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Social constructs are real and they matter

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Hygro, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It's not like I had a choice in the case of Obama - when he first showed up on my radar he was always identified as "The African-American/Black president". By everyone.
     
  2. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus Retired Moderator

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    OK, so we've decided that two-legged things with feathers go together and things that give milk go together (I'm hardly a biologist but I think that'll do as a categorisation). By this logic we call things 'mammals' and 'birds'. We decide that it doesn't matter if a bird can't fly, as long as it has feathers, and it doesn't matter if a mammal has two legs, as long as it gives milk. But there would be nothing 'wrong' about swapping those categories - we could decide that penguins were actually feathery mammals, even though they don't give milk, or that humans are actually featherless birds, even though they don't fly. There wouldn't be anything objectively 'wrong' about drawing categories like that. Sure, the ones we have at the moment are currently the most useful, but even they're subject to change if they cease to be useful. It was only relatively recently that people started categorising 'fungi' as 'not plants', for example. They weren't wrong to say that 'plant' could include fungi, it just made life difficult.

    If nobody in a given group knows them or knows that they exist, that's a bit of a moot point as far as they're concerned.
     
  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    We couldn't actually - the animals are categorized the way they are not because some guy thought it made sense. It is derived from the theory of evolution - animals that share an evolutionary history are grouped together.
     
  4. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus Retired Moderator

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    Absolutely, but someone decided to group them by evolutionary history in the first place. Even then, people decided where to mark the divisions. Nobody would be getting their facts wrong if they decided that all animals divided into 'lordships' based entirely on their number of legs - it would just be an absolute nightmare to study them on that basis.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, that's sort of what some Christians do IIRC - they group them into "kinds", which I believe is a grouping based on what animals look like, and not where they originate from and which animals they evolved from.

    But anyway,

    The point is that now we know about evolution, it doesn't make sense to group the animals in the ways you propose. It's wrong.
     
  6. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus Retired Moderator

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    I think you're confusing 'wrong' meaning 'saying something factually untrue' with 'wrong' meaning 'a bad way to do it'. I'm strictly driving at the former.
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    You initially said that it's only convention that we call dogs mammals and penguins birds. But that's not true - there is a very good and systematic reason for it. I mean, we could be calling them bargs and worgs, but if the classification system is made up by some guy who looks at things and names them - then the naming convention isn't going to be very good. If on the other hand it's based on something factual and logical, such as evolutionary history of a species - then the classification system is actually going to make sense, no matter what words you use.

    But maybe I'm misunderstanding your overall point. I think it is: "We call things what we like - and the sun is the sun because that's what we decided." Or something similar. But a classification system is an entirely different animal - this one in particular is based on a coherent framework that lends to certain animals being grouped as "similar".
     
  8. Farm Boy

    Farm Boy The long wait

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    Yet our classification systems for animals has changed over time. It's changed to suit our needs. Now that scientific study of evolutionary progression is valuable to us we'll classify animals along those lines. Such was not always so. For much of our existence we classified things based on things that were more relevant and valuable to us, like: Can I eat this animal? Does it squirt milk I can drink? Can this this animal harm me? If so, does it bite with teeth or sting with poison? Does it hunt in the night or day?
     
  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Sure, but we've finally settled on the current system as the one that makes the most sense and is the most useful in terms of being based on scientific fact. It isn't useful for everything - for cooking you might put chicken and pork in the same category for whatever reason (just a random example that might not even make sense - but you get the idea)

    That's the difference - previous classification systems were based around social convention - social constructs. The one we use now is based entirely on something that exists outside of the scope of social constructs. The words we use to call and classify these animals don't matter - what it's based on does.
     
  10. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    In the 1960s we found out about cholesterol and suddenly it didn't make sense to eat eggs. Now we have found out about cholesterol it suddenly makes sense to eat eggs. Science is just agreement, not 'right facts'.

    In my opinion the biggest difference between following science and following religion is that followers of science should know better than to get righteous...but most of its followers apparently don't.
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Evolution is a fact, the details we've worked out might not be. The classification system we have is based on the whole framework - which is a fact. So while the details might change, and individual animals might have their classification details altered as a result, the underlying framework is rooted in a scientific theory - which describes the fact of evolution.

    Now, I do not disagree that new better way to classify animals might come into being. Note that I never said that the the current system is king poop of crap mountain. All I said was that the old system was wrong.
     
  12. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    While I roughly agree with the OP, Social constructs is a rather stale way to describe it. Yes, those have social effects, and are constructs, thought the term 'social constructs' make these things seem abritrary and imposed, neither of which have to be the case. Rather, many of these things have naturally evolved because it works for people.
     
  13. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    The current system is based on our current vague understanding of what's really going on. It is marvelous and right and the bestest system evah given what we now believe that we know.

    The previous system was based on the vague understanding of what was really going on that was current at the time. It is flat out dead wrong and to be excoriated at every turn.

    Okay. Got that. Please continue.
     
  14. Domen

    Domen Misico dux Vandalorum

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    It seems that people from Russia and Central Asia are responsible for "socially constructing" what we call White people:

    http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=543284

    <And so on, and so forth.>

    Moderator Action: This post truncated, and 9 more posts including several responses to this one deleted. Intricate details about the genetics of Europeans are not relevant to this thread. Further posts on this matter will be considered spam and threadjacking and infracted accordingly.
    Please read the forum rules: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=422889
     
  15. Gori the Grey

    Gori the Grey The Poster

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    I know those seem like very natural grounds for you to distinguish the "sun" from the "sky." (And it's terribly hard to think ourselves out of the classifications that work for us, I grant you; they seem the natural, commonsense way to divvy up the phenomenal universe, verbally and conceptually). So the difference in the sky being blue one day and gray another strikes you as grounds for not treating blue-sky-plus-sun as a conceptual unity. Instead, there's the sky, which can be blue or grey, and the sun, which is clearly an independent object, right, because it can retain its character as a bright disk regardless of the color of the sky. But my hypothetical society doesn&#8217;t care about the difference between blue or grey skies. They just call that, &#8220;blue-or-grey-sky-with-bright-golden-disk,&#8221; their word for &#8220;daytime sky&#8221; and anything dark their word for &#8220;night-time sky.&#8221; That may sound crazy, but, in fact, we do the same thing: ignore differences in appearance in determining what counts as a thing. The sun actually looks different on a clear day as opposed to a cloudy day. And yet we ignore that difference in naming, conceptualizing, thinging the sun. We don&#8217;t take that difference in appearance as significant: we still call that thing the sun. If clear differences in appearance are our ground for decicing what counts as a thing, shouldn&#8217;t today&#8217;s bright sun have a different name, and be a different thing, from yesterday&#8217;s dim sun?

    But suns and birds are really hard to unthink. How about the thing that I thought would be a better illustration because it&#8217;s one in which we have little investment one way or the other. Do jowls exist? Are jowls a thing? If you can see that they're just a thing for people who have a word for that thing, you'd take a step toward seeing that the sun is actually no different (from one point of view).
     
  16. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    There isn't any sky.

    Clouds might be grey.

    If you look up during the day and there are no clouds you see the sun. You either see a blazing white full spectrum disk if you look directly at it (not recommended), or you see the scattered and diffused image, which due to the content of our atmosphere is predominantly a blue color...but you are still seeing the sun.

    But I am perfectly happy to continue following the agreement: sky.
     
  17. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    :wallbash:

    Please do not tell me you weren't taught this stuff in school. I learned it in my Grade 7 science class (I was 11 at the time). Birds are not feathered mammals. Mammals are not hairy or featherless birds. Or are you going to say that when you were born, you pecked your way out of an egg that your mother laid in a nest somewhere? :huh:

    In the case of a solar eclipse, there are articles in newspapers, stories in TV, and lots of discussion in social media about it explaining what it is, how to view it safely, and there are also astronomers who explain about things like the corona, the umbra, penumbra, and so on. So yeah, there are words for these things. But I do concede that if a society never develops words for them and aren't taught that words exist, then they wouldn't know.

    It is factually incorrect to say that a bird is just a feathered mammal or that a human is a featherless bird. Birds are not mammals.

    Science is the tool we use to figure out what is correct, based on observation and experiment. It's a self-correcting process whereby if we discover that what we thought was correct turns out to be incorrect, we can dismiss the untrue information and go with what has been verified to be true or at least most probably true, based on the latest observations.

    On the topic of cholesterol... some people shouldn't have too much of it, given that they may have medical conditions or other health concerns that would make it worse for them. Some other people may be okay, since their bodies may not have those problems. Just because science hasn't come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, that's no reason to dismiss science or get snide toward scientists.

    Yes, jowls exist for people who have them. That's not something I really gave much thought to.

    But please realize that I live in a part of the world where it's not unusual to have winter for 7 months of the year. I daresay we have more words/expressions for sky, temperature, precipitation, and various other kinds of weather than the people who live in mostly uniform climates with very little precipitation.

    It's probably like someone who lives in the desert has more words for sand and wind than we do in this part of the world - because it's a reality of life, and more subtle distinctions are necessary.

    I was unaware that there was an age where the predominant material used for weapons and tools was wooden barrels.
     
  18. Senethro

    Senethro Overlord

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    I'm amazed at the doublethink necessary to say race is not a social construct and then to provide your own strong contrary examples.

    I'm unsurprised that Domen has arrived.
     
  19. Domen

    Domen Misico dux Vandalorum

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    Domen is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.

    But had you checked the thread more thoroughly, you would have noticed that I arrived already yesterday.

    ==================================

    On Topic stuff - what solutions do you propose to make existing undesirable social constructs less real ???
     
  20. Gori the Grey

    Gori the Grey The Poster

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    But in a society whose language had no special word for jowls, the guy who has them would no longer have jowls, just (that language&#8217;s word for) cheeks. Yes?
     

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