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

Mark Priestley m.priestley at gmail.com
Sat Oct 22 01:28:51 PDT 2016


Turing said it first, of course, albeit from the perspective of the English
home counties rather than the American frontier. The ACE would be able to
compute range tables, count butchers, solve jigsaw puzzles, play chess ...

Cheers,
Mark

On 22 Oct 2016 04:24, "Ian S. King" <isking at uw.edu> wrote:

Warning: I've been a Heinlein fan for most of my life.
"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."  -- R. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love.  G.
Putnam's Sons, 1973.

On Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 7:31 PM, Allan Olley <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 lis
>> ts.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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>
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-- 
Ian S. King, MSIS, MSCS, Ph.D. Candidate
The Information School <http://ischool.uw.edu>
Dissertation: "Why the Conversation Mattered: Constructing a Sociotechnical
Narrative Through a Design Lens

Archivist, Voices From the Rwanda Tribunal <http://tribunalvoices.org>
Value Sensitive Design Research Lab <http://vsdesign.org>

University of Washington

There is an old Vulcan saying: "Only Nixon could go to China."

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