Monday, April 13, 2009

Pastures new, or any port in a storm.

I have found a new blogging haven, and no I am not going to link to it from here, as I find it a haven of sanity and sound rational discourse in the face of what have increasingly become Punch and Judy knockabout exchanges on the autism hub.

Yes my new blog does deal with autism, it does deal with science and that by implication would be enough to infuriate the ‘mercurian’ persuasion, whose interpretation of science is somewhat different to my own.

In that new community I find the level of discourse to be far more respectful in general than I find here and it is a welcome escape from the ad hominem attacks and blatant irrationalism which all too often surfaces in the commentaries on our blogs.

I have to say, indeed confess that my own style of commentary both within this community and without has often sunk to that same pantomime level, which is what tends to happen when the quality of what one is responding to almost demands a less than serious rejoinder.

Is it good bye to this particular blog?

Well it may be, then again it may not, as I reserve this blog for the more personal.
Anyway I could go on to say that I have found the exchanges on the autism hub to be more analogous to the late night arguments one might have in a pub after a few beers when ones guard is down compared to the sort of constrained exchanges one might find in a debating society.

So what have I learnt from other bloggers both within and without of the autism hub?

I have learnt that Michelle Dawson considers me the enemy of science because I dare to be critical of the basis for the research her institution is undertaking. That I fear stems from a clash of epistemologies more than anything else as it often seems we are speaking mutually unintelligible languages, mine being inflected (some would say infected) by the dangerous virus of sociology. No matter, I respect Michelle's work both in advocacy (whether she acknowledges the word or not), and in her contribution to demolishing the myths of behaviourism.

Harold Doherty, would seem to think that I am one of the Devil’s minions, a cohort of High Functioning Hells Angels who would ride roughshod over his rights as a parent. What utter nonsence, put away the distorting spectacles Harold. His ally Autism’s Gadfly seems to be confused, on the one hand I am a nobody, a wannabe sniping at the authority figures in the autism world. On the other hand he snipes at me because my relative academic success (albeit thirty years late) is somehow challenging to his self esteem as someone doomed by the curse of autism. You can’t have it both ways.

Others think that because I call myself a king in my own domain, that I am closer to Caligula than Marcus Aurelius. So be it, I sometimes wish I had never used that particular trope as the subtleties of the shift in meaning between Erasmus’ and Wells' use of it go unnoticed. The reality for this one eyed tyrant king is that at this age (to quote from Thomas Hardy) toothlessness is felt less to be a defect than hard gums an acquisition.

As for Foresam, I leave the Be(a)st till last does he even think? Or has he been swigging the mercury himself?

I have really had rather enough of it all which is why I am moving to pastures new, hoping that I can cross the bridge without encountering any Troll resistance, or worse yet to find them chasing after me.



abfh said...

I usually just ignore the trolls that you mentioned, as their sniping seems to be more a matter of scripted rants than anything personal. At any rate it's not worth taking personally.

Catana said...

I always find your views interesting and refreshing, even when (sometimes) I don't agree with them. I hope the new community meets your expectations. I'm afraid I've yet to find one that is actually a community rather than a collection of individuals carping at each other about who is more authentically on the spectrum, or moaning about their "suffering."

Your blog is one of the few I look forward to reading. I hope you won't abandon it altogether.

Riel^Amorpha said...

I also enjoy reading your commentary on things even when I don't always agree, and I would miss it if you stopped posting on the Hub altogether. I get tired of the Punch and Judy exchanges too, and it's really bothering me how many people who are supposed to be "on my side" are acting like abject jerks, and how irrational some "defenders of science" are being.

I definitely don't see you as an enemy of science. I too see "proper" science performed without ethics as a questionable thing, and I don't think it is or should be immune from sociological analysis. I've loved science for a long time, and studied it (though my department was more physical, not social or biological science) up until I had to drop out of university. For me, part of my love of science is wanting to see it be used for the right ends, for things that will really improve lives or enhance our understanding of the universe. I don't think a thing is above reproach from the start just by virtue of being scientific.

I think what people forget is that science doesn't operate in a vacuum. You don't walk into a laboratory and enter some world which is suddenly totally objective. Science can never be divorced from the social context it's taking place in. Even correctly performed science can yield the wrong results if you don't account for every single factor that's involved in a real-world situation (like Lord Kelvin's famous miscalculation of the age of the earth-- his mathematics were perfect, except he didn't account for the effects of radioactivity, since its existence wasn't known at the time).

It's like the 19th-century scientists who concluded that women "must" be less intelligent than men because it was a known fact that women's skulls tended to be smaller. The problem was that they were assuming, as a foregone conclusion, that larger brains made you smarter. I see a lot of science being done that way in the autism research field-- people starting out by assuming that an unproven idea (like that autistics have less empathy) is a fact, and basing all their experiments and conclusions on a principle that they should actually be questioning. A lot of people talk about what a good thing skepticism is up until the moment someone else turns their skepticism on that person's favorite theories (or the ones they find most useful in pigeonholing or brushing off people). Then, it's suddenly no longer reasonable skepticism, but fanaticism or nitpicking or a personal attack, and people will often try to attack you by questioning your motives (which is also a logical fallacy-- I forget the name of it, I'm not good at remembering the names of specific fallacies, I just tend to notice "wow, that argument really isn't quite right").

Anyway, I would miss your posts if you left, but I also wouldn't blame you for leaving.