Justin Katz provokes me to further discussion on the entitled topic by contending that I missed the point of the piece I was commenting on.

Lehrer's suggestion is that the humanities aren't treated with the same degree of academic rigor, and this factor, along with the appreciation that corresponds to greater rigor, push particularly bright students toward the sciences. It isn't that, as Michael concludes, "there are fewer people who can succeed in the sciences than who can succeed in the humanities." To the extent that Lehrer's analysis supports claims either way, the opposite would seem to be the case: fewer people can succeed in the humanities, but those people can also succeed in the sciences, so they go where the rewards seem to be.
As my brother implied in a comment to the previous post, much depends on how you define "success". A higher percentage of people who earn science degrees will go on to use those degrees to greater profit than will those who earn humanities degrees.

Since we're mostly relying on anecdotal data, I know no one who has earned a degree in a scientific field who could not have obtained an equivalent degree in the humanities, should he have so desired. I know plenty of people with humanities degrees who couldn't possibly have earned a scientific degree.

I certainly agree that the humanities are less rigorous than the sciences, but I don't share Mr. Katz's confidence that this shortcoming -- if you see it as such -- is anything but inherent in the philosophy. Likewise, science isn't important or better -- if you see it as such -- because of the surface-level subject matter, but rather because of the underlying philosophy. Indeed, I would argue that Computer Science is the pinnacle of of both science and the humanities.

Consider this quote by the famed philosopher Marvin Minsky.

I think that Computer Science is the most important thing that's happened since the invention of writing. Fifty years ago, in the 1950s, human thinkers learned for the first time how to describe complicated machines. We invented something called computer programming language, and for the first time people had a way to describe complicated processes and systems, systems made of thousands of little parts all connected together: networks. Before 1950 there was no language to discuss this, no way for two people to exchange ideas about complicated machines. Why is that important to understand? Because that's what we are. Computer Science is important, but that importance has nothing to do with computers. Computer Science is a new philosophy about complicated processes, about life, about artificial life and natural life, about artificial intelligence and natural intelligence. It can help us understand our brain. It can help us understand how we learn and what knowledge is.

Aristotle, Kant, Descartes, and other philosophers didn't know that you need an operating system, the part of the brain that does all of the housework for the other parts, to use knowledge. So all philosophy, I think, is stupid. It was very good to try to make philosophy. Those people tried to make theories of thinking, theories of knowledge, theories of ethics, and theories of art, but they were like babies because they had no words to describe the processes or the data. How does one part of the brain read the processes in another part of the brain and use them to solve a problem? No one knows, and before 1960 no one asked. In a computer the data is alive. If you read philosophy you will find that they were very smart people. But they had no idea of the possibilities of how thinking might work. So I advise all students to read some philosophy and with great sympathy, not to understand what the philosopher said, but to feel compassionate and say, "Think of those poor people years ago who tried so hard to cook without ingredients, who tried to build a house without wood and nails, who tried to build a car without steel, rubber or gasoline." So look at philosophy with sympathy, but don't look for knowledge. There is none.

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» A Pinnacle Is the Tip of Equivalent Sides from Dust in the Light

Although not as predictable as researchers' conclusion that (funding for) more research is necessary, it seems at least very common that a scientist will tend to see her particular area of research as the single-greatest endeavor known to human beings.... Read More

» A Pinnacle Is the Tip of Equivalent Sides from Dust in the Light

Although not as predictable as researchers' conclusion that (funding for) more research is necessary, it seems at least very common that a scientist will tend to see her particular area of research as the single-greatest endeavor known to human beings.... Read More

» Science vs. the Humanities from The Ocean State Blogger

I think I can bring a unique perspective to this debate. I have a B.S in Engineering, currently do a lot of database management and am currently pursuing and M.A. in History. So, you see, I have a foot planted firmly in both camps. Read More

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