Steven Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress has just been published. In the meantime here's an essay on The Intellectual War on Science, which I imagine is not unrelated to the themes in the book.
He suggests that, almost sixty years since C.P. Snow 's "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", the disdain for science in the humanities and in art is now even more pronounced, helped along by the postmodern dogma that science isn't really about finding "the truth", but is just about competing stories, and (pace Foucault) about power. Not to mention white colonialist hegemony.
It's worth reading in full, but here's a snippet:
One of the greatest potential contributions of modern science may be a deeper integration with the humanities. By all accounts, the humanities are in trouble. University programs are downsizing; the next generation of scholars is un- or underemployed; morale is sinking; students are staying away.
No thinking person should be indifferent to our society’s disinvestment in the humanities. A society without historical scholarship is like a person without memory: deluded, confused, easily exploited. Philosophy grows out of the recognition that clarity and logic don’t come easily to us, and that we’re better off when our thinking is refined and deepened. The arts are one of the things that make life worth living, enriching human experience with beauty and insight. Criticism is itself an art that magnifies the appreciation and enjoyment of great works. Knowledge in these domains is hard won and needs constant enriching and updating as the times change.
Diagnoses of the malaise of the humanities rightly point to anti-intellectual trends in our culture and to the commercialization of universities. But an honest appraisal would have to acknowledge that some of the damage is self-inflicted. The humanities have yet to recover from the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, self-refuting relativism, and suffocating political correctness. Many of its luminaries — Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, the Critical Theorists — are morose cultural pessimists who declare that modernity is odious, all statements are paradoxical, works of art are tools of oppression, liberal democracy is the same as fascism, and Western civilization is circling the drain.
With such a cheery view of the world, it’s not surprising that the humanities often have trouble defining a progressive agenda for their own enterprise. Several college presidents and provosts have lamented to me that when a scientist comes into their office, it’s to announce some exciting new research opportunity and demand the resources to pursue it. When a humanities scholar drops by, it’s to plead for respect for the way things have always been done.