Archive

Archive for October, 2009

10 Books…Part XXVI: The Dishonorable Mention

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Finally, we reach the end. The last chapter in this horrid book full of misinformation and misleading characterizations all masquerading as objective conclusions. Where do we end? We end with one of the Conservative Movements greatest demons: Feminism. Now Wiker wouldn’t be so foolish as to attack the beginning of Feminism: Suffragists such as Susan B Anthony, or even go after Feminist works such as “On The Subjugation of Women” by one of his enemies John Stuart Mill. No, instead we focus on “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan.

The book itself exposed the idea that a woman whose sole occupation is “homemaker” may not be happy with her life. She may feel trapped seeking distractions such as affairs, alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression. This book, coming out in 1963 pretty much shattered the picture of what “normal” women should be at a time when the sexual revolution was just getting started and that modern Conservatives look back on with so much fondness.

I’m not a feminist (that’s actually not an obvious thing to say), I don’t buy into linguistic conpiracies against women (aside from the French), nor do I think that I have oppressed women by simply being a man. That being said I have nothing against Feminism or Feminists per se. However I will jump to their defense when someone like Wiker attempts over and over again to tie feminism to Marxism and Communism. Even Wiker sort of recognizes it, “But isn’t this just redbaiting*? Discrediting her later, mature work on the basis of a youthful indiscretion? I think not.”

The thing about Marxism/Socialism is that while thematically wrong they were correct on certain points. One of those points was that women had been placed in a subservient role in the Industrial society. Regarded as second class citizens, they were denied the same rights as men. The Marxists and Socialists pointed out that this was wrong, is Wiker saying that they are wrong in pointing this out and recommending that abolition of women from these roles? Based on the previous chapters on Marxism (Marx and Lenin), I would have to say that Wiker would categorically dismiss anything a Marxist says as being correct. The tool of “redbaiting” that Wiker is using here, and throughout this book, is effective. I have to admit that as no one will call a healthcare reform act “socialization” nor the bank bail out “socialization” either unless they are using it to condemn either action.

So Wiker dives head first into his usual Ad Hominem attack on the author, while simultaneously bypassing correct criticisms on the origins of Friedan’s theory. Betty, whom he calls Bettye for the first half of the chapter because that was her given name, was not a housewife she was college educated at “radical” Smith College** and then a journalist. Along with Lenin, this is not a criticism it’s merely a fact. Salk didn’t need Polio to cure Polio, I don’t need to be a victim of genocide or racism to know that it is wrong. So Friedan writing about the entrapment of the housewife doesn’t need her to actually be a housewife. He also touches on her ties to Marxist groups and various labor organizations which is again only an attempt to get people afraid of communism to hate Friedan more.

Friedan, was a founding member of NOW (National Organization for Women) and a strong proponent of Roe V. Wade. Wiker is not going to abide this, and likens her book to that of the atrocities of Stalin and Lenin. He says that since 1973’s Roe V. Wade 48 million abortions have taken place, and that is more than all the people that have died in the Communist purges, and other atrocities that he fails to
name. I’m not going to assault his anti-abortion stance as that would be like throwing water at a brick wall, sure eventually I might get through but it will take thousands of years.

We’ll end this last chapter of his on a weird note. The book was copyrighted for 2008, I first saw it at Barnes and Noble in late November of 2008 and Wiker is able to make one appeal for the 2008 Presidential Election. I don’t know who is ideal candidate was, but I can be sure that this book was designed to end so that people didn’t vote for the godless communist we now have as president. He likens Friedan’s struggle with Michelle Obama who mentioned that between the campaign, her job, and family life she felt overwhelmed [as I imagine McCain’s wife, Palin’s husband, or Biden’s wife did as well]. And here was her husband promising universal healthcare, access to childcare, and better schools for the American people; just as Friedan desired. “Onward goes the revolution” ends Wiker to cap off the book.

I just don’t see what is wrong with better education, access to childcare, or universal healthcare. I’m aware of the objections to the last of those three, but the first two are a mystery to me. It seems that Wiker believes we should all be living in a world where one parent works and the other (female) tends to the home, this isn’t possible anymore as the banking and credit industry have scuppered that.

What Wiker fails to understand in this and other chapters is that radicals are important. Radical works, even those that we disagree with are important because they allow us a different point of view. To paraphrase Mill the usefulness of any opinion, even a wrong one, is greater than censoring because it adds to the debate and to public knowledge. We have no right to censor one person, even if the world stands against that person’s opinion than that one person has the right to censor the world. Radicals give us the idea of what the middle ground looks like. I think Glen Beck is a nut case, but he allows me to see what the radical right believes as much as Jeanine Garfolo/Michael Moore does for the left.

*And who uses that word anymore?
**Which I don’t understand where the radical title is justified. Wiker uses it in reference to the college’s professors, which seems to be common for any professor.

Categories: book reviews, philosophy

10 Books…Part XXV: The Kinsey Report

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

We get started with the obvious: Wiker is going to reject almost everything that Alfred Kinsey reported in “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.” This, for readers of the series, should be familiar. Wiker arguing from the standpoint of a conservative Christian isn’t going to be accepting of a publication that accepts homosexuality as normal or anything that goes against the Judeo-Christian model of what sexual normalcy is supposed to be.

As I said in a few posts, I can’t really fault him for that. That is his point of view and while I disagree; if I consistently decided to argue against that it would mean that these posts are going to get pretty repetitive. I can, however argue against his application of that viewpoint if it tends towards hypocrisy, double standards, and other crimes of inconsistency. The main issue with the chapter is that it is curiously devoid of quotes and direct references to the actual report. This seems to have been a problem that Wiker himself had as he explains, “The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction will not allow me to quote anything.

I’m not an expert in copyright law but I have three publications in which I have quoted from other works and never once have I had to ask for permission to quote/paraphrase/summarize from one of those works. As long as I correctly cited the material confirming that it is not my own it was deemed legal. I will grant the possibility that lawyers for the books’ publishers took care of this for both myself the author of any chapter in question and the editor of the books themselves, but I can’t see how Wiker cannot directly quote while numerous books and articles have been written attempting to discredit the report. Am I to assume that none of these books have quotes from the Reports themselves? Further adding to this enigma is that Kinsey’s report is scientific and not allowing a person to quote a scientific report seems wrong to me. I have no evidence to call him a liar although this claim seems incredible to me.

Without direct reference to the work the chapter seems bare. We, of course, can get copies of the Kinsey report and check the work ourselves based on the citations that Wiker inserts into the chapter but that does seem to take away from the book’s purpose.

The main issue with this chapter is that Wiker brings up an interesting conflict. The conflict is between “is” and “ought.” Kinsey’s report sought to explain what kind of sexual behaviors males were engaging in through the use of surveys with sample populations. Wiker seems to think that the report ought to have brought in the concept of what kind of sexual behaviors human males ought to engage in. This would lead to black and white judgment on the population in question seeming to satisfy Wiker’s need to have morality permeate every aspect of science.

He of course, ties this back to Machiavelli who famously explained that he sought to explain the reality of the matter rather then explain the ideal. At this point even I’m sick of reading about Machiavelli. So we must cast judgment, but from what viewpoint should be casting judgment? While Wiker, to his credit, only references his religious convictions a few times (twice, I think) however this is the last chapter* in the book so we know where he is coming from. Why should a report pass judgment? Well Wiker never explains that, he says that Kinsey was seeking to normalize his own sexual perversions bending the world to Kinsey’s own predilections, but this does little to explain why a person conducting a sexual study should be in the business of enforcing morality.

It leads into Wiker’s favorite tool of applying the Ad Hominem attack, he leads into semi-graphic explanations of Kinsey’s own sexual practices and then how Kinsey used them to influence his report. That, technique seems to permeate the attacks on the Kinsey Report itself in three various websites all of the conservative leaning. This does little for the technique as Ad Hominem is still an informal fallacy of logic. Despite Kinsey’s own behaviors the numbers don’t change, his report is still there. Just because Stalin said that one death is a tragedy and a million is a statistic doesn’t make it less true because Stalin said it.

“Ought” is still his issue. Kinsey should have instead reported the sexual behaviors that men ought be engaging in, and in 1948 it would probably look just like Wiker and those that share his viewpoint think it should now.

Along with Ad Hominem Wiker brings back his old favorite of equating “natural” with “desirable.” We have seen with Hobbes and Rosseau that this is a mistake. Although he goes about it in a strange manner that is very telling. Wiker talks about how he had a Disney image of a Rooster copulating with Chickens in the Hen house. That image was shattered when he actually had a Rooster and could hear the mating noises of the poultry which he described as “pain filled shrieks” because the Rooster wasn’t being nice. This image destroyed and him being bothered by the noises (which as someone who has heard animals mating before I can’t really blame him) he “moved the Roosters into the freezer.” A nice way of saying that he killed the roosters and then ate them.

It is natural for a rooster to mate with hens in this manner. This is their inherent nature. That is after all we use the word “cock” to describe both a male chicken and a male asshole. So being offended with the rooster’s behavior Wiker murdered** them. Apparently then the male chicken is immoral for following its nature.

Natural isn’t always desirable, I can’t stress this enough and Wiker admitting that homosexuality has existed throughout history seems to agree on the separation. It doesn’t mean that Kinsey was advocating homosexuality for the population only that it seems to be a natural occurrence in human males. Kinsey did engage in homosexuality but since he conducted his report with an air of “disinterested objectivity” as Wiker says, it means that he wasn’t passing judgment on those people exclusively heterosexual as missing out on something. It would seem that Kinsey might have been advocating tolerance instead of adherence to a code from a book that no one knows the author.

At no point in this chapter or the entire book has Wiker explained the superiority of his morals/values instead taking it for granted that they simply are. Wiker’s favorite moral code, the Biblical one, also allows Lot to have an incestuous three-way with his two daughters but we don’t have Wiker condemning Exodus for allowing him to go unscathed.

The real issue with Kinsey is touched upon but cast aside in favor of more scandalous attacks. That issue is that Kinsey’s samples were made up of people that were more than willing to confess their sexual histories, too willing in fact as numerous critics of the report comment. It’s called “volunteer bias” and it means that if you are willing to help out with an experiment to, say, cure cancer and knowing this ahead of time you are going to be either subconsciously or consciously hoping for the conclusion. Also Kinsey interviewed a good number of male prisoners wherein he derived higher than normal statistics of homosexual acts (in prison? duh…) from which readers of the report claimed 1 out of 3 men are homosexual.***

Instead of attacking Kinsey’s conclusion, Wiker had a good opportunity to attack his method going into what could have been a nice explanation of the scientific method and how to conduct research polling. Having done that the conclusion would have fallen apart on its own. He didn’t do it last chapter so missing such a golden opportunity again isn’t much of a surprise. It would be a much more effective and agreeable method if he applied it to this whole book and maybe he will do it in the last chapter.

*It’s not there’s always a conclusion, but he does manage to squeeze in one more under the guise of a “dishonorable mention.”

**: I haven’t gone all PETA, I understand that he was keeping the Chickens for both eggs and meat which doesn’t bother me in the least. Wiker points to the Rooster’s behavior as being the sole motivation for their “incarceration” in the freezer.”

***: But that statistic is nowhere in the report itself, nor is it implied.

Baby Einstein

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Disney has recently offered a refund for anyone who has purchased a Baby Einstein video in the last five years. The refund comes after it has been pointed out that the videos do not make babies any smarter than they would be otherwise. Well duh…

Since most people are under the false apprehension that Einstein failed math as a child then became the super physicist that we all know of, the whole marketing campaign under the Baby Einstein videos was akin to those late night get rich quick schemes. It promised a big reward for very little pay off. A couple of years ago I would have laughed and laughed having no idea what the videos were or why they were so popular. Since having little Gwendolyn though, I am aware of the videos and the television show, but still have no idea why they are so popular. Frankly, of all the children’s shows that Gwen and I have watched the baby Einsteins are on the lower end of tolerability. Gwen pays attention to it for about five minutes then goes back to either trying to chew on an electrical cord, kiss an electrical outlet, or dive headfirst off a couch/table.

Yo Gabba Gabba, still remains her favorite with reruns of the Twilight Show coming in at a distant second. The problem with the Baby Einstein series is that it is fundamentally misleading as I am sure the marketing people in charge wanted it to be perceived, yet common sense should indicate that sitting your child in front of a television screen offering no interaction isn’t going to do anything. Sure, it gets their attention but how is that going to make them smarter?

The same thing occurs with what I am now terming “the Mozart fallacy.” It has been shown that children who are exposed to classical music tend to be smarter than those who are not. This is a matter of public fact and knowledge. What the study that first discovered this did increase IQ in spatial intelligence but that it was only temporary. The effect wore off almost immediately. However the study was popularized leading to the term “Mozart Effect” which people interpreted to mean that listening to Mozart makes people smarter.

The effect was then transferred over to children as it was said to increase their brain development. Again, no it did not. Exposing children to music in their early years cannot be a bad thing, but the idea that just listening to one specific composer should light up the skeptic in all of us as being a bit far fetched. I’ve read that the reason children who are exposed to Mozart are typically smarter is because they are raised in an atmosphere where exposure to the arts is normal thus varying their experiences.

Think about it this way: if a man has a son, and that man watches a lot of football, used to play football, and interacts with his child using football, are we supposed to believe that just watching the sport made him want to play football? Or instead should we assume that the environment that he was raised in encouraged physical competition in one sport? It’s a question of long term nurturing not some magic component inherent in some Austrian’s music?

One researcher even compared Mozart to an audio recording of a Stephen King novel and saw the same effect. We have a bunch of the Baby Einstein books and toys, I’m willing to bet that they will have a much greater impact on her than the videos. I believe it’s about involvement and interaction rather than passivity.

Categories: current events, philosophy

Memo to the internet.

October 26, 2009 2 comments

To Whom it May Concern,

Somethings that you do have been bothering me of lately and I feel that addressing you (Al Gore?) directly might help to rectify the situation. It has long been said by other people much more eloquent than I, that the internet’s greatest boon is also its greatest curse. Giving a voice to everybody is like a two way street, we, in America have grappled with this over the years learning election after election that while Democracy is good letting everyone have a vote doesn’t give us the best of possible worlds.

Furthermore Plato, in I believe the Timaeus, had Socrates lament the development of writing and literacy as he felt that it would be detrimental to people’s memories and their ability to be creative. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, since I cannot actually remember if it was the Timaeus (although I am pretty damn sure). The internet has thus both improved and decayed this current state of civilization. We have seen its benefits with the recent hooplah over in Iran several months ago, the internet provided communication to those that would have otherwise not been able to communicate their struggle with the world.

However, if must be said that you, the internet, are also responsible for destroying the average person’s ability to be both communicative and sociable. In the case of the latter, we can’t really blame the internet since addictions are common to everything and every era, however in the case of the former we can certainly blame you for incomprehensible writing styles and the encouragement of said styles. I will list an example:

“IMO” or “IMHO”: these are what are known as abbreviations, originally used on instant messaging systems to communicate information quicker than the actual typing out of the words. While this is not new in any respect nor is it unique to the internet these two abbreviations are nothing more than weasel words designed to encourage the idea that because something is an opinion that it could not be wrong…which is false on its own but masks a secondary crime. The reason that we know it is someone’s opinion is because they are saying it, if it weren’t their opinion we would probably be told that as well. The second of those abbreviations “IMHO” commits a third crime by adding the ‘H’ which is supposed to be for the word “humble.” Pointing out humility is anathema to actual humility. What the person using this is saying is, “this is my HUMBLE opinion and you would certainly not have the gall to question my opinion so low that it is.”

“LOL”: the most over used phrase. No one is ever laughing when they write “lol” for how could they laugh if they were writing?

“ROFL”: again and this one is even more implausible.

If communication is designed for the transference of information from one party to another and said communication does not, in fact, do that doesn’t that make you, oh internet, party to the biggest lie ever foisted on the population of the Earth?

Sincerely a tired and out of ideas blog writer.

Categories: Internet

New Catholic Anglicans?

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Does this mean that Pope Clement VII won in the long run?

I love sectarian splits, I don’t care whether it’s religious or political the idea of something splitting because one group wants to remain traditional and the other wants to make some changes, enthralls me and I think it’s because the ending always surprises me.

For the lazy, Pope Benedict XVI, has issued a new decree that will allow the married clergy members of the Anglican church to switch over to the Catholic church, retaining their position and title (albeit their Catholic equivalent), for those objecting to the appointments of an openly gay clergy, female clergy, and same-sex marriages. The orthodoxy of the Anglican church has voiced objections in the past before the archbishop of the Canterbury had even approved of the changes.

The difference between the Anglican and Catholic church is pretty slim to begin with. The changes for the clergy won’t be that noticeable until they get into the minutiae of Catholic law, but the differences are primarily between leadership and obviously divorce as that was the initial reason for the split.* So this is an effort by Pope Benedict to incorporate more clergy into the Catholic tradition. Which is good, as this country has a sharp shortage of both Catholic priests and seminarians looking to become Catholic Priests.

However…I wonder how the existing Catholic Priests will react to their new co-clergy members. If the Pope is going to permit the already married Anglicans into the church to retain their marriages then I would think that there must exist some segment of the Catholic Priests that are going to be either envious of their new members or view them with derision for not having taken the same vows. Are these new Anglican/Catholic Clergy going to be pseudo-priests are sub-priests? I can’t see Catholic law (admittedly I’m no expert) being able to make them equal with one group having the nominal privilege of the possibility of becoming Bishops. Furthermore will the traditionalist former Anglican Bishops be willing to take the step down if they are married?

The Catholic church has a good deal of technicality to root through and while I personally have no doubt that they will be able to do it, I am curious to see how it turns out. 

*I know there were other important reasons as well, such as King Henry not wanting a foreign power to have control over his people but the divorce is the story almost every person knows.

Categories: current events, religion

Skepticism

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I fancy myself a skeptic.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories from Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Kennedy, or Lincoln. They all involve too many pieces falling into place at the exact right time, all with perfect execution and more importantly perfect silence. I don’t believe in ghosts, vampires, sasquatches, or the Loch Ness Monster. As there has never been scientific evidence whether it be a complete lack of proof in the cases of ghosts and vampires or in the cases of the latter two admittance by the people who committed the hoaxes. That being said, I enjoy reading about all of them and in the past was a firm believer.

Skepticism for me is total subscription in the rational methods. My favorite public figures in this are James Randi, Penn and Teller, and until recently it had been Bill Maher. As a comedian I have liked Maher’s routines, I enjoy his HBO series although I do disagree with his ultra left wing stance on most issues. For instance I don’t think that the war in Iraq was motivated by war profiteering. I honestly think that while there was some opportunism involved it seemed to me that Bush believed that he was doing the right thing in Iraq.* I think that while he is on the left his show did make attempts to be more center which is more than other pundits can ever claim, recently he has been under fire for his criticisms of both the Democratic party’s ineffectiveness and of President Obama in particular.

A couple of weeks ago he received the Richard Dawkins award for his stance against religion in general and Creationism/Intelligent Design in particular. However this runs in complete contradiction to his stance on medical science. I have my own issues with Richard Dawkins, in short he’s pretentious when it comes to religion. He wanted to have atheists rename themselves “brights” which would mean that all religious people from St. Augustine, Descartes, and onward would be considered “not bright” which is plain insulting. The thing about the award is that it is supposed to reward a commitment to science and the scientific method which should mean that Maher cannot be given the award.

Maher’s medical beliefs run the gamut of alternative “medicines,” he urges people to reject vaccinations because they are in his words “ineffective.” On a recent episode he cited a quote from Jonas Salk, inventor of the Polio vaccine, as saying that vaccinations have the possibility of causing the disease that they are supposed to be fighting against. This quote which has no attribution, and cannot be found on an internet source except in reference to this conversation he had with Dr. Bill Frist is false.

To further admonish this claim Maher falls into a circular logic trap. He is using an appeal to authority, Dr. Jonas Salk would be THE authority figure on vaccines as his work nearly single handedly eradicated polio. It is from this position that Maher uses to impress Frist on the inefficacy of the H1N1 vaccine, but in denying the effectiveness of all vaccines he is using a source that Maher, himself, does not subscribe to. At one point during the interview you can almost see Frist wanting to scream at Maher, “I am a practicing doctor, I do this for a living and I am telling you…!”

All of his diatribes against the anti-evolution crowd as being idiots are neutered in the fact that he apparently denies the scientific evidence that the flu vaccine is effective, that polio and smallpox are no longer epidemics, and that makes him not only in idiot but also self-contradictory.

Skeptic websites and blogs are thus picking him apart for this contradiction. It would be like discovering that Christopher Hitchens was a Scientologist, or Jeanine Garafolo voted for McCain, or Sarah Palin an atheist.

The counter-point can be made as whether a person can receive an award for one thing and still be dangerously wrong in another.** Well, of course this is possible, I like Martin Sheen’s movies but not his politics. In the case of Maher it isn’t possible as his contradiction is anathema to the award. I’m skeptical to a fault in everything. Ockham’s razor is my favorite tool and I put all my faith into Karl Popper’s assertion that a theory which is un-falsifiable is automatically wrong. As frustrating as that may be to other people I’m at least consistent, if only everyone could be as well.

*Of course things didn’t turn out the way he may have intended. I do disagree with the conduct that war was run on initially.
**As his advisement that pregnant women should not get the vaccine has the potential to be mortally so.

10 Books…Part XXIV: Coming of Age in Samoa

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment

In 1928 Margaret Mead published her work, “Coming of age in Samoa” which was an analysis of Samoan culture in order to answer the question of whether the behaviors of teenagers in the United States (rebellion, sexual anxiety) was something natural to them or if it was an effect of culture. In essence it attempted to solve one aspect of the “nature vs. nurture” question. Mead’s book concluded that it was indeed cultural, that sexual attitudes in the Western world were not a product of simply being born but rather something taught. The free attitude of Samoan culture toward sex resulted in less anxiety than their American/Western counterparts.

Of course our intrepid author Benjamin Wiker is going to have a problem with this. While I have knowledge of Mead’s work I have not read the book itself but am familiar with her conclusions as well as some of the evidence that brought her there. My criticism of Wiker’s entry is going to concentrate on the philosophical errors he commits as per my education. I cannot go into the intricacies of the problem with Mead’s book but I will, in an effort to be truthful talk about some of them.

Building an argument is like building a house, you can’t expect it to hold up if you have a faulty foundation (or you can substitute another tired simile) and Wiker throughout this book is resting his chapters on the faulty ones that he discussed earlier on. The previous chapters concentrated on Machiavelli while this chapter instead focuses on Thomas Hobbes. I have previously described Wiker’s incomprehenisbly inaccurate telling of Hobbes’s state of nature and here Wiker rephrases it in a much simpler and easier to refute manner: “the natural=the primitive=the good.”

Whenever someone uses the symbol “=” logically you can substitute one side for the other. What Wiker is saying is that Hobbes believed “natural” was the same as “good” giving the implication that the primitive or natural was to be strived for. This goes against every recommendation in Leviathan’s political aspects. Hobbes, to repeat, was not advocating a return to the state of nature. He was merely describing what he thought would happen when law, government, and society were overthrown. Furthermore it was not that everyone would become thieving murderers but that some of us would, to think otherwise would be not only foolish but dangerous as well.

So the primitive society that Mead studied in Samoa would not be advocated by Hobbes, who was seen by a good deal of his contemporaries as being a monarchist second and an Englishman first. The sort of savagery that could be seen in during the English revolution prompted Hobbes into exile in France, which I doubt he really desired to do.

Returning to Mead, her conclusion is to recommend a sexual freedom that was not seen in the 20th Century America, in this Wiker’s explanation is correct. She did recommend it as being more liberating and less likely to lead to some sort of repression or intolerance towards others with a different sexual outlook. I understand Wiker’s objection to this as being largely centered in his religion, while I disagree with him I am not going to take an issue with it. He correctly states Mead’s recommendation and then disagrees. The odd thing is that he doesn’t explain why the Samoan’s culture is flawed. There is the derisive attitude about how Mead describes them as promiscuous but then moves past it as if that is supposed to stand on its own.

I guess for his intended audience it does, but for the rest of us not subscribing to his ideology it needs a bit more explanation. An explanation that would have to go beyond the mere accusation of adultery since the Samoans, as Mead describes them, don’t really adhere to a doctrine of life long marriage. Without that, every sexual relationship is either within a concept of group marriage or all adulterous so it’s either perfect or it’s perfectly immoral. I have to reassert my assumption that he must feel any reader having gotten to this point in this book would have to already agree with his morals.

Then there are some mischaracterizations and inaccuracies. Wiker claims that this book was widely accepted in it’s time, while it was widely popular there was a large uproar that the book caused. The people of the early 20th century didn’t eat it up so much. Which I am not sure if this is a fault of his, there were aspects that accepted it and depending on his level of abhorence of the book could mean that anyone accepting it is too much agreement. However he does remark that the book is still taught, and still required reading (I’m assuming at the college level) which means that some people do agree with it. Well that isn’t necessarily the case. Going back to the previous two chapters we have two authors, Freud and Hitler, that are taught purely for historical reasons. I have taught Freud’s absurd advocacy of atheism but do not agree with it, and my history teacher in highschool assigned us Mein Kampf for the historical importance of the book. I regularly taught Descartes and completely disagree with him as well. Teaching something doesn’t mean you agree with it, I would love to see Wiker’s syllabi since he only teaches works he agrees with (grading must be really easy for him).

Wiker closes by accusing Mead of having an ideology and then looking for a evidence to support that then he spends a page or two preaching against ideology as being the possible root of all evil. It’s ironic that he does this since this book is one giant appeal to his ideology that any work which doesn’t subscribe to several ideas (1. a support of one specific theism 2. a belief that ethics are universal and 3. works by atheists are wrong) are intrinsically dangerous. This irony is so thick that I doubt even his followers could miss it.

In an effort to stay true to my skepticism I must say that Mead’s work is not without its own controversy, and Wiker mentions this several times in his chapter which confused me because this is a good reason that Mead’s work can be considerred to have screwed up the world. Mead’s methodology has come under fire numerous times. Accusations that she was pushing a preconceived conclusion on to her study. There have been calls regarding a possible loose application of the scientific method, most notably from a New Zealand anthropologist Derek Freeman. If Freeman is correct regarding his criticisms of Mead then yes, she does belong on a list of corrupters because she is illustrating that you don’t have to be scientifically accurate in order to be important in your field. Although history does bear this out in both the New York Times and any study lauding the efficacy of homeopathic medicine it doesn’t make it right.

Without a degree in anthropology I can’t really comment further, only that Wiker has again concentrated on the wrong aspect of a work.

Categories: book reviews, philosophy