Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dangerous Ideas?

The Edge annual question, and it's answers, has left me with a rather head-snapping ambiguity of sentiment: the variation, contradiction, and disciplinary short-sightedness all point up the ways in which ideas have a much more difficult time being "dangerous" in the present specialized, information-soaked world; they also make me want to burn every non-fiction book I've ever read, build a cabin in the Montana wilderness, and never be heard from again.

And still, not a sociologist in the bunch. The freakin Philosophers and Anthropologists got more play. A former Monkee, for christ's sake. It's a good thing I'll only ever be three-quarters of a sociologist, or I'd really have to feel slighted.


Blogger Jon said...

I blame the sociologists though. In my opinion, the lack of sociologists on an otherwise highly interdisciplinary list (both in terms of the disciplinary origin of the people, but also in terms of the scope of the knowledge they draw on) suggests as much about sociologists as it does about the edge.

Anyway, can you think of a "dangerous idea" that even qualifies from sociology? If I'd been asked for a "dangerous idea," most of my responses are well represented on the list: Ramachandran, Buss, Bloom, Smith, Taylor, Deheane, Coyne, Dennett, Marcus, Harris, Anderson, Pinker, Hauser and Sperber (whew, that's just from just a quick skim) all focus on some aspect of the fact that the mind is the brain/body (there's no supernatural Mind/Spirit calling the shots) and consequently we humans, even our higher level capacities like our mental and social abilities, are all ultimately part of the natural world. This is astonishingly "dangerous" in virtually every meaning of the word depending on how you look at it. Virtually no sociologists seem to care about this however.

If not by sociologists, were there any sociological ideas on the list? Some that at least could make a case: Gershenfeld (physicist) & Diamond (biologist), Norretranders (science writer) & Baron-Cohen (psychologist).

If sociologists weren't too damn parochial to ever think that some other discipline could possibly have something to offer them without threatening their precious "autonomy" and without leading inexorably towards "reductionism" or "determinism," perhaps there'd be more sociologists integrated into the larger academic community.

Jeez, and I'm the one staying in sociology...

2:08 PM  

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