Nobody would deny that the science community and the arts community are at constant loggerheads with one another. On the day of the launch of India’s first ever mission to Mars, I’d like to address the issue that creates problems when it comes to bridging the gap between the sciences and the arts.
As I see it, the beginning of such problems arise when children, at a very young age are stereo-typically defined either as being artistically gifted or scientifically inclined. The true nature of such comments stick with us, often for life. Stripping away all the emotions at the surface of this typecasting, when it’s time for us to look at the big picture, we say, ‘I can’t.’
The Science Side of the Story
Now I know that for the scientifically-challenged, science and technology can be a real pain-in-the-a**. I can quite easily admit that even though I’m almost an engineer now, the deep dark equations and theories and formulas of both pure and applied engineering sciences easily delude me. That being said, being scientifically sound isn’t just about having the ability to understand the detailed equations that went into, say the Theory of Relativity, for instance. The math behind this science is a tool to understanding it and not everyone is capable of delving into the mathematics of it all. Basic scientific soundness is something much easier to grasp, something a lot more fun, a lot more revealing and a lot more exhilarating.
Painful though it is, whenever I am exposed to an average human being from a non-science background’s overview about science, it makes me uncomfortable. It is unfathomable sometimes that there is such a gap. A good scientific basis can help banish superstitions, pre-suppositions and preconceived notions. Exposure to a small amount of science; the kind that questions everything it sees is so essential and that is why basic science is a compulsory school subject. The need to study science in school has become clearer to me the older I get.
Sadly however, when kids leave school, they seem to kick science out of the window as well. Most of them opt out of science because it seems too challenging to study. Well you know what? There’s no denying that core science is hard but with just a little help from some good books and some mainstream science articles, you can get your pick of ‘easy science’ at your fingertips. Thanks to the Internet and a recent growing trend of scientific appreciation, what with shows like The Big Bang Theory and Facebook pages like I Fucking Love Science, science is very much in. And it’s a great world which doesn’t exactly challenge you to strain your brain too hard. But you come out a winner all right.
Think about it: if more journalists, more philosophers, more social activists heck, more painters and poets of the world have better scientific knowledge, how far is our world going to get? The answer is very. Science induces broad-mindedness nothing else can (even though all by itself, it’s not enough).
I was watching a debate today on the launch of ISRO, India’s space mission which kicked off today and is expected to reach Mars in September of next year. Without getting into some other details, what triggered this article in my head was when a scientist simply stated, ‘This Mars mission is inadequate because the instruments it carries will only end up confirming things NASA has already told us’, the debate shot up in a different direction namely, is criticizing a mission of such national importance the wise thing to do? Are those who question the validity of this mission narrow-minded in their approach? The question that should have resonated instead, should have been, is the space mission, launched with such fanfare, going to serve any purposes other than political ones?
Even later when a scientist argued, ‘Science needn’t be citizen-centric’, more people pounced on him. Yes science needn’t be citizen-centric. Questions of life and origin and the mysteries of space and science are actually trying to get to the truth by exploiting (in a good way) our inherent thirst for knowledge. As such, the more we discover, the better equipped we are in dealing with the world (cases in point: global warming and various diseases) but the truest purpose of pure science is to answer questions or maybe just generate new ones in turn, not have some socio-political motive.
Scientifically inclines people very often tend to look down upon the arts side. Ah the perpetual woe of a humanities person (after lack of jobs!) is the lack of respect for his field. I’d like to take up whatever I can about this topic, though I cannot quite address it in as generic terms as I did the science side.
Over the last two years, I’ve diversified my reading into realms which have exposed me to a lot of opinions which I hadn’t quite expected. Ayn Rand’s books, which I first read some four-five years or so back are not what I’m talking about, though they were the springboard for whatever I picked up from there on.
People who don’t indulge in philosophical or political dialogues (or monologues) of any kind are missing out on a very essential key to everything: indeed I cannot imagine someone going through life without questioning why and where we came from and how we got here. Until I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, my thoughts on topics such as the origin of life and God and life after death were very vague and immature, in retrospect. However, I went about feeling quite content in my pantheistic opinion that you cannot touch or see God, but you can feel him in your heart of hearts. The flaws with this entire premise only strike me now; as evolved humans, there can be a number of explanations for our God delusion, none of which are divine. That is to say, answers may not be within our grasp but there is a burden of proof which lies with the person who asserts a fact, namely, that God is real. For example, there are Cargo cults in Melanesia where the trade and commerce practices that these ancient men were unused to, gave rise to a divine worshiping of cargo and industrialized manufacturing! Sounds incredible? Check Wikipedia.
Art is an expression of our inner conflicting emotions and also a way to explore and understand life on a personal level and as such, by denying yourself the ability to delve into humanities, be it from personal arrogance or plain ignorance, is going to cost you, perhaps when you’re really old and dying or indeed, dead!
The convergence of science and humanities should be the central theme of everyone’s studies. Separating one from the other entirely is not practical, nor beneficial. In fact, with the advent of the internet, you’ll have to be living under a rock to not expose yourself to the world’s wealth wisdom and knowledge.