Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

of human-driven changes. Does knowing this hold us to a higher level of accountability? If we can drive a species to extinction, are we morally obligated to conserve the environ- ment? Changing social views have increased the desire to fund such efforts, and have in - creased the number of scientists research- ing animal and environmental conservation. Conversely, alternative values deplete this effort and funding. In a social climate where capitalism encourages us to prioritize finan - cial gain, many businesses push back against the idea of decreasing our use of resources. From a capitalist perspective, using natural resources is acceptable if it is the most eco- nomically-beneficial option. The balance be - tween a culture’s moral philosophy and po- litical priorities will influence which research projects will receive funding. Charles Darwin’s wide range of influence re - flects the interaction between culture and research. The artistic and cultural response

the mythology of many ancient cultures. In evoking this image, Darwin found a culturally shared entry point from which to expand his theories. Without metaphor and abstraction drawn from philosophy, these ideas would not feel accessible to Darwin’s public. Thanks to On the Origin of Species , Darwin’s discoveries eventually became common knowledge. The results extended far beyond the scientific community. The concepts re - vealed through Darwin are among other dis- coveries, like the shape of the Earth and solar system, that repositioned human’s assumed role among nature. What distinguishes any species from another if we all stemmed from common ancestors? Becoming more aware of the diverse biological interactions on Earth adds to our philosophical line of questions. For example, the idea that species could become extinct, and later information that humans could drive this process, forced humans to realize the potential permanence

to the theory of evolution continues to be tremendous. Authors like Lewis Caroll, Alfred Tennyson, and Thomas Hardy drew on the themes presented in On the Origin of Spe- cies. Their literature continued to question our values in the wake of an ever-changing Earth. From 1859 until the present, Darwin’s concepts have been interpreted, reinter- preted, and very often misinterpreted. The idea of Darwinism and the survival of the fittest were often misused to justify acts of eugenics and even genocide. However, these interpretations do not reflect Darwin’s own intentions, and especially do not reflect evo - lutionary theory. Nature itself does not have moral perceptions of right or wrong. How- ever, the scientists who approach the world undoubtedly do. When the social mores of a community are imbued with discriminatory ideals, science will be filtered through this lens. To study science without an awareness of one’s own culture and philosophy is only ignoring the relevance of science to human narrative. It is important for science to hap- pen responsibly and ethically. Humanities training is one way to help this. A knowledge of history prevents repetition of the same mistakes, while a knowledge of current cul- ture will assure that any knowledge or exper- iments would benefit rather than do harm.

Philosophy and Biology are two fields preoccupied with the same topics: life and death, the future state of humanity, and our role within our surroundings. Dar- win’s On the Origin of Species was suc- cessful because it married the narrative of philosophy and the testable evidence of biology. Written any other way, On the Origin of Species might not have been read and understood so widely, and might not have reached the hands of other influen - tial scientists. At some point in time, we would have learned about evolution. But it would not have been from Charles Darwin in 1859. The dominating philosophy of a culture will control the science which we focus on. Even an individual’s chosen field of study depends upon cultural values. Without understanding our cultures, with- out using our languages, how would these ideas be shared? A work of art can be any- thing, while a testable scientific description is singular. But humanity is not singular. Humanity is made up of endless diverging narratives. Darwin told a story that ap- pealed to this. What would our world look like if he hadn’t?


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


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