[A Case for the Humanities, 2,013 words, Genre: Experimental]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
When Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, gave us the definitive meaning of life the universe and everything inbetween, he was not giving us a definitive statement. ‘42’ is not the literal definitive meaning of everything. Like all good writers, he was making a symbolic statement on something. And what he was making a statement about was science. The very nature of science that when one finds an answer to a question this just opens up more questions to be answered. There was that commentary on science. There was also another commentary within that gem that argues a case for the humanities. The number ’42’ is such an abstract number. I mean why ‘42’? Why did Douglas Adams select this number as the meaning behind the universe. I don’t believe there is any significance behind the number other than it is abstract. The use of this number is an example of an abstract answer. And why would Adams do this? Because, for the very basis that it was abstract. In this he was making another comment on science. Science has many answers to many questions. But it is by no means a philosophy in which individuals should organise themselves.
There is an undercurrent of thought within people throughout the world at the moment. One in which people come to make oblivious statements like, ‘I believe in science,’ and, ‘Science has the answers.’
To the first statement where people state that they believe in science, I would say this to them, ‘Science does not give a fuck what you believe in. Science, for the very basis that it is science, is not going to change because you believe in it or not. Science is a system or methodology built upon the discovery of facts. You don’t believe in science. Science just is. The idea that you have to believe in it, is an insult to your own intelligence and shows a lack of understanding as to what science actually is.’
As to the second statement that, ‘Science has the answers.’ Yes, it is true. Science does provide a solid basis for reasoning in the world. But reverting back to the definitive answer of ‘42’, it is an abstract number. Quite like the answers that science provides. Science, in its rawest form is mathematics. Mathematics is no way to live your life. It may be a useful tool that allows for the discovery of technologies that allow for a better quality of life. It may astonish the people who have the capability to understand it. But mathematics, like science, is not verily understood by everyone. Most people are not mathematical masterminds. It is a rare intelligence that has the capability to understand mathematics at its highest level. These mathematicians and scientists capable of possessing these understandings should be cherished. For most of us don’t have a clue. For most of us an answer like ‘42’ is so abstract and so far removed from our understandings as human beings that it leaves us confused.
Charles Darwin, in his theory of evolution made two statements that are redefining our social interactions as they contaminate our social interactions within humanity. These statements within the theory of evolution have bred with our philosophical concepts to create a hostile environment. The first of which is the idea of, ‘the survival of the fittest.’ This idea lacks compassion and takes a cold and calculating approach to the way human beings interact with one another. Human relations should be about compassion, love and general kindness, to create a pleasant experience. These are qualities that the arts and the humanities attempt to instruct. On the contrary, there are two professions that should embrace this philosophy of ‘the survival of the fittest.’ The first being athletics. Athletes should embrace this philosophy, as to perform to their full capabilities, they must embrace science as a sport to obtain maximum results. And results and competition in this endeavour are just in the name of fun and games. The second profession that should adopt this philosophy is that of the military. Members of the military must adopt and live this concept for the very sake that they are involved in a profession that this way of life is required to survive. And even then the military, in its most extreme cases, should only adopt this motto as a means of self-defence. I’m sure that members of the military would argue that they are only involved in actions of self-defence, but facts have come out after the fact such as the case of, ‘weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,’ that have proved in opposition of this statement. Some people would argue that we are protecting human rights in many of these overseas conflicts, which is arguable. I believe that we know too little of these foreign cultures to take on such a point of view. Once again, I illustrate the point of, ‘belief in science,’ for something to be believed, there has to be an opposing point of view. Once again science cannot be believed in. It is fact. There are no two ways about it. It is established, it is true, there is nothing to believe or disbelieve. So, with the exception of both the military and athletes, the ideology of ‘survival of the fittest’ should not be embraced if we wish to preserve a peaceful society, free of internal and external conflict. In this way, business relations have been poisoned by this ideology, creating strained competition and disgusting behaviour by big businesses. In this way, the businessmen of the world have come to live a materialist existence, instead of a cultural or spiritual one.
This is what we are losing with the destruction of the church and a disinterest in the humanities. We are losing the capability of human compassion. Religion is not perfect. But if one looks upon the stories instructed in religious dogma as metaphor and not literal fact, one can find much wisdom and insight into human nature there. The symbols of human compassion and sufferance for the greater good have always been persistent in these religious teachings. They have also been persistent in literature and the wealth of arts and humanities. Its called arts and the humanities for a reason. Because it instructs people on lessons of human compassion, love and understanding. All of which are the basis for a more enlightened approach towards our fellow men and women. And for the answer to these questions, questions concerning human compassion, love and understanding, science cannot answer these questions.
Science cannot answer these questions or instruct these lessons because science does not give a fuck about them. The human spirit and the human endeavour are completely abstract concepts to the nature of these things. Just as the nature of science is completely abstract to the human spirit. It is true, in the larger scheme of the universe, humanity is completely inconsequential to the workings of the universe. One day the sun will die or we will all be sucked up into a black hole. We are but a speck in the larger cosmos. Science and the forces of nature truly do not give a fuck about what you or I think.
But I’ll tell you who does give a fuck about your inconsequential existence as a human being. I for one do. I am a philanthropist in the philosophical sense. And I’m sure all your friends and family also care about your existence. Expanding upon your friends and family, your community cares, your nation cares and the larger global community cares. Or at least I hope they do. We are in this struggle together as a race, so we should probably stop fighting one another over personal gain and start acting like it, in issues such as the environment, global conflict and our actions towards one another.
We should not look to science for ways in which to organise ourselves. Because science, for the most part, lacks compassion, kindness and understanding. Arts and the humanities are the platform in which to teach and educate each other upon these values. And religion too. In the larger sense these are all part of our culture. We should not abandon these ideologies, rather we should update and learn from other cultures as we become a globalised community and a global identity is formed.
The second statement that I wish to address from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.” When Charles Darwin made this comment, he was talking about the animal kingdom. We, as human beings, are freaks of the animal kingdom. The arts and humanities, our values of human compassion, kindness and understanding, make us freaks of the animal kingdom. For those who embrace these qualities I find that we are doing nothing more than rewarding cowardly qualities. For a coward will run away from a problem and adapt to whatever environment he encounters. We, as a race, have become something more than that. We are not cowards. Cowardly behaviour in humanity is frowned upon and strength and intelligence in our history of civilization have been rewarded. Truly, through the development of the human spirit, we have become the freaks of the animal kingdom. We have even gone on to teach these values to our pets, teaching them love, kindness and compassion. For we must realise, as intelligent beings, on this planet called Earth, we are the foremost representative of this planet. If we should ever encounter intelligent life on other planets, we should also represent all life here on Earth. And for that, the values of compassion, kindness and understanding should be ever more so prevalent. Intelligent life on other planets is one thing, but we are facing a much more serious threat to our planet and life on this planet with the threat of global warming. And as the foremost intelligent animal on this planet, we must also be held accountable for all life on this planet.
For this, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is not a philosophy we, as human beings, should live by. It was intended as a commentary on the evolution of life and not something that we should necessarily embrace philosophically.
Stating something like, ‘I believe in science,’ is stupid and ignorant of what science pertains. However, if one was to say, ‘I believe science is the future.’ Then perhaps they would be correct in their disposition. Right now, across the world, they have created environmentally friendly technologies. They have electric cars, clean energy and perhaps a million other technologies available. All of which, the distribution, due to economic factors, is being slowed. The idea of withholding these technologies due to economic disparity is a significant problem. The ideology of material pursuits and the accumulation of wealth, which is the driving force of capitalism, is causing significant damage to the environment as we speak. This threatens the planet as a whole through global warming. If we are to achieve a clean energy future, then we must necessitate these technologies throughout the world, regardless of economic situations. Capitalism has been a functional drive for the evolution of humanity for eons. But in order for us to preserve the Earth’s environment, we must put a halt to the capitalist drive, if only temporarily or circumstantially. Yes, science does indeed have many answers and solutions to many of our problems.
Science itself is fascinating to withhold and much of our contemporary art is reminiscent of watching bacteria floating in a petri dish or a snapshot from the hubble telescope. And although this art is fascinating, it offers little commentary or insight into the human spirit.
This said, without the humanities in its traditional form, that life spirit of civilization in which we all feel a common bond. I think Winston Churchill said it best, when he was asked to cut funding to the arts in favour of the war effort, “Then what are we fighting for?”