Abouelsoud: Humanities are essential to STEM majors

Case Western Reserve University is known for its completive STEM environment, pumping out engineers, doctors and computer scientists. The running joke is that everyone comes in biomedical engineering (BME) or pre-medicine. However, the humanities and arts tend to be overlooked. As someone who also began their undergraduate career as a premed BME, the magnetism of completing a degree here in two such competitive areas is overwhelming.

However, as a double major in english and biology now, I have come to obtain a new appreciation and a more wholesome look at the STEM fields from a humanities perspective. What I have come to realize is that the two go well together. You cannot fully understand and appreciate science without looking at the humanities.

First, it is crucial to understand the role of science and the technological advances. Theories that explain how and why the world works stem from our desire to understand our place in the universe. By looking at how each of our cells interacts with its surroundings, or seeing how the laws of gravity define the limitations of our mechanical movement on earth, we create a more complete picture of the impact that humans and other living organisms have on the planet. This inherent curiosity of mankind has allowed for leaps to be made in fields such as physics, medicine and technology. The condition of living is not only defined by how things works but why things work. As soon as the “why” question is introduced, a new wave of nuances have to be taken into consideration. Such nuances have developed into fields such as bioethics and religion.

The answer to many of these questions that attempt to decide one option over another is never really concrete. Having to decide whether artificial intelligence would be sentient if it was programmed to adapt to responses rather than just inputs or determining whether there is life after death, and if so in what form, has no explicit basis. An individual may have a certain set of beliefs or ideologies that allows them to respond with a concrete answer. Those beliefs are not universal, and the next individual may or may not completely agree. The ability to create a dialogue between different viewpoints means there is an acknowledgement of different experiences within every individual that creates a different framework for how each response is formulated. The foundation for this dialogue may reside in studying the scientific laws, but humanities allows for that foundation to be applied to many different viewpoints.

By studying English, I have learned to see the limitations and the benefits of the English language. Looking at how English has come to change across continents, intersections with various cultures and through literature and poetry, I have come to see how dynamic this language is. Coming to understand this dynamic nature creates a new platform that has helped me understand and explain new concepts in neuroscience that are developing the structure and terminology in which they are described. And this is only one intersection. Looking at religion and music, sociology and film, I have been able to form bridges by studying these topics in classes outside of biology. The number of connections that can be made are infinite.

The diversity of interests here on campus is vast. The number of ideas and projects that have come from university can be made even more expansive and great with application of the humanities. The crucial thing is not to take them in opposition to one another. Rather, the sciences and the humanities should be looked at in conjunction, two sides to understanding life.