[Computational Complexity] Intellectuals and Science
Nicholas Kristof writes in a New York Times op-ed column The Hubris of the Humanities (paid subscription required) that the lack of appreciation for science comes not only from the masses but even from the intellectual elite.
The problem isn't just inadequate science (and math) teaching in the schools, however. A larger problem is the arrogance of the liberal arts, the cultural snootiness of, of … well, of people like me – and probably you.Most of the intellectuals I know are well-versed in the sciences but that is the company I keep. But we do expect the well-learned computer scientist to have read their Shakespeare and we don't expect English professors to know diddly about NP-completeness (or calculus for that matter).
What do I mean by that? In the U.S. and most of the Western world, it's considered barbaric in educated circles to be unfamiliar with Plato or Monet or Dickens, but quite natural to be oblivious of quarks and chi-squares. A century ago, Einstein published his first paper on relativity – making 1905 as important a milestone for world history as 1066 or 1789 – but relativity has yet to filter into the consciousness of otherwise educated people.
After giving the usual statistics like 40% of Americans don't believe in evolution Kristof ends with the following.
But there's an even larger challenge than anti-intellectualism. And that's the skewed intellectualism of those who believe that a person can become sophisticated on a diet of poetry, philosophy and history, unleavened by statistics or chromosomes. That's the hubris of the humanities.
Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 12/13/2005 07:05:00 AM