Categories
Medicine Popular culture Pseudoscience Quackery Television

Jennifer Block and Elisa Albert in the NYT: “Misogyny and the patriarchy are why skeptics attack Goop!”

Jennifer Block and Elisa Albert defend the quackery and pseudoscience and quackery sold by Goop by accusing its critics of misogyny and engaging in whataboutism. It does not go well.

Regular readers know that I’m not really a fan of Goop, actress turned “wellness” entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle” brand that specializes in selling pseudoscience and quackery to affluent women seeking a taste of that sweet, sweet Paltrow vibe and lifestyle and who, as that famous Mitchell and Webb comedy sketch about homeopathy famously said, have a vague sense of unease, or a touch of the nerves, or even just more money than sense. Of course, Goop doesn’t sell homeopathy so much as it sells jade eggs in the vagina, psychic vampire repellant, bee venom acupuncture, magic pieces of tape, and the now regular “In Goop Health” confabs where all manner of quacks peddle their wares using Paltrow’s star power, including antivaxxers, HIV/AIDS denialists, psychic mediums, and worse. Of course, every time skeptics criticize Goop, there’s always someone striking back, as Goop itself did against Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN who’s been a constant gadfly about Goop’s promotion of nonsense. This time, a week and a half after the pseudoscience laden “reality series” the goop lab debuted on Netflix, criticism of the series seems to have struck a nerve with Jennifer Block and Elisa Albert, who penned an op-ed in the New York Times Opinion section entitled Who’s Afraid of Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop?: The long history of hating on ‘woo.’

You can tell right away from the headline where Block and Albert are coming from, and it’s not from a place of science. If you were unsure where these two were going to land, the first couple of paragraphs makes it very, very clear that Block and Albert support Paltrow and Goop:

When Netflix announced the trailer for Gwyneth Paltrow’s “The Goop Lab” in early January, the media and #medtwitter made dire predictions for both the streaming service and for humanity itself. The show would surely promote “dangerous pseudoscience,” peddle “snake oil,” and be “undeniably awful for society.” Longtime Paltrow critic and health law researcher Timothy Caulfield was among the many opiners who warned on Twitter of the “spread of health misinformation” and the “erosion of #criticalthinking.” Other relevant hashtags included #PostModernDarkAge and #saynotogoop.

Six episodes of the show finally dropped late last month, and so far civilization seems to be more or less intact.

To which I respond: Perhaps, but, if so, it’s in spite of this TV show, not because of it. Also, how do Block and Albert know? The show has only been out since January 24.

When I took note of this series’ impending release a month ago, I characterized it as selling quackery under the guise of “female empowerment.” (That’s a feature, not a bug, of Paltrow’s marketing of Goop, and Block and Albert go all in echoing that marketing strategy in their op-ed.) Since then I’ve dabbled in the show by perusing a couple of episodes, but, really, others have covered the nonsense in it better than I could have. Of course, at the risk of sounding as though I’m mansplaining, it’s not “empowerment” to sell snake oil to women. Fortunately, there’s Jen Gunter and a lot of other female skeptics saying the same thing. Be that as it may, unsurprisingly Block and Albert go the full “empowerment” route in defending the show:

The show explores cold therapy, energy healing, longevity diets, and therapeutic use of psychedelics, all of which may sound esoteric to the uninitiated, but none of which actually lack sound evidence of benefit. The episode on female pleasure, led by masturbation queen Betty Dodson, is downright radical, featuring a vulva montage, naked women of various shapes and ages talking openly about their bodies, and a woman bringing herself to orgasm so that other women might learn how. “We’re very dangerous when we’re knowledgeable” says Ms. Dodson. Ms. Paltrow nods: “Tell me about it.”

So what underlies all the overwhelming, predictable, repetitive critiques? What exactly is so awful about a bunch of consenting adults seeking self-knowledge, vitality, and emotional freedom?

“None of which lack actually lack sound evidence of benefit”? Methinks Block and Albert have been partaking of some of those psychedelics featured in one episode of Paltrow’s Netflix infomercial series for the Goop brand. Energy healing most certainly lacks sound evidence for any benefit, and it is massively implausible based on physics and biology—at least as implausible as homeopathy. Longevity diets, although somewhat plausible, also lack truly compelling evidence that they can do what proponents claim they can do, in humans at least. Ditto cold therapy. Also notice how Block and Albert very conspicuously don’t mention the episode on psychics in their entire op-ed. Addressing that Goop uncritically accepts and repeats claims that energy healing can enhance psychic abilities in its show would undermine their attempt to claim that Goop is not peddling potentially harmful pseudoscience.

But also note the clever play, how Block and Albert zero in on the one episode out of the whole bunch that is arguably about female empowerment, the episode on orgasms. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in all the reviews of the goop lab, it’s that the orgasm episode is the one that skeptics have the fewest problems with. Heck, even Goop über-critic and arch-nemesis Dr. Gunter didn’t have a problem with that episode. She actually wrote:

The episode on vulvas and sex, “The Pleasure Is Ours,” is the only one I can recommend. It was informative because Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross did most of the talking and education. Vulvar anatomy was discussed, and I’m always pleased when a model of the clitoris is on display. We get a guided tour of the vulva with a real model (Ms. Ross I presume) and photos of others to show variation. Ross also masturbated on screen, although little is shown. This is all useful, both the images of the vulva and the orgasm, especially the latter, as many women believe false scripts of female orgasm that involve vocalizations and contortions — orgasms that look like Sally Albright’s fakery in the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

That hardly sounds as though Dr. Gunter was hostile to that particular episode. However, conceding that pretty much every skeptic and Goop critic who watched and reviewed the series had little, if anything, bad to say about that particular episode on female anatomy and orgasms would undermine Block and Albert’s message, in which prominently mentioning the episode about female sexuality and orgasm is used to frame their main attack against Goop critics:

The tsunami of Goop hatred is best understood within a context that is much older and runs much deeper than Twitter, streaming platforms, consumerism or capitalism.

Throughout history, women in particular have been mocked, reviled, and murdered for maintaining knowledge and practices that frightened, confused, and confounded “the authorities.” (Namely the church, and later, medicine). Criticism of Goop is founded, at least in part, upon deeply ingrained reserves of fear, loathing, and ignorance about things we cannot see, touch, authenticate, prove, own, or quantify. It is emblematic of a cultural insistence that we quash intuitive measures and “other” ways of knowing — the sort handed down via oral tradition, which, for most women throughout history, was the only way of knowing. In other words, it’s classic patriarchal devaluation.

Misogyny and patriarchy. I knew that would be that defense of Goop as soon as I saw how much Block and Albert touted the orgasm episode and blithely skated past all the pseudoscience. It’s also the same damned defense that The Gwyneth and her minions themselves have been using.Again, presenting Goop as pushback against misogyny and patriarchy is a feature, not a bug, of Goop marketing, and Albert and Block are all about amplifying Goop marketing. (It’s really a shame that the NYT gave them such a huge platform to do so.)

Of course, having of late become more interested in the history of medicine, particularly with regard to how it has viewed and treated populations that were not white males in the past, I can’t deny that there’s been sexism and misogyny in medicine, nor can I deny the longstanding outright racism in medicine that led to atrocities like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. This latent racism still exists as implicit bias prevalent among physicians that leads to a whole host of disparities in how people of color are treated by the medical system. I get it, I think, at least as much as a straight white middle aged dude rapidly approaching retirement age can (which means I’ve never personally been at the receiving end). I understand, at least somewhat, why people of color are suspicious of the medical system and why women feel disrespected by it. It’s part of the cleverness of Paltrow’s marketing strategy, echoed credulously by Block and Albert, to tap into those feelings in women about conventional medicine and its history, still not completely corrected, of discounting women’s concerns and not listening to women.

Indeed, Block and Albert lay on the misogyny angle really thick:

When 19th-century medicine men were organizing and legitimizing their brand-new profession, they claimed the mantle of “science” even though there was no such thing as evidence-based medicine at the time. In order to dominate the market, they slandered all other modalities as “quackery,” including midwifery, which we know achieved safer birth outcomes back then, as it still does today. Pejoratives like “woo” or “pseudo-science” are still often applied to anything that falls outside of the mainstream medical establishment. (Think about this the next time you hear something harmless or odd or common-sensical dismissed as an “old wives’ tale.”)

I can’t fail to admit that the references linked to by Block and Albert included a press release about a rather unconvincing study that ignored a rather obvious confounder to produce correlations between midwife numbers in states and birth and neonatal outcomes, a study from 2007 from British Columbia that didn’t actually show improved outcomes, and a NYT editorial. Now, I don’t have a dog in this hunt, as they say, and have nothing against well-trained midwives, but if you were going to convince me of the value of midwives compared to, obstetricians those three references would not be the sort of evidence that would do it. The evidence cited by Block and Albert is thin gruel indeed.

As for calling things “woo” or “pseudoscience,” I make no apologies when it is woo, pseudoscience, and/or quackery. It has nothing to do if it’s a practice embraced by women compared to men. It has everything to do with science and evidence. (And does anyone actually use the term “old wives’ tale” any more? I can’t recall having heard it in a very, very long time before reading this op-ed.)

Be that as it may, Block and Albert are long on the misdirecting arguments and short on actual evidence. First, they indulge in the classic diversion beloved of quacks and cranks the world over, the “science doesn’t know everything” argument:

Our society likes to conjoin the concepts of science and health, but the two do not always overlap. Peer-reviewed, lab-generated, randomized, controlled, double-blinded evidence will always be the gold standard, but such studies aren’t always fundable, or ethical. We kiss our children’s boo-boos even though there’s no gold standard evidence that it will make them feel better. We just know that it does. Which in turn makes us feel better. That’s “wellness.”

If Block and Albert can find a skeptic, any where, any time, who’s ever ranted against kissing our children’s boo-boos when they hurt because there’s no randomized controlled trial showing that it works to relieve their pain, please, show me. This is a huge straw man argument.

Moreover, skeptics know that many studies can’t be done because they would not be ethical. We point this out to antivaxxers on a daily basis when they demand randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of the vaccination schedule, informing them that it is unethical to leave the control group unprotected against vaccine-preventable diseases, making such a study design inherently unethical because it lacks clinical equipoise. That’s why we use epidemiology to study differences in health outcomes between unvaccinated and vaccinated children rather than randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Indeed, this whole argument is attacking a straw man. Proponents of science-based medicine understand that we use the best science available and, just as importantly, propose the most rigorous studies that are feasible based on resources and ethics. Obviously, we prefer the most rigorous RCTs, but in the case where an RCT is unethical we do what we can with the most rigorous alternate study designs that are ethical that we can produce.

The next paragraph gets the mega-facepalm for its combination of whataboutism, false equivalence, and its defense of—wait for it—reiki:

We understand the concern that a person with cancer might choose to forgo chemo in favor of Ayurveda. But just as there are wannabe gurus selling snake oil, there are irresponsible, unethical physicians, as well as physicians with a shameful incapacity for nuance or empathy. Reiki is not proven to shrink tumors in any double-blind trials, but it, along with yoga and mindfulness and acupuncture, is being used in integrative cancer therapy at major institutions all over the world, because there is evidence that it has benefits, and no adverse side effects.

Godzilla facepalm

Reiki? Seriously? That’s the hill Block and Albert want to die on defending Goop? How many times do I have to point out that reiki is nothing more than faith healing that substitutes Eastern mystical beliefs for the usual Christian beliefs that underlie most faith healing in the US? Substitute the words “God” or “Jesus” for the “universal source” in reiki that is said to be the source of the “healing energy” that reiki masters channel through themselves to the recipient, and the near-exact similarity between reiki and faith healing becomes apparent.

There is also whataboutism at its most blatant:

To return to the yoni egg: Witness the public outcry over therapeutic use of polished gemstones to tone the pelvic floor, as compared with relative silence about the documented harms of GYN devices like Essure and pelvic mesh. (To say nothing of what underlies our high rates of hysterectomy, cesarean section and untreated endometriosis.)

Whataboutism is a long-used propaganda technique in which criticism is deflected by pointing out something supposedly worse believed or done by the people making the criticism. It’s misdirection, pure and simple. Whenever someone like Block and Albert invokes problems in modern science-based medicine to deflect criticism of the pseudoscience and quackery they’re defending, I like to quote Ben Goldacre:

Or, as he put it in his book Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, “Problems in medicine do not mean that homeopathic sugar pills work; just because there are problems with aircraft design, that doesn’t mean that magic carpets really fly.” As I like to put it, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, criticizing the sort of quackery that Goop sells and criticizing areas where medicine falls short in the scientific evidence department. Ben Goldacre does just that. So do I, although less so about pharma than Dr. Goldacre.

This longer quote from Goldacre’s book seems very appropriate right here:

At this time we should take a brief moment to mention quacks: alternative therapists who sell vitamins and homeopathy sugar pills [the latter of which, by definition, contain no active ingredients], which perform no better than placebo in fair tests, and who use even cruder marketing tricks than the ones described in this book. In these people profit at all from the justified anger that people feel towards the pharmaceutical industry, then it comes at the expense of genuinely constructive activity. Selling ineffective sugar pills is not a meaningful policy response to the regulatory failure we have seen in this book.

Goldacre was very much writing about snake oil “wellness” salespeople like Paltrow in the above passage. Her selling jade eggs, vaginal steaming, acupuncture, psychic vampire repellent, “vampire facials,” and all manner of “wellness” woo (yes, I’m going to keep using that word) is not a meaningful response to help correct problems of profit-driven pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers using insufficiently rigorous science or a patriarchal medical system that devalued women’s concerns for so long. The answers to these problems are the more rigorous application of science and education and policy changes designed to reverse the history of dismissing the concerns of women, LGBTQ people, and persons of color. We can certainly argue about how these changes can be accomplished, as it is not simple matter to determine how to achieve these ends. One thing is certain, though. Selling woo to affluent women does nothing to address these concerns or achieve these ends. All it achieves is to line the pockets of rich entrepreneurs like Gwyneth Paltrow, while her apologists (like Block and Albert) defend her scams as “empowering” women and sticking it to the patriarchy.

Oops, they did it again with the “empowerment” in the final passage of their op-ed:

The word “science” has morphed into a virtue signal, but science is simply a tool, and it can be used for both good and ill. “Science” was used during the first half of the 20th century to stop women from breastfeeding, encouraging them to turn to highly profitable, shelf-stable formula and jars of baby food instead.

Traditionally, “woo” modalities have been practiced and taught in relative secret, which protected practitioners but limited their reach. When we become empowered to learn more about our bodies, our instincts, our emotional landscapes and the connections therein, maybe we’ll begin to demand that our complex and (still!) mysterious physiologies are treated with respect, dignity, and humility in the realms of medicine and science. Until then, we’ll take the curiosity and experimentation of a celebrity luxury capitalist whose good fortune it is not to have to worry about actual burning at an actual stake.

I really, really, really hate the term “virtue signaling.” For one thing, it’s hypocritical as hell, because the only reason to accuse someone of “virtue signaling” is—you guessed it—to virtue signal yourself as being somehow morally superior by imputing disingenuousness to the person making the argument you’re attacking. In other words, accusing someone of virtue signaling is in itself an act of virtue signaling. That’s why I now never use the term, other than ironically or to mock someone else’s use of it (as I’m now mocking Block and Albert’s use of it). If I see someone else using it unironically I think less of that person, particularly when it’s used along with the dubious “science was wrong before” canard so beloved of cranks, as Block and Albert do. It’s a term that has totally passed its sell-by date and has devolved into just another insult term.

As for the rest, note the false dichotomy. Block and Albert are basically saying that if you don’t lay off the pseudoscience promoted by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, you’re treating women and their concerns about their bodies, emotional landscapes, and physiology with disrespect and a lack of humility. Sorry, I don’t buy that. In fact, I view things a lot differently. Think about it. Block and Albert are painting a portrait of men as dismissive of emotion and worshiping science and rationality and of women as far more emotional beings, which is actually exactly the stereotype that the patriarchy has promulgated since time imemmorial: Man, rational; woman, very emotional and not rational. They’re even using this stereotype to defend Gwyneth Paltrow’s exploitation of their concerns about their health and bodies to make herself fabulously wealthy.

I also can’t help but note that appealing to female empowerment against misogyny and patriarchy is a favorite tactic of the antivaccine movement these days, going back to at least 2007, when Jenny McCarthy was promoting “mother warriors.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was also playing the white knight defending women’s honor, but accusing critics of the antivaccine movement of misogyny and condescension towards mothers of autistic children. (Sadly, I’ve seen way more misogyny from the antivaccine movement than from anyone defending vaccines against pseudoscience.)

I’ll conclude by noting that this is not the first time that Jennifer Block has defended Goop. Last November, she published an article for the Scientific American blog, Doctors Are Not Gods (another title that tells you exactly where the article would be going). It was basically a hit piece on Dr. Gunter that took her quotes out of context, made multiple errors of fact, cited a truly crappy study, and failed to adequately disclose a conflict of interest. The uproar on social media was such that the blog post was actually retracted. (The original text can still be found at Archive.org.) It also hit the whataboutism about pelvic mesh used in the NYT op-ed.

The themes are were the same, so much so that I think she just repurposed her arguments, leaving out the parts of her SciAm article that were so easily slapped down and reframing her criticism more explicitly as the patriarchy taking its revenge on an upstart like Gwyneth Paltrow because she had the temerity to use her celebrity to “empower” women. (Too bad that selling snake oil to women using misinformation, bad science, and pseudoscience is the opposite of empowering them.) Unfortunately, the NYT foolishly took that SciAm reject and let Block and Albert with it.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

129 replies on “Jennifer Block and Elisa Albert in the NYT: “Misogyny and the patriarchy are why skeptics attack Goop!””

Narcs gonna narc. Grifters gonna grift. All showboating.

They have no interest in battling the patriarchy. What they seek is to replicate it in a female hierarchy, so that they can be the Top Hens there.

It’s just another Means to Power.

There are prophets and there are profiteers – I’d have more respect for a false prophet than their profiteer.

Seriously though, when it comes to female empowerment, where are the education programs and refuge centres and helplines funded by her profits? It’s just an execrable excuse for her to profit from the rich cosplaying as feminists and wise women.

Jennifer Block has a long, long history here. Her books are terrible, and her arguments tend to boil down to the logical fallacy of “medicine has problems, ergo the alternatives are valid.”

Never mind that apparently, a rich white woman scamming other women with products that don’t work is okay because that’s empowerment.

Block and Alberts have a point.

The long and sordid history of health quackery has been dominated by male scamsters, exceptions like Hulda Clark notwithstanding.

Why shouldn’t more women get into the racket?

“Misogyny and the patriarchy are why skeptics attack Goop!”

Fuck them!

No prisoners when it comes to this kind of emotional strand of deceptive whataboutism.

No prisoners.

That kind of gender-based “arguments” really wants me to give them a taste of Stone Age style barbarous patriarchy.

I do not deny that there are real gender issues in society, far from it. But tolerating this kind of confusion of concerns is absolutely inacceptable.

@ Orac

I do not understand how you even had the mere patience of writing such a blog post. I guess I’m getting overly intolerant with age…

That kind of gender-based “arguments” really wants me to give them a taste of Stone Age style barbarous patriarchy.

@ Smut Clyde

That wasn’t the Stone Age. Though, honestly, we have little data on abuse in the Stone Age… And Gimbuta’s theory seems to be quite disputed on its rather speculative grounds. Though, in all fairness, indo-european societies indeed seem to have allowed women to high positions of power before christianisation. Quite a number of examples in history…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudica

I tend to revere exceptional women. I can’t stand petty female authority, but would grovel before one I genuinely admire.

I’m counting Neolithic as “stone age”. Sounds like Gimbutas’ theory is a cause of argument but I am happy to have no opinion on its accuracy.

@ Smut Clyde

I believe that Gimbutas has been leaping to conclusions, but she nonetheless gathered huge data. Her work cannot in my opinion be dismissed, but should be reevaluated, keeping in mind that speculation has a place in scientific endeavour. Just not the same place as hard facts.

The problem with interpretations of archeologic data is that people gather data, then interpret. There has been an interesting approach to overcome that and let the data speak for themselves. You know: a methodology…

Basically, the idea is to gather all available data on myths, and apply the same phylogenetic classification methods that you have, say, in linguistics. Stuff like cluster analysis. This way, you can trace the propagation of myths quite deep into the past and it does yield insights on quite a number of mythological aspects of prehistory. You’re still speculating, but you’re doing it on safer grounds.

Here’s a guy that has been doing quite a lot of this work. Julien d’Huy at la Sorbonne in Paris. Mostly french, sorry…

https://univ-paris1.academia.edu/JuliendHuy

This one is a decent introduction to his work, as it exposes the applicability of phylogenetic methods to analysis of myths, takes a jab at the Cosmic Hunt (the greek story of Diane and Callisto, tied to the Ursa Major constellation), AND is in english. This kind of work paints rather surprising pictures of worldwide dispersions of myths. In the case of the Cosmic Hunt, at least 15000 years back in time, notably across the Bering straing (or rather the Bering land bridge at the time). 15000 years back in time is not negligeable at all.

https://www.academia.edu/36862924/2018_Computational_Approaches_to_Myths_Analysis_Application_to_the_Cosmic_Hunt_Marc_Thuillard_Jean-Lo%C3%AFc_Le_Quellec_et_Julien_dHuy_._Nouvelle_Mythologie_compar%C3%A9e_4_1-32

If we can manage to cross these mythophylogenetic data with more cultural and less mythical aspects of archeology, we may learn quite a few things. Perhaps. Doesn’t seem impossible. But I’m just speculating here…

Anyway, I had a very good time reading his article on the Polyphemus myth, which seems to trace its roots to the point when mankind started considering animals as something else than wild beasts only fit for hunting. Other example: The dragon myth, for instance seems to be of African origin. Stuff like that.

For Matriarchy and Prehistory, which seems more on topic with respect with Gimbutas, this methodology seems to offer hope for more rigorous testing of hypothesis, such as matriarchal interpretations of rock art:

https://www.academia.edu/33211748/2017.Matriarchy_and_Prehistory_A_Statistical_Method_for_Testing_an_Old_Theory.-_Les_Cahiers_de_lAARS_19_159-170

Thanks for the reading material! This is in my wheelhouse.

I have to say, talk of “same phylogenetic classification methods that you have, say, in linguistics. Stuff like cluster analysis” causes no end of agitation among old-school linguists, who insist that you can’t link any two languages within a language phylum until you’ve reconstructed the protolanguage they evolved from. They have never forgiven Joseph Greenberg for being right about African languages (by taking a cluster-analysis approach), and they are still disinterring his bones at regular intervals to hold Cadaver Synods and execrate his name.

@ Smut Clyde

“I have to say, talk of “same phylogenetic classification methods that you have, say, in linguistics. Stuff like cluster analysis” causes no end of agitation among old-school linguists, who insist that you can’t link any two languages within a language phylum until you’ve reconstructed the protolanguage they evolved from.”

That’s why scientists should be more thoroughly educated in practical aspects of applied epistemology. There’s a weakness in higher education here. I see much misuse of Karl Popper’s ideas, for instance, and some are downright misrepresentations of Popper as an old-school logical positivist. That’s only one point among many I perceive. These controversies have no end, and IMO, they are as damageable to the inner workings of science as pseudoscientific ravings are to medicine’s acceptance in society.

“They have never forgiven Joseph Greenberg for being right about African languages (by taking a cluster-analysis approach), and they are still disinterring his bones at regular intervals to hold Cadaver Synods and execrate his name.”

Links would be appreciated. I revel in the roars and grunts of disgruntled scientists. I plead guilty of being vicious.

F68.10 – Thanks for the Cave link, wonderful stuff – I haven’t heard it for a long time, nostalgia for younger days and all that. Did you hear Johnny Cash’s version of ‘The Mercy Seat’?

@ Carl

You’re welcome. Narad’s video was huge fun too. I’m keeping it the back of my head.

No, haven’t checked Johnny Cash’s cover. I must say Nick Cave really is one of my favorite artists. I have a special fondness for the Ship Song.

“including midwifery, which we know achieved safer birth outcomes back then, as it still does today. ”

I’ll just quote from the BMJ:
http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c5639.full
“We found that delivery related perinatal death was significantly higher among low risk pregnancies in midwife supervised primary care than among high risk pregnancies in obstetrician supervised secondary care.”

And an Oregon homebirth midwife who wanted to actually collect some data:
https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/8585
“Note that the total mortality rate for births planned to be attended by direct-entry midwives is 6-8 times higher than the rate for births planned to be attended in hospitals. The data for hospitals does not exclude deaths caused by congenital abnormalities.”

The two authors of this document are either uninformed, or are willfully ignoring evidence.

Also, as a man with a vagina, Goop and its supporters have no space for me, while Dr Gunter had some rather useful information for me in The Vagina Bible.

Heh. I’ve met a couple women engineers who were not born with vaginas. One was quite tickled that she was technically the first woman to graduate from the male only college she attended. Yeah, back in the day there were lots of colleges that refused to admit women, like Texas A&M (first female dorms in 1971, something noted by my classmates as we signed up for college before our 1975 graduation/escaped from a Texas high school).

I also have no patience for this type of faux feminist: https://crosscut.com/2020/01/seattle-public-librarys-free-speech-defense-terfs-upholds-dangerous-status-quo

Oh, absolutely, I have no patience for TERFs. The trans women in my life are lovely women who just want to live as themselves…

I’m very lucky to live in an area where my OB has a lot of experience with trans men. She knows how to deal with some of the specific aspects of our care that make us different to deal with. But reading Dr Gunter’s book was a really nice overview of the ways things work for cis women, and what’s different for a trans man on hormones, and it was both interesting and reassuring.

That is good to know. I know someone whose goal is to work with the trans community, so I will mention that to them. Perhaps even send them the book because they are in in grad school, and funds are tight. Thanks!

Life it complicated, especially if you read anything on the complications of genetics. Like Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body by Armand Marie Leroi and The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Plus life is too short to clutch pearls about it. It just makes a person miss out of meeting and getting to know some very interesting people. Just after I graduated from high school a friend read me the riot act about me repeating the homophobic tropes I learned from my dad. I listened to her, because of this I managed to meet and become friends with a very interesting gay friend. The best part was that this was the age of disco (1970s), and we would look like a “normal couple”, except we were both looking at the guys. 😉

@ Chris:

re 1970s dance clubs. Heh.

Fortunately, I had an out gay uncle so I was acquainted with the culture at a young age and had several gay friends in school, university
-btw- my uncle’s SO worked for a famous Broadway impresario so there were often tickets

If midwives of long ago had (and I’m not saying that they did) a better outcome, some of it would likely be because a midwife whose patients often died wouldn’t be a midwife for long.

I dunno – Long Ago, there really wasn’t much to be done. Neonatal and maternal mortality were horrific, and if a baby or mom died, it was just God’s Will. Once obstetrics became an actual science, and not just part of the period of ‘heroic medicine’ BS, that’s when the real strides in safety started to get made.

The safety of C-sections keeps going up as techniques get better, and the safety of vaginal births can’t get much better than modern practice has made them (and term neonates are getting bigger, which makes them harder to deliver vaginally). I know there’s a lot of wailing about “C-section rates!” from the natural crowd, but what’s more important, a ‘natural birth’ or a living kid without brain damage?

Tangentially, aren’t the majority of OBGYNs women? I’ve had seven female and one male OB in my life. It hardly supports the ‘patriarchal medical establishment’ narrative to note that, though.

But the female OB’s are of course indoctrinated by male science.

In the Netherlands there was some lady who would give a smoothymaker to pregnant women who didn’t vaccinate. There was a lot of critisism also from some female scientists and the lady stated more or less that those women who critisised her initiative, where victims of thousends of years of oppression by men.

Long Ago, there really wasn’t much to be done. Neonatal and maternal mortality were horrific, and if a baby or mom died, it was just God’s Will.

This was basically the attitude of Mothering magazine in the ’70s, as I recall — back-to-the-land post–Hippie trip, after the pseudo-communes collapsed.

That should read “died too often”, as in beyond even the heartbreaking norm that once prevailed

I believe Dr. Amy Teuter (sp?) aka the Skeptical OB would strongly disagree with their claims about midwives and the value of baby formula.

I made a cursory examination of some of the episodes and my impression was that a preponderance of participants (not necessarily presenters) seemed to be attractive younger white women of every race and color. With my fine collection of birthdays my gender being what they are, I might be a bit prejudiced in my observations. Make of it what you will.

Think about it. Block and Alberts are painting a portrait of men as dismissive of emotion and worshiping science and rationality and of women as far more emotional beings, which is actually exactly the stereotype that the patriarchy has promulgated since time imemmorial: Man, rational; woman, very emotional and not rational.

I totally agree. This Goop shit is downright embarrassing to me, a woman who has chosen empowerment via science, not shoving stones up my vag or burning candles scented like Paltrow fantasises what her vag smells like.

I really don’t think she believes in even a small portion of what she peddles. She’s just found a marketing niche that leverages her celebrity and convinces the rubes that it’s actually worth what she sells it for. Research has shown that on average, a potential Goop customer is born within sixty second intervals.
Next she will sell to her most devoted followers candies that taste like her anus because that’s the level of esteem she seems to have for her customers.

Next she will sell to her most devoted followers candies that taste like her anus because that’s the level of esteem she seems to have for her customers.

Since one of her defenders is obviously reading here, you may have handed Gwynnie her next piece of self-adoring merchandise. I can even think of a few choice names to call them.

Yeah, when I was taking engineering classes in the late 1970s who were aghast that I was taking “men’s science”, whatever that was. Apparently my lack of belief in astrology, etc. made me as one who sold out to the patriarchy.

I got an email about a 40th reunion of our 1980 graduation from my engineering department. They only found half of the women in that class. I decided I will not go because I would be the only female, and I sincerely doubt I want to sit around and drink beer with a dozen guys.

@ Chris

“I decided I will not go because I would be the only female, and I sincerely doubt I want to sit around and drink beer with a dozen guys.”

That’s a shame really. Personally, I totally enjoy getting wasted with intelligent young women. Just wear a chastity belt, throw away the key, relax and enjoy the appalingly sarcastic humor men have.

With a few technological adaptations, such as chastity belts, women totally have the opportunity of engaging in the same kind of socialising efforts wanabee Jugaloos in higher education enjoy.

You do not know what you missed!

Why is it female empowerment if the scammer is female rather than male? Paltrow’s BS is the same as male woo-meisters’ grifts so it’s alright because she has the right parts between her legs? She and her cohorts at Goop are the only ones being empowered… actually enriched,

How can “empowerment” involve transmitting misinformation about health, misleading other women about important issues and encouraging women to buy overpriced woo and clothes** in order to feel better about themselves? To feel “powerful’? They’re being manipulated by clever marketing and slick photography presenting an affluent lifestyle which is truly only available to the ultra wealthy and is merely mimicked by the upper middle class with Paltrow’s guidance.. How can empowerment be based on dependence like that?

A guy I know seeing women on television had no idea what it costs to look as they do: GP’s hair alone costs thousands a year.
Beauty products are major industries and alties will always find a way to cash in on the intersection of health, youth and style.

** readers should take a look at some of her fashion choices at Goop.

“Empowerment” has long been a BS concept in all kinds of contexts, not just gender. It was a big thing in Cultural Studies during my active years in the field, and it almost always drove me up a wall. Yeah, it basically always means “feeling more powerful than you did yesterday” in total disregard for the status of your material power, which may indeed just have gone down. Which is to say the linguistic function of the definition is essentially to put lipstick on the pig of various manner of scams. One possibly paradigmatic example: “empowerment” is what the people of River City are experiencing at the end of The Music Man. That’s charming in musical-comedy fantasy, not so much in real life. In some cases, there’s an element of desperate search for silver linings in the claims of “empowerment”, searching for bits of hope in bad situations.
But as you so astutely identify, Goop is nothing but the commodification of feminism into displays of class privilege for haute bourgeois white women… I guess I’m saying “empowerment” can be based on dependence like that because the term itself is a kind of long-running scam…

“Empowerment” has long been a BS concept in all kinds of contexts, not just gender.

True. See also: Brexit, Trumpistan. Different decoration, same damn scam. People want to be lied to; told they’re special and better than all the rest.

Ah well, planet’s good for another billion years even if we’re not. Maybe the cockroaches will have more luck.

Believe it or not, she’s not the only altie crank trumpeting feminism:
— as you probably know, anti-vax momism co-opts MeToo and declare themselves rebellious feminists. .
Dismissing their anti-vax nonsense will label you as an instrument of the patriarchy, an oppressor of women.
Even male proselytisers like Del, RFK jr, Andy use the same terminology
— Old school woo-meisters, like Null**, label their mission as “empowerment” and especially target “victims” of the establishment like women and minorities. Of course, their programmed learning insists upon dictating how to eat, how to exercise, where to live/ work, what to buy, how to interact with people and OBVIOUSLY how to live naturally, I,e without pharma products like birth control pills or medical care beyond supplements.

** I must report a recent neologism at PRN: the old snake oil salesman suggests that women treat themselves by using essential oils, like rose, instead of meds for stress:
you see, flowers just ooze those healthy PERAMONES (sic) which will affect your mood. “Peramones”, he said.

The way to empower women is not consumerism. Empowering women means supporting equal pay and equal opportunity, calling out misogyny,helping women get into careers that make a difference, electing women to public office, standing up for paid family leave and affordable daycare, teaching our sons not to abuse or rape, and much more. It means using your celebrity and your money to support these so-important goals.
Empowerment is not found in taking women’s money to send them a jade egg to stick in their vaginas.

It also includes not having old white men dictate there medical like denying birth control, prenatal nor postnatal care, and neglecting the health of children. The USA needs to move into the 21st century with universal medical care not dictated by some random religious idiocy, but with actual science.

A guy I know seeing women on television had no idea what it costs to look as they do: GP’s hair alone costs thousands a year.

I’d be more impressed if she stopped shaving her legs and armpits.

And, guessing by her age, her upper lip.

Don’t ask me how I know!

GP can afford to all her hair follicles fried.

“A guy I know seeing women on television had no idea what it costs to look as they do: GP’s hair alone costs thousands a year.”
Yes, and if they ever stop making Botox then Fox News would go out of business.

Just one more reason to continue my rejection of the NYT. Or…perhaps I should rethink my whole life, and start “empowering” women by going into business selling Lydia Pinkham’s Medicinal Compound?

hey mister doc, you spelled my name wrong! when you attempt a take-down it’s best to get your target’s name right. all best.

Fixed, just for you. You’re welcome.

Of course, if all you can come up with is a spelling/typo that got propagated (for which I’m taking my medicine like an adult), I’m guessing you can’t address the substantive criticisms of your and Ms. Block’s article. Spelling flames with no substantive response generally tell me there is no substantive response.

Dear Ms Albert, your Shift key appears to be broken. You might want to get that checked, though please don’t let it stop you addressing all of our host’s substantive points first. Bonus if you can do it without sounding like a twelve year-old jackass.

Ha, I thought that, too. An over-inflated sense of entitlement. She should get back up on the high horse she rode in on. ‘Mister doc,’ indeed!

Elisa, why did you make a blatantly false statement about midwifery care? Will you correct your article? See my citations above.

Why do you feel the need to de-value the contributions of women to science, especially the early pioneers who had to wade through the morass of patriarchy?

Didn’t the work of Frances Oldham Kelsey (PhD) prevent untold suffering for pregnant women and their children?
Dr Kelsey stopped thalidomide with science, not psychics or psychedelics.

Are you saying that all the women who are doctors and scientists and engineers and mathematicians are somehow lesser women because we choose to do these things?

How is it “empowering” to tell me lies about my body?

This I would vote up. Especially since in the 1970s I had so called feminists tell me I was learning that was learning male science … which was ridiculous.

OT, but a equine therapy place with a cooperative agreement to a community college equine studies program has recently opened near me, and they are bringing in all sorts of dubious presenters, often at $500 a crack for students. The presentations have included acupuncture and something called equine structural integration with myofascial release, which I have seen compared to Rolfing online. Can anyone recommend a good reliable source on veterinary quackery?

doctorramey.com
David Ramey is a horse vet with horse sense. I don’t know much about horses*, but he’s informative and entertaining on any number of topics.

*Our president says he’s a “stable genius”. I’ve been in a few stables. I don’t know if I’ve seen any geniuses there, but I know a horse’s ass when I see one.

Orac has made my day!–yesterday I emailed him this bit of rubbish after being doubly infuriated that the Times didn’t even open this shit piece to comments, and was delighted to see that he took it on. I felt more than a bit vindicated and hope to hell the writers see this response.

It’s so embarrassing to see such tripe presented as somehow feminist and a disgrace to efforts that genuinely seek full equlity for half the population. Why the NYT feels compelled to print this type of crap as offering varied viewpoints only demonstrates the ongoing problem of false equivalency in journalism. They have finally learned a bit in regard to vaccination and climate change, so why can’t these supposecly smart people learn from their errors?

Unfortunately, you need a Facebook account. I do not want to become a product for Zuckerburg’s enrichment.

I figured it out, do not click on the facebook link from the article, you have to slog through it. Wow, that is a sucky interface!

I have said on twice, but it deserves saying it again:

Goop is not the 21st century equivalent of Our Bodies, Ourselves, which exists online: https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/

That was extremely useful as a young woman in the 1970s because it filled in the gaps that were missing from our high school health curriculum. It useful to see science at an era when alternative crap was being tossed about, especially by faux feminism where science was part of the patriarchy. In idiotic idea. And not very helpful for women who were taking advantage of opportunities that had been closed before, like becoming engineers and getting into military academies.

Speaking about women empowerment, everyone should read this autobiography of this remarkable early 20th century doctor: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/health/josephine-bakers-fighting-for-life-still-thought-provoking-decades-later.html

Holy feminist woo. Who knew? Woo is the essence of womanly way of knowing? Feminism can do better than that – or feminism is garbage.

to tap into those feelings in women about conventional medicine and its history, still not completely corrected, of discounting women’s concerns and not listening to women.

As exemplified by Robert Hadden

Still, not fair to try to validate garbage by pinning oneself to the cause du jour. I support women and I respect women; enough to be angry when their legitimate causes are being hijacked to bolster an exploitive machine like Goop. Women deserve better than that! They deserve to be treated as better than brainless marks.

“As exemplified by Robert Hadden”

Ugh. Sexual abuse is right at the worst end, and not in any way specific to medicine.

Medicine has far more widespread, basic shortcomings regarding female patients; for instance, failing to diagnose female-specific conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis, or dismissing menstrual pain as “not that bad”. It’s not just male doctors either; female medics can do it too.

That said, I’m not sure how many of these poorly-served patients would switch to SCAM themselves, since SCAM proves completely useless at treating these conditions (not good for long-term retention). I suspect such stories are primarily used to win over the neurotic well, who need only a daily ego stroke and regular walletectomy to keep them happy.

Which brings us back to Paltrow and her flying monkey shills. Imagine if Paltrow &co. had used their star power to draw attention to medicine’s failings, and so effected positive change to address those faults and ensure all female patients receive the standard of care they deserve. Now that would’ve been positive feminism in action, showing everyone how it’s done. Instead, she betrays women twice. What a piece of work.

“failing to diagnose female-specific conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis, or dismissing menstrual pain as “not that bad”.”

Particularly frustrating since there are scientific means to address these issues. The solution is indeed the ‘taking it seriously’ part, while the ‘natural’-obsessed gynwoosters actively dissuade sufferers from finding real relief.

LOL, my NYR had been to get off of social media, including discussion sections, but this topic sucked me in.

Coming from an anthro background, the way they try to meld spirituality and science also bothers me. This is just a pseudo-feminist variation of people who think evolution is bad science because it’s not in the Bible. Spirituality and cultural worldviews are important, because they tell people the story of their people. Often, there are useful pieces of information in traditional beliefs that can be validated by science. But that doesn’t make them the same thing, and people need to stop trying to make them the same thing. The best analogy I’ve heard is that its the difference between your birth certificate and your birth story. The birth certificate (science) tells you time, date, size, etc. But the birth story (spirituality and culture) tells you about your place in your family.

One article doesn’t make the entire paper rubbish. The NY Times, like many newspapers, performs important services, keeping us informed and making the powerful accountable. They are probably still the best newspaper in the United States. They publish letters, even ones critical of their reporting; why don’t you write to them?

@Cloudskimmer – they publish a lot of lazy crap on politics, too. I bought a subscription to the Washington Post instead.

I found a commentary about this article over on Jerry Coyne’s blog, he comes to more or less the same conclusions as Orac. I found this line rather telling:

What we see on the part of Albert and Block is an almost Trumpian assertion that Paltrow is good because the elite are going after her. It’s medical populism, and, like Trumpism, asserts that the claims of empirical medicine are “false facts”. They even call science a virtue signal!”

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/gwyneth-paltrow-and-her-other-ways-of-knowing-touted-in-the-nyt

From the NYT article:
“By Elisa Albert and Jennifer Block
Ms. Albert is a novelist. Ms. Block writes frequently about women’s health.

Elisa Albert is a writer working on a new novel and a “wellness” polemic. Jennifer Block is the author of “Everything Below the Waist: Why Health Care Needs a Feminist Revolution.””

.
Just call me cynical but one wonders if Miss Albert who is “working on a “wellness” polemic” and Miss Block who is an author of some sort of feminist Health Care article are angling/intending to sell “wellness/healthcare” articles to GOOP.
One wonders, one does.
(Knock me over with a feather when their bylined articles appear in some GOOP production…)

Oh, good grief. They would probably portray a woman like myself with the most idiotic stereotypes. But I am used to that.

Apparently I am not feminine enough, but does not dress like a guy. Plus I am too friendly to be a nerd. Which I am. I freaked out a math professor (who I gave rides home to from a parent run high school science club) because I was too enthusiastic about applied math and thought the naval gazing about infinities was silly… you are there already! I am definitely the engineer in the last paragraph of this: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ZenosParadoxes.html

I will dance with anyone because dear hubby will not, which is why I am taking dance classes in our retirement. And when I go swimming I do not give a forglesnort what anyone thinks what I look like because I am there to get some actual exercise. I do not need to impress anyone. (though I did have to reduce the cussing at VAX computer in the 1980s because it offended an older engineer, hence the previous substitute, which has served me well as a parent of millennials, including one who is disabled and all the bovine excrement of bureaucracy that requires).

Narad: “I’d be more impressed if she stopped shaving her legs and armpits.”

Which I did shortly after entering collage, mostly because there was no need. If there was a need to shave legs, there are these things called “leggings” and “slacks”, plus long skirts with dark socks and/or boots. I am extremely red/blond. When I was working I challenged my fellow engineers to notice my legs, or describe what my “purse” looked like. I was pick-pocketed twice before college, so I never used a purse. I actually sewed pockets in garments to store my wallet (which I still do, because women’s clothing is idiotic when it comes to pockets).

“What do you call nepotism and grift when women do it?”
Nepotism refers to an old Italian word for “nephew”. The best I can come up with would be something like “neptiatism” or maybe “necepotism”. “Nibling” means niece and nephew, similar to sibling, at least it does according to the professor who coined it, so could we use “nibotism”?
Or we could just call it fraud – one size fits all.

I’ve just taught informed consent in torts, and many of the early cases raise the issue of doctors dismissing women’s concerns.

Building on that real history to sell this kind of pseudoscience as something good for women rather than as exploitive is beyond troubling.

I’ve been looking at this from a completely different perspective and you are absolutely right about it being troubling.

Essentially in the past (19thC and Earlier.) women were effectively told that they lacked the physical/mental stamina to do well the sciences (The same attitude was easily evident in the Classical Music field, despite composers like Louise Ferranc, Amy Beach, Alice White, et. al.). That view was constantly challenged and seemed to be dying during the 20thC.

Now you have grifters telling women that ‘Western Science’ is mentally, physically and spiritually incompatible with them and they should embrace magical thinking as it’s more in tune with their sensibilities.

And no one seems to realize just how insulting such a view is.

Oh, I can see how insulting it is. I’m deeply insulted on several levels.
“Hey there little lady, science based medicine isn’t for you, have some nasty-tasting probably ineffective herbs.”
“Yo! Science is the tool of the Man, and if you do science you’re helping the Man keep women down, traitor!”

To which I say very firmly, fuck that.
Thousands of women have toiled, too often in obscurity, against terrible oppression to do science. I will not denigrate the work of my foremothers to advance science and medicine for all, and to hack out a place in science for women, not on the say so of anyone, be they a giant of their field, a successful businesswoman, or a bleating politician.

“Essentially in the past (19thC and Earlier.) women were effectively told that they lacked the physical/mental stamina to do well the science”
You left out a century in-between the 19th and this one.

Is there a meaningful distinction between science done by men as opposed to science done by women? Last I checked there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female in the sciences. Either your hypotheses match the results of experiments and empirical observation or they don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, or a woman, black or white, human or some kind of bizarre alien being. The universe doesn’t care. Pretending that such a distinction exists smacks of the Deutsche Physik that was current in Germany shortly before and during the Nazi period, or the accusations of “bourgeois pseudoscience” that the Soviets levelled against science that didn’t kowtow to the Party.

@ Anonymous Howard

“Is there a meaningful distinction between science done by men as opposed to science done by women?”

Yes. There is a difference in priorities and hence it impacts evaluation of evidence. Because some “philosophical” aspects do kick in.

Even in pure pure maths, my specialty, I do see influence of culture in that specific sense. But you have to have a very keen eye and deep understanding of the field to see it. Not all “postmodernism” is bullshit.

For instance, check out science made by doctors, and (published) science made by MSbP victims. There is a difference…

The pursuit of science, insofar as it attempts to understand the way the universe works, ought not to be meaningfully different just because of the gender of its practitioner. Men and women may have different priorities or ways of thinking but these should not affect the outcome of scientific experiments and observations. This is what I mean when I contend that there is no real meaningful distinction between science conducted by a man or a woman. A woman might think of a different way to conduct an experiment than a man, but the man ought to be able to replicate the experiment and get more or less the same result. Properly using these differing priorities and ways of thinking can only strengthen science.

Postmodernism is really ultimately useful only when studying things that are social constructs and conventions. Science, insofar as it pertains to the laws and workings of the universe is not such a thing. If you disagree, then I, as Alan Sokal did, invite you to transgress them from my apartment window. (I live on the 21st floor).

“Is there a meaningful distinction between science done by men as opposed to science done by women? Last I checked there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female in the sciences.”

While I agree with the overall sentiment, I think there is one overarching consideration. Each group brings its own biases and blind spots. If you have a scientific community made almost exclusively of affluent Europoean-heritage cishet white males, you will have copious blind spots in your science, due to everyone having very similar biases. The more diversity of people – and therefore diversity of viewpoints – you bring in, the more opportunities you have to find out what you’re not seeing and to do better work.

Diversity is a profound asset in science.

“Yes. There is a difference in priorities and hence it impacts evaluation of evidence. Because some “philosophical” aspects do kick in.”
You bet. Why didn’t Lise Meitner share in the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Otto Hahn? Years later, American physicists who were able to finally get the Nobel Committee documents concluded “Meitner’s exclusion from the chemistry award may well be summarized as a mixture of disciplinary bias, political obtuseness, ignorance, and haste.” I don’t know, but I can guess that the committee also had no women on it. Or Jews. Did that factor in?
Long recognized for her brilliance and contributions (She had 19 Nobel nominations in her lifetime.), she had escaped to Sweden where she settled, and does not seem to have had the opportunities to do research and experimentation at the same level as before the war. I wonder what more she could have accomplished had there been no Nazis and no Hitler.

@ Anonymous Coward

“This is what I mean when I contend that there is no real meaningful distinction between science conducted by a man or a woman.”

That’s true. But if science were only a question of making experiments, that would be all there is to it. However, science is much more diverse. It includes design of methodologies, thought experiments, overarching paradigms, interpretation of evidence, hierarchising priorities of research and priorities of applications, and much much more.

“Properly using these differing priorities and ways of thinking can only strengthen science.”

And patients would also like their input to be considered once in a while. Would that be strengthening science? or diminishing the authority of doctors?

“Postmodernism is really ultimately useful only when studying things that are social constructs and conventions. Science, insofar as it pertains to the laws and workings of the universe is not such a thing.”

Where I live, it’s Bricmont who is the lead critic of the Bricmont-Sokal duo. I’m the first to quote them and use them in arguments. There are really crazy ravings that are dubbed postmodernism. I do not deny it. At all. I’m simply contending that there are very legitimate stuff that also is labeled postmodernism. Stuff like that is at the root of so-called “postmodernism” and is legitimate enquiry:

https://www.lri.fr/~mbl/Stanford/CS477/papers/Kuhn-SSR-2ndEd.pdf

I can give you other examples of valid “postmodern” stuff. I can give you shitloads of “postmodern” ravings.

The two sentences above are not contradictory. That’s my main point.

“If you disagree, then I, as Alan Sokal did, invite you to transgress them from my apartment window. (I live on the 21st floor).”

You need 40 meters minimum to have a reproductible outcome when jumping from a window. Otherwise, it depends whether your head or your legs hit the ground first. And it makes a nice sound: the same as the sound a bag of wooden sticks would if it hit the ground in the same conditions.

In my apartmentbuilding at least 2 people have jumped from the 11th or 12th (if you count streetlevel as a floor) floor and I don’t think either one survided landing on a stone surface.

@ Renate

You’d be surprised by statistics. Do not remember where I read them, so do not quote me on that, but essentially, I stick to 40 meters if you want the method to be reliable. Jumping from less than 40 meters is “careless”, except if you’re willing to take the chance of surviving as deeply handicapped. Note, however, that some people do feel much better when they are irreversibly handicapped: they become irresponsible for many things they were responsible for before, and the ability to let go of things gives them their smile back.

Suicide attempts can be weird as hell.

That’s true. But if science were only a question of making experiments, that would be all there is to it. However, science is much more diverse. It includes design of methodologies, thought experiments, overarching paradigms, interpretation of evidence, hierarchising priorities of research and priorities of applications, and much much more.

Very true. But that is mostly about the practicalities of interfacing of science into society, the point at which social constructions begin to appear in the scientific edifice, and as such also the point at which postmodernist thought can perhaps make valuable contributions. Below that point, at the fundamentals where science gets down to brass tacks and tussles with objective reality, postmodernism has scant little to meaningfully contribute. I think that’s the main line that separates the valid arguments from the insane ravings.

And patients would also like their input to be considered once in a while. Would that be strengthening science? or diminishing the authority of doctors?

There’s that word which really should have no place in the pure pursuit of science: “authority”. Science doesn’t really work in terms of authorities. Albert Einstein is revered and has “authority” only insofar as his theories explain the behaviour of objective reality. Ever since he came up with his theories, other scientists have been trying to find evidence to confirm or refute them. Even today that work continues with scientists are trying to probe the limits where his theories could conceivably fail, by looking at fine detail in the gravitational waves that have just been recently directly observed, and at black holes where gravity is very strong.

Of course, once again when we go beyond this fundamental level, to the point where science has to interface with wider society, that is where things start to get messy, and notions of “authority” and “consensus” for science have to be constructed by a society trying to make use of science to inform itself. The breadth and depth of science is such that no single person can understand it all, and people thus have to specialise, and these specialists become “authorities” in their area of specialisation to those who don’t have the same level of expertise. But still, this “authority” is very different in its nature from, say, political authority, as it ultimately depends on how well these experts actually understand that corner of reality that they specialise in. And then there is the notion of scientific consensus, which is again very different from, say, political or social consensus. It is a consensus of the experts only insofar as they agree on the interpretation of scientific data, i.e. there is supposed to be an objective reality on which their consensus rests.

Thus, given how a doctor’s real “authority” is based on their understanding of the objective reality of their patients, how can their honest consideration of the input of their patients do anything other than strengthen science?

@ Anonymous Coward

“Very true. But that is mostly about the practicalities of interfacing of science into society, the point at which social constructions begin to appear in the scientific edifice, and as such also the point at which postmodernist thought can perhaps make valuable contributions.”

Thank you for conceding this point. I could go on to other aspects, but I do not believe it is the place to do this. What I’m merely saying is that when you see “postmodern” thought, do not give it downright credibility (I’m not worried that you would…), but double check if there is an interesting point nonetheless. I do not believe that this kind of “thought” has matured enough to provide rigorous criticisms of the scientific method or ecosystem (which is not impossible a priori: check Feyerabend’s “Against Method” to tie knots in your brain…), and I believe it is heavily instrumentalised in public dicourse by the worst aspects of identity politics, but that’s to be expected…

The big point, however, in my view, is that science is moving beyond the stunning breakthroughs of physics in the 20th century, and the next big frontier is going socially to be more and more rigorous social sciences (for epistemological protofoundations of social sciences, check Popper’s “Misery of historicism”). You’re not studying leptons anymore but human beings and groups. And human beings have a voice… which may be… critical of science. Which means that we will not be able to avoid the postmodernist impulse, no matter how crazy it might get.

Hi! I just survived a major bus accident myself. Somebody cut the driver off, I was standing at the front of the bus, and I went flying and slammed full body into the bulkhead of the bus. Three different hospitals, incompetence, all kinds of stuff. Survived. Spent some time in a psych ward because of my idiot brother (“delusional.”)

Hi!

Also I’ve gotten certain people in certain places confused due to really strong similarities or something, maybe. “It only hurts when I laugh.”

“It only hurts when I laugh.”
It’s the punchline to a joke so old that it’s origin and the setup are lost in the mists of time. I am unreliably informed that there is an incomplete reference to it on a Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform tablet indicating that Enkidu may have spoken it to Gilgamesh, and that it might be the correct interpretation of a series of scratches on a mammoth bone in the Denisova cave.

Both fine and badly. “It only hurts when I laugh” is a line from a friend which is currently true both physically and psychologically/emotionally.

Money would help, to be perfectly frank, at least until some claims maybe go through.

paypal.me/comradeJP

Just in case anybody feels so inclined.

I have a perfectly clean bill of mental health.

“Really curious what you meant by that. Hope you’re doing fine, by the way.”

As someone who has had broken ribs from a car accident and more recently from coughing too much from a cold: trust me it hurts to laugh with broken ribs.

I hope it gets better for you JP.

Decent this morning; got a pretty good night’s rest, big glass of water after coffee. I’m also on a course of antibiotics for a stubborn sinus infection that was causing recurrent lung infections, I think.

No ribs broken, fortunately, but significant contusions, and I finally got an EKG at the third hospital (second ambulance ride). Thing’s still ticking just fine. I kept the stickers as a souvenir; I probably should have kept the bracelet from the first one, might have prevented some of the confusion.

it hurts to laugh with broken ribs.

It also hurts to sneeze with broken ribs. After some of my left ribs were broken in a car crash, I very quickly learnt to put my right hand over them and my left upper arm over my right hand to brace whenever I felt a sneeze coming on.

No studies on kissing boo boo? There’s a study on how the repeated tapping before you do a venipuncture is associated with a lower pain score as reported by patients. I’m damn sure I can find more such low quality and etc studies done about physical pressure and alleviation of pain

@PainRack- my studies have shown that if the venipuncture is done by the tall tech with the curly blonde hair, it doesn’t hurt at all, but if the shorter tech with the pretty smile and straight brown hair does it, my arm hurts for a week. My conclusion is that venipunctures done by tall curly haired blond women never hurt and never have it done by a brunette.

Letters to the Times about the Albert and Block op-ed make interesting reading. Two (one each from male and female readers) refer to Paltrow’s nonsense scathingly.
The other letter, from author Joy Freeman says (in part):

“It’s about time that an article appeared that stands up to patriarchal science and medicine for minimizing the feminine, time-tested, results-driven approach to health and the wellness of our bodies.
There is no stopping the power of the more natural, feminine approach to life. Look how far yoga and eating more healthfully have come since the 1969s.”

Forceful eyerolling can’t be healthy.

(Ms. Freeman is the author of “7 Keys to Connection: How to Move Beyond the Physical and Emotional Trauma of a Disconnected Culture”).

The more natural feminine approach to life?
I’m sorry, but yoga doesn’t cure cancer, hard science can do this and it is male nor female.

I would like to know what these kind of people would think of someone like Madame Curie.

“There is no stopping the power of the more natural, feminine approach to life. Look how far yoga and eating more healthfully have come since the 1969s.”

Somebody doesn’t know much about the history of asana yoga, or yoga in general, for that matter. The U.S. branch certainly didn’t start in the ’60s. Perhaps Ms. Freeman should try an ashram.

Somebody doesn’t know much about the history of asana yoga, or yoga in general, for that matter.

Are you referring to the fact that a lot of yoga moves were taken straight from English Gymnastics?

Are you referring to the fact that a lot of yoga moves were taken straight from English Gymnastics?

Not so much this time (it’s come up before); I was more thinking about yoga in the U.S. starting with Vivekananda’s 1893 Chicago appearance at the World’s Parliament of Religions and the increasing popularity of asana yoga up through the 1950s.

“Are you referring to the fact that a lot of yoga moves were taken straight from English Gymnastics?”
Some of what I’ve seen very much resembles the movements and postures of J.P. Muller’s exercise system which had a vogue in the decades bracketing the First World War.

Want to respond to Orac? Here's your chance. Leave a reply!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.