Two Cultures

Category archives for Two Cultures

STEM Is Not an Alien Menace

Everybody and their extended families has been sharing around the Fareed Zakaria piece on liberal education. This, as you might imagine, is relevant to my interests. So I wrote up a response over at Forbes. The basic argument of the response is the same thing I’ve been relentlessly flogging around here for a few years:…

Yesterday was Founders Day at Union, celebrating the 220th anniversary of the granting of a charter for the college. The name of the event always carries a sort of British-boarding-school air for me, and never fails to earworm me with a very particular rugby song, but really it’s just one of those formal-procession-and-big-speaker events that…

Two Cultures of Incompressibility

Also coming to my attention during the weekend blog shutdown was this Princeton Alumni Weekly piece on the rhetoric of crisis in the humanities. Like several other authors before him, Gideon Rosen points out that there’s little numerical evidence of a real “crisis,” and that most of the cries of alarm you hear from academics…

What I Learned From the Liberal Arts

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about liberal education and the failure modes thereof, I thought I should try to do something constructive and make suggestions regarding how you might go about a “poetry for physicists” kind of thing. After all, one of the things I find intensely frustrating about a lot of “crisis in…

On Class and Skills and Education

In a comment to yesterday’s post about the liberal arts, Eric Lund makes a good point: The best argument I have ever heard for doing scholarship in literature and other such fields is that some people find it fun. I single this out as a good point not because I want to sneer at the…

Sunday evening, as a part of the kick-off to the new academic year, we had a talk by Andrew Delbanco, a professor at Columbia and the author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. This was intended as a sort of affirmation of the importance of the sort of educational experience Union offers,…

The stupid Steven Pinker business from a few weeks ago turned out to do one good thing after all. It led to this post at Making Science Public, which quoted some books by Jacob Bronowski that sounded relevant to my interests. And, indeed, on checking The Common Sense of Science out of the college library,…

A Pox on Both Your Cultures

A lot has been written about Steven Pinker’s article about “scientism,” most of it mocking his grandiose overreach in passages like this: These thinkers—Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith—are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data. The mathematical theories of information,…

Technology Is Science, Too

Via a retweeted link from Thony C. on Twitter, I ran across a blog post declaring science a “bourgeois pastime.” The argument, attributed to a book by Dierdre McCloskey is that rather than being at the root of economic progress, scientific advances are a by-product of economic advances. As society got more wealthy, it was…

In my darker moods, I sometimes suspect that all academics, regardless of their specialty, are engaged in the same pursuit: searching out and exposing the systematic oppression of… whatever department or program the faculty member speaking at the moment happens to belong to. No matter what field of study they work in, faculty seem to…