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

Marc Weber marc at webhistory.org
Sun Oct 23 09:38:40 PDT 2016


For the first couple of thousand years of writing, it was as “hard” and arcane a skill in most places as computer programming or mathematical competence today. A king of Assyria had inscriptions made boasting that he could read and write, unlike his predecessors. On the other hand, even the least educated were fluent in languages that even our finest scientific minds would find challenging to teach an impromptu course in. As one Nobel laureate noted, “the times they are a-changin’.”
Best, Marc

> On Oct 23, 2016, at 05:48, Sharon Traweek <traweek at history.ucla.edu> wrote:
> 
> Hi
> 
> This discussion has reminded me of undergraduate curriculum committee meetings since the 70s about depth/breadth requirements and electives as we moved away from 'western civ' to global studies.  Acknowledging that I was educated in Victorian notions of universals in beauty, truth, and logic locates me in specific coordinates at the edge of empires. 
> 
> Search in the usual places for shifts over many centuries in the history of educational thought in various countries on how to generate "an educated person" to see how long those practices have been saturated with assumptions about class/gender/ethnicity/race/nation-states/empire/etc. For a while in some places upper classes were to become connoisseurs and leaders,the middle classes were to manage with expertise, while the working classes needed only enough literacy and numeracy to follow instructions.Then global political economies and knowledge making began to change again; now 50 years later ...
> 
> Cheers,
> Sharon
> Sharon Traweek
> http://www.genderstudies.ucla.edu/faculty/sharon-traweek
> Access some of my publications at
> https://ucla.academia.edu/STraweek
> https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-traweek-a257668
> https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sharon_Traweek
> More emerging soon...
> 
> ________________________________________
> From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of David Alan Grier [grier at gwu.edu]
> Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2016 2:33 PM
> To: McMillan, William W
> Cc: Sigcis
> Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa
> 
> St. John's.   They still use the Mortimer Adler curriculum.
> 
> David
> 
> Sent from my iPhone
> 
>> On Oct 22, 2016, at 9:05 PM, McMillan, William W <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu> wrote:
>> 
>> Can't recall which college it is where all the general education classes are taught by faculty from the "wrong" disciplines.  A chemist might teach Shakespeare, a philosopher biology, a musician world history,...
>> 
>> Intro level courses.
>> 
>> I heard a presentation on this and it sounded pretty amazing.  Faculty involved were huge supporters.  Anyone know about this approach?
>> 
>> - Bill
>> 
>> ________________________________
>> From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Mark Priestley [m.priestley at gmail.com]
>> Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2016 4:28 AM
>> To: Sigcis
>> Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Science wars quote that scientists can teach English but not vice versa
>> 
>> 
>> 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<mailto: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<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><mailto: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><mailto: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><mailto: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<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><mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>>>
>> Cc: sigcis <members at sigcis.org<mailto:members at sigcis.org><mailto: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><mailto: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><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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>> _______________________________________________
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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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>> _______________________________________________
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> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at 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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Marc Weber  |   marc at webhistory.org  |   +1 415 282 6868 
Internet History Program Curatorial Director, Computer History Museum            
1401 N Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View CA 94043 computerhistory.org/nethistory
Co-founder, Web History Center and Project, webhistory.org 



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