This week the American Anthropological Association officially stopped considering its goals to be scientific in nature, exposing the world to a civil war within the discipline between evidence-based researchers and social activists.
Dr. Peregrine, who is at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, said in an interview that the dropping of the references to science “just blows the top off” the tensions between the two factions. “Even if the board goes back to the old wording, the cat’s out of the bag and is running around clawing up the furniture,” he said.Younghipandconservative.com is a science blog, as I spend most of my focus on the social science of economics. I love science and economics is my major field of interest, but it wasn't always this way. I was a sociology minor in college but I grew frustrated with the discipline when I kept seeing weak arguments that appeared to be more politically motivated than scientific.
He attributed what he viewed as an attack on science to two influences within anthropology. One is that of so-called critical anthropologists, who see anthropology as an arm of colonialism and therefore something that should be done away with. The other is the postmodernist critique of the authority of science. “Much of this is like creationism in that it is based on the rejection of rational argument and thought,” he said.
The gender wage gap is the perfect example. My sociology professors kept drilling into my head that it can only be explained by discrimination. I learned on my own that male and female employees and the jobs they gravitate towards have different qualities. Even if discrimination is a factor, it is one of many. There wasn't even a mention of this important view in any of my classes. The sociology argument was a simple correlation-equals-causation yarn and it's widespread acceptance shook my faith in the discipline and I left.
Perhaps social sciences are doomed to be hamstrung by political bias. Look at the peer-reviewed psychology study that concluded that conservative politics are a mild form of derangement. It sloppily claimed that Stalin was a conservative and anti-Semitism is a "right-wing cause." History books don't do a good job of presenting events from multiple perspectives. Even my beloved economics is vulnerable to political bias, and I don't mean just the Keynsians. The freshwater economists are just as likely to be blinded by their world view.
What's happening to anthropology is a scandal. Science is getting in the way of the story the social activists are trying to tell, and research with a desired outcome has a habit of misrepresenting reality. Postmodernists deserve no place in academia, let alone anthropology. They manage to be both pretentious and anti-intellectual at the same time. My heart goes out to the pro-science anthropologists.