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And the Queen of the Sciences is…

31 March 2012

Noam Chomsky, the linguistic philosopher, says that there are some things about human nature that are just too complex to be easily researchable.

Noam Chomsky on linguistics and climate change. – Slate Magazine:

Take, say, physics, which restricts itself to extremely simple questions. If a molecule becomes too complex, they hand it over to the chemists. If it becomes too complex for them, they hand it to biologists. And if the system is too complex for them, they hand it to psychologists … and so on until it ends up in the hands of historians or novelists. As you deal with more and more complex systems, it becomes harder and harder to find deep and interesting properties.

Hat-tip to The Pittsford Perennialist: Noam Chomsky on the Limits of Science, who hints at, but does not take it to its logical conclusion: that the really complex questions of human nature are the field of theological anthropology.

And that reminds me of what a blogging friend (who has, unfortunately, deleted his blog) once said about the ignoring of the humanities in mainstream culture:

Rational debate about the existence/ non-existence of God, and the ethical implications thereof, is good. It belongs to human dignity to seek to discern what is true.

There is an academic discipline which studies questions such as what constitutes a warranted belief, what religious language ‘means’, whether it has a possible reference and what it means for our conceptions of the good life. That discipline is philosophy. There is also an academic discipline whose remit of study includes the atrocities committed in the name of religion. That discipline is history.

So why, when Channel Four want to air a programme about these issues do they give air-time to a biologist with no training whatsoever in either discipline? Moreover one whose previous pronouncements in this area have only been published because he has piggy-backed on his (justified) scientific reputation and which, considered in their own right, are unworthy of a moderately bright A-level student.

Yet another example of the ignoring of the humanities in mainstream culture and, in spite of the irrationalism of our age, the persistence of the Victorian cult of the polymath scientist. Boo, hiss.

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