Academia’s Consilience Crisis
Appearances by Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Nassim Taleb, E. O. Wilson and anti-science poster boy and Professor of Sexual Diversity Studies, Nicholas Matte.
… refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.
One might say, “Interdisciplinary scientific method.”
The Quillette article doesn’t mention Intersectionality, but it bears some discussion as the evil twin of Consilience. It’s what Dr. Matte applies as an alternative to scientific method when he flat out denies the reality of biological sex differences.
…is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that the various forms of what it sees as social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are complexly interwoven.
One might summarize, “A means of creating victim identity groups.”
Implict, but missing from the definitions is another difference. Intersectional analysis begins with its result already decided. It is not falsifiable by experience or logic. That does not mean there are not competing and conflicting “theories,” but debating such differences is problematic because any such conversation is bounded only by opinions about the relative power of various victim identity-groups. It’s postmodernists shouting their foregone conclusions at each other.
For example, the TERF war (TERF is trans exclusionary radical feminists) revolves around who can claim to be a woman. At issue are claims by some feminists that trans-women (i.e., men) aren’t really women. While science is on their side, this does put the TERF feminists in a bit of a bind. They appear to be claiming “biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others.” Of course, by “biological determinism” both sides of the TERF war mean to reject the idea that there is a biological difference between sexes. Differences between men and women are determined wholly by social conditioning.
If both sides agree with Dr. Matte that there’s no such thing as biological sex, why do they care who calls themselves a woman? Well, if your biological sex can be determined moment by moment at your whim, what’s the point of Women’s Studies? If it can’t be, what’s the point of Transgender Studies? People’s careers are at stake. So is the basis of their power.
Consilience bears a superficial similarity with intersectionality in weaving together multiple points of view, but consilience compares independent observations in an attempt to falsify theories – a way of seeking objective truth. For example, that there is a better than 99% correspondence between physical characteristics and how people identify as men or women; that in utero exposure to testosterone has permanent developmental effects; and that, with vanishingly small exceptions, males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material, tend to strongly confirm profound biological differences between men and women – identity group power struggles notwithstanding.
Intersectionality is anti-science, so it allows some to claim that math is racist, rigorous discipline in engineering is sexist, physics is based on white privilege, and chemistry is colonialist. The emphasis on power as the only arbiter of truth gives rise to claims that speech criticizing intersectionalist claims is literally violence, while intersectionalist speech is beyond reproach.
In the TERF war we’re seeing what happens when intersectionalists engage in their only useful activity.
Pass the popcorn.