A real paper or a Sokal-esque hoax? You be the judge

March 6, 2016 • 11:00 am

Certain forms of postmodern discourse are so outré that you can’t tell whether they’re serious or jokes. (Indeed, some postmodernists claim that their serious pieces can be construed as jocular!) The most famous example of this conflation between the scholarly and the absurd is, of course, Alan Sokal’s hoax article on physics and postmodernism for the journal Social Text, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“. (I’m proud to say that the first letter in the New York Times about that piece was my own praise for Sokal. I was then roundly attacked on the phone by an old friend who had, without my knowledge, gone over to the Dark Side and become a postmodernist.)

So here’s an article that just appeared in the journal Progress in Human Geography (pdf here, h/t to reader David). Click on the screenshot to go to the whole thing. The journal is real, and the authors seem real too. In fact, first author Mark Carey is a Professor of History and Associate Dean at Clark Honors college of the University of Oregon. He’s published lots of stuff on glaciers.  Here is his latest paper with three coauthors. Your job is to at least skim it and judge whether it’s a genuine scholarly paper or a Sokalian hoax. I’m betting on the former.

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Here are two excerpts from the abysmally written paper:

A critical but overlooked aspect of the human dimensions of glaciers and global change research is the relationship between gender and glaciers. While there has been relatively little research on gender and global environmental change in general (Moosa and Tuana, 2014; Arora-Jonsson, 2011), there is even less from a feminist perspective that focuses on gender (understood here not as a male/female binary, but as a range of personal and social possibilities) and also on power, justice, inequality, and knowledge production in the context of ice, glacier change, and glaciology (exceptions are Bloom et al., 2008; Williams and Golovnev, 2015; Hevly, 1996; Hulbe et al., 2010; Cruikshank, 2005). Feminist theories and critical epistemologies – especially feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial science studies – open up new perspectives and analyses of the history of glaciological knowledge. Researchers in feminist political ecology and feminist geography (e.g. Sultana, 2014; Mollett and Faria, 2013; Elmhirst, 2011; Coddington, 2015) have also called for studies to move ‘beyond gender’, to include analyses of power, justice, and knowledge production as well as ‘to unsettle and challenge dominant assumptions’ that are often embedded in Eurocentric knowledges (Harris, 2015: xx). Given the prominent place of glaciers both within the social imaginary of climate change and in global environmental change research, a feminist approach has important present-day relevance for understanding the dynamic relationship between people and ice – what Nüsser and Baghel (2015) refer to as the cryoscape.

Through a review and synthesis of a multi-disciplinary and wide-ranging literature on human-ice relations, this paper proposes a feminist glaciology framework to analyze human-glacier dynamics, glacier narratives and discourse, and claims to credibility and authority of glaciological knowledge through the lens of feminist studies.

How many buzzwords can you find in the above? Doesn’t it make you want to bang your skull against the desk? I won’t torture you much longer, but here’s one more bit:

II. Why feminist glaciology?

Feminist glaciology asks how knowledge related to glaciers is produced, circulated, and gains credibility and authority across time and space. It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology. It asks how glaciers came to be meaningful and significant (through what ontological and epistemological process), as well as trying to destabilize underlying assumptions about ice and environment through the dismantling of a host of boundaries and binaries. The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science. Additionally, the feminist perspective seeks to uncover and embrace marginalized knowledges and alternative narratives, which are increasingly needed for effective global environmental change research, including glaciology (Castree et al., 2014; Hulme, 2011). A combination of feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology provide the intellectual foundation for feminist glaciology.

Oh, and I couldn’t resist this, near the end:

Second, we reiterate the need not only to appreciate the differential impacts of environmental change on different groups of people – men and women, rich and poor, North and South – but to understand how the science that guides attempted solutions may in fact perpetuate differences because they are, essentially, built on and draw their epistemic power from differentiation and marginalization. Struggles over authority and legitimacy play out in many obvious ways in climate change negotiations. Struggles also happen in less obvious ways, such as in the environmental change research underpinning climate politics. Analysts and practitioners must recognize the ways in which more-than-scientific, non-Western, non-masculinist modes of knowledge, thinking, and action are marginalized. The response to simplistic ‘ice is just ice’ discourse is not merely to foreground or single out women and their experiences – that would simply perpetuate binaries and boundaries and ignore deeper foundations.

Okay, weigh in below: real or hoax?

By the way, this was funded in part by the U.S. taxpayers:

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How much did the first author get from the NSF? A reader found the official grant award notice, and the amount is $ 412,930.  It was an NSF CAREER award approved by the Division of Social and Economic Sciences, and the title was “Glaciers and Glaciology: How Nature, Field Research, and Societal Forces Shape the Earth Sciences.”

Where is William Proxmire when we need him?

116 thoughts on “A real paper or a Sokal-esque hoax? You be the judge

  1. Sufficiently advanced satire is indistinguishable from academic gibberish:

    “Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects – these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.”

    1. > Sufficiently advanced satire is indistinguishable from academic gibberish:

      In the humanities, maybe. In the sciences gibberish stands out more, I should think, let alone satire. I can readily imagine gibberish or farcical papers in my field (theoretical computer science) — indeed I have seen some — but I literally cannot even imagine a paper for which it would long remain ambiguous *whether* it is satire.

      (Admittedly TCS is a branch of maths, and not an empirical science; but still I would be surprised if there was much more wiggle room in the latter.)

    2. I can’t believe I’m asking this… but is the “Coring is about dicks” passages you just cited actually from elsewhere in the paper, or did you make it up?

      It’s only SLIGHTLY crazier than what Jerry posted, but I don’t think he’d leave that excepted out. So I’m guessing you made it up. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

      I miss Freud. Sometimes, a core sample is just a core sample.

      1. I just searched the paper, and that’s really in there.

        As for hoax or not: One postmodernist author (taken to task for it in Sokal & Bricmonts “Fashionable Nonsense”) claimed that fluid mechanics had been neglected historically because

        “Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids… From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence.”

        The claim above isn’t any more outlandish. On the other hand, if they don’t want you to make the connection “women are frigid, and therefore have unique insight into glaciology” they’re doing a poor job at it.

    1. Yes they are! But they melt in warm embrace of a manly man scientist, and go all wet and stuff.

  2. Analysts and practitioners must recognize the ways in which more-than-scientific, non-Western, non-masculinist modes of knowledge, thinking, and action are marginalized.

    I think this means that scientists should recognise the marginalisation of different ways-of-knowing. Good. If it isn’t a hoax I’m going to need a lot more supporting arguments before I accept the paper as a serious one.

      1. A possible alternative: The paper is “serious” but only in the sense of being a “prop” for a research project in which we are all the experimental subjects. At least I hope that’s true, because otherwise that little splash you heard in the background was my very last drop of “faith in human nature” disappearing into the cold, muddy ground.

        Should I bet $50? A hard-core penetrating analysis says no.

      2. I wouldn’t bet against it. It has just enough of the kind of self-justifying gender-obssessed logic that I’ve come to expect in actual feminist output.

        There’s a certain kind of method to their madness. Women and PoC are marginalized and their opinions aren’t heard. This would ‘logically’ expand to their thoughts on glaciers (because all women disagree with mens research on glaciers, amirite?). This deserves commentary in an attempt to add ‘diversity’ to the field, and gives them a chance to propose their alternate theories.

        The only way I think this might be fake is in the sense that there might be a legitimate minority view on glaciology presented in the paper, and the whole ‘feminist’ bit is either a mad side-note, or a gimmick to draw attention to their ideas that ultimately have nothing to do with gender.

  3. It is a hoax either way. If the research is “real”, the taxpayers who thought their tax money was being used for useful research have been hoaxed.

      1. OTOH, there is Luce Irigaray, about whom Sokal wrote in Intellectual Impostures. This is from Dawkins’ review of Sokal’s book:

        “The feminist ‘philosopher’ Luce Irigaray is another who gets whole-chapter treatment from Sokal and Bricmont. In a passage reminiscent of a notorious feminist description of Newton’s Principia (a “rape manual”), Irigaray argues that E=mc2 is a “sexed equation”. Why? Because “it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us” (my emphasis of what I am rapidly coming to learn is an ‘in’ word). Just as typical of this school of thought is Irigaray’s thesis on fluid mechanics. Fluids, you see, have been unfairly neglected. “Masculine physics” privileges rigid, solid things. Her American expositor Katherine Hayles made the mistake of re-expressing Irigaray’s thoughts in (comparatively) clear language. For once, we get a reasonably unobstructed look at the emperor and, yes, he has no clothes:

        The privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she attributes to the association of fluidity with femininity. Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids… From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence. The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated remainders.
        You do not have to be a physicist to smell out the daffy absurdity of this kind of argument (the tone of it has become all too familiar), but it helps to have Sokal and Bricmont on hand to tell us the real reason why turbulent flow is a hard problem: the Navier-Stokes equations are difficult to solve.”

  4. Assuming it’s not a hoax (and given PCC’s research that seems likely) I’d love to know a specific useful science application or bit of knowledge which comes directly from this feminist approach, one which would otherwise have been overlooked.

    I’m not saying there can’t be such a thing, I’m just wondering what it might be, devoid of all the rhetoric.

      1. “I’d love to know a specific useful science application or bit of knowledge which comes directly from this feminist approach, one which would otherwise have been overlooked.”

        I suggest: what it takes to get an NSF grant these days.

        Which raises the question–what sort of dildos are working at the NSF now?

    1. You are correct not to privilege bulls over cows, however you’ve completely ignored agender and trans-cattle. I’m sorry, we’ll have to expel you. Please take your tiny sombrero and go.

      (Meaning only to lampoon the PC police; not the gender atypical themselves.)

      1. I object to your use of the divisive, marginalizing, speciesist term “trans-cattle”. Aside from “cattle” having paternalistic postcolonial political connotations, the correct word is trans-bovine.

        1. But glaciers give birth to or “calve” icebergs as they break at their edge and fall through the air into the sea. Ice bergs are rather phallic what with being all pointy and protruding from the waters into the air.

          Thus glaciers are feminine, masculine and bovine.

          So remember all ye important yet low-knowledge of the no-knowledge:

          “The air is huwoman but the man-ice is bovine”

  5. I hope it’s a hoax. If it’s true, it’s an indictment on the state of research in this field. The idea that studies or potential solutions to problems are judged on irrelevant criteria such as the gender identity of the scientist concerned should be an embarrassment. Further, that this is such a major issue that it needed a paper written on it should lead a lot of people to look hard at themselves.

  6. If it hasn’t been done already, some clever programmer should write a postmodern gibberish generator. Plug in a couple of keywords like “glacier” and “feminism”, give it access to a library of postmodern tropes (hermeneutics, transformative, marginalization, etc.), a grammar generator of about fifth grade level working from a few standard templates, and out comes a publishable paper in a questionable journal.

  7. 100% legit. Basically they’re asking, “Where are all the female glaciologists?”

    I have no doubt someone would study scientific knowledge as a subjective product of gender dynamics and then write a paper about it.

    1. There probably are some. They probably secretly identify as women despite looking stereotypically masculine and having penises.

      In fact, I am sure that women are well represented in many fields, it’s just that these ‘women’ have penises, testes and xy chromosomes, and they have not chosen to reveal to the world their internal gender identity.

      1. I believe Dr Leif Svalgard’s daughter is a glaciologist. And no she is not pretending to have a penis. It is the old question; those who can do, those who can’t teach, those who can’t teach hold post-modernist seminars in bovine droppings.

    2. Its fine to study gender imbalances in the sciences. Its also fine to point out that (both historically and probably still in some cases in the present day) sometimes a woman’s theories or hypotheses don’t get the respect or consideration that a male colleagues theory would get. But we don’t need ‘feminist glaciology’ to do those things; studying them is just plain science.

      This reminds me of the old adage ‘what do you call alternative medicine that works? You call it medicine.’ Similarly, what do you call feminist glaciology that works? Glaciology.

      Trying to be charitable here, but maybe the professor (was it Carey or Rushing? Its usually first or last) had a grad student they just didn’t know what to do with and didn’t know how to steer back onto the path. So instead arguing about whether this was an appropriate direction of study, they just let the student write and submit what they wanted with the expectation that the journal editors would take care of the problem. Lo and behold they didn’t, and now the research group is stuck with this anchor. Maybe I’m ‘guessing with hope’ here but I’d like to think this was the hypothesis of a grad student given too much rope rather than a tenured geology professor suddenly deciding that coring ice is a socially constructed penis symbol.

    3. Paper? There is a whole “academic” industry on this, including slandering physicists (especially female ones) by calling Newton’s Laws a “rape manual”. (Sandra Harding, _The Science Question in Feminism_)

      Except of course for the “subjective product”, which Harding originally claimed was the *good* thing about “feminist science”.

  8. Unfortunately I don’t think this is a hoax. It is a pomo fraud however from the kind of people that gave us “E=mc^2 is a gendered equation because it privileges the speed of light over other factors”

    Too bad this climate “science” is rife with this kind of nonsense although this is really egregious. The paper itself adds not one whit to the sum of knowledge about glaciers and from a purely scientific viewpoint is a complete waste of money.

  9. Oh brother!! Oh sister!! I don’t get it!! Not one bit. My skull was cracked. No banging required.

        1. No, they’re just telling you where in the paper that reference resides. You’re clicking on the arrow to the left, which is the “pointer” to where the reference is IN THE PAPER. Zado and I have seen that if you click on the reference and not the arrow, it does go to a real reference.

          I’m convinced this paper is genuine now, and not a hoax.

  10. It somehow reminds me of Professor Irwin Corey, The Worlds Foremost Authority. You can look him up and also see some of the comedy on Y tube. Famously said – Remember, wherever you go there you are.

  11. I checked several of the references and while many of them were rubbish in their own right they did exist and had been apparently genuinely published; unless this is the most colossal hoax of all in which the authors have faked numerous academic papers and had them all published. Granted many of the titles would lead one to think the references themselves were hoaxes.

    1. I did the same, came to the same conclusions. But I’m still holding out for “most colossal hoax of all.” For the sake of Western civilization as we know it.

      1. We can only hope. Forlornly (if there be such an adverb) i think. We are doomed. Was it Lincoln who said something to the effect that the teachings in school today are the philosophy of government tomorrow?

  12. Delicious. The list of references alone says it is no hoax at all. This is apparently a thing in the world of glaciology.

    It is accommodation-ism again, only the “other ways of knowing” are local culture and feminist, rather than religious.

    The other knowledge that we are missing out on? Things like this:

    ‘The glaciers these women speak of’, explains Cruikshank (2005: 51–3), ‘engage all the senses. [The glaciers] are willful, capricious, easily excited by human intemperance, but equally placated by quick-witted human responses. Proper behavior is deferential. I was warned, for instance, about firm taboos against “cooking with grease” near glaciers that are offended by such smells.…Cooked food, especially fat, might grow into a glacier overnight if improperly handled.’

    Though it doesn’t seem likely to contribute much to melt rates and other manly technical knowledge, maybe it will be help get people to accept climate change and start changing their behavior, in which case it could have some value after all.

    1. Yes, it smells a lot like the postmodern stuff Sokal ridiculed. So is this postmodern approach still taken seriously at universities?

  13. Looks like this paper is the work of a historian and his honors students. It’s published in journal of human geography (the branch of geography dealing with how human activity affects or is influenced by the earth’s surface). Within human geography are subfields like feminist geography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_geography ), in which papers like this are probably not unusual.

    At least it isn’t a journal of physical geography (a field focused on explaining the spatial characteristics of the various natural phenomena associated with the Earth’s hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere).

  14. This is a great paper. I’ve always felt it was time to give a mean spanking to scientists who don’t share my belief that ice’s place is in the kitchen. I certainly have done my share to keep it barefoot and pregnant.

  15. Absolutely hysterical if it wasn’t so awful
    should be a radio comedy not a science paper

    “Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects – these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.”

      1. When a glacier breaks up, it is called “calving.” Only cows can have calves, not bulls, so therefore feminism.

        1. Yet ‘to literally’ split infinitives is another ‘masculinist’ act. Petardhoist, enemysleepwith, icebreakingviolation.

  16. OMG, it does look real. Some passages are gobbledy-gook, but others make a kind of sense. Women likely have a marginalized role in all areas of climate science, including glaciology, but traditional womens’ roles in agrarian economies will be pointedly impacted by climate change such as is seen in the retreat of glaciers, and the dependency on many areas for collecting water from the glaciers.
    The references check out, unless they made that up too, and among them are papers that seem to bring up points made in this paper.

    1. Women likely have a marginalized role in all areas of climate science, including glaciology, but traditional womens’ roles in agrarian economies will be pointedly impacted by climate change such as is seen in the retreat of glaciers, and the dependency on many areas for collecting water from the glaciers.

      Okay, that may be a fair enough response to my question at #10.

      I don’t know this area, and don’t speak or understand the language. So before I assume it is all pomo nonsense or whatever, I need to be very careful I know that I don’t know that they don’t know what they’re talking about or not.

      Wait, that was gobbledly-gook. I just meant, they might have a point I’m not getting. And maybe you found it.

  17. I consider it real too, and it has the hallmarks of postmodernism.

    There is the peculiar confusion between a subject (the referent) and the discourse around it. It may be the confusion of the map with the territory which postmodernists tend to blur together, for they believe reality is socially constructed in some important way.

    What scientist or society says about glaciers becomes part of the glacier itself — how the thing is understood by human minds becomes part of what it is. Which then glues well with radical cognitive relativism, and the talk about “ways of knowing” where e.g. natives or women or some other group have some different access to knowledge which isn’t yet in the realm of science.

    Of course, a skilled hoaxer could fake it, as Alan Sokal did. But to make matters worse, postmodernism itself can apply it’s own premises unto itself and weasel itself out of any critique — as they in fact tried to do (where it frequently gets ugly, too, since resistance to this nonsense is often described as a “right wing” response, or bigotry etc, a tactic that flourishes again with the heirs of old postmodernism in the Regressive Left, especially the “Social Justice Warrior” social media force).

    They might employ the Motte-And-Bailey Doctrine which was already described by Sokal and Bricoment:

    7. Ambiguity as subterfuge. We have seen in this book numerous ambiguous texts that can be interpreted in two different ways: as an assertion that is true but relatively banal, or as one that is radical but manifestly false. And we cannot help thinking that, in many cases, these ambiguities are deliberate. Indeed, they offer a great advantage in intellectual battles: the radical interpretation can serve to attract relatively inexperienced listeners or readers; and if the absurdity of this version is exposed, the author can always defend himself by claiming to have been misunderstood, and retreat to the innocuous interpretation.

    Alan Sokal (1997), p. 189

    This paper on glaciers contains the familiar trivially true notions. Yes, adventure is typically rendered as a masculine affair. Yes, women in history (and the history of science) were often neglected. But as Chomsky said, and I quoted him before recently, it largely fits here, too…

    yes, It’s perfectly true that when you look at scientists in the West, they’re mostly men. And it’s perfectly true that women have had a hard time breaking into the scientific fields. And it’s perfectly true that there are institutional factors determining how science proceeds that reflect power structures. I mean ALL of this can be described literally in monosyllables, and it turns out to be truisms. On the other hand, you don’t get to be a respected intellectual by presenting truisms in monosyllables

    Noam Chomsky, Interview 2011

    We need Science Wars II. Maybe Steven Pinker kicks it off with his New Enlightenment book. Here is hope other authors kick off a New Enlightenment “movement” just as New Atheism was one in the last decade. The New Atheist authors would be natural candidates to lead the charge.

    1. I loved that quote by Sokal on “ambiguity as subterfuge.” It sounds very much like Daniel Dennett’s deepities.

      And imo it’s also a major strategy employed in Sophisticated Apologetics, particularly those touching on Spirituality and extraordinary claims made in its name — claims which are often walked back into something you wouldn’t argue with at all, but now you suddenly are and this proves you’re a major bozo.

      1. You are spot on, it’s very similar in many ways with the Deepity. Nicolas Shackel has discussed this here.

        The trick is popular with a lot of groups, including fellow atheists. A is the “radical interpretation” that is desired by speaker. B is the “innocuous interpretation”, or trivial true one.

        The William Lane Craig and Intelligent Design version goes like this:

        A) the Christian God cares about you, and what you do in the bedroom, who has sent himself to earth in a mythologically-inventive region to get himself nailed unto a cross to lift a curse he himself imposed on humankind when humans didn’t know about good and evil but believed a talking snake, which has inflicted the curse on them.
        B) Someone had to start the big bang, right? Why not a some deity?

        US Secular movement version, popular among PZ Myers, Aron Ra “feminists” etc

        A) trigger warnings, freeze peach, safe spaces, cultural appropriation, islam accommodationism, evopsych sucks, blank slate behaviorism ftw, Watson/Quinn/Sarkeesian/Wu/Park/Sulkowicz/Richards are “exactly right” …
        B) Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

        The homeopathy version goes like this:

        A) This can cure cancer and AIDS at once, regrow hair loss, and you loose excess weight with just one sugar pill a day.
        B) Placebo effect. It helps the body help itself.

        Verson A is promoted whenever possible (the bailey), but under scrutiny, they switch to Version B (the motte) for it’s easier to defend and agreeable. But of course, with a bit of jootsing (another useful term popularized by Dennett, even if coined by Doug Hoftadter), you can see what is going on. Then of course these groups tend to use the next tier of disingenious tactics.

  18. If they are trying to say women are sometimes driven out of science by sexist pigs, I would agree. But I’m not sure that is what they are trying to say.

    1. And what about the whiteness of glaciers? Or perhaps blueness. Should we focus on frozen water, which is white, or black holes, which are black? There are no shades of gray except perhaps in the snot of Chinese citizens.

    2. I think they are addressing the impacts of glaciers on societies. The “human geography” of glaciology. In places like India and Bangladesh, the impact of the conditions of the glaciers is important.

  19. If publishing a paper was a requirement for the grant, then that requirement has been met. If publishing an *intelligible* paper was a requirement, then the money should be returned.

  20. Definitely real, and unfortunately, not at all unrepresentative of what passes for “Human Geography”. I have had the misfortune of having to work with several human geographers over the years (not in my own research, but in management/administrative settings) and my experiences perfectly align with this type of academic output.

      1. I think I chose the wrong occupation. If one can make a living out of generating content-free nonsense…

        I tried out the Post-Modern Gibberish Essay Generator for which Cindy provided a link. Here is part of what I got:

        “If one examines modernism, one is faced with a choice: either accept subdialectic sublimation or conclude that the establishment is capable of truth, given that neocapitalist constructivist theory is invalid. If modernism holds, we have to choose between subdialectic sublimation and Lacanist obscurity. Thus, any number of sublimations concerning the common ground
        between sexual identity and class exist.”

        I really can’t tell the difference between this stuff and the “real” thing.

        1. ‘Sokal notes that […] his original article contained some “syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever”. He regrets that there were not more of these: “I tried hard to produce them, but I found that, save for rare bursts of inspiration, I just didn’t have the knack.” ‘

          (Quote from ‘Postmodernism Disrobed’ by Dawkins)

          I have tried that occasionally and it is surprisingly difficult.


  21. Since the lead author [at least] hails from the University of Cascadia — this is clearly sincere, bognormal, pomo science.

    — spoken from the more rational Cascadia College perspective,,

  22. I knew it! All that fluid mechanics I had to learn to study glaciers was just a feminist plot!

  23. I clicked on “Generate your own postmodern nonsense *here*.” and it didn’t work.

    (Sorry for the double post, an error. I wish WordPress would at least allow deleting a post, if not editing it. Is that so hard?)

  24. I vote hoax on the premise as ridiculous

    and if I ran a feminist bookstore, there’d be a humour section.

    the differences in male and female on patterns of access to knowledge and dissemination can be applied to any object of study

    glaciers are the Hitchcock’ MacGuffin

  25. I got as far as ‘feminist glaciology’ in the title and decided it had to be a hoax.

    I’ll change my mind when someone explains to me how glaciers can have a gender.

    (It could be that female glaciologists have something different to offer (by virtue of being female?) but that is simply a contribution to glaciology. If valid, regular glaciology should incorporate it. There should be no such thing as as a distinguishably different ‘feminist’ glaciology. Any more than, say, Marxist genetics.)


      1. I suppose ‘islamic science’ could possibly have some valid meaning in a historical context in relating to ancient Arabic mathematicians and astronomers (though there may be a better descriptive term, I don’t know).

        In a modern context, I agree, ‘islamic science’ is a nonsense term.


        1. In many cases “Arabic science” would be more accurate; it would mean science written about in Arabic. After all, even in the sphere of Islam, many Christians and Jews wrote their scholarly work in Arabic during the “golden age”. Similarly, non-Arabs in the sphere (Persians, Azeris, Uzbeks, etc.) wrote in Arabic for similar reasons.

          1. I think that’s possibly a better descriptive category. (I wasn’t intending to imply that ‘islamic science’ in the sense I suggested actually owed anything to religion).


  26. A conservative blogger, after commenting this (similar to above) summed it up:

    This is why we have Trump.

  27. I participated (mountaineering field assistant) in one of the first efforts to punch a hole through the Ross Ice Shelf in the 78-79 season in the Antarctic. Few women were on the ice in that season, but those who were included some top notch researchers, and all were treated with great respect. Some years later, I noticed an article published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results “On the Significance of Glacier Ice Number 2”. Perhaps this paper missed the proper venue.

  28. Having done some cursory reading as you requested, I think that the research paper is real.

    Giving Prof. Carey the benefit of the doubt and in light of my limited reading on the topic, I reserve judgement on the quality of the information in his paper. Maybe the overuse of jargon is tripping him up. Anyway, from the little I’ve read so far, there seems to be a perception of gender bias in the field of glaciolgy, as there might be/have been in science and medicine, etc. Prof. Carey is closely involved with an initiative on how climate change affect indigenous people, and glaciers et al come into play here. Perhaps he (and others) are seeking to insert a feminine voice in the discourse, to better address the impending challenges of those people most at risk of being swept up and away by nature’s forces. Pinker’s book (TBAOON) has said as much, that the power and talents of women are vitally needed to solve the complicated and dangerous problems now facing the world.

  29. The last excerpt at the end, which Jerry “couldn’t resist,” does raise a bigger point that should be given some consideration, if you really value objective science. Science is done by humans, and all humans have biases, predilections, and worldviews. Therefore, all science is conducted, and all knowledge produced, by biased agents. It’s worth knowing HOW the biases and worldviews of the knowledge producers affect what research questions they bother asking in the first place, and how they interpret their findings in light of their fields’ existing theories. If you really value well-fleshed-out conceptual frameworks in any domain (glaciology, cellular metabolism, whatever), it seems inappropriate to mock the possibility that parts of any such framework are underdeveloped because of underrepresentation of non-Northern/Western white dudes in science. To suggest that your cultural background doesn’t shape how you do science is specious. (BTW, not a post-modernist. I’m a run-of-the-mill white dude biogeochemist.)

    1. It is certainly “worth knowing HOW the biases and worldviews of the knowledge producers affect [stuff]”; however the inept drivel in that paper does not even begin to do anything of the sort.

      [I have changed my mind after reading a good chunk of it: it may not be a hoax after all.]

      1. In many cases this was my sad realization about many pomo works. They seemed to be addressing an interesting or important topic (related to science and society, or the like) and yet they adopted the most stultifying language, overblown relativism and banal misunderstandings of the science they studied, leading nowhere good.

        Sometimes it got worse, though, with the slanders and very extreme stuff, like the S. Harding stuff I alluded to previously.

  30. I really hope it is a hoax because the problem is real and sad. It starts with post modernists and culture relativists and continues with all kind of social agenda based studies. Logic is thrown out of the window in favor of scientifically sounding gibberish.

    It would not have been a problem had those dealing with that crap where calling themselves authors, poets, troubadours or stand-up artists. When they try to own science, it’s a problem. Then they can spout crazy theories that justify any crazy idea with pure hogwash. We’ve seen science being hijacked in the past with the Eugenics theory and it did not end well then.

    As an Israeli, I see this all the time with academics from the world over criticizing my country with logic-free arguments, inciting whole nations to hatred. I mention this because I believe that Israel (and the Jews) is the proverbial canary in the coal mine — what happen to us later on happens to all.

    This monstrosity must be fought. As I said, I hope it is indeed a hoax aimed to make the point. Still, even if not, it does make the point very well.

  31. If this is a hoax, bravo.
    If this is real, I think it’s time to root for Skynet and the Terminators.

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