Thursday, October 21, 2010

The War to end all Wars!


Since we continue to ponder whether the Humanities or the Sciences are the [better, smarter, sexier, best economic choice, etc.], I will create a place for that ponderance to live and thrive, away from unrelated topics.

I feel I am uniquely qualified to host the conversation. My wife teaches in the humanities and I in the sciences. I read her dissertation, and she has consented that I write better than her students (although, not by much). I don't let her see much of what I write, for fear of the red pen, and she sends me data she collects, that I might turn it into pretty charts.

The rules for comments beneath this post:
1. Stay on topic. Let no other discussion taint these writings.
2. All insults must be in Latin. This includes any foul language, disparaging remark, or etc. directed at another poster. (Thanks, Jim!)
3. There are no other rules

44 comments:

  1. What about us social scientists, huh? What are we, chopped liver?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Being the cocky son-of-a-biscuit I am, I am convinced I am smarter than most people I meet. However, my cockiness does not extend to my entire profession. I think the Humanities wield more power in the world, for it is from these studies that the likes of G.W. Bush (History, Yale) JFK (Foreign Affairs, Harvard) Gordon Brown (Politics, Edinburgh) come from. Sciences, on the other hand, get Rich people who make cool toys, but don't create the policies that run this world.

    The floodgates are open, what do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Alas, what about the poor souls who are both scientists and humanists? Yes, we exist. Well, I used to be one and now i'm the other. I miss being able to write badly.

    :(

    ReplyDelete
  4. Scientific writing is harder than writing about history or literature. We possess a real talent for turning reports of exciting, creative research into the most boring prose. Writing about your life's work in the 3rd person passive voice isn't easy.

    Or, I should say, The real talent for turning reports of exciting, creative research is possessed by scientists.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Without the sciences, the humanities and social sciences wouldn't have the resources to ponder this question.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Te fute, Iacchus - sum asbestiosum.

    (Other than than, I got nothing.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just like knowing stuff, like how magnets work and also what people in Bungo-Bungo Land happen to think about death. In practice, it turned out that I was better at asking people in Bungo-Bungo Land about death than I was at asking magnets how they worked. So, I became a social scientist. But, I endeavor to know at least a bit about what my colleagues in other disciplines do. I have a very productive (financially and academically) partnership with an environmental scientist, but I am told that our sort of interaction is rare in higher ed.

    Ah, I remember. It wasn't magnets that put me off my original major, environmental science. It was a test question in an ecology class where I had to design an experiment about some kind of woodpecker issue. I hadn't a clue. At the same time, I had written a paper about how I would research the role of church attendance in the lives of folks living in public housing. THAT I could figure out.

    Voila, I knew what to do with my life.

    Bufo marenis, Homerus americanus, and...uh...Sahelthropus tchadensis?

    ReplyDelete
  8. And without the humanities, the sciences would lack the literacy to pursue the question.

    I also live in a house divided. I think both have their own challenges. I'm very glad I don't have to deal with dangerous chemicals and dead things (other than the conditions in my building, which could be a whole other post). Beyond the basic statistics and arithmetic I need to do my job, I would be lost with the type of math my husband must model. The sheer number of terms students need to memorize and all the ways in which those terms relate to each other is also a tall order, but he takes it very seriously because he knows he's teaching someone's potential nurse or doctor or research scientist creating the next wonder drug.

    On the other hand, I want to beat him with a clue stick sometimes when he complains about the number of papers he has to grade. Because people think English is subjective, I get more arguments about content and grades (though I concede the creationists give him a run for his money). And because I'm mostly online, I have to worry far more about whether my students can read effectively as I'm not giving them information orally to reinforce what they are supposed to learn.

    Oh, by the way, Ben, I have to teach scientific writing as part of my job too. The scientists told us they had too much content to cover in their courses to deal with that "service component." So bring on the lab reports and the manuals!

    ReplyDelete
  9. EnglishDoc, we aren't too busy, we just don't know how to teach writing and we don't want to be held responsible when our students can't write. That's the english department's jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I get nervous when ANY department believes it knows what ANY other department's job is. Those English and Math folks get fucked on this ALL the time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh God, EnglishDoc, don't get me started.

    First of all, I want to be clear that I'm very interested in an open dialogue and debate, but I don't want to be shut down because my views are stronger than yours or anyone elses.

    The humanities, and especially English should be taught at a sort of charter school for students who don't want to be challenged by sciences or engineering.

    Look at the way in which English professors, for example, grade. If Johnny can "feel something" about a Walt Whitman poem, he will succeed. He might even get a ribbon.

    I've even seen History and Philosophy profs grade based on how students put essential lessons in their own words, with their own understanding.

    I'm sorry. That's nice for a summer camp assignment.

    Come to the sciences if you're ready to test yourself against the best thinkers and the highest order of work.

    My eight year old could get a BA in English, and I'm not joking.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jim wrote: "Second, this could be math, math is like music or art, you can either do it or you can't."

    I'm not sure I buy that. I think that most people can be taught to be competent illustrators, and I think most people can be taught to play an instrument at some level, and most people can learn math. For some reason, our culture chooses to label these as things that "only some people" can do. Sure, not everyone should do these things as a vocation, but many people are capable of doing them to some degree...especially if they have encouragement and training with concrete skills.

    I do wonder if I would have done better in calculus if my TA hadn't refused to see me because I was a "girl" and everyone knew that "girls were bad at math."

    True story. I hired a tutor.

    ReplyDelete
  13. On the other hand...I might be up to four hands now...I don't build things that people have to drive on without dying, and I don't teach people to build those things. That fact is indisputable.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't give a crap about how Johnny feels about Whitman. His opinion is worth about as much as his opinion is regarding whether the earth is round. Johnny needs to be able to make meaning from text using a variety of tools: literary, rhetorical, cultural, and grammatical. If Johnny has no evidence to back up his claims, he fails. If Johnny doesn't understand the basic premises of what he's reading, he fails.

    I will freely admit there's much I don't know about the sciences. I attended a SLAC and was exposed to them, and I live with them daily through my choice of spouse, but I don't work in the discipline. You don't really know that much about what I teach or how it's taught. You've merely formulated an opinion based on anecdote and then presented it in an insulting manner (and not even in Latin, which by the way falls under the humanities rubric). How very scientific of you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The ascendancy of the sciences is really only a couple of centuries old, and springs from the discovery that money could be made from them. There were scientists, or natural philosophers, before that realization, but there was no great divide; we were all part of the same endeavour, to discover as much as we could about our world and ourselves. We still are; slanging each other is improper and unbecoming, surely, to scholars and teachers.

    I am always happy to have science students in my classes because they don't strike me as smarter, but they often strike me as better-disciplined than my humanities majors. Not in the sense of "less likely to act out in class", but in the sense of "more likely to do their work when it was assigned and hand it in on time". This is purely subjective of course. If I'm right, I assume it comes from the volume of work in the sciences - at least when I was taking those classes, there were more regular assignments and if you didn't do them you were going to be lost the following week; there was no way you could wait till the end of term and suddenly do all of it in 3 days, which is by no means an unheard-of tactic in the humanities. (I try to encourage everyone to stay in the game with several small assignments over the course of the term.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Tim: such "charter" schools exist. Commonly called Small Liberal Arts Colleges. And they have a parallel, too. I attended a small engineering school. Not only did my degree require no english courses or social science courses, it didn't offer them. One department covered everything that was not engineering math or science, and it was a small department.

    But I digress. IQ has been mentioned by one who wrote a paper discussing it's faults some years back.

    Claiming that knowledge of magnets or some other natural phenomena in addition to the humanities is a fundamental requirement for intelligence is fallacious. That is a sign of breadth of education. At the undergraduate level, a Jim points out, many more humanities/social science courses are taken by math/science types than vice versa. This is a product of our educational system, and is most definitely not a sign of differing intelligence, certainly not on the surface of the statistic.

    As Merely points out, this distribution of expected coursework comes from the history of what we viewed as education. This concept of what should be taught (or learned) in a complete education is certainly an interesting one, but is also off topic.

    How does one measure intelligence across so different a gap in varied abilities? What is the measuring stick capable of determining that difference?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I won't break out the Latin just yet, but Not Jim, you are really off base here. I don't know anyone in the humanities or social sciences who gives credit for "feelings." Humanities and Social Science disciplines have standards, and they are quite rigorous. Your statement merely shows that you have no understanding of what those standards are.

    As for Jim, don't make me go all post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy on you. You've described something with numbers here, but you are a long way from demonstrating anything like causation. There are a number of possibilities that could explain what you are observing (bad secondary education in math and science comes to mind) none of which rely on some ephemeral and undemonstrable concept of so-called native intelligence or talent as an explanation. But I will concede that there is more grade inflation in the humanities--which is not to say there isn't the same thing in the sciences, just not as much. That too has a history that has nothing to do with intelligence or natural disposition. It may have something to do with Vietnam and the draft though...

    And science's presumptive superiority also has a history that has little to do with standards, intelligence, or anything else that's being discussed in here, and a lot to do with social norms and how the disciplines have managed to position themselves into social hierarchies. And since scientific knowledge is itself a socially embedded production, once you scratch the surface there is precious little left of the objectivity that science claims. Yes, science tries to describe and explain real stuff that is out there in the world, but it is an imperfect description and an even more imperfect explanation. Science is cool and all, but it isn't the be all and end all of anything.

    The humanities and social sciences also describe and explain things--in their case social and cultural phenomena that cannot be reduced to a set of mechanical physical causes. These too elude perfect description, so we keep going at it. The fact that none of the three branches of university knowledge is totally successful is what keeps all of us employed and keeps the whole thing going. If anyone came up with the perfect answer to any of these questions, we'd all soon be out of business.

    But keep believing you're smarter if it helps you get through the day.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'd add that the whole two cultures debate, especially in its twentieth-century manifestation has just about fuck-all to do with whether scientific knowledge is better and a lot to do with the politics of the British academy in the sixties--especially new left vs. old left disputes. There is a great recent book by a young historian of science about this. The title, somewhat unimaginative, is The Two Cultures Debate. Read it, you might learn something.

    Likewise, because, G-d, I know this is coming next, the Sokal hoax had fuck-all to do with the intellectual vacuity of the humanities and everything to do with fissures within the American academic left, as well as the huge shift in funding and prestige away from theoretical physics towards applied physics that took place as the cold war came to an end.

    And by the way, I know Alan Sokal. Original Jim and Not Jim, neither one of you is an Alan Sokal.

    Archie out.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ooops, I just read Jim's last. You can disagree all you want, but that is a feeling, not a fact. Science as we understand it is less than four-hundred years old. And science's preoccupation with producing technological artifacts is even more recent. You are making the elementary error of thinking that just because today's science tilts towards the applied side of things that it has always been so. It hasn't. I don't have time to school you on this, but I can provide an extensive bibliography if you like.

    As far as your view of technology as a driving force goes, that kind of technological determinism has been widely discredited in the history of science and technology. It is tempting to read a machine's history backwards from its final form, as if the outcome explains the intent. It doesn't--there's that post hoc fallacy again. To use a single example, I'm typing this on a MacBook Pro. It would be a nice story if we could say that back in 1978, when Jobs and Wozniak were sitting in their garage tinkering with stuff that this is what they had in mind. It wasn't, of course, not even remotely. They had no idea that this is what the world would look like thirty years later. They had no idea what kinds of platforms would be successful. They didn't even necessarily envision that everyone would carry their own personal computer around with them everywhere they went. It is nice to think that they did because it makes a tidy story. But the real story is a lot more complicated, a lot more interesting, and has to do with a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with the science involved. The box I'm typing this on contains more than just scientific know-how. It contains a whole world of social relations (where did the REEs in it come from, for example) aesthetic norms (why do people like the look of Macs?) and more. That's way cooler than some story of technological determinism, and it has the benefit of explaining a lot more about the box I'm using than some simple-minded story about how the technology is the logical outcome of science.

    OK, I'm really out now. I could do this all day, but I've got shit to do.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jim wrote: "There are some who believe that to an advanced level (the level needed to be good a deep science), no amount of hard work can overcome a lack of talent (genetic?) in the area." In other words, if I want to be good at deep math, my proficiency needs to be about some innate quality.

    Okay, well, it turned out I was poor at deep science. As I said, that woodpecker question stumped me and also made me realize that the kinds of questions I wanted to answer didn't concern woodpeckers. However, my interactions with folks in the hard sciences lead me to believe that they possess the ability to ask the kinds of questions that deep science approaches.

    My understanding of disciplinary distinctions has less to do with which one attracts the smartest/hardest-working folks and more to do with the questions that each discipline asks. I happen to get off on answering the questions my discipline asks, and frankly, I think that we might have some answers that could help stop people from killing each other off. But that's me.

    Obviously my question-asking ability is not able to diffuse this situation, which might eventually lead to death?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Blackdog - "I happen to get off on answering the questions my discipline asks". That's it exactly. I could have been doing other stuff but this is the stuff I really LIKE to be doing. Which is why I'm good at it, but it's also why I feel very lucky to have this job -when not inundated by snowflakes and admin of course.

    Angry Archie - thank you for your thoughtful and well-informed responses; you do this so much better than I can, not least because you are better-informed. But also because you don't lose your temper. Now I want to be you.

    Jim - have a look at the most recent research. That switch at the upper levels doesn't hold anymore. Turns out the gender gap in math is entirely cultural, at all levels; it correlates with the gender parity in the national culture as a whole.

    Also to Jim, re: trying to redefine "smarter" as "knowing more about more stuff", well, that's not the usual definition of "smarter", and I think you're trying to redefine in order to save a position that actually can't be saved. The generally-agreed definition of "smarter" is, essentially, "has a faster chip". Nothing you've said shows me any such gap either between genders or between disciplines.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Merely Academic,

    If science students seem more disciplined than humanities students, it may be due to the reputations of each field and the type of students that each field attracts. People think science is dispassionate, precision and accuracy, three laws of thermodynamics and all that stuff. The media presents the humanities as being full of touchy-feely, no correct answer, oh captain my captain moments in between bong hits. That's BS but certain types of students are attracted and repelled (hey, magnets!) by how they preceive the two fields.

    ReplyDelete
  23. re: a), c), d), certainly accords with my personal observations. re: b), that's the part that recent (published 2010) research has usefully updated, because the SAT/GRE scores are predominantly North American. Doing a sort by nation and gender parity in the national culture gives different results.

    ReplyDelete
  24. re: d), of course that's also true in non-math-intensive fields. But let us not go there. Or at least, not here and not now.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Holy delete button Batman! looks like I missed out another Jimbo meltdown. What happened? I thought he was doing well with me. I was waiting for his next response. I'm guessing from Merely's text that he pulled the scientists "know more about more" card. There are some good standard responses for that one too.

    In fact, Merely, while I'm blushing a little at the nice words, you should know that I've been teaching the science wars/two cultures debate to undergrads and grads alike for more years than I'd like to admit. So I can run through the high points in my sleep by now. It isn't my area of research, but I have to keep up on the debates for teaching purposes. I've had Jims of various stripes in my undergrad courses (true believers, as I like to call them) so I have a pretty well rehearsed set of moves for just such occasions.

    But it is unusual to meet one at this level. Most of the academic scientists I know are like the Beaker and Froderick. Totally hip and totally easy to talk to. Some of them are stuck in a really positivist worldview, in large part because that's how they were trained; but they usually aren't close-minded about it at all.

    Anyway, I was sort of looking forward to the next round, but it appears it was all for naught.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Whiskey tango foxtrot? I am massively confused about where posts went.

    Jim, if you did that, I am sad to see you go.

    Fab, if you did that, I am disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Alan,

    If you'll check other threads where Jim took part, you will see all of his comments say: "This post has been removed by the author.
    October 20, 2010 7:40 PM," etc.

    I believe there are two ways to delete comments, and authors can delete them or remove them. One of them leaves the "This post has been removed," and the other just disappears them entirely. I don't know what Jim did in any of the instances.

    Finally, in reference specifically to the last part of your comment, as I noted in my open letter, "No past material will be deleted, nor am I going to address any past behavior on the site."

    I meant it when I wrote it, and I stand by it. I have to tell you that I'm doing the best I can, and if I've disappointed you in how I tried to handle things, I offer my apologies.

    Fab

    ReplyDelete
  28. I am amazed at how things have gone down here, the kind of expectations many people on the blog have for the people who run it.

    Alan, you're "disappointed" in what's happened, although you're not even sure it did?

    And for the past 2 days the various remarks of, "I wouldn't stay if this happened," or "My rights are, blah blah blah."

    I am occasionally a little embarrassed about my colleagues and Middling State College, but I'm just sort of ashamed of the whole profession when I see so many academic professionals acting so poorly on this blog.

    I am fairly new to the site, but thought that Fab Sun did a pretty skillful job of defusing what was an increasingly hostile environment.

    And before the day's over he's already been called to the floor of something he may or may not have done.

    Fuck me. I wouldn't do this job for any money.

    By the way, I love some of the posts on here. That Archie guy is funny. Stella seems super smart. Yaro is a nutcase, but I wish he were down the hall from me.

    That's it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Fab: I apologize for thinking it may have been you. I had noticed all of his other comments read "deleted", and I was unaware a comment could be completely erased by the poster. Perhaps I should pay closer attention.

    Rick: Please note the "if" that preceded the "disappointed".

    I am disappointed that Jim left. I think the community here shared the blame for the wars that erupted. In the end, we did drive someone away. Whether or not that was better than some other options, I do not think it qualifies as good.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Not to fear. I'm only reloading.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Each would die without the other.

    Right now, it seems the sciences need a healthy burst of ethical exploration that many humanists can provide (especially re: plagiarism and its avoidance).

    And, well, the humanities could definitely benefit from understanding the numerical and logical research that the sciences have expertise in.

    Then again, as suggested above, I'm a social scientist so I straddle the two. This war for dominance just seems too damn stupid to believe.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Since in many ways reading is the foundation of most learning, and writing and spoken language are how we COMMUNICATE, I'd say that English is pretty damn important in this country. Science is fascinating (usually) and useful, but not as useful as being able to express yourself and generally communicate.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Tim (Not Jim) said...

    > My eight year old could get a BA in English, and I'm not joking.

    I dare you to enroll her in a BA program in English, then, and test this claim.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I agree with Babbling Brook. Kids, don't you think this is a "tastes great"/"less filling" activity?

    ReplyDelete
  35. @No Cookies - "Science is fascinating (usually) and useful, but not as useful as being able to express yourself and generally communicate."

    Why is there this assumption that those in science can't write? Consider the many cases of scientists who wrote successfully: C.P.Snow, R.H.Heinlein, A.C.Clarke, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Martin Gardner, David Watson and more. How many experts in the humanities have made contributions in science?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Paddy,

    You are comparing apples and pencils here. There is a big difference between writing a novel and making a contribution in the humanities. I like Asimov, read all his books. I even have a copy of his "Guide to Shakespeare" somewhere on my shelf. It is a cute book, very entertaining and glib in that way he had, but no one would mistake it for a serious work of literary criticism by a trained scholar.

    Likewise, Sagan and Watson wrote/write works of popular science, not works of literary criticism, philosophy, or history, so they don't really count.

    Heinlein had a degree in engineering from the Naval Academy, sold real estate, invested in a silver mine, and wrote a lot of novels. How exactly was he a scientist again? Clarke had a high school education. Yes, because of his service in the war he wound up participating in the development of radar technology. But if you are going to count him, then you have to count that Dyson Vacuum clown, who was a classics major in college as someone who went the other way.

    That leaves Snow, who is something of a different case. Not to mention that he is in some way responsible for this thread's existence. But let's add two not entirely random names to this list: Thomas Kuhn and the more obscure to most people Norton Wise. Snow, Kuhn, Wise. Scientists turned humanists. There are lots of others as well. Does the sequence matter that much? In other words why are they scientists who made contributions to the humanities? Because the science came first? Maybe. But (Snow is still a case unto himself) they then got training in their humanistic disciplines--Kuhn while a fellow at Harvard Soc. Fel, and in Wise's case an entirely new Ph.D. That being the case, in what way are they really scientists who made contributions in the humanities? They are people who did something almost no one on this blog would want to do: became highly trained specialists in two very different disciplines. At least I know that I would have no desire to go back to grad school for a second helping. Or to put it another way, they are fully qualified members of two different priesthoods. Like a Catholic Priest who has also graduated from Rabbinical School.

    We might ask why there aren't as many cases of people going the other way--getting their humanistic doctorate first and their science doctorate second. But there are a few--I know two personally. I don't have an explanation for it, but I note the fact for the sake of accuracy.

    As for scientists writing in non-scientific venues. Sure, Sagan and others who have carved out careers for themselves as writers of popular science, or in Asmimov's case a novelist, are/were good writers. They are also exceptional. The Beaker had it right when he said that most scientists have mastered a truly stultifying form of the passive voice. There are actually some good historical explanations for why science is written this way, but it is undeniably deadly.

    But so is a lot of academic writing. I can think of a lot of literary criticism, sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology and post-colonial studies that would make a good substitute for Ambien. But that doesn't have much to do with what's being talked about here. Those are specialized texts, written by experts, for other experts, in a specialized idiom. Totally different issue.

    Thanks for coming out. Better luck next season.

    ReplyDelete
  37. alas, goodbye

    I send an email to Fab, perhaps he did not get it, but he was forced to shutdown the comments on the page discussing the new rules of behavior due to a stream of insults (at me, boy, do they teach the meaning of irony anymore?). I will not be responsible for shutting down this site.

    I apologize to Fab, clearly I have no place in this clubhouse. You all preach tolerance, but you do not practice it. You all want diversity, but in fact (as one poster put it) you want a safe place to whine and rub each others back (ooo, I totally agree with your ideas).

    So I will go, I have erased all my comments, pretend I never existed. Return to your regular programming. If you see posts by "Jim" (not even my account, I hacked this one), it's not me (like the one above).

    And show me your intellectual prowess, your emotional superiority, *do not* response to this post, don't say "that's what a troll would do!", or "good riddance". Let it go, let it fade away.

    The point of this last post was to say sorry to Fab, he earned it.

    ReplyDelete
  38. @ Archie -

    1. I believe that Heinlein spent some time at the US Naval Observatory, doing applied mathematics, before he got pneumonia.

    2. I am nowhere arguing that serious literary or historical criticism is not important, although I have read a great deal in professional journals which is tripe. It's much worse in Education.

    3. I was responding to the implication that scientists can't write. They can in most cases, and the style chosen is usually to communicate as much information to an informed person in the field as is possible. By contrast, I have read a bit in certain academic fields where the apparent purpose of the article is to hide the fact that "there's no there, there".

    4. Now, I am quite aware that experts in the humanities, for example, will extract more (or perhaps different) things from a text than I would, just like a music expert hears different things.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Sure, and I made your third point for you. I even pointed out that there is a history that helps explain the style in which the sciences are written. Part of it is about communicating clearly, part of it has to do with the importance of Germans in the development of the modern scientific idiom. There are other proximate causes as well.

    But you didn't limit yourself to objecting correctly to the hasty generalization about scientists and their prose. If you had I would have agreed with you completely. You used that as an occasion to make a specious point about a list of scientists (If I remember right, Heinlein started grad study in physics, but didn't last out the first semester--pneumonia being his explanation--so my question still stands) who, in your words, "made contributions to the humanities," which then lead you to take a little swipe at the "fact" that humanists don't contribute to the sciences. That's what I was responding to.

    ReplyDelete
  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  41. There's also a different way to respond to your statement about who contributes to what. That is, that it depends on what you mean by "contributes," but humanists have contributed mightily to science over the last six decades or so.

    Of course if what you mean is have humanists contributed to The Beaker's research on the structure of alkalids, or whatever, through publications and laboratory findings of their own, then the answer is clearly no.

    But the very fact that humanists and social scientists in philosophy, sociology, and history have taken up the problem of science as an object of study in the last century or so has contributed to the sciences. Whether scientists know it or not, or want to admit it or not, the practice of science has changed over the last few decades in response to challenges posed by humanists and social scientists. So they think about what scientific knowledge is and how it is created a lot differently than they used to because of Kuhn and everyone who came after. They think about the question of replicability in laboratory experiments differently because of Latour and those who came after, and so on and so forth. I could go on all day--Shapin, Schaffer, Hacking, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

    Many scientists have even gotten involved in these debates in really productive ways, so it is impossible to argue that there is no influence. If scientists don't know this, then shame on them, and shame on us for not engaging with them more often and more effectively. But to say that humanists don't contribute to the sciences is a patent falsehood.

    Anyway, I know ,Froderick, you feel that this is all a "tastes great, less filling" argument, but there is an entire constellation of academic disciplines that works on these problems. And they actually do matter to those of us who are engaged in working on them.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Jim, I'm sorry to see you go.

    Farewell.

    ReplyDelete
  43. > Anyway, I know, Froderick, you feel that this is all a "tastes great, less filling"
    > argument, but there is an entire constellation of academic disciplines that works
    > on these problems. And they actually do matter to those of us who are engaged in
    > working on them.

    And they do matter, and my blessing for the serious intellectuals who do this work. We can be quite certain that their inquiries begin at, and progress to, ideas entirely more sophisticated and logically consistent than, “whether the Humanities or the Sciences are better/smarter/sexier” (economic choices can be quantified, for starters: a version of the “space technology spinoff” argument almost just bloomed on the “All right, fess up” thread), and astonishingly more so than, “my 8-year-old can beat up you English majors, huh-huh-huh…” or “…if you ain’t a chemical engineer, you ain’t shit huh-huh-huh…” And please note: I have nothing against all chemical engineers, or chemical engineering as a discipline, just one whose thoughtlessness and bullying ought to be recognized for the crass overgeneralizations they are.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.