Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Flight from Science & Reason

Recently on my half term break I finally managed to pluck up the courage to read The Flight from Science and Reason, a collection of essays by scientists on the pseudosciences, which were attacking science quite vigorously.

Previously I've used it for the occasional essay, such as this one, about James Trefil's contribution, however, I've never read it from cover to cover which is a pity. This time though, I managed to cover the whole book.

One of the things that struck me is the lack of some issues which skeptics seem to miss. Afrocentrism and Feminist criticism of science are one of two areas. After reading one article on ecofeminism, I turned to the net and started analysing the sources on ecofeminism, the belief that it is a patriachal society which is destroying the environment.

After a bit of searching, I came across this article. What is Ecofeminism anyway?

The article is by Catherine and Colleen McGuire.

Lets start out with the basics shall we?

As a practice, ecofeminism is as ancient as our species. Many ecofeminists believe that the nature of our species is more in line with how we lived prior to the debut of written history. This period, extending back as far as 250,000 years ago, was a time when cooperation—not competition—was valued and necessary for species survival. New archeological discoveries of early civilizations in Mesopotamia yield a vast array of evidence that an egalitarian lifestyle and a unity with nature were prevalent among ancient peoples of those regions. Theories supporting territoriality, survival of the fittest, or man the great hunter are appearing to be inadequate, if not false.
Somehow they've managed to make a strawman of archaeology here. The fact that humans are both hunters and gatherers has been evident throughout our history. This seems romanticised. What's next? Should we not be blamed for the extinction of the Neanderthal?

Women's spirituality, such as goddess spirituality, has likewise left a distinct imprint on ecofeminism. Alienated by male-centered hierarchical religions, Westerners—especially women—are increasingly turning to spiritualities which validate female divineness and equality. Many people are also (re)embracing shamanism, the ancient, nature-based spirituality that was originally practiced by all humans everywhere, and preceded female-centric spirituality.
Here we have a bold claim. Ecofeminists are spiritual. This should set anyone's woo meter blinking. This was a major criticism made by authors in FfS&R, in that eco-feminism concentrated on this spirituality reference rather than the cold hard facts.

Although there is no one "correct" ecofeminism, most ecofeminists would agree with the core precept that the domination of women and the domination of nature are fundamentally connected. In other words, violence against Mother Earth came to be intertwined with an emerging urge to subdue and control women. These twin oppressions were created and are perpetuated by an ideology called patriarchy. Pinpointing the origins of patriarchal thought and practice is as elusive as trying to identify who invented the wheel. Suffice it to say, Western patriarchy arose roughly 5,000 years ago and has discombobulated our planet ever since.
So all women care for nature? What about the men? If there is one thing I hate is a reverse sexist position that some feminists produce. Note though the woolly claims. No substance and nothing to tie into the archaeological record.

The Western patriarchal belief system also places higher value on linear, mechanistic, analytical, and rational qualities. The intuitive, emotional, anarchic, and earthy are negatively perceived as passive, weak, irrational—and female. Nature is paradoxically considered inert, dead mass and a wild, chaotic force. By either reckoning, nature is to be dominated and harnessed for human ends. By extension, the patriarchal mind objectifies, controls, and devalues all that is labeled "female."
I suspect there is a sly attack on science there. Last time I checked, it was a male scientist who came up with some of the best points about nature, Darwin. To quote him:

There is a grandeur in this view of life.
Both women and men are socialized to accept these man-made values. Although men, too, are harmed by patriarchal practices, they nonetheless benefit from them at the expense of women. For example, men own 99% of the world's property while women perform two-thirds of the world's labor. Another example: men rarely shoulder the physical, social, political, or psychological consequences of the experience of rape (unless sexually abused as children or as prison inmates). It is women of all ages who are burdened with the psychic fear induced by a climate in which the threat of sexual violation looms like a distant rain cloud: sometimes miles away, other times hovering right over us.

Wow, a fear speech. I think what is confusing is that later on we get this claim:

Attacking patriarchy is not the same as male-bashing. The masculine sex is not "the enemy." Rather, patriarchy is a particular way of thinking whose practitioners can be of any gender.
OK, this is a separate section and might not have been written by the McGuires, however, its clear that it goes against what they say. Furthermore, they also say:

We as a species are in an arrested state of adolescence as insecure egos (mostly male)
A few more points:

  • Overpopulation is inevitable when the control of reproduction is wrested away from women, and educational and contraceptive resources are not broadly disseminated.
  • In ancient times, women exercised exclusive self-determination over their bodies. Our foresisters had extensive holistic knowledge about birth control, abortion, birthing, and other gynecological concerns.

  • Maaaaaaaaaggggggggic eh?

    I can keep on, but its obvious that from points made by articles such as this, eco-feminism is merely a front for another form of reality denial. This romanticised idea of history (or should that be herstory?) and the rejection of logic makes these a topic of skepticism. The only problem is that as a member of the gender with the cursed chromosome, my viewpoint is probably patrichal and biased, despite my private beliefs on equality. Furthermore, it is disrespectful towards those who work against climate change by confusing the issue with woo and pseudoscience/ the rejection of science.