Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters
socratic

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I'm here to tell you there's no black or white

The hard bigotry of math and science types:

If there's one thing you'll learn from hanging around engineering and science types it's not how to calculate third order derivatives without having your head explode into pulpy lumps of brain and bone but rather how much easier humanities courses are than sciency courses, and by association how much stupider (and sometimes just plain inferior) humanities students are. This is one of the last remaining acceptable bigotries, up there with fat people and teenage girls. It's a less visible one, but only because it's communicated in scrawled series of logarythms on the backs of pocket protectors and poorly written text messages sent through the IR ports of complex graphing calculators that are entirely unnecessary for any sort of engineering purposes but play a MEAN game of Boulder Dash. Spend time in dorky circles at any university, though, and you will encounter it.

Now there is certainly an element of truth in the idea that hard science classes grade harder than humanities classes, and that in order to pass the class you need to do a good deal more work unless you're a prodigy or the professor really likes the way your ass looks in those jeans. Math and Science courses require CONSISTANCY, which is something that college students have very little of. On the other hand in many ways they require less of other aspects of what one could term intelligence. Maths and Sciences are dominated by Asian immigrants for the most part, them and Jews. These are people who are gung ho about social advancement and willing to put in the hours of labor necessary to achieve it. That's quite admirable. Yet if you ask them what the significance of Proust's Madelines is they will look at you like you just asked the typical English major to estimate how many protons there are in the plaque on his teeth. They can memorize rote answers that will satisfy cursory inquiry but a lot of them struggle with trying to really dig in and produce something that is both original and insightful. Well I could memorize how many protons are in my tooth plaque, but just like them and Don Quixote I wouldn't know how to go about analyzing this stuff from scratch.

That's not to say that there aren't engineers with a good grasp of the English language or other humanities style knowledge areas, but then again not every historian wets his jodhpurs when confronted with organic chemistry. There is crossover from both fields into the other. All I know is that I've never seen a physics major come into a literature class and just dominate it with his insights and understanding of the structural peculiarities of Ezra Pound's ponderous poetry. Some argue "That's because Engineers are above that crap! Who cares about Beowulf when you could be talking ohms and amperes with someone who knows a good deal about electricity?" The thing is that my college has a core ciriculum, and so engineers are forced into the English classroom. Most of them sit there dutifully, collect their B-s, and scoot back to their lairs to try and figure out how much friction would be created between their penises and Heidi Klum's love canal were the two of them to fornicate at 3,000 feet above sea level in a nitrogen rich atmosphere.

Now it's true that the physics major in the English class will get a B while the English major in the Physics class has a shot at an F. I think this makes sense though. An F in physics means that you suck at math and probably shouldn't be calculating velocities any time soon. An F in English means what? That you suck at reading and writing and should probably lay off talking? Humanities often measure analytical skills in general rather than ability at a particular task.

The fact of the matter is that with a few exceptional renaissance men like Aristotle and Benjamin Franklin the greatest scientists have not been the greatest writers, and those that WERE or are great writers it's unclear which came first, the English or the Math. There are easy classes and hard classes. There are even easy majors and hard majors. There are no easy 'types of thought' and hard types of thought. Freud was not less of a genius than Tessla just because he couldn't make things glow (Oh yes it's VERY IMPORTANT to remember that psychology is NOT a science unless you are refering EXCLUSIVELY to neuroscience. Say psychology's a science in front of an engineer and he's liable to look at you like what you said was "I am never happy without a goat's penis in between my lips...and the corpse of an infant pureed and stuck up my ass.")

I've got news for you too sparky. Scientists don't run the world. They are just the mechanics. Scientists create shit to preserve life (Jonas Salk) or end it (Robert Openheimer) but they don't make it worth living and they don't really worry about the quality of it. Cars are made more efficient and faster by industrial engineers, but they're made attractive and salable by designers. Doctors figure out how to create medicine to fight a disease. Public health workers and sociologists figure out how to distribute it. Structural engineers build a bridge and rock and rollers give people a reason to drive over it.

If science is the engine of modern society then the humanities are the fuel and the steering wheel.

Of course in that metaphor Women's Studies would be lucky to qualify as the bad fuzzy dice in the rearview mirror but that's another argument.
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