Vegans have an interesting view of the plant-animal divide. I don’t like it.
The Miseuse of the word Myth
I wasn’t going to write this article, but I suppose it fits this month’s theme on Medium: reasonable doubt. In common parlance, “myth” is used to mean something that is false or something that people believe without justification, like an urban legend. But for a mythicist and anthropologist, like myself, that’s simply not the case. The use of the word, in this sense is in many ways very similar to how certain people use the word “theory.”
So what is a myth? Let’s get a bit more basic. What is a narrative? Wikipedia’s explanation is pretty easy to understand.
A narrative or story is a report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images, or both. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, “to tell”, which is derived from the adjective gnarus, “knowing” or “skilled”.
A myth is a type of narrative. But it’s more than just any story. It’s a story about ourselves. A myth is narrative, which is written with the intention of being truthful, which tries to establish our place in the world.
One can see now why history is a form of myth. It is written with the intention of being truthful, and its goal is to not only explain the past, but to connect the dots from the past to the present, explaining why things are the way that they are today.
History also has other components that other forms of myth don’t have. For one thing, a proper history should have a rough outline explaining how the information was transmitted from the observer to the historian, something I refer to as the genealogy of knowledge . That’s one reason why the bible is myth, but not history.
I want to reiterate that a myth doesn’t have to be true or false. That’s not the point. History is overturned with new information all the time. What’s important is that it is written with the intention of being truthful.
Religion as Myth
One of the most frequent topics in which I hear the abuse of the word “myth” is in discussions on religion. Often it’s used to demean religion and religious people — “ah those people and their Bronze Age myths” — in a way which shows one’s own ignorance of the topic.
Religion does indeed have myths, or at least, that’s one of the cultural dimensions of religion described by Ninian Smart’s seven dimensions of religion. But pretty much every culture has some form of myth, because we all like to have an idea of where we’re from. It’s all a part of trying to find order in nature.
The Pseudoscience and Science of Astrology
There might be something to astrology after all, but not in a mystical sense. I’ve been thinking about writing this article for a while, but I just wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested. Some people might even take it as a defense of astrology. I’m still not sure, but after reading Martin Rezny’s review of a season two episode of The Orville, I’ve decided to at least write a short version of it, though it does deserve being turned it into a full scholarly paper, and might do so one day.« Continue »
From Preprints to Omniprints
Starting with ArXiv, the idea of preprints has been increasingly in popularity for some time. But now is the time for omniprints. Preprints were a good start. And Crossref has been indexing more and more preprints, with preprints outpacing journal articles by far (Crossref). There are a number of servers, including ArXiv and its derivatives, OSF’s preprint servers, ResearchGate, and more.
I rely exclusively on preprint servers for my publication, mostly out of spite for modern academia and its toxic nature. I absolutely refuse to pay a company so that they can profit off of my work. And honestly, if the goal of publishing is to communicate with other researchers, than traditional publications are not the answer, especially when they’re not open access.
But there’s an issue. A lot of people reject citation of preprints. They want to wait until there’s a “final” version. It’s not even that they’ll scrutinize it more heavily, but rather they will outright use the preprint nature of the paper to ignore it.
Of course, what matters isn’t whether a journal has decided to pick up an article — Wakefield taught us that—but rather what matters is that the content of the article is sound. And in order to determine whether that’s the case, a person has to read the article.
I do think that part of the problem is that the articles are called pre-prints. It’s right in the name: the article hasn’t been printed yet. It hasn’t been completed. That’s why we need to rename preprint servers, which have long since become far more than that, to something else. I’m not really sure what name we’ll end up using, but perhaps “omniprint” is the best option, as it implies “all prints” whether preprint or postprint, draft print, or final print.
Real Open Science
Related to omniprints is the idea of open access, where a journal lets anyone access the publication. I don’t see open access as real open science. It’s certainly a start. After all, if the goal of publishing is to communicate, we need to be able to read what’s being published! But it’s simply not enough. For one thing, publishing in open access journals is often very expensive, literally costing the author thousands of dollars! That’s why we need omniprint.
Actual Peer Review
Of course, in order to take full advantage of omniprint servers, they need to provide a number of tools to allow for an open peer review. Comment systems are useful, but they’re not a great way to quickly measure the quality of the paper. I think a tagging system might be useful, where people can anonymously tag a paper. Tags would probably have to include whether or not the paper is scholarly, if it justifies its position, if it needs improvement, and so on.
And that would be actual peer review. What we think of as peer review is really just one or two reviewers, who might be quite biased, along with an editor. How can we trust two or three people to make a decision about a paper, in an unbiased way? We can’t. That’s why we need omniprint.
Epistemology: This Page Contains no Harmful Material
I created this page to explain a point about epistemology. Default to nonexistence is not universal. Whether or not we default to an assumption of existence or nonexistence depends on necessity. If neither are required, we just don’t make an assumption. If there is more danger if something exists, we assume existence. For instance, we assume drugs have dangerous side effects, until shown otherwise. We’re also risk averse, so even though this page does not contain any harmful material, one might still be cautious about clicking a link to it.
Philosophy of Academics
Philosophy of Academics included Philosophy of Education, but also questions about the validity of methods of research and scholarly communication. Questions include, but are not limited to is the separation between “fields of study” in academia reasonable or arbitrary?, is there a more reasonable way to measure academic achievement beyond degree level?, and can people still be world class scholars in more than one field?. If I were to categorize these questions, I think they would fit reasonably well into a category that I would call “philosophy of academics.”« Continue »
The Fallacy of Scientific Consensus
I have been involved in a number of arguments about scientific consensus. The most recent debate has convinced me to write about the topic in depth. The idea of scientific consensus has been popular since reports that 97% of all papers offering a position on climate change assert that climate change is happening. I am not going to address the validity of theories on climate change. But it is important to point out a number of issues with relying on consensus among scientists. First, peer reviewed publishing is dominated by a handful of authors.« Continue »
What Would an Eternal (After)life Feel Like?
Certain people who argue against the existence of an eternal afterlife like to argue that it would feel like “hell” or that we cannot even imagine it. I disagree. There are ways that we can guess what it would be like, and to find a clue to this question, all one needs is a little bit of calculus.« Continue »
Net Impact of Cultural Systems
Whether or not we are to oppose a cultural system depends on a variety of factors.
I Have No Issue with Prayer
Some atheists are offended when people say that they will pray for them. I have no such issue with prayer. I simply don’t believe it will work.« Continue »