Google CEO Eric Schimdt recently told a UK audience that Britain was in danger of losing its technological edge and that a return to "the glory days of the Victorian era" — when science and the humanities were more integrated — is necessary, reports the Guardian's Timothy Stanley. "The message: Britain needs to invest in science, like the Victorians did, if it is to survive," Stanley adds. But a return to the humanities might be harder for science than Schmidt imagines. The enthusiasm felt by the British for scientific discovery in the Victorian era was a relic of that particular time, and the nature of society today makes that enthusiasm all but impossible to replicate, Stanley says. Government investment had nothing to do with it — it had a lot to do with the romanticism science was imbued with back then. In other words, Stanley adds, "for the Victorians, science wasn't just allied with art. It was an art." Today science is instead seen as a tool. "This passion play is missing in contemporary society, and the scientific establishment of Britain would probably resent it should it return," Stanley says. "It existed partly because the Victorian world had so much more mystery in it than ours. The oceans, the colonies and space had yet to be explored. Once they were, a little of the wonder of science died."
Oh, the Humanities!
Sep 02, 2011