|Follow on Twitter as @orzelc|
|The author speaking at TED@NYC in 2013. Cell-phone photo by Terry Plank.|
The obvious gap in this collection of advice is why science students ought to take non-science classes. I sort of feel like I shouldn’t need to write this, as essays defending the importance of the collection of academic disciplines known as “the humanities” (a term I hate, because it implies that the sciences are inhuman, which is very far from the truth) are an evergreen topic in writing about academia. Lots of scholars of arts and literature have written at great length about why the study of art and literature and history and philosophy and all the rest matters even in our modern, technological, consumerist age.
The problem is, I mostly hate what they come up with. I wouldn’t be where I am and do what I do if I didn’t believe that arts and literature and the study thereof have an important role in the world, but most of the defenses people offer are just maddening to me. They’re soaringly vague, or make grandly empty claims about “big questions” and “critical thinking” (as if those don’t come up in science), or attempt to distinguish themselves from science in a way that mostly serves to demonstrate that the author knows basically nothing about the practice of science. (One of these made me get a little rant-y yesterday, and is the proximate cause of this post.) They purport to be defending “the humanities” from attacks, but mostly just pander to the sensibilities of an educated elite who already agree with them.
I’ve read a lot of these, and hardly a week goes by without another one showing up in my various social-media feeds. But I’m consistently disappointed by the failure to articulate a clear, concrete case for the value of arts and literature in terms that make sense to somebody who isn’t already committed to these fields. Which I guess means I’ll have to make my own attempt at it.
|Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist|
"Even in the twenty-first century the popular image of a scientist is a reclusive genius in a lab coat, mixing formulas or working out equations inaccessible to all but the initiated few. The idea that scientists are somehow smarter..."
A short video based on Chapter 8 of Eureka - YouTube