Pecksniffery #1: National Geographic veers full control-Left over space “colonization”

Today, before I’m up to speed and have recovered from my gastronomic adventures in France, I’ll just pick two pieces of low-hanging fruit. You needn’t remind me that Trumpism is a greater threat to American welfare than Authoritarian Leftism, as I fully agree. But there are plenty of people decrying Trump in the mainstream press, on places like HuffPo, and on Facebook and Twitter. But where (besides right-wing websites) are you going to read about how the Left—our Left—is becoming a bastion of ineffective language and thought policing, a land of Pecksniffery?

Any time you see an article beginning “We need to. . .”, you can be pretty sure it’s from the Authoritarian Left, for what can be more authoritarian than telling you what you need to do? Sadly, today’s first travesty, an insane social-justice piece in National Geographic, just underscores the increasing trend of mainstream media, including the New Yorker and the New York Times, to jump on the social-justice bandwagon, and not in a helpful way. Instead, as is so often the case, people like the writer below, science journalist Nadia Drake, just want to carp about language, somehow thinking that this will improve society.

It won’t.

Here Ms. Drake, with the help of her interviewee, Chicago astronomer Lucianne Walkowitz, who’s now working on a project called “Fear of a Green Planet: Inclusive Systems of Thought for Human Exploration of Mars”, join to decry the use of language like “conquest”, “frontier”, “settlement” and “colonization” associated with human efforts to explore other planets in our solar system. Read and weep:

You can already guess what’s being said: the words “conquest”, “frontier,” “settlement,” and “colonization”, are “problematic” because, however innocuous they are with respect to human exploration of space, they conjure up visions of white people exterminating indigenous people, and therefore the words shouldn’t be used.

But this is ridiculous for three reasons.

First, the planets of our solar system, or any other body we can reach, don’t have other living creatures on them, at least as far as we can determine. Therefore we are “colonizing” or “conquering” empty territory, and how can that be problematic? Only for those who are absolutely determined to police language and extirpate any words that have ever been used in association with unsavory ventures. What, exactly, do Ms. Drake and Dr. Walkowitz think they’ll accomplish by changing the use of these words?

Second,  “colonization” and “frontier” can be used for those human ancestors who, moving out of Africa and through Eurasia, settled in empty territory. Yes, our ancestors, coming through Siberia, colonized the Americas about 15,000 years ago, and the Polynesians, coming through Southeast Asia and Taiwan, colonized the frontiers of the Pacific Islands beginning about 5,000 years ago. “Colonization” is used in biology, too, to denote an animal or plant forming resident populations in areas where that animal or plant species did not exist. The ancestors of the Galápagos finches colonized those islands a couple millions years ago. In fact, while writing this I had trouble thinking of any word other than “colonize” to describe how forms of life settle in new areas.

Finally, these words have perfectly innocuous meanings as well. We conquer our fears, we conquer diseases like smallpox, the unexplored areas of science are known as frontiers, and our guts are colonized by E. coli and other microbes.

Now have a gander at what Drake considers serious journalism, and in National Geographic, which heretofore hasn’t been the yellow-bordered equivalent of Salon.

Here’s from Drake’s introduction:

When discussing space exploration, people often invoke stories about the exploration of our own planet, like the European conquest and colonization of the Americas, or the march westward in the 1800s, when newly minted Americans believed it was their duty and destiny to expand across the continent.

But increasingly, government agenciesjournalists, and the space community at large are recognizing that these narratives are born from racist, sexist ideologies that historically led to the subjugation and erasure of women and indigenous cultures, creating barriers that are still pervasive today.

To ensure that humanity’s future off-world is less harmful and open to all, many of the people involved are revising the problematic ways in which space exploration is framed. Numerous conversations are taking place about the importance of using inclusive language, with scholars focusing on decolonizing humanity’s next journeys into space, as well as science in general.

“Language matters, and it’s so important to be inclusive,” NASA astronaut Leland Melvin said recently during a talk at the University of Virginia.

Now please explain to me how the use of “humans are trying to colonize Mars” somehow supports subjugating and erasing women and indigenous cultures? Seriously? Are these people not aware that the media is full on a daily basis of objections to the oppression of women and indigenous people? How is their language policing going to help matters?

Here is from the interview in which Drake (her words in bold) asks questions of Walkowitz. There’s a lot more at Nat Geo, but you can read it for yourself.

Why is it so crucial to consider the words we use when describing space exploration?

The language we use automatically frames how we envision the things we talk about. So, with space exploration, we have to consider how we are using that language, and what it carries from the history of exploration on Earth. Even if words like “colonization” have a different context off-world, on somewhere like Mars, it’s still not OK to use those narratives, because it erases the history of colonization here on our own planet. There’s this dual effect where it both frames our future and, in some sense, edits the past.

I’m sorry, but I am not having these Pecksniffs tell me what language is “OK”.  And I won’t accept that using this language somehow “erases the history of colonization on our own planet”, much of which involved our ancestors settling in completely uninhabited areas.

And let’s not forget the word “settlement,” which conjures up the Israel/Palestine issue, which greatly occupies the Palestine-loving Control Left:

In addition to “colonization” and its associated terms, what are some words you consider to be problematic when we talk about space exploration?

I think the other one is “settlement.” That comes up a lot and obviously has a lot of connotations for folks about conflict in the Middle East. I think that’s one that people often turn to when they mean “inhabitation” or “humans living off-world.”

Instead, I prefer using a couple of extra words, like “humans living on Mars,” or something that is maybe longer but more specific to what I mean. In the 1970s, Carl Sagan really liked the idea of space cities, because cities have lots of different kinds of people in them, generally speaking. But is a ship full of five people living on Mars actually a space city? Probably not. So, that isn’t necessarily the best solution, either.

Finally, the interview segues into the lack of inclusivity of space exploration, beefing that “narratives” about space come only from the “privileged”, which to Drake and Walkowitz mean “rich white venture capitalists”. Not true! Narratives about space exploration have come from many people.

It seems like the language that we use when describing space exploration necessarily reflects both motivation and access to space. Do you think it’s possible for humans to progress in a way that will allow space travelers to better reflect humanity?

I think that one of the very first steps forward is to stop having our narratives about space only coming from people who are extremely privileged, which in this space means predominantly rich, white, male venture capitalists. That’s really who’s driving a lot of the narratives that are used, and why there’s not a lot of forethought or response to critiques about those frontier, colonialist narratives.

If there’s going to be a really inclusive effort to go beyond Earth, it has to start here on Earth. It can’t just be a tokenization of what the first crew might look like. It really has to be that people from a wider range of experiences and backgrounds—whether that means socioeconomic, racial, gender, whatever—are included in STEM in general. None of those narratives will become more inclusive until the people shaping them can become more inclusive. Otherwise, it’s just lip service.

There are much more direct examples, too. Most notably, Jeff Bezos saying that he ha s so much money now that he can’t think of anything to spend it on that isn’t space tourism. He lives in Seattle, a city where Amazon itself has changed people’s access to affordable housing. The city has been gentrified out of control, with large new developments that house lots of Amazon employees now sitting on community centers that I cooked food for the homeless in. Or, Elon Musk wearing an Occupy Mars shirt, which is totally and completely ridiculous when compared to what the Occupy movement is. There’s another thing you can’t take out of context.

I’ve had enough of this kind of stuff; I feel like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino when he orders the squabbling teens to get off his lawn. What we’re seeing here is Social Justice Warriorism that isn’t meant to do anything beyond display the high morality of the writers. Or, if Drake and Wolkowitz really think they are making society more equitable by policing language in this way, then they’re deluded.

h/t: Paul


  1. Patrick F
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Let us metastasize to the stars.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I am trying right now to parse how they can go in this direction while the leadership of NG has gone full Ctrl-Right with articles about the reel Jesus.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      False flag operation.

  3. Liz
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    “’Instead, I prefer using a couple of extra words, like “humans living on Mars,” or something that is maybe longer but more specific to what I mean. In the 1970s, Carl Sagan really liked the idea of space cities, because cities have lots of different kinds of people in them, generally speaking. But is a ship full of five people living on Mars actually a space city? Probably not. So, that isn’t necessarily the best solution, either.’”

    Maybe “humans feeling comfortably situated in a community or neighborhood on a different planet” but I’m not sure neighborhood would really work, though.

    • Posted November 14, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      “City” is problematic because it erases the experiences of suburban and rural peoples, while socially constructing an imagined hierarchy wherein the urban(e) is privileged at the expense of suburban and rural identity performatives. Try to keep up.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      “Neighbourhood” is racist too because it brings up visions of “The Hood” i.e. the inner cities …

      • Posted November 15, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

        Or Robin Hood, who was a white male anglo saxon protestant.

        Well he would have been if Protestantism had been invented.

        And if he wasn’t fictional.

        • Posted November 15, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          No, Robin Hood was a socialist in the American sense of a literal thief of the rich who gave to the poor. 😉

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it’s a good thing these word cops weren’t around 65 or 70 years ago when Jonas Salk set out to conquer the poor, blameless polio virus, which was doing simply what evolution had equipped it to do.

    • Lurker111
      Posted November 15, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Indeed. At some point these “word cops” (a good term, BTW) need to be held up to the public ridicule they so richly deserve. They’ve gone over the edge.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is part of the same bleating about destroying the “ecosystem” of other planets. Perhaps if all the SJWs went out first, and made it all safe for us. When they are happy, the rest of us will come.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of Douglas Adams’s Golgafrinchans:

      But then think of those left behind, wiped out by a disease spread through dirty telephone handpieces (doesn’t that date it?)

      But then again, what deadly virus could SJWs possibly inoculate us against?

      • TJR
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        My Dad used to work as a telephone engineer and has an ear problem that he thinks probably came from repeatedly holding dirty telephones to his ear.

        No telephone sanitisers back in the 1960s.

        • Posted November 15, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

          In one of my early office jobs, I was sat at my desk when somebody came round with a tissue and a bottle of some anti-septic and proceeded to wipe down all the telephone handsets in the room.

          I was astonished because I thought “telephone sanitiser” was a joke job made up by Douglas Adams.

  6. Posted November 14, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    like the European conquest and colonization of the Americas, …

    Obviously white people “colonize” whereas black people “migrate”.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:06 pm | Permalink


  7. eric
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    IIRC, Kim Stanley Robinson anticipated the red mars/green mars debate (i.e. should we alter Mars to help sustain earth life, or maintain it as it naturally is) 20 years ago. So I think there’s a legitimate debate here, albeit one now marred and splattered over with alt-leftie verbal garbage about word choice.

    • Mark R.
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      KRS’s Mars trilogy is a fantastic read. The scope is staggering. Though for all its greatness, it is still, in essence, a science fiction tale. Not to say sci-fi writers can’t be prescient, but I think the technology to do what KRS describes is decades into the future, if even feasible. The amount of money needed would require a global economy on earth that is very unrealistic (at least compared to what we have now). I’m only bringing this up because I see the earth as having so many problems right now, spending billions on colonizing mars is foolish imo. Let’s fix earth, then we can have the debate about going to mars.

      • Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Do you recommend we use all the resources of the world to attack the worst problem and, once that’s licked, attack the next one? I suspect we would spend a lot of unnecessary energy arguing over those priorities. Better we each do what we can in the area that most interests us.

        • Mark R.
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          I don’t understand this one Paul. I’m not recommending anything other than trying to solve the most serious problem on earth before solving any other fictitious problem on Mars. Again, confused and don’t really know what I’m responding to.

      • eric
        Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I agree his timetables and tech were fictiony. I was merely pointing out that the debate over whether it’s ethically okay to mess with Mars is a lot older than (and has little or nothing to do with) the alt lefties who are objecting to ‘colonization.’

        • Mark R.
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          Yeah…and that ethical “problem” that KSR explored was brilliant (and prescient to employ that word again). It would be an interesting question if it ever arises in real life. Hopefully by then, the alt-Left will be as impotent as the alt-Right. I’ve forever hoped science could bridge the wide gaps of politics and religion. Always a fleeting hope it seems.

          • eric
            Posted November 14, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            I think that debate is going to show up in a few generations’ time; humans have been producing more power and ‘capital’ per year for over a hundred years now, I don’t expect this to change much, and what that means is that things which have a fixed or unchanging cost in terms of resource use get functionally cheaper over time. What would take the entire focus of a large country for twenty years today, will be able to be done by that country as a side-project a few decades from now.

            No, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to terraforming or even large bases, but I bet that debate will start being taken seriously from the moment we are able to land a person on mars and bring them back…and that is the advance I expect will happen in the next few generations.

            • Mark R.
              Posted November 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, I tend to agree.

  8. rickflick
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    oy vey!

  9. Mike Cracraft
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Now Star Trek will have to be taken off the air due to the slogan “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before”

    • Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      People have complained about that for many years. In fact, if I remember correctly they’ve “corrected” it in recent Star Trek incarnations.

      • Taz
        Posted November 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        “To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before”

        • Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          That’s it. Give it twenty years of throwing out words and they’ll have to go with “Howdy, space!” or the like.

          • Taz
            Posted November 14, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            Are you appropriating cowboy and/or puppet culture?

        • mikeyc
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          tsk, tsk, if we’re going to be pecksnifferish here, that split infinitive needs to be mended; “To Go Boldy Where No One Has Gone Before”

          • Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

            That was the other oft-heard complaint with the original phrase. “To Pecksniff Boldly Everywhere!”

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 15, 2018 at 2:58 am | Permalink

              …to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before…

              (That was, of course, Doug Adams, Hitchhiker)


    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      The change to “No One” has gone was made in the late 1980s on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

      But what about “Space: The Final Frontier”?
      Is that now “Space: The Final Place to Live?”

      (And what about Disneyland’s Frontierland?”

  10. Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps this is partly a result of search frustration. When they go looking for social justice violators to condemn, they google words like “colonization” and the results are filled with space exploration crap. I’ve experienced similar frustration when searching for information on LaTeX and having to sift through many links to artificial rubber products.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      What is “LaTeX”? The word ‘latex’ is a chemical term that refers to the suspension of rubber particles (natural or synthetic) in a liquid medium. More commonly, ‘latex’ is used to refer to rubber or the products made from them.
      If a product is labeled ‘latex-free’, it means that it does not contain natural rubber, which some people have an allergy to.

      • Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Why didn’t you just google “LaTeX”? Oh, wait!

        But seriously, LaTeX is a programming language for typesetting scientific documents, especially those containing mathematical notation.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          Knew that, BUT the original rubber latex long preceded (by maybe a century) the typesetting language.

          A pity the originators of LaTeX didn’t think of the search-engine problem when naming it (though I guess they would have had to be clairvoyant, since it preceded search engines)


          • Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

            Well, it actually started with TeX, created by Donald Knuth. Lesley Lamport came along later and created a layer on top which he called LaTeX. I guess they didn’t think ahead.

            • a-non
              Posted November 15, 2018 at 5:09 am | Permalink

              I always assumed it was a joke… there’s no way that Lamport didn’t know what latex meant.

              And of course google hadn’t been invented, so the need for one-word searches to point only to relevant content wasn’t on anyone’s mind. To learn about LaTeX you would look on a completely different shelf of the library / bookshop, compared to learning about rubber.

          • Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

            Well, to really be fair to Knuth, he deliberately differentiated “TeX” by its unique capitalization, even specifying that the ‘e’ be lowered from its normal position. If they thought about search at all, they assumed a case-sensitive search would be available. In fact, I don’t really know why Google doesn’t allow this. If I had to guess it is because it makes their indexing and storage less efficient. Still, it doesn’t seem like it would cost them that much and might be handy in other situations. (If they’ve added that as a feature since last I looked, please let me know.)

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

              Can google discriminate pronounciation?

              Lay-tek vs. lay-teks

              • Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

                I suppose if someone is using their “Hey, Google!” voice interface but most of us just type our searches.

        • Gabrielle
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          I just looked up it up, and the word ‘latex’ has been around since the 1660s, and the modern definition of ‘dispersed rubber particles in a liquid’ since the 1800s. The white sap that is tapped from rubber trees is also called ‘latex’.
          Why didn’t the inventors of the LaTeX language check out a scientific dictionary (the old kind, that comes in book form) to see if the word ‘latex’ means something.
          In case anyone is wondering, I got my Ph.D. studying latexes (the synthetic kind), so I’m rather partial to the original meaning of the word.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

            It’s not really an X but a chi, so it is pronounced “lay-tek”

            So it’s an accident that it reminds anyone of rubber.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

              … an accident not on Knuth or Lamport.

            • Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

              You are right, of course, but hardly anyone used a computer where one could type a Chi so it really only applied to typesetting situations. Even now, virtually the only publications that get it perfect are books on TeX and books formatted using TeX (or LaTeX). There are many, many places where people use an Ex even though a Chi is available in so many situations these days. (I tried entering a real Chi character here but it looked exactly like an Ex, at least in the editors font.)

    • Taz
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      That’s funny, I just tried googleing latex and the first page results were all about the LaTex language you mentioned, which I’d never heard of before. I did work in IT for years, so perhaps it’s because of previous searches.

      • Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        You’re right! It even gave me a “card” that defined LaTeX as the first result. That’s pretty impressive. But what if we really wanted to look for rubber products? LOL

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted November 14, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          My comment is being banned : I wrote:


    • eric
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      “search frustration” is a neat term, but I thought you were going somewhere else with it.

      I think there’s a lot of “search frustration” in terms of social activists searching to find something new, interesting, and important to say about society. Most of the mountains are known (like racism, sexism, etc.). So when they can’t find a new mountain, and they don’t want to work on the older mountains, they take a molehill and hype it.

      Now to be fair, physical scientists have often been accused of the same thing (hyping their own research as a Really Big Thing). And I think in many cases there’s truth in that. So it’s not just social scientists and activists who make mountains out of molehills. Nevertheless, I think there’s a qualitative difference between discovering something we didn’t know about the world before and hyping it somewhat excessively, vs inventing outrage.

    • Posted November 15, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      Not as frustrated as I was when I was looking for an outfit for one of my err …. hobbies and the Google results were all about bloody typesetting.

      Joking aside, of the 30 links displayed on the first page of Google results, two were about rubber, three were disambiguation type pages and the remaining 25 were about the type setting system. The “Do I feel lucky” hit was

      Latex, by the way, is a natural rubber.

      • Gabrielle
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        ‘Latex’ also means synthetic rubber, or any polymer that is made by emulsion polymerization. That’s why (at least here in the US), you can buy latex paints, which are water-based paints that are based on synthetic polymers which are in latex form.

        Way back in the 1980s, I worked in a division of a chemical company that was called ‘Designed Latexes and Resins’.

        My Ph.D. dissertation was on carboxylated latexes.

        I’ll only say this once – This is Word Appropriation, and I’m not happy about it! Polymer chemists were not consulted about this new meaning, which I find demeaning in and of itself. Now when a person (me) googles the simple word ‘latex’, up comes pages and pages of hits for LaTeX, mixed in with the occasional hit for the traditional, authentic and respectful use of the term – for example, Dow Chemical’s page for microbial protection in latex systems.

        This disrespect is why a latex traditionalist like myself is going to vote Republican next time.

        (Yes, this is all in jest.)

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted November 15, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          Once again

          The “X” in LaTeX is in fact a Greek chi and is this pronounced “lay-tek”

          • Gabrielle
            Posted November 15, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

            Why didn’t they just use a ‘k’ then? ‘LaTeK’ has a nice look to it, and everyone would know to pronounce the last syllable.

            When I type ‘LaTeK’ in Google, it redirects me to all hits for ‘LaTeX’.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted November 15, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink


              To me, the most interesting aspect of this question is the use of “why”, in that it illustrates how far “why” questions fall from understanding anything.

              To show this, I can return a “why” question as a reply : “The question is – why did Knuth choose Chi?”

              The answer to THAT question could be another “why” question: “why not?”

              Of course, there are good reasons Knuth chose the name, and Lamport understood this as well. Which would all go some way to explain the origin of the name of their software.

          • Posted November 15, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            Have you tried searching for “LaTeX” where the X is actually a Chi? I suspect you can do the search but won’t get useful results.

        • TJR
          Posted November 15, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

          LaTeX is industry standard in Maths and Statistics, almost all of us use it. Usually adding the beamer package for slides.

          On the occasions when I have to use micros**t (w**d or p********t) instead it makes me wonder how the rest of you stand it.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I suggest the phrase “low-hanging fruit” be reserved for things analogous to fruit in that they are sweet or flavorful and analogous to things that grow from a plant and therefore require some skill to obtain, even for things like zucchini. This article is analogous to neither.

    • eric
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      We should also banish “win-win” from use, unless one is seeking to write an updated version of The Mikado.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        I said “reserve”. Just for the record.

  12. BJ
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    “…Chicago astronomer Lucianne Walkowitz, who’s now working on a project called ‘Fear of a Green Planet: Inclusive Systems of Thought for Human Exploration of Mars’…”

    Yes, instead of devoting our time to the science, we should spend hours of time and intellectual labor on developing and teaching “inclusive systems of thought” for space exploration. Hooray for progress!

  13. Posted November 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    […] narratives are born from racist, sexist ideologies that historically led to the subjugation and erasure of women and indigenous cultures

    … the evil white males did it all.

    I find this academese, with common nominalisation of “erase” and the ever-present “narratives” endlessly fascinating. It is this jargon, and concepts out of some “studies”, it appears to me, that makes it seem instantly postmodern, regardless of whether it is postmodernism proper™ (whatever that is). It becomes instant woke, because rather than seeing it as settlers vs natives, it’s white males vs everyone else.

    The next requirement is that the argument they are making seems to rest on important assumptions that are however never explained or justified. They are simply taken for granted. For example, how does this “erasure” exactly happen? Are settler women off the hook?

    This leads to the feeling apparently many have; that such articles are preaching to the converted, and reveal an orthodoxy: the main ideas are already accepted, and believers already buy into the fear of some “erasure” of something, etcetera. In turn, it leads to the sensation that it is a charlatanry, because the exact same ideas are sold again and again, just minimally adjusted for a new frontier to colonialize: maybe it’s also sexist and misogynistic, because isn’t colonialism of uncharted land like penetrating a virgin, and so on. Because the template is so easy and obvious, everyone can write papers on such subjects (or hoaxes), with no apparent scholarship or sophistication behind it.

    Normally, you can also see the wrangling with ideas, how arguments emerge, how people become to believe something. Not so with this Postmodern Pecksniffery (proper or not). As in atheism, skepticism, and everywhere else: what’s new here is that the persuasion is private; no meaningful public reasoning was offered in all the years of Woke Wars (Educate Yourself, Cis Scum Shitlord!!111! Die in a Fire!!).

    Every warrior-believer seems to spring fully formed into the arena, readily believing in “erasures of the marginalized identities” and such nonsense, eager to preach and fight. This is, in the end, the standout feature, especially in “our” corner: that this stuff seemed to jump out suddenly, fully developed with nonsense academese, and even prolific bloggers and opinion leaders who believe this stuff (like P. Z. Myers) never as much made an effort to explain how come this makes sense to them.

    This also seems to be the divisive feature: some already buy into it, others don’t. It’s a faith. And articles as the one cited above, illustrate why quite well.

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    “Numerous conversations are taking place about the importance of using inclusive language,”

    Since ‘language matters’, you SJW prats, stop using ‘conversations’ to mean ‘discussions’. A conversation is an informal exchange that can go anywhere. A discussion is an exchange of ideas on a specific topic or directed to a specific end. (Or, given that ‘discussion’ has somehow become a euphemism for ‘flaming row’, is it that ‘conversation’ is now used as a euphemism for the ordinary sort of ‘discussion’? A pox on all your euphemisms.)

    And while I’m at it, lay off the ‘narratives’. A narrative is a story, about specific events, real or fictitious. Somehow it’s been stretched out of all recognition to include opinions, social stereotypes, and I don’t know what-all else.

    One would imagine that people who think ‘language matters’ would have some respect for the meaning of words, wouldn’t one?


    • rickflick
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Of course one would. Neosemantic sublimations prevalent in a more mythopoetical sense.
      The characteristic theme of such works is the common ground between sexual identity and class.

      Conceptualist theory is not situationism, as Sontag would have it, but presituationism.

      Get it?

      As you know, Derrida suggests the use of neosemantic sublimation to attack class
      divisions. Capitalist narrative holds that
      consciousness is used to oppress the proletariat, but only if the prematerialist paradigm of discourse is valid.

      So there.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 2:48 am | Permalink

        I don’t think I understood any of that. But now my brain hurts. 8-(


        • rickflick
          Posted November 15, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          Supposed to be parody. 😎

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 14, 2018 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      Well said mate.

      And well to my other mate, Jerry, too.

      And given the concern with language, I should probably point out that “mate” is a word we commonly use for a friend or acquaintance (of any gender) in the Antipodes. There’s no “mating” going on with either bloke.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 2:49 am | Permalink

        Thanks, mate.


    • Posted November 15, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      “narrative” means amongst these folks (often) something like “account” -and that’s how you get fun equivocations, like calling theories (hypothetico-deductive systems) narratives too. Sure, they are, but with other properties!

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted November 15, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I thought theories are hypotheses that have been determined true by experiment/data

        String theory wouldn’t fit that but …

        Hypothetical-deductive – is that something to do with observation/data/experiment?

        • Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          Another way to think about it is to fix a logic (usually classical) and close a system of propositions under its entailment relation. The starting points in that context are the axioms, however provisional.

          Then one can talk about formal theories (in mathematics, say) and factual ones, and then sufficiently true ones (ones where relevant theorems are sufficiently true, etc.) rather than blurring structure from tested results.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink


            Yes it is.

            I knew that.

  15. Posted November 14, 2018 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I suppose saying we are invading space or mars would not be acceptable either.

  16. a-non
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    More important than what words we use, why are we still building rockets which look like giant phallic symbols? And usually painted white, too!

    Maybe that was OK in 1969 when space was only for white men, but it’s 2018!


  17. Posted November 15, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    If we are going to colonise a planet, we should say what we are doing and not invent euphemisms so that we don’t have to think about the bad effects of our ancestors’ previous attempts at colonisation.

    If we are going to replace “colonise” I suggest we use “assimilate” instead. I can’t think of any reason why that word would have bad connotations, especially not in the field of space exploration.

  18. Pete T
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Are we allowed to be called Space-Invaders? I’d drop ‘colonisation’ in a heart beat if so.

  19. Lurker111
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “Why is it so crucial to consider the words we use when describing space exploration?”

    Because we don’t want to upset the Martian from Damon Knight’s “Catch that Martian!”

  20. Lurker111
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    This comic needs to be spread more widely:

  21. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I can’t but agree: the words ‘colonization’ and ‘settlement’ are only offensive, because the existing population was considered non-existent, or at least hardly worthy of existence.
    Now that we have really empty spaces, not just devoid of humans, but probably of all life, they should not cause any problems or offense. The same goes, to a lesser degree, for ‘frontier’ or ‘conquest’, meseems.

  22. Posted November 15, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I think “conquer” *should* be avoided, because it always has had the “stomp other people into the ground” meaning. (It has the meaning as applied to disease, etc. as well.)

    • Posted November 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Conquering space or Mars is conquering adversity, not “stomping people”. IMHO, attempting to eliminate contextual meaning of our words will be impossible and a waste of everyone’s time.

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