Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Published Papers

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Lecture Topics

Conscience of a Progressive
    (A Book in Progress)

A Dim View of Libertarianism

Rawls and the Duty to Posterity
    (Doctoral Dissertation)

The Ecology Project

For Environmental Educators

The Russian Environment

    (Critiques of Post Modernism)

Notes from the Brink
    (Peace Studies)

The Gadfly's Bio Sketch

The Gadfly's Publications

The Online Gadfly: Editorial Policy

The Gadfly's E-Mail: gadfly@igc.org

Classical Guitar:
"The Other Profession



Critiques of Post Modernism

(And of Irrationalism in General)

About "PoMo" and this Section

Why be Reasonable?

The Gadfly Bites Po Mo: A Personal History

"HorrorScopes" -- Dissing Astrology.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Real World!

On Behalf of Science

Is Science "Just Another Dogma?"

On "Scientific Morality."

"Creationism" and the Devolution of the Intellect

"Junk Science" and Other Detritus.

The President of Fantasyland: Bush v. Science  

On Post Modernism and Scientific Certainty

The Quotation Bin

He who will not reason is a bigot,
he who cannot is a fool,
and he who dares not is a slave.

Sir William Drummond

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect.

George Santayana 

About "PoMo" and this Section:

The Gadfly has been properly scolded for including under the heading of "Post Modernism," a grab-bag" of examples of and comments upon kookery, junk science, "New Age" fantasies, and so forth.  Some quite respectable scholars have willingly designated themselves as "post-modernists," and it is admittedly unfair to associate them with UFO-freaks, astrologers, channelers, and the like.  Thus I have added the line, above: "...and of irrationalism in general."  Even so, I am underwhelmed by what I have encountered of the scholarly post-modernists.  To repeat an old but cherished critical "kiss-off," the post modern ideas that I have encountered are "interesting and original   -- unfortunately, that which is interesting is not original, and that which is original is not interesting."  

The best of "modern" scholarship, exemplified by science, displays a disciplined and public search for verifiable truths concerning an objective world -- truths that are independent of subjective biases of the investigator.  Contrary notions that all "knowledge" reduces to belief or that "the meaning of the text is the interpretation," reject this central tenet of "modernism."  So too, truth claims that will not admit to experimental testing or the support of empirical evidence.  For the purposes of this site, I will call all this "Po Mo" -- albeit the "post-" of "post-modernism" is a misnomer.  Radical subjectivism is more "pre-" than it is "post-" since it dates back to the Sophists of ancient Greece, and has been with us constantly ever since.  Likewise superstition and belief systems that are innocent of any foundation in confirmable fact.

And they are still with us today -- witness cable TV and the supermarket tabloids.  Now, perhaps more than ever, they should be countered with the voices of sweet reason, and the perpetual question: "Now why should I believe that?"

The Cost of Kookery

From the National Science Foundation

Does it matter if people believe in astrology, extrasensory perception (ESP), or that aliens have landed on Earth?  Are people who check their horoscopes, call psychic hotlines, or follow stories about alien abductions just engaging in harmless forms of entertainment?  Or are they displaying signs of scientific illiteracy?

Concerns have been raised, especially in the science community, about widespread belief in paranormal phenomena.  Scientists (and others) have observed that people who believed in the existence of paranormal phenomena may have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.  Their beliefs may indicate an absence of critical thinking skills necessary not only for  informed decision-making in the voting booth and in other civic venues (for example, jury duty), but also for making wise choices needed for day-to-day living. ...

As many as one-third of Americans believe in astrology...  Twelve percent said they read their horoscope every day or "quite often." ...  Nearly half or more believe in ESP....  Between one-third and one-half of Americans believe in UFOs...

"Belief in the Paranormal or Pseudosciece"
Science and Engineering Indicators 2000
National Science Foundation

Melissa Pollack
NSF Division of Science Resources Studies

"New Age Epistemology" Described (but by no means endorsed) by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn:

There's no such thing as objective truth. We make our own truth. There's no such thing as objective reality. We make our own reality. There are spiritual, mystical, or inner ways of knowing that are superior to our ordinary ways of knowing. If an experience seems real, it is real. If an idea feels right to you, it is right. We are incapable of acquiring knowledge of the true nature of reality. Science itself is irrational or mystical. It's just another faith or belief system or myth, with no more justification than any other. It doesn't matter whether beliefs are true or not, as long as they're meaningful to you.

 How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, (Mayfield)

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .