Sandra Harding had her time in the limelight; now it’s Andrew Ross’ turn. Fair’s fair. All children are talented, all children are special, all have something to say, we must listen politely to all of them and not make some feel bad and excluded and marginalized and of low worth by ignoring them. Nor must we throw the little bastards out of school merely because they threatened or assaulted a teacher, unless a gun or a knife was used. Once again, fair’s fair. Exclusion damages the academic performance of people who are excluded (except when it doesn’t), therefore it is important to avoid exclusion except in the most extreme of cases. A child who shoots up the classroom with an AK-47 would probably do better in another environment, but short of that, it’s all love and inclusion and extra attention for the dear little mischief-makers. But that’s another subject. We were talking about hip trendy Andrew Ross.

It’s interesting reading Ross right after Harding, because in a way he is far more sophisticated than she is, but in another way he isn’t. There is a veneer of sophistication of sorts in his writing – in the style rather than the substance – that is very different from the way Harding writes. You don’t keep getting that dismayed feeling that you’re reading the work of a small child, or at best a teacher of small children who has forgotten how to write for grown-ups. No, you can tell this guy is an adult, all right, and that he’s been around, he knows what’s what, he knows how to push the buttons and impress the right-on. But a veneer is all it is. It’s about a millimeter thick; it’s all surface. The content is just as dopy as what Harding says. And there’s almost as much self-betrayal. There is for instance the way Ross informs us that he’ll be taking a good hard look at the rhetoric of science, while all the time he is peddling nothing but rhetoric himself. That’s exactly why his writing seems so silly: it’s so obvious, the way he simply relies on sly emotive language in place of evidence or argument – and yet he fancies himself a debunker of rhetoric! It’s a joke, and one that he seems to be blithely unaware of. So not as sophisticated as he’d like to think. Apparently he’s quite good-looking though, so that’s all right.

You’ll be wanting some examples.

While I occasionally analyze the language, philosophy, and rhetoric of the dominant scientific claims, my chief interest lies in describing how various scientific cultures – sublegitimate, alternative, marginal, or oppositional – both embody and contest these claims in their cultural activities and beliefs…I have devoted a good deal of attention…to alternative cultures like New Age that are subordinate, marginal, or opposed to official scientific cultures governed by the logic of technocratic and corporate decision-making.

There, that’s good, don’t you think? See what I mean? On the one hand you have ‘cultures’ that are marginal, oppositional, alternative, subordinate, opposed, sublegitimate (do you begin to get his drift, or is it too subtle?), and on the other you have ‘cultures’ that are dominant, official, governed (ew) by the logic (oh no not that) of technocratic (urrgh) and corporate (ow!) decision-making (fascists!). Impressive stuff.

Consequently I focus on how the authority of dominant scientific claims is respected and emulated even as it is contested by apprentices, amateurs, semi-legitimates, and outlaws who are detached in some degree from the authoritative institutions of science.

That’s a great one. Notice how he manages to refer to ‘authority’ twice in the space of one sentence! Now I call that resourceful. And of course he doesn’t limit himself to that. Certainly not. Why bother with precision when you have a nuke in your pocket. No, throw in dominant and institutions while you’re at it, and of course on the other side talk of semi-legitimates who ‘contest’ (always a great hurrah-word), and especially those dear detached outlaws.

Yep, you bet, that’s how the work of ‘contesting’ the ‘authority’ of ‘dominant’ scientific ‘cultures’ is carried out: via vocabulary and innuendo. That’s all it takes. Just say one side has all the advantages – authority, dominance, all that stuff – and the other side has all the other thing – marginalization, opposition, outlawhood – and the job is done. Obviously science is the exact equivalent of slaveowners, feudal masters, priests, landlords, bosses: possessors of arbitrary unjust power which they use to dominate and trample everyone else and engross all the riches. There’s no need to know anything at all about actual science – and Ross doesn’t: notoriously he dedicated this book (Strange Weather) to all the science teachers he never had. Nope; rhetoric is all-powerful. But it’s not authoritative, so that’s all right.

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