Shall I Compare Thee to Pythagoras' Theorem

A contributor at Scientific American argues that researchers also need a grounding in the liberal arts.

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I'm a proud alum of Harvey

I'm a proud alum of Harvey Mudd College (B.S. Physics, '86), an institution that has a long history of working a substantial liberal arts requirement into a curriculum that produces scientists and engineers. I've made use of every one of those 'humanities' classes, both for practical applications of economics, music, or psychology, and, more broadly, as an underpinning of common ground with non-scientists. Being an effective communicator and trojan-horse science teacher works well in re-casting science and engineering from a stereotyped world of lab-coated, socially stunted misfits into one where real human beings are enthusiastic about their craft and just as eager to share their discoveries and creations as a write with a new story or a chef with an enticing new dish.

As much as has been said that

As much as has been said that scientists need to be better communicators and 'grounded in humanities', I wish more was ALSO (not instead) said about all humans (particularly those working in humanities) that they need to be thoroughly literate in science and technology (including mathematics) so that they can understand the world better. Coming from a country (india) where selection of science majors was 'vs. humanities' to a country (i.e. the US) where humanities are emphasized (and rightly so) even at the expense of specialization in science - I see that we have not found a happy medium (the Goldilocks principle) to meld the two. Scientific communication is as important for the scientists as being a scientifically literate citizen is for the humanities experts. At the university where I have taught for 40 years, while the science majors are required to cover seven fields of humanities (through GenEd or Discovery or whatever name we give to the programs), the humanities students barely take one or two science courses with labs. That must change in the age of science.

I agree with both of the

I agree with both of the comments. Science majors need to take humanities courses. I benefited by taking almost all anthropology, some art and music (Berkeley, BA, chemistry, '62) courses. But definitely the humanities majors need to to take some science courses. Have a chemistry and physics 'appreciation ' course similar to what science majors are offered in music and art.

Where has the ideal of the

Where has the ideal of the "Renaissance Man" gone? Let's not forget the "The Big Bang Theory" TV show as an example of the divide between the sciences and the humanities. Comedy which continues to celebrate this cultural difference shows how much we need to change as a society.

Humanities courses offer

Humanities courses offer scientists a chance to gain more sensitivity to other people and their ideas, to appreciate cultural context, and to be personally enriched. Since a working research scientist rarely interacts with the general public, college is probably their last opportunity to cultivate friendships outside their field. Everyone they work with after graduation will will be in academia or fields related to science. To produce balanced professional scientists who can communicate with and relate to others, a sprinkling of the humanities is ideal.

Literature, music, art all exercise the emotional parts of brain, hardly ever used in scientific studies. Humanities courses offer alternative communication tools that benefit shy or less confident speakers. They also expose rational thinkers to pleasurable, creative, relaxating activities; art, music or drama. Perhaps the most important reason is to give them the opportunity to mingle with students who see the world differently…not through an empirical proof, but through their senses.