The Absolute Need for Science and the Humanities to Work Together

Science and art

As we debate the role of technology in our lives, we are also facing an enormous shift in the types of jobs of the futurenear and longer term. It's hard to pin-point exactly which jobs we'll have, aside from those we are creating right now.

With open questions on the role of robots and artificial intelligence (AI)—will they be contributing or replacing? Augmenting or eliminating?the idea is to become more of what we already are, human. Kevin Kelley says that is What Technology Wants. Whether we agree with his point of view or not, unless we plan to write ourselves out of existence, our role is to to do the imagining, to invent, and create.

We make meaning through metaphors, and make plans through purpose.

Rather than stacking all our chips on the science and technology slot, if we want to be part of the game, we need to be calling upon the humanities. The arts and sciences used to be integrated in the same curriculum. But the post Enlightenment world moved away from an integrated view of science and the humanities.

In The Meaning of Human Existence, biologist and author E.O. Wilson says:

With more and more decision making and work done by robots, what will be left for humans to do? Do we really want to compete biologically with robot technology by using brain implants and genetically improved intelligence and social behavior?

This choice would mean a sharp departure away from the human nature we have inherited, and a fundamental change in the human condition.

Now we are talking about a problem best solved within the humanities, and one more reason the humanities are all-important. While I’m at it, I hereby cast a vote for existential conservatism, the preservation of biological human nature as a sacred trust.

We are doing very well in science and technology. Let’s agree to keep it up, and move both along even faster. But let’s also promote the humanities, that which makes us human, and not use science to mess around with the wellspring of this, the absolute and unique potential of the human future.

Wilson says, “Studying the relation between science and the humanities should be at the heart of liberal education.” We should not expect them to behave the same, for example trying to extract working models of the brain from philosophy and the meaning of life from the sciences. But use each set of tools appropriately.

Wilson says:

the early stages of a creative thought, the ones that count, do not arise from jigsaw puzzles of specialization. The most successful scientist thinks like a poet, wide ranging, sometimes fantastical—and works like a bookkeeper. It is the latter role that the world sees.


the exact opposite is the case in poetry and the other creative arts. There metaphor is everything.

“If the heuristic and analytic power of science can be joined with the introspective creativity of the humanities, human existence will rise to an infinitely more productive and interesting meaning,” he says.