Harper's Open Letter on Open Debate

WisNeuro

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Something we've discussed here fairly regularly. Lots of academic luminaries signed on to this.
 
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WisNeuro

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Wait, what happened with PInker? I honestly thought this was inspired by JK Rowling.

She signed on to it, but she's a minor footnote here. Some people mischaracterized some of Pinker's past tweets and called for him to be fired from several positions.
 

WisNeuro

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I’m more interested in Pinker. I swear, twitter is the worst form of communication. Academic Twitter isn’t better.

Yeah, 280 characters really isn't the place to discuss intellectually nuanced topics. It's the place to help make stupid people famous, fuel Russian propaganda, and help make willfully stupid people feel like their opinions matter.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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Yeah, 280 characters really isn't the place to discuss intellectually nuanced topics. It's the place to help make stupid people famous, fuel Russian propaganda, and help make willfully stupid people feel like their opinions matter.
Twitter is the only major social network that allows porn and nudity. Seems like a strange medium to discuss anything serious. But it definitely feeds people’s desire for recognition.
 

WisNeuro

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Twitter is the only major social network that allows porn and nudity. Seems like a strange medium to discuss anything serious. But it definitely feeds people’s desire for recognition.

Well, there's always TikTok, if you don't mind your data being compromised.
 

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I think my concern is that if you demonize certain views, people will just go find places where those views are more accepted, and they are therefore more likely to be more "in a bubble" or radicalized over time. I'm not saying that certain views shouldn't be entirely rejected or people shunned for them, but we also need to be more accepting of people who are questioning their world view because in the end it may help them reject intolerance. If you look at actual real life situations of people becoming de-radicalized (e.g., Neo Nazis or skinheads), it's usually because they had someone reach out to them who wasn't shaming or rejecting but also helped them gradually shift their beliefs.

I also wish the left would be more accepting of realpolitik and aligning with people whose views may not entirely fit your own, but people you need for your movement to be effective.

Maybe, in the end, it's a dialectic?
 
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DynamicDidactic

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Maybe, in the end, it's a dialectic?
I see this as very non-dialectical. Seeing the kernel of truth in another perspective is dialectical. Cancel culture is the opposite.

I can see how young people in college, especially those that feel marginalized or attacked, have less dialectical thinking and more fire for quick change. I have a harder time with the older faculty that think this way. The faculty that signed that petition are a head scratcher for me. However, as I understand, Pinker can be a bit of an aversive colleague especially in the linguistics world.
 
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WisNeuro

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I see this as very non-dialectical. Seeing the kernel of truth in another perspective is dialectical. Cancel culture is the opposite.

Exactly, the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism. Either path leads to the suppression of science and progress.
 
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cara susanna

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I see this as very non-dialectical. Seeing the kernel of truth in another perspective is dialectical. Cancel culture is the opposite.

I can see how young people in college, especially those that feel marginalized or attacked, have less dialectical thinking and more fire for quick change. I have a harder time with the older faculty that think this way. The faculty that signed that petition are a head scratcher for me. However, as I understand, Pinker can be a bit of an aversive colleague especially in the linguistics world.

Oh, sorry, I meant that our approach to different and potentially harmful views should be a dialectic. Cancel culture is by definition non-dialectical.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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Exactly, the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism. Either path leads to the suppression of science and progress.
Unfortunately, we are a echo chamber on this board. No one that thinks very differently about this has stayed on the forum long enough to make a cogent argument the other way.
 
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WisNeuro

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Unfortunately, we are a echo chamber on this board. No one that thinks very differently about this has stayed on the forum long enough to make a cogent argument the other way.

Sure, we are an echo chamber for the openness of science and ideas. But on other topics, there are a variety of ideas. Many of us have argued with and against each other on a variety of topics. If people do not want to engage in good faith debate about sometimes uncomfortable topics, that is on them. I am unwilling to compromise on open debate.
 
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psych.meout

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Danger can have many connotations beyond physical harm.
Right, but saying that one thing that you dislike is "just as dangerous" as something that has killed tens of millions of people is absurd and in bad faith, especially when you're bemoaning how the other side is "compromising open debate."

Even just in this domain of stifling debate, so-called "cancel culture" has zero bodies while the other side is >0.

Do you think maybe comparing people to fascists stifles debate?
 
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WisNeuro

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Right, but saying that one thing that you dislike is "just as dangerous" as something that has killed tens of millions of people is absurd and in bad faith, especially when you're bemoaning how the other side is "compromising open debate."

Even just in this domain of stifling debate, so-called "cancel culture" has zero bodies while the other side is >0.

Cancel culture is rooted in the silencing of academics. We've seen this before in many left and right wing revolutions. I am specifically talking about the canceling/silencing of free academic debate. If we really want to throw out the strawmen of body counts, don't forget to add in the numbers from Stalin and Lenin while we're at it.
 
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psych.meout

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Cancel culture is rooted in the silencing of academics.
It's really not. For every Pinker, there are dozens of non-academic celebrities who get cancelled.

We've seen this before in many left and right wing revolutions.
Sorry, I just woke up. I guess the revolution started while I was still sleeping.

I am specifically talking about the canceling/silencing of free academic debate.
Ok, but why do you need to bring fascism into this? Why can't there be a discussion without this absurd comparison?

If we really want to throw out the strawmen of body counts, don't forget to add in the numbers from Stalin and Lenin while we're at it.
Actually no, because I'm not a tankie and I'm not here to defend communism. Do you really think people in favor of "cancel culture" are all some shade of communist? And I don't need to defend communism to criticize your bad argument.

Again, you're completely missing the point that you're engaging in the silencing of debate by comparing people with whom you disagree to fascists. How is anyone from the other side supposed to engage in an honest debate here when you've already started off by comparing them to fascists? Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that? You could cut the irony with a knife.
 
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WisNeuro

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I'm debating the issue of academic openness and debate, if you want to have a wholly separate argument, go right ahead. I'd love to know where I am engaging in the silencing of debate here. I stand by my comments that right wing fascists and left wing ideologues are both equally interested in stifling ideas not their own. This is nothing new, it's a cycle we've seen repeated many times in history. Irony, indeed.
 
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Right, but saying that one thing that you dislike is "just as dangerous" as something that has killed tens of millions of people is absurd and in bad faith, especially when you're bemoaning how the other side is "compromising open debate."

Even just in this domain of stifling debate, so-called "cancel culture" has zero bodies while the other side is >0.

Do you think maybe comparing people to fascists stifles debate?
I would say that ideological absolutism and purity tests have a long track-record, historically, of racking up body counts whether they were right-wing fascist (e.g., Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan) or left-wing communist (e.g., the Soviets or Maoists). It does bring up an interesting question, though, regarding, "When does the ideological left go too far?" There has to be an answer to that question at some point.
 
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psych.meout

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I'm debating the issue of academic openness and debate, if you want to have a wholly separate argument, go right ahead. I'd love to know where I am engaging in the silencing of debate here. I stand by my comments that right wing fascists and left wing ideologues are both equally interested in stifling ideas not their own. This is nothing new, it's a cycle we've seen repeated many times in history. Irony, indeed.
You're shifting the goalposts instead of just admitting that yours was a disingenuous argument that, in and of itself, is ironically meant to stifle debate by comparing your opponents to murderers.

I would say that ideological absolutism and purity tests have a long track-record, historically, of racking up body counts whether they were right-wing fascist (e.g., Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan) or left-wing communist (e.g., the Soviets or Maoists). It does bring up an interesting question, though, regarding, "When does the ideological left go too far?" There has to be an answer to that question at some point.
Except we we're talking about communists, we were discussing "cancel culture," which is completely different.

In fact, there is quite a bit of agreement on cancel culture being bad amongst leftists, ranging from it being counterproductive to solidarity necessary to make progress, to conspiracy theories about cancel culture being astroturfed by the government and the right (e.g., COINTELPRO), to being wary about entrusting further power into social media corporations and/or the government to control free speech.
 

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You're shifting the goalposts instead of just admitting that yours was a disingenuous argument that, in and of itself, is ironically meant to stifle debate by comparing your opponents to murderers.

My goalposts were always set at academic/intellectual debate. You were the one who started a game on a completely different ball field. I never compared anyone to murderers, you did. If you want to play on that turf, feel free to do so.
 

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I am not sure why we are conflating ideologies with actions of governments.

Though, I will say that signing letters against ideas seems to be the first step toward more physically harmful actions. Of course, they are not the same.
 
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WisNeuro

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I am not sure why we are conflating ideologies with actions of governments.

I'm not sure it's conflating. Far wing governments have generally been the ones that have most successfully constrained and purged academic thought and debate that they've seen as opposed to their ideology. We're still discussing silencing of ideas and debate at an institutional level.
 
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My goalposts were always set at academic/intellectual debate. You were the one who started a game on a completely different ball field. I never compared anyone to murderers, you did. If you want to play on that turf, feel free to do so.
Really?
Exactly, the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism. Either path leads to the suppression of science and progress.
Are you saying that right wing fascists haven't murdered tens of millions of people?

I am not sure why we are conflating ideologies with actions of governments.

Though, I will say that signing letters against ideas seems to be the first step toward more physically harmful actions. Of course, they are not the same.
Whether they're de jure heads of government or just independent groups and individuals, fascists have a pretty consistent track record of murdering people with whom they disagree. That's why I think it's disingenuous and ironically intended to stifle debate to compare them to some cancel culture dorks on Twitter.
 

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Really?

Are you saying that right wing fascists haven't murdered tens of millions of people?

Really. I am saying that right wing fascists have engaged in the suppression of academia and intellectual debate in pursuit of their goals, and currently are seeking to do so again in our country. Examples are capable of nuance. But I appreciate the proving of point in terms of ideological purity testing.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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I'm not sure it's conflating. Far wing governments have generally been the ones that have most successfully constrained and purged academic thought and debate that they've seen as opposed to their ideology. We're still discussing silencing of ideas and debate at an institutional level.
It seems the most blatant example of silencing ideas by the gov't is prohibiting research on gun violence. At the institutional level, all the silencing seems to happen at a volunteer organizations rather than universities. The courts have been very protective of academia or universities have been more than happy to pay off trouble-making faculty. Here is the most recent example of the conservative/religious/pro-life side:

Though, we rarely get to see the payments. I am assuming Bret Weinstein got some dough after the Evergreen fiasco.
 

WisNeuro

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It seems the most blatant example of silencing ideas by the gov't is prohibiting research on gun violence.

For our own recent government, this is a great example. Though they didn't outright prohibit it, they just made it incredibly difficult to do. But, in the past revolutions, there is often a purge of academics, with many being outright murdered or sent to remote prison camps.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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For our own recent government, this is a great example. Though they didn't outright prohibit it, they just made it incredibly difficult to do. But, in the past revolutions, there is often a purge of academics, with many being outright murdered or sent to remote prison camps.
Is it fair to say that we are no way close to that level of trouble?
 

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I am not sure why we are conflating ideologies with actions of governments.

Though, I will say that signing letters against ideas seems to be the first step toward more physically harmful actions. Of course, they are not the same.
I think you put your finger on it. Dangerous ideologies have a tendency to become more dangerous over time and the risk of physical harm increases over time with the escalating extremeties of thought and action. It's the 'form' of the thinking rather than necessarily the type of content that becomes dangerous--although, of course there is dangerous content, that usually comes later. As one devalues/dehumanizes one's political or ideological 'enemies,' the tolerance for harming them increases, eventually to the point of physical harm and murder.
 

WisNeuro

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Is it fair to say that we are no way close to that level of trouble?

At this point, no, we are not at the point of physical danger. At this point we are at the level of taking away someone's career. But I agree with @Fan_of_Meehl that it is a slippery slope. Doxxing and death threats are commonplace when people in a prominent place in the public sphere voice an idea that a group dislikes. It's not a very far stone's throw to see violence initiated.
 
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futureapppsy2

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"academic twitter" is the biggest oxymoron in the history of oxymorons
Medical Twitter/YouTube/Instagram is a living monument to how reinforcing people find attention to be, even if they have a highly paying, time-consuming job already.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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At this point, no, we are not at the point of physical danger. At this point we are at the level of taking away someone's career. But I agree with @Fan_of_Meehl that it is a slippery slope. Doxxing and death threats are commonplace when people in a prominent place in the public sphere voice an idea that a group dislikes. It's not a very far stone's throw to see violence initiated.
To be fair, the threat of violence has already occurred (i.e., Brett Weinstein) in academia. This is very different from gov't condoned and supported violence against thought. We mostly agree but at different degrees. I do not think the sky is falling but I am cautiously being aware of what is happening in academia while keeping in mind that not too long ago McCarthyism happened.
 

DynamicDidactic

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Medical Twitter/YouTube/Instagram is a living monument to how reinforcing people find attention to be, even if they have a highly paying, time-consuming job already.
Or that despite a lot of education, people with advanced degrees are still people with the same biases. Apparently, one can easily sign up to some site and call themselves an expert for media outreach.

Also, this must be a slow Tuesday morning b/c the forum has been bustling.
 
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Or that despite a lot of education, people with advanced degrees are still people with the same biases. Apparently, one can easily sign up to some site and call themselves an expert for media outreach.

Also, this must be a slow Tuesday morning b/c the forum has been bustling.
It's Wednesday, jsyk. ;)
 
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WisNeuro

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To be fair, the threat of violence has already occurred (i.e., Brett Weinstein) in academia. This is very different from gov't condoned and supported violence against thought. We mostly agree but at different degrees. I do not think the sky is falling but I am cautiously being aware of what is happening in academia while keeping in mind that not too long ago McCarthyism happened.

No, the sky is not falling yet, but there are clouds in the sky. The anti-Pinker letter is no isolated event. The Harper's letter is already facing the inevitable backlash.
 
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psych.meout

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Really. I am saying that right wing fascists have engaged in the suppression of academia and intellectual debate in pursuit of their goals, and currently are seeking to do so again in our country. Examples are capable of nuance. But I appreciate the proving of point in terms of ideological purity testing.
Do you still not see this irony in you attempting to shut down criticism in the same way in which you are criticizing others?
 

WisNeuro

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Do you still not see this irony in you attempting to shut down criticism in the same way in which you are criticizing others?
'
Considering that I am not attempting to shut down anything besides shutting down things, nope. Unless we want to ride the slope down into solipsism, not a problem at all.
 
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futureapppsy2

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I think my concern is that if you demonize certain views, people will just go find places where those views are more accepted, and they are therefore more likely to be more "in a bubble" or radicalized over time. I'm not saying that certain views shouldn't be entirely rejected or people shunned for them, but we also need to be more accepting of people who are questioning their world view because in the end it may help them reject intolerance. If you look at actual real life situations of people becoming de-radicalized (e.g., Neo Nazis or skinheads), it's usually because they had someone reach out to them who wasn't shaming or rejecting but also helped them gradually shift their beliefs.

This is a fascinating example of that: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nati...5f906a-8f3b-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

Tl;dr: A "famous" white supremacist goes to college and actually changes his views over time due to the friends he makes there.
 
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The flipside of this, however, is that marginalized people get really exhausted of constantly having to defend our right to exist and basic humanity and that it can be legitimately dangerous in some cases. So, it's tricky, because the dialogue of "hey, please respect my basic humanity" gets really old, because it is so slow to end, if it ever does.
 
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This is a fascinating example of that: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nati...5f906a-8f3b-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

Tl;dr: A "famous" white supremacist goes to college and actually changes his views over time due to the friends he makes there.
Also, this article on how a woman's Jewish (!) teenage son fell into and got out of White supremacist/alt-right stuff is really interesting (basically, he met the people in person and decided they were losers).

 
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WisNeuro

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The flipside of this, however, is that marginalized people get really exhausted of constantly having to defend our right to exist and basic humanity and that it can be legitimately dangerous in some cases. So, it's tricky, because the dialogue of "hey, please respect my basic humanity" gets really old, because it is so slow to end, if it ever does.

I get that in the public sphere to an extent, but I'm not sure where that fits in within the academic debate. Do we have to sacrifice academic thought to further social justice? I reject the notion that it's either/or.
 
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