Every Major's Terrible

Sing this xkcd to the tune of "Modern Major General."

I'm guessing xkcd is not today fielding thousands of furious objections from offending every major all together; but apparently he was wise to leave one or two of them out.

Why is that?  Possibly it's because these majors aren't very defensive; if you're a philosopher you can smile at the cartoon and say, "Well, that's just the analytic philosophers... but it's sure true of them!"  (Or if you're an analytic philosopher, you can say, "Nonsense... where do you think math gets its fundamental assumptions?")  Or if you're a historian, you can point out that history is a nearly ideal preparation for a career as a military officer, a foreign service officer, a political career, or even a career in international business.

Theology can laugh at "X therefore 3X" as a succinct criticism of Aquinas, who adopts Avicenna's proof for the existence of a single, simple, unitary God and then goes on to assert the Trinity; but they can, of course, point out that Aquinas does have a rather lengthy and sophisticated account that the joker might want to grapple with before he dismisses it.  Economists, well, I suspect they will just smile along, recognizing the justice in the remark.

So if you want to mock academics, go right ahead -- as long as you're careful to make a few certain specific exceptions.  Otherwise, kiss your job goodbye.


Gringo said...

Brilliant. I didn't notice a putdown for engineers. One follows.

How a mathematician, physicist and an engineer prove that all odd numbers, (greater than 2), are prime.

Mathematician: "Well, 3 is prime, 5 is prime and 7 is prime so, by induction all odds are prime."

Physicist: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 isn't prime, (bad data point), 11 is prime, and so is 13, so all odds are prime."

Engineer: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime, 11 is prime 13 is prime, so all odds are prime.

Texan99 said...

B.A., Fine Arts. But at least I took a decent variety of courses outside my major. The Fine Arts was really just something I stumbled into after wandering from curriculum to curriculum for a few years: I counted up how many more courses I needed to qualify for a variety of majors, and this was closest.

My degree qualified me to write environmental impact statements for a few years before I went to law school.

james said...

Computing: 1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 5 is prime, 5 is prime, 5 is prime ....

Grim said...

Mathematician: "Well, 3 is prime, 5 is prime and 7 is prime so, by induction all odds are prime."

Absolutely. Analytic philosophers make arguments like this all the time, which they cheerfully refer to as "mathematical induction." My favorite one goes like this:

Let Q be any random day. You wake in the morning of Q, and you are cold. One partial second later (however long it takes for the brain to register the sense impulse), it's still morning and you're still cold (after all, the temperature can't change appreciably in a partial second), but now you've had time to know that you are cold. So, at time N you are cold, and at time N+1 are cold and know you are cold. (What you really know at N+1 is that you were cold at N). At time N+2 you are cold, and you know you are cold (i.e., you know you were cold at N+1).

Thus at time Nn you will be cold and know you are cold (i.e., you will know you were cold at Nn-1). Nn is noon, so by induction, we've proven that you will be cold at noon. Since we have proven this for a randomly selected day Q, it should hold for all days. Therefore, you will be cold at noon on the Fourth of July.

E Hines said...

...it should hold for all days. Therefore, you will be cold at noon on the Fourth of July.

Well, that pseudo-logic does, indeed, leave me cold.


Eric Hines

douglas said...

It was rather disappointing to see the Chronicle of Higher Ed cave in and censor based on rather non-academic arguments.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

xkcd was a math guy, and is clearly proud of it in his other cartoons, though he also makes fun of it. I take his criticism in (relatively) good fun. It is true that one can make virtually any human endeavor look ridiculous, if we squint.

Anonymous said...

That's not a "3" in the theology "proof." It's an existential quantifier sign, so it actually reads, "X, therefore there exists X." The joke isn't about trinitarianism versus unitarianism. It's alluding to how theology (at least allegedly) spends all its time coming up with concepts of the divine that are logically self-consistent but which there's no actual proof exist in reality.

Grim said...

Now that could be, although I'm used to seeing ∃ written with parens. There's more than one method of notation, though.

Grim said...

If that is the joke, by the way, it's an odd one. One of the key differences between ancient and medieval philosophy (which included theology) is that the medievals were sensitive to the idea that essence and existence have to be established separately. Thus, for example, we know the essence of a unicorn; but we can know it without also knowing that unicorns exist.