THEMETHATISME has sent in a link through to an excellent article at THE GUARDIAN by George Monbiot. It's about the chasm between science and the humanities and, ultimately, between science and "the rest of the world."
The author sees this as an increasingly widening and increasingly dangerous academic vacuum that is seriously damaging scientific progress and turning those not trained in scientific method into confused Luddites totally uninterested in a subject that now impinges on every aspect of their daily lives. On the one hand this leads to science being poorly supported by both the public and their governments and, on the other hand, to scientific arrogance and isolationism that can border on intellectual fascism.
I agree entirely with Monbiot's diagnosis and prognosis, but from the opposite camp to where he comes from. I can understand how annoyed and frustrated scientists must get when idiot, flat-earth religionists and deranged conspiracy theorists bog them down in pointless arguments which drain their resources and energy and slow down the scientific enterprise that could lead to benefits for all humankind, including those whose head-in-the-sand attitudes are causing the problems. But, I also, as an artist and philosopher, with a fervent interest in many areas of scientific knowledge, get really pissed off with the arrogance of many scientists and their refusal to listen to voices from outside their academic discipline.
People who think seriously about scientific matters without the constraints of scientific methodology can give much to the scientific community. It is very unlikely that I, as an art based thinker, would have ever come up with the theory of evolution. It is also very unlikely that an evolutionary scientist would perceive, like I do, that there is something obviously missing from current theories, especially in respect of evolution through natural selection. Now, I admit that I may be barking up the wrong tree (as all good philosophers have to in respect of all their ideas). But, the scientific community's refusal to even listen to the questions philosophers raise concerning science can hold up scientific progress just as effectively as a whole state load of creationist Southern Baptists. Furthermore, as so often is the case, science can end up being proved wrong and have egg all over its face, when a bit of humility would have avoided such embarrassment. Scientists will claim, when they have to publicly renounce previous assertions that every claim in science is always tentative. But you only have to read Dicky Dorkins' on evolutionary theory to see that in reality scientists are as quick to make truth claims based on insufficient evidence as everybody else.
The answer lies in the classroom. At my senior school we were made to choose between arts or science at the age of fourteen. That sort of compartmentalising of academic interest has to stop, right up to, and including, university level education. We need to return to the golden age of universities when the hallowed halls were truly places of universal knowledge, but within the more egalitarian context of our modern world. We need to encourage a new renaissance thinking among our students and in ourselves, whatever our natural academic bias. Universities should be opened up to the public and students should be allowed, and actively encouraged, to attend lectures on subjects of absolutely no benefit to their degree, simply for the love of knowledge. All educationists should read J.Henry Newman's "Idea Of A University," which, in my opinion, was his finest piece of philosophical work.
Above all, governments should tell big business to take a hike and should base the promotion of education on the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake and not on what will provide the best returns for the multinational companies whose wealth is dependent on the slogging away of legions of uncreative lab technicians and bought academics. Of course, such an attitude would more than likely end up with bigger profits for these companies as employees who can think for themselves and ask pertinent questions come up with really useful discoveries and inventions much more often, and more speedily, than culturally impaired, blinkered technicians.
POSTSCRIPT: All the above claims about scientists can, with only a small adjustment in context, be reversed to apply to artists and philosophers.