…after reading Christine Odone’s article complaining that her daughter is being overly encouraged into studying scientific subjects at school. She fails to see the poetry in science, its role as the ultimate challenge of authority and liberation of the human intellect.
I think, however, that if we use economic arguments to convince politicians that more of the population (e.g. girls) should be given access to, and encouraged to take up, scientific subjects then we are bound to antagonise the “arty types” who feel pressurised to do something for purely economic reasons, something they see no meaning in. It is, of course, quite circular: they don’t see the meaning because they don’t understand it (sadly, C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” is as relevant as ever).
Thousands of women and men lost their lives over many centuries trying to pursue science in the face of virulent opposition from religious authorities and others: Hypathia of Alexandria, Girodano Bruno, Miguel Servet… It’s a long and illustrious list. What would they say if they saw how we have now reduced the reasons for pursuing science to merely pragmatic and economic ones?
But of course if we make the effort to convince by appealing to the poetry of the Universe, the struggle to find truth in the face of authority, the liberating effect of reason and experimentation, then we lose the politicians and the captains of industry that ultimately will fund the efforts to do science and to extend its appeal to a wider and wider section of the population.
I just wish that self-declared “arty types” like Odone were able to see through what’s going on. The sad truth is that you cannot feel passionate about science if you do not have an understanding of it.