SocioSphere Editorials

April 2002 - February 2009 Archive
Reflections on Religion, Current Events, and Other Subjects

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Monday,December 31,2007

In that case, we probably have two very different views of language. Mine, as indicated by my user name, is a nominalist view. I do not think that words are real, and I don't believe that there is any direct connection between the words we use and the experiences we have. We utilize words because they are convenient ways of describing our observations or mental states, not because they are isomorphic with particulars. It is we who have power over words, not the other way around.

posted at 03:26:29 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Very few things offend me personally. However, I simply don't relate the comments made by other people to myself. To do so would imply that they are a part of my reference group.

posted at 03:33:40 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,December 30,2007

Well, yes, without direct evidence, there is often a tendency is to construct one's conclusions out of disconnected pieces of information.
I am a Marxist. I see no reason to come up with speculative metanarratives, like the various versions of the Illuminati conspiracy (and there are many of them). I can simply point to what I don't like about global capitalism. It requires no conspiracy theorizing to criticize the corporatocracy.

That is the problem with metanarratives and deductive systems. One accepted, everything suddenly "makes sense" like it never did before. That is why you can have devoted members of different religions all entirely convinced they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

IMO, one should focus on examining specific incidents and experiences and not assume some large meta-conspiracy which connects them all. That is how conspiracy theories proliferate. People can always say, "Well, the fact that you cannot find direct evidence is because they are so secretive." However, that is not critical thinking.

posted at 05:33:33 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Peer-reviewed journals are evaluated by other experts, in the same field as the researcher, for methodological errors. Most of the stuff you find on the Internet and in popular books is just personal opinion, often disguised in scientific-sounding language, or speculative.

There were a host of mystery religions in the ancient world, and there are a lot of religions which claim to possess mysteries in modern times. They are diverse. For instance, there are numerous groups which call themselves Rosicrucian, but many of them have entirely different histories, belief systems, etc. Their only similarity is the name.

posted at 04:48:29 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

The Kabbalah refers to a body of literature which developed within Sephardic (Spanish) Jewry beginning in the Middle Ages. The kabbalistic writers were influenced by Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, and Islamic mysticism. However, the Kabbalah, while more recently adapted by some occultic groups (like Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis) and some Christian writers, itself refers to Jewish esotericism.

There is no evidence for the Illuminati conspiracy idea that the Kabbalah is the supposed mystery religion of the elites.

posted at 04:04:37 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Speaking as a postmodernist, poststructuralist, and social constructionist, I would say that your identification of postmodernism with nihilism is much too broad. There are many schools of thought which can be called PoMo (postmodern), and not all of them are nihilistic. For instance, on scientific issues, I am a postempiricist and a neopragmatist. I go for what works. However, I avoid making any metaphysical speculations on whether a particular perspective is uniquely isomorphic with one's observations.

posted at 03:12:41 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I prefer Ockham's approach. He treated secular/scientific concerns entirely separate from matters of faith. As a weak theist, any faith I have is thoroughly blind. It is not based on evidence of any sort. When people, such as the pseudoscientific creationists or intelligent design proponents, attempt to present empirical or rational evidence for their faith, I reject it. IMO, they are committing a category error. Similarly, when nontheists ask for evidences for my faith, I say, in no uncertain terms, that I have none.

posted at 03:04:53 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

IMO, the best way to look at Asperger's and the disability issue is through Judy Singer's concept of neurodiversity. We are all neurologically different. NT, AS, HFA, LFA, ADHD, etc. are simply labels which we attach to categories of those neurological differences. It is humans who decide that a particular neurodiversity is a syndrome or disorder. However, neurodiversity is just neurodiversity.

IMO, we always evaluate differences as strengths or weaknesses relative to some standard. I prefer to simply call them differences, or neurodiversities, and not judge them in terms of absolute categories.

posted at 02:36:57 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,December 26,2007

I suspect that, in the future, neurological spectrums will be entirely reconstructed, and renamed, according to the principal brain centers involved.

posted at 11:35:17 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,December 25,2007

Many experts have made rather convincing cases for the increase in the number of diagnoses on the spectrum of autisms being largely due to:

  1. Expansions of the DSM criteria. These changes, especially with the addition of Asperger's in 1994, have increased the numbers of persons being diagnosed with conditions on the spectrum of autisms.
  2. Separation of autism from childhood schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorder. Prior, to 1980, no one was officially diagnosed with autism (using DSM categories). Those with conditions on the autism spectrum were either diagnosed with schizophrenia, childhood type, if they were children, or with schizoid personality disorder, if they were adults.
  3. Qualifications. The fact that therapists have become increasingly familiar with the autism spectrum, and that more of them have become qualified to diagnose in this area.
  4. Over-diagnosis. Some people have suggested that, because of the increasing popularity of Asperger's as a diagnostic category, more people have been diagnosed with the condition than is actually justified from their symptoms.

posted at 10:12:18 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I am using these terms as they were classically used in the Middle Ages. Realism and nominalism reflect different views of universals. A middle position was conceptualism, but I do not find it to be tenable.

The philosophy of nominalism, as generally defined, would be inconsistent with the idea of "a reality outside of our minds" if, by reality, you mean a single reality. If you are referring to particular realities (separate realities), such as you and I are separate realities (aka particularism), then your view would be in line with nominalism.

Nominalists generally reject the legitimacy of ontology and metaphysics, not epistemology. In other words, while nominalism is anti-realist (in the medieval sense of the word), it is not necessarily an idealist position. Most nominalists are not idealists, but some, like George Berkeley, were idealists.

Nominalism was a reaction against ontological realism, not epistemic realism. I was speaking of ontological realism; you were discussing epistemic realism, i.e., that objects exist. Epistemic realism is anti-idealist. Ontological realism is anti-nominalist.

posted at 01:29:08 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

IMO, biological psychiatry should not be separated from cultural psychiatry. Emil Kraepelin's problem was that he dismissed cultural variations and argued for innate differences between people. His ideas then became a justification for eugenics in Nazi Germany. Kraepelin was a proto-sociobiologist or biopsychologist. His ideas also have some resemblances with Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism, i.e., that the unfit (the poor) are inherently weak and incapable.

posted at 12:09:07 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,December 23,2007

There has been a massive paradigm shift in psychiatry. Psychiatrists only recently realized that they put their bets on the wrong horse. As a result of the rapprochement between psychiatry and Emil Kraepelin, there may eventually be a merger (on some level) between psychiatry and neurology. Psychiatrists have now abandoned, for the most part, a silly, and largely discredited, philosophy for a genetic and biological framework. It is taking the nosology a while to catch up. Many disorders which are in the DSM-IV-TR may not survive into the DSM-V.

posted at 10:00:44 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,December 22,2007

I wrote:

That is only one of a number of definitions of science. The notion of falsification itself is increasingly being questioned in various scientific communities.

Someone wrote back:

What do you mean by this?

Falsificability operates within what Foucault called an episteme (somewhat similar to Kuhn's concept of paradigm or Wittgenstein's language game). Since the researcher is working within the framework of that episteme, the falsification cannot be completed. To do so would require a questioning of the methodological rules under which the research is conducted.

There is nothing wrong with falsification per se. However, it has limits, and those limits are not always recognized by researchers. IMO, falsification should be conducted within the framework of utility (pragmatism). A good null hypothesis is not only one which can be falsified, but one which can point to an alternative hypothesis which works

posted at 11:26:40 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Not really that unfortunate, I think your political ideas suck and would likely lead to a society that *truly* doesn't work.

That is speculative. My ideas have never been tried (especially in the U.S.).


Then again, like I said, I think that most forms of socialism have been pretty well discredited and this is based upon issues with the pricing mechanism. Market socialism makes the most attempt to get past this and is perhaps the best, but there are some who attack Lange's work on this, I really haven't studied Lange enough to say much on the theory.

The various market socialisms are really accommodations with capitalism. Some, IMO, are little different from capitalism, even allowing first-generation private ownership. I support mandatory collectivization of major industries.


I know, but you live in America. When you talk about the politics where you are from you speak about America.

As far as this discussion is concerned, we both "live" on the Internet - as does everyone else who reads this message. From the standpoint of message boards and email, physical location is largely irrelevant.


I was messing with you, it seemed like you were being stubborn on a point that really didn't have much value from my perspective.

Semantics are important to me, for the reasons I already mentioned.

posted at 08:22:00 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Because you are considered a bunch of crackpots mostly.

We are in the U.S., yes, and that is unfortunate. The status quo is, IMO, not working.


Yes, and both of us live in America.

Sure, but the Internet is not America; and, aside from the lectures I give to my students, most of my discussions are on the Internet.


Just recognize the differences in the use of the term, you are a nominalist anyway, "left" doesn't exist in the first place.

Most nominalists, at least educated ones, are very cautious about the use of languages. Because we recognize that words have no essential meaning - that there is no fixed relationship between words and meaning - we generally take great care in
how we express ourselves.

posted at 07:20:53 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Most of the other definitions stem from people trying to save verificationism and the Baconian myth of induction, are from New Age or Fundamentalist crazies who desire to denigrate science by calling it a religion, or are from PoMo social constructivists that treat science as just another element of the "white heterosexual male power structure."

With that last one, you came pretty close to my objection. I am a social constructionist, and my methodological philosophy is post-positivist or neopragmatist. However, I don't treat the sciences as simply an element of the heterosexual male power structure. To me, scientific methods are useful if they work. If not, then we need to find a better language game.

posted at 06:08:30 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Personally, I restrict the term "left" to socialism, communism, and left anarchism. The use of "left" for liberalism is basically an American innovation. As a leftist myself, I have little use for liberalism. I see liberals as appeasers of conservatives.


I don't because America doesn't HAVE the type of left wing.

Not a very organized one, no. However, I intentionally do not use the term "left" for "liberal" in order to emphasize it. When I refer to the American left, I have in mind a tiny segment of the general population. A lot of us probably end up in sociology departments or the like.


We have left liberalism and right liberalism in America.

Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich are left liberals. The Clintons are right liberals or even left moderates.


Now left liberals are not liberal in your eyes but they are on the American left.

There is an American left, albeit quite small. However, no leftists I know would consider liberals to be a part of it.


Now, do you mean how conservatives call democrats "liberals" when you say that? Or the fact that America is so liberal that people on our left are still liberal? I already know some things about both. Trust me though, my view on leftists is not that favorable either.

A lot of conservative pundits call people "leftists" who, to me, are right conservatives. I have given up on trying to figure out how self-defined conservatives classify others.

posted at 02:17:14 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Which is why most Sociology is not science, it's ideologically motivated pseudoscience. It is to the PoMo Left what Supply-Side Economics is to the Corporatist Right. I am an ex-Marxist (thanks to reading Popper) and have no use for such nonsense.

There is no such thing as "science." There are only diverse fields which use modifications of a method which originated in physics (with Aristotle and then Newton).

posted at 02:10:56 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,December 21,2007

Most people in the West are ontological realists (essentialists), so they would have a problem with James' pragmatism, Rorty's neopragmatism, or Dewey's instrumentalism. However, from my standpoint, asserting isomorphism or correspondence between our observations and some "reality" is purely metaphysical or speculative.

You would probably prefer Peirce's pragmaticism. He was a realist. He altered the spelling to avoid confusion with James.

posted at 06:06:34 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


In what way might William James' pragmatism be relevant to systems of human organisation? I found those of his ideas which i read about re psychology very interesting but am surprised to see him ref to here.

James, a nominalist, believed that the utility of a proposition was demonstrated in what is "good" or useful. To James, truth was nothing more than a name for what works. In terms of social groups, a good group would be one which conforms to its purpose or function. Propositions or hypotheses are evaluated on their utility not based on metaphysical speculation concerning their isomorphism with some notion of reality.

posted at 03:13:43 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


I mean the basic epistemological theory. I don't think we can necessarily have proper foundations, but mankind is going to work based upon foundations anyway so we may as well use the ones we work with.

I would distinguish between using a grounded, or middle-range, theory, and having "foundations." In my field of sociology, Talcott Parsons was a foundationalist. He created this enormous framework and specified how each element was related to other elements. Robert Merton, on the other hand, coined the term, "middle-range theory." He argued that specific theories should be developed to explain particular categories of observation.

Parsons and Merton were contemporaries. However, these days, Parsons' ideas are rarely used. Merton's approaches, however, are frequently criticized in certain areas (especially his view of social deviance), but they are still relatively common in the field.

The problem with foundationalisms is that they are difficult, or impossible, to be tested. Sigmund Freud's psychological philosophy has largely been abandoned and replaced with Emil Kraepelin's genetic and biological nosology. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs has no status at all among most researchers.


You need to assume that your observations are valid and that the logic by which you see similarity is valid. Both of those are basic beliefs, and you are going to derive truth from them using this logic:

There is nothing wrong with making assumptions. The problem is with assumptions which cannot be tested. That is how psychiatry developed around the philosophy of Freud. The field is only now coming to its senses.


The foundational assumptions can never be tested though. If they could be tested then why on earth make them a foundation? I will agree that our pursuit of truth should be tailored to the criterion we seek when finding truth, but that does not mean we know truth in either fashion. I still think there is a foundation underneath every approach.

In most cases, assumptions are not directly testable. Indirectly? Sure.
However, the farther one moves from empirical observation, the less likely that those assumptions will come under close scrutiny. That is part of the reason Freudianism survived so long.

posted at 10:50:04 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


I really don't think that most progressives are that economically minded as to be called Keynesian or neo-Keynesian. The intelligent ones perhaps, but, like conservatives, the dumb progressives get suckered into all sorts of odd economic ideologies. So even though we have supply-side economic ideas twisted beyond all virtue on the right, we also have some left-wing gobblety gook on the left.

That is probably true. I am referring mostly to my colleagues in the economics department (just down the hall from me).


3 Neoconservatism is a blend of things. It is arguable that they are less liberal than other conservative groups as even though they tend towards some economic liberalism their policies are less liberal.

Neoconservatism is rejected as progressive by progressives, and it is rejected as conservative by most paleoconservatives (including media commentators like Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak).


4 Isolationism does not say much about liberalism outside of the trade stance perhaps. The lack of military interventionism could be argued as more liberal but the trade stance can easily be regarded as illiberal at least from an economics point of view.

Traditional political liberals and conservatives in the U.S. generally agreed on isolationism - especially prior to World War II.

posted at 12:59:34 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


I actually like foundationalism. Even though the foundations may be horribly untrue, I still think that without premises the notion of truth is impossible.

Which foundationalism? These days, foundationalism is generally associated with essentialism, the idea that there are universal quiddities behind all observable phenomena. The problem is, of course, that no one has ever seen them. They are simply speculations.


Anything we note is still based upon a foundation though. Even what we see with our eyes may not be actual information and to process that information we must still use a number of assumptions that may or may not be true no matter what path we take when processing it. I dunno, perhaps I assume that without reason we cannot process data and because reason cannot function without premises, we still effectively end up back at foundationalism.

The question is: Do I need to make assumptions which go beyond my observations? I would say, no, I do not. I can observe similarities between entities (like individual human beings), and draw grounded conclusions, without postulating a universal human essence (like "human nature").

posted at 12:49:29 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Postmodernism is not a coherent position. It is more of a questioning attitude to modernity (or to certain aspects of modernity). About the closest one comes to a postmodern philosophy is Lyotard's idea of the incredulity of metanarratives. However, there is also postmodern art, postmodern literature, and postmodern architecture - none of which has much in common with Lyotard.

posted at 12:03:09 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Thursday,December 20,2007

IMO, the problem is with attempting to turn rationalism and logic into a foundationalist philosophy. All evidentiary systems are based on some kind of alethiology.

Many scientists, especially social scientists, have recognized the problems with the hermeneutic circle (the interdependency of parts and wholes) and have moved from positivism to post-positivism. Similarly, a recognition of the limits of rationalism would lead one to a post-rationalist standpoint.

posted at 11:44:19 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

As an American, I expected that 9/11 would probably wake most Americans up to the problems with the U.S.-dominated corporatocracy. I was wrong. The corporatocracy is stronger, not weaker. Since then, I have given up on high political expectations.

posted at 10:47:07 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,December 17,2007

White males have the least to gain and the most to lose from any structural changes.

posted at 08:33:58 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Quote wrote:

I really don't get the problem with the term "disability" or the term "abnormal." The vast majority of people are at the center of a bell curve of various traits and people that are for whatever reason several standard deviations from the center are going to have a hard time totally fitting in with society as a whole when the majority of people that are at the center of the bell curve.

As with all words, it is usage, history, and interpretation. Disability focuses on what people cannot do. Abnormal has generally been used by psychologists and psychiatrists to refer to people with mental disorders or mental illnesses.

posted at 08:17:04 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Certainly, a lot of those "isms" don't belong on the same page as racism, antisemitism, sexism, and forms of homophobia. Linguisticism? Adultism?

By putting them on that page, I am not trying to establish equivalence. As a sociologist, I begin by treating each social construction (or ideology) separately. I don't assume that they are related. Afterwards, people can begin looking for similarities.
I find that associating oppressive ideologies often begins in people's real experiences. For instance, a person victimized by racism may meet (or read about) someone victimized by, say, sexism. They then see aspects of their experiences in those of the other person.


No, being offended is never mentioned, but would you agree that people feeling entitled to take offense at the words or actions of others is the frequent result of being placed in an oppressed class? For example, if I made the statement "many teenagers today seem complacent and unmotivated," couldn't a teenager in the room stand up and accuse me of Adultism, even though I wasn't referring to him or her personally but just making a general statement that may or may not be true, but certainly not an act of oppression.

In my Social Problems classes, I find that the people who are most often offended are white males! It happens almost every semester. It is the people who occupy positions of power in a society who sometimes react the strongest when it is threatened.

posted at 07:22:50 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


I'm wondering about the ableism ideology, because i realised the other day that what is considered disability often depends on who is in charge.

All of the ideologies I listed are based on who is in charge. As Foucault indicated, it is always the people in power who construct reality and knowledge for the rest.


In fact it's not a disability but a difference of optimum functioning requirements. But when say that one group has sensory processing issues it defines them as the one with the problem, and the environment as neutral/normal/innocent.

Personally, I like the term "differently abled," since it acknowledges that power can be taken from the oppressor while empowering the oppressed.

posted at 05:02:44 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

posted at 02:09:23 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,December 16,2007


That sounds like Deism or Spinozism.

Weak theism, at least in my own case, is probably midway between deism and theism. I am not exactly a deist, since I accept the possibility of supernatural intervention. I just don't assume that such intervention takes place, and I consider questions of the supernatural to be scientifically irrelevant. Spinoza was a pantheist. My view of God is transcendent, not immanent.


If you believe that supernatural intervention can take place, 1) doesn't that mean that god is therefore immanent? and 2) therefore doesn't that make god scientifically relevant?

No, because immanence is generally used to refer to personal presence. I accept that the results of God actions can be present or observable but not God.


In other words, if you think that god does intervene in this world, wouldn't that make god subject to scientific hypothesis?

No, because, as I said, I do not assume divine intervention. I accept that it sometimes occurs. Prediction, from my standpoint, would be impossible.

As a social scientist, I am functionally an agnostic (as Huxley defined the term). However, when it comes to nonscientific, nonempirical issues - like ethics and teleology - I am a theist. That is my approach to weak theism.


The one problem with your position then, is that it is susceptible to FSM type reductio-ad-absurdum arguments. Belief in a god that never leaves physical evidence behind is in the same category as magical pink unicorns, flying teapots, FSM and the like.

I am not saying that God does not leave behind physical evidence. My approach is simply to bracket the possibility.

posted at 06:11:42 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I am a weak theist. I believe in God, but I draw no connection between that belief and my approach to the sciences. For instance, I accept evolution, not "theistic evolution."

My weak theism is a combination of theism and apatheism:

"Apatheism (a portmanteau of apathy and atheism), also known as pragmatic or practical atheism, is a subset of atheism (when atheism is defined as lack of belief in deities, rather than specific disbelief in deities). An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to human affairs.

"The eighteenth century French philosopher Denis Diderot, when accused of being an atheist, replied that he simply did not care whether God existed or not. In response to Voltaire, he wrote,

"It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God.

"Jonathan Rauch described apatheism as 'a disinclination to care all that much about one's own religion and even a stronger disinclination to care about other people's.'"

Wikipedia entry on apatheism

Scientifically, I am an apatheist. When it comes to ethics and teleology, I am a theist.

posted at 11:50:38 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,December 15,2007


These laws are NOT Jewish - they predate Judaism by a few thousand years, but pertain to all of Humankind.

Historically, I would question that claim. The Noachide laws are first found in the Sanhedrin section of the Nezikin (a part of the Talmud). Claims for the pre-talmudic origins of the Noachide laws, while commonly made by some Orthodox Jews, are talmudic and post-talmudic. They can only be supported through some rather "creative" hermeneutics of the Tanakh.

posted at 10:58:36 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,December 14,2007

I think one could also say that atheism takes a deductive approach to questions of divinity; while agnosticism take an inductive approach to those same questions. It seems to me that the reason Huxley coined the term "agnosticism" was to establish a more inductive approach for questioning divinity as opposed to a deductive, or first principles, method.

posted at 07:38:59 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

A p

posted at 07:21:35 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Most people think inside of their boxes (authority systems). Thinking outside of the box, like rejecting the war on terror (and the benefits it brings to power elites) can be frightening. We have the power to reject all power elites.

posted at 07:18:22 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Narratives are stories which benefit power elites. Like, the war on terror is a narrative which was set up to benefit the U.S. and its allies. The greatest weapon of the masses against authoritarian narratives is a recognition of our power to deconstruct narratives and to construct new ones.

"A power accepted is a higher power. A power rejected is no power at all" - Mark Foster

posted at 07:04:54 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,December 12,2007


An "atheist" doesn't necessarily believe that god(s) don't exist; an atheist merely does not hold an active positive belief in god(s). The word "agnostic", on the other hand, makes no claim as to the beliefs of the individual as they pertain to existence of god(s); an "agnostic" is someone who does not believe that whether or not god(s) exist(s) can be known.

Yes, that was Huxley's definition of agnosticism. However, as far as atheism goes, there are many variations of the strong-weak difference.

For instance, some people call Buddhists atheists. However, does it make sense to refer to an adherent of a religious category which simply has no concept of a creator-god an "atheist"? Some Buddhists argue that atheism only makes sense in a monotheistic context. Since most Buddhists live in non-monotheistic societies, use of the word "atheism" makes no sense.


Someone can believe that whether or not god(s) exist cannot be known, and still believe in god(s). One can believe that whether or not god(s) exist cannot be known, and still believe that there isn't/aren't god(s). Thus, there can be both theistic agnostics and atheistic agnostics.

What you call a theistic agnostic, I would call a weak theist. (For what it's worth, I am a weak theist.) However, I agree with your point.


Furthermore, since atheism does not necessarily imply disbelief in god(s) and can instead imply lack of positive belief in god(s), one who takes no stance on the existence of god(s) can be described as an atheist. I am an agnostic atheist. I do not believe that whether or not god(s) exist can ever be known. I do not believe in god(s), which makes me an atheist. I do not disbelieve in gods, which does not make me a theist.

What you just described is what Huxley called agnosticism.


It is inaccurate to view "theism" and "atheism" as polar opposites, just as it is inaccurate to view "chicken" and "not chicken" as polar opposites; logically speaking, one refers to a specific thing, while the other refers to everything else.

Yep, there are subcategories of each.

posted at 07:11:22 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I run into those you called "rabid atheists" all the time in chat rooms. The more technical terms are "strong atheists" and "weak atheists." A strong atheist is someone who strongly believes that God, the Goddess, gods, or goddesses do not exist. A weak atheist is someone for whom God, the Goddess, gods, or goddesses simply have no significance.

Strong atheists frequently get into arguments with theists - for instance, deconstructing a religious text (the Bible, Qur'an, etc.) to show its contradictions. Weak atheists would not care one way or the other. Issues of divinity are simply irrelevant to them.


I would argue that agnosticism in its "true" form is, inherently, also atheism.

There are many definitions of agnosticism. In common, or nontechnical, usage, some people even define an agnostic as someone who is "not sure."

As to "true" forms, being a nominalist, I reject the existence of forms altogether; and, to me, reality or truth is only a name for our constructions. How can there be a "true form" to a word? Agnosticism or atheism are, like all words, devoid of essential meaning. The meaning is only in the minds of the speaker/writer and listener/reader.


I agree that there isn't a "true form", but there are things that are accurately categorized as such according to the agreed-upon meaning, and there are things that aren't.

Often many associated definitions, which demands precision. I agree with Humpty Dumpty:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (chapter vi)

Speaking as a radical sociologist (which is my approach to the discipline), there are times when communication should break down - when the very situation of communication breaking down is advantagous. Deconstructing words and sentences questions assumptions, and it empowers others to know that they can do the same. We are not captives of the labels of others.

posted at 05:49:12 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,December 11,2007

The definition of socialism by Marx and Engels differs from most contemporary usages. What they were talking about is a situation in which unionized workers would, through revolution, seize control of the government and of the means of production (the factories) in order to institute forced collectivization.

Anarcho-communism is a type of left communism. Marxian communism is also left communism. Some, like Trotsky, would have argued that 20th-century so-called communism was really state capitalism, i.e., with the government taking the position of capitalists. That approach would have been anathema to Marx.

posted at 08:11:45 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Marx and Engels were quasi-anarchists. In Das Kapital, Engels wrote, "Even the state would wither away and die." From a classical Marxist standpoint, socialism (a dictatorship of the proletariat) would follow capitalism. Communism (a stateless, classless society) would then succeed socialism.

Many writers who were more explicit anarchists rejected the intermediate stage (the dictatorship). However, they have largely embraced Marx's views on communism.

The construction of communism as totalitarian was a 20th-century innovation. However, Marx was a 19th-century writer and cannot be held responsible for the innovations of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, etc.

posted at 01:33:45 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,December 10,2007

Most people I meet, including my students, say they are bored (with life, their friends, their activities, etc.). Many of us both desire human connections and are simultaneously afraid to reach out to find them.

The Internet was, at one time, expected to deal with that problem - bringing people together who share common interests and experiences. However, after a time, even that becomes predictable, and people look for more stimulation.

As I see it, the root of the problem is not the boredom (read: loneliness) or predictability which so many people complain about. It is an angst (anxiety) resulting from an inner emptiness. Most people simply do not know themselves that well.

posted at 09:13:07 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,December 09,2007

Mormonism is one of several classically American religions which have had some success in other countries. (Others include the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists.) It is a fascinating religion to study. Reading its scriptures gives some good insights into 19th-century American Romanticism.

posted at 08:56:58 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Someone wrote:

If Scientology were just a belief system, I wouldn't care if it continued to exist, but from what I've seen of it, it seems more like a huge religious pyramid scheme.

Some people have made the same argument about the Roman Catholic Church. Once you open the floodgates of government intrusion into the behaviors of private actors, one can find a justification for banning many activities.

posted at 03:38:08 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

A nation-state is different from a nation. For instance, some nation-states, like the former Soviet Union, actually incorporated several nations. That became apparent with the dissolution of the USSR.

The nation-state model began as various populations began to challenge monarchs. The U.S. and France were among the first do do so. Later, Britain joined the ranks of nation-states by subordinating the powers of its royal family to a house of commons and its prime minister.

posted at 03:27:37 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Many mass murderers seem to kill themselves. However, mass murder is a time-specific event. It would make sense that the anger which would, in the moment, drive them to commit mass murder might also lead to suicide.

On the other hand, I cannot think of many serial killers who have committed suicide.

posted at 12:11:37 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,December 08,2007

The term disability can be defined in various ways. From a legal standpoint, a disability is any condition which would entitle one to coverage (like SSI in the U.S.).

There are various other views on the disability issue. Some people say that we are all disabled (or differently abled). From that standpoint, disability becomes a matter of social context (and sometimes degree).

Others object to such a broad definition. They argue that, if everyone is disabled, then disability becomes simply a name for the human condition, and the unique experiences and struggles of persons with specific categories of disability become marginalized.

posted at 02:56:26 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


Your reasoning depends on the notion (as you explained in a reply to someone else, perhaps nominalist), that you have to observe the whole chain of causation. I say you never observe causation, you always infer causation, you always infer it from series of past observations, and it doesn't matter how far you go into the past. It only matters how good your data and your reasoning about the data are.

Yes, causation is a theory, or a particular explanatory (theoretical) dimension, based on assumptions (such as correlation, time order, and nonspurious correlation).

posted at 07:26:20 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Thursday,December 06,2007


... you may be interested to hear that Prof. Fitzgerald of Trinity College, who I have met several times, says that the DSM-IV should be ripped up and burnt because several personality disorders are in fact modified expressions in adult, of developmental disabilities that exist from birth. I agree with this.

That could be. The problem is that, for now, much of the categorizing is guesswork. Once neurologists can more clearly connect cognitions and behaviors to specific brain centers and rates of neurotransmission, the entire nomenclature will likely be revamped. However, it is still a lot better than what we had up until the DSM-III (and revisions). At least the Freudian stuff has largely been discarded.

posted at 09:53:12 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,December 05,2007

There is currently a rapprochement between neurology and psychiatry - so much so that some people have suggested the possibility of an eventual merger. The argument is that psychiatry developed on the foundation of a (now largely abandoned) philosophy (Freudian psychoanalysis), while neurology developed based on hard scientific research. However, given that psychiatry is increasingly moving toward neuropsychiatry, the reasons for two distinct disciplines seem, to some people, less desirable.

Eventually, the DSM may be entirely restructured according to a combination of neurological research and responses to treatment over the life course.

posted at 03:05:54 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Tuesday,December 04,2007

Someone wrote:

Yes, a lot of jews can be pretty annoying, I think most jewish people would agree with you on that.

Some people, in general, are annoying, and others are not. Speaking as both a sociologist and as a person who grew up in Jewish neighborhoods in New York City (sections of the Bronx and Queens), I would suggest the following:

What some people interpret as "annoying" about certain aspects of Jewish culture, or certain common personality types found in Jewish communities, they would probably find annoying about, say, aspects of Italian and Greek culture, too.

Jews, Italians, and Greeks (among others, including African Americans), especially those who grew up in strong ethnic neighborhoods, are often much more emotionally expressive than what is considered normative in most assimilated "white" areas of the U.S. By and large, an unspoken rule in American culture is to be quiet and unobtrusive, but not all American ethnics have been socialized (raised) that way.

However, the type of behavior which one sees among most Americans is, I can tell you from personal experience, often taken by people in certain ethnic neighborhoods (including some Jewish ones) as stuffy and overly formal. In other words, what may seem like rudeness to some of those unfamiliar with particular ethnic populations in the U.S. can simply be regarded as subcultural differences.


Rude is rude. The people in the subculture are being rude to each other. They are just more tolerant about it.

I suppose I do not agree with you that "rude is rude." Rudeness is culturally contexted.

For instance, it is considered rude to smile at someone one is meeting for the first time in Korea. In the U.S. and Europe, smiling at almost anytime is seen as being friendly. The differences regarding smiling have resulted in a lot of needless misunderstandings between first-generation Korean immigrants to the U.S. and other Americans

posted at 07:01:53 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

As I said, I like Fuller. I think he had a brilliant mind, especially when it came to architecture.

My difficulty with him is that, like many great thinkers, he ended up taking his ideas much too seriously. His metanarrative was, as you say, based on patterns. He applied that metanarrative to his observations and, because it seemed to fit, he assumed that he had discovered something significant.

The late sociologist, Harold Garfinkel, wrote that people often presume that their assumptions concerning their experiences are rational. They then consistently interpret experiences in terms of their commonsense assumptions. Ultimately, they conclude that, because they obtain consistent results from applying their consistent assumptions, that they have discovered consistency. Actually, they have simply engaged in circular logic.

Fuller was a brilliant man. However, his sweeping generalization concerning certain patterns is a clear example of the problems with deductive logic.

posted at 06:41:18 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,December 03,2007

Jung indicates, in some of his writings, that he saw the collective unconscious and its archetypes as genetic. In that sense, he appears to be more of a biopsychologist (or sociobiologist) than, as some have portrayed him, a mystic.

posted at 06:57:23 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,December 02,2007


Buckminster Fuller demonstrated that all entities are events.

I admired Bucky Fuller for many reasons, but his metaphysics is not one of them. (Actually, I am suspicious of all metaphysical systems.) Whether entities are events, an idea which I suspect he borrowed from process philosophy, I cannot say. However, we were really discussing the reverse: whether events (like the unconscious) are entities. I am agnostic concerning both statements.


In his work "I seem to be a verb" he laid out a good case that what we call things are in fact happenings - a mountain, for example, is in fact a large, extremely low frequency wave. This wave in the topography can be interpreted as a static thing or entity by humans whose temporal reference is many orders of magnitude smaller than the mountain.

Why do you think that his assertions established a good case?


Buddhism and some other traditins originating from Vedantic thought arrived at the same conclusions via a different path.

It depends on the school of Buddhism. However, yes, to those connected with Nagarjuna. Still, precedent is not evidence.

posted at 07:47:14 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,December 01,2007

Someone wrote:

I'd have to agree with Codarak here, much of this "oppressed" and "oppressor" classification ends up in unfair double standards to benefit the "oppressed" while demonizing the "opressors", even in situations where the "oppressors" are only labled as such because of something their --ancestors-- did wrong hundreds of years beforehand.

In sociology, when we refer to oppressors and oppressed, we are speaking of statuses, not individuals. For instance, a person who might hold an oppressor status relative to the ideology of racism might hold an oppressed status regarding the ideology of sexism.

I do not demonize oppressors. Those are value judgments. I examine oppression as a way of making sense of the distribution and utilization of power in human societies.


This is essentially what political correctness is, hanging onto the past and breeding victimology to flip the script in an act of hypocracy. State-sponsored reverse bigotry. Reverse bigotry is still bigotry.

I refer to racism, in the U.S., as an ideology which benefits those who have the socially constructed status of "white" and to sexism, in the U.S., as an ideology which benefits those who have the socially constructed status of men. I recognize that oppressed peoples, like racial minorities and women, can sometimes internalize the oppression and use it against others. However, I would call that internalized racism or sexism, not "reverse bigotry."


Take illegal immigration for example, the marxists here have clearly intimidated many people into blindly supporting it merely by telling them that if they stand against it, their "racist", despite the fact that it creates a burden on our resources, leaves us open to unknown criminal entities, lowers our wages, and comes out of our taxes to pay for them.

My position is that I reject the right of the U.S. government to keep poor people from crossing its southern border.


So we're "racist" for supporting something that is obviously a neccessity for our own economic and legal well being? We're "racist" for not agreeing to be robbed?

As I said, I apply those labels to statuses, not to individuals. In sociology we use the original definition of racism, as a social ideology, which is different from the concepts of "racial prejudice" and "bigotry."


You do understand that without those borders, we'd fall into an economic collapse and into the hands of globalist bankers and corporatists who would turn us over to a tyrannical UN?

I support the socialistic version of globalization, not one ruled by an international corporatocracy.


Nominalist, you are supporting disorganized anarchy, lets say an illegal murders someone, how can we prosecute or even figure out who committed the act if we have no file on the perp? We don't even know that person exists.

To me, social justice for the poor trumps national borders. The issue you raised is a technicality and could be addressed by further empowering an agency like Interpol.

I would support a benevolent despot, one who would collectivize the U.S. economy, as a last resort, yes. However, only as a last resort.

I never said anything about not protecting international borders. I said that I believe that the poor should be allowed to enter. Second, I have never seen any convincing evidence that allowing Latinos to come into the U.S. and work would "plunge us all into poverty."

I do not support "illegal immigration." I support legalizing the right of the poor to enter.


Do you realise it's not in YOUR hands who takes over?

The problem is that I despise the contemporary power structure and have no desire to see it perpetuated.


To begin with, this isn't a "latino" issue, there are illegal whites too, as well as legal latino's who are negatively effected by it.

That is true. However, what is "white"?


How can you effectively run an economy if you do not know how many people are living in the country, who are there, if they've got a criminal record, or if theyr on the run? MS13 runs over our borders like wild geese, often kidnapping women and children for profitting off of their sexual exploitations. Minorities are just as capable of doing evil as white people are.

As I said, to me addressing global poverty trumps all of those other issues. IMO, the U.S., as the wealthiest country in the world has, along with other nations of the Global North, a responsibility to address issues of global poverty. The reason why Mexicans are coming across the U.S. southern border is because those issues are not being effectively addressed.


And lets be honest here, we do not have the resources to adopt thousands upon thousands of undocumented hungry people. As I said, I support helping them in ways that won't hurt us.
A despot won't help anyone, I'd rather be hungry and poor and free, than "safe" but not safe from the government.

I reject the concept of "us" except when applied to all of us - in all nations.

Empires have risen and fallen throughout history. The problem I have is with taking a metanarrative, like the illuminati conspiracy, and using it, a priori, to put all the pieces together. That is pure deductive reasoning and not unlike the medieval reliance on first principles.


If a despot took over (which is what is currently happening, possibly by 2012 or 2013 we will have a 1 world dictatorship), there will be no privacy, the RFID chip will be issued and used to replace the monetary system, that chip is linked to satellite technology meaning they can watch our every move. As I said I'd rather be poor and hungry, than be violently oppressed by my own government (please read --every word-- of my last 3 posts before responding, don't ignore that point I made about legal hispanics and illegal white europeans).

That sounds like Alex Jones, illuminati conspiracy, reptillian races, etc., etc. ideas. What evidence do you have for what you wrote - especially for your dates. Doesn't the 2012 date come from the Mayan calendar?


Start by researching Builderbergers, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, major corporations that run the UN. They don't exactly make secret their intentions anymore because they know most people, like yourself, think "that will never happen", and your too brainwashed to accept any proof otherwise.

I have looked into it (at the urging of someone). Generally speaking, large organizations act in their own interests (or perceived interests). If there is a convergence of interests, they may cooperate for a time. That explains the willingness of political conservatives, neoconservatives, and the Christian right to cooperate on various issues (like on support for Israel and the Iraq War). Their ulterior motivations and objectives differ, but their immediate goals have been similar.

There is no illuminati conspiracy. There are only different collectivities with similar immediate goals.


Watch this video:

That video does not lend support to an illuminati conspiracy. It is an indication that many leaders are now advocating global governance. Politically, I agree with them. I am a world federalist.

The problem I have with many of these individuals is that their support for political union is combined with a support for capitalist globalization. In other words, their stated reason for advocating political union is to facilitate corporate profits.


Theyr not hiding it anymore, so it's not a "theory" anymore, it's a fact.

That there are people who advocate global government? Sure. I am one of them. I don't see how that relates to the other stuff you mentioned, like 2012 and 2013.


"They" are the government, more particularly the shadow government ran by corporations and very rich elites. Do your research, theyr not trying to hide it. Rockefeller has publicly admitted to it, Bush and Kerry have both admitted to being members in the Skull and Bones Society and I've put a link up somewhere on this forum proving that as well.

They both belonged to it because they both attended Yale. The Skull and Bones Society is a fraternity for the children of wealthy or prestigious families. The illuminati spin on it is pure deductive reasoning.


I mean damn, talk about not having the balls to accept evidence, that's when you know someone is ignorant. Theyr out there OPENLY ADMITTING their agenda but rather than acknowledge it you just close your eyes and ears and pretend everything is ok because "nominalist is too important to the universe for something horrible to happen to him".

I don't know why you are making it personal. I never implied being "too important to the universe for something to happen to [me]." I simply do not agree with your conclusions. Neither do most people (especially academics).


I mean the tale tale signs are all over the place if you've read about the rise of other dictators. Masonic symbols hallmark many if not most of our corporations. Look at the back of a dollar, you'll see the pyramid with the eye and New World Order written in Latin.

What you see as tell-tale signs, I see as bits and pieces of information selectively put together to make an argument.


Look at the Patriot Act, look at HR1955, a senate hearing coming up on the 2nd amendment (rather you like guns or not, you have to realise one of the first things a dictatorial power does is strip their citizens of arms, so that they can't defend themselves). We go to war on false evidence of Iraq harboring "weapons of mass destruction". Dude there is so much evidence I do not even know where to begin. Scratch that, begin by checking your ego at the door.

What does that have to do with the pyramid on the dollar? Do you see what I mean? The illuminati conspiracy or, more precisely, illuminati conspiracies (since there are several different versions of it), is (or are) a patchwork quilt.

posted at 06:44:06 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster


I ll admit right away that reading some of your posts and learning that you are a college professor lends support to a lot of things I ve read about modern social science, and those things I ve read make me grateful I didn t studied social science at college myself. Sorry to sound harsh. But I doubt I am going to influence your thinking with what I m about to say anyway, whereas you are in a position to influence the thinking of a large number of people.

Your views are familiar. They sound like those of many of my Midwestern neighbors. I am used to people disagreeing with me. I do not agree with most of what you wrote, but I do not find it to be "harsh."


The philosophy of Foucault, the man in your avatar (one of the godfathers of political correctness aka cultural Marxism) is just a dishonest  intellectual justification  for expropriation and social revolution.

I support an intellectual and social (not a political or violent) revolution. I used to be a Marxist. Now, my views would fall under the general heading of critical poststructuralism. The critical part refers to my Marxist influences (which are actually less than they used to be). The poststructural part refers to Foucaultianism.


It is just like classical Marxism in this respect, with its own designated  opressed class  and  oppressor class . No wonder it is so popular among ethnic minorities, feminists and homosexuals, who are its main beneficiaries along with self-interested academics and politicians jostling for status.

You are judging intention. I am content and have no interest in status. I am a tenured full professor. Most other radical sociologists I know are also interested in improving the plights of oppressed peoples.


I wonder how many of these people are aware that cultural Marxism serves their own interests, and how many of them have deceived themselves into actually believing in it. For example, do most non-whites who support affirmative action actually think it is fair and just, or do they do so because they know it is good for them?

I am concerned over those I consider to be oppressed, not my own interest. However, since being diagnosed with AS, I have recently attempted to place myself and my experiences in the context of an oppressed category (neurelitism).


As for yourself, nominalist, I guess much of what you teach your students you learnt from your college tutors before you.

In my case, mostly from my reading and research, not from what I learned in graduate school.


It is not  oppression  but human nature that explains why non-whites feel like outsiders in majority white nations. It is not  oppression  but human nature that explains why heterosexuality is considered normal and homosexuality is not.

As a nominalist, I do not think that there is such an entity as "human nature."

posted at 05:12:00 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Someone wrote:

Do these "oppressed people" I should be placing "at the center of my thinking" include Jewish people like yourself?

Personally, I have never experienced my Jewishness as an oppression. I grew up in a New York City secular Jewish intellectual context. Until I was in my teens, almost everyone I knew was Jewish. I know some people have had other experiences, but I have rarely been bullied for my Jewish background. Anyway, I don't practice Judaism.

Why do you ask? Are you Jewish?

posted at 04:14:49 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I think I am going to turn my birthday into my personal holiday and use it to celebrate my deconstructions of "truth systems."

posted at 03:00:50 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I am a strong advocate of Jeffersonian democracy. Jefferson, who was not only a U.S. president but also president of the University of Virginia, believed that democracy, as he conceived it, could only work with an informed electorate.

I would, however, go beyond Jefferson is suggesting that, in formulating the values to be presented to the young, we need to place oppressed peoples, their lives and struggles, at the center of our thinking.

posted at 11:51:42 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

I respect your views. However, personally, I do not believe in an innate sense of behavioral norms. Children are taught by their parents how to behave. That process of socialization can be seen as a kind of coercion.

Then, there are some people who, for whatever reason, refuse to behave according to accepted norms as adults. There needs to be an option to coerce them them to do so.

posted at 07:15:46 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

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