About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Massimo's Picks

* Oprah is not only a purveyor of pseudomedicine, apparently she has quite regressive views on sex as well.

* A paradox of our times: Americans hold scientists in high esteem (though not vice versa), but reject much of what scientists say.

* FaceBook vs. MySpace: how cultural divisions and prejudices from the real world simply translate into cyberspace.


  1. The 'Facebook vs. Myspace' article is mostly silly. The web isn't and doesn't try to be an equalizer of anything. It allows anyone to do what they wish to do. Obviously who people are outside the internet, in their 'real' lives, affects what they do on the internet, but no "White Males" are preventing anyone on the internet to do whatever they like.

  2. Val, I think you are missing the point: the article wasn't a criticism of white males, no need to get defensive. It was a sociological study on how real-life social divisions are reflected (perhaps not surprisingly) in online communities.

  3. Massimo, I understand that it wasn't a criticism, but I think it hinted at things that just aren't true. There are many divides on the internet, same as in real life. But, unlike the author suggests in the title of the article, I doubt any (many?) of these divides have anything to do with race.

    Also, at least to me, it seems that in the article the author jumps from one idea to another without really making a coherent point. I agree with you completely that real-life social divisions are reflected in online communities, but I think the author tries to make more conclusions than you do.

    And that's what Boyd is ultimately getting at. While we talk of the Web being the great equalizer, the uncontrollable stage upon which democracy happens before our very eyes, whose version of democracy are we really looking at?

    This paragraph makes the least sense. It tries to make some sort of a straw man argument with the web being a "great equalizer", jumping to a claim that the web isn't really democratic because the democracy it subscribes to isn't universal, but is the democracy of a specific group.

    I'm really not getting defensive, I just think it's less clear-cut than you see it.

  4. Yes, I must admit that that particular comment irked me as well...

  5. "Regressive" implies uncivilized, and Oprah taking a protective stance toward women and children is anything but.

    It is the writer here who has an issue, not Oprah. He's regressive.

  6. 1.first point does not suprisse me
    2. The fact that people reject a lot of what the scientifics says is kind of contradictory with the idea that they are highly respected, but on the otherside I guess people want to take care of themself and not just accept things because one big guy said it, they want to understand and prove it for themselves.
    3.Of course it translates, relations among people are still based on the same basic instincts, so the form they take now is just a little modified to be adjusted to new technology, but functions the same way

  7. caliana,

    "Regressive" doesn't mean "uncivilized" as much as it does "out dated. Oprah is too squeamish to use the word "vagina" when talking with other adults about sex. The idea of a clitoral stimulator was too much for her. That 1950s attitude of hers is perfectly "regressive."

    Furthermore, giving a platform to quacks who spread misinformation about miracle cures and autism is detrimental to women and children.

  8. "Furthermore, giving a platform to quacks who spread misinformation about miracle cures and autism is detrimental to women and children."

    Well that seems to be the current attitude being spread about Oprah anyway. I don't agree with her on every last little thing,(especially new agie stuff) but good grief I swear Americans must be completely bored our of their minds to complain about every little thing she says. Is there no room to disagree on principles and facts about issues anymore? How obnoxious and fascist is that?

    Apparently the complainers also haven't seen much TV from countries like Mexico and other countries. On Mexican TV there's not much can't be displayed or discussed. And if you ask me it's pretty gross sometimes. At least shes got good taste and common sense.

    Maybe someday someone will turn up something that she's REALLY done wrong!! LOL! Talk about your "quacks". What was the name of that fool who wrote the article on her again?

  9. Val, and Massimo

    To me, the article on "class divide" made good sense, even that last part. Depends on what you've been reading online, say.

    The way I understood it, the article is not talking to you guys. It's talking to the (large, from the looks of it) amount of people who think of the Web as an utopia. You must have read something like that before. It's quite common, Web 2.0 and all that gibberish. Twitter saving the world. Wisdom of the crowds -- incidentally, why is it hardly anybody seems to be talking about the stupidity of the crowds? Every citizen having his or her voice out there (but who said everyone is worth listening to?). Citizen journalism (and things seem not to have changed much) Etc. etc. etc. Now we have Amazon "automagically" and remotely deleting books off people's Kindle (1984, of all books: Amazon vanishes 1984 from citizen Kindles), how great is that for a brave new world of democracy and connectedness? :-)

    So I guess that, if you've been reading that type of hype, the article makes some sense, even if obvious in the "meet the new world, same as the old world" aspect. Not that the utopians will be bothered by it though.


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