More on Science Vs. Humanities

The post by Prof. Chad Orzel on an asymmetry between science and humanities in academia, which I discussed earlier, has continued to generate more conversations and responses.
Razib of Gene Expression argues that ignorance on both sides plays a role, but that the divide is exaggerated:

Finally, I also don’t think that the attitude of humanists toward science is really one of superiority. I think it is pretty clear that today science is the queen of the intellectual enterprise, and within science physics is the gold standard by which other disciplines judge themselves. I think most of the bluster by non-scientists about their ignorance is rooted in some embarrassment, just as I think most non-physicists (this is mostly aimed toward biologists) know that they wish their own field had attained even a fraction of the power of physics in modeling the world around us.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stemwedel lists a number of hypotheses that have been proposed to explain this issue.
Tom Swanson weighs in to agree with Prof. Orzel, and adds comments on the importance of the issue:

There is a minimum competence level that we need to insist that people have. There are entirely too many people who don’t know these basic things and some are even proud of that fact. And it does do damage — not understanding their mortgage, as Chad points out, helped with some of today’s problems. But there are other effects as well — people who don’t have an appreciation of science are prone to the quantum snake-oil salesman, too. If they think that free energy can be had with some new device credulously reported in the news, they aren’t likely to think any energy shortage problem is real. If they can’t evaluate the fallacy-laden arguments supporting antiscience, denialist arguments, we get inundated with “controversies” concerning any number of medical issues (antivaccination or other things Orac might blog about), global warming and evolution, that are played out on the op-ed page, where the science is, at best, an afterthought.

Greg Laden has also given his answer:

I know the answer to that question. The humanities has evolved into a field where the show is the end game. The facade is the core. The whole point is the presentation. This equips those in the humanities to spend their time fluffing their own feathers and denigrating others (especially in the sciences and the science-oriented end of the social sciences) and for this they get tenure and promotion. A scientist who spent all of her/his time attacking the humanities would (generally) not get very far as a scientist. But the reverse … a lala shishi social scientist or a person in the humanities who takes aim, fires, and totally misses a shot at the sciences gets kudos in their own field.
This is certainly, not by a long shot, what most people in the humanities are busy doing. But the humanities are structured today to have a fighting wing that does nothing else. Science studies is what it is sometimes called. Scientists do not have a “humanities studies” wing.

More food for thought.


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