Thursday, November 30, 2006

Science and the Humanities: A unity?

Last Saturday, several Pinoy writers and scientists met at a Figaro cafe to discuss how science and humanities can be bridged. People have this stereotypical view that these disciplines cannot be bridged.

Perhaps the unity of the sciences and the arts was best put into words by John Steinbeck in "Sea of Cortez"

"The impulse that sends a man to the tidepools and reports what he finds there is the same that drives a man to poetry"

"Sea of Cortez" is a unique work, with a typically scientific phyletic catalogue and a travelogue "Log". Steinbeck co-authored it with Edward Ricketts (who was the marine biologist). The phyletic catalogue remains as a major work in marine biology and a definitive guide to the marine life of the Sea of Cortez. But many have read the oft reprinted "Log" that is usually sold as a separate volume. Did Ricketts the scientist only write the catalogue? and Steinbeck only the "Log"?

The answer is we really don't know. What we are sure is that the scientist and writer collaborated in the book. As a marine scientist myself, I have read the phyletic catalogue and "Log" as one book. I can sense Steinbeck writing in the catalogue and I can sense Ricketts writing in the "Log".

The phyletic catalogue is as objective as any work in science. The "Log" is a masterpiece in travel literature. But if one reads the "Log" only, one can't get the whole picture. If one only reads the scientific catalogue, one loses a sense of place and of being human.

That's why despite the perception that the humanities and science as separate, they are really in unity. The importance of science and humanities lies in the fact that they both celebrate our being human.

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