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(As used on ToothyWiki) Doing something which the page's author thinks is very wrong, in a highly opinionated way.

And given that, in a way, everyone is the author of every page, this covers practically everything... - Kazuhiko

Originally a crime against the doctrine of the Universal Church.  Lots of people have been killed for being Heretics.  I can't remember which is most serious out of being a Heretic, Blasphemer, Schismatic or Apostate.
Given that you get burnt at the stake for being an unrepentant (each of them) I'm not sure if seriousness really applies.  --Vitenka

[Forbidden thoughts] (or, another 'Aren't we nerds so superior to norms because [convention has less hold over us]' lovefest).
Hmm - is that anonymous comment an example of current fashion reacting against heretical opinions, or one of a taboo opinion being expressed in front of a disapproving group of peers? - MoonShadow

"Let's start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?"

...except that won't actually go anywhere, since publishing them here would, in fact, be precisely "expressing them in front of a group of your peers", so it stands to reason that the ones people are most reluctant to express - i.e. the most interesting ones - will never get published. Hm. Would anonymity help? Probably not.. - MoonShadow, who's still reading the essay and may write more as he reads on..

Well, you can still answer the question.  My answer is yes.  I'm not gonna elaborate, obviously ;)  --Vitenka

Just read the rest. It doesn't say what I expected it to, but makes a whole lot more sense than what I was expecting. Yes, definitely a good read. - MoonShadow

AlexChurchill and AngelaRayner found it to be a thought-provoking read.  As measured by the fact we stopped to "discuss" (vigorously!) at least ten times during the reading of it.  AngelaRayner wonders whether the taboo that the article doesn't question is the taboo that it might be useful to keep some taboos.  If absolutely everything was questioned by everybody, there would be nothing left to question. 
Is this a bad thing? Besides, the main conclusion drawn from the article, at least for me, wasn't "we should question taboos" - it was more like "if a person or group wants us to overlook the truth or falsehood of a statement in preference to some other criteria for judging it, it might be a good idea to know why they want this, since experience shows they are usually trying to hide something." Which I think is a reasonable statement, on the whole; still, I'm sure plenty will disagree with me. - MoonShadow
We're pretty sure there never would be a society in which everything was questioned, but AR can certainly see that the questioning of taboos is itself a fashion.  It is necessary to have some taboos to begin with to actually question them (although that will always be the case).  And FWIW, the answer to the 'test' question is yes for both of us... reluctant, yes; but we think completely unwilling, probably not.
Um. I'm getting a little confused in the semantics of that statement. It seems to be setting the questioning of taboos as a worthy goal in itself, and then saying that we need taboos to exist in order to be able to accomplish that goal, and if they didn't exist then we would be missing something worthwhile; I can't think of another way of parsing it, and I don't think that's quite the way the author of the article was seeing things - it seems a bit of a non sequitur, almost; it doesn't seem to me to follow from the article text or relate to it much. Can anyone else see what I'm getting at, or am I on my own? What am I missing? - MoonShadow
We have the label 'taboo' at our fingertips. I refer you to the section of the article about the term political correctness, and the beginning of the end of that which spawned it. Surely we should be examining things we *don't* have a widespread awareness of, yet? (By 'should', I mean, of course, to properly follow this fashion for questioning taboos). -- TI

To AC&AR: the article doesn't name taboos to be got rid of, only old ones as examples, ones that are gone. Its purpose is not to question taboos, but to encourage people to do so, to tell them some ways to do so, and what to do once they've done so. Therefore it does not 'not question the taboo that some taboos should be kept' in particular because it doesn't really address any modern day taboo.
Secondly, is it a taboo that some taboos should be kept? A taboo is something that is, by convention, not spoken of. Sex, for example, although that's changing fast. Is it a taboo to say some taboos should be kept? That we're discussing it kind of implies it isn't a very strong one. And even if it was, the article encourages discussion of all taboos, which would include that one.
I think MoonShadow got confused because, for the above reasons, he didn't think that your reply addressed the point of the article, but that might just be phrasing. HTH - SunKitten

"In a field like physics, if we disagree with past generations it's because we're right and they're wrong. But this becomes rapidly less true as you move away from the certainty of the hard sciences." (from article under discussion)
(PeterTaylor) Not only is that nonsense, it's not consistent with the part of the thesis which says "People in the past made mistakes, so why shouldn't we?". Wave/particle duality comes to mind as an example.

Very interesting article. --DR

Having read that and some of the other articles on the site, it becomes clear that the author is simply a fool. - ChiarkPerson
For some reason, one finds it strangely ironic that you should phrase your opinion thus. - MoonShadow
It's also an attack on the author, rather than on the text!  I laugh, I laugh!  --Vitenka  (Come on, if you disagree with it, say WHY so that we can talk about it.)

Taboos seem common in the areas of Sex, Death, Integrity, Status, Dignity.

Speaking of taboos, I've read somewhere that homosexuality and paedophilia is not uncommon in the past... (I can't really remember when or where... ancient greek maybe), since homosexuality is making a come back, how long would you think paedophilia will continue to be a taboo?
Marrying and/or having children at age 11 or 12 is reportedly quite common in parts of Africa. Depends to what extent, I suppose. --TI (The Romans had widely accepted (male) homosexuality, for one.)
Interesting point on paedo there.  I'd say that the subject itself isn't the taboo it used to be - it's being openly talked of in the newspapers.  Suggesting that you in any way support or condone the practice is pretty damn taboo though.  Which doesn't make for a healthy discussion of how you should fix the (perceived?) problem.  I imagine that some psychologists are already telling the papers that "you need to understand what drives these people to this - just attacking them and forcing them underground enflames the problem - we need to be open so that these people can get the help that they need"  Especially with the defence of MichaelJackson? being solely "I didn't do anything 'wrong' - I just sleep with kids" I think that we will begin to see some sensible discussion in about eighteen months, and then it will be underground entirely again in about two years.  Similar to the whole 'rape inside the family' thing was handled a while back.  --Vitenka
Oh, the suggestion that understanding the offender would be helpful has already hit the papers... well, the Guardian, at any rate. During the Daily Mail's (or was it another tabloid, I honestly forget) serialised lynch-mobbing. --TI
So it did.  But it doesn't seem to have percolated down to DinnerConversation level yet ;)  --Vitenka

Edith finds the assertion that Science does not accept taboos to be quite foolish. I'm not sure if CreationScience and PsychicPowers? count (although they do seem to provoke a knee-jerk reaction to debunk in many people) but Eugenics and it's related fields certainly does. Any research that I've come across which goes against the assertion that All Men Are Made Equal is either branded racist or Eugenisist (and thus not worth debunking) or is very careful to make sureit's implications cannot be interpreted as such. Such studies also have a very difficult time finding funding or publishing. This to me seems to count as a taboo. There are very good reasons for this taboo but it is a taboo nonetheless and possibly a dangerous one, if there are no facts to fight the racists then it comes down to a matter of argument and retoric which is far from ideal. Whether we like it or not the taboos of the society in which we live are carried through to the science which we do.

For the record Edith sides with Azimov on this matter. During the civil rights era a journalist phoned up Azimov to ask his opinons on a set of figures which appeared to show a strong difference between the academic performance of African-Americans and Anglo-Americans. Azimov gave the standard response that such figures had a number of different causes and that the variance within groups was greater than that between them. The journalist then asked what would Azimov's response be should it be scientifically proven that the academnic results were not simply due to background and upbringing but were down to the genetics of the students. Azimov responded that to follow that line of thought would mean that Asian-Americans were smarter than both Anglo and African Americans (as shown in the figures in question). He then asked the journalist how he would feel if you were to discriminate on those grounds, Asian-American votes would be worth more, they would get the best seats on the buses and generally be treated as first class citizans. The journalist (Anglo-American) wisely replied that equality was a great thing.

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Last edited December 22, 2004 1:22 pm (viewing revision 34, which is the newest) (diff)