19 thoughts on “50 renowned academics speak about god

  1. Interesting sidenote: in Louise Antony’s excellent edited collection “Philosophers On God”, only 3 of 20 recollections came from women, and one of them was from Antony herself.

  2. Well, the fifty are those chosen by Dr. JTP [www.drjtp.com], so it’s just this idiosyncratic individual’s pursuit. His neglect of women is irksome, but not very earth-shifting.

    I’m more annoyed by the breathlessness of the “world-renowned” descriptor attributed to the first ten or fifteen scholars. WtH? Will we be more impressed if they’re world-renowned, and what got Guth world-renown and not Dennet? Irritating. Maybe I shouldn’t look at this stuff right after my coffee.

  3. I’m more annoyed by the breathlessness of the “world-renowned” descriptor attributed to the first ten or fifteen scholars.

    I think that means “famous”, especially among the general reading public, more than anything else. My impression (this may be wrong) is that Krauss and Sacks have “popular” reputations that well out-stretch their scientific contributions (though the have some of those, too.) That’s arguably the case for Pinker, too, and maybe others.

  4. These folks were selected by the filmmaker (and may just reflect his preoccupations), but it looks like this was assembled from stock footage (some of it rather old). It could well be that the 49-to-1 ratio partly reflects was conveniently and cheaply available, and not just this fellow’s preferences.

    The humanities (other than philosophy, at least) seem oddly underrepresented and the natural sciences overrepresented. And you would expect to find at least a handful of theologians…

    The best thing about that link, though, is the instruction paragraph for commenting on the site:

    “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”

    Now *that* is funny.

  5. Here’s the film maker’s explanation, which is similar to Nemo’s conjectured explanation.

    I have simply used the clips that I have found over the years, without even thinking about social diversity. Patricia Churchland will be in the next compilation, but I haven’t found any other clips of renowned female academics expressing their views on god. If you can show me them, I will most definitely use them.

    To be fair, I suppose it is possible that there are no other clips of women. In that case, the complaint goes back a level. Still, we’ve critiqued the initial part of his response a number of times here. One version: when men are in the considerable majority, they become the norm. And if you don’t think about it, you won’t notice women or even the lack of women. That’s one way sexism gets entrenched.

    In fact, his comment gives one the uneasy sense he only knows of two famous female academics.

  6. I agree that the response seems unsatisfactory insofar as it points to an overall state of affairs that is still problematic (pushing the complaint “back a level”, as Anne points out). It might be a defensible explanation as far as his individual culpability goes, but still inadequate.

    His response, though, doesn’t give me the sense that he might only know of two famous female academics (which I think would, if true, be partly his fault). After all, it would be a strange coincidence if *each one* of the famous female academics he’d heard of happened to have appeared on TV talking about God.

  7. Nemo, I think I agree with your interpretation in your last para. It struck me that way first, but not when I looked back.

  8. I really liked what Oliver Sacks says at 7.21, and what Weinberg says at the very end.

    Maybe it’s time for someone to make a version with the male-female ratio reversed !

  9. If they did one with the ratio reversed, I suspect there would be a better and more interesting cross-section of academic disciplines. Women historians, literary critics, jurists, theologians, political scientists …

    I suspect that natural scientists talking about God is thought to make for more interesting TV soundbites for various reasons, including the old science-versus-religion meme.

  10. “Maybe it’s time for someone to make a version with the male-female ratio reversed !”

    I know, right? And exactly, one would have to go out of one’s way to make a version. My annoyance with using clips of ‘renowned’ dudes is that, as ever, I’m irked by the re-inscription of fame. Of course Chomsky and Darwall and so on are famous. They are deservedly famous for their work. However, they are also famous in part because people use clips of them in compilations. If you used a clip of Annette Baier over and over, she’d be more famous; she’d be the handy narrative found lying about, to quote HIlde Lindemann. If you used clips from SWIP’s wee film, Joan Callahan would eventually have more ‘renown.’

    I don’t know why this bugs me so. But I live in a culture where I’m told over and over that I can watch TV shows and Twitter feeds of Kim Kardashian, whoever she is, and I’m eagerly informed of the fashion choices of Kate Middleton, famous for getting married to a Royal (whoopee). I’m just saying, famous is what we decide it is, over and over. In using handy clips, the filmmaker just reiterated the renown of those whose renown he’s reporting. It bugs the shit out of me.

  11. Someone (with more technical know-how than I) could probably easily set up a website where “eminent” women could post videos of themselves talking about God. Think how fast self-made videos came in for the It Gets Better campaign.

    When we see these lopsided things (conferences, videos, etc.) perhaps one constructive step we could take on this blog would be to make our own list (in comments, or wherever) of women who would have been appropriate speakers, or who could have been invited to participate. This has frequently happened on an ad-hoc basis, but perhaps it might be useful to do so intentionally and to counter the idea that “there aren’t any women who work in this area” or “I was turned down by the only two women who work in this area.”

  12. “Maybe it’s time for someone to make a version with the male-female ratio reversed !”

    What famous academic would get the special distinction of being the only male?

  13. > What famous academic would get the special distinction of being the only male?

    Pinker, to keep it symmetrical with the only woman on the current list.

  14. I am not sure what exactly qualifies Stephen Hawking as an expert in the field of religion, considering that he believes physics has disproven the possibility that a nonspatiotemporal god entity exists (if I’m not mistaken).

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