Friday, October 30, 2015

Rutgers Philosophy Professor (a) Falls For The "Facilitated Communication" Hoax, (b) Molests Disabled Patient

   I saw some things about this recently, but kind of just let it pass. I'm suffering from outrage burnout...
   I'm tempted to say that the biggest outrage here is that a philosophy professor fell for the "Facilitated Communication" hoax. This technique (or, more precisely, the theory that it works) (a) is not even vaguely plausible, and (b) has been refuted about as conclusively as something can be refuted. The method is described as "controversial" in all the stories I'm seeing...but to the best of my knowledge that's just not true. Unless some bomb has been dropped, FC is as much a settled issue as the existence of leprechauns. Besides, it'd be a simple thing to prove otherwise. If there were something special about this case, and--somehow--FC worked on the man in question "DJ", Stubblefield should easily be able to prove that. As in the original tests of FC, she could simply leave the room, whereupon the judge could provide DJ with some impossible-to-guess information ("12," "Elizabeth Barrett Browning," "the Large Hadron Collider," whatever), then Stubblefield returns to the room and DJ reveals the information via FC... But...since FC doesn't work...
   I haven't been following the dust-up, but I expect that Stubblefield must have tried to argue, inter alia, that her sincere belief that she was having a consensual affair provides her with some excuse...  Guess the jury didn't buy that, if, indeed, she argued it. The obvious response would be: it's no excuse if your belief is held irresponsibly, no matter how sincere it might be...  Though who knows how the law sees such things...
   "Disability studies," like the other political quasi-disciplines that aim largely at effecting political change rather than scholarly/scientific results, is not renown for its scholarly rigor. This should come as no surprise. It is, as is well known, much more difficult for people to be rational and objective when politics is in play. So that may have been a factor.
   I do think--on a completely different note--that one can make something of a case to the effect that this is less bad than if the sexes of the participants had been reversed. I used to dismiss such suggestions out of hand, but I've started to think that they're at least worth discussing.


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