STEM. Probably by now, if you’re breathing, you’ve heard that acronym. Science Technology Engineering, and Mathematics. This concept has a serious lobbying group, as it has made its way to the top of the heap at colleges, high schools, and now elementary schools. I agree that these areas are important for the future, but what I like to caution is that the “A” has been left out far too often – the A for Arts. That should make the acronym STEAM. What is humanity, really, without aesthetics? There is an excellent article, The Science Delusion, that goes right to the heart of this issue (thanks for finding it, Kathy). This quote from it:
“White writes at a moment when the arts and humanities are struggling for survival on campuses across America as they are increasingly eclipsed by the “STEM” disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). In White’s view, what we are witnessing is a takeover, on the part of science, of the multiple narratives of what it means to be human—narratives that have flourished throughout Western history in religion, art, literature, and philosophy. Scientism comes with its own narrative, which White puts like this: “We are not ‘free’; we are chemical expressions of our DNA and our neurons. We cannot will anything, because our brains do our acting for us. We are like computers or systems, and so is nature.” When this is what we think we are, we become quiescent cogs readily manipulated by societal forces. In White’s view, once scientism rewrites our story so that the things human beings care about—like love, wonder, presence, or play—are reduced to atoms, genes, or neurons, human lives become easy prey to corporate and political interests. We become “mere functions within systems.” White wants us to wake up and recognize that this view is not scientific discovery, it is ideology. Mistaking one for the other has profound consequences, “not just for knowledge but even more importantly for how we live.”
The Science Delusion
Scholar Linda Heuman interviews cultural critic Curtis White on Buddhism and science.