The Gadfather mocks postmodernism

In this short (3.5-minute) video, evolutionary psychologist Gad Saad reads the abstract of a recent postmodern article on transsexuaity. (You can find the article, from the journal Studies in Gender and Sexualityhere.)

Reading these abstracts is a great exercise in showing the Emperor’s nudity, and I may do one of these myself (it’s a doozy!). I had thought that postmodernism was on the wane, but this article, and other pomo pieces equally risible, are from this year.

h/t: Gregory


  1. GBJames
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink


  2. Merilee
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink


  3. DTaylor
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    He is so right on! And he made it through without breaking up with laughter. Remarkable self-control.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      He did not overtly engage in extensive and overt expressions of lively amusement, but smiled and chucked inwardly and persuasively via Darwinian abrupt facial fold remolding which is not reducible to Coynian grimacing but rather implying co-societal other-respecting engendering of cultural bond/separation parody.

      • Martin Levin
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        What he said.

        • jeffery
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

          Couldn’t his chuckling at this utterly serious example of brilliant scientific thinking be considered a form of “microaggression”? I think we need to have a spontaneous demonstration!

  4. Dominic
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Seriously, this sort of article is why ‘the public’ despise academia. In a similar way, modern ‘art’ often does the same thing.

    I cannot recall if I mentioned this before in a comment, but this may amuse…
    Psychological Phenomena in Dead People: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Murdered People and Its Consequences to Public Health

  5. Barry Lyons
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Well, I guess Alan Sokal’s brilliant parody from the late 1990s has done nothing to stop the flow of this pretend-profound nonsense.

  6. GBJames
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    They actually make you pay for the actual article. Like that’s going to happen.

  7. Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Based on my experience with colleagues in the arts, the label “postmodernism” may be on the wane, but the sloppy, naive relativism that largely characterizes it is not. I doubt this mode of thought is going anywhere anytime soon because it’s easy; you can become a respected scholar easily.

  8. Scott Draper
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Postmodernism is useful to anyone who wants to make claims without regard to facts. It provides a philosophical shield to criticism.

  9. mordacious1
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Now who could argue with that?

  10. Gaz
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Have you heard the Pomo steam train. It goes Woo woo

    • somer
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink


  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity. (For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.) ”

    — Friedrich Nietzsche (from “The Gay Science”)

    (and take a gander at Frederick Crewe’s hilarious “Postmodern Pooh” a mock anthology of pomo essays on Winnie-the-Pooh)

    • jimroberts
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Frederick Crews — s not e.

    • Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Dawkins must’ve had that bit of Nietzsche in mind when he wrote the opening of “Postmodernism Disrobed”.

  12. John O'Neall
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I have tried at various times to read Bourdieu, Derrida and even Lacan. Never lasted more than about 2 pages (2 paragraphs, with Lacan). Where do these guys get this sh*t?

    • Stephen
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      The cardinal sin of “postmodernism” is not its “ideas”. Its all that bad writing.

      • Ralph
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Their ideas could be worse. How would you know?

      • somer
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Personally I find those ideas it does convey pretty facile
        From MoDawah@kingofdawah 8 Feb2016
        “Everything is a social construct, except for the idea of social constructs, which is akin to atoms and gravity”
        Comment to a Guardian review of biography of Derrida
        jonjer 15 November 2012 7:42
        “Not all of Derrida’s writing is to everyone’s taste.”
        Ah, zis eez ze famous English understatement, no?

  13. Larry Moran
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Here’s an abstract from a paper published by Gad Saad in 2015 [doi: 10.1002/9781118785317.weom090100]

    “Evolutionary consumption is a nascent discipline that applies principles of evolutionary psychology in the study of consumer behavior. The same evolutionary forces that are responsible for the evolution of countless biological phenomena have shaped consumers’ minds and bodies. Many consumer phenomena could be mapped onto four overriding Darwinian meta-drives: survival, reproduction, kin selection, and reciprocal altruism. By studying the contents of cultural products (e.g., song lyrics, literary narratives, movie plotlines), one can identify universal themes that are indicative of a shared human nature that is invariant to time or place.

    Notwithstanding some staunch resistance from those who possess a poor understanding of the field, the practical and theoretical benefits of Darwinizing consumer research are innumerable.

    Homo consumericus is a biological creature driven in large part by an evolved consuming instinct.”

    Here’s another from 2013 [doi: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.04.003]

    “The commentaries raise questions about modularity, and about the evidence required to establish evolutionary influences on behavior. We briefly discuss evidence leading evolutionary psychologists to assume that human choices reflect evolutionary influences, and to assume some degree of modularity in human information processing. An evolutionary perspective is based on a multidisciplinary nomological network of evidence, and results of particular experiments are only one part of that network. The precise nature of, and number of, information processing systems, is an empirical question. Consumer psychologists need not retrain as biologists to profit from using insights and findings from evolutionary biology to generate new hypotheses, and to contribute novel insights and findings to the emerging nomological network of modern evolutionary science.”

    • Sigmund
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 2:57 am | Permalink

      Apart from the word ‘nomological’, I didn’t find those abstracts obscure.

      According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
      “Nomological : relating to or expressing basic physical laws or rules of reasoning”

    • Ariel Karlinsky
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 3:21 am | Permalink

      Very low usage of jargon, and terms are well defined and easily understood (at least to me)

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 9, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

        I’m sure they have proof of “Darwinian meta-drives” somewhere in their body of research.

  14. Chemist
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The comment responses to his video (& Twitter thread on the issue) are almost as ridiculous as the abstract he read. SMH!

  15. Larry Moran
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Here’s the abstract from a 2014 paper by Gad Saad [doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.01.002]

    “Sex differences in the framing effect within the mating domain (and the underlying negativity bias) were investigated. In three separate studies, men and women evaluated eight prospective mates, each of which was described using either positively or negatively framed attribute information. The key difference between the three studies was the temporal context of the relationship for which the mates were considered (long-term versus short-term) and the quality of mates that were presented to the participants (high quality versus low quality). Overall, women exhibited larger framing effects than men (and in three of the four experimental conditions), and this sex difference was driven by women’s greater sensitivity to negatively framed information. This robust sex effect is a manifestation of the greater vigilance that women show within the mating domain (consistent with parental investment theory). At the attribute level, women displayed stronger framing effects than men in 10 of the 11 cases where significant results were found, and these were on attributes that accord with evolutionary principles (e.g., women exhibited larger framing effects for Earning Potential and Ambition while men yielded a larger effect in only one instance for Attractive Face). Finally, the sex differences in framing effects became stronger when evaluating short-term mates as compared to long term ones (in accord with the general guiding principles of Sexual Strategies Theory). The current paper situates the framing effect within an adaptationist framework and proposes, that in many instances, the pattern with which individuals succumb to it is an instantiation of ecological rationality.”

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      If I understand it, the paper is saying that women are more selective about prospective mates than men. But this is in the line of what we may expect in mating systems where females bear the higher cost of reproduction.

    • Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Gad Saad seems more interested in self promotion and developing puns based on his name than on doing good academic work or intelligent commentary. He may be a great guy, but that is not the impression I get from his videos and tweets.

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Saad is one of David Rubin’s chosen associates so I was thrilled to have someone new in which to listen when discussing ideas with big thinkers. However, I quickly came to find his podcasts distasteful and much too self-serving for my tastes. I suppose there are different levels of humility, or perhaps different ways in which to exhibit humility. When it comes to highly intelligent, highly experienced, and highly knowledgeable individuals the semblance of humility combined with the confidence and command of folks such as Professors Coyne and Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, Maajid Nawaz, and Sam Harris, to name an obvious few, are the very model of apt humility. It seems to me Gad Saad goes out of his way to align himself with the elite of right minded thinkers, and perhaps he belongs there, I don’t know, but if so let us discover it organically, please.

        • somer
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          Have to say listened to some of his podcasts a while ago and do find him a fairly arrogant.

        • Ariel Karlinsky
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 1:23 am | Permalink

          He does come off as arrogant, but the “selling point” of his videos are the guests, not him. They’re incredible and I really enjoy listening to their back-and-forth with Saad.

          • Ken Elliott
            Posted June 8, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            You’re right, the guests are the draw. I haven’t visited his podcasts in awhile, so hopefully he’s learned how to let the guests dominate the converstation instead of using them as launching points for his own great achievements. Ahh, I know, I sound like a hater, and technically I am hating here. The truth is that I could never accomplish even one-fifth of what Gad has accomplished, and if I had perhaps I’d be way more self-aggrandizing than he.

            • Ariel Karlinsky
              Posted June 8, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

              He still goes on and on about himself. I find the stories interesting but they do get repetitive. but still, very interesting guests and topics.

              BTW, a silly question – but how did you “like” my comment? I don’t see any button\link to do that on comments… just a Permalink & Reply links are shown for comments.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 9, 2016 at 1:44 am | Permalink

      In other news, scientists discover that plants need water.

  16. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Bracha Ettinger is a visual artist, though Wikipedia states that she’s also a philosopher, psychoanalyst, and writer. Could such impenetrable bloviating be a perverse attempt at creating a new kind of literary form? If so, all that this kind of writing will do to the reader is trigger or increase cognitive decomposition and lead one straight down the road to dementia. I say that only half facetiously because now that I’m older, it takes awhile for my brain to recover from hearing and reading this gobbledygook; it’s as if my synapses short out trying to make sense of the nonsensical — same thing with religious doctrines.
    Best for her to confine her creative impulses to the visual arts.

  17. revelator60
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “This article uses Bracha L. Ettinger’s theory of the matrixial borderspace in relation to Jacques Lacan’s analytic of sexuation…”

    In other words, this article proposes to build its argument on a foundation of sand, since Ettinger draws on Lacan who draws on Freud, and Freud’s psychoanalytic theories are bullshit science.
    Postmodernism suffers from science envy. It wants authority without responsibility to facts or reason.

  18. Portia
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    As usual, Noam Chomsky hits the nail on the head.

    “I think that, it’s not that hard to understand. I mean, suppose you are a literary scholar at some elite university. Or, you know, anthropologist or whatever. I mean, if you do your work seriously, that’s fine, you know. But you don’t get any big prizes for it. On the other hand, you take a look over in the rest of the university and you’ve got these guys in the physics department and the math department and they have all kinds of complicated theories, which of course we can’t understand, but they seem to understand them. And they have, you know, principles and they deduce complicated things from the principles and they do experiments and they find either they work or they don’t work. And that’s really, you know, impressive stuff. So I want to be like that too. I want to have a theory. In the humanities, you know, literary criticism, anthropology and so on, there’s a field called theory. We’re just like the physicists. They talk incomprehensibly, we can talk incomprehensibly. They have big words, we’ll have big words. They draw, you know, far-reaching conclusions, we’ll draw far-reaching conclusions. We’re just as prestigious as they are. Now if they say, well look, we’re doing real science and you guys aren’t, that’s white male, sexist, you know, bourgeois or whatever the answer is. How are we any different from them? OK, that’s appealing.”

    Trasncript from URL

    • somer
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Because physics can be proven and produces real measurable results – even the seemingly esoteric physics. The existence of all the particles of the Standard Model of Particle Physics have now been empirically proved. The forces and particle behaviour in physics explain the differences between elemental atoms and how and in what circumstances atomic particles form into molecules – the building blocks of all life. Even the supposedly more esoteric aspects of physics like quantum physics are essential to technologies like the laser, the transistor and the microchip, the electron microscope, and magnetic resonance imaging. Quantum tunneling is an essential element of many devices, down to the simple light switch, and including the flash memory chips of computer USB drives.

      • Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        Chomsky was actually criticizing postmodernism in that quote. He was explaining the genesis of it. Scientific illiterates who desperately want to be as respected in academia as real scientists.

        • somer
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          Oh sorry – I made assumptions from the name Chomsky and like the POMO Im having an irony bypass

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      I and I think he further stated that while he didn’t necessarily understand the maths of the physics himself, he could get an expert to explain it and he could understand. Because it is coherent.

      But the pomo stuff couldn’t be so explained.

      I think.

  19. alexandra moffat
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Displaying my total stupidity, what IS post modernism? I googled it and am no wiser. I went to school so many years ago, post modernism wasn’t, unless I was absent that day, discussed . Any explanations, please, in few words, understandable by one of average intelligence (Lake Wobegone average).

    • Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      I think the simplest way to describe it is as a belief that there is no objective reality; everything is subjective. As someone noted above, “Everything is a social construct, except the idea of social constructs, which is akin to atoms and gravity.”

      • Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        While it’s true that postmodernism rejects the idea of objective truth, it’s not really accurate to say that postmodernists think “everything is subjective,” either, because the very idea of the subject–the more-or-less autonomous individual with his or her own point of view–is as much a target of postmodern critique as the idea of “objective reality” is. Postmodernists will say that there’s no such thing as the individual subject or self, that that is as much a social construct as anything else.

        “Everything is socially constructed” would be a better characterization of postmodernism. “Everything is subjective” better characterizes Romanticism (and Romanticism, which celebrates the individual subject, is one of the forms of modernism that postmodernism is, well, post-).

        • somer
          Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

          I agree but I would add that there is the postmodernism that is simply concerned to critique what they see as empiricism in science and the social sciences and as I put in another post science does not pretend to offer absolute unchallengeable truths but it Does provide testable knowledge that is extremely highly validated in the real world and useful in the real world. A fair point I think of POMO but I would argue in the social field only some can act like they have absolute proves and things about society can readily be tested with the sort of mathematical precision of the sciences. I personally think the social science and human study doesnt lend itself to quite the maths approach of science and can’t deliver the same degree of certainty.
          However, Post Modernists (POMO’s) as indicated tends to go for Radical uncertainty on everything. The exception for MOST Post Modernists is that POMO is normally allied with critical theory so whilst pretending it has no prior assumptions it actually assumes that there are Oppressed Groups who are Always marginalised and that Everytbing is Distorted by the Powerful, so the social structure need to be changed to correct for the distortion. In other words its actually advocating critical theory and identity politics even as its pretending to be radically open minded.

          Language is also often held to be so mediated by the subject and by social powers that be as to be well meaningless. Which I have a problem with – if this was so we’d be starving hermits.

    • Ben
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Postmodernism is essentially an aesthetic or literary perspective characterized by a tolerance for ambiguity, and acceptance that there new discoveries will inevitably be made that will require current thinking to be modified. It has for some reason become a popular pejorative term for describing academic blather and pooh (often associated with the social sciences) that obviously deserves to be labeled as garbage. But the stuff that’s labeled as postmodernism never is; but generally the label is a good tip-off that the discourse so-labeled has not content.

      • somer
        Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Id agree in its milder forms is a perfectly reasonable critique of inappropriate attempts to make dogmatic factual claims where little evidence exists or the evidence is contested conflictual or its really very difficult to get meaningful, reliable results – particularly in Human affairs. Its non subjectivity can be interesting in the arts too when modernist art was becoming cold and minimalist or as an alternative to direct narrative – though only as a movement amongst other movements. It has artistic, literary and political forms, though sometimes the former two are much affected by the politics. Some of it is not political and not advocating radical doubt.

  20. Kevin
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    That was a good laugh. After listening to that I am beginning to wonder if any word is supposed to mean what it is supposed to mean.

    I think post-modernism is the child of modern society. Regardless of any efforts to squish it, it will appear just as schizotypal personality disorder often lead to new world religions.

    • jeffery
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      If you read a statement that, in the first sentence, uses two or more “made-up” words, you can be pretty sure you’re reading WOO!

    • Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Yep; I agree with your second paragraph.

  21. peepuk
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    If I were only to study human culture, I probably would come to the same post-modern conclusion that there is no truth; there are only interpretations.

    What I don’t understand why post-modernists think we should be interested in their interpretations.

  22. davewilton1
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    This sort of smug sniping at other disciplines does little to enhance the quality of academic discourse. The article in question may or may not be a piece of crap (I don’t know; I haven’t read it), but I can point to thousands of badly researched articles in the biological and physical sciences. Just because one can cherry pick an article and make fun of it, says nothing about the discipline as a whole.

    Gad Saad does not address any substantive point in the article. He simply mocks the jargon and stylistic conventions of the field. There are good and bad uses of jargon, but just because someone from outside a field can’t understand the jargon in an article doesn’t make that article bad.

    Furthermore, articles in the humanities exist as part of a discourse (this is also true, but to a lesser extent, in the sciences). One cannot select one article and ignore the ones that it is responding to. Any article, unmoored from the rest of the discourse, is going to sound nonsensical.

    It’s beneath the dignity of Why Evolution Is True to promote bilge water like this video. All Gad Saad has done is show that he likes to make fun of things he doesn’t bother to take the time to understand.

    (And no, I’m not a postmodernist. But I’ve done enough reading in it to have some respect for the field.)

    • GBJames
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink


      But I’m willing to stand corrected if you A) can explain in normal English what this abstract is supposed to say, and B) it says something meaningful.

      There are quite a few well educated folk present on this page, perfectly capable of understanding well crafted English, even for such difficult subjects as gender orientation.

      • davewilton1
        Posted June 8, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        Well, I actually read (skimmed, really) the actual article (not just the abstract), and with no particular background in Lacanian theory, I was able to get the gist of it in about an hour. (I’d need to do a lot of background reading in Lacan and Ettinger to truly grasp what she’s saying.) Most of the difficulty in reading it is the jargon, which is peculiar to Ettinger and Lacan.

        The article rejects Lacanian interpretations of transsexuality as psychosis, and instead uses Ettinger to reconceptualize it as a shifting of boundaries (metramorphosis) and a rejection of the definition of ‘feminine’ as ‘not-masculine’ (matrixial as opposed to non-phallic). Transsexuality involves the incorporation of the opposite sex’s sexual difference into one’s own body and the creative use of this difference to negotiate the difficulties of sexual difference. Transsexuality is not an attempt to abolish nature, but a means to achieve a new bodily topology that reconciles competing ideas of sexual difference.

        The above is a gross oversimplification, but I think it captures the general idea of the article. The article isn’t at all difficult to understand given a minimal grounding in the theoretical background and jargon.

        Criticizing the writing as a bad may be legitimate (although the article itself is much clearer and better written than the abstract). One can also criticize the article for relying on old and deprecated psychoanalytic theory. But that’s not what Gad Saad did. He essentially said, “I don’t understand this and can’t be bothered with taking the time to find out what these words mean, so all of postmodern theory is bunk.” That is lazy and poor scholarship.

        • Joseph Lapsley
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          That’s basically what I said. Theory has a place for prompting different questions. Some “postmodernist” work has done just that. Dismissing it all is overly simplistic.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 8, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          Is *that* what ‘matrixial’ means? ( = ‘feminine’ )

          I’d taken it to be some sort of reference to mathematical matrices (as in matrix algebra). (In my defence, the Pomos notoriously used to do that sort of thing).


          • davewilton1
            Posted June 9, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

            Yeah, this sense of “matrixial” is peculiar to Ettinger. It’s not simply “feminine,” but it’s a reference to the vulva and the counterpart to “phallic.”

            Use of arcane jargon like this is often a sign of bad writing (not necessarily of bad ideas, though), but to be fair I don’t know of another word that captures the meaning, and it resonates when placed in the discourse about Ettinger.

            And as I said, the psychoanalytic aspects of the article are suspect. That’s a fair criticism.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 9, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

          Even though your version is a huge improvement, it still contains nothing but assertions. Without evidence there’s no reason to accept this word salad whatsoever.

          Transsexuality involves the incorporation of the opposite sex’s sexual difference into one’s own body and the creative use of this difference to negotiate the difficulties of sexual difference. Transsexuality is not an attempt to abolish nature, but a means to achieve a new bodily topology that reconciles competing ideas of sexual difference.

          How do we know it’s not just some rare result of genetics and/or development? In which case we may very well have a better understanding of it in the future, based on science.

          • davewilton1
            Posted June 9, 2016 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            1) My version is an oversimplification.

            2) It’s an abstract. The article contains more detail.

            I’m not claiming the argument in the article is correct, just that it makes sense if you take the time to understand the jargon.

    • somer
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      it wasn’t in any english I could make sense of

    • Alpha Neil
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      “Any article, unmoored from the rest of the discourse, is going to sound nonsensical.”

      I think I get what you mean. It’s like when someone next to you is talking on the phone. It takes effort to understand the incomplete conversation; especially when everything they are saying is nonsensical horseshit.

    • Ben
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      +1, thanks!

  23. Darth Dog
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Ok. You got me. I thought that you were serious, right up until I read the last sentence.

  24. Posted June 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I think its funny 1) that the abstract he reads is rudiculous. 2)if you try to follow it, it does make sense, and 3) that Gad doesnt even try.

    The meaning of the abstract is near useless and is ibviously geared toward a certain cohort that is making a living overworking their creative juices for an intellectual career.
    Its utter sophistry.

  25. W.Benson
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I neither support nor oppose postmodernism, much to the contrary.

  26. Posted June 7, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I would say that this utter stupidity and vacuous so-called ‘morality’ has less to do with religion–or at least with traditional religion–than with the secular religion of progressivism.”. Janice Fiamengo made this comment in an exchange about Rabbi Steven Jacobs, after I wrote about how many religious leaders, especially rabbis, were reluctant to criticize other religions or dismissed religion as a motive for terrorism.
    I responded to her because I detected a distaste for nonbelievers but mostly for her characterization of “progressivism” (not defined) as a secular religion. This is again the last refuge of those who use the word “secular” as a pejorative. If she is in fact attacking marxism or cultural determinism or post modernism, then why didn’t she come out and use those words? As it is, she appears as one of those demented
    leftists or liberals who, though nonobservant and non-church attendant, still can’t be honest enough to admit they agree with agnostics and atheists. She never answered me by the way.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really have a problem with phrases like “Secular Religion” anymore. While an inaccurate term, it can be a somewhat natural way to refer to some of the worst of the regressive left. They are obviously not religious, but their fervor and dedication to dogma comes off as religious.

      So when I hear people talk about secular religions, or other things that are seemingly nonsensical, I don’t dismiss them anymore. They could be referring to the regressive left, or to other groups that have somewhat contradictory positions.

      They can, of course, still be talking crap. Anyone claiming we worship Richard Dawkins as some kind of atheist prophet… I’ve not seen anyone treat Dawkins like that. He’s well liked, but that’s pretty much it. Given the amount of “I wish Hitchens was still around” and similar expressions of affectation towards the man, I would believe that some of the people saying those things have a near-religious like reverence for him.

      • Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I only have a problem with the term “secular religion” when it’s used to suggest that secularism in general is a religion. That is nonsense, of course. But there are certainly movements that happen to be secular but that nonetheless adopt some of organized religion’s worst features (namely authoritarianism and abandonment of reason), and I have no problem with such movements being characterized as secular religions. It’s a perfectly apt term.

        • Posted June 8, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

          The alignment of the words “secular” and “religion” is more often than not intended to tarnish secularism per se. If someone wants to attack secularism, it should be done explicitly without reference to religion. As dfj79 says, there are authoritarian belief systems that observe fanatic secular doctrines and these should be directly challenged. But let’s not kid ourselves that many otherwise rational or liberal believers have no quarrel with secularism. The mystery is just why; I spend many hours trying to figure it out…maybe it’s jusst Pascal’ls wager: they don’t want to be considered irrationalists but nor do they want to be regarded as atheists, so they hedge their bets. In the case of Fiamengo, it is now clear that she is a right wing neo con sympathetic to religion whether she is observant or not, hence her readiness to blame leftist proclivities for every stupid thing someone says. Her idol Shmuley Boteach is a right wing loose cannon
          fanatic but an observant Jew, so she can safely claim that he is an example of a religious “leader” who IS willing to identify evil, as opposed to Steven Jacobs who is the usual rabbinical fence sitter when it comes to the demonstrable evil called

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      I don’t quite see your point.
      Without knowing exactly which exchange you are talking about it still seems clear that Fiamengo was talking about the phenomena that sees a lot of the left, progressives, align with Islam and shriek Islamaphobe at at the drop of a hat.

      I don’t think she would have been referring to religious non believers in general.

      I think she is referring to those so welded to the progressive orthodoxy that criticism is not allowed.

  27. Posted June 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  28. somer
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Another example from a few years ago

    “History is a shifting, problematic discourse, ostensibly about an aspect of the world, the past, that is produced by a group of present-minded workers (overwhelmingly in our culture, salaried historians) who go about their work in mutually recognisable ways that are epistemologically, ideologically and practically positioned and whose products, once in circulation, are subject to a series of uses and abuses that are logically infinite but which in actuality generally correspond to a range of power bases that exist at any given moment and which structure and distribute the needs of histories along a dominant-marginal spectrum.”

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted June 7, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Pretty sure that’s just a really long way to say “History is written by the winners” maybe with a scosh of Orwellian historical revision.

      If you can’t think of something clever to say, find something clever, and say it in a convoluted way.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 9, 2016 at 2:10 am | Permalink

      Arrgh! I thought I was following that pretty well, until I fell off a cliff somewhere in the middle.

      Great example. 😉

  29. Joseph Lapsley
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I wouldn’t know from that reading what was clearly so wrong, or crazy, with the abstract. I’d have to read the article itsel, care about Lacan much, etc. It seems part of conversation that I don’t know much about, but so what? I do teach LGBT history and speculative theoretical works have their place, have even been very important, including those by Foucault. On the other hand, Evolutionary Psychology has plenty about it that is shaky to say the least, so this video seems unnecessarily smug.

  30. Ariel Karlinsky
    Posted June 8, 2016 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    It was incomperehsnaible to me, but that’s because it’s full of phrases that I am not familiar with, but it looks like it’s internally consistent. I’m an economist and papers (and their abstracts) in mathematics for example are also very cryptic. take for example this abstract from one of the latest issues of the the annals of math:

    “For rather general excellent schemes X, K. Kato defined complexes of Gersten-Bloch-Ogus type involving the Galois cohomology groups of all residue fields of X. For arithmetically interesting schemes, he developed a fascinating web of conjectures on some of these complexes, which generalize the classical Hasse principle for Brauer groups over global fields, and proved these conjectures for low dimensions. We prove Kato’s conjecture over number fields in any dimension. This gives a cohomological Hasse principle for function fields F over a number field K, involving the corresponding function fields F_v over the completions K_v of K. For global function fields K we prove the part on injectivity for coefficients invertible in K. Assuming resolution of singularities, we prove a similar conjecture of Kato over finite fields, and a generalization to arbitrary finitely generated fields.”

    • Ariel Karlinsky
      Posted June 8, 2016 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      Is the fact that this abstract is incomprehensible to me mean it’s rubbish? No. it means that I am not familiar with the terms. The primary question regarding “post-modern” like papers is whether people from these disciplines understand what’s written, not if biologists or economists understand gender studies or theoretical math…

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 8, 2016 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        I will assume that that maths abstract you quote is full of carefully-defined jargon terms which mean the same things to any mathematician familiar with the field. And that the conclusions are logically deducible.

        (I sometimes get the same feeling trying to understand computer networking and its cryptic jargon terms – but again, it’s valid because, if I implement it correctly, my computers will talk to each other).

        I will confidently assert that Pomo, on the other hand, has neither defined its terms nor proved its conclusions. For the classic debunking of Pomo and its pseudoscientific jargon I’d refer you to Dawkins’ classic ‘Postmodernism Disrobed’, published 1998 but still, I think, valid.

        Further, internal consistency does not guarantee any connection to reality.


    • Diane G.
      Posted June 9, 2016 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      But we’ve known mathematicians were wired differently for some time, now. 😀

  31. Posted June 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I’m just a simpleton.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 9, 2016 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      Let’s deconstruct that…

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