I second Chad Orzel’s well stated concern of our colleagues in the humanities’ inability to add two numbers together. Well, actually, I’m seeing Chad’s critique and raising one rant.
It is not just a lack of background in math and science, it is also, as Chad says, a lack of shame about it. As an Anthropologist, I’ve been forced to work side by side with people who, while fantastic in many ways and just wonderful folks (with exceptions, of coruse), not only throw around that they can’t “do math” but even do this in reference to basic arithmetic. They can’t add. They can’t subtract. How do they go to the grocery store?
A little while back a grad student who is very very smart about a lot of thigns (and can do math) was asking my advice regarding how much to ask her (non math/science) department in a proposal for grad student research funds. Her gut feeling was to ask for a LOT but worried that this would be percieved as a show of hubris.
I told her “Ask for at least that amount … this cannot be seen as hubris. They can’t count! They won’t know!!! Hopefully they’ll find someone who can use a calculator and divide the money up evenly!!”
There is discussion as to why this asymmetry between science and humanities (with the social sciences representing a spectrum fitted between the two extremes) comes form.
I know the answer to that question. The humanities has evolved into a field where the show is the end game. The facade is the core. The whole point is the presentation. This equips those in the humanities to spend their time fluffing their own feathers and denigrating others (especially in the sciences and the science-oriented end of the social sciences) and for this they get tenure and promotion. A scientist who spent all of her/his time attacking the humanities would (generally) not get very far as a scientist. But the reverse … a lala shishi social scientist or a person in the humanities who takes aim, fires, and totally misses a shot at the sciences gets kudos in their own field.
This is certainly, not by a long shot, what most people in the humanities are busy doing. But the humanities are structured today to have a fighting wing that does nothing else. Science studies is what it is sometimes called. Scientists do not have a “humanities studies” wing.
Is it not obvious that this is at least an important factor?