Friday, October 28, 2011

Rhetoric of Influenza (creative assignment)

For part of my mid term I had to create a dialog on xtranormal outlining some of the rhetorical points of the h1n1 situation back in '09.   The voices are a bit monologue-ish but I tried to make it funny in other ways.

Xtranormal Link

This is just a small part of a larger project I'm working on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Midterms - Zizek vid.

There's no official post this week due to midterms.  I'll try and post something of my own after all my turn ins on Monday.  In the mean time, here is an interesting video clip from Zizek (very interesting modern philosopher).  Only guy who can make me laugh while saying "My god, you call this porn?".  Good times.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Some of us might have assumed (I sure did!) that the discovery of DNA is a history of a singular, objective scientific breakthrough. Watson’s personal account of this experimental process, however, suggests a discovery story that involves as much politics and personalities as it does numerical data. How can Kuhn’s theory of incommensurability (attached) be applied to Watson’s account of the discovery of DNA? In what ways do Kuhn’s theory and the text itself, which both have implications of subjectivity, challenge The Scientific Method?

Standard empirical theory's, though transitory are usually built on what is available. It almost feels as though the Scientific Method is discounted due to the transmutibility of data and ideas over time. Science is built on this premise. Theories are what they are defined as. Data is as solid as what is defined within the given equations. It seems as though Kuhn is trying to make an argument that perception is the outlying factor on which theories take precedence at the time due to umbrella effect of whatever paradigm is in favor at that moment and that when the paradigm shifts so does the perceptions of 'good' theories. But this creates the idea of 'incommensurable; theories are comparable but not by common measures so different approaches have to be taken to view them together.

This being said with the DNA discovery, most of the commonalities between Kuhn's argument and the book are in regards to the political aspects and the paradigm/perception situation. The way the various 'sciences' came together or overlapped (such as biology, physics and chemistry) show an interesting problem that arose while the Watson and Co. raced to unravel DNA into a comprehensive theory. These schools incorporate both the idea of Methodological incommensurability and perception. Obviously perception differentiations are going to create non objective data. Perception is variable. The only specific aspect of this that truly matters is when it comes to the prevailing paradigm that is the ruling idea. Here perception can come in as a factor when it conflicts directly with the currently accepted "model". But for the various players within the DNA race they each brought methods that at times seemed not to share common measures or became an issue to the distinctions made by their perceptions. Rosy , Maurice, Watson and Francis were all studying similar xray crystallization patterns, yet they all approached it differently and their views and out comes, at times, were vastly different (helix vs non helix pattern for instance). This factor was a major component of the development of DNA. Further problems were created with the paradigm set by Bragg and at times the governing board that dictated what funds were going to be given to Watson. These political factors delayed and deterred both Francis and Watson.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Maternal Instinct"?

What happens if "Maternal Instinct" never kicks in? Do you support the essentialist or social constructionist idea of an unnatural mother found in Blaffer Hrdy's essay? Does one ever exist? Consider the biological and social concepts related to Gould's "biological determinism".  Article:
Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy: The Past, Present and Future of the Human Family

Holly has a good question in regards to 'maternal love' in regards to a woman who's child isn't biologically hers. Holly's point about adoption is exactly onto this issue. If 'maternal love' was only a biologically based component then adoption, albeit a small percentage Statistic Link
million in roughly 10 years)  shouldn't exist at all. Two components would have to be looked at: A woman who was aware that her child was not biological compared to a woman who is not aware (although this would be an extreme case, there are examples of children being switched at birth), then see if there is a biological recognition between a genetic/adopted child. This is probably oversimplified and contains many other facets to the situation but the original question is still appropriate none-the-less.
 As far as essentialist versus social constructionist as in relation to Gould, a good view point would be to acknowledge the middle ground. Gould states that "it is hard to find any broad aspect of human performance or anatomy that has no heritable component at all" (Gould - Mismeasure 185). The key word here is 'component'. Here a baseline is created that stands as a template but at the same time is limited and not all inclusive. It is an 'average'. "Maternal Instinct" may have started out as a biologically genetic aspect of the human race but over time as our social structure has evolved and changed; so has the degree that biological roots still effect humans the way it may have at one time. Hrdy discusses the social constructionist argument aspect of humans breaking from biological innateness due to "higher brain functioning and seemingly open-ended capacity for language and symbolic thought". 
Yet a complete separation of biology and socially constructed possibilities seems extreme. Biology seems to be a potential baseline wherein "maternal instinct" can go either way. For some, the biological 'instinct' maintains an important component within their lives. Although the social constructionist would argue that this too is as a social built aspect; "Maternal Instinct" being the desired trait of that person for whatever surround social influences dictates as desirable within religious, morality, etc in a social context that reinforces the "Maternal Instinct" trait. Gould argues in "Homage to Mickey Mouse" that his line of approach could be seen as one of two points of view however his end argument "works equally well in either case" (Gould -Thumb 101) similar possibly to the fact that any argument about "maternal Instincts" could be an argument based just  as much on society as in the argument from Social Constructionists. Now that I've explicated in a complete circle I would say the end result is that Social Constructionism with a blend of 'nature' would be the most apt reasoning in this case.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Government Strikes Again - Anti Medical/2nd amendment

So I will link a couple of sites in a moment but I want to rant first. Apparently the government has decided to pass more illegal laws. Back to back the ATF (bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms) and IRS have passed two laws to infringe on our civil rights.

ATF over steps its legal bounds with this: Law

basically if you own or were even RECOMMENDED by a doctor (recommended, you don't even have to have accepted) a medical marijuana license you lose your 2nd amendment right to own or purchase a weapon. Now I'm more of a 2nd amendment person then a medical MJ license owner but its the fact of how they are setting a precedence for being able to attack constitutional rights. Even if this can be ignored by most agencies it can be used in courts as a stepping stone for further laws against our rights. I also like how they've kept this pretty hush hush. Typical government shadyness.
Following closely on this Sept 27 issuance by the ATF is the IRS attack: Tax Law

under an obscure ruling back in 1982, section 280E stating that it "bans any tax deductions related to "trafficking in controlled substances." Therefore dispensaries cannot "deduct standard business expenses such as payroll, security or rent" The rest of the article is self explanitory.

Yes I know the federal government still classifies weed as a type I controlled substance even though 16 have legalized medical marijuana. So argue all you want about that issue. What bothers me is how they go about dragging in Constitutional rights into this battle and how they keep it hush hush.

Either way: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The bell curve arguement. Gould vs Murray

In the interview, Murray refutes Gould's claims from The Mismeasure of Man and defends his work on The Bell Curve. Is Murray effective in defending his stance? Are there any other rhetorical devices that could be used to make Murray's standpoint more effective? Overall, whose argument prevails (Gould or Murray)? Why?


Murray is quite effective in his retort against Gould's claims. Although on a numerically statistical level I may not fully understand each claims, the method that Murray takes in order to build his arguments are clear. Despite not having the length to refute all of Gould's attacks, Murray discusses some of the larger concerns; political, data, and methodology. One interesting point that Frank Miele from the Skeptic makes in his introduction to Murray's interview is that "no one in the field disputes this difference", the 'this' being the "difference in mean IQ scores between the white European population... and the African-American population is probably attributable to genetic factors. The argument is over why". It seems that Gould would take issue over this point. In fact Gould's main argument is that intelligence is non quantifiable AND non genetic (p21). As to Murray's response, he takes on a seemingly open and upfront stance about some of the misgivings and his reasoning behind his ideas. Murray even states towards the end that his book, being able to "be used by both sides" goes against accusation of the types of political agenda's that have been attributed to him. Gould argues that Murray cannot "pretend that strongly stated claims about group differences have no political impact" (370). Here and in many places Gould seems to place an argument in Murray's mouth when it is distinctly different then what Murray himself states as his meanings. One of Gould's main arguments is that the Bell Curve makes Intelligence a single quantifiable number, yet when asked in the interview Murray states that this it is not a single number. Murray goes on to target some of these seeming discrepancies where Gould makes a claim that doesn't seem to exist in the first place. Gould argues that the Bell Curve is inherently wrong because it "doesn't help at all in judging any particular person" (369) yet Murray's discussion seems to advocate that much of what the intent of the study was on a larger broad scale, to look at the 'bigger picture' while Gould is making an argument that Murray is trying to focus these wider view onto a more narrow claim that isn't really there. Each of these cases of misrepresentation are clearly explained by Murray throughout the interview including his belief of what the multiple intelligences actually contribute to IQ as well as his own political standpoint.

Murray seems to rest most of his rhetorical usages on a calm tone that is deeply entrenched in his answers. His confidence in this aspect is further seen as he attempts to stay open about certain weaknesses or claims against him and although he mentions that this is his intent, by claiming this it doesn't seem to weaken the validity of how he uses this technique within the interview. Instead of the old adage that only a liar says 'trust me', when Murray states he is trying to be "explicit, open, candid", these claims are justified by his previous descriptions and explanations. Murray could have used other devices but by maintaining his tone and clarity he builds on his credibility rather than insulting his audience with obvious rhetorical tools.

When it comes to the issue of 'whose argument wins' a problem emerges: how can we judge Murray based simply on a book by Gould in comparison to Murray's interview response. Reasonably without reading the primary text, it is a one sided argument. Even Murray acknowledges this aspect as being a part of the "scathing attacks" relating it to "Clinton's health plan: no one will actually read it but everyone will form an opinion of it". In order to validly have a justifiable argument as to whose argument prevails, both texts would have to be looked at otherwise it's a hollow opinion. Basing an response as to which author has a better rhetorical superiority might be altogether something different. But that to doesn't qualify for who is right. Rhetoric is not equal to correctness. The word 'rhetoric' is used as part of the prompt but that is used in conjunction with making a standpoint more effective. A book argument attacking a primary text compared to an interview argument defending a primary text, typically (not always) gives the attacker more weight. It's hard to verify the articles claims about the primary text. There are claims that may be taken out of context (as could Gould's arguments but he has more room to justify these claims).