Thursday, July 26, 2007

Greenhouses, Girls, and a River in Egypt

There’s a great new blog over at sciborgs, where the Hoofnagle brothers describe the psychology and tactics of denialist argument. I think that their main aim is the funded disinformation campaigns of interest groups and extremists, but I am beginning to suspect that the underlying psychological basis for inventing justifications is more widespread.

For example, the denial tactics used against global warming research are familiar to everyone who has worked in Earth sciences, and the denialism blog describes these well. But recently, I have seen the same pseudo-arguments appear in an entirely different context.

The institution I recently left has a terrible record at hiring women for senior positions (e.g. mass extinctions and Wilson cycles are more common). And it seems that recently, faculty has actually realized this, and decided to think about what, if anything, should be done. But although nobody has come out and said that the school is better off with 100% male professors and 60% female students, there have been a number of arguments against action that could have been torn right out of a coal lobbyist’s play book, or the denialism deck of cards.

Examples:

Too expensive: We don’t have the money to hire anyone, so we’ll have to wait and see (3 spades).

Too damaging to (scientific/economic) output (6 hearts): Hiring the best women instead of the best people means lowering standards (and thus, presumably, quality of life).

Too daunting: the existing faculty makeup simply can’t be rebuilt overnight.

Wait and see (3 spades): The recent increase in female geoscience participation just needs time to work its way through the system. There is no problem (2 clubs), we just need to let time sort itself out.

Further study (5 spades). I think they wanted to interview all female alums to see what turned all of them off. Dunno if that actually went ahead, though.

Mere inconvenience (2 spades), no harm (3 hearts), no problem (2 club): Thankfully, nobody has mentioned these yet, so at least there is progress.

2 comments:

Casmall said...

Too daunting: This seems to be a common one for GW denialists. "even if there was GW we couldn't do anything about it.." Is there a card that matches this tactic?
Casmall

Chuck said...

I reckon it should have a card, but it isn't my deck; it's Chris's.