Oppenheimer and Chomsky – How war research shaped modern science




On Tuesday Nov 28 (18:30 GMT London time) we have a talk from Chris Knight (author of Decoding Chomsky, Yale UP) on the anthropology and history of science in the post war era, through the lens of two major scientists who contributed to military research: Robert Oppenheimer and Noam Chomsky:

Chris writes:

‘This talk will adopt an anthropological perspective to make sense of certain strange fashions in Western intellectual history. In the light of the recent ‘Oppenheimer’ film, there is renewed interest in the politically charged and highly militarised science of the early Cold War era.

The talk will describe how Noam Chomsky’s institutional position within a US military laboratory popularised the idea that the human brain is a digital computer and language one of its specialised modules. In an era when computer metaphors were commonplace, Chomsky’s theory that language could be reduced to a digital module gave a bizarrely misleading form to modern linguistics – in turn damaging archaeology, anthropology and other disciplines. Meanwhile, Chomsky’s tireless anti-war activism continues to inspire many of us.’

Chris will be speaking LIVE@UCLAnthropology in the Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, Dept of Anthropology, 14 Taviton St, WC1H 0BW and we go out on ZOOM. Register here on eventbrite for ZOOM links (sent Mon/Tue)