Does TSZ suffer from ‘a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias’?

Commenter Kantian Naturalist leveled the following charge against TSZ earlier today:

Folks here would rather persist in their confusion over basic issues than risk the realization that they don’t really understand what they assume they understand.

If you haven’t figured out that there’s a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias to TSZ and there’s really nothing you can do to change it, you’re going to have nothing but frustration in your interactions here.

That is an absurdly sweeping statement. Do some people here persist in their confusions, ignoring opposing arguments? Sure. Do some people express anti-intellectual opinions here? Sure, including KN himself on occasion, amusingly enough. Does this mean that TSZ suffers from “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” and that those seeking intelligent discussions are doomed to experience “nothing but frustration” here?

No. KN’s charge is ridiculous and way overblown.

31 thoughts on “Does TSZ suffer from ‘a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias’?”

  1. RichardthughesRichardthughes

    It’s a big reach given the subject matter here. If he’d argued we’re all dogmatic perhaps that could be argued.

  2. MungMung

    KN’s charge is ridiculous and way overblown.

    You needed an entire new thread just to say this? You quote his comment. Then you ask three questions and answer each one. It’s like the entire OP is one absurdly sweeping exercise in asking rhetorical questions. No actual intent to engage seriously the charge.

    Anti-intellectual bias? Indeed.

  3. petrushka

    Neil Rickert: I took KN as meaning an anti “academic philosophy” bias.

    Guilty, mostly. I admit I dislike it because I don’t usually see the point. and it’s likely that I don see the point because I don’t understand it, and likely that I don’t understand it because I don’t put in the effort, and I don’t put in the effort because I don’t see the point.

    Where that stops being circular is that I don’t really understand quantum physics, but I do see the point of it. There are many things in science that I don’t really understand, but I see the point of them. I understand why it makes a difference if they are wrong.

  4. AcartiaAcartia

    Neil Rickert: I took KN as meaning an anti “academic philosophy” bias.

    That’s how I read it as well, but only because I have read enough of KN’s comments. I must be honest and admit that I no longer read any of his/her comments. I am sure that philosophy has its importance, but I have yet to see any. What I have seen is it being used as a crutch by people trying to support a view that can’t be supported by the evidence. Things like objective vs subjective morality, free will, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, ID, etc.

  5. J-MacJ-Mac

    Folks here would rather persist in their confusion over basic issues than risk the realization that they don’t really understand what they assume they understand.

    If you haven’t figured out that there’s a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias to TSZ and there’s really nothing you can do to change it, you’re going to have nothing but frustration in your interactions here.

    The bias is not anti-intellectual…as long as it suits the beliefs of those who run the show at TSZ, which means only one thing…
    Can you figure it out what it could be keiths? I’m sure you can’t… well officially.. because you have prior commitments… That’s just too bad… because unlike you, scientists have no such commitments… or I should have said they shouldn’t have if they would like to remain unbiased in the real world of science which I’m afraid is disappearing or it has disappeared in one or more of the “sciences” mainly….

  6. Flint

    J-Mac:
    The bias is not anti-intellectual…as long as it suits the beliefs of those who run the show at TSZ, which means only one thing…
    Can you figure it out what it could be keiths? I’m sure youcan’t… well officially.. because you have commitments…Too bad…

    Ah, I wasn’t quite sure what keiths was talking about, but this does help to clear it up. We have a population of contributors for whom intellectual MEANS a common set of evidence-free a priori beliefs. I suspect keiths is equating intellectual with secular, while many here equate it with intractable religious convictions. And for both sides, “evidence” is whatever strokes their ideology, with only KN looking for some more profound and open-ended approach.

  7. J-MacJ-Mac

    Flint,

    I’m sorry to disappoint you but the “keiths” are trying the distraction strategy when their faith is exposed… Don’t buy into it, if you are not keiths…

  8. keithskeiths Post author

    Flint,

    I suspect keiths is equating intellectual with secular, while many here equate it with intractable religious convictions.

    Oh, not at all. That’s why I’ll happily engage with philosophical arguments such as Plantinga’s free will defense.

    Remember, it’s KN who is claiming that there is “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” at TSZ. I don’t agree.

  9. keithskeiths Post author

    J-Mac,

    The bias is not anti-intellectual…as long as it suits the beliefs of those who run the show at TSZ, which means only one thing…

    Can you figure it out what it could be keiths? I’m sure you can’t… well officially.. because you have prior commitments…

    Read the OP again, paying attention this time.

    If you want to argue against KN’s claim of “anti-intellectual bias”, take it up with KN.

  10. keithskeiths Post author

    Neil:

    I took KN as meaning an anti “academic philosophy” bias.

    Except that he was responding to a discussion among walto, Pedant, and me, and none of us were expressing “an anti ‘academic philosophy’ bias”.

    In fact, Pedant’s (accurate) criticism of walto was for trivializing subjective morality by likening it to a food preference:

    Subjectivism puts morality on a par with liking broccoli.

    There’s nothing “anti-intellectual” or “anti-academic-philosophy” about Pedant’s criticism.

  11. Flint

    J-Mac:
    Flint,

    I’m sorry to disappoint you but the “keiths” are trying the distraction strategy when their faith is exposed… Don’t buy into it,if you are not keiths…

    I’m not here that often, because I’m more interested in matters of biology than matters of faith, and even nominally scientific threads seem to veer off into arguments about whether “faith” in Jesus is compatible with “faith” in evolution. And the former crowd seems to view biology entirely through faith-colored glasses, to the point where both science and the effort to advance science are interpreted as indications of a competing (and inferior) faith.

  12. Flint

    keiths:
    Flint,

    Oh, not at all. That’s why I’ll happily engage with philosophical arguments such as Plantinga’s free will defense.

    Remember, it’s KN who is claiming that there is “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” at TSZ.I don’t agree.

    Maybe you are an exception, but I myself see continuous and strictly religious disputes going on here all the time, and I don’t regard such disputes as all that intellectually profound. For many here, you yourself can be fully contained by the epithet “atheist”, and for those many, nuff said, nothing to discuss here, mock and move on. And if that’s what KN means by anti-intellectual, then I agree.

  13. waltowalto

    There are two mistakes I see moral subjectivists making. The first mistake is believing in the fact-value dichotomy. The second mistake is conflating moral philosophy and psychology, suggesting that our psychology ought to be the sole determinant of our beliefs.

    I’ll only address the fact-value dichotomy mistake here. Subjectivists typically exaggerate the gap between facts and values. While there is a useful distinction to be made between facts and values, it’s usually taken too far.

    Let me explain. Facts in science are held in high epistemic regard by non-religious people, including me. But scientific facts are theory-laden. And theory choice in science is value-laden. What values inform choices of scientific theory? Verifiability, falsifiability, explanatory value, predictive value, consistency (logical, observational, mathematical), parsimony, and elegance. Do these values, each taken alone, necessarily make or prove a scientific theory choice correct? No. But collectively, they increase the probability that a theory is the most correct or useful. So, as the philosopher Hilary Putnam has put it, facts and values are “entangled.” Scientific facts obtain their veracity through the epistemic values listed above. If I reject those epistemic values (as many religious people do), and claim instead that a holy book holds more epistemic value for me, does that mean science is subjective?

    I maintain the same is true of morality. Moral facts, such as “X is right or good,” are at least value-laden, and sometimes also theory-laden, just like scientific facts. What values inform choices of moral belief and action? Justice, fairness, empathy, flourishing of conscious creatures, and integrity (i.e. consistency of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior between each other and over time). Do these values, each taken alone, necessarily make or prove a moral choice correct? No. But collectively, they increase the probability that a moral choice is the most correct or useful. So again, as the philosopher Hilary Putnam has put it, facts and values are “entangled.” Moral facts obtain their veracity through the values listed above (and maybe through other values as well; the list above is not necessarily complete).

    Now, the subjectivist can claim that the moral values are subjective themselves, but that is no different than the religious person claiming scientific values are subjective. The truth is that we have no foundation for any knowledge whatsoever, scientific or moral. All we have to support scientific or moral knowledge is a web of entangled facts and values, with values in science and morality being at the core of our web. Our values are also the least changeable, for if we modify them, we cause the most disruption to our entire web. It’s much easier to modify the factual periphery of our web.

    If we reject objectivity in morality, we must give up objectivity in science as well, and claim that all knowledge is subjective, since all knowledge is ultimately based in values. I reject this view, and claim that the scientific and moral values listed above provide veracity to the scientific and moral claims I make. Religious people disagree with me on the scientific values providing veracity, and moral subjectivists disagree with me on the moral values providing veracity. But disagreement doesn’t mean there is no truth to the matter. —Sam Harris

  14. keithskeiths Post author

    walto,

    The OP is about KN’s sweeping characterization of TSZ, not about whether morality is subjective versus objective,

  15. Robert Byers

    What is intellectual? Is wrong answeres on conclusions by definition anti-intellectual?!
    Are people tryimng to be anti-intellectual? would they recognize themselves even if true? to correct ones anti-intellectualism WOULD NOT one need to be intellectual or in the boundaries and so not really anti-intellectual (on a curve of the graph).
    I see this throughout history and now all the time.
    people frustrated in persuading other people start to think/say the others are anti-intellectual(dumb etc).

    Possibly rules of logic are disobeyed but we all do that.

    The guys who are right are most likely living in a curve of being the smarter guys/demographics. So the wrong side is not just wrong but most likely in a curve of inferior intellectual ability.
    Error really does skew to the dumber side. It seems that way.
    just like in politics the rEpublican side is mostly the original yankee/southern peoples while the democratic side is foreign/ethnic folks.
    Politics is not just right/wrong but about intelligence of identities.

    Everyone on these forums is above average intellectual relative to the average North american/Brit.
    this because we have applied our thoughts , long enough, to more complicated issues in biology or the universe laws.

    Make a better case GUYS who are right and persuade thev wrong guys and be patient.
    In such serious articulated contention somebody has got to lose finally and change their conclusion(s).
    its not like regular people occasionally thinking about these matters.
    The stakes are risen on timelines fopr eror on this forum.
    its a intellectual contact sport.

  16. keithskeiths Post author

    walto,

    You’re trivializing KN’s post, I think.

    How so? I agreed that there is anti-intellectualism here. I just disagreed with KN’s ridiculous overstatement of the problem:

    That is an absurdly sweeping statement. Do some people here persist in their confusions, ignoring opposing arguments? Sure. Do some people express anti-intellectual opinions here? Sure, including KN himself on occasion, amusingly enough. Does this mean that TSZ suffers from “a fundamentally anti-intellectual bias” and that those seeking intelligent discussions are doomed to experience “nothing but frustration” here?

    No. KN’s charge is ridiculous and way overblown.

  17. Allan Miller

    J-Mac,

    […] … […] … […] …

    What is it … with overuse of … ellipsis … ? I know it’s not all the same person ‘cos I’ve got a mate on Facebook who does it and I’m sure you’re not him… But it does seem particularly prevalent on the ‘anti’ side in these discussions.

  18. REW

    petrushka: Guilty, mostly. I admit I dislike it because I don’t usually see the point.

    I see philosophy as valuble. The problem I have with it is that there is little grounding and no cross-check with reality. Philosophers have been building ideas on ideas for millennia. Any slight flaw in logic at each step will propagate until what we have in the end is worthless, but theres no way to definitively know.
    As evidence of this I’d point the productions of some philosophers, especially theologians ( who I assume work within standard academic philosophy)

  19. keithskeiths Post author

    Allan,

    J-Mac,

    […] … […] … […] …

    What is it … with overuse of … ellipsis … ? I know it’s not all the same person ‘cos I’ve got a mate on Facebook who does it and I’m sure you’re not him… But it does seem particularly prevalent on the ‘anti’ side in these discussions.

    For verisimilitude, just read each “…” as “goddidit”.

  20. stcordova

    From wiki:

    Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible

  21. J-MacJ-Mac

    keiths,

    If you have a problem with one’s claim you call him or take it outside. Don’t make it a universal issue if you have too much time on your hands…

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