Humanities vs. Sciences

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“SCIENCE HAS BOMBS, and humanities have Britney Spears” (Kershner as cited in Purvis, 2004). This amusing comment, made during a professorial debate concerning which discipline was superior, epitomises the divide that exists between the humanities and sciences. Although the debate has its roots in the Industrial Revolution, in more recent times it was signalled by Snow’s (1959; 1964) discussion outlining the dysfunctional gulf that exists between the cultures. Essentially Snow was critical of the breakdown of communication and understanding between the worlds of the humanities and sciences and blamed this for many of society’s unresolved problems. He was particularly critical of the literary intellectuals: “This loss is leading us to interpret the past wrongly, to misjudge the present, and to deny our hopes of the future. It is making it difficult or impossible for us to take good action.” (Snow, 1964, p.60) In the years that followed there has been considerable discussion and debate about the issue and consequent discussions about the value of the sciences and humanities for society’s wellbeing. For example, Leavis (Leavis & Yudkin, 1963) criticised the notion of a chasm and, in a vitriolic manner, suggested that Snow was simply a public relations ‘stooge’ for the sciences. The argument was deepened by a pseudoscientific hoax paper published in a post-modern cultural studies journal by Sokal (1996a, 1996b), a mathematical physicist, who demonstrated that there was an acceptance of a lack of rigour in published humanities work. There was a furore over this hoax and counter arguments and rebuttals engaged many academics in a bitter dispute, but unsurprisingly an examination of this literature reveals that the protagonists talked ... ... middle of paper ... ...Light and Cox (2001) outline that for academics who are preparing students for a place in the community, there are significant learning implications, such as the teaching of vocational skills. There is a defined common aim in the domains of the sciences and humanities and some shared discipline strengths – the domain specific goals feed the process to achieve the overall attributes common to all disciplines. Accordingly, the opportunities for inter-faculty liaison and sharing of modules of work and indeed qualifications in some circumstances can be realised by educators working cooperatively. Further to this, there are also opportunities for the humanities and sciences to interact with one another in terms of how such attributes are taught and sustained – but this demands knowledge and skills relating to instructional psychology, particularly transfer of learning.

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