Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole

This is the Samizdata quote of the day from yesterday, and it leads to a most interesting article by Kåre Fog in Quillette. Not a particularly easy read, but very valuable and highly recommended.

From this laborious work, and from all my other efforts in this field, I have drawn the conclusion that the evidence for social constructionism is a mirage in the desert. It does not exist. Most people in the humanities – including those who are able to express their opinions freely without fear of being fired – presuppose that gender roles are social constructs, and that the results obtained by natural scientists are determined by their social and political environment. Thousands of pages of academic ‘research’ express such notions, and thousands of university students are taught that this is how things are. But it is all hot air. The whole scenario is reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody listens to the little boy who alone has the courage to point out that the Emperor is naked.

Much of this material – and Judith Butler’s obscurantism, in particular – functions like a Latin liturgy. It is not meant to be understood. About 600 years ago, the clergy in England supposedly existed to combat evil and make the world a better place. The sermons were in Latin, and the Bible was only available in Latin, so laypeople had no means of verifying what the clergy told them about religious doctrine. When a number of idealists translated the Bible into English so that common people could read and understand it, the idea – in principle, anyway – was that this would give more people direct access to God’s word. But instead of embracing this opportunity, the clergy fought all attempts at translation. And when the Bible became available in a language that people understood, the clergy burned the English translations, and those who distributed them were caught and executed. Given the choice of either supporting the wider dissemination of God’s word or preserving their own power and authority, they chose the latter.

A similar pattern of motivated self-interest is in evidence today (although opponents are no longer executed). Social constructionism has transformed the humanities departments of many universities into a kind of postmodern clerisy. In its own understanding, this clerical class strives to improve the world by insisting that all differences between groups of people are social constructs that testify to the unfairness of society. Society, therefore, can and must be reconstructed to dismantle these iniquities. But if wide-ranging social change is being demanded, then the basis for those demands needs to be firmly established first. Scholars ought to be labouring to prove the extent to which such differences are indeed social constructs and the extent to which disparities can be mitigated or dispelled by the radical reorganisation of social policy and even society itself. But this step in the process is simply absent. Instead, theorists make claims without bothering to substantiate them. Confronted with a choice between the disinterested pursuit of truth and understanding, or preserving their ideologies and positions of influence, they consistently opt for the latter.

And so, large swathes of the humanities and social sciences have been corrupted by ideology. Pockets of integrity remain but they are the minority, and they are only tolerated so long as they do not contradict the central planks of the accepted narrative. The unhappy result is that our universities are corroding, and our students will graduate with nothing more than the ability to further corrode the rest of society.

These are the concluding paragraphs of the paper and summarize very well what is documented in it. Many of us often wonder why the scientific method is falling into disrepute, and here is our documented answer. Do read it, and take it to heart, it will clarify many things.

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12 Responses to Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole

  1. Indeed true Biblicism has always been somewhat scholastic, as the Reformation! And many Western universities are simply bereft and mentally deprived here, not to mention today’s Biblical illiteracy, we have lost it with both modernity & postmodernity! Scientific method must also stand before a form of proper biblical Salvation History!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. the unit says:

    OK well, haven’t read it all (gender want-a-be, reality, and knowledge or something , I think), but Reagan’s short quote about liberal knowledge probably nicely sums the whole thing up.
    Much easier read. Just a bit of empirical remembering necessary. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    Duh again. Enough with three paragraphs and first sentence of the fourth. “The consequences of abandoning the search for truth and objectivity are grave everywhere.”
    No mention of the rigour of empirical coherence gained with following the crap of ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ of the ’60’s, which caused me much rigour and exhaustion back then. 🙂
    So along with the Reagan quote there’s this one: “When you’re dead, you don’t know you’re dead. All the pain is felt by others. The same thing happens when you’re stupid.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. stolzyblog says:

    All real education is autodidactic. I rarely meet a person of consequence who doesn’t grasp this, or rather, embody it. Fashions fluctuate, and maybe only 10% of the educators we come across — at all schooling levels — manage to tickle our inspiration and cause us to wonder in self-directed new directions. These are the ones who matter. And it seems to me to be so with little reference to their personal ideologies.

    But the forces which seduce us to limit our imaginative capacity, or channel our think down less conscious pathways, are everywhere, not limited to education. Not even limited to humanities education, for the sciences are more rife with convention than even the humanities. Plus, they exert a far more reaching influence these decades, since none of their axioms escape immunity from scrutiny.

    good blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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