Another murder by so-called pro-lifers? Updated

From NOW:

NOW Offers Condolences to Richard Schroeder’s Family

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

October 30, 2009

NOW offers condolences to the family of Richard Schroeder, who died Thursday night. The death is being investigated as very suspicious, according to local police.

A retired U.S. marshal, Schroeder had provided protection to Dr. George Tiller, a heroic abortion provider who was murdered outside of his church in May.

Schroeder risked his own life to protect Dr. Tiller, and in doing so he ensured that women could exercise their fundamental right to safe and legal abortion. NOW honors and appreciates his legacy, and we will closely monitor the developments of this case.

Let us join NOW in offering condolences.

UPDATE:  it was natural causes, it seems.  Thanks to Roger in comments below.  Condolences to his family are still very appropriate.

Cross-cultural universals? that’s WEIRD!

I think we can recover from the article linked to below an interesting and possibly new fallacy.  It’s the fallacy of inferring that a trait is universal from the  fact that it is found in college studients in WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich) societies.  We can call it the Weird fallacy.

An article forthcoming in Brains and Behavioral Sciences:

“The Weirdest People in the World?”

Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan

Abstract (short):  Broad claims about human psychology and behavior based on narrow samples from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies are regularly published in leading journals.  Are such species-generalizing claims justified?  This review suggests not only that substantial variability in experimental results emerges across populations in basic domains, but that WEIRD subjects are in fact rather unusual compared with the rest of the species-frequent outliers.  The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, categorization, spatial cognition, memory, moral reasoning and self-concepts.  This review (1) indicates caution in addressing questions of human nature based on this thin slice of humanity, and (2) suggests that understanding human psychology will require tapping broader subject pools.  We close by proposing ways to address these challenges.

Here’s the article; you might find the authors claim there are more universals than you want, but it is still interesting. 

If you’ve followed discussions of modularity and vision, you might want to know that the news about early vision is less of a surprise than the article appears to suggest.  Hard-wired settings may be post-natal and depend on the environment.  On the other hand, things they agree are found in most human beings – e.g., passing the false belief test – have much more age variability than I at least had heard of.  And the experimental work on  fairness – very recently presented  in the  NY Times as culturally invariant – show a lot of cross-cultural variation.  And there’s more.

See what you think!

Aiming to please the big earner

Vishal sent us a link to an article entitled “When She Earns More, Men Aim to Please”. It profiles some couples in which the woman is the main earner. Reading it, I just kept feeling a little creeped out. Let me try to explain. First we get this anecdote:

Derrick Hayes’s wife, an oncology nurse, makes twice the money he does in his job as a juvenile corrections officer in Columbus, Ga.

And he since she brings home much of the bacon, he wants to make sure he’s offering her some perks too. He leaves affectionate notes around the house for her and tries to keep the house tidy. And he wants to make sure he shines in one special area.

Since she is “handling certain areas of the relationship” like making most of the money, he said, “you’ve got to handle your business.” By “business,” Hayes means sex. “You’ve got to be creative. You’ve got to be good!”

Now, it’s really great that Hayes is doing housework and caring about pleasing his wife in bed, don’t get me wrong. But it’s creepy that this is *because* she earns more money than he does.

Then, at the end, we get an anecdote about Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and her husband Daniel Mulhern. He now stays home with the kids, and he’s admirably honest about the way that he feels conflicted about this. We do in fact live in a culture that stigmatises this, and it’s not surprising that he finds it a bit uncomfortable at times. But somehow I still found this anecdote creepy, and I’m not entirely sure why:

“One of the things we did,” Mulhern said, “is that we now have time at the end of the night when Jennifer has half a glass of wine and she gets me my tea. I may be inclined to do it — she is busy working, emailing — but I make her get my tea. It is the one classic traditional feminine thing that Jennifer does and we both tip our caps to the power of culture and a time long gone by.”

I think, but I’m not sure, that what bothers me is how important it is to Mulhern that he *makes* Granholm get him his tea. Still, they’re a couple struggling with the oppressive norms they grew up with, and maybe this is a good and harmless outlet for that. what do you think?

Symposia on Race, Oppression

SGRP has just posted two really excellent looking symposia. The first is on Ann Cudd’s Analyzing Oppression, and the second is on Josh Glasgow’s A Theory of Race. I haven’t had a chance to read the symposia yet, but I’m really looking forward to doing so!

More on the Hypatia conference

There have been a few suggestions that I could say more.  The thing is, any time I think of talking about one thing, I realize that I am leaving so much out.  But let me try some more observations.

– Perhaps most important:  the chief organizer, Alison Wylie, created a wonderful thing.  The intelligence with which the conference was organized seemed to me particularly reflected in the conversations that became possible as it progressed.  And it all worked much better than we could have expected.

– The presence of the rest of the world was more marked at this conference than any other philosophy conference I have been to.  Lorraine Code said at one point that we can’t talk about decentering the subject, since there isn’t any center any more.  Many conferees are very concerned about how our concepts have been marked by Western approaches, even postcolonial approaches.  Again Code is recommending a new scepticism.  One might see this as also related to the idea that we need to move beyond valuing knowledge.  Valuing knowledge, Libby Potter said (at least according to my notes) is part of a quest to escape anxiety.

– One of the nicest features of the conference for me was the ability to have a kind of extended conversation.  A talk by Claudia Card on evil had mentioned the effects of evil; evil can reduce its victims.  At a later very thoughtful talk on moral travel and  forgiveness, Heidi Maibom articulated a worry that was oddly close to what I was thinking:  Is  forgiveness really all that good?  Perhaps it simply increases the burden on the victim.  Or the demand for it is a way for the perpetrators to keep themselves at the center.  We later saw Claudia Card during a break and picked up again this topic.  One consequence of that is that I now have a copy of CC’s book on atrocities.  This topic resonates with me in an unfortunately personal way, and I did feel I could bring a greater understanding to some issues about forgiveness. 

– There was an equity lunch.  Alison Wylie described an initial meeting of the women’s task force that Sally Haslanger organized.  A number of the people there had been at the earlier meeting and we got an update on some initiatives on things like a mentoring initiative and plans to get data about women philosophers.  Someone can surely help  out in the comments by saying more.  One thing discussed here and elsewhere in the conference was getting men involved.  Feminists are rightly wary of being male-centered, and as a consequence, plans to relate to the rest of the profession bring up tensions.  In some  ways, the conference itself provided evidence for the possibility of flourishing with a kind of mild separatism.  In the last 25 years, with very little help from the rest of the profession, a whole area  of professional philosophy has really been defined.   At the same time, everyone realizes that there are very important concerns for feminist-identified scholars, particularly young scholars.

– The conference ended with a panel on new directions.  Some issues about what I think we can still call identity politics were raised.  Everyone there is aware that many of us are members of marginalizable groups.  We couldn’t but notice that the conference was very largely white, and so worries from women of color at the end were important.  One person on the last panel (and she will know who she is) addressed the fact that the founding mothers of Hypatia may be leaving in the foreseeable  future.  Lynn Nelson Hankinson’s “Oh thanks”  for these observations was very funny. 

– A last observation, for now at least:  I had no sense at all of being even near a battle zone, either during papers or in discussions.  This made it seem quite different from an APA  conference!

Prize for feminist philosophy of science: contributions needed

it’s pretty great to see feminists getting awards!  Please help  if you can!


The Philosophy of Science Association Women’s Caucus plans to offer a prize biennially for the best published book, article, or book chapter, in English, in the area of feminist philosophy of science. Nominations, including self-nominations, are encouraged but not required; the Prize Committee will endeavor to include all relevant work from the major journals and publishers in its deliberations. Nominations should be submitted to the Co-chairs of the PSA Women’s Caucus by May 1 of even numbered years. Publications more than five years old at the time of the award (November of even-numbered years) will not be considered. The prize will be a cash award of $500. The prize will be endowed by voluntary contributions from members of the PSA.

The endowment needed is approximately $7000. The Prize Committee will consist of the current co-chairs of the PSA Women’s Caucus, a representative from Philosophy of Science (the editor or a member of the editorial board designated by the editor) and a representative from Hypatia (the editor or a member of the editorial board designated by the editor). The prize will be awarded at the biennial meeting of PSA, at the same time as other PSA prizes (currently just before the Presidential Address).Contributions on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Association Women’s Caucus Prize are requested. Contributions (in the form of a check or money order) should be made out to the Philosophy of Science Association and mailed to Gary L. Hardcastle, PSA Treasurer, Department of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania,

Bloomsburg, PA 17815, USA. Please include ‘PSA Women’s Caucus Prize’ on the check. Contributions to the Philosophy of Science Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, are tax-deductible. Contributors who include a name and address will receive a donation receipt.

Thanks to hkandresen

Carbon emission cutback and laundry

The New Scientist reports on a research about how the US carbon emission could be reduced by changing household actions.

If only Americans would hang their laundry out to dry – and commit 16 other acts of environmental kindness – they could slash US carbon dioxide emissions by 7.4 per cent by 2019.

Well. They didn’t read the article exactly right because it doesn’t speak of 16 clear cut actions like car pooling and line drying, but it speaks of 17 categories of actions, but that’s not why I got irked.

Other actions included in the article make complete and utter practical sense, like insulating houses, minding stand-by functions of electrical applyances and such. They do not take a lot of time and they don’t even diminish comfort of living. And I do think it is absolutely defendable that it would be better to give up comfort for the future of the planet, to some degree.

However, I am sure that if we would all go back to not just line drying – and why not go back to doing the laundry by hand altogether? – that would save a lot on carbon emission, but effectively, who are going to be the ones to end up doing that? Rrrright.

Yes, social identity can affect ability to understand

as this example, sent to us by Bakka, beautifully shows:

The Senate was discussing requiring insurance companies to require pregnancy care. John Kyl (R, naturally) responded:

“I don’t need maternity care,” Kyl replied. “So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.”

Or maybe he understood perfectly, and it was just garden-variety selfishness.