The most interesting aspect of this Twitter war is that it is representative of a malaise that has stricken a good chunk of academics (mostly scientists, with a peppering of philosophers) and an increasing portion of the general public: scientism. I have co-edited an entire book, due out soon, on the topic, which features authors who are pro, con, and somewhere in the middle. Scientism is defined as the belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc., of the natural sciences are the only ways to gather valuable knowledge or to answer meaningful questions. Everything else, to paraphrase Taleb, is bullshit. Does Taleb engage in scientism? Indubitably. I have already mentioned above his generalization from what one particular historian (Beard) said to “historians” tout court. But there is more, from his Twitter feed: “there is this absence of intellectual rigor in humanities.” “Are historians idiots? Let’s be polite and say that they are in the majority no rocket scientists and operate under a structural bias. It looks like an empirically rigorous view of historiography is missing.”
A workplace-discrimination lawyer writes:
Stray remarks are not enough. But a widespread workplace discussion of whether women engineers are biologically capable of performing at the same level as their male counterparts could suffice to create a hostile work environment. As another example, envision the racial hostility of a workplace where employees, as Google put it, “feel safe” to espouse their “alternative view” that their African-American colleagues are not well-represented in management positions because they are not genetically predisposed for leadership roles. In short, a workplace where people “feel safe sharing opinions” based on gender (or racial, ethnic or religious) stereotypes may become so offensive that it legally amounts to actionable discrimination.
For fans of the movie WARGAMES: a list of all the nuclear war scenarios stored in the W.O.P.R. computer. (self.movies)(via burritojustice)
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