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Humanities prof to materialist Steve Pinker: Stop caricaturing us

At Chronicle of Higher Education, , English prof Geoff Shullenberger advises materialist cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker against caricaturing the humanities.

That’s somewhat like advising a vampire bat against night flight. If he takes your advice, his career is over. (Note: We could live with that.)

We’ve noted the pushback against Pinker’s arrogant and totally unfounded scientism (belief that science can answer all questions worth asking). Shullenberger notes,

While there is already much more room for collaboration than Pinker’s diagnosis suggests, those in the humanities also have legitimate reasons to be wary of the language of “consilience.” Beneath the “both sides win” rhetoric of Pinker’s argument, it is hard not to glimpse an effort to subject the humanities to the sciences institutionally and intellectually, to turn them into ancillary disciplines reliant on the sciences for the production of theory. This effort ominously resembles recent proposals by state governments to definance the study of the humanities because they allegedly offer no economic benefits. For many humanities scholars, to concede the superiority of the data-driven and results-oriented methods Pinker advocates would be to surrender to the quantitative, economistic biases of the culture at large.

Fair enough, but the humanities have often written their own death sentences by publicly cultivating the idea that all judgments of quality are irrelevant or suspect. If that is true, then humanities departments are expensively run group homes for people with problems with life in general.

The problem with Pinker’s view, on the other hand, is that it results in stupidities like literary Darwinism and worse.

Then, by the time we have reduced the Iliad or the Beowulf or the Bhagavad Gita to a gang of chimps panhooting in the trees, we have got outside literature altogether…  down the main drain, it seems.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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7 Responses to Humanities prof to materialist Steve Pinker: Stop caricaturing us

  1. I must be missing something, but it struck me immediately that Pinker & Co know they are big-time losers, and don’t have an awful lot of time left to wallow in their signal miscreance; and that they are whistling in the dark. How you people can take scientism’s pygmies so seriously puzzles me.

  2. Our bosses take it all seriously. Ask them, if you can afford to get into their soirees.

  3. I can’t imagine the bumptious-atheist Consensus will be very popular in the scientific sphere, or indeed anywhere else, when Fukushima goes from globally catastrophic in the future to globally catastrophic in the here and now. Nor for that matter, ‘laissez-faire’ capitalism.

  4. You have bosses, Denyse? I thought you were a free-lancer. Does this mean you are paid by the Discovery Institute, that you receive money from them?

    Their soirees? I’ve been in Discovery Institute soirees and it didn’t cost me a penny. They take IDism so seriously that they actually think they are ‘Revolutionaries’ for a ‘new Science,’ calling each other ‘comrade’ and what not (as Meyer, Nelson and Dembski do).

    What’s ironic is that IDism is a clear and undeniable form of ‘scientism’ in its current guise of pretending to be ‘strictly [natural] scientific’ as Luskin calls it.

    Even people who reject Pinker’s scientism, such as myself, can easily see this.

    So what position is UD News in to actually defend humanities, to speak about an ‘enchanted’ or ‘inspired’ humanity from the likes of Pinker when the ‘bosses’ that employ her are nevertheless still advocates of a different variety of scientism, based on American political motives?

    Certainly nothing in ‘strictly [natural] scientific’ IDism currently provides comfort for an extra-scientistic perspective.

  5. Soiree, eh? I can believe such an ‘elite’ would pass seamlessly from one penumbral twilight world to another.

    There won’t be a terribly bright dawn awaiting them, after the Lord Mayor’s Show; bucket in one hand, shovel in the other!

  6. Gregory seems to take everything seriously. We, as it happens, don’t. ;)

  7. It occurred to me afterwards, your bosses must be the Discovery Institute bods, and my disparagement a tad excessive, Denyse. Though, all the more astonishing that they should feel the need to stoop to bandy words with such rationally-challenged jackanapes.

    From what I’ve gathered on here from the verbal explanations of the technical experts, even divinely-controlled evolution is a non-starter, but Kudos to them for their theism.

    And, yes, Gregoire is very uptight. And a law unto himself (now, where have I heard that, before?). Regrettable that it’s Murphy’s Law, but who’s perfect!

    I don’t know if anyone understands what he’s saying. I expect if we did, we’d be in awe of him. ‘Evening, vicar!’
    There! He’s just passed by. I don’t think he recognised us. In a brown study, wrestling with the imponderables of the universe. And to cap it all, I believe when thus preoccupied at meal-times, his wife will ask him if he wants mashed potatoes or sauted..? It takes a while for him to disengage from pondering the likes of a multiverse with planets made of green cheese, and Cornelius’ latest offering about genomes, eukarites and a host of other polysyllabic, very foreign-sounding things.

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