By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Griffith Review 31
Edited by Julianne Schultz (Text Publishing, $24.95, softcover, 259 pages)
The intricacy and exigency of 21st century problems demand new Ways of Seeing which is what this compilation of essays succeeds in doing.
The empty space between the two cultures of science and humanities should not be allowed to limit our ability to address complex local and global issues.
GR31 explores the gaps and in the process bolsters our inquisitiveness and the need to explore.
For far too long we have relied on the law, science and economics to find answers to critical questions. There are shades of grey in the law, and while science is not as certain as we’d like, economics is not as coherent as we hoped.
What’s needed is a human-centred approach to our understanding of the complexity of systems like the flow of ideas, data from lab to laptop and information through economies.
As Julianne Schultz explains: “knowledge has become so specialised and self-referential that it delivers its own rewards. The best scientists, though, have long accepted that they need to explain their research, to make sense of complexity and to promote breakthroughs beyond their specialist journals”.
Is it fair for the humanities to be treated like the natural sciences where professional rewards accrue to an elite of experts in conversation only with their peers?
In one essay, Associate Professor John Armstrong argues that there is an urgent need to halt the humanities’ retreat into the academy and find new ways to assert the wisdom of literature, history, philosophy and art in public life.
Others include award-winning historian Peter Cochrane revealing the importance of historical imagination; Tanveer Ahmed explores neuroscience and policy; Leah Kaminsky reconnects the physician with the narrative; and Ian Lowe and Robyn Williams investigate the limits of scientific certainty.
Problems are contemplated and consideration given to ways that can help ensure a reawakening, placing greater value on the humanities.
Edition 302, 28 February 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.