(THE STONECUTTERS’ SONG)

WE DO!
Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs cavefish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do! We do!

///Homer The Great

Battling Postmodernism

“The meeting’s primary critical focus was postmodernism, a powerful intellectual shift in many humanities disciplines over the past few decades. Postmodernism has many facets–social constructivism and poststructuralism among them–but one of its central notions is that humans cannot perceive the natural world directly. Instead, perceptions must pass through such filters as language and culture, which define our understanding of the world.

It is this idea that angers some experimental scientists, who maintain that science is distinguished by its reliance on empirical data, by the fact that others can replicate its experiments, and by its predictive capability.

“All scientists have a fundamental faith–and it is a faith–that there is a real world out there that has rules that can be understood by rational means,” explains David L. Goodstein, vice provost and a professor of physics and applied physics at the California Institute of Technology. “That’s what science is all about, and all scientists must believe that. Those who say science is socially constructed, it’s not written in nature, it’s whatever the scientists and their masters want it to be–that’s crackpot. That’s where I draw the line.”

Individuals pursuing constructivist lines of thinking suggest that differing worldviews serve different purposes for social and natural scientists.

“If I, as an anthropologist, just pull back from my insistence that we can only know the external world through our language, our culture, I can get along fine with the natural scientist who believes that he’s finding out what is truly the case in the natural world,” says Emily Martin, a Princeton University anthropology professor. Martin does ethnographic studies with immunologists and is married to a biophysics professor. “In order for natural scientists to carry on their work, to do what they do on a daily basis, to carry out experiments, and so on, they have to believe that they are finding out about the natural world. The only effect it would have on them if they shifted their worldview would be that they couldn’t carry out their science anymore.

“It’s part of the worldview of a natural scientist that the real world actually exists and they are actually finding out about it. Part of the worldview of an anthropologist is that the real world exists, but I can only know about it through my own language, my own culture, so I never can get at it except through these veils, these lenses, these gauzy filters. If they took away my worldview, I couldn’t do my ethnography, either.””///apfn.org

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