“The arts, the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences all need to rely on each other”. This plea from Catharine Stimpson resonates through her article “Creative Co-Dependents: Science, the Arts and the Humanities”. She counts herself as an interdisciplinarian and the survival of her “species” depends on collaboration and what she terms “co-dependency”. Her “species” is also to a great extent what is represented by the term “modern university”. Part of the problem that Stimpson highlights is that old rubric of over-specialisation, over-compartmentalisation and ivory-tower mentality which has had such a pernicious effect on intellectual life. We have moved from the frying pan of C.P. Snow’s “two cultures” to the fire of cultural fragmentation. The pursuit of co-dependency, according to Stimpson, starts with graduate education. I think the damage has already been done by that stage and that it should start at the undergraduate college level. Those that subscribe to co-dependency prize curiosity and are citizens “of the ever-expanding, head-banging universe of ideas”. Putting ideas into practice Stimpson describes in her article a graduate forum which she has set up at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University, which explores these ideas.
Effective science communication depends on the use of language and in particular an understanding of the figurative aspects of language. In their article “Tropes, Science and Communication”, Marcello Di Bari and Daniele Gouthier map out the metaphysical and figurative aspects of science both at the technical as well as the popular level. According to Di Bari and Gouthier: “An absolute one-to-one correspondence between words and meaning is just an illusion, even in scientific texts”. I would say: especially in scientific texts.
Many of the objects of science relate to mathematical models of phenomena rather than the phenomena themselves. Taken to extremes this overemphasis of concepts over sense perceptions can present a stumbling block for many students’ understanding of science. In “The Ontological Reversal: A Figure of thought of Importance for Science Education”, Bo Dahlin describes an empirical study carried out among students who are training to be science teachers and investigates how much the sense experience of science was downplayed within this group.