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When two tribes go to war: science vs the humanities

By Jonathan Derbyshire  

In early August the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker wrote an essay in the New Republic entitled “Science Is Not Your Enemy”. It was subtitled “An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors and tenure-less historians”. It was a plea, specifically, for those working in the humanities to sharpen up their scientific chops and accept that the sciences today offer illumination of “intellectual problems from antiquity”—the perennial questions that philosophers and others worry away at.

When the benighted denizens of university departments of English and philosophy complain about scientists tresspassing on their turf, Pinker observed, they often rail against something called…

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