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Defending the Humanities

When politicians claim that there is an education crisis, they generally mean that there is a science, technology, engineering, and math crisis. If we want to remain competitive in a global economy, we're told, we need more chemists and biologists, more doctors and engineers, more inventors and innovators.

But what of the humanities? Who is coming to their defense? Who is arguing that life isn't just about inventing the next smart phone but about understanding the self, that philosophical introspection, aesthetic contemplation, and historical examination are goods that can't simply be replaced by a faster computer?

Leon Wieseltier is, for one. Here is his full-throated defense of the humanities, given at Brandeis's commencement ceremonies last week. I've included his opening below:

Has there ever been a moment in American life when the humanities were cherished less, and has there ever been a moment in American life when the humanities were needed more? I am genuinely honored to be addressing you this morning, because in recent years I have come to regard a commitment to the humanities as nothing less than an act of intellectual defiance, of cultural dissidence.

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I am a "humanities guy." I am more-or-less predisposed to come down in agreement with anyone who defends the humanities in higher education, and am glad when anyone does it with verve.

But I'm also a "humanities guy" who is dubious of exaggerated binaries and especially the production of more "-isms," particularly when those "-isms" are overly broad. (I know that Wieseltier didn't coin "scientism," but that doesn't make his breathing additional life into that term any less unfortunate). I suppose that a commencement address may make good use of broad strokes and simplistic binaries to achieve a certain rousing effect, but at the same time doing so invites easier dismissal.

People have too many gadgets! Genetics just reduces us to nuts-and-bolts!

Well, yeah, people do have too many gadgets, and don't really use them well, And, yes, there is a tendency in the presentation of some scientific approaches to be reductive (especially when there's copy to be moved). But if you stand in front of a group of 20-somethings while wearing a tam and robe, and present things so starkly (read simplistically), then your address sounds like a harangue, and you had might as well be yelling at the kids to get off your lawn ("Old Man Yells at Cloud.")

It's a lay way out, blaming smart phones for the ill health of humanities programs. It's a kneejerk approach that, if tempered with more nuanace and attentiveness, could instead observe that technology is the co-worker of the humanities. I fear going on too long, but let me say that even whie a smart phone may draw people away from the stuff of the humanities, so it can (and does!) also enable their approach. You know, sort of like the printing press did...

A couple of thoughts on Wieseltier's premise:

  • I wonder if he would see a particular danger in the academic fields that are grouped under the heading of social sciences - those that attempt to elucidate human behavior by applying the tools of mathematics and science: economics, at which he takes a shot in his speech, sociology, psychology, anthropology and so on. 
     
  • It seems to me that a particular threat that science and technology poses to the humanities is in alleviating human boredom.  Science and technology don't propose beauty and truth as the remedy - or at least, not in a way that seems very amenable to a mass market distribution; but gaming, texting, social media and so on surely compete with the humanities in entertaining and edifying us.  (I am making the perhaps-questionable assumption here that there is something edifying about gaming, texting or social media).

I get that he doesn't like the revolutionary impact of technology on our lives, and the importance of data and computation in modern science. His speech is quite negative. What exactly is good about the humanities? He does not say very much about that. It is more an attack than a defense, and as such, it's a little disappointing. I'm all for the defense of humanities, but would like to see a better case of why humanities are important.

For one thing, the  "quest for the true and the good and the beautiful" is not the exclusive realm of humanities.  I'll yield on the good, because I have not seen it come into play in scientific research, but the true and the beautiful are essential for scientists too. Sometimes I think that I spend most of my time trying to figure out what is true and why. Neither is the quest for the beautiful. How often we judge that something has to be true because it is beautiful! Just because we have a different vocabulary and a sense of aesthetics that has developed in a different world view doesn't mean that it should be dismissed.

And how can neuroscience not be exciting? For the study of man, it's at a different level of detail, but it's like understanding a country by looking at its map at different scales, and surely collaboration rather than resistance is the way forward. As to the "encounter with a work of art" and the "study of the encounter", isn't it an impoverishment to refuse the help of quantitative methods for that? It's like learning a foreign language by immersion and flat out refusing to hear anything about grammar, verbs, and etymology. 

 

I think education funding cuts have played a role in the lack of exposure to the humanities.  On the other hand, as a parent and student acquiring a degree in Religious Studies, I agree the humanities are now the counterculture.  But why do we need to pit the STEM against the humanities?  Seems to me a liberal arts education is the breeding ground for self discovery.  That said, maybe it's unfair to blame technology alone for the problems we face and seek to solve.

Claire --

He isn't against technology.  He's agaisnt the misuse and distractions of technology.  He isn't againt science.  He's against scientism, and he says so in so many words at the very beginning.  Scientism is the philosophy that everything is matter in motion and that scientific method, using math, can tell us everything that we can possibly know about matter in motion, that science can even tell us everything about being human.  It can, so it claims, give us answers to  the "big questions" about human life -- all those hard ones about humans as subjects, not just as objects.

For some time now, the humanists have been in retreat in academe.  They have been debilitated by the dominance of scientissm, by the assumption that science can answer all the big questions.  But Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos" has finally succeeded in focusing some attention on this dreadful problem.  And it looks like Wieseltier has decided to join forces with him. 

Yay, Nagel!  Yay, Wieseltier! Perhpas the times they really are a'changin'. 

 

 

You're being much too generous by reading into his speech distinctions that he doesn't really make. He undermines whatever defense of the humanities he is trying to make through a distracting pomposity. More significantly--and I think that Claire was quite right on this--he does not actually say anything about the humanities that is inviting or encouraging. Instead, he says a few things about "questions of meaning," and asking if things are "true or false, or good or evil." I imagine that if you made a talking Liberal Arts Student doll, it would say the exact same thing when you pulled the string on its back.

I was getting at this before, but what really bugs me about this is the false dichotomy he so desperately wants tro forge between technology and the humanistic endeavour.  Does he genuinely think that the "questions of meaning" have all of a sudden, just over the last few decades given ground to questions of utility? Distraction and superficiality are nothing new, but the increase in access to the resources that lie at the heart of the humanities is. It's a shame that he's just too butt-hurt over the media in play to recognize the potential.

Another negative rant by Wieseltier?  He's a pompous bore, imho.  I feel sorry for the graduates who had to listen to him dissing their classmates who didn't  choose useless majors.  

 

http://www.google.com/search?site=&source=hp&q=what+percentage+of+colleg...

 

Here's the link to his Amazon bash.  (He failed to mention the fact that he sells his own books on Amazon.)

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/best-case-against-amazon-youll-ev...

 

Whatever happened to the trivium and the quadrivium?   

 

Jim Pauwels: on the social sciences. I don't know where Wieseltier stands on the subject, but I've always been a bit of an agnostic on the question of whether the social sciences really exist. They may indeed exist -- but then they may not. Last week I heard a talk so much devoted to the kind of theoretical model building that the social sciences are given to, with so little regard to what happens in the real world of the humanities (like real history), that I decided that my agnosticism had finally become atheism, and that I can no longer seriously believe in the existence of the social sciences. If I were younger, I might make a new career for myself as a Richard Dawkins exposing secular superstitions.

Of course in reality it's that word "science" that gets my goat, and rightly or wrongly I blame the Germans, particularly 19th century Germans, for it. Everything, history included, they turned into a Wissenschaft. Even with my weak knowledge of the language, I know (or think I know) that Wissenschaft can mean either science or it can mean scholarship. So maybe it's our fault for choosing to think of it as science, because -- well, because it seems more "scientific" to do so, rather than seeing it as soft-headed scholarship.

At two great universities, I believe that "political science" does not exist. Harvard calls its appropriate department "Government," while the more pragmatic (or cynical) Princeton calls its equivalent "Politics." Or at least that's the way it used to be.

Ann, I didn't completely believe his line about the distinction between science and scientism. I thought it was merely a way to protect himself against obvious criticism, but I did not see evidence in the rest of his text that he was careful to draw the line. I think that you would have given a much better speech!

 

"I was getting at this before, but what really bugs me about this is the false dichotomy he so desperately wants tro forge between technology and the humanistic endeavour." 

Abe --

He does NOT offer a dichotomy between technology and the humanities.  He is not against technology but is against the "technological mentality', a mentality which is too narrow to address fundamental human questions competently.  There is a distinction between technology and the technological mentality, but there is no dichotomy between technology and the humanities.  Students often resist the humanities because, I grant you, the humanities are not always pleasant.  They are sometimes extremely threatening.  They ask questions that sometimes make us look like simpletons to ourselves.  Worst of all, they often shake us to our core, challenging our most cherised beliefs, including historical, sociological, and religious ones. Sometimes, people are not willing to use their thinking skills (we *can* choose to ignore reasons and experience), and  they end up rigid, and  narrow-minded ideologues. Some turn into skeptics, and even cynics.  But in my experience most people do not.  

 There is no sure way to get people interested in the humanities or even make them see their utility.  But without the humanities a democracy will not have a citizenry capable of critical thinking, and so the people will be at the mercy of political rhetoric, and the nation could fail.  Tthe humanites enable us to think more clearly and broadly, and help us to imagine alternative answers to pressing personal questions, and they help us think  far into the future as we sometimes need to do. I could go on. . .

To give up the humanities is to to force oneself to reinvent the intellectual wheel, and few if any of us have that kind of genius.  

If that sounds pompous to you,  that's just too bad. At least I admit my ignorance.   

"I imagine that if you made a talking Liberal Arts Student doll, it would say the exact same thing when you pulled the string on its back."

Abe --

Now there's a good example of a rhetorical appeal.  Not a reason.

Gerelyn --

When people used to ask me what I was going to do with my useless major (English), I'd answer, "Speak it".  

But neither you nor he are actually following through and laying out a connection between the increased use of technology, a technological mentality, and what you describe as young people's fear of what the study of the humanities can confront them with.

Students often resist the humanities because, I grant you, the humanities are not always pleasant.  They are sometimes extremely threatening.  They ask questions that sometimes make us look like simpletons to ourselves.  Worst of all, they often shake us to our core, challenging our most cherised beliefs, including historical, sociological, and religious ones.

There's nothing true in the above that wouldn't be true sans smart phones... or sans dial-up, for that matter. Or that wasn't true centuries ago, when the idea of an engagement with the humanities was unthinkable for all but the few. Wieseltier  doesn't actually say anything about how people actually use technology--he just complains about how much of it they use. He says "There is no greater bulwark against the twittering acceleration of American consciousness than the encounter with a work of art, and the experience of a text or an image," but seems utterly oblivious to the fact that the technology that irritates him is what enables the opportunity for such an encounter for so many.

Claire --

I grant you Wieseltier doesn't make the point as well as Nagel, but Nagel writes a little book about it.  Thanks for the compliment :-) , but I don't think I'm up to it.  Do read the Nagel, though it's not perfect either.

One last question:  How do you pronounce "Wieseltier"?

*mic drop*

I think his speech was short on reason and long on rhetoric, so it's the rhetoric that I'm critiquing. Rhetoric gets a bad rap, and--frankly--I think it's undervalued in comparison with reason: thus my dstaste for his cliched rhetoric. Really, in a lot of ways, my complaint doesn't go much beyond that his speech was just one extended cliche.

Where in Wieseltier's essay is the 'false dichotomy' you write of? With regard to scientism he claims:

"Scientism is not the same thing as science. Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. Science...what practicing scientists actually do, is acutely and admirably aware of its limits, and humbly admits to the provisional character of its conclusions; but scientism is dogmatic, and peddles  certainties."

....

"It is true that the selfish gene has lately been replaced by the altruistic gene, which is lovelier, but it is still the gene that tyrannically rules. Liberal scientism should be no more philosophically attractive to us than conservative scientism, insofar as it, too, arrogantly reduces all the realms that we inhabit to a single realm, and tempts us into the belief that the epistemological eschaton has finally arrived, and at last we know what we need to know to manipulate human affairs wisely."

By the way, Wieseltier concludes his speech to the Brandeis graduating class  (who presumably don't need to be told about the benefits of an education in the Humanities) to:  "Use the new technologies for the old purposes."

 

 

"Whatever happened to the trivium and the quadrivium?"

They're buried at the crossroads.

I think Abe is right that for long millennia the humanities touched the lives of very few actual human beings, most of whom dragged out a plodding existence of ignorance and brutal hardship until an early death, as many people still do.

In the last few generations, science has improved the health, extended the lifespans, and reduced the misery of countless millions of people, giving them opportunities they never had before, including the chance to pursue the wisdom of literature, philosophy, and the arts, if they choose. They have been given the perilous gift of freedom, and I suppose we must expect a certain amount of clucking about the poor use they are making of it.

Inveighing against Now is the oldest rhetorical game in the world. When people first began to write down poems, it was, "I never see a kid these days whose nose isn't stuck in a scroll."  And, "They've just wrecked that sense of community we used to feel when we all got together to hear the bards sing."

Let's all keep calm.

Rhymes (roughly) with "He's still here?"

Ann, look at what the speech says.  Humanities are about "questions of meaning": true or false, good or evil; they're about "penetrating to the very principles of human life".  Superior knowledge "can be acquired only over time and only by method". It consists of the "study of man", of "interpretation"  instead of calculation. It's about the encounter with a work of art, the experience of a texte or an image, and the "serious" study of that encounter, and that it's the "quest for the true and the good and the beautiful". That's all he says, nothing more. (if you eliminate the negative rants).

You mention politics and citizenship, but that's your opinion, not in his speech. You hint at the power of language, but that's your view, not his. You talk about critical thinking and about thinking clearly, but that's not in his speech. In just a few comments, you've managed to suggest several ways in which humanities are important. Everything you say is more precise and more informative than his speech. You appreciate his conclusion, but you're putting your own well-defined reasons behind it, not his own vague reasons.

Why are humanities important? Here are a few suggestions.

Many of the students (and many other people) I see seem a bit lost, very unsure about the future, swept away by the rapid current of technological changes in society. In a society in which our parents' customs seem quaint and any way of life rapidly becomes obsolete, sometimes we feel we do not understand what's going on any more. Just think of the new possibilities raised by medical progress! The old ways no longer work, and we have to invent new ways. What can we hold on to give us direction and help us have good judgement? (And what is good judgment? And is there such a thing as good judgment?) Of course for readers of this blog, religion is a natural part of the answer, but in general, this is where humanities might come in. Reading the classics of literature and studying what resonates might help give some salience to life, recognize what is timeless and keep one's attention away from distractions. In fact, one might argue that the rapid rate of change makes humanities more important than ever. Humanities, to accompany technological changes!

Talking from the perspective of one who likes quantitative analysis, I am struck by the limited range of vocabulary of many teenagers I know. In my own rants, I complain that the distractions brought by modern technology and gadgets have taken time away from reading, and that the number of words they know is quite small. The sentences they form are also shorter and simpler than in the past. It shows in their speaking and in their writing. With fewer words to express nuances, their thinking must be limited. It's an obstacle. Humanities, by broadening their vocabulary, would improve their thinking.

I worry about the future because of the stress on the earth's resources and of climate change, but I think that the largest threats will first come from the resulting tensions between populations. How will nations handle shifting rain patterns and large numbers of climate refugees from other cultures? I don't know, but there will be questions of diplomacy, of taking universal human rights into account, of dealing with justified anger leading to murderous terrorism, and for that we will need more wisdom than I can imagine. Encountering the limitations of the earth as the place where humans live is a new phenomenon, and I hope that humanities can play a role there too. 

 

No doubt there is indeed scientism of the sort that Leon Wieseltier denounces.

Nevertheless, I have to wonder what he would think of the generalized empirical method that the Candadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) works out in his philosophical masterpiece INSIGHT: A STUDY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING (1957).

Because Ann Olivier and other commentators here appear to be Thomists, I hasten to point out that Lonergan himself had carried out two extensive studies of Thomas Aquinas's thought before he undertook the task of what INSIGHT.

Some people in the humanities can accurately be described as technophobes. It seems to me that Leon Wieseltier might aptly be described as a technophobe.

But my favorite scholar, the American Jesuit cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003), has been described as a technophile because the technology thesis that he worked out -- for example, in his summative book ORALITY AND LITERACY: THE TECHNOLOGIZING OF THE WORD (1982) -- is basically positive about the technologizing of the word.

In our contemporary American culture today, the word is undergoing further technologizing. But Ong did not live long enough to write about all of these further ways in which the word is being technologized.

However, to this day, Ong remains the only Roman Catholic priest ever elected to serve (in 1978) as president of the Modern Language Association of American, a professional organization dedicated to promoting the humanities. Ong's professional activities promoting the humanities were numerous.

So I would urge Leon Wieseltier to study Ong's views about the technologizing of the word.

One of my children, in college, has a liberal-arts-intensive schedule this semester: theology, philosophy, art history, political science.  If I had the financial independence and the time and the freedom from other responsibilities, I'd like nothing better than to spend a semester studying those topics (although the art history would be a stretch for me).  I have to say that I'm disappointed that none of it seem to have lit the fuse of enthusiasm in her.

Part of it is just her, for sure.  But my own experience as a student is that there is something about undergraduate level liberal arts pedagogy that can drain the delight out of liberal arts subjects.  I'm sure part of it is encapsulated in the difference between going to an art museum for pleasure, vs. having to write a paper about a couple of works in the museum.  But I also think there can be a latent utility that creeps into college level liberal arts courses: that the course is not just art for art's sake, or philosophy for the sake of wisdom, but to prepare the student for a job in the field  - teaching or writing or whatever.  That utility, the instrumentalization of education, seems to be part of what Wieseltier is criticizing.

"Education, in its widest sense, has two great purposes: the development of intelligence and the development of character." -- John W. Donohue, S.J. in 1985, quoted in America May 13, 2013.

"Education in its widest sense, has two great purposes: the development of assets for employers who hire  people with degrees and the attainment of a job that will allow the hirees to pay back their student loans." -- A gaggle of contemporary governors who have hit on STEM studies as the solution to their political woes.

That is the issue. Wieseltier doesn't handle it very well, but it is the issue.

Wieseltier's speech, "full-throated" as it may have been, was not an advertisement for the humanities, imho.  If anything, it revealed his own lack of familiarity with Brandeis and its driven students.

Link to majors and minors at Brandeis:  http://www.brandeis.edu/learning/undergraduate/majors.html

Anyway, commencement speeches, good or bad, are quickly forgotten, if they're heard at all.  And hand-wringing about the humanities is an easy way to get around writing a substantive speech.

I guess we all have pet peeves about the poor state of education.  One of mine is the disappearance of Palmer Method (and of cursive writing in general).   The picture of high school journalists  in the NYT yesterday was a perfect example of how young people today clutch their pens so gracelessly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/nyregion/at-school-papers-the-ink-is-d...

The humanities can be learned at any time in life.  People who major in math or science or business  have a long life ahead of them in which to read literature, history, religion, etc., on their own.  

NIcholas - I confess to being charmed by your curmudgeonly insistence on the non-existence of the social sciences. :-).  If you are stating that there is something about the human spirit, as it makes itself manifest in human behavior, that ultimately eludes mathematical models, I'm inclined to agree with you.  Nevertheless, the wages in Karachi, or the volume of the brain cavity in Australopithecus, or the therapies for anxiety, do seem amenable to math and science and seem to be helpful data points for understanding the world.

 

 

I guess we all have pet peeves about the poor state of education.  One of mine is the disappearance of Palmer Method (and of cursive writing in general).

Once, when one of my children was in 4th or 5th grade, I was helping him with his spelling homework, and in the course of one of my frequent diatribes on the illegibility of his handwriting (a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but it's a parental prerogative), it struck me that he was printing his answers.  I asked him why he didn't use cursive handwriting, and he replied that he had never been taught(!).  At the next parent-teacher conference, I quizzed his teacher about this.  The teacher admitted, apologetically, that the school district had dropped the requirement; my son's class was the first that had never learned the skill.  I suppose blue book exams have gone the way of the dodo bird, but I was a little bit disconcerted.  And when the kid takes a telephone message for me, it's like deciphering the Rosetta Stone.

 

Well played, sir :-)

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&q=cursive+writing&oq=c...

 

Google News about cursive writing.  Please note the first four items in particular.

 

Well, of course they do--and they should and hopefully will. But I think that this kind of thinking runs the risk of treating the humanities like lagniappe, or like a leisure activity for when the tennis courts don't beckon. The thing is, the humanities are about more than just reading stuff. The humanities are also about rigorously engaging with what is read (or heard or watched or whatever), and that means being disciplined in ways of weighing what is encountered, as well as in ways of communicating with others about what is at hand (the latter is perhaps most important). Anyone can google a Great Books reading list and have at it--and the books will be worthy enough that a lot could be gained from that. But being critically aware of how one interprets and processes the information provided by a text or nay other medium doesn't necessarily come naturally--biases, blinders, and flat-out personal tastes must be put to the test. You do not just learn from books, but from others who are also set to the same task (not to mention from experienced guides who have a fuller view of the ins-and-outs of that task).

 

If we're talking about educating oneself, I think students should choose courses not by the subject matter, but by the teacher. You will learn a lot from a really great teacher no matter what they're teaching; and a great teacher will make whatever it is interesting even if it's not something that normally interests you. 

My personal experience with reading the "Great Books"  is that they require a lot of work.  I have to make notes, underline and read passages multiple times.  Sometimes, I consult more that one translation.  I'm just not smart enough to leisurely read say, Aquinas or Aristotle, and be able to articulate what they've said after one or two passes through passes through the text.     

Gerelyn, I note this paragraph from one of the items in your search results:

 

New Jersey Department of Education language arts standards used to require that students be able to write legibly in manuscript or cursive by the end of third grade. But the state has since adopted the national Common Core Standards, which do not include cursive at all and put more direct emphasis on technology.

I arrive late here. Let me make one suggestion. In the study of the humanities, i.e., language and literature, history, theology and religious studies,philosophy, classics, politcal thought, etc. there is at least an implicit recognition of two sorts of evidence. One is empirical evidence that is quantifiable, subject to analysis in standard logical form, etc. Another sort of evidence has to do with qualitative judgments about relative merit. It finds expression in convictions, commitments, creatiuve metaphors, etc. This latter sort of evidence presumes a certain freedom on the part of the student or scholar, a confidence that these convictions,etc. are his or her own, not the product of some impeersonal forces, neurons, genes, physical paarticles, etc.

To the extent that the physical sciences exclude on principle the inclusion of this second sort of evidence in the rresults that their procedures yield, they can appear to be dismissive of the humanities. In fact, in scientific practice, the judgments of the scientists themselves often display features of the second sort of evidence, e.g., in the judgments of grant applications, in the encouragement they offer to prospective scientists, etc.

I haven't read Wieselthier's spech and so do not comment on it.I have to admit that I share some of Nicholas Clifford's reservations about the social sciences, especially when they seem to lust after being physical sciences.

Finally, having had the pleasure to have known a number of fine mathematicians, I must say that they, of all people, are least likely to be guilty of scientism.

If the author is arguing about the ills of extremism, as when good scientists wander into scientism, then I agree that the result on society is more negative than positive. Certainly, in any field there are extremists and purists. However, I graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering where half my 151 credits needed to graduate was in the humanities. I always appreciated the value of non-engineers in my brief engineering career. Hence, I question the degree of proliferation of scientism among scientists and the call for more liberal arts education as a potential cure for any-ism.

There is a needed and important space for people with a iberal arts education as well as those with a science and technology education. However, a college graduate rarely learns life by 4 years of book learning. It takes a lifetime of existential learning, interacting with people and learning how to balance a varitiy of issues in any business situation or in one's personal life. Yes, we have trends that are disturbing, but we are not all ignorant sheep following every trend to our destruction. The world is not so evil and the problems so great that dwarf the problems in past centuries. Nor is humanity lost in a sea of any-ism. There is much more hope for us than doomsayers would like us to think.

Most college graduates don't graduate with degress in science and technology. Hence, I would venture to say that many young people graduate with liberal arts degrees, and the quality of such learning varies. 

Consider a practical application of liberal arts thinking and an example of "extremism", when the RCC hierarchy make assertions about human experience and the problems in this world. The Church claims that most people in Western society believe that the answers to life, and real happiness can be found in this world, through the benefits of science and technology. They claim that God does not occupy any or very little space in the lives of most (young) Catholics who live in Western secular society. The problems with low Mass attendance and the non-reception of certain teachings are blamed on the ills of Western liberalism, consumerism and captialism. These so-called issues are fueled by politicial philosophy, economic theory and social policies, among others. Are these so-called problems the improper use of the humanities and our reasoning? Or is this an example of extremism where the Church does not take any responsibilty for its role in the world? Are we all infected with some type of diabolical cancer that prevents us from grasping the truth? Is every example of liberaliism, consumerism or captialism the evil we must avoid or correct? Or are there many other reasons for low Mass attendence, non-reception and the like? 

We need both scientists, engineers, lawyers, teachers, philosophers, doctors, writers and poets, anthropologists, mathematicians, and business people. They are the people who shape our socieites, some good and not so good. Do we need more education in the humanities and less in the sciences? Maybe. Or are we talking about the problems caused by those who stand on the extremes of their fields of study and vocations, where labels of scientism, clericalism, and any-ism prevail?