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patriarchal science

Elaine Ingham inghame at AVA.BCC.ORST.EDU
Mon Dec 12 13:26:33 EST 1994

On Mon, 12 Dec 1994, Lori Kohlstaedt wrote:

> I'd just like to add my vote to Adrian's.  There IS objective reality, and
> it's NOT specifically male.  The idea that the answer depends on the nature
> of the one asking the question is postmodernist drivel.  

There's a problem in taking the statement "the answer depends on 
the question asked" out of context.  If you ask, for example, Are there 
more bacteria than fungi in this soil?, the answer depends on what you 
really mean to ask in that question.  If you mean how many individual 
bacteria versus fungal individuals are present, you might get a very 
different answer than if your question is actually "Which has more biomass: 
bacteria or fungi".  In the first case, the answer would probably be 
bacteria, while in the second, the answer might well be fungi.  So, the 
answer does depend on the nature of the question, if the question was
stated ambiguously.  

But how many people are precise in the way they state their questions?  
Even your example of macromolecular structure can be interpreted 
ambiguously, in that I could look at the same structure from a different 
angle and obtain a different description.  

However, I think you bring up an important point, in that there is no 
evidence, that I am aware, to indicate that if a question is asked in a 
completely unambiguous manner that a man or a woman would inherently 
answer that question differently.  We have to be discussing things 
where "the truth" is absolute, completely objective, along 
the lines of your crystaline structures.  As you suggest, cultural 
factors might lead to obtaining that answer by different means, but   
the structure of that crystal, once formed, can't be argued about, as 
long as we're both looking at it from the same angle, with the same 
kind of light, the same..... well, ok, set the parameters clearly.  

I like the example of placing a human being in a vacuum.  I don't believe 
that either a man or a woman would come up with a different conclusion as 
to the effect of that vacuum on the human.  The person would die.  But, 
men and women tend to quibble about that situation in different ways, if 
you allow them to object to the absolute conditions.  Men tend to want to 
have a breathing apparatus with the human out there in that situation, 
while women tend to ask whether there wasn't some way to rescue them 
before they really died.  But, notice I said TEND - it's not an 
absolute difference.  There are men that ask about rescue, and women 
that say,  "Unless the person has a pressurized suit."  There are no 
absolutes when the question of gender versus upbringing comes up. 

Elaine Ingham
inghame at bcc.orst.edu

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