Squshy Science

Likewise, your emails never fail to elicit a smile.

Your Marxist reference threw me off a bit; it took me a while to dredge up enough of those ancient memories to place your comment. Believe it or not, the first two-thirds of my college career was at LSU with the bizarre minor of Political Science. Yep, the University of Houston couldn’t fathom my Computer/Political Science major/minor split either when I transferred. My specialty was the USSR. Even so, my only direct contact with old Karl was in Introductory Philosophy. Yeah, he was big on the class struggle, wasn’t he. Grr. Ok. But then he went totally off the rails and missed the fact that just about every human with a heartbeat lives to gain something. "For the greater good" sounds great, but does not motivate. (Hey, that rhymes!) You were spot on in saying that modern initiatives are motivated by self-interest. That’s just the nature of the beast (us).

I do not know enough about Marie Curie’s life to comment. Hawkins, on the other hand, was a Nobel Prize holder before his ALS went active so his employer had every reason to help him. I don’t need to tell you how valuable Nobel winners are to schools. Helping Hawkins keep going is a big money-maker.

One thing that disabled people don’t do well or often is act as a group. There is a bunch of stated reasons for that behavior, and I strongly suspect that the "jittery" feeling you spoke of is a large factor. Those few of us who haven’t given up on life, who are really trying to be a part of the world, truly don’t see ourselves as members of a minority. We see ourselves as individuals first, and then perhaps as members of our ethnic or gender groups. In a sense, that’s what you would want ideally, for disability to not matter. Yet, it actually does matter hugely, as my case demonstrates.

—–Original Message—–

From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:stan0504@yahoo.com]

Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 4:40 PM

To: Scott Royall

Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it

Scott,

I so enjoy your emails. You do a remarkable job of discussing some of the key issues in the social sciences. I love your thinking. Conflict theory, (what you are talking discussion of tension between instinct and society) is a particularly interesting theoretical framework within the social sciences. It’s also one which I actually do buy into. There are a few theoretical orientations I am pretty critical of. It suggests that individuals and groups are always in conflict with the structures and strictures of the greater social framework. The more micro level argument is actually what you discuss, that individuals are in conflict between their instinctual selves, their needs and desires and the internalized controlling ideas of the greater social forces. There seems to be a bit of Marx in your discussion….:)

I am really interested in your historical argument about the origin of equality movements. I think I see your point…after all what motivation would the powerful have to embrace equality except to protect their own power? I would even go so far to say that in modern times, the motivation for equality movements in general is selfish. For the marginalized, its a means of gaining power and material goods. For the powerful its a means of pacifying the masses as well as justifying their own power and assuaging guilt. I wonder if the morality of the motivation undercuts the practical benefits to individuals? Do you think that equality initiatives have a benefit to society?

Perhaps, allowing previously untapped minds to come to the fore. Certainly, Marie Curie and Stephen Hawkings have benefited humanity, and they wouldn’t have been able to if they had been born without the benefit of a least some social change…. What do you think?

Sociology, in general, is specifically interested in how things work. How the relationships of power are negotiate between and among groups. Obviously, a psych major would be better able to answer why and a philosophy major to discuss the morality of the situation but hey… I do what I can. One criticism often levied at this kind of thinking is to ask how we can apply the question to the so called "altruist." Is the altruist the result of some social process or just a psychological anomaly…What do you think

As for the "diss" of sociology. No offense taken. I have this friend, one of the smartest men you will ever meet. Just let him tell you about it! Hes a double PhD in some kind of quantum physics thingy and non-Euclidean mathematics. Apparently he is an expert on something only a few people in the world understand…or care about. His social skills a bit lacking though, as with many genus level minds. He once told me that I had a good mind, he was sad to see it spoiled by squishy science and too much liberal arts education. He considered it a compliment… In any case, he tried to explain math to me once. Said it was like music, he could see the math behind reality, the numbers in the world around him. Chopin in the movement of atoms, perfect pi in the eyes of a beautiful women. I didn’t get it, still don’t understand the connections he made. But i understand passion. I understand the drive to see the patterns, to understand how the world works.. i get that… for some people technology is about that passion, I think.

I do actually sometimes miss Dell. If for no other reason that the sense of of being able to help, practically and immediately. (not to mention the money was better than being a grad student) What I do is often so much in the abstract, Ivory Tower if you will, that its frustrating. I am doing research now on the relationship between identity and technology. I am learning alot from people who live and breath in cyberspace. I appreciate the importance of computers and the Internet to some communities and individuals in a way I never did before. It makes what I did at Dell something different than how I viewed it then.

Well, I am pretty off topic in this email. In my defense…I think I have the flu. Feel free to comment on something I said or ignore me altogether!

Take care,

Alecea

— Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com> wrote:

> Here I sit waiting for Microsoft to get Live.com back up so I can post

> stuff on the blog. I might as well answer you.

>

> I think the phrase "nature vs. nurture" assumes that those factors

> work together generally, and I don’t buy that. To me, nature and

> nurture are usually in conflict. Most men probably feel deep down

> inside that the Barbarians had it right. Romance be damned! Rape,

> pillage, loot. Yeah, that’s the ticket! The only problem is, all that

> raping makes for lots of babies, and those babies are our genes so we

> can’t just bash in their little heads. No, damnit, there’s nothing

> else for it. We gotta raise the buggers, and that means having a

> stable life. Let’s try this thing they call a "society." I think you

> get the idea. 😉

>

> It’s my thesis that instinct and society are in tension. Yes, we do

> have societies basically because of our urge to procreate. Yet, in a

> twist of fate, I was also into History during my college years. One of

> the patterns I noticed there was that the whole drive toward equality

> didn’t really start until Guttenberg. That’s right, the printing

> press.

> In other words, the

> sharing of information over long distances relatively cheaply

> benefited the development of societies in manifold ways. The reason

> why the quest for equality has benefited is fairly simple. No matter

> how powerful you are, you can only have only have so many troops. If

> the masses can communicate well enough to join together, you can only

> repress them so long. So ok, the only practical thing to do, given

> that you know you need the masses to run your society for you, is to

> somehow mollify them.

>

> I’m sorry to say that that seems to be the real function of social

> initiatives. I can’t see any that have clearly only positive results.

> In fact, I would contend that it’s nearly impossible to conclusively

> show a link between an initiative and its intended results, because so

> many other factors can be in play without even the sociologists

> realizing it. I’m hardly the first person to observe that the social

> sciences tend to be very imprecise due to the lack of verifiable

> "ground truth." Everything involved seems to be self-referential. It’s

> basically navigation without any external landmarks. You can’t truly

> know if a result you see was solely due to your initiative.

>

> I really don’t mean to "diss" your chosen vocation.

> It is, after all, a

> perfect outgrowth of your love to be helpful. Still, it saddens me

> that you couldn’t fully appreciate how helpful you were at Dell. That

> makes the most sense if you are aware how personal a computer can get.

>

> —–Original Message—–

> From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:stan0504@yahoo.com]

> Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2007 3:57 PM

> To: Scott Royall

> Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it

>

> Scott,

> As always a pleasure. You are without a doubt one of the most

> interesting people I have had the opportunity to discuss. Feel free to

> post this email on the blog.

> First off, ah technology, the PC/Mac debate is as much fun (and as

> solveable) as the Pepsi/Coke debate.

> Ultimatly, I must probably conceed the field to you.

> Despite my time at Dell, when it comes right down to it, I am more

> interested in people than technology.

> I

> can’t argue that Jobs and co. haven’t maintained a near stranglehold

> on apple products from hardware to accessories. On the other hand,

> there are some things tat Mac’s just do better. And I must confess,

> after spending several hours trying to get my Mac to run a number of

> Sociology statistical programs, there are some things PC’s just do

> better. Vista is to me an untouched venue. Perhaps i’ll check it out.

>

> With regard to your comments on sociology and inequality studies. You

> have a number of valid points.

> I took Sociology classes as an undergrad myself, and generally hated

> them. I couldn’t stand the surface discussion of issues that frankly

> pissed me off.

> Here

> i was, the illegitamate daughter of a teenaged hotel maid, raised in

> "middle of nowhere" Idaho on few hundred dollars a month. I grew up

> alternating between homelessness and a 30 foot trailer for gods

> sake…And these privledge middle class teachers where talking about

> social inequality and systems of power! What the hell did they know…

> I could toss out a story about living in a tent for a few months and

> how I overcame my cirucumstances to get to college and get an A on

> sympathy. I suppose i could defend sociology, point out the ways in

> which it has shaped and expanded understanding of human behavior. I

> could also point out, that despite its flaws, and its occasional

> half-arsed practitioners it has produced some extrodinary insights

> into social strucutes. I might also mention that for good or ill,

> sociological research guides public and social policy. As thats the

> case, I have every intention of making sure that the sociology I

> produce, and that my students produce is not superficial or inane.

>

> But… for me there is more…I wanted to understand society, I ached

> to understand humanity. Why do we do what we do… is it nature like

> you are suggesting.

> Do

> we respond to one another based on age old biological imperatives that

> want us to eat, sleep an of course mate? It reproduction why we are

> jittery around the disabled, unable to get attracted to the obsese,

> and plain pissed off about homosexuality?

> Or is it culture. Are we raised to believe that is group or that is

> superior? Do we exist in a socio-culture space that brainwashes us on

> a daily basis, tells us what to eat, where to sleep, who to have sex

> with? the nature vs culture debate is a big one. Sociology and

> anthropolgy vs biology its a battle royal!

> Seriously, I admitt that biology and nature have some impact on a

> behaivor. But to suggest that our behavior is somehow dictated by our

> lizard hindbrain is in my opinion a total cop out. ‘oh, the devil made

> me do it!’ I’m not buying it. We live in a society that shapes us, I

> have no doubt of that, but we in turn shape it. Who we are, what we

> do, is guided but culture and its a powerful force, don’t mistake it.

> Millions of people have died for culture, for beliefs, for what they

> are taught. Its not easy to change attitudes, to change culture, but

> it is possible.

> its

> not hardwired. As a society we no longer lock up our disabled, enslave

> based on color, or kill based on sexual orientation. IF those things

> were part of inate biology, we would not be able to change them.

> If that the case and we can change them, that leads to your final

> question…should we change them. Should it be survival of the

> fittest? Is that what is best for our species? Would you let your

> child be born if you knew he or she would experience your level of

> disability? Would I let a a child be born if I knew he or she was

> going to be raised in grinding povety and physical abuse like I was? I

> don’t have clear answer for you here.

> I "overcame" my circumstances, I am the living embodyment of every

> anti-welfare, bootstrap theory privledged republican who preaches if

> you only work hard enought you can get out of proverty, racism,

> sexism, hetrosexism fill in the blank. Was my life shaped by

> culture…absolutly.

> But my mother works for minimum wage at a job she hates in order to

> rent a room in a dingy bording house. My sister ignores drunks who

> smack her on the but and insult her while she carries drinks in a

> smoky casino. And my baby brother will spends his life counting the

> days he has been clean and out of prison

>

=== message truncated ===

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