Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Woman After my Own Heart

Professional bullshit detector extraordinaire. When I watched her lecture (session 7), I realized I had missed my perfect calling in life.

Mahzarin Banaji, currently Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, studies human thinking and feeling in social context, particularly how unconscious assessments reflect hidden attitudes about social group membership such as race, gender and class. Her research has implications for theories of individual responsibility and social justice.

I was completely hooked after she made a reference to the study of the number of believers amongst the educated elite according to their different academic categories. Why do some sorts of categories have more or fewer believers? Math and physics have more believers, but biologists have fewer believers. Actually, those who work with actual people in the physical world have the fewest believers (except for doctors who have more believers likely due to their task of continuously breaking devastating news to those who need to find meaning).

Mahzarin said that a humanities person might read a poem and fall to their knees and believe, an atrophysicist may look into the cosmos and fall to their knees and believe, but those of us who are social scientists who deal with human beings, when you do that there is very little reason to see God.

Amen to that sister. What good is even asking whether there is a God when the entire foundation of human beingness is just a big complex exercise in memetic chicanery? She gets paid to do what I wish I could- sit around and find ways to show the strings on the puppets.

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