Recently I was reading a book about a spiritual take on life. It was called Liber Nigiri Solis1 and on the 10th page it had a reference made to one Stuart Hall, who wrote an essay called “The Spectacle of the Other.” In wanting to know more of the intimate context of this analysis of the author, I sought to know more of this Stuart Hall (which I knew nothing about.)

This lead me to a series of books and therein I found a review online from someone hostile to the works of Stuart Hall. Their opinion is not as important as their raw emotional diatribe that seemed to react to the author with a great deal of angst. For reference, I’m posting the review below:

If this happened to be a required book for your Race and Ethnicity class (as it was for mine), I apologize in advance. This book is symptomatic of the left-leaning, “group think” that occurs in sociological courses. Having had to read this book, I’ve once again lost the majority of my respect (the little that was left) for the social sciences. This book is difficult to read, both for its run-on sentences and its obvious political siding. Hall does a very poor job of putting complex thoughts into everyday language. That being said, unless you’re willing to waste ten minutes of your time thinking about one page worth of writing, this book isn’t for you.

As a side note and complaint of modern-day sociology/psychology, it’s interesting to note how biased these fields are becoming. As a scientist myself, science is not something taken as opinion–but rather as fact. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” And facts, ladies and gentlemen, are exactly what these classes seem to lack. This book provides us with few numbers, statistics, or any other means of evidence besides anecdotal. Don’t waste your time if this isn’t a required read.

Sherry

The review was posted under the name “Sherry.”

I find the review very interesting and a troubling aspect of our times. The reviewer opens with a complaint that book being referenced requires one to actually think… openly suggesting that spending 10 minutes on a page of the authors writing is too much for her (and by extension, anyone else.)

From there the review of Sherry goes into her personal bias. She starts by attacking the bias of “others,” seemingly unaware of her own bias. She brings up “Left politics” quite a bit and summarizing them as part of “group-think.”

Further, Sherry continues to assert her views as being more valid than most with her positioning of herself as a “scientist.” Facts, you see, for Sherry are all she considers. Due to the lack of Statistical and data in the book it came off as too opinionated and therefore wasn’t real.

Analysis of Sherry’s Complaints

I find it unlikely that Sherry is a “scientist,” in the sense of someone utilizing the scientific method throughout their daily duties. I’m skeptical because of the inherent bias in her own review, without much real data or analysis of the material in the book.

Sherry may have a point about the lack of statistical analysis, but what concerns me here is the emotional reaction to a book because it required Sherry to “think.” This has become a common problem of the current age, where pundits, politicians and news media breaks data down to simplistic models for mental fast-food consumption.

Whether Stuart Hall’s works are valid or not is not the question. My concern is in the common person’s lack of thinking, due to already reaching a foregone conclusion. Sherry is evidently hostile to left-leaning views, and therefore considers them from the start to be wrong. Offering no real analysis of the work, I must conclude she prefers those who agree with their foregone conclusions, rather than reading something that might expand their views.

What Sherry is attempting to do (which is the temptation of many extreme pundits) is to try and create a social theory that works on a simplistic equation… such as 1 + 1 = 2, and therefore anything that abstracts views through opinion or personal analysis (especially when they disagree with it) is wrong.

The human condition and its complexities is beyond simplistic models. Even statistical models fail us, as the Economics joke that “statistics don’t lie but liars use statistics” expresses how easily data can be manipulated to a bias.

If we were to try and predict human behavior, it would require more complex systems like Chaos Mathematics. Even then it would not be perfect… and as for Sherry’s sentiment that Science is somehow pure in fact… Sherry misses some fundamental truisms about science. Science starts with opinion, driven into a hypothesis. It remains in this state of theory until proven one way or another. Even proved data, can change with future data, and the previous thought truisms are then removed and replaced with the new theories based on facts. Few things are clear cut. Outside of the most basic assumptions, few thing boil down to simplistic truths.

Because we lack simplistic models in our reality, we need to be willing to invest our time in the discovery of truth. As the old Zen Koan states, if we can’t take in a different view for analysis, it is like someone pouring tea into a an already filled cup. It simply will spill over. There is no room for discussion as long as someone is unwilling to expand and consider something new.

Footnotes

  1. Sold at Abe Books (anonymous author)

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