Monday, May 14, 2018

Alice Dreger Sort Of Gets It

As I've said, I think that "intellectual dark web" is a goofy name for it. Absolutely. But that's irrelevant to everything substantial. I certainly understand why one wouldn't want to take goofy photos (e.g.: standing in cattails) for the goofy press. (And the NYT and the Chronicle are largely on the goofy / converged side of things.) So I understand Dreger's amused annoyance.
   But she's absolutely wrong that there's nothing important to do beyond research. Galileo's Middle Finger was a reasonably important book, and it wasn't what you'd call "serious academic research." It was a popular book--a popular book that should help clear up some important things about the left's neo-Lysenkoist interference with science. For however many people read it.
   Anyway, I've always thought that Dreger only kind of gets it, actually. She seems to largely understand the left's interference with science on behalf of transgender ideology...and she seems way smart enough and a way good enough philosopher to recognize the theory's obvious 2+2=5s. But she seems to have ideological commitments that prevent her from calling bullshit on the whole mess. By which I mean: recognizing and clearly saying that men can't become women and women can't become men. Not currently, anyway, technology-wise. And never by mere fiat, nor by "social construction."
   Anyway, I like Dreger (not that I actually know her); she seems smart and nice and I like her sense of humor. But her criticisms of the "intellectual dark web" are the thinnest gruel. As for pissing off progressives: the progressives in question deserve to be pissed off. If they're pissed off, it's because they are on the side of the people who want to silence rational criticism. Dreger sneakily writes as if their only goal and their only achievement is to piss people off. But surely she knows better than that. 
How is this really about intellectualism, darkness, or a special web? If these people are having conversations that are so rare "in the culture," how is it that they have millions of followers and pack auditoriums? (Is "the culture" The New York Times?)
Well...uh...their arguments are better than those of their opponents, and they are speaking in defense of the apolitical search for truth, as opposed to their opponents who are all, to one degree or another, on the side of Lysenko (to be blunt about it). It has nothing whatsoever to do with darkness or a web...but again, that's just a name. Don't play the PC niggle-about-names game. And the rarity argument is just sophistry. The perspective they are advocating is under siege in the culture. It's being shut out of universities, and those who advocate it are being physically attacked. Dreger's is a terrible argument. It could be deployed against any advocates of a suppressed, heterodox view: as soon as they're numerous enough to be noticed, their complaints can be dismissed. 
   Again, I respect Dreger. But I've always thought she was a bit wobbly on this stuff. Which means, of course, that my own principles demand that I pay attention to her. But her arguments here just don't seem very good to me.


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