Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

In discussing what it means for sociology to be a social science with students, I frequently compare it to the physical sciences and the increased difficulty of predicting human behavior compared with, say, the molecules that make up water. I also like to remind them, though, that the supposedly more “objective” physical sciences are not outside of social influence. The other day, two posts that appeared next to each other in Feedly, my RSS reader, demonstrated this.

The first was a Sociological Images post discussing the social construction of fruits and vegetables. In short, though things ranging from tomatoes to bell peppers are scientifically classified as fruits, we socially categorize them as vegetables. Furthermore, in 1893 the Supreme Court sided with public perception over scientific classification in determining that imported tomatoes should be taxed as vegetables.

The second post was from Small Pond Science about paradigm shifts and the need to overcome some accepted scientific assumptions in order to make new discoveries. As Terry McGlynn notes, “Doubt correct dogma, you’re an ignoramus. Doubt incorrect dogma and show that you’re right, you’re a visionary.”

As a bonus, the post next to the Small Pond Science post was about another group of people questioning their assumptions. This time it was ethnographers in sociology. Social scientists and physical scientists aren’t that different after all.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links that will make you question your assumptions via your news feed.

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Female Science Professor has a nice post today about questions that have been raised about Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  Obviously, it is important to thoroughly examine people who will be put in influential positions (clearly, we don’t need someone like this on the Supreme Court), but some of the questions that have been asked about Sotomayer focus on whether, as a woman, she will be guided by her emotions rather than the law.  FSP provides a few examples from people named John:

Republican senators will have to conduct thorough questioning in the confirmation hearings to make sure that she will not be a results-oriented voter, voting her emotions and politics rather than the law. (John Yoo)

She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences. (John Cornyn)

It will be important to determine if Judge Sotomayor will decide cases based on her own personal feelings and political views, or the bedrock rule of law. (John Thune)

She then adds:

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a big computer program to decide cases strictly on The Law? With a program, no one, not even a sensitive male judge, would be tempted to consult their feelings about an issue and we wouldn’t have to worry about all these emotional females populating the Highest Court in the Land every decade or two, tossing aside the rule of law on a whim if it suits their (probably hysterical) feelings to do so.

As an FSP, I am of course always doing that with my own personal research. Despite decades of experience as a scientist, I’ll be doing some research thing, and when it comes time to interpret the results, or make any big decision for that matter, I get all emotional and I forget all the bedrock rules of math and science, and I just go with whatever my emotions tell me to do at that exact moment. I really can’t help it.

It’s too bad I’m not teaching right now, since this would make a great case for the discussion of gender stereotypes.

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Shamus at Scatterplot has posted another reminder that information on the internet is not private.  This time, Justice Scalia is involved:

I’ve enjoyed reading about Fordham university law professor, Joel Reidenberg’s recent class assignment. Basically, Justice Scalia recently scoffed at privacy protections on the internet. So Reidenberg had has class gather a bunch of information about Scalia and send the 15-page dossier to Scalia himself. “Among its contents are Nino’s home address, his home phone number, [his home value], the movies he likes, his food preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address, and photos of his lovely grandchildren.” Scalia flipped out. Others have thought through this exchange better than I, and Reidenberg has responded to Scalia. Odd that Scalia thinks privacy protections are “silly” and yet loses it when someone accesses public data about him.

Meanwhile, information on the internet took another victim when a teenager crashed his Audi S4 while driving with friends.  The driver and passengers escaped with minor injuries, and one of them went home and posted video leading up to the crash, in which the driver hit speeds of at least 155 mph, on YouTube:

Authorities and rescue workers arrived on scene to find that the teens survived with minor injuries and the driver was cited for imprudent speed, but when Dane County Sheriff’s Office found a video of the incident on YouTube, they were none-to-pleased. Rather than just trashing his S4 and walking away from a high-speed wreck with his life, the teen now faces possible reckless endangerment charges via the District Attorney’s Office because he had passengers in the car.

Via: Jalopnik

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