Jared Diamond is not impressed by modern social sciences, like psychology and anthropology, because of the need to try and make claims about human nature by doing surveys or visiting a place and then framing the results through their own - not to invoke the most overused cliché of 2012 but just this once it fits - motivated reasoning.
The reaction from the social sciences and the mainstream media elites who need the social sciences to seem science-y was about what you would expect to him making his case yet again: 'shallow' and that he doesn't understand what it means 'to study human diversity' - in other words, he is a geography teacher trying to invade the big pants super-scientific world of anthropology.
You can stop laughing now.
While older anthropologists made at least an effort to embrace science, the younger generation has thrown of all pretense of being anything but sociological self promotion of WEIRD - Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic - ideas so patronizing 19th century Brits in colonial Asia would think the modern humanities have gone too far. Modern anthropologists are not having it or Diamond. Even his seminal "Guns, Germs and Steel" should not be taught in any basic anthropology class, one of them sniffs in a quote included by anthropologist Barbara King at NPR. Modern anthropological fundamentalism absolutely rejects Diamond and they sure seem to resent his popularity.
Western social science academics don't like having their superiority challenged, sure, but no one wants to be told that they don't know what they are talking about. One funny review I got about Science Left Behind was by a hard-left old journalist who said it was terrible, while comparing it nonsensically to a book about social psychology written to slam Republicans - the two books had literally nothing in common. But a chapter called "The Death Of Science Journalism", which blames aging, hard-left journalists for ruining the public's trust in media is not going to be well-received by aging, hard-left journalists hoping to retire at Huffington Post, so he took a carrot and stick approach - slam the naughty book puncturing feel-good fallacies and applaud the one that matches the 'correct' political mindset.
Now, maybe Diamond's book is terrible, he is big enough that the publisher is not sending me proofs for review. Even Elvis had bad albums - but that doesn't make Diamond wrong in his overall thesis.
King asks the obvious question at the end of an exhaustive collation of the criticisms of Diamond: if he is wrong, why isn't anyone instead reading books by anthropologists making a better case than he does?
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- True Weight Loss Is Rare
- Dementia Sufferers Benefit From GPS
- New GHOST Technology Leaps Out Of The Screen
- In Memory Of David Cline
- Patients With Recurrent Depression Have Smaller Hippocampi
- Special Relativity and the Road Not Taken
- Genetic Testing In Kids - The Science Isn't Complicated But The Psychology Is
- "Quick side comment: tuple appears in the introductory paragraph of the coordinate system page on..."
- "Dr I think being obese is a mixture of the culture we grow up and lifestlye we choose to leave..."
- "Thank you for your words of encouragement. And, I agree that when it comes to weight control, the..."
- "Hi Bill, thanks for your message - I am considering your input. Maybe some more concept and less..."
- "Thanks for the tips - well indeed the internet is a complex place. But I did want some pink and..."
- What bee-killing mites can teach us about parasite evolution
- Autism - measured in a sniff
- Opera is deadly - but The Tarantino influence in modern opera is killing it
- Gene therapy for cystic fibrosis shows encouraging trial results
- Prion trials and tribulations: Finding the right tools and experimental models
Books By Writers Here