Fareed Zakaria: STEM and the Liberal Arts Were a Power Couple. Let’s Get Them Back Together.
In its ancient origins, the liberal education featured science as an abstract elective rather than a practical subject that would net you a job. That science leads to a career while English and other liberal arts are subjects for stimulation is a very modern concept.
Fareed Zakaria has been called “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation” (Esquire). He is the Emmy-nominated host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, a columnist for The Washington Post, and the bestselling author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom. He lives in New York City.
Fareed Zakaria: In its origins a liberal education always had science in it. Though interestingly, people studied science in ancient Greece and Rome and the Middle Ages until very recently for precisely the opposite reason that people are now told to study it. We are now told you should study it because it’s a practical skill that you could use in the real world. Well in ancient Greece, the practical skills that got you jobs and got you a career were rhetoric and oratory and a study of history and law. Science was seen as a kind of abstract quest for knowledge. The only reason you were doing it was mental stimulation. And yet for hundreds and hundreds of years, people studied science really just to try to answer the big questions. There was no sense that it could be applied in a way that was practical, would provide you with a career. That’s a very modern conception of science. And so I think what’s interesting is that even then when we thought science was useless, we studied it — useless in a practical sense — today my argument would be, you know, think about that length and breadth of history when you say that English is useless.
Yale has opened a campus in Singapore and what they’ve done is they’ve tried to reimagine what a liberal education would look like and they’ve also tried to reimagine what it would look like in a global context. There is a core that for the first two years there is a series of required courses. But the requirements are more in method of inquiry. That is in critical thinking rather than in a particular subject or a particular set of books. You study Aristotle, but at the same time you read Confucius, who was Aristotle’s contemporary. And you ask yourself why did Aristotle have certain concerns about politics, but Confucius had others? What explains this difference?
So the idea here would be to try to understand that the West is not the only thing in the world. That there is a much broader universe and you understand the differences and similarities. All these subjects have deep, long traditions and feed various parts of the human brain and the human soul. And so recognize that what seems fashionable when one era will not seem fashionable in another, but they all together interact and comprise a liberal education.
In its ancient origins, the liberal education featured science as an abstract elective rather than a practical subject that would net you a job. Science was studied for stimulation, to attempt to grasp truths about the universe. The current mindset that science will provide you with a career is a very modern concept. Journalist Fareed Zakaria explains that we should continue to prioritize liberal arts and subjects such as English, history, and rhetoric for the same reasons why our predecessors valued science before it became practical or fashionable to do so.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.