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Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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28 October 2018 11:29
 

The Wizards talked about this with Paul Bloom on their latest podcast. Their take: It should come as no surprise that the journals that ran the hoax articles ran them. What’s hard to believe is that anyone would bother spending eleven months creating a hoax to prove the obvious.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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29 October 2018 05:18
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 28 October 2018 11:29 AM

The Wizards talked about this with Paul Bloom on their latest podcast. Their take: It should come as no surprise that the journals that ran the hoax articles ran them. What’s hard to believe is that anyone would bother spending eleven months creating a hoax to prove the obvious.

I caught the discussion on the VBW podcast.  I was disappointed.  Not because I’m a fan of the hoax; like you I can’t even relate to the devotion required for the act, and for my part I have mixed thoughts about it.  But I think if Tamler and Dave are defending the target and criticizing the hoaxers, they sure are going about it the wrong way.

Tamler says, for instance, that he can’t stand their delight in pulling off the hoax, as though, perhaps, they are bullies, and Dave endorses the idea of them of punching down.  Both see a problem with this.  Yet I am certain the targets don’t think of themselves as being punched down too, much less as obviously vulnerable targets that shouldn’t be picked on.  The implied elitism from those two astonished me, what with them being so regularly straight forward, stand up guys, not stand-offish elitists.  Those journals and their contributors, for instance, take themselves as seriously as anyone else in academia, and calling them obviously wrong and lower tier to be punched down to—objects of pity, as it were—without argument or effort sure smacks of an undesirable—and unwarranted—elitism.  The hoaxers at least gave the target the dignity of a chance; they treated them like equals enough to write to their level and give them a chance to avoid the ridicule.  It seems to me Tamler and Dave are just content with their (until now) unspoken contempt for the field, absent any kind of engagement to back it up.  Like I said, I find that contempt disappointing, even though I too have nothing but contempt for the target field myself.  But one can’t defend a target from bullying ridicule, as it were, through the vehicle of contempt for the target.  That just doesn’t work, and used that way it is perhaps worse than the ridicule itself.

There is, perhaps, an admonishment against the hoaxers for not engaging the target in honest dialogue that also comes through in their discussion, but in my opinion that better point gets lost in the talk about being obviously wrong and punching down.  It suggests they (Tamler and Dave) are willing to engage in a downward direction, which, again, is arguably as offensive to the targets of the hoax as being the target of the hoax itself.  In any event, the hoax gives the targets an opportunity to stand up for themselves in a way that being talked down to doesn’t.  In other words, it’s hard to reconcile honest dialogue with the punching down and obvious vulnerability arguments they use against the hoaxers.

I think Bloom was closest to the mark for the value—if any—of the hoax.  The people who write and publish these articles are all members of the same academia as the three of them, yet despite all the so-called obvious problems with their work (some if it probably even occurs at Yale), it goes on unchecked, even encouraged (those folks get tenure, just like everyone else).  Students are exposed, even inundated.  If everyone but the perpetrators realize this is a problem, why is nothing—absolutely nothing—done about it?  Why do these intellectual frauds get tenure, and why are they allowed to fill young people’s minds with their slop—again, assuming it is slop, as I think it is?  If no one is exposing this slop for what it is, why not expose it, and why not through ridicule and a sort of comedy, as Jon Stewart so effectively did?  Bloom touched on this possibility, even as he noted (and as I indicted here) that all the predictable players are assuming their predictable roles.  Yet, despite all this predictability and apparently obvious vulnerability of the target, it’s still big enough to be a target, and nothing is done about its spread through the universities.  This smacks not of un-argued contempt like Dave and Tamler but of bad faith.  If this field is so bad, and if academics outside it know this, why are they letting—even encouraging—their fellow academics promote it?  It seems to me the hoaxers have pricked an academic nerve that lets a clandestine grudge match stew beneath the surface, kind of like a repressed parental conflict no one wants out, but one that desperately needs to come out, thus the kid who brings it up bears the brunt of the conflict for being the occasion for it coming out. Yet the repressed conflict and its effects is the problem, not bringing it out.

In any case, I think the VBW were dead on the first time around but sorely lacking this second.  They paradoxically enough defend the target and attack the attacker through a contempt arguably worse than that behind the hoax itself, even as they put a finger on why, arguably, something like the hoax might be necessary. 

 

[ Edited: 29 October 2018 05:24 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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30 October 2018 12:15
 

That’s an interesting take. I didn’t really get the sense that they were defending the targets, just questioning why anyone would put all that time and effort into hoaxing such obviously hoaxable targets. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I also got the impression that their criticism stemmed at least partly from the fact that the hoax promoted a conservative agenda, sort of like that guy from Breitbart a few years ago who surreptitiously recorded abortion doctors behaving in morally and legally questionable ways (tricking them into auctioning off fetus parts to the highest bidders, or whatever it was). Conservatives being anti-science and all, they’ll always welcome new reasons to criticize it.

So the Wizards’ elitism, if that’s what it was, might have been kind of a defense of real science. The implication being that the hoaxed targets have always been too willing to publish junk science; therefore, the fact that they fell prey to the hoax says nothing about the integrity of real science. I don’t know enough about the different journals and their standing within the scientific community to comment on that, though. Didn’t they mention a few that they claimed would never fall prey to a hoax like that?

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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30 October 2018 14:01
 

Yeah, maybe defending the targets is too strong a word.  They certainly weren’t defending the intellectual merits of the field, but I think there’s still an implied defense in the sense they think no one should be subject to that kind of delighted ridicule at having egg thrown on their face.  So maybe a moral but not an intellectual defense.  Dave in particular brought up the idea of honest dialogue as preferable to hoaxing, and if memory serves, Tamler agreed.

Yes, I think both Tamler and Dave mentioned that the journals the hoaxers picked were prone to fall prey but that more prestigious journals wouldn’t, and Bloom mentioned that Hypatia published one, which is, I think, one of the more popular feminist journals.  This doesn’t directly speak to any elitism on their part, even though it suggests an upper and lower bound to quality, with them siding naturally with the upper.  Note though: within the field, the journals they published in wouldn’t consider themselves low quality, some kind of bottom tier.  Nor would the authors who also publish there.  So with that in mind, this indicates some latent elitism.

But, as you indicate, the “elitism” I am calling out is, I think, almost certainly a reflection of their belief in junk versus real science (using “science” here loosely)—and that is my point.  They (like Bloom) seem content to let the junk science purvey in the universities.  They themselves think it is obviously junk science.  No one is dialoguing with it; it just goes on in its own insular world alongside real knowledge, as though it too is entitled to the same moniker of “real knowledge” in the same universities.  And my question is: if it is so obviously junk, why is there so much of it, and that taught at the same levels as the non-junk?  This elitist bad faith, I think, is the nerve the hoaxers prick.  They say this situation is intolerable.  That is, no one is engaging the junk in any way, and even though we right-thinking people all supposedly know it is punching down to low-tier junk, it’s still taught as though it were as valid as everything else.  So why not expose it somehow, in some way that will make people listen?  Hence the hoax: get even more obvious junk published under the radar to show the field is not meeting the first gate-keeping function of peer review, to wit: keeping the time wasting junk out.  I think Tamler and Dave are a little too ensconced in their elitism about real versus junk knowledge and either don’t know or don’t want to know that droves of students are asked to learn this stuff.  Education psychology and social work, for instance, are rife with it.  There one can’t avoid it.  The hoaxers, I think, find this situation intolerable, and they are pricking, I think, a certain bad-faith among intellectual elites who do tolerate it, all the while communing among themselves in relative silence about just how junky it is.  And in this respect, I think the hoaxers make a point, even if it’s not one they explicitly draw out (and I really didn’t read through their entire discussion; my take is its own thing). 

As for the conservative agenda take, yes, you might be reading too much in.  For my part I am not conservative, yet I despise the stuff and think there might be merit to the hoaxing (though I can’t imagine going to the trouble myself, having already dealt with the sources of this stuff in grad school).  In any case, yes, conservatives are going to eat this stuff up, and they will almost certainly throw out the social issues baby with the intellectual bathwater.  But any liberal I know would get a kick out of this too, had they put up with anything like post-modernism and “grievance studies” in college.  Pinker, for instance, is no conservative, and he’s already chimed in.  No, I think the agenda is pretty a-political, and I’d not be surprised if the hoaxers themselves turned out to be politically liberal to a man (and woman). 

At the end of the day, I don’t really know what to make of the hoax.  Sadly, it too, I think, will pass without anything being done about the problem.  In fact, I don’t think anything short of an intellectual revolution will clean up the post-modern slop that has washed into the humanities and several of the professional training fields (like virtually all of social work, and most graduate education or education psychology).  In the end it’s probably like pissing into the wind—some intrinsic relief, of course, but really you end up just wishing you’d held it. 

[ Edited: 30 October 2018 14:11 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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