Friday, December 30, 2005

principles of social change

(from a list)...

To demonstrate what I am talking about with developing principles of social change, i will use Rokeach's values test as an example. The overriding principle is something like:

When people's awareness of contradictions in their personal values is increased, the likelihood of changing one or more of the values also increases; the value that changes is in all likelihood one that is liked least (or something to that effect).

see, with something like this, we have a generalizable proposition that we can use to develop specific interventions; we can take something like this along with us when we are encountering different situations that someone wants changed. let's develop some more!

caveat(s)...of course, this will not necessarily apply to ALL situations; it is predicated on several underlying assumptions that I don't know that we have data on -- people prefer values consistency to values inconsistency, people are uncomfortable when their values are in conflict (i think this is where cognitive dissonance comes in), etc.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

more sociological practice thoughts (so i wont forget)

in response to a colleague...

I do think that there are social change principles that can be identified and then interventions developed in concert with those principles that will result in social change. I think this is a very realistic and reasonable goal for applied soc/soc practice.

in response to another colleague...

I am familiar with Rokeach's work -- even used it in a class; I am also familar with how values change. My point (in these apparent last 90 days) that a trip to the library WON'T assist, because it doesn't exist, is empirical applied sociological literature on the efficacy of these methods to facilitate change.

I know that there are numerous disparate interventions that exist; to my knowledge, they do not exist in a "social change" handbook, nor have they been empirically evaluted for their efficacy. I am simply advocating for the development of both of those things.

If you recall (I guess it was 90 days ago), i posted a little test...i'll update it using your example -- ask an applied sociologist to provide you with five empirically validated ways that they can change values in 30 seconds or less and see what happens. Other professional change folk (physicians, counselors, etc.) would probably pass a similar test in their respective disciplines. I wonder how many of us could?

Yes, I know that the discipline is young, however, like much of our parent discipline, we seem to lack some agreement on how to proceed in regards to developing it as a science. Maybe some don't want it to be a "scientific" enterprise; that's fine, too. I do because otherwise we have only anecdotal and experiential data to fall upon in determing our course of intervention. Not bad things, but I feel much more comfortable when working with someone, attempting to facilitate change with/for them, when i know that the methods i am using have some empirical backing.

i know this FROM experience working with substance abusers -- it was a heck of a lot more reassuring using evidence-driven change methods than just shooting from the hip using theory and or a smattering of "this seems to have worked in the past;" also nice for liability purposes.

"What are the principles of social change?" seems to be a good place to start. Finding out what they are, through empirical means is IMO, the way to go. I am planning on proceeding in this direction; if others are, too, maybe we can build something together.

in case you haven't heard about this, there is a free VOIP program that allows anyone to talk with someone else who has the software (anywhere in the world) for free. i got it yesterday.

give me a call, my "number" is johneglass. oh, and i have voice mail, so if i'm not there, leave a message.

it's called skype.

Monday, December 19, 2005

a real holiday gift

these folks make very good use of the money they get. All of the people in the service need some care packages from us, especially now.

give till you feel like you've done something good.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

simple, but not easy (a reprise)

this is in reference to a new book by Theodore Roszak...

Okay, so much of what Rozsak says is not really new, is it? World dominated by a small group of people intent on securing self-interest above all else? No surprise, eh? What else is new?

What can we do with this info as far as informing an intervention to THIS social problem (there's one that is NEVER recognized, right)? IMO, it is getting people to REALLY realize their sociological imagination. How? By getting them to realize that they are indeed a collective and have the power of a collective IF they act as a collective. Those yahoos intent on world domination only have power if WE permit it. This is what is conveniently forgotten all the time.

The issue is NOT education, it is REALIZATION. I KNOW that I am part of a greater collectivity (my education has given me that), but I haven't realized it yet; if I did all of my daily actions would be fundamentally different. Realization speaks to a profound change in behavior; it is an action, it is not mere knowledge that one can retain. So, what we need to do is to create an opportunity for ourselves and other people TO realize it. I think it would only take one event to achieve this kind of realization.

So, what to do? This is where having established, testable (as Mindy notes) methods of intervention would come in REAL handy. Lacking those, however, here is something that I bet would work. Not a new idea, just never been successfully pulled off (that I know of) on any signifcant level (with the one exception of the Harmonic Convergence back in the middle 80's — this event managed to get over 140,000 people, around the world doing the same thing, at the same time, on the same day).

The intervention is to get millions of people to do something that will jerk our leaders' chains (and voting is NOT it); we need to get their immediate and undivided attention. Some suggestions...get millions of people to not buy gas for a day, get millions of people to boycott anything made by General Electric for a day. Nothing violent, nothing anarchic, just something to demonstrate that we DO have power and we WILL use it. IMO, the best demonstration would be economic — don't mess with us or we will stop buying X. Would that get someone's attention? Yup. Would people then have a tangible, visceral experience of the sociological imagination? Yup. Would it put those in power on notice that they DO, indeed work for US and not the other way around? Yup.

Now, before you say, "that will never happen, imagine what would be involved, that's naive, yadda, yadda, yadda..." think about all of the other seemingly insurmountable problems that other sciences have encountered and succeeded in overcoming. We can't rely on the "we lack resources" argument, not in this day and age of the internet, instant, world-wide communication, instant online payment, etc. If we lack any resources, it is in figuring out how to use what we have — the resources are there, we just haven't figured out how to tap them.

Our job is not to figure out what the specific action would be, our job should be to figure out how to do it. How to get those people to do the same thing, at the same time, on the same day. Would that be a method of social change? Yeah, an IMMEDIATE one.

Now, IMO, we DON'T know how to do this or else we or someone else would have done it already. IMO, this is one of the things that we should be figuring out. We need a Manhatten project on the science of social change (to paraphrase some wise person making the same observation about poverty in the US).
my little boy is #@!$% smart!

Last night, my son ask me what "ours" meant (recall, that he is 3 years old). I thought he meant "hours" so I started talking about time, the passage of time, etc. But then he clarified (I don't recall how) that he meant, "ours," like possession.

I explained to him that if we had something, then it was ours.

He then asked what if we stole something, put it in our car and drove it home...would it be ours? I told him, no, because for something to be ours, we have to get it the right way, by buying it, receiving it as a gift, etc.

He thought for a minute, then said....

What if someone else stole it, gave it to us, and we drove it home (we were driving, so I assume that this where the whole, "drive it home" thing came from). I told him that if we knew it was stolen, then it wouldn't be ours; if, however, we didn't know it was stolen, then it would be.

Nuances aside, that is one hell of an example of some serious logic. That boy was thinking.

Am I proud? You bet your $#@!% ass I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

i think i finally got it!

a colleague writes...

"Objectivity is not mere culture. Objectivity is "making individual sensory experiences social experiences."

And this is where the rub those sensory experiences are transformed into social experiences. as each of us is embedded in different social realities, mediated by differing linguistic and experiential histories, there can not be universal agreement on what those "sensory experiences" are. Furthermore, it is a SOCIAL process in which they become "social experiences," even when this occurs within us.

IMO, any SOCIAL process is inherently contextual, inherently cultural, inherently definitional — these limitations, by their definition, deny any kind of sense of universal objectivity. Now, this is not to say that we cannot suspend our own bias, prejudices, beliefs, etc., when we are conducting an analysis. Furthermore, this is not to say that others when reviewing our methods, engaging in the same suspension of these things, agree with our findings that we have not achieved something that is commonly called "objectivity." What we forget is that this notion of objectivity is defined, through cultural means — it is a process that we engage in, a process of bracketing (if you will). It is still bounded by cultural/inguistic parameters, however; if it were not, we would never know if we achieved it.

It is assumed that objectivity is a particular stance that is somehow inherent in any situation, i.e., it is there and can be accessed if one simply looks for it or aligns oneself with it. It is assumed that this stance is independent of any other considerations, a "univerally true" assessment of what is under observation. Presumably, when learning how to do science, one learns how to access this objectivity in any situation. How? By letting go of preconceived ideas, suspending beliefs, etc. Note that in order to attain objectivity, we must DO something; it is not a "natural state." In fact, it is supposedly an unnatural state, hence the need for extensive training ob how to conduct reserach. If we look at the process of how objectivity is achieved, however, we notice that we can never be sure if we have actually attained it and that others will attain the very same stance that we attained when conducting our observation.

I guess what I am saying is that it seems to me that unviersal objectivity, when considered phenomenologically (and how else COULD it be considered), is essentially what Husserl referred to as the transcendental ego. From my reading of this idea, it is purported to be something that exists independent of culture, as objectivity, in its purest definition is.

If, however, we must go through a bracekting process to get to it, and everyone else who is interested in attaining objectivity must go through the same bracketing process, how then do we know that whomever is interested in observing the phenomena that we did, bracketed the same things that we did? We don't and we can't.

I am not suggesting that we abandon the heuristic of "objectivity," but merely note that it is not as fool-proof nor as "universal" as we think it is.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Now, some REAL freakin' heresy

RE: Intelligent design...I like it for several reasons. 1) It challenges us, as scientists to be very precise in defining what we know, what we are talking about, how we arrive at knowledge, etc.; I think that is a good thing 2) It notes that an underlying assumption of science is naturalism, i.e., that all things have natural (VS supernatural) causes; inasmuch as we are bound by our language, we cannot reject any notion of God, Creator, etc., as we cannot know if these things exist indepdent of culture (or at least by linguistic methods; personally I think Buddhists and other meditators hit on a non-ordinary reality that sounds like a hell of a place to live - screw science at that point! Hell, if I can live in peace, equanimity, and universal compassion, I'll take it, even if it can't be "empirically verified") 3) I think if they have what they think are reasonable data on intelligent design, they should be allowed to present them 4) evolution IS a theory after all; granted it is widely accepted by many scientists, but big deal, acceptance doesn't mean accuracy and 5) I don't think it should be taught in school until it has been thoroughly vetted in the public-scientific discourse, which if everyone automatically rejects it, it will never have a chance.

I don't think "real" scientists should be afraid of it; if they are pissed about it because it smacks of religion, that is a different matter. Lastly, I think the real issue is the powers that are pushing it - promoting something that has not been thoroughly vetted as having equal standing along with their persistent attacks on traditional science and scientific methods.

All of the above said...until I am enlightened (!!!!), I consider myself to be a humanistic, evolutionary, behavioral scientist and promote all of that in my teaching. God, religion, etc., are not relevant to science as epistemologies because they cannot be empirially verified. And yes, from a cultural standpoint, these are my biases/prejudices, and I am aware of that.
it all depends on how ya look at it...and that sucks

a colleauge writes...

"My concern is helping people with and preventing them from experiencing social problems. Social problems such as date rape, AOD problems and "mental" illness."

I don't think it is that simple. Can we all agree that date rape is a social problem? On the surface, the answer is YES! However, think of the people who commit date THEY think it is a problem? No. Most of them don't even think it happened, right? "it wasn't rape, it was consensual." Of course for the person who suffered the rape it is a problem, a serious, life-changing one.

The intervention then seems obvious, right? Get people to understand that date rape does happen, is wrong, and they shouldn't do it.

Herein lies the problem; there are several "work-arounds" to that in the mind of a potential rapist which increase the likelihood of occurrence. He doesn't see it as wrong, because he doesn't see it as rape; he might see it as wrong, be he thnks he won't get caught, so he proceeds anyway; he intends to rape someone, so he drugs her to increase his likelihood of committing the rape and decrease his likelihood for getting caught afterwards; he knows that if he is caught, SHE will be put on trial, too, and in all likelihood, will drop the case (think Kobe). All of these increase the chance that rape will occur and continue.

Fear of jail time does NOT deter people who are intent on crime from committing crimes. That is why they commit the crime — they aren't concerned about getting caught. Fear of jail time probably works for many people (like ME!), but for those people who are interested in doing something illegal, it is just another problem that needs to be overcome before the crime is committed, hence the work-arounds.

These are the actual realities that need to be intervened on. When looked at this way, the target of the intervention becomes much clearer and it takes on a different tone entirely. Since we know that men rape, we must target men; not only that, but we must target the way men can and do make sense out of situations; we must target how men use power and force, etc.

So, the social problem, when carefully analyzed moves from DATE RAPE to MEN RAPING WOMEN AND NOT BEING THAT CONCERNED ABOUT IT FOR ANY NUMBER OF REASONS.

Hmmm, is THAT going to be recognized as a social problem as easily as "date rape?"

I doubt it, yet that is much more accurate of a description of what is happening. And, again, is illustrative of the need for behavior change, IMO.
geez, I can be wordy...

I wasn't joking when I said you could take a sentence as a way to introduce students to sociology and use an entire semester to do that. IMO, THAT is the sociological imagination at work. Allow me to demonstrate...

take the word...ME

first how do we understand that word? those of us who speak English, understand it because of the joining of the two letters, M & E.

Our understanding of those two letters speaks to our individual embeddedness in a linguistic/social reality; a linguistic/social reality complete with millenia of history that links us (through the understanding and internalization of those two letters) to millions of people who came before us; those people who "brought forth" our language, that same language (having gone through countless iterations) that we now use to create meaning in our lives. The soc imagination is the intersection of biography (me — this body which sits here and types this in 2005) and history (all of those people and all of those iterations of our current language). My personal experience of life is mediated by thousands of years of social history and in some respects is ONLY possible because of that past history. so, I use something thousands of years old, that has been passed through millions of minds, to understand MY CURRENT EXPERIENCE. Pretty freaking amazing, if you ask...ME.

Then think of how you learned those letters — how they were taught to you, in what situation? in school? in your family? why is it that those two letters, in particular represent something that we find to be so personal? what is about those two letters in particular...why not S & E? what were the consequences you received when you misused those two letters?

Moving on to the word itself, ME...think of this personal and social history of this word. How many millions of people have used it? What were they referring to when they used it? was their ME the same as my ME? if not, how did they differ? what do I currently think about ME? as a word? as a sociological concept? as part of a theory of self? as a reference to this thing, this "self" that allegedly inhabits my body? how are the different ideas of ME that i have had reflect my social situations? how about the ME's that others have had?

IMO, we can do this with any object. Granted it is a rather micro use of the SI, but I use it to demonstrate how pervasive social reality is. it is inescapable. and it inflitrates ALL of what we do, who we think we are, how we make sense, how we think, etc.

in sum, the fact that we can even talk about something called, "the sociological imagination" is evidence that it exists.

Friday, December 02, 2005

more heresy...(I can't stop it!!!)

yes, I am familiar with the work and some of the approaches (of clinical sociology). My contention is that we don't have a coherent body of knowledge about how to effect social change. Nor is much of it empirically validated. I am all for pragmatic, "the proof is in the pudding" strategies; to my knowledge, however there is not a substantial body of work that demonstrates the utility of specific interventions.

Little test...ask three applied/clinical sociologists to name, off the top of their heads, three established intervention strategies to increase family bonding/attachment; give them each one minute to do it.

Compare this with a physician who can tell you three ways to decrease your likelihood of having a heart attack, in less than thirty seconds.

This is what I am talking about. This is why, IMO, we have an identity crisis in this field.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

sociological heresy...(mine, of course)

RE: deviance...I have never understood the reason to have any entire class devoted to "deviance." deviance is pretty simple to explain and then it's just a parade of different forms of deviance — like a freak show. i always tell my students that deviance and conformity are two sides of the same coin — they fuse when one takes into consideration how they are both relative and neither is absolute; you can cover that idea in one class period.

RE: SP vs Social work...i made this statement some time ago on the list (or the SAS list, rather) and it seems to make the distinction for me. SP/AS should be about changing/modifying institutions — patterns of social behavior, on whatever level. Social work is not about that, it is about assisting specific individuals; yes, they might do some advocacy for groups, etc., but their focus is not on collective, institutional change(s), it is one individual change.

I think the reason that we continue to be bewildered about what AS/SP is, is the fact that, as far as I know, we have no established theory nor methods for effecting different kinds of social change — we don't have a science of social change. IMO, to be a "real" discipline, we need to have some general principles or ideas about how we go about creating change, what works, what doesn't etc. We do not have a systematic body of knowledge like this. Again, IMO, it goes back to my suggestions about developing manuals or handbooks on how to create social change(s) at different levels of social reality. You want to change your familial behavior? Do this. You want to change your classroom behavior? Do this., etc. We don't have a tested, agreed-upon body of work to build on. Other disciplines do, but we don't.

This, however, is how I see our entire discipline — disparate and fluffy — no grounding. Yeah, we have data on everything social, but we still think (and teach) students about these three perspectives all of which are much more conceptual than empirical. You can't build a science on concepts alone. Functionalism is a conceptual scheme; conflict is, too. This is not to deny the evidence of inequality nor of stratification, but do we really believe that patterns of behavior are responsible for this? Patterns of behavior are "disembodied" ideas; we are really talking about people and what people are doing. Seems to me that is what we need to find out more about — how and why do people change? Once we know that, we might be better able to begin building some testable ideas about how to change the social behavior of those people.

I recently finished reading Skinner's Walden Two and am now reading Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner was ahead of his time, IMO. He was not the monster I understood him to be. Many of his ideas have tremendous relevance for sociology and AP/SP. I think he was found to be distasteful because his perspective pulled back the covers of social/human reality — something that no one wanted to see or seriously consider — we are all controlled by something, mainly through fear, so it is an issue of who is doing the controlling, not whether or not we are controlled.

Skinner knew about how people change and so do many people who adhere to a behavioristic approach. I think it is very worthwhile to investigate. After all, what are "social rewards/benefits" and "social sanctions" but reinforcers and punishers?

Hmmm, maybe I'm going to start calling myself something else...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

do the right thing, Duke-Stir!

I heard Rep. Cunningham on the radio this morning, tearfully admitting guilt for bribery. He said that he would, with whatever time God grants him to remain on earth (or something similar), he would make amends for what he did.

Hmmm, how about telling law enforcement about all the folks he knows in government who are corrupt? All of those nice, wrap-me-in-the-flag, slide-me-the-payment-under-the-table-to-influence-my-vote, people?

I think that would be a swell way to make amends, don't you? In fact, that seems to be the only logical way of making amends to citizens.
the pottery barn edict comes back to haunt us

Recall that Colin Powell cautioned Sr. Bush about Iraq using the Pottery Barn policy -- you break it, you buy it.

So, guess what? He broke it, we bought it...and are still paying for it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

God Bless America (the Fascist Empire of, that is)

Umberto Eco has a nice discussion of "Eternal Fascism" here; yikes, it all sounds so familiar! He wrote it in 1995, so no one can accuse of him of tailoring his discussion to reflect present circumstances.

To everyone, be afraid, be very afraid.

personal responsibility (for everyone else but me)

i finally figured out that this is what conservative Republicans mean when they moan about personal responsibility. all this time i have thought that they were personally responsible, hence their admonishing others to be the same. actually, many are not yet they apparently feel justified to compel others to do so.

damn, another one of those double standards! hmmm, power does have its rewards, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 06, 2005


my Visceral Verstehen article has been published at the Electronic Journal of Sociology. the article (in .pdf format) can be found here.

i welcome feedback on the article and the method of intervention for self-discovery that i propose.
talk to me(s)

earlier, i posted about a guided experience of kensho that Genpo Roshi facilitates. i started reading more about the procedure he uses to engage that experience. even without the kensho part, the voices dialogue technique is quite fascinating and revealing.

sociologists have, for years, posited that individuals have different selves that emerge in response to the different situations they find themselves in. traditionally, this has been understood in terms of the definition of the situation and the different social roles that we play (i.e., a particular self for a particular role). the voices dialogue technique takes this much further and is a very cool way of discovering the different selves that exist "within" oneself.

tie the emergence of selves to Zen, and you have a very fine, Western understanding of what pure consciousness is.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

variety is the spice of life

driving to work one day last week I was thinking about all of the different kinds of cars, their various features, costs, gas mileages, etc. if you stop and think about it, cars serve one real function...personal transportation from point A to point B. with that in mind, what we need is one brand of car that gets us from point A to point B as efficiently, comfortably and cost effectively as possible.

yes, i can hear the nay-sayers...but what about choice? what about variety? what you are suggesting is communist!

this is where we are misguided. we think that the beauty of variety lies in the differences between material objects. not so, yes? the beauty of variety lies in the diversity of us, the wonder of how we are so different, yet so similar, the wonder and variety of us as human beings.

by focusing on the diversity of things outside of ourselves, we are distracted from noticing the wonder of diversity (and unity) that is inherent in all of us.

we are the spice of life, not cars or clothes, or technological gadgets.

Monday, July 18, 2005

that's nice...

read today that the Prez would fire "the leaker" if a crime was committed.

it's reassuring to know that the President of the United States would fire one of his cabinet members if s/he committed a opposed to keeping said known law-breaker in the cabinet of the most powerful political position in the entire world.

that's nice; sounds like a sensible thing to do.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

big mind

this is a very, very cool guided facilitation of the kensho experience. Quite a surprise.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


these London attacks seem to have blown the "we're gonna fight them over there [in Iraq] so we don't have to fight them here" rationale right out of the water.
nice, but...

raising the terror alert for trains and buses in the US is a good thing, but the chances are that whomever set off the bombs in London aren't going to do it here, at least not now. if they had intended to set off bombs on subways and buses here, they would have done it in conjunction with the bombs in London. they go for spectacular, not conventional. setting off bombs in the US on trains or buses now would be conventional.

note that terror-ism is specifically that, terrifying. anticipated attacks are not terrifiying as they are predicted; unexpected, unanticipated attacks are terrifying because they are unexpected and unanticipated.

i think we can rest assured that there will be no bombs on trains or buses in the US attacked (at least not anytime soon); having bombs go off in London and somewhere in the US on the same day, within enough time of each other for someone to notice that they were related, would be the kind of spectacular terror that they go in for. that didn't happen, so it ain't gonna.

note also that they do these kinds of things (9-11, Madrid, now London) to demonstrate that the greatest powers in the world cannot stop them. once the populace figures this out, their attacks will be even more terrifying because it could mean anywhere, anytime. they have demonstrated that ability and they will continue to do so.

i'm not sure that the powers-that-be have figured this one out, yet. could be that their hubris prevents them from seeing this truth.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

when love came to town

this past sunday and monday, Amma was here. if you have never been hugged by an embodiment of the Divine, you need to, there is nothing like it...literally. check out the rest of Her tour to see if you still can.

being with Amma is very intense. if you practice spirituality, being in Her presence is like boot camp...relentless and rewarding, but very demanding. this is the first time i got a lot of things about how to live a spiritual life (not really happy with that choice of words because spirituality is so overused, but it will have to do for now) and i now realize why it is called a time is over.

pray for me.
walking and waving

i was driving to my in-laws house this afternoon and passed by a mailman delivering the mail. i drove past him and i noticed that he waved. he had his back to me when i drove past (we were both heading in the same direction) and i thought he was waving to an oncoming car, except there was no oncoming car. then i realized that he was waving to all cars coming by, regardless of whether or not the occupants could see him.

when i realized that he was waving to be friendly, i had that feeling of when someone is really glad to see you and you know that they are sincere. now, this guy didn't know me from Adam, but he seemed to have a friendly attitude toward the world and that had the same impact on me. it was nice.

the best part?

i waved back to him when he waved to me when i was on my way back home.

Friday, July 01, 2005

liberal VS neocon

I think I got it...these are two different world views that can never be reconciled; one can prevail over the other, but there is no synthesis (at least in their extremes). All of the things necessary for their survival, i.e., logic, reason, evidence, etc. are all contained in each of them and never the twain shall they meet.

kind of depressing
still stuck on "nature-nurture"

yet another post of mine to a simluation list...

I am familiar with Evo Psych and their central ideas. I find it interesting in a discipline that values the scientific method as highly as they presumably do that they do not attempt to use any kind of experimental method to isolate what they contend exists. They use comparative studies, inferential works, logic, etc., all good things; however they maintain that something called "human nature" exists without any direct proof. All I am attempting to do wtih netlogo is model something akin to their notion to see what could possibly develop.

RE: defintion of culture being vague...I would define culture for purposes of the simulation I am developing as the "knowledge" of food that is healthy or unhealthy (thanks to XXXX for that) and the subsequent ability to pass that "information" along to offspring. As noted originally, this particular simulation would not address the issue of "what is human nature" but would merely test if having knowledge is useful for survival.

RE: the story about the baby being left could very well be, that if true, said baby died due to lack of nurture; certainly, there are those studies from the 40's or 50's about children not being held, etc., resulting in decreased life spans, etc. Your story raises an interesting point, however...if it is not possible to survive without could one ever claim knowledge of what is inherent to humans, i.e., that which is separate and distinct from nurture and call it "human nature?" If nuture is required for survival, then how could we ever claim to have the ability to know what is inherent to humans?

If we cannot know, then why continue to talk about something called, "human nature?" I know that many people use the notion to explain much, but creating a notion and then attributing causality to it without ever really identifying what the notion is, is intellectually lazy, IMO. Also, if that is the case then "the devil made me do it" is on the same par with "people are violent because it is human nature;" no one has seen "the devil" nor has anyone seen "human nature," so how do we evaluate the veracity of one claim over the other?

RE: culture has too many does the physical world, yet the complexity of it has never stopped any serious scientist from taking the time to examine it and report on findings. There is no doubt that humans are complex; so far we know a lot about our physiology and little about much else.

This is why I question the notion that something called "human nature" exists -- it is a scientifically unproven concept; purely mythical at this point, yet there are many, many people who claim to know much about it. IMO, this is not very good science (again if we use the traditional methods of scientific inquiry -- isolation, testing, controlling, etc. as the criteria for establishing knowledge). Actually controlling for culture is quite simple -- no contact with another human being; people are cultural people, no culture. Practically absurd, but experimentally sound.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

okay, so i'm stuck on the "nature-nuture" crap

My post to a simulation list (with some minor editing):

I think I agree with what you are saying about defintions in general, not sure if I do about "nature" specifically.

The nature/nurture debate, in my mind, speaks to things that are inherently within human beings (nature) and those that are learned (nurture). In my thinking, there is no way to know what is inherent in humans because all humans that we come in contact with have been exposed to culture. Again, there is no controlling for culture. If one could control for culture and see what is left, then one could talk about what is inherent to humans with some confidence.

On the face of it, "controlling for culture" might seem absurd; but if it is considered absurd, then one must also conclude that talking about human "nature" is absurd. Why? There is no scientific evidence for something called human "nature" -- at least not experimental evidence, which in my and others' view is the litmus test for scientific investigation. Without such evidence, all discussion of human nature boils down to speculation and inference.

Granted, I understand that many use human nature to speak to how we are different than other animals. I get that and I agree with that. But in that case, we have something to compare to...other animals. They serve as a quasi-experimental control group. We don't have that when we are talking about just humans and their "nature." My point is that if one wants to talk about something that is inherently human, then one needs to either provide evidence that they have a way of discerning what is inherently human or talk about it differently.

A classical experiment is the only way I can think of to identify what is inherent to humans. As a "real" experiment in human isolation is absurdly distubing even to consider, thought experiments or simulation seem like natural alternatives.

Note that I agree that we come with some things built in; I don't know that those things are specifically, but I don't refer to them as being "inherently" human because I don't know that they are without any proof.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

defeating the terrorists????

our Prez tonight talked about defeating the terrorists. Impossible. In their minds, they have already won. They have managed to get us in a local country where they can kill Americans indiscriminately. The first time they killed any American, they won. There will never be a defeat for them, no matter what happens.

We stay, they kill more of us, they are victorious. We pull out, they have killed a bunch of us and they got us to leave, they are victorious.

Where is the defeat?

I have an article coming out in the Electronic Journal of Sociology pretty soon; it is entitled, Visceral Verstehen (scroll down under "accepted papers").
evolution and speculation

i was watching my cats fight this morning (nothing bad, don't worry, no kitties harmed in this observation) and noticed the flattening of their ears like all kitties do when they are fighting. I suspect that some evolutionary biologist would be able to say "why" they do this, i.e., provides a lower profile for hitting, makes them look meaner, etc.

My point is that just because someone provides an explanation for something and attributes it to evolution doesn't mean that is why somethign is occuring. for one thing, we don't know why a cat does that as we have no access to a cat's conscious awareness. we can infer reasons why, but that is all they are...inferences.

Second is that evolution has not stopped. What we could be witnessing in any behavior is a behavior that is not selected for, but is dying out; we just haven't been around long enough to notice it dying out. For that matter, I suspect that one could argue that all behavior is/was adapative at one time, hence it's existence. Granted, some could have been produced by mutation and serve no advantage, but within any one person's lifetime, we would not know this.
BTK = entitlement to the max

i listened to brief excerpts from the BTK killer's testimony yesterday on the radio. he was telling the judge about how we murdered one family and in the course of describing what he did, he said (to the judge), "if you have read anything about serial killers, then you know that when was I was doing XYZ, I was in the XYZ phase..."

Amazing, the guy has admitted to ten murders and he is lecturing the judge on serial killers. That is entitlement.

Also, he is not crazy, he is (and was) very rational. I know that many would describe him as a sociopath and according to the defintion of sociopath, he would fit the profile quite nicely; no conscience, no remorse, etc.

The interesting thing, however is to pay attention to how he makes sense out of what he did. He was extremely rational in plotting and in killing people. His rationality in carrying out what he did is really no different than the rationality that many of us employ in caring out daily tasks. Indeed, the commentator on the radio described him as a "technician" when it came to killing people.

So, mix rationality with entitlement and in most cases you just get a self-centered jerk; in this case, you got one scary bastard who enjoyed killing people.

so much for rationality and entitlement...

Monday, June 27, 2005

over there, over there...

our Prez recently has been talking about how we are "fighting the terrorists over there [in Iraq] so we don't have to fight them here."

The thing that seems to escape him and all of the others in the Admin is that this is precisely what the "terrorists" want us to do! They want to be able to fight us in their land(s), they want to kill as many Americans as they can, and we are, inadvertently playing right into their hands by continuing to provide them with people to be killed. And because the Admin is hell-bent on "staying the course," this is precisely what is going to continue to happen, over, and over, and over again -- there will be absolutely no shortage of willing volunteers to kill Americans.

Ironically, and sadly, by invading Iraq, we will now have to settle for an uneasy truce with the "terrorists" as, at some point we will have to negotiate with them (yes, duly noted that this is already happening) so that we can pull out. If we had not invaded Iraq, we would still have world-wide support to challenge and dismantle their networks; we wouldn't have to settle for negotiating with anyone.

so, if we had not invaded, we would still be in a one-up position; now we will always be in a one-down position because this thing ain't gonna be over anytime soon and there is no way that we can regain our original position.

oh, and as soon as all the other Repubs figure out that they ain't gonna be re-elected because of this war and their gravy train is pulling into the retirement station, they are gonna cut and run as quick as they can, leaving Georgie out in the cold.

(note that I use the term "terrorist" not because I agree with the notion of a "war on terror" and a terrorist under every bed; I use it because this is how the Admin is framing the conflict).
saying sorry is easy when you're not corrupt

I was listening to NPR this morning and one of their editors came on the air to apologize for a freelance commentator who apparently had been plagarizing others' work (too bad, I liked the guy, Gabe Wisdom). The editor gave the facts of what happened, stated what NPR did in response, and aplogized for the entire event.

made me think...

if you honestly made a mistake in doing your job, and you have nothing to hide about your behavior which led up to the mistake (and afterwards, your response to the mistake), then you have no reason NOT to apologize for was a mistake. You were doing your job to the best of your ability, something happened, you noticed it, took responsible action, and are sorry for any fall-out. pretty simple.

if, however, you are not being straight with what you were doing when the "mistake" occurred, and if you were not straight about what you did about it, then you can't apologize as it would open you up to all kinds of scrutiny, lawsuits, you name it. most people understand that mistakes occur and that if you can demonstrate that you took reasonable action to respond to them, then they are going to be accepting of it.

if you are dishonest with them, and deny what happened, or deny the outcomes of what happened, then that seems to be a sure sign that you are "cooking the books" regardless of what the "books" are.

if it can't stand the scrutiny of daylight, there is something very, very wrong.

common sense, eh?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

i think

i screwed up my formatting...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

subverting, yet again

i have a wild idea about starting an online journal or database of sociological applications that anyone could use. like, if someone wanted to know how to change the culture of an organization, or how to assist someone in changing him or herself, etc. here is how i envision the format for the entries:

Name of intervention

Purpose of intervention

Potential uses

Sociology behind it (theory, concept, research, etc.)

How to do it (list steps and brief commentary)




seems simple enough. i'm sure that someone will get upset about it, though; accuse me of rocking the applied sociological boat by doing something like that. i know this sounds strange, but i think that applied sociologists should be developing applications for people to use. but, then again, i know that i have some strange ideas.
troy duster

president of the american sociological association, prolific intellectual, wise man interviewed about the senate's decision yesterday to publicly apologize for their lack of intervention in lynchings during the last two centuries. well worth a listen.

Monday, June 13, 2005

the jackson verdict

some were speculating during the trial that jackson would have a hard time as it was an all-white jury. i think this was to his advantage. why? that county is pretty wealthy and i suspect if it is like other wealthy counties in the u.s., most, if not all of the weatlh is in the hands of whites. all white jury, in a wealthy county could probably relate to the idea that someone is out there trying to steal your money and/or set you up so that they can sue you. in short, i bet that they could relate to a poor person (the accuser and his mother) preying on a naive wealthy person (jackson). wealthy people are fearful of being victims; the evidence seems to indicate that jackson was "set up" by the mom.

so, if michael was a poor black man, it would have in all likelihood, worked against him. but, michael is a very wealthy, international celebrity with millions of fans, so his wealth and his status, in this case helped him.

so, the speculating after the trial begins (and ends, i don't plan on saying anything else about it).
i understand road rage

i don't agree with it, but i understand it.

consider the amount of frustration that current urban living consists of. consider, also, how due to our "it wasn't me!" attitudes about responsibility and accountability, there is no way to vent our frustrations over others' mistakes.

now, someone cuts you off, someone runs a red light in front of you...tangible, immediately identifiable blame ready and able to be laid on that person. and what happens? all of that simmering frustration finds a focal point to come out. and you get? road rage.
no timing, no cry (sung to the Bob Marly tune)

the other day, out of the blue, my seven year old said, "dad, i've never seen you cry." that's true. i don't know that i have cried in seven years or if i have she was too young or was not around.

she then asked me why.

my first time. i don't have time to cry. crying takes time, energy, space, etc. all of those are in short supply now. i get up, i take my triglyceride medication, make my daily ayurvedic tea, make my lunch, settle disputes among the kids, take a shower, go to work, get home and repeat of much of the morning, just different names for similar tasks.

and we don't watch TV except on rare occasions.

i wonder how anyone who is a parent has time to cry?

Monday, June 06, 2005

we're going to have a book burning!

the following list was posted on a sociology list; my response follows:

I think the "giveaway" in this list is in the title...the notion of associating "dangerous" with a book. An exploding book, perhaps, one that secretes poison upon contact with human flesh, perhaps, but the information, knowledge and ideas in a book being dangerous???? Wow, better get those parking lot bonfires started, cause there be a lot of book burnin' going on soon.

Surprised that the Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can't Happen Here, isn't on the list; it is a fictional accounting of how the US becomes a fascist country (written 70 years ago).

Required reading, IMO.

That said, I agree with XXX that we are lacking in our ability to empirically demonstrate our overall worth. Note the fairly recent discussion in Teaching Sociology about the "core" of sociology. My takeaway was that, in some respects, we have no clothes. At best, we are a practice VS a science. Not too bad, IMO, but not what we promote to the world at large.

Yes, we use empirical methods to collect and analyze social data, but do we have any well-founded theoretical propositions and/or axioms that we teach as the foundation(s) of sociology? The closest I have seen is exchange theory ala Homans, network exchange theory, and possibly network analysis. These theories have some possibilities of testing and building on axioms as is the case in other sciences.

Is anyone else getting kind of tired of regurgitating the 3 perspectives in Intro classes? Isn't it odd that we still talk about Durkheim, Marx, and Weber as if they are deities? This would be like modern physics touting Newton as the preeminent natural scientist (which he was, but physics has moved well beyond Newton by now). Granted, natural science predates (at least in the West) social science by a century or two, but they have moved on considerably more quickly than we have. It's like we are stuck in the 19th century. Some of the best material about things social I have read of late comes from outside the discipline. That strikes me as odd.

In any event, I will continue to promote membership in the reality-based community.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


I just read the following (from the AP) and found it interesting. Sec. Rumsfeld apparently cited this as a defense for how the Administration is responding to allegations of detainee abuses; the ironic part is that I think it substantiates the allegations, just by the sheer number of investigations. In short, IMO, evidence of a systemic problem:

"Yes, there have been instances where detainees have been mistreated while in U.S. custody, sometimes grievously, but consider these facts," Rumsfeld said Wednesday. "To date there have been approximately 370 criminal investigations into the charges of misconduct involving detainees" since Sept. 11, 2001.

I just wonder when these Admin guys will figure this out; actually, I should save myself the energy...they never will.
a progressive post...

to a sociology list.

RE: What is being progressive?

I think what defines “progressive” is irrelevant. I suspect that many people would consider me “progressive,” “liberal,” etc. I don’t use those labels in addressing myself. I don’t think that they are useful. If I do use a label to describe myself, I use terms like, “sane,” “reasonable,” etc. I know that these can be debated about me, but I do strive to be those things.

I think that being “sane” and “reasonable” is taking into consideration all of the known data of a phenomena, being respectful of others, and not pretending that I know everything there is to know about something. In past times, this was known as “humility.” Now a dirty word, I think. I also think it is worthwhile to consider how actions have consequences and paying attention to what those consequences might be prior to taking action; being aware of the limitation of resources, etc.; making judgments based on all of the above with the hope of having the best impact on the greatest number. Again, to me this kind of approach seems sane and reasonable; apparently now this kind of thinking is considered “liberal.” Go figure. But seemingly traditional American values (that I try to adhere to and naively expect others to do the same) like respect, honesty, integrity, accountability, and personal responsibility are also apparently now “liberal” values, too. Go figure again.

So, what constitutes “being progressive” is irrelevant, IMO. What matters is how people act. What can I say? I think pragmatism got it right.

RE: politics, religion, values…to answer your question, I do those things that you mention and am not in conflict with my religious belief system. I suspect that some would argue that I have a very “liberal” and/or “progressive” religious belief-system. I consider myself a Hindu-Buddhist-Jesus (-ist?), although when asked what my “religion” is, I will deny affiliation with any; all of that makes complete sense to me and does not run counter to my “beliefs.” I was raised Catholic, but the whole no birth-control, “homosexuality is bad”-thing is just ridiculous, IMO. Although, I do have to admit that my presence on this earth is entirely due to the rhythm method, so I guess I do, on some level, owe the Catholic Church for my corporeal existence (man, what a freaking institution to be beholden to!!!). I agree with their stance on the death penalty, war and abortion, however (I do think that abortion is the taking of a life; I do not think it is my role to pass judgment on those who do that, however).

So, yes, IMO, one can be spiritually/politically/religiously “progressive” all at the same time. In fact, the people I admire the most are those who did/do precisely that.

But, hey, I’m just a damn liberal sociologist and my opinion ain’t worth @#$%!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

you know that saying...

that you get what you pay for? well, you also get what you over-pay for, too. and you are stuck with it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

triple-XXX consumption

i was thinking over the weekend how easy it is to just buy things that bring pleasure, i.e., food, movies, stereos, cars, entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, etc. essentially, the purchase of those things is what consitutues much of our economy. if you think about it, all of the "base" pleasures are legal to purchase illegal to buy that one.

i wonder why? that one would make billions for companies/corporations for a long, long, time. i would say that morals are involved, but then i remember that we are talking about making lots of money, so it can't be morals, has to be something else.

in any event, you read it here first; someday, probably soon, buying sex will be legal.

Couple of weeks ago in my Sunday school class, one of the members called the apostles, "knuckleheads," because they never really got what Jesus was really all about. They kept thinking that he was going to get rid of the Romans for them.

I started dwelling on this and soon imagined a scenario with the apostles standing around Jesus, after his resurrection and Thomas saying, "That's pretty cool that I can stick my hand in your side, and you know, all the miracles were really neat, but when are you going to do something about these Romans?" And Jesus going, "Forget about the %$#@! Romans, okay??? I'm freaking God, do ya get it??? You're talking to God right now, in the flesh! So, forget about the ^%$#@! Romans!!!"

That would've been a hoot.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

when i grow up and am called before the senate...

i hope i can deliver just like George did.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A suggestion for ending “frivolous” legislation

(I sent the following to Common Dreams, but they didn't publish it)

Recently in Texas there was a state bill introduced by Rep. Al Edwards (D) to ban “overtly sexually suggestive” cheerleading. The bill passed the state House, but apparently is not going to make it out of the state Senate this year.

Now, as a parent with daughters, I am not in favor of “sexy” cheerleading either. I think there is plenty of time to be “sexy” in one’s life and I support anyone being so when they have reached adulthood, not when they are eleven or twelve.

I don’t, however think that the state legislature needs to pass legislation to ban it. There are many more pressing issues in Texas than cheerleading (believe it or not). I think that communities can set and enforce standards of behavior just as well, if not better than legislation, and in this case, I would be much more in favor of communities advocating for “clean” (or whatever the opposite of “sexy” is) cheerleading than the state legislature passing legislation banning it.

As such, I think that this bill constitutes “frivolous” legislation.

That said, I think that we need a sure-fire way of reducing, if not completely eliminating frivolous legislation (given that our current state and national leaders are pressing for banning frivolous medical lawsuits, I am sure that this will be an easy sell).

Here is my suggestion: Anyone proposing legislation banning and/or regulating specific behavior needs to sign a sworn affidavit stating that she or he has not ever in the past, does not currently, nor ever will in the future, engage in, support, nor advocate the behavior proposed to be banned. This would, of course, be a public document and would become public record along with the proposed legislation. Anyone voting in favor of the bill would have to sign a similar affidavit. Those legislators that base their proposals and/or their votes on religious grounds, would, in addition to the affidavit, be encouraged to swear on the Holy Book (of their choice) to the same. Their swearing to same would also become public record.

I know what you are thinking. Brilliant! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Why didn’t any legislators think of this before? Darned if I know. I would think that anyone in public office, local, state, or national would be thrilled about affirming their virtuosity in such a public, tangible manner. Maybe they just needed an affirmation from their public. If so, here it is.

Monday, May 16, 2005


i realized the other day that life, including the life that we experience, has been going on, on our planet for who knows how long. an unbroken chain that we are inextricably linked to and are a part of. consider that it doesn't really matter how it began. the fact that it has been around, and we are the direct descendents of whom/whatever, is just amazing. even more amazing thinking that we started out as one-celled organisms.

that same life that started millions of years ago is the same life that we experience today. my ancestors came from the sea and the life that they had, they passed on to their descendents, etc., until that life became my grandparents, my parents, and then me.

just amazing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

the secret memo...

i have posted a couple of things to a sociology list on the "secret memo" from MI-6 that documents the Bush Adminstration already having determined that they were going to invade Iraq in July of 2002. Note this was before they told us, "we have no plans to invade Iraq." In sum, they lied to us and there is hard, tangible evidence that they lied to us.

some other thoughts about the memo that i posted today:

My last word on the memo…I think I would have more respect for politicians and their minions if they would just admit that they were lying. Like, “yeah, we lied, and chances are, we’ll probably continue lying to you when we see fit, so get over it.” The fact that they lie really wouldn’t be news; what would be news is that anyone of them would admit openly that they are lying. At least then we would know where they stand. And at this point, given the apparent national apathy, most people wouldn’t care enough to do anything about it, anyway.

One other thing along these lines; I also think that it would be nice for death penalty proponents to admit that what they really want to see is the SOB who did the crime die. We have enough evidence to know that the death penalty doesn’t deter murder. Case in point…the man who shot his way out of the Atlanta court room in March. GA is a death penalty state, and he is going to be prosecuted with the hopes of getting the death penalty. Now, was he deterred by thinking about the death penalty when he was pulling the trigger and killing those four (?) people? No, he was thinking about getting away; I’m sure that the notion of the potential consequences of his actions didn’t come into play at that particular point in time. Consider, he is in the courtroom, he gets the gun from a police officer, he shots people in the courtroom, he is in the very place where someone would sentence him to the death penalty and he is NOT DETERRED BY THE DEATH PENALTY!!!!!!!

As I have mentioned before, of all of the felons I worked with, there wasn’t one that was deterred by the thought of potential consequences when committing the crime (obviously or they wouldn’t be felons!!!). They all thought that they wouldn’t get caught, that’s why they did it. Most felons aren’t stupid. Careless, arrogant, maybe, but they go to some length not to get caught. In that sense, the “law” had no deterrent effect. Others have argued that laws, in all likelihood, have a deterrent effect on people who are less likely to commit crimes in the first place.

Maybe some day we will have a rational and reasonable society. If evolution determines this, it doesn’t bode well for the human species.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

extreme apathy

Post to a sociology list...

I think I posted on this list sometime back an analysis I did, before the Iraq War, of how the reasoning for the war didn’t make any sense; it just didn’t add up according to what the CIA, FBI, and others were reporting (and the lack of finding any WMD’s by the UN). Now, of course we know that there were no WMD’s, thus invalidating the original stated reason for the invasion.

Turns out, the reason that it didn’t make sense was because of something that was not known to the public…the Administration had already decided to invade Iraq to remove Saddam by at least July of 2002. All that was needed was some reason for doing so; apparently, at least according to the memo that was released to the British press last week, terrorism and WMD’s were the reason(s). It all becomes clear when the facts are known.

See this article here.

Now, this memo has been made public, I don’t know to what extent, since I don’t watch TV, but I know that I have heard reports of it on the radio and on the internet. Curious, isn’t it? If the memo is indeed real, then the decision to invade Iraq was already made when statements about using diplomacy, giving Saddam one last chance, etc., were being promulgated on the airwaves. In other words, it seems pretty apparent to me that we intentionally were not being told the real reason for the invasion and this deceit/manipulation was deliberate. Sad, yes? Of course, we are jaded, we KNOW that the gov’t lies, it has done so for years.

I have a feeling that this memo will blow over (I guess it already has since it is NOT front page news anywhere, except maybe in the UK) and life will go on. IMO, this is evidence for something that is truly disconcerting about the American population. I know that some will say that we were mislead and we continue to be mislead by the media, the gov’t, etc., and that the population isn’t to blame. True, I suspect we are. This does not mean, however that we cannot find out things about what is happening if we really want to…obviously the release of this memo is tangible evidence of that.

I think our collective lack of response to this really quite devastating information is indicative of something even sadder than the fact that our gov’t wasn’t truthful with us about a war that has cost thousands of lives. We, as a nation, as a collective, don’t care. Sure, there are large numbers of people that do care. But, apparently, there aren’t enough because this is NOT front page news. We have tangible evidence that we were mislead, and there is no significant collective response. It is a blip on the news, nothing else. We just don’t care.

I say this not to provoke anything. I say it because it is an observation I am making about what in the future, I am sure, will be a critical point in history.

This is really interesting to me as a sociologist, and as a member of the collective that we know as America. The former because of the social dynamics that may be driving this indifference and the latter because this is not the America I was raised in.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope Week

I wasn’t sure what I thought about this Pope week until today, when driving into work; here are my thoughts:

1)The Pope was a wonderful person, did great things, embodied those values and beliefs that many people strive for.

2)I have always maintained that funerals were for the living, not for the dead (not an original thought, I know), so this week has been for whomever wanted to grieve (and I don’t think that the grief being shown is all for the Pope; I am sure many people are taking this opportunity to use the Pope as a surrogate for other, more personal griefs.)

3)The Catholic church has muy dinero and is spending it like mad this week; their prerogative, but it seems to me that this $$ could be better spent on things like the poor, but from what I understand, the Pope was opposed to liberation theology, so it ain’t gonna go there.

4)Tradition is nice, but excessive tradition is ridiculous in this day and age and I really don’t see the purpose that it serves other than providing a public display of grief for a week.

5)The US media loves this because they don’t have to figure out what they are going to do for a week.

6)The US media loves this because it is essentially pabulum for the masses and not controversial, therefore safe to have wall-to-wall coverage of whatever happens in Rome.

7)I find it ironic that many people who despise the Catholic church are joining in the grieving, but again, I think that is more due to their unacknowledged personal griefs – again, like the media, it is safe to grieve publicly for the Pope, but not for others

8)I would really love to know what the Bushes and Clinton were thinking about for those five minutes that they kneeled before the Pope’s body; I can’t imagine all of them being immersed in prayer for five solid minutes. If I had time, I would write out what I thought they were thinking and you can bet, it wouldn’t be pretty!

9)I don’t see how this advances anything that the Church is allegedly interested in – peace, compassion, etc. Sure, everyone is all nicey-nice for a week, but then they all go back to their daily routines of aggressive competition, extreme self-centeredness, etc., once the week has passed.

I see it all from an intervention standpoint…what has this accomplished for nations, societies, cultures? IMO, not much. I think a better service to the public would be to have week-long memorials for each and everyone one of the young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The grief would be much more real, more immediate, and it would have a much greater impact on the society. Are these young people any different than the Pope? Not in my opinion. They gave their lives to serve their country, they engaged in heroic activities everyday, they were selfless in most of their actions, and they embodied the ideals and values that the society holds dear. Plus, IMO, they DESERVE a weeklong memorial; not that the Pope doesn’t (if that is how the Church wants to spend their money, who can tell them otherwise?), it is that they do, also.

Oh, and now the US media will be obsessed with who will be the next Pope for the next four weeks or so. One of the many reasons I only watch Animal Planet, the History Channel, the Weather Channel, and Comedy Central; and that’s for an average of about four hours a month.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

later that same day...

responding to a colleague's post about the study mentioned earlier:

I am not surprised at the lack of quality or rigor of the study, what got to me was the fact that it was framed as evidence of a "liberal bias" in higher education.

Let's face it, rarely does anyone, other than us, read the fine print about things like bias, sample distribution, etc. Yes, we know that those are crucial factors in interpreting findings, but the general public just hears that "...80% of academics are self described Liberals". This is in the context of a larger debate about how conservatives are not getting equal access, how morals and personal beliefs are not respected, etc. And what is obvious conclusion? Yikes, "they're" right, academia in the US is in the hands of Liberals and what must they be teaching our youth????!!!"

Again, I bet soon it will be like the flap about gays teaching in public schools..."Well, we can't have Liberals teaching in public schools!" Isn't this essentially the argument that the legislator in FL made to get the bill passed?

I just wish that academics would use their critical thinking skills a bit more when it comes to issues like these and in this particular case the use of self-reported "stigmatized" labels. One would hope that academics in particular would be savvy to the potential misuse of such a label.

Honestly, I don't care what political persuasion an academic is (and I really don't think it should matter). What I do care about is the ability to "suspend" one's political persuasions when teaching, conducting research, and discussing studies. I think that we owe that to the public we serve, whether that public consists of students in our classes, friends or the "general public."

One way to do this would be, when issuing a press release, to begin with the limitations of the study as opposed to the "dramatic" findings. Wouldn't that be nice to see for a change?
sounds like something we ought to try here

President Bush said this yesterday:

"In a democratic Iraq, these differences will be resolved through debate and persuasion, instead of force and intimidation."

Wow, I guess they do politics a lot differently over there then we do here; maybe we could learn something from them.
use your critical thinking skills!!!

I heard on one of our local (Dallas) AM radio stations yesterday about a study that was released indicating that about 80% of professors at universities self-report as Liberals and about 10% or less self-repot as Conservatives. The story was about how there was now evidence of a "liberal bias" in academia.

The one thing that struck me was how whomever responded to the questionnaire (specifically, the Liberal professors) didn't give much thought to what the implications of their response would be. I don't think I would ever tell anyone, especially on a survey, how I view myself politically using a label. People frequently ask me if I am a Liberal and I usually respond that I think of myself as "sane" and leave it at that.

The other thing that struck me is that this seems to imply that now, not only things like gender, sexual orientation, religion, are going to be scrutinized (some under the table, some overtly), so is one's political persuasions. I thought that our votes were supposed to be private? Isn't that why we go to great lengths to ensure privacy in voting booths?

I am surprised that anyone who considers him or herself a Liberal would not be aware of how, by answering the question, they were feeding the "gathering threat" of Liberalism in academia.

Seems like this is one great example of shooting oneself in the foot.

Monday, March 07, 2005's us

Some Eastern systems of thought (Buddhism, Hinduism, Vedanta, etc.) assert that our normal, day-to-day actions, thoughts, motives, etc., are born of and emerge from ignorance of our true selves. Our true selves are "pure consciosuness," "the Self," "the Atman," etc. Our innermost essence is expansive, unbroken awareness, the notorious, "oneness with the universe." Everything that we experience that is not that, is ignorance.

so...studies of things human, i.e., the human sciences, are really studies of human ignorance.

I want to remember that.

Monday, February 21, 2005

okay, so she got it a bit wrong...

my 6 year old daughter went with one of the children's ministers yesterday to administer communion to folks who are unable to get out of their homes (local assisted living center). i asked what she did and she said that she did the "shredded blood of Christ" for them.

hmmm, okay. hey, i was just happy she was being of service, making life more meaningful for people that usually have no one come visit them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

a dental visit

am i the only person who thinks that going to the dentist is like getting assaulted in the mouth? i know that they are not intentionally trying to hurt me, but i always feel violated when i come out. my mouth hurts from having to stay open for an hour, my gums hurt from them digging in them, and my teeth hurt from all the drilling and stuff. yuck.
okay, i know i'm naive, but...

wouldn't it be cool to be able to say things to people without them thinking you're weird? like, i saw this guy coming out of the Y yesterday. he had a great body. it looked like he worked hard at it. i was impressed because i could never have a body like that. i wanted to say, "wow, great body," but i thought he would clock me if i did.

similarly...i once told a co-worker that her eyes looked like the color of the sky. she thought i was flirting with her; i was just making an observation. i was looking at her while talking to her, and she was sitting in front of a window; i noticed that her eyes were the same color as the sky and i told her...what's the big freakin deal?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

religion? we don't need no stinking religion!

(post to a sociology list in response to someone else)

I read what you are saying as intermingling religion (structure, codes, symbols, status, etc.) with religious (or I supposed spiritual) experience (way of living or being). I think that the two are different. I also think that the notion of spirituality is bandied around far too much in our post-modern world, but,...that is an aside.

Personally, I believe that persons like Jesus, the Buddha, Ammachi, Ramakrishna, etc., did (in the case of Ammachi, "do") have a profoundly different experience of life than I do. As such, I think that what they have to offer in terms of their teaching (and the way they lived) is very valuable to me. I can follow them and their teaching without having to be part of any religion. I have not been able to attain their level of living, but I see it as possible and as something I want, so I work towards it.

IMO, the bracelet shouldn't read, WWJD, it should read HWJB -- How would Jesus BE -- that is something I have no clue about, Jesus' fundamental way of being in the world. From what I have read, it is a pretty neat way to be.

I participate in religion (i.e., attend church) because I like the people, they treat me and my kids very well, I can talk about what I think about Jesus, and I can learn more about living in ways that are fundamentally foreign to me (humble, gracious, compassionate, etc.). Is it necessary for me to have any kind of belief in something to do this? Not anymore than any other belief that I have about anything. I suspect that one could argue that having any belief (in science, rationality, inherent goodness of persons,
etc.) is fantastical simply because beliefs, by their very nature exist only in the mind and as such, have no real substance, i.e., they are "all"

Do, I have to participate in religion to follow any and/or all of the above persons? I don't think so. Being part of a group (whatever that group is) does have its benefits, however. I learn much, am challenged much, am humbled much, etc., in the context of the religious group I participate in.

Is my wanting to be like the folks I mention above delusional? I don't think so. Again, if so, then my wanting to be like anyone else is delusional, too.

In sum, I don't think the twain needs to meet nor does one (religion VS
experience) preclude nor include the other. Variety and diversity abound in this world of ours, I have much to learn from many, if not most I encounter.
And I encounter "them" in physical proximity, through reading, through video, etc.

Monday, January 24, 2005

tertiary musings

(third in this series of list exchanges; other two immediately preced this one).

I wanted to just add something to my previous (the second iteration) of my musings as I think this identifies a profound sociological reality, too; to return to a passage from the quote from Sogyal Rinpoche…

“As you begin to think more and more about the tree, you will discover that everything in the universe helps to make the tree what it is; that it cannot at any moment be isolated from anything else; and that at every moment its nature is subtly changing. This is what we mean when we say things are empty, that they have no independent existence.”

Is this not true of our “selves,” too? Embedded in the ever-shifting social realities that we encounter each day, our selves are “inherently empty,” too. I think Mead laid the foundation for this (as well as James). If our mind and our self are social products and are not fixed, then it stands to reason (and experience, actually) that they change, shift, etc., based on the situations that we encounter. They, too, like the tree are aided, if not created, by “…everything in our [social] universe...” Granted, we are not passive recipients of social conditioning, there is something that consciously acts (Mead’s “I”); I do think that we attribute undue influence to that thing as the prime “agent,” however. We forget that that agent is always acting within the bounds of a massively influential social universe. Given that the language we use is not really “ours” personally (it belongs to the group), how can we conclude that even the thoughts that we think (or thinking itself) are “our own,” let alone the actions that we take? (This is not to be interpreted as endorsing socially irresponsible nor harmful behavior, just thinking out loud to a seemingly logical conclusion). I see this, too, in Mill’s vocabulary of motives.

Takes the notion that, “things are not what they seem” to new heights.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

and someone to talk to...

(colleague of mine responded to my post)

Thanks for the thoughts. I had forgotten about Bacon’s quote; yes that was mentioned in the text I read. I can understand his orientation to Nature and his analogy as brutal as it sounds. I think that this was “current thinking” among the natural philosophers of the day. I also don’t deny what scientific thinking has done for the world and for humanity; if nothing else, furthering our thinking about what is going on around here.

I don’t know that I have said this on the list, but I have learned much from Buddhist thinking. I think the Buddha was one of the first “scientists” in that he used both reason and observation to gain deeper insights into himself and the world. As the main area he was interested in was change “within,” he could provide no empirical evidence for what he found there. He encouraged others to seek it out, though. IMO, he lived his life in a way that demonstrated he had discovered something quite significant; empirical “evidence” enough for me to consider seriously what he said and did. Note that I do not think he was alone in living like this, I do think that there were others…how many, I don’t know, but certainly the “big” ones that have had an impact on history.

I say this to preface the following quote from Sogyal Rinpoche, a current Buddhist teacher. IMO, he hits the nail on the head when it comes to categories, labels, and the vitality and wonder of life. I have attempted to demonstrate the following insight in some of the classes I teach by slowly destroying a crayon (with a hammer – its fun!), each time asking students what is left, where did the “crayon” go, and was there ever a crayon in the first place? To me, this is what symbolic interactionism is all about – naming objects; it is also what reification is about – relating to those named objects as if they have some kind of independent reality.

Anyway, the quote:

“Nothing has any inherent existence of its own when you really look at it, and this absence of independent existence is what we call “emptiness.” Think of a tree. When you think of a tree, you tend to think of a distinctly defined object; and on a certain level it is. But when you look more closely at the tree, you will see that ultimately it has no independent existence.

When you contemplate it, you will find that it dissolves into an extremely subtle net of relationships that stretches across the universe. The rain that falls on its leaves, the wind that sways it, the soil that nourishes and sustains it, all the seasons and the weather, moonlight and starlight and sunlight—all form part of this tree.

As you begin to think more and more about the tree, you will discover that everything in the universe helps to make the tree what it is; that it cannot at any moment be isolated from anything else; and that at every moment its nature is subtly changing. This is what we mean when we say things are empty, that they have no independent existence.”

Fascinating, IMO. Wonderful, too.
It's amazing what you can learn when you have some time...

I had two weeks off over the holidays and actually got to read a couple of books (short ones!); one was on Francis Bacon and the experimental method, the second was on Aristotle’s basic teachings; I also found some time to read about an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. All of these prompted the following:

1) I never knew (actually, I am sure I did, but I had forgotten) that our system of classification of objects (namely living things – phylum, species, etc.) arose with Aristotle. I find it very curious that this system is accepted as “fact” today, i.e., that the classifications have become reified as some kind of independently existing reality. My son likes to read about whales and dolphins and we spend a fair amount of time discussing what the names of the different kinds are (killer whale, gray whale, southern right whale, river dolphin, etc.). I realize that this serves a purpose, but it also can over-rationalize the wonders of life. Besides, it was just ONE GUY’S THINKING about the world…what an impact! Maybe it’s time to think differently? I mean we have only been using his system for a couple of millennia or so!

2)I also never knew that Bacon took the notion of the experimental method from what at the time was known as “magic.” No doubt, the experimental method is very cool and makes rational sense (another Aristotelian contribution, logic) but again, can we consider other epistemologies as “valid,” too? Why the methodological hegemony? Again, reification of ONE METHOD over most, if not all others.

3) Lastly, I revisited intelligent design. For those unfamiliar, intelligent design is sometimes branded as creationism (i.e., Christian fundamentalism) wrapped in “scientific clothing.” The first time I encountered it, I dismissed it immediately; this time I approached it differently because of something I read in our local newspaper. My question about how many people have been born on earth arose from my reading of some of this material, and I don’t want to say more about that as I am trying to finish the piece I started writing before Xmas. I must admit, however, that I find some of their reasoning compelling. One argument in particular I really like. Two authors (names escape me, I can get the citation if someone wants it – it’s at home) argue that science is built on a naturalistic premise, i.e., that all scientific explanations inherently MUST have a naturalistic cause-effect dynamic. Now, I am not saying that this is accurate or inaccurate (i.e., whether or not there is intelligence in the universe – however we might want to define that!!!!), but I think that they have hit on a rarely discussed premise…one I was completely unaware of until they pointed it out, that science precludes any cause other than natural/material. Interesting. Makes me wonder about how this would impact our field? Are all of our cause-effect dynamics considered to be “natural” and/or material? Mind/consciousness is material????

Thought I would share those with anyone interested in reading them. Again, Dallas is kind of an intellectual wasteland (at least for me) and I don’t have any local colleagues who I can discuss these things with. Some members of my family roll their eyes when I say things like the above; my six year old tells me I’m annoying and my two year old just keeps repeating, “huh?” I suspect some adults would respond the same way, though.