Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Perils Of Reductionism' keyword pg.1 of 1
22 JANUARY 2016

Humanities aren't a science. Stop treating them like one.

"I don't mean to pick on this single paper. It's simply a timely illustration of a far deeper trend, a tendency that is strong in almost all humanities and social sciences, from literature to psychology, history to political science. Every softer discipline these days seems to feel inadequate unless it becomes harder, more quantifiable, more scientific, more precise. That, it seems, would confer some sort of missing legitimacy in our computerized, digitized, number-happy world. But does it really? Or is it actually undermining the very heart of each discipline that falls into the trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts? Because here's the truth: most of these disciplines aren't quantifiable, scientific, or precise. They are messy and complicated. And when you try to straighten out the tangle, you may find that you lose far more than you gain.

It's one of the things that irked me about political science and that irks me about psychology—the reliance, insistence, even, on increasingly fancy statistics and data sets to prove any given point, whether it lends itself to that kind of proof or not."

(Maria Konnikova, 10 August 2012, Scientific American)

Bruce McLean, "Pose Work for Plinths 3", 1971, 12 photographs, black and white, on paper on board, 75 x 68 cm (Tate).



appropriately complex representation • attempts to quantify the qualitative • Carol Tavris • easy empiricism • erroneous • error in reasoning • fallacious arguments • faulty reasoning • generalisable simplicity • hard science • Herbert Gintis • humanities • ignorance • imperative of generalisable simplicityimperative of proof • irreducible elements • Isaac Asimov • Italo Calvino • Jerome Kagan • Maria Konnikova • metricisation • nonsense • over-reliance on empirical methods • over-reliance on science • overly reductive • perils of reductionism • post hoc explanations • post hoc hypotheses • pseudoscience • psychohistorical trends • psychology • qualitative phenomena • quantifiable certainty • quantification • quantitative analysis • reduced to scientific explanation • reductionist perspective • Richard Polt • Scientific American (magazine) • scientific-seeming approaches • scientification • scientism • unquantifiable • unsound judgement


Simon Perkins
15 DECEMBER 2015

The place and value of research modelled on generalisable simplicity

"The health professional education community is struggling with a number of issues regarding the place and value of research in the field, including: the role of theory-building versus applied research; the relative value of generalisable versus contextually rich, localised solutions, and the relative value of local versus multi-institutional research. In part, these debates are limited by the fact that the health professional education community has become deeply entrenched in the notion of the physical sciences as presenting a model for 'ideal' research. The resulting emphasis on an 'imperative of proof' in our dominant research approaches has translated poorly to the domain of education, with a resulting denigration of the domain as 'soft' and 'unscientific' and a devaluing of knowledge acquired to date. Similarly, our adoption of the physical sciences' 'imperative of generalisable simplicity' has created difficulties for our ability to represent well the complexity of the social interactions that shape education and learning at a local level."

(Glenn Regehr, 2010)

Regehr, G. (2010). "It’s NOT rocket science: rethinking our metaphors for research in health professions education". Medical Education, 44(1), 31-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03418.x



applied researchappropriately complex representationclinical situationscomplex phenomenacomplexity • contextually rich solutions • devaluing of knowledge • dominant research approaches • education • education and learning • epistemological positionsgeneralisabilitygeneralisable simplicity • generalisable solutions • generalised models • Glenn Regehr • health education • health professional • health professional education • ideal research • imperative of generalisable simplicityimperative of proof • local research • localised solutions • multi-institutional research • myth of neutralityperils of reductionismphysical sciences • place of research • questioning assumptions • research in the field • research modelresearch-practice gulfrich descriptions • role of theory • role of theory-building • social interactions • soft science • theory building • unscientific practices • value of research


Simon Perkins
04 OCTOBER 2013

Meredith Davis: A Call to Action for Design Educators

"I believe that design education, at the most fundamental level, views complexity as a problem to be overcome through reductivist artifacts, not as an inevitable and pervasive attribute of life in the post–industrial community. So if the future is about an ever–expanding web of connectedness, how are we preparing students for meaningful work in this complex world? I'd like to suggest that we're not. Despite the obvious emotional impact of Glaser's poster, he belongs to a generation in which the goal of design was to make things simple. Negroponte, on the other hand, is a technologist for whom the design goal is to render the complex manageable and to make complicated things meaningful.

Almost everything about today's graphic design education is matched to Glaser's worldview. We structure both curricula and projects in craft–based progressions from simple to complex, from the abstract to the contextualized. In typography classes, for example, we begin with the letter, and then advance to the word, sentence, paragraph, and page. Sequences of typography courses are built on this simple to complex progression, when opening InDesign demands that students address the formal and interpretive issues of publication design simultaneously; how do you defer a discussion of leading, of column width, of the modernist preconceptions of software, of language? The only option is default, and what kind of typographic lesson is that?

The reality is that our strategy for teaching typography is residue from how students could comp type in predigital times; by drawing. It is the organizational structure for every type book since James Craig's 1970 Designing with Type, but it holds less relevance for what students need to know about communication in a digital world. Typography today is a complex relational system that depends on the interplay of formal, technological, linguistic, and cultural variables. Yet we persist in teaching this progression of scale, isolating such variables within their own distinct conceptual frameworks and rules.

The same strategy exists for how students progress in other studies of form. Foundation lessons begin with abstraction: point, line, and plane; color wheels; and paper–folding exercises. We defer discussions of meaning and context until later levels of the curriculum and beginning students learn these abstraction principles only through patterns in what makes their teachers smile. Nothing about these studies resembles what students know about in the real world, and as a colleague recently suggested, what the clients of design see in our work. So what if we begin with the familiar and complex?"

(Meredith Davis, 4 April 2008, AIGA Boston Presentation)

Presentation made at W/Here: Contesting Knowledge in the 21st Century, Emily Carr University of Art+Design, Vancouver, Canada, 7–9 December 2011.


Simon Perkins
15 FEBRUARY 2005

The limits of language (galaxies & cell division in a coffee cup)

"Perhaps it is a link enabling pass from one subject to another, therefore to live together. But since social relations are always ambiguous...since thought divides as much as it unites...since words unite or isolate by what they express or omit...since an immense gulf separates my subjective awareness...from the objective truth I represent for other...since I constantly blame myself, though I feel innocent...since every event transforms my daily life...since I constantly fail to communicate...since each failure makes me aware of solitude...since...since I cannot escape crushing objectivity or isolating subjectivity...since I cannot rise to the state of being, or fall into nothingness...I must listen, I must look around more than ever. The world... my kin... my twin. The world when revolutions are impossible and wars threaten me...when capitalism is unsure of its rights and the working class retreats...when the lighting progress of science...brings the future terribly near...when the future is closer than the present...when the distant galaxies are at my kin, my twin... Where is the beginning? But what beginning? God created heaven and earth. But one should be able to put it better. To say that the limits of language, of my language...are those of the world, of my world...and that in speaking, I limit the world, I end it. And when mysterious, logical death abolishes these limits...there will be no question, no answer, just vagueness. But what if things come into focus again...this can only be through the rebirth of conscience. Everything follows from this."

(Jean Luc Godard)

Fig.1 Godard, Jean Luc (1967). "Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle" [Two or three things I know about her]. 84 mins

[Godard uses a simple sequence of air–bubbles slowly decaying in a cup of black coffee as a metaphor to explain the perils of reductionist thought: bubbles decay; truth–claims limit. The sequence appears 29 minutes into film.]



to Folksonomy

Can't access your account?

New to Folksonomy?

Sign-Up or learn more.