“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” - so goes the famous quote from the highly acclaimed movie, the Dead Poet Society. While this may be the ultimate secret to a happy life, our academic institutions and mindsets often ignore Arts & Humanities.
Philosophy was the very first fumbling attempt of humans to make sense of the world around us through rationality. Over the centuries, this gave birth to ‘Science’ with its highly rigorous ‘scientific method’. Today, unfortunately, philosophy, arts, humanities are perceived as pointless, wishful pursuits while science is deemed as the final savior of human reason and facilitator of development.
But one of the most prestigious scientific institutions in the country, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has a different approach. The Centre for Contemporary Studies (CCS) at IISc is attempting to tear off the straightjacketed approach of science and make learning more holistic. CCS is the brainchild of Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar, who is also the founding chairman.
Science produces data and numbers, but these are essentially meaningless unless one appreciates the context of these studies and its effects on humanity. The academia might draw boundaries around subjects, but in reality, everything is interconnected. The aim of CCS is not to reinvent science, but to facilitate dialogue across disciplines, foster science teaching and make learning more rounded.
Dr. Bitasta Das, a faculty at CCS, sums it perfectly - “The world today is getting more and more inter-dependent. For a holistic understanding of any one issue, there is a need to understand a wide range of other elements too. For example, to understand biodiversity loss, we need to pay heed to traditional methods of agriculture, threats from new technologies, climate change, food security, governance, etc. Practitioners of modern sciences should be sensitive about the immediate and long term consequences of their practices on humans and on the ecology.”
In line with this thought, CCS offers a Humanities undergraduate program on comparison of Natural and the Human Sciences. This course is designed to provide a social context in which budding scientists can learn science and understand diverse research methodologies, enabling them to bring new insights into areas such as sustainable development, agriculture, industry and health.
Besides this, CCS hosts weekly lectures, occasional seminars and conferences on varied topics such as philosophy, sociology, economics, law, literature, poetry, art, music, cinema, etc. that draw experts from all around the world. These events are open to people from other institutes and to the general public.
Scientists, in their pursuit of science, sometimes tend to ignore things beyond their own disciplinary boundary and think that engaging with arts and humanities would dilute their rigour. However, this may not be true, as the five branches of philosophy - ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, logic and aesthetics have always been and will continue to be, relevant to scientific research.
Scientific developments are increasingly causing social and environmental injustice, making ethics unprecedentedly relevant today.
While epistemology, metaphysics and logic dictate the limits and workings of all the different branches of science; they fundamentally make the scientific fields ‘scientific’.
Aesthetics makes all scientific findings relatable to the layman. Aesthetics is the life of creativity and there is no rendition of science without aesthetics. At CCS, this understanding makes a big difference.
CCS is cognizant of the apparent misconceptions but correspondences from former students, now pursuing Ph.D in foreign universities confirm that learning Humanities has enabled them to appreciate sciences better and make their research more holistic. This is proof that the marriage of Science & Humanities is not only essential but effective. CCS is pioneering a revolution that is much needed in today’s world. “We keep doing what we ought to do. Hopefully people will join us along the way”, signs off Dr. Bitasta.
Centre for Contemporary Studies
Indian Institute of Science,
Sir. C.V. Raman Avenue,
Bangalore 560012, INDIA
Phone: 91-80-2360 1429,2360 6559, 2293 2486;
Fax: 91-80-2360 2121