Anti-intellectualism in humanities academia?

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SocOfAutism
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29 Nov 2020, 9:59 am

It was made very clear to me in my early attempts at research that no one wanted to hear about my findings because it conflicted with their agenda. And that my general way of thinking and speaking was unacceptable. Further, I felt that even research backed with data was useless because data can so easily be manipulated. So there was no point for me. I’m not going to take time away from my family to do work that no one wants to hear.

I was in a sociology doctoral program studying the wellness and productivity of autistic adult workers.



GGPViper
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29 Nov 2020, 10:39 am

I firmly believe that there is only one science (physics), and that everything (even stamp collecting) is physics.

As such, I see the separation of academic subjects into categories (physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, humanities etc.) as products of the fallible human mind, and not "real" distinctions in the actual physical world.

Thus, the same scientific principles ought to apply to the study of lenticular galaxies, school-yard bullying, photosynthesis, economic depressions, mass migration, comparison of Baseball Bat Ballistics performance in the 1920s and 1950s, genocide, Crustacean evolution, the fallible human mind, subatomic particle decay, invasive species in the Kara-Koysu River Canyon in Dagestan and the propensity of souffles to collapse during baking.


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29 Nov 2020, 10:58 am

I'm only chiming in because I've had this thought myself in the past and find it interesting.

GGPViper wrote:
I firmly believe that there is only one science (physics), and that everything (even stamp collecting) is physics.

As such, I see the separation of academic subjects into categories (physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, humanities etc.) as products of the fallible human mind, and not "real" distinctions in the actual physical world.

At the end of the day it's a practical matter. Being able to study something, get funding for it, or set people's expectations depends on being to name the relevant range in which it occupies. For example a biologist, even a darn good one, can usually only say the most pedestrian things about the standard model, about spinors (if they've even heard of them), let alone talk cosmology. A physicist would equally be out of place talking biology, they might have a good grasp of game theory and have good intuitions accordingly but that's about it. Similarly both the physicist and biologist would need quite a bit of assistance from a trained chemist if someone told them that they need to make a big batch of organic solvents for industrial applications.

The knowledge between these fields is that deep that you can't have professions or ways to allocate resources, or describe the given relevant range, without specific titles.

GGPViper wrote:
Thus, the same scientific principles ought to apply to the study of lenticular galaxies, school-yard bullying, photosynthesis, economic depressions, mass migration, comparison of Baseball Bat Ballistics performance in the 1920s and 1950s, genocide, Crustacean evolution, the fallible human mind, subatomic particle decay, invasive species in the Kara-Koysu River Canyon in Dagestan and the propensity of souffles to collapse during baking.

So here's the really brutal news about that - information. Working as a programmer what I'm doing is much more complicated than zeroes and ones. People write epic novels on pages of books, the binding of the book, the pages, the ink, all relatively simple components - the content isn't.

Part of the problem, as you go up the pyramid from the lowest level causes - ie. physics, to slightly higher - chemistry, to slightly higher - biology, and then start moving into the social sciences, you're dealing with a world that information had exponentially complicated. Some people like to use a Grand Theft Auto analogy of describing what they think of as a potential virtual world, I think in a way we have that just in how sharp the differences are between physical systems that are incredibly lawful vs. intelligent systems that can be quite chaotic and even live on art and guile, and you can find that guile and cunning well below the human species - natural selection actually favors it as a strength. This is also part of where one can feel like they have an easy grasp of reality when looking at physics but little grasp on reality, or even very little mobility, when dealing with other people. Part of autism even is having an easy grasp on facts but then going out the front door and feeling like you just joined a Halo tournament for the first time and you spend the whole time getting spawn-killed by other savvy, ruthless, and more experienced players.

Is it all physics? Maybe but... with the way information influences things and the kinds of self-referencing behavior that it, and consciousness, cause... good luck doing anything with that on its own.


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29 Nov 2020, 11:19 am

Whale_Tuune wrote:
Anti-intellectualism in humanities academia?
Somewhat.  Those few Humanities (HASS) courses I was required to take at university to earn my Engineering (STEM) degree seemed to emphasize consensus opinion over empirical data as "proof".  Those students who learned quickly that agreeing with the instructor rather than relying on historical data would earn the higher grades than those who questioned the "wisdom" of Humanities' doctrine.  So in my opinion, the Humanities are more about teaching students to follow the herd than teaching students to think critically.


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29 Nov 2020, 1:01 pm

GGPViper wrote:
I firmly believe that there is only one science (physics), and that everything (even stamp collecting) is physics.

As such, I see the separation of academic subjects into categories (physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, humanities etc.) as products of the fallible human mind, and not "real" distinctions in the actual physical world.

Thus, the same scientific principles ought to apply to the study of lenticular galaxies, school-yard bullying, photosynthesis, economic depressions, mass migration, comparison of Baseball Bat Ballistics performance in the 1920s and 1950s, genocide, Crustacean evolution, the fallible human mind, subatomic particle decay, invasive species in the Kara-Koysu River Canyon in Dagestan and the propensity of souffles to collapse during baking.


In some sense everything is applied physics, but that doesn't change the real feasible difficulties of studying for example psychology.

If we had vastly superior knowledge and much much more computing power, we should in theory be able to calculate someone's behavior based on knowledge of their brain structure and probabilities of certain electrons jumping. But working that problem from first principles is impossible, especially when we're not even sure what are the first principles.

So we sub-divide into different scales. Physicists study the basic principles of matter. Chemists how matter reacts to certain exposures. Molecular biologists, how cells use chemistry to perform functions. Neuroscientists how the brain is composed of cells and how it functions, before finally a psychologist is trying to understand the brain's reactions to various circumstances. There's a lot of abstraction at each level and each scale presents unique challenges.

Now consider that human psychology is to many other humanities what physics is to human psychology and you grasp the difficulty of studying these subjects in the manner of physics.


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29 Nov 2020, 1:09 pm

Last time I was in university I didn't notice any of this but I didn't do anything relating to humanities. I found the lecturers I had to be very objective. The last brush with humanities was when I was in school and the teacher was also very fair and impartial.

I have noticed that when it comes to school now there doesn't seem to be the same level of political neutrality which by law schools are supposed to have. For universities I have no idea.



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29 Nov 2020, 3:46 pm

SocOfAutism wrote:
It was made very clear to me in my early attempts at research that no one wanted to hear about my findings because it conflicted with their agenda. And that my general way of thinking and speaking was unacceptable. Further, I felt that even research backed with data was useless because data can so easily be manipulated. So there was no point for me. I’m not going to take time away from my family to do work that no one wants to hear.

I was in a sociology doctoral program studying the wellness and productivity of autistic adult workers.


What was the issue? What were they looking for?


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29 Nov 2020, 4:21 pm

Whale_Tuune wrote:
What was the issue?
She had not bought into the consensus-driven doctrine.
Whale_Tuune wrote:
What were they looking for?
Someone who would provide "data" that would reinforce their consensus-driven doctrine.


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Whale_Tuune
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30 Nov 2020, 3:41 pm

I was more curious about the findings and how they conflicted with the academic agenda. I've been considering a career related to academia, but I'm fast growing uncertain about it.


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30 Nov 2020, 5:10 pm

Whale_Tuune wrote:
I was more curious about the findings and how they conflicted with the academic agenda. I've been considering a career related to academia, but I'm fast growing uncertain about it.
If you have ambitions of introducing radical new teaching and curriculum ideas that will turn the education "industry" on its head and usher in a new age of enlightenment, then you may be in for a let-down.  Unless you home-school your own children, you will likely be expected to follow the already-established curricula and utilize traditional methods of teaching, even in charter schools (and especially in private schools).

Otherwise, I hear it can be a rewarding experience.


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02 Dec 2020, 1:01 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
The humanities are, to a large degree, intrinsically subjective, hence intrinsically subject to cultural fads among the intellectual elite. (For example, what constitutes "great" literature or "great" art? That's an intrinsically subjective question.)


Agreed.

Mona Pereth wrote:
The sciences, especially the physical sciences, are more constrained by objective realities, hence much less politicized (although there's no such thing as pure objectivity, of course). Scientific research priorities are certainly political -- but these are decided, to a large degree, by funding sources outside of academia itself.


Agreed.

Mona Pereth wrote:
Hopefully the humanities will become more open to varying points of view, and more concerned with factual accuracy again. But it's good, at least, that the current fad is in favor of learning the perspectives of various categories of marginalized people.


Not at the expense of reason and truth. 8)


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02 Dec 2020, 1:08 am

SocOfAutism wrote:
It was made very clear to me in my early attempts at research that no one wanted to hear about my findings because it conflicted with their agenda. And that my general way of thinking and speaking was unacceptable. Further, I felt that even research backed with data was useless because data can so easily be manipulated.


Agreed.
There is a lot of corruption in terms of priority given to certain favoured political narratives.


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Don't tell me white lies. Gaslight me at your peril. Don't give me your bad attitude.
If I'm so bad, pass me by. ;)


And one more thing,


"A stranger is a friend gang-stalker you haven't met yet."

Truth may be inconvenient but it is never politically incorrect...The Oracle of Truth has spoken...8)


THERE WILL BE NO COUP IN AMERICA!


Whale_Tuune
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02 Dec 2020, 4:12 pm

Pepe wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
Hopefully the humanities will become more open to varying points of view, and more concerned with factual accuracy again. But it's good, at least, that the current fad is in favor of learning the perspectives of various categories of marginalized people.


Not at the expense of reason and truth. 8)


Mona Pereth just said this essentially, Pepe.


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The_Face_of_Boo
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03 Dec 2020, 9:07 am

Narnia sounds like a terrible place academically; call Aslan to fix this.


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05 Dec 2020, 9:37 pm

I studied at one of Europe's finest design schools, am very educated in my field, have wirked on fancy projects and I do enjoy teaching, yet I was told for a professorship, I'd need a PhD. So I started reading theory.
And I was appalled by it. I specialise in animation, and the theory on animation is... Poetry, at best.
There's whole books (by PhD holders who have never made a film but have tenured professorships) on how animation creates a limbo state, something between alive and dead.
And my brain is just screaming at the top of its lungs that animation is a flow of audio-visual information that fulfills the sensory criteria of humans to assume life and agency as the source of this information flow.
I did not fare well in discussions with academics in the field, and I kind of gave up on aiming for a tenured professorship.


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