August 12, 2014

"Is an English professor a scientist?"

Asks University of Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank.
I’ve always believed that “scientist” describes a way of looking at the world. What differentiates a tenure-track faculty member or a senior researcher from an informed journalist or interested layperson is that academic researchers are trained to think theoretically. That is, they are trained to bring intellectual frameworks to their exploration of knowledge. They are trained to use evidence to build an argument, often calling upon one or more theoretical frameworks and testing how the evidence supports or does not support the conclusions that a particular theoretical framework would suggest....

Hence, I’ve always believed that an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript is as much a scientist as the microbiologist analyzing the impact of a particular chemical agent on cell reproduction. What differentiates academic researchers from others who write on similar topics is the intellectual rigor they bring....
But does the English professor really bring "as much... intellectual rigor" as the microbiologist? And what happens when the feminist's framework makes out "intellectual rigor" as a patriarchal concept?

Sorry, I'm a law professor, and my framework is not "to use evidence to build an argument." It's to question the arguments that other people make and to ask what interest they have in making those arguments that way. Your argument is my evidence, and I am not engaged in a building project. (On those last 8 words, I more or less said what I had to say 20 years ago, in "Late Night Confessions in the Hart and Wechsler Hotel" — PDF.)

97 comments:

Paddy O said...

The 1890s called, they want their philosophy of humanities back.

Paddy O said...

my framework is not "to use evidence to build an argument."

At the same time, that quote is a good way of defining a thesis and research paper project in a lot of fields.

But, the fact that a person can build an argument doesn't make it science. The resurgence of the heroic model of science as the ideal is a way of bolstering fields and research topics that seem increasingly without justification. And, mostly, about making the said humanities researchers feel better about their life choices.

mikeski said...

Labels equal legitimacy. What a ... collegiate way of thinking.

Paco Wové said...

No.

Andrew Koenig said...

An English professor is no more a scientist than a mathematician is a scientist. Science is a process of observation, hypothesis, and experimentation that is not present either in mathematics or in the study of literature.

I do not mean this observation as criticism of either literature or mathematics.

madAsHell said...

The science is settled.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

They are trained to use evidence to build an argument, often calling upon one or more theoretical frameworks and testing how the evidence supports or does not support the conclusions that a particular theoretical framework would suggest....

And when they publish their results do they describe their testing in a way that would allow other people ( even people who do not agree with their initial premises ) to reproduce their experimental results?

Oh, you mean its not that kind of testing...

Michael K said...

No, next question.

A scientist uses science, a method of examining natural phenomena with the use of experiment and quantitative methods.

There are stages of investigation, the first of which is observation, about where climate "science" is now. The next is experimental where conditions are modified and the results observed and measured.

Finally, the last stage is analysis in which the changes observed are explained and rules derived that can reproduce the phenomenon.

English professors don't do that.

traditionalguy said...

Political Science is a BA degree, it is not a BS degree. The word science is the high ground coveted by many today.

chuck said...

The core of science is validation of theory through prediction and observation. An English professor may work with abstractions in an intellectual framework, but there is no way to determine if his/her/its thoughts are 'true' besides argument. This difference also accounts for the traditional uselessness of philosophy in science.

Neither is engineering science, although the needed talents may overlap. Engineering is more like art, an engineer imagines a product or device and makes it.

Glenn Howes said...

Things that are regularly considered science are not. For example, some may consider Anthropology, Psychology or Sociology to be sciences, but in today's ideological climate experimental results can be rejected not because they are false, but because they are wrong. To be a science, answers to questions can be true or false, they cannot be right or wrong. To a scientist, the universe is as it is, not how we would like it to be.

Tibore said...

"'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'"

Hagar said...

Scientists try to find out how nature works.
Engineers use what the scientists have found out to build or make something.

hawkeyedjb said...

The scientific method, based on doubt, skepticism, and constant testing of assumptions and conclusions, is rejected in a lot of the fields that call themselves 'science.' Climate study, for example, is a field in which many people have rejected the scientific method.

I doubt that the scientific method is being used very often in the humanities, and I doubt that Chancellor Blank really understands what that method involves. But perhaps in today's environment (conclusion first, observation rejected if inconvenient), many more professors can be thought of as 'scientists.'

rhhardin said...

Science is based on being a guy.

rhhardin said...

Anything with framework in it is from a consciousness raising awareness session.

Send it to the landfill with the coffee cups.

rhhardin said...

Wm. Empson could make a claim to be a scientist (_The Structure of Complex Words_). He tries out a method of analysis ironically but turns up all sorts of interesting discoveries along the way.

It's not working but look what you encounter if you press on, would be the motto.

rhhardin said...

I let nobody question my assumptions.

rhhardin said...

Being a woman, she's probably in it for the attention.

DKWalser said...

As an English major, I once received an assignment to write three different essays analyzing the same literary work using three different methods of criticism (feminism, Freudian, humanist, etc.). I was allowed to choose the literary work and the three methods. Ever since, I've beloved that literary criticism is nothing more or less than an exercise in creative writing. What matters is not what "truths" are revealed, but how well the arguments are made.

SteveR said...

No

retired said...

Professors like that are why I never took a lit class after high school.

James Pawlak said...

The key terms/concepts/standards of science are:
1. Reliability;
2. Validity;
3. Having a "high level of confidence".

Most in the Arts and too many in the "Social Sciences" have no understanding of these terms; And, we make them chancellors/presidents of universities as those who do understand are too busy doing useful tasks.

Michael K said...

"Neither is engineering science, although the needed talents may overlap. Engineering is more like art, an engineer imagines a product or device and makes it."

I disagree. I was an aeronautical engineer. We would, for example, design a model and test it in the wind tunnel. From those tests, we would modify the design. Engineering is the practical application of physics, or in the case of chemical engineering, chemistry. Still, it does fulfill the rules of science that I described.

Medicine, where I have chosen to spend most of my life, is somewhat similar, especially recently as we got better tools like genetics. Physiology is the science behind surgery while pharmacology is the science behind medicine. Both are intertwined.

MadisonMan said...

What traditionalguy said. Does an English Major get a BS, or a BA?

English is in the College of Letters and Science. True, it's not Letters OR Science, but it should be.

Fen said...

An english professor is more of a scientist than a climate scientist, that much is certain.

chuck said...

We would, for example, design a model

Ah, but *why* would you design a model? What was the motivation? Were you interested in publishing a paper and collecting citations, or were you looking to produce an actual aircraft at some point. Admittedly, there is a fair amount of interpenetration with science in some areas of engineering, and I would regard fluid dynamics as science as well as mathematics, since the understanding of complex phenomena needs observation to motivate and validate simplified models and connect mathematics to reality.

kcom said...

She answers her own question when she uses the term "academic researchers".

An English professor can be an academic researcher. A scientist can be an academic researcher. That doesn't mean an English professor is therefore a scientist. Scientists can also be scientists without being academic researchers. She needs to study up on her set theory - unions and intersections and all that. Oh, and she could use a review on syllogisms, too.

Steven said...

So much verbiage, so little mention of falsification.

It's not science unless it can be proven wrong.

Ralph Hyatt said...

But why does she want to claim the mantle of "SCIENCE!" for the humanities.

I would think that until the 50s no tenured humanities professor would feel inferior to a scientist simply because they were a scientist.

Some would have thought them tinkers, akin to tradesmen.

But with the advent of the space race, and wonder drugs, and modern conveniences that made life so much easier that were attributed to science, being a scientist started having a certain amount of cache. Well, more than a English professor.

After all scientists talked in impressive jargon that the layman couldn't understand and they were essential for defeating the communists. So much so that some Germans ones, who should have been tried at Nuremberg, were instead brought to Alabama were they developed huge rockets. Huge rockets are cool. Elizabethan sonnets are not cool.

It became cool to be a scientist. Outside of college campuses it has never been cool to be an English professor.

Ralph Hyatt said...

cachet

Lucien said...

Well, I suppose an English professor could start with a null hypothesis like: Post-reformation European novelists who lost a parent while under 12 do not use unfulfilled longing as a major theme in their novels,
and then review the literature to try to falsify that hypothesis.

But then a lot of people would say that's not the study of literature but some kind of psychology or sociology of fiction writers.

Quaestor said...

Glenn Reynolds has been warning of us about a "higher education bubble" that is about to burst. Chancellor Blank may have just pricked that bubble

David Smith said...

I'm afraid University of Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank is a fool.

mtrobertsattorney said...

"Hence, I've always believed that an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript is as much a scientist as the microbiologist analyzing the impact of a particular chemical agent on cell reproduction." And vice versa?

I nominate Rebecca Blank's musing as the silliest sentence ever written.

Robert Cook said...

No, an English professor is not a scientist.

Of all the grandiose self-aggrandizing statements, this has to be among the most grandiosely self-aggrandizing.

Ralph Hyatt said...

In addition, when someone says they are a scientist and people ask what they are working on it can sound noble.

"I am working on a cure for AIDS."
"I am working on a cure for Alzheimers."
"I am working on a cure for Ebola."

The ones working on testing cosmetics on little fluffy bunnies probably don't mention that.

Once someone says they are an English professor at a party that is pretty much it. Nobody asks what you are working on. And if you attempt to tell them, to explain the importance of analyzing Elizabethan sonnets using a feminist framework, people will avoid you.

Unknown said...

"I thought I was talking about all faculty when I used the word 'scientist.'"

This person should not be in any way at the Chancellor level of a university that has STEM education. Education, degrees, and research is the product; you don't need to be a scientist to be a high level university administrator, but you need to have some idea of what the words 'science' and 'scientist' actually mean.

Anonymous said...

Translated: "I've been trying to figure out a way to let my colleagues and staff know that I have no idea what's going on and am radically unqualified for my position."

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
HoodlumDoodlum said...

Can its experiments be replicated? Can its hypotheses be falsified? No? doesn't sound like science...

Scott M said...

Can its experiments be replicated?

DING DING DING

Skeptical Voter said...

Mikeski said, "Labels equal legitimacy. What a . . . collegiate way of thinking.'

"Ski" you need to talk to a trial lawyer. We all know that if you can name it first and get that name in the jury's mind, you are halfway home to a decision in your favor.

So there's something to be said for an English professor labeling himself as say "a climate scientist" to bolster his or her argument.

And while one part of the scientific method consists of conducting enough experiments to achieve a "high level of confidence" that your results are correct, that English professor (I'm not picking on English professors--you could substitute any humanities or social science discipline you want to name) already has a "high level of confidence" that whatever fluff and nonsense he or she believes is empirically correct.

harrogate said...

I am often amazed at the expertise on the humanities that shows up in these comments.

harrogate said...

Robert Cook wrote,

"No, an English professor is not a scientist.

Of all the grandiose self-aggrandizing statements, this has to be among the most grandiosely self-aggrandizing."

But of course many, indeed most English professors would not at all see it as "aggrandizing," to be called scientists.

phantommut said...

And English professor is a scientist in exactly the same was as a book is a bicycle.

harrogate said...

Ralph writes,

"I would think that until the 50s no tenured humanities professor would feel inferior to a scientist simply because they were a scientist."


This remains overhwelmingly true today as well. Not out of contempt for scientists as "tinkers," but because they value what they themselves do.

Sort of like, most scientists that you meet don't have contempt for the humanities. That seems reserved for MBAs, (law-degree holding!!) politicians, and that segment of the populace forever struggling to see past the end of its own nose, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

A scientist works to prove or disprove a theory. How does an English professor proves or disproves his stuck-on-stupid theory? By talking louder?

On the other hand, an English professor is exactly like a Global Warming "Scientist". What an English professor needs is a hockey-stick-graph, then fit "empirical" data to the graph, discard those data that don't fit.

Seeing Red said...

Why was English used as the example?

She's laying the groundwork for something, what is it?

The fact that those degrees are low on the totem pole?

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harrogate said...

"Why was English used as the example?"

Because it's so obviously in contrast to science as a discipline.

"She's laying the groundwork for something, what is it?"

To cover her totalizing theory by bringing together such contrasting fields.

"The fact that those degrees are low on the totem pole?"

On the MBA-defined totem pole, sure.

Francisco D said...

Does the English professor practice logical empiricism in his work?

No? He/She is not a scientist.

Anonymous said...

Harrogate seems to be sketching out a position of "yes the Chancellor's statements were ridiculous, but humanities are great." A very defensible position, but not really relevant.

harrogate said...

DS,

It's relevant because people are taking the occasion of her ridiculous assertion to asperse the humanities. heck, you don't even have to have studied much humanities to be able to make this connection. :-)

David said...

There's stupid. And then there's academic stupid. This is a great example.

On the other hand, since the scientists could construct a nuclear bomb, maybe the English professors can deconstruct it.

Presto. No more risk of nuclear Armageddon.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Rebecca Blank has single-handedly solved the problem of the under-representation of women in the sciences, for that invention she should win a Nobel Prize.

Larry J said...

Hence, I’ve always believed that an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript is as much a scientist as the microbiologist analyzing the impact of a particular chemical agent on cell reproduction. What differentiates academic researchers from others who write on similar topics is the intellectual rigor they bring.

Except there is no rigor and there are no consequences for being wrong in the above example. Nor, for that matter, is there any value to the work. She can write about the "Implications and Symbolism of Left-Handed Monkey wrenches in Medival French Lesbian Literature" all she wants but it won't improve the human condition one iota nor have any impact other than another meaningless paper that no one will ever read.

David said...

Gotta love this part too:

What differentiates a tenure-track faculty member or a senior researcher from an informed journalist or interested layperson is that academic researchers are trained to think theoretically.

So unless you are academically "trained" to think theoretically, you can't think theoretically? And why the word "trained?" One trains a circus bear or a performing seal to perform entertaining but thoughtless tricks.

There are times when thinking theoretically is valuable, and times when it is seriously detrimental. The best academics can discern the difference. Of course most are not the best.

Original Mike said...

"in every economics department where I’ve been active, my colleagues always insisted that they were scientists as much as any physicist or botanist."

Economics is every bit a science as alchemy and soothsaying (with politics thrown in for good measure).

David said...

Rebecca seems quite the snob in this comment. Hope it is not representative of her usual approach.


Larry J said...

traditionalguy said...
Political Science is a BA degree, it is not a BS degree. The word science is the high ground coveted by many today.


And the very phrase "political science" is an oxymoron. Not as big an oxymoron as "military intelligence", "civil servant" or "civil war" but an oxymoron just the same.

Big Mike said...

"Is an English professor a scientist?"

No. Scientists develop theories to explain natural phenomena, or design experiments to test those theories. But in the end the theories are confirmed or disproved by reality itself. Can an English professor say the same? I think not. The test for the English professor is whether the theories achieve consensus, reality be d*mn*d.

Unknown said...

"What differentiates a tenure-track faculty member or a senior researcher from an informed journalist or interested layperson is that academic researchers are trained to think theoretically."

(1) Does UW have a journalism school? Journalists ARE trained to think theoretically, can't believe she actually said that.

(2) Merriam Webster says layperson is a person of a religion who are not priests, ministers, etc.

Wiki says A layperson (or layman/laywoman) generally refers to a non-ordained member of a church. Depending on context, it is often used to mean a person who is not qualified in a given profession or does not have specific knowledge of a subject.

So unless she is elevating a PhD to religion status, a prof or senior researcher in an area not of his or her specialty IS a layperson. Maybe I just don't understand what she means by "Trained to think theoretically." Trained to think in abstract concepts? Incredibly condescending, and not sure why this differentiates professors from ordinary plebes. Does she think being able to conceptualize social constructs makes you magically capable of handling physics?

OTOH, I could agree that evidence suggests she might have been (theoretically) trained to think.

{BTW, Tried a cursory search to find her specialty, her degree, coming up blank.}

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Wait, though, what if an English professor feels like a scientist, you guys??

Carter Wood said...

After earning my M.S.J. from Columbia School of Journalism, you couldn't tear that white lab coat off me. Science!

Peter said...

The difference between a scientist and the feminist professor is that the scientist's research starts by determining the questions to be asked but the feminist professor's research starts with the answers that will be found.

Ralph Hyatt said...

@harrogate

I'm not casting aspersions on the humanities. I'm making fun of our society's current penchant of making "SCIENCE!" into a religion. Mostly by people who wouldn't recognize real actual science if it bit them on their ass.

OK, I am making a little bit of fun of pompous humanities professors.

Dave Barry I am not.

Revenant said...

"Is an English professor a scientist?"

No.

Ann Althouse said...

There are some frameworks that are better used without rigor. Why make rigor the test, the... framework? That seems like an analytical mistake, to say get a framework, such as feminism, and then apply it rigorously. We could fight over whether the word "science" should cover that, but why not go straight to what matters: Is it good?

Scott M said...

We could fight over whether the word "science" should cover that, but why not go straight to what matters: Is it good?

But isn't good or bad irrelevant to science?

harrogate said...

Ralph,

Fair enough. I definitely think though, that you will find if you meet some English professors, that they hardly feel "inferior to scientists." That we live in an age of STEM worship does hurt those who pursue the humanities and, in my view, society overall. STEM represents some vital disciplines, and is not to be disparaged. But a renewed appreciation for what Humanities faculty do--not what the Larry Js imagine they do, but what they really do--would be helpful.

David said...

Where are you when we need you, Biddy?

Original Mike said...

This is just people wanting to be a scientist without having to do the work. It is not helpful when words are stripped of their meaning.

Ignorance is Bliss said...


harrogate said...

But a renewed appreciation for what Humanities faculty do--not what the Larry Js imagine they do, but what they really do--would be helpful.

I don't claim to be an expert as to what humanities faculty do. Chancellor Blank offers the example of an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript.

In what way would appreciation of that activity be helpful to anyone other than humanities faculty?

Larry J said...

harrogate said...

But a renewed appreciation for what Humanities faculty do--not what the Larry Js imagine they do, but what they really do--would be helpful.


I've seen what a substancial percentage of the modern humanities faculty do, such as "White Priviledge" conferences, deconstruction* of history and literature based on their own bigotry and biases, grievance studies, and overall pseudo-intellectual babble. These are people who serve little to no useful purpose to society and who could never cut it in the real world.

*As for deconstruction, it's always easier to tear things apart than to create them. Watch a house being built and you'll see many people from different trades working over a period of months to build someone a home. Any fool with a gallon of gas and a match can burn that house to the ground in a matter of minutes.

DanTheMan said...

I think Ms.Blank is onto something here. I propose we call all Elementary Education graduates 'scientists'.

This would instantly solve the problem of women and minorities being under represented in the sciences.

Mitch H. said...

Damn, when did people start conflating logic and rhetoric with science?

Of all the grandiose self-aggrandizing statements, this has to be among the most grandiosely self-aggrandizing.

Hardly, although I agree with you on the substance of the falsity of the statement. It's only supremely self-aggrandizing if you privilege "science" over other intellectual pursuits, and that itself is a most culpable sin, the founding conceit of "scientism", with all the evils that follow in her train.

I would think that until the 50s no tenured humanities professor would feel inferior to a scientist simply because they were a scientist.

I don't agree, there have been severe, periodic outbreaks of scientism among academics ever since Marx, and perhaps since the French Revolution. Once science started showing how you could blow shit up, and liberal arts like political economy and ethics failed to give their humber petitioners all the short-term fixes their hearts desired, science became the epitome of "that which gets things done".

clarice said...

Good grief! What happened to sifting and winnowing?

clarice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TCR James said...

"I’ve always believed that an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript is as much a scientist as the microbiologist..."

And I've always believed that the guy cleaning up behind the Santa Anita Derby winner is a scientist too. Same line of work, basically.

Paco Wové said...

"a renewed appreciation for what Humanities faculty do--not what the Larry Js imagine they do, but what they really do"

Clearly, the humanities have a terrible PR problem. Perhaps Harro. could start to relieve the problem by giving us a quick rundown of what Humanities faculty really do that will renew our appreciation of them. A bullet list or somesuch.

SGT Ted said...

"Is an English professor a scientist?"

No, he is not.

SGT Ted said...

But why does she want to claim the mantle of "SCIENCE!" for the humanities.

To enact her version of Lysenkoism on other people by being able to claim "because, science" to dissent from her leftwing political pronouncements. Authoritarianism and elitism is their bread and butter.

Pat Moffitt said...

Science professors earn more than literature professors. So now literature professors are scientists.

Ann Althouse said...

"But isn't good or bad irrelevant to science?"

That works well to define science: Where it is good not to ask if it is good, that is the area to be considered science.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... We could fight over whether the word "science" should cover that, but why not go straight to what matters: Is it good?

Well, at least part of the answer is that there is no longer any way to evaluate for "good." Having stripped away meaning and debased the concept of comparison (or morality, or objective worth, etc) these folks have painted themselves into a corner (of obvious irrelevance). When every opinion or feeling or personal interpretation is equally valid what really separates the PhD from the untutored?
And really, if one can't look down on the unwashed masses what fun is that? Thus the desperate bid to steal respectability--people RESPECT scientists, science is real, science is objective, rigorous, and appeals to our modern sensibilities by allowing us to believe in things we don't fully understand. That respect, though, is earned. English prof.s can't snatch it like a thief in the night, we won't let them.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...Where it is good not to ask if it is good,

I dunno, actual scientISTS are frequently concerned with the ethics of their pursuits--we would certainly know a lot more if they weren't! I certainly agree that science as such isn't subject to our ideas about morality (insomuch as objective facts/truth exist independent of our judgement) but that doesn't mean it's good so I'm not sure that works as a test.

Fernandinande said...

an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript

That's the opposite of science.

rcocean said...

If an English Professor is a scientist, does that mean scientists are English Professors?

BTW, if we can have Political scientists, and Social scientists, and Sociologists, why not Literature scientists?

I hereby decree Althouse a "Law Scientist"

Zach said...

Speaking as a scientist, I certainly wouldn't classify English professors as scientists. In fact, I think it would be sad if they were.

Science really isn't about theory. It's about description. Theories exist to explain observations you've already seen, and to help you make new observations that clarify things that were previously opaque. Theories don't even necessarily have to be right -- what they really have to be is descriptive. It's actually a desirable property of a theory that it doesn't explain too much, and breaks down in some areas -- because that tells you that what you thought was going on doesn't apply to those areas.

Literary criticism has value (I think it had more value before the rise of capital-T Theory), but it's inherently describing something ambiguous. There really isn't any grand theory of literature waiting to be discovered. There is great value in description, in a type of comparative anatomy of literature -- but this type of criticism is currently out of fashion.

Zach said...

What makes a scientist is not the topic that she or he studies, but the intellectual rigor that the researcher brings to bear upon the question of interest.

Hence, I’ve always believed that an English professor discussing the feminist implications of a medieval manuscript is as much a scientist as the microbiologist analyzing the impact of a particular chemical agent on cell reproduction.


This is the crux of the problem. Science isn't about rigor in the sense of being hard, it's about rigor in the sense that there is one and only one objective reality, that it is knowable, and we must describe it as accurately as we can.

"[T]he feminist implications of a medeival manuscript" may be equally as important as the microbiologist. The researcher may be committed to using only the highest standards of argument. But there is no expectation -- nor should there be! -- that there is one and only one true answer. You can be as rigorous as you want, and somebody else can be equally rigorous, and you can still get different answers. You can't eliminate that without eliminating the field of study.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Scientists? Crap, they aren't even really professors!

Unknown said...

I once was in a graduate program, laying out course work & asked for a course in the Physics Dept. titled "Theoretical Quantum Mechanics." My advisor (a Mechanical Engineer) asked me, "As opposed to practical Quantum Mechanics?"

Nothing to do with anything, but for some reason this post brought it to memory.

Francisco D said...

OMG,

Robert Cook and I agree. There is hope for the world.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Harrogate says we live in an era of STEM worship. I beg to differ. He is confused by the better pay and job opportunities (in the past at least) for STEM people. Outside of places like the Cal Physics department or the engineering offices at Intel, I think you will be hard-pressed to find any evidence for that hypothesis.
Worship is done by people. Who do people worship? Entertainers, sports figures (same thing, really), some political figures.
Go read the press during late 2009 - tell me how many times anyone expressed admiration for Norman Borlaug, compared to the others who shuffled off this mortal coil around that time.

Robert Cook said...

"Economics is every bit a science as alchemy and soothsaying (with politics thrown in for good measure)."

Au contraire...Economics is a science. It's "the Dismal Science."

Robert Cook said...

"'Of all the grandiose self-aggrandizing statements, this has to be among the most grandiosely self-aggrandizing.'

"Hardly, although I agree with you on the substance of the falsity of the statement. It's only supremely self-aggrandizing if you privilege "science" over other intellectual pursuits...."


And isn't this what Prof. West is doing? By her statement, she attempts to lend to English professors a status that she obviously considers more privileged than is typically given them...otherwise, why articulate the claim at all?