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[Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

Michael, Charles.
This is an issue which I think can be tackled by Activity Theory, not just climate denial, but a whole range of belief/disbelief problems like this. Social justice issues and social change in general depend on understanding and solving these kind of prejudice and scepticism. Postmodern relativism has given us a poisoned chalice indeed.

I believe that Activity Theory is well placed to solve this category of problem and give some guidance as to how to tackle deeply held but irrational prejudice. Developed using 'project' as the unit of analysis I think Activity Theory gives us a really useful theory of ideology which has the advantage of being firmly connected to a living tradition in psychological science and meaningfully connected to how people live their lives. Taking Creationism as an example, among European and American societies, the USA boasts the largest percentage of people in the world who believe that God created the world just as it is today about 10,000 years ago. They are rivalled only by Turkey. And it does not correlate with lack of education. In fact, among Republican voters, the more educated you are the more likely you are to believe in the Old Testament story of Genesis and not Darwin. A significant percentage of Democrat voters also believe in Creationism, but this declines with education.

The point is that when people evaluate evidence, as Charles was suggesting, we do so by integrating the new data into our existing conceptual frame. I regularly dismiss all sorts of news and theories because it doesn't fit into my conceptual frame! We all do. The reason why there is so much Creationism in the US is that Darwin versus the Old Testament has been *politicised*. You prefer the Old Testament for guidance as to the origin of species rather than science (personal experience can shed no light on the question) because it is a litmus test for adherence to the Good Life, just as some people hate bicycle-riders because it is a signal of support for Greeny ideas which are deemed hostile to the ordinary person. I believe that Climate Denial is part of the same issue. In Australia there are rather too many Climate Deniers because the issue has become politicised. Officially the conservative government accepts the science, but every knows they don't and this is reflected in policies like appointing climate deniers to head committees to review energy policy, repealing the carbon price, etc., etc. There are a higher percentage of climate deniers in Australia, as a result, than in Europe where the climate is not politicised in that way.

One's conceptual frame is unified through commitment to a life-project. Opinions and evidence which don't fit the conceptual frame generated by the central concept of a life-project, its vision of the Good Life. There is a 10 minute talk on this in relation to denial of the dangers posed to health by asbestos here: https://www.academia.edu/8179060/Activity_as_Project_The_Case_of_Asbestos

Apologies for going on too long.
*Andy Blunden*

Charles Bazerman wrote:
I am with you, and not only because of climate change deniers. The sociocultural critique has been important to show that humans make knowledge, and they do it from their own interests and perspectives. Yet, various disciplines and sciences, have come to know more about the world in ways that are less entangled with the limits of individual or small group perceptions and interests. Disciplines do represent the world outside of themselves, gathering data--of course selectively through their own devices, their means of collection, forms of inscription and display, etc... Historically, the methodological standards in different fields have evolved to include more awareness of the contingency, fragility, and specificity of samples, data and analysis--along with increasing cleverness of our tools. This is what methodology is all about. I tend to view objectivity not as an absolute, but an awareness of ways in which we are entangled with the phenomena we are trying to study, and to find ways to disentangle ourselves less.
So from this perspective, incorporating the sociocultural critique creates challenges to maintain the persuasiveness of our data, representation, and analysis. Over the last few decades, we have been struggling in different disciplines to incorporate this critique but yet maintain the disciplinary projects of advancing contingent, but useful and reliable knowledge.  I like your term warranted assertability. I myself have relied on the idea of accountability--in terms of being able to give a good account of your research actions when queried from various directions. But it is important to the advance of knowledge that we find ways to gather and understand information about the world (in which we are both living parts and the constructors of knowledge about that world including ourselves) that recognizes the contingency of our knowledge but does not evaporate our confidence in that knowledge into a vapor of contingency only.

I have struggled with this issue for many years in my work on the rhetoric of science and have discussed it in various ways, drawing on the work of many others (Ludwik Fleck still seems important to me over many years), but more work needs to be done to crystallize an understanding that leaves science and social science standing despite it being created by poor, frail, interested, humans of limited and skewed vision.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Glassman, Michael" <glassman.13@osu.edu>
Date: Monday, September 22, 2014 11:21 am
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>

It seems to me that articles like this can be a double edged sword. They use examples where culture has an influence on how we see things but then offer the generalization that science is perspective. This is the same line you hear by climate deniers who claim that the climatologists have a liberal bias. Science is based on individual perspective until it doesn't. I'm their book is a much more nuanced discussion. This is a really complex issue which at this particular moment has extraordinary import. Maybe we need to find other ways to discuss this - like warranted assertability. Perhaps I have been spending too much time reading about the politics of climate change lately and it has spooked me.

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] on behalf of David Preiss [daviddpreiss@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, September 21, 2014 9:41 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

And they make claims for all humankind.

Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 22:16, Martin John Packer
<mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> escribió:
So there are two distinct problems here: First, the researchers are
not diverse. Second, the people they (we?) study are not diverse.

On Sep 21, 2014, at 8:11 PM, David Preiss <daviddpreiss@gmail.com>
Loved the WEIRD acronym. One of the best ironies I've seen in
recent scientific writing.
Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 18:57, Rod Parker-Rees
<R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> escribió:
Great article, David - highlights the importance (at every level)
of being aware of what others might find odd about us (secondary socialisation?).

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
[mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Preiss
Sent: 21 September 2014 18:31
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

This article is revelant for this topic: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/WeirdPeople.pdf

Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 13:42, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> escribió:

The book by Medin and Bang, "Who's asking" published by MIT is GREAT
reading. Seeing this in Scientific American is super.


On Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 8:18 AM, David Preiss <daviddpreiss@gmail.com>

What a fantastic piece Peter! Loved the references to primatology.

Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 7:31, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> escribió:

Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of construction
re- construction in which heterogeneous resources are
contingently but
more or less reliably reassembled for each life cycle." [Oyama,
Griffiths, and Gray, 2001]

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