Paging Humanities Bloggers…

A question raised in comments to yesterday’s rant about humanities types looking down on people who don’t know the basics of their fields, while casually dismissing math and science:

[I]t occurs to me that it would be useful if someone could determine, honestly, whether the humanities professors feel the same sense of condescension among science and engineering professors.

This is obviously not a question I can answer, but I agree that it would be good to know. So, how about it?

Comments

  1. #1 Evan Goer
    July 27, 2008

    D^2 and the other Crooked Timberites got pretty annoyed with the arrogance of physicists a while back, for good reason:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/19/isolated-social-networkers/

    http://crookedtimber.org/2006/01/27/physicists-in-action-latest-in-an-occasional-series/

  2. #2 Scott Spiegelberg
    July 27, 2008

    I guess I’m more “fine arts” than “humanities,” but my experience is in both directions. I have plenty of science types who are apologetic about their lack of ability/knowledge about music. But then I go to music neuroscience conferences where the scientists do know something about music and assume a) they know enough about music and b) that I know nothing about science. This is not everyone by a long shot, but there is an insidious arrogant belief amonst some that science is harder than everything else, thus a scientist can easily understand everything else, whether it is religion, literature, or music. As another anecdote = data point, my brother is a PhD in chemical engineering/material sciences from MIT. His friends tease him that my PhD dissertation on music theory has more complex math than his dissertation.

  3. #3 JSS
    July 27, 2008

    I’m not a prof, but I have taken quite a few humanities courses, and on occasion I have socialized with humanities professors.

    Most of the time, I don’t think humanities people think about math and science all that much. When they do, they either seem to discuss the economic influences of science research in academia or they adopt a post-modernist perspective.

    In the latter case, I’ve heard profs question the epistemological foundation of science, asking irritating questions like “What is evidence?” and accusing people of scientism. In this case, scientism is being used as a pejorative.

    I don’t think most humanities professors or humanities types have the vagueist of ideas of what it’s like to do science. They may be self-conscious about their lack of knowledge, but they also have a habit of wearing their ignorance like a badge of honor.

    There are exceptions of course. I had one rare professor who had undergraduate and masters degrees in the natural sciences in addition to his humanities related qualifications. He was quite the character.

  4. #4 Jennifer Ouellette
    July 27, 2008

    Heck, yeah, they feel condescended to… that’s probably why they fire back with both barrels about S&T folks not being as “well-rounded.” :)

  5. #5 John Novak
    July 27, 2008

    Well, as the comment in question was mine, I’ll unpack it a bit here:

    It doesn’t seem at all unlikely to me that Chad is feeling here, and what he thinks is unique to either him or his in-crowd of other science geeks, is in fact not unique at all. I’m sure there’s a fancy psychological/sociological term for that, but I’ve certainly seen it in other contexts, both positive and negative.

    (Example one: Everyone in industry, myself included, has the feeling that they are the only ones in the group, or the only group at a plant that has any responsibility at all. This cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, because I have yet to find a group that self-identifies as, “Yeah, we’re the slacker group that exists just to slow everyone else down. And they pay us for this!!” Yet the feeling remains. Oh, does it remain….

    (Example two: Damn near everyone in my experience felt awkward around the opposite sex as a teenager, and moreover, felt that they were more awkward than everyone else. At least this makes a little more sense, since if you feel that awkward, you try to hide it, you just fail to realize that so is everyone else, and they are successful, and so are you….)

    So all things considered, it would not surprise me too much to learn that the science and engineering professors feel a bit put upon, or put down by, the humanities and fine arts people, while the fine arts or humanities feel roughly the same way about the science people. And while I’m all for anecdotes, what I was hoping was that some clever young sociology or psychology grad student would see this and devise a fiendishly clever experiment to reveal all this.

    (And note: I still decry the falling math requirements for liberal arts students as a deplorable standard.)

  6. #6 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    “In the latter case, I’ve heard profs question the epistemological foundation of science, asking irritating questions like “What is evidence?””

    Why is this an irritating question? Because there is no easy answer to it?

    “and accusing people of scientism. In this case, scientism is being used as a pejorative.”

    And such use is, in many cases, entirely justified.

    “I don’t think most humanities professors or humanities types have the vagueist of ideas of what it’s like to do science. They may be self-conscious about their lack of knowledge, but they also have a habit of wearing their ignorance like a badge of honor. ”

    I wonder how you would react to physicists adopting a post-modernist perspective.

  7. #7 JSS
    July 27, 2008

    Reply to Roman #6.

    There isn’t an easy answer to it, but that’s a separate matter. It’s an irritating question because it’s not usually asked in good faith, but instead as an attempt to support an agenda.

    I’m fine with scientism being applied to an extreme form of positivism (okay, I’m not, but for the purposes of this discussion…), but in my experience, it’s most often used as a blanket statement.

    I suppose it depends on which aspects of postmodernism they’d be embracing. When I mentioned the post-modernist perspective I was thinking of the Sokal hoax, which I admit is a limited interpretation of post-modernism.

  8. #8 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    “It’s an irritating question because it’s not usually asked in good faith, but instead as an attempt to support an agenda.”

    Of course I can’t relate to your personal experience, but “having an agenda” is not a bad thing in itself. Would you hold it against Chad, that he’s got an agenda to increase numerical literacy in the USA?

    “but in my experience, it’s most often used as a blanket statement.”

    Hmm, quite like post-modernism.

    “When I mentioned the post-modernist perspective I was thinking of the Sokal hoax”

    There was Sokal, but there were also Bogdanov brothers. I don’t like people pulling such tricks. “Hey, I managed to trick you, you suck!”. No my friend, it’s you who sucks. Scientific journals operate on the basis of some trust to the authors, that they’re not trying to con the journal and the readers. Peer review happens mostly *after* the paper is published. The pre-publishing review should weed out the papers which are obviously nonsensical or irrelevant. What Sokal (and his immitators later) did was to prove that in a system based on assumption of intelectual honesty, it’s easy to achieve a short time victory by being dishonest. Well, I hope he’s proud of himself. I wouldn’t.

  9. #9 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    PS. Any experimentalist can tell you that there is little a journal can do to verify that they haven’t massaged their measurement results.

  10. #10 Rebecca
    July 27, 2008

    I’m the daughter of a former physics professor, and am acquainted with several professors or former professors in the sciences, and yes, most of them are quite dismissive of knowledge of the humanities. They don’t know it, and it isn’t important enough for them to learn it. If you don’t understand science and math, you’re grossly ignorant, but it’s perfectly reasonable to call clothing from the reign of Louis XIV “medieval,” or to not understand the relationship of the Illiad to both history and mythology, or whatever. Moreover, I know some physicists who treat the “soft” sciences in the same way (and “soft” includes biology and chemistry).
    My father was quite upset when I chose to major in theater instead of chemistry.

  11. #11 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    Hmm. My experience were that the physics professors like to pretend that they know a lot about literature, music or painting. How much they really knew, was another thign ;-)

  12. #12 JSS
    July 27, 2008

    The agenda that I’m referring to is the one of spreading epistemological relativism an constructivism.

    No, I don’t think it’s anything like post-modernism.

    Sokal did more than just trick a Journal. He took some very important scholars to task in a very persuasive manner, i.e., Baudrillard, Lacan, etc.

    Social Text, the journal to which Sokal published, was not subject to peer-review at that time, and they didn’t review it themselves. It was a short term victory because Sokal eventually admitted that it was a fake. He wasn’t found out to my knowledge.

  13. #13 John Novak
    July 27, 2008

    Roman:

    I’ll sharpen JSS’ comments and say outright that sometimes the questions are irritating because they are asked in outright bad faith, not so much as part of an agenda, but as part of an attempt to obfuscate, derail, and dismiss.

    When Popper, Quine, Duhem, Kuhn, and the rest, start asking about what constitutes evidence, I’ll listen, or at least file away for further reading and consideration. When Derrida asks, my eyes narrow in suspicion. When the goober who lived two floors up from me in college asks, because he was trying to defend his “I don’t believe in calculus,” statement, I roll my eyes and find better conversational partners.

    (And it is that particular idiot, an example I’m not making up from my own younger days, that I react to in these discussions. He, of course, was allowed by the university– another small liberal arts type school, I might add, except that it also had a strong engineering school attached to it– to feel perfectly secure in his ignorance because he was never forced to take a math class more difficult than college algebra. I, on the other hand, had any number of 300/400 level humanities requirements. I’m fine with my requirements, but I bitterly resent the lack of equivalent math and science requirements on the other side of the fence.)

  14. #14 perry
    July 27, 2008

    I’m a physicist. It’s not that I look down on the humanities, just for the most part I don’t care. I will decide what books and music I like, same for art. It takes a lot of work to get a PhD in anything. I do have many science friends who think that they could do a humanities degree if they just worked hard enough, but you have to care to work that hard, at least some. I have a passion for physics, and even if I tried I could never complete a BA degree in humanities (well maybe history) cause I just wouldn’t care enough.

    As to “well rounded”, the bar seems higher in terms of hours in most degree programs for humanities, with a lower requirement for math and science. And if that is the case at your school, thats just dead wrong IMHO. I think the real problem is a disagreement of what is considered basic knowldege about math, science, arts, whatever, at various levels (HS, college….). I would prefer it if the people I deal with can make change for a dollar even if they had no idea of art.

    And I have noted that in faculty meetings humanities folks tend to ramble more :-)

  15. #15 The Young Linguist
    July 27, 2008

    As someone who’s moving from math to linguistics, I’ve seen it both ways. All of the Math, Bio, Chem, Phys, and to a lesser extent Engineering majors wonder why in the world I would want to study a fake science like Linguistics, which is considered to be the only thing worse than Psychology in the world of pseudo-science.

    In linguistics, people constantly question if my inhuman, mathematical brain can understand the sociolinguistic systems being discussed and analysed. They can’t understand why someone who had been doing boring stodgy work would want to move into a vibrant field like theirs.

    And I want to study music theory for the fun of it… I never stop taking flak for not being a musician but wanting to understand the structures of music.

  16. #16 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    @JSS

    “The agenda that I’m referring to is the one of spreading epistemological relativism”

    I’m not very familiar with the classification, but if you mean the philosophy of Rorty, then it more or less corresponds to my views (and also another physicist whom I know). Being a relativist (or pragmatist, as Rorty called it) does not mean you can’t do science. It only means you don’t delude yourself ;-)

    @John Novak

    “I’ll sharpen JSS’ comments and say outright that sometimes the questions are irritating because they are asked in outright bad faith, not so much as part of an agenda, but as part of an attempt to obfuscate, derail, and dismiss.”

    It’s partly historical justice ;-) scientists often dismiss “soft stuff” too.

    “When the goober who lived two floors up from me in college asks, because he was trying to defend his “I don’t believe in calculus,” statement”

    I would need to know the context of your conversation… perhaps he read this paper? http://www.ams.org/notices/200807/tx080700773p.pdf

  17. #17 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    @TYL

    “And I want to study music theory for the fun of it… I never stop taking flak for not being a musician but wanting to understand the structures of music.”

    ’cause it’s like studying a theory of sex. Sure, theory is nice, but…

  18. #18 Chad Orzel
    July 27, 2008

    What Sokal (and his immitators later) did was to prove that in a system based on assumption of intelectual honesty, it’s easy to achieve a short time victory by being dishonest. Well, I hope he’s proud of himself.

    If it matters, Sokal gave a talk here a little while back (about his actual research, not this stuff), and he seemed faintly embarrassed about the whole thing.

    I’ll sharpen JSS’ comments and say outright that sometimes the questions are irritating because they are asked in outright bad faith, not so much as part of an agenda, but as part of an attempt to obfuscate, derail, and dismiss.

    That’s been my experience, as well. In my experience, arguments about the social construction of science are most likely to come up in defense of some variety of pseudo-science– the Western paradigm of science is suppressing the more organic knowledge of healing based on chi flows and chakra points, or whatever. This is frequently followed by an attempt to invoke either Goedel or Heisenberg to show that scientific knowledge is impossible, anyway.

  19. #19 Brian X
    July 27, 2008

    What Sokal (and his immitators later) did was to prove that in a system based on assumption of intelectual honesty, it’s easy to achieve a short time victory by being dishonest.

    I think Sokal did more than that. I think he proved that the entire system lacked rigor. The pomo community’s courtier’s replies to the Sokal hoax essentially proved that the entire pomo community was one big echo chamber of people trying to one-up each other without ever having to say anything profound, or even much of anything at all, and that they were far, far out of their element when discussing science. (The sheer weirdness of some of Derrida’s and Lacan’s comments about science made that pretty self-evident.)

  20. #20 The Young Linguist
    July 27, 2008

    @Roman
    I agree. In a perfect world I’d have the money, even though I’m bleeding myself dry with uni studies now, to pay for instruments and the lessons to learn how to play them. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to spend on it. Sex, for now at least, is free. My art friends (one painter, one digital art) have always been happy to help me understand the concepts of line and colour as they apply to making art, they respect that it helps me appreciate art more fully. Musicians, however, act like any effort to learn music theory is an effort to learn hidden secrets that the uninitiated cannot be privy to.

  21. #21 Roman Werpachowski
    July 27, 2008

    @BrianX

    “I think Sokal did more than that. I think he proved that the entire system lacked rigor.”

    As JSS said, “Social Text” was not reviewing the articles sent to them. Sokal probably knew it. What else did he expect, then?

  22. #22 Chad Orzel
    July 27, 2008

    Rebecca: I’m the daughter of a former physics professor, and am acquainted with several professors or former professors in the sciences, and yes, most of them are quite dismissive of knowledge of the humanities. They don’t know it, and it isn’t important enough for them to learn it.

    Interesting.
    That doesn’t really match my experience of science faculty– most of the science faculty I know also have interests in the humanities.

    I wonder if this is a liberal arts college thing?

  23. #23 CCPhysicist
    July 27, 2008

    See the second paragraph of my comments just posted in the original thread for one circumstance. Here I will add that there are lots of examples of scientists who are decent musicians or who have a serious appreciation of art (and my experience is not at a liberal arts college).

    I wonder how you can appreciate the use or abuse of perspective or the mathematical structure of the fugue and other musical forms without some appreciation for the structure of mathematics.

  24. #24 John Novak
    July 27, 2008

    Roman,

    The context was an extended debate around 1990 or 1991, with an undergrad who was basically having a series of hissy fits over the very notion that someone might, in any circumstance, tell him he’s wrong. I find it unlikely that he read a short paper published only this year at the time of that discussion.

    Also, while it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s also important not to get your chain yanked in the process. This kid was a yanker, and I expect this is the last I will say on this topic.

  25. #25 JSS
    July 27, 2008

    Chad Orzel:

    My experience as well, unfortunately.

    I have a social sciences background, so you can probably imagine what it’s like trying to argue with peers who feel the need to defend an untenable worldview based on constructivist relativism. It allows them to justify their pet research projects, but does little to help us understand our social world.

  26. #26 Brian X
    July 27, 2008

    I think he expected them to be embarrassed. I think he hoped that it would inspire the pomos to tighten up their standards of intellectual rigor and stop intentionally talking over people’s heads, but instead they circled the wagons and freaked out. The courtier’s replies flew fast and furious, but never seemed to reach a conclusion that didn’t involve castigating Sokal as an upstart rather than addressing his point.

    As for the Bogdanov affair, I think that more points out a failing in the journal process than the scientific community as a whole. All indications are that at least a few people found it fishy, and evidently many people outside the pipelines found it rather strange that it was published.

  27. #27 Scott Spiegelberg
    July 27, 2008

    To the Young Linguist, bravo on pursuing your interests, especially music theory. :) Perhaps you are already aware that there is a branch of music theory that uses linguistics as inspiration/metaphor for the creation of various musical grammars. As for Roman @17, studying theory always helps improve your performance!

  28. #28 Ponder Stibbons
    July 27, 2008

    I majored in both physics and philosophy, and most of the flak I took for straddling the divide came from the scientists. But this may be due to the fact that philosophers tend to have more physics envy than other non-scientists in academia.

    Amongst the physicists, I would say there was about a 50% disapproval rate (from, admittedly, a small sample size of around four professors to whom I revealed my ‘other side’). They tended to be disappointed that I was letting myself be ‘distracted’ by something they regarded as flaky.

    Given the small sample size, this probably doesn’t shed much light on whether it’s a ‘liberal arts college’ thing, but it happened in a research university that provided a rigorous liberal arts undergraduate education (its general ed. requirements were more demanding than those at many liberal arts colleges, but I don’t think commitment to the idea of a liberal arts education is a major factor in its hiring decisions).

    I suspect it probably has more to do with the professors’ individual histories. For example, the scientists I know who had a British-style education where they specialize at a very early age tend to be much more dismissive of the non-sciences. It could just be that those who end up teaching at liberal arts colleges are disproportionately those who went through a liberal arts undergraduate education.

  29. #29 Rebecca
    July 28, 2008

    Chad:
    It could just be my father (he taught astronomy and physics at the University of Arizona) and his friends, who account for all of the physics profs I’ve known. Dad likes history, but sees the study of literature, art, art history, music history and theory, theater, etc, as stupid and pointless, and I imagine he attracted like minds. It might also be a generational thing; Dad hasn’t been in academics in more than two decades, and most of his friends were out of it by sometime in the 90s. My biologist friend (the one who thought that the Illiad was history, because they’d found Troy based on its directions, and therefore it couldn’t be mythology, and what did I mean it had gods in it? How could it be both history and mythology, those are totally different!) is moderately interested in literature, but she received no formal education until she went to college, so her knowledge of things like history is pretty spotty. For being self-educated until adulthood, she did remarkably well, and is a generally well-educated person by current standard, but there are some gaps there…

  30. #30 KKairos
    July 28, 2008

    (Note: I’m still in college. I’m in Math and Theology, so…yeah, to some degree I have my foot vaguely in the humanities camp, but Math is sort of scientific art, so…yeah.) That said, my bio/biochem major friends sometimes like to tell me how I should remember random crap I learned in 10th grade bio or 11th grade chemistry (the last time I remember this happening it was about covalent bonds, I think) and maybe I should remember that, but frankly, I don’t care. That doesn’t mean I dismiss science though; I’m actually a pretty big fan of it, and scientific findings tend to influence my other thoughts even if I barely remember any of my high school science aside from whatever physics got reiterated for math. That said, I do get inordinately pissed whenever people spout things about religion or theology or even about math that aren’t just wrong in my opinion, but are just plain inaccurate (e.g. this group of people believes this particular doctrine, when they don’t really). But to be fair, I get inordinately pissed off at myself whenever I say anything slightly inaccurate in math and immediately feel the need to correct it; in theology I often feel the need to back and add nuance to things I say…I kind of don’t think I need to remind people that I don’t think I’m infallible on the matter, but maybe I should more often.

  31. #31 John Novak
    July 28, 2008

    Rebecca, #29:

    I obviously can’t speak for your father, but I know that any hypothetical child of mine deciding to major in the study of fine arts (as opposed to the fine art itself) would definitely get a raised eyebrow.

    Not because I consider the study of fine arts to be worthless, but because I’d be wondering how my child would manage to feed him or herself– those are not exactly high paying jobs, and my engineering salary doesn’t really lend itself to setting up a trust fund.

  32. #32 Roman Werpachowski
    July 28, 2008

    @Brian X

    “As for the Bogdanov affair, I think that more points out a failing in the journal process than the scientific community as a whole.”

    The Bogdanov brothers:
    - managed to publish FIVE papers, not just one
    - got their PhD’s for them!

    That’s something more than just “a failing in the journal process”.

  33. #33 brian ledford
    July 28, 2008

    this might have been addressed elsewhere, but what constitutes noncondescending familiarity with fine arts/humanities? I would imagine lots of people are properly appreciative of the fine arts and literature while being dismissive of the study of them. So great gatsby = good, marxist postmodern reading of shakespeare = silly drivel (and I’m a chemist, so that’s probably a markov chain of tired buzzwords). And I’m not sure anymore has ever argued that you need to be familiar with scholarly literary criticism of various great books in order to be cultured/intellectual, you just [cough] need to have read them. I don’t really know what the science/math version
    of the “great books list” is. A collection of facts feels very much like missing the point. Maybe an understanding of basic terminology? It’s nice not having to explain what a molecule or an atom or a salt, etc. is. ditto for gene vs. chromosome vs. protein.

  34. #34 Rebecca
    July 28, 2008

    Brian Ledford:
    I can’t speak to anyone else’s definitions, but my father, while he enjoys reading popular thrillers, and used to read quite a bit of science fiction, would be horrified at the notion that he should read Gatsby or any other “classic,” and is totally baffled by the idea that discussion the meaning and structure of works of fiction could be constructive under any circumstances whatsoever. I’m not talking about deconstructionism or post modernism, I’m talking about discussions of themes, plot pacing, dialogue, etc. He reads totally for simple pleasure, which is fine, but he thinks it’s ridiculous that anyone else might read any differently or for different reasons, and he doesn’t value the work of those who do. Nor the work of those who study music theory, theater, dance (ballet horrifies him, and I’m not entirely certain he’s aware of the existence of modern dance), etc.

    John Novak @31:
    I was studying to be a stage manager, not a dramaturge. Studying theater, being a theater student, is not like being an art historian or a literature theorist. Tech theater study is very practical. Dad was horrified that I went into theater, period.

  35. #35 TooMuchCoffeeMan
    July 28, 2008

    Not quite, on tpoic, but:

    Brian at #33:
    I would imagine lots of people are properly appreciative of the fine arts and literature while being dismissive of the study of them.

    Weeellll…. that strikes me as a little extreme, since study of the arts can enhance understanding of the art, no? To take an example from my own schooldays, one gets more out of a translation of the Odyssey if one knows some of the context of customs and morals in Ancient Greek society, which is the sort of thing that we only know about by the academic study of history and literature as we can’t set up repeatable experiments. Even if works of art were obliged to be immediate to their audience — which I personally think is a touch dogmatic — they wouldn’t be immediate to the audience formed by future generations, and there the humanities as an academic discipline surely have a role to play.

    But, to be fair, the same schooldays hold a vivid memory of the English teacher and his pet enthusing about the number of times the word “which” appears in Macbeth, which at the time and to this day strikes me as one of the least interesting things you could say about Shakespeare. (It can’t be his best claim to glory, can it?) So I certainly agree that the `industry’ can sometimes get in the way of the object.

    Perhaps, as a mathematician, I don’t really “get” the attitudes on either “side” of the divide — sometimes it seems to me like much of the cruder flak boils down to the existence or non-existence of the law of excluded middle. I think being proud of ignorance is poor form in anything, but equally bad is trying to shame anyone else for their ignorance of something.

  36. #36 Glendon Mellow
    July 28, 2008

    As a fine arts student majoring in visual art, science was not well-received.

    I painted a tardigrade, and was told to “paint from my experience, perhaps the subway or backyard”.

    I drew a picture of trilobites, paintstakingly & for the first time, using a .3mm mechanical pencil, and the thesis prof replied, “ooo, I don’t want any of those in my soup” and moved on.

    I painted diatoms (but I’m an asthmatic and they make oxygen, this is from my experience!) mitochondria and a figurative mitochondrial Eve and they enjoyed the contours of the mitochondria mistaking it for abstract shapes and growth on my part.

    Science as an edifice was mistrusted, though the interaction of pigments and vehicle affected all of us everyday. Throw a picture of DNA in there and they worry you’re too distant from the intersection of your own life.

  37. #37 andy.s
    July 29, 2008

    Rebecca, surely your father is aware that, in order for him to read books, some people have to write them? These people have to know things like pacing, dialog, etc. And that such things are difficult enough to manage that they’re interesting enough for to study for their own sake?

    I’m probably not one to talk; when I was an undergrad, I didn’t really take any classes seriously unless they had equations in them. Now I realize how much I missed out on. Too bad I can’t do it again. Si jeunesse souvait, si vielleuse pouvait.

  38. #38 Rebecca
    July 29, 2008

    andy s.:
    Please don’t try to argue it with me, I know why people should study this stuff. If you pressed him, I’m sure it would be possible to get my father to admit that writers should study their craft, but he would probably never see the advantage for anyone else in discussing these things.

  39. #39 Peter Erwin
    July 29, 2008

    The Young Linguist @ 15:
    As someone who’s moving from math to linguistics, I’ve seen it both ways. All of the Math, Bio, Chem, Phys, and to a lesser extent Engineering majors wonder why in the world I would want to study a fake science like Linguistics, which is considered to be the only thing worse than Psychology in the world of pseudo-science.

    If you’re actually doing linguistics, then you’re doing science, not humanities, so you haven’t seen it both ways. If your math/bio/chem/phyics/etc. colleagues think otherwise, then they’re simply ignorant. I’ve seen enough evidence of scientific approaches, attitudes, and results within linguistics to be satisfied that it is a science, even from my point of view as a (nominally) arrogant physical sciences type[*] (astrophysics, in my case).

    [*] who also majored medieval history, so I do have some vague idea what research in a non-science field is like.[**]

    [**] For what it’s worth, I never seem to get any flack from either side during my college experience (the only problem I had was having to explain that my history major wasn’t “history of science”). Possibly the place I went to was a little unusual: I knew people who switched midway through from astronomy to philosophy, and there were people doing things like double majoring in Chemistry and English, or Mathematics and Dance.

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