Re: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies

Robert Owen (
Fri, 19 Nov 1999 00:35:53 -0500

J R Molloy wrote in reply to my quotation:

> "Modern scientists (and their first cousins, engineers) must become as adept
> in dealing with societal and political forces as they are with gravitational
> and electromagnetic forces--
> -- Norman Augustine, "What We Don't Know Does Hurt Us", l998
> In enthusiastic concurrence with Norman Augustine, I propose that modern
> scientists establish a new area of research to deal with societal and political
> forces (such as agenda-driven "Cultural Studies")

I suspect I would very much like to comment on the developed thread, but first I ought to ask what it is about in the opinion of the various contributors. As I recall, it began this way:

"For some years I've been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of intellectual rigor in certain precincts of the American academic humanities."

"The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is -- second only to American political campaigns -- the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time."

Ultimately, the questions I'm talking about are value questions: As the Greeks formulated the ultimate question, "What is the good?" I don't know what you mean when you say that "the singular issue of moralism . . . avoids the hard questions". What we judge to be good and bad IS the question.

Ultimately, science and technology will provide us with a complete list of what we CAN do, but we'll still have to face the question of what we OUGHT to do.

Bryan Moss asked:

What makes you think there's a difference between these two things?

Greg Burch wrote,

Can we question that what we DO want is what we SHOULD want?

Of course I have of necessity omitted a great deal of commentary. But, once again, what are you all talking about?


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA