Is it even possible to know what is offensive anymore?

Can anyone tell me what this guy said that was supposedly so offensive?  From what I can tell, it’s pure PC.  If I had written any of it, I would think that I had sold my soul completely to the Left.  He criticizes Richard Feynman for being a “sexist”, but says that those were horribly sexist, patriarchal times from which we have now been happily delivered, and Feynman was no worse than anybody else in that horrible, horrible age.  The accusation itself seems to be without merit, in that it consists wholly in Feynman being a womanizer, and I can’t think of what principle the Left could use to denounce that.  From what I can tell, the writer is towing the feminist line but was fired for not being hysterical enough.  Or was there something there that I missed?  It’s frightening to think that I wouldn’t know how to avoid PC offences even if I tried.  Selling one’s soul to the Left is actually difficult to do.

Some of the comments at isteve are interesting.  For example

But you gotta love that YouTube video of Gell-Mann putting to rest the mythical Feynman. He makes Feynman out to be a pretentious actor always trying to be cutesy. (An aside: I am always skeptical of people who have a lot of funny occurrences happening to them). I love the bit about how Feynman ridiculed Gell-Mann and called him an ordinary person, a salesman-type, for washing his hands after urinating (Feynman thought hand washing after urinating was unnecessary and superstitious).

When I was a kid I wondered about this too.  It seemed to me that my hands were likely to be dirtier than my penis, since it was my hands that had been out touching foreign objects.  I went ahead and washed my hands anyway (and–don’t worry–I still do), but it’s gratifying to know that I’ve had at least one Feynmanesque thought in my life.

15 Responses

  1. I had the same thought as a child and have not changed my mind since (though I, too, wash after urinating).

    Gell-Mann’s criticism seems odd to me for a different reason. It sounds sort of like “the sky is blue.” How could anyone read *Surely, You’re Joking Mr Feynman* or watch Feynman’s performance at the Challenger hearing and not form the opinion that Feynman was an egomaniacal attention whore? The point of every story in that book is that Dick Feynman is an ubermench and that we’re all lucky to be sharing the planet with him.

  2. It’s at least an excuse to wash your hands a few extra times per day. I mean, you’re in the bathroom anyway.

  3. I agree with Josh, but would add that Feynman’s repudiation of post-micturation lavation is a good illustration of the flaw that conservatives see in rationalism. It may be that the practice of post-micturation lavation arose because of a superstitious belief that the male member is filthy and pestilential, but the superstitious belief caused functionally hygienic (not to mention efficient) behavior. Men who washed their hands after urinating were less likely to get germs in their mouth, eyes or nose, although not for the reason they supposed. Then along comes Feynman the rationalist, who sees through the original reason for the practice, therefore repudiates the practice, and in so doing foregoes the functional benefits of the practice. Somewhere, Edmund Burke is shaking his head.

    With regard to your question about the defenestrated blogger, I think his mistake was to represent Feynman as a rogue, and not as a fiend. A rogue is bad, but nevertheless likable. In our world we are supposed to hate a man like Feynman, not wag a finger at him and chuckle. It is odd that we Christians, with a full awareness of the moral seriousness of sex, are nevertheless at the same time alive to its richly ludicrous side. It’s one of the few ways one can go to Hell looking like a complete fool. Lechery is a sin, but the lecher makes us laugh.

  4. I think they were upset at him for giving a positive review to Nicholas Wade’s “A Troublesome Inheritance” and for talking about sex differences in cognition. This was partly the final straw and also partly just an excuse, from what I understand.

  5. I have trouble even seeing it as a straw. To me, it looks like his “Look–I can be a good PC Leftist. Please let me stay!” post.

  6. JMsmith,
    Could the practice of post-micturation lavation be an instance of ritual purity rather than hygiene per se?

  7. Vishmehr24,
    In a sense, yes. It did, after all, arise in the same culture that devised the motto “cleanliness is next to godliness.” People have often made fun of this motto, but I suspect there is a spiritual aspect to almost all personal hygiene and grooming, since these acts symbolize a degree, however slight, over our beastly nature. Much etiquette works the same way, as out mothers implied when they chastened us for “eating like an animal.” But here again we see an illustration of an error a rationalist might make. He says to himself, my mother told me not to gulp my food because that would be “eating like an animal,” and my mother did this because she was a deluded Christian who believed that I was something other than, or in addition to an animal. Thereupon the rationalist wolfs down his meal, chokes on a chunk of unmasticated meat, and dies.

  8. Superstition seems to be part of our nature. I can imagine both a Catholic and a secular liberal being unnerved by the idea of living in a house where there was a recent, brutal crime e.g. the mass murder of a family. Why should the secular liberal care if he gets a good deal on the house?

  9. It reminds me of that incident at Oberlin College where a white kid posted a flyer inviting people to play soccer, and on the flyer he used the Spanish version of soccer, “futbol”, apparently as a way of reaching out to the Hispanic students.

    One of the Hispanic kids started telling him he wasn’t allowed to “appropriate” that term, that it was racist, etc. so the white kid defended himself by pointing out that he was practically raised by a Hispanic family.

    This of course only made the Hispanic kid angrier, because this meant the white kid was “tokenizing” this other family and so on and so on.

    It seems crazy and unpredictable, but I think ordeals like this actually follow a natural pattern:

    Think of it less like a court judging a man’s fate on the basis of whether he definitely violated a clear set of laws, and more like the leadership of a gang deciding to put a hit on a gang member who transgressed. The gang leaders have already made up their minds to destroy that person, but if presented with the opportunity to draw it out and humiliate him as well, they will do so–as a message to the others.

  10. @Bonald – I agree with your main point. I read this article twice (when it was linked by Steve Sailer) and I couldn’t see what was the matter with it from a PC perspective.

    It seems as if the ‘sputter and point’ tactic works, even when there is nothing to point at – presumably like the Emperor’s New Clothes – once somebody has said that an article is bigoted, sexist, or just (somehow) grossly offensive (which could be for any reason or for no reason) – then nobody wants to admit they can’t see the offensiveness; because that would mean they were a monster of insensitivity.

    So reason is neither asked-for nor offered. The covert message is that if you are a good person you know what was wrong; and if you are *not* a good person then you had better pretend you know.

    After all, the most famous scientist in the world was vilified and sacked with the approval of the most famous scientific journal in the world, merely for being ‘crass’ about a topic where people are supposed to be ‘sensitive’

    http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/james-watson-affair.html

  11. To surprise leftists when they describe my Cerebral Palsy in PC language, I reply that, since that language demeans me, they’ll need to use politically incorrect language instead.

  12. Really, guys?

    So I googled “Is a man’s penis cleaner than his hands?” Most guys think so, apparently, and I’m slightly horrified to learn that about 1/3 of men don’t wash their hands after using the restroom.

    OK, but the thing is, research shows that our undergarments have E.coli hanging out in them like mad, so there’s that.

    Also, when you go into the bathroom, you touch the toilet handle and the doorknob, which are covered in bacteria.

    So there really is a good reason to wash.

    Ugh.

  13. It is possible that they hate Feynman for defending the scientific method, but since they cannot say that, look for other things.

  14. […] no further need to associate with dead white men.  So I see more articles on how Feynman was a sexist, Watson and Crick were racists, Puccini was a fascist, etc.  I’m all for this.  If every […]

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