More Profundity

More Harding. Why? Because there is more, that’s why. Because you don’t know the half of it. Because that previous comment barely scratched the surface. Because it just keeps getting worse. Because my jaw keeps dropping until I can barely use the damn thing to talk and eat anymore. Because this book was published by Cornell University Press. I repeat – this book was published by Cornell University Press.

And because I’m a woman, god damn it, and a feminist, and this kind of bilge is enough to discredit both categories. Feminist! She calls herself a feminist! She links what she’s doing with feminism! It’s an outrage! Well you see what I mean about the jaw. Same thing with the exclamation points – they’re hospitalized with severe overuse. It’s a wonder I haven’t yanked all my own hair out – I feel like it while reading.

The book by the way is Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?, in case you want to read more.

Many writers have identified the distinctively Western and bourgeois character of the modern scientific world view. Some critics have detected social values in contemporary studies of slime mold and even in the abstractions of relativity theory and formal semantics. Conventionalists respond by digging in their heels…As historian Thomas Kuhn said, back when he was such a conventionalist…

That was page 80. Here is one from page 84:

Contemporary physicists, ethologists, and geologists collect evidence for or against hypotheses in ways different from those that medieval priests used to collect evidence for or against theological claims, yet it is difficult to identify or state in any formal way just what it is that is unique about the scientific methods.

Well it is difficult for Harding, at least, which she proceeds to demonstrate by making an amazing hash of it.

‘Observing nature’ is certainly far too general to specify uniquely scientific modes of collecting evidence; gatherers and hunters, premodern farmers, ancient seafarers, and mothers all must ‘observe nature’ carefully and continuously in order to do their work.

Umm…yes, fair enough, ‘observing nature’ is quite general. But then, is that a usual answer to the question ‘what is unique about [‘the’] scientific methods?’ And then, why is that the question in any case? Why is she looking for uniqueness? Because it makes a useful red herring? Many of the discussions of ‘scientific methods’ I’ve seen in fact talk about their continuity with other kinds of inquiry and research; those of Susan Haack for example.

But then it gets even better.

Scientific practices are common to every culture. Moreover, many phenomena of interest to science, though they can be predicted and explained, cannot be controlled – for example, the orbit of the sun and the location of fossils.

I swear. You’ll think I’m lying, but that’s exactly what it says. I tell you what, that’s some pretty deep thought.

Update: Here is an interview with Harding, which will give you a larger sample.

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