Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"CDC Director: There Are No Banned Words At The CDC"

As I guessed, another bogus Worst Thing About Trump Ever story.
Or that's how it seems at this point, anyway.
   It's getting more and more difficult for me to see things at all clearly in the midst of this anti-Trump bullshitstorm. One of my worst epistemic vices is being so repulsed by whoever's being stupidest at any given time that I have a hard time bringing the failures of whoever's being second-stupidest into focus. I get tunnel vision. Or tunnel revulsion. The anti-Trump hysteria is making anti-anti-Trumpism seem like a reasonable option. Though anti-anti-Trumpism isn't inconsistent with anti-Trumpism.
   tl;dr: I hate everything.

   Seems like about half the media are still going on about about the (apparently fictional) CDC word ban (needless to say, it will kill children), and half are starting to reluctantly revise their line to: well, whatever's going on it's just as bad as what we said was going on but isn't.
   As should go without saying, I'm against any kind of pressure on science to alter its conclusions for political reasons. (And: although I think that's idealistic, I don't think it's Utopian.) [1] Constraints on terminology don't necessarily work to alter the substance of science. But they work in that direction. And so have to be resisted. By which I mean: slapped down hard and with extreme prejudice.
   And, look: I think that the word 'diversity' has begun to do an enormous amount of harm. It's become a shibboleth and a mantra and a smokescreen all in one. Nothing even allegedly done for the sake of almighty diversity can be questioned. If you do question it, you're a racist, obvs. (I state this despite having been in a meeting recently in which I criticized the diversity craze very directly, and my criticisms were taken seriously and at face I think I'm full of shit at this point...) It's also not a term that has any particular place in science (not when used with its current affirmative-actiony meaning, that is). We'd all be better off, says me, if the term were dropped, and people were forced to say what they actually mean (I've argued that before). Still, I'm against pressuring the CDC not to use it. Suggesting is one thing; pressuring is another.The best policy is: don't tell the CDC what to say, and don't tell them how to say it. And don't make suggestions, either, if they're going to be interpreted as more-than-suggestions.
   And I'm of approximately the opinion that 'transgender' is about as scientific a term as 'demonic possession' or 'chemtrail' or 'chakra.' But obviously I'm still against etc. etc.
   I would suggest, almost as a sidebar, that anyone worried about neo-Lysenkoism / political bias in science--especially with respect to health policy--needs to be focusing about 80% of their attention on leftward bias. That seems to be the kind of bias that's socially "baked into" policy science. External pressure seems to me to be about an order of magnitude less worrisome. I'm inclined to think that leftward bias is common in a science to roughly the extent that the science intersects with policy. This view is absolutely, positively not based on anything like decent evidence. It's based on nothing more than relatively casual and distant observation (and by 'observation' I mean: glances at headlines in Scientific American). I don't see anyone would take it seriously...except to the extent that it resonates with their own (probably casual) observations.
   I just spew out a lot of this stuff to get it out of my system. It's not so much that I believe it all as that I something-somewhere-between-fear-and-believe-it. But I don't exactly not believe it.

[Also...not to fall too much into the comparison trap...but: I wish there were just a bit of this outrage at the left's on-going, concerted effort to put much more restrictive constraints on speech and thought all across the cultural superstructure, including universities. We still can't get some progressives to admit this is even happening (see: PC denialism), nor that there might be anything bad about it (see: it's just common courtesy / those who object just want the freedom to use racial slurs.)]

[1] Note: this is the point at which, when the left is accused of putting political pressure on science, it almost invariably response with: science is already politicized! The rest of the argument is usually left unstated. Because if you do state it, its invalidity is pretty hard to conceal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original story appears to be correct. Certain words were banned from use for the purpose of preparing the FY19 budget documents. Some employees misinterpreted it as a broader ban, and that led to some confusion in the media.

9:24 AM  

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