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

Hi Jenna,

It is not so much a difficulty with people having different perspectives as much as the idea that maybe the way we are discussing it is not working (precisely because people are appropriating it for their own purposes) and maybe we need to explore different ways of discussing and understanding some very real phenomenon.

So I can't look at something from another person's point of view so let me do so from a point of view that is closer to home for me (with apologies if this seems too trivial).  Let's say a researcher is observing a classroom in China and compares it to an American classroom and sees the children working together to achieve a goal and the researcher says, "ah, that is the result of the more cooperative Chinese culture, different from our individualized culture."  This is based on limited observations and a moderate knowledge of Chinese history.   The researcher can make the assertion of course, but how much credence should be given.

Another person is watching the same classroom in relation to American classrooms, but it is somebody who lived through the cultural revolution.  They don't see this as part of the Chinese culture but the strong attempts to sublimate individual identification in the context of the whole - it is based on a strong political ideological decision about which direction to take society which is still being played out in the early childhood classroom.  Also an assertion, but again how warranted based on limited evidence.

In both cases we can say it is based on perspectives, but one perspective does not really have that much of an advantage over the other.  You say the scientific findings are based very much on this perspective and you would be right.

Okay, now say two scientists exploring what is going on with climate change.  One person comes from a more progressive background and is working in a context where there is a great deal of empirical evidence, literally hundreds of studies saying that climate change is being caused by humans and following on this evidence offers a finding saying that there is human additions to climate

The second scientist comes from a strong neoliberal, free market background and is very sincere, but follows a much, much smaller scientific trajectory and observing the same phenomena claims that there is no human addition to climate change.  This second scientist is also making an assertion.  And if the first scientist argues the second scientist says, but that is your different perspective.

In both cases the findings are also based on perspectives - and in the case I am posing sincere perspectives.  How then do we determine that this second situation is different from the first?  Why do we say yes findings are based on perspective in the first but hesitate to say so in the second?  I would suggest it is really hard.  And I would suggest it is difficult because of the way we are discussing the issue.

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Jenna McWilliams [jennamcjenna@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 11:59 AM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

Imagine being a scientist who does their work from inside of, let's say,
a queer and female-bodied container. You see the Scientific American
article that Peter forwarded on and you think, well...this really isn't
news--it's what lots of us non-mainstream (queer, female, nonwhite,
disabled, genderqueer/transgender) researchers have known for what seems
like forever. It's also well and widely discussed, as Miguel pointed
out, in Science and Technology Studies. Obviously, you think. Obviously
science is shaped by the identities of the people who engage it.
Obviously people who work from within bodies that fall outside of the
mainstream are sometimes attuned to phenomena that are overlooked by the
more mainstream bodies and minds that dominate what we today call
"science." Obviously the field needs to make room for those people and
that research, too.

Then imagine jumping onto one of your favorite listservs and seeing the
point of the Scientific American article equated with climate change
deniers and anti-science creationists. It would be easy to feel
disappointed, when encountering this on your favorite listserv--to see
the work of those who aim to reshape science to account for multiple
perspectives and experiences equated with opinions that are generally
characterized as willful ignorance by those who do science.  It would be
easy to wish this conversation hadn't gone to that place.

But perhaps I'm misinterpreting the discussion. My queer and female body
sometimes reacts particularly strongly to certain forms of discourse and
certain forms of arguments that others might let pass.

Jenna (Jake) McWilliams
Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University

> Andy Blunden <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
> Monday, September 22, 2014 9:38 AM
> There is such a thing as objective truth, David. The claim that
> asbestos kills, once established, is extremely robust. And it is not
> just a statistical correlation, microscopic examination of lung tissue
> can prove it. I sort of agree with what you say, David, but relativism
> is also relative. The test of objectivity is the "robustness" of the
> claim, its capacity to withstand sceptical criticism. Up to a point,
> the asbestos companies were able to use the tactics - just like the
> tobacco industry and the climate deniers - such as putting contrary
> information, supported by those posing as scientists, into the public
> domain to create the illusion of a "debate", and buying off or
> intimidating those who spoke the truth. But in the end the case
> against them became so strong that the only way the truth that
> asbestos kills can now be undermined is by some kind of "higher truth"
> which sublates the irrefutable truth of medical science. Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> David Preiss <mailto:daviddpreiss@gmail.com>
> Sunday, September 21, 2014 7:11 PM
> Loved the WEIRD acronym. One of the best ironies I've seen in recent
> scientific writing.
> Enviado desde mi iPhone
> Rod Parker-Rees <mailto:R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk>
> Sunday, September 21, 2014 3:57 PM
> 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] 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
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> David Preiss <mailto:daviddpreiss@gmail.com>
> Sunday, September 21, 2014 11:31 AM
> This article is revelant for this topic:
> http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/WeirdPeople.pdf
> Enviado desde mi iPhone
> mike cole <mailto:mcole@ucsd.edu>
> Sunday, September 21, 2014 10:42 AM
> 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>