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

Just three comments on yours, John.
1. I don't think world-views are marked by stability actually. What is interesting about them is that they are dynamic, continually changing. 2. I don't think world-views "impair our ability to learn and create." On the contrary, it is only thanks to culture that we can learn or create ... but of course just what we can learn and create is to some extent constrained by culture and world-views. 3. I don't think biology has a lot to tell us at this level, any more than does physics.
But there are of course many different takes on these problems! :)
*Andy Blunden*

John Cummins wrote:
A great discussion!

I am not sufficiently familiar with AT to comment, but there is another
approach--not necessarily antagonistic to AT--availed by the study of
World-views. This is still quite a nascent field, and as far as I can make
out it is largely dominated by social scientists.

My take on this is that we may be under-estimating the importance of
biology. No one really knows why we have a World-view, in the sense of a
reasonably stable and enduring conceptual and evaluative framework, through
whose lens we see the world, though contributors to this discussion are
certainly highly alert to the problems this brings.

To the extent that biologically-oriented psychologists are beginning to
study this, the favoured approach is that there are complex systems ( ie
brains) that fall into certain stable configurations, and a person's
World-view is such a stable configuration. Also, there are some advantages
in stability--for example it enables you to have a whole raft of biases and
quick and dirty heuristics.
Andy sees the unifying factor as a sort of lifetime unified vision of what
constitutes the good life. Alternatively, that vision could be an effect,
rather than the unifying cause. For example, the sorts of values we are
discussing ( religious, political, environmental etc)  may tend to fall into
patterns or constellations, as a sort of sub-set of the elements in one's
World view. Jonathan Haidt's group has some good data on the values element
of this , though as they are social scientists I don't think their
explanations are biological enough. ( Please feel free to shoot me down here

If you don't agree with this biological approach, I'd ask you to consider a
question: These world views-- that we seem to defend aggressively; that we
have difficulty updating; that presumably impair our ability to learn and
create, and therefore presumably impact on our much-vaunted flexible
intelligence----how do we square their existence with evolutionary
approaches? Why have they been allowed to persist? There are only two main
types of response, I suggest. Either as humans we have a talent for
constructing appallingly unsuitable social conditions that create these
problems, or there is an underlying biological dynamic here, involving both
costs and benefits, with the rigidity of the world view having both easily
identified costs, but mysterious benefits. Of course, there could  be an
interplay between the two factors, which I suspect is the case. Either way,
we need to get this one right.
Again, my two cents' worth..I think there is a biological element, and it is
considerably more powerful than the 'stable configuration' dynamic mentioned

-----Originalple, Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
[mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: 22 September 2014 09:35. Either
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

As you know, Carol, my recent research has led me through the belief-systems and activity of a range of Christian denominations and I have learnt to value the enormous contribution which Christians have made to social change activism and the pursuit of social justice over the past 400 years, before which time the question is moot. Generally speaking all sorts of theology are consistent with all sorts of social practice and even metaphysical beliefs. The correlations are complex.

Believing that God created the world does not imply any kind of supposedly literal or selective reading of the Bible and nor does it necessarily imply rejection of Darwinian evolution. Surveys about Creationism usually sort people into three categories; (1) God created the world 10,000 years ago or less; (2) God created the world by means of evolution, etc., or some such formulation consistent both with science and with Christian moral convictions; and (3) God had nothing to do with it. I think you would be (2), Carol. To be a Creationist requires a huge leap of faith about immense detail. It means believing things like "God created cows so man would have milk." I don't know where Spinoza and Hegel fit in that little 3-part scheme. I don't know what you mean by "order of creation". Do you mean "God created X on the Nth day" and so on?

Creationism in the US is (I believe) a political position: it is a very specific array of concepts. Belief in God is in itself not a political question. The political question is only: if you believe in God, how do you conceive of Him (or Her)? Does God approve of public health, etc?

The Big Bang is something else. No physicist thinks this is a closed question. Personally I think the solution to the obvious contradictions is that time, like space, is finite but unbounded. Plausible, involves no insuperable logical contradictions, no Prime Mover or First Cause, or Before Time, but it is all still an open question. But I think to insert God wherever you find an open question is just silly. It is a bit like John R.Searle who inserts quantum uncertainty into human biology to solve the problem of free will or introducing UFOs to explain unexplained events. God is fine, but he is not the answer to any unsolved problem of physics or biology.


*Andy Blunden*

Carol Macdonald wrote:
Dear Andy

I haven't kept up with the previous 15 conversations, but need to add my tuppence worth. I believe that God created the world, but not anything literal about the Bible. We need to know what triggered the Big Bang. Even Richard Dawkins the professed atheist is agnostic about this very point. Also it seems that the order of creation, although allegorical, seems to map out the order of events, although Biblically we really have to give "day" a different time frame.

I just say this in case this example can be accommodated in your theory.


On 22 September 2014 08:58, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com <mailto:lpscholar2@gmail.com>> wrote:


    Taking project as the KEY concept and stating that projects are shared
    collective desires to change *concepts* is highlighted in your
    The *intended* project is to change people's understanding of
    asbestos as a
    miracle substance to a deadly substance.

    Returning to the article Peter posted on *perspectival* assumptions as
    being collective and developing the concept of *perspective* away
    from its
    subjective bias to taking *perspectival* as collective could be
    as a *project* [writing articles to change others concepts of

    I sense an *overlap* and possible synergy between notions of *changing
    concepts* intentionally AND realizing changing perspectives by
    with an intentional focus.
    Are we referring to similar phenomena??
    The inherent stability of concepts/perspectives and the intentional
    projects to change the *shape* of harmful perspectives/concepts.
    Is there a bias to see perspectives AS images and concepts AS
    Is this the question of multi-modality [recently shared on line]??

    I appreciated the clarity of the example of asbestos workers who
    shared an
    understanding of asbestos [as a miracle substance that was actually

    The relations between perspective taking, interpretive
    understanding,  and
    concept development is the question I'm left with.


    On Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 10:57 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
    <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    > 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
    > and solving these kind of prejudice and scepticism. Postmodern
    > 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
    > the USA boasts the largest percentage of people in the world who
    > 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
    > 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
    > 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:
    > The_Case_of_Asbestos
    > Apologies for going on too long.
    > Andy

    > *Andy Blunden*
    > http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
    > Charles Bazerman wrote:
    >> Michael,
    >> 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
    >> 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
    >> 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
    >> 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.
    >> best,
    >> Chuck
    >> ----- 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
    >>> 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
    >>> 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
    >>> 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.
    >>> Michael
    >>> ________________________________________
    >>> From: 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 <mailto:mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>>
    >>>> So there are two distinct problems here: First, the
    researchers are
    >>> not diverse. Second, the people they (we?) study are not diverse.
    >>>> Martin
    >>>>> On Sep 21, 2014, at 8:11 PM, David Preiss
    <daviddpreiss@gmail.com <mailto:daviddpreiss@gmail.com>>
    >>>> wrote:
    >>>> 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
    <mailto: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?).
    >>>> Rod
    >>>>>> -----Original Message-----
    >>>>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
    >>>>> [mailto: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/~ <http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/%7E>
    >>>>>> henrich/pdfs/WeirdPeople.pdf
    >>>>>> Enviado desde mi iPhone
    >>>>>>> El 21-09-2014, a las 13:42, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu
    <mailto: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.
    >>>>>>> mike
    >>>>>>> On Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 8:18 AM, David Preiss <
    >>>>>>> daviddpreiss@gmail.com <mailto:daviddpreiss@gmail.com>>
    >>>>>>> wrote:
    >>>>>>>> What a fantastic piece Peter! Loved the references to
    >>>>>>>> David
    >>>>>>>> Enviado desde mi iPhone
    >>>>>>>>> El 21-09-2014, a las 7:31, Peter Smagorinsky
    <smago@uga.edu <mailto:smago@uga.edu>>
    >>>>>>>>> escribió:
    >>>>>>>> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/point-of-view-
    >>>>>>>> affects-how-s
    >>>>>>>> cience-is-done/
    >>>>>>> --
    >>>>>>> Development and Evolution are both ... "processes of
    >>>>>> and
    >>>> 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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Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
Developmental psycholinguist
Academic, Researcher, and Editor Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa