First off, I hope that my post comes across as respectfully as I would like. If at any time it does not, then the error is in my phrasing, and not in my intent.
(cwnerd12, thank you for your thoughtful post. I don’t know if you will personally read my response here, but several people on my dash have been discussing this matter, and your well-written post brings up a few things I should like to address. That is why I chose to use it.)
In regards to the original article, “The 13 Most Useless College Majors (According to Science),” having studies Sociology, my inner sociologist will tell you to consider the source. According to Science.
Actually, according to The Daily Beast / Newsweek article
(which has, I feel, a bit of a cruel and inflammatory title, as is clear from the response it has provoked). If one goes to the original source, it is a slide show that presents a series of numbers regarding unemployment rates and amount of money made, that sort of thing. Do these stats make for a ‘useless’ major? Of course not! Certainly it’s not scientific
to refer to something as useless; that would cast a value judgment, which would be very un
scientific. And what defines ‘useless,’ at any rate? It is a subjective term, and like many people who read this article, I do not agree with the journalist’s use of the word ‘useless’ in conjunction with these majors.
What I am saying here is: the word ‘useless’ was a journalistic choice, not a scientific one.
The world of science is a black and white one where a+b=c and there are no possible variants on the truth.
I would argue that this is a bit of an oversimplification. In science, data is examined from many angles, reinterpreted constantly and prodded and questioned constantly. Science may be black and white, but it’s a shifting black and white, changing constantly as we learn more and more.
by pushing math and science as the only things that matter, we’re forgetting the creative spark, the ability to go outside of logic and create the next big thing, find the life-saving cure, or solve the mysteries of the universe.
With all due respect — this is what scientists do every day! Creativity and science are not separate things at all. This is what goes on in the lab. We do not just follow a given set of instructions (that would be a factory setup, and although they do exist, they are different from an investigative lab). We are pushed to be creative, to look at our problems from different angles and try to puzzle out how we can find that next big thing or that cure. How else would we be able to combat pathogens that adapt to antibiotics within a few generations, or viruses that have developed absolutely tricky ways of getting past our immune system? Thinking creatively is how you get grants!
Science is not the regurgitation of facts the way it is portrayed in high school courses or even in some undergrad level courses. As a scientist, you are pushing your creativity to different places. A favorite story of mine relates how Friedrich Kekulé discovered that benzene was ring-shaped rather than a straight line by daydreaming (yes, scientists definitely daydream, too) and imagining a serpent eating its own tail. There is a story about flow cytometry being pioneered after a researcher remembered crawling from car to car through the car windows in his youth and thought about molecules doing the same thing.
As much as I hate to admit it, no matter how many remedial math courses I may have failed, math and science aren’t the enemy here. It’s the automatic assumption that math and science are superior.
Thank you for including this portion, and I will add that I agree wholeheartedly. Likewise, if I am responding, it is because I am passionate about science. Though it is frowned upon in internet discussions to admit to such things, seeing so many people on my dash say such awful things about science - some from a lack of information, some from negative experiences - hits me very close to home. I am just desperate to clarify a few things.
I write, too, and I draw, and I think if I could not draw I would die. I cannot describe myself as someone who has art as a ‘hobby’ - but I find that I do, when I am in the presence of someone who wouldn’t understand that it is a passion, the sort of person who probably would use the term ‘useless.’ Society’s tendency to sneer at the arts as “useless” is cruel and short-sighted; I agree with you there. However…
Science makes you live, but the arts make life worth living.
I would like to think that they both can make life worth living. :)
Confession: my dream job would involve a lot less of being a science advvisor to companies and a lot more of being a science advvocate to the public, and it’s precisely because of incidents like these, when that very dangerous Us vs Them mentality starts to rear its ugly head and you realize that a lot of people are unaware of what scientists are actually doing.