it’s hard to get published. I don't think that's encouraging people to think about radically new ideas.

Now if you send in a paper that has a radically new idea, there's no chance in hell it will get accepted, because it's going to get some junior reviewer who doesn't understand it. Or it’s going to get a senior reviewer who's trying to review too many papers and doesn't understand it first time round and assumes it must be nonsense. Anything that makes the brain hurt is not going to get accepted. And I think that's really bad.

https://www.wired.com/story/googles-ai-guru-computers-think-...


*Geoff Hinton


The tldr from my reading is that Pearl thinks you can't ascend the "ladder of causality" with pure DL -- i.e. while you can make associations to answer simple probabilistic questions, you can't create a system that can answer questions like "if this intervention is made at t0, what is the likely outcome at t1?" or consider counterfactuals like "would my mother have lived longer if she didn't drink?"

You'd probably be best served by reading Pearl himself, his recent Book of Why is good, this much earlier paper[0] kind of lays out a few things too as for his reasoning that causal inference needs different tools. There's also some stuff in the blogosphere about an earlier dispute you might find fun, i.e. the methods of using causal inference tools. Example[1].

[0] https://ftp.cs.ucla.edu/pub/stat_ser/r284-reprint.pdf

[1] https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2009/07/05/disputes_a...


>"Judea Pearl thinks that DL is nothing more than curve fitting. Is he a greivence scholar?"

Deep learning? It is curve fitting (ie pattern recognition), is there supposed to be something wrong with that?


Only if you want to market it as 'AI'.


Humans do similar though. You know a chair when you see it, but you wouldm't easily come up with the perfect definition of a chair.


The criticism isn’t that it’s unnecessary, but that it’s insufficient: https://www.quantamagazine.org/to-build-truly-intelligent-ma....


> The journal they tricked has an impact factor of 1.1, so im not impressed.

What are the high impact journals of their fields? My understanding is that Hypatia is a leading journal.


>> However, ignoring it is not an option any more, so out of fear, people chose sides. Taking one side means having to make empty statements and then being (for the most) left in peace. Taking the other side means having career-ending events happening to you.

I don't understand- why is it not an option to ignore "it" (politics in various humanities fields) anymore? What are the "career ending events" that could happen to me, if I ignore those politics, as I do?


I think you are underestimating the damage caused by this considering the degree to which public policy is shaped by academia.


[flagged]


ACLU has had some interesting re-alignments recently, so it doesn't come out quite as tongue in cheek as perhaps intended.

https://www.vox.com/2017/8/20/16167870/aclu-hate-speech-nazi...

and this happened specifically because it was pressed to do so by people who, for the most part, subscribe to the same ideology as the editorial board of "Gender, Place and Culture" (author is a "Critical Race Studies fellow at the U.C.L.A. School of Law"):

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/opinion/aclu-first-amendm...

Then you have activist students actually shutting down ACLU presenters on the campus because “liberalism is white supremacy”:

http://flathatnews.com/2017/10/02/black-lives-matter-protest...

So yes, it's definitely affecting things.


you might be underestimating it as well.


I recommend this interview with Camille Paglia related to this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v-hIVnmUdXM


>Taking one side means having to make empty statements and then being (for the most) left in peace.

This is very similar to Soviet science. Mathematicians and physicists were obligated, unofficially of course, to put Marx or Lenin quote somewhere at the start of their article, and if they did, they were left in peace.

>Taking the other side means having career-ending events happening to you.

Yes, exactly the same.


I was surprised to learn that this was true for the “hard” sciences. In the early 30s, after Hubble published his research showing that the universe is expanding, the Big Bang Theory started to become accepted by the mainstream scientific community. However, the Soviet authorities declared (a secular fatwa) that it was against Marxist orthodoxy – apparently, on the basis that its concept of “creation” was crypto-Christian. As a result of this stifling and repressive atmosphere, George Gamow, fled the regime. He later developed the theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis (explaining how the Big Bang was responsible for the abundance of Hydrogen and Helium in the universe).


It was Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow's name on the paper ... I heard a story that they invited one of the authors just to get the A, B, G first letters of authors last names.


It was Gamow who included Bethe's the name when sending the manuscript. Alpher, who was his PhD student, was not pleased at all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpher%E2%80%93Bethe%E2%80%93G...


"Stalin and the Scientists" by Simon Ing tells a very different story.

Many Soviet scientists were severely punished when they found themselves on the wrong side of Communist dogma. Making empty statements was not possible if, for example, you disagreed with Lysenkoism. If you refused to swallow unscientific nonsense you ran a very real risk of some combination of losing your job, being shipped off to a labor camp and losing your life.

Fortunately, the Grievance Studies folks have not yet figured out how to construct a gulag.


I was speaking about late soviet union, from Khrushev to Gorbachev, so 1953-1984.


As someone who has been involved in academia and left-wing activism since the 00's, student politics has at least since then been an extremist cesspool, and looking back through history, it seems that plenty of vicious protests and movements seem to arise in universities. Increasingly, fields targeted by the hoax authors are shrinking, particularly since 2008, which seems to indicate they don't have as much influence in universities as the right-wing would enjoy thinking.


These fields do and they don't. The graduates from these areas tend to infect the university administration and wear down the other areas with guerrilla tactics of increasing wokeness.

I do agree the students are far smarter than the professors and have been increasingly staying away from these fields. They know a degree in some grievance study is not going to help them pay off their massive student loans.


> The graduates from these areas tend to infect the university administration and wear down the other areas with guerrilla tactics of increasing wokeness.

So you believe that while these departments have shrinking budgets, are the subject of continual staff cuts, and its not possible to use the degrees they give to make any money, that they still have influence over university administrations? Why aren't their tenures and salaries going up, if that's the case?


>So you believe that while these departments have shrinking budgets, are the subject of continual staff cuts, and its not possible to use the degrees they give to make any money, that they still have influence over university administrations?

Administrators don't enjoy staff and budget cuts, they work to prevent them. That's a big part of their jobs, actually. If anything, the sinking of the (as another commenter called it) "wokeness" ship is driving an even larger fraction of that group of people into administration, as their prospects elsewhere dwindle.


So you feel like these people control the university administrations, while their fields drop in importance, funding and staffing?


I'm claiming that the university administrations are beholden to external forces, and the external forces are to blame for the decline of the humanities. The university administration would rather not have any part of their university decline, obviously.


Sure, but to claim that a group looking to push an agenda, a group that wields, in the right-wing imagination, inordinate power, can't even increase recruitment into their ranks, seems counter-intuitive.


>can't even increase recruitment into their ranks

The part of the story that I'm trying to emphasize is that the "ranks," although heavily embedded in academia to the point of controlling it, are perceived enemies of the public at large. They hold power within the academic world but are disliked outside of it, and the outside forces are responsible for the declines of enrollment, and so on. True or not it's self-consistent. You could compare it to the executives at a corporation that was notorious for polluting and hiding scientific evidence: they hold power within their company, and even if the public found out what they were doing and started to react it would still be very dangerous for an employee within the company to speak out against them. You can't say, for example, "Kim Jong Un isn't really powerful because the US is sanctioning his country, so you should try to usurp his position" because although he has little power outside of his country, he has a lot of power inside of it.

To further cement the point, imagine a kidnapper defending themselves by saying, "I could not have exerted force on the victim because I am not powerful, and I can prove that I am not powerful because if I was powerful I would not be in court."


That last example is beautiful. Imagine someone in court saying "I am not strong enough to do thing x, which is easier than thing y". It sounds like in this case the judge's (your) response is "but you did y".

I have been a postgraduate in the humanities and I can honestly say I've never seen the conspiracy you seem to be alluding to.


>I have been a postgraduate in the humanities and I can honestly say I've never seen the conspiracy you seem to be alluding to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that it is happening, I'm just defending its logical consistency.

Although, I will point out that I have never seen a university where ex-science administrators outnumber ex-humanities administrators. It's quite believable that, as a result, humanities culture would be more common among administrators than science culture. As a result of that, a humanities student might think that the admins have "no culture in particular," because they have humanities culture and that's like water for a humanities student. At the same time, the scientists will be thinking, "nobody around here thinks like a scientist."


> If anything, the sinking of the (as another commenter called it) "wokeness" ship is driving an even larger fraction of that group of people into administration, as their prospects elsewhere dwindle.

>The concern, as I have often heard it repeated, is that by being so capricious, unbearable and aggressive, the personality type associated with "grievance studies" will ruin any social goodwill held towards academics, along with their reputation for being more right than the average person.

Lets be entirely honest here. You do think this conspiracy is happening.

It is just name calling and dog whistling. The reason "grievance studies" is used is that just like "sjw" and "politically correct" its an evasive term designed to be loosely defined, so people can read what they want into it.

If you say to someone "you're engaging in grievance studies" they'll say "no". That's the limit of the debate you'll have with them, by your own design.

No amount of "university cringe compilations" or videos on prageru will get anyone close to the truth of what happens on university campuses. To claim that university students in particular, the people that are most likely to be exposed to different disciplines, are broadly unable to recognize their own academic "cultures" is absurd.


Funny how some people's enemies are stupid and weak while being powerful and threatening at the same time. A superposition! Beware the fearsome Eigenliberal!


The people who control the university administration are not academics in these fields, but disproportionally graduates of these fields.


Ok so they simultaneously have an inordinate effect on other disciplines, like science, but can't hold it together enough to keep their own boat afloat?


I think you are assuming that the graduates of grevience studies have some sort of loyalty to their old professors. My personal experience is they don't.


I think you're assuming that your personal experience is representative and unbiased. Is there a particular reason you'd consider yourself an expert on "grievance studies"? Is there a comprehensive list of areas of study you'd consider members? Could we perhaps figure out what level of knowledge you have in those fields, and with the academics within them?


I used to be a STEM academic and so dealt a great deal with university administrators and to a lesser extent academics within the grievance fields. Neither I enjoyed.

I also used to sit on the university wide committee that allocated PhD scholarships. Part of our job was to try and work out some sort of ranking of candidates between different fields. This wasn’t too hard for most fields, but I can tell you when we got to the grievance field candidates and their proposed projects we would all scratch our heads. In the end we just set aside a faction of the scholarships for these areas and accepted the ranking the departments provided.


So you sat on a panel with no experts in a particular field, and so deferred to experts from that field, and also had bad experiences with university administrators, and this lead you to believe you were an expert in the field where you deferred away your authority. If there's a good case for being suspect of scientists who claim authoritatively that other disciplines are bad, it is being made by you, right now.


No that is totally wrong. It is amazing how you can read something like that into what I wrote.


What's amazing is that you can scratch your head when confronted by the thesis proposal of someone who just got out of honours/masters in a field but simultaneously anoint yourself an expert in that field.


Did you read the word "we" in my comment? I was not alone in being unable to rank these students and I have never anointed myself an expert in these fields.


Oh so multiple people were not experts in the subjects. Cool.

Also isn't it strange that while administrations are supposedly stuffed with these "grievance studies" people - not one person on your board was qualified to properly evaluate those fields.


It is just the nature of university wide committees that you won’t always have experts in every field on the committee.

We certainly had people for outside the STEM fields on this committee and they were in no better position than the scientists trying to rank these grievance study students and projects.


So at the time you and your colleagues chose to defer to experts in those fields, but currently you assume you are an expert in the content and character of the fields. What changed?


Nothing because I am not claiming to be an expert in these fields.


Great:

> I think you are assuming that the graduates of grevience [sic] studies have some sort of loyalty to their old professors. My personal experience is they don't.

Dismissed due to lack of expertise.

> They know a degree in some grievance study is not going to help them pay off their massive student loans.

Dismissed (and stop listening to so much american commentary, arts degrees don't cost much here).


Apparently the university is accusing Boghossian of unethical research involving human subjects, and those human subjects are the journal editors who published the nonsense articles he submitted.

It's one of the most transparent excuses for a witch hunt and rigged trial I've ever seen.


Eh. I was a tenured professor who recently left my position because I got tired of the mind-numbing cacophany that academics has become.

However...

I think people may be reading into this too much, and overlooking the more obvious problem this points to, which is the typical IRB system in a university setting. The real scandal here is probably not anything about grievance studies or its pushback, but how it's even possible that the IRB can function in this way. Because, as someone who has seen all sorts of IRB investigations and feedback and discussions, this to me looks more like typical IRB behavior than anything about grievance study politics.

To me this looks like a simple case where the IRB saw something about this study and decided that it was unreviewed human subjects study, and that as such, the investigator should be investigated. I've seen stuff like this before, and it has nothing to do with broader university politics, it's everything about Kafkaesque IRBs that now oversee every nanometer of university research.

People seem to assume that IRBs are rational, and that the only reason this could be occurring is because the IRB is being leveraged to punish this professor for politically unpopular views. This could be possible, but to me this action is totally expectable given the IRBs I've seen. They're mindless, bureaucratic institutions that approach everything from a robotic literal interpretation of every guideline, with little to no regard for actual scientific ethics per se.


IRB approval is a standard requirement for any research done when interacting with human test subjects. The researchers unquestionably didn't apply for IRB approval, and hence they're under scrutiny. No need to dream up conspiracy theories.


Yep. AFAIK you have to get IRB approval to do literally anything with humans involved. Zero discretion is permitted because any amount of discretion degrades trust in the system (and if you thought anti-intellectualism was bad these days, boy do I have a dystopia for you to imagine) and allows unacceptable failures to creep in purely due to human error.

How many times have you submitted a small PR that obviously can't break anything, complaining about the annoyance all the time, only to find out that your "obviously right" PR was in fact badly wrong? How many times have you seen some bit of code and thought "this is weird, but it had to have been approved to get merged, so I probably don't have to worry too much about it"? Now multiply that by research with human subjects.


Incredibly good reasons for extensive review of human research can be found here, for the skeptical or curious: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/timel...

Another more recent one: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/Story?id=4741269&pag...

More examples aren't hard to find at all, including the case last year of the gene-edited girls: https://gizmodo.com/chinese-scientist-who-created-crispr-bab...

When you've got a burning question in mind and visions of tremendous benefits for all humanity (or saving some academic fields from themselves) it seems like a good idea to get your ideas reviewed.


Ish.

Research in the educational setting involving routine educational activities is exempt from most IRB requirements, except for an initial review to confirm that it is the above.


BTW you need IRB review for animal studies as well.

It's typically pretty easy to get too -- you can shop around for a sympathetic IRB. In my experience it's been basically a rubber stamp.

Note I work in industry not academia.


There are exceptions to IRB and while I couldn't necessarily shoehorn this case into any one of them, there is an argument to be made that this counts as a form of "performance evaluation" where obviously no consent could be given beforehand.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutional_review_board#Exc...


What about performance art?


It's always struck me as odd that American universities' standards for these things are so much stricter than American businesses' standards.

After all, every A/B test, every gradual rollout of software features, and every measurement of a user's response to an ad is an experiment with a human test subject.

I wonder why the standards imposed on universities are so much more demanding than the standards imposed on businesses?


Universities hold themselves to a higher standard because they operate (or at least want to maintain the pretense of operating) for the benefit of the world, while businesses only care about benefiting their shareholders.


The IRB requirement is not self-imposed by universities holding themselves to a higher standard. It's a federal regulation which is imposed on them.


Science is about doing it right, business is about doing just enough to get the job done.


For medical research, sure. He submitted fake articles to publications, he didn't perform medical experiments on the reviewers.


> For medical research, sure.

Behavioral research too (which this certainly is). Anything involving humans, pretty much.


What about journalists? Should they go through IRB approval before publishing a story?


If they're in the journalism department of a university, they'll be required to get consent for all studies on human subjects they do.

For a student project, I once did a user study with a purely informational app. I needed to get approval and have each participant sign a form that I had adequately informed them about the possible dangers of the experiment (none) and that their data would remain confidential and so on.

The effort seems ridiculous when it's obvious that there's no danger, but the whole point of having a review process is to make sure that someone checks.


Are they performing research that receives support, directly or indirectly, from the United States federal government?

If not, the answer is no, though you can read the federal regulations yourself to prove me wrong:

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=83cd09e1c0...


The "grievance studies" papers were sponsored by the federal government?


Indirectly? Yes.

Boghossian is an employee of Portland State, an institution which almost certainly receives grant funding from the federal government for research. Some minute portion of his salary/office/supplies/etc. are paid for by said federal research grant money.

Regardless, the regulations apply to the entire institution and therefore any faculty members of said institution.


That's been proposed. What's the point of this question?


Was this research, though? Or was this goofing around? Was their goal to publish a paper about what they'd done? If so, it's research. But if not, this is not research. Academics aren't required to get board approval for every human interaction they have.


From my other comment:

As the author stated, the goal was to:

> "to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research"

"study" being the operative word, there.


By this logic performance art done in view of humans should be subject to IRB review — it is, after all, trying to provoke and observe a reaction in a group of humans.


If people get tickets to see your art they aren't really being experimented on.

If you want to, say, explode a simulated bomb in a TSA screening area to call attention to the waste of lives inherent in the checkpoints...yes, you'd need an IRB sign off, but probably that would be the least of your problems.


If the performance art:

1) Qualifies as research, and

2) Is directly or indirectly funded by a federal research grant

then yes, it would.

I doubt much performance art qualifies, though.


You haven't looked much into the grievance studies area much then. The whole field is a gangrenous foot that will kill academia if something is not done about it.


How will it kill academia? Will it suck up all the funding, starving other fields? If not, what damage can it do, any more than, say, topology could kill classics?

This is a serious question, not a sarcastic one. Is this study area somehow affecting other academic disciplines? I'm long out of academia so this is all invisible to me.


The concern, as I have often heard it repeated, is that by being so capricious, unbearable and aggressive, the personality type associated with "grievance studies" will ruin any social goodwill held towards academics, along with their reputation for being more right than the average person. If that were to happen, nobody would want to send their kids, tax money, or endowment fund donations to any universities, and the whole system would go away.


I actually don't think this is a new phenomenon, but an old one with evolving names and players. When I was a student 3+ decades ago, we called them "fluff courses." And my parents remember taking fluff courses too.

We may have rolled our eyes, but in reality we were in on the game and had a vested interest in it, because the fluff courses were known to be an easy A. For one thing, a course that everybody in the college had to take, everybody had to pass. For another, teachers with a strong ideological agenda tended to be easy graders, because they wanted to be liked. So we sucked it up in those courses and were thankful for the boost to our GPA's.

If you make every subject as rigorous as math or physics, the resulting workload will be crushing. And not everybody who gets a degree needs to be such a rigorous thinker, to make a valuable contribution to society.


>If you make every subject as rigorous as math or physics, the resulting workload will be crushing. And not everybody who gets a degree needs to be such a rigorous thinker, to make a valuable contribution to society.

You could have a course that was neither rigorous nor ideologically biased, in fact every department could have them. I dream of an alternate universe (which one day could be ours) where instead of "You get an A but you have to pretend to agree with the professor 101," we could have, "the X department runs through their favorite material, but skips all of the really tedious parts that you would have to learn if you wanted to contribute, but as a spectator could go without."


A lot of colleges have an option to "audit" a course. My own experience was that in spectator mode, I didn't really learn anything, because courses had a "learn by doing" aspect that was pretty valuable for me. Also, courses I was taking for a grade always got priority for study time.


At Drexel, they had “physics for designers”, which is roughly what you describe.


>The concern, as I have often heard it repeated, is that by being so capricious, unbearable and aggressive, the personality type associated with "grievance studies" will ruin any social goodwill held towards academics, along with their reputation for being more right than the average person.

This was William Buckley's theory in God and Man at Yale. Has the gangrene managed to advance since the 1940s without ever killing the patient?


Political support of universities is decreasing due to it, Pew has studied it.


That is quite interesting, and thanks for referencing Pew. The closest I could find was the one below [1] that says that Republican support for universities in the US is declining, and that the reasons were (in order) cost, "professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom" and "too much concern about protecting students from views they might find offensive" (the latter being closest). However study [2] suggests the difference might be more nuanced.

Also, (though I am not in academia, my gf is and I spend a lot of time on campus): I'm not sure how much is really being "shut down" via complaints from so-called "grievance studies" faculty. The few cases that make the news seem so cause célèbre that I feel their very rarity is what makes them newsworthy. But then again I'm not a close observer.

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/07/26/most-america...

[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/20/republicans-...


Interesting that the belief the professors are bringing their ideology into the classroom just shoots up as Republicans get older. Are they remembering their time in college? Maybe it was a bigger real thing in the 70s...


I think it largely has to do with decades of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as news. Listen to Rush Limbaugh every day for a few years, and you start to believe him.

Some older people become isolated from real-world social groups and get sucked into worrying about whatever radio or facebook feeds them. Which these days includes a lot of scary stories about universities coddling the next generation.

These graphs all turn markedly during/after the 2016 election, when political discussion and dueling tribalist/ideological messaging has dominated media, a great deal of money and effort has gone into targeting online communities, etc.


It won’t kill academia but it may eventually lead to a large cut in academic funding or a determined effort to make a degree unnecessary for respectable middle class careers or both. Gender/Queer/Ethnic studies, cultural anthropology and sociology are overwhelmingly left wing. They are a branch of the academy and at the same time a sinecure for people who produce ideas useful to one side of the culture war. There’s no right wing equivalent, no department that is over 90% conservative where politics trumps the search for truth. And this isn’t something these people are trying to hide. They’re quite open about the primacy of their political mission. And the students who major on these subjects don’t learn any particularly useful skills. Eventually some Republican will run on turning state colleges into STEM, education and business places and gutting the humanities and social sciences. Once it happens one place it’ll be repeated. If half of the population sees universities as hostile to their beliefs and life why should they vote to continue funding them?

https://newrepublic.com/article/143844/liberals-cant-ignore-...

> A Pew Research poll released this week found that 58 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents believe higher education has “a negative effect on the way things are going in the country,” versus just 19 percent of those on the left who say the same. While opinion on the left has remained fairly steady, on the right it has become decidedly more pessimistic over the past two years (in the accompanying graph, note the drastic shift after the poll taken in September 2015).


> a determined effort to make a degree unnecessary for respectable middle class careers

This would be welcome, frankly. There are so many careers for which a degree requirement is a gatekeeper, nothing else. Hell, many jobs advertise a requirement for any degree, with no particular preference, which tells you exactly how pertinent the content of the degree is to the job.

As a society we've hyper-focussed on the desirability of university degrees at the expense of every other type of learning or training, and at immense cost. I'd welcome an honest re-appraisal of our priorities and an end to the creeping domination of credentialism.


>If half of the population sees universities as hostile to their beliefs and life why should they vote to continue funding them?

Because it's the academically educated professionals (and upwards in income) who are actually paying most of the taxes?


That’s true but it’s not necessarily true. It’s easy enough to conceive of alternative ways of structuring education, and especially job training. MBAs and JDs are both of astonishingly little value compared to their cost except insofar as they enable you to get certain kinds of jobs that would be impossible or very difficult otherwise. Law schools are quite adamant that they’re not trade schools. We have an existence proof of trade schools of some kinds being sufficient to substitute for a Bachelor’s in at least one area too. Lambda School is teaching people to be web developers in well under a year. I’m sure there are other well paid jobs they or someone like them could do the same in. College isn’t necessary for work training and there are large parts where it’s currentky necessary if you want a job but it needn’t be.


Technically, they have a valid point. This was an experiment on human subjects without their consent.

I think this observation raises a further discussion about the gatekeeping, chilling effect of ethics boards. Scott Alexander describes his kafkaesque experience with them here:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/29/my-irb-nightmare/


It was an experiment on institutions.


> It was an experiment on institutions

And as they're so keen to remind us, groups have rights. Which should also mean they have responsibilities.


The IRB should not be capable of learning about research conducted on them which amounts to a survey, before said research can commence. It produces an effective tyranny, where the only people who can validate the work of the affiliated institution are at the same time prohibited from doing so.

In my humble opinion, I think the IRB process is backwards: researchers should determine whether their methodology is ethical (or within whatever other institutional regulations), and be tried only after a report is received, or an investigation is started. Not approaching the IRB alone should not be an offense.


> I think the IRB process is backwards: researchers should determine whether their methodology is ethical (or within whatever other institutional regulations), and be tried only after a report is received, or an investigation is started

Err, I don't think that would work as well as you think. Plenty of studies fall into gray areas, especially in behavioral research, and it's not necessarily easy to reverse the damage once it's done.

The "Little Albert" study could very easily be argued as "ethical" or at least not harmful (almost certainly the behavior became extinct over time) by the researcher, but nonetheless the potential for lifelong harm is there and it would likely never be approved today.

Sometimes once you've done the damage, it's done. Research institutions would rather be safe than sorry with studies involving people, both for basic ethical considerations and reputation interests. Especially after the spat of very questionable studies done in the latter half of the 20th century.


> The "Little Albert" study could very easily be argued as "ethical" or at least not harmful (almost certainly the behavior became extinct over time) by the researcher, but nonetheless the potential for lifelong harm is there and it would likely never be approved today.

Sure, but those lessons are already learned. It's not like research ethics was materialized out of thin air by institutional review boards: it was synthesized from experience, and then executed by the boards. The ethics are the same whether the assessment is before or after the fact, and nothing stops researchers from consulting the board or anyone else on the topic beforehand, if they are concerned they may run afoul.

I think it's silly to think that an IRB has a better grasp before the fact of how ethical or appropriate a methodology is than the researchers do during the research. In this case, the IRB is being used as a bludgeon to suppress low-risk research which is simply politically inconvenient to the institution.


  and be tried only after a report is received, or
  an investigation is started
At that point it's too late to save the victims. Obviously unacceptable, right?

(edit: got two posts backwards, sorry, fixed.)


Presumption of innocence is a foundation of law, at least in the United States.

So yes, waiting until there is a victim to start a trial is a reasonable approach to scientific ethics. It may not be the best one, but it’s surely justifiable.


The majority of industries which involve the potential to cause harm operate with comparable licensing and oversight systems. Food manufacturing, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, factories with dangerous equipment like smelters or refineries, all of these strictly require licensed professionals to do design work, that plans be approved by various oversight bodies before operation commences, and in some cases that those oversight bodies conduct regular inspections. We mandate this oversight because, without it, people do horrible things and get away with it. They hide their crimes too well, they have pockets deep enough to win any court case, or they foist the blame off on someone else. So we prevent harm instead of trusting people and corporations to be good when we know they won't be. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/timel...


> all of these strictly require licensed professionals to do design work

Sure, but it's not clear that the licensure itself reduces accidents or abuse. Plenty of licensed electricians (at least here in Ontario) are deadly incompetent. I've heard at least two accounts of electricians assuring builders or homeowners that a circuit is disconnected, and those people having an unwelcome surprise when they go to cut/remove said circuit.


All of these things come with a cost as well as a benefit.

It is possible to deal with crime through an 'oversight system', this is called a surveillance state.

As I indicated, I'm uncommitted on which way is best for the case under discussion. For criminal matters, and for hairdressing, I prefer presumption of innocence; for aerospace engineering, licensure and oversight.

I think it is a justifiable approach and might be a better one. We chose IRBs after appalling cases like the Tuskegee Airmen experiment; perhaps we should have hanged the perpetrators instead.

Perhaps not. Having never been an academic, I am aware this subject invokes strong feelings, while having none myself.


The Tuskgee syphilis experiment resulted also in informed consent laws in clinical trials; which I would argue would have a better effect than trying to get a board within the institution which carried out this experiment to apply an ethical standard to the study.


Only criminal law and there's no reason to think that standard should be applied in all situations beyond criminal law. The criminal standard is so high because the consequence of guilt is so high (including incarceration or even death) and because it's applied by the State.


Should the consequences of harming test subjects be any lower?

I can make a solid case for a less oppressive IRB regime and criminal sanctions for those who harm their test subjects.


Prior restraint in the form of requiring approval by an IRB is better than harsher punishment. The point is to prevent any research from getting to the point of criminal charges.

A researcher operating under "better to ask forgiveness than permission" is in serious mad scientist, Frankenstein territory.


I don't know how familiar you are with research in the social sciences, but as wgerard's comment observes, this isn't a trumped-up charge.

They could have done this without claiming that it was part of their university-affiliated research, and thus not fallen foul of ethical guidelines. But they published an official academic paper describing the stunt (afterwards) and claimed that it was a legitimate research project. They can't have it both ways: either it's a rogue hoax carried out outside of their day job, or it has to comply with the rules, which aren't onerous, but do require certain ethical standards to be met.


The hell are you talking about, none of the cliamed in any way that this was an academic research affiliated with any university, only one of them is affiliated with one. In their quillete article they even talk about how this is not an academic study, but rather a hoax like the Sokal hoax before it


Here's the situation as described in a good and fairly neutral (I think!) nymag article:

"Crucially, it does not matter that the hoaxsters didn’t attempt to publish their final results in a peer-reviewed journal. “Publishing in a magazine that’s not peer reviewed doesn’t matter if they’re reporting on their research,” said Celia Fisher, director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education. All that matters is that Boghossian is an employee at PSU, and that he conducted what the university deemed to be human-subjects research based on a plain reading of how that term is normally defined for this purpose."

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/01/is-peter-boghossian-g...

So it appears that Boghossian's academic affiliation is something he can't just leave at work; i.e. it seems that it was unsafe to go public with his involvement in the hoax. The Areo article makes it sound like the hoaxers thought they were doing the right thing by dropping their anonymity:

"This generated further attention that eventually got the Wall Street Journal involved, and far more importantly, it changed the ethics of utilizing deception within the project. With major journalistic outlets and (by then) two journals asking us to prove our authors’ identities, the ethics had shifted away from a defensible necessity of investigation and into outright lying. We did not feel right about this and decided the time had come to go public with the project. As a result, we came clean to the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of August and began preparing a summary as quickly as possible even though we still had several papers progressing encouragingly through the review process."

https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studi...

They thought this move would make it OK to complete their research project in good faith (without submitting any further hoax articles). But it wouldn't be the first time somebody thought they were off the hook, when in fact they were still exposed to accusations of ethical wrongdoing.


> Publishing in a magazine that’s not peer reviewed doesn’t matter if they’re reporting on their research

This framing should tell you the bad faith in which the statement is being made. The authors didn't call it a research, critics rightly pointed out that it wasn't an academic research when they first revealed the hoax, and that nobody should take it seriously. Now that it is convenient to attack them by saying otherwise, now all of the sudden it is an academic research


The Areo article starts with "This essay, although hopefully accessible to everyone, is the most thorough breakdown of the study".

Those words "the study" clearly seek to frame the hoax as part of a research project or "study".

I like the expert opinion quoted in the NY Magazine article that basically says, "yes, this disciplinary action is politically motivated, but it's also entirely legitimate".

It seems like that is often the way the world works—there are many more possible, legitimate, prosecutions than are actually pursued. The choice of which to pursue can be made in unfair ways. Often it is used to reinforce corrupt systems.

In this case, there isn't any visible corruption. Nobody entrapped Boghossian, nobody appears to have had it in for him in advance. He walked into this.


The rules are not being applied out of a sense of ethical obligation, but rather to punish Boghossian for his views and for causing offense to other academics.

If he had done this outside of his university-affiliated research I bet the university would be investigating him anyway.

I bet the university and the academics he offended would also claim that nothing he publishes happens "outside" his university affiliation because everybody knows he is a professor there, he represents the university, he published articles in academic journals whose editors believed he was doing academic stuff, and so on.


> The rules are not being applied out of a sense of ethical obligation, but rather to punish Boghossian for his views and for causing offense to other academics.

This seems like a bit of a leap. What evidence is there for this being the case?


Are university professors prohibited from submitting official academic papers outside of their university life? If so that sounds like a violation of the first amendment (when talking about state schools anyways).

If not, what made this part of their university life?


> If not, what made this part of their university life?

The fact that he likely included his academic affiliation on any papers he wrote, likely used university resources to conduct or discuss some part of the research (e.g. meeting rooms, his office, his office phone), is an employee of the university, etc.

I mean, come on - no IRB is going to let you claim a technicality like that. If you could skirt around research regulations by just claiming you were doing it "on your own" with no affiliation to the university, the IRB would be effectively pointless.


But they used pseudonyms, right? He didn't say "I'm Peter Boghossian with PSU".

Anyway, what's shocking to me coming from Physics is how hard it is to read these papers from outside of academia (no arXiv even to at least see pre-prints). So I'm already more sympathetic to the hoaxers.


It was really the journals themselves who were the test subjects, not any specific named individuals. A journal is an institution, not a person.


Yep, it's creepy, Kafka-esque.

McLellan and cohorts are saying they're not allowed to be mock ed.


And you surely couldn't trust administrators at Portland State to not give a secret warning to a publication when they're all part of the same scam.


Collaborate with a second lab at another institute. Get approval from one IRB to run the study against the other. Problem solved, everything aboveboard.


> Collaborate with a second lab at another institute. Get approval from one IRB to run the study against the other. Problem solved, everything aboveboard.

He would still get investigated for this. The university might need to find another reason, but they would certainly try.


>Such behavior, they wrote, hurts the reputations of the university as well as honest scholars who work there. "Worse yet, it jeopardizes the students’ reputations, as their degrees in the process may become devalued."

I'm afraid this particular objection paints a rather damning picture - any critique of the field may be criticized under similar grounds. One who would make such a complaint has left the path of science.

(Interestingly, the concession that it is damaging to reputations actually lends support to the thesis)


>it jeopardizes the students’ reputations, as their degrees in the process may become devalued."

Hahahaha

Could you imagine how different schools would be if they put that motivation over money? At Eastern Washington, the CS professors admitted that they have to give, without exaggeration, roughly half of their degrees to people that have no idea what they're doing and have only demonstrated incompetence.


> At Eastern Washington, the CS professors admitted that they have to give, without exaggeration, roughly half of their degrees to people that have no idea what they're doing and have only demonstrated incompetence.

This is why we have such stringent interview processes in the software industry. Credentials don't mean anything when a large percentage of graduates aren't qualified to do the work.


I hope they fail to suppress Boghossian. As far as I'm concerned, he's done academia a great favor by shining a light on the inane horseshit people "review" and publish, especially outside the hard sciences where it can't be reliably verified. Instead of systematically addressing the problem, these people are choosing to claim that the emperor's clothes are just fine as they are. I very much hope this backfires, and I also hope this is made as public as possible.


This took me a minute and a second read, for anyone else who was similarly confused:

> The review board also determined that the hoax project met the definition for human-subjects research because it involved interacting with journal editors and reviewers

The university's basically saying that the project itself is the problem, not the individual articles themselves. As the author stated, the goal was to:

> "to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research"

which is a behavioral research meta-study involving humans (in this case, journal reviewers and editors). Of course, behavioral research involving humans almost always requires IRB approval.

I realize on a third reading this is stated pretty clearly ("the hoax project met.."), but took me a minute nonetheless.


> which is corrupting academic research

Considering this paper was presumably hoping to bring about better standards in academia, how is this claim supported by the hoax AKA experiment?


They were trying to demonstrate that this field uses no rigourous empirical methods, and that the reviewers and editors apparently have no knowledge or understanding of how to check for bias or even validate empirical data that's presented. The hoax authors checked this in multiple ways by reporting data with very specific, obvious biases that would never pass review in other fields, to see if any of the reviewers or editors would catch the obvious bullshit. They did not, across 7 published papers thus far IIRC.

In fact, the hoax authors even told the publishers they couldn't provide the raw data because it had been printed out on paper that had then been recycled. Publisher's response: sure, no problem, we'll publish anyway.

In fact, many academics in this field argue that science, logic and math are themselves corrupt enterprises of oppression. As such, they remain wilfully ignorant of these biases and proper statistical methods.

All told, would you consider this a corruption of academic research?


> They were trying to demonstrate that this field uses no rigourous empirical methods, and that the reviewers and editors apparently have no knowledge or understanding of how to check for bias or even validate empirical data that's presented. The hoax authors checked this in multiple ways by reporting data with very specific, obvious biases that would never pass review in other fields,

Let me stop you right there. The replication crisis has shown repeatedly, across disciplines that have testable hypotheses, that bad articles are accepted in academic journals.

> In fact, many academics in this field argue that science, logic and math are themselves corrupt enterprises of oppression.

I'm assuming you're talking about the conclusion many have drawn - which I think is pretty uncontroversial - that science, logic and math are not fields free from bias. We only have to got back to relatively recent history to encounter periods when women were excluded from universities and phrenology was considered science. Unfortunately I think what you might mean is that people in "this field" (what field?) think science should be entirely thrown out. You'll struggle to show that more than a tiny majority (please quantify in your response) of people in any field (even theology) saying that science is in itself a "corrupt enterprise".


> Let me stop you right there. The replication crisis has shown repeatedly, across disciplines that have testable hypotheses, that bad articles are accepted in academic journals.

The replication problem is worse the less rigourous the field. The hoax authors managed to publish their first 7 articles, with 20 more still in review IIRC, over the span of 10 months. They were quite confident that the rest would have gone through had some journalists not prematurely unearthed their subterfuge.

For instance, in the dog park paper, the authors claimed that they had inspected the genitals of 10,000 unique dogs in a single dog park over a short time span, and then questioned the dog owners on their sexual orientation. If you can even look past the absurdity and take it seriously, the sample being analyzed is clearly biased in various ways. What dog park would have 10,000 unique dogs and owners visiting in such a time frame? How is this a representative sample? What sort of owners would be open to strangers fondling their pet's genitals and then questioning their sexuality?

Each paper had distinct and meaningful bias or clear cherry picking injected into the data, and not a single one of them was caught in review. The hoax authors have emphatically claimed that this field is more akin to theology than any kind of meaningful science, where any paper that reinforces the orthodoxy gets published, no matter the methodological flaws, and that's what they attempted to demonstrate (and they did I think). This result is far, far worse than the replication crisis.

> I'm assuming you're talking about the conclusion many have drawn - which I think is pretty uncontroversial - that science, logic and math are not fields free from bias.

No, I mean quite literally that these "academics" think that the scientific method, and that logic and mathematics itself, are tools of white oppression. I won't vouch for the rest of the site, but the description presented here is a decent introduction to the "reasoning" they employ: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/07/the_scienti...

Edit: or just google "the scientific method is oppressive" if you want to find further evidence. There are thousands of papers, articles, blogs and posts debating this claim. See: https://www.thecut.com/2017/04/the-science-march-sparked-a-b...


> The hoax authors have emphatically claimed that this field is more akin to theology than any kind of meaningful science, where any paper that reinforces the orthodoxy gets published, no matter the methodological flaws, and that's what they attempted to demonstrate (and they did I think). This result is far, far worse than the replication crisis.

Interesting claim, considering https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/04/16/is-th...

It is interesting to me that sometimes people seem to argue that the "grievance studies" subjects are useless practically, and then in the next sentence to argue they have a massive impact on other disciplines. In fields like economics we can, however, often see and measure the effects directly. And the effects of the orthodoxy that wants to justify, in this case austerity, using bad papers, with publically available data, that anyone could have checked, is far worse than the sokal squared hoax.

> No, I mean quite literally that these "academics" think that the scientific method, and that logic and mathematics itself, are tools of white oppression.

> There are thousands of papers, articles, blogs and posts debating this claim.

The first article you linked quotes an orientation video. The second rests on the "feminist glaciology" paper, which I've seen parroted by the right as an example of this claim you're making, many, many times, and another article posted on a website. I might be justified in asking you to provide evidence that "thousands" of papers defending the claim that "the scientific method is oppressive" but I don't expect you to, or be able to, defend that statement. Lets focus on a smaller scope, and try to prove that there exist papers in the two articles you've linked here that make that claim.

People who read these papers often make the mistake of reading an argument against all knowledge by conflating a few things:

1) That the institution of science represents pure infallible access to scientific knowledge

2) That objective truth is equivalent to, and accessed by scientific knowledge

We only have to go back a short period of time to see scientific justifications of awful things. But, the vast majority of academics aren't arguing that we should discard all of science. And, anyone can make a blog post. Objective truth is always necessarily filtered through humans.

It is also a good point that scientists should listen to indigenous people and their theories about natural phenomena. There are many examples of scientists correlating myths and stories with natural events and discovering that there was an eruption at a particular time. Understanding those perspectives advances science.


> Interesting claim, considering https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/04/16/is-th....

False equivalency. A single calculation error is not the same as a whole field that eschews scientific methodology. Which isn't to say that other fields don't suffer from biases and errors as well, but they have processes in place to rectify them, and your article points out exactly how this happens.

Notice how it took a hoax to point out that there's a problem with grievances studies. That's a bad sign that the methodology and/or culture is fundamentally flawed.

> It is interesting to me that sometimes people seem to argue that the "grievance studies" subjects are useless practically, and then in the next sentence to argue they have a massive impact on other disciplines

That's not inconsistent. For the sake of argument, suppose grievance studies argues for affirmative action and hiring quotes to counter innate bias. Suppose that companies buy into this, and implement such policies. Now suppose that such measures are actually impossible to implement in practice, and are illegally discriminatory. All of these can be true simultaneously (and probably are true at this present time), which makes grievance studies a) practically useless, b) have a massive impact, and c) harmful. I think an even stronger case can be made in fact, but this thread is long enough as it is.

> And the effects of the orthodoxy that wants to justify, in this case austerity, using bad papers, with publically available data, that anyone could have checked, is far worse than the sokal squared hoax.

Maybe, but that doesn't somehow negate the harm from grievance studies, any more than the existence of genital mutilation of women abroad somehow negates any milder forms of sexism that might still exist in the west.

> I might be justified in asking you to provide evidence that "thousands" of papers defending the claim that "the scientific method is oppressive" but I don't expect you to, or be able to, defend that statement.

Interesting strawman. You've alleged that I said there are thousands of papers that are making this claim, rather than what I actually said, which is that there are thousands of papers, articles, blogs and posts that have debated this claim. The latter is easily verified by looking at google search results without even going into the academic literature. The former is a clear attempt at casting me as unreasonable making absurd and overreaching claims.

> We only have to go back a short period of time to see scientific justifications of awful things.

There is no legitimate "scientific justification" for awful things. Certainly some people have claimed scientific justification for awful things, but that does not entail that such justification actually exists.

> But, the vast majority of academics aren't arguing that we should discard all of science.

I agree. And yet, that doesn't negate the evidence that a particular academic field does advance claims that are equally dangerous, nor does it negate the evidence that such a field has influence that isn't congruent with the empirical evidence.

> It is also a good point that scientists should listen to indigenous people and their theories about natural phenomena. There are many examples of scientists correlating myths and stories with natural events and discovering that there was an eruption at a particular time. Understanding those perspectives advances science.

Except few people argue otherwise. Historians and geologists have connected mythical events to possible historical events countless times (see for instance, geomythology which was coined in 1968).

That's a very different claim to saying that such myths should be given equal weight as demonstrable facts, and that science has no particularly unique or meaningful claim to truth about the natural world over other views. That's patently false.

In fact, I'll make an even stronger claim and say that it's logically and mathematically false. Solomonoff Induction grounded scientific inquiry with a proof that it converges on the truth. No other process aside from math can demonstrably produce real truth. Of course, people deep in grievance-type fields disavow logic and math as well, and so they would find such proofs unconvincing.


I think its time to pin down what fields you believe are in "grievance studies" which is just name calling since...

> A single calculation error is not the same as a whole field that eschews scientific methodology. Which isn't to say that other fields don't suffer from biases and errors as well, but they have processes in place to rectify them, and your article points out exactly how this happens.

...it seems you believe Art and Creative Writing are "grievance studies".

And your claim was this was "far worse than the replication crisis"... how? Vast economic policy changes versus what, exactly?

> That's not inconsistent.

Yes it is - to claim that these academics (who are accused of being postmodern neomarxists) can recruit corporate, capitalist HR departments, but not recruit more students, is inconsistent.

> Maybe, but that doesn't somehow negate the harm from grievance studies,

What harm? What harm do you think is specifically proven by this hoax or any other paper?

> You've alleged that I said there are thousands of papers that are making this claim, rather than what I actually said, which is that there are thousands of papers, articles, blogs and posts that have debated this claim. The latter is easily verified by looking at google search results without even going into the academic literature. The former is a clear attempt at casting me as unreasonable making absurd and overreaching claims.

Sorry for misreading you. I thought you were making a non-trivial claim that people in academia were debating the scientific method. If you're making the claim that non-academics are debating a subject, that's a pretty trivial thing to say. Flat earth, anyone?

> I agree. And yet, that doesn't negate the evidence that a particular academic field does advance claims that are equally dangerous, nor does it negate the evidence that such a field has influence that isn't congruent with the empirical evidence.

Awesome, lets discuss all the "dangerous claims" that this academic field is making. This hoax has nothing to do with the field's "claims", but I'm happy to talk about specific claims in specific papers, and compare their acceptance and their magnitude. I would much prefer that discussion to one where we allude to a vast academic conspiracy that doesn't exist.

> There is no legitimate "scientific justification" for awful things. Certainly some people have claimed scientific justification for awful things, but that does not entail that such justification actually exists.

See, here's the core of the point. If scientists and presumably, people like yourself, were so sure they'd found scientific knowledge previously, and it "didn't exist", couldn't the same doubt exist for the claims you make today? Who gets anointed to decide what scientific knowledge does, or does not, exist? Perhaps all these academics saying that we must be suspect of anyone who proclaims such a thing have a point.

> That's a very different claim to saying that such myths should be given equal weight as demonstrable facts, and that science has no particularly unique or meaningful claim to truth about the natural world over other views. That's patently false.

I'm happy to discuss papers that you think make those claims.


By the way, I believe the hoax authors actually cited many examples of papers that they found problematic, so if you're interested in actually examining some objectionable work, that's your way forward.


Sure, and if you'd like to point out what claims in those papers indicate that the authors believe "myths should be given equal weight as demonstrable facts", I'd love to hear it.


> And your claim was this was "far worse than the replication crisis"... how? Vast economic policy changes versus what, exactly?

"Far worse" does not entail these effects are in industry. I actually meant far worse for our body of knowledge and for academic credibility. Particularly since the US has taken a serious anti-academic pivot in the past 20 years.

> Yes it is - to claim that these academics (who are accused of being postmodern neomarxists) can recruit corporate, capitalist HR departments, but not recruit more students, is inconsistent.

It's not. HR departments are not populated by students, and the claim that they are capitalist is debatable. They were students at one point certainly, but the circumstances and mentalities of every generation of students differs. To claim there's an inconsistency is to claim you know why enrollment in these disciplines might be down (assuming it is), which you don't. And that tells you nothing about the influence of these subjects outside of academia.

> What harm? What harm do you think is specifically proven by this hoax or any other paper? [...] This hoax has nothing to do with the field's "claims"

Right, the hoax highlights the poor methodology common in this field, which is why the claims in this field should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

The results from this field have guided a lot of policy, in government, in industry, and in academia. As but one example, Google has pushed a number of initiatives to improve diversity, initiatives that are logically impossible to implement and that are legally discriminatory (and for which they are now being sued). Harvard too with its admission policies. This pattern has repeated itself numerous times.

> I thought you were making a non-trivial claim that people in academia were debating the scientific method.

Some are, so you've misread me again. Read the article I cited which quotes McLean (thecut.com).

> Awesome, lets discuss all the "dangerous claims" that this academic field is making. [...] but I'm happy to talk about specific claims in specific papers, and compare their acceptance and their magnitude.

No thanks. Not only have I already done this numerous times and am loathe to yet again, it's also against HN rules to divert and prolong discussions in this fashion. We're probably already in violation by going on this long. This will probably be my last post.

> If scientists and presumably, people like yourself, were so sure they'd found scientific knowledge previously, and it "didn't exist", couldn't the same doubt exist for the claims you make today?

Denying facts in favour of fantasy is the only way to justify oppression and dehumanization. If you ask for evidence of any claim, either the evidence actually justifies those claims or it's specious and/or inconclusive, and the people advancing the claim are pushing an agenda rather than following the facts. I have never seen a single instance that did not follow this pattern.

Furthermore, moral victories in society are largely driven by factual advances, by the questioning of existing circumstances and the discovery that things are not what was initially believed. For instance, refuting the divine right of kings, the illegitimacy of slavery, the equality of genders, all of them are hailed as grand moral victories, but the moral progress was achieved because people simply asked, upon what factual basis do we treat these classes of people differently?

In every case, there has been no legitimate basis, and so those distinctions were torn down. Except we're now reaching a point where factual distinctions are themselves being torn down, because science itself is being questioned. Here be dragons.


> I actually meant far worse for our body of knowledge and for academic credibility. Particularly since the US has taken a serious anti-academic pivot in the past 20 years.

What evidence is this claim based on?

> They were students at one point certainly, but the circumstances and mentalities of every generation of students differs. To claim there's an inconsistency is to claim you know why enrollment in these disciplines might be down (assuming it is), which you don't. And that tells you nothing about the influence of these subjects outside of academia.

Saying "they were students" is meaningless. I am pointing out the decline in student numbers because the claim that these disciplines are increasing in power is inconsistent with that... and you still haven't stated what fields you think are in those disciplines.

> Right, the hoax highlights the poor methodology common in this field,

No it doesn't, it highlights how easy it is to get bad articles into academic journals, which is also true of many other disciplines.

> The results from this field have guided a lot of policy, in government, in industry, and in academia. As but one example, Google has pushed a number of initiatives to improve diversity, initiatives that are logically impossible to implement and that are legally discriminatory (and for which they are now being sued).

Please show how these disciplines and diversity initiatives are causally linked.

> In every case, there has been no legitimate basis, and so those distinctions were torn down.

The change of ideology through history is more complex than you'd like to believe.

> Except we're now reaching a point where factual distinctions are themselves being torn down, because science itself is being questioned. Here be dragons.

There's no evidence of this. This is a conspiracy theory.


Ridicule is not the most collegial method of criticism, but it can be very effective.

And I think here it's the only possible one.

Can you seriously imagine the journal accepting an article even slightly negative about the field?


> And I think here it's the only possible one.

> Can you seriously imagine the journal accepting an article even slightly negative about the field?

There are plenty of critiques of these disciplines that come from within. For people with a deep understanding of these fields, there is nuance in them, and argument. From outside, perhaps they seem entirely cohesive.

The truth is it is entirely possible, specifically in philosophy and gender studies, two subjects I've worked in at a postgraduate level, to find progress and disagreement, even with hints of ridicule! Hell, I've been exceptionally critical of some popular views in those fields and come out the other side unscathed.

But the difference between those critiques and the Sokal Squared caper is that it doesn't offer any meaningful critique of the field.

> which is corrupting academic research

This is a politically-motivated, biased leap to a conclusion that the hoax doesn't support. All the hoax showed is that bad papers can get accepted in academic journals in these fields. We can add those journals to the list of journals in the fields of medicine and psychology that have similar problems.


> But the difference between those critiques and the Sokal Squared caper is that it doesn't offer any meaningful critique of the field.

That would seem to depend on your point of view. Seems quite meaningful to me, although I agree following up with how could this have been prevented and what to do differently in future would be a better discussion than the current one.


Yeah, this paper just lead to name-calling, which I think indicates that it was not out to really do anything, but to appeal to certain narratives. Additionally, its main demonstration is that bad papers can be accepted by journals, which we know is also true of many other fields. But, I'm pretty sure the authors wouldn't consider medical journals as members of "grievance studies".


I meant this particular journal.

I'm sure there is honest discussion within the field generally.

This is not name-calling to pull this hoax. It's an demonstration (or experiment if you like).

You can discuss all you like but at some point we need a demonstration.

Nullius in verba 'n all that.


It doesn't demonstrate anything that isn't entirely comparable to the replication crisis, which stretches across many, many fields and many journals that the authors would almost certainly not call "grievance studies".

It certainly doesn't demonstrate that there is any "corrupting academic research" going on.


When there are lots of people who have a vested interest in the Emperor's wardrobe, not surprising (but a bit sad) that the hammer is coming down on those that point out that the Emperor is naked.


The guy fabricated data to fool the editors. Academia relies on researchers being honest and not doing so -- there simply aren't any resources for journals to do independent replication of all received papers before accepting them for publication. That's precisely why data fabrication is taken so seriously and the consequences of doing so are basically career ending -- it's the deterrent to incentivize people to be honest.

Edit: Also can we not lump all of academia into the same basket? The standards in computer science/math/physics are very different from that in biology/medicine which in turn are very different from those in humanities


> The guy fabricated data to fool the editors. Academia relies on researchers being honest and not doing so -- there simply aren't any resources for journals to do independent replication of all received papers before accepting them for publication.

No, you're simply wrong about this. The publications are not rigourous and they do not perform their due diligence in this field as is done in proper sociological research, and that's what the hoax was intended to demonstrate. I suggest reading my summary here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18899308

This hoax was essential to exposing the poor quality research being done in this field.


I suspect your link should be to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18899308 .


Thanks!


The fabricated data was patently absurd. They claimed that they inspected the genitals of 10,000 dogs at a single dog park. To punish him for this fabrication is ridiculous. They should rather look into the people who reviewed the article and didn't ring the alarm bells immediately after reading such an absurd claim.

Data fabrication is taken so seriously because otherwise scientists could game the system by fabricating data to advance their career by making their research look more successful. That obviously didn't apply here -- he didn't even publish the article under his own name.


That is like saying The Onion fabricates reporting to fool your aunt on Facebook. These people are just embarrassed they got taken by an obvious work of satire.


You have to be open to points of view which may sound ridiculous on the surface though if you can make a case for them. For example, having a model in 1800 that said that everything is both a particle and a wave would have sounded like satire but it wouldn't have been wrong.

Or having a point of view in 1800 that interracial relationships are not immoral or in 1900 that gay relationships are not immoral would have sounded like satire but again, not something that would have been the wrong point of view.


These are totally invalid analogies. Scientific claims are never judged by the ridiculousness of the claim but by the strength of the evidence. Every scientific journal would be fairly judged on its assessment of the data and methodology. Every scientific journal is fair game for a “grievance study” and every one that accepts satirically ridiculous methodologies or conclusions would be very fairly judged fraudulent.

Your other example confuses popular points of view with academic studies. If there is a better example of the problem here I can’t think of it.


So if he had actually collected data on rape culture among Portland-area dogs, it would have been legitimate research ("One of their papers, about canine rape culture in dog parks in Portland, Ore., was initially recognized for excellence by the journal 'Gender, Place, and Culture', the authors reported")?


> So if he had actually collected data on rape culture among Portland-area dogs, it would have been legitimate research

Yes, actually.

There is a big difference with publishing a paper with no data a la Sokal vs publishing a paper with made up data.

If you are presenting data as true, it must be true. Editors and reviewers don't get to argue with your data--that's a cornerstone of the process. They can argue that you collected the wrong data, interpreted it incorrectly, etc. but the data you collected should be real.

If this professor really made up data, he absolutely should get fired.

I suspect that he probably didn't falsify data or the administration would simply wipe him out fairly unceremoniously. The fact that they are invoking a review board violation tells me that the case isn't that cut and dried.


Seeing some people's apparent fixation on the dog park data fabrication as invalidating the whole effort, I have to wonder whether actually collecting the data for that paper would have made all their other hoax papers "legitimate."


Probably about as legitimate as the research of obscure computational complexity classes in computer science theory.


If it is relevant data, why shouldn't it be legitimate research? Because you personally think the topic is ridiculous, absurd or not worth consideration? Many ideas seem that way (including very important ones, such as the study of language) so that shouldn't be a reason to dismiss them outright.


I thought people were overstating the case that humanities departments across the country are converged. But if investigating whether dogs actually get consent before mating in dog parks (or is there another definition for "rape culture among dogs"?) is considered possibly legitimate research, I may need to revisit my judgement.


Only some of the papers fabricated data, most didn't.

You can browse the papers here: https://drive.google.com/drive/mobile/folders/19tBy_fVlYIHTx...


> guy fabricated data to fool the editors

What is your source for this? My understanding was that the papers were written in a specific style, but they did not contain falsified data.

https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studi...

Regardless, in almost all cases, reviewers do eye-ball the data for obvious inconsistencies / irregularities.


You are mischaracterizing the research. His submitted papers were not "the data", they were the input. The actual data is how the editors reacted to the input.


It's okay to fabricate data if you're experiment is to detect whether journal editors and reviewers can pick up on fabricated data.


But the problem with actual data fabrication is that it is intended to permanently deceive, in this case the whole point was to publish the fact that these data were not correct.

This is a case where an initial false disclosure (which you seem to think should be taken exactly the same as deliberate, permanent misreporting) is used as a means to bring more verified facts into the world, and zero permanent misinformation; it is no more like false disclosure than pennies are like Moscow Mule mugs.


I don't think this is the same as fabrication with intent to commit actual fraud.

But if you're trying to show that the editors are making biased decisions because of preconceived notions, submitting data that supports their notions is not evidence of them making biased decisions.

A better study would be the following -- you submit one version of the paper supporting viewpoint X and another supporting viewpoint not X (where X is some issue on which there isn't much research been done so there isn't any sort of consensus on the issue) and fabricate data for both cases.

But what they did, all that seems to show to me is that if you fabricate data, you can get a paper accepted. Which is not surprising.

Edit: For the record, I do think academia, especially in some areas of humanities, is very biased but this study is just not well done imo.


> But if you're trying to show that the editors are making biased decisions because of preconceived notions, submitting data that supports their notions is not evidence of them making biased decisions.

I think you've missed the point of this.

> Edit: For the record, I do think academia, especially in some areas of humanities, is very biased but this study is just not well done imo.

How? These papers are basically nonsense, but were accepted because they draw conclusions that are vaguely in line with the political whims of the journals, that's the whole point.

One simple question it answers is: would journals publish Mein Kampf if men were "the Jews"? It is a qualitative question, not a quantitative one, so it is sufficient to demonstrate that one such paper is published.


Many of the events depicted in Dilbert aren't based on real research data either. Should Scott Adams be charged with fabricating data?


What's your point? Dilbert is a comics strip. Not a research journal where you're making an attempt to further the understanding of an area.

If you coded up a networking algorithm and fabricated data showing massive speed improvements and then got a lot of play in the media and networking community before you were found out, would you say that's evidence of the system being broken?


> Not a research journal where you're making an attempt to further the understanding of an area.

What if the journal in question is not actually attempting to do that? Might it be moral to try to expose that fact?


Maybe if I described such a network using pigeons as the underlying physical layer, and multiple journals took it seriously, then yes.


It seems like some people are actually pleased the hoax worked. If this is you, try to honestly imagine how you would feel if it had failed -- if the journals immediately called BS and refused to publish.

Would you be happy or unhappy about that? If unhappy, are you really so sure you're on the side of truth, or are you just a member of one tribe pleased that the other tribe has been embarrassed? The world where the hoax failed would surely be a better one for knowledge and academic integrity.


As far as I can tell the hoax did fail. As I recall from the authors' writeup, the initial round of hoax papers they sent out all got rejected. By any reasonable standard they could/should have stopped right there and published a paper called "social science journals aren't as gullible as we thought".

Instead they iterated on the papers, and kept iterating until they got something published. What's bizarre is that the authors don't seem to realize that this changed the whole nature of their study, and they were now testing a completely different thesis than the one they set out to test.


I’m sorry, but if the barrier to entry for publishing is a few weeks of revising made-up papers, that’s still a gigantic problem. The hoax succeeded.


Look past the false dichotomy - there can still be a gigantic problem even though this particular hoax didn't do a good job of exposing it.

I mean, the social science journals targeted by this hoax could be awful, I have no idea. But the hoax started with the thesis "if we submit an awful paper it will get accepted" and that thesis turned out to be false. This implies that the journals are not as bad as the hoax authors originally expected, right? They could still be bad, but the hoax doesn't establish that.

The fact that the authors later got other papers accepted, I don't think we can say much about. If an experimenter's methodology is "keep iterating until X happens", then obviously the fact that X eventually happened can't prove anything about their thesis.


There is a LOT of motivated reasoning in here. What method of experimentation are you proposing where if the first attempt at validating a hypothesis fails, you simply quit instead of tweaking the hypothesis and trying again?

The hoax proved that you do not need more than a couple weeks of training to become a published author in these journals. I do not expect that these authors could, without any training or expertise, revise-and-submit a half dozen papers to be published in physics or chemistry. That's significant, whether you like it or not.


> motivated reasoning

You have things backwards. I agree with the hoaxers' motivation, and I assume that what they were trying to prove is presumably true. But their experiment didn't actually support those conclusions.

> What method of experimentation are you proposing ..

Lots of methodologies are valid, but if the whole thing is presented as science then the conclusions need to be consistent with the methodology used!

In the hoaxers' writeup, they said they submitted a bunch of absurd papers, but they all got rejected, so they gradually toned things down bit by bit until some of them got accepted. That's fine, insofar as it goes, but you cannot then turn around and claim to have proved that the journals will will publish absurd papers, which is what the authors did. You can't call a result significant if your methodology is to gradually lower the bar for "significant" until you get the result you wanted!

What the hoax actually proved was that the authors could publish a paper that they considered absurd, but which the journal considered fine. Which is neat - but isn't that already true of the regular papers these journals normally publish? Then what in the world did the hoax accomplish?

> The hoax proved that you do not need more than a couple weeks of training to become a published author in these journals

I don't think the authors claimed anything like that, where are you getting that? Their thesis was just that the content of the papers was absurd, not the times or credentials involved.


> You can't call a result significant if your methodology is to gradually lower the bar for "significant" until you get the result you wanted!

This didn't happen. You're the one who has post hoc decided that there is some abstract bar of "significance" that they're moving up or down. The point is to publish absurd papers in ostensibly serious journals. There is not some absurdity equivalent to p < 0.05 that they manipulated. They just published absurd papers in ostensibly serious journals. It's not like the absurdity of Dog Rape Culture would be lessened if the first papers they submitted had been the output of /dev/random.

> I don't think the authors claimed anything like that, where are you getting that? Their thesis was just that the content of the papers was absurd, not the times or credentials involved.

I'm getting it from the literal facts of what happened. They are not trained in these fields, and papers they wrote were published in these journals. Therefore, the hoax shows that you do not need to be trained in these fields to publish in these journals.


> They just published absurd papers in ostensibly serious journals.

You and I can say the papers were absurd, but an argument is only meaningful to the extent that it has persuasive power to someone who doesn't already agree with it. For anyone who disagrees that the papers were absurd, the hoax has no argument to make - that's where it falls down compared to Sokal, or SciGen-style hoaxes, etc.

I mean honestly, did you read the authors' writeup? I remember it had a bit in the summary like: "so what has this experiment proved exactly? Well, we'll leave that for you to decide". If that's a study that's proved its thesis, I'm a banana.

> Therefore, the hoax shows that you do not need to be trained in these fields to publish in these journals.

I don't know what special training an academic from one branch of the social sciences would need to publish in another, but again you're claiming the study proves something the study authors didn't even discuss. That's not a tenable position to hold, and you might reconsider why you hold it.


AFAIK there is not so much enmity from people in more exact sciences, rather than indifference. At least in neuroscience i rarely see any interactions and whenever discourse occurs, it is parallel orthogonal monologues that have been shaped meticulously in the past few decades to avoid each other.


In scientific endeavors we should be equally pleased whether the hypothesis or the null is confirmed. Both add to the body of knowledge and this should be celebrated.

Of course this is often not true, but it is the ideal.


> The world where the hoax failed would surely be a better one for knowledge and academic integrity.

Yes, it would. But that's not the world we live in. That's the problem.


It wasn't some test of the unknown. He knew the emperor had no clothes and set out to prove it. The people who are pleased also know the emperor had no clothes and of course would have been disappointed if the fields were some how impervious.

.


The grievance studies community very quickly pivoted to the 'but it was unethical!' line in the wake of the hoax - it's a shame but not at all surprising that they aren't interested in attacking the root cause.


While I don't think Boghossian is a fraudster, his hoaxes are certainly poor science. He should have conducted a rigorous empirical study instead. Of course, he must have known that fabricating data can cost him his career. But punishing him sends the wrong sign to academic whistle-blowers. IMHO, the best thing Portland State can do is to establish rules for ethical and scientifically valuable hoaxes as a lesson learned from this.


Sure, the criticism this hoax is trying to demonstrate may be legitimate, but the methodology is one designed to highlight the cleverness of its executors and diminish the credibility of a discipline, rather than point out constructive areas for improvement. Basically, it is a methodology that does not treat its targets as intellectual equals and is quite indecorous—you get the sense that a major point of this operation is to discredit the field and make its practitioners feel some kind of public humiliation or shame. A childish tactic.

In my opinion, this is not the right way to effect change in academic practices. Sokal's big hoax did a good lot for Sokal (whom everyone is now familiar with—but it's funny: is the public acquainted with Sokal because of the contributions he made to his field? Arguably, no. Who's supposed to be the sham academic again?) and caused a lot of drama—but was it an effective means of enacting the sort of change in academic practice it claimed to be striving for? Well, we simply need to ask ourselves why there's even a need for such a thing as "Sokal squared" to answer that question.

This is a conniving way to go about improving academic practice—doesn't the very practice sort of eschew the principles of open collaboration, transparency, collective growth, and honest dissemination of thought/knowledge academia should, in the ideal world, foster?

This is largely just an attempt to incite drama and gain notoriety on the part of the authors, and it further drives wedges between already highly disparate, specialized fields that may as well talk past each other.

Of course there are things to criticize about grievance studies, just as there were things to criticize about the lingo and methods popular in the humanities when Sokal devised his original hoax—but stooping to underhanded publicity stunts instead of open intellectual conversation likely won't solve the problem. Please don't give in to this sort of nonsense and stroke the pleading egos of the 'academics' that pull these sorts of stunts. Boghossian is not a hero.


> In my opinion, this is not the right way to effect change in academic practices

So what is? Specifically, what is, given that the academic fields in question demonstrably have no interest in whether things are true or not?


I think a mechanism that, first of all, promotes some kind of interaction between fields and helps counterbalance the hyper-specialization our academies currently promote.

It is very unlikely that "the academic fields in question demonstrably have no interest in whether things are true or not". More likely is that people from hyper-specialized fields use different criterion for the validity and veridicality of statements and that their incredibly hermetic jargon and deep reliance on interlocking field-specific concepts prevents them from communicating with other academics from other disciplines in meaningful ways—thus resulting in a great sense of misunderstanding and misjudgment between members of the fields. In some sense, our pursuits are so hyper-specialized at this point that they are incommensurable—there's an incredible lack of 'generalists' able to act as liaisons and to produce the appropriate meta-criticisms for each field of study.

That, I think, is a much more reasonable assumption than one that assumes a cohort of people who "don't have interest in the truth" have somehow slipped their way into academia and are using it as nothing more than a vehicle for their political motives—that's a rather conspiratorial hypothesis and would need much more evidence to support it than the publication of a couple of papers in a couple of journals.

If we were to solve the hyper-specialization problem to a degree, I think it would promote greater academic health and collaboration overall.


> It is very unlikely that "the academic fields in question demonstrably have no interest in whether things are true or not".

Er, they are actually quite open about this.

For example:

Founded in 1974, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University has put research into action by inspiring innovative solutions that advance gender equality.

The goal/purpose is "advancing gender equality", not "truth finding".

Most of these fields don't just not believe in truth as a concept, they actually actively oppose and dismiss the search for truth or requirements for evidence as being expressions of and mechanisms for maintaining illegitimate power hierarchies.

Now hyper-specialisation is also a problem, but it's not this problem.


but stooping to underhanded publicity stunts instead of open intellectual conversation

Attempts to have an open intellectual conversation, specially in these fields, gets you deplatformed after SJW attacks, or draw people screeching when you attempt to debate at the Uni, to the point debates have to be cancelled by limp wristed admins.

The only way left if to use sarcasm , or these kind of maneuvers. What's the point of exposing the insane and unethical academia establishment if you have to tell them, in advance, they're being exposed?


I'll grant that for sure. There are indeed plenty of politically motivated scholars (importantly, usually students! not professors!) that fail to meet challenges and intellectual/social hurdles gracefully, but much of the disdain for SJWs is predicated on a presumed moral high-ground—"we're better than them because we care about truth, and facts while they don't" (just as the so-called "SJW" types often feel their political motives are morally superior to those who are opposed to them).

But if the opposition to the so-called "SJWs" has resorted to hoaxes and other fraudulent tactics, aren't they just as bad as the people they're fighting? Haven't they regressed to a similar tactic of "deplatforming" and effectively similarly nullifying the chance of an open debate?

Both "sides" (and there really shouldn't be 'sides' in this—as in most cases the binary division line in this conflict is a gross oversimplification of the issues at stake) are guilty of poor decorum in the academic arena. Pots and kettles, really.

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