Column: The value of being interdisciplinary in an increasingly STEM world
Science and the arts are intrinsically tied to each other, but it doesn’t appear that way.
Through philosophical movements to discover the limit of knowledge, scientific knowledge has been tied to these views because science is as much of a product of the era as art and literature. While literature and other humanities are often more reflective of the ideas at the time, scientific knowledge and discoveries have left just as much impact on the literature perhaps in more subtle ways.
Consider the metaphysical perception of the world pre-modern era scientists conceptualized. The Noumenal aspects spur romantic, mysterious, and imaginative responses based upon the scientific discoveries, reflecting the beliefs (often religious) held by the culture of the time period.
Now, what does this have to do with the modernized scientific era?
The push away from the more romantic philosophies such as idealism in America were the transitions into the more current philosophies of pragmatism, materialism and others.
These philosophies emphasize the phenomenal physical aspects of the universe.
As a student with double majors in seemingly two contrasting fields, Chemistry and English, the gap between STEM and Humanities is troubling, to say the least.
The purpose of literature in this age, from a technical standpoint, is to communicate ideas and beliefs. In science, research is performed and then summarized to communicate findings amongst those within the field to facilitate new ideas and methods.
However, the communication within the scientific community is rarely appropriate for a general audience to comprehend. The issue with the poor effective communication is not only the fact that it can be impossible to comprehend, but also the emergence of misconceptions and regurgitation of old ideas that have since been proven false or not fully as correct.
For example: the continuing debate surrounding vaccines and autism.
Originally when the study was published in the 1990’s, the researcher(s) at the time had claimed that there was a link between MMR vaccinations and children on the autism spectrum. The result of this publication was the fear parents now possessed surrounding vaccines and their children, postponing vital vaccinations or refusing them entirely. From this, there was a sudden spike in preventable illnesses.
With the emergence of this study came countering research, but the effect and new societal acceptance of the original belief trumped the outpouring new discoveries.
Humanities come into play by recognizing societal beliefs, current culture, echo chambers, and the use of ethics and morals can either reinforce these scientific ideas or contradict them. The effect is in the communication.
Besides effectively and factually communicating, the STEM community needs people who genuinely enjoy explaining their research in a fashion that enlightens the general population, inviting waves of innovation and diverse opinions.
With my two majors, I knew I wanted to focus primarily on STEM, specifically Chemistry, but I did not want to give up my passion for writing and explaining. I learned from reading scientific articles that I loved the way things were explained, I loved the allusions and romantic styles sparsely sprinkled through research jargon. I knew that I wanted to learn about the intricacies of science and present it in an equally intricate, beautiful way.
The value of being interdisciplinary isn’t necessarily just communication, but also to enlighten others. The way data is presented to society not only has to be factual, but also comprehensible and engaging, ensuring an educated and well-versed society.