Why do so many of the CS and STEM members on here treat humanities and social science disciplines as if they were useless? Where does this overt prejudice come from? And why does Academia seem to give it free reign?

Recently, I saw the latest example when a student in CS asked about getting a master’s in sociology. A respondent argued that a master’s in “the humanities” was “worthless” and claimed he would be unable to do anything with it “at least in the professions”. First, sociology is a social science, not a humanities discipline, and this respondent seemed to think there was no difference. Second, anyone who wants jobs involving public policy, government, polling, etc., needs training in social science methodology, and sociology is paradigmatic for it. I could go on, but why does this bigoted, ignorant perspective persist here?

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    I have some thoughts that I'll try to write down in the next days, but first and foremost when you see comments condescending or diminishing of a discipline, please flag them. Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 7:29
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    1. Please add a link. 2. Do you have further examples, or is it just an isolated case? 3. anyone who wants jobs involving public policy, government, polling, etc., needs training in social science methodology [citation needed]. I am not sure we want to start debating about the accuracy of this claim here, and it does not seem central to your argument. Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 8:23
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    "so many" -> Evidence needed. Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 9:27
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    @lighthousekeeper I can't say many, however, there are quite a few in the past based on my personal experience on this site. I happen to be the one who has done thousands of reviews. Just a few minutes ago, some one downvoted academia.stackexchange.com/q/143598/546 I upvoted it to compensate the down vote.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 14:28
  • I am not sure if I violated our site rules, if I did, I would take the penalty for what I did. But, I feel that it's something I should do.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 14:29
  • @scaaahu I don't think a downvote on that question necessarily suggests any disrespect towards the humanities.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 18:29
  • @lighthousekeeper: I upvoted that one too, much earlier.
    – Philly
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 1:47
  • @frederico Poloni: Since this is Meta, I do not think the same level of evidence for factual claims is called for. This is speaking from personal experience, as these fields tend to hire people trained in the quantitative methods taught in sociology, including how to design survey questions. And, finally, if it were only one isolated case, it would not be worth mentioning. I encounter these attitudes regularly in Academia, but I'll begin flagging them.
    – Philly
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 1:53
  • I think the required level of evidence for claims would be lower than in a research paper, but it's not zero. One example (and a single downvote as a second example) is not enough evidence for saying that it's many. Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


And why does Academia seem to give it free reign?

Bashing other disciplines is clearly against our code of conduct and I do not have the impression that it happens often. If you see any posts that do this, please flag them as rude or abusive (questions and answers) or harassment, bigotry or abuse (comments). If you think that the rudeness is not obvious, use a custom comment (in need of moderator attention) and explain.

A responded argued that a master's in "the humanities" was "worthless" and claimed he would be unable to do anything with it "at least in the professions."

I presume you are referring to this comment, which says:

Why do you need a PhD degree in the humanities? An online program (if you could find one) would be of no use professionally (in any profession). Just study as much sociology as you like. Online courses are a possibility.

In my interpretation, the author of this comment:

  • asks the question’s author what they want to achieve by obtaining a PhD as opposed to (online) self study without a degree. This is not related to the field. In my opinion, this is a completely legitimate question as few people do a PhD its own sake, i.e., the diploma, and we get many similar questions, where it turns out that the asker wants a PhD but actually needs something different.

  • claims that online PhD programmes are of no professional use. Whether professional use pertains to the actual qualification obtained through such programmes or their recognition by potential future employers is unclear, but does not really matter for your question. This is claimed to apply to any field/profession (“in any profession”), not just to the humanities. In particular, this does not claim humanities to be useless.

Finally note that it was the question’s author who first classified sociology as humanities; the commentor probably just went along. Most such categorisations are horribly vague and country-specific. For example, there exist no accurate German translation of the term humanities that would capture the same disciplines.

STEM faculty

While a considerable portion of users of this site are from the STEM fields or faculty, another, equally considerable portion is not. For example, I am not faculty, and the question which prompted the comment in question was answered by a sociologist.

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    If anything, I think the question was more dismissive of the humanities (and sociology) than that comment (though I think this is clearly out of naivety rather than malice), and although closed the existing answer also points this out pretty directly, making it clear that a sociology PhD isn't just something easy you pursue as a hobby on the side.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 23:13
  • Thank you, Wrzlprmft. I'll start flagging them, as you suggest.
    – Philly
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 1:54
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    I think many scientists (myself included, sometimes) tend to assume that science==academia and forget that many non-science things are also studied academically. That's accidental, and should be called out. When people, as in the quotes above, are being actively insulting to other fields - sure, we have existing ways of highlighting abusive content :-)
    – Flyto
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 11:24
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    When people, as in the quotes above, are being actively insulting to other fields – Can you please elaborate why you consider the quoted comment actively insulting? As I tried to argue, I do not think this is the case and nobody argued against that, so I would be honestly interested in the opposing stance.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 12:36

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