[SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa

Dag Spicer dspicer at computerhistory.org
Fri Oct 21 20:01:00 PDT 2016


Thanks Allan.

And here is the full quote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

—
Dag

On Oct 21, 2016, at 7:31 PM, Allan Olley <allan.olley at utoronto.ca<mailto:allan.olley at utoronto.ca>> wrote:

Hi,
Note that "Specialization is for insects." is a Robert A. Heinlein quote (from Time Enough for Love apparently). As Abraham Lincoln said "There are lots of poorly attributed quotes on the internet." ;) Feynman was notably dismissive of academic philosophy at least and so not necessarily one of the bridge builders.
I wanted to say the idea of an MIT humanities walk out puts me in mind of Douglas Adams idea of a philosophers threatening to strike ("Who would that inconvenience") in response to the construction of the super computer Deep Thought. Where the computer's intended use raises the specter of rendering philosophers obsolete by answering the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

--
Yours Truly,
Allan Olley, PhD

http://individual.utoronto.ca/fofound/

On Fri, 21 Oct 2016, Dag Spicer wrote:

… and let us not forget the many who straddle both disciplines: MDs with art history degrees; historians who are also engineers, airline pilots with MBAs…  perhaps the whole dichotomy needs a refresh?  Whatever line you’re on ("techies" vs "fuzzies”), Feynam’s advice is best: “Specialization is for insects.”

:_)

Dag


On Oct 21, 2016, at 2:07 PM, Alberts, Gerard <G.Alberts at uva.nl<mailto:G.Alberts at uva.nl>> wrote:

Dear Tom, why, no, your quote rests on an anti-Snow type of argument. Snow's plea is for mutual understanding and dialogue. He tries to avert the possible disdain for the humanities. His crucial point is that we should all know the second law of thermodynamics as an assett of our cultural baggage, just the same as we know quote from Shakespeare. Gerard
________________________________
Van: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org<mailto:members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org>] namens Thomas Haigh [thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>]
Verzonden: vrijdag 21 oktober 2016 22:08
Aan: 'Lee Vinsel'
CC: 'sigcis'
Onderwerp: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa

It’s definitely a two cultures argument, but I think the quote was an updated version and nastier. Though I could be conflating after all this time.

In the bigger picture I guess the difference between Snow and the 1990s dialog was that Snow was bemoaning the separation of science and the humanities and limited engagement with science by non-specialists. Whereas in the science wars, scientists were complaining that humanities people were pretending to engage with science but messing it up or challenging its authority.

Tom

From: Lee Vinsel [mailto:lee.vinsel at gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2016 2:35 PM
To: Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>>
Cc: sigcis <members at sigcis.org<mailto:members at sigcis.org>>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa

Tom,
I'm fairly certain that you are paraphrasing ideas from C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures, though the way I remember it is that scientists have some knowledge of literature whereas people in the humanities can't tell you what the laws of thermodynamics are.
But maybe you have something else in mind.
Best,
Lee

On Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 3:32 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>> wrote:
Hello SIGCIS,

I was looking for a quote I recall reading in the days of the “science wars,” probably late-1990s, from a scientist saying something like: “If all the English professors got sick and we were called in then we would so an OK job teaching Shakespeare etc. based on what we know and the inherent triviality of the humanities. Whereas if the physics professors got sick then the humanities people would be completely unable to step in, because science is hard.”

I tried constructing Google searches and doing Amazon’s search inside the book on Sokal & Bricmont’sFashionable Nonsense and similar targets, but didn’t locate it.

NB: I’m just looking for the source here, not for people eager to reignite the science wars by arguing for or against the proposition.

Best wishes,

Tom

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--
Assistant Professor
Program on Science and Technology Studies
College of Arts and Letters
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030
leevinsel.com<http://leevinsel.com/>
Twitter: @STS_News
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This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org<http://sigcis.org>, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org

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