Interviews 1

Does that mean you no longer have any time for the humanities?

Anyone who writes essays regarding rationalism is automatically engaged in the humanities. Social criticism, while invaluable, is not a science. It’s also not quite as easy as some scientists would have you believe to define where the sciences begin and the humanities end, and some disciplines funded from scientific budgets would be excluded by certain other definitions. If the test of a good scientific proposition is that it should be refutable by experimentation then it’s questionable whether evolution can be said to represent science at all. This is clearly misleading, and those few hard-line scientists that claim that all humanities are a waste of time and money could, unfortunately, do with a little more education regarding commerce and the essential skills required by industry, which are most certainly not restricted to those learnt in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Scientists who can’t communicate to others or who fail to develop their understanding into new ideas are of limited value. While many humanities subjects encourage woolly thinking and even irrationalism when taught badly, a well argued dissertation on social or economic reform is more useful to society than a badly presented piece of unoriginal science or a nicely fiddled set of results. My decision that I had started out in the wrong direction academically was a personal one, and I fear that much that is taught in some artistic subjects is quite useless or even damaging, but before we start writing off all humanities or criticizing them for everything that is wrong in education it’s worth remembering that the sciences have their own fair share of problems too.

Why is evolution so important to you?

With perhaps the literal exception of Copernicus, Darwin and Wallace have provided a greater perspective on the place the species occupies in the universe than any other individual in the history of the human race. Evolution offers us a framework for showing how stimulating and revealing rationalism can be, and the development of the theory (which continues to this day) is perhaps the most complete example of its execution. Human beings can't change overnight but the world would be very different if we were all rationalists, or even if people attempted to be. I've suffered from the difficulties of irrationalism first hand, and it's taken me a long time to catch up.

... An Interview with Alastair Clarke




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