04 May 2007

I think Time missed a few

I was browsing Time's list of the world's 100 most influential people, and I couldn't help notice a gap. In the "scientists and thinkers" section, I counted only two non-scientists, one of whom was Al Gore. If they're going to do that, why not just name it the scientists section, and move on? I don't mean to discount the work of the individuals who made the list in that category. Each seemed to be engaged in incredibly remarkable work that will have a lasting impact in the world. Yet I wonder about how we value the hard sciences over other disciplines.

It seems (and I read about or watched something on this somewhere, but who knows what or when) that our society places a huge value on the sciences over and above other academic pursuits. Maybe it's because scientists often talk about things that most of us can't grasp, and thus we just assume they're smarter. But what about in other fields?

There are the historians who uncover new information about times long past, and thereby change our perception of our historical narrative. There are the anthropologists who help us to understand how our cultures function and how various dynamics swirl all around us. There are religious scholars and philosophers who explore the world's burning and potentially eternal questions with the same vigor as their scientists colleagues. There are political scientists who help us conceive of new concepts aimed at ensuring that our common humanity is respected and revered within the global community. There are writers, artists and musicians who craft their works in ways that move us. There are the peace scholars who show us how our world can grow, change, and be better for us all.

All of these endeavors are just as important as scientific studies, and, some of the resulting concepts are just as difficult for newcomers to grasp. This work should be recognized, valued and celebrated just as much as the sciences. Understanding our world is far too complex a task to be left to just a handful of disciplines. It's a common journey that requires an array of approaches in the hopes that maybe, just one day, we'll figure it out.

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