It is all-too-easy to bash non-technical degrees. That is not to say that there is no bullshit in technical degrees. (There is, but that would be a story for another post.) What I want to take aim at is the one fundamental weakness of the former. It is a fundamentally flawed understanding of the scientific method and truth-finding. You are probably familiar with the figure of speech of standing on the shoulders of giants. This means that there is an enormous body of work you can draw from for your own work. You don’t need to invent calculus because Newton and Leibniz have done the work for you etc. A particular hallmark of technical fields is, furthermore, that the names of scientists tend to play little role. Of
In non-technical fields, however, there are no clear standards for truth. Instead, people dream up some bullshit and abuse their social status to spread their ideas. This is how, or instance, certain left-wing ideas spread from the Ivy League to all of academia. However, those ideas were never in any way tested. Instead, you get citation circle-jerks where professors make their
If people working in non-technical fields existed only in their own bubble, not interacting with the outside world, you probably couldn’t care less about their flawed approach to science. Yet, that is not the case. Plenty of those people cause significant damage to the world by spreading their misguided ideologies. In the corrupt mainstream media, they are often used as talking heads, and you then end up with left-leaning professors telling the unwashed masses that IQ is a fantasy construct and that we are all born with a blank slate. Stephen Jay Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man” is a particularly good example of how politial bias gets cloaked as science and subsequently transformed into uncontested fact by the mainstream media. To be fair, though, there has been backlash against Stephen Jay Gould, even some among his more “liberal” supporters. Still, this book certainly misinformed the public.
This is where the absurdity of this approach fully unfolds: Ideas are no longer true or false based on their own merits. Instead, authorities are referred to instead of convincingly argue for the validity of certain ideas. Marxism has failed anywhere it was ever tried, but, for some reason, you can still quote Marx and any adherent of his ideology because he belongs to the group of people our intellectual idiots have chosen to revere. Truth does not even matter to those people. If such morons did maths, they would believe that we use the methods of calculus because of Newton and Leibniz. However, it is irrelevant who discovered something. It either works or it doesn’t. On the other hand, in the humanities, it’s more important that you cite the right people, regardless of the merits of their work. The belief is that as long as you say something is correct, it is correct, no matter how strongly the real world may contradict it.
You may think that the influence of such “thinkers” is insignificant at best, but that would, unfortunately, be completely wrong. For instance, are you aware that the whole discussion about the racial achievement gap and the supposed need to “integrate” communities in the United States was a consequence of a book written by a Swedish sociologist? This sounds like it’s straight out of a wet dream of a lefty, but it really happened. In 1944, Gunnar Myrdal published the
White prejudice and discrimination keep the Negro low in standards of living, health, education, manners and morals. This, in its turn, gives support to white prejudice. White prejudice and Negro standards thus mutually ‘cause’ each other.
Of course, to entertain that kind of reasoning, you’d have to believe that we’re all the same. Sure, we differ in height, weight, level of attractiveness and whatnot, but with enough social engineering, anybody could be anybody, and nobody is responsible for the consequences of his actions. Those people flat-out deny personal differences in ability as well as evolutionary pressures, which made the races thrive in different environments. Now that we have showered trillions on blacks in welfare in the United States, are they doing any better? It does not seem to be the case, so could it perhaps be that it is not nonsensical that they, as a group, are just less suited to do well in modern, industrialized society? All evidence points to that conclusion, but of
The bigger problem of the influence of those pseudo-scientists on public discourse is that we are ruled by a non-scientific elite. College drop-outs, bartenders (Alexandra “Occasional” Cortez), diversity mouthpieces, and liberal arts majors seem to make up most of the elite in politics. Those people have never learned to apply the scientific method or to reason formally. Instead, they were taught to just cite politically correct sources in support of whatever conclusion they wanted to arrive at. There is a particular profession that does a variant of that for a living: lawyers. Yup, those are also overrepresented in politics in the Western world. Consequently, the biggest problem of the humanities and social sciences is also the root of the biggest problem of the Western world: having a political elite that adheres to some kind of epistemic relativism according to which anything can be true or false as long as they can just make up an argument to support it, no matter how nonsensical it may be.
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4 thoughts on “The Biggest Problem of the Humanities and Social Sciences”
‘. In the corrupt mainstream media, they are often used as talking heads, and you then end up with Harvard professors telling the unwashed masses that IQ is a fantasy construct and that we are all born with a blank slate (cf. Steven Pinker). When Pinker was at the height of his popularity, his ideas were already known to be patently false, but that did not matter. ”
Sorry, maybe I’ve gotten lost and confused here, but are you implying that Steven Pinker was actually propagating and supporting a Blank Slate mindset including IQ-denialism?
That was an unfortunate error. I mixed up the names. Instead, I had intended to refer to Stephen Jay Gould. That Pinker wrote a book with the title “The Blank Slate” was not helpful in this context. I have corrected the corresponding part in my article and apologize for this mistake.
Actually, Pinker’s book is a good read and maybe a candidate for a review on this blog, since it refutes most of the “blank slate”-ideology of human nature in a very articulate and concise manner.
I have written on the difference between History (my beloved subject since childhood) and Mathematics (a subject that I have no natural talent)
History is the study of the past by examining the surviving written records and artefacts. Its link to Archaelogy is similar to the binding relationship between Math and Physics.
There are absolute truths in History. If you were born in the year X and your surviving birth certificate confirms this then the truth is incontestable. Similarly, the independence day of Vietnam is September 2th 1945. There is a wide range of evidences that supports this statement, such as documents and videos recorded at the time. The fact that Hitler was defeated in WW 2 in 1945 could not be challenged.
Yet, by its own definition, historical truth is confined to surviving written materials and artefacts. Even if all written materials of any given period survive intact, no amount of records can document all important events happened in the world. Materials are usually lost, damaged due to war or natural disasters, or efforts of the victors to eradicate all traces of the defeated. Thus the truth that we obtain from historical records is usually partial, uneven and sometimes questionable. This is the imperfection of History as a discipline.
Mathematics, on the hand, is the bastion of incontestable logical certainty. Euclid has laid the foundation for Western Mathematics. Everything starts with axioms and definitions whose truth are given. Then come theorems, lemma and corollaries, whose truth must be proven with deductive reasoning. No theorems can belong to Math until they are proven by logical argument, wrote the authors of “Mathematics: Its content, methods and meaning”.
We can use induction to prove that the sums consecutive odd numbers are perfect squares.
I am not gifted in Math so these are my only thoughts.
I have a blog dedicated to Math, but I won’t write anymore since I feel my raw intellectual power doesn’t reside in Math: