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Some Guidelines for Joy of Science Class Comments

It’s almost time for class to start, and people will want to comment on the posts I’ll be making. I thought I’d offer a few guidelines for “class discussion”.

  • There will be two basic types of posts for each set of readings. One post will include the citation/summary/analyses of each assigned reading. There will be at least one additional post for these readings in which I will offer some discussion of the readings in relation to one another and/or to other material of my choosing.
  • You are invited to comment, as usual, on either post. On the citation/summary/analysis post, I especially encourage comments from individuals who have done the readings and who may want to add something to my summary/analyses – perhaps something else in the reading stood out more to you, or you perceived the main points differently. If you have not done the readings, and something in one of the summary/analyses particularly intrigues you and you want to know more detail, this would be the place to post a question.
  • The discussion post is for more wide-ranging kinds of comments that aren’t limited to the content of the readings. Examples include: relating reading content to real life experience; linking readings to other books or publications; building an argument that contradicts the theory or data of one or several of the readings; extending an argument that’s based on the theory or data in one or several of the readings. In all cases, commenters should try to remember that the theme of the course is pleasure and science. If at all possible, comments should help build the discussion on this theme. Of course, one of the pleasures of intellectual discussion is that it can take you nearly anywhere, so interesting digressions will likely take place.
  • If you are considering posting a comment stating that a particular reading or something I’ve said in the discussion is a piece of total bullshit, please include the arguments that led you to this conclusion, with any relevant references that help support your points. Comments that merely state the reader’s disagreement or dissatisfaction with the readings may be deleted, especially if they are rude. If you are having trouble figuring out what an argument is, consult Dr. Free-Ride’s excellent post on this topic for a refresher. As she says:

The point of an argument is to give good reasons for accepting the conclusion. An argument is something stronger and more persuasive than a mere opinion. What makes an argument more persuasive is that it makes its assumptions clear and then shows how these assumptions lead logically to the conclusion.
A valid argument is one where the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. In other words, if your argument is valid, someone who accepts your premises as true will have to accept your conclusion or else embrace a logical contradiction.

  • Because this is a class, we ought to strive for a respectful tone of discussion. This includes me, so I’ll try to tone down my inner snark. I ask you to do the same.
  • Pay attention to what was actually said when responding to a post or previous comment. For example, if the post/comment refers to “feminists”, make sure your reply addresses the issue in relation to “feminists” and not to “women”; the two are not equivalent. Neither are “gender” and “sex”. Be careful with language. Word choice really does matter.

Here are some examples that may help clarify a few of the points above:
Inattention to word choice:
I think it is stupid to say that feminist scientists would do science any differently. Women can be just as moronic as men.
Here “feminists” and “women” are being conflated. In addition, this post offers only opinion, and not an argument. The commenter would have to give specific reasons for holding this belief, perhaps with examples, or quotes from the literature to back up the assertion, to turn this opinion into a reasoned argument.
Opinion(example drawn from an actual comment** on my blog)
I think that the feminist theory of science is really just an extension of feminism – it doesn’t really ‘deserve’ to be a specific discipline because I don’t think it is adding anything major that hasn’t already been said.
I think that the feminist theory of science is really just an extension of feminism – it doesn’t really ‘deserve’ to be a specific discipline because I don’t think it is adding anything major that hasn’t already been said. For example, Thing A that is a focus of feminist theory of science is adequately covered by Jane Doe in her work on feminism in fill-in-the-blank discipline, as exemplified by her book/publication [citation].
Feminist theory of science seems to focus mainly on these topics: A, B, and C. However, these are just topics D, E, and F from general feminist theory, only applied to science. There is only one feminist theory and you can get everything you need to know about it from these authors: [names of authors].
**Please note I do not mean to be picking on my commenter. This comment was perfectly fine in the context where it appeared. I’m just using it for illustration purposes here.

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