liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
Still behind, will try to make some brief posts. [personal profile] angelofthenorth asked about Things that make you go hmmm? Which is a lovely question, but I can't quite articulate in general what it is that makes me look at something and feel dubious. I think it's a mixture of things smelling like conspiracy theory, and things where I think group affliation is probably a bigger factor than rigorous analysis. Oh, and any kind of simplistic answers to complex questions, whether medical, social, spiritual or whatever.

Some flags I can think of: Anything that starts with "They" / the government / doctors etc don't want you to know. Arguments from extremely vague authority, such as "experts say" or "scientists have proved". Economics articles that go on about Laffer curves and other libertarian technobabble, or conversely ones that are full of theory jargon, dialectic this and anarcho-that.

Gender essentialism, almost always, especially in discussions of topics other than specifically the psychology of gender. Resorting to the kind of stereotypes so often used for socially despised groups, even if I know nothing about the group being portrayed. So not necessarily overt racism (which is more likely to make me back-button the hell out of there than just go hmmm), but anything that assumes an entire mixed group of people are all lazy or all stupid or all aggressive or all dirty. Or indeed that they're all charmingly primitive and close to nature and authentic.

I am biased towards stuff that sounds kind of sciencey, more so in areas I'm not familiar with. A big part of that is not so much specific jargon, but taking a measured, objective-stance style approach. So a big thing that makes me go hmmm is hype, breathless excitement, jumping straight in to claiming something is world-changing without building up the background first.

Things that are massively vehement against all possible disagreement, whether the hypothetical opponents are portrayed as evil or stupid, also tend to put me off. I love the story that the School of Hillel's views were more likely to be accepted as halacha than those of the School of Shammai, because Hillel always starting by teaching what his rival believed and then went on to explain why he disagreed, whereas Shammai refused to acknowledge any of Hillel's teachings. This is a reason why I found it really difficult to get into feminist writing for a long time, because there was always this underlying assumption that anyone who disagreed was a dupe or a tool of the patriarchy. I think this is part of a scientism bias too, I am more likely to take stuff seriously if it seems to be part of a discussion where people are prepared to consider all aspects and willing to change their mind when presented with new evidence.

Any others from anyone else? What sorts of things are likely to elicit a skeptical response from you?

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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