Sunday, October 27, 2013

Oh the Humanities

For those who are wondering whether the hard sciences can effectively integrate with the social sciences, who eschew tying the sacred word of 'science' to anything in the profane, social sphere...we present the history of...well...History.

History was once simply a term for the PR industry, a tool of the powerful (or those desiring power).  The early empires wrote and rewrote history to justify the consolidation of power and deter revolt.  Check out what happened with Akhenaten in Ancient Egypt.

Let's not kid ourselves, the same thing happens today.  Spend anytime outside of the US (and outside the company of a tour guide or tourist board minder) and you will quickly learn how watered down your high school history class was.  But today there are standards of academic rigor within the formal discipline of History.  You might not get a straight answer about US foreign policy in high school or the best-selling biography, but if you dig deep enough you will find authors like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Because Chomsky and Zinn are dedicated to examining primary source material and substantiating any claim they make, they have a leg to stand on even when the social and political tides are against them.

Now, one can be critical of the introduction of a scientific methodology to the discipline of History.  In valuing primary source material, History gathers the bias of literate cultures and classes.  It often leaves out the stories of laborers, women, children and nomadic peoples.  Even with the expansion of forensic techniques in Archeology, this bias still exists.  But to lament the imperfections is to miss the point. 

We are now aware of these biases, and can take them into account.   History was made more accurate and more democratic through the application of scientific methods.  This revolution was set into motion by Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century.  It is time for the revolution to spread into other disciplines. 

Continue to Larger Than The Sum Of Its Parts

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