Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Daily Show does Latour

John Oliver of The Daily Show summarizes Bruno Latour's Science in Action:

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Todd Disotell: I think the arguments are very easy to counter, and it's going to let me write a counter-paper.

John Oliver: What will he do then, write a counter-paper to your counter?

TD: Yeah.

JO: And you'll publish a counter-paper to that, then he'll write a counter-paper saying that he's right and you're wrong, and no one will read any of them.

TD: Ummm...probably true, unfortunately.

Oliver's clowning notwithstanding, it's a drama of black boxes: if it comes to be accepted by wider consensus that Jeffrey Schwartz is correct and that humans are more closely related to orangutans than to chimpanzees, then, as Disotell warns, we'll have to change all our textbooks, the ultimate black boxes.

On another note, I hope that was a fake textbook they used. Surely no one is teaching that humans are descended from chimpanzees. As Disotell says, humans and chimpanzees probably hold an ancestor in common; it's not at all the same thing.

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