While the author clearly values the liberal arts (um, it's McSweeney's), there's something to be said for actually getting things done in the world. A lot, actually.
What the author is parodying is less the degree itself but more the miles wide and inches deep approach to education and life that many intelligent people are fond of taking.
I've been guilty of this, and satire is usually born of familiarity, so I assume the author has been as well. The point is, recognize that pursuit of education as amusement and status symbol is a hobby done for you and none other, and if you want to make some kind of impact outside of your own head, you're going to either have to get deeper and more focused or get more pragmatic.
In terms of "getting things done in the world," how is making iPhone fart apps any more of a contribution than, say, publishing a screed in a tabloid? I'm trying not to set up a straw man here, so I'm deliberately choosing lowest common denominator activities.
I don't think it's fair for us technical folk to rest on our laurels simply because we have mastery over some very specific kind of knowledge that has a great deal of useful applications. We have to get out there and get real things done, too.
*note: originally I was writing this as a joke but it stopped feeling like one halfway through.
Unfair since plenty of those with liberal arts degrees contribute to society in a way we geeks value, but still amusing.
I've met a fair number of philosophy and language majors who are programmers, web designers or system administrators. And a number of them have much greater mental flexibility than someone who got a four year CS degree for the job prospects but have never demonstrated any great degree of intellectual curiosity.
It's just that we won't be able to do without them forever ;-)
In fact, I like to tall my son the dinosaurs only died because they had neither rockets nor nukes.
Nor am I convinced that we will eventually be able to escape our dieing sun, but I keep my fingers crossed.
It won't do much good if the thing is the size of a state, but mountain-sized rocks seem manageable this way.
Actually, I'm not sure what the point is. The fantasies with which underemployed recent BAs make the 40 hours pass? A take-off on the brand of thriller in which Joe Normal gets sucked into international (or interplanetary) intrigue and danger? Revenge for the balderdash the author was forced to write last year?
But wasn't the lead in _The Eiger Sanction_ an art history professor who did CIA hits in the off-season to support his Picasso habit? Yeah, Clint Eastwood's a bit long in the tooth, but I'd back him against Bruce Willis for asteroid destruction any day of the week. (Cf. _Space Cowboys_<liberal arts mode>, another profound exploration of the human spirit</liberal arts mode>.)
So, yeah, the post is funny, but some of us have both a liberal arts degree and an ability to do utilitarian things.
And that's from a tiny liberal arts school with a total population of ~2,000 students.
Anyone who specialises in a single viewpoint and is unable to compromise probably isn't a candidate for saving the earth.
That probably just tells my imagination is limited.
But not everybody has to be able to save the world when it comes to that. Singers and writers are useful, and they wouldn't fit in to asteroid scenario, neither.
Science and technology are important, and deserve more respect and funding than they get in this society, but not to the detriment of all else.
You embody what I am talking about so perfectly here I can only assume this was a clever piece of satire.
A developed vocabulary is awesome, but you always got to consider who your audience is and why you're writing. If you're trying to persuade a lot of people, it's almost always better to choose the easier and more readable word instead of the bigger or deeper or more obscure word.
I read a hell of a lot, and I had to look bilge up to figure out exactly what you're saying - you could've just said "trash" instead and everyone would've got your meaning. Likewise, "tedious" could be "boring", "smugly belittle" could be "insult", you could drop "endlessly" altogether since it doesn't add any more information. Likewise, "quite enough" doesn't convey more than just the word "enough", "nuanced grasp of reality" could've just been "perspective". Here's how I'd write it:
> Few things are more tedious than reading science majors endlessly, smugly belittle arts subjects. "Oh ho ho, something I don't understand and haven't done and probably couldn't do, they must be idiots, let's constantly mock them". I saw quite enough of that on slashdot so was very disappointed to see this sort of bilge get so many upvotes here. Thankfully some of the comments, at least, show a more nuanced grasp of reality.
> It gets old reading science majors put down the arts. It's easier to mock something than it is to try to understand it. Sheesh, I saw enough of that on slashdot and I'm disappointed to see it here. It's good that at least a few commentors are taking the time to share a perspective from the other side.
So, you write less, it's faster, more people understand you, more are convinced, and you come across less arrogant. Anyways, I been there myself, I grew up reading lots of books and always used to choose the bigger word. Now I choose the simpler more readable way unless the bigger word is really necessary or conveys more.
As for "bilge", contrary to your pleasant assumption I am trying to show off how many books I read, I probably chose that word because it was at the top of my head, having been widely in the news here this week: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7608422/Genera...
Ironically, this notion that you can freely swap NEAR-synonyms with no change of implications and associations of what is meant is a rather maths-y perspective. Someone with more of a liberal arts background would be more aware how far from the truth is. Human natural language, English especially, is not like simultaneous equations where terms can be freely reduced with no loss of accuracy. The range of "big words" and "small words" signify similar but not identical concepts... but of course, if you follow the thoughts of my other responder, the work of Saussure, Derrida et al on signifiers and signified didn't involve any abstract thinking, just reading and regurgitation.
I do admit that my initial post was perhaps rather bullishly worded, and in that sense, the downvotes perhaps deserved. However, it is a bit ironic how hostile a reaction from HN members it recieved, considered it was intended as a compliment to HN members. What I was trying to get at was that the linked piece was essentially a very cheap shot - a cheap shot understood by reading the headline alone, at that, with the rest of the text offering little or no further insight or interest. On the other hand, the comments of (for example) cousin_it, jlc, olefoo were far more intelligent.
Or is it and its ilk of science degrees merely a relentless march to the day that the whole world disappears in one of two ways, self-annihilation or self-exile in VR?
And even if we survive somehow, what about once the relentless march of science is over, when there are no more secrets to uncover? What next? Is that the end of meaningful life as this author thinks?
Or is there perhaps something more to life than finding the next equation? Perhaps we will put aside the toys of technology and start reflecting on ourselves.
Maybe by doing a liberal arts degree.
Sure, read some books, give them good thought, encourage others to read them too. Write poetry, publish articles, and start groups to discuss and reevaluate the social, psychological, and aesthetic relationships expressed by and represented in artistic productions. Think about, read up on, and be interested in history, social geography, food politics, 10th century Latin lyrics, the structuralist writings of Roland Barthes (Mythologies is one of my personal all time favorite books), and the consequences of modernism in the 21st century - do all of that. I'm saying do it. But do not attempt to argue that the study of the natural world is bereft of its own wonder, beauty, and artistry. Science, and more importantly, the scientific perspective, has liberated us (as a civilization) from the oppression of authority-as-truthmaker, and imbued us with an inquisitive fact-seeking attitude that serves the progress of humanity.
I'm giving you a point up - you deserve a second chance.
Number of people in the 20th century saved from starvation by green revolution: 1,000,000,000
Average life expectancy in 1900: 35 years
Average life expectancy in 2000: 65 years
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_d... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug
Net 900,000,000 lives saved? I'll take that deal any day.
- stop using your computer
- stop using electricity altogether
- stop using any form of transport other than walking
- stop wearing modern clothes
- stop drinking water that was cleaned with the help of technology
- stop eating food that was produced with the help of technology
- stop living in a house
And most of all, stop reading those books for your liberal arts degree. Who needs science?
Its true that some things it has created have caused problems, but it is also responsible for many of the solutions to those problems and will deliver many more.
I hope so!
Although it is as easy to brush the above post off as it is to say 'polio vaccine', it IS important to consider that a large portion of scientific research is funded directly for military applications. In the US FY2010 budget, military R&D spending is $20 billion greater than non-military R&D spending.